Thought for the Day : Thursday 25 February

Thought for the Day by Angela Birkin (St Michael’s)

Reading: John 6.1-15

The miracle story of the feeding of the multitude, five thousand men with additional women and children as reported by Matthew, is the only miracle story of Jesus which is included in all four Gospels (see Mark 6.32-44, Matthew 14.13-21, Luke 9.10-17).

It is thus exceptional. It is important!

For John the Evangelist, it is one of the signs that Jesus did, with a deeper meaning than simply feeding thousands with bread and fish. It is Passover time, the second such time in John’s Gospel, and John wants us to think both of the Passover and the liberation of the children of Israel from Egypt by God (Exodus 12), and of the other Passover times at the beginning and end of Jesus’ ministry (John 2.13-25, John chapters 12-19).

As with the miracle at the wedding in Cana, this is a miracle of abundance. Everyone ate until they were satisfied, and there were still twelve baskets of food left over which was much more than the five barley loaves and two fish that Jesus was offered by the boy.

John shows the connection of this miracle with the mission of Jesus,

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,”

(John 10.10)

and with the Eucharist as Jesus’ words recall those used in the early church’s eucharistic practice,

“Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them”

(John 6.11)

“Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them”

(Luke 22.19)

The crowd who were fed by Jesus, appreciating their full bellies, wanted to make him king, by force if necessary. Feeding people is a political act! Jesus resisted them because he was offering them even more than temporarily full stomachs.

This Lent, do we just want a full belly, or abundant life that our generous God offers us through Jesus Christ?

This Lent, are we prepared both to offer people full bellies and to tell them of the abundant life in Christ that is also theirs if they want it?

This Lent are we willing to offer Jesus what little we have and see what miracle he will bring about?

Thought for the Day : Wednesday 24 February

Thought for the Day by Janet Lindley (All Hallows’)

“Nothing to fear”

Readings:  Jeremiah 5:20-31; John 5:30-47

You know that feeling. It’s like bashing your head against a wall. You’re having a conversation, trying to explain something important, but the person you’re talking to doesn’t get it.

It’s exhausting. Frustrating. At times maddening.

Sometimes it’s a lack of understanding. They just haven’t got there and need some processing time. But others it’s stubborn pig-headed-ness. Digging heals in and refusing to budge.

Our two readings today, though different voices, are all about that frustration!

First is Jeremiah in the Old Testament with some pretty strong language. He’s calling the Israelites airheads and scatterbrained. Why? Though he’s using his own words, he is a prophet – his job is to speak uncomfortable home-truths from God. His challenge – remember that God rescued you from slavery.  Not just that, their good fortune was a gift to start with, so don’t hold onto it quite so tightly.

The second voice is Jesus speaking to the educated, informed and pious church elite. He’s accusing them of failing to recognise who he is. Despite evidence from multiple reliable sources, they are being more swayed by public opinion.

What to do with these upbraiding readings? Put them aside as a couple of religious rants? Or start picking out people we know who are that annoying? Do we say “I wouldn’t do that, it doesn’t apply to me”? Or beat ourselves up for letting our personal motives get in the way?

But when we sit and stop, what is underneath?

Is there fear? Fear that we might find ourselves to be pigheaded and stubborn? That we might find mixed motives in our actions? Fear that if we bring our real selves to God, we might be found lacking?

We don’t take these passages in isolation. We can remember that our God, the God of mercy and of grace, is also the one never goes off duty and “will not let your foot slip” (Psalm 121:3).

Take a moment. Bring yourself to God. Listen to the song “nothing to fear” – let those words from God wash over you “what can separate you from my perfect love”.

Thought for the Day : Tuesday 23 February

Thought for the Day by Malcolm Heath (St Michael’s)

Readings:

In the season of Lent we are encouraged to reflect on the shortcomings in our relationship with God, and on the steps that we can take to improve that relationship.

Jeremiah might say that we are letting ourselves off lightly: that our disregard of God’s will and our resistance to it requires radical repentance and radical transformation. There is not a single person who acts justly or seeks truth (Jer. 5.1); when we speak about God, we do so falsely (5.12). What we need, Jeremiah might say, is more than an annual forty-day and forty-night top-up: our individual and collective sins demand a year-long Lent.

‘“Shall I not punish them for these things?”, says the LORD’ (5.9).

But also:

‘“Even in those days,” says the LORD, “I will not make a full end of you”’ (5.18).

God urges Jeremiah to search the streets and squares of Jerusalem to ‘see if you can find one person who acts justly and seeks truth—so that I may pardon Jerusalem’ (5.1).

But is there even one such person?

As the reading from John’s Gospel reminds us, there is. Jesus, the Son, is in complete unity with his Father: ‘whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise… Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father’ (John 5.19, 21-22).

In the penitential gloom of Lent, we look towards the light of Christ’s resurrection, and of our own: ‘very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life’ (5.24).

Thought for the Day : Monday 22 February

Thought for the Day by Anna Bland (All Hallows’)

Readings:

I love the narrative that our readings today give us. Two snippets of the Bible can sometimes tell us so much.

In Jeremiah 4 we see a prophecy of death and destruction. He rages against human sinfulness and speaks of the destruction that will come through judgement. I have always liked the book of Jeremiah – it is quite poetic and I love the drama of the language he uses. 

‘I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. 
I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the sky had fled.’

Jeremiah 4:24-25

Some have seen this imagery as linked to what could become of our planet if we do not get a handle on the climate crisis. I prefer to see it as more of an image of the desolation that sinfulness brings – sinfulness as understood as anything that separates us from being in right relationship with God, community and the world. A reflection on what pain and loneliness can feel like within each of us.

By contrast we see such a beautiful story of rebellious healer Jesus in John 5. This is a classic Sunday school story – the hole in the roof, the man’s friends lowering him through the ceiling so desperate were they that he should receive the healing touch of Jesus. It is not surprising this story is taught to children as it speaks of faith but also the incredible loyalty of friendship and is an example of what true friendship can look like. What is perhaps spoken about less in Sunday school is Jesus then getting into trouble with the religious elites (one of his favourite hobbies). 

The contrast between desolation and destruction and the healer Jesus and a gang of determined loyal friends tells in miniature the story of redemption in the Bible. Jesus can bring healing to our inner turmoil and light into darkness, it does mean he annoys some of the know-it-all elites along the way but that can also be a lesson to us!

Image by Patrick Hendry from Unsplash.

Sunday Worship 21 February 2021

Today is the first Sunday in the season of Lent and it is also Student Sunday so we were very pleased to have Emma Temple and members of the Inclusive Christian Movement group at Leeds University sharing with us their thoughts about Lent and Christian student life.

Sunday 21 February 2021 – First Sunday in Lent

This Sunday is the first Sunday in the season of Lent but also is Student Sunday. Emma Temple will be thinking about Lent being an opportunity to set reminders for ourselves to deepen our relationship with God by stepping into the unknown, and carry on learning throughout our faith journey. She will be supported – virtually – by members of the Inclusive Christian Movement group at Leeds University with readings from Genesis 9:8-17 and Mark 1:9-15.

Here is the service sheet we will be using during Lent:

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Thought for the Day : Friday 19 February

Thought for the Day by Clive Barrett (St Michael’s)

Remember: God knows

‘Come and see a man who told me
everything I have ever done!
He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’

John 4.29 (4.39)

We all have such different experiences of lockdown. Some of us frantically try to keep up a home-schooling operation; others of us have more than enough time to sit and think. Whatever you are facing, how will you remember it in years to come?

“He told me everything I have ever done.”

I’ve thought a lot about “memory” lately.* The start of Lent is a good time for remembering, to look back in a structured way. Why not jot a couple of lines in a notebook every day about one memory from your past? Maybe a big event, a special person, or just how it felt once on some regular day… Maybe it’s one year per day (if you’ve got enough years!), or just as it comes.

It’s important that, each week of Lent, you make sure that most memories you jot down are positive for you. But also, in amongst, be honest enough to acknowledge when you have felt pain, and when you have caused pain. Read it back to yourself in Holy Week, and lay it at the foot of the cross. A window into your life; set before Jesus.

What made the Samaritan woman think that Jesus might be the Christ was that he knew everything about her. God already knows everything about you, things you remember, or want to remember; even those memories you hide from yourself. What’s wonderful is that even knowing you fully, your warts and all, God still loves you, accepts you, invites you.

Dare to remember, this Lent.

“He told me everything I have ever done.”

God knows you.

            God loves you.

God holds you

and heals you;

God calls you…

Public Notice for re-roofing All Hallows’ Church

We are applying for permission to replace the roof of All Hallows’. If you would like to know more or wish to object to any of the works please see the plans here and the Public Notice below:

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If you would like to discuss the plans in more detail please contact Paul Magnall via contact@allhallowsleeds.org

Thought for the Day : Thursday 18 February

Thought for the Day by Jan Betts (All Hallows’)

Reading: John 4:1-26

The wonderful, dynamic story of the Samaritan woman meeting Jesus, alone at a well  in a huge breach of cultural norms, has long been regarded as a classic example of a woman who was ‘no better than she ought to be’ being ‘rebuked’ and forgiven by Jesus. But even that limited and frankly very one sided interpretation of the encounter only addresses Act 1  of the event and misses some of the point of the story. Act 1 and Act 2 both have something to say about how we meet with those who might be ‘strangers’.

Jesus had a soft spot for Samaritans, people despised by the Jews. They were people who shared a common ancestry with Jewish people through being descended from Abraham and Joseph but who had taken a different path and believed, as they do today, that Mount Gerizim is the Holy Mountain, not the Temple Mount of Jerusalem.  Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan who ignored ritual laws of uncleanness in his compassionate response to an immediate need. The Samaritan was prepared to overlook and discard barriers of belief and heritage when a fellow human being simply needed help. The Samaritan, the ‘other’, modelled God in the world.

How does Jesus behave in this chance encounter with a ‘despised’ woman? We know he can be fierce over shaming people he thinks need shaming. He was never afraid to shame Jewish religious leaders, but he is always respectful to women, especially or because they could be so subject to male condemnation or exploitation. So he respects her.  He asks her for something, exposing his own need  – always a good way to start a conversation – then goes on to have a discussion about theology and cultural heritage, gently drawing her in and showing he regards her as an equal, a thoughtful woman on her own ground. He’s the intruder here so he doesn’t claim one upmanship, but again discards the barriers of  heritage. He earns her listening ear, and the comment about her husband is not about shaming her but about bringing her salvation.  She recognises through this perception that he has more to offer than an interesting conversation and honestly and openly continues the discussion. Jesus loves this, loves her thoughtful honesty and receptiveness, and is able to respond to her implied question about the Christ with a simple declaration which she is very excited to hear.

Who are the people we might meet, who might interrupt us in some way,  who are utterly unlike us and who we think are unlikely to respond to Jesus? What might the Spirit be doing in them? How do we meet them in fearless love and respect and let them lead us to talk of Jesus?

Thought for the Day : Wednesday 17 February

Thought for the Day by Hannah Lievesley (St Chad’s)

Ash Wednesday

Bible reading: 1 Timothy 6:6-19

“Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” (1 Timothy 6:6)

Quakers are known for their desire to live simply. They prefer not to be dependent upon unnecessary possessions or the security these appear to bring. There’s a story that a simple-living Quaker was watching his new neighbour move in with all of his many furnishings and expensive gadgets. When the move-in was complete, the Quaker went over to his new neighbour and said, “Friend, if ever you need anything, come to see me… and I’ll tell you how to get along without it!”

Our Ash Wednesday service today will invite us, “to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word.” Perhaps this sounds like an unwelcome extra layer of restrictions in a time of lockdown. But I confess that, for my part, I’m thirsty for the refreshment such simplicity can bring.

Sometimes, you can be offered the finest wine or sweetest most luxurious hot chocolate, but only water will quench your thirst and bring the refreshment you need. How will you allow Lent to refresh you this year?

Henry Thoreau said, “a man is wealthy in proportion to the number of things he can afford to do without”. How might you strip back the clutter of your inner and outer life this Lent to make space for the true riches found in a closer relationship with God?