Category Archives: TFTD

Thought for the Day : Thursday 17 September

Thought for the Day by Tim Ward (St Chad’s)

Readings: 1 Kings 4:29-5.12 and Acts 15:1-21

Hildegard of Bingen

Hello, my name is Hildegard of Bingen. This is my festival day and so, this is my Thought for the Day.  I have written poems, hymns, natural history, music, theology and medical books before, but nothing since 1179.

I was born in 1098 and became a Benedictine nun at 15. I am still famous for my visions, convents and religious writing. My passions also included drawing, medicine, natural history and music.  I based my most famous work “Knowledge of the Ways of the Lord” on 26 of my visions.  After a full, sometimes painful life, I left this earth on 17th September 1179.

I can relate to Solomon in today’s reading from the first book of Kings, Solomon was going to build a temple as the ultimate place of worship.  I had my own struggles moving a convent community to near Bingen on the Rhine.  In Kings we read of all the logistic problems Solomon had working with his neighbour Hiram, who supplied all the cedar and pine logs he wanted.

But the writer shows Solomon had wider interests: he “spoke of trees and plants…about animals, birds, reptiles and fish.”.  I too wrote, and drew about all these things, plants, fishes, trees, birds, quadrupeds, reptiles, medicine, science.

Solomon was, famously the wisest of all men” who composed “3000 proverbs, and more than a thousand songs” As well as books, I wrote a morality play Ordo Virtutum, with women taking the key roles. And also music, I was devoted to sacred music, because it helped:…

“… to build a bridge of holiness between this world and the world of all Beauty and Music.”

Kings from all over the world heard of Solomon’s wisdom and sent people to listen to him.  Well, I saw powerful people too, but did not let them get away lightly: King Henry II, the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and Pope Eugenius III and others got a flea in their ear: they needed to get back to the gospel.  I would have berated Solomon for his use of “forced labour” in the building preparations.

I knew conflict when developing my convents, and Luke, in this chapter of his Acts of the Apostles, details the division in the early church about the status of non-Jewish believers. Ending the distinction Peter says”, We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.” Peter spoke out in accordance with the vision he’d had on the rooftop in Joppa. I think we both saw creation as one.

So, thank you for letting me write this Thought for the Day. I can relate to Solomon and to Peter with his fellow disciples. I hope that this speaks to you, so you too can begin to “build a bridge of holiness”

Thought for the Day : Wednesday 16 September

Thought for the Day by Katharine Salmon (St Chad’s)

Readings: 1 Kings 3 and Acts 14.8-end

Reflection on the missional leadership in Acts

Acts gives us a glimpse of the challenges faced by the earliest missionaries proclaiming the gospel in a multi-cultural, multi-religious world. The words and deeds of Jesus’ disciples could easily be misunderstood by people with a wholly different set of values.

In Acts we see evidence that there were many wandering wonder-workers in the ancient world. In Samaria, for instance, Philip, Peter, and John encounter a magician named Simon who amazed the people with his magic and whom people believed to have divine power (8:9-11). When Simon sees the Holy Spirit given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offers them money to purchase this gift, earning a sharp rebuke from Peter (8:17-24).

Acts draws a stark contrast between the authentic leadership of apostles and missionaries commissioned by the church and the dubious undertakings of other prophets, magicians, and wonder-workers. Jesus’ disciples are not motivated by personal gain of wealth, power, or status. Indeed, they put themselves at great risk and endure persecution for the sake of the gospel. They know that they cannot control or manipulate the gift of the Holy Spirit, but trust the Spirit to work through them as God sees fit. Their ministries do not draw attention to themselves, but point to the good news of God’s kingdom drawing near in Jesus Christ.

We live in a diverse and pluralistic society with many people who have different values. How do we live in a way that shows that the Christian way is different?

Thought for the Day : Tuesday 15 September

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

Readings: 1 Kings 1:32-2:4, 2:10-12 & Acts 13:44-14:7

Ambition – good thing or bad thing?

A friend recently confessed to feeling a bit jealous of an ex-colleague who’d been promoted to the job she’d been destined for herself before she left to train for ministry. Jealousy is never a good thing, we know that, but it often arises as a bi-product of ambition. So what about ambition? Is that a bad thing too? Should Christian’s ever be ambitious?

The 1 Kings account of the rivalry between Adonijah and Solomon brought our conversation back to mind. In Old Testament history, God often seems to choose the leader who least wants the job. Indeed, ambition sits awkwardly with a lot of the teachings of the bible, not least Jesus’s Beatitudes (Matthew 5).  But there are different kinds of ambition. Can some of them be good?

I guess it boils down to the questions, “What is the end goal of your particular ambition?”, and “What are your drivers in seeking this goal?”

Emma Ineson was Chaplain at the Lee Abbey Community in Devon, then Principal of Trinity College Bristol. She’s now suffragan bishop of Penrith in Carlisle Diocese, and last year published a book, ‘Ambition: what Jesus said about power, success and counting stuffin which she explores the issues around faith, vocation and the question of ambition. She says,

The Christian tradition has been largely negative about ambition that exists to fulfil personal aims or further personal status, as in ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition’ (Phil 2.3). Rightly, most Christian thinkers have advocated humility over this kind of ambition. But there is a different kind of ambition that we might instead term zeal or passion for changing the world for Godly ends and with Godly means. In that sense, Christians should be the most ambitious people in the world!”

I wonder, if you are a naturally ambitious person? If so, what are your drivers and your end goals? Now think about it for a moment. Do these sit comfortably with Jesus’s teachings and his mission to the world?

If ‘No’, then are there ways you can re-focus or channel your ambitions to serve his purposes?

And if ‘Yes’, then thank God for planting that ambition within you, and go to work!

Thought for the Day : Monday 14 September

Thought for the Day by Clive Barrett

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Thought for the Day : Saturday 12 September

Thought for the Day by Angela Birkin of St Chad’s

Readings: 2 Samuel 24 and Acts 13:1-12

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Acts 13:1-3

In my last TFTD on August 28th we met, albeit briefly, a young man named Saul who held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr, and “approved of their killing him“ (Acts 8.1). Today we read that Saul was set apart with Barnabas by the church at Antioch for the work of the Holy Spirit, and sent off on mission. That’s quite a turnaround, quite a change in the direction of Saul’s life. Who could have foreseen that?

The people who were the early church must have prayed hard after Stephen’s death that Saul would stop persecuting them. Perhaps they prayed that Saul’s attention would be drawn elsewhere. Perhaps they hoped that God would strike Saul down. However, the direction of Saul’s life changed, along with his name which he changed to Paul, when he met the risen Christ on the way to Damascus, and from then on he followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit. That must have been a shocking answer to their prayers for the first Christians, for they now had to learn to forgive, trust and work with their former enemy and persecutor. It can’t have been easy, but here they are in our reading today trusting in the Holy Spirit and sending Saul and Barnabas off with a blessing.

So, what about us? Are we prepared for God to answer our prayers in surprising and challenging ways? Are we prepared for the fact that God’s answer to our prayers may require us to work in new ways with new people? Are we prepared to trust the Holy Spirit who blows where she blows and is not tame or under our control?

Here is some music to listen to while you ponder. It is by Iona and called the Flight of the Wild Goose. Some of you may know that Celtic Christians referred to the Holy Spirit as the Wild Goose.

Thought for the Day : Friday 11 September

Thought for the Day by Alan Griggs of St Chad’s

Readings: 2 Samuel 13:1-7 and Acts 12:18-end

Good Death or Bad Death? Both of today’s readings are about the death of a King of Israel -1000 years apart in time but even further apart in their attitudes.
One was arrogant, the other humble. It is easy to choose who to imitate.

Herod Agrippa 1 was king of Israel 37-44 CE. He was the grandson of Herod the Great (the one who ordered the massacre of the Innocents). Agrippa 1 ordered the execution of James the brother of John; when he saw this pleased the Jews, he ordered the arrest of Simon Peter as well. He quarrelled with the people of Tyre and Sidon, who depended on Israel for their grain. They were granted an audition with the King who arrived with great pomp in a dazzlingly bright silver robe. He impressed his hearers so much that they thought he was a god. He did not deny it. We are told that because he had not given glory to God, he was, at that moment, seized with violent pains, and died a few days later. Much of this we know, not only from the Bible , but from the historian, Josephus.

The other lesson records the last words of King David, the great and wise king who subdued Israel’s enemies and brought about a unified kingdom and a period of peace. He was not without his faults. He was criticised for calling a Census of the people, He had an affair with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. He ordered the death of Uriah and married Bathsheba. For this he was sternly rebuked by the prophet Nathan. (He had, after all, broken 4 of the 10 commandments in one go!.) David confessed his sin and repented of what he had done. Overall he was a good and compassionate ruler, much admired by the people and remembered especially for composing many of the Psalms.

Death is much in the news at present. Every day news bulletins tell us the number of people who have died of the corona-virus (and we shouldn’t forget the many others who have died because their treatment was interrupted). Many people are more anxious than normal, resulting in much mental illness and even suicide.. We long to hear Good News, but there isn’t much around. But it is possible to have an unreasonable fear of dying. In recent years there has been a reluctance to talk about it = a kind of taboo of speaking about it. Today it seems to be all about the numbers; many of us can’t visualize 41,000 deaths . But most of us know, or know of, people who have died. We grieve for them and for those close to them.

But we all have to accept that we are not immortal. And dying is very often not nearly as frightening as we sometimes imagine. Medical care, and especially the Hospice movement, have helped to ease the process of dying and to reduce the pain. But it has also shewn how there can be peace and even joy around the death of those we love. Visitors to hospices are often amazed at the atmosphere they find. A small group in Leeds is setting up some Zoom seminars on the theme of ‘With the end in mind’. Life goes on and love cannot be broken.

Thought for the Day : Thursday 10 September

Thought for the Day by Jan Betts of All Hallows’

Readings: Acts 12:1-17 and 2 Samuel 19:24-43

When he was ten I told my son that I had a really mega surprise for his birthday. ‘I hate surprises, tell me what it is now’ was his instant response! Which surprised me in turn.

Unpleasant surprises, shocks even, were common in the life of the early church. James had just been executed in this bit of the story we read today. Peter had been imprisoned under very heavy guard by a king who was desperate to curry favour with the same Jews who had called for the death of Jesus. But suddenly Peter turned up at dead of night at the place where people were praying, (probably not shouting ‘surprise!’)   The girl who heard his voice on the other side of the door was so shaken and scared  that she couldn’t even  open the door to him. But it was true. Whatever we make of the angel – were there influential Jews who were secret Christians who organised the escape? – Peter surprisingly was free.

Surprises figure a lot in the life of Jesus. The resurrection was the biggest surprise, but he also surprised the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he surprised the woman taken in adultery and her accusers, he surprised his parents by staying behind in the temple, he shocked the Jews by saying the Sabbath was made for people not people for the Sabbath, he surprised the disciples by walking on water to meet them …and on and on. His ministry was one of constantly turning things upside down and bringing new insights which challenged  his followers and stretched their understanding of him. ‘It’s like this, not like this’ he said constantly. ‘Look with God’s inclusive loving eyes, not with eyes of scorn or reproach’.

This thought made me reach for the old classic written by Gerald Hughes ‘The God of Surprises’. He makes the comment that when we are distraught or unhappy or afraid it is much harder to recognise the surprise of God with us. This week, feeling slow and a bit unhappy with a very sore ankle after slipping in the garden, a friend quite unknowingly encouraged me by talking about how she was structuring her day. I was then able to find a structured way to cope with my own temporarily limited ability, surprised by a casual conversation into a new understanding of how I could enjoy this time.   I was thankful for it. Can we today find a way of looking quietly at what is going on for us and find the surprise of God-with-us in some small way? Can we do this in our communities, finding a surprise in the way people have responded so well to being generous with time, with loving attention, with being prepared to do new things to help out?  Where is God’s surprising blessing in today?

Thought for the Day : Wednesday 9 September

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

Readings: Acts 11:19-30

Everyone needs recognition for their accomplishments, but few people make the need known quite as clearly as the little boy who said to his father: “Let’s play basketball. I’ll shoot and you say ‘Brilliant!'” 

Barnabas was a great encourager.  He was originally called Joseph, but the Apostles renamed him ‘Barnabas’ meaning ‘Son of Encouragement’. They were quick to choose him as the perfect person to send to a new and blossoming church in Antioch.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to give a word of encouragement but it can have a lasting effect. When my children were young, we attended a church with a youth worker who would sometimes stand near the entrance doors to welcome the young people as they arrived. As they walked in, he’d give them a kind of shout-out: “Yay! It’s ‘A-mazing Alice”.  “And look, here comes In-credible Isaac!” They’d laugh and groan at him, but I wasn’t the only one who saw these kids visibly gain an inch in height every time he did it.

Of course, this isn’t the job of just the youth worker. It’s for a whole Christian Community to encourage and be encouraged by one another. It’s an instruction that peppers the New Testament letters to new churches, and it was, no doubt, an attribute that enabled them to grow and flourish so well.

Who are the people in your church, family, school, workplace, or wider community who would benefit from a word of encouragement from you today?

Thought for the Day : Tuesday 8 September

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

Readings: 2 Samuel 18:19-19:8a & Acts 11:1-18

Peter had just arrived in Jerusalem, reunited with Jewish Christian believers after his travels.  He hadn’t just been travelling physical miles.  God had been speaking to him about who was in, and who was out.  But Peter had not brought the others up to speed.  

This was no routine briefing from Peter.  Inclusion of unclean gentile folk required a radical shift thinking for the early Church.  An awakening – God’s incredible generous love encompassed all of humanity not an exclusive few.

Despite Peter’s convincing speech, discussion, debate and argument rumbles on further in Acts. In chapter 15, he meets Paul to thrash out the early church code of conduct for non-Jewish believers at the ‘Council of Jerusalem’.

It takes time to get with new thinking, to get our heads around a new idea.  Not just understand how or why it has come about but also what it means for us and the part we might play.

Recently, what it is to worship has been major new thinking for us to digest.  Our three churches are no longer just physical places but also online.  Underpinning all of this, has been reminder that worship is not just for the few.  What we do is a joyful expression, situated in our communities, to the God who embraces all people and whose love is without limits or bounds.

But worship is not just for Sundays, it can be expressed in all the ways we act, live and breathe.  No part of our lives can be cut off from God’s abundant love, so every bit of our life can be offered as worship.  Our choice is how to respond to God’s transforming love.  It’s not a one-off special offer – this is a standing open invitation for everyone.  God’s love is a glorious, generous, arms-stretched-wide love.  It envelops and enfolds us so we can’t help but join in ourselves.

This creation season we are invited to respond to this love by creating space for God to speak to us about how we shape our lives.  Will we allow our diaries and habits, priorities and prayers, all to be touched by God’s life-giving breath?  Can we tune our ears to heaven’s whispers of God’s wonderful love?  Will we open our hearts, responding in joy and praise and loving action?

Thought for the Day : Monday 7 September

Thought for the Day by Bob Shaw

Readings: 2 Samuel 18:1-18 and Acts 10:34-48

Today’s NT reading from the Acts of the Apostles gives us a sermon from the Apostle Peter, the former fisherman from Roman-occupied Galilee. He was chosen by Jesus to be his leading disciple. In today’s story Peter, although born and bred a practising Jew, has been asked to travel to Caesarea to share the Good News of Jesus with a group of gentiles. He meets them in the house of a Roman centurion. The Jewish community, God’s chosen people, would have considered such an act an outrageous betrayal of their faith. Peter however goes on to tell this assembled group of foreigners that Jesus, who had been crucified by the Romans in Jerusalem, is Lord of All! He stresses that Jesus has no favourites, so anyone of any nationality who hears the gospel story and responds positively, is acceptable to God.

2000 years later Peter’s message is still being heard because we too can testify that we have been called to be Jesus’ disciples, together with millions worldwide, to spread the Gospel message of our Lord. But how should we tackle this task today? What are the words we would use to introduce people to the Good News about Jesus in today’s rapidly changing world?

I once heard a story about a little boy who confronted his grandmother with a question.

‘Grannie, did you know that Jesus is the human version of God?’

‘Yes, I did know that’ answered his grandmother,

‘But Grannie’, continued the boy, ‘Did you know that Jesus is the only human version of God?’

Well, that made his grandmother think. It made me stop and think too. It might have the same effect on you.  Out of the mouth of little children!

If Jesus is the only human version of God then He is uniquely Lord of all, and the Gospel message really is universal, applying not only to people of every nationality but also to the whole of creation. The month of September has been designated ‘Creationtide’, set apart for us to carefully re-assess our collective responsibility for the stewardship of this planet. As we continue on our Christian pilgrimage through this pandemic let us hold on to the essentials of our faith following our Lord by caring not only for all of our neighbours worldwide but also the created world which God has entrusted to us.