Harvest of the Heart
The Reading for the Feast of Weeks – Ruth 1.15-22“15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” “16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. “17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” “18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. “ “19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “ “20 “Don’t call me Naomi, b ” she told them. “Call me Mara, c because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. “ “” “22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.”
Ruth, a Rustic story in the Midst of Israel’s Stormy HistoryHow did the Book of Ruth make it into the Bible? The 7 books before deal with the Hebrew escape from Egypt, the Law, and the conquest of the Promised Land. The 8 following tell of the new kingdom, it’s fall and restoration. It’s as if the LORD takes a break from the huge building blocks of ancient Near Eastern history to express His love for ordinary individual folk in a tiny village in the hills – the old woman Naomi, and the foreigner Ruth mattered to Him. So do you!
A Biblical Mills & Boon Romance?Ruth, despite the possibility of living in her own country, Moab, and remarrying, and having children, sticks to Naomi her mother-in-law like glue – to love her and to care for her. It’s the time of the Barley harvest when they reach Bethlehem. They have no home and no income, so Ruth goes out to glean – to follow after the harvesters to pick up any grain left behind. The landowner, Boaz finds out about their plight and is very kind to Ruth and Naomi, supplying lots of barley to them. Ruth realises that Boaz is their salvation, and plans, with Naomi, to win him. Boaz needs no persuading. (Perhaps he is already falling in love with Ruth?) When she tells him that he is a close relative (Hebrew GOEL – a redeemer/rescuer) and therefore has a legal responsibility for them, he goes beyond what’s required, and marries Ruth, so that he can give complete care to them both. This is a beautiful story about provision and care; with the sense that somewhere behind all this there a God who is looking after them.
Another Story of Love and Gratitude – Babette’s FeastIt’s the 1870s, and Babette, a chef from the Café Anglais in Paris, is on the run from the another revolution. She eventually finds sanctuary with two elderly sisters in a strict religious sect in Denmark. These Protestants are very dour and humourless; they believe that constant seriousness is a requirement of true Christianity. Sometime later, Babette receives a letter from Paris telling her she has won 10.000 Francs in the Paris Lottery. She says nothing, but, out of gratitude to her rescuers, secretly begins to prepare the most sumptuous feast for the villagers. Although these Christians refuse to comment on the earthly pleasures of their meal, they are secretly having a wonderful time! Babette’s gifts break down their reserve, distrust, and legalism, and lifts them, both physically and spiritually. Old wrongs are forgotten, ancient loves are rekindled, and a magical restoration of the human spirit settles over the table. In her love, Babette has spent the full amount of her lottery win on them. For me, the whole story points to the power of extravagant love; love which is transformative; love that can change lives.
The Transformative Power of Extravagant Love in the Book of RuthWith fresh eyes, we now see that Ruth’s story is not just about rescue and provision. This is extravagant love. If we imagined Naomi’s future as she returns to Israel, we see only toil and bitterness. Ruth’s love animates her; galvanises her into a plan; and ultimately transforms her later years. Boaz’s love changes Ruth’s future. She is no longer an obscure, foreign woman but a force in the continuing story of Israel. Though Ruth would never know it, her great, great-grandson would be David, Israel’s greatest ever king and a foreshadow of the Messiah, Jesus – the greatest of all extravagant lovers.
Where Does the LORD Fit into to all This?In this week’s Zoom Study Time, Caroline pointed out that God is the unsung hero of the whole story. This sequence of events and decisions was not accidental, the LORD Himself was silently planning and manoeuvring in love. So often, we lose track of the LORD’s hand. Like a glistening stream, His extravagant love is always flowing, and like a beck in the hills, it sometimes flows below the surface, unseen; only then to reappear as a gushing spring further on. It’s then we realise He was there all the time. Heavenly Father, I long for a harvest of love. Search my heart. Make me like Ruth. Make me like Boaz. Reveal in me the people and places in my life that need love. Reveal to me the faces that I need to love, even when I don’t want to. I pray, Lord, that You will channel through me an unstoppable overflow of Your extravagant love. Amen. Amen. Amen.
What’s Stopping Me?
This is Karen Gibson, the leader of the Kingdom Choir, a gospel choir often seen on BBC Songs of Praise. Karen’s family arrived from Guyana in the early 1960s, after a Government request to Commonwealth countries for help to fill vital jobs in the UK. Her mum wanted to make Britain her home and set off for the local Church of England. After several weeks, the vicar met her on the way out. He asked her not to come back.
How can this story affect our vision for what the Lord wants to do in our churches in the glorious days to come?
This Sunday’s Reading from Acts 8.26-38
“26 An angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get ready and go south to the road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza.”
“27-28 So Philip got ready and went. Now an Ethiopian eunuch, who was an important official in charge of the treasury of the queen of Ethiopia, was on his way home . He had been to Jerusalem to worship God and was going back home in his carriage. As he rode along, he was reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah.
“29 The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to that carriage and stay close to it.”
“30 Philip ran over and heard him reading out loud from the book of the prophet Isaiah. He asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
“31 The official replied, “How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?” And he invited Philip to climb up and sit in the carriage with him.
“32 The passage of scripture which he was reading was this: “He was like a sheep that is taken to be slaughtered, like a lamb that makes no sound when its wool is cut off. He did not say a word.
“33 He was humiliated, and justice was denied him. No one will be able to tell about his descendants, because his life on earth has come to an end.”
“34 The official asked Philip, “Tell me, of whom is the prophet saying this? Of himself or someone else?”
“35 Then Philip began to speak; starting from this passage of scripture, he told him the Good News about Jesus.s
“36 As they travelled down the road, they came to a place where there was some water, and the official said, “Here is some water. What’s stopping me from being baptised?”…
“38……… Philip baptised him.”
No Ethiopian Eunuchs allowed
This is a view of the temple in Jesus’ time. The outside area was as close as Gentiles (non-Jews) could get. Jewish women were allowed into the first courtyard; Jewish men into the second courtyard; and only priests into to Holy Place in the temple building. Only the High Priest could get into the Holy of Holies once a year!
The bad news – even though the Ethiopian Official had been making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he would not have even be allowed into the Gentile area! Eunuchs were forbidden in any of the Temple courtyards. Being black and Ethiopian also put him at a disadvantage. He would have known what it felt like to be turned away, and denied access to the Lord.
Turned away from the Temple but invited into Friendship with the Lord
Wouldn’t you just love to have met Philip the evangelist? You are desperately seeking meaning in your life. You’ve visited a very unwelcoming holy place, and you’ve bought a scroll which you just can’t get your head round. The next moment there’s a man running alongside your carriage. Between gasps, the stranger shouts: “How are you getting on with your scroll…….?” Climbing into the carriage next to him, this enthusiastic and engaging man begins to explain Isaiah chapter 53 to the African – perhaps like this:
“The LORD Himself has sent his only Son Jesus to the earth. He is the sacrificial lamb spoken of here – who died to carry away all your sin, all your pain and all that spoils your life. He has sent me to tell you this good news. Nothing can stand in your way; You need only to turn your path towards Him in simple trust, and Jesus will do all the rest.”
In excitement, the Ethiopian exclaims “What’s stopping me….?
Invited into the Inner Sanctum by the Heir to the Throne
Karen Gibson, the founder and conductor of the Kingdom gospel choir was sitting on a London bus going through Battersea when her mobile phone rang. She didn’t recognise the number, but answered it anyway. A voice asked: “Would you and the choir come to sing in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, for Harry and Meghan’s wedding?”
It was Prince Charles.
God Breaks down Walls, Opens Doors and Brings us into the Warmth
Seven hundred years before the story of the African man, the Lord had sent Isaiah with a message and now the Lord now sends Isaiah’s scroll. The Lord also commissions Philip to be in the right place at the right time. Philip runs alongside waiting for the right moment to bring the Lord’s message. With a gift inspired by the Holy Ghost, he gently befriends the African. With sensitivity he “evangelises” (He tells the Good News about Jesus) The Lord has sent him to share something precious with the man that will change the direction of his life. The King of Eternity invites us into His inner sanctum. Jesus never turns anyone away. Neither can we.
Was this account a series of happy coincidences? Was it serendipity? No, no, no! The Lord plans and causes our blessings. We just need to open our eyes to see that He was beside us all the time!
What’s Stopping You?
This lovely testimony about the African man is not about religion; it’s not about ceremonies nor giving money, nor church, nor piety. It’s about a relationship with the Living God, who loves you and gave Himself for you. He has done everything – nothing can stop you now.
I believe in Jesus. I believe He is the Son of God. I believe He died and rose again. I believe He paid for us all. And I believe He’s here now, standing in our midst. Here with power to heal now, and the grace to forgive. Amen. Amen. Amen.
A short time ago, during the midweek communion at St. Mary’s, a greenfinch flew in. It was trying to find the way out, but, within the lofty structure of the church, became trapped. Over generations, people have also been imprisoned by religion. Often, church has become only a source of colourful ceremonies and binding obligations. Where is God’s love in all this?
At the time of Jesus, for many Pharisees, the path to God’s love had become buried under well-intentioned, but suffocating traditions.
There is a Path that seems Right…
My mum and Patsy’s mum wouldn’t have had jobs if it hadn’t been for the Pharisees! Both were Shabbat goyim – Non-Jews who did the household jobs for Jewish families on Saturdays – tasks which Jewish law forbids on the Sabbath.
After many years of thinking the Pharisees had come up with the 39 activities on the left. You cannot keep the Sabbath properly unless you cease from all these activities from sunset on Friday evening to sunset on Saturday.
The Gospel Reading for today: John 10 – Getting back on the Path
Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“10 I have come that they may have life in all its fullness.
“11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….
“14 I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me
, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep….
. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
A Path from Long Ago
When He speaks to the Pharisees, Jesus takes them back a thousand years, to the time of David, the writer of Psalm 23, and He distils the Psalm into the words above – this is what God is really like.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for the sake of His name. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
Jesus’ sole intention is to bring people back into what life should really be like – life bubbling up and flowing over. A life where we can truly say we know the Shepherd. A relationship where we hear His voice and fellowship with Him in our hearts. A certainty that not only is His love for now, but it will flow on into the timelessness of eternity.
This is a God whose goodness and mercy are without limits.
Jesus is the Shepherd of Psalm 23. He is calling you now. Nothing you are, or have done can trap you any longer. Trust Him.
Sharing the Lord’s Unlimited Love
From 1945 to 1989, Christians in East Germany had a very difficult time.
Under their notorious leader, Erich Honecker, the people were in dread of the Secret Police – the Stasi, and many trying to escape were killed. When in 1989 East Germany broke free from communist control, Erich Honecker was universally hated and under death threat. He had nowhere to go, and in sheer desperation appealed to the Church for sanctuary.
The family of a Lutheran vicar, Uwe Holmer, took Erich and Margot Honecker into their own home to live with them. Honecker had personally presided over the building of the wall, the wall that separated Uwe’s family and kept him from attending his own father’s funeral. Uwe Holmer’s ten children had been denied admission to any university because of their faith, and members of his church had been persecuted by Honecker’s communist regime.
Revd. Holmer’s charity was not shared by the rest of the country. Hate mail poured in. Some members of his own church threatened to leave or cut back their giving. Uwe defended his actions in a letter to the newspaper…..
“In the middle of my village, Lobetal,” he wrote, “there is a statue of Jesus inviting people to himself and crying out,‘Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ We have been commanded by our Lord Jesus to follow him and to receive all those who are weary and heavy laden, in spirit and in body.” Jesus’ love is without limits, and that included Erich Honecker.
Heavenly Shepherd, when my sin is too bad, and I am crippled by conscience, bring me back to Your unlimited love. Enable me to show that same love to all who are weary and heavy laden. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Good morning, everyone. Here is a short service for the third Sunday of Easter.
Write Me into Your Book
The First Reading – Acts 3.12-19
“12 And when Peter saw this, he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why are you surprised by this? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?
“13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus. You handed Him over and rejected Him before Pilate, even though he had decided to release Him.
“14 You rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.
“15 You killed the Author of life, but God raised Him from the dead, and we are witnesses of the fact.
“16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know has been made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through Him that has given him this complete healing in your presence.
“17 And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.
“18 But in this way God has fulfilled what He foretold through all the prophets, saying that His Christ would suffer.
“19 Repent, then, and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped away…”
Risking Life and Limb
Imagine having a love of snakes; deadly, poisonous snakes. This man used all his holiday time to visit faraway countries to see these snakes in the wild. One year, he decided to visit Canada, where there are many venomous snakes. Somebody told him of a small island in a river estuary where there was a very rare one. With a hire car and a canoe on the roof rack he set out, paddling his boat into the wide river; beaching it on the sandy shore of the island. It wasn’t long before he discovered this incredible snake. Taking a stick, he trapped it and then reached down for it. Sadly, somehow, it broke free, reared up and sank it’s fangs into his hand. He shook it off, realising he had only about one hour to live. He ran back to the canoe. Already a numbness was creeping into his arm. He pulled himself into the car, with weakness now filling both arms and legs. He managed to drive a few miles to a cottage he remembered passing. He literally fell from the car and rolled towards the door; using his final strength to throw his body at the door. Amazingly, a helicopter was called and within the hour, the antidote was given. It was the will to live that had spurred him on.
There is a fundamental drive, in every one of us – to live; to pursue and to discover authentic life; to locate meaning and purpose, to sense that our life is worth living.
The Author of Life
In our reading, Peter had prayed for a severely disabled man and he had been healed. The crowd was making Peter out to be a Holy Man, a Wonder Worker. He redirects them to the resurrection power of Jesus, and then uses a new title for the Lord – the Author of Life (in the Original Greek: ho Arkégos tés Zoës Peter declares that Jesus is the origin and source of the very life principle of the whole universe!. Greek philosophers used the word Arkégos as the ultimate cause of the universe. That’s why this man is now whole. In this Peter makes two assertions:
- The Lord longs to be that ever flowing source of authentic life for you.
- The Lord of life is able to neutralize and eradicate all the damaged and counterfeit versions of life that have ruled over your existence.
Gamebooks – Becoming your own Author
I can remember, at the beginning of my teaching career, the arrival of a new kind of book in the school library. It was a story where, when the reader arrived at the end of a chapter, there was a choice. The reader could choose what happened next. Your choice took you to a new page. Later on, you could make another decision to determine the direction of the tale….and so on. I suppose this reflects the human quest. If the right opportunities came along, and we could make the perfect choice at the right time, we could, theoretically, discover a life of bliss.
The philosopher Jean Paul Sartre would say we have to write the book. He says that life is like finding yourself on a theatre stage but there is NO SCRIPT – you have to improvise or invent your part, your life, as you go along.
Jesus has Written the Best Book of all
When Peter says Jesus is the Author, there is also a literal truth in this. In Greek, Arkégos can literally mean the author of a story! He has written your book. It’s the most exciting book, the most fulfilling tale ever written. But, you have a choice. The Lord invites; He never coerces or forces our decision. Here, Peter encourages us with one simple word – repent – not say you’re sorry, but turn away from the direction you’re going. Jump out of the pages you have concocted, and let Jesus take over!
Jesus, the Author of the best life, I know I’ve got it wrong. I turn from my own efforts. Write me into your story. Amen.
God my Friend
- The LORD says, “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you are the descendants of Abraham my friend” (Isaiah 41.8)
- The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend (Exodus 33.11).
Friends Worshipping Together
In the 1860s, poor Jews on the run from Russian persecution began to arrive in Salford and Manchester. Many lived in this rundown area called Red Bank, not far from Victoria Station. They couldn’t afford the synagogue payment, so using upturned buckets and planks they created their own synagogue pews in their backyards! They called this kind of makeshift synagogue a khevra – a friendship group or “fellowship.” They mostly came from the same Polish towns. They worshipped together, cared for each other, shared with each other, and loved each other.
The Epistle Reading for Today – 1 John 1.1-5 – Friendship with God
“1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
“2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.
“3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ
John and Fellowship with the Lord
By the time he wrote this letter, John, the fisherman, was in his 90s and probably living in Ephesus.
Look at verse 1 above. It is similar to our Christmas Eve gospel reading: “In the beginning was the Word….” The old fisherman is reminding us that the Lord is the Creator, the very source of the universe, and yet the disciples heard Him, and saw and studied Him, and even felt His physical touch. The Lord is uncontainable, all-knowing, and timeless, and yet the God who loves us and wants to relate us.
Then, in chapter 1 verse 3, John shares his experience of the Lord: “our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”
- As he speaks of the Lord, John uses a very unusual word which is quite rare today – “fellowship” – it describes his relationship with God.
- That word fellowship contains all these beautiful meanings…..
- His message is that we can all experience these wonderful features of the Lord
- Stranger still, within these thoughts is the sense of mutuality; not just receiving from the Lord – we can give to God; we can bless Him; and He can enjoy fellowship with us!
What a wonderful truth this is – Jesus, the Word, the Author of the whole of creation, comes to fellowship with us – even if it’s in our backyard, sitting on a plank resting on two upturned buckets!
What a Friend We Have in Jesus
Joseph Scriven (1819-1866) became a teacher and, as a young man, had plans to settle down and marry. Tragically, the day before his wedding, his future wife drowned.
It was at this time, that Joseph found his relationship with Jesus deepening; finding the Lord to be a great source of comfort and the closest of friends. He resolved to share the love Jesus with those around him, and spent his life seeking out and coming alongside the poor and the disabled in any way he could. Later in his life, when his mother became very ill, he wrote this poem for her. (Much later it was made into a hymn)..
- Lord, this very day, cause me to know inwardly that You are my friend.
- Draw me into fellowship with You, to know the joy of Your love.
- May I be a blessing to You, and a blessing to everyone I meet.
- In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
If Someone Can Rise from the Dead…
Even the early hours of Sunday, were a dark and confusing time for the disciples. Was Jesus alive, or wasn’t He? Could the women’s story be true? What had really happened to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? Where was Simon?
Are You a Blue Stamp Collector?
In the 1980s, as a teacher, I was sent on a Transactional Analysis counselling course. It was all about giving and receiving “positive strokes” – building each other up with encouraging and kind comments. But we also learned about negative strokes – giving others a sense of failure and foreboding. Strangely, some people collect negative strokes; constantly on the lookout for depressing things to whinge about. In this kind of counselling these people are called “blue stamp collectors.” It’s not an occasional frustration, but a culture which has invaded their lives, and they have come to accept this outlook as normal, safe, and a shield against disappointment.
Pessimism: Emphasising or thinking of the bad part of a situation rather than the good part, or feeling that bad things are more likely to happen than good things.
The Gospel Reading for Easter Day: Luke 24.28-35 – Sunday Evening
“28 As they approached the village where they were headed, He seemed to be going farther.
31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus—and He disappeared from their sight.
“32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us as He spoke with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
35 Then the two told what had happened on the road, and how they had recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread.”
The Disciples before the Resurrection – Pessimism and Trepidation
In the early hours of Good Friday, when Jesus is being arrested, Simon Peter tries to resist by bringing a weapon with him and inflicting a serious wound on the High Priest’s officer. Later, he would deny any association with Jesus.
This is the pinnacle of the negative thinking that pervaded the disciples in the final hours. At supper, Peter doesn’t want his feet washing, and Thomas worries about Jesus’ words.
Beneath these words and actions lies a human condition – we easily become pessimistic and expect the worse.
Dave the Deacon – Optimism and Composure
In Orford, Warrington, in the 1980s, I was part of a church leadership team. The leader I most liked working with was Dave. He had an unceasing sunny outlook. Everything was possible, barriers could easily be overcome; nothing was too difficult. You may remember this story I shared with you:
It was winter, in the mountains of Spain, and sadly, the van came to a halt in a snowstorm – snowed in. The two other members of the team told me they were really worried as they trekked back to the last village they’d passed through, and found somewhere to spend the night. Dave, however, was totally unruffled. Within minutes of lights out, as the two wrestled with their anxieties, Dave could be heard snoring. They asked him next day how he could sleep and not be worried. He asked them what Jesus was doing during the traumatic storm on the Sea of Galilee. They replied, “He was asleep on a cushion.” Dave, responded, “And that’s all we need to do – God knows what He’s doing!”
Where does this positive outlook come from?
Letting the Truth of the Resurrection Percolate into Daily Life
The turning point for me is verse 34 in our gospel reading: “The Lord has really come back to life and has appeared to Simon.”
From this point onwards, they don’t only believe that Jesus is alive again, but, somehow, resurrection begins to percolate down into their hearts, their understanding, their outlook, and the very nuts and bolts of their day to day existence. At it’s core is the truth: if someone can rise from the dead, the God who loves us can do anything! In the picture Peter heals a man with lifelong disability – Acts of the Apostles reveal believers who are consistently optimistic and ready for anything!
May His resurrection be not only an item of your belief but the life-blood of His ongoing walk with you.
Lord help me. Let me move on, beyond accepting the truth of the resurrection, to knowing resurrection power within every issue of my life. Lord set me free from pessimism. Give me the glorious optimism of the resurrection. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Trusting in the Dark
Every “I” Dotted, every “T” Crossed
Are you ever sent on tasks or missions by another member of the family? I am, but I’m afraid of getting it wrong. This means cross-examining Patsy to extract all the necessary details. My wife then asks me: “ Why do you need to have every tiny detail? Why do you need a six-figure grid-reference number to find something?”
This was the experience of two of the disciples with Jesus just before Palm Sunday.
The Gospel Reading for Psalm Sunday – Mark 11.1-11
“1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent out two of His disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as soon as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will return it shortly.’ ”
“4 So they went and found the colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. They untied it, 5 and some who were standing there asked, “Why are you untying the colt?” 6 The disciples answered as Jesus had instructed them, and the people gave them permission. 7 Then they led the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, and He sat on it.
“8 Many in the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut from the fields. 9 The ones who went ahead and those who followed were shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” 10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” 11 Then Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, He went out to Bethany with the Twelve.”
No Questions, Just Childlike Trust
Although there were many questions that the two disciples could have asked Jesus, they didn’t. They just got on without the details.
Even though it looked iffy, their previous experience convinced them that Jesus would make everything work out right.
This unusual account of disciples trusting the Lord without knowing the ins and outs of everything, took place shortly before that dreadful Passover Friday, when Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion would throw them into chaos. On that day, what to them looked like disaster, had, once again, to become an issue of trust.
Gladys Aylward – from a Safe Routine to Trusting in the Dark
In 1930, Gladys was working in China with Mrs. Lawson offering hospitality to travellers at the Inn of the Eighth Happiness – and telling them stories about Jesus. It was a perfect mission station; so imagine her thoughts when the Mandarin of Yang-Cheng asked her to become the Council Foot Inspector!
A government decree had been passed in China, prohibiting the tradition of binding the feet of girls at birth. The Mandarin said he needed a woman with “big feet” to travel throughout the province on a mule accompanied by two soldiers. Somehow, this just didn’t seem to line up with her mission work, but Gladys decided to trust the Lord in this strange situation. These were the words she used in her new role:
“If God intended little girls to have horrible stubby little feet, he’d have made them like that in the first place, wouldn’t he?”
- As girls were unbound, wiggling their toes with delight, the women of the town would cheer. They loved Gladys and were keen to hear her stories about Jesus. They gave her the name “Ai-weh-deh” – the good woman.
- The Mandarin knew she had a special gift for communicating with people, so when there was riot in the prison it was Gladys (the housemaid/cleaner from North London) who sorted it out; and then told the prisoners about Jesus
- In 1938 the Mandarin told her he was very impressed by her life and he, too, wished to become a Christian.
Trusting in the Dark
The two disciples weren’t given the big picture. It all looked dodgy. But they knew that Jesus had written the page they were on. They trusted in Him, in the strangeness of the darkness, and moved on in His peace. Gladys trusted the Lord when He opened this new chapter in her life. It all looked wrong for missionary work, but she could never have anticipated the breakthrough that God brought through these unusual means!
A simple prayer: Lord, whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. Amen.
The readings in this section have been taken from all the gospels and cover just some of events that the bible tells us happened during the week before Jesus’s death. The collects have been taken from the Church of England website. Any other prayers will have their authors named.
While you are reading this part of the Lent Reflections try and put yourself into the events, listen for Jesus’s voice speaking to you and note your own response. But hold in mind the three words in the title of this year’s reflection: Reconciliation, Renewal, Redemption. Also think about how God is wanting you to have a deeper relationship
with him, and is ready and waiting to help you bring about any changes needed in your life to make this happen.
Some words from John Birch (The Act of Prayer) to think about as we ponder on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem: We join with the voices of those who stood and cheered as Jesus entered Jerusalem, laying not palm branches but our lives down at his feet.
Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!
All four gospels tell of the events surrounding Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.
St. Matthew 21: 1 – 9; St. Mark 11: 1 – 11; St. Luke 19: 29 – 38; St. John 12: 12 – 15.
Choose one to read, and then re-read it and stop and take time to think about which words speak loudest to you. Then read it again putting yourself somewhere in the scene. Are you one of the disciples or friends following Jesus closely as he rides through the gate?
If so, what are your feelings?
Are you one of the onlookers who have heard about this man and come to see what all the fuss is about – if so, what did you find out about him? Were you shouting Hosanna? Did you want him to save you? Or did you stand silently as he rode passed you, perhaps even looking your way?
Prayers: The collect for Palm Sunday (short version)
True and humble king, hailed by the crowd as Messiah: grant us the faith to know you and love you, that we may be found beside you on the way of the cross, which is the path of glory. Amen.
How quickly cries of ‘Hosanna!’ turn to ‘Crucify!’ when Jesus refuses to be moulded into that which we would have him be. Forgive us, dear Lord, who sing ‘Hosanna!’ as you draw near, yet in our daily lives reveal ourselves no better than those who caused you pain. May this be the song in our hearts this passion-tide as we lay our lives before you: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven! Amen (John Birch – The Act of Prayer)
Lord Jesus, we greet your coming, pilgrim messiah, servant king, rejected saviour.
You rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, symbol of humility and lowliness, mocking our dream of pomp and glory, demonstrating the foolishness of God before the eyes of the world. You have shown us the way of humble service, the way of true greatness. Lord Jesus, help us to follow you. Amen (Patterns and Prayers for Christian Worship)
Monday of Holy Week
The event in today’s passage is mentioned in all of the gospels – Jesus being anointed with oil:
St. Matthew 14: 1 – 9; St. Mark 14: 3 – 9; St. Luke 7: 36 – 50; St. John 12: 1 – 8.
St. Matthew and St. Mark place it happening just before the Last Supper and St. Luke places it quite early in his ministry. St. John in his telling of this story places it just before the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Read whichever version you prefer and put yourself into the event. Listen to what is said by the people there and listen carefully to what Jesus says in response. In St. John’s version the woman is referred to as Mary.
She gives her all to Jesus.
Now spend a few minutes in silence and think about what you can give to Jesus – what is ‘your all?
The Psalm set for today is Psalm 36: 5 – 11. It talks about God’s steadfast love for us.
In the event we have just read about Mary acknowledges God’s steadfast love for by giving Jesus her love for him.
You may like to use these words from the Psalm in your prayer time today.
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgements are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O LORD. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with You is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!
Lord Jesus Christ, You gave us so much; help us to give to you, if only a little, in return. Amen (Nick Fawcett)
Tuesday of Holy Week
Once again this event is mentioned in all three gospels: Jesus cleansing the Temple. St. John places it happening earlier in Jesus’s ministry – St. John 2:13 – 16.
The other three gospel writers place it happening during the week after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem:
St. Matthew 21: 12 & 13; St. Mark 11: 15 – 17; St. Luke 19: 45 & 46.
All the versions are very short but we see how Jesus reacts when he sees the temple being used as a market place rather that for its real purpose – a place to worship God. And he overturns the tables.
Two areas to consider: one is to think about our places of worship and ask are they fit for God’s purpose?
Are they places where everyone is welcome? Do we have a liturgy that is understood by all who come to worship? If the answer is no how can we ‘overturn’ the situation.
The second area to think about is ourselves. Is there anything in our present way of living that we need to overturn so that we can renew our relationship with God?
Prayer: Living God, from the unpromising material of our lives, fashion your new creation,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (Nick Fawcett)
Wednesday of Holy Week
A quote from Psalm 25: 4 & 5 for us to think about:
Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths; Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
Spend a few moments thinking about these words and ask God to open your heart and mind to the teachings of Jesus, especially those in this week. Jesus carried out a lot of teaching during this particular time, with his disciples and others drawn to him and what he was teaching. You can find examples of this in St. Matthew chapters 21 – 25; St. Mark chapters 11 – 13; St. Luke chapters 20 – 21.
Pick one or two of his teachings and spend time reflecting on what he was saying to his listeners, and why.
Then read through the passage again and put yourself into the group of listeners.
What do his words mean for you today?
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, grant that everything we are, and all we say and do, may resound to your praise and glory. Make us always ready to serve you and so may we prepare the hearts of others to welcome you into their lives, for your name’s sake. Amen. (adapted from Nick Fawcett Short Prayers for Public Worship)
Some words to think about today as we think about the events of the preparation for the Passover.
Jesus, servant Lord, in your final moments with your disciples you chose to give us an example of loving service. Fill us with this servant heart and may the love we display to others be worthy of your calling and name.
(adapted from Intercessions by Ian Black)
All the gospels carry accounts of what happened but if you read on you can find out what happened after the Passover meal as well: St. Matthew 26:17 – 30; St. Mark 14:12 – 26; St. Luke 22:7 – 22; St. John 13:1 – 30.
Choose one of the accounts and put yourself into the happenings. Be there and listen carefully to what is said
and note carefully what is done. How do you respond? Listen to what Peter says (St. John 13: 6 – 17).
If that was you, how would you have responded to Jesus’ actions?
After their meal together they went out….now go back to last week’s session on Jesus’ prayer (St. John chapter 17) and think about what you noted down. Also spend some time thinking about his arrest.
Prayers: the collect for Maundy Thursday (short version)
God our Father, your Son Jesus Christ was obedient to the end and drank the cup prepared for him:
may we who share his table watch with him through the night of suffering and be faithful. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, you did not just go the extra mile – you gave everything, enduring death on a cross
so that we might live. Work within us and help us to be willing to give of ourselves in the service of others,
for your name’s sake (Nick Fawcett Short Prayers for Public Worship)
Some words from John Birch (Act of Prayer) to ponder on today: God of love, in a moment of quiet we remember the love that brought us to this place. God of love, in a moment of quiet we remember the arms outstretched in our place. God of love, in a moment of quiet we bring our grateful thanks
All four gospels have accounts of what happened on the day we call Good Friday.
The reading set for this year is found in St. John chapters 18 and 19.
Prayer: the collect (short version) for Good Friday:
Eternal God, in the cross of Jesus we see the cost of sin and the depth of your love: in humble hope and fear may we place at his feet all that we have and all that we are, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
You could spend some time today keeping vigil for Jesus and praying for this world that we live in.
Join with the women who went to the tomb and found it empty and celebrate that Jesus Christ is Risen – Hallelujah!