Daily Reflections

A series of daily reflections around our physically isolated lives at this unique time in the modern world. Check back here every day for updates, find a quiet, comfortable, place in your home and go through today's reflection. Take it slowly and enjoy time spent with God.

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Living by example

I wrote the words which follow, on the 12th March, as a reflection for our AGM. They are still as relevant today as they were then

cross shaped worldWe are living in unprecedented times. Changes on the national stage which we may have assumed would have only a peripheral affect on our lives, have been eclipsed by the very real (and personal) concerns over the potential impact of the Corona virus.

As I write these words, the Government’s Emergency Committee are meeting to decide what steps must be taken to contain the outbreak. What began as a localised problem in a far off city many of us had never heard of, has now become an international pandemic.

We’re all involved, in the sense that this is not something that just happens to other people. There’s some very good advice around (we’ll keep you up to date with it where we can) but there is also a great deal of worry and concern.

As I was praying this morning, I wondered what might bring both a wider perspective and a deeper reassurance at this time of national need. My thoughts turned to Jesus’ words to His friends at a similar time of uncertainty:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled…. (John 14:27)

Peace is what we need at this moment. Peace to be able to hand everything over to God. Peace about the practical measures we can take to keep ourselves and others safe. Peace that says whatever happens, we can be sure that we aren’t on our own.

Jesus’ words remind us that help is here even in darkest days. When we have exhausted our own resources, God has so much more to give.

God’s peace may not change our immediate circumstances but it will help us to view them in a very different light. This gift reminds us that, irrespective of what is going on around us, wherever we are and whatever we feel like, we are both precious to, and are loved by, God.

At the beginning of the year, none of us could have anticipated the particular circumstances we would find ourselves in today. Our motto text for 2020 invites us to set an example to others – let’s do just that: let’s seek and share the peace and love of God, as we support those in need.

In Christ
Steve

It matters

“… they were all together in one place … all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.”

people
The message of Pentecost of one of radical Christian inclusion. Everyone was filled with the Spirit and, onlookers in the temple courts and in the streets who had come to Jerusalem from across the Roman Empire heard about God in a way they could all understand.

In a multi- cultural empire the first Christians reached out to everyone they encountered. Looking at the names we find in the New Testament, there were Greeks, Romans, Jews and people from Africa in the first house churches. There were fishermen and tax collectors, merchants and labourers – they believed that anyone (all) who called on God would be saved, irrespective of their background or their personal circumstances (Acts 2: 21, 38, 39).

Human beings generally prefer order to chaos which is why we arrange the books on our shelves and the dates in our diaries. It’s a good habit to get into but a bad one to apply in circumstances where drawing a line, making a choice or pigeon holing a person becomes more important than the event or the person themselves.

As recent events in Minneapolis have demonstrated, it is when we see others as being of less worth or value than ourselves that the real problems can be found. Those views reflect deep seated prejudices that have caused hurt and reinforced exclusion for generations. Drawing lines around or between people inevitably means that some are “in” and others “out.”

The fact that others may define us by the way we speak, on the basis of the words we use for our evening meal, the colour of our skin or the place where we were born [*], is totally at odds with the Christian Gospel where all are welcomed and valued. [* Note: These are a few examples; there are many more instances of prejudice observable in daily life].

Confronting the evils of discrimination and entitlement can lead – especially where there seems to be no move to resolve injustices meted out to others – to more radical action than the peaceful protest favoured by many. We can look outside in at such escalations as toppling the statue of Edward Colston but perhaps not appreciate the extent of the pain and frustration that drives people to follow such a course of action. Perhaps, like Keir Starmer has said, we feel that something should have been done sooner rather than leave the decision to crowd justice in the heat of the moment when frustrations beyond racial discrimination are boiling over.

Discrimination, partiality and assumed entitlement are wrong whenever and wherever they occur. God sees us all just as we are (see Psalm 139): when we see people in any other way, then we are judging them and putting ourselves on a (often self-created and self-determined) pedestal.

When we are committed to living out the values of the Kingdom of God we so easily and quickly profess with the words of the disciples’ prayer (Our Father), then we will stand out for justice, seeking mercy and walking humbly with God. We’ll also stand with the oppressed, the excluded and the broken. We’ll love the so-called unlovely and call the world around us to account with the voice of the prophet who can see the signs of the times.

I cannot begin to understand the hurt experienced and rejection felt by others but I can recognise the life God calls me to lead which seeks to draw everyone to Him. I – you – can present a different way, one of peace but one that does not allow exclusion to remain unquestioned. At this time of significant change in the life of our nation let’s recognise that all are loved by God, since it was for us all that Christ died on the cross.

In Christ
Steve

Time

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare. (W H Davies, Leisure)

Political spinWild living; a pop star royal; feminist icons; intrigue and spin doctors by the bucketful; ethnic cleansing; a beauty parade for political expediency.

No, it’s not a satirical comment on Dominic Cummins (nor on any Government figure I know, alive or nearly dead). Nor is it a commercial for life beyond Covid 19.

It’s not even related to a Soap Opera, though I must say that, taken as a whole (which is what usually happens), it would make a great plot line for a particularly colourful episode.

I will

I recently read a book - “Austerity Britain” – which is an historical account of the years immediately following the end of the Second World War.

VE DayIn May 1945, Britain had just won victory in Europe, followed a few months later by victory in the Far East. The wartime Coalition Government had gone to the polls only to be replaced by the first majority Labour Government in the nation’s history.

Many of the nation’s cities had been bombed out of all recognition: there were not enough homes for returning servicemen, the Workhouses were still operating and it is estimated that over 40% of the population lived in what Beveridge, the architect of the welfare state, described as “want.”

Finding the truth

Teen girl in court after she tried to buy bread from Swindon Morrisons.

This headline – from yesterday’s Swindon Advertiser caught my eye – as, no doubt, it was intended to do.

Bread2At first glance it seems either improbable or unfair. To the best of my reasonable knowledge and belief, bread is neither dangerous nor banned but something we rely on every day.

You can buy it at any age and it’s not an under the counter commodity (not even the seedy versions) but a staple of our diet. Give us our daily …. and all that.

Turning over a new leaf

Go between
L P Hartley’s book “The Go Between” tells the story of a young boy in a Norfolk village who carried love letters between a rich girl and a man of poorer means, who her parents thoroughly disapproved of.

In the book, there is a very famous line, found in many books of quotations, that even now causes many of us to stop and think: “The past is another country, they do things differently there”.

Looking around

… the God of heaven will give us success (Nehemiah 2:20).

RuinsWhen you are faced by the ruins of a lost life, it is hard to picture how it can all be rebuilt. You may remember what it was once like, which would give you a clue about what it might be like again once the necessary work has been completed.

Then again, with everything reduced to ground zero, it could be hard to imagine that anything good could rise from the ashes of destruction.

It’s good to get on with the task of reconstruction but sometimes it’s best to keep to the old proverb; “less haste, more speed.” We can’t begin to consider the nature of the rebuild until we’ve assessed the scale of the ruins. Broken down walls are reflected in broken lives and we need to make sure that we see and learn as much as possible about where we are, before we begin to move forward.

Time to pray

…though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour (Habakkuk 3: 17 – 18)

cross in prayerWhatever practical responses we may make to improve our lot in troubled or uncertain times, let us not forget the importance of involving God. This is the necessity of prayer.

As we pray this weekend, let us focus on 3 important areas. Let’s intercede (ask God) for particular needs but let’s not forget to thank God for the blessings we have now and the blessing of heard – and answered - prayer.

Seeing it through

“ … there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall”

 I’ve started, so I’ll finish.

Finish LineIt’s easy enough for Magnuss or John to say that but there are many occasions in real life where the end of the road stretches beyond our sight into the far distance.

We may have a plan; we might have the best team going with the right skills mix but looking at things on the ground it seems as if we’ll never get it done or even get things off the ground to start with. It is even more disheartening when there’s so much rubbish to clear away before we can even think about what the future will look like.

If....

Reality
In late August 2005 it seemed as if half the population – and not just sport overs – crowded round a TV set as the England Cricket Team fought to win back the Ashes.

The celebrations which followed the final game lasted well into the next week, culminating in an open top bus parade around Central London and meetings with the Queen and Prime Minister.

Sadly, the euphoria which followed that victory was rather short lived, as the following test series in India and Pakistan were both lost by large margins.

Meeting for the first time

Meeting 2

Here’s a question for you: which famous literary detective said these words when meeting his equally famous companion for the first time? ‘You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive’.

Answers on a postcard (well let’s say text or email), wins you a prize. A Brucie bonus for the title of the book where you can still find these words.

Finding meaning in a time of uncertainty

puzzle question
All through the years of recorded history, human beings have been trying to work out the answer to that most perplexing of questions "What is the meaning of life?” Depending on who you ask or what book you consult the answer can range from "a journey through this vale of sorrows" to "42"!

Wouldn’t it be great if life was as easily explained as that great philosopher of the comic strips, Charlie Brown of the Peanuts, once deduced that it was.

Holding out for a hero

The Greeks wrote sagas and Bonnie Tyler sang*; now they’re praised on social media and news updates aren’t really complete without one story about them.

everyday heroHeroes.

Not the chocolatey mini bars but ordinary people going the extra mile. Whether it’s the selfless dedication of those who are caring for the sick, the smiling checkout staff in the shops or the elderly “marathon walkers” raising much needed funds for the NHS – we have much to learn and a lot to be grateful for.

In Ancient Greece a hero was someone who protected the position and defended the cause of others. They were often prepared to fight battles as well as arguing the corner of those unable to do so for themselves.

Pushing the buttons

… they were very much disturbed.

What does it take to really get you going? What pushes your buttons in such a way that your views are challenged or your actions questioned?

Moral Compass 2We all have our own views, our way of doing things and some form of moral compass which roots everything within a prescribed set of values. These values can and do change over time – life’s experiences and direct encounters both play their part. It’s when those values are questioned or our motives are put under tight scrutiny, that it’s easy to see it as an attack on our character.

Play the ball not the man: that’s what I was told when I played football in the lower reaches of the Cambridgeshire Village League. Mind you, in Division 5 South (no Division 6 or we would have been in it), it was pretty debatable what we were playing – probably the fool, as most people who saw us might agree.

In any event, it wasn’t exactly easy to play in an honourable way in the face of extreme provocation on the field; certain members of our team liked to get retaliation in first. Not a pretty sight when you are faced by a team from the carrot factory up in the Fens, who are all related and fresh out of the pub after a Saturday lunch time session.