Share your best…

“A farmer, whose corn always took the first prize at the State Fair, had the habit of sharing his best corn seed with all the farmers in the neighbourhood.
When asked why, he said, it is really a matter of self-interest. The wind picks up the pollen and carries it from field to field. So if my neighbours grow inferior corn the cross-pollination brings down the quality of my own corn. That is why I am concerned that they plant only the very best”.
We will soon be offering our prayers of thanksgiving for harvest. However we do realise that, though God has given his best to the world and has blessed the earth with abundance, the selfishness and the greed of the few has caused havoc in our society. It has to do with our forgetfulness about God’s fair ways in blessing not the few but all His creation.
I like one of the confessions that people are asked to make on Harvest thanksgiving:

We confess to you
Our lack of care for the world you have given us
We confess to you
Our selfishness in not sharing the earth’s bounty fairly
We confess to you
Our failure to protect resources for others

We are heading for a global problem in the disparity between rich and poor. The consolidation of wealth in a few people’s hands is socially divisive. We are faced with unsatisfied, angry and frustrated people. There are multiple concomitant effects of poverty in our society. Poverty leads people to resort to abnormal behaviour to meet their essential needs in the society.  Mahatma Gandhi (an Indian freedom fighter) said: “The Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.”
For a peaceful world the interest of 99% of people being dominated by the rich 1% has to come to an end. Austerity measures may discomfort those who are in the habit of holding back the good for their own interest. A habit of sharing their best with others will create a just world. The gap between rich and poor is growing rapidly in the UK.
The British poor are much better off in absolute terms than the poor in most Third World countries, but they are worse off than those in other Western nations. The poorest fifth of Britons have an average per capita income 32 per cent lower than their equivalents in the US and 44 per cent lower than in the Netherlands.    (Independent 10th August).
Harvest thanksgiving is a time for us to make confession of our sins and the sins of the society in the misuse of God’s creation. We confess,

God our Father, we are sorry
For the times when we have used your gifts carelessly and acted ungratefully
We belong to a people who are full and satisfied
But ignore the cry of the hungry
We are thoughtless
And do not care enough for the world you have made
We store up goods for ourselves alone
As if there were no God and no heaven
Father, in your mercy
Forgive us

Let this Harvest Thanksgiving create in us a desire to share our best resources with others so that all those who are our neighbours may benefit from our blessings. Let us pray that God may grow in us the fruit of His Spirit in order to build God’s just kingdom on this earth. For the Harvest of the Spirit of God in us is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness and Self-control.

With much love
Arun

Give us this day…

Bread features very prominently in our daily lives. A simple sandwich or a slice with salad, toast for breakfast or just a mid-morning snack! Most of us would say that we could not imagine life without bread.

But all over the world there are many, many people who do not even have anything even as simple as a piece of bread to eat  –  and even in this country of ours, rich as it is, there are many who struggle to make ends meet in living day to day!

The period of austerity (are we emerging from it?) which we have experienced in this country over the past few years has given rise to ‘Food Banks’ which have done much wonderful work in giving basic foodstuffs to those who cannot afford to feed their families properly. Those of us who are well off are able to give of their generosity in stocking the food banks and in doing so prevent many less fortunate people from starvation.

Just imagine for a moment the many people who are starving for want of bread. Their hunger and their desperate need for food! They will all suffer a deprived and hopeless life with no real opportunity for change.

Jesus had quite a lot to say about bread too. He famously said “I am the bread of life” which meant that to follow him was to receive nourishment for our souls; He also said “no man lives by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God!” He was not diminishing the physical requirement for nourishment, but was in fact emphasising a more important kind of ‘bread’ which builds us up and makes us spiritually strong. That ‘bread’ is His word, found in the pages of the Bible, and if we wish to be fully healthy and ready for His service we need to feed ourselves on that word day by day! I’m sure nobody would be likely to miss out on their daily nourishment of bread (food) so why do we so often leave the more important bread of life  –  our Bibles  –  unopened and ignored?

The words of the Lord’s Prayer “Give us this day our daily bread” take on a whole new meaning when we look at it in the light of the provision which God has given us in his Holy word. We eat bread to live, but only when we take in the daily bread of God’s word will we begin to REALLY live!

As we begin to read into God’s words we find Him teaching and enlightening us more and more. The pleasure of a daily conversation with our Father in Heaven through scripture just cannot be underestimated. The alternative is that of going hungry and perhaps starving ourselves too much!

God Bless

Peter

 

The New Year

Hello Everyone,

Well, it is now 2015, or very nearly. What might the New Year bring? We can’t possibly answer that one – so, and of dubious value, I’d like to just share a few little musings with you. So, here goes – in a fairly obvious acronym for the N.E.W. Y.E.A.R.

N for Nourishment.

As ever, we in the West suffer from obesity whilst many parts of the world starve. If we can help in any way, prayerfully or financially, let us be gracious and compassionate enough to do so this year. Food Banks, in our own town, are proving a benefit for many. People’s circumstances differ, we don’t need to know the whys and wherefores as to why someone finds themselves in such a position. We just need to have a simple heart of compassion – so that we continue to support the food bank whenever we can. Another form of nourishment, I feel, is spiritual. I’m going to try to be more open, expectant and humble to accept and heed God’s spiritual nourishment. The nourishment of our souls is even more vital than that of our bodies.

E for Evangelism.

No, unlike Billy Graham, probably none of us will ever hold the rapt attention of the crowd at Anfield! However, in whatever way we can, Jesus urges us to spread the good news of His saving grace. Why keep it to ourselves? Some are called to be ‘up front ‘ in church. Great. But in simpler ways we can all show the difference that Christ within us makes – by our actions, attitudes and words. The Bible tells us that it is by our deeds that we shall be known. We needn’t make it complicated. We can commit our days and our ways to God, and if we truly do so, He will indeed make us ‘fishers of men’ – which is the essence of evangelism.

W for Worship.

We are blessed at St. James with an excellent worship team, and an excellent organ/ organists. Many of our hymns and praise songs are beautifully and profoundly worded, indeed they are prayers in themselves. Perhaps we could conjecture that teaching and prayer are at the heart of our church services, with worship being the lifeblood. Our love for the Lord is shown in singing and music. God loves to hear us worship and praise Him. If, like me, you’re no Kathleen Ferrier, have no fear – your voice to the one who made you sounds as sweet as honey. So, carry on Worshipping!

Y for Yesterday.

Do you ever find yourself thinking about the past, and wishing things had been different? We all probably do it at times, despite knowing that it is useless. As they say “hindsight is a wonderful thing”. In the light of today, we can often feel that we acted wrongly, hastily or foolishly. Our soul’s balm for this is the love of the Lord Jesus. He can calm us and reassure us and help us to move on. Today is very special, it’s a gift – that is why it is called the present. Don’t spoil or waste it by looking backwards.

E for Everyone.

Isn’t it good to spend time with our friends in church. We by and large have our own seating positions – ‘though not actually reserved! A cosy scene. Within this scene, however, we need to remain aware that Christ died for everyone. Not just those who go to church! Prayerfully, let’s hope that God will lead us individually and as a church family to convey this note of inclusion to all those with whom we have contact.

A for Affliction.

In this life we face many and varied afflictions.   God knows.   God cares.   God will see us through. Enough said.

R for Religion.

Wow! Where do I start?  It comforts many.  It inspires many.  It enriches the lives of many.  It puzzles many. It angers many.  It amuses some.  It, in dire mis-use, starts wars.  For some, it’s even a paid job – and not just a Sunday one! You’ll have your own thoughts and definition, I’m sure. For me, it is the outward visible system through which I try to live out my life. However, this outwardness is merely the open expression of the inner peace and joy which I get from knowing Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.  Hope you get that too; and with these things in our hearts, may we all go forward into 2015 with grace and joyous expectation.

Much love, as always,

Linda.

 

A call to repentance and responsibility

A call to repentance and responsibility

We are living in a world which suffers from a deep disparity between rich and poor. God in the Bible, as we read in Deuteronomy 16:14-15, blessed everyone fairly and expected them to rejoice together:

“You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. For seven days you shall keep the feast to the Lord your God at the place that the Lord will choose, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful”.

Our God is a fair God. One of the important instructions in Leviticus for God’s people was

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 19:9-10),

It was mandatory that God’s blessings should be shared fairly with the poor and needy. But we learn that God’s own chosen people have failed to act responsibly. The book of Prophet Amos points at the low spiritual standards of God’s chosen people. People became greedy and stopped following God’s instructions and values. The rich were becoming richer at the expense of the poor peasants, who were once farming for their living, but were now forced to farm for foreign trade — mostly wine and oil. (Amos 6:6).
God did intervene in restoring both His own people and His vineyard. The Psalmist is quite apt in saying

“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it… (Psalm 24:1)

God had to deliver His vineyard from greedy and selfish caretakers. God wanted to save His world from immorality.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.…” (John 3:16)

Harvest Thanksgiving reminds us of our salvation and calls us to repent for being irresponsible in not taking care of God’s vineyard justly. During the last few Sundays we have been reading a number of parables from the Gospel of Jesus. In the parable of the two sons, who work in their father’s vineyard: one Son portrays the ‘sinful outsider’ but is surprisingly more reliable than the other son who belongs to God’s chosen community. The parable of the tenants (Matthew 21: 33-46) is a story of greed and violence against God and His vineyard by His own appointed care takers. The Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22: 1-14) is a story of God’s disappointment in His chosen people and God’s call to those who are outsiders.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Mathew 7:21):

“For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:50)

Jesus offered Hope and Assurance to the poor and needy and to all who are marginal in society. He picked up those who were not part of the history of the chosen people of God. Jesus created His own band of disciples who became His Spiritual Harvest to offer Hope and Assurance to the whole of mankind. For this act of gathering His true followers Jesus was killed by His own chosen people. They thought they killed Him but on the third day Jesus rose again. How could evil overcome the good? How could darkness overcome the light? Jesus defeated the nefarious plans of those so-called chosen people.
Jesus not only rose again from the dead; He also empowered His disciples with the gift of the Holy Spirit. These disciples became the true caretakers of God’s Harvest and drew many people to participate with Jesus in building a just and righteous kingdom on earth. Jesus showed His disciples a huge harvest waiting to be gathered into God’s fold to become part of His spiritual harvest on earth,

“The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2)

We are the Church, planted by the labours of the Apostles of Jesus, the Saints, Evangelists and Missionaries down the centuries.

However we continue to live in a world where on the one hand people continue to suffer from injustice and unrighteousness and live in hunger and inadequate supply of essential needs for living, and on the other hand there is a progressively decreasing number of disciples of Jesus.

We are living in world where the rich continue to become more rich and the poor more poor. The circumstances in which many people live are quite hopeless and helpless. I do appreciate when our members and our school children bring gifts to the Church on Harvest Thanksgiving Sunday and we pass them to the Food Bank and to other needy people and organizations. But we have to move beyond our standard collecting and sharing of food to participating more robustly in becoming the voice of the poor and the marginal.
God has a much bigger dream than this for His world. He wants to establish His Just Kingdom.

Desmond Tutu speaks about A Vision of Hope for Our Time and speaks about how to transform our pain and sorrow into hope and confidence in the future. While fighting injustices in South Africa He says,

“…my confidence was not in the present circumstances but in the laws of God’s universe. This is a moral universe, which means that, despite all the evidence that seems to be contrary, there is no way that evil and injustice and oppression and lies can have the last word. God is a God who cares about right and wrong. God cares about justice and injustice. God is in charge.” (Desmond, p2)

We have to confess that at times our acts of faith appear merely a tick-box exercise. For Jesus’ disciples their life was meant to be an instrument through which God could perform miracles. For this reason Paul so confidently said, (1 Corinthians 3:9),

“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building”.

We have to be more robust in our participation with God in building His kingdom on this earth. This will mean, that throughout the year we have to reach out to the poor and needy, become their voice and not forget to gather those people who are there to hear the Good News of Jesus and to follow Him. Harvest Thanksgiving is a time when we receive the call from God to repent of our complacency about partnering with God to fulfil His Dream and not fully carrying out our responsibility in building His Kingdom honestly. Let us commend our life to God that He may fulfil His purpose through us:

God of Grace, as you are ever at work in your creation,
So fulfil your wise and loving purpose in us
And in all for whom we pray
That with them in all that you have made
Your glory may be revealed, and the whole earth give praise you.
Amen.

Bibliography
Desmond Tutu2004, God Has a Dream – A Vision of Hope for Our Time, Rider
Common Worship – Times and Seasons – Church House Publishing 2006
The Bible – NIV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compassion and Forgiveness

I was once privileged to hear a talk entitled ‘Healing of the Memories’. It was a long time ago, and at the time the wise words spoken – God given to a Ribble Valley vicar’s wife – had a big impact on me. The onset of pre-senility somewhat prevents actual re-call of what was said! However, the notion of a need for memory healing, probably for all of us, is still quite fixed in my mind.

As Christians, we know that each day is God-given – and we know that God holds all our future days in His hand. We are also aware that God knows all there is to know about our past. God knows all about those really tough times. He knows about our bereavements, our illnesses, our money problems, our disappointments, our contact with divorce, or alcoholism, or domestic violence. He knows about the times we’ve been let down or hurt by others. He knows about the worries we have with our children (small or grown up!). He knows about the issues around our caring for elderly, frail parents.

We need to live in the day, of course, and we do ‘move-on’ from bad times. However, I feel that sometimes the pains of the past can mar our present. This indeed was the basic theme of the ‘Healing of the Memories’ talk. All the events of our yesterdays have to a variable effect affected how we are today.

Are such legacies unavoidable? Do they matter? How can we rid ourselves of any bitterness, anger or pain from the yoke of the past? It is perhaps pertinent to accept that even Jesus cannot change the past in anyway. However, and equally pertinent is the absolute fact that He can heal our hearts and minds of the residually heavy burden we may be carrying. Not only that, by drawing closer to Jesus we can perhaps begin to see a benefit or a blessing from our days of trouble. This is nothing that happens to us in this life that cannot in some way; however small or obscure; be a blessing to others or ourselves in terms of spiritual awareness and understanding. The Good Book tells us that all things work together for good, for those who love the Lord.

Many times in my own life very unexpected and tough things have occurred. And no, I haven’t at the time gone around clapping my hands and praising the Lord! However, quite often sometime late I’ve been able to see a blessing or a least to see that ‘Yes’ the Lord was present in the midst of it all. This is even despite me probably having a ‘woe is me’ job-type attitude at the actual time! I’m only human!

Yes, of course I’m ‘only’ human – but just like you, I am fearfully and wonderfully made. So yes, our Father God longs for us to have peace about the things of our past. So if you are having a little think about past hurts and troubles, then maybe a deep and honest prayer before your Maker will help you to heal the past and to move on in a new and healthier way. Jesus himself told us that He came to enable us to have ‘life in all its fullness’. Yes, we can remember, treasure and lean from the past – but above all with our Lord’s help we can be rid of its pains and we can have peace.

And now, briefly to forgiveness, Mark Twain said, “Forgiveness is the sweet fragrance which the violet gives to the heel which crushes it. Yes, if we can have an unresolved, unforgiving attitude towards someone in our past – we can, and must allow our God to heal and cleanse us from that.

Sorry if all this seems a bit of a ‘waffle’. I just know that I’ve personally carried hurts etc. into my todays and my tomorrows. I’m very must a ‘work in progress!’ Yet bit by bit, Jesus has healed me and released me. I have, as in the hymn, found that I’ve often forfeited peace because I didn’t ‘carry everything to God in prayer.’ In conclusion, I would like to urge anyone for whom this has a resonance to just lay themselves before God’s mighty and compassionate throne. Believe me, He won’t let you down! And, you will feel so much lighter – but better than going to Weight Watchers!

Linda