Thought for the day: a community at war
You can watch Ian fighting the wind outside RAF Brize Norton here
Holy Communion service, 5th Sunday of Lent
,We took a different approach this morning. Drew was live streaming from his study and then Ian had posted a youtube video of a sermon, then it was back to Drew in the study. To add to the confusion, we had inadvertently connected up to Drew’s own facebook page rather than the St John’s church page. It all got sorted in the end but we’d like to know whether you feel this approach works, or if it feels disjointed. # learning new technology
Please click on the links below to follow the service through
Part 1 – Preparing ourselves, & readings
Part 2 – Sermon
Part 3 – Celebration of the Eucharist
The text of Ian’s sermon is here:
May I speak in the Name of the Living God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
So, we had two Readings this morning in our Church. We had Ezekiel 37 and John, Chapter 11. So, I am going to say something very briefly about each Passage. […]
So, in our first Reading from Ezekiel 37 we heard the words of a man whom we believe lived at the end of the 7th century and the beginning of the 6th century BC (or BCE) in what was then known as ‘The Land of Israel’. Now, I know that this country has had different names – ‘The Land of Israel’, ‘The Roman Province of Judaea’, ‘Palestine’ and so on. So, all those things need to be taken into account, and we need to think about it, but for the purposes of today I just want to say that, when I talk about ‘Israel’, I’m talking about the word that is used in the Bible for ‘The Jewish People’, ‘The Jewish Nation’, wherever they are.
And the Old Testament is the story of how God seeks to reveal Himself to the Jewish Nation with a message of ‘Good News’ which He then wants to be passed on to the whole world. And the Church today believes that they are continuing in the process of passing on that message to the whole world. In the same way that the Church has made many mistakes over the last 2000 years, the Prophet Ezekiel points out to the people of Israel that they’ve made some mistakes in their relationship with Him, and in the relationship with other people. And he says that, if they don’t put things right, they will end up in Exile.
Well, in fact, they have already ended in Exile, because it’s Jeremiah who’s made that message the fullest, and Ezekiel has gone in Exile. So, what’s happened is that the Northern Kingdom of Israel clearly didn’t do what God said. He warned them through other prophets, and they went into Exile in 722 BC to Assyria (which was to the NE of Israel), and then in 586 BC the Southern Kingdom of Israel fell to the same fate, or a similar fate. They were warned, primarily by Jeremiah, and then they went into Exile in Babylon. And Jeremiah had a prophecy, had ‘a Word from God’, that they would be there for 70 years. That’s a prophecy
that a later prophet Daniel picks up on, when he’s actually in Babylon, saying ‘It’s time to go home!’
But in the Book which we call ‘Ezekiel’, which was either written by Ezekiel or by a team around Ezekiel – anyway it’s called ‘Ezekiel’ -, the prophet warns the Southern Kingdom of Israel (the North has gone into Exile already) that they have not obeyed what God has said, but God wants to draw them back to the land where He put them.
And in this Chapter – Chapter 37 – he has a vision. He has a vision of a valley of dry bones, rattling and coming back to life. They’re as dead as anything. They are dusty, but they come back to life, and then suddenly muscles and sinews and ligaments appear on them. And then He says to Ezekiel: ’Breathe on them and prophesy to them’. And he does. The word for ‘breath’ or ‘spirit’ or ‘wind’ is the same word in Hebrew, as in Greek (the main language of the New Testament), and he wants Ezekiel to be part of the process – to prophesy to the bones that they will come back to life. And I think, in passing, that’s just a message also for us as Christian believers – that God mysteriously has a part for all of us to play. Yes, He wants to do GOOD THINGS in the world, But He also wants us to ask Him to do MORE GOOD THINGS. And Ezekiel had the task of saying to the bones in this vision, you know, ‘Come back to life!’ And so, these bones come back to life.
Now, in our Second Reading from John’s Gospel, in John 11, we have the story that is usually called ‘The Raising of Lazarus’. It’s when a friend of Jesus called Lazarus comes back to life in the village of Bethany near Jerusalem about 2 or 3 weeks before He goes to the Cross – which is what we remember at Easter Time. And the important thing to understand is that Jesus got to know this family in Bethany – Mary and Martha and Lazarus – , and suddenly Lazarus has fallen ill and died, and the sisters have sent out a message that Jesus should come and rescue him, because He has a reputation for healing people. But for some mysterious reason that people can’t immediately understand, He delays by two days, and when He gets there, Lazarus has been dead 4 days. And Jesus then goes to the tomb (as we have heard in our Reading) and He calls Lazarus out, and Lazarus comes back to life – to everyone’s amazement. And so, there we can see, as Christian believers, that God (as we believe that Jesus is God in the flesh – God the Son), He is able to raise people from the dead. And this is for us an important indicator is what is going to happen two weeks later, because in the same way that Lazarus is raised from the dead, Christians believe that at Easter (on Easter Sunday) God the Father, through the power of the Spirit, raises God the Son, Jesus, from the dead. Through Lazarus we can see as believers that it’s possible, and then two weeks later, when Jesus Himself is dead, the Father raises the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now, there’s lots to mediate on there, but the thoughts that I just want to major on in those two Readings are these two:
(1) First of all, GOD WANTS ALL OF US TO WORK TOGETHER, actually whether Christians or not. He wants all of us to work together. And in that first Reading we see all the bones coming together. Individual bones can’t do much, but bones all joined together – all the parts of the Body working together – can make a big difference.
Later, the Apostle Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 12, talks about all of us, who are followers of Jesus, being ‘a gigantic Body’ – all having different parts in that Body, but all being equally important to God. Some having more important parts perhaps and others less important, but equally valued by God. And whether we’re seen or unseen, whether we are a toenail or a part of the shoulder or whatever – whatever we are, we have an equally important part to play. So, that’s the first point: WE ALL HAVE A WONDERFUL PART TO PLAY.
(2) And the second point I want to make is this: that GOD IS ABLE TO BRING LIFE FROM THE DEAD – in the same way that the Breath of God brought those bones back to life in the Old Testament and brought Lazarus back to life in the story that we had in the New Testament Gospel, God is able to bring us to life, fully to life through the power of His Spirit. Jesus said in John, Chapter 10: ‘I HAVE COME THAT YOU MAY HAVE LIFE – AND HAVE IT TO THE FULL’.
So, TWO WONDERFUL POINTS to encourage us all in this Service this morning. First of all, that GOD HAS CALLED US ALL TO WORK TOGETHER. We belong to one another. We need one another. And together, we can do great things for us, and for ourselves and for God and for our neighbours. But without each other that is just not possible. And secondly, that GOD WANTS TO BREATHE LIFE INTO US, that we become fully alive, fully energised by His Spirit, to do what God has called us to do …
Some thoughts on staying calm
Listen here for a talk, music and prayers from Drew and Billie
Standing at a crossroads: thought for the day
You can view Ian’s talk and song here
A virtual prayer walk
Some people from the Home Group, who meet at the Thompsons’, have started a virtual Prayer Walk around Carterton. If you would like to know more, please get in touch with Mariann.
Thought for the day
Did you know that saying the Lord’s Prayer takes just over 20 seconds? How about praying while you are washing your hands instead of singing Happy Birthday? You can watch Ian’s message here
Watch this youtube video where Drew explains the principles of Christian meditation and contemplative prayer; you may find it also helps to ‘calm the anxiety monster’! You can find it here
A prayer written in response to the C-19 virus by one of our parishioners,
Lord, we in the Western world have lived so long in an insulated bubble where we think we are beyond the worries of the world, where science has the answers and mass illness and infection are other peoples problems. Help us to use the troubles we face in this crisis to realise that we are as fragile as the rest of your creation. Help us use this time of isolation to get to know you better, to reset our minds from materialistic wants and to appreciate the things we have. I pray that having to think what we can eat and being restricted in what we can do will enable us to truly thank you for the freedom and abundance that we so often take for granted.
Calming the Anxiety Monster
We live in strange times. How’s that for a statement of the blindingly obvious?! The less obvious question is how do we approach this? I went to sleep last night feeling anxious. I woke up this morning with the anxiety monster straining at the leash. I have found the same words coming to mind again and again in these last few days, often in the wee small hours when I’ve been digesting my own stomach with worry. I have found reading them over slowly, learning them and then chewing over them in my mind, immensely helpful. They come from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians, a letter he wrote from prison, at a time when there must have been moments when he wasn’t too sure which way was up. Sound familiar?
‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be evident to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’
The more I have pondered these words – the more I have found the anxiety monster becoming calming down.
First, Paul calls for an attitude of rejoicing – which seems insane, given he’s in prison. Such an attitude seems weird for us given our current situation. Let’s park that objection for a moment – and look at the rest of his words before coming back here. Paul counsels an attitude of gentleness. As I think of this I see pictures in my mind’s eyes of empty shelves, of people with their elbows out in ‘I’m alright, Jack’ mode – fear and selfishness acting out. Gentleness, kindness, generosity – these are the qualities which bring balm to the anxious mind, the troubled soul, and which will build up resilient community.
Then Paul asserts ‘The Lord is near.’ I’m trying to imagine how you might read these words as a person who has not encountered faith. What does it mean? I read it as ‘the one who knows you better than you know yourself, who offers you deep and profound loving friendship, is right here, at your side’. No need for social distancing in this relationship. Jesus is present.
Given that, Paul says, ‘do not worry about anything’. This is a bold statement, one based on trust that we can turn to Jesus and articulate all our fears, without filter, knowing we are heard. This is not a magic wand to make the crisis go away, but a genuine resource for everyone to cope with what occurs in the midst of trouble. Here lies the possibility of finding peace in the eye of the storm. Paul promises that ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’ This is a peace beyond human understanding. That is the basis for Paul’s call to rejoice in the Lord. He is not counselling sticking your head in the sand, also known as strolling up Snowdon pretending that nothing is happening, nor is Paul advocating the illusion of self-sufficiency which we see leading to stockpiling. He is saying rather than fear what you face, trust that we are not facing it alone.
A Prayer for all those affected by Coronavirus
Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy.
Sustain and support the anxious, be with those who care for the sick, and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may ﬁnd comfort knowing that nothing can separate us from your love.
In Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Whether you are keeping a social distance or self isolating the next few months are going to bring a variety of challenges, some big, some small. There will aso be moments of awe as we see genuine selflessness and loving action. There will be times of irritation and frustration, strong emotions and loneliness. I want to suggest that this might be a good time to keep a journal whether virtual or real. We are living through historic times so, at the very least, it will be good to have a personal record. However, more importantly, it will be a place where you can be totally honest: write down your fears, your wishes, your hopes, your anger. Be absolutely honest, God values honesty. Pray as you write it, thank God for his blessings, pray into your worries. Acknowledge how God is with you every moment of every day; you are never alone. God is with you and God blesses you.
Virtual Holy Communion
You can watch Sunday’s service on youtube, you can find it here. The sermon is also available to read below.
God of my night, God of my day
You might like this song that Drew wrote. You can find the link to it here The words are:
God of my night, God of my day, You are my light, You are my way
Whenever I reach for You, You will answer me, You will lift me from despair
My Comforter, my Counsellor, My Saviour and my friend
Sometimes I fall, sometimes I stray. Hiding my face, running away
But Father, You search for me, You rescue me, You surround me with your care
protecting me, correcting me, my Saviour and my friend
Open my eyes, show me Your way. Help me to love, teach me to pray
forever I’ll cling to You, I will follow You and Your mercy I will share
for You are my security, my Saviour and my friend
for You are my security, my Saviour and my friend
Sermon Sunday 22nd March
Exodus 2.1-10 Mothering Sunday
As lineups of male experts tell us what to do about the coronavirus pandemic each day, I’ve been thinking about the events leading up to today’s amazing story from Exodus. These were dark and terrifying days under a paranoid and brutal new pharaoh. With regard to Egypt’s Israelite immigrant community, pharaoh led his people in a rapid decline from ignorance of history (Exodus 1.8), through exaggeration of threat (1.9-10), through prejudice to oppression (1.11) and finally to genocide (1.16, 22) – the ‘final solution’ as it were. By the time Moses was born, it was the duty of every loyal Egyptian to drown every Hebrew boy in the river Nile. This was after the Hebrew midwives had followed a brave path of non co-operation with pharaoh and now we find further examples of female leadership emerging.
One of the things I think we learn from the Bible is that ‘male’ leadership has its limitations and sometimes ‘female’ leadership offers the only way forward (CARE: Of course these gender roles and qualities are not mutually exclusive)
This surprises us more than it should, since God has motherly as well as fatherly characteristics and we are made in God’s image. Anyway, first let’s look at the story in 3 parts, then we’ll think about how it relates to the Christian gospel and to our own lives.
Later, I will come back to our current, extraordinary circumstances, which have been brought about because of a new and dangerous enemy.
· Moses is born into a genocide with a death sentence over his head.
· His parents are Levites, people of faith but we hear nothing of his father, only his mother. My opinion is that the Hebrew men were effectively emasculated, humiliated by their slavery. Traditional male solutions to difference – confrontation, fighting – were not an available option. It would be up to the baby boy’s mother to find a solution.
· First, we read that she hid him for three months – no mean feat!
· Then, realizing she can’t keep this up, she comes up with an extraordinary, risky plan – getting a papyrus basket for him, coating it with tar and pitch to make it waterproof and then putting the baby into the basket and the basket into the reeds by the river bank.
· What was she feeling as she abandoned her child in this way? What would you feel?
· What was she thinking? Did she plan to go back regularly and feed him? Did she think he’d be better off dying of thirst or being eaten by wild animals, rather than being killed by an Egyptian sword?
· Or did her intuition lead her to believe that there just might be a surprising way that he could survive?
· In verse 4 we read that his sister stood and watched at a distance, to see what would happen to the baby (perhaps showing her maternal instinct, or acting on mum’s instructions?)
· Now a new character comes onto the scene – Pharaoh’s daughter. Hold on a minute! That’s the daughter of the tyrant who had enslaved the Hebrews in forced labour and then ordered the killing of all their baby boys.
· Fortunately, Pharaoh’s daughter doesn’t share his prejudice and has the courage to defy his orders. Seeing the basket while bathing in the river, she sends her female slave to fetch it and finds the baby boy crying inside.
· She recognizes that he is a Hebrew baby (ethnic difference) – one who ought by her Father’s law to be thrown into the river to drown. But she shows no inclination to do so and is open to the suggestion of Moses’ sister, who intervenes, offering ‘shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?’
· Pharaoh’s daughter agrees and of course Moses’ sister goes to fetch her own and his mother!
· Pharaoh’s daughter then offers to pay Moses’ mother for nursing and caring for the baby boy for her until he is weaned and ready to enter the royal household. That would be at 3 to 5 years old.
· Her child will survive, but even so there is a dilemma. One point of view might be – ‘I’d rather have him die as a Hebrew baby than be brought up as an Egyptian’. Perhaps this could be characterized as a ‘male’ response! But Moses’ mother accepts the deal in faith and compassion.
· Finally in verse 10 the mother keeps her side of the bargain, takes the child to Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopts him and names him Moses. So Moses has a new mother who is able to give him the most secure upbringing and the best education possible.
· Pharoah’s plan has been undermined by two women and a girl. The boy who will become his nemesis is growing up in his own household, acquiring the skills and knowledge which will equip him to set the Israelites free.
· Of course we are supposed to see the hidden hand of God at work behind the scenes, but this is also a story of the best kind of female leadership and problem
solving. Intuition, empathy, compassion and collaboration are victorious over the male effort to confront, force and dominate.
Links to the gospel
· Clear parallels with infancy of Jesus, the insecurity he was born into and Herod’s slaughter of the innocents.
· The gospel Jesus preached in his sermons and parables is all about the Kingdom of God being near to us and in fact growing secretly among us, bringing hope, healing and life. The rich and powerful are blind to what is going on. Those who have nothing are raised up and empowered.
· Evil is defeated by Jesus not by force and power but by servanthood and submission. This does not mean rolling over and giving in; it means a courageous refusal to co-operate with the oppressor. It means denying self and loving our neighbours, including our enemies. It means taking up our cross daily and following Jesus.
Lessons for us
· For those who are mothers – be confident in God, whatever the circumstances you face. Know that God understands the joys, pains and dilemmas of Motherhood – even though we usually call God ‘Father’.
· For women generally (and men) – Learn from the example of positive female qualities in this Bible story – empathy, intuition, compassion, creative opposition without confrontation, having the faith to let go and trust… these are more important than the superficial, skin-deep femininity our society sells us.
· For those who find it difficult to accept female leadership … be aware of the limitations of exclusively male leadership.
· Society, church and family need strong and godly men. Moses grew up to become one of the best. But strong and godly women are needed as well. To give just one recent example – Northern Ireland. It was mainly the men who grabbed the headlines in the process of achieving peace, but perhaps more than any other factor it was the cross-community empathy of mothers; grieving, hoping, forgiving mothers, which broke the walls down and paved the way to peace.
· Perhaps mothers, supported by enlightened men, will play an equally significant role in resolving more of the world’s biggest current problems and fears.
· Perhaps as we are threatened by an invisible enemy every bit as threatening as the Bible’s Pharaoh, we too, like the Hebrew midwives and the mother and sister of Moses, will find brave and creative ways of undermining the enemy’s threat and protecting the most vulnerable. We can already see this happening, in acts of kindness and in the budding of grassroots support groups and neighbourhood schemes.
· Perhaps new alliances, inconceivable in normal times, will be formed – like the alliance between the natural and adopting mothers of Moses.
· Even as the headlines are often grabbed by acts of greed and selfishness and panic, we can see a stronger force at work – a kind of resistance movement. Our role as Christians is surely to be deeply engaged in this fight back, this resistance movement and to use all of our resources; individual and collective, practical and spiritual, to calmly, ingeniously, faithfully, patiently and compassionately work for the common good.
· I want to end with a prayer written by Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference:
We are not people of fear: we are people of courage.
We are not people who protect our own safety: we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety.
We are not people of greed: we are people of generosity.
We are your people God, giving and loving,
wherever we are, whatever it costs,
for as long as it takes, wherever you call us.
Sermon Thursday 19th March
HOW WE CAN ALL PLAY OUR PART AND PRAY – Sermon by Rev Ian READINGS: 2 Samuel 7: 4-16; Matthew 1: 18-end
May I speak in the Name of the Living God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Well, we’re broadcasting this Service to you this morning on Thursday 19th March at 10.30. You may watch it later from somewhere else and we have in mind that all Churches of the UK have a National Day of Prayer on Sunday – Sunday 22nd March. And I want to say something this morning that will encourage us all as we sit at home in our different places and as we look forward to that Day of Prayer.
And I’d just like to begin by saying two Passages which are very familiar to most of us and which are really important. The first one is from 1 Corinthians 12, where the Apostle Paul reminds us that we are a Body. We are all parts of the Body of Christ here on earth, and it doesn’t matter whether we’re together or apart. We’ll all part of a Body, and we all have a part to play. No part is less important than another. Some parts may be more obvious than others, and some may be more hidden. But wherever we are, we can play a part, and the distance that we’re apart makes no difference to God. ‘There’s no distance,’ somebody said, ‘in the Spirit’ – and I believe that! We’re all together, and we can pray together.
The second Scripture I’d just like to share before I talk about Joseph is from the First Letter of Timothy, Chapter 2, where Pauls says ‘First and foremost, pray for leaders and all in authority that you may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and holiness.’ So, with those two thoughts in mind – that we all have a part to play and that we all should be praying for our leaders -, I just want to say a few brief words about Joseph.
Now there are only about 14 references to Joseph in the New Testament, and they are almost all in Matthew and Luke. He’s mentioned once in Mark as ‘the carpenter’ or ‘the carpenter’s son’, but the main things that we know about Joseph – if we don’t go to other traditions – are in the Bible in Matthew 1 and 2 and in Luke 1 and 2.
So, let’s just remind ourselves very briefly of what he did and the important part he had to play:
Well, first of all, he was called to be the husband of Mary, and when he heard that she was pregnant, he was thinking he had to divorce her. But notice his character: he wanted to do it very discreetly and quietly. He didn’t want to expose her to public shame. But, at that point, an angel of God appears to him in a dream and says ‘Don’t do this!’ And, interestingly, he calls him, not ‘son of Jacob’ (which was his immediate father), but ‘son of David’. ‘You are a descendant of David!’ He was reminding him of who he was, and he said ‘You go ahead and marry her!’. So that’s the first thing.
So he went ahead and married her, and in a very protective and loving way – you know it in the Christmas Story -, he took her from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and, although not much is said about that, just think of all care that was involved, taking her from one place to the other, when she was very heavily pregnant.
Then, of course, the baby was born, and Joseph was there as well. And he was there, when the shepherds came and visited. We actually believe that the Wise Men probably came some time in the next two years. And, according to Luke’s Gospel, almost certainly to a ‘house’ and not to a ‘stable’. And I’ll talk about that in a moment.
The next event, chronologically, is that 40 days after Jesus is born, Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, which we also call ‘Candlemas’ (where we also pray for our candles and so on). And that was the day when Simeon and Anna came and prayed for the child. – Simeon, using those very wonderful words of the Nunc Dimittis: ‘Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace’, and so on.
And then we have the Visit of the Magi. And after that, if we go back to Matthew’s Gospel, we see that there’s another dream Joseph has, where he’s told to take the mother and the child and flee to Egypt. And that’s why the Scripture says it can later say ‘Out of Egypt I called my Son’, paralleling in some way the calling of Israel out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus. Anyway… so Joseph is the one looking after his wife and the child. And then he returns to Nazareth. He must have thought about returning to Bethlehem, but he’s told in another dream, or he’s shown in another way, that that could be too dangerous. So, he goes up north, back again to Nazareth.
And the last time that Joseph appears is at that Passover Festival in Luke’s Gospel, also in Chapter 2, when Jesus is about 12 years old. And remember: they can’t find Jesus, as they are going back home. And they go back and Jesus says to them: ‘Didn’t you know I would be in my Father’s House?’ – which must have been a very challenging statement to Joseph, in particular.
It’s very interesting. There are two genealogies of Jesus in the Bible. In Matthew’s Gospel it looks as if we have an account of Joseph, and we have ‘Joseph’s genealogy’. And it looks as if Joseph is the legal descendant of King David, and Jesus is therefore the legal descendant of King David. And in Luke’s Gospel it looks as if we may have ‘Mary’s genealogy’, which would make him the physical descendant of David. So doubly ‘the descendant of David’, and Joseph was there, seeing it all happen.
Now, I just want to conclude with these two thoughts, which are very, very helpful to me, and I hope will be helpful to you.
The first one is that Joseph absolutely played his part. He comes into the Gospel Story at this point. He’s extremely important in looking after his wife and his child, and then he disappears from the scene. And many people think that he might have been an older man who died, and he’s not there, it seems, at the time of the Crucifixion. That’s why John is asked to look after Mary and be the new mother … the new father, as it were …for Mary. ‘The new son’, I should say, like Jesus. So the important thing … importantly … Joseph had a part to play, and wherever we are, whatever we are doing now – even if we are confined to home, even if we are under a lockdown in another country, or wherever we are, when we eventually watch this – we all have a part to play.
And I want to suggest to you that, apart from the personal roles you may have, wherever you are (looking after other people, ringing people up, sending people messages on WhatsApp), or whatever you are doing, apart from that, what we can all do is PRAY. And the Scripture says we should ‘pray for kings and rulers and all in authority’.
So just two thoughts on PRAYER, and I will close:
The first one is: IT’S SO IMPORTANT TO LISTEN. You know, we have a Quiet Time on a regular basis -Drew and I here, at St John’s Church in Carterton – and we have a Time of Quiet, when we’re just listening to the Lord, in our Daily Quiet Time. And I’m reminded that the Quakers, for example – and I’ve been to a Quakers’ Service in the past – have a tremendous tradition of ‘Listening’. And did you know that it was Quakers who first abolished the Slave Trade. They heard from God first, it seems to me. And I also have to admit that my mother was a Jewish Refugee from Austria, and it was the Quakers who saw the danger and set up (or they were one of the organisations that set up) the Kindertransport, which were evacuating children from Austria and Germany and other places in Europe at the time of the Nazis. And again, it was because they were LISTENING. So, I would encourage you, wherever you are, to be quiet and LISTEN to God. You’ve got a real opportunity to be quiet. LISTEN TO GOD and see ‘What is He telling you to do?’, ‘What is he telling me to do?’
And the second point I want to make – and this was suggested to me many years ago (and I think it’s very helpful) is ‘HOW ABOUT PRAYING THE NEWS?’ Now we’ll all listening to the News Broadcasts all the time. And they are saying on the News, for example, today, ‘We don’t know what exactly is going to happen about the pupils who are … were doing their GCSEs and A-Levels.’ Well, when you get a bit of information like that, let me suggest to you: What you can say is ‘Dear God, please make it clear to those in the Ministry of Education and all involved what they should do about GCSEs and A-Levels and give them all WISDOM’. So, whatever you hear on the News, TURN IT INTO A PRAYER. And let’s all try and do that every day, but particularly perhaps on Sunday. Let’s try and LISTEN TO GOD. And let’s try to pray to God and ask Him for the things that are in the News, where answers are needed. Let’s pray that everybody particularly has WISDOM. Everybody needs WISDOM to make the right decisions, whether they are believers or not. We know from the Bible: it doesn’t make much difference in that respect. There have been ‘good rulers’, and if they’ve WISDOM, they’ve made WISE DECISIONS. So, let’s keep praying for our leaders of Government, our Ministers, our Local Councillors, and everybody else who’s helping, and pray they make GOOD DECISIONS.
I’m going close with a Prayer and then hand back to Drew: ‘So, my prayer, Father, today is that, like Joseph, we would be conscious of the fact that we all have a very important part to play. We’re all members of Your Body, and each one of us has an equally important role to play. Some public, some private, some very obvious, some hidden. And the second thing is: May we be people who are moved by your Spirit to PRAY, to LISTEN to what You are saying and to pray the things that are on Your heart that You want to do. Lord, we ask these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen