Women of the Bible - Priscilla
Priscilla and her husband were devoted to one another but had been forced to leave Rome and travel to Antioch. Paul found them and enjoyed their hospitality, they became good friends. As they worked making tents they shared their faith in Jesus Christ, and encouraged each other and Priscilla was not afraid to explain Apollos errors to him. An ordinary loving couple- they travelled, worked and talked but the impact of their lives on the influential Paul and Apollos and those Christians who worshipped in their house was significant and reaches us today. Ordinary people like us too can share Jesus as we work and travel and chat.
Thy Kingdom Come
“Thy Kingdom Come” is a movement of prayer; across the diocese, across denominations and across the world. Dare we join in? Many people tell of miraculous answers to prayer; healing from cancer, young people who have overcome drug addiction, challenging teenagers protected and lives turned to follow Christ. In Luke 11 the disciples ask Jesus how they should pray and he doesn’t say “kneel down, hands together eyes closed” ! He gives them what we now know as the Lord’s Prayer including the heartfelt plea to God…..thy kingdom come…... . Jesus prayed often, with joy in praise, with tears in grief, with anguish in fear and he knew it made a difference. Between Ascension and Pentecost individuals and groups are particularly called to pray so let’s try. God We will probably see some God-incidents and notice some difference in others. And we will certainly see God changing us!
Women of the Bible - Miriam
Miriam was the big sister, and she kept an eye on the basket boat where her baby brother was floating. Exodus 2 tells how she watched pharaoh’s daughter find the baby and resourcefully offered to find a wet nurse to feed the baby and then….. she called her mother! The baby boy became Moses who was brought up in the pharaoh’s palace, and led the Jewish people out of Egypt and on their long journey through the wilderness to the promised land. Miriam grew up to be an inspiring poet and well known for her beautiful singing voice, we still admire those with fantastic voices and make them into celebrities. In Miriam’s “no mic “society those with big voices would have enormous influence. She used her voice to lead the worship and praise the power of God. Sadly, later there was some sibling jealousy, she was not impressed with Moses’ choice of wife, so she and her people-pleaser brother Aaron rebelled against Moses God-given leadership, there were tears. Leaders today need to keep their focus on the purposes of God, and use their voice to inspire and encourage
Women of the Bible - Deborah
Deborah said the welsh way Deb-or-ah was a leader, a judge and big decision maker, the people came to consult her at her court beneath the palm tree. In Judges 4 the account tells us how she listened to God before every decision, she commanded the army and went with them into battle obeying the Lord for every strategy; she insisted on God’s will—not hers. The story is a bit gruesome- Jael with the hammer and peg, under the rug in the tent! She also knew how to support her team, and acknowledged their efforts rather than patting herself on the back. A woman leader recognized by God, long before any equal opportunities society, Deborah was called by God and wasn’t afraid of the cost of commitment. God gave her the capacity to do the job and it took courage to carry it out and she was absolutely convinced that God would deliver them - and it happened. If you lead in big or small ways Deborah has challenging things to teach us today.
Women of the Bible - Lydia
Paul and Timothy had been called by God to take the good news of Jesus to Europe, so they set off relying on a dream and word of mouth – not satnav or maps! In Acts 16 Luke tells us about Lydia, she was a wealthy business woman, a dealer in purple cloth who lived in Philippi, the Jewish community there was too small to have a building and the women used to meet by the river. Paul found Lydia there and told her about the risen Jesus; she listened carefully and then believed, the first person to become a Christian in Europe was a woman. She told her household and they too had faith and were baptized, and then she welcomed Paul and Timothy to stay at her house, and they accepted. Hospitality is more than offering cake to friends it is opening our hearts and homes to those God loves; even strangers, offering them our best and sharing the abundant blessings we have received from God. Paul overcame his uncertainty and accepted Lydia’s offer., the challenge for us is to listen, respond and receive what God offers us too and then share it.
The Walk to Emmaus
In a race do you like to set the pace or do you concentrate on keeping up with the main group? Jesus’s disciples were dejected and confused by the crucifixion of Jesus and all the rumours of resurrection, they set off walking to Emmaus hoping to “get away from it all”, and have some space to think. Luke 24:13-32 tells us how a stranger came alongside them, walking at their pace and listening to their tale of woe. But then he did more than listen, he explained a few things too. Arriving at their destination, they invited him in as their guest; they had learnt from Jesus the blessings of hospitality but this stranger surprised them. It was as they were sharing the meal and he was breaking the bread that they recognised their friend. They had thought he was dead but Jesus was alive- walking, talking and eating. Today we can still get to know Jesus: he walks at our pace, listens to our sadness, comforts and explains, and when we invite Jesus into our homes he shares his life with us and brings great blessing. Let’s pace our lives with Jesu
Do you prefer hard facts or gut feelings? Thomas the twin wanted some hard evidence, he didn’t like being conned and he was in a dark place, everything had gone wrong. His friend Jesus had been crucified and now his other friends were claiming they had seen Jesus alive and spoken to him. John 20:19-31 Thomas was scared, he felt left out and belligerent, he wanted proof. Jesus knows us well, it is ok to ask him questions and express our doubts, but we need to look at the evidence too. Even many agnostics recognise that society in Britain has been shaped for the good by the Christian faith. And then Jesus held out his hand to Thomas showed him the proof of the nail marks and said, “Peace be to you”. That peace is for us as well and we can be channels of that peace to transform this world local and global.
“Someone has taken the body”, Mary panted. She had run from the empty tomb to tell the disciples. Peter and John set out to see for themselves, the stone had been rolled away and the folded grave clothes were on one side, they had forgotten that Jesus said he would rise from the dead. John was young and fit, Peter was impetuous but couldn’t keep up, both were disappointed and distressed and went home. Mary returned to the tomb to grieve alone, a faithful disciple of Jesus she agonised over the events and didn’t recognise the man in the garden until Jesus called her name. Even when we have known him a long time life events can be a painful puzzle, but Jesus is close by calling our name. The resurrection of Jesus is earth shattering whether we are young, fit or faithful but confused; and because Jesus lives we too can have abundant life. John 20:1-18
Riding into Town
Nowadays celebrities ride into town in an open top bus, they have crowds cheering and screaming, holding up smart phones for photos for facebook. For Jesus the celebrity, they waved palms in his face and laid their cloaks on the ground as he rode a donkey into Jerusalem. God had promised them a king riding on a donkey and their hopes were pinned on Jesus releasing them from the oppressive Roman regime. Jesus had done many amazing things, but his greatest achievement was a week later at the resurrection; so the parade came before the victory! With Jesus things often seem back to front.
As we have finished the giving in Grace theme the final reading was from Exodus 34, the people are told to bring their time, their skills and their treasure, and to worship God with all their heart. Jesus rides into our lives with humility and the power of his kingship promises freedom and blessing through worship and service.
Sunday 2nd April '17
During Lent the services at St Mary’s Uttoxeter have been following the theme of Giving in Grace and using readings from Exodus to help us to understand God’s overwhelming generosity, and provision for us, often despite our actions. Today the account was from Exodus 32:1-20 telling of the Israelites of 3500 years ago who were impatient because they thought their leader Moses had been gone too long. They were forgetting how God had freed them from the Egyptians, guided them across the desert and provided food for them; and Moses had only gone up a mountain to get a bit of space from the pressures of being a community leader and to pray about what to do next!
When Moses returned, he found them all dancing round a golden calf that they had made from their gold jewellery, and worshipping it! It sounds incredible – and although we may be fond of our own metal bull on the roundabout in Uttoxeter no one would ever worship it!
And yet in 1990 a Japanese religious ceremony was held to pay respects to ‘old computer chips’, (reported in the New York times not the Advertiser!), and perhaps on occasions we too worship science, technology, our house or other possessions. God was angry with the Israelites and God probably gets angry too when we waste our time and effort prancing round the idols we have built. God wants us to recognise his work in the world and centre our lives on being part of his purpose.
Mothering Sunday 26th March '17
Many mothers are full of joy at the hand-made gifts they receive from their children on Mothering Sunday, and we can celebrate and give thanks to God for the care and love we have received from our mothers, but sometimes it’s not that easy. Things aren’t perfect, mothers can let their children down and some people who would love to be mothers do not have that opportunity, but we can choose to be part of the Church family.
After the birth of Jesus we don’t hear much about Jesus’ relationship with Mary; but when Jesus is hanging on the cross he sees his mother standing next to John one of his closest friends and he tells them to be mother and son to each other. (John19:25-27)
In the news this week there was a story of a woman who fell over injuring her ankle, she was in Boscastle, Cornwall on her own and without phone signal. A man in Worcester was looking at a webcam and saw her! He phoned his Mum who lived in Boscastle, and she went to find her, brought her to her house and then took her to hospital. The technology can be scary but our God does not need to use technology to see our need and provide for us.
God is our perfect parent and the Church is the group of Jesus' friends, he asks us to care for one another. Let’s thank God for the divine and human "mother's" love we have received and let’s take the opportunities we get to offer mothering to others.