Thought for the Week 2024

 "The Church of the Warm Heart and the Open Mind"


 

A MEMBER CHURCH OF THE CONGREGATIONAL FEDERATION


A MEMBER CHURCH OF CHURCHES TOGETHER IN WALKDEN 


WELCOME TO THE WEBSITE                                                          OF WALKDEN CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH 

 

We are situated at the heart of the community, close to the crossroads  in the centre of town, between Walkden Gateway                                  and the Gill Medical Centre, opposite the Ellsemere Shopping Precinct.

 

As our Church Motto says, we seek to be                                            "a church with a warm heart and an open mind."

                                                             
Some years ago the Church Meeting resolved that these fine words should be more than just a motto and so applied to register our church for Same Sex Marriages. Confirmation that we are legally authorised to conduct same-sex marriages was confirmed on the 21st of December 2016.

We were the first mainstream Christian Church in the City of Salford to offer this ministry.


We believe that for the Gospel to truly be "Good News"                          it must be a gospel of;

extravagant grace,

radical inclusion

and relentless compassion.                                                                            

To that end, we welcome people of all ages and backgrounds

and affirm that God`s love as revealed in Jesus Christ is for everyone and not just a chosen few.                                                                                                          You are welcome to join us for worship any Sunday morning at 11am and to get to know us better over a cup of tea or coffee and a chat. 







     










                      





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For PARTY BOOKINGS or HALL HIRE, see the menu bar below for the relevant contact details. PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT THE MINISTER

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Jesus didn`t reject anyone -


Neither do we - 


Whoever you are - 


Wherever you are on life`s journey -

     

You are welcome here!



THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

JANUARY 7TH 2024


May I take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy and peaceful new Year.

The year that was 2023 has passed and with it, perhaps those whom we have loved. For some people last year saw the loss of a job or the breakdown of a relationship.        For others it was a disturbing diagnosis or period of prolonged illness.                        For a whole host of reasons, many of us are glad to see the back of 2023.


But the change of year, a new calendar or diary, is not somehow going to guarantee any of us better “luck,” health or happiness in 2024. If only life were that simple.

For those of us who call ourselves Christians, we face the new year not with wishful thinking, optimism or luck, for none of these have any power to fully sustain us as we journey into the unknown.                                                                                   


This Sunday is Epiphany, the close of the Christmas Season, when we will be thinking of the effect of the Nativity on those who were involved, especially the shepherds and the magi. Their encounter with the Christ child changed their lives.                   


The Christian Faith is not about rules and rituals, no matter how worthy or meaningful those may be, but about a relationship.

We step out into the unknow future not relying on our own strength but trusting in one who said, “ I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

 

On December 25th 1939, King George VI spoke via radio to the Nation and Empire and included in his speech a poem given to him by his 13-year-old daughter Princess Elizabeth.


“I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.’”


He finished by saying,


“May that Almighty Hand guide and uphold us all.”


Amen and amen!



THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK JANUARY 14TH


This Sunday is the Second Sunday of Epiphany.                                                        The Gospel is John 1:43-end and the following reflection is by Dr David Lose,

Senior Pastor of Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, USA.                             


“Come and see.”                                                                                                     


Think, for a moment, about the effect of those words might have on you were you to hear them in an everyday context. Would they generate a certain sense of excitement about whatever it might be you were being invited to witness? Perhaps curiosity?

Or maybe gratitude that someone thought to include you?


The words are both simple and warm, issuing an invitation not only to see something, but also to join a community. To come along and be part of something. 

These words, this invitation, form the heart not simply of this opening scene but much of John’s Gospel. John’s story is structured around encounters with Jesus.

And so across the pages of John’s Gospel there are men and women, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, powerful and vulnerable, people of all shapes and sizes and varieties whom Jesus meets.

And to each one, in one way or another, he says the same thing: come and see.

Come and see God do a new thing.  

Come and see your future open up in front of you.                                                      Come and see the grace of God made manifest

and accessible and available to all.                                                                           


In response, some take up that invitation and follow, while others are puzzled, confused, or simply do not believe Jesus’ offer.

And some not only follow but invite others to do the same.                                       


“Come and see.”                                                                                                      Such easy, warm, and hospitable words. The heart not only of John’s Gospel but Christian evangelism, as we are called not to cram our faith down another’s throat or question their eternal destiny or threaten them with hellfire, but instead simply to offer an invitation to come and see what God is still doing in and through Jesus and the community of disciples who have chosen to follow him.


But as simple and as non-threatening as these words are, I wonder how many of us

have ever uttered them, or anything remotely like them.

For that matter, I wonder how often we have said them, not only to people who came to church one Sunday but to folks we meet in our daily lives.


The future of our faith communities will, I believe, be greatly determined by our willingness to invite others to share what we have found.

But the future of the church is without a doubt in God’s trustworthy hands.

The Spirit that inspired Philip and Andrew, who reached out through their efforts to others, and who overcame even the scepticism of Nathaniel is still offering all kinds of people all over the world an invitation to “come and see” and creating in them the desire to do just that.

So no matter how you may approach this text, perhaps we might end with this simple prayer:


“Come, Holy Spirit, that we may see and taste the grace of God afresh.

Come, Holy Spirit, that we might share the grace of God with others.

Come, Holy Spirit, that we might bear witness with our whole lives to the grace of God made manifest and available to us in Jesus.”



THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK JANUARY 21ST


The Gospel for the Third Sunday of Epiphany is Mark 1 vs 14-20.

Below is a reflection on the passage by Karoline Lewis, Professor and the Marbury E. Anderson Chair of Biblical Preaching, Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA.


“What I am struck by this week in the calling of the disciples according to Mark is not the “follow me,” not the calling, but the immediately. “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” We can rationalize the “immediately” all we want — they saw something in Jesus.  Mark loves the word “immediately” and in repeating it creates an urgency unlike any other Gospel.                                                                             


I think that “immediately” can be less about marking time and more about describing action. Immediately does not only designate a when but a what.

Not only a place in time, but an event that changes the meaning of life.

Granted, the disciples have no clue at this point how life has been changed.

But we know. And maybe immediately is all we can do; all we can manage.

Because, preparation? Maybe it makes faith matters worse. Builds up anticipation, expectations. And then, when things do not go as planned?


Maybe a life of faith can only happen in immediately, in the surprising, sudden, profound epiphany of God at work, God revealed in our lives. Because if we think we can adequately prepare for God’s epiphanies, that we can be fully ready for what we will see, well then, God might be less than epiphanous.

Like taking childbirth classes will really prepare you for having a baby or being a mother. Let’s be honest.

We are called, perhaps not so much to follow, but to take Mark’s immediately seriously. This is not,

“wait a few minutes. Let me pack my bag. I have a few more arrangements to make.” No — epiphanies just happen. No preparation. No packing list.

No recommendations of what to take, what to do. 

And so, Jesus just happens.

On the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

No time to think.

No invitation to take your time.

Just go.


Here is truly epiphany according to Mark. Epiphanies are un-tamable and unpredictable. Unexpected and even undeserved.

We could spend a lot of time speculating why the disciples followed Jesus.

At the end of the day, I am not sure I care. They did.

Maybe there was no choice. I don’t know.

When we place our emphasis on the immediately, we are directed more toward the event and less on the how. I don’t know how. I just know that it happened.


Epiphanies, especially of the divine nature, demand an immediate response.

There’s no invitation for contemplation or reflection

but instantaneous commitment and risk. Or, to put it another way, no real choice. Naming epiphanous moments, describing those times when your response is out of your control, that might be getting close to articulating what happened with the disciples in Mark. If the heavens are ripped apart, well then, get ready for a wild ride. This can be simultaneously freeing and terrifying. Free to respond in the moment. Terrified of what beyond the moment will unfold.


This week, at least according to Mark, Epiphany is when your life is changed forever because Epiphany celebrates, in part, that God was forever changed.”



THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK JANUARY 28TH


The Gospel this week is Mark 1 vs 21-28.


Below is a brief reflection on the passage by Professor Paul Berge,

Luther Seminary, St Paul Minnesota USA.


“The evangelist of the Gospel of Mark has selected this exorcism story to inaugurate the public ministry of Jesus. In the Gospel we are “immediately” faced with the story of Jesus’ exorcism in the synagogue of Capernaum (1:21-28).


Our text for this Sunday follows the title and promise of the Gospel (1:1),

the identity of John the Baptist (1:2-8),

Jesus’ baptism and voice from heaven (1:9-11),

God’s Spirit driving Jesus into the wilderness and encounter with Satan (1:12-13), Jesus’ announcing of the kingdom of God and call to repentance (1:14-15)

and Jesus’ calling of Simon, Andrew, James and John (1:16-20).                                 


We have experienced early in our hearing from the Gospel of Mark a story which proclaims the lordship of Jesus Christ. This text is just as present for us as the experience in this first century story and world.

The immediacy of the story is continuously present as the adverb “immediately” appears three times in this brief story (1:21, 23, and 28).

The evangelist emphasizes the immediacy of God’s reign and rule breaking in and present in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.                                

In this world of demonic powers that continue to enslave us, Jesus has broken its hold. The hold of the evil one has no power over us. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer “deliver us from evil,” when the Greek text of the Gospel of Matthew reads “rescue us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13, New Revised Standard Version).


We too have been rescued from the evil one and restored in our right minds through the lordship of the crucified and risen Christ.

This is an epiphany in our lives present in the Word of God.

Whether in the first century world of a healing in a synagogue in Capernaum

or in our gathering for worship today, the kingdom of God, the reign and rule of God’s power and authority is manifested in Jesus Christ.

This is an epiphany story now in our proclamation for all who gather to worship the one, true God on January 28th, 2024.                                                                       


“The Holy One of God” is our title for the Christ. He alone breaks into our world of possessions to free us to live in his authority to exorcize the powers of this age.”



THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK FEBRUARY 4TH

 

February 2nd is observed as Candlemas in the liturgical calendar and we will be reflecting on its meaning in worship this Sunday.


Below are some thoughts on Candlemas (and the Irish saint Brigid) by Jan Richardson, an artist, writer and ordained minister in the United Methodist Church in the USA.


“The beginning of February offers us another lovely feast day on the heels of today’s Feast of St. Brigid. In the rhythm of the Christian liturgical year, tomorrow marks the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus, also called the Feast of the Purification of Mary.            This day bids us remember Mary and Joseph’s visit to the Temple to present their child Jesus on the fortieth day following his birth, as Jewish law required, and for Mary to undergo the postpartum rites of cleansing.                                                      Luke’s Gospel tells us that a resident prophet named Anna and a man named Simeon immediately recognize and welcome Jesus. Taking the child into his arms, Simeon turns his voice toward God and offers praise for the “light for revelation” that has come into the world.                                                                                                        


Taking a cue from Simeon, some churches began, in time, to mark this day with a celebration of light: the Candle Mass, during which priests would bless the candles to be used in the year to come.                                                                          Coinciding with the turn toward spring and lengthening of light in the Northern Hemisphere, Candlemas offers a liturgical celebration of the renewing of light and life that comes to us in the natural world at this time of year,                                            as well as in the story of Jesus.                                                                                  As we emerge from the deep of winter, the feast reminds us of the perpetual presence of Christ our Light in every season.                                                                           


With her feast day just next door, and with the abundance of fire in the stories of her life, it’s no surprise that St. Brigid makes an appearance among the Candlemas legends. The stories and prayers of Ireland and its neighbours often refer to Brigid as the midwife to Mary and the foster mother of Christ.                                    Chronologically, this would have been a real stretch seeing as how Brigid was born in 454 AD!   However, the legend says that Brigid walked before Mary with a lighted candle in each hand when she went up to the Temple for purification.                      The winds were strong on the Temple heights, and the tapers were unprotected, yet they did not flicker nor fail.  


On this Candlemas, where do we find ourselves in this story?

Are we Mary, graced by the light that another sheds on our path?

Or are we Brigid, carrying the light for another in need?”



THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK FEBRUARY 11TH


The Gospel this week is Mark 9 vs. 2-9, the story of the Transfiguration.                      Below is a reflection on the reading by Melinda Quivik,                                              Liturgical and Homiletical Scholar, St Paul, Minnesota USA.


“Every time we gather for worship, we are the disciples on the mountain seeing the rabbi, the carpenter from Nazareth who became our teacher, bathed in light.               


The vision the disciples behold removes the veil of Jesus’ humanness to reveal his divinity: wondrous, frightening, powerful, unexpected, and rich, connecting all ages (the prophets Elijah and Moses with Jesus), giving enlightenment.                               


Jesus’ transfiguration is not to be approached with the assumption that we can understand it. It means to draw us in toward what is abnormal, unnatural—like the burning fire that does not consume the bush and like the fire Elijah hoped for and received from God on the altar drenched in water to win the wager against the prophets of Baal.


The Transfiguration places Jesus in the lineage and honour of the two prophets who stand beside him on the mountain.                                                                     

The Transfiguration gives the disciples the experience of witnessing a most amazing and unspeakable vision that draws them to want to stay there, dwell in that place of wonder, and then to be told by the voice of the divine that their job is not to abide in that wonder but to go back down the mountain.

The voice in the cloud is directed at the disciples, to the church, rather than to the Son as it was at his baptism.


In worship, week after week, through the Word of God, our vision is restored.              We are enabled by God to see Jesus as Saviour (something more than a teacher of morality and ethics) because the dazzling clothes constitute an epiphany.                      His transfiguration transforms the disciples in the story                                                and transforms us by removing the veil over our vision.


The church has a responsibility: to listen to God’s Son. That listening does not result in staying aloof where the air is pure and the view is stunning.

The church must listen to the voice of God’s Word in our midst

so that we follow in a way that leads to the cross.

We are not called to have power over others

but to rise up as dust that has been formed by the breath of God

and give life to others.”



THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK FEBRUARY 18TH   LENT ONE


This Sunday is the First Sunday of Lent.

Below are some thoughts on the Gospel passage for this week, Mark 1 vs. 9-15

by Karoline Lewis, Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, Minnesota USA.


“The first Sunday in Lent is always Jesus’ temptation. Always.                                      But when was the last time you noticed just how brief Mark’s temptation story is?          It’s virtually non-existent. A summary only. To the point. No details really.

Just that it happened.

One could say, and you probably have,

“Well, that’s Mark for you. The Reader’s Digest Condensed Version of the Gospel.”

Of course, Mark’s version of Jesus’ temptation would be abbreviated!


To preach the temptation of Jesus in Mark is to call attention to our greatest temptation — the temptation to think that God is not present.                                                     We are tempted to believe that God is absent. God has given up. Withdrawn. Why? Well, you name it. A whole host of reasons. Need any prompts here?                            Our fellow parishioners sure don’t. They are fully aware that they are not worthy of God’s love which we tend to perpetuate during Lent. They are fully aware, as are we if we are honest, of those excruciating times when God is silent.


To reflect on Mark 1:9-15 on the first Sunday in Lent is to say clearly, unapologetically, without any doubt, that God is present in it all. We will not have the same temptations as Jesus. And naming Jesus’ temptations as some sort of comfort in our experience of the same implies that we can get through it, whatever “it” may be.

But we are talking about Jesus. The point of contact is not necessarily that Jesus was tempted yet without sin. That’s not helpful. I can’t be Jesus.

But I can look at Jesus’ temptation, whatever it is, whatever it turns out to be,

and say, God was there.


God is present. In other words, what if we focus less on listing all that tempts us,      less on some pep talk that we can deny all those so-called things that seek to get us to craft our golden calves, less on giving up the so-called temptations of our lives and focus on true denial of that which tempts us the most.”



THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK FEBRUARY 25TH   LENT TWO


This Sunday is the Second Sunday of Lent and the Gospel is Mark 8:31-end.                It contains Jesus` well known saying,


“If any want to become my followers,let them deny themselves

 and take up their cross and follow me.”                        


The cross has lost much of its power and meaning and not just among those who see it as little more than a fashion accessory. Even for Christians, the cross can become so familiar that it loses its ability to both shock and inspire.


I hope that the following short passages and the reflection which follows,

may aid our devotions for this week.


"The cross of Christ is like a well-cut diamond.  

Turn it in the sun and you get a variety of colours and sparkles.  

Among other things, it brings out the price of true love, the power of vulnerability to bring about community, the presence of God within human suffering,

how death washes things clean,

how death can be triumph,

how one is tempted to cry out in despair just before triumph,

and especially how God loves us unconditionally."
Ron Rolheiser O.M.I.


"But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction,

can extend its four arms for ever without altering its shape.  

Because it has a paradox in its centre it can grow without changing.

The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travellers."
G. K. Chesterton


"The cross performs a function of synthesis and measurement.  

In it Heaven and Earth are conjoined…in it time and space are intermingled.  

The cross is the unbroken umbilical cord of the cosmos,

linking it to the centre from which it sprang.  

Of all symbols the cross is the most universal and all-embracing.  

It symbolizes intervention, mediation, the natural and permanent structure of the universe and communication between Heaven and Earth and Earth and Heaven.
Champeaux, G.de and Dom Sterckx, S. (O.S.B.)



AND THOSE WHO LOSE THEIR LIFE WILL SAVE IT

Mark 8: 27-38

 

I opened the curtain this morning:
the sun was giving itself away
with a brilliant smile.

 

I walked by a stream this morning:
the water was giving itself away
with a gentle song.

 

I greeted a friend this morning:
joy was giving itself away
with the warmth of touch.

 

I thought of your cross this morning:
how you gave yourself away
in holy love.

 

May I become such grain this morning:
living in what is given away
for another’s bread.


Andrew King



THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK MARCH 3RD  LENT THREE


Below is part of a reflection on this week`s Gospel reading about the Cleansing of the Temple, by Rev Janet E  Hunt.


“One wonders how it is that Jesus 'saw' what no one else could or would.                How could his perception have been so radically different that he would act with such forthright certainty to make right that which was so wrong.  


And yet, we do recall that the temple held precious memories for Jesus.  

It was the destination where every Jewish child knew he or she would make at least one pilgrimage in their lifetimes.

It was the place where he had gotten so caught up in conversation with the teachers when he was a small child himself, that his parents lost track of him.

To be sure, unlike any who had come before, this was his home before any other home for he understood it to be his 'Father's house.'  

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that Jesus would show his outrage at what things had come to there. For it appears this holy place had become, for some at least, a place of business transactions. Indeed, some believe that the surcharge for exchanging money into currency which was suitable for temple offerings was so exorbitant that the poor were not able to afford to encounter God in that place in the way that it was customary to do so. And that would have been entirely contrary to God's intent.


Whatever the case may have been, clearly Jesus saw all of this as standing in the way of it being the holy place it was meant to be.  

And when Jesus comes face to face with it, he sees red.  

He throws the money changers and those selling sheep and cattle

and doves for sacrifice into chaos.


How can you and I develop the eyes of Jesus?  

How do we gain sight or insight which is not content to turn away or to ignore or explain away that which gets in the way of others encountering the Holy One?

How do I gain the courage or the will to see 'bright colours' which yes,

sometimes will offend, even as they inspire?


Surely one of the ways to do this is to invite others with 'fresh eyes' to tell us what they see and experience in the 'temple' where I serve.  

It may be those newest among us.  

Or those who have been away a while.  

Or children.

Or simply someone who does not necessarily agree with me.  


While they may or may not actually have 'eyes of Jesus,' even in their questions and observations they are likely to challenge or point out what I have failed to see or no longer experience because I have grown accustomed to the 'way it is.'                                     

Now of course, even as I wonder this, I am aware that in this life our 'temples' may never be entirely clean. Even so, it seems to me that as we encounter Jesus' outrage today, the call is also ours to seek to see our lives, the lives of others, the 'temple,' and this whole wide world in which we live with the eyes of Jesus and to do what we can to rid it and us of all that would get in the way of others encountering God.


And yes, sometimes it our call is to 'see red,'  it seems to me, at least when it matters.”


In a building that is not a building
but the dusty halls of my spirit,
in a heart that is not just a heart
but an intended-to-be-holy temple,


there are sheep and there are cattle
that are not sheep and cattle
but the worries and concerns
and the sorrows of life,


and there are dulled coins and doves
that are not coins and doves
but the tarnished hopes and dreams
of an aging mind,


and they clutter and crowd the courtyard,
cloud the air with their smells and voices,
their noises of stress and hunger:
overpowering the words of prayer.


Saviour, come into the spaces
of this yearning-to-be-holy temple,
come and cleanse this heart of distractions,
help me clear the clutter, the noises,


make it more of a place of listening
open to the mystery of your presence,
a space of restfulness, a quiet centre
for lifting unfettered prayer.

 

Andrew King



THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK MARCH 10TH LENT FOUR


This coming Sunday is the Fourth Sunday of Lent and the Lectionary Gospel from John chapter 3 includes the well-known verse “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” You can tell which version of the Bible I grew up with!


But this Sunday is also Mothering Sunday, not to be confused with Mother`s Day, which is an American invention. Mothering Sunday has its roots in medieval Christianity when the Latin texts of the Mass on Laetare Sunday referenced mothers and metaphors for mothers. These included a verse from Galatians where Saint Paul refers to Jerusalem as “the mother of us all.”                                                       


After the Reformation, the Book of Common Prayer continued to assign the same readings. During the 16th century people continued to return to their `Mother Church`, which could be the church where they had been baptised or the nearest cathedral, the Mother Church of the diocese.                                                                             

For those who worked and lived away, this meant travelling back to their home town or village and anyone who did this was commonly said to have “gone mothering,” a term recorded in 1644.


Sadly, the modern observance of the day has taken on the American title of Mother’s Day and has lost any religious significance.                                                                Some of us still seek to retain the Christian ethos of the day and honour not only our earthly mothers but the Church, which even the Protestant Reformers regarded as “the mother of us all.”                                                                                                     


So as we come to worship, and to pay tribute to our mothers, both living and departed, we also remind ourselves of the motherly and nurturing role of the Church in our lives, as it seeks to remind us of the love of God who is  our heavenly Parent.


God's Helpers


God could not be in every place
With loving hands to help erase
The teardrops from each baby's face,
And so He thought of Mother.


He could not send us here alone
And leave us to a fate unknown;
Without providing for His own,
The outstretched arms of Mother.


God could not watch us night and day
And kneel beside our cot to pray,
Or kiss our little aches away;
And so He sent us Mother.


And when our childhood days began,
He simply could not take command.
That's why He placed our tiny hand
Securely into Mother's.


The days of youth slipped quickly by,
Life's sun rose higher in the sky.
Full grown were we, yet ever nigh
To love us still, was Mother.


And when life's span of years shall end,
I know that God will gladly send,
To welcome home her child again,
That ever-faithful Mother.


George W. Wiseman



THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK MARCH 17TH  LENT FIVE


The Gospel this week is John 12 vs. 20-33. It is a passage with two distinct parts.     

In the NRSV the headings are, Some Greeks Wish to See Jesus (verses 20-26) and Jesus Speaks about His Death (verses 27-36)


I want to share some thoughts by Karoline Lewis on the passage and in particular the verse “Sir, we wish to see Jesus”. She says.


“This verse is a summative theology of preaching for the Fourth Gospel. Preaching John means creating an experience of Jesus. It’s that simple.

The request of the Greeks voices the desire of every parishioner in the pew — not to be told about Jesus but the desire to encounter Jesus.

Too many sermons stop at information.

Perhaps this week a Post-it note in your pulpit would be an important reminder of the purpose of preaching - to show them Jesus - particularly when having Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter in clearer view……                                                                   

“Pastor, we wish to see Jesus.”

Show them. Show them, big time.

Or, to put it another way, “go big or go home.”

As Fred Craddock once noted,

“If there is a disease in preaching … it’s not that what the minister says is wrong.

It’s that it is just too small.”  

Karoline Lewis


In researching the text I came across this illustration online;


A brilliant young preacher, with several degrees after his name, once accepted a call to pastor a large congregation.  The people were pleased with his oratory and learning, but something seemed to be missing from his sermons. 

One day, when entering the pulpit, he saw a note addressed to him,

bearing the following words:  “SIR, WE WOULD SEE JESUS!” 


The Holy Spirit spoke to his heart.  Throwing aside his superficiality and his scholarly rhetoric, he became an ambassador for Christ, pleading with the people to be reconciled to God through Christ.  Those who came to be entertained by his message remained to pray and repent of their sins. 


On a later Sunday, the young minister found another note pinned to the pulpit. 

On it was written a Scripture that summarized the feelings of his now well-fed congregation. 

It read,

“THEN WERE THE DISCIPLES GLAD WHEN THEY SAW THE LORD!.”

John 20 vs 20b



THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK MARCH 24TH  PALM SUNDAY


I recently came across these words of reflection on Palm Sunday by Jan Richardson, artist, writer, and minister of the United Methodist Church USA.


`Lately I have found myself thinking about procession and pilgrimage:

how we move with mindfulness across a landscape that transforms us along the way; what propels us to set off down paths made sacred

by those who have travelled before us;

which roads draw us closer to God,

and which ones draw us farther away from being aware of God’s presence?                                                                                                      

There are times for venturing down a holy path that has physical substance,

giving ourselves to traveling a real road that will alter us in ways we cannot predict. And then there are times for committing ourselves to a way that will not take us far in terms of physical distance but will draw us down interior pathways we have not explored before.

The desert mothers and fathers of the early church well knew this latter journey.

They often counselled staying put, wanting to make sure that physical travel wasn’t being treated as a substitute for interior work rather than an aid to it.

Reflecting on this in her book The Forgotten Desert Mothers, Laura Swan writes,

“The desert journey is one inch long and many miles deep.”                            


The road that Jesus travelled to Jerusalem in order to make his entrance that we celebrate on Palm Sunday was not terribly long in terms of physical distance.

Yet it was miles deep, marked by years of preparation and prayer, discernment and courage as Jesus travelled farther into the fullness of who he was meant to become.

And what road do we travel to meet the Christ who comes toward us on that ancient way of procession and pilgrimage?

What journey do we need to take,

by inches and miles, in order to welcome him?                                                           


“My life’s work,” my Franciscan friend Father Carl once said,

“is to go on a pilgrimage to who I am.”


This week and beyond, may we make that pilgrimage.`

 

 

"Blessed Is the One"
For Palm Sunday

 

Blessed is the One
who comes to us
by the way of love
poured out with abandon.

 

Blessed is the One
who walks toward us
by the way of grace
that holds us fast.

 

Blessed is the One
who calls us to follow
in the way of blessing,
in the path of joy.


Jan Richardson

 

 


THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK  MARCH 31ST 

EASTER SUNDAY


This Sunday is Easter Sunday, the pinnacle and climax of the Christian Year.

At Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, no matter how we chose to interpret the gospel account.

For many Christians it is an historical event and for others a profound spiritual metaphor. But whether you are a biblical literalist or someone who interprets scripture somewhat differently, there is a truth that we all share, namely that this is a story of the ultimate triumph of good over evil.


That truth, represented in the story of Easter, is at the very heart of the Christian Faith. Saint Paul was quite clear - just read 1st Corinthians chapter fifteen!            

One of my favourite readings, which I often use at Easter, is  from that chapter;


“If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.                                                                                                      If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

Then those also who have died in Christ have perished.

If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”        1st Corinthians 15:14 &17.


It is the resurrection and all that it represents, which sets Christianity apart from other religious, philosophical or ethical systems. Yes, there are profound insights in the teachings of Jesus that can be appreciated by people of all faiths and none but it is this deep belief in the triumph of Christ and the ultimate victory over sin, disease and death, which has the power to transform lives, societies and even the world.


1st Corinthians 15 also contains these precious truths;


For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy  to be destroyed is death. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.”


Whatever challenges you are facing at this time, whether they be physical, emotional, spiritual or financial, be assured by the truth of the Easter story, that God is ultimately in control, that his purposes are good and that in Him, you can be secure.                                                                                                                                                Let me end by sharing one more gem from 1st Corinthians 15,


But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”


Amen and amen!                                                                                                      Have happy and blessed Easter.

 

 

Easter Day by Christina Rossetti


Words cannot utter
Christ His returning:
Mankind, keep jubilee,
Strip off your mourning,
Crown you with garlands,
Set your lamps burning.


Speech is left speechless;
Set you to singing,
Fling your hearts open wide.
Set your bells ringing:
Christ the Chief Reaper
Comes, His sheaf bringing.


Earth wakes her songbirds,
Puts on her flowers.
Leads out her lambkins.
Builds up her bowers:
This is man’s spousal day,
Christ’s day and ours.



THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK APRIL 7TH 

EASTER TWO


The following reflection for the Second Sunday of Easter is by David Lose.


“The story of Thomas has always been one of my favourites.

Of course, it’s not just a story about Thomas. It’s also a story about frightened disciples. So scared, in fact, that, they hid behind locked doors.

And who can blame them?

They had just witnessed the one they confessed to be the Messiah betrayed by one of his own, tried and convicted by both religious and civil authorities,

and then brutally executed.

Little wonder they were afraid, assuming that the next step would be to round up Jesus’ followers.


But when Jesus comes on the scene, their fear falls away and is replaced by joy.

This, I think, is the way we assume faith should work.

Yes, perhaps you’ve got doubts, questions, and fears, but then God arrives and those all fall away, replaced by joy and wonder and, of course, unshakeable faith.


But that’s not the way it works with Thomas. He doubts. He questions. He disbelieves. He’s not satisfied with second-hand reports and wants to see for himself.

And again I would say, who can blame him?

He was, after all, one of those who saw his Lord and friend mistreated, beaten, and then crucified and has probably spent the last few days pulling the broken pieces of his life back together and trying to figure out what to do next.

In fact, he might have already started getting on with his life – why else, I wonder, is he out and about when the rest of the disciples are hiding behind locked doors.


So here’s what I’m wondering a day or two after a joyous Easter service: do we make room for the Thomases in our world? Because I suspect that their number is legion, even among those who worshipped with us on Sunday and certainly among those with little or no familiarity with our congregation or faith.


Thomas does come to believe. He sees Jesus for himself. And after that experience he not only assents or consents to the witness of his comrades but makes the most profound confession of faith about Jesus contained in the New Testament, calling Jesus “my Lord and my God,” bookending the confession in John 1 where the eternal word that becomes flesh is not only with God but is God.                                                   


But all of that comes after he has a chance to voice his doubt.

And sometimes faith is like that – it needs the freedom of questions and doubt to really spring forth and take hold.

Otherwise, faith might simply be confused with a repetition of creedal formulas, or giving your verbal consent to the faith statements of others.

But true, vigorous, vibrant faith comes, I think,

from the freedom to question, wonder, and doubt.


Yes, on this Sunday the gospel commends those who “had not seen yet believed.”

But also on this Sunday, I think it’s important to make room for a little doubt.

It’s okay to have questions.

Indeed, let’s commend them – even bless them! – for their questions.

Because questions and wonder and doubt and even scepticism are signs of interest and curiosity and these, quite often, are the soil in which vibrant faith is born.”


THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK APRIL 14TH

EASTER THREE


This week`s reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter is by Karoline Lewis.


“Jesus’ address to the disciples is not, “you will be witnesses.

Not, “please be witnesses.”

Not, “consider being witnesses if you have time.”


No, “you are witnesses of these things.”

We are witnesses.

As it turns out, witnessing is not voluntary, but a state of being.

Matt Skinner writing about the people of God in Acts says,


“The empty tomb of Easter eventually propels them to tell, through words and deeds, what they have seen and what they know.”


If an empty tomb doesn’t get you out there, it’s hard to imagine what it will take.

But that’s part of the problem. We seem to want to wait around for a more grandiose revelation of God’s activity before we are willing to witness to our God.

As if our God who defeated death, who topples empires, whose salvation seeks to go to the ends of the earth isn’t enough.

What are we waiting for?

What more do we need?

What are we afraid of?              


I suspect that for many of us, hearing that we are witnesses is not necessarily good news. We remember how often we have declined our identity. We remember how often we have deferred testimony to others. We remember how often we have determined that our witness wouldn’t make a difference anyway, so why bother?

But, in doing so, we deny the truth of who we are and who Jesus needs us to be.

We give up avowals about God that not enough people get to hear or experience.

And we forgo the fact that we are never NOT giving witness to God.

That’s the rub.

“We are witnesses” is not only who we are but also then how others see God to be.

“We are witnesses” both points to our calling as well as our commitment to it.

“We are witnesses” gives witness to our own selves, our own faith, our own belief.


And that is the hardest truth to hear — that perhaps we

don’t believe in the identity God has given us,

don’t believe God needs it,

don’t believe others will see it,

don’t believe that it actually matters.


All the while, therefore, abnegating God’s expanded horizons and God’s relentless attempts to expand our imaginations. So rather than continue in our ceaseless attempts to convince ourselves we have a choice, that we can carry out this occupation just as soon as we are adequately prepared, that we can graciously, even politely and respectfully, eschew God’s claim on us, why not try it on and see what it feels like? Wear it around, maybe even with “gladness in your heart” (Psalm 4:7).

Fake it till you make it, if you will.

Who knows?

Maybe then we might start to believe it.”



THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK APRIL 21ST

EASTER FOUR


Below is part of a reflection on this week`s Gospel, John 10:11-18, by David Lose.


“So here it is: amid Jesus’ discourse on being “the good shepherd,” what jumped out to me this time was Jesus’ simply but bold assertion that, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

Have you ever noticed that before? Or, more than notice it, have you ever given much thought to its theological implications? What strikes me is that, quite simply, Jesus isn’t done yet. Despite his healings, despite his preaching, despite all that he had already done and planned to do, Jesus isn’t done yet. He still has more sheep to reach, sheep that are not in this fold. By extension, I’d suggest that God isn’t done yet, either.         

And this matters for at least three reasons.                                                             


First, God continues to call people from all walks of life, from every nation on the face of the earth, and from each and every generation across the nearly two thousand years since Jesus first uttered those words until today. If that were not true, you and I would not have come to faith and we certainly would not be giving our lives to the task and joy of proclaiming the Gospel.                                                           


Second, God is at work in our midst and through us and our congregations to extend the invitation to abundant life offered by the Good Shepherd. We probably know that, but do our people? Do they imagine, that is, that God is using their lives and words to invite others to faith? Can they imagine that simply by praying for someone or inviting someone to church they might be the vessel by which God continues to reach out and embrace God’s beloved sheep from beyond this fold?                                                 


Third, the members who will one day constitute Jesus’ flock are beyond our imagining. There is a tremendous expansiveness to Jesus’ statement here, and we do not know – for neither Jesus nor John tells us – just what are the limits of the fold Jesus describes. All we know is that Jesus – and therefore God – isn’t done yet.

Jesus is still calling, God is still searching, and in time we will all be, as Jesus says, one flock under one shepherd. Which means, I think, that while we may not know all that God has in mind for those who have followed different paths, I nevertheless trust them all to the mercy and grace of the Good Shepherd.”



THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK APRIL 28TH

EASTER FIVE


Today’s reflection on this week`s gospel, John 15 vs 1-8,  is by David Lose.


“Anyone else feeling rather pruned of late? Don’t get me wrong. I lead a blessed life with a wonderful family and job and friends, for all of which I am profoundly grateful. And yet at any given moment, even when things are going relatively well, there are still so many difficult things with which to contend in this life and it often feels like being pruned.                                                                                                                   


Or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it just feels like being cut, cut down by life’s tragedies great or small, cut down by disappointment or despair, cut down by illness or job loss or other circumstances beyond our control and left to wither and die.


It’s easy to read this passage as one of judgment and threat.

But I think the thrust of the passage is promise. Why? It all has to do with context.


First, the context of the narrative: Jesus is offering these words to his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion. He knows what is going to happen – both to himself and to his flock – and they do not. They are about to be cut down by his crucifixion and death and he is assuring them that it will not be mere, senseless cutting but that they will survive, even flourish.


The second context is that of the community for which John writes. Because by the time they hear these words they have already been scattered, likely thrown out of their synagogue, and have had plenty of reason to feel like they’ve been abandoned. But John writes to assure them that while they have indeed been cut, it is the pruning for more abundant fruit and life. No doubt that was hard to believe, as there was precious little evidence available to the disciples or John’s community that they had not been abandoned. And no doubt it still is hard to believe on our end as well, as so much of life simply tears at us with no evidence that it is toward some more fruitful future. But amid this uncertainly and distress, Jesus still invites us – actually, not just invites but promises us – that he will not abandon us but rather will cling to us like a vine clings to a tree so that we endure, persevere, and even flourish among these present difficulties.                                                                                   


No matter what happens, Jesus will hold onto us.                                                        No matter what happens, God in Jesus will bring all things to a good end.”                  No matter what happens, we have God’s promise in Jesus to work for good.


Keep in mind, after all, that these words are said just before Jesus goes to the cross. And I would argue that the cross is the chief example of God’s commitment to wrestle life and hope from the very place that seems most devoid of life and hope. The resurrection is the promise that no matter how much tragedy we endure, these hardships will not have the last word. It is helpful to hear once again that the suffering we endure is not wasteful cutting but pruning for a more abundant future and, that no matter what happens, Jesus will not abandon us.”


THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK MAY 5TH

EASTER SIX


The reflection this week`s gospel John15:9-17,

comes from Melissa Bane Sevier.                                                           


“I like how Jesus came to call his disciples `friends.`

I doubt if he would have been able to do that when they were first spending time together. But over time, all relationships change.                                                       


A few months ago I was eating pizza with some of the church’s youth at a Sunday night service and I asked them what it means to be a friend. I wrote down all the definitions, because they were better than any I would come up with.

“A friend is someone who is herself.”

“A friend is nice.”

“A friend cares about you, listens to your problems, and helps you.”

“A friend thinks about you before he thinks about himself.”

“A friend cares about other people’s opinions and beliefs and respects them.”                                   

I notice that all these definitions describe how a person acts, not just how she feels or what she says. The worst kind of friend is the kind who says he cares about you,

but whose actions show indifference, or worse.


If this saying of Jesus, which is set on the night of his arrest, is about the church to come, then I think one thing is both obvious and interesting: people in the church ought to be friends. Friends are people who can count on each other, who say positive things about and to one another.

The problem is, of course, that not all churches are places where friends are in abundance.

I know a woman who’s been super involved in churches for over 20 years. Recently she started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. There, she says, she discovered the “church” she’d always been seeking. Her AA friends listen without judgment and, when she’s under stress, they simply call to check on her.             

This may not be easy. Love can get tired. Our ability to love everyone is limited.

None of us does it perfectly. But God has a store of love from which we can draw when we have exhausted our own resources. And so we just keep trying.                             


We’ve been befriended already. Now we just have to befriend others.”


THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK MAY 12TH

ASCENSION SUNDAY


The gospel for Ascension is Luke 24: 44-53.

Below is a reflection on the passage by Thomas R. Hawkins.                                                                                                                                                              “Suddenly, the disciples were without their guide, their teacher, and their leader. 

They no longer had an authority figure in their midst to tell them what to do.

They experience an expansion of being, an empowerment. 

This empowerment authorizes them for ministry and mission. 

They preach the gospel to every race, nation, and tongue already assembled in Jerusalem for the pilgrim feast of Pentecost. 

It is an empowerment sparked by acts of inclusion rather than exclusion.                     


When I was about 13 or 14, my father asked me to ride along with him as he cultivated a field of corn.  It was a tricky job.  The sharp blades of the cultivator had to pass between the rows of corn.  If we had veered a few inches to the left or to the right, we would have ploughed out four rows of young corn plants.  The tractor did not have power steering, so holding it and cultivator in a straight path was not always easy. After a few rounds of the field, my father asked me if I would like to try driving.  Reluctantly, I sat down behind the steering wheel, popped the clutch, and took off down the field.  Steering was harder than it looked.  Forty feet of corn, in a four-row swath, were ploughed out before I had driven five minutes.  My father gently gave me a few suggestions as I went awkwardly and destructively down the field and back.  After a few more rounds, my father asked me to stop the tractor.  I obviously was not controlling the tractor and cultivator. My father hopped off and said he had some chores to do in the barn.  I was to finish the field and then come in for lunch.  All morning long, in my father’s absence, I plied my way back and forth across the corn field.  Huge sections of corn were torn out, roots exposed to the drying sun, and stalks prematurely sliced down.  But by noon I learned to handle the tractor and the cultivator. My father’s absence was a sign to me that he trusted himself and what he taught me.  It also signalled that he trusted me.  His absence was empowering rather than disabling.  It authorized me to trust myself and trust what he had taught me.  I would never have learned to cultivate corn had I worked anxiously under his critical eye, hanging on his every gesture and comment.


That is the meaning of Ascension and Pentecost. 

Jesus’ withdrawal becomes an empowering absence. 

It is a sign that he trusts what he has taught us enough to set us free. 

He refuses to allow us to depend upon him. 

We cannot cling to him but must learn to discover his authority among ourselves.  Thus, he tells Mary not to cling to him but to return to the community of his disciples. (John 20:17). 

This sense of empowerment and authorization is exhilarating.  It is like tongues of fire.  We name that experience the Spirit of the Living God.

We honour Jesus’ absence when we refuse to become little authorities, trying to fill up Jesus’ absence. 

We honour Jesus’ absence when we help others experience the Holy Spirit through mutual collaboration rather than by making them passive, dependent, or subservient to our authority.” 

 


THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK MAY 19TH

PENTECOST SUNDAY


As we prepare to celebrate Pentecost Sunday, I want to share with you this reflection which I found online on a website called SALT+


1. The birthday of the church is a perfect time to reflect on what “the church” is in the first place. This week’s passage points toward a portrait of the church as a dynamic community of people following Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry out God’s mission of healing, liberation, and joy for the sake of the world.                                                                                                               


2. This community is strikingly inclusive and egalitarian. The Jews Peter addresses are immigrants from all over the known world, who now live in Jerusalem, and the Jesus movement will soon open up to include Gentiles as well. Accordingly, Luke casts the church as a diverse, prophetic community of bridge-builders, visionaries, and dreamers, male and female, enslaved and free (Acts 2:17) and soon enough, this egalitarian, communitarian ethos extends to the church’s social organization as well: “they would sell their possessions and goods

and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need."                                                                                                                     

3. Likewise, this is a perfect week to reflect on how we understand the Holy Spirit. Luke’s portrait of the Spirit draws on ideas at least as ancient as Ezekiel’s vision, in which God’s “breath” or “spirit” — both ru’ah in Hebrew — brings life, renewal, connection, and restoration, sometimes in sudden, disruptive fashion (compare Ezekiel’s “suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together” to Luke’s “suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind” (Ezekiel 37:7, Acts 2:2).                                                                                                                               

4. But for all the drama, Pentecost is only the beginning: throughout the Book of Acts, again and again, the Spirit mobilizes the church and opens up new horizons for ministry. Breath means new life — and new life means new growth, change, and ongoing development. The Spirit protects and connects, but also challenges, provokes, and pushes us along.                                                                                               


So, “Happy Birthday,” yes — and also, “Let’s go!”

The church is not a building, nor is it a particular membership or group of people.

At its heart, the church is a mission,

God’s mission and the call, the challenge, the adventure continues.                     

Let’s go!