Category Archives: TFTD

Thought for the Day : Friday 5 June

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

Readings: Joshua 5:2-15 and Luke 10.1-16

“The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites a second time.’ So Joshua made flint knives, and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath-haaraloth.”

Gibeath-haaraloth, translated, means ‘The hill of the foreskins.’ I can’t imagine that it became a significant tourist attraction! In any case, it’s not clear exactly where it was located.

Today, this story must rank alongside the campaign against FGM. Similar to Female Genital Mutilation, some one-third of males worldwide are circumcised. It is most common among Muslims and Jews, for religious reasons, but also in the United States and other areas in the world.

It used to be thought that there were legitimate medical reasons for performing it, but these seem to be discounted today. The principle reason was religious, to mark men out as belonging to God. It was, and is, a rite of passage for boys.

Whilst the Roman Catholic Church banned it, some other Christian Churches either tolerate it or still require it.

It should give us pause for thought. Undoubtedly religion can enhance our lives, giving us support and encouragement, reassuring us that we are loved unconditionally by God. But sometimes it can also give us burdens that are too heavy to bear.

At a time when many are bowed down by fear and uncertainty, when our churches are closed for formal worship, it might be a good opportunity to review the practice of our faith. Are we laying burdens too heavy to bear on ourselves or on others? As I friend of mine wrote the other day, ‘What is your greatest wish for your  well-being today?’ It is a question we can ask for others too.

Elsewhere in the Old Testament we find these words:  Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. (Deuteronomy 10:16).

Let us pray that our hearts may always be open to the well-being of others.

Thought for the Day : Thursday 4 June

Thought for the Day from Peter Hemming from St Chad’s:

Readings: Joshua 4:1-5.1 and Luke 9:51-62

How much does it cost, what has it cost, you to be a disciple of Jesus?
Think, what has God’s call cost you?

… financially, economically, socially, for your family … ?

Jesus is pretty direct about it in Luke’s account here. It costs something to everyone, and there’s to be no looking back.

How has God called you?

God calls each one of us – to something. Yet, it seems that Jesus wants to put everyone off becoming disciples. No home, no regular place to sleep: Ignore your family commitments. “In life no house or home, my Lord on earth might have, in death no friendly tomb, but what a stranger gave…” was Samuel Crossman’s take on it, (My song is love unknown – verse 6.) Not an attractive call!

In Joshua 4 we read that the Israelites crossed the Jordan, (were therefore in enemy territory, and vulnerable to attack,) and God then instructs Joshua to have all the young males circumcised – leaving them very vulnerable indeed! God’s timing was perfect, as everyone was terrified of the Israelites and were not going to attack: but they were not to know that then. Does God’s call leave us vulnerable?

The experiences of the Israelites in the Promised Land (the fall of Jericho etc) and the experiences of the Early Church (read on from Sunday’s reading for Pentecost in Acts), show me that ‘If God is for us, who can stand against us’ (Romans 8:31).

When we respond to God’s call, go and follow where He is calling, He honours that choice we make.

If the call costs, there is a recompense: but the Call to serve and follow is still there.

Will you come and follow me?

Thought for the Day : Wednesday 3 June

Thought for the Day from Hannah Lievesley from St Chad’s:

Readings: Joshua 3 and Luke 9:37-50

Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: “When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.”

Joshua 3:8

I doubt I’d have much liked the job of a priest in Joshua’s time. Lugging the ark through the desert and then being sent with it, ahead of the people, into the rushing flood waters of the Jordan. But the book of Joshua challenges us to another level of trust and obedience.

Joshua was the new Moses. He was appointed by God to take the people across the Jordan river to the promised land on the other side. God had already promised him success (1:7-8), but that success was dependant upon two things: The people’s trust in God promises and the people’s obedience to His law. Trust and obedience.

The ark of the covenant represented God’s covenant promises: promises to be ‘with’ and ‘for’ his people Israel. The stone tablets encased within the ark were the stipulations of that covenant: the ten commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai. The priest’s job was to represent the people to God, and God to the people. So there’s something very symbolic in that picture of the priests stepping into the rushing waters of the Jordan gripping tightly to the ark of the covenant. As if to say to those watching, this combination of God’s promises to the people and the people’s obedience to God’s law is powerful. So powerful it can stop raging floodwaters in their tracks.

When God is ‘with’ and ‘for’ us, and we are ‘with’ and ‘for’ God, amazing things can happen.

How might you demonstrate today that you are ‘with’ and ‘for’ God?

What signs do you see that God is ‘with’ and ‘for’ you?

Thought for the Day : Tuesday 2 June

Thought for the Day from Bob Shaw from St Michael’s:

Readings: Joshua 2 and Luke 9:28-36

Were we expecting the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration today? It’s a bit of a surprise because it’s normally celebrated on 6 Aug, the same day that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima before WW2 came to an end. We could do with an end to our own life-threatening conflict couldn’t we? But what kind of peace can we hope for in our world today?

That’s a big question so let’s put ourselves in the shoes of those 3 disciples, Peter, James and John, who accompanied Jesus on a journey to the top of a high mountain. St. Luke tells us that Jesus went up there to pray, away from the noise of the crowds and all the hustle and bustle of city life. It was there in isolation from normal life that the 3 disciples had a one-off experience of Jesus’ divine status. Like them we are also in isolation undergoing a life-changing experience. Fortunately, and in spite of appearances, we are not alone either because Jesus is with us sharing our suffering. By following his example in stillness and prayer we too can be enlightened and transfigured to overcome our fears and continue on our earthly pilgrimage in spite of this global pandemic.

May the Holy Spirit guide us in prayer to overcome the weapons of this world and find the peace that passes all understanding. The Lord’s own prayer is such a powerful resource. You may also find Psalm 23 and this prayer of St. Richard of Chichester helpful today.

Thought for the Day : Monday 1 June

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

Readings: Exodus 34:1-10 and Luke 4:1-13

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Thought for the Day : Saturday 30 May

Thought for the Day from Robin Fishwick from UCL:

Readings: Numbers 32:1-27 and Luke 9:1-17

Meeting the Miracle

I remember the late Rabbi Blue telling a story of a man who was constantly praying that he should win the lottery. Week in, week out, he is asking God the same thing, “Please God, let me win the lottery””Why can’t you let me win the lottery?” Eventually God answers him back, “Come on, meet me halfway here, buy a ticket”.  

Today’s New Testament reading tells of one of Jesus’ most famous miracles, the miracle of the loaves and fishes and I want to look at how it is we can meet the miracle part way. And for the sake of variety here is a link to a song I wrote about that about 12 years ago:

I wrote the song after getting a real sense of the urgency of the problems besetting our world, particularly in relation to climate change and the environment. I remember Rowan Williams, who was Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, impressing upon fellow Christians that we can’t carry on as “normal” expecting God to intervene and sort out the mess we have got ourselves into. So the song starts with watching someone waiting for the lights to change on a pedestrian crossing without having pushed the button – rather like the man who doesn’t buy a lottery ticket but still prays he might win the lottery. The song alludes to four biblical miracles including the one in today’s New Testament reading and the parting of the Red Sea which we had a few weeks ago. Neither of these miracles start from nothing.

There are two ways of looking  at miracles; we can see them as events when the normal rules of physics are suspended or we could see them as occurrences of something amazing or phenomenal. Whichever way you see miracles, you’ll probably agree we could do with one or two right now. Personally, I generally tend towards the latter view of miracle. The word miracle comes from the Latin mirare, to wonder, to be amazed and I constantly have to remind myself to stop and wonder at the amazing things that happen all the time. At times of crisis it also helps to be reminded that amazing things do happen.

My mother, a devout Roman Catholic to this day, relayed to me as a child what a priest had told her was the “real” miracle of the loaves and fishes. The real miracle was that people shared – that they ceased to be preoccupied with how they could provide for themselves and became involved in the project of looking after each other. The priest was definitely of the opinion that the five loaves and two fishes were actually  the tip of the iceberg; that most of the multitude had come with some sort of provisions, but only in the smaller groups of fifty did they feel ready to share their treasures. There is also a message here  about hope and despair. The task of feeding the five thousand seems impossible and the resources available seem pathetic. In John’s version (6:9) it’s just one small boy with the loaves and fishes. As soon as Andrew mentions this to Jesus he follows it up with “but what is that among so many?” He seems afraid that the others will laugh at him for even mentioning the boy and his meagre provisions and so promptly rejoins his friends in the solidarity of despair. Bless you, Andrew! Dare to hope, dare to dream, dare to think that the problems that beset us are not always as insuperable as they seem. And Jesus takes up that fleeing spark of hope. He takes the bread, give thanks and shares it. And the miracle is under way.

So how do we meet the miracle part way? The first thing you have to do is identify the space within which the miracle can occur. The disciples were suggesting to Jesus that he dismissed the crowd so that they could find themselves food but somehow the idea of feeding them all came up as a possibility. That idea was a leap of imagination, a liberation from the view that “being realistic” involves assuming nothing will ever change. The second thing to do is not be afraid at the scale of what is needed, but rather to marvel at what already has happened. An obvious thing these days is to look at how the world has changed beyond expectations – how many seemingly unchangeable things have changed. A less obvious thing is to do what I think Jesus did as he offered those loaves to God – to give thanks for, to be amazed at, the very miracle of life that we live in day by day – the miracle of bread existing. The third thing to do is to contribute what you can, not concerned that it is too trivial or insignificant – what Ken Butigan calls “our modest efforts to mend the brokenness of our world”.

Loving God, give me the courage to dream of amazing things that can happen in this world through your grace, give me thankfulness to see the amazing things that do happen through your bounty and give me the hope that I might play my part in wondrous things, even when it seems foolish to hope.

Thought for the Day : Friday 29 May

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

Readings: Numbers 27:12-23 and Luke 8:40-56

How do we deal with being made to feel we are not ‘useful’ any more? During ‘lockdown’ many of us are redefining what it means to be useful. We may be shut away as ‘vulnerable’, we may be furloughed, we may have lost our job, we may have lost our volunteering opportunities. Suddenly many of the things we did to be useful, to matter in society, are being taken away. We are left with a feeling of helplessness and only being onlookers in the drama unfolding around us. We may be told that ‘staying home’ is our only contribution.

Moses led the children of Israel to right within sight of the land which God had promised them, as the acknowledged leader of this group, the mouthpiece of God. It must have been heart-breaking to see the land and to know that because of his failures in leadership he wasn’t allowed to be there at the end of the journey.

But  ‘Moses was extremely humble, the humblest man on earth’. (Numbers 12:3)  Humility isn’t something we often hear praised as a virtue in leadership  – if  only!!  Moses’ humility lay in listening to God and being willing to obey, even when he sometimes got it wrong. His total focus was not on himself but on the job God had given him to do.

We see that humility carried on in today’s story from Numbers. Moses calmly asks God to appoint a leader who will do the new job of settling the people into the land. ‘Come and die’, invites God, ‘your work is done.’ In Deuteronomy we read that Moses’ ‘eyes were undimmed and his vigour unimpaired’ when he died, but his usefulness had come to an end.  

In our three churches, lockdown is teaching us about sharing or passing on or accepting leadership as individuals are no longer able to do the work they have always done. It takes courage to say ‘someone else can share my role’ and it takes vision to accept that the work of God, leading people into a ‘new normal’, may have to be done differently.

Let’s today pray for our national leaders that they will have the humility to step back from the old ways, and the courage to see that a new order is coming, with a new vision needed.  Let’s pray for our clergy as they share their role in ‘lockdown’ and let’s pray for ourselves that we can see and rejoice in the new roles which are being offered to help lead our communities into new ways of being. Above all let’s remember Jesus who humbled himself in obedience to become one of us and show us the way of humility and love and death and resurrection.

Thought for the Day : Thursday 28 May

Thought for the Day from Alan Griggs from St Chad’s:

Readings: Numbers 24 and Luke 8:26-39

There are some people who have exaggerated idea of their own importance; they can be rude and arrogant – perhaps you know people like that; (and sometimes we can see them by looking in a mirror!) But there are others who have a poor self-image and think they are not worth much.

When Jesus was asked ‘What is the most important commandment?’ 

He replied::’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and your neighbour as yourself.’.

But how can we love our neighbour if we don’t truly love ourselves?;

We usually think of the need for humility and taking the lowest seat. 

But sometimes, if we have too low an opinion of ourselves, we may need to be reminded that we are children of God, who can be filled with His Holy Spirit, and co-workers with Him.

This is what Nelson Mandela wrote:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.. 
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be so brilliant,gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You’re a child of God.

Your playing small doesn’t serve the world..

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel secure around you..

We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us.

It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, 

We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Thought for the Day : Wednesday 27 May

Thought for the Day from Peter Hemming from St Chad’s:

Readings: Numbers 23:13-30 and Luke 8:16-25

What are you afraid of?

The unknown, the unexpected, the future …? The dark, being left alone and chaos …?  

In Luke 8:22-25 we read of Jesus calming the storm on the lake.  

To the Jews, who feared ‘the sea’ and its unpredictability, Jesus quietens the storm, [though I rather guess that the disciples woke him to help with baling the boat out and getting rid of the water splashing over the sides!] ‘Where is your faith’, Jesus asks.  

Is fear incompatible with faith?  Fear may quash faith, or it may encourage it. In this pandemic, we must behave sensibly – not fearfully. When God puts us in difficult or strange situations, we can be sure of His help. 

We are told, ‘don’t be afraid’. This is hard. We fear the unknown, virus, and isolation from family and friends, who are often ‘in the same boat’.  We long for certainty and don’t usually get it.  

The disciples were not the first to be afraid. In the Numbers 23 reading, Balack had called Balaam to curse the Israelite hordes, only Balaam blessed them: and Balack became increasingly afraid. Elijah was afraid after he’d defeated the ‘Prophets of Baal’ in 1 Kings 18.  

In his oratorio, “Elijah”, Mendelssohn set words, from Isaiah 41 and Psalm 91. [If you play the video, the words are there: if not they’re printed below; you might feel it sounds like overkill – except that we do not need to fear when God is with us.] 

“Be not afraid!” saith God the Lord, “Be not afraid: thy help is near!” God the Lord, thy God, saith unto thee: “Be not afraid!” Though thousands languish and fall beside thee, and tens of thousands around thee perish, yet still it shall not come nigh thee.  “Be not afraid!” saith God the Lord, “Be not afraid: thy help is near!”

And for anyone reading the full Old and New Testament readings, you’ll see that the paragraph before the stilling of the storm narrative includes reference to Jesus being ‘our brother’. Thus, he is both ‘family member’ and ‘all powerful’.  And as a good family member, he is available to us. All the time.                

Think about that! 

Thought for the Day : Tuesday 26 May

Thought for the Day from Richard Barton from All Hallows’:

Readings: Numbers 22:36-23.12 and Luke 8:1-15

Why do Jesus parables often seem like riddles?

In this familiar Gospel reading Jesus tells the story of the sower who spreads seed which falls on different soils and it is only on the good soil where it germinates, and produces a good crop. Then Jesus says, “Whoever has ears let them hear. The disciples themselves don’t understand the parable and ask him what it means. Jesus says, you disciples understand the secrets of the kingdom, to others I speak in parables. He then quotes Isaiah “though seeing they may not see, hearing they may not understand”. This is Jesus at his most enigmatic. Firstly, his disciples clearly don’t understand the parable despite their kingdom knowledge and secondly, is Jesus saying he deliberately tells parables so that people wont understand him properly – including sometimes the disciples?

Most commentaries assume that what Jesus is saying about peoples understanding of his parables is that, ironically, like the parable of the sower itself, some people will understand and believe and others won’t. The commentator Charles Pope has suggested that Jesus sometimes told what are effectively riddles in order to challenge and provoke conversation. Jesus was drawing on an old tradition of telling riddles including one Samson used in the Old Testament to infuriate the Philistines and which lead to all kinds of trouble!

We always need our God-given gifts of reasoning and intellect to understand Gods word. Indeed the very life of Christ was in many ways a riddle; unconventional, mysterious, counterintuitive.

What do you call a man who sacrifices his love that all may live? The Son of God – of course!