Monthly Archives: March 2022

Passion Sunday – 3rd April – Rev Ken Masters

A Sermon preached by The Revd Ken Masters at Wincanton on 5th Sunday in Lent, 3 April 2022

Readings: Philippians 34b-141; John 121-8

This sermon is the fifth in our Lent Series on The Lord’s Prayer.  Today we look at ‘Thy will be done.

The prayer ‘Thy will be done’ extends the meaning of the two previous phrases.  Where God’s Name – where God Himself – is hallowed (held holy); there His Kingdom will come; and His Will shall be done.  So, God’s will is done in the context of hallowing His Name and praying for the coming of His Kingdom – rather than being something separate.

Sometimes God’s will is not what we want.  Much of the time, of course, we don’t spare a thought for what God’s will may be in a particular situation.  Perhaps saying The Lord’s Prayer with more attention may help us to remember that vital question a bit more often.

When we look at the Gospels to see how Jesus himself approached God’s will, then the most obvious – and moving – example is, as I mentioned a month ago, his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus prayed desperately, in the knowledge the crisis was just about to break, when he would be arrested and condemned to a lonely and horrifying death.  ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘all things are possible to thee; take this cup away from me.  Yet not what I will, but what thou wilt.’  [Mark 1436.]  This was a real, heart-wrenching moment of praying –

‘Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done.’

There are times when, like our Lord, we’d prefer to avoid God’s will; times when it is hard or painful.  There are also times when, despite our best endeavours, we cannot see what God’s will is in a particular situation.  God has never promised us an easy or comfortable life.  We have to keep on praying.  And, eventually – perhaps after a very long time of what has felt like unanswered praying – God’s will may become clear.  And I take it as self-evident – that God’s will is what in the long run promotes the greatest, deepest and most fulfilling happiness – for ourselves and for all His other children on earth, as well as the whole company of heaven.

If we think for a moment of the situation in Ukraine, I cannot imagine that the Russian invasion was God’s will.  Now that they have attempted it – with all the loss of life, destruction, and refugees, we have to continue praying, ‘Thy will be done’.  None of know how things will turn out.  Many of us hope against hope that the brave Ukrainian people will succeed in saving as much of their country as possible – and that families split apart will be able to be reunited.  But we can only trust in our heavenly Father and keep on praying, ‘Thy will be done.’

The other day I came across a description of an encounter ‘during the American Civil War.  A lady exclaimed effusively to President Lincoln: “Oh, Mr President, I feel so sure that God is on our side, don’t you?”  “Ma’am,” replied the President, “I am more concerned that we should be on God’s side.”’  [K Edwards, MQ&A, C39.]

If we read biographies of great Christians of the past, we’ll find that while there were “Road to Damascus” moments, for much of the time individuals had to go forward in faith, trusting they had found the right way, and they were doing God’s will – yet without any certainty.  That comes out in Newman’s hymn we sang a few minutes ago.  ‘Lead, kindly Light, amid the’encircling gloom, lead thou me on.’  And as the verse concluded: ‘Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see / the distant scene; one step enough for me.’

At a very much more hum drum level, I remember applying for a parish job.  When the interviewers asked why I’d applied, I told them it was because I felt called to do so.  So, they came back with the further question about what if I was not appointed.  To which I answered, that was fine, because I only felt called to apply – and what happened after was another matter.  In case you’re curious: I wasn’t appointed to that job.  But I still feel it was part of my path in life to apply – and then to find out what happened next and ask further guidance.

We can – and indeed do – repeat The Lord’s Prayer without thinking about a word of it.  But the Lord gave us this prayer – not as an empty formula to mumble automatically – but as a framework for our prayers and also as the simplest and the deepest expression of our relationship with God, in whose constant presence we live.  And so, through all the multifarious tasks and relationships and thoughts of each day, there may run this prayer of the heart: ‘Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as in heaven.’

We follow a Lord who walked that way.  He spent hours, as the Gospels tell us, praying to His heavenly Father.  The result was not good fortune, nor a splendid palace, nor even popularity.  Instead, the way led to the Cross and to dying in disgrace.  Yet, then, God raised him to new and glorious life eternal.  So, if we are to follow him with any faithfulness, we must keep remembering his prayer.  ‘Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as in heaven.’

I’d like to finish with the prayer of St Ignatius Loyola – which was used at Prince Philips’ Memorial Service:

Teach me to serve thee as thou deservest;

To give and not to count the cost,

To fight and not to heed the wounds,

To toil and not to seek for rest,

To labour and not to seek reward,

Save that of knowing that I do thy will.  Amen.

Mothering Sunday – 27th March – Rachel Pengelly

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight amen.

 While reflecting on the readings we have heard today I strongly felt I needed to talk about honour it was put strongly upon my heart, so Honour is the subject of this talk. How do we honour each other and how do we honour God?  We don’t honour people enough, do we? It’s not a word we use much anymore It means to hold someone in the highest esteem and respect.

In our first reading, Paul teaches the Colossians to clothe yourself in love, to honour and how it binds everything together in perfect harmony, to be patient. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it. I feel I spend a lot of time saying to my family if anyone has a complaint against each other forgive!

If you are a parent, when did you know that you were going to be a parent? How did that feel?  For me it was the first scan, seeing a little perfectly formed human swimming around. Or maybe the first small kicks and the joy that brings? Signing the adoption papers? We would have all felt the same trepidation mixed with joy. Then you have a baby! Some things are instinctive, feeding, the need to keep it warm. It’s a big deal, God has put you in charge of a life! Then the first milestones, first words, and steps helped by careful, loving nurture.

I am not talking just about woman today I’m talking about all those who mother in love. You don’t have to be a mother to mother something, or someone. Mother comes in all shapes and sizes and so does family. Our parents, stepparents, grandparents, same sex partners, uncles and aunts, God parents. And all who raise children alone being both mum and dad.  We honour you all!

When reflecting on parenthood, I wondered what Jesus’ first words were. Did he sleep well? Was he a good baby as we say today? Mary knew she was going to have a baby via a message from an angel. She knew she was going to bear the savour of the world! She must have been very anxious as a new parent to be like us. I wondered what Jesus thought of children and had a read of the bible. In Matthew, Jesus invited children to come to him for blessing, The disciples had not wanted the children to go to Jesus, children were very much ‘women’s work’ back then. But Jesus wanted the children to see him, to come to him, a very motherly thing to do. It was the custom for Jewish mothers to receive a blessing from high-ranking rabbis for their children and they recognised Jesus as such.  Christs love for children was real and genuine.

Julian of Norwich wrote a book in the Middle Ages.  The revelation of Jesus in motherly love. She was a medieval mystic who had a number of visions when she was gravely ill, she saw Jesus as mother and father She said ‘Our true mother Jesus, he who is all love, all the debt we owe at gods bidding for his fatherhood and motherhood is fulfilled by a loving God.’ She recognised God both as male and female and wrote ‘ just as God is our father, also he is our mother.’ Both maternal and paternal.

Like a mother who nurses her child, I believe we are fed from Christ’s own body during the eucharist the food of true life. It enriches the spirit and the body.  We are protected, gathered under the wings of Christ like chicks to the mother hen. Jesus honoured children.

In the second reading we come to every parent’s nightmare the loss of a child. We see Mary Jesus’ mother standing at the foot of the cross about to lose her firstborn son.  We must assume that Joseph has died as we don’t hear about him later in the Bible. Back then this was an extremely difficult place to be a woman. All women had to belong to a man. So, Jesus honours his mother, he tells John ‘Here is your mother’ he is asking john to take responsibility for Mary after his death. John takes Mary into his home. We honour Mary today. To all those who have lost a child we honour you.

Parenting is an honour, a very special calling and certainly not an easy one. I have four children aged between 8-21, It can seem like you a juggling so may balls, trying to keep them in the air while working, cleaning mixed in with trying to nurture yourself as well as children. And sometimes we drop a ball, sometimes we get things wrong, sometimes difficult decisions are made for what is best for now.  And that’s ok!  its ok to reach out, its ok to cry. Who do we reach out to? A parent? A friend? Did we open the bible? Did we pray and ask God for strength?  Shall we try it next time. We as parents make mistakes, it is a lifelong commitment that does not stop when they turn 18, as I’m sure most of us with older children and grandchildren know that! And how expensive they become!

Our children can teach us how to be better adults. Christ wants us to be childlike in our faith, easy, free and unashamed. We honour all those parents who are struggling to do their best to raise their children in the way of Jesus. Relationships are not always easy, We honour those whose relationship with their mother was not good, those abandoned, neglected who have sadness in their hearts. There will be many of us here. Mother’s Day can be difficult for some people, bringing out difficult memories and emotions.  Paul says Forgive. Forgive each other as the lord has forgiven you, with the strength of God and allowing him to richly dwell in us he will clothe us. God is with us, every day, we have that promise, all the time beside us our heavenly parent, and in him, we will find peace.

We have heard about how God honours us, how then do we honour God? In the words of Paul, with gratitude in your heart, and whatever you do, in word and deed do everything in the name of lord Jesus giving and praise to God through him. We go out to do God’s work, nurturing each other and helping all Gods people thrive.

Eventually we must let our children go, they grow they leave and follow their own paths. We never have children to keep them. If your children are leaving home, going to university or going away, we honour you. We remember that children are a blessing from God and we watch them grow up as Mary did.  God honours us with the privilege of parenthood in all it’s forms when we sit down today and share a meal together, read the kind words in cards or enjoy some time to ourselves, we give thanks to God for the joy our young people bring, the honour of watching them grow and thrive in their lives and faith while remembering Gods’ abundance towards us.

Today on this Mother’s Day we give thanks to God for our mothers, the givers of life.  I hope you are honoured not just with flowers, chocolates, a nice meal but most of all, with love.  Amen.

Reference: Revelations of divine love. Julian of Norwich

3rd Sunday of Lent – Thy Kingdom Come – Penny Ashton

Thy Kingdom Come

Our theme for today in our journey through the Lord’s Prayer is ‘Thy Kingdom Come’.  They do say that you should be careful what you pray for, and I think that the phrase that we are looking at today – Thy Kingdom Come – is one of those occasions.  I did think that since we have a 9-day season with this heading, there would be plenty of resources for me to draw on today, but sadly I couldn’t find any.  I personally find it difficult to separate Thy Kingdom come from the phrase that follows it – Thy Will be done, but Alison will be talking about that in a couple of weeks’ time!  I do feel, however that both should have a comment after them in brackets to the effect that this means you too – and me.

It might be a useful idea to define what we mean by ‘God’s Kingdom’ if we are going to pray for it to happen as often as we do.  The Bible gives us a lot of pictures, and many of them very different – to a wandering people with no settled home it is easy to see why they thought God lived in a garden where everything they needed would grow nearby without too much effort on their part, and where God would come and talk with them at the end of a day’s work.  To a people wandering for many years in a barren desert, the thought of God leading them to a land ‘flowing with milk and honey’ is easy to understand.  Living, as we do in a place where grass grows all too easily and cattle thrive, it is hard for us to understand what a luxury a ready supply of dairy products is.

Isaiah and Micah, both writing at about the same time, and if not actually from a position of exile, then with the strong possibility of it always in mind tell us that the reign of God will bring peace not only to people but also in the animal kingdom – the wolf will lie down with the lamb, the lion eat straw like the ox and a little child shall lead them, and  Micah tells us that every man shall be able to sit beneath his vine and his fig tree, and that swords will be beaten into ploughshares and no one shall study war – or again, as Isaiah put it ‘They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain’ says the Lord.

It is easy to see that our picture of the kingdom of God is very much coloured by our circumstances at the time.  I could be tempted to think that the kingdom of God is where nobody ever grows older or develops new aches and pains and I am sure some of you would agree with me.  We might feel that it is the place where we shall see again people we have loved but who have been taken from us, or perhaps even people we never got the chance to know.

Jesus gave us more pictures of the kingdom than I can count – variously it is like a mustard seed, a valuable pearl, a farm or vineyard, a sheep fold, yeast, a fishing net, a wheat field and buried treasure.  The things he does seem to make clear however, are that the Kingdom cannot be seen except with the mindset of a child, and that, as he explained to Pilate, it is not of this world but that it is growing.  So, what are we actually asking for when we pray ‘Thy Kingdom Come’?

In its simplest form, God’s kingdom must be that place or state of being where God is obeyed.  In this country, all the laws are enacted on behalf of the queen, and it is at least theoretically true to say that if we break the law, we are being disobedient to her, and so it must be with God.  Jesus gave very few commandments but the one that he gave most often is that we should love one another.  We heard it in the summary of the law that was read as part of our service to encourage us to repentance only a few minutes ago.

One thing Jesus was clear about, however, is that going to look for the kingdom is pointless.  We cannot look for signs of the approaching kingdom in the way that we see snowdrops and daffodils as signs of spring, as the kingdom is already here.  So how to be aware of it?

I think we do see glimpses of the kingdom when people are behaving in ways which I think would be pleasing to God.  I am writing this before Comic Relief, but I am sure that by the time you read or hear it, we will once again be amazed by the generosity of people in giving to this cause at a time when their finances are under stress already.  I recently heard that 100,000 people had registered to offer to share their homes with refugees from the war in Ukraine – by now it will be many more than that, and some of the community organisations collecting things to take have had to ask for donations to stop for a while as they have more than they can cope with.  I am fairly sure that there will be people from all the churches – as well as from none – who will come to our Lent lunch on Friday and help us to support our Zambia link.  Alison and I recently heard a speaker telling of how she loves to buy bunches of daffodils at this time of year when they are so cheap, and give them away to complete strangers – simply because she thinks they might be in need of a blessing, and I have in the past spent a day giving away bars or chocolate as part of a lent observance.  It brings home the truth of the saying that it is more blessed to give than to receive – if you haven’t tried giving unsolicited gifts, or even kind words, praise or smiles, I recommend it, it is more rewarding than you could imagine.  All of these must bring joy to our heavenly father, and cause the invisible kingdom that is here and now to grow a little.

So are we saying that the kingdom of God is somewhere where everyone is nice?  Somehow that doesn’t seem quite right.  Jesus said a great many things, and some of them seem very far from nice.  And yet people were drawn to Him.  I have been privileged to meet on occasions people who simply made me feel better.  They didn’t necessarily do or say anything unusual, but after talking with them I always felt that the world was a better place.  The one thing they had in common was that they were people of prayer – who spent time with God, in just the way that we read of Jesus doing – slipping away to a quiet place to just be with his Father, when often no words were necessary.  I think this may be the way in which we can seek the kingdom of God, cause it to grow within and around us so that people will be drawn, not to us, but to the Kingdom.  And that is why I think that praying ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ is not just asking God to act, but also to spur ourselves into being a part of making it happen.  Maybe we should be careful only to pray it if we are prepared to do it as well.

4th Sunday before Lent – The Reverend Ken Masters

A Sermon preached by The Revd Ken Masters at Pen Selwood

on 4th Sunday before Lent, 6 February 2022

Readings: Isaiah 61-8; Matthew 513-20

The two readings have an obvious similarity.  Both men felt themselves totally unworthy.  But there were a number of differences.

In almost poetic language we heard how – ‘In the year that King Uzziah died’, namely about 740 bc – the young Isaiah was in Solomon’s Temple.  It was possibly at their New Year’s Day of the Autumn Festival, a time of prayer and sacrifices.  King Uzziah’s death had provoked a sense of foreboding and urgency.  Affected by this, Isaiah was then overwhelmed by the surroundings and significance of the Temple, aided by the swirling clouds of incense.  He became aware of the presence of the Holy One, the Lord of Hosts – and his sense of his own uncleanness and unworthiness became unbearable.  But then he had a profound experience of being purified and forgiven.  And when he heard the call of the Lord, he found himself saying, ‘Here am I; send me!’  So began his life as one of God’s prophets.

Simon Peter, on the other hand, was (you may say) at work.  He and his colleagues were washing their fishing nets.  According to Luke’s Gospel, before that, Jesus had taught in the synagogue at Capernaum – and then had gone nearby to Simon’s house, where Simon’s mother-in-law was sick; and Jesus healed her.  That connection could explain why Jesus asked Simon to let him teach from his fishing boat.  After that Jesus told him to fish again, further out.  After the amazing – if not alarming – catch of fish, Simon knelt before Jesus.  ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’  As he owned up to his own unworthiness – perhaps he was also fearful of what might be involved; he didn’t feel ready or good enough to be accepted and called by Jesus.

But Jesus reassured him.  ‘Do not be afraid.’  Words that had to be repeated time and again, in his roller-coaster career as an Apostle.  And with the others, he left everything to follow Jesus.  Perhaps to begin with, it wasn’t too hard.  Capernaum – the small town by the shores of the lake of Gennesaret (otherwise known as the Sea of Galilee) – was their base and Simon Peter’s home town.  The big step came when they moved north to Caesarea Philippi – and Peter spoke up on behalf the disciples.  ‘You are the Christ.’  But he couldn’t face the consequences of Jesus’ kind of Messiah – and told him so.  Later on, in Jerusalem, Peter said he’d never deny Jesus – yet, only a few hours later, he did so, three times.  And then after the Resurrection, he confessed his love for the Risen Jesus – and was reassured and confirmed as Peter, the Rock, and told to tend the flock of Christ.

Simon Peter was no lifeless and rigid rock.  He was a fallible, impetuous, developing human being.  He made mistakes – but he also became able to accept forgiveness.  He learnt and he grew.  As Jesus told him, he changed his original ‘occupation [of] fishing for fish to fishing for men’.

[C F Evans, St Luke, p. 292.]  Eventually he followed Jesus to the end.

In very different circumstances, many of us will have experienced feelings of unworthiness.  There were times when, in my own small way, I felt unworthy to be called and lacking in confidence to be entrusted with new responsibilities.  And from the opposite angle, there were many occasions when I asked individuals to take on some particular work in the Church, and the response would often be, “No, not me, I’m not good enough.”  It was an initial sign that they might be the right person.  To some extent any new responsibility can bring out a sense of unworthiness and unfitness.  Yet we learn that God lovingly accepts us and gives us the resources to take on the task of working with Him.  And, of course, that is never the end, but another beginning.

Some of you may have read Nelson Mandela’s memoirs, Long Walk To Freedom.  It was partly written during his imprisonment on Robben Island – and then finished after his release from prison, before he was made President in 1994.  He died in 2013.  The last paragraph of his epic story has an attitude of openness, hope and trust.  We might apply his words to our experience of discipleship, and to our own individual journey.

I have walked [the] long road to freedom.  I have tried not to falter; I have made mis-steps along the way.  But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.  I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come.  But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.  [p. 751]

For each of us, in our many different ways, the journey goes on.  Dag Hammarskjold put it succinctly: ‘For all that has been, Thanks; for all that shall be, Yes!’

I’ll finish by repeating the prayer in today’s Collect:

O God, … grant to us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Second Sunday before Lent – the Reverend Ken Masters

A Sermon preached by The Revd Ken Masters at Pen Selwood

on 2nd Sunday before Lent, 20 February 2022

Readings: Genesis 24b-9,15-25; Luke 822-25

There was nothing surprising in a storm on the Sea of Galilee.  In the afternoon, now as then, the wind can sweep down from the Golan Heights and stir up violent waves – that then subside, just as quickly.  More surprising was the reaction of the disciples.  ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?”

Today, especially after Storm Eunice, we may think about storms the other way round.  Human beings are having such an effect upon the Earth’s climate – with all the pollution and carbon dioxide we are producing – that we are causing more storms, as well as higher temperatures, as well as all the plastic.

Scientists, ecologists and many young people tell us that a 4 degree increase of average temperatures by the end of the century will drastically change the climate and the sea levels.  Will we be able to rise to the challenge of the effect we are having on the Earth?  This is not only for our own sake, but for the sake of our children and grandchildren – and, as always, for the sake of the poorer and less powerful peoples of the world.

From a human perspective, we are all called to face this challenge.  Politically and economically, we have to make choices.  To avoid global disaster, we need to consume less energy – to reduce our carbon footprint – and both give an example and help the developing countries to do the same.

A question for us is how we do this as followers of Christ.  It’s not, of course, the first time the Christian Church, along with the society in which it is set, has had to face disaster.  The Early Christians, only 40 years after Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection, saw the Roman armies destroy Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 ad.  In the Middle Ages, there was the Black Death, which swept round from the Far East to Europe and then England in May 1348.  It had a mortality rate of between 20 to 50% – profoundly affecting rural society and the national economy.  There were further plagues in the 1350s, the 1370s and subsequent centuries.

So, what do Christians do in the face of disaster?  Most of the time we caught up in it just like anyone else.  But we have a vocation to look for God – and to worship, serve and trust Him in whatever happens; as well as a corresponding vocation to love our neighbours.  One outstanding example was in 1665, when bubonic plague struck the village of Eyam in Derbyshire (which I visited last September).  To prevent spreading infection the villagers followed the advice of their rector and his predecessor and confined themselves strictly within their parish boundaries.  It took 14 months and claimed the lives of 260 villagers, but their strong Christian commitment, personal courage and self-sacrifice prevented the plague spreading.

In the very different circumstances of today, their example may inspire us as we face the challenges of our time.  Other pointers come from today’s Bible readings.  The second story of creation in Genesis, part of which we heard this morning, tells of God making the earth and the heavens – and then of a time of innocence, in the Garden of Eden.  After that came The Fall.  That pictured the fact that we are sinful human beings.  Not, a very fashionable thing to say, but it may help get us past the barriers of self-satisfaction and thinking we are always right.  An awareness of sinfulness can positively lead to repentance – part of the meaning of which is to change our life style.

After Jesus had stilled the storm, he asked the disciples, ‘Where is your faith?’  St Mark’s version asks [440]: ‘Why are you such cowards?’  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, ‘Do not be anxious about tomorrow.’  Instead, ‘Set your mind on God’s kingdom and his justice before everything else, and all the rest will come to you as well.’ [Matt 634,33]

As followers of the One who died on a cross and then was raised to eternal life, we are to trust God and find his will for us.  We have the basic challenge as individuals, and as a parish church, to be far more careful in our use of energy.  This includes such obvious details in our homes and in our church building – as LEDs or low energy light bulbs, turning lights off, insulation, and forms of heating.  It also covers more corporate issues, such as decisions about waste, travel, finance, donations, and influencing politics and economics.  As a Church of England parish, we need to take our part in tackling this whole problem.

With love of God and our neighbour in mind, we are to do our best for His Creation and our Earth.  And we remember that God’s spirit and grace will be with us.  But we really need to do all that we can – and then commit the rest to God.

I’ll finish with a prayer used at my theological college:

May the sacred feast of thy table, O Lord, always strengthen and renew us; guide and protect us in our weakness amid the storms of this world, and bring us to the haven of eternal salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   [Cuddesdon Office Book]

1st Sunday of Lent – the Reverend Ken Masters

A Sermon preached by The Revd Ken Masters at Wincanton

on 1st Sunday in Lent, 6 March 2022

Readings: Romans 108b-13; Luke 41-13

This sermon is the second in our Lent Series on The Lord’s Prayer.  Today we look at ‘Lead us not into temptation’.  And I’ll start with a cautionary verse by Hilaire Belloc:

The Devil, having nothing else to do,

Went off, to tempt my Lady Poltagrue.

My Lady, tempted by a private whim,

To his extreme annoyance, tempted him.     [Q&A, C37]

Or there’s the anonymous saying: ‘I can resist everything, except temptation.’   [Ibid]

However, these show the rather light-hearted ways we think of temptation.  So, let’s consider this phrase in The Lord’s Prayer.  It seems puzzling that we ask God not to tempt us.  Pope Francis, four years ago, said he wanted to make it clear that God would not lead anybody toward sin.  He suggested a better translation of the Greek prayer from the New Testament would be along the lines of, “Do not let us fall into temptation.”

Part of the problem is also because language has changed –the word ‘temptation’ to us can denote wickedness, in a rather shallow way.  We talk about being tempted by chocolates or another drink.  The original sense referred to a time of testing or a trial of faith.  When the General Synod debated a modern version of The Lord’s Prayer in 1980 and again in 2000, before authorising new prayer books, it (wrongly in my view) voted down the phrase ‘put us not to the test’, because of its associations with exams and Test Matches.

In St Luke’s version of The Lord’s Prayer the word ‘tempt-ation’ is used to translate the Greek peirasmos.  Exactly the same word is used in Jesus’ Temptations in the Wilderness.  Having been spiritually uplifted at his Baptism, Jesus was then impelled by the Spirit into the Judean desert for forty days to be tempted, tested.  ‘Forty’ was a round number that brought to mind the ‘forty’ years the People of Israel were in the desert after the Exodus.  And, in fact, Jesus’ answers to the three Temptations or Tests, are from a summary of Israel’s testing in the book of Deuteronomy (83, 613, 616).  To turn stone into bread, was to revolt against God through hunger: but Deut 8.3 ‘Man does not live by bread alone’.  To worship the devil in return for worldly wealth, was to compromise with worldly values:  but Deut 6.13 ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’  To expect angels to protect him in a foolish dangerous act was a wrong way of treating God: but Deut 6.16 ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’  [See C F Evans, The Lord’s Prayer, p.66f]

Luke’s other important use of the word peirasmos is in his account of the Garden of Gethsemane: Jesus twice told his disciples: ‘Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’  [Lk 2240]  Luke states: Jesus ‘withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’  He knew his enemies were closing in.  Should he run away – stand firm or climb down?  Was he to be true to the voice at his Baptism, and at the Transfiguration: “You are my beloved Son?”  Jesus prayed desperately not to have to suffer; but then faithfully submits himself to his Father’s will; not his own.

From the accounts of the Temptations in the Wilderness and the Garden of Gethsemane we can perhaps see better what Jesus meant by ‘Lead us not into temptation’ in The Lord’s Prayer.  It is an existential question of the survival of our integrity and faith.  It may be that we are going to have to face something we dread: life changes, decisions of honesty and love; or by the suffering of someone we love, or our own illness or mortality.  We naturally ask our heavenly Father to spare us or save us from such trials.  It may be what went through the minds of people in Ukraine, faced by an aggressive and hugely powerful enemy – and will still be their prayer now.  They – and we on their behalf – may fervently ask our heavenly Father to ‘remove this cup’ from them.  We all shrink from being tested beyond our limits – and so cry out: “spare us from experiencing such severe trials and testing”.  ‘Lead us not into temptation.’

On earth, we do not know what the limits are to what God can do.  We do not know what may happen to us – or what may come out of it.  What we do know is that God is our heavenly Father – and like a good human father, will do all he can to care for us and help us live in honesty, integrity and love.  But he cannot prevent us from suffering hurt or pain – they are part of being human.  What we also know is that the Lord we follow called us to take up our cross and follow him –he promised us to be with us always – and he told us how to pray.  In voicing his prayer, we must always remember to do so in trust.  We are called to be faithful – and God will be faithful to us in his His tender loving mercy.

So, as I finish, I have to say that I may have made temptation too serious for everyday use!  I have also to admit that neither temptation nor test nor trial is precisely the right word.  It is clear that, ‘Lead us not into temptation’ is no soft option.  As we ask for deliverance, if it is possible, we ask also for grace and strength to pray equally ‘your kingdom come, your will be done; on earth as in heaven’.

‘For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever.  Amen.’

First Sunday of Lent – lead us not into temptation – March 6th 2022

Romans 10:8b-13, Luke 4:1-13

In the name of the father, and the son and the Holy Spirit. AmenSo, there we have Jesus in the wilderness from our gospel today, in great hunger, refusing the temptation of bread when offered great authority and glory. Refusing the temptation to deflect worship and service from God, and when offered the opportunity to take things into his own hands, refusing the temptation associated with the  power he had from God

In our Lenten series looking at the Lord’s prayer, we are going to think about temptation too, particularly in line with the Lord’s prayer phrase – Lead us not into temptation!

So how good are we at resisting temptation? Temptation comes in all shapes and sizes:-

  • Food of every kind, colour and dimension.

  • Drink of a variety of kinds.

  • Drugs we should not take.

  • Other Addictions (with an 18 certificate!) – computer games, television, sex, self-harming, obsessive/compulsive stuff.

Then there is

  • Idolatry – worshipping and serving other things before God.

  • Sports people and teams, political allegiances, celebrities.

  • Even keeping fit ourselves can become an idol.

  • Grabbing power and control for ourselves is another temptation.

  • Putting our needs over and above the needs of anyone else or the common good is also up there!

  • Another really prevalent temptation is to believe we can be self-sufficient, when God has designed us to live in loving relationship with him and in community, loving and supporting each other.

In a way we would seem to have far more distractions and temptations in our modern era, than the folk of Jesus day, particularly in the communication and technology arena. There is not much doubt that many are also pretty addicted to their mobile phones and other gadgets and living in a virtual world not the real world. The pandemic has not helped us with this!

Temptation is a fact of our lives. It is not that something is possible that matters but whether it is something we should actually do that matters. There are times when we need to look at our lives and reflect on where we are going and what choices we are making.

A few years ago I acquired a Lord’s prayer picture book, it contains coloured pictures drawn by Richard Jesse Watson with hidden depths in them. There is a picture for each phrase of the Lord’s prayer. All the human characters in the pictures are children as we are all children of God. The image for temptation is a small boy looking in the mirror. Perhaps that is what the little boy was doing in the picture – trying to weigh up the right choice or reflect as he looked at his reflection in the mirror on something that perhaps wasn’t doing him any good. (I think the candle is more about deliver us from evil but that’s a talk for another day)

We need to be careful of our language in relation to temptation. The question “what is your guilty pleasure?” these days is wrapping up something we know is wrong but we still give into because of its lure.

Let’s take a moment to contrast us with Jesus’ example in our gospel this morning. Jesus entered his wilderness times full of the Spirit and the Spirit helped him withstand the temptations he encountered. If we are open to that Spirit too in our hearts and lives, it will help us do battle with our temptations too and even whether we describe them as guilty pleasures or not.

If we think abit deeper about what happened here, this series of tests follows Jesus’ baptism where God’s love for him is powerfully revealed. It is at the start of his ministry and he goes away to reflect on what his mission will be like. The devil’s temptations point Jesus towards his need to trust God and resist the urge to win people over through power and show. Jesus’ experience here is the model for our practice of Lent. Done prayerfully Lent is a sort of wilderness experience where we look again at our lives and reflect on where we are going. In Lent, we take the time to choose to do this and this discipline will help us. Actually addressing our temptations can be a difficult place for us whatever, where the voice of our conscience and that of our shadow side collide. These light and dark sides to our lives occur because we are human.

In Lent, to push ourselves towards the light, we concentrate on our spiritual development. This inevitably reminds us that ‘we don’t live on bread alone’, but that we need to feed the spiritual side of our lives, which in turn will make us more aware of the needs of others and the need to respond with God’s generous love in all aspects of our life. Increasing the Spirit’s influence will also help us to move away from habits and addictions that are taking as in directions that are not good for us. We particularly need to focus on areas where we seek to be served and not to serve and areas where we are struggling with power and control. Either using the power we have inappropriately or trying to control things to our own ends. From all of this it is clear that resisting temptation conversely can be one of the things that can strengthen our resolve.

An alternative translation is And do not bring us to the time of trial. The reason for the dilemma in translation here is in the wording, particularly what is meant by the greek word peirasmos, which can be rendered as “temptation” or “testing”. One of my Biblical interpretation sources shared this useful thought. The best explanation of this phrase is that of human frailty, the frailty that Jesus points to in Mark 14:38 in the words “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (there Jesus recommends, in words similar to the petition of the Lord’s Prayer, prayer that we might not be buffeted by trial or trials).

Therefore we are to think here of what might buffet us and create a pressure upon our loyalty to God that in our frailty we might not be able to withstand. The commentary ends with a rather sobering thought that we will come back to on Maundy Thursday – It says A good example might be the kind of pressure that faced Jesus in Gethsemane as he contemplated his own imminent suffering.

Whether this is testing, the time of trial or temptation – we do all know what our own particular issues are and the areas of our lives where we are most fallible and frail! We also need to be honest with ourselves and with God and where necessary strengthen our resolve to do better.

I was very struck by some challenging words from Joanna Collicut’s on this topic and this is where I am going to finish today: –

In our relationship with God – We also need to be careful of prayer – even that can be a kind of idolatry. For if we are not careful – even in our prayer can end up using words of control and treat God as an object that can be controlled by our words. We need to be very wary of prescriptive prayer telling God what to do. My experience is that we cannot control God and worse our attempts to do so will limit us and more importantly God’s power in our lives. Amen


The word biblical commentary Luke 1:1-9:20 – John Nolland et al, Joanna Collicutt – When you pray (edition 1) BRF Lent book

New Revised Standard Version (Anglican Edition) copyright 1989 and 1995.

Ash Wednesday – 2nd March 2022 – Rev Alison Way

Ash Wednesday 2022

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17, Matthew 6;1-6.16-21

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

As we travel through Lent this year, we will be considering the phrases that make up the Lord’s prayer in the version we most commonly use in Church. As we do this we will be contemplating what Jesus really said about that phrase and what he really meant (whether or not as we shall see what we say in the prayer itself is actually in the 2 different gospel account versions from Matthew and Luke).

I will also be sharing with you week by week the pictures in this book which accompany each phrase. This is a book I acquired quite by chance. It contains coloured pictures drawn by Richard Jesse Watson, with hidden depths in them. One for most of the phrases of the Lord’s prayer. All the human characters in the pictures are children as we are all children of God.

Though it might be logical to start at the beginning  of the Lord’s prayer, in fact in view of the underlying rationale of Ash Wednesday, it makes much more sense today to talk about repentance and forgiveness. The phrase I will be using today is therefore of course

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Here is today’s picture. There’s a girl in the foreground with a slightly conspiratorial and miffed expression. Turning to the light and in the doorway one of her sisters looking more penitent is to be seen returning a beloved bear. The sister with the bear does look contrite. One hopes that the look in the wronged girl’s face melts as the bear is returned, and the girl bringing back the bear is duly forgiven and the whole incident is forgotten. It’s as easy as that! But from our life experiences we know this kind of forgiveness is far from easy. This kind of forgiveness is far from easy and sometimes depending on the circumstances can be beyond us. Likewise, sometimes things can drag on to the point that we have rather forgotten what they were about in the first place. There are difficult questions to address when we are the one being Getting caught out in the wrong can be very painful especially if we have made it worse with papering over the cracks of our actions. Or where more and more bluster won’t wash. Unfortunately, we have probably all been there and got the t-shirt at some point. It can have big implications and we may have made it worse in the mean time. But coming clean and being truly sorry for our actions is best for us and for everyone around us in the long term.

It is interesting that today’s gospel reading from Matthew is literally the teaching Jesus gave either side of teaching all the people listening to him on the mountain how to pray the Lord’s prayer. And it is all about not being hypocritical! So today a little later when it comes to our time of penitence and saying sorry to God, I will ask for forgiveness for my poor judgements. More importantly on those aspects of my life where I too am papering over the cracks of bad choices

The wording of this part of the Lord’s prayer is also difficult. The version we use week in week out uses the words trespasses, to describe what we have done wrong. For me this is not always the clearest of words. In modern language we have rather relegated the word related to a trespass to meaning straying on to land that is not ours. And its most common usage is in signs saying – Trespassers will be prosecuted

It is very difficult to talk about trespassing, without thinking of the trespassing going on in Ukraine currently. Let’s pause for some silence and pray – I will conclude this time with the prayer written by the Archbishops.

The original meaning of the word trespass is a transgression of a moral or social law, code, or duty. To trespass is to commit an offense or a sin; transgress or err, or to invade on privacy, time or attention of another. This idea of physically encroaching other’s boundaries is dominant today. We need to think of trespass in this more ancient way to use it correctly in the Lord’s prayer.

The more modern translation of the Lord’s prayer authorised for use in the Anglican Church substitutes the word sin for trespass. So the phrase goes – Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. This is more in keeping with how we use the word sin today. That word means – a transgression of a religious or moral law, especially when deliberate. In Christian terms – this can even be deliberate disobedience to the known will of God or something regarded as being shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong. To sin means to violate a religious or moral law or to commit an offense or violation.

In our act of penitence, we will be reminded of the range of things beyond the scope of Christian morality and the potential for sin in our lives. This can be helpful as we bring to God our failings completely to wipe the slate clean as Lent begins.

On closer examination neither our usual translation of the Bible in either place the Lord’s prayer in the gospel is recorded or even in the King James version (KJV) renders this phrase exactly like we normally say it and this may surprise you. The Luke version in the KJV says ‘and forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us, and the Matthew version says and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Introducing the concept of debts, debtors and indebtedness into the mix. Any entanglement with a more protestant church in this country (particular the more protestant presbyterian element of Scotland) will have encountered this in the traditional version of the Lord’s prayer too.

Again in our development of language debt has come to mean, something owed, such as money, goods, or services or an obligation to pay something. Where as a more ancient understanding was a debt as an offense requiring forgiveness or reparation; The dictionary I looked up here had a rather circular reference indicating a debt was equivalent to a trespass. This develops into an understanding of being a debtor. Meaning as well as owing something to someone, being one who is guilty of a trespass or sin; a sinner. So using that word acknowledges my favourite Ash Wednesday line – We are all sinners! But takes us on also to the more useful verb brought to bear of being indebted and the adverb indebtedness!

What does to be indebted mean? Morally, socially, or legally obligated to another; beholden or  to be owing gratitude and thankfulness. This is where all this gets really interesting that there is and should be abiding thankfulness for forgiveness from God – Forgiveness we do not deserve but is ours through God’s love and the actions of his son. We are required to pass on our thankfulness to God for being forgiven by holding up the light of God’s forgiveness to those around us.

We have talked before about the power of forgiveness and examples of it from our contemporary world, which can transform things forever and most of all transform us. Let’s work through these thoughts by concentrating this Lent on our indebtedness to God, and our need to share God’s love with others by seeking forgiveness when we have been in the wrong. Mirroring the mercy of God by being forgiving when we have the opportunity.

I will end with one final observation about this picture that I do not think it is coincidence that the child seeking forgiveness is bathed in light and is bringing light into the room. As we seek to forgive and be forgiven we too will be bathed in the light of God’s love for us and stand a better chance of sharing that love with everyone we meet – bringing God’s light into the rooms where we are too. Amen



Some material included in this service is copyright:  © The Archbishops’ Council 2000-2022

King James Version of the Bible in the public domain

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

The Lord’s Prayer by Richard Jesse Watson published by Zonderkids 2010