Easter

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter 2021

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.

Trevor

Reflection for the Second Sunday of Easter 2021

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

4 We write this to make our joy complete. 5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”

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.

Amen

Reflection for Easter Sunday 2021

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.

Cambridge Dictionary

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. 

“29 But they pleaded with Him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over. So He went in to stay with them. 

“30 While He was reclining at the table with them, He took bread, spoke a blessing, and broke it, and gave it to them. 

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?”

 “33 And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, gathered together    

34 and saying, “The Lord has really come back to life and has appeared to Simon.”

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.

Trevor

 

 

 

Reflection for Psalm Sunday 2021

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.

Trevor

 

 

 

 

Bible Study for Holy Week

Holy Week

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.

Palm Sunday

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)

Maundy Thursday

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)

Good Friday

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

Easter Eve

You could spend some time today keeping vigil for Jesus and praying for this world that we live in.

Easter Day

Join with the women who went to the tomb and found it empty and celebrate that Jesus Christ is Risen – Hallelujah!

Gail Hield

Reflection for the Beginning of Lent 2021

I’m Coming Back

The content of this Reflection is a summary of the contributions of church members who shared insights and ideas during the Zoom Study Time during  the week of Ash Wednesday.

A Gospel Reading from Luke 18.9-14

“9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you; this man went down to his home right with God rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

He’s Behind You!

Our tendency is to think of the Pharisee like the baddy in a pantomime.

Generally, Pharisees were good people and were wonderful students of scripture.  Nicodemus (John 3) was a Pharisee; maybe Joseph of Arimathea who gave his tomb for Jesus, and Gamaliel in Acts, a wise scholar, who was the leader of a Pharisee school.

The problem here is the spirituality of keeping rules.  Once a religion contains laws and rules, believers are easily confused into thinking enthusiasm for rituals and ceremonies, fine detail and any outward observance is true faith.  These may also be the  things that make others think you’re spiritual.  They aren’t,  and can never be spiritual.  The issue at the core of Lent is always: what’s going on deep inside you?

What was Jesus saying through this Parable?

Somebody at Study Hour suggested that however pious and devout the Pharisee thinks he is – he isn’t.  Another suggested that without love, it’s impossible to be what God wants you to be.  The real baddy, the tax collector gets it right.   He is aware of himself; he knows what’s going on in the  dark places of his life; he acknowledges his sin, and in this way breaks through to God.

Going Back to the Other Path

Many years ago, when I was a youth leader in a Pentecostal Church, we took a group of young people into the Peak District, in winter, in snow covered fells …. and got lost.

Neil, the leader who was with me, suddenly declared: “We’re not on the right path.”  We back tracked, and then using a compass and map, Neil pointed to the north saying: “That’s the path we should be on.”

The tax collector, like us, realised he was on the wrong path – a path that would lead to death, and, crying out to the Lord, confessed his sin.

Going Further with the Lord

In 2 Corinthians 7, Paul points out that the feelings of sadness, and remorse we have as we confess our sin on Ash Wednesday, are not enough:

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly remorse brings death”

 (2 Corinthians 7.10)

Paul points out that the Lord requires something beyond feelings of guilt and regret.  In this passage, he points out that only true repentance will save the sinner – not absolution, nor ashing, nor the Eucharist, nor faithful service to the church.  Only repentance.  This is the Greek word he uses:

This word is two Greek words glued together.  Meta means “change” (like metamorphosis and metabolism) Noia exists in our local dialect as  Nous (nowse), an old word for mind.  So metanoia means a change of mind, which leads to a change of heart, which leads to a change of path.

The power for this change comes from a God who deeply loves us and longs to respond to our unconstrained openness, and desire for change.

Our study time finished with this song:

“When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless Your heart

“I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart

“I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus

“King of endless worth
No one could express
How much you deserve
Though I’m weak and poor
All I have is Yours
Every single breath!

The Collect Prayer  for Ash Wednesday

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have made and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may receive from you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Trevor & the  Study Timers