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And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.

John 3.19-21

Populist politicians have again come to the fore in the Western World. They identify with the disenchantment of the electorate and appeal to emotions with quick and naïve ‘solutions’. This situation fills many with dread, especially those who have read and learnt from history. We might even claim there is a battle going on between light and dark.

The belief in something outside the earthly realm, yet One who is deeply committed to healing the world of its wounds, activates us. Our imagination is fuelled by the possibility of something better. No matter how tough the fight, no matter how long is the war to be waged, it is a battle worth committing to. We may not see the outcome of all our actions but we can be content in the knowledge that our contribution has been significant.

 

Eternal Light,

Paternal and Maternal,

having birthed our faith You inspire and nurture us,

You defend, with us, the causes that are right and just.

You fight alongside us, so that together,

we will defeat those who seek to destroy your sovereign rule.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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Journeying toward Lent 4

Monday 5th March– Saturday 10th March

 

 

If you can light a candle then do so to remind you that God is present.

Be still.

Be quiet.

Listen.

Receive.

 

God of time and space,

at this point I focus on your presence here and now.

May this pause be a moment

to ponder your nearness

and your guidance.

Amen.

 

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Numbers 21.4,5

 

 

‘Eat your food! Stop complaining!’

How many of us grew up with these instructions?

‘Accept your lot. Things could be worse.’

It’s not always easy to hear such words. They may add to our woes and might feel justifiably more aggrieved.

What will you complain about today? Will you be justified? After all, there is a degree of discontentment about life, even for those who live in relative luxury.

We only seem to appreciate what we had when it’s taken from us. But we can’t go back. We are where we are.

Consider the God who provides sufficient for all our needs. Seek what blessings there are even in the midst of the grumbles.

 

I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining. I believe in love, even when I cannot feel it. I believe in God, even when he is silent.

Graffiti on the wall of a Cologne cellar

in which Jews had hidden during the Holocaust

 

From complacency – deliver us.

From the incessant carping – forgive us.

From that which diminishes us – lead us.

Amen.

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Temple Steps, Jerusalem

 

Lent 3 Sunday 4th March

When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone. John 2.23-25

 

It’s easy to believe when there is ample evidence; or when there is plenty of razzmatazz; less so when all seems quiet. Yet the seed grows in the dark.

Jesus does not trust himself with those who look for a show, with those who base their faith on flamboyance. Impressive though his actions may be, impressive too the impact the faithful may have on the world, or even the patient, long-term commitment of the disciple, but the ones who base their convictions on certainty are soon disappointed.

It is mystery and uncertainty, wrestling with dilemma and doubt that transform the soul from self-interest to service, from pride to that open humility which is the most infectious.

 

You turn the tables of those who had missed the point.

In the loss of certainty and the ensuing chaos,

may we realise our errors and our need for something different;

so that we journey from the desire to know,

to a place of willing trust. Amen.

 

Journeying toward Lent 3

Monday 26th February – Saturday 3rd March

 

If you can light a candle then do so to remind you that God is present.

Be still.

Be quiet.

Listen.

Receive.

 

God of time and space,

at this point I focus on your presence here and now.

May this pause be a moment

to ponder your nearness

and your guidance.

Amen.

 

Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

Exodus 20.1-3

 

Recall an incident that turned out better than expected.

One that could have ended in disaster but didn’t. It had been fraught with danger. It may have been life-changing, or even life-threatening.

Maybe things weren’t so bad as they first seemed.

Or maybe they were….but somehow you got through.

You learned to live again. Perhaps in ways different to before. But you came to a place of refuge and rest. You breathed more freely. You felt at peace after the trauma of the experience. The sun shone, the birds sang and the scent of flowers lifted your spirits.

Give thanks to the One God who delivers us from evil.

 

‘Even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so doing change himself. He may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph.’

Victor Frankl (Holocaust survivor), Man’s Search for Meaning

 

 

Protecting God,

When we fall, You quietly pick us up.

When we fear, You gently hold on to us.

When the future looks bleak, You nudge us onwards,

until at last we find ourselves

in the place you would have us be. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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Southwell Minster

 

Lent 2 Sunday 25th February

 

You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him.

The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. May your hearts live forever!  

Psalm 22. 23-26

 

What troubles you? What keeps you awake at night and disturbs you in your waking hours? It is not wrong to feel anxious or afraid, however awful such moments are. It is not a sign of weakness but it may be a symptom of sensitivity. To paraphrase a saying: more change is wrought by insomniacs than this world dreams of.

The Psalm given to the voice of Jesus in his sense of abandonment on the cross (Psalm 22) ends in hope. God does not abandon even those who feel lost and all alone. The One to whom we look in times of distress for comfort and reassurance is also the One who knows how it is for us.

 

Reasssuring, Suffering God,

In our pain and dismay you weep with us.

In our fears you hold us.

In our longing you walk with us. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Journeying toward Lent 2

Monday 19th February – Saturday 24th February

 

If you can light a candle then do so to remind you that God is present.

Be still.

Be quiet.

Listen.

Receive.

 

God of time and space,

at this point I focus on your presence here and now.

May this pause be a moment

to ponder your nearness

and your guidance.

Amen.

 

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” Mark 8.31-29

Being on the move from one place to another opens up new experiences and fresh opportunities.

Consider where you will travel today.

Who will you encounter?

What will you think of them? What will they think of you?

Will your frame of mind be challenged? Or your opinion of those you meet be changed? Or how you think of yourself?

 

 

‘To listen to enemies as well as friends is a rule which not only increases sense in common life, but is highly favourable to the increase of religious candour. You find that you are not so free from faults as your friends suppose, nor so full of faults as your enemies suppose.’

Sydney Smith (1771- 1845) in a sermon, The Rules of Christian Charity

 

Today opens up before us.

You will be with us, God.

In the conversations we hold and the exchange of ideas

may our words and thoughts be mindful of your Presence.

So that by end of day we will rest in our new insights. Amen.

 

 

Why?

Why should we bother?

Isn’t Sunday already different enough? Yes and no. It may be different to the rest of the week, but probably insufficiently so.

Sabbath Lincolnshire is a new initiative and is unique to the Methodist Church: one Sunday in a year to especially focus on the sense and meaning of Sabbath; one Sunday out of 52!

This will be on 18 February, the First Sunday of Lent. It is the day we recall that Jesus managed to avoid the temptation to take the easier route to satisfy himself and chose instead to do as God commanded.

No one is asking you to go into a physical wilderness for the 40 days of Lent; but I am inviting you to begin the season with a commitment to make just one day different.

You don’t have to abandon everything you would normally do on a Sunday! But as a start you could consider not using social media, not sending emails, using your phone or computer unless absolutely necessary. If you could avoid television or any form of shopping then that would be good, or perhaps gardening or driving if at all possible; maybe you could walk to church if you are able. It’s not just about giving up something, it may be about doing something different or differently: prepare the meal the night before so that all you need do is cook it on the Sunday after church. You can be as creative as you wish.

Sabbath Lincolnshire isn’t offering a prescription of what to do and what not to do, make it work for you.

The Revd’s. Katie Deakins and Sarah Parkin have produced this excellent and truly helpful guide and resource for you. Both Katie and Sarah see Sabbath as an important feature in their rhythm of life.

Why not give it a go?

Just one Sunday, maybe just the daylight hours. One thing is for sure: you will not be alone, Katie, Sarah and I will be with you in this, and so will many others across the Lincolnshire Methodist District as we together celebrate Sabbath Lincolnshire.

 

Every Sabbath blessing,

The Revd Bruce Thompson

Chair Lincolnshire Methodist District.

 

 

 

Shabbat – The Sabbath- an introduction

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies. There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work: wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord”. (Leviticus 23:1-3)

 

This portion of scripture sets the scene for us. Sabbath is not just any other day; it is a ‘festival… a Sacred Assembly’ – a celebration in its own right. Leviticus speaks of a seventh day which follows six days when we may work. In the church that day of Sabbath rest is Sunday, also known to us as ‘The Lord’s Day’.

 

During daylight hours we will seek to avoid: Social media, television, shopping, cleaning the car etc.

If we are avoiding all the things named above – what on earth are we supposed to do?

Maybe we could break our day down into 4 sections:

  • Morning – Inauguration of the Sabbath

 

An inauguration is a beginning or introduction of a system, policy, or period, or indeed a ceremony to mark that beginning.

We begin our day by going to Church to worship God in the company of others. This ceremoniously marks for us the beginning or introduction of Sabbath.

In the same way that our keeping Shabbat is a ‘sacred assembly’ meeting together with like-minded people falls into that category.

If we are to get as much as possible out of this day, we do NOT want to be rushed and stressed out when we turn up to worship God with our brothers and sisters.

The solution is preparation. If we prepare everything the day before: Clothes, bathroom slots, pick up times then it is likely that we will avoid the chaos and be in the right frame of mind for worship.

 

A Morning Prayer

Holy God, eternal source of life, love and all that is good, we praise and thank you at the beginning of this special day for the gift of Sabbath.

As this Sabbath day unfolds we pray that you will help us to find rest and refreshment in you; and to take time to delight in you, in each other and in all that you have made.

Help us to view this day differently, that we might glimpse you and the world as you created it to be.

Help us to reconnect with you and with each other, and in so doing to welcome your divine presence in each and every moment.

Amen

 

 

 

 

  • Afternoon

Consider a special meal. Take your time with this – depending on how many are round your table it can take 3 hours, but today we are not counting the hours and minutes.

 

Sabbath is a festival, a Sacred Assembly; it is a celebration of all that is good in our lives and in our ‘faith’. This deserves a special meal. In many ways, the Sabbath table holds central place today.

Get out your best table cloth, cutlery, and glasses. Set aside a candle specially.

Again prepare most of this the day before so that all you need to do is set it to cook, dish out, sit down and enjoy in one another’s company.

In the same way that you would say grace and thank God for the food on the table; also, remember the people around your table, how precious you are to one another and to God, thank God for the relationships you share. Thank God for the opportunity that this Sabbath is offering to you.

Our prayers do not have to be rushed through in one go, but interspersed throughout the meal as follows:

Candle Blessing

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has set us apart by your commandments and has commanded us to kindle the Sabbath lights.

Blessing over the wine or similar drink

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe who creates the fruit of the vine

Pour wine or a similar drink for everyone around your table – enjoy!

Blessing over the bread

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe who brings forth bread from the earth

Share out the bread to everyone around your table – as you pass it to one another, don’t forget to wish one another a peaceful Sabbath, above all, enjoy its simplicity!

The Blessing over the actual meal and the family – use your own words for this…

Enjoy your meal

 

  • A time for Sharing

 

The Sabbath is meant to be a time of worship to the Lord God and a time of family sharing. After your meal, do not rush off to do other things, sit and enjoy one another’s company. Take time to listen to each other, chat about what has happened in your week. Give everyone around your table a voice – from the old right through to the young. Remember, it is around our Lord’s table that we find healing and wholeness. Healing and wholeness is also found around the Shabbat table. I offer you a story, or case study, call it what you will, to help you see what can be achieved by sharing. Names have been changed to preserve anonymity:

Yaakov was 10 years old; his parents were going through a messy divorce. His step father had taken his younger brother Yitzchak away and refused to return him to his mother. The authorities were dragging their heels. Yaakov’s mother Hannah was not in a good place, she was not coping well with the absence of her younger child. Despite Hannah’s love for Yaakov, he just wasn’t feeling it. His schoolwork was suffering big time, his behaviour was very erratic, and he exploded into floods of tears for what appeared, no reason. He had to go to therapy which was only adding to his distress. He did not want to open up to strangers. Hannah found a job to help support her and Yaakov. Because of this, Yaakov spent more time at his maternal grandparent’s house and would stay over every Friday night. Friday night was special. It was curry night! Uncle and aunts, or any other friend picked up along the way would come over to the house and everyone would have curry with naan bread. Everyone had wine (or ‘wine without the hangover’ for the younger ones). Grandma or Mim would light the candle in the centre of the table. When the bread was broken and passed round special words were said. When the wine was poured, again, special words were said.

Nobody rushed away from the table. At first Yaakov just enjoyed being part of this ‘party’ but then as the weeks went by and as confidence grew, he was asked, as always, “Yaakov how was your week?” He started to respond with honesty. “My week was terrible… this happened… and this… and now I have this…” Together with family, Yaakov was able to put voice to his fears and his family were able to help him work through his issues and heal the hurt. Yaakov is now doing very well at school, and has now with the help of his family got a place along with his 14 year old aunt Mim, at a small independent school.   He was recently asked by a social worker and by his headmaster, what his favourite thing in the week was, his reply was: “Curry night… it’s amazing… you can come too, Grandma won’t mind!”

Yaakov’s school report contained the following words: “Yaakov is a different boy to the one who started with us a short time ago and we have no doubt that he will continue to go from strength to strength”

The Sabbath meal does not need to be elaborate; the curry was prepared before Sabbath and cooked in a slow cooker to avoid the stress of slaving over a hot stove. What was most important in all of this was putting God and God’s love at the centre of this ‘Sacred Assembly’, and the family. This in turn brought stability and a healing experience to a very confused, hurt and lonely boy whose life had become so chaotic that he did not know what to do.

 

  • Evening

 

An ideal opportunity to ‘rest’ in one another’s company and get out those board games: monopoly, scrabble, trivial pursuit, tipping point, cluedo?!

Going back now to our opening statement: During daylight hours we will seek to avoid: social media, television, shopping, cleaning the car etc.

Would Yaakov’s healing have been possible if the family were sat in front of a TV set or being slaves to social media? I very much doubt it! What we were talking about here was a Friday evening. Just imagine what a full day could achieve! Imagine what small miracle could happen in your own family. The first Sunday in Lent is Sabbath Lincolnshire, Imagine what small miracles could happen all over our district!

First and foremost, our desire is that you find rich blessings by simply ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. Give it a try for one day; we suspect that it may well be the first of many!

 An Evening Prayer

 Gracious and loving God, as this Sabbath draws to its close, we look back on the day that is past and thank you for those moment, brief and extended, or reconnection, delight, and refreshment; we especially thank you for those glimpses of you and for the experience of your divine presence. [Short pause]

We are sorry for those times and those ways we allowed ourselves to become distracted, or to be drawn back to that which we had intended to set aside. [Short pause] Forgive us and help us to know ourselves forgiven and beloved through Jesus.

At the ending of this Sabbath day, grant us restful, refreshing sleep that we might awake ready to face all that the week will hold, ever watchful for, and aware of, your presence and your delight in all that you have made. 

 

Shalom aleichem (Peace be upon you)

 

 

 

 

 

Published by the Lincolnshire Methodist District

Text Katie Deakin

Prayers Sarah Parkin

Passion final

Launde : Passion, painting copyright Bruce Thompson

 

 

Lent 1 Sunday 18th February

Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long……All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

Psalm 25.5,10

 

It’s not easy, keeping to what is right: the numerous distractions; the behaviour of others; the possibility of easier options, each promising a quicker reward.

The promises of God cannot be fulfilled without a willing and receptive heart. But such is the love of God that patience is a given. For even those whose hearts have not yet been broken open, the undying love of God remains eager to gently step in.

 

 

God of patience and loyalty,

who looks upon us with loving eyes

and who longs for us to willingly receive the wisdom

to know and do truth,

grant us such open hearts and enquiring minds

that we might discern what is right and proper

for us and our world.

Amen.

 

 

 

Relax

1 February 2018

Relax, we are not expected to save the Church, we are called to love our neighbour (and God helps us do that).

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The year ahead looms large in the imagination. We are on the cusp of change. It may be that the events of 2017 are casting a shadow over us; if so, the uncertainty can be constraining. Just as places unfamiliar to us 12 months ago are now household names, so we wonder where, who, or what, will make the news in 2018.

People of faith are not immune to a sense of anxiety the unknown can inflict. Such a feeling, debilitating though it may become, is a symptom of awareness. Those with closed minds and cold hearts are desensitised to the impact of unknowing. If we are anxious about the world, about our nation, community and lives then this could be a gift; one that can be nurtured to create empathetic and positive responses to the urgent task of healing the rifts that have opened up over recent times.

My own opinion is that division across society has never been deeper in my lifetime than it is today. Consider wealth inequality: where a tiny minority can languish in an extravagant lifestyle while millions have little or no chance of bettering their situation; it seems that the social mobility of the post-war period has been put on hold for the vast majority. Or ponder the regional differences, always present of course, but the contrast has surely not been so stark before. The possibility of certain parts of our islands having special status post-Brexit is very real, endorsing what is already evident to so many. Not for a very long time have the two main political parties been so far apart. Now some may think this to be a good thing, a fact that allows for a clear choice. There is nothing wrong with choice in a democracy, I thoroughly endorse it. However, when opposing political ideologies have become as extreme as they have these past few years, there is a real danger that identity becomes tribal. One feature of this is when members on each side are no longer open to hearing the truths expressed by the other. Certainty of mind creates a menacing arrogance.

Those who seek to follow Jesus should have an eloquent riposte. We read of one who sought, and was able, to reconcile and rejuvenate. He did so not so much by engaging in talk but by action: the overlooked caught his eye, the worried were calmed, the bereaved consoled, not through platitudes but through the installation of hope in their lives.

In the Christian Church we are not devoid of division. Some may have celebrated the Reformation recently but it began five centuries of splintering where the prophets, or even odd ones out, could form their own movement and church rather than stick it out, enter into dialogue and engage in a more effective inter-transference of ideas than has been otherwise the case. Certainty and arrogance on both sides has resulted in a less believable Church.

Today, on the one side we have those who hold tight to their selected verses in order that their prejudices be not confronted. On the other we have those who are so dismissive of accumulated wisdom that they make it up as they go along. Both are literally creating their own religion; though they would strenuously deny it of course. Neither approach is helpful, in fact the first is anachronistic and the latter short-termist.

Regard for the context of our scriptures alongside the need to remain open and alert to the prompting of the Spirit through the arts, science and philosophy renders a more credible religion, one in which others might more readily invest their time. The presumptuous certainties that are so derisory of others’ views born out of experience and tempered by events should have no place in the Christian Church.

An attractive and convincing religion is one that is authentic and credible, not one that is tribal and closed to the possibility that God is doing something new and now.