Saturday, May 27, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 27 May 2017

'I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.' 
John 16 .28

Christ came from heaven and returned to heaven. And we who are in him by virtue of our baptisms may hope to one day be with him there, for this he has promised us.

Friday, May 26, 2017

prayer diary Friday 26 May 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.' 
John 16.20

The suffering of the Christian is a pleasure to the persecutor. But those who remain faithful despite the cost are rewarded with the bliss of eternal life. And what then of those who rejoiced? Pray for them that they will repent and be saved.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

the Ascension: 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven?'

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Angels, if our reading from the Acts of the Apostles today is anything to go by, can be quite scathing. The disciples are standing there, still quite stunned by our Lord's Ascending into heaven before their eyes; and before he has even fully gone – 'while he was going' St Luke tells us - two men in white, whom the Church Fathers have always assured us were angels, appear and say to them almost scoldingly : Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.

It is almost as if they are saying to the disciples: 'What are you doing standing around here? You have better things to be doing. Get on with it!' And what are those better things? The first is that they are to go back to Jerusalem and wait there, as we heard the Lord Jesus command them earlier in this passage, and wait for what he calls 'the promise of the Father', when they will be baptised by the Holy Spirit. And after that they have other work to do, work also entrusted to them by Christ just before his Ascension, which was recorded for by St Matthew at the end of his Gospel. He tells his disciples that 'all authority in heaven and on earth' has been given to him; And that therefore they must go 'and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.'

These words of our Lord are, of course, very familiar to us. We even have a special name for them – the Great Commission. And there is much about it, I would suggest, that the modern world would find objectionable. The idea that we must go out and make disciples of all nations gives the impression that the Christian way of life is better than all others; not a popular notion in a world that likes to think all ways are equally good. Teaching them what the Lord has commanded sounds very like indoctrination; something that the modern world frowns upon. And telling people they have to be obedient to those commandments seems like a challenge to personal autonomy; people in our age are entitled to live as they please and make their own choices and all that really matters is whether they are comfortable with those choices – and, it would seem to me, whether those choices are in conformity with secular liberal values.

But the fact that the Christian message is not in lock-step with the world around us is not something that should trouble us. Christianity from the beginning was a challenge to the culture rather than being a cheer-leader for whatever happened to be popular. Our Lord and Saviour Christ was crucified for challenging the accepted norms of his day. And the early Church was persecuted first in Israel and then throughout the Roman Empire for just the same reasons. For a time – a very long time – the values of Church and Society seemed to merge and so perhaps people forgot just how counter-cultural the Church could be. But those values have again diverged; and it is the mission of the Church to stay true to the Lord's commands, rather than trying to fit in with the culture of the day.

We have, we must remember, a commission from the Lord to do so. And a commission, we should note, is when someone in authority gives someone else a duty to perform and delegates to them the authority to carry it out. And there can be, of course, no higher authority than God. So we must take heed of the words the angels spoke on the morning of the Ascension. We must not stand around, looking up at the sky, as if we are confused and don't know what to do, waiting to be told what to do. We know what we must do - fulfil the commission that Christ gave us, baptising all nations, and teaching them to obey his commands. And this is something we, his Church, must continue to do so until the day he comes again as he promised us he would. Amen. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 24 May 2017

'When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.' 
John 16.13

Christ taught that the Holy Spirit would guide his disciples into all the truth. The Holy Spirit strengthened the Church in the beginning, guided her path down through the centuries, and still guides the Church today.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 23 May 2017

'Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.' 
John 16.7

Christ did not abandon his Church; he promised and sent the Holy Spirit 'to guide it into all truth.' And therefore we, as his followers, can trust his Church and must be faithful to her teachings.

Monday, May 22, 2017

prayer diary Monday 22 May 2017

'an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me.' 
John 16. 2,3

The true disciple should not fear suffering for the Lord. Around the world, many die for the faith, with the roll of martyrs growing daily. Pray for those who suffer for the faith, even as you draw courage from their example of faith in the face of adversity.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

'If you love me, you will keep my commandments'

In our Gospel reading today the Lord tells us that if we love him we will keep his commandments. The implications of these words are far reaching; for if it is only those who keep his commandments who love him then the opposite is also true – which is that those who do not keep his commandments do not love him. It is not enough merely to say that we love God; we have to show it in our actions, by living our lives according to his laws. We should be reminded here of the words that Jesus spoke elsewhere in Scripture, in St Matthew's – 'not every one who says to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.' Obedience and Salvation are linked together in a way that can not be separated.

Now, to the modern ear this may seem a terrible imposition. God is interfering with my freedom, they may say; because if I behave contrary to his laws he will hold me to account. But there is a certain lack of logic to such objections. We do not whine and complain about how the laws of man or the laws of nature are some terrible and unfair burden upon us. With regard to the laws of man we see them as being sensible and necessary; and with regard to the laws of nature they are simply a fact of life. 

Now, we may break these laws if we choose to do so; for we have free will. But we do so knowing that there are consequences. A person may choose to drive as fast as they want, whatever the speed limit may happen to be; but they do so knowing that over the course of time they will accumulate fines and penalty points and may well eventually lose their licence altogether. Or a person may chose to defy the laws of gravity and throw themselves off a cliff; but the result will be injury or death. And if disobeying the laws of man or nature has consequences, why should it seem like something so terribly strange or unfair that disobeying the laws of God should also come at a price?

But we should not really be thinking about this in terms of crime and punishment, of lawgiver and criminal, but rather in terms of love. For remember what it was that Christ said in those words we are looking at: 'if you love me you will keep my commandments.' The person who truly loves God will keep his commandments – not because they are afraid of the consequences of not doing so, but because they love God. And the person who does not keep his commandments can not be said to love him. 

Now some may find that conclusion objectionable. I do love God, they may say, but in my own way; and that way does not involve obeying his laws. And that is sad, because it goes against what Christ says not only in these words that we heard read this morning, but also elsewhere in Scripture. It is like the person who habitually drives far too fast objecting to being described as a law-breaker; or the person who proposes throwing themselves off a cliff objecting to being described as someone lacking in common sense. They may well object; but their objections do not make the descriptions any less true. And if God himself tells us that those who do not obey him do not love him, who are we to disagree?

Now, of course, most of us are in the position of wanting to show our love for God by obeying his laws; but being weak human beings, prone to falling prey to temptations, we sometimes go astray. But we are blessed indeed, for ever before we loved God, he loved us first. And in this matter he shows his love to us by the assistance he gives us in obeying him. 

We read of this help in our Gospel today when Christ promises to send the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to those who love him. The Holy Spirit will give his Grace to those who love God to help them obey God more and more so that, by Grace, obedience will increase, and thereby love for God will grow and increase also. That this is so is shown, I think, by some beautiful words from a saint of the Orthodox Church, Nikodemus of the Holy Mountain, who said:

 'The grace of the Holy Spirit which is given mystically to every Christian when he is baptised acts ... in proportion to our obedience to the commandments of the Lord. That is, if a Christian obeys the commandments of the Lord more, grace acts within him more … the more a man acts in accordance with the commandments of Christ, the more … the fire of Divine grace lights in his heart … '

This is, I think, a beautiful way of expressing what our Lord is saying to us this morning in our Gospel reading: God gives us the Grace to love him, that love for him is shown through obedience, and from that obedience flows more grace allowing us to love and obey him more and more, his love for us helping deepen our love for him endlessly. And so I end with the prayer that you will allow his Love to guide you to love him more and more each day until the time when you are with the one who is Love, the God who created you and desires nothing more than you love him in return. Amen. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 25 May 2017 (The Ascension)

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.' When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 
Acts 1. 8,9

We are called to be Christ's witnesses throughout the world until he comes again. Remember always that this work is the most loving you can ever perform for your fellow man, because by it you bring before him the way to save his soul unto eternal life.

prayer diary Saturday 20 May 2017

‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you.' 
John 15. 18,19

Christ was hated by the world. What of you – are you loved or hated? And if you are loved, is it because you make it seem as if you belong to the world, and never challenge it with Christ's truth? And if that is the case, are you truly Christ's?

Friday, May 19, 2017

prayer diary Friday 19 May 2017 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.' 
John 15. 12,13

Christ's love was to spare nothing, not even himself, so that all men might know the truth. His truth is sometimes hard, but we have no choice for his words are those of eternal life. If you truly love someone, you will make sure they know that truth also, whatever the cost, be it their friendship or your life.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 18 May 2017

'As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.' 
John 15. 9,10

Christ loves us all ever and always. But only those who abide in his love receive the rewards of eternal life. And to abide in his love you must be obedient to what he commands.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 17 May 2017

'Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.' 
John 15.4

Christ commanded that we abide in him. And so we must, by being faithful members of his body, the Church. For just as the branch withers when cut from the vine, so too our faith struggles and fails when we separate ourselves from Christ.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 16 May 2017

'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.' 
John 14.27

The world offers vain pleasures and things that pass away; Christ offers things that are eternal. Therefore we need never fear whatever it is that we face.

Monday, May 15, 2017

prayer diary Monday 15 May 2017 (Saint Matthias, Apostle and Martyr)

‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.' 
John 15.12

And how did Christ love us? He gave hard teachings to his followers; he told others to sin no more; and he commanded that we love God more than material possessions. Does the love you have for your neighbour reflect his example?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Jesus the Way to the Father

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Gospel reading today is a very familiar one, being one of the mostly popularly used at funerals. This is not surprising, as it contains some of the promises our Lord made concerning eternal life. And at times of grief and mourning these words are of great comfort. But today happily we read them in another context, that of our Sunday by Sunday worship. Given that happier context, let us consider a few points drawn from this passage carefully.

The first point concerns our Lord's reply to Phillip when he asks Jesus to show him the Father. And Christ says to him that if you have seen me you have seen the Father. To put this another way – if you have seen me, you have seen God. This is of great importance. Firstly, it puts the lie to those who try to claim that Christ was simply a holy man who gave us great teachings but never claimed to be God. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly for those of us who are people of faith, it means that Christ's promises and commands to us are of Divine Origin. What Jesus says is God speaking directly to us. The promises he makes us are ironcast; and the teaching he gives us come fromt the highest source possible or imaginable.

This bring me to my next point, that one of the greatest of his promises he makes us is contained within this passage; and it is the reason that this passage is so frequently read at funerals. It concerns the eternal life that await all who follow him; and as I already said this is of great comfort when we grive the loss of a loved one. But the implications of these words are far greater than simply as an aid to bouy us up a bit in times of grief. Our Lord's promise of eternal life with him in heaven is something to keep firmly before our eyes at every moment of our lives. It reminds us, as it says in the Prayer Book, that we are to lead our lives in the light of eternity – essentially, that we are always to keep in our minds the fact that this life is not all that there is and that there are consequences in the next life for our behaviour in this one.

This leads me to my next point, one of the very important teachings that Christ gives us concerning himself in this passage. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me. This can be a difficult teaching for those living in the modern age. We are, frankly, uncomfortable suggesting to others that what we believe is in any way better than what they believe. And so we excuse ourselves from evangelising by comfortable thoughts such as there are many paths to God and that a righteous person of goodwill may, by living out whatever creed they hold faithfully may well attain salvation. And there is indeed some truth in that thought. God is merciful and he does not expect the impossible from his children. A person who leads a good life according to the dicates of the natural law – the law written in the hearts of men by God, as St Paul tells us of in his letter to the Romans – someone who would most likely have sought baptism had the Good News of Jesus Christ been brought to them – that person's eternal happiness we leave in the hands of Almighty God.

But for those who call themselves Christians, that can be no excuse for not preaching the Gospel to those who have not heard it. Think of it like this. You are lost in a desert waste with a group of travellers. Luckily for you have been given instruction on the best direction to take in order to find your way to safety. More, you have with you a detailed map of the region you are in, one that shows the landmarks to follow and the dangers to avoid if you are not to be lost forever. And you even have a compass to help keep you on the right path.

Would it be right under those circumstances to say nothing to the others, but rather tell yourself that they have every hope of finding their own way to safety? The answer, I think, is obvious. Some, of course, might refuse to believe you and choose instead to try and steer their own course. And other might well begin to doubt you along the way, finding the journey too difficult. But those who stuck with you would have a reasonable chance of reaching safety.

And imagine if you did tell no one. How would those in authority judge you if reached the place of safety alone and it was discovered that you had known the way and shared that information with nobody else? Some might have made it to safety unaided – but no thanks to you. And others would probably have died, lost in the desert. All would be quite shocked, I imagine. You would certainly be condemned in the court of public opinion; and quite possibly in the courts of law as well if the legal system allowed for it. The blood of those who were lost would be upon your hands and no one would have any doubt that you deserved any punishment you received, not matter how severe.

It is no different if you do not share the sure and certain way to eternal with others that God himself in the Second Person of the Holy Trinity gave to us. And indeed, of what comfort is it for anyone to hear these words read at a funeral if they do not also know that their loved one had first had the oppurtunity to hear these words in life and had the chance to live by them? And so as I end, I do so with the prayer that you will always do your best to share with others the Good News that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him – for the sake of their salvation; and also for the sake of your own. Amen.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 13 May 2017

'If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’ 
John 14.7

We encounter Christ in Sacred Scripture and in the Sacraments of his Church. These, and speaking with him in our hearts through prayer, we may not neglect. For it is thus that we know him, and the Father who sent him.

Friday, May 12, 2017

prayer diary Friday 12 May 2017 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' 
John 14. 6
This is a hard truth for the modern ear. But one we are not free to reject. Christ is the path to heaven. And we must lead all others to that path also.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 11 May 2017

Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.’ 
John 13. 20

Do you welcome those whom Christ sends to remind you of his hard teachings and the importance of living those teachings out in your life? Remember what it means to reject those whom the Lord has called and what you risk by doing so.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 10 May 2017

'I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.' 
John 12.46

Living in the light is a great challenge. It calls us to reject all the temptations the darkness offers. But yielding to those temptations comes at a great cost; while living in the light brings with it a great reward.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 9 May 2017

'My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.' 
John 10. 27,28

Those faithful to Christ hear his voice in Scripture and the teaching of the Church he founded. He promises eternal life to those who listen to his voice and obey. And we know that his promises are a sure foundation in which we can trust.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Buen Camino!

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

In our Gospel reading today our Lord speaks of being the gate to the sheepfold, the way in for his sheep, for those who follow him. His words remind us of how he elsewhere in Holy Scripture spoke of being the Way, as well as being the Truth and the Life. Perhaps it was for this reason that early Christians often referred to themselves as being followers of the Way. Interestingly the Camino, part of which I walked last week, is literally translated as 'the way'. It is a journey of pilgrimage whose origins date back many centuries. Like most such pilgrimage routes the numbers following it had fallen into decline; but in recent decades the numbers following the Camino have begun to soar. Today at any given time many thousands are walking its paths, which are often steep and rocky, over mountains and through forests; braving the elements, which of course can vary wildly. During my own few days I experienced snow and hail, thunder and lightning, torrential rain and blazing sun, and winds that were both strong and chilling. And yet people come from all over the world to do it. I met walkers who had come from Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Norway, Denmark, and just about every country of mainland Europe you could name.

The reasons people come are as varied as the places they come from. Many, of course, do it for the physical challenge – a short day’s walk on the Camino is 20 kilometres, and many will walk for many weeks. But many will still do it for spiritual reasons, finding in the daily discipline of rising early and walking the path laid out before them come what may a way of looking deep into their own heart’s and coming closer to God.

One thing that struck me in particular about the walkers was, whatever their motivation for being there, the care they showed for those they shared the pilgrim way with. This was most evident in the traditional greeting that walkers have for each other. As one passed another along the way they would call out to each other ‘Buen Camino’ which literally means ‘Good Camino’ or ‘Good Way’ but which also carries deeper meanings such as encouraging the other to continue on the journey, wishing them well as they travel, and indeed, given the context of pilgrimage, of a prayer for the well being of the traveller and a blessing as they continue on their way.

Another way that care is shown is the manner in which the pilgrims help keep each other on the right way. The path is well marked, with yellow arrows and the distinctive yellow scallop shell which is the emblem of the Camino set on a blue background. But with the paths often being rocky and narrow, with forks and branches intended for use by locals for reaching their homes and farms, it could sometimes be a little confusing. More than once I saw a person stopped by split in the path, unsure which way to go, who was helped by another who was more easily able to spot the markings which showed which was the Way of the Camino and which led who knows where.

I remember in particular one such occasion on the first day of our walk, as our group toiled its way up the Pyrenes. At the top we stopped for a break. As we caught our breathe and sipped water, breaking icicles off the bench that was there for sport, an elderly Korean couple walked past. And we called out to them to come back; because even though the road we had been walking continued on well-paved and wide, it was no longer the way to go. At just that spot it took a turn to the right and went almost vertically down the mountain, twisting and rocky, for all the world like the bed of a stream that had dried up. The easy path seemed the obvious way to go; and it was certainly more tempting to weary legs that had already walked 20 kilometres up a mountain carrying a heavy pack; but it was the wrong way. The difficult, almost impossible seeming path was the way to go.
The couple came back and headed down the right way. As they passed us they thanked us with a little bow, and the woman said ‘Thank you, thank you – you are to us like angels!’ High praise indeed.

But as I consider our Gospel reading today, where our Lord tells us he is the gate of the sheepfold, meaning that he is the right way for all to enter into the kingdom of God, I can not help thinking of how we are all called to be as Christ-like as possible; meaning that we must follow the example of Christ in helping others find the path to their salvation. What great benefit it would be to the salvation of souls if we encouraged others to stay on the right path, calling them back when they go wrong, tempted off course by what looks like an easier path, when the true path begins to look tough. And what benefit to us if others would help us also in a similar fashion, calling out to us. whenever we meet ‘Buen Camino’, meaning not that rocky road in Spain, but the Way that Christ laid before us. In such a way they would be as angels to us – even as we could be as angels to them. My prayer as I end is that all here will do their best to be as angels to all they meet, doing their best to guide them along the path that leads to heaven; and that they will joyfully allow others to be as angels to them for the sake of their own salvation. Amen.

prayer diary Monday 8 May 2017

‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away' 
John 10. 11, 12

Christ laid down his life for us. And we, who are called to be as Christ-like as possible, must pray for courage also so that we may never abandon the work we are called to do for the sake of the Kingdom, whatever the cost.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 6 May 2017

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it? … So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 
John 6. 60, 67-68

Faced with disciples leaving because they found his teaching hard, Jesus did not react by trying in any way to soften it. He held his ground and asked others if they also wanted to leave. Because better hard teachings that are true that lead to heaven than an easy ones that are false and end in eternal misery.

Friday, May 5, 2017

prayer diary Friday 5 May 3017 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you'. 
John 6.53

The 3rd century bishop of Carthage, St Cyprian, said 'outside the Church there is no salvation.' His words were spoken in another context, but there is a wider truth to them. Christ declared that our salvation was linked to the reception of his body and blood in the Eucharist. And the only manner in which they may be received is through being part of his body, the Church.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 4 May 3017

'I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’ 
John 6.51

At the Last Supper Christ blessed the bread, broke it, gave it to his disciples and said 'this is my body.' Here he says it is his flesh. How then can any not believe that they receive the body of Christ in the Holy Eucharist?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 3 May 3017

'This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’ 
John 6.40

Christ promises eternal life to all who believe. This places an awesome responsibility on all who follow him, for it is we that must ensure that all may hear of him; and more than hear, believe, so that they may have eternal life.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 2 May 3017

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 
John 6.35

Christ, in his supreme and ongoing gift of himself, decreed that his very self should be available to his followers in the Holy Eucharist. And we needs must partake, for he is the bread of life.

Monday, May 1, 2017

prayer diary Monday 1 May 3017

Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ 
John 6. 29

Faith is essential to the Christian life: faith in God; faith in our Saviour Christ and his promises; and faith that obedience to his teaching leads to eternal life.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 29 April 2017

When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ 
John 6. 19,20

Many today, faced with the divinity of Christ, react with their emotions. They are afraid and hide their fear by claiming such things can not be. But such things are. And Christ tells us we have no reason to fear.

Friday, April 28, 2017

prayer diary Friday 28 April 2017

When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ 
John 6.12

Christ told his followers that nothing should be wasted. Neither should we waste anything, whether from that with which God blesses us of the fruits of the earth, or of any opportunity to share the word of God with all who come near.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 27 April 2017

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' 
John 14.6

This is a hard truth for modern ears. And even harder to share in a world so quick to take offense at anything proclaimed as an absolute truth. But share it we must, for it is part of the truth that God so loved the world that he sent his Son into it to proclaim.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 26 April 2017

'the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.' 
John 3. 19

People would not listen to Christ and crucified him instead. But as he died for our sins, by continuing in our sins we show our love for the darkness rather than the light. Repent, therefore, of your evil and enter into the light that is Christ.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 25 April 2017 (St Mark)

'and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.' 
Mark 13.13

Christ warned his disciples of the consequences of following him. Should we not then expect to be persecuted by those who hold to the popular opinions of the day? And if we are not a thorn in their side should we not ask ourselves why we are not.

Monday, April 24, 2017

prayer diary Monday 24 April 2017 (St Joseph of Nazareth)

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son.’
Matthew 1. 22,23

The gospels tell us St Joseph was a righteous man. His faith was rewarded by his being accorded the privilege of being the foster-father of God himself.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

St Thomas: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed

May my words be in the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today's reading shows us the last time in the Gospels that we hear St Thomas speaking. It is the occasion for which he is most remembered, the one which earned him the sobriquet 'Doubting Thomas.' It occurs to few, I believe, to think back to the first time we hear this holy Apostle speak in the Gospels in a passage we read only a few weeks ago just before the beginning of Holy Week. I refer, of course, to the passage in St John's Gospel recording the events around our Lord's raising of Lazarus from the dead. You may recall on that occasion that Jesus' followers were anxious about his plans to go to Bethany. The Jews, they knew, had only recently attempted to stone their master. Returning to Judea so soon after would be dangerous for him; and, we may note, also for anyone with him. So they are glad when he delays going; and alarmed when he announces that he intends going after all. And, with all around him afraid, St John records his fellow-apostle speaking some remarkable words: St Thomas says 'Let us go also, that we may die with him.' He considers going to Judea to be a grave risk – but he nonetheless is willing to face death rather than abandon his master.
So he was a man of great courage. And his bravery is also revealed in the passage we heard read today – even though it is easy to miss it. Most are too caught up in St Thomas' refusal to accept what the other disciples who have seen Jesus try to tell him to consider a very important implication revealed in the fact that he was missing for the time when our Lord first revealed himself to his Apostles. He was not there. All the rest of Jesus' followers kept themselves hidden for fear of the Jews. And yet St Thomas was not there. He alone of them all does not keep himself hidden. He is not afraid to go out and about in Jerusalem among the people who seized his master, subjected him to a mockery of a trial, and then condemned to death on a cross.

We may ask ourselves why such a man, a man not only of such great courage but who also was so deeply devoted to our Lord, unafraid to face death for his sake, may have doubted that his master had Risen from the dead? But this is something I believe we must not be too hard on him for. Doubt is, after all, quite a normal thing – especially in the face of extraordinary events such as these. We may also note that the other disciples also doubted when they were first told of our Lord's Resurrection. The woman who went to the tomb on that morning told them of the Empty Tomb and how they has seen the Lord Risen and Alive. But they did not believe them. It was not until they saw the Lord for themselves that they believed. We may also consider the words of the Church Father St Gregory concerning this – that it was no accident that St Thomas was absent when our Lord first appeared, but rather it was something intended by God for our benefit. Indeed, that it was part of God's plan seems beyond dispute. Our Lord could easily have timed his appearance so that all of his Apostles were there; that he did not must have been deliberate. And he knew how St Thomas would react to the news of his first appearance; just as he knew how he would react on being present at the second.
What are the ways in which we benefit? First that our Lord allows St Thomas to touch him, proving the Resurrection was no mere spiritual event. Christ had risen indeed in bodily form; if it were not so, then St Thomas could not have touched him. Next there is St Thomas' truly wondrous declaration of faith: My Lord and my God! The Risen Lord is addressed as God by one of his disciples – and he does not reject his words or rebuke him for using them. Indeed, he confirms them by saying to St Thomas 'because you have seen me, you have believed.' The Resurrection is intended to confirm to all men that Christ is God – and St Thomas is the first one not only to recognise this but to declare what it means publicly. Finally, St Thomas' initial doubts allow our Lord to directly bless all Christians who would come after him: blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed. We should bask in those words, savour them, glory in them. Christ himself has pronounced his blessing upon our faith; God himself has proclaimed that we are blessed by our faith in him.

Because of all that I have already said, I have never liked the fact that many have given St Thomas the title 'doubting.' St Thomas through whom God himself has blessed us might be better. Or perhaps St Thomas the bravest of the Apostles. He, after all, was the one who declared he was willing to die for Christ even before he understood that he was God incarnate. And when he did understand, he lived that declaration out in its fullest sense. Like all the Apostles, save St John the beloved disciples and writer of the Gospel that bears his name, St Thomas died a martyrs death; he took the faith to India, where the Church he founded still remains and today is nearly 30 million strong. I pray that all here will be inspired by his witness, declaring for themselves daily 'My Lord and my God' in response to the Gospel witness; and thereby hearing in their hearts from now until the end of the ages our Lord's words spoken directly to them 'Blessed are you who have not seen and yet have believed.' Amen. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 22 April 2017

Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.' 
Mark 16.14, 15

Christ calls us all to proclaim to the world not only that he is risen, but what his Resurrection means for all. To do otherwise shows a lack of faith and stubbornness of heart.

Friday, April 21, 2017

prayer diary Friday 21 April 2017

Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ 
John 21. 5-6

Christ's words that day to his apostles recall the events of when he first called them to him, telling them that they would be fishers of men. It reminds us that our work continues and that we must strive daily to make disciples of all people.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 20 April 2017

Jesus said ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see.' 
Luke 24. 38,39

Christ's Resurrection was both spiritual and physical. Death could not hold him and so body and soul together broke free of the tomb. Therefore we can be sure that the eternal life he promised waits for all who love him and show that love by hearing and obeying his word.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 19 April 2017

Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. 
Luke 24.35

Each time we gather round the Lord's Table he makes himself known to us in the breaking of the bread. How blessed are we that we can share in the intimate experience of those who journeyed with him on the road to Emmaus whenever we gather to celebrate the Eucharist together.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 18 April 2017

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her. 
John 20.18

We also encounter the Risen Lord daily in our lives. Like Mary we must proclaim this good news to others and be his witness to all the world.

Monday, April 17, 2017

prayer diary Monday 17 April 2017

Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 
Matthew 28.9

The joy of the disciples at the Resurrection of Jesus found its natural expression in immediate worship. So too must we be filled with this joy each day and worship our Lord who has risen from the dead and in so doing has vanquished death for us all.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

the good thief and the birth of hope at Easter

May my words be in the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today we have come to the end of our journey through the desert; our 40 days in the Wilderness has come to an end and we have emerged from the desolate places into a wonderful oasis, the joyful Paradise that is Easter Day. And why is it that we rejoice – because the Lenten Fast is over? No; for it would make no sense to fast for the sole purpose of rejoicing when we cease to fast. We rejoice because Christ is risen – and what it is that his Resurrection means for us.

And what does that Resurrection mean for us? Well, consider a man, justly condemned to death. The morning for his execution comes and he is taken from his cell. And then as he stands at the foot of the steps of the Gallows, instead of being forced to ascend, he is instead set free. Would not such a man rejoice? Of course he would – and yet what Christ has given to us through our Baptism into his Church is even greater than that. For that condemned man must one day face death again in some other form. But we, through our Baptism have gone beyond that; for by his Resurrection Christ has destroyed the power of death; and what was once the end of Life has now become the Gateway to Eternal Life.

And this Eternal Life is something that he offers to all, no matter how terrible as sinner they may have been, what crimes they may have committed, provided they Repent and through themselves upon Christ's mercy. To know this, we have only to think about the life of one person who was also at Calvary with Jesus, a person whom we may forget about as the pain and sorrow of Good Friday are left behind in the joys of Easter Day.

That person is the man who also hung on a cross on Golgotha with Christ. We often refer to him as the 'Good Thief' – but his crimes were surely greater than mere theft, for we have his own words recorded for us in St Luke's Gospel telling us that he was justly condemned. Tradition has given him the name Dismas, and St John Chrysostom tells us that he was both a murderer and a bandit, a man who preyed upon anyone unlucky enough to cross his path, robbing them not only of their goods but their very lives.

A terrible man, then, who has earned his terrible fate – death on a cross. And yet this is the one who rebukes the other criminal who hung on our Saviour's left, asking him does he not fear God, admitting that his crimes are deserving of death, and then turning to Christ, asking him that he remember him when he comes into his Kingdom. Why should such a wretched man do such a thing? Well, St Augustine put forward an interesting idea concerning this matter. He wondered if perhaps this was a man who had been previously baptised. It is of course only a speculation – yet it is a compelling thought. Perhaps this man had once followed Christ – and then turned away from him to go back to his life of Evil. And then after many terrible crimes, after much shedding of innocent blood, he is caught, condemned, and his sentence of death is carried out. And then as he hangs on his cross, his life beginning to ebb away, he recognises his former master. Perhaps the nearness of his own death causes this man who was once a follower of Christ to understand something that all the other disciples, even the Apostles themselves, failed to understand …he alone sees through the Cross to the Resurrection and the Empty Tomb … he alone sees that the suffering of the man beside him does not indicate failure but a triumph.

It does not really matter whether it was because he was former disciple or simply a deeply sinful man blessed with a sudden flash of divine insight that caused him to ask Jesus to remember him. Whatever his reason, he received as his answer the wonderful words – truly, I tell you that this day you will be with me in Paradise - by which Christ meant Heaven, as St Ambrose assures us. The criminal on the cross is blessed to hear our Saviour himself assure him that that very day, the moment his sufferings in this life were ended, he would enter into the divine glory which is eternal life.

Dismas, the Good Thief, is also sometimes called the Penitent Thief; and his penitence reminds us of something important – the very thing we celebrate this morning. And that is that it is the birth of hope into the world. The Resurrection of Christ from the dead tells us our lives are more than what we see around us; it tells that by our Baptisms we are born into the hope of Eternal life. It tells that however far we have strayed from the path that God calls all his children to, repentance offers the hope of salvation and eternal life. Dismas, as St Gregory of Nyssa tells us, was bound to his cross, with only his heart and his tongue under his control. Yet this was freedom enough for him to recognise Christ as Lord, freedom enough to accept him as his Saviour. This tells us that no matter how our own lives seem to hem us in, we have that Freedom also – a Freedom that opens to us the Hope that Christ offers – a hope that I pray that all here will joyfully embrace this day and always. Amen. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

prayer diary Easter Eve 2017

And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. 
John 19.42

This day your Saviour's body lies in the tomb. He lies there for you. Let your every act and thought this day reflect your awareness of this.

Friday, April 14, 2017

prayer diary Good Friday 2017

He said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 
John 19.30

Christ died on the cross for you. He who was without sin gave up his life so that sinners might have eternal life. Do not reject the sacrifice that he made for you.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

prayer diary Thursday in Holy Week 2017

Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 
John 13.5

Christ, God and man, was not above the humble service of others. What are the ways in which you are too proud to serve, thinking such actions beneath you?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday in Holy Week 2017

Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ 
John 13.22

Do not in your pride despise Judas. Rather, consider the ways you daily, even hourly, betray your Lord.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday in Holy Week 2017

'Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.'  
John 11.24

Deny yourself that you may die to self and thus bear much fruit for Christ.

Monday, April 10, 2017

prayer diary Monday in Holy Week 2017

'You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’ 
John 11.8

There are some who think themselves too busy with the practical work of the Gospel to spend time in worship. Christ demands both of those who follow him.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 8 April 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him.' 
John 11.47,48

The authorities of his day feared people's faith in Christ. They still do today. This is why they either try to subvert it to their own dark ends or attempt to undermine. But we, faithful to the teaching passed on from the beginning, must stand fast.

Friday, April 7, 2017

prayer diary Friday 7 April 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Many came to him, and they were saying, ‘John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ 
John 10.41

John the Baptist was the last and greatest of the prophets. The people of his time saw that all he told us of Christ was true. John continues to speak to us today through scripture and he continues to testify as to who Christ is and what we can hope for as a result.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 6 April 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.’ 
John 8.51

By his resurrection we know all of Christ's promises are true. Life eternal awaits those who are faithful to his teaching in the face of all the temptations of this life.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 5 April 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.' 
John 8.31

Those who follow Christ must be obedient to him. Reflect on this when next you find some of his teachings difficult or another tries to tell you they are too hard to bear.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 4 April 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he.' 
John 8.28

It is through the cross that God's plan is fulfilled and on it his Son is revealed to be who he truly is. It is through the cross also that God's plans for us reach fruition and we become who we were created to be. This is why we must take up our own cross and follow Christ.

Monday, April 3, 2017

prayer diary Monday 3 April 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’ 
John 8.11

Christ does not condemn the woman taken in adultery, but he does condemn her sin. His forgiveness is for all, as is his command to go and sin no more.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

'Lazarus, come forth!'

May my words be in the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

In our gospel reading today Jesus stands outside the tomb of his friend and follower Lazarus and commands the dead man to come forth. It is perhaps the best known of all of Jesus' miracles – so well known that the name of the man raised from the dead is often used to describe occasions when a person seems to all but miraculously survive a brush with death. But sometimes familiarity can breed if not contempt then at least a certain comfortableness with the event. We know from the moment the passage begins what is about to happen. And so perhaps something of the awesomeness of what is recorded here can pass us by. We read of Jesus raising the man from the dead and we almost forget to think how remarkable what is recorded here really is. Instead, when we hear how he stood outside the tomb of a man who had been dead and buried for four days and says 'Lazarus, come forth' and the dead man obeys and is restored to his family we should be stricken to our core. For by virtue of the living and inspired word of God in Sacred Scripture we have been made witness to something truly extraordinary – the power of the divine in action. For it is only God that can restore the dead to life.

This point is brought out very clearly in our reading from the prophet Ezekiel, the most famous of all the passages in this book of the Bible, concerning the valley of the dry bones. In it God almost teases the prophet – look at all these bones, and see how dry they are – so dry, as we learn later that no so much as a scrap of flesh remains upon them, not even a withered sinew – can something like this live again, he asks? And the prophet wisely defers to the Almighty, saying that is something that only he can know. And God tells him that these bones will indeed live again; and the reason that they will live is so that he will know that this is indeed the Lord.

And that last point is important, for it is for just the same reason that Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Before he begins his journey to Bethany to where his friend is buried, Jesus tells his disciples that he is glad for their sake that he had not been there to prevent Lazarus from dying – why? So that they will see the divine power he wields, the power over life and death. He says much the same thing to those who stand by the tomb with him, that they are about to see the glory of God. Something that they indeed see when he tells the dead man to come forth.

Jesus intends that those present be awed by what they see, that they be left in no doubt that what they are seeing is the glory of God first-hand. He wants them to understand who it is that stands before, that he is exactly who he claims he is, the Son of God, a person who can say with absolute truth that he and the Father are one – a claim that the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day had no hesitation in understanding was a claim to be God himself – for they, in their wilful blindness refused to believe him and instead accused him of blasphemy, knowing that by what he said he was making himself equal with God.

And this is the point we must not miss – Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead to give witness to his divine authority - not for the sake of restoring his friend to the world. Of course he loves his friend – he weeps at his grave; and he loves Martha and Mary also, the dead man's sisters and it grieves him to see them mourning for their brother. But the lives of all men end in the grave. No, Christ's purpose was to show even though the grave waits for all, the grave does not have to be the end of life. True life, as we read in our Epistle, is the life we have in Christ. Christ calls Lazarus forth from the grave so that all might know that he came into the world so that all men might be saved and have eternal life.

Without this hope it is the world that is the grave; for without this hope our lives are short and meaningless and crumble to dust that are lost in the winds of time after a few short years. But we do have that hope. Christ proved this to us in many ways. And today we see him doing it by calling Lazarus forth from the grave. And by doing so, he does far more than make a single dead man live. He calls us forth all of us who were otherwise dead into eternal life. Christ calls us all forth to share in eternal life with him. The question we must ask ourselves is our we listening … and our we willing to obey him and so enter into the eternal life he offers? This is something that I pray all here will: in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

haiku: web on window

web on window
the fly
behind the glass

Saturday, April 1, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 1 April 2017 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Nicodemus .. asked, ‘Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?’ 
John 7. 50,51

Christ was an innocent victim in all that he suffered for us. Those who opposed him denied him everything, even simple justice. Yet he willingly endured it all for our sake.

Friday, March 31, 2017

prayer diary Friday 31 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. 
John 7. 30

Even as he journeyed to Jerusalem, Christ was always in control. He laid down his life willingly, for it was something that no man could take from him.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 30 March 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. 
John 5.37

Christ, the Son of God, did the work of the Father; how can we, called to be as Christlike as possible, do less? Use this season of Lent to consider how it is that you fail to do the work that God calls you to do.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 29 March 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the Sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God. 
John 5.18

The people of Jesus' day had no doubts that he claimed to be divine. Ponder this deeply during the season of Lent and what it means for you that God became man and died for your sins.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

haiku: summer time

our clocks move forward
still begins at dawn

prayer diary Tuesday 28 March 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you. 
John 5.14

Even as he healed men's bodies, Christ's first concern was for the salvation of their souls. Strive this Lent for the healing of your soul so as to avoid the worst of all possible fates, the loss of eternal life.

Monday, March 27, 2017

prayer diary Monday 27 March 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.' 
John 4.50

Some crave miracles, saying without them they will not believe. And yet they ignore so much around them that is truly miraculous - all of creation, that life exists, and that they have the God-given mind with which to wonder at it all.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

the man born blind

May my words be in the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Jesus' disciples ask him an interesting question in today's Gospel especially so in this season of Lent when we strive even harder to take up our own crosses and better follow our Lord. They see a man born blind and ask if it is because he sinned or because his parents sinned that he has been blind from birth. Jesus, of course, answers that it was neither, but rather so that God's works might be revealed through him. But their query reflects the not uncommon human suspicion that personal misfortune represents some kind of divine punishment. One might wonder, however, why it is that faithful Jews such as Jesus' followers would ask such a question. It is reasonable to presume that they should have been familiar with the book Job – a book of Sacred Scripture which makes it clear that human suffering is not related to the wrongdoings of those who suffer. Also, they should have thought of our Lord's own words on the matter, recorded by St Luke in the 13th chapter of his Gospel, where Jesus says that the Galileans whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices – meaning that they were killed by his soldiers while they offered sacrifice in the Temple – were no worse sinners than any other Galileans, or that those who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell upon them were no worse offenders than any one else living in Jerusalem at that time.

Suffering then is not to be seen as some kind of a specific punishment that the one who suffers has brought down upon themselves. Suffering in a more general sense, of course,is a result of sin – original sin, the sin of our first parents. It is a result of our fallen nature and it is as such part of the human condition. In this life we can all expect both the good and the ills that this world offers – as our Lord made clear in chapter five of St Matthew's gospel when he said that our Father in heaven makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

Indeed, we have many examples from Scripture showing us how good people can endure much suffering in this life. Job I have already mentioned. We may also think of St Peter in the Acts of the Apostles being beaten and thrown into prison, the Apostle St James being killed by King Herod's men, and the lengthy list of sufferings that St Paul underwent – as he tells us in his second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11, he endured many imprisonments, countless floggings, and was often near death. Five times he received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times he was beaten with rods. Once he was stoned and left for dead. Three times he was shipwrecked, being for a night and a day adrift at sea; on his frequent journeys, in was in danger from rivers, bandits, faced many a sleepless night, was hungry and thirsty, and was often cold and naked. And, as if that were not enough, he tells us in chapter 12 of the same letter that he was given by God what he calls a thorn in the flesh. What this mysterious thorn was we are not exactly sure – but we know that it tormented him and presumably, since he says it was in the flesh, he means it caused him great pain. So greatly did it torment him that three times he appealed to God that it might leave him. But God refused his request saying : ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for strength is made perfect in weakness.’

It would also be well to consider here some other words from St Paul on the subject of suffering, words that we heard in last week's reading from chapter five of his letter to the Romans: suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Our sufferings in this world can be of spiritual benefit to us, provided that we accept them in the right spirit. This does not mean that if you are ill you should not seek medical attention or take the medicines that will cure you; but rather that those sufferings that can not be avoided can provide an opportunity for growth.

Think of them, perhaps, as a temptation. One way of dealing with suffering is to grow angry with God that he allowed this pain to come into your life or that he will not take it away from you. Another is to accept it in a spirit of humility, reminding yourself that just as we accept those things we think of as good from God so also must we accept those we think of as bad, to paraphrase the words Job use when it came to his own suffering; and saying to God that with his grace it is something we can bear. And also remembering the words of the Lord that those who would follow him must take up their cross. Our Lord did not reject his cross, painful though it was; and neither must we. Through our patient endurance God's works are made manifest through us, just as they were with the blind man; and just as St Paul's suffering with his thorn helped make him perfect, ours borne with God's grace can also help us be perfect – and thereby lead us at the last to be with him in heaven. Amen. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 25 March 2017 - The Annunciation

Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ 
Luke 1. 38

How important were those words of obedience from the Mother of our Lord. We also must, like her, seek to say 'yes' to God in every aspect of our lives.

Friday, March 24, 2017

prayer diary Friday 24 March 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” 
Mark 12.30

It is from this love of God that all goodness in our lives flow; and this love is shown in our lives in how we show our love for all others.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

haiku: carrot and coal

carrot and coal
together on ground
-the snowman departs

prayer diary Thursday 23 March 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.' 
Luke 11.23

Our Lord does not appreciate those who sit on the fence. Make your choice and choose wisely; for to refuse to choose is to reject him.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

haiku: green arc through white

green arc through white
leading to where snow
becomes man

prayer diary Wednesday 22 March 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.' 
Matthew 5.19

It is not only by our words that we teach others, but by the example of our lives. Take care then that you thus teach others to obey God's laws if you hope to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 21 March 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.' 
Matthew 18. 21,22

We hope for forgiveness from God. But as Christ tells us here and elsewhere in Scripture those who would be forgiven must themselves forgive all others.

Monday, March 20, 2017

prayer diary Monday 20 March 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town.' 
Luke 4. 24

The blindness of the people of Jesus time in rejecting him because he seemed to be one who came from among them seems foolish to us today. Yet how many of us behave in exactly the same way, rejecting him even as we call him Lord?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

the woman at the well

May my words be in the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

The woman Jesus meets at the well of Sychar, whom we read of in today's gospel, certainly seems to have been an interesting character. First, she certainly does not appear to have been a shy woman, as is apparent from the back and forth banter she engages in with our Lord. And this conversation reveals her to have been not only sharp of tongue but sharp of mind also, for after her initial somewhat barbed remarks she engages with Christ in a quite serious theological discussion.

The next important thing we may say of her is that she most certainly has not lived what might be considered a conventional life to date, for she has been married no less than five times and is now living with another man to whom she is not married. And we can also glean from Scripture that she has paid a price for her lifestyle. We can know this because she comes to the well at noon – the hottest time of the day. This was not the time for drawing water. That was done either in the cool of the morning or later in the afternoon when the burning sun was no longer at its height. And it was a social time, where the woman who gathered caught up on the gossip of the day. That this woman comes at noon, a time when she can expect no one to be there, means that she is someone who is not popular with the other women of the locality. No doubt they fear that when the time comes for her to move on from her current partner, her gaze may fix upon one of their husbands as a possible replacement.

Something of this latter aspect of her character may have been apparent from her appearance, for Jesus' followers are surprised that he is talking to her. Why? Because she is a woman? But Jesus, we know, was in the habit of talking to women – he had many female followers, and indeed his group relied on some of them for financial support. Because she is a Samaritan? But Jesus did not go in for the Jewish custom of shunning those from this part of the world – he even has one as the leading figure in one of his parables; and we know that he cured a leper who was also a Samaritan. Yet still they wonder that he talks with her. I suspect that it is because there is something about her that signals to them that she is not a respectable woman according to the lights of their culture. Perhaps she is dressed a little too flamboyantly. Perhaps she has too much showy jewellery on. Perhaps her make-up is a little too extreme. Or perhaps it is some combination of all three. But there is definitely something about her that tells them that this is not the kind of woman that the man they are sure must be the Messiah should be talking to.

Their reaction is illustrative of an age-old problem. How do you indicate to someone that there are aspects of the way that they are living their life that you do not approve of because they objectively violate God's law without falling into the trap of yourself violating God's law by judging them, something that is the prerogative of God alone? It is a balance that followers of Christ have struggled with throughout all the history of the Church. Often we have focussed solely on moralising the sinner while neglecting completely reaching out to them. Our attempts at correcting sin have themselves been sinful – sometimes, it would seem, more sinful than the sin they strive to correct, for they have taken people struggling with their failings and driven them out of the Church, the very place Christ created to be a hospital for the healing of those afflicted by sin.

We would have done better to follow the example of our Lord, as set out for us in this passage of Scripture. First, I do not think their meeting was accidental. St John tells us that Jesus is tired and waits by the well while the others go on into the town to buy food. And no doubt he was tired after their long journey from Judea. But was the one who fasted 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness, the one who would later carry the great weight of the Cross from Jerusalem to Golgotha after a brutal scouring that would have killed most other men, is he really more tired than his disciples and unable to go on? Or is he engineering this meeting with the woman, so that he may reach out to her – and model for us how we also should reach out? For reach out of her he does – he, remember, is the one who initiates the conversation with her, much to her surprise, and persists, despite her somewhat barbed reaction to it. But his openness to this woman who has been marginalised by the society she lives in does not extend to an openness to the things that are wrong about her life. As we so often see him do elsewhere in the Gospels with those who have been excluded because of their behaviour, he points out her wrongdoings. He calls out her less than exemplary behaviour with regard to marital relations; and he even points out the manner in which she, along with all other Samaritans, have got things wrong in relation to the right practice of religion. And her reaction is illuminating. Does this sharp-tongued woman respond with angry words? Does she turn on her heel and walk away? No – his openness to her and his honesty about her situation convince her of the truth of what he says. We can learn much from her reaction – a person of goodwill will never be offended by the truth, even if it can be uncomfortable for them to hear it.

Indeed, far from being offended, the woman rushes back to the town, in such a hurry that she leaves her water jar behind, to tell other about the Messiah and bring them also to know Jesus. Over the course of her brief conversation with Jesus something remarkable has happened: she has gone from being a social pariah, to being a follower of Christ, to being an evangelist who brings others to know and believe in Jesus.

We have no name for the woman our Lord met by the well. But we do have names for others that we know – others that we exclude because we are unhappy about the way that they live, or whom, even if we do not exclude them from our lives we do not truly invite them in because we would find it too uncomfortable to share the gospel truths with them for fear it would cast an uncomfortable light on their own lives and the way that they live it. During the time that remains of Lent it might be a good idea to consider who it is in your life might fit that description. And then consider how you might follow the example of Christ by trying to reach out to them and helping them transform their lives utterly by drawing them back into the Kingdom of God. Amen.