Monthly Archives: October 2022

All Saints – 30th October – Rev Alison Way

Daniel 7:1-3,15-18, Luke 6:20-31

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

Every other year in the week day lectionary I use for morning prayer, November starts (as it does on Tuesday) with the daily Bible readings shifting to Revelation and Daniel…. It all gets a bit out there and full of very graphic visions. Both of these books are at the apocalyptic end of the spectrum. They contain deeper messages, stories, and visions – written in a kind of code that was understood by the people they were intended for (but not by the authorities!) and not easily by us two thousand or so years later. Even though one is in the Old Testament and another in the new, they are written or edited in times that are reasonably proximate to each other.

All of which makes them a challenging read and this morning we got a bit of Daniel – as he is tipping into his most visionary in the second half of his book. Our knowledge of the book of Daniel, may well be restricted to somewhat hazy recollections of the Lion’s den, fiery furnace and maybe the writing on the wall! which all feature in the early part before the passage we heard today. Or in this church particularly, the story of St Michael as the warrior angel in the second section of the book after the reading we had today.

On top of all of that and our passage from Daniel this morning has the added benefit of having 2 short sections (with 12 verses missed out) in between – so we only get a taste of what Daniel’s vision was about! I was almost tempted to have the whole reading this morning, but decided in the end it was all abit x-rated horror movie stuff (and there is much to much glorifying of that in our inherited hallow’een traditions – which personally I dislike with a passion!).

Anyway back to Daniel’s vision, it speaks into a chaotic time for the Jewish people. (We feel their pain through our own chaotic recent times). The Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes the 4th was a tyrant over them. There was a rebellion and uncertainty and great fear gripped the nation. This was represented in Daniel’s vision as the four beasts coming from the sea (that alone in these times was picture language representing chaos and  powerlessness). As I said we live in pretty chaotic and uncertain times too and could easily dream of beasts that are frightening us. I could give them a few names if that helps

War particularly nuclear war, the impacts of climate change (heat, drought, flood etc), inflation and fuel prices, pandemics, issues with global food supply, maybe even the kind of leadership we have been experiencing so far from truth and the common good.

 Daniel’s beasts represent what was frightening him at the time and they did sound pretty scary if you read the whole passage, especially the last one! But before we get to the second part of the passage we heard, two other things are described. A vision of God on the heavenly throne and the worst of the beasts being destroyed and then the coming of a human being given dominion, glory and kingship. If this is sounding vaguely familiar, this is a reading that often is used on Ascension Day. It describes  That all peoples, nations and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.

 All this is clearly about Jesus and what he accomplished for us. The kind of King Jesus is for us and the kind of kingdom he made for us – both in this life and the next. It is then that Daniel in his vision  and in the second part of the reading we heard is approaching one of the attendants to get an explanation of his vision. My commentaries suggested there were some angelic qualities to the attendant as he owned disclosing an interpretation (as a messenger from God).

Despite the obvious power of the beasts in Daniel’s vision and the things that are frightening us in chaotic times, they are not an end. These things will arise clearly but the power of God is greater. Where our passage ends but the holy ones of the most high shall receive the kingdom.  The holy ones being those following God’s way for them and the even better news is being in this kingdom is for us now and for us for ever and ever. This is how it links to all saints. The holy ones of the most high. Though we may tend to see saints as the very holy people we recall and remember who have gone before us – Holy ones. It is also quite legitimate to describe ourselves as the saints God has today And also his Holy ones of the most high. It is an understanding that the saints are to take forward the kingdom. The holy ones who have gone before us are a guide and inspiration for us and we are the holy ones that take it forward in our day. We also are to inspire the holy ones who will follow us and continue the journey of faith.

We have a perspective and a hope greater than the visionary beasts of Daniel’s worst nightmare and our own…. If we find this easier as holy ones, we occupy a space between the spiritual or liminal space between earth and heaven. Ours is a heavenward calling, exercising our faith in the calling God has for us and never losing sight of our glorious inheritance with all the saints who have gone before. Encouraging fellow saints  along the way of God.

Two of the hymns we will sing later in this service both make this point in different ways

In for all the saints – the work of William Walsham How – a bishop in London’s east end – there is both looking back at great examples of faith, and us in our calling.  We feebly struggle, they in glory shine, yet all are one in thee for all our thine.  And in hearts that are brave again and arms that are strong.

I have been doing some digging recently into the war memorial window in Wincanton (more of this on Remembrance Sunday there). It contains very resurrection focussed imagery and Jesus putting the crown of gold on the head of a tommy. When it was blest and unveiled in 1920 for all the saints was sung. Echoing the imagery O may thy soldiers faithful, true and bold, fight as the saints who nobly fought of old and win with them the victor’s crown of gold.

In the last hymn we sing today – O when the saints go marching in. It is very much in the present tense. About our walk with God – echoing the saints in glory and our calling in the present…. One day we will sing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost more intimately with those who have gone before. Let’s use it in our present to inspire our hearts to serve Jesus in his kingdom today and every day.



The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized edition), 1989, 1995

Connections – A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship – Edited by Joel Green et al

CCLI – Song  reproduced under CCLI 1618191 for St Michael’s Church, Pen Selwood

Bible Sunday – 23rd October 2022 – Rev Alison Way

Isaiah 45:22-end, Luke 4:16-24

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

There are several things we need to pay attention to in the account of Jesus in the Nazareth Synagogue. I am sure this was one of those ‘where you there moments’ in Jesus’ life. When afterwards people who were there remembered what Jesus had said and done. We are early on in Luke’s gospel, accompanying the itinerant Jesus in the early days of his travels spreading the good news. Jesus has obviously got into the habit of visiting the local synagogue where he was on the sabbath and speaking. This was revealed in the phrase ‘as was his custom’.

The synagogue visited on this particular day is different in so much as it was very familiar to him. It being the one he would have visited regularly as he grew up and matured as we are in Nazareth. The people there would know him well.

As it is indeed Bible Sunday, it is good to see Jesus relying on the scripture as he does in the early part of this account. We know Jesus is well versed in the scripture of his day (which would be the Hebrew bible or Old Testament). When he reads that dramatic prophecy from Isaiah chapter 6, it is His own message of good news. Release, healing and freedom from oppression to a people who were very much oppressed at the time and often suffering times of great hardship.

It ends with a proclamation of the year of the Lord’s favour. (This is pointing to the divine will and purpose in Jesus being there, to bring salvation and as we know his love changes things forever).

One can feel the tension in the room in how the scene is described – as he sat down after having read, the text says- and All the eyes of the synagogue were fixed on him.  This is the kind of moment we might describe as being able to hear a pin drop! What was happening on the surface was pointing to much deeper truths underneath and the people gathered knew it.

We aren’t given too much information as to what happens next. He confirms (and this is a pretty radical thing to do in the Synagogue) that this scripture had been fulfilled in their hearing. Pointing to Jesus saying “I am the Messiah”. Then he spoke gracious words – which we don’t get written down.  What can we learn from this specifically and apply to our lives

Firstly, that Jesus relied heavily on the scripture available to him. This is not so frequently seen in Luke’s gospel, which we have been studying in our Sunday worship during this year but much more frequently in Matthew’s. Matthew’s gospel was written for a predominantly Jewish audience rather than a predominantly gentile one which relates to Luke’s gospel. We will be moving in our Sunday worship in a few weeks time to mostly concentrating on Matthew’s gospel. So now would be a very good time, to re-read Matthew’s gospel for ourselves. It will take a bit longer to do (probably a couple of hours over a couple of afternoons in the armchair). I have put the link to the David Suchet version (2hrs 36 minutes) in the newsletter. But I do recommend it to get a sense of how our teaching Sunday by Sunday hangs together. This is the equivalent of us following the example of Jesus of holding the scripture close and as well as reading passages each day to provide spiritual nourishment – like using the New daylight bible reading resources from the Bible Reading Fellowship, immersing ourselves in the wonder of the rich resource the Bible is. Reading whole books from time to time can be a useful exercise for going deeper.

Whilst we think about this let’s also marvel at what a gift reading is and the world and levels of understanding it opens up to us. We are extremely fortunate to be able to read and to be able to read freely. We are also very fortunate to have the resource of our Bibles to read so freely. This is easy to take for granted – let’s not be people who do that! If we are going to be like Jesus in reliance on the scripture, we do need to be familiar with it, and use it to guide our lives.

The second thing I want us to think about and learn from Jesus this morning is that he spoke gracious words. When we get an opportunity to speak do we stay within the margins of graciousness in our words? We are living through some pretty trying times and it is easy for our interactions to stray from graciousness into being strident about what we want! We have had a lot of examples of very strident behaviour and reasonably graceless behaviour in our public sphere at the moment. A lot of it has been a pretty uncomfortable watch, especially in view of the seriousness of the underlying situation. This way of being is not something to aspire too and really we want better from ourselves and those who inhabit the public domain.

I think (though disagreeing with me) is allowed, more attention to ‘graciousness’ in our communications could really help here. Both in the words from our mouths, in what we write and especially in social media (if we do that). Being gracious can be defined as being kind, courteous and even delightful. Going deeper it can also mean being forgiving, merciful and compassionate.

Seeing someone being gracious or experiencing it can move us to change ourselves. We can trust God to always love us graciously. Our challenge is to model doing likewise.

I am going to end with some well-known verses from psalm 103 – which describe how God loves us and how we need to model our gracious life on his love for us

Psalm 103;8-11

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he keep his anger for ever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him; Amen

References:, The New Revised Standard Version (Anglican edition) copyright 1989, 1995

Trinity 18 – 16th Oct 2022 – Rev Alison Way 1

Genesis 32:22-31, Luke 18:1-8

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

Our first reading today tuned into one of the many difficult times in Jacob’s life. This time he spends the night wrestling with a messenger from God. We recognise his problem where he is literally wrestling all night. We understand it because sometimes in our own troubled times, we can have nights wrestling with our consciences

I have to confess to not being a big fan of Jacob. His name means “heel holder” or “supplanter” and in part this relates to him arriving in the world clinging on to the heel of his twin brother Esau, and also it relates to Jacob making off with an inheritance that was not his, but intended for his brother. Jacob also has a huge family and even to his dying day is not adverse to favouring one son over another. He remains a poor example of parenting to put it mildly! We all know what trouble that caused from the well-known story of Joseph (who is one of the 11 children sent on ahead to safety with his wives and their maids).

We get today probably one of the few stories of Jacob, where he comes out in  a more positive light and he keeps going. We imagine him wrestling all night with the messenger from God and can admire his staying power. Even when the going gets really tough and his hip is dislocated he doesn’t give up! When I was travelling home on Monday, on the radio they were trailing a church in the north using wrestling in worship (but I didn’t hear the actual segment).

Anyway back at Jacob the story ends in rather a strange way, with this whole business of giving Jacob a new name. After all that wrestling the messenger from God asks Jacob his name. He hears the answer and then decides to call him something else. No more is he to be called supplanter or heel holder, but Israel – and this relates to remark the wrestling messenger from God makes. Where he says for you have striven with God and with humans and have prevailed, scholars vary on what they think Israel means. Anyway all of the following are possibilities – “prince with God,” “he strives with God,” “let God rule,” “God strives” or “God prevails”. This is a very significant name as it becomes the name of God’s chosen people the Israelites and the 12 sons of Jacob become the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel

We are struggling a bit here as we don’t tend to name things with these kind of meaning filled names today. But there is a second one further on in this passage, the place where all this happens is called Peniel by Jacob. This means facing God or seeing God face to face – which has got to have some relationship to his name Israel as well.

I wonder if we know what our own names mean? Alison for example means noble and kind. (It is a Germanic name derived from the characteristics of St Adelaide). Anyone else know their names meaning?. Obviously for most of us our names are given to us at our births, but it is surprising how often we have known people who are not known by their given Christian names. I come across this most obviously when visiting people in hospital. When I have found that the name we have always used is in fact a second name (or worse) not a given name at all. Sometimes the explanations for all this is quite simple. The person was named after their parent so always known by their second name. But in other cases, sometimes the reason for the used name are lost to the mists of time or they can be elaborate about a particular time in that person’s life long ago, when a different name seemed pertinent.

This can also be true of nicknames and shortened versions of our names too. For example there is a period of my life when I was OK about folk calling me Ali and there are a selection of people I encountered in my late teens and early twenties. These people would naturally call me Ali. I met one such friend on my recent holiday. Before we all think this is an object lesson in what I like to be called – Nothing could be further than the truth – I much prefer to be Alison. With my surname, being called Ali has some obvious difficulties!!!

But hearing myself called that – reminds me of an earlier time in my life and the lasting relationships that were forged then. Who I am and what I am now has been built on the foundations of the ‘Ali’ period of my life. But I have changed and grown over the years since then and the Holy Spirit has worked in me and changed me from the inside out. Inside ourselves we do need to know that God knows us by name and knows us deeply and intimately and fully.

I am sure I have said before one of my favourite passages from the bible is about being called by name. It comes from Isaiah 43 – Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. Stressing how God knows us fully and completely. The bits on show and the bits we hide. Our dreams, visions, hopes and aspirations as well as our darker sides and grievances. When I looked this verse from Isaiah up to put in this sermon, I found something really interesting. That actually it is prefixed by the following statements – But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

This must be a reference to the life of Jacob and the influence God had on him. As God made all of us, he made Jacob, and then God formed him into Israel. In the church we tend to use the language of ‘formation’. This is a bit tricky to understand and really means our growth in attitudes, values, belief and other dimensions which increase our Christian discipleship. Saying formation makes it sound like a one stop shop and happens only once. I am much more comfortable with understanding our life and growth in our Christian discipleship as transformation – an ongoing process with us in every step.

But briefly going back in our understanding there is a more important thing to understand here and to move on from here really knowing in our hearts – That we are called by name by God. We are not commanded but called. God calls us to belong to him and to be his labourers on his beautiful earth. The calling of God, for each of us is different as each of us is different and the way we experience God’s call will also be different. But for each of us, there is a specific plan and path. There is abundant love and interest in our every step. And there is also our responsibility to respond to that love and put our love of God first.

What is also clear from this story of Jacob to Israel is that god’s hand is at work in his life and is equally at work in our growth in discipleship day by day. God has called us by name, is calling us by name and will call us by name into eternity. We need to live responding to that call every step of the way. Amen

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

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



Trinity 17 – Penny Ashton – 9th October 2022

Trinity 17 – The healing of Naaman

I have always enjoyed telling the story that we heard today in Tiny Church, as it makes the important point that nobody is too small or insignificant to have an effect.  This story hinges around a young slave girl having the courage to speak to her mistress, and in so doing, setting a chain of events in motion.  It underlines the saying that I like and have shared with you before – if you think you are too small to have any effect, you have never shared a bed with a mosquito.

Small actions can often have an effect far beyond that which we can anticipate.  Often people who are important enough to be interviewed on the news forget that it is important to make sure that your microphone is switched off before saying anything unguarded, and that the contents of a file cannot be seen from the outside before carrying it around London.  Jesus underlines this point again in our gospel reading – it is a small thing to say thank you for a favour, and yet only one of the ten lepers who were healed thought to do it.  I am sure any of us who have been fortunate enough to have children, have spent many hours training them to remember to say please and thank you!

The young girl in our story today could have been simply thinking aloud – it appears that she was relatively well treated for a captive servant as she was not afraid to do this, but she would never have guessed that she could have been starting an international crisis.  Israel seems to have been much weaker that its neighbour Syria, and the consternation at the Israelite court can well be imagined when a renowned general, complete with his armed escort and full entourage turns up with the request from the king of Syria that the general’s skin disease be cured.  The king would have known his limitations – and miracle cures were not within his power, meaning that an excuse for Syria to invade could only be the likely outcome.

Fortunately, the bush telegraph was working well, and Elisha heard about the situation, and sent word that Naaman should be sent to him – no doubt to the huge relief of the king.  Once again, we can imagine the scene when Naaman with his mounted guard and chariots appeared before the door of the prophet’s house.  I have always assumed that the house was fairly modest, although we are not given any details – it does make for a better picture though!  Elisha demonstrates very clearly that he is not impressed by horses and chariots however, and simply sends a servant to Naaman with his instructions.  It is hardly surprising that a man of Naaman’s standing takes this as an insult, although in fact he has no cause to really.  His anger is clear in his response to Elisha’s message: ‘‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not …. the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’

Once again though, we see that Naaman seems to have been a reasonable man, as just as his wife was prepared to listen to, and act on the words of a captive slave girl, so Naaman was prepared to listen to his servants – who were not afraid to approach him even when he was in a temper.  The rest of the story you know, but I do think it is important to note that so much of the outcome could have been very different, had it not been for a couple of  people, neither if them significant enough to be given a name, having the courage to speak out.

On Monday of this week, I attended the Diocesan Rural forum in Bagley Baptist Church.  The speakers in the morning were interesting, but the afternoon session was given over to people who were doing things in their village communities to show God’s love for their neighbours.  One of these speakers was a man called Stephen Wort from Milverton, who has been commissioned as the Hedgerow Chaplain.  If you are interested in his work, he writes a monthly blog which I found on the diocesan website called Country Matters.   Primarily he leads pilgrimage walks around the area, but he said two things that have stayed in my mind particularly.  The first was simply that our church doors lead two ways – both in and out.  Perhaps we should think more about whether we should be going out to meet the people rather than trying to get them to come in.  The other, which struck me quite forcibly is that we never read of Jesus inviting people to come in to anywhere.  The only invitation he gives people is that they should follow him – and yet we read many accounts of him being in people’s homes where he has been invited to share a meal.  Is it time we stopped expecting people to come in and join us, but instead we should be making sure that we go out and join them where they are?  The important thing though is to make sure that we always take Jesus with us – he always wanted to be with the people who needed him, and somehow I don’t think that has changed.  I have always liked the story of the church which had over the door the words, ‘You are now entering the presence of God’.  These were not written over the entrance as you might expect, but on the inside for people to read as they were leaving the building.

Could the message for us today be that as we leave this building this morning, not only will we be entering – or remaining – in the presence of God, but also that we will be rejoining God’s people – the people who need to know just how much God loves them.  And surely we are the people who need to be telling them.

Trinity 16 – Ken Masters – 2nd October 2022

A Sermon preached by The Revd Ken Masters at Pen Selwood on the 16th Sunday after Trinity, 2nd October 2022:

Readings: Habakkuk 11-4; 21-4; Luke 175-10

The first Reading was from the prophet Habakkuk.  Like me, you may wonder, who was Habakkuk?  The short answer is: we know very little about him.

The longer answer is that many scholars say that Habakkuk was ‘a Judaean prophet who probably resided in Jerusalem’ [Hastings, p.355] about the year 600 bc.  This was during the turbulent time following the defeat and death of king Josiah of Judah at Megiddo (609 bc) and the Assyrian Empire’s defeat at the hands of the newly powerful Nebuchadrezzar and his Babylonian Empire.  It was before the first deportation of Jews to Babylonia in 597 and the fall of Jerusalem with the second deportation in 587.  [Anderson, p.604f.]  During this in-between time in Judah the nation’s hold on ethical and religious standards seemed to fall apart

However, some scholars have suggested the ‘other possibility was that the enemy referred to [in Habakkuk] was the army of Alexander the Great … The commentary found [in the Dead Sea Scrolls] at Qumran would seem to support [that], which would of course date the prophecy [two and a half centuries later].  The prophet’s words would then become an anxious concern for the fate of the Israelite community and its neighbours, as Alexander’s army advanced into the Levant.’  [Neil, p.299.]

All that we know about Habakkuk – apart from a few unreliable legends – is what he revealed in 3 brief chapters.  His short book was authorised as part of the Hebrew Scriptures – and so later as part of the Christian Bible.  And the word of God may speak to us through the prophecies of Habakkuk.

Just as Job raised the enduring question of why God allows the innocent to suffer, so Habakkuk raised the perennial question of why God allows oppression and violence to succeed.  As we heard: ‘O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?  Or cry to you ‘Violence!’     and you will not save?’  And there’s his awareness, two verses later: ‘So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails.  The wicked surround the righteous – therefore judgement comes forth perverted.’

But Habakkuk didn’t only raise the question, he also suggested what we could do.  Keep a look-out.  In his words, ‘I will stand at my watch-post, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.’  So, we are to keep watching, asking questions, and being attentive to God’s answer.  Again, in Habakkuk’s words, ‘For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie.’  And realising our usual human impatience, he warns: ‘If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.’  We are to wait as patiently as we can for the end of the current problems.  Then, he points to the essential attitude: ‘the righteous live by their faith’ or as the footnote in the Bible suggests as an alternative translation – ‘the righteous live by their faithfulness’.  All of which, I think, is simply summed up in the old chorus: ‘Trust and obey, for there’s no other way … but to trust and obey.’  [HON 503]

That was how the prophet Habakkuk faced the violence and evils of his time – whether of invading Babylonian or Greek armies.  Looking back at more recent history, his approach can be seen to apply time and time again when there has been violent change and oppressive regimes, lawlessness and injustice.  Take, as two examples, Hitler and Pol Pot.  Habakkuk’s prophecy applies over and over again, that God’s children ‘must trust in God’s justice though the divine machinery sometimes seems to be at a standstill.’  [Neil]

And what of today?  The most blatant violation of world peace has been Putin’s cruel invasion of Ukraine.  Western nations watched this happen and some have given military, financial and refuge help to the people of Ukraine.  We continue to watch what happens – and we cry out at the injustice.  But with nuclear weapons available, we must be ever more careful not to make matters even worse.  The day will come when Putin will get his come-uppance.  So, all that can be done must be done – and we wait, praying and praying, and trusting in the justice and mercy of God for a humane and peaceful outcome.

Habakkuk’s prophecy and approach may be applied to other aspects of life in which there are injustice, violence, and wrongdoing.  Human beings always have a tendency to divide their approach between activity or passivity, between involvement or detachment.  I may be reading in my own interpretation, but I think Habakkuk was suggesting a fusion.  We watch, trying to see the situation through God’s eyes; we actively do what we believe God calls us to do; and we wait as trustingly as we can for God’s justice and mercy to come.

It’s all underpinned by The Prayer of trust that our Lord gave to us: ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’  And we echo the conclusion: For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, p.355

B W Anderson, The Living World of the Old Testament, p.604f.

William Neil, One Volume Bible Commentary, p.299

D N Freedman (Ed), The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol 3, pp 1-6