- St Thomas' Church
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- LL18 3LW
Bible Readings and Reflection
Check out Archdeacon Andy's blog for daily Bible reflections
Sunday Reflection 3rd August: Revelation 1:1-8
The Book of Revelation is about Jesus.
The number '7' occurs many times. Seven means completeness or the whole. So we know a whole week contains 7 days, just 4 or 5 days makes a partial week.
Revelation takes the form of a letter to the 7 churches of Asia (modern Turkey). That means it is written to all churches, as 7 denotes the 'whole of the church.' Revelation contains 7 Beatitudes ("blessed...."), the same as Jesus's declarations in his sermon on the Mount. The first of these Beatitudes in Chapter 1v3 promises blessing to those who hear the words of the letter and take it to heart. Do you need a blessing in these uncertain times? Read the book of Revelation.
Revelation is a letter written by the apostle John. In his Gospel John gives 7 'I am' statements of Jesus ..
1) I am the Bread of Life- John 6:35
2) I am the Light of the World – John 8:12
3) I am the Gate for the Sheep – John 10:7
4) I am the Good Shepherd – John 10:11
5) I am the Resurrection and the Life – John 11:25
6) I am the Way the Truth and the Life – John 14:6
7) I am the True Vine – John 15:1
Interesting then that Revelation introduces a new I am saying - Chapter 1:8- "I am the Alpha and the Omega"
Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and Omega the last so its the same as saying that Jesus is the A to Z.
Sunday Reflection 26th July: The Kingdom of God
Jesus speaks about the kingdom of God being like a mustard seed. I wonder if you have ever held a mustard seed and wondered why it is so small. All you see is a useless seed, a very, very tiny seed which would be smaller than your tiniest finger nail.
The mustard seed however is a plant that grows very quickly and the birds make nests in it. This parable Jesus is telling us is more about the surprising nature of the kingdom of God.
Or Jesus speaks about the kingdom of God being like finding treasure in someone else’s garden and then finding a way of buying it without telling anyone that the treasure was there.
Jesus used many parables to teach about the kingdom of God, and much has been written about them. Jesus taught parables to prepare His followers for the time between His return to heaven and His second coming in triumph to the earth. He wanted His disciples to realize their responsibilities. As all parable of the Kingdom, these stories reveal the tension that exists as God’s Kingdom purposes are worked out. These parables of Jesus are meant to sometimes unsettle us.
What do you think about the term kingdom of God? What comes to mind…
What are we to make of the Kingdom of God of which these parables speak of? Well, let me suggest three things
Point 1: The kingdom of God is very important
We as humans all like to belong to something. If I had a chance to look through your purse or wallet, I would imagine to come across different cards. These cards would help me to understand what you belonged to whether it was a gym card, Tesco card, library card, driving licence or a membership card. As a Christian we all belong to the kingdom of God but we don’t carry around with us a Christian passport to be stamped on arrival to church. Instead we belong to God’s Kingdom when we accept Jesus into our lives and become baptised. We find true belonging in God’s kingdom.
My grandma used to sing to me a song called -Seek ye first the kingdom of God. If we follow this most important thing God’s kingdom then we should be seeking if out.
Point 2: The kingdom of God is not what we think it is.
If we seek out God’s kingdom under our own rules we won’t get very far because God’s kingdom is Gods’. It is just as God wants it.
In the Old Testament reading we heard about king Solomon, who ruled over lots of people in Israel and instead of wanting riches or wealth or status or things to increase himself. He took time to seek out God and decided on wisdom and discernment.
God’s Kingdom is a place of justice, peace, truth and love, healing and wisdom. It is all these things for all people. We as Christian pray the Lord’s Prayer nearly every Sunday and maybe every day and we pray for God kingdom – thy kingdom come; thy will be done.
Point 3: The snag
The problem is we might want to build God’s kingdom our own way or assert our own value system into it or that we might feel that we can’t build God’s kingdom because we don’t know where to begin. There are three conditions that are needed to fulfil God’s Kingdom.
First, we need to the will of God.
Second, we need to the will of God to be done.
Third, we need not only to know it and to will it but also to be
And in all those areas human beings are found wanting. We are basically too ignorant, too self-willed and too feeble to be able to bring in or build the kingdom of God. But it is a problematic one because although we can’t achieve it, we still in our heart of hearts desire it more than anything else. What could be more wonderful that inhabiting the kingdom of the God of love, justice, peace and truth?
Whilst in lockdown I read the book Covenant and Kingdom by Mike Breen. As He writes the theme of Kingdom reveals God’s kingship through His Son Jesus. This was a brilliant book to see this continued theme expressed throughout the Bible.
Another way of looking at the Kingdom of God is seeing the kingdom as a project. And I can see that there is sense in this, as long as it is clear that it is not our project, but . The kingdom of God is God’s task. It is not ours. We can’t do it. It’s quite simply beyond us.
So, imagine this scene from . The contestants are in their two groups and Lord Sugar comes to speak to them: ‘your task for today is very simple. I am sending you out into the streets of Rhyl to make a society which is governed by the laws of justice, mercy, truth and peace. There must be no poverty or prejudice; there must be no meanness or backbiting.
I don’t want any robbery or violence in this society. I don’t want any falsehood or mockery or malice. I don’t want any moaners or people just sitting about doing nothing while others go hungry. I don’t want any police in this society.
No magistrates, courts, probation officers or prisons. It’s quite simply just about good people doing good things for each other. It’s about loving your neighbour as yourself. That’s the task. Off you go. I will see you back in the boardroom in three days’ time. The winning team will have an eternal reward. As for the losing team, every single one of you is going to be fired.’
Well, if only it were so simple. But of course, it is not. And Jesus never suggested that it was.
The kingdom of God is definitely what God is about. It God’s project. But God asks us not to do the impossible but to do something very possible: to tune our hearts into God’s heart, and to set our hopes of God’s hopes and to do all that they can to try to let God’s will become evident to them and to fit in with it.
And that is more or less all we can say. The kingdom of God is to be our aspiration, and the will of God that which we try to discern and connect with.
Sometimes all we need is to walk tiny steps, to follow in Jesus way.Sometimes we will get this right and there will be moments when things do click together and we get a glimpse of the kingdom.At such moments the reign of God breaks through to our world; it comes close. Sometimes we get it wrong and there are moments when we feel we want to give up. In our New Testament reading from Romans, we heard about Jesus who not only prayers for us but nothing can separate us from His love. In these moments we all need Jesus to reach out to us and guide us, strength us, support us to go forward in our lives. We can’t plan for these moments. They are not predictable. They are never what we expect them to be.
Maybe the kingdom of God is like going to a car boot sale and buying a job lot for a fiver and when you get home it contains an original Rembrandt? What would we do?
The kingdom of God is… well you fill in the blank. Let me end this reflection with a few ideas of what the Kingdom of God might be like.
The kingdom of heaven is like a child in Malawi sleeping safely under a mosquito net.
The kingdom of heaven is like a truth which is so new, original, insightful and plainly true that everyone who hears it falls silent in wonder for half an hour.
The kingdom of heaven is like a joke which is so funny that everyone who hears it laughs and laughs until tears of joy run down their cheeks and, when they have recovered, they rush off to tell someone who has not heard it yet.
The kingdom of heaven is like someone, who is in prison for murder, being baptized and confirmed and receiving communion for the first time.
The kingdom of God: neither pie in the sky nor a human project. It is reality infused with eternal love and joy and peace. Reality transfigured. Christ resurrected.And so, we rightly pray as Jesus taught us, ‘thy kingdom come, they will be done.’ ‘Amen’.
Worshipping in Spirit and Truth
We have begun the long process of the return to worship. Our churches are opening again, but not to go back to what was before. In the first place, our return has strings attached, and there are precautions we are required to take. The virus is still there, hiding invisible among our communities; probably quite rare – I heard an estimate of 1 in 200,000 people the other day, but as it is impossible to say where, we still have to treat every encounter with the possibility that the virus may have managed to join our company.
More importantly, we have discovered in our long absence perhaps a new sense of why we come to worship. Someone said to me the other day: “I’m really missing Church”, and part of this will undoubtedly be the sense of “the beauty of holiness” that accompanies entering many of our church buildings. However, it is more than the building, it is the people. It is easier to pray when there are people praying around us. Communion with God – that fundamental sense of relationship and “heart speaking to heart” which is the religious experience – is complemented by communion with one another, baptised into one body as we are. I remember a friend of our family talking about the relationship with her young daughter some years ago: “It’s like watching my heart walking towards me”, she said. Would that we could feel that when we gather as sisters and brothers in a congregation – more importantly, it is what God feels when we approach him in prayer.
So as the 11 o’clock on a Sunday starts getting into its pace once again, and the wardens polish the silver, and the priest sets it upon the altar - in addition to abiding by all those distancing rules, what should guide us as we come back to Church?
First, worship is about giving God the worth due to him – it literally, in English, is “worth-ship”. As you slot the last piece of the jigsaw into place, there’s a sense of everything coming together, and that it what should be happening when we enter into the holy place – we gather around God, each metaphorically taking our place around the throne; we, as the tiny splinters of divine grace, drawn into the circle of the all consuming love of God. Read Isaiah Chapter 6 before coming into Church, and ask that your eyes may be opened to the eternal in our worship like the prophet.
Second, it is not therefore about what we get out of it, but what we put into it. When someone comes away from Church saying “Well, that did nothing for me”, they only have half a point. Worship should catch hold of our soul and carry it to the throne of grace, that’s why we should take care about what we do, but it isn’t there for personal entertainment: “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God”, it is written in 1 Peter 5.6, “that in due time, he may lift you up.”
Third, for the stranger and the visitor, you are the physical face of God, and the quality of the welcome you give is the impression that they’ll take away of the value and meaning of your faith. If visiting Church is about sitting in the right place, staying on the right page, and behaving in the right way, the message is more like a bad school assembly than “my chains fell off and I was free, I rose, went forth and followed thee”.
Fourth, worship doesn’t end when we finish the liturgy, close the book and switch off the lights as we leave. It’s a way of living life. Just as a tuning fork is struck and vibrates in the resonance of a particular note, but really sings when it is grounded, so our worship needs to be grounded in the discipled way in which we carry God’s love into the world.
Oh, I’m so looking forward to being back, and to seeing you all once again. May God bless our new adventures in holiness,
Sunday 19th July: Luke 10:38-42
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair … Charles Dickens
We live in strange times... in the last few months we have witnessed the best and worst of humanity. It has forced us to stop our normal routines and re-evaluate what is really important. Even Coronation Street stopped filming for a while.
In this passage from Luke's gospel we hear the story of busy Martha. She is being hospitable to Jesus. She is rushed off her feet with preparations. She needs help from her sister, Mary. She asks Jesus to get Mary to help. We would expect him to perhaps say "Mary, come on, love your sister by helping her out with the dinner." However Jesus responds by saying Mary has chosen something better - listening to him. The point is clear. Listening to Jesus is more important than being busy (even doing good things). As our normal busyness has stopped, have we taken time to listen to Jesus?
What have we been doing during lockdown? Tending the garden? Clearing the loft? Doing that DIY which has been waiting to be done for so long. There is nothing wrong with keep ourselves occupied, but have we also made time to listen to Jesus?
Perhaps this lockdown has been a prompt from God to stop being so busy and taken on something better, listening to Jesus.
If you would like a bible or a devotional to help you think about Jesus's words then please get in touch, we would love to assist you.
One Solitary Life
Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.
He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never travelled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself...
While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.
I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.
When God Spoke (Mark 9:7)
There are three occasions in the gospels when people heard the audible voice of God the Father. Mark records one of those episodes when at the Transfiguration the words "This is my Son. whom I love. Listen to him" were heard.
The key to understanding the significance of these words is to be found in the Old Testament where these words were previously spoken. It breaks down into 2 parts...
"This is my Son"
The reference here is Psalm 2:7. In Hebrew thought often the centre of a speech is the important line. So it is with Psalm 2 of which this forms the centre. It is an enthronement Psalm that speaks of the crowning of Jesus as God's declared Son.
"Listen to him"
The reference here is Deuteronomy 18:15. Moses predicted a prophet like himself would arise in the midst of God's people. Over the years since many prophets were called by God to faithfully proclaim his words. However none had performed as many sings and wonders as Moses and knew God face to face. With these words at the Transfiguration God the Father is declaring that Jesus the son is the crowned king (Messiah). The evidence is the miracles that Jesus does and therefore the response of the people must be to listen to Jesus.
Do we recognize Jesus as God's anointed King?
Do we listen to the words of Jesus?