Friday, June 30, 2017

prayer diary Friday 30 June 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves.' 
Matthew 10. 16

The work of being a Christian and spreading the good news is not without its dangers. We should welcome them with joy, knowing that in facing these dangers we are doing God's work.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 29 June 2017

Jesus, sending out the twelve to proclaim the good news, said: 'You received without payment; give without payment.'
Matthew 10. 8

The gift of the good news of Jesus Christ was something freely given to us by God. It is our work to freely pass that good news on to others.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 28 June 2017

(Jesus, sending out the twelve, said) 'As you go, proclaim the good news 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' 
Matthew 10. 7

As Christians we are all called by Christ and sent forth into the world. In what ways do you proclaim to others that the kingdom of heaven has come near?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 27 June 2017

The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest.'
Matthew 9. 37-38

How often do you pray that people will answer the call to the ministries of the Church, especially the ordained ministries? How often and in what ways to your encourage or help others to answer that call? And how often do you listen to know as to what ways God may be calling you?

Monday, June 26, 2017

prayer diary Monday 26 June 2017

He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him 'follow me.' And he got up and followed him.'
Matthew 9.9

To the Jews of Jesus time tax-collectors were the worst of all sinners. And yet, being called, Matthew responded at once. Sometimes even those we think of as being the worst of all people only need the slightest nudge to jump at the chance of redemption. Who have you called lately?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

fear not for the body but for the soul

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

Our Gospel reading today is part of the passage where our Lord, having chosen the 12 Apostles, is giving them their instructions prior to sending them out to preach his Good News in the towns and villages of the people of Israel. And one of the things that he told them that we heard read today was the following verse: 'Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.' The interpretation of those words are fairly obvious – Christ knew that speaking the Gospel truths are not without risks; and he wanted his disciples to understand that the seeming peace and comfort that may come by keeping quiet and going along with the world instead of preaching that truth is only temporary – whereas the benefits of being faithful to God and obeying his commandments, including his commandment to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples of all nations, are eternal.

I have no doubt that our Lord's words were of great comfort in the early centuries of the Church, when to be a Christian was to face persecution and death. The inspirational stories of the martyrs we have had passed down to us from that era demonstrate clearly that they refused to fear those who could kill the body; for they understood that it mattered nothing to preserve the life of the body if it was done at the cost of the soul. The life of the body is short and will end whether our time in this life is spent in comfort or in suffering; but the life that comes after this life is eternal and will be miserable indeed if those comforts have come at the expense of fidelity to God.

And surely those words of Christ must be of great comfort to those who face persecution and death today for the sake of the faith. For we must not forget that such persecution is not a thing of the past; it is not something that only took place in the bad old days of the Roman Empire. No, it continues today; and in fact Christians are the most persecuted people on the face of the earth today. Tens of thousands die for the faith each year; and tens of millions more face all kinds of suffering. And the suffering and death they face would end if they would only renounce their faith – but they refuse to do so, for they, like the martyrs of old recognise that those who kill the body are not to be feared; and they therefore place faithfulness to God and the eternal life that comes with that above any short-lived comforts they might gain in this life for the sake of renouncing their faith.

We, of course, do not face death on a daily basis for the faith. No one any time soon is going to put a gun to our head and threaten to pull the trigger if we do not deny Christ; no one is likely to beat us up, chase us through the streets, burn our homes, destroy our churches, or deny us our human rights for the sake of our faith. However, it would be a mistake to think because of that the Christ's words therefore only apply to people of long ago or people living far away. In our society Christians  are coming under increasing pressure to adapt the faith to conform with the values of secular society. Certain sections of the media endlessly condemn traditional Christian teachings as being unacceptable; indeed, in the United Kingdom only recently the leader of a major political party stepped down, saying that he no longer believed it was possible to both lead his party and be a faithful Christian. The modern world is becoming a very cold place indeed for those who take their Christian faith seriously. 

But that, I think, should not fill us with dismay. Rather, we should think of our Lord's words and be filled with hope. We have nothing to fear from those who can only kill the body; nothing to fear from those who can make our lives difficult; nothing to fear from those who will mock us and sneer at us and loudly proclaim we are fools, that our beliefs are out of step with the age we live in and are therefore unacceptable and must be either changed, abandoned or suppressed. For these are only the passing dangers and discomforts of this life; and enduring them does not diminish us in the least. Indeed we should welcome them, for they give us the opportunity to bear witness to Christ in the world – something we should daily give thanks for to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 24 June 2017

The day will come when the bridegroom is taken from them, and then they will fast.' 
Matthew 9.15

Fasting, along with many traditional penitential practices, are ignored by many. Yet we know from Sacred Scripture that they were commended to us by Christ himself. Should not then we, who call ourselves his followers, follow his teaching as much concerning this as we do with all other matters?

Friday, June 23, 2017

prayer diary Friday 23 June 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'For I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners.' 
Matthew 9. 13

And we know, of course, that Christ came to call all people to himself; for all indeed are sinners. But woe onto those who think they are without sin; for in that way they reject Christ's mercy and his promise of eternal life.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 22 June 2017

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic 'take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.' 
Matthew 9. 2

We all remember that Jesus told the man to take up his mat and walk; how many remember that he did so that he might display to the world he had the authority to forgive sins? For that was why he came, to save us from our sins. Do not deceive yourself, and thereby reject Christ, by believing you have no sins to be forgiven of.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 21 June 2017

Thomas answered him 'My Lord and my God.' 
John 20.28

the phrase 'doubting Thomas' has entered indelibly into common parlance. Yet this is the same man who was the first to clearly and unambiguously recognise and declare the divinity of Christ. We who walk the path he first trod should daily give thanks for his inspired witness to the truth of whom Christ is.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 20 June 2017

And Jesus said to them 'why are you afraid, you of little faith?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm.' 
Matthew 8. 26

Death comes to us all. But for those who put their faith in Christ, there is nothing to fear in this world.

Monday, June 19, 2017

prayer diary Monday 19 June 2017

'Foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.'
Matthew 8. 20

The material things of this world matter little. All that matters is following Christ.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 17 June 2017

‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.' 
Matthew 6.24

The things of this world exist to serve our bodily needs while we live. If we instead become slaves to them we lose our path in this life and risk our life in the next.

Friday, June 16, 2017

prayer diary Friday 16 June 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven … for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.' 
Matthew 6.20,21

Honestly ask yourself if it is the things of this world that matter most to you. Then consider the fact that there is not a single one of them that you can take with you to the next life. Why love that which you can not keep and may even serve to deny you the one thing that truly matters?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 15 June 2017

'And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.'Matthew 6.12

The Christian way is hard. It is not easy to let go of the slights and wrongs we suffer. And yet, even as we hope that God will forgive us, so too must we forgive others.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 14 June 2017

‘whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others.' 
Matthew 6.2

We all must do all we can to help others. But consider carefully your reasons for doing so. Is it to gain glory in the eyes of the world? Or because they are your brother and sisters deserving your love and care?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 13 June 2017

'But I say to you, 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.''
Matthew 5.44

Christ commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves. And as all are our neighbours, those who hate us as much as those who love us, so we must love and pray for all.

Monday, June 12, 2017

prayer diary Monday 12 June 2017

‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.'
Matthew 5. 38,39

The Christian does not seek vengeance for real or imagined wrongs. We must forgive – seven times seventy if needs be.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Trinity Sunday - God reveals himself to man

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

Each year the Sunday after Pentecost we have Trinity Sunday. And it is a Sunday, you may have heard me say before, that some preachers regard with a degree of trepidation, for it is a day when they feel obliged to discuss one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith, that while God is One, he exists in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

But mysteries, I think, are only for explaining when it comes to the fictional kind we find in detective novels and television programmes. The nature of God, however, is not a problem for us to solve, to put neatly into a box so that it does not trouble us any more. When it comes to faith mysteries are for accepting. But that does not mean there is nothing we can say about the matter. Indeed, I would think it important that we consider how it is that we know that although there is only one God he is three persons.

First, let us begin by thinking about how it is that we know anything about God. Natural reason can tell us much. We know, for example, that everything in nature has a beginning and an end, even the universe itself; and that nothing within our universe can cause itself to come into being. That suggests that there must be something outside of nature, some force outside of time and space which brought our universe into being. That act of creation and the intricate design of the universe argues that that force must have intelligence or mind – in other words it must be some form of being. This being, existing outside of time and space, must needs be eternal, without beginning and without end; having the ability to create our seemingly infinite universe out of nothing, it must be all powerful; and of unlimited intelligence.

Such things about God we can learn from observation of the world around us. But, just as there are things we can learn about a person from observing their actions, and other we can only know if they tell us, there are things we can only know about God if he himself tells us. And it is more than reasonable to expect that God would choose to tell us something more about himself than we can gain by simply looking at the world around us; if a Divine intelligence creates a universe with other intelligent beings in it, then it simply makes no sense to imagine that he would then not communicate with us in some way.

And if fact, God has communicated additional information about himself to us. We have a record of these communications in Holy Scripture. And we call this information Divine Revelation, for by it we know that God has revealed information concerning himself to those he has created.

And I use the word 'know' rather than 'believe' deliberately; for knowledge comes not just from the head but also from the heart. And just as we can know things concerning God by use of our natural reason and looking at the world around us, our heads, so also we can learn of him by looking within ourselves, our hearts. We should not be surprised at this; for the one who created the world also created us. And this inner knowledge tells us that the one who created us also communicates with us.
We all have some experience of this, such as our in-built sense of morality by which we know right from wrong and good from evil; we have it also in our innate sense that this life is not all there is, that there is something about human existence that goes beyond the mere physical; and we experience it also in our instinct for the Divine, an experience shared by all people, in all places, throughout history. Others have experienced this Divine self-revelation more clearly, more personally, and more specifically. And we call the record of that Divine Revelation Sacred Scripture, which we have collected together in that wondrous book we call the Holy Bible.

And in the Bible we are told by God himself that he is three persons in one God. We see this in our reading from St Matthew's Gospel today when Christ himself commands his disciples to go out into the world, baptising all people in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We see it in our epistle from the Apostle St Paul when he blesses the church in Corinth with the words we now refer to as the Grace – words referencing God in the three persons of the Blessed Trinity. And we even see it in our Old Testament reading today, words taken from the very first verses of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, where we see first God himself, then his Spirit hovering over the waters, and then his creative Word spoken, saying 'let there be light' – and that Word, we know from the opening Chapter of St John's Gospel, was made flesh in Jesus Christ our Lord.

So we know that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because he has told us so in Sacred Scripture; and the knowledge of God that we have in our hearts assures us that what Scripture tells us is true. We do not have to understand how this can be any more than we have to understand how it is that he is eternal; how Christ can be both God and Man, or how it is that bread and wine becomes his Flesh and Blood for us in the Holy Eucharist. It is enough for us that God tells us it is so; and that we know in our hearts that it is true. A truth that I pray all people in all places will come to know in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 10 June 2017

'But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool.' 
Matthew 5.34,35

Of what use to you is an oath? If a person does not trust your word, will they believe you more because of your swearing? And if you speak a lie, why compound your sin by dishonouring God by your oath?

Friday, June 9, 2017

prayer diary Friday 9 June 2017

'But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.' 
Matthew 5 28

Christians are called to a high standard of holiness indeed. We must strive not only not commit the sin, but to avoid the thought of it also. You risk as much by your fantasies as by your deeds. Pray daily for purity of life and heart.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 8 June 2017

'For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.' 
Matthew 5. 20

Do not think of the worst person you have heard of and think as long as you are better than they you will see heaven. Instead, think of the holiest one and strive to be even holier than they. And pray always for God's grace to resist the temptations that surround you.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 7 June 2017

'No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.' 
John 15.13

Christian love is no sentimental thing. It is about denying the pleasures of this world so that the example of your life may testify to your faith, and if need be facing death itself for the sake of Christ.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 6 June 2017

'In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.' 
Matthew 5.16

Do not ever think that how you live affects no one but yourself. The example of your life is important – faithful living for good, unfaithful for ill. And woe unto you if you lead others astray.

Monday, June 5, 2017

prayer diary Monday 5 June 2017

Jesus said: 'Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.' 
John 12.25

The pleasures and comforts of this life come at infinite cost, for to set them above obeying Christ's commandments is to forfeit the hope we have of heaven.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pentecost - the fulfillment of God's promise

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

Today is the feast of Pentecost, one of the three great festivals of the Christian years, along with Christmas and Easter. All are part of God's plan for the salvation of humanity, and thereby show God's great love for his children. They also show his great faithfulness to us, for all show how he keeps the promises he has made to his children; and because of this we know that he will keep the other promises he has made to us. That is how someone shows that they are trustworthy, is it not? They keep the promises they have already made to you; and because of this you have every hope that you can trust they can make their other promises to you in due course.

Christmas celebrates the Incarnation. And the incarnation was God's fulfilment of the promise that he would send a Saviour. This promise is woven throughout the fabric of Old Testament. Easter celebrates the Resurrection. The Resurrection marks God's fulfilment of the promise that the Messiah he would send was to suffer and die for our sins; but that after his death would rise again after three days. This promise is contained many places in the Old Testament, but also in the New where it is reaffirmed again and again by the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Christ himself. And the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is also the fulfilment of a promise made to us by God, again by our blessed Saviour, when he told his disciples that after his Ascension he would not leave them alone, but with instead send them the Holy Spirit, who would remain with them, all those who followed him, in other words his Church, to the end of the ages.

Because of the remarkable events that occurred at Pentecost – by which I mean the Spirit-inspired courage that suddenly filled the disciples who were hiding in the upper room so that they were suddenly enabled to go into the very streets they had seen Christ carry his Cross through, streets filled with the very people who had arrested him and dragged him off to his mockery of a trial, torture, and death, and start preaching our Lord's Good News to them with such bravery and conviction that they convinced thousands of its Truth that very day, and continued in that courage and conviction until they had spread that Truth to all the corners of the Empire and those who followed them continued to all the ends of the earth – because of those remarkable events, that first day of Pentecost is often called the birth of the Church. It might be more accurate to call it the Manifestation of the Church on Earth – for the Church of God's faithful exists in Heaven as well as on earth; and we know that the Angels, whom we name in our Liturgies as being part of the Church were worshipping God in Heaven before the beginning of Time itself. But the sending of the Holy Spirit on that day not only granted God's people in the world to be part of his Church on Earth but also the Divine power to continue in Christ's work of drawing all people to himself. So calling Pentecost the day when the Church was born is an understandable short-hand way of describing it, even if not entirely accurate.

We learn much from Pentecost, but today let me make three brief points. The first is that, as I already said, by it Christ shows his faithfulness to the promises he made us. This means we can be sure that the reward of eternal life awaits all those who love him and show that love by being faithful to his teachings. The second is that we can believe him when he tells us that the Holy Spirit will remain with his Church unto the end of the ages. Indeed, we know we receive that same Spirit at our confirmation when we 'receive the seal of the Holy Spirit.' The Spirit that came upon the Disciples the first day of Pentecost has also come upon us. And this means that we must act with the same conviction as they did, sharing the Good News of our Saviour with all people, in all places, in all ages; and with the same courage as they did, unafraid of any consequences, whether those be risking the the loss of material comforts, a reduction in social prestige or giving offence to those who wilfully refuse to hear the Truth, or like to martyrs of that time and down through the ages to this very day loosing our very lives. For it matters nothing if we lose the whole world, even life itself, if by our faithfulness to God's word we gain our souls, our salvation, life eternal.

And the third and last point is that the Church is not something made by us but by God. She - and I say 'she' for the Church is also referred to as the Bride of Christ – she is not man-made but a Divine Creation. She is therefore, as we say in the Creeds, something Holy. And being a Holy creation of the Almighty she is not something for us to do with as we please. Her teaching are not ours, her holy & Apostolic traditions are not ours, her Sacraments are not ours. And being God's we can not change them either to suit ourselves or the whims and desires of others. We can only hand them on as they were handed on to us, from Christ to the Apostles, and down to our time.

And that is something we must do until the end of the ages, a time when another promise of God's will be fulfilled – the great and terrible Day when he will come again. And just as we rejoice in the other Great Promises fulfilled, marking them as great festivals of the Church, so too we will be able to rejoice on that day if we have done our best to be as faithful to God as he has shown himself to be faithful to us. Amen. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 3 June 2017

But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. 
John 21.25

No amount of books could contain the entirety of the Word made flesh. But, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Gospel contain enough for us to know Christ and trust in the Church he gave us.

Friday, June 2, 2017

prayer diary Friday 2 June 2017

He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ 
John 21.15

Those who love the Lord are called to feed his sheep, each according to the part they play within his Body the Church. But whatever that role, we must each strengthen our brothers and sisters through the example we give of Godly living.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 1 June 2017

‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.' 
John 17. 20

Christ tasked his disciples with bringing others to him, to be one with each other and with him. That task is now ours today. Work to bring others to faith in Christ.