Now, what is today? Father’s Day! I hope we all made a big fuss of Dad; breakfast in bed, nice card, possibly a present. You know Dad does not need all this fuss, he just loves us for just being us – but isn’t it nice to make a fuss? People say Father’s Day is just another Americanism, and yes, it is a fairly new celebration - official figures put it at 1972 - but there are records of unofficial Father’s Day going back to 1910. So Dad needn’t think he’s not as important because celebrations of Mothering Sunday, which go back several hundred years, had much to do with families getting together in the Mother Church, so Dad was included then.
Now, you all know how to talk to your Dads; ask his advice, weedle things out of him, but you can talk to our Father in Heaven in exactly the same way. We all know how much God loves us, because he sent his Son to die for us. But lots of people find it hard to pray, some think we should spend hours on our knees, not ask for things for ourselves; that prayers should be like the intercessions in Church – well I don’t think so. There is really only one prayer we need to pray and that is the one Christ taught us – ‘The Lord’s Prayer’.
I’m not trying to catch anyone out, but how many of you know the Lord’s Prayer – when we older people were young, which we were once, we had assemblies in school every week and the Lord’s Prayer was always said. Lots of us went to church primary schools and went into the church once a week for assembly. We just learnt it off by heart. But let us look at it a little closer.
As I said in the beginning, in this prayer we are praying for the world, for peace, for the people, for deliverance. When you have said the Lord’s Prayer you have said everything, so there is nothing wrong in now asking the Father for something for yourself. I don’t spend hours in prayer and I am terrible for arrow throwing, quite often asking for something for myself, friends or family, or just saying ‘thank you’ for something in a special moment. I hate the dentists, can’t stand anything in my mouth, so all of the time I am in there, I am saying “God, just be with me, don’t let me be stupid and show myself up; let it be over quick” - that is praying. But, I know God doesn’t mind that, he is just like our own dad, we hold their hands for security and protection, we ask for things, we love and respect them. That is all they want and that is what God wants too.
A positive word of encouragement can help change someone's entire life!
The Sea of Galilee, was like a huge lake with small fishing towns all around it and Jesus did a lot of his preaching around this area; this is also where his disciples had fished. It was surrounded by high hills and this is what caused the wind to blow very strong around it.
Jesus had been preaching all one day and when evening approached I should imagine he was exhausted. So, he said to his disciples “let us go over the other side”. He was probably wanting to get away from the crowds for a little while. Well, that night when they set off for the other shore, Jesus just curled up where he was in the boat and immediately fell asleep. Now remember, the disciples knew this lake; they fished it and they understood that it could get rough. But that night, it must have been a really terrific squall that got up and it was so bad that it terrified the disciples.
Can you imagine how they felt; there was Jesus, sound asleep and they thought they were going to drown. Didn’t he care about them? Then, when they awoke him, he just calmed the waters of the lake , stopped the wind and told them off for not trusting him. Where was their faith? All they could think of was, ‘crikey, who is this man who can tell the wind and the sea to be still and they do?’ I can just imagine how they felt; they thought they knew him, but never thought he could do that. But all Jesus was saying was – ‘why didn’t you trust me, why were you scared? I am here with you’.
This story is saying to us; here is this amazing man, the Son of God, who can do anything, even tame the wind and the sea and yet all he wants from us is for us to know that he is here to look after us and wants us to give him our trust and love – he will never let us down.
Just as God is the Father of Jesus, he is also our Heavenly Father. Jesus tells us to call God, ‘Abba, Father’, just as he did. Surely this then means we are adopted into God’s family; we are all brothers and sisters with Jesus and each other in the eyes of God.
We all have times in our lives when we need someone to lean on. Never alone - always someone to lean on, even in the animal kingdom. Help one another. Who knows when we might need help?
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Read Psalm 1
I love being a mum and the joy it is to love my children. But sometimes I feel like I am pulled in so many directions. One minute I am attending a school concert, the next I am bashing the computer to make a work deadline and a moment later I am zooming around the supermarket like Lewis Hamilton with a trolley (beware anyone who comes between me and the tins of Peppa-Pig-shaped spaghetti).
But wherever I am physically, Psalm 1 reassures me that I can still be planted and rooted in God’s truth continually and nourished by his presence. What a wonderful promise that is.
Of course, it is impossible to read the Bible around the clock, but we can deliberately get to know the word of God, savour it, meditate upon it and apply it in such a way that its truth becomes integrated into our life – and into the lives of our children.
When my girls were small, they loved sharing Bible stories at bedtime and listened to some wonderful audio Bible books as they went to sleep. But as our children grow older, we will want to encourage them to read and pray for themselves, to drive them to camps and youth groups and to deliberately ask more about what they have been discovering. We might not have all the answers to their questions, but we can always explore faith and the Bible together in an atmosphere of love.
Like us, our children are blessed when they know that God is with them everywhere. As they are planted continually into the streams of God’s love and truth, they can draw upon his presence in the playground or in an exam as well as on a Sunday morning.
As parents we can grow in our own desire for God’s word and prayer, which will impact our families significantly. Our homes and churches are places where we put down those deep roots together so that we can all flourish and be fruitful wherever we find ourselves each day.
How can we remind each other to draw on the streams of God’s presence? Are there creative visual, written or digital prompts that we could use to “meditate” on God’s truths throughout the day?
And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’
Where did that thought come from?! We’ve all had the experience of thinking something strange and wondering where the idea came from. If it’s a good thought, we might say “I would never have thought something like that! It must be God.” If it’s a bad thought, we may feel that it reflects badly on us – or that it must have been the devil that put it there.
Our inner voices are a vital part of our conscious experience. They are also the fabric of our prayers. If we are wise, we learn to discern which ones are to be listened to. Jesus was obedient to the Spirit, who led him into the wilderness, but then he heard the voice of the tempter. This voice questioned what the voice from heaven had said at his baptism. Indirectly, it helped him because, in his dialogue with this voice, he clarified what his vocation as Son of God was to be. It would not be about self-serving miracles, about human glory, or avoidance of suffering. It would be a life of service and self-giving.
We know now that many people hear voices (out loud) who are not mentally ill. It is not the hearing of voices that we need to be afraid of. We all hear voices. We need courage to listen, and wisdom to discern what they mean.
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’
What is the passion in your life? Do you spend a lot of time wishing you could do something else, particularly at this moment of global crisis?
Martha welcomes Jesus, and she serves Jesus in practical ways. She wants to do the right things. How can this be wrong? Somehow, amidst the mental activity and busy routine, she risks losing the one thing that is needful. She is understandably cross with her sister. Perhaps she is jealous? Does she really want to be at Jesus’s feet too – or is the activity a way of avoiding that?
Our passions to do what is right are vital to society and human wellbeing, and we cannot do without them, but they easily become an end in themselves. They lead us away from other priorities. They master us and consume us. Mental and spiritual wellbeing require that we keep them in context.
So, so true. We all fill our lives with clutter.
The Story of the Man and the Song
After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. She made this vow: ‘O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a Nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.’
As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, ‘How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.’ But Hannah answered, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.’ Then Eli answered, ‘Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.’
1 Samuel 1:9-17
Have you ever found yourself not knowing what to say when someone cheerily said “How are you?” Perhaps you felt awful, but didn’t like to say so? A friend of mine had this experience once when leaving church. She decided to be honest, and said that she felt terrible. The unheeding reply was “Oh – that’s good!”
There are unwritten expectations about how people should behave, just as there were when Hannah prayed in the Jerusalem temple. Mental ill health makes it difficult or impossible to fulfil them, and our unwillingness to be honest about such things contributes to the stigma. By conferring stigma on those who suffer from mental ill health, or even on those who simply give honest emotional replies to everyday questions, church and society make things worse.
Unlike God, human beings cannot see what is in someone's heart – unless they share them. However, if we ask, we need to be ready for honest answers, and honest answers make vulnerable people more vulnerable. If we join in with God, in searching out one another’s vulnerabilities, we need to get more like him in loving and accepting what we find.
Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until day-break.
It has been said that if you cannot stand your own company when alone, you should not impose it on other people! Perhaps this is unfair? Some of us (especially the extroverts) only really get to know ourselves in company with others. However, isolation does have a way of confronting us with some of the things that we try to avoid. We say that our “demons” haunt us in a sleepless night, but sometimes it is God who haunts us in our solitude.
Jacob, fleeing from one set of problems, in the family of his in-laws, is returning to another set of problems back in his own family in Canaan. He is not really alone, he has a large family of his own, with many maids and servants. Despite this, as home gets closer so does the reality of the family conflict that he has avoided for so long, and so does the weight of the burden that he alone carries. In the solitude of a sleepless night he finds himself wrestling with a man who will not disclose his name. Given his fears, we might conclude this man represented Jacob’s demons, but Jacob comes to a very different conclusion. “I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved” (verse 30). Judging by Jacob’s experience, seeing God may sometimes be a real struggle, but it is nonetheless a blessing. In the light of the following day, Jacob is reconciled with his brother.
We may not want solitude, but sometimes life forces it upon us. It is easy to focus on the loss of companionship and loss of opportunities that isolation brings. Sometimes, however, what we really fear are the reminders of the things that companionship and activity usually help us to avoid. Scary though these things may be, God may well be in our midst, waiting to bless us.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.
Loneliness is an experience that we can all relate to, but almost 1 in 5 people in the UK often or always feel lonely. The figures are higher for the elderly and for young people. If you are lonely, it would seem, you are not alone but that is unlikely to provide much comfort. We are social creatures. We need to feel connected to others.
It is possible to feel lonely in a crowd, or in a marriage. It is equally possible to be alone and not to feel lonely. Feeling lonely and being alone are different things. Loneliness is more about the company that we would like to have and do not have, the discrepancy between the way things are and the way we would like them to be.
Enduring loneliness can be both a cause and a consequence of mental ill health. The Psalmist is lonely and afflicted, distressed, and troubled. In Psalm 25, loneliness is associated with troubles of the heart or, as we might say, depression and anxiety. Pain and trauma can create, and perpetuate, our feelings of loneliness. We can feel abandoned even when others are trying to show that they care. We may feel that others do not understand what we are going through.
The Psalmist turns to God for help, and asks that God will turn to him. Prayer is not a magic solution for loneliness. Nonetheless, like the Psalmist, we can be honest before God; there is no need to pretend. We turn to God for God’s sake, not simply to ask him to fix things. God is always there, even if it does feel as though he has turned away. When feeling lonely, turning to God, and asking God to turn to you, is not a bad place to start.
So there you are, having a quiet cuppa and a chat with a friend when suddenly.....
As parents, there are so many things we teach our children. There are the ‘magic’ words of please and thank you to learn, the right way to hold a pencil, how to tie up shoelaces, and how to cross the road safely, to name just a few. And the learning process isn’t confined to the early years. As children get older, we do our best to help them learn about relationships, internet safety, and money management.
Our children are watching and finding things out from us all the time. And that includes what they learn from us about faith. But it’s possible to give this little, if any, thought. We devote ourselves to nurturing their physical, intellectual and emotional growth, but how much time do we give to sharing our faith with our children?
At the heart of the Church is a ticking time-bomb. It is estimated that only 50% of children with Christian parents grow up to have a personal faith of their own as adults. In contrast, those who do not practice the Christian faith are virtually 100% successful in passing on their lack of belief to their children. The need to address this situation is urgent. If nothing is done, the Church faces a crisis within a generation. Rob Parsons O.B.E Founder and Chairman, Care for the family
Sharing faith with the next generation is an important theme throughout the Bible. Parents are repeatedly exhorted to teach their children about God, so that the next generation have the opportunity to experience God’s love, goodness and forgiveness for themselves.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:5–7)
At its heart, the gospel is an invitation to enter into relationship with God. Parents can model what that looks like every day, in a way that is very hard to achieve at church, in Sunday school or similar settings. After all, what we’re trying to convey is that the Christian faith is not just about attending church on a Sunday morning! Parents can show their children what it means to turn to God in difficult times, to forgive and love each other, to receive God’s grace when mistakes are made, and to thank him for the good times too. Our children’s work at church is important, but the greatest impact is when children see faith lived out every day in both the tough times and the good times.
When we eventually return to something resembling normality, we need to consider what we can and are doing to nurture a Christian faith in the next generation. We all need to take a part in this; parents and grand-parents, teachers, clergy and lay workers. How can we introduce Jesus to the young ones? We need to share our faith with them. They ARE the future.
Now here's something to think about. Can we change?
Thoughts from the vestry
This man is an inspiration to the country. And the artist is amazing. Humbled by this gentleman's efforts to help the NHS. Hoped to raise £1000 - so far £23 million. He's 100 years old and walked up and down his garden 100 times to raise the funds. On his last lap he was met with a military guard of honour.
Check out this great video
So. Today is St George’s Day. Let’s celebrate our patron saint. Today is the anniversary of his death and the day was once a national holiday and celebrated as much as Christmas Day! Can you get more English with a name than George? A well used royal name, after all. Well, actually George wasn’t English and there’s no clear evidence that he ever set foot on English soil. He was born sometime around AD 280 in Turkey and became a Roman soldier and later progressed to the role of a personal guard for the Emperor Diocletian. Not the nicest of chaps we would like to meet, Diocletian was one of the leaders of the persecution of Christians, destroying churches, burning scriptures and hounding followers. But his personal guard, St George, protested against the persecution and remained dedicated to his Christian faith. He a was imprisoned and tortured for his troubles. He was later beheaded in Palestine on April 23, AD 303.
His head was taken to, and stored, in the church dedicated to him in Rome, and the rest of his body was buried in Lod, Israel.
So, what’s all this got to do with dragons? Well nothing really. It’s a great myth that grew up about him. Something like this. According to legend, the only well in Silene was guarded by a dragon and each day, residents had to make human sacrifices in order to access the water.
A princess was the next person to be sacrificed and on the day she was due to be killed, St George bravely fought the dragon to save her.
After St George successfully killed the dragon, the people of Silene were finally granted free access to the well, and in gratitude, they turned to Christianity.
So, there you have it in a potted history. St George - martyr and dragon-slayer.
Hang on, though. You haven’t told me why he is patron saint of england if he wasn’t English and didn’t come here. Ah! Sorry. Well, we have King Edward III to thank for that. He created the order of the garter in 1348 and named it after George. He obviously thought he was a jolly fine chap. Shakespeare finally immortalised him in English history ,concluding the Henry V, Act III, speech with ‘Cry God for Harry, England and St George'. Enjoy our patron day!