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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Facing the test

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds (James 1:2)

There’s lots of things I enjoy. Some of them are old friends, others are more recent experiences where I have tried to make the most of changed circumstances.
Programme
In the process I’ve been able to do the kind of jobs that we all put off until the right time comes along That time has now arrived and I’m gradually getting through the boxes of football programmes given to me by an old friend. [Can anyone guess the significance of the programme to the left?]

Enjoyment comes from seeing chaos transformed – the garden beginning to look tidier, the programmes in club and date order –as well as the welcome opportunity to simply stop, think, chill and relax.

James has a challenging perspective on joy, one which is linked to the trials we all face. Trials – those things that come at us - are, according to James, something to be experienced (perhaps even welcomed), rather than to be feared.

It’s not a question of it possibly happening either as James seems to say that we should expect it: it’s a question of “when” not “ “if.”

Caring for others

‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’ (James 1:27)

We are immensely privileged to be able to access a service which provides free healthcare at the point of need. It’s a unique facility – there’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world. In more than 70 tears since its foundation, the NHS still offers universal access to care from cradle to grave.

NHSAll of us benefit from this provision in some way or another. It is a testimony to an extraordinary vision and the daily commitment of those working in the NHS, that sees it at its best in this time of extraordinary need.

There are many in our own fellowship who are directly involved; we are thankful for their calling and pray for their safety in this present crisis.

All things must change

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.(James 1:7)

This bible verse is a favourite of mine and I’ve used it several times when preaching at Harvest Festival services. It fits nicely with the chorus of the old hymn (“All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above”), as well as reminding us that despite the changing seasons of the earth and our circumstances, God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Farm3This picture was taken on an August morning a few years ago. The fields are bare because the harvest has been “taken” (as the old country people would say).

On the one hand, it’s a picture of changing times, yet on another it seems a changeless picture of the countryside.

 

Closed - but open for business

Building closed Church open 1000I came across this cartoon yesterday which illustrates perfectly how the church should respond in times of crisis.

We may have closed the doors and left the building but God hasn’t gone anywhere and the church is still on the move.

For some pretty obvious reasons, we may not be as visibly active as we might like. I know, though, that a lot of you are keeping in touch with one another, are praying for those in need and are ready to get involved when and where you can. It’s certainly not easy to have to undergo this enforced period of what looks like inaction, when we are used to being very busy.

In some respects, the position we are in today reminds me of what the early church must have been like. They represented a minority belief, couldn’t worship publicly but were strongly committed to a cause that affected every part of their lives. They were also convinced that faith was something that was personal but it was also to be expressed and shared.

We have to face reality: we can’t avoid the seemingly indiscriminate nature of the virus and the concern it is causing for so many. We haven’t walked this path before and we hope and pray that it will soon be over and we won’t have to travel this way again. How do we make sense of it all?

When Paul wrote to the early church, he was trying to help them make sense of their faith in a world that seemed to be falling apart. Sounds familiar?

… we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all–surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4: 7 – 9)

broken potWe may feel fragile: we do feel helpless and we often can’t make any sense of what is going on. (Admittedly some of this is not helped by messages from churches who see this more in terms of God’s judgment than anything else: it’s not a view to which I subscribe).

Yet in the midst of this uncertainty there stands the one in whose hands are all the corners of the earth: the all-knowing, all powerful, ever present, all loving God.

Emmanuel. The prophecy of Isaiah: God with us. Not with someone else, with us. For us. Alongside us. Within us. What a wonderful thing to know – even in self isolation there’s always someone who will cross the threshold, come into your room and be with you.

Let’s rest in God, making that our work for some time today.

In Christ

Steve

Shining bright

"...I am the light of the world." (John 8:12)

At 7 pm yesterday evening, we were asked to place a lighted candle in the front window of our homes. It was - and remains - an act of solidarity at a time when it would be so easy to restrict our horizons to the narrow confines of daily routines in locked down homes.

Light is a powerful theme or image that occurs throughout the bible. God's first words "Let there be light " (Genesis 1:3), sets the scene for what will follow.

At times we read that darkness is pushing in .... yet, we like Isaiah's people of old, can see the great light that represents the presence of God in our world and in our lives (Isaiah 9:2).

Candles
When we light a candle in this way, we're saying that we are committed to living in the light. The candle itself may not change anything but the action of lighting say we're here, God 's here and we want to get involved. The darkness of anxiety, uncertainty and yes, fear, may threaten to overwhelm us but the light of Christ changes everything.

A lit candle brings a sense of serenity, especially when all the other lights in the room are extinguished. It's a different kind of light, one that we rarely see, just about bright enough to read by and one which brings a weary face back to life again.

A small flame but one that can have a big influence.

Let's pray today for all those who are on the front line and whose light is shining. Pray for those you know by name, pray for those who no-one else will pray for. They are known to God as they are serving us all.

Our light too will shine in this present darkness. We can serve and support others. We can pray. We can make good use of the internet and talk face to face.

Whatever it is, however restricted you are by choice or by compulsion, make the most of your circumstances. God is with you, here, and now.

Yours in Christ Jesus

Steve

What it says on the tin

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6: 9 - 10)

The Ronseal advert seems appropriate at such a time as this "...does what it says on the tin." What it promises, it delivers.

I'm not saying that we should compare the church to a DIY product but there's something here to encourage us as we try and take on board changed routines and come to terms with new ways of living. Hearing from God means we first have to listen carefully but also remember where God invites us to join in with what He is already doing. Discipleship begins with listening and hearing but has its expression in doing.

Trusting God

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3: 5 - 6)

The book of Proverbs is full of good common sense – which can often be in short supply. Written in short, punchy phrases the words are a spiritual goldmine with many precious directions to seek God and live out our faith.

Here it is

Lester Gillis, better known as Baby Face Nelson was a notorious gangster in prohibition era America. He specialised in Bank robberies and was noted for the violence which he meted out to anyone who got in his way.

When time and the NYPD finally caught up with him, he was put on trial and asked why he kept robbing banks even though he was top of the most wanted list. His reply was simple: “Because that’s where the money is.” Hard to argue with that one.

The choice is ours

When you leave the security of the building what do you take with you?

walkingI’m not talking umbrellas on rainy days here nor smart suits for job interviews. It’s more of an attitude thing: what are we like and what values are we taking into everyday life?

Leaving a building is more than simply going out the door. It’s a step into a different world often far removed from our place of safety (home or church).

We may be going out like lambs amongst wolves (Luke 10:3) but, whatever the circumstances, it will mean that our values will be on the line if we are to remain true to ourselves.

Locked up but still free

Knowing my interest in history, the jobbing builder I worked with in the late 1970’s offered to show me an old building. Imagine my surprise that when we arrived at the Cambridgeshire village of Litlington – just a mile from home – he took a key from his pocket and opened the door of the village lock up.

Lock up No one really knows who built it nor exactly when. We don’t even know who the last prisoner was who occupied it. You can still see it today. Thanks to the efforts of my friend John Stamford, it’s in good repair and stands boldly in the middle of the village.

All I know from one brief incursion was that it was very dark (just a small metal grill served as a window), smelt strongly of earth and the metal door closed with a mighty clang.

Back in the middle of the seventeenth century at a time of civil war, Richard Lovelace a prisoner in the Gatehouse Jail near Westminster Abbey penned these words to an unknown Althea;

Stone walls do not a prison make nor iron bars a cage.

Faced by events and circumstances beyond our control we face not a lock up but rather, a lock in. There may not be stone walls or iron bars but Lovelace’s words seem very appropriate when we consider where we are. It’s not quite house arrest but there is strong pressure on us to stay in, keep calm and carry on as best we can.

It’s very hard not being able to do the things we want to do. The sun’s shining at last and all kinds of outdoor recreations beckon …. except we’re urged to limit our travel and avoid unnecessary contact. We are social beings so it’s tough being limited in that way, especially when we have come to a blue skied spring at the end of a wet and dismal winter.

Being locked down may be a physical restriction but I pray that it will not become a spiritual impediment for any of us. Remember Paul’s words to the Galatian church when they sought to throw off the yoke of a legalistic, rule bound religion to embrace the grace of Christ?

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1)

 What does such “freedom” mean at a time like this? We are free to worship God by ourselves or with others when and where it’s practicable. We are free to pray for other people and to write, phone or e mail them to tell we have done that. Above all, we are free to recall and take on board that there is nothing in all creation that can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus (Romans 8: 35 – 39).

That love lies at the heart of the Easter story. What could be seen as a dreadful defeat is, in reality, a wonderful victory. Even if earthly restrictions remain today, the freedom and victory that Christ gained over sin enables us to see beyond our own circumstances.

We have to accept our restrictions but we can choose God’s freedom. Let’s do it!

In Christ

Steve

Fellow Traveller

Two friends walking along a dusty road in the heat of the day meet a stranger who joins them on their journey. Overhearing their conversation, and sensing their downcast mood, he asks the reason for their sadness. They pour out their hearts and their story to this attentive and sensitive listener.

For the two friends on the road, the journey became more than a simple trip back to their homes and families. As they talked, and as they listened in turn to the stranger's words, it became a voyage of discovery: discovery became revelation and revelation, understanding when they invite their fellow traveller to stay and eat with them.

sharingTheir eyes are opened as they finally realise that not only have they been travelling with Jesus but have also invited Him to share what they have.

These words, written down in Luke 24 (verses 13 to 49), reminds us that He wants to be part of all we are doing as well as inviting us to share everything He has to offer.

The presence of the Corona virus does not mean that God has deserted us: He has promised to be with us until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20) and He will not disappoint us.

It is no coincidence that Jesus' first recorded words on appearing to His disciples are "Peace be with you" (Luke 24: 36). It's what they - frightened, unsure, isolated and locked in - needed to know: Jesus was with them, even death could not defeat Him. Their world had been turned upside down in an instant, now they were learning to hope again.

None of us could ever imagine such dramatic change happening at such a furious pace as we are currently experiencing. Some of us are stuck behind closed doors,; many, I know, are concerned about the potential impact of the virus on our friends and families. We may not be able to change events but in holding onto Christ and in sharing all he has to offer, our faith not our circumstances will reveal the real basis for hope.

 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.          (Colossians 2: 6 & 7)

May God's peace surround you and comfort you today.
Yours in Christ

Steve

Focus on God

…..whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:8)

I’ve lost count of the times distractions have claimed my attention. It’s a daily challenge when I, like all of us, are bombarded with information to the point of overload. The problem with distractions is that it can take a long time to refocus and to return to what we were doing before things all kicked off.

Whatever the eventual outcomes might be, it’s clear that Covid 19 has pushed everything else to the margins of our daily concerns. Things aren’t the same today as they were a week ago and, although life will go on, we will not return to how we once were.