"Consider this ...."

 

It’s always fascinating to watch small children when they’re out for a walk. They take note of everything with a keen interest, examining their world in minute detail. They are captivated by things that grown up’s hurry past unseeing- like the veins of a leaf, petals from a flower, a snail’s shell. They may not make speedy progress but, for them, the journey is as important as the destination; the getting to as satisfying as the getting there.

The Christian life is often characterised as a journey and, as such, allows for similar opportunities for growth, maturing and lifelong learning, if only we keep our eyes, ears and minds open. Faith is not static and, although we are encouraged to press on towards the goal of salvation, we are also encouraged to be still and to grow in our awareness of God, other people, and ourselves.

These offerings are written to provide a moment for you to draw aside, reflect, and pray. They are based on the weekly Collect, Scripture readings and Post-Communion Prayer of the Church of Ireland. Wherever you may be on your own journey of faith, you are welcome to join us and to consider this…

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The Third Sunday after the Epiphany

COLLECT

Almighty God,
whose Son revealed in signs and miracles
the wonder of your saving presence:
Renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your mighty power;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

READINGS

First reading: Isaiah 9:1-14
Psalm 27:1, 4-12
Second reading: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Gospel: Matthew 4:12-23
Click here to view the readings via the Oremus Bible Browser website.

POST COMMUNION PRAYER

Almighty Father,
your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ is the light of the world.
May your people,
illumined by your word and sacraments,
shine with the radiance of his glory,
that he may be known, worshipped,
and obeyed to the ends of the earth;
for he is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

 

The story is told about a young man who came from Africa to the United Kingdom; before he came he decided that as the country he was coming to was known as a Christian country he would worship in a Christian church and in so doing learn about Christianity. So he set out to find a church that would help him learn the truth about the Christian faith. He walked around the city he was in – for the sake of this article I will presume that he was Belfast. He found many churches, there was a Church of Ireland church, a Methodist church, a Presbyterian Church, a Roman catholic Church, a Baptist church and a number of others. The poor young man was confused – which was the church, in which would he learn the right things? His friends were no help – they all went to different churches and all tried to persuade him that theirs’s was the best one for him.

Yes, that is a story, but it could so easily be true. Such disagreements are not new, From the second reading we learn that there were disagreements in the very early days of the church.” For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters.*12What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul’, or ‘I belong to Apollos’, or ‘I belong to Cephas’, or ‘I belong to Christ.’”(1 Cor. 1:11-12) St. Paul urges these people in the early church to agree.

I am writing this at the beginning of the week of prayer for Christian unity. This is the week when we think especially of the need for the church to be united in accordance with Jesus prayer that his followers might be one even as he is one. (John 17:21)

The week is generally marked with special services in which members of different churches get together, and there are prayers said in the various churches. Is this what Paul meant? Is it what Jesus envisaged in his prayer that we might be one? I doubt it.

It is perhaps up to each of us to prayerfully consider what this unity should mean for us.

Heavenly Father,
you have called us in the body of your Son Jesus Christ
to continue his work of reconciliation
and reveal you to the world:
forgive us the sins which tear us apart;
give us the courage to overcome our fears
and to seek that unity which is your gift and your will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord

Rev. Janice Elsdon

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The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Collect

Almighty God,
in Christ you make all things new:
Transform the poverty of our nature
by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The First Reading

Isaiah 49:1–7

The Psalm

Psalm 40:1–12

The Second Reading

1 Corinthians 1: 1–9

The Gospel Reading

John 1: 29–42

Post Communion Prayer

God of glory,
you nourish us with bread from heaven.
Fill us with your Holy Spirit
that through us the light of your glory
may shine in all the world.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Within Psalm 40 there is a line that is echoed in a number of places through Scripture:

Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required. We get it in Hosea 6:6 too: I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings. And, in 1 Samuel 15:22, Samuel tells Saul the same thing: Has the LORD as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifice, as in obedience to the voice of the LORD? Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.

An ‘open ear’ (Ps 40:6) is an ear ready to listen, not just to hear; to obey, not just to give the nod to. And the secret discovered by the poet of Psalm 40 is that, rather than smoking carcasses and dripping gore, God wants us to digest and embody God’s own being: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.

As messengers of God the prophet Second-Isaiah, the apostle Paul and John the Baptist raise their voices in today’s readings with the same basic message: hear, listen, heed, obey. In John’s own terms it is to Jesus, the Lamb of God, that we are to listen. There is a sacrificial aspect to this imagery connected to Jesus’ death. But, beyond merely commemorating his death, Christ’s people are called to embody his risen life in the here and now: the Lamb is also the Shepherd.

Over these Sundays following the Epiphany we continue to reflect upon Jesus’ revelation of God’s love in sandals. Our readings today remind us of a core identity that Christ’s Church- his Body on earth- is expected to embody: to be the dwelling-place of the Risen Christ to the extent that, should others ask the question ‘Lord, where are you staying?’, the witness of our lives will be clear: ‘Come and see’.

Canon Mark Niblock

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The First Sunday after the Epiphany

Collect

Eternal Father,
who at the baptism of Jesus
revealed him to be your Son,
anointing him with the Holy Spirit:
Grant to us, who are born of water and the Spirit,
that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Readings

Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 29
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 3:13-17
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website.

Post Communion Prayer

Refreshed by these holy gifts, Lord God,
we seek your mercy:
that by listening faithfully to your only Son,
and being obedient to the prompting of the Spirit,
we may be your children in name and in truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


With today’s gospel we move on from the birth and early years of Jesus (Matthew 2), and from the ministry of John the Baptist, summoning people to prepare for the coming of One greater than he (3:1-12). At this point we might expect Jesus to burst on the scene with amazing feats of healing and arresting preaching.

Not a bit of it.

It all starts quietly. He comes to John to be baptised (today’s gospel), before submitting to temptation in the wilderness (4:1-11). Only then does he begin preaching (4:12-17), gather a team of disciples (4:18-22) and heal the sick (4:23-25). He is quite clear as to what must happen first: baptism, in spite of John’s protestations (‘But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”’). This, he says, is ‘to fulfill all righteousness’ (verse 15). It is not that the Son of God needsto be baptized as we are: there are no sins to be forgiven, nothing lacking. Rather, as Michael Green comments: “By submitting to baptism, Jesus acknowledged God’s claim on him as on others for total consecration of life and holiness of character.”

Nor is he doing this off his own bat. Significantly, the Spirit as a dove descends upon him (verse 16) and the voice of the Father from heaven: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (verse 17). This is not a lone mission he is engaged upon: the whole of the Trinitarian Godhead is deeply involved in all is going on.

Then come Matthew’s chapters detailing healing and proclaiming – all attesting to the coming of the kingdom of God to those who, seeing through the false claims of a merely earthly kingdom that inflicts so much suffering on so many, have longed for it. It will all culminate in the cross and resurrection: evil and death are defeated, people like us, who can never have any claim on a holy God, are swept up into that kingdom as, in faith, we gladly allow Christ’s work to be on ourbehalf.

So do not view today’s gospel reading in isolation. See it, rather, as the preparation for all that is still most gloriously to come.


Revd Ron Elsdon

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Christmas 1 The circumcision and naming of Jesus

Collect

Almighty God,
who wonderfully created us in your own image
and yet more wonderfully restored us
through your Son Jesus Christ:
Grant that, as he came to share in our humanity,
so we may share the life of his divinity;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The First Reading

Numbers 6: 22-27

The Psalm

Psalm 8

The Second Reading

Galatians 4: 4-7

The Gospel Reading

Luke 2: 15-21

Post Communion Prayer

Heavenly Father,
you have refreshed us with this heavenly sacrament.
As your Son came to live among us,
grant us grace to live our lives,
united in love and obedience,
as those who long to live with him in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


I wonder how many of you reading this have made a New Year’s Resolution – and I wonder what it is. The majority of New Year’s Resolutions have to do with ourselves. We resolve to eat a better diet, to take more exercise, to get fitter or to take up a new hobby. In other words they are aimed at self improvement.

Earlier this week I heard an interview on the radio. It was with a young man, who a couple of years ago decided to resolve to do someone a good turn every day of the year. This may have been aimed at making himself a better person – but it had the result of helping others. He said that on the last day of the year he took the 350 he had saved for the occasion, got it changed into five pound notes and resolved to give it away note by note. He found it a hard task as people were reluctant to take the money, thinking that there must be a catch.

Maybe if we are making New Year’s Resolutions we should give some thought as to how our actions will benefit others as well as ourselves. It might be even better to take it a little further and look for actions that will benefit others at some cost to ourselves.

As we do this it’s good to bear in mind the words of Jesus: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3–4, NIV)

Teach us, good Lord, to serve thee as thou deservest:
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labour and not to ask for any reward
save that of knowing that we do they will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


Rev. Janice Elsdon

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