Thoughts from the Vicar
Sunday 20 January
3rd Sunday of Epiphany
Prayer is the living breath of the Christian life and the bible provides wonderful resources for our prayer lives. Two familiar prayers in the Bible are:
A Prayer of Praise
“Praise the LORD, my soul. LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendour and majesty. The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent.” Psalm 104
A prayer of steadfast commitment
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” Habakkuk 3
Other good examples of biblical prayers can be found in Colossians 1, Matthew 6, 2 Samuel 7, 1 Kings 8, Ezra 9. (The challenge for the week is to find examples of prayers in Chapters 2, 4 & 5 of any biblical book - fair trade chocolate bar to the first person to do so.)
A prayer calendar
The Bible provides us with examples, models, patterns and a rich variety of resources to shape our prayer life. It is useful to have a church community calendar or diary of topics to pray for so we can pray for the whole life of the Church in a structured way. If you would find a Church Prayer Diary helpful then please take one from the back of the church (A5 green cards headed Prayer Diary). The Calendar does not have a prayer to say but for each day it has three topics for you to craft your own prayer. The three topics are shaped by our mission statement
In a broken world we seek to live out the love of God in all we do, by:
Making Jesus Known
Building Jesus’ Kingdom
Bringing hope to a broken world
One topic is about making Jesus known, another about building his kingdom and the third bringing hope to a broken world.
You could put the prayer calendar in the front of your Bible, so it’s easy to pray when you do your bible reading and use the Bible as a prayer resource. Or alternatively put it in a note book to use as a journal of what you have prayed for and how God has answered. These answers become part of our praise and thanksgiving and a resource that we can draw on in our future prayers.
Sunday 6 January
A new calendar year begins, what lies ahead?
Regardless of the way people voted in the referendum - the nature of the negotiations, the behaviour of politicians (of all parties and persuasions) all accompanied by attention-grabbing headlines have helped generate an unhelpful mixture of fear, anxiety and anger. The concern of many is that this downward spiral will continue not just in the run up to March but also afterwards. In the light of this, we need to declare loud and clear Christianity as a message of faith, hope and love.
Our St. Peter’s mission statement starts with the important recognition that we live in a broken world. It is a recognition that the world is not as it should be and we see this in a multitude of ways, not just over Brexit. As Christians, our response is not to hide behind the sofa in fear or denial or to eat, drink, be merry and pretend everything is ok. We follow God’s pattern - at Christmas God sent his only son into the world and the incarnation is God’s response to a broken world.
Our response is the same. We are called to live out the love of God through:
Making Jesus known: In a world where it looks as if chaos rules and fear crouches near in a world often without hope, we need to tell anew the real story of Jesus. This is the reality of God’s plans and purposes, of how love wins and hope is not defeated - that there is purpose and meaning and a bigger picture that we can be part of.
Building Jesus’ Kingdom: Prayer and worship change things. They are our declaration of our loyalty to and faith in Jesus. They tell friends and family that our lives have a different set of priorities to those of the world - particularly when we prioritise worship over other activities. Worship becomes the priority rather than worship being what we do when there are no other activities as pressing. Even more importantly prayer and worship bring in the Kingdom itself - they change not just perceptions but the spiritual reality.
Bringing Hope to a broken world: We don’t do good to make others Christian, we do good because we are Christian although, of course, it’s wonderful if people come to faith through the good works we do or support. Just as God, in and through Jesus, brings divine love, healing, reconciliation, transformation - so we can, and are called to, do the same.
This new year whatever lies ahead let’s live out the love of God in all we do.
Sunday 16 December
3rd Sunday of Advent
This week we reach the half way point of our Journey through Advent as we light the third of the candles on the Advent Wreath. The candle reminds us of John the Baptist, the wild prophet in the wilderness calling people to change their ways, to signal this life changing decision by being plunged under the waters of the river Jordan and to live out this in changed priorities and changed behaviours. The call to change is an urgent one: “beware there is judgement coming, prepare” is John’s warning.
There was once a time when such religious warnings were part of our culture, the folks stood on street corners with a placard declaring “Beware the End is Nigh” in one hand and a Bible in the other. But as these prophets of doom have gradually disappeared so other urgent warnings and their proponents have taken their place not on street corners but across the newspapers, social media, and garden gates.
- Beware your food is full of plastic.
- Beware we will run out of rare minerals.
- Beware this winter will be wet/cold/warm/dry/snowy (delete as appropriate).
- Beware flu is coming.
- Beware the oceans shall rise and cities will be flooded.
- Beware of the dog.
It is probably only the last one that many will take any notice of, possibly because it is most immediate and to ignore may result in immediate pain and discomfort as a furry creature sinks its teeth into an ankle or leg. As human beings we are probably wired in our DNA to prioritise what is an immediate risk or necessity over what are longer term challenges and concerns.
Interestingly John the Baptist in his ministry does both.
There was the immediacy: don’t be part of this corrupt generation. Change now! Be baptised! Save yourselves! The call was clear; judgement was coming, how or when John doesn’t say but it is coming. However he also addressed the long-term issue that we can have every intention of changing, can make promises and commitments, sign international accords but somehow, we fail to live up to these hopes and aspirations.
John recognised we need help and pointed towards Jesus who would baptise with the Holy Spirit. A baptism that pours the power and presence of God into each believer enabling us to not just try to live out those changes in our own strength but strengthened and supported by God. If we want to bring change yelling the end is nigh does little good, but living a life changed by the presence of God’s Spirit of love within us is a message many are longing to hear.