Monday, July 31, 2017

prayer diary Monday 31 July 2017

‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed …. the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it ... becomes a tree.' 
Matthew 13.31,32


We think of many things we work towards in life as being inevitable. Yet what is truly inevitable is that God's Will will be done; and his Kingdom will come.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

the Right Side of History

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

The term 'being on the right side of history' has become very commonly used in the last number of years. It is employed, for example, by those advocating various social changes in Western society with monotonous regularity. It expresses the idea that those changes are inevitable, unstoppable, and those who oppose them will appear foolish in the eyes of those who come later; but it is, in fact, the idea itself that is foolish, both arrogant in the way it presumes that a certain course of action is unquestionably correct, particularly in the way it condemns the former way of doing things, and ignorant in the way it understands history as some kind of a force moving humanity towards some kind an ever better future. Empires may rise, but they also fall; sometimes undermined from within, for example because they have let their seemingly invincible power erode their moral centre; sometimes from without, for example because there are barbarians outside their borders who want what they have or hate what they are; or sometimes both. And their fall should teach us that there is nothing inevitable about human systems, plans, or ambitions.

However, in our Gospel reading today we learn that there is something that is inevitable when it comes to history; and that is that God's Will will be done; and his kingdom will come. This is made very clear in the first two of the series of short parables that we read today - the ones concerning the mustard seed and the yeast that was used to leaven the bread. Both speak of the inevitability of the kingdom. Just as a small seed can become an enormous tree or a small amount of yeast cause a great batch of dough to rise, so will God's Kingdom grow, despite the fact that in human eyes its beginning on earth was humble and small. The truth first spoken by a carpenter born in a stable in an obscure corner of the world could not be stopped from spreading to all the corners of the earth.

The next two parables, that of the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price, explain to us why it is that we should wish to do our utmost to do our part to help usher in God's Kingdom - because there is nothing in this life as more important than to be in right relationship with God and being part of his kingdom on earth – not only living our lives in the light of its truth but helping to share that truth with others. Because the message of these parables is not about how we can shrewdly make a profit on a transaction, but about understanding that the things of this life are of limited value – limited because they are transitory – while the things of the kingdom are of infinite value, because they are eternal. As our Lord says elsewhere, what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his soul?

And that brings us to our final parable, that of the fishermen; and our Lord leaves us in no doubt whatsoever as to how we are to understand this parable, for he explains it to us in no uncertain terms. And in his explanation he makes he clear that at the end of the ages there will be a great sorting of the good from the bad, of the righteous and the evil. And just as the fisherman cast away the bad fish, so will God's angels cast out the unrighteous – and those unfortunate souls, our Lord tells us, will be cast into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

A stark warning; which is made all the more stark when we think carefully about what is meant by those who are evil. For it has been made abundantly clear to us, both in Sacred Scripture and in teaching of the Church down through the ages, that evil here is not mean simply those who rob, murder, rape, or otherwise cause great suffering to others. It is perfectly possible to be what the world calls a 'nice person' and be among the unrighteous. For Christ did not come to suffer and die on the cross so that we might be nice, but that we might be Holy.

When the end of the ages shall come and history itself shall cease there is only one way to be found to be on the 'right side of it' – by being someone who loves God with every fibre of their being; and being someone who shows that love by obeying God's commandments in thought, word, and deed – even if that love should cost them their life. They are the ones who will surely be found to be righteous by God's angels on that great and terrible day – and I pray that all here will be found to be among them: in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 29 July 2017

For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been telling him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’ 
Matthew 14.3,4

John the Baptist was fearless in preaching the truth, even in the face of death. We face far less, yet often we fear to speak out.

Friday, July 28, 2017

prayer diary Friday 28 July 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour except in their own country and in their own house.' 
Matthew 13.57

Sharing Christ's word can be hard indeed when it comes to those closest to us. But because we love them, all the more reason not to shirk from the task. It is a poor kind of love that does not include caring also for the fate of their immortal soul.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 27 July 2017

'So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire.' 
Matthew 13.49,50

Again our Lord warns of the judgement to come and how terrible it will be on that day for those who reject God. His warning is one we must take seriously and share with others.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 26 July 2017

‘On finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.' 
Matthew 13.46

All else is as nothing compared to what God offers us. Therefore no sacrifice we may make for the sake of entering into his kingdom can be too great.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 25 July 2017

'Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.' 
Matthew 13. 40

Judgement is not something that anyone likes to think about; but Christ warns us of it. If we take seriously his promises of eternal life we must also accept his warnings.

Monday, July 24, 2017

prayer diary Monday 24 July 2017

'The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed …. the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it ... becomes a tree.' 
Matthew 13.31,32

God's kingdom is an unstoppable force. Allow it to touch your heart and it will transform your life.

Friday, July 21, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 22 July 2017 (St Mary Magdalene)

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord.’ 
John 20.18

Privileged with the first post-resurrection appearance, Mary's first response was a declaration of faith. We also have the privilege of seeing the Lord, but through the eyes of faith. And like Mary we must publicly proclaim him as Lord.

prayer diary Friday 21 July 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.' 
Matthew 20.27

The only glory in the Christian life is that of humble service. But what glory it is! For in so doing we serve not only God also, but walk the path that leads to his kingdom.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 20 July 2017

Jesus said: 'Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.' 
Mt 13.17

We are among those blessed to see and hear what so many longed for. Do not waste so precious a gift by taking it for granted. Instead daily give thanks to the Lord and serve him with all your heart, strength, mind, and soul.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 19 July 2017

'Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.' 
Matthew 13.7

Jesus explained that the seed that fell among thorns are those who lose faith in the face of the cares of the world. Take his warning then and do not lose eternal life for the sake of things that are passing.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 18 July 2017

Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.' 
Matthew 13.30

It may sometimes seem that there are those who escape justice in this life. But life does not end with the grave and justice must at last be faced. And severe indeed is the judgement for those who have refused to serve the Lord.

Monday, July 17, 2017

prayer diary Monday 17 July 2017

But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.' 
Matthew 12.21

Those without faith often cry 'extraordinary claims requires extraordinary proof.' Yet all the proof needed exists in the world around us. Demands for more in the shape of signs and wonders is a sign in itself – of an evil and adulterous generation.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

the parable of the sower: many are called, but how many answer?

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

Our Gospel reading today is the parable of the Sower – one of the most well known of all the parables. As well it might be, for its theme is of tremendous importance: how it is that a child of God, created in his image and likeness, is to behave in the face of Divine Revelation, how it is they are to receive his Holy Word that he has given to them by means of the Sacred Scriptures and the Person of His Only Begotten Son, the second person of the Blessed Trinity.

Our Lord gives us four examples of how people might behave; but we might break them down into three categories. The first concerns those who hear the word of God and reject it; the second those who hear the word and accept it – and then live as though they do not; and the third those who hear and obey and whose faithfulness is shown through their fruitfulness.

Concerning the first group, those who reject the word, Christ gives two reasons for their behaviour. Those he compares to the path are led astray by the Evil One; and those to the rocky ground, at first believe and then fall away at the first sign of any trouble that may come as a result of being a believer in Christ. They will not carry the Cross. It is important to note here that Christ does not offer these reasons so as to some way excuse what they have done. He is simply stating why they have acted as they did; but the responsibility for their actions remain their own. We might do well to think of our Lord's own sobering words spoken in the final chapter of St Mark's gospel where, having told his disciples to  ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.' he continued by saying: 'The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.'

The second category are those whose faith Christ describes as being as if it had been choked by thorns. They have accepted the faith – but then been led astray by the cares of the world and the lure of material gain; they do not reject the faith publicly, but they have become 'unfruitful' ... effectively they may as well have renounced the faith for all the good it does them – and their example certainly does nothing to bring others to the faith. We may think here of the parable of the talents and of the servant who did nothing with his master's property but bury it in the ground. His reward was to be cast out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth – words that the Fathers of the Early Church always understood to mean as being damned.

And then finally we come to the last category, those who not only have heard the word, but understand and obey, and are fruitful as a result. Some of course will be more fruitful than others; but in that regard it is again useful to consider the parable of the talents. In that also some were more fruitful than others – but all heard the blessed words 'well done, good and faithful servant' and were called by their master to enter into his joy – which, again, has always been held to mean eternal life in heaven.

And as I reach the end, let me leave you with one further thought. It has no doubt struck you, if not today then on some previous occasion when you were reading this parable, that of all the examples our Lord gives, only one group is found to hear and understand, only one to be fruitful, only one to end in the place where all were created to be. All heard the word, all were called; but few responded, few were chosen, few were found worthy of eternal life with our Father in heaven. And this is sad indeed: freely was God's word and grace offered; but freely it was rejected. It remains for us to pray that those who hear but do not respond will be converted in their hearts; that those who hear and believe but then still fail to live as if they did will repent while time remains; and for us to pray that when the time comes we will be numbered among those who are found fruitful, among those blessed to hear the words 'well done good and faithful servant', among those called to enter into the joy of our master. All that indeed is something that we all should pray for not just daily, but unceasingly, in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 15 July 2017

But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. 
Matthew 12.14

Consider how the Pharisees, who thought themselves godly men, deliberately set out to break God's law with this conspiracy. Sometimes people fool themselves into thinking they can achieve good ends by evil means. But if the seed is not good, then neither can the fruit be. Do not be tempted to break God's laws for any reason.

Friday, July 14, 2017

prayer diary Friday 14 July 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.’ 
Matthew 12.8

Christ told the Pharisees he was Lord of the Sabbath; and indeed he is. But his dismissal of the petty and arbitrary rules that they imposed on the people of their day is not to be taken as an excuse for us to treat the Lord's Day as if it were no different than any other.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 13 July 2017

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' 
Matthew 11.28

Such famous words. And what true wisdom; for where else are we to find rest from all the troubles of this life other than in the one who created and sustains us?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 12 July 2017

Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants.' 
Matthew 11.25

Humility is the key to true wisdom. For those who think themselves wise often reject God's law; but those who are humble are grateful for what he teaches and so may enter into the eternal life that others fail to achieve.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 11 July 2017

'But I tell you that on the day of judgement it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.’ 
Matthew 11. 24

Sodom was notorious in Scripture for its decadent living; and great was its fall. But its punishment will seem mild to that in store for those who respond to all that God does for them with contempt and ingratitude.

Monday, July 10, 2017

prayer diary Monday 10 July 2017

‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.' 
Matthew 10.34

Christ does not, of course, want his followers going around attacking people with swords. But neither does he want them to back down in the face of every challenge for the sake of a quiet life. His Good News is not easy for every ear to hear – but that doesn't mean we must stop talking.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

fools for Christ?

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

There is a tendency among those with a distaste for religion to believe that a lack of belief in God is a hallmark of intelligence; and that reason and rational thought is something that is the preserve of the atheist. One might be forgiven for thinking that, perhaps to their horror and bemusement, that there is a biblical justification for their beliefs. In our gospel reading today we hear our Lord say: 'I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants'. If Christ himself says that those who are wise and intelligent are the ones who reject his teachings and those who accept it are like innocent and trusting babes in arms, then who are we to argue? But of course Jesus is speaking with a certain irony here; and all the Church Fathers agree that his intent is not to praise those who turn their face from the Truth of his Word, but to condemn them; for what they consider to be their wisdom and intelligence is more to be thought of as an arrogance and pride that has led them very much astray. They may be wise in their own eyes; and in the eyes of the worldly; but they are not wise in either of the eyes of the Creator or his faithful children.

The reasons as to why a person might reject God are too numerous to go into here. But suffice it to say that it should be a cause of great sorrow to all Christians that there are those who are, like them, created in God's image and likeness who will go through life without the light of faith to guide them. The world contains very many spiritual dangers indeed; and it is difficult, if not impossible, to avoid pitfalls if you can not bring yourself to believe that holes even exist.

The lack of faith that exists in others demands a response from us. The first is to give thanks to God for our own faith – and the grace he grants us when faced with the many temptations that can cause one to fall away from the faith. We should also give thanks for those who have passed the faith as they have received it down through the generations; and particular thanks for those who have done their utmost to pass the faith on to us as individuals. We may think here of our own parents, our teachers, and those with roles in the ministries of the Church, particularly the clergy. All these have been obedient to the responsibilities that God has placed on their lives and we owe them a great debt of gratitude for the way in which they have not only instructed us in the faith but also for how they have corrected us when they have seen us going astray. There is no virtue – quite the opposite in fact – in minding our own business when doing so means allowing a brother or sister in Christ to draw too near to spiritual danger; and it is even worse to do so when that fellow-Christian is someone we have a particular duty towards when it comes to passing on the faith to them.

The next thing that it behoves us to do when it comes to the lack of faith in others is to pray for them. It does not matter who they are. If there are those in your own family who doubt or have fallen away, pray for them. If you do not, who will? If you have friends or neighbours who struggle with the faith or have abandoned it altogether, pray for them. Are we not called by God to love our neighbour as ourself? And what greater way is there to show that love than the spiritual assistance that comes from prayer? And pray also for those you do not know, in your communities, in this nation, and in all the corners of the world who live as strangers to God. Christ told us to make disciples of all nations; and while you may not be able to touch each person who has difficulties with knowing God yourself, at the very least you may pray for them that their hearts will be opened to his Truth and his Love.

And the last thing I suggest that Christians should do in the face of the unbelief of others is to know and live their faith as best they can. Knowing our faith allows us to defend it to others – and this is very necessary in an age where so many have a very distorted view of what it is that the Church teaches, a false version of Christianity promulgated by those in the media, academia, and other sectors of society who are hostile to the faith. We must also not only know enough abut the faith to defend it properly, but also be ready and willing to do so. Allowing those who behave like anti-Christs by spreading lies about the faith to do so unchecked is something no Christian should do. Learning about the faith, by the way, is a life long task; we should never believe that we have reached a point where we do not need to strengthen and deepen our faith. That is a task that only ends when, with the Grace of God, we have reached the place we were created to be – with God in heaven.

And to do that we must do more than know the faith – we must live it out. Living it out is one of the greatest ways of bringing the faith to others. We can not hope to convince others of its truth if we do not live as if we ourselves are convinced of its truth. Living it out will put the lie to the notion that it is the recourse of fools; living it out, ceaseless of the cost, will draw others to look again at what it is that we give our lives to; and living it out will, by God's grace, help others to believe in him - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 8 July 2017

Jesus said '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.' 
Matthew 10.28

The cost of following Christ's teaching in this life may sometimes seem difficult. But how much greater is the cost in the next life of not doing so.

Friday, July 7, 2017

prayer diary Friday 7 July 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Jesus said ‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves.' 
Matthew 10.16

Jesus knew his disciples would face dangers, yet he sent them anyway. But then, he was not afraid to face danger himself. And therefore neither must we fear what it may cost us to share the Gospel message.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 6 July 2017

Jesus said 'You received without payment; give without payment.' 
Matthew 10. 8

All God gives us, the bounty of this world and the gift of Christ's good news, is freely given to us. And so we must freely share them with others.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 5 July 2017

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” 
Matthew 10. 5-7

As Christians we are all sent into the world by Christ. And like those first disciples we must proclaim his good news in word and deed.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 4 July 2017

Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’ 
Matthew 9. 37,38

How many times have you heard these verses or even prayed them yourself? Have you ever stopped to wonder if you are called to labour for the Lord's harvest? You should – because it is something that all Christians are called to do

Monday, July 3, 2017

prayer diary Monday 3 July 2017

He said, ‘Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. 
Matthew 9. 24, 25

Those who put their faith in Christ have nothing to fear – in this life, or the next.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

the faith of Abraham

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

Our Gospel reading today shows us the high expectations that God has of those who love him. Nothing or no one is to be put before him – not son or daughter, father or mother. We read much the same in our Old Testament reading concerning the sacrifice of Abraham. This passage is often used today by those outside the Church – and sometimes even by those within – in an attempt to show the unreasonableness of God. But, of course, they can only do so by interpreting the passage in ways contradictory to the way in which it has been read by the Church down through the generations. Such attempts to use the Word of God to speak against Almighty God and the teachings of his Church should always serve to remind us that even the devil himself can try to quote Scripture to his advance his evil purposes; and that it is done so frequently in the age in which we live should only high-light the Spiritual dangers of the world around us.

Properly understood – which is, of course to say understood in the way that the Church has always understood this passage – the story of the sacrifice of Abraham teaches us much. First it serves as a testimony to the great faith of Abraham. He is an old man, already approaching the end of his years. One of the great sorrows of his life was that for many years his marriage to Sarah was childless. Late in life God grants them a child; and more, promises that through this child he will have descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens. And then he is asked to sacrifice this child. If ever a man faced a temptation to defy the will of God, even a man like Abraham, one who spoke with the Almighty on such intimate terms that he could have no doubt that this command did indeed come from God, this was it. But Abraham responded to this challenge with a faithfulness and serenity that has served as an inspiration to all the generations that followed. He put his trust in God that he, Abraham, could be both obedient to the commandments of God and that God could even so still be faithful to the promises that he had made. And his great faith was rewarded.

And that is the second lesson for us from this story. It testifies to the great fidelity of God. He keeps his promises to us in all circumstances. We may find that this life gives us heavy crosses to bear – and indeed we may, and we should accept them in the knowledge that we were never promised that it would be otherwise – but if in spite of our burdens we remain faithful to God then we will find that he has always remained faithful to us … and that the crosses we have born are as nothing compared to the reward that comes from having carried them in the spirit of Christian love and fidelity.

And the last lesson I wish to speak of this morning that we may take from this account of Abraham's great faith is that even though it reminds us of the high expectations that God has of us, it also serves to demonstrate that God asks nothing of us that he is not willing to do himself. For the Church down through the ages has taught that in the story of Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son we see a foreshadowing of God's willingness to sacrifice his Son for us. But, of course, given that even that evidence of the Creator's great love for his children is twisted by those who hate God and religion to make a mockery of what the Father was willing to endure for the sake of his creation, it should therefore not surprise us that the story of Abraham has also been twisted by claims that it offers proof of the unreasonableness of God's demands upon his children.

But, as I have already noted, this twisting is really only evidence of the spiritual dangers of the age. For of course it is only by first loving God above all things that we can properly come to love others; and only by loving God above all things that we can come to be what it was that he created us to be – his loving children, destined to spend all eternity with him in heaven. This is something that the forces of spiritual darkness at work in the world are committed to working against. And all the more reason to give God first place in our lives always; and loving him always, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 1 July 2017

'Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.' 
Matthew 10. 28

Ironically, we live in a world where many won't defend their Christian faith against the values of secular society out of fear of a harsh word, or that they won't be popular. Christ warned us to fear nothing of this world – because if we do, the price we pay may indeed be that of our soul.