Christ Church

From the Leith Hill Ministry Team

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From Martha Golden, Lay Reader - Monday 18January, 2021
Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139 verses 11-12

In New England, where I come from, we call this time of year "the long drag".  The trees are bare, the days are cold and bleak, and the nights long and dark.  Spring, with its promise of new life seems a long way away.  It is hard at this time of year to feel energetic or optimistic.

It’s the darkness that we find particularly depressing.  Christians tend to associate darkness with sin, blindness and fear.  We long for Christ, the light of the world to come into our lives and dispel the darkness in our hearts and our lives.  It’s hard to feel close to God when you can’t see where you are going, or what that noise in the distance means, or who might be approaching you.

At first glance, scripture has little good to say about darkness.  But a closer look shows that some of God’s most important work occurs at night.  When Abraham despaired of ever having offspring, God led him outside and told him to count the stars saying, “So shall your descendants be”.  Were it not for the night, we would never see the beauty of the stars.  Joseph dreamt of a ladder from earth to heaven at night.  And the two most important events in the Christian calendar, the birth of our Saviour and his resurrection both happened when it was dark.  

I find that some of my best thoughts come at night or just before dawn, when there is little else to distract me.  If you ever wake up in the middle of the night, try lying in the dark, listening for God.  You may discover states of consciousness you have never experienced before.  As the Psalmist has said, “Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge” (19:2).

God our Father, we know you are with us at all times of the day and the night.  Help us to open our hearts and minds to your presence that we may hear and respond to your message of love, healing and hope.  Amen 

From David Grundy, Associate Minister,  11 January
Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you……What Father, if a son asks for….? Matthew 7 verse 7 and following

My great aunt Ursula was a formidable but wonderfully generous lady. She used to spoil us rotten, with very regular presents. When I was about 5 years old, we were staying at her lovely farm and one day, as she was coming down the stairs, I looked up at her in all innocence, and asked “Hello, Aunt Ursula, have you got a present for me?”.  My mother went ballistic, telling me off in no uncertain terms never to ask for or expect a present. 

Our reluctance to ask for something is often based on experiences such as these. And yet, in the above verses, it seems that Jesus is urging us to ask. The verb used is a present imperative, meaning “Go on asking, and you will receive ; go on seeking…..go on knocking”. The context is that of a father, and it is obvious that no good Father gives a child everything they ask for. Like so many of Jesus’ exhortations and promises, this one has been wrenched out of context far too often, but this mustn’t blind us to what it is -  a plea for us to cast away our hesitancy in approaching God in prayer. One other thing to notice about the context: it’s just after those verses about not being judgmental. So maybe it’s main application should be to asking for God to improve and mould our own character. But that is not its only application. God remains Father in all circumstances, and we must cast away any hesitancy we have about asking.  

In the midst of these crisis times, keep praying. Jesus doesn’t just encourage us to, he urges us to.  

God our Father, at this time of crisis, when so many are suffering, we pray for our nation and our world.  Give our leaders wisdom,  our health service strength, our people hope.  Lead us through these parched and difficult days to the fresh springs of joy and comfort that we find in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  

From Hilary Swift, Lay Reader, Monday 4 January - Epiphany
Matthew 2 verse 1-12 – The visit of the Wise Men

There is a wonderful poem about the birth of Jesus, called BC:AD, by UA Fanthorpe, which begins: ‘This was the moment when Before turned in to After.’ 

Jesus’ birth was a momentous turning point in history when God the Creator came to earth.

This week we celebrate Epiphany, (which means a moment of sudden enlightenment or realisation) – the visitation of the Wise Men or Magi to Jesus. They had travelled a long way, presumably a difficult journey and obviously knew of the prophecy that a new king would be born in that region. They must have had great faith in that prophecy and in the guiding star which led them ‘to the place where the young child was.’ Not in Herod’s palace as might have been expected, but in a humble home. Matthew tells us that the Holy Family were in a ‘house’ by this time. The Magi had also come prepared to pay homage to this new king – their gifts were expensive and symbolic: gold for Kingship, Frankincense, incense used in the Jewish Temple, to acknowledge him as a High Priest of God and Myrrh used to embalm bodies after death, foreshadowing his crucifixion.

Fanthorpe’s poem ends, 
And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.

2020 has been a difficult journey and as 2021 begins, we are not yet at the end of that journey but, there is light ahead. The vaccine offers hope for a healthier future, but more than that we, like the Magi, need to keep faith and follow the light - to find a way to live well in these new circumstances, to stay positive and keep looking outwards and upwards. 

Dear Lord. Thank you for the good news that Jesus, ‘the true light, which enlightens everyone’ has come into the world. May we faithfully follow that light as the Magi followed the star and find Jesus and his kingdom for ourselves. Amen.

From Rev Virginia Smith, Monday 28 December
Do not, Lord, then me forsake, do not take thy dear presence from me: haste O Lord, that I be stayed by thy aid, my salvation is in thee. Psalm 38 verses 21-22, from The Sidney Psalms

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  John 1 verse 5

Christmas for what it was worth given that almost everybody had to change all their plans is over and I suspect there may be some relief that there is no longer a need for a pretence at festive high spirits. The pandemic figures appear almost catastrophic and one way and another it is so hard to keep positive. To keep hoping, to keep believing that there will be an end to this nightmare that has struck us. But I believe that we have no alternative but to carry the Light of Christ out into this suffering world and keep the flame of hope alive. That is surely our Christian duty. Isn’t that exactly what the first disciples did when they showed such utter determination to take that same light to the world despite all the opposition and persecution they faced? Yes, it is undoubtedly the season of post- Christmas blues exacerbated by everything else that is going on in our lives, but our lives are still and always will be precious to God and each and every day is a gift from Him to treasure and to give thanks for. God is our salvation, and nothing can deny us that saving grace.

We may be in Tier 4, life may be horribly restricted but we can still talk to family and friends in so many ways and of course we can always talk to God. He will listen and if we want to rant and rage a bit that’s fine just as long as after the ranting and the raging  we allow for the silence in which we will know that God has listened and may even, once in a while want to respond.

I hope the prayer at the end of this reflection will help remind us that even in the blackest place God remains and His Light continues to shine in the darkness come what may.

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          Jewish prisoners Cologne 1944

From Martha Golden, Lay Reader - week of Monday 21 December 
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
Those who lived in a land of deep darkness - on them the light has shined." Isaiah 9 verse 2 

This is a time of joy for many people, but for others, the Christmas season can be anything but bright.  It’s a hard time of year for those who remember people whom they have loved and lost, and particularly this year as people struggle with a virus that may affect their own health or separate them from family and friends.  It’s important to acknowledge this truth while remembering that we are not alone.

The God who comes to us at Christmas was not born into a world where all was joy and celebration.  This is a God who knows first-hand about loss and grief, worry and pain, and what it means to struggle in this life.  He was not immune from the same disappointments and sadness, suffering and grief that we all experience.  Whether that sadness stems from today’s news broadcasts or our personal lives, Jesus understands because he has been there, and is still here.

The joy of Christmas resides in the knowledge that we have a God who travels with us on life’s journey, sharing our triumphs and our tragedies, our joys and our sorrows.  The truth of Christmas is that Christ has come down to earth in order to lift us all up to God and to bring hope to a suffering world.  

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1 verse 5

From David Grundy, Associate Minister,  18 December 
“Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” Luke  2 verse 10

This week we have gone into Tier 3, and in a sense there is a real irony about this, although I do not question the decision at all. The irony is that Christmas is a time we always associate with ‘getting together’ with other people. Families meet up, those who work together usually have a Christmas party, and we send cards, possibly with a Christmas newsletter attached, to people we may well not have had any contact with all year. So, the fact that we’ll be mixing far less will feel especially strange. 

Some think that this ‘getting together’ is just the way Christmas has developed culturally, and has nothing to do with the original meaning. But that, I believe, is wrong. Christmas really did bring people together: why would a group of shepherds from (socially, about as low down the scale as it is possible to get) go and visit the same family as the Magi (a respected academic social group) ? The shepherds were from within Israel, the Magi from beyond its borders. And the family they met were supremely ordinary, from the artisan class within Jewish society. It is a supreme coming together of people from different worlds. 

And, as the magnificent carol expresses it:
“Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel”

Christmas is the coming together of God and man. The restrictions we are living under do not diminish that message one little bit

Lord Jesus Christ, your birth at Bethlehem is the moment when heaven touches earth. As we draw near to celebrating this great feast of Christmas, draw us once more to kneel in wonder at your manger. Amen. 

From Mad Berry, Monday 7 December
Arise, shine for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. Isaiah 60 verse 1

This verse was used in the chorus of a song that my youth group used to sing with gusto back in the 1970s.

It is very much a  verse for our season. It speaks of God being present in a dark time. As we go through Advent and into Christmas in such a different way, it is good for us to remember that Isaiah was speaking into a time of national disaster and wanted his people to continue to put their trust in God and hold on to a spiritual reality that felt far from where they were.

As we move towards celebrating the coming of a Saviour in Bethlehem, and remember his promise to return; let us  hold on to the light that has come in Jesus and the glory of God revealed in His resurrection.

In spite of such difficult circumstances we have much to celebrate, so let’s shine!

Heavenly Father, may we shine with the light of Christ to bring comfort and joy in these difficult times. Amen.

From Tony Berry, Monday 30 November
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12 verse 12  ESV

I was reminded of this verse as I looked at a Bible Society calendar for next year. And what a timely reminder it was.

Advent, the season we are just beginning, is all about a future hope. Hope gives us a reason to rejoice. We could do with a reason to rejoice at the moment. God’s faithfulness is placed soundly in front of us as we remember the promises Christ made concerning His return, a reminder that we are not left bereft, but we can look forward to fulfilling our eternal destiny.

The pandemic has brought us a great deal of tribulation, and many have suffered much more than us, however the issue this verse addresses is not the degree to which we have faced tribulation, so much as how we have faced and dealt with such tribulation as has come our way. Patience is never easy, it goes against our nature even when it would be to our advantage to wait. But if we are able to cultivate it, it is a virtue that will give perspective in difficult times. This week as we move from national lockdown, to the tiered system and all its local implications may we discover the benefits of patience in times of tribulation.

The thing that will cement our hope and enable patience is prayer, and St Paul advises constancy in that. If we are tempted to wonder about why we might feel without hope, or are frustrated at our circumstances, maybe we need to look at our prayer life. That might give us an indicator, and also point the way forward.

Heavenly Father, thank you that you promise us a future and a hope, give us patience in all circumstances; may we learn to seek you in prayer day by day. Amen

From Hilary Swift, Lay Reader, Monday 23 November
Sunday 22 November was the Feast of Christ the King - our patronal saint's day

CHRIST THE KING by Malcolm Guite
Our King is calling from the hungry furrows
Whilst we are cruising through the aisles of plenty,
Our hoardings screen us from the man of sorrows,
Our soundtracks drown his murmur: ‘I am thirsty’.
He stands in line to sign in as a stranger
And seek a welcome from the world he made,
We see him only as a threat, a danger,
He asks for clothes, we strip-search him instead.
And if he should fall sick then we take care
That he does not infect our private health,
We lock him in the prisons of our fear
Lest he unlock the prison of our wealth.
But still on Sunday we shall stand and sing
The praises of our hidden Lord and King.

Jesus tells us to remember the poor and the marginalised and it seems particularly important at this time when the temptation is to look inwards and think only of ourselves. There are so many homeless on the streets, refugees driven from their homes, lonely, cold and unloved. In our comfortable loving homes, let us do what we can to look outwards at those less fortunate and help them wherever and whenever we can.

‘Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”’ Matthew 25:34-36

From Rev Virginia Smith, Monday 156 November
The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.   
Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.      Psalm 114 verse 4, 7-8

In my daily progressive reading of the Psalms I always love it when I come to this one as the image of those mountains and hills skipping is such a delightful one and makes me smile. Not only does it make me smile but it also reminds me that everything in heaven and earth is integral to God’s Creative power. Everything has the innate power to reveal the joy and the wonder of that creation

In the past few days we have been given the oh so welcome news that it would seem that, thanks to the brilliant work of dedicated scientists an effective vaccine has been developed against Covid 19. Hearing such news I am sure that like me while you may not have actually skipped around your house  your hearts were lightened and there was a very real sense that the light at the end of the tunnel could be glimpsed.  A sense that the rocky and flinty path we have travelled for most of this past year will, by God’s grace, be smoothed out and we can find ourselves refreshed, reinvigorated and renewed by the springs of living water which are given us through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There will I’m sure still be stones and obstacles in our way but the hope must surely remain as God’s loving purposes for us his children are once more revealed in all their redemptive mercy and kindness and we can walk in joy and in thankfulness upon a path of light.

All shall be Amen and Alleluia. We shall rest and we shall see, we shall see and we shall know, we shall know and we shall love, we shall love and we shall praise. Behold our end which is no end.  Amen          David Adam

From Martha Golden, Lay Reader, Monday 9 November
I will lift my eyes to the hills, from where will my help come? Psalm 121 verse1

Many people would cite Psalm 121 as their favourite, whether they live among the mountain peaks of the Himalayas or on the flat plains of the American Midwest.  It brings to mind the image of mountains climbing up to meet the sky from whence God promises his everlasting care and protection.  In these times of trial this seems to have enhanced meaning, as our very lifestyles seem to be under threat, and the vulnerability of all is brought to the fore.

This Psalm was often sung or recited by pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem.  At this time we too are pilgrims facing a journey through another period of lock down, with mountains to climb and challenges to meet.  There will be difficulties and frustrations, but also new ways to engage with others and with God.  As we lift our eyes to the hills, let us draw strength from the knowledge that the one who created and sustains us, who neither slumbers nor sleeps is also our fellow traveller, sustainer and comforter.

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore.

From David Grundy, Associate Minister, Monday 2 November 
Seeing that we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us     Hebrews 12 verse 1

Think for a moment of five people in your life who have inspired you – for me, that will be Martin Luther King, Maximilian Kolbe (both famous), and three people who I have known myself but who aren’t as famous.  People who inspire us give us a fresh energy and determination. They make us want to do better and they make us believe that we can. 

The writer of this letter to the Hebrews has just gone through a whole list of inspirational figures in the Old Testament, the impact of each of their lives and what some of them had to go through.  It’s a kind of Who’s Who of saintly heroes in the Old Testament. And then, at the end of this long series of tributes, he writes that because of this “great cloud of witnesses”, we ourselves should take heart and develop a fresh determination to “run the race”. Why a “cloud” ? I guess it’s because a cloud is there above us, but we can’t usually touch it. Similarly, these great saints of previous centuries are there - is it too fanciful to say that they’re looking down on us ? -  but not as tangibly as the people we meet day to day. And I should add that in the often parched land of the Middle East, clouds were a more welcome sight than they are in Surrey at the beginning of November.

As we enter another lockdown, and are perhaps tempted to  feel a sense of weariness with it all, let’s take a look at that “great cloud”, thank God for them  and let them give us renewed courage. 

Lord, sometimes the race seems a bit like hard going. Help us, Lord, to know that we are very much not alone, that we belong to people of faith throughout the ages and across the world, that we belong with them and they with us.  May we draw strength from them, and may we in turn give strength to others, through Christ our Lord. Amen

From Mad Berry, Monday 25 October
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Philippians 4 verse  8.

Paul writes this letter  to the Philippians from prison, probably under house arrest in Rome. Yet it has been described as his happiest letter; in the previous chapter his direction to them has been to “rejoice in the Lord”.  His circumstances were far from ideal and yet he seeks to encourage the church at Philippi;  Paul says that he has learnt the secret of being content  in any situation because he knows that he can do everything through Him who gives him strength.

He encourages his readers to think about the positive things listed in the above verse and yet the sense here is not just to “think about them” but more  to let them shape their attitudes and then to translate such thinking into action.

As we look at our world and the things that concern us--whether they be the big things like Covid 19, Brexit, the US election, or things closer to home in our families, our churches, our work...perhaps we can take Paul’s advice and allow the really good things that God has given us to focus our minds and spur us to action.

Lord as we look at our world we are aware of  division and suffering; may we not lose sight of your goodness. May we allow that goodness to shape our attitudes and move us to action to bring relief and peace. Amen.

From Tony Berry, Tuesday 29 October
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” Joshua 24 verse 15

This rather lovely verse comes from the moment in history when the Isrealites had taken the land of Canaan, and came to renew their covenant with God at a place called Schecham.

Joshua gives the people a choice “Choose today whom you will serve”.

It is the single mindedness of Joshua that draws me to this verse. So often we face choices in all sorts of areas of our lives. But what is the overriding principle that governs our decisions? During these difficult times having such a principle that not only governs but guides our decisions and gives shape to our lives. Without it we can be tossed and turned by the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Paul put it slightly differently in his letter to the Phillipian christians “ for me to live is Christ”

May God help us to have a similar determination to that of Paul and Joshua.

Loving Lord, may we be continually committed to serving you and following in the footsteps of your Son.
Amen

From Hilary Swift, Lay Reader, Monday 12 October

'A Mighty Fortress is our God’ is a well-known hymn by Martin Luther based on Psalm 46: ‘God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble…The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.’

Around the tower of Castle Church, Wittenberg is written in large letters, ‘A mighty fortress is our God.’ This was the church on whose door Martin Luther was said to have nailed a copy of his famous 95 Theses, a list of criticisms against some of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, in particular the practice of selling ‘indulgences’ – basically a way of ‘buying’ your way in to heaven.

Luther wrote this famous hymn in the late 1520s. He had been excommunicated in 1521 for his writings against the church. Excommunication was a terrifying punishment that at that time meant you were no longer a member of the church and so would be condemned to hell for eternity. But Luther and those who supported the Reformation believed that God offered salvation through faith, not the ‘indulgences’ of the church. He put his trust in God, not the corrupt officials of the church at that time.

Often called the ‘Battle Hymn of the Reformation,’ Martin Luther's ‘A Mighty Fortress’ has been translated into almost every known language, and at least eighty different translations have been made into English!

As a new spike in the virus threatens, do we feel full of dread once again? What does the future hold, will we ever beat this virus? One of the most repeated commands in the Bible is ‘Do not be afraid.’ Why should we not be afraid? Because God is greater than any virus, he knows the outcome and he will be with us no matter what.

Our God is a mighty fortress, he will be with us through the difficult times and we can rest in him. ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.’ Proverbs 18 verse 10.

Lord, help us to trust you and rest in you, even when times are difficult and we don’t know what the future will bring. Amen.

From Rev Virginia Smith, Monday 5 October
Preserve me, O God, for in you I have taken refuge; I have said to the Lord, ‘You are my lord, all my good depends on you'.    Psalm 16 verse 1

Just recently we have celebrated the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and the amazing courage of ‘The Few’ whose heroic and self- sacrificing exploits  of airmanship ensured that the skies were freed of  the threat caused by German bombers intent on mass destruction of our towns and cities. But of course, that was not by any means the end of the war and another five weary years of struggle lay ahead involving much hardship, anxiety and fear.

And it seems to me that this pandemic in a way mirrors that time. We ‘fought’ our way through that first lock down cheering on the NHS and key workers every Thursday evening just as people cheered those pilots  as they dived and wheeled in  pursuit of the enemy in the skies above Kent. But now we have become all too aware that lock down was only a preliminary battle and we are in this for the long haul; the war against Covid 19 has not been won and there is a lot more to endure yet before any sort of ‘normal’ can be restored.

I know people are anxious, I know they are fearful, I know there is much hardship just as there was in WW2 but what we must never forget is that God’s promise that we are His people and He is always with us and His love is a gift given to each and every one of us His adopted children. On dark days we need to learn to look for those glimmers of light, those slight rays of hope that reassure us and bring confidence that we are not alone. God is with us and if He is with us we know we can always trust in His loving purposes for us no matter what the temporal world may throw at us.

Your love is love because you know precisely who I am, and what I do, yet love me still.
Your love encompasses the pain and heartbreak of a world in conflict with itself.
Lord of the great, it’s difficult to understand quite how, but all the world’s concerns that scare me so, are somehow in your hand. And taking that to heart, I find my courage a little greater than it was before.        Eddie Askew

From Martha Golden, Lay Reader - Monday 28 September 
The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. Matthew 6 verse 22.

Our eyes serve as windows into the world, enabling us to see and interpret sights. But eyes are also windows into our souls, communicating something of who we are and what we are feeling. When Jesus said, “the eye is the lamp of the body”, he was indicating that eyes have the capacity to illuminate their surroundings. The healthier our eyes are, the more light may emanate from us.

Eyes convey a series of emotions: anger, fear, awe and sheer joy. Think how a person’s eyes open wide at the sight of one of nature’s wonders, or how the eyes of a child shine when she makes a new friend or gains a new understanding. But perhaps most of all, eyes can convey true compassion.

Helmut Thielicke has said that compassion begins with the eyes. Speaking of a recent meeting with a grieving family, a doctor commented, “I was exhausted and desperately sad. My words were inadequate but I looked them in the eye and let that know what we had done and how we had tried”. The doctor’s behaviour with the family signalled involvement and compassion, which always shines forth the from the eyes.

Our present situation, with masks and social distancing, often make deep and serious conversation with others difficult. But even with masks on, we can see each others eyes. And those eyes tell us much of another’s thoughts, from the brightness of a smile, to tears of sadness, to expressions of true compassion.

Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heavenMatthew 5 verse 1.

From David Grundy, Associate Minister, Tuesday 22 September 
I thank my God every time I remember you. Philippians 1,  verse 3

I gather that the first words each morning of a Jew, as he or she wakes up, are “Thanks be to you, living and eternal King, for returning my soul to me with compassion. You are faithful beyond measure” – an ancient custom of thanking God for the new day. 

This morning, reading Paul’s opening words of Philippians – “I thank God every time I remember you” -  instead of calling to mind all the people I try to remember to pray for regularly, I  simply thought of people I was thankful to have in my life and thanked God as I remembered them (you never know, you may have got a mention !) This is not just a question of ‘trying to look on the bright side’. It is something far deeper than that. Paul was in prison in what is now Turkey as he wrote this, dependent on food brought to him by friends. And the church in Philippi, which is in Greece,  sent someone all that way with a financial gift to help pay for Paul’s food. In the midst of Paul’s grim situation, there was cause for thanksgiving.

Paul well knew the seriousness of his situation, but his tone of thankfulness shows that in those extremely trying circumstances, he was still aware of God’s presence alongside and his blessings. As we pray for those in real need of support, let’s interweave this with thanksgiving for Christ’s presence even in those tough situations. 

Lord, in these troubled times, as we hold before you many people in real need, we thank you that in each situation, you are there alongside to love and to bless even amidst the darkness. Amen. 

From Mad Berry, Monday 14 September
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3 verses 22-23.

Walking across the fields in the early morning there is an inescapable feel of autumn in the air, as the dew is heavier and the air a little cooler. For some this brings a feeling of sadness, a feeling of Summer ending and the possibility of a long winter with darker evenings. To add to this there are the new restrictions--the “rule of 6”- and perhaps fears that covid cases will increase and cause more limitations. We might worry about political issues at home and abroad and certainly be saddened by the conflicts we read about.

The writer of the above verses was lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC; and indeed there was much to lament about. Wholesale devastation at the hands of the Babylonians and subsequent exile were no trifling matter, and the first three chapters are hard to read. Yet there is a turning point as the writer recalls the goodness of God. V 20 says “my soul is downcast within me --Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. The writer is certain that God enters the suffering of humankind and is companion in the suffering; this brings hope.

The Message version says 'I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, ….I remember it all..the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope'.

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, His merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness.  V19-23.

So whether we’re sad that Summer is drawing to a close, or feeling anxious for other reasons, we can be assured that God is with us. His love doesn’t run out or dry up, His compassions really are new every morning.

Heavenly Father, thank you that your compassions really are new every morning. Thank you that your love for us never runs out or dries up. Help us to trust that this sustaining love is with us as we move into Autumn with all the challenges ahead.

From Tony Berry, Tuesday 8 September
God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9 verse 8

This is one of those verses that can so easily trip off the tongue, and it sounds great and yet for many of us it does not always seem to be our experience at times of great stress. Equally I have seen some people claim and quote this, or verses like it, when they are going through tough times and yet it just doesn’t ring true, although they clearly want it to be so.

And yet I am sure that this verse is full of truth, our problem is in our perception of what that truth looks like in our daily life. So often people assume that being a follower of Jesus equals a trouble free life. It is not. Jesus tells us that the road to the Kingdom of Heaven is narrow and steep.

What this verse is telling us is that as we walk this road, God can help us as we experience problems, He is with us in every situation, 24/7; and if we can put our trust in Him we can still do the work of the Kingdom, and then not only are we blessed, but others will receive blessings, not only because of what we do, but because of what we are becoming.

Lord, help me to put my trust in You, so I can see Your hand in all that life brings to me, and so that I can be a blessing to those around me. Amen

From Hilary Swift, Lay Reader, Tuesday 1 September

I have been struggling with Prayer for a long time. It should be easy to sit and speak to our Father in heaven, but somehow, I always get distracted and start thinking about supper or what needs doing in the house or garden. I was talking to a wise friend about this and she said why not just stop trying so hard and just enjoy God’s presence? Hm, this is not easy either, for the same distracting reasons as above, but she suggested I create a special place, light a candle and make myself comfortable. So, I try: I take a few deep breaths to relax and begin to think of things that ‘make my heart sing’ and thank God for them. I think of sunshine in the woods, birdsong, singing in a choir (much missed) and being with lovely people and thank God for them. I read some words from George Herbert’s poem ‘Prayer’: ‘God’s breath in man, returning to his birth.’ And feel calmer and more peaceful.

Eugene Peterson writes that, ‘All prayer, pursued far enough becomes praise.’ We can see this in the Psalms: David’s cries of pain and struggle inevitably end with him praising God, for example, when he was hiding from his enemies in a cave:

Psalm 142 verse 1-2: ‘With my voice I cry to the Lord; with my voice I make supplication to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.’

He ends with, ‘Bring me out of prison, so that I may give thanks to your name. The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me.’

David didn’t always get things right, but he kept coming back to God for forgiveness and encouragement and God used him in wonderful ways.

Tim Keller in his book on Prayer says, ‘Pray no matter what. Praying is rowing, and sometimes it is like rowing in the dark – you won’t feel that you are making any progress at all. Yet you are, and when the winds rise again, and they surely will, you will sail before them again.’

Dear Lord, help us to pray. Help us to sit in your presence and enjoy the beauty that you have given us and to praise you for it. Amen.

‘Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord! Praise the Lord’ Psalm 150 verse 6