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Bible Sunday – 24th October – Penny Ashton

Bible Sunday – 2 Timothy 3: 14-4: 5 and John 5: 36b – end

Some years ago, there was an attempt in Wincanton to set up a Lions club.  You can get an idea of just how long ago this was by the fact that our then curate Steve Tancock was a member!  One of the fund raisers that we attempted was book sales on Saturday mornings in the hall at the back of the Bear Inn.  We quickly learned that when you hold a book sale, you nearly always go home with more books than you started with, and you end up with a heavy heart taking quite a number of these to the tip.  Even more sadly, the book that most often ends up in a skip is King James Bibles.  Nobody these days want to buy a second-hand bible, especially if it is written in the language used 400 years ago and in tiny print.  People who buy Bibles nowadays buy something more like the one that I received for my birthday this year with beautiful illustrations and space for journaling   which I have not been able to bring myself to use yet, or one with bright colours and fun stories to read to children.

And yet there are many children and adults. whose knowledge of the bible is almost non-existent.  Where did we go wrong?  2 Timothy is a good book to read from on Bible Sunday, partly because it contains that wonderful verse in chapter 3 v 16 – ‘All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, but also because earlier in the book Paul reminds Timothy of what he has learned and from whom he learned it.  There is very much a lesson for us here, as in chapter 1Paul says – ‘I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason, I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.’ (2 Timothy 1: v 5)  Timothy then had received a solid grounding in the scriptures – the part of our bible that we would call the law and the prophets,  from his Jewish mother and grandmother.  The teaching about Jesus he received at the same time as they did from Paul himself whom they would have met on his first or second journey – ‘Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us’ (2 Timothy 1 v13).

This is obviously a family that is close to Paul’s heart.  Last week on St Luke’s day we heard from this same letter Paul asking Timothy to come to him in prison, and he added some very personal requests – to bring the cloak that he had left behind and his books, and especially the parchments.  Paul is very aware that he may not have much longer to live, and at a time like that you want the people around you that you most love.

Paul’s letters to Timothy contain a lot of advice that is still useful to us today – he is supporting a young church leader, and in many respects, what was sensible in the middle east in the first century, is still sensible now, although it is obvious from some passages how much times have changed.  In our reading today, he points out that Timothy has been given a good start, by his family, and partly also from having accompanied Paul on his travels and no doubt heard him teach frequently, and joined in discussions with him and others.

I don’t know what the congregation at the church in Ephesus looked like under Timothy’s leadership.  I do know that it took courage to be a Christian there, as it was very unpopular in the town to certain parts of society – in particular those who made money from the tourist trade as, just as a cathedral city is to us nowadays, so Ephesus was to the followers of Artemis or Diana as she was also called in the ancient world.  Her temple was listed as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and had made the town rich.  Small wonder then that they were not happy when Paul first arrived preaching about another God and performing miracles, and I doubt if the regular worshipping church under the leadership of Timothy was any more popular.  I do know, however, what most churches in this country look like and much as I love you all, I have to say that we are not a sight guaranteed to excite young people.  I think you would probably agree with me!

Is the answer then to return to the word of God?  In the letter to the Hebrews, it is described as being active and sharper than any two-edged sword.  Alison warned us last week that while the recorded version with David Suchet is beautiful to listen to, it can also be soporific.  How can we get people excited again?  The Bible Society tell me that this year they have produced the whole Bible in 66 languages being read by 707 million people.  6 language groups received the whole Bible in their own language for the first time in the last year.  Five of these were African languages and one was in American Sign language, which I have to admit confuses me as I did not realise that sign language could also be printed and read.  These people are overjoyed that at last they can read scripture in their day-to-day language.  But in this country, bibles are being sent to the tip.

Could the answer be in Jesus teaching that we heard in our gospel reading?  Jesus says ‘You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.’  Our bibles are a valuable, a precious, a life-giving resource, but like the two-edged sword that they are likened to, they need to be used properly.  They point to Jesus, and that surely is what we should be doing – in our lives, our worship and our use of the bible.

This Sunday is the last Sunday after Trinity, but the last Sunday of the church’s year comes in four weeks’ time with the Festival of Christ the King.  We used to say that all roads lead to Rome – surely all our words should and must, as our Sundays do, lead to Jesus.

Trinity 19 – 10th October – Ken Masters

A Sermon by The Revd Ken Masters on 10 October 2021

for Trinity 19, year B, proper 23 at Pen Selwood

Readings: Hebrews 214-18; Luke 222-40

In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

As we get older, reading more obituaries and attending more funerals, the question posed by the Gospel may enter our minds more often.  ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’  A question possibly sharpened by the Pandemic.

Jesus’ answer to the man in the Gospel was to remind him of the Commandments.  “But I’ve kept all those,” he replied.  We may say much the same or have sincerely repented.  In my mind, though, there are still many memories of less major sins, plus innumerable moments of weakness, foolishness and embarrassing faux-pas.  I wonder if we have such clear consciences as the man in the Gospel – if indeed he had?

Anyway, Jesus then – as the Gospel says – ‘looking at him, loved him’, but tells him to sell all he has, give to the poor, and follow him.  Direct and radical – Jesus thoroughly shocked the man.  What would Jesus say to us now?  In our different time and different circumstances, what would he call us to do?  Most of us have many possessions – I for one have accumulated a great clutter – and we also have dependents and responsibilities.  To a greater or lesser extent, we are locked into our social and financial framework.  I don’t think we’d get exactly the same call.  So, we have to look again at

Jesus’ words to determine what his call may be to us today.

But before we get to that, let’s think of 4 aspects of a wider picture.  As the Media reported: the Pope, Archbishop of Canterbury and other world faith leaders have called on the ‘richer nations to solve the climate crisis’ – and wealthier families and individuals to do more to cut emissions and provide more climate funding.  With the Coronavirus Virus, the world will not be safe until people of all nations have been vaccinated – which means that the richer nations give more help to the poorer.  Last Wednesday the Government withdrew the £20 uplift to Universal Credit.  Then there’s the sudden surge in energy costs, along with shortages brought about by transport and logistic problems, and the likelihood of rising prices.  So, the poorer people of Britain are going to be more and more hard pressed.  Food Banks together with local and national charities are appealing for support to help those in increasing need.  All this alongside the ever-present prompting not to forget the even more basic needs in other parts of the world.  All aspects of the wider picture.

Looking at Jesus’ words: he acknowledged the needs of the poor – as he later highlighted in his Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, connecting help to the needy, with serving Him.  But in talking with the man in the Gospel his main emphasis was on what the man needed to do to inherit eternal life.  What, then, of Jesus’ call to us to enter eternal life?  In essence it seems to be a call to simplicity of life, material generosity and loving commitment.  And we each have to take this to heart – to read and listen to Jesus’ words in the Gospel – and think about them – and pray about them – and act on them.

There’s a modern hymn which came to my mind.  It’s in the green hymn book [322], but I don’t know whether you sing it here.  It starts, ‘Love is his word, love is his way’ and has the Refrain, ‘Richer than gold is the love of my Lord: better than splendour and wealth.’  This seems to sum up part of what Jesus said to the young man in the Gospel and to his disciples.  Love is the way into the Kingdom of God – love of God and love of our neighbour – both of which have social, political, financial and lifestyle implications.  And if Love is a way into the Kingdom of God, it is a way into eternal life.

One of the verses of that hymn goes:

Love is his mark, love is his sign,

bread for our strength, wine for our joy,

‘This is my body, this is my blood.’

Love, only love is his sign.

We are reminded each time we receive Holy Communion that, in traditional words, the bread which is the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ is to ‘preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life’ – in modern usage, to ‘keep you in eternal life’.  This is not to suggest that Communion is a replacement for the challenge of Jesus’ words in the Gospel.  His call to us is to a greater simplicity of life.  To order our priorities to put His Kingdom first.  Above all, to learn and re-learn what it is to be generous – and especially to those in need.  And as we share in this Sacrament of His Love, this Sign of His Body and Blood, given for all – in this we receive His grace and His love, which are what we need to follow Him in eternal life – to the Glory of God.  Amen.

St Luke 17th October 2021 – Rev Alison Way

2 Timothy 4:5-17, Luke 10:1-9

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

Who do we think St Luke was? The definitive Anglican source of information – is this book called Exciting holiness. This version is dedicated to one of the brothers – Tristram – who helped compile it (who lived at Hilfield for much of his later life!) and who I knew. This book says that Luke was a dear friend of the apostle St Paul and is mentioned by him in three of his letters – Including the one we heard this morning.

In the second letter of Timothy it said 11Only Luke is with me. Where they are was in prison! Luke is alleged to have withstood this time and died many years later in Greece aged 84 (some think he was martyred too by being hung in an olive tree). Elsewhere St Paul describes Luke as the beloved physician. This Luke is also believed to be the same Luke as wrote 2 books of the New Testament – Luke’s gospel and then the Acts of the apostles. Luke’s story of the life of Christ which then goes on to explain how the early church grew in Acts. All this writing has a really imaginative and pictorial edge to it.

It starts further back than most with the bulk of the stories of the nativity, which we will be thinking about again very soon. The angel coming to Mary, the shepherds through to 40 days after the birth to the presentation in the temple. It goes right through to his death and resurrection. One of my favourite resurrection stories has 2 disciples walking on the road to Emmaus and who don’t recognise Jesus. They eventually do in breaking of bread. There are a number of things that are just in Luke’s gospel. Stories like the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son and the Rich Man and Lazarus. Even some of the bits of the Bible we are most capable of managing by heart are in Luke’s gospel, because of their use in our more traditional services (meaning the Benedictus, Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis).

Not only does Luke’s gospel go further back than most with the Acts of the apostles the writer goes further on than the other gospels too. In this book he concentrates on the events that immediately happened after Jesus resurrection and ascension. The sequel as we follow in it the works of Peter and how Paul came to prominence and how the church was established is unique. I am going to spend a little time now unpacking themes in these writings of Luke. The ideas of Luke’s gospel and the Acts of the apostles are a bit different from the others and in a few weeks time – on Advent Sunday – we will go into the church’s new year and the majority of our gospel readings will then centre around Luke – so this will be useful background. (Where as this year we have had a lot of Mark (and because its rather short also a lot of John!)). Some of us will remember I talked about what made Mark distinctive – lots of immediately and cut and thrust action – no hanging about. Luke is not like that at all and I would urge us all to read Luke and Acts in full in the next few weeks. Unlike Mark it will take a little longer than 90 minutes curled up in the arm chair with the good book on a wet afternoon or we can listen to David Suchet reading it on youtube

LUKE – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJQbwb0Ug74

ACTS – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZkaWARTOUY0

Or you can download a DAVID Suchet bible reading app to your phone!!!  The whole thing will take about 5 and half hours to hear!

There are five things that stand out in the books that Luke wrote too. Let’s think about these in turn

FIRSTLY Supernatural emphasis – angels and unusual happenings – the other worldliness of Jesus is emphasized. Lots of angels from the word go – Mary, encountering the shepherds etc. Luke makes much more of the mystery – much much more than Mark has been doing!!! For example in today’s reading it ends with quite a mysterious sentence

Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”

A way in to explain what that means is by saying the works of God are mysterious and deep but intimate and present.

SECONDLY Luke is a medical man and as a result we get more technical detail about illnesses and conditions and how Jesus healed people. This is why he is the patron saint of the medical profession and why as we remember we pray for healing and the caring professions as we will later. That sentence from today’s reading I read out to illustrate the first point also shows this attention to healing. In there was a cure the sick and wherever a healing is described in Luke we will get much more detail than we have become accustomed to in Mark for example.

THIRDLY – the approach to the Holy Spirit is more marked – Luke was written a bit later than Mark and by then they were trying to  explain the delay in Jesus’ return. This is about Jesus being at the centre of time, not the end of it. Luke describes time in three sections –

  • Israel, law and the prophets, the time of PROMISE

  • The fulfilment of ministry of Jesus, the time of Jesus at the CENTRE,

  • Ascension onwards – the time of the SPIRIT and how things are for us today

This is also wrapped up in that sentence I have already been alluding to. Again in the final phrase the Christian workers were asked to use The kingdom of God has come near to you. Showing the people we are in the realms of the spirit and an existence where we can live in the power of the spirit now. Not waiting but moving towards our eternal existence dwelling in the spirit with God

FOURTHLY in Luke’s gospel the wideness of the mission fulfilled by Jesus is central. God cares for all those who turn to him  – regardless of gender, social position or nationality – this fits with much of the 21st century ideas about inclusivity. He is also most obviously portraying Jesus as a suffering servant or ransom for the life of many. More so than any of the other  gospels. Again in that sentence there is reference to this

Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you

This indicates the universal nature of Jesus requirements of his followers. There is no question of checking the food has been prepared appropriately to Jewish custom, which would have been very controversial to Jesus’ followers of Jewish descent. Early parts of the Acts of the apostles – challenged Peter to eat what was set before him and not what Jewish law required

AND FIFTHLY – There is an emphasis on care of the poor and outcasts – in lowliness is true greatness and Luke is most tough on the rich too! There is a clear emphasis on Jesus serving and our need to do likewise. Again in the eat what is set before you phrase – we get a sense that the disciples were not to discriminate based on the nature or wealth of the household. Actually in our life experiences, many of us as I have will have experienced that sense that sometimes those least able to give, lavishes us with the greatest hospitality!

It is interesting really that we can find echoes of the distinctive in Luke in 1 sentence of our gospel passage – which equates to just 2 verses! Luke’s ideas are very much at the heart of his writings and his emphases have done much to shape our understanding of the Christian faith today: – Luke with his angels and mystery, his medical detail, the way we understand the spirit, his message for everyone and particularly the poor and needy. All of this speaks to our hearts today – I look forward to our year with Luke as our guide starting on Nov 28th… and lets end by dwelling again on the verse we have illustrated his ideas with

Which Jesus said to the followers he sent ahead of him and to us today

Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Amen.

Amen

The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995
Exciting Holiness – collec
ts and readings for the festivals and lesser festivals of the Church of England (2003)

Trinity 18 – Rev Alison Way

Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12, Mark 10:2-16

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

I took rather a deep breath and prayed hard  after I had read the very difficult readings set for this Sunday, and in the end after much heart searching I found myself unable to avoid talking about the most challenging topic embedded within the second one! So today, I am going to talk about marriage and divorce. I have found this slightly difficult as someone who doesn’t have real life experience of either of them.  (This is always an issue when doing marriage prep too!) – Having never been married or divorced. I know for some of us this topic may well be very difficult, but I do hope these reflections will not make matters worse, will be helpful and at the very least thought provoking.

If we marry in the UK today, there is 33.3% chance that our marriage will end in divorce. The average length of a marriage which ends in divorce in the UK is just over 12 years.  The average age for men getting divorced is between 45-49 and women is 30 to 39.

A recent innovation on the small screen has been the programmes from different countries called ‘Married at first sight’. Complete strangers are matched by psychologists (and in the first series a much criticised vicar). They marry and then the series watches the fall out. This really doesn’t take marriage very seriously, as a mark of enduring life long love. It also shows the worst of some of the excesses of relationships today. (Those taking part clearly want the media spotlight to do this, which instantly skews it!).

Not taking marriage seriously was one of the things Jesus was encountering and wanted to address. Another example of relationship problems existing in this arena and one of the more painful sides of having celebrity status, is the media’s insatiable quest for insider information, particularly it seems when all is not well. For example – woe betide the celebrity who has relationship difficulties or needs to divorce and it plays out in court! The media interest in the recent breakdown of the celebrity marriages (Johnny Depp and Amber Heard) is a good example of the kind of frenzy that surrounds events such as these.

Here’s a more personal example of the challenges of divorce and marriage. When I was 20, I went on holiday to the Canaries with an old school friend. It was to her, her final ‘fling’ before she got married the following year, where I was just about to do my last year at University. A week before we went, my friend’s mother rang me. She begged me to persuade my friend out of getting married so young. Her mother was convinced the marriage would be a disaster. As my friend was planning to marry someone 13 years older than her, and her mother did not like him one bit! In all good conscience, I couldn’t do what her mum had asked.

I wasn’t sure about the marriage plans, but my friend was very set on it. In the end about half way through the trip, I told my friend that her mother had rung and gave her an edited version of the conversation we had. I immediately wished I hadn’t said anything – My friend was even more determined to get married. I was left with the distinct impression that the wedding was possibly more about getting away from her dominating mother, than marrying her husband to be!

The following spring – I went to the wedding and the marriage lasted about 2 years. Her mother’s reservations as they say came home to roost big time. Some years later when my friend and I met up, and reflected on these events. She said – She wished she hadn’t married so young and that the need to escape her family had been the predominant driving force. She had known all along that her mother had not wanted her to marry, but that had made her even more determined to go ahead (irrespective of the reservations she also had but had been ignoring). It just goes to show, she said, how immature I was and how much I shouldn’t have done it. She now has a happy family life and is in a loving marriage relationship – and is older and wiser.

Issues in marriages and their repercussions in the surrounding families – Why we do the things we do, and how painful they can be are not a new thing. The fact that the Pharisees ask a question about divorce in our difficult gospel reading indicates this. They asked – Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? And this question is really a trick question, aimed at Jesus 2000 years ago. This shows that marriage breakdown and divorce were just as hot potatoes then as they can be now!

Jesus in our gospel is speaking against a very liberal approach to divorce which was prevalent in the Jewish society of his day. There was a real problem with men divorcing their wives very freely for say burning their dinner, not being pretty enough or because they had got tired of them. For a woman being divorced was the path to social isolation and servitude. Jesus is guiding the listening Pharisees back to the importance of marriage, the quality of lasting relationships and that marriage is not something to be trifled with on a whim. Jesus teaching seems to us rather harsh – but he is trying to get the Pharisees of his day to take their marriage commitment seriously as God intended

In the Christian Church, we believe in the importance of marriage in loving relationships, and marriage that is faithful to one other and marriage that is for keeps. In the wedding service we describe marriage as the foundation of family life, as enriching society and strengthening community. This is of course an idealised view and as with all idealized views – real life doesn’t always work out that way. Real life can be so much more messy and more difficult than this passage from Mark seems to allow for. No-one sets off in the early days of married life with the intent of making that marriage fail and this passage can leave us feeling very judged and unworthy. For many people the breakdown of a marriage is the most traumatic and painful thing they have ever experienced, and also in terms of family life, community and society marriage break up and divorce can be the only way to minimise the damage to all concerned. In extreme cases, for some getting divorced is the only way to ensure their safety and well being into the future. Much as our Church upholds marriage, it also has recognised in recent times that some marriages fail. Our Church embraces the human need in these circumstances, the pain and the power of God’s reconciling and healing spirit. When the need arises, it is now possible for a divorced person to marry again in church, at the discretion of the minister and in accordance with specific guidelines that are laid down by our bishops. I am happy to do this if these guidelines are met.

I think we have gone this way as our call is to love our neighbour, and to be witnesses to God’s love for them – and not to sit in judgement. I think this difficult passage in Mark is really about two things. Firstly it is a call to those in relationships or hoping to be to take them seriously and to enter into them for the right reasons and for keeps. My friend would be the first to say that her failed marriage was not for the right reasons – and that the experience is something she had really learnt from. The second thing this passage is about is that it is not a stick to beat ourselves with if we have been down the path of relationship breakdown. Particularly if we have owned our part in it, come to terms with it and sought God’s forgiveness and healing power and allowed God’s spirit to influence us in new relationships we have formed. I believe wholeheartedly that God is with us in everything that we do. When the going is good and when the going gets tough. And that as a Church we need to meet people practically with God’s love where they are and to show we are really Christian by our love. Letting all God’s children come to Jesus, to be embraced and receive the kingdom of God.

Amen

Copyright acknowledgement

Some material included in this service is copyright:  ©  The Archbishops’ Council 2000-2020 –

Bible readings from The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 –

Harvest 2021 – Rev Alison Way

Joel 2:21-27, Matt 6:25-34

All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above, now thank the lord, o thank the lord for all his love. Amen

As I was reading the readings set for today – the line – what’s the use of worrying it never was worthwhile came to mind. Anyone know where that comes from? It is  from the world war song – Pack up your troubles! The gospel wants us to move away from worry about stuff to reliance on God and the reading from Joel talks of days of restoration ahead in the sight of God and moving away from fearfulness. Both of these are key messages as we move forward hopefully in our current circumstances. Both use illustrations from our natural world as a means to prompt us to thankfulness to God. Weaving together in Joel images of the coming harvest with praise of God and in a way we do the same thing each year when we come to our annual harvest thanksgiving. Taking the stuff we have grown, and have made and bringing them alongside our hearts filled with thankfulness to God is really the stuff of occasions like this one!

We do particularly need to give thanks for those who work the land and are part of our complicated and interrelated food chain, and all its component parts. Beginning with the good earth on which it all relies. Here is a picture from my knitted farm to help us reflect on this. The different squares represent stages of the fields, pastures and crops. The brown ones are the bare earth (preparations done to prepare the ground!). The green one represent the pastures, and fields of vegetables and legumes. The yellow ones maybe are our arable crops, wheat, barley and oats, and maybe even a touch of oil seed rape in one corner.

As well as the fields, the farm may have a variety of animals, which can produce things we need like eggs and milk, or become the meat many eat. I have a few animals like sheep, pigs and piglets! There are others of course! We need to give thanks for all these things especially at harvest time, and those who work the land – this is and can be very challenging work! Times of late have been difficult. It is not a coincidence that the auction at Pen Selwood that follows our harvest festival service as part of our BBQ will raise funds for the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution. An organisation helping those in difficult times!

But harvest affords us more opportunities to turn to thankfulness to God, and knowing that God is in the midst of our todays too. For the things we have made and the things we rely on for our day to day needs – This is very much the theme of Matthew’s gospel. To concentrate on today and not let other worries engulf us or being distracted by ‘stuff’. Each day brings an opportunity for thankfulness that we have what we need and that our harvests, whatever they are  – come from God’s amazing love for us. But harvest thanksgiving also helps us to reflect on where these things come from and how we get hold of them. There are big Questions over supply at the moment, things as they have been for so long in many aspect of our life are not very certain. Acknowledging our need to be thankful for all we have (and at times take for granted) is really important, alongside the creativity and skill that has brought these things to our homes

To increase the scope of what we are giving thanks for in both our harvest festivals we are going to sing a modern harvest hymn. It goes to the tune of an ‘English country garden’. It points out that for everything we need to give thanks to God for the harvest. The words are as follows:-

We eat the plants that grow from the seed, but it’s God who gives the harvest.

Cures can be made from herbs and from weeds,

but it’s God who gives the harvest.

Ev’rything beneath the sun, All the things we claim we’ve done,

all are part of God’s creation: we can meet people’s needs

with things we grow from seed, but it’s God who gives the harvest.

 

We find the iron and turn it to steel, but it’s God who gives the harvest.

We pull the levers, we turn the wheels,

but it’s God who gives the harvest.

Ev’rything we say we’ve made, plastic toys to metal spades,

all are part of God’s creation: we can make lots of things

from microchips to springs, but it’s God who gives the harvest.

To help us reflect, we are going to create a unique harvest thanksgiving prayer now for ourselves. Work through the alphabet answering the question as to what at harvest time we thank God for. Take each letter of the alphabet and think of something to be thankful for – it could be from the natural world and traditionally part of harvest or nearer the microchips and metal springs side of things. And it is possible that one of them should be for the harvest of our vaccinations against covid….
Take time on this – and when you have completed it – read it out starting with At harvest we thank God for and ending with a firm amen!

At harvest we thank God for

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

J

K

L

M

N

O

P

Q

R

S

T

U

V

W

X

Y

Z

AMEN

 

Song reproduced under CCLI for St Peter and St Paul Wincanton, 217043

Bible readings from The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995

 

 

Trinity 16 – 19th September – Penny Ashton

Trinity 16 – James 3: 13-4:3, 7-8 and Mark 9: 30 – 37

Where does the real power lie nowadays?  As I am writing this, the government is in the middle of a cabinet reshuffle, and my phone keeps giving me updates about who is in and who is out.  Does being in the cabinet confer power upon a person?  We tend to think so, but I have spoken to people who have been elected into various offices – not at cabinet level, but certainly to Parliament, and the one thing they have all agreed upon is that once you get there, you quickly realise how little you can actually do.

On the other hand, I find it quite alarming the amount of power that seems to be available to the media, big businesses and social media, particularly as they all seem to be able to choose how much they actually tell the rest of us, taking away our chance of weighing up the evidence for ourselves, and forming our own judgement.

James is quite clear about the wisest course of action, and he doesn’t find it in the seeking of power.  As he says in our reading today: if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom ….is earthly, unspiritual, devilish’.

If we look at our reading from the gospel, we can see a development in the story.  James, Peter and John have just returned from the mount of the Transfiguration with Jesus to find the other disciples have been unable to heal an apparently epileptic boy who was brought to them by his frantic father.  Worse than this, their failure has been witnessed by a large crowd and the religious leaders.  As they move on from there, Jesus, for the second time as is recounted in Mark’s gospel, teaches the disciples about what is going to happen to him when they get to Jerusalem, and again they are unable to grasp it.  It is easy for us, as we know how things work out, but for them, to be told that the leader whom they have followed and learned from for two or more years is to be executed must appear like a waste of effort.  Surely that is not how the story is supposed to end?  And what does he mean when he says ‘…after three days he will rise?

The one thing we can say for sure about Jesus is that he never tried to fit in.  He was not overtly rebellious, and did not appear to mount any challenge to the powers that be, and yet all his actions went against the norms of society at the time.

When they arrive back at Capernaum, he asks them what they have been talking about on the road.  This must have been one of those moments when nobody wants to catch anyone’s eye in case they are put on the spot.  They realise that squabbling over who is the best does not show anyone in their best light.  The three who went up the mountain with Jesus might have some justification in feeling superior, but you will remember from that story that Peter did not exactly cover himself in glory then either with his well meaning but misguided outburst.

Jesus then explains to them what is really important.  First of all, anyone who wants to be great must put themselves last and seek to serve everyone else.  In the social hierarchy that the disciples would have understood, Jewish men came at the top of the pile and were definitely way above gentiles and women, while children did not count at all.  And yet Jesus is saying that we must put the most insignificant ahead of ourselves if we are to align ourselves with the values of God’s kingdom.

Both James and Jesus are teaching about true power, but neither the disciples, nor probably James’ readers, nor I suspect we have ever really managed to grasp this teaching.  It is relatively easy to understand, until you leave the church and go back into the world to see how it works – and it doesn’t work the Jesus way.  And yet earlier in this reading Jesus has told us exactly where true power lies – and it is power that is available to us at any time we choose to use it.  When the disciples ask him why they were unable to heal the boy Jesus tells them that it only works with prayer.

I wonder how often we pray about the really big things that worry us.  Things like world peace, famines, global warming.  How often do we pray for our government, or for world leaders in general.  How about captains of industry, owners and editors of the news media, sellers of fossil fuels or arms manufacturers and traders.  Do we pray for those who are completely beyond the pale – people smugglers, owners of sweat shops, or trafficers of child labour or sex workers?  We do mention many of these things in our intercessions in church, but do we remember them in our daily private prayers?:   Do I?

Jesus didn’t ever say it was going to be easy, he never said that following him would make us popular.  He did say that it was the only way to work for the coming of God’s Kingdom – the one we pray for every time we say the Lord’s Prayer.  Are we brave enough to be different?  Or should we continue to be British, to keep our ‘  heads down and hope not to be noticed?  Should we accept that things are as they are and there is little we can do to change the whole world?

Two short stories to end with.  One of my favourite quotes is ‘If you think you are too small to have an impact, you have never shared a bed with a mosquito’.  It has been variously attributed to the Dalai Lama and Anita Roddick, but the origin seems to be an African proverb that both of them have at some time quoted.  The second is the story of the small girl who was seen on a beach where thousands of starfish had been washed up and stranded by a storm.  One by one she was picking them up and throwing them back into the water.  A man on the beach stopped her saying ‘There are thousands of starfish here – you can’t possibly make a difference’  Her only reply was to pick up another starfish, and having thrown it into the sea she said ‘I made a difference to that one’..

Trinity 15 – 12th September – Derek Taylor

Mark 8: 27 – end   Who is Jesus?

Jesus asked, ‘Who do people say that I am?’  That’s a strange, but interesting question.  Yet it is not one that springs readily to modern ears.  You can’t expect someone like the Pope or the Dalai Lama to ask: ‘Who do people say that I am?’

I suppose that for many years I personally never really questioned who Jesus was.  My faith was firmly based on God the Father.  After all, Jesus taught us to pray: ‘Our Father, who art in heaven’.  And Jesus was much more a person sent by God to show us how to live.  I could happily recite in the Creed; ‘God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father’, without it having very much impact.  The thing is, I guess I wanted then and example, not a Saviour.

Yet, if we go back to Jesus’ time on earth, the total expectation was looking for ‘the One who is to come’.  The known world then was in turmoil, much as it is today.  The Romans occupied Israel, and made life hard and difficult, and many people before Jesus had been looked to as possible leaders.  So was this rabbi from Nazareth the one for whom Israel had waited for centuries, the one of whom prophets and psalmists had spoken?  Was Jesus the long-promised Messiah?  (Messiah, incidentally, is the Hebrew word and means The Anointed One.  It is the same word as the Greek Christ.  Yet we tend to use Christ rather as a surname – Jesus Christ, Derek Taylor.  Yet it is Jesus the Anointed One).

Many people had questioned who Jesus was.  After he preached in the synagogue, people asked; ‘Isn’t this the son of Joseph?’  They found it hard to accept, in spite of his healing miracles and teaching, that he could be anything other than an exceptional human being.  Yet, at this pivotal moment, before that time on the mountain top when Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah and the voice from heaven declared; ‘This is my son,’ when only those possessed with evil spirits called out to him as the Son of God,  Peter, articulating the thoughts of the other disciples, when asked the second question by Jesus; ‘Who do you say that I am?’ ranked him greater that Abraham, Moses or any other Old Testament patriarch, king or prophet, and declared; ‘You are the Messiah’.  At last, the long promised one had come.  As Messiah he had unique status, he was God’s accredited representative, his anointed emissary who was to judge mankind. Deliver his people and bring the world to God.  He was akin to God.

It was the right answer and yet it had the wrong ideas behind it.  Peter thought of someone who would overthrow the Romans and set up a material kingdom, whereas Jesus himself taught of a spiritual kingdom established by suffering love.  Right to the end of Jesus’ earthly life, Peter thought he knew best, that his way was better than that of Jesus.  Are we today any better?

We need to learn that God’s way is not man’s way.  In Jesus God shows that He will achieve His victories through suffering love.  The Cross is Jesus’ acceptance of this, and the proof that he was right.  Suffering love DOES conquer.

But Peter and the disciples were just the first to find this difficult.  We too want a cosy discipleship, and aren’t over-worried by its ineffectiveness.  We want to serve humanity in a thousand ways that do not hurt us.  But it is only when we follow the way of costly obedience that we are truly following the suffering Lord.  He never pretended that following him would be easy – the gate is small, the road is narrow and those who find it are few.

So, back to the original question; ‘Who do people say that I am?’  It is not asked today.  Yest it needs to be.  Why are our churches declining so rapidly?  We need to turn to the next question – the more important one; ‘Who do you say that I am?’  Can you answer that?  It is vitally important that we have the right views of Jesus.  Is he divine or only human?  If he is only human, we may gain much from his teachings and example, but that is all.  When we are struggling or tempted we can’t turn to him for personal help.  Not even the holiest of saints in heaven ever reach down to help us.  No more can Jesus, if he is only human.  But if he is divine, he can be to us all that we need as friend, helper, guide, comforter, refuge. So it DOES matter what we believe concerning the person of Jesus.

‘Who do you say that I am?’  It is a question that particularly needs answering in this pandemic.  Do we trust in the power of Jesus, or in man-made rules and regulations?  Where is the voice of God being heard today:  Where are the prophets?  No wonder there is a pandemic: no-one is turning to God; the whole world is neglecting Him.  Are we then, being condemned to 40 years in the wilderness?  Are you a doubter or a truster?  A believer or a sceptic?  Who is Jesus?  A good man of history or the powerful, present person of God?   Surely we don’t put our trust in the edicts of governments nor even the arguments of scientists.  Our trust must be in the Lord Jesus, our God.  He taught us to pray; ‘The Kingdom, the power and the glory are yours NOW and forever’.

We can look back and see what he has done.  We can look forward to see what he can and will do, if we trust.  But…

But, do we ever call out to him to come to our aid, or please for his constant love to save us?  Just look at the Psalms as examples.  There are two things we can do to make sure we are on the right track:

  1. Go home, get out your Bible, preferably a modern version, and give yourself time to read the whole of St Mark’s Gospel: ‘This is the Good News about Jesus Christ’ and then encourage someone else to do the same
  2. Take your courage in both hands, cast aside all inhibitions, and in the course of normal conversation ask people – family, friends, neighbours, anyone; ‘Who do you say Jesus is?’

It may have an amazing ripple effect.  Give it a try.

Trinity 14 – 5th September – Penny Ashton

Mark 7: 24 – end – Jesus heals a deaf man

Our gospel reading today tells of two miracles of healing that Jesus did.   Both of these took place outside of Israel, the first in the region of Tyre and Sidon which is some way to the north and west of Galilee, and the second in the region known as Decapolis – which simply means ten towns which is both south and east of Galilee.  He and the disciples have walked quite a distance.  We are not given a reason, but it seems possible that Jesus needed to escape the crowds for a while, or perhaps spend time teaching his disciples.  We have looked at the story of the Syrophoenician woman quite recently, and so today we will look more closely at the second part of the reading, in which Jesus heals the deaf man.

A friend of mine when I lived in Scotland had a daughter who was profoundly deaf, and I remember his saying to me once that while blindness cuts people off from things, deafness cuts them off from people.  The world of a deaf person can be a very lonely place.  Being unable to hear my sermons might be annoying, but possibly no great hardship, but being able to see your friends laughing together and not share the joke must be frustrating in the extreme.  The deaf community have now developed ways of effective communication through sign language, and some can lip read – a lady we visit regularly does this, and we have to make a point of sitting facing her when we visit so that she can see our faces clearly.  She recently spent some time in hospital, and the chaplain who brought her communion had great problems saying the service as she was wearing a face mask which hid her mouth.  I have occasionally had the privilege of watching a group of deaf people singing, and this whether as part of a choir or not is a beautiful sight.  Unfortunately, signing is only a useful language when both parties to a conversation understand and can use it, which causes more separation between the hearing and the deaf communities.

I wonder how the deaf man’s friends were able to tell him where they were taking him and why?  He would not have been able to hear about Jesus without their support.  It is interesting to note the different way that Jesus treats this man compared to other healing miracles – firstly he takes him away from the crowd.  If the deaf man is to understand what is going on, he needs to be able to see Jesus clearly particularly his face.  Next Jesus touches those parts that need his healing – the man’s ears and his tongue so that he will understand Jesus’ intentions.  Jesus then prays to his Father and the word that he uses – which I think is pronounced ‘Ephphatha’ must sound almost like a sigh, but as we heard means ‘Be opened’, and that was all that was necessary.  Jesus speaking that word must have been the first thing the deaf man had ever heard – it must have sounded so beautiful to him.  His healing was complete with just that word and touch, and the crowds were so overjoyed that they would not be silenced, and I expect that the healed man, having found that he had been given the power of speech found it hard to stop as well!  In this miracle Jesus had shown again how he was fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies about him – in this case from Isaiah 35 v5 which says ‘Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped’

When I was quite small, my mother took me to our GP and told him that she was concerned that I might be deaf.  I don’t know if he actually tested my hearing, but the doctor’s question was to ask her whether she thought I couldn’t hear – or whether I just didn’t listen!  We don’t find it easy to listen well – it is a skill that needs to be practised.  I was concerned to learn recently that young people nowadays consider that only the old will have a ring tone on their phones – as they much prefer their phones to be silent and to message each other than to talk.  Could we be losing the power of conversation – of speaking and more importantly listening?

Most importantly, how to we communicate with God?  It is very difficult not to allow our prayer times to be occasions when we produce a ‘shopping list’ of our concerns to God, and don’t take the time to listen to Him.  There seem to be some people who will tell you that God ‘speaks’ to them often – I wish I was one of them.  My experience is that if I really want to know what God would say to me, then I must try to clear my mind of all the busyness and clutter of daily life and spend some time in silence.  Unlike the deaf man in our story, we live in a noisy world, and people seem very keen to add to their noise – I am constantly surprised by the number of people I see wearing earphones so that they can listen to music or perhaps audio books when they are out and about.  It is worth keeping in mind the lovely words of Psalm 46 v10 – ‘Be still and know that I am God’.  We also read in Mark 6 v31 that Jesus took the disciples off to a deserted place so that they could rest.

It is interesting to note that the Latin word which means to listen or harken to is Obedire which also means to be subject to, obedient, responsible or a slave.  The word for listen is also where we get our word obey – the two are closely linked, and we cannot obey if we have not first listened and taken note.

But even if we manage to escape into stillness, how good are we at really listening?  Listening properly is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced – often we fail to listen to others because we are too busy thinking about where we have to be next, or planning our reply before we have properly heard what they have to say – I have to plead guilty to that one!  How much harder to listen for the still voice of God, but how much more rewarding if, like the man in today’s story, we do manage to hear it.

Trinity 13 – 29th August – Rev Alison Way

Link to the video reflection: https://youtu.be/CraEPirxOpw

James 1:17-27, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

In recent times, it has been easy to become a bit obsessive about washing our hands. Hands is first in the “hands, face, space, fresh air” Government slogan to combat COVID – 19. All things being equal – we all sanitised on entry to church buildings (and lots of others) for practical as well as pragmatic reasons. Primarily, to ensure that we are thoughtful, and mindful of others and we do this even though we may well have washed our hands before we left our houses!

We are not washing our hands because we think it brings us closer to God – or is necessary before we worship. This puts us at odds with the Pharisees who devised layers of religious ritual around washing hands for exactly that purpose of bringing them closer to God in their eyes. Did it work? – Jesus is suggesting quite forcibly here that it didn’t!

Life as a good Pharisee was pretty demanding. One was required to obey both the letter and substance of the Jewish law. A quick gander through the first five books of the Old Testament and the array of some six hundred laws show this was not an easy ask! Pharisees had to know, obey and apply all the traditions practiced too, that had been handed down from one generation to another, giving equal weight to them as to the law as laid down in the books of the Old Testament. Frankly – An awful lot to take into account!

Let’s just think about the Pharisee’s ritual handwashing and what was involved. First fill a special often 2 handled washing cup with enough water for both of our hands. If we are left-handed, begin with our left hand. If we are right-handed, start with our right hand. Pour the water twice on our dominant hand and then twice on our other hand. Make sure the water covers our entire hand up to the wrist with each pour and separate your fingers so the water touches the whole of our hand. Then dry your hands with a towel –whilst saying Blessed are you Lord, our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us regarding the washing of the hands. Then we were supposed to not speak again until we had started eating!!! What startled me the most in all of this was the reality that it was also a prerequisite in the regulations that before they started all of this that hands had to be clean in the first place!

That all that ritual was not practical in the life Jesus and his disciples were living is obvious. It is pretty clear from the interchange between the disciples and the pharisees. For the pharisees all this ritual had become a stumbling block too. It was all about the ritual itself rather than what the ritual was supposed to do (i.e bring them closer to God). They had taken it to the next level, saying not doing the ritual defiled a person, which is a strong word meaning, mar, spoil, or make impure

We need to be careful with rituals we find helpful that they are doing what they say on the tin (and we are not getting caught up or caught out in hypocrisy as the Pharisees were). Jesus firmly calls them out on this. This people honours me with their lips but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines’.

We also in this and many other places need to be mindful of casting judgement, especially as harsh a judgement as was being meted out here! Judgement when it comes, is not ours but God’s perspective that matters.

Thankfully though our first reading which also addresses hypocrisy, gives us some tonic and advice in how to do better in our walk with God. James picks on a number of things to help us: –

Generosity being the first. I have on a number of occasions been overwhelmed by generous hospitality of my hosts, particularly in circumstances where very little is available. I particularly remember a trip to India and being invited to a lavish celebration. The hospitality was superb against a backdrop of very great poverty and relatively having very little indeed. The abundant generosity made me think at the time, and I have often reflected on it. The language James uses is that every generous act comes down from the Father of Lights. That this is God’s work – lighting up our hearts and lives and sharing that light with others – It is a powerful image and an object lesson in how to live graciously and gracefully.

The second thing James encourages us to do is to be quick to listen. Listening is much underrated in today’s world. It is important to attend carefully to what is being said and what is really being said. Listening attentively can make a huge difference in our communications. It can reduce misunderstandings and give us better insights. James equates this with being slow to speak too! We live in a very noisy world right now. We have the right to speak and be heard, but often there is a lot of speaking going on and precious little listening or hearing especially online – where the media encourages us to monologue – meaning just say what we think! What helps us so much more is proper dialogue. A conversation where people speak but also where people listen and really hear what is being said.

A third thing that James exhorts us to Is to be doers of the word – to let what God wants of us to filter out into our actions. Faith is not an academic exercise – and what we need to think, but about how our lives are lived and what our lives actually look like. Do they demonstrate our faith to those around us? The example James uses is an interesting one about looking at ourselves in a mirror. It describes someone who is just hearing but not doing as like someone who looks at themselves in a mirror and then immediately forget what they were like. It as if the individual leaves no impression in the mind. If actions do not accompany words…..

James also makes the point that God will bless the people in their doing. Over and over and over again, I have seen this being the case. My experiences says in serving God, and doing what he wants for us, we gain far more than we give in the first place. God’s economy is about flourishing for us and God’s overflowing generosity. Several times we will remember acts of Jesus where the response was overflowing, like in the feeding of the five thousand with 12 baskets left over or when vastly more high quality wine was made at the wedding in Cana. God doesn’t do things by halves and we shouldn’t either

It is worth us living our lives through generosity, listening carefully and doing what God wants of us. All of that will help us to steer clear of hypocrisy that so beset the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Where Jesus ended our gospel reading was asking us to look at the motivations of our hearts and for purity of intention there. Just to recap – it wasn’t about what’s on the outside that matters or any amount of ritual we might do!! Jesus said it was all about having a heart that was clean. It’s all about what’s on the inside, and particularly it’s what comes out, from the inside, from our hearts that matters. Amen.

The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995

Trinity 12 – 22nd August 2021 – Rev Alison Way

Link to Rev Alison’s video reflection https://youtu.be/jJ9kK3bg7Ys

Ephesians 6:10-20, John 6.56-69

In the name of the God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

How do we measure strength? Well, that would depend on what kind of strength. Physical strength could be measured by the development of our muscles. Mental strength by our capacity to answer tricky questions correctly or ability to recall information we need when we need it. Spiritual strength could be measured by how long we devote to prayer each week? These things are a bit arbitrary and will not really answer the point where the writer to the Ephesians is starting from in today’s well known reading from the end of this letter.

Our reading started Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.  The important point here is not to  be strong in our own faculties and capacities, but to be strong in the strength of God’s power in us and for us. The writer is talking of God’s power in our lives. In a way Jesus is also talking about it in our gospel reading. God’s power in us and for us inherent in the bread of life that Jesus is offering – the bread that will live for ever or as Peter sums it up that Jesus has the words of eternal life. What Jesus said at this point caused difficulty for some, but it is one of those things said to help us reset the balance and capture what matters. That Jesus had and did come to radically change everything.

Returning to the writer of the Letter to the Ephesians– He uses the militarist image of the armour of God to help us to understand how all the aspects of God’s love for us and particularly God’s strength in us and for us works. The writer begins by defining the battle we face and he defines the Devil and evil forces that conspire against us and the powers that hold sway over us. The wiles of the devil, and the spiritual forces of evil are neither the approach nor the language we use to describe this routinely today. Yet there are persistent lures and delusions all around us – for example the need to look after number one rather than be community minded or the persistent pressure to think of ourselves before others rather than thinking of others before ourselves.

We also see people are searching and looking for meaning – sometimes in all the wrong places. We have much to bring to the party where meaning, purpose and hope is concerned. Yet it can be very difficult to express that. As we participate in Jesus’ story today in our country through our baptism – we are part of God’s story for our world but in this we need to have great courage and persistent determination. We need to keep going – keep sharing and keep working counter-culturally to share the real meaning, hope and purpose that lasts for ever in the love of Jesus Christ

Interestingly, we most commonly address turning away from sin and renouncing evil (and the battle the writer to the Ephesians draws us toward!) in our baptism services. It is at the forefront of the commitment made by parents and godparents on behalf of the children involved. For some this may seem like startling language but I think it helps us to acknowledge there are dark powers and forces we do not completely understand. From time to time we clearly recognise sin and evil for what it is (even though we are often taken in by it too!). It is good when making a positive new start on the spiritual journey to make a stand. Draw a line in the sand – and consciously move forward in the strength of God for ourselves and the new life in Christ being celebrated through baptism.

Having defined the battle the writer moves on to describing the pieces of armour we have from God – through the power of the Holy Spirit. This was an appropriate way of putting it for 1st century Ephesus but in 21st Century Somerset we are, I confess, less frequently confronted with armour! However, we need all the help God’s spirit can bring us to stand in the strength of God’s power as God intends. So let’s just unpack the armour a little and the spiritual points being made here!

First, the belt of truth around the waist. Earlier in this letter, the writer spoke of the importance of telling the truth, which I talked about a couple of weeks ago. The armour begins with the belt of truth holding us together – pointing to how integrity is so important

This is accompanied in the early foundational pieces with the breastplate of righteousness. Righteousness is living the way God says is best for us. Self-righteousness – is living the way we think is best for us. These are different – righteousness gets too linked with self-righteousness. Behaving as God says is best – means we practice what we preach (and are not found wanting!)

The passage then says as shoes for your feet, put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. Make you ready – is an interesting way to put it! It is not as shoes for your feet proclaim the gospel of peace but what makes you ready to do it – prepared and able with words by all means but also our lives and lifestyle choices. St Francis famously said something like – Proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and if you must use words. Gospel values are so much more than our words

Where next then the shield of faith to deflect the flaming arrows of the evil one the letter says. The going will not always be easy and our faith will carry us ever onwards until we meet our loving God – the other side of the great divide in heaven rather than on earth. Our faith will help and support us if we let God through his Spirit work his way in us, our faith will support us more and more as we grow more Christlike day by day.

The last 2 aspects of the armour of God begin with the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. The word of God is vital nourishment. We should have Bibles well used to support us day by day. There is depth and insight in every page. It can be very difficult sometimes – but taken seriously through our daily prayers and bible study. Our spiritual lives will be enriched and many times we will find ourselves equipped in our daily studies with the resources we need for the day. Scripture can be piercing and hard – but also really to the point and a great tool in our journey.

And then finally in the armour topping it off is the helmet of salvation. Dwelling on how we have been saved and are loved by God and how God – so almighty and all powerful – is concerned with the likes of us. God loves us through all our comings and goings, the good times and the bad. It is not and never has been about being worthy – we are not worthy of this love but God loves us all the same. This helmet of salvation wrapped up in grace is one of great re-assurance and the bedrock of our faith.

This passage doesn’t end there but then with an exhortation to persistent prayer, to keep alert and to be bold. Not just the writer to the Ephesians being bold, but also the Ephesian Christians being bold and us being bold. Along with bible reading, time spent in prayer – for all the things of the day and all the things that surround us and concern us, and all that connects us with God’s love for us and his loving heart.

To finish the passage ends with a prayer for the writer from the heart of the jeopardy of his situation – in chains. To write as he has done of all these things that make us strong in the Lord and to still be bold from prison has to make us think on. Ultimately the important point here is to lean into God’s love for us for the strength we need for each day. Through truth, peace, faith, and salvation nourished through God’s word and our prayers. I end with the words of the Charles Wesley hymn we will sing on Sunday in the churches.

Soldiers of Christ, arise, and put your armour on, strong in the strength which God supplies thro’ his eternal Son.

Strong in the Lord of hosts, and in his mighty power, who in the strength of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror.

Stand then in his great might, with all his strength endued; but take, to arm you for the fight, the panoply of God.

To keep your armour bright, attend with constant care, still walking in your captain’s sight and watching unto prayer.

From strength to strength go on; wrestle and fight and pray; tread all the pow’rs of darkness down, and win the well-fought day.

Then having all things done and all your conflicts past, Ye may overcome, through Christ alone and stand entire at last Amen.

The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 – CCLI – Song words – Soldiers of Christ arise  reproduced under CCLI 217043 for St Peter and St Paul’s Church Wincanton