Category Archives: TFTD

Thought for the Day : Monday 3 August

Thought for the Day by Anna Bland from All Hallows’:

Readings: 1 Samuel 14:24-46 and Luke 23:13-25

In Luke 23: 13-25 we see Pilate, the chief priests and the crowd working out what will happen to Jesus. We all know the outcome of this: the crowd shout for crucifixion, Barabbas is released and Jesus sent to be crucified.

Human nature does not come out well in this section of the Gospel  of Luke. In Easter passion performances I have found it interesting playing the different roles in this passage over the years. It forces me to reflect on the times I have acted like the various people involved in this all important day.

So let’s look at those people who are as human as you or I.

Pilate: powerful leader of an unpopular empire who run this land by force. I can’t imagine his life was easy, living in a hostile place is hard even if you are the most powerful. Giving the people what they want in this case may have seemed an easy win politically even if he seems uncomfortable making the choice. As Tony pointed out on Saturday we also see that it could also have been a politically savvy move to keep his new friend Herod happy!

So when are the times that we take the easy route to keep friends and have an easy life rather than speaking out for what we believe is right?

The crowd: as a child I learnt the crowd were paid off by the chief priests and in Mark’s Gospel it says the chief priests stirred up the crowd. I cannot claim to know what the truth was but I do wonder how much a Jerusalem crowd knew of this Galilean visiting their city? His reputation certainly goes ahead of him as we see with Palm Sunday but I don’t imagine this crowd had seen Jesus teaching or understood the message he was bringing. Were they doing it for the money? Were they caught up in the moment, not fully understanding the outcome of their actions?

Can you think of a time when you have gone along with something, not fully understanding or knowing what you are supporting?

The chief priests: often thought of as the villains, powerful and wealthy religious elites. They didn’t like this heretical young man speaking out against the order of things, the way things had always been done and the way they believed to be righteous. Someone said to me recently, ‘today’s heretic is tomorrow’s prophet’.

Where are we clinging to things of the past to keep order? Are we ignoring any prophetic voices in our midst?

Thought for the Day : Saturday 1 August

Thought for the Day by Tony Whatmough from St Michael’s:

Readings: 1 Samuel 13:19-14:15 and Luke 23:1-12

Herod and Pontius Pilate shake hands – etching by F.A.Ludy

“Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.’ Then Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ He answered, ‘You say so.’ Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, ‘I find no basis for an accusation against this man.’ But they were insistent and said, ‘He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.’

When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had wanted to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.”

How do you solve a difficult problem? By passing the buck! This seems to be what Pilate and Herod were doing. Jesus had been brought before Pilate, but Pilate can find no fault in him, so passes him over to Herod.

Herod had always been interested in Jesus. He had heard a lot about him, but had never been able to meet him in person.  There is something fascinating about supreme goodness even if you don’t believe in it.  The German philosopher, Rudolf Otto in his book, The Idea of the Holy summed it up as tremendum et fascinans, terrifying and fascinating all at the same time.

This was clearly the effect on Herod and Pilate. Both were ruthless men in their own spheres, yet they found the goodness of Jesus attractive, so much so that they couldn’t bring themselves to condemn him, but passed him back and forth, always hoping that the other would make the decision, which probably in their heart of hearts, they knew to be wrong. In that sense, they illustrate what David Jenkins called, our ‘sense of solidarity in sin.’

But there is that intriguing verse at the end of our reading: ‘That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other.’  If the death of Jesus brings about reconciliation between God and us, it can also bring about reconciliation between us as well, as it so dramatically illustrated in this verse.

Herod of course, came to a bad end and although some sources suggest that Pilate become a Christian and died as a martyr, history doesn’t tell us much about this. Both of them come across to Christians as being weak-willed and evil, allowing Jesus to be crucified.

But for our Thought for the Day, that last verse is something to reflect upon: That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other.

Can we also be agents of reconciliation in our own day?

Thought for the Day : Friday 31 July

Thought for the Day by Gill Griggs from St Chad’s:

Readings: 1 Samuel 13:5-18 and Luke 22:63-71

Have you heard of Wang Zhiming? – a Chinese pastor who is portrayed in a statue on the West Front of Westminster Abbey. In the days of Chairman Mau’s Cultural Revolution, Wang witnessed openly and clearly to the Christian faith, and he did so with grace and dignity. For this he gve his life, joining many others who have been martyred for their faith in recent years. In this way he was a brave follower of his Master.

Luke’s Gospel makes it clear that the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, longed to get rid of Jesus. They taunted him in the way in which many others have been taunted and bullied, not only in the guardroom but in Board rooms, Care Homes, schools, and other places. The persecutors become the very antithesis of the Kingdom of God and its values.

Tom Wright, who wrote a commentary on Luke’s Gospel, suggests that people forget that every single person they deal with, is a beautiful, fragile reflection of the Creator God, to be respected and cherished. ‘Luke leads our eyes to the foot of the Cross; he means us to feel not just sorrow and pity, but shame’.

R.S.Thomas, the Welsh clergyman poet, wrote a poem called ‘The Kingdom of God’; this may give us pause for thought.

The Kingdom
It’s a long way off but inside it
There are quite different things going on:
Festivals at which the poor man
Is king and the consumptive is
Healed; mirrors in which the blind look
At themselves and love looks at them
Back; and industry is for mending
The bent bones and the minds fractured
By life. It’s a long way off, but to get
There takes no time and admission
Is free, if you will purge yourself
Of desire, and present yourself with
Your need only and the simple offering
Of your faith, green as a leaf.

The Kingdom of God by R S Thomas

Thought for the Day : Thursday 30 July

Thought for the Day by Janet Lindley from All Hallows’:

Readings: 1 Samuel 12 and Luke 22:47-62

‘I don’t know him’.   

That’s how Peter replied to the servant girl.   

Looking at the passage from Luke, it had been a crazy day.  A seemingly friendly kiss had resulted in arrest and drawn swords.  Now waiting outside the house of one of the religious leaders where Jesus was interred, Peter was waiting for news. 

‘I don’t know him’.   

It feels pretty uncomfortable reading those words.  We wonder what would we have done?  What would we have said in response?  Would we have joined in the denial? 

What I’m struck by today, after reading this familiar and unsettling passage, is that Peter was there. 

— 

This afternoon I went to a Church of England webinar “opening the doors” thinking about the impact of online worship and what it might mean for the church in the future.  Across the country churches have opened their doors in a different way, and our three churches have joined in offering worship online.  New worshipers have found their way to church in large numbers.  Those who wanted to, but couldn’t physically get there, have joined in too.  It poses a question, what does that mean for the future of our worship as a church?  

— 

Back to Peter and his threefold denial.  Fast forward to John 21:17, right after Jesus’ death and resurrection we hear of Jesus and Peter meeting again.  The three denials are met with three instructions to Peter to look after Jesus’ followers.  Not just look after, but to lead, being the ‘rock’. 

— 

As churches we can often be thinking of rocks, or at least bricks and mortar.  It’s not surprising as the Church of England is structured that way with land (parishes) and buildings. 

There is benefit in ‘being there’.  Here, physically in Hyde Park and Headingley, and virtually on Zoom, Youtube and Facebook live. 

What will it mean to be church into the future?  How will we continue to welcome and serve the people who look for God through the church doors or a google search? 

https://www.dur.ac.uk/digitaltheology/ewo/

Thought for the Day : Wednesday 29 July

Thought for the Day by Angela Birkin from St Michael’s:

Readings: 1 Samuel 11 and Luke 22.39-46

Today is an opportunity for us to reflect on the price paid by God in Jesus Christ for our salvation; the price paid by Love because of love.

The Agony by George Herbert (1593 - 1633)

Philosophers have measured mountains,
Fathomed the depths of seas, of states and kings;
Walked with a staff to heav’n, and traced fountains:
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove;
Yet few there are that sound them—Sin and Love.

Who would know Sin, let him repair
Unto Mount Olivet; there shall he see
A Man so wrung with pains, that all His hair,
His skin, His garments bloody be.
Sin is that press and vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruel food through ev’ry vein.

Who knows not Love, let him assay
And taste that juice which, on the cross, a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like,
Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as blood, but I as wine.

I encourage you to listen to Ian Gillan’s iconic version of Gethsemane
from the original recording of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Thought for the Day : Tuesday 28 July

Thought for the Day by Adriaan van Klinken from All Hallows’:

Readings: 1 Samuel 10:17-27 and Luke 22:31-38

Disappointment

I’m writing this thought for the day just after my husband and I have come home from a weekend in the Peak district. It was wonderful to be away for a few days in a very different – beautifully green and hilly – environment. It was a welcome escape from the mess in our house where a building project has been going on for months (they say it’s now almost finished, really!). Yet when we got home and my husband went to inspect what progress the builders had made in our absence, he was disappointed. Not only for the lack of progress, but also because they hadn’t followed the instructions he had given them for a part of the job.

Disappointment is an all too human experience. And as our readings today remind us, it’s not only a human experience. It’s a divine one, too. Samuel expresses God’s disappointment that the people of Israel are asking for a king, as if God’s direct rule over them is not good enough. “I have liberated you from Egypt and have saved you from trouble”, God says, “but now you reject me and want to have a king?” In the reading from Luke, we can hear Jesus’ disappointment when speaking to Peter, his most fervent disciple, whom he knows will deny him three times the next day.

There’s lots of popular psychology about how we, as humans, can deal with disappointment. It usually suggests that we should begin by managing our expectations. In many cases, that’s useful advice. (For instance, do not expect builders to be perfectionists.) But as a general rule, this is too cheap. Because having certain – realistic – expectations is part of human relationships, and also of God’s relationship with us. In the Book of Samuel, God does not stay in disappointment. The people of Israel get their king (although he is hiding) who has been chosen by God. And Jesus may have been disappointed with Peter, yet Peter is chosen to be the rock on which Christ builds his church. The key here is not lowering expectations, but forgiveness and starting the relationship afresh. As Desmond Tutu put it, “there’s no future without forgiveness”. This applies to God’s relationship to us and to our relationships with each other. Let’s keep having expectations – of ourselves and of others –, but let’s be forgiving in situations of disappointment

Thought for the Day : Monday 27 July

Thought for the Day by Jan Betts from All Hallows’:

Readings: 1 Samuel 10:1-16  and Luke 22:24-30

‘Give us a king, give us a king’ said the Israelites to God. ‘All other nations have a king, we want a king!’ So God gave them a king and blessed Saul very clearly through Samuel in our reading from 1 Samuel. What God knew, and the Israelites did not want to know or hear, was that human kingship and power will always descend into empire and domination and exploitation. As it did!

Jesus knew this. His whole ministry was about combatting the idea of power as exploitation, be that Roman, Jewish or any other. The power of God is to love and not to exploit, to serve and not to dominate. In the parallel passage to our Luke reading, in Matthew 18,  Jesus tells his disciples to become like children, considered no more than slaves in legal terms. Extreme language, but Jesus is always about extreme overturning of human systems of violence.

A servant relationship could be one of exploitation as well. But Jesus turns this upside down. Master/mistress and servant have a relationship pf mutuality. We are not slaves! The great servant songs of Isaiah quoted in Matthew show Jesus as a servant. Paul talks of himself as a servant of God, and greets other Christians as servants of God. The servant relationship with God  isn’t domination, because  God is above all love and our servant relationship with her is one of joyful loved and loving service. Servant obedience is about falling in line with someone who above all longs for our good, who knows us better than we know ourselves and who wants to guide us into ways of freedom from the tyranny of buying into human power, into  the human desire to be what others are and to have what others have. Servant mind loves as God loves, without any desire to dominate.   

What form might your loving servant relationship with God take today? What might we notice about God’s loving relationship with us?

Thought for the Day : Saturday 25 July

Thought for the Day by Robin Fishwick

Readings: 2 Kings 1:9-15 and Luke 9:46-56

A fresh look at prayer

While writing my last Thought for the Day, I was tempted to go off on a tangent. I didn’t, but it’s a good tangent to go off on, so here it is for you now: 

My last Thought for the Day was about Jesus and the rich man who couldn’t follow him. When reading the passage I was reminded of an experience I had in the Chaplaincy a couple of years ago. Every year we have a group of “prayer guides” who come over to lead a week of guided prayer. When we can, we chaplains also sign up for it, and so it was that one day I was meditating on that same  passage. I was using the Ignation method as guided by Steve Hoyland, one of the visiting prayer guides. He had been encouraging me to picture the scene and imagine myself there. At the end of the exercise, as I was discussing it with Steve, the thought suddenly occurred that I could pray for that rich man there and then. Having placed myself in his presence using my imagination, I had gained a sense of the reality of the rich man’s existence and felt pity for him as he walked away from Jesus. I wanted to pray for him and realised I could

So pray for him I did –  and I gained an overwhelming sense of closeness to him. It is one of the amazing things about prayer, that God, who has already received every prayer that ever will be uttered, before the beginning of time, had already received my prayer when the rich man walked away from Jesus in sorrow nearly 2000 years ago. Let that sink in, if it hasn’t struck you before!  We often shy away from thinking such things because they are too mind boggling, but I think it’s well worth the effort to be reminded how powerful prayer is – to be reminded that for God, there is no prayer that can ever be too late. It doesn’t matter to God that you have only just remembered to pray for someone whose operation was 4 hours ago, or you want to pray for someone whose funeral you missed last week because you didn’t even know that they had died . God’s timeless existence means that every prayer comes with its own tardis – it can travel in any direction in time – for God receives it where God is; where God is and time is not.  Some Christian traditions don’t like the idea of praying for the souls of the departed, because they don’t believe in the idea of Purgatory. If there is no Purgatory, they argue, then there is no point in praying for the departed, because by now they are either in Heaven or not -end of. Whether or not you believe in Purgatory, however, should be no excuse for not praying, because whenever you pray, God will have received the prayer in time. As friends depart, let your love embrace them and let that embrace join the embrace of eternal Love. 

But the tardis doesn’t just travel in time, it also travels in space – and so it is also with prayer. Another recent experience I had was while praying with someone via Zoom. Zoom is weird, and praying via Zoom is no less weird. You are looking at someone on a screen but not into each other’s eyes. And yet the experience of millions in recent months has been of joining other people in worship whether they are a mile or thousands of miles away. Oh, it is amazing, of course, thay we have this technology to draw us close together, but what the technology does is what prayer has been doing for thousands of years. In prayer, we join in the prayers of others, regardless of whether they are a few seats away or on the other side of an ocean – and the distance has no relevance whatsoever. Thus it was that when praying with this man via Zoom I suddenly let go of the image of the man on my screen, closed my eyes and felt him just next to me -where he truly was.

People often talk about the power of prayer, by which they usually mean the power of prayer to change things, but we overlook the power that prayer has to transcend time and space and to bring us close to our fellow creatures. Prayer changes everything, but sometimes we need to change the way we see prayer.

(Apologies for the late delivery of this TFTD message – which was published at 7am on Saturday morning even if you are only just receiving it, there were some timey-wimey problems!)

Thought for the Day : Friday 24 July

Thought for the Day by Toby Parsons from All Hallows’:

Readings: 1 Samuel 9:1-14 and Luke 22:1-13

Do we have a choice?

“He scorned their offer and shouted ‘You should listen to him, not condemn him!’”

Or “He was overcome with remorse and ran from that place without saying another word!”.

Or even “That’s not enough money – find someone else to do your dirty work!”.

Imagine if that was how verse 6 in today’s passage from Luke 22 continued.  Judas had just discussed with the chief priests how they might arrest Jesus.  And we know what happened next – Judas accepted the money; and on the night that Jesus broke bread with his friends, he betrayed him.  

What would have happened if Judas hadn’t agreed to the betrayal?  If he had responded in one of the ways above?

Our Old Testament reading also talks of someone walking towards something big.  Saul’s obedience and perseverance led to Samuel anointing him king of Israel.

But what if Saul hadn’t humbly listened to his servant in verse 10?  Or if they hadn’t spoken to the woman in verse 11 and been told to hurry? 

So many things in the Bible – as in any part of history – could have been radically different, if just one or two small decisions had been taken differently.  So if we believe in divine purpose, in God’s ultimate vision for humankind, do we give up any sense that our choices really matter? 

There’s a lot of literature about free will, determinism and similar concepts.  I suspect few of us find all of the competing theories easy to understand!

But there’s a very simple point that we should keep in mind – that God loves us!  We hear that time and time again, and if it wasn’t so amazing it might become boring.  Perhaps sometimes we do say the words without really taking it in afresh.  But God loves us.  And has good intentions for us.  So if any of our actions are pre-set by God, partially or fully, then that’s not something that should trouble us.

And, like many things, it’s not a binary issue.  

God blesses us with opportunities and talents, and wants us to make good use of them.  We then make our own decisions, sometimes wise and sometimes less so.  God smiles/sighs/weeps, and gently nudges us again in the right direction – through what we see around us, what we hear from others, or what we feel in our hearts.  We then make our own decisions… and so it goes on.

At times, God’s nudges are subtle.  On occasions, more insistent.  The same Samuel who anointed Saul had to hear the message of his own calling three times before, with Eli’s help, he responded.

God has good purposes for all of us – although that’s very different from saying that all that happens will be good.  And some parts of our journey may be more clearly mapped in advance.  

Our challenge is to navigate that journey with eyes, ears and a heart open to God, making our choices in a way that both acknowledges and reflects God’s love for us.

Thought for the Day : Thursday 23 July

Thought for the Day by Hayley Matthews from All Hallows’:

Readings: 1 Samuel 8 and Luke 21:29-38