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Ian's Blog

A thought for the day

John 16 verse 32 says “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.  

Many people  are feeling lonely and isolated at this time and if not personally then we will certainly know someone in that situation.    Well perhaps there are friends who you sent a Christmas card but who you have not communicated with directly for a long time. Why not make contact?  Write them a letter or give them a call. Just the act of enquiring how they are  will make you and maybe them feel a bit better about being under lockdown.   Any time  we are lonely we could ask Jesus to come into our lives We need never fear that he will not come . As the old hymn tells us - Oh what peace we often forfeit, or what needless pain we bear , all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.   Either or ideally both  will only take a few moments of our week but could make such a difference.   

Comfort, we ask you most gracious God, all who are cast down and faint of heart amidst the sorrows and difficulties of the world; and grant that by the power of the Holy Spirit, they may be lifted up to you with hope and courage, and enabled to go upon their way, rejoicing in your love; through Christ Our Lord, amen.

Reflection on Jesus call to ministry - Mathew 9 vs 35 to 10 vs 8

 

 

Our Gospel this morning is from Matthew,  Chapter 9 verse 35 to Chapter 10 verse 8

 

The Workers Are Few

 

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 

 

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 

 

37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 

 

38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

 

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve

 

10 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

 

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 

 

Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 

 

Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

 

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 

 

Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel! 

 

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 

 

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

 

This is the Gospel of the Lord

 

Good morning. The intention was to record in Akeley Churchyard, but the wind was such we have had to move back to Maids Moreton

 

Let us first pray

 

Lord we thank you for bringing us together to worship you this morning.

 

Help us to listen and to learn from your word and to be encouraged by it to face with confidence the challenges that still lie before us.

 

Although physically apart, bring us ever closer into your family

 

In Jesus name we pray.

 

Amen 

 

As I was assembling my ideas for today I naturally thought about Covid 19. We have given a fancy name to it — a pandemic — but in earlier times we would have called it a plague. 

 

A plague can be defined as an epidemic disease causing a high rate of mortality : 

 

They can affect humans, animals or plant life.

 

Plagues are nothing new, but one difference is that now the we have it placed before us by the media all the time. Mostly from a negative point of view. 

 

How are you coping with Covid 19? It is hard isn’t it?

Separated from family and friends.

Young people not knowing how their educational opportunities will pan out or if they will find employment.

Vast numbers of people potentially out of work.

Parents anxious about there prospects, and how they will support their families 

Will things like sport, entertainment, restaurants, pubs, cafes, ever be the same. Can we go on holiday again?  When can we meet collectively in our churches again?

 

The list of negatives is endless.

 

But so are the positives but we only tend to find those in the bottom corner of an inside page in the newspaper.

 

Traffic and thus pollution greatly reduced

Time to stop and enjoy nature

Parents able to spend time with their kids!

Being able to step out of the rat race

The quiet

Time to reflect on what is really important in our lives.

 

One of the best things that has happened is that so many more people are helping others.Some doing big things but most showing little acts of human kindness to someone else. Do you notice how many more people acknowledge you as you pass. Showing the need for human contact!

 

Even as christians many of us have got out of the habit of such acts, being too self centred, too concerned about our own lives, and rather less about the charge that Jesus Christ has given us.

 

And so todays readings are a timely reminder 

 

Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 

 

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 

 

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

 

We may not have the medical skills to heal the medical condition, Covid 19, but I foresee the greater medium to long term need being for the mental health of those around us. There we can help by our contact, by giving our time to listening to and reassuring people.

 

37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

 

This Gospel  passage describes a pivotal moment in Jesus ministry. Up until now,Mathew’s Gospel has all been about Jesus’ personal ministry. Jesus had been traveling all throughout Galilee, teaching and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom. Not only that, he’d been healing the sick, giving sight to the blind and raising the dead back to life.

 

Can you imagine what it would have been like to see this? It would have been extraordinary. 

 

But as we move into In Matthew chapter 10:1 we read, “Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” 

 

We are right at the moment when Jesus makes the switch from preaching and teaching and healing himself, to commissioning his disciples to go out to preach and teach and heal. 

This is the moment when Jesus commissions his followers to do what he’s doing. So what does this tell us? It tells us that whatever happens, if we claim to be a follower of Jesus then we are charged with exercising the same type of ministry that Jesus had. 

 

We read in verse 36, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them.” 

 

The compassion of Jesus is a theme that keeps coming up in the book of Matthew.

because Compassion is at the heart of Jesus.

 

You could think that the reason for that compassion would be because of the sicknesses that he’s encountered everywhere he goes.That is certainly worth his compassion. 

 

But what moves Jesus here isn’t the physical illnesses that he’s encountered. Verse 36 says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” 

 

What moved Jesus was the great spiritual need of the people. Their lives had no centre, their existence seemed aimless, and their whole experience was one of futility. How many of us, if we are honest have experienced such moments in our Covid lockdown?

 

If we are to serve like Jesus served, we must have a heart that is like the heart of Jesus. This means that we must have compassion for those we encounter who have not yet found the great Shepherd Jesus Christ. It means that we look around us and see people the way Jesus does, and feel compassion for them the way that he does.

 

As we read this passage today, we, like the disciples,  are given something to believe and then something to do.

 

First, we’re given something to believe. Jesus says in verse 37, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” 

 

He tells us is that the harvest is ready. People are ready to receive the good news of the kingdom. The problem isn’t that people are unready to receive the good news; the problem is that we aren’t ready to tell them. 

 

One of our greatest challenges as Christians is that we can believe  that people aren’t interested, that it’s a waste of time to tell them. Jesus tells us that is not right.They are ready to hear. This is what he tells us to believe. Do you believe it?

 

Then he gives us something to do about it. 

 

You would expect Jesus to say, “ Get out there and tell them!” But that’s not what he says. Surprisingly, he says, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Jesus tells us to pray first instead of doing something? 

 

In the very next chapter, remember, he’s going to instruct his twelve disciples, and then send them out to preach and teach and do the things that he’s done. 

 

But he knows that before any can have the ministry that he has, they must have the same prayerful reliance on the Father that he does. Before we can have the compassion of Jesus, we must have the connection with the Father that Jesus has.

 

It’s one thing for us to go and do. It’s another thing altogether to plead with God that he would raise up people — either through conversion or growth — who are ready to go; to pray that God would give them a spirit for the work, call them to it, and give them wisdom and success.

 

When I think of the cross and I see the Shepherd willingly lay down his life for me so that I could become one of his sheep I know the least I can do is pray for others.

 

And when we start to believe that the harvest is plentiful and pray that he would send out workers, you never know if we may become the answer to our own prayers — that we could be the workers commissioned by the Lord of the harvest himself. 

 

What an inspiring thought!

 

Let us pray!

 

Lord, your harvest is your love;

A love sown in the hearts of all people;

Love that spreads out like the branches of a great tree covering all who seek its shelter;

Love that inspires and that recreates;

Love that is planted in the weak and the weary, the sick and the dying and those who spend their life in fear.

 

The harvest of your love is the life that reaches  to the sunlight of resurrection through the weeds of sin and death.

 

Lord, nurture our days with your love, water our souls with the dew of forgiveness, that the harvest of our lives may be your joy.

 

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

Gospel reading for 3rd May and some reflections on it for the service from Lillingstone Daryell on that date.

 

 

John 10:1-10 The Good Shepherd and His Sheep

 

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.  

 

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 

 

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 

 

 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 

 

But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognise a stranger’s voice.” 

 

Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

 

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 

 

All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 

 

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 

 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

------------------------------

Hello. It is good to be writing to you even if rfom my isolation at home.

 

As I prepared my thoughts for today, a number of things crossed my mind.

 

I now wake up each morning to the sound of silence, apart from the birds. No traffic noise. I have no feeling that I have to rush to get on with one of the many tasks that are normally there.

 

All I can hear is the sound of the wind in the trees and of the birds. Particularly pigeons, a pair of which are nesting in our back garden.

If you sit quietly and watch them, you see their anxiety in everything they do. Always stopping and checking that it is safe to enter the nest. Always out and about seeking nesting materials and food! A bit like all of us at the moment in lockdown! Anxious about what is to happen next!

 

If we do nothing else different at this difficult time, let us stop and observe the beauty of nature and the rhythms of life all around us which we are usually to busy to look for and observe. It reminds us how wonderful creation is. Watching the pigeons I feel closer to nature and I feel closer to God, 

 

Our Gospel reading today reflects that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things.

 

In the old testament the concept of the shepherd was often used to symbolise a caretaker of God’s people. Have a look at Ezekiel 34! It tells us that God had given great responsibility to the leaders, the shepherds of Israel to care for the people of Israel. This they hadn’t done. And so he promised to provide a true Shepherd, Jesus, to care for the sheep. 

 

In our reading, Jesus is speaking to those who were supposed to be the guardians of the holy law. The moral leaders! To be the shepherds! But as we read too often in the bible, they were hidebound by their misguided perception of the law, without basic understanding and humanity.

 

There are two images in this text.  In 10:1-5 Jesus simply speaks a truth that his hearers would have known and relied upon.  Because Judean's highly valued their sheep as a main source of their food and their clothing  they would have known each one of them and they would have protected them with their lives. There are also a couple of interesting things about the shepherd with whom Jesus identifies himself. 

 

First, this shepherd has the well-being of the sheep at heart, rather than his own well-being.  This shepherd is neither thief nor bandit who would steal sheep, considered a profoundly anti-social act and one in which the sheep would only come to a bad end.  Jesus emphasises the difference between the bandit and shepherd:  the shepherd enters rightly, properly, and openly into the sheepfold. All is open and above board, a cooperative effort with an obliging doorkeeper and sheep who respond to the sound of their name.  

 

There is a relationship of trust among all parties here.  Notice that the sheep are not presented as stupid.  They "know" whom they can trust. In verse 4, their trust is validated and emphasised by another piece of the shepherd's behaviour: He brings the sheep out of the fold and then goes before them. The sheep do not simply escape some confinement or hasten out of the fold to brave the larger world on their own.  Their shepherd leads them out and then goes in front of them, to lead them.  The sheep are not abandoned.

 

The text tells us that the audience didn’t understand this analogy so Jesus tries again to contrast himself with thieving leaders.  He becomes very specific about those who had come before him as the thieves and bandits that he had mentioned in verse 1 and were described in Ezekiel,  from whom the sheep rightly fled. 

 

Jesus says I am the gate, the proper way, the right way, the only way into the sheep fold.  Pasture, that is life, is through me, the gate.  Those who enter are being saved, brought into pasture and life rather than for their destruction. Jesus speaks of the gate to help clarify the image of shepherd.  In both cases it is about the trustworthy one. Whether the one who leads or the one who sets the right path that will lead his followers into ample pasture. 

 

All of us need to follow a good path that leads to good spiritual sustenance.. It is easy to be sidetracked. At the start of the epidemic much good was seen, in caring for those less able. 

Whether it be by simple telephone calls or bringing food and medicines.

 

We did it because it was the right thing to do. Something that instinctively we knew, Jesus would have wanted us to do. He had shown us at this moment in time the right gate to pass through and encouraged us to follow him through it and so many people did. 

 

We must not let that care and compassion fall away.

 

Remember the gate which Jesus wants us to pass through, and do so with confidence and with the certainty that only he can give us, that it is the right thing to do and that he will be there before us to lead us, not just in the current emergency but in everything that we do.

 

This is his promise to us. I will show you the right path and I will open the gate and lead you through it.

 

Let us pray

 

O Lord open my eyes so that I can see the needs of others.

Open my ears so that I may hear their cries.

Open my heart so that they need not be without succour.

Show me where love and faith and hope are needed, and use me to bring them to these places.

Open my eyes and ears that I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for you.

 

I also pray that we may soon meet again in fellowship within our churches and community.

 

In Jesus name I pray Amen

 

Ian

 

 

Thoughts from isolation
Hans has asked me to share a message that I sent to members of the church in Lovell last weekend.   What a strange few weeks these have been! My wife and I are in isolation like so many others. In our case this would have likely happened anyway because Barbara has an unrelated medical condition that increases the need for personal care.   On the positive side, the garden has never been in such good order. On the negative, I miss just being able to pop out to the garden centre to browse and let's be honest, just indulge in the odd plant or three.   I have been asked how people may continue to support the church. Financially this can be done by sending your gifts to  - Lillingstone Lovell PCC - sort code 20-57-40 Account 40021792. Sadly the bills don’t just stop even in these circumstances.   Should you need support or just a friendly voice then you can contact me or the church office on 01280814430 and someone will get back to you. But do follow the advice to stay home unless absolutely necessary.   Our church building like all religious buildings is shut, as they are for all faiths. I think this is unfortunate. I understand no gatherings of more than two people and that therefor our services must be cancelled. But many find solace and mental strength from being able to use the church just as a place of quiet contemplation and many more a necessary place; a place to commune with God Our Father. For me this is the first time for more than 40 years that I have not gone to a church building on Sunday without a specific reason .I am finding that very strange. When working it was a way to switch off from the day to day pressures. Since retiring it has got me out of the house and able to meet and talk to a group of people I like to think of as like minded friends.    However the Diocese is broadcasting a service every Sunday morning at 10.00am. The link is https://www.oxford.anglican.org/coronavirus-covid-19/livestream/. If that doesn’t workout go to the the Diocesan of Oford web site and use the Directory or try  oxford.anglican.org/livestream

In our own Parish we are developing a new Parish web site. The link for that is http://nbpchurches.org.uk/ On this you will find an increasing volume of news and other information. This months Parish Magazine is on there for you to enjoy.

  Last Sunday I was due to preach at the Deanery Lent Evensong. The theme for the series was christian care. In our communion service within the prayers of penitence we are reminded to “ Love your neighbour as yourself”. All around us we see examples of the vast majority of our community working together for others. Whether it by a phone call to someone who might be isolated or collecting some shopping. It has been good to see how people are acknowledging each other and showing courtesy to each other. Long may that continue. Let us shut out the actions of idiots and those in the press who always look for the negative in every situation. Let's be encouraged that the vast majority are working - together - for the common good - truly following the principles of Love your neighbour as yourself.   One of the set Gospel readings for this recent Sunday, Palm Sunday, on, and the Death of Jesus. But it ends with the Centurion and those who were with him proclaiming “Surely he was the Son of God”.   In this difficult time let us as christians never forget the sure and certain knowledge that he is The Son of God. That he will watch over us and will lead us out of our current troubles if we will believe and have trust in him.   May the Lord Jesus watch over you and your families and keep you well and safe.   Every blessing. May we all meet again soon when times are better.   Ian
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