Category Archives: TFTD

Thought for the Day : Thursday 17 June

Thought for the Day by Bob Shaw (St Michael’s)

Readings: Job 23 and Romans 10:11-21

Following the daily pattern of readings from the Anglican lectionary has ensured that we hold on to our links with the Old Testament. This is very important because here we discover the roots of Our Lord’s own teaching. It also enables us to maintain a positive relationship with our Jewish and Muslim neighbours, something we can so easily forget.

The Old Testament readings set for us since Pentecost have been focussing on the Book of Job. This book has produced expressions that we still find in English literature. The ‘Patience of Job’ refers to someone willing to endure intense suffering. The expression ‘Job’s Comforter’ describes a person who means to sympathize with you in your grief but says that you brought it on yourself and so adds to your sorrow. Revisiting the Book of Job during this time of global pandemic is also timely in view of its subject matter especially here in Chapter 23 where God seems far off and evil triumphant.  Our Lord himself endured the experience of undeserved cruel suffering on the cross where He cried out in a loud voice ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’Jesus has brought us salvation but at what cost!

Clearly we don’t have all the answers to our questions but thankfully we share a faith where the experience of suffering and death does not have the last word. Thank God, Jesus was raised from death to life and in today’s New Testament passage from Romans we are reassured by St. Paul that Jesus is now Lord of all humanity, Jews and Gentiles alike, including you and me! His generosity is offered to all who call on Him, for all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

So, in spite of all our doubts, in the words of St Julian of Norwich

All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.

Thanks be to God

Thought for the Day : Tuesday 15 June

Thought for the Day by Phil Gardner (All Hallows’)

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Thought for the Day : Monday 14 June

Thought for the Day by Kevin Ward (St Michael’s)

Readings: Job 19 and Romans 9:1-18

Commemorating Richard Baxter, Puritan pastor and theologian  (1615-91)

I know that my Redeemer lives (Job  19: 25).

These words of Job have been transformed into a jubilant assertion of  Christian  faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the firm hope for our own  destiny: the resurrection of the body.  Handel gloriously expressed it musically in Messiah

In the  particular context of the Hebrew scriptures, however, Job’s words are not, in any straightforward way, so comforting and optimistic.

Job is bitterly complaining that his friends are simply adding to his sufferings. Job has undergone disaster in every aspect of his life. He must, therefore, not be the righteous, upstanding man we all thought he was. He must be guilty of some awful crime, otherwise he would not be punished by God in this way. Its the age old problem of the victims being blamed for their own misfortunes: ‘girls are to blame for wearing too revealing clothing’; black men are arrested for ‘driving while black’; sexual and racial minorities are persecuted –  simply for not being ‘one of us’. Forms of discrimination are innumerable and persistent.

Job accused his friends of being in a conspiracy with God to undermine him.  Job blames God for  treating him unjustly. He demands a fair trial. He wants to defend his integrity. He needs an advocate who can adequately present his case. He calls for a ‘redeemer’. The Hebrew word is ‘goel’: a kinsman whose duty is to stand alongside and represent the victim, attempt to  buy him back [redeem him] from slavery,  restore his good name and reputation.  Moreover, Job is determined to continue his case even beyond the grave – he looks forward to a great assize in heaven, where even though ‘my skin has been destroyed, in my flesh I shall see God’. Even in such circumstances,  my Redeemer will continue to pursue my case for acquittal and restitution.

At times in his life Richard Baxter could well have put himself in Job’s shoes. Baxter was ordained by the Bishop of Worcester in 1641. He supported the parliamentary dispute against King Charles I. He remained the minister of the parish church in Kidderminster throughout the Commonwealth, urging an ecumenical spirit and inclusion of diversity of  opinion in a national church. At the Restoration in 1660, he continued to urge the restored episcopal Church of England to be comprehensive of different opinions. Instead, he was offered a bishopric if he accepted the hard-line settlement actually imposed. He refused and was one of those ministers expelled from the established church. In his 70s, despite ill health, he suffered a harsh imprisonment of nearly two years for his dissent.  He died two years after the 1689 Act of Toleration finally acknowledged that religious dissenters could not be forced into conformity. The Church of England has finally acknowledged,  in today’s commemoration, the important part which Baxter played in fostering an eirenic* spirit among Christians. The United Reformed Church also recognises him as one of the great founders of the free church tradition.

Baxter is probably best known to most of us through his hymns. ‘Lord it belongs not to my care/Whether I die or live’ contains these words: ‘Christ leads us through no darker room/ Than he went through before’, which  echoes Job’s longing for a redeemer who understands our  suffering, because he too has suffered.

The most famous hymn is ‘Ye holy angels bright’. This expresses a very catholic understanding of the whole community of earth and heaven joining in singing the praises of our God and Saviour:

Let all thy days
Till life shall end
Whate’er he send
Be filled with praise.

* aiming or aimed at peace

Thought for the Day : Friday 11 June

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

Readings: Jeremiah 9:23-24 and Acts 4.32-37

This week Harry and Meghan announced the birth of their baby daughter, Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, named in honour of Queen Elizabeth and the late Princess Diana.

The nickname ‘Lilibet’ was coined when the then Princess Elizabeth was just a toddler and couldn’t pronounce her own name properly. Her grandfather King George V would affectionately call her Lilibet, imitating her attempts to say her name. It stuck and came to be used by close family, including her late husband the Duke of Edinburgh, who would have reached the grand age of 100 yesterday.

Names are personal and precious. Especially names given to us and used by those who know us and love us best. Today we commemorate the apostle Barnabas, who was originally named Joseph, but was given the name Barnabas, meaning ‘Son of Encouragement’, by the other apostles. The giving of second names was not uncommon in the early church. These second names often expressed laudable qualities  – like Peter, the ‘Rock’ on whom the church was built. They also functioned bilingually, which was a particular help to the apostles who were crossing borders and language barriers to preach the gospel.

The names we are given at birth can’t really speak of our adult character, but names given later in life can tell of who we’ve become. The name ‘Barnabas’ tells of the encouraging nature Joseph developed as he grew up.  The interesting thing about the name ‘Lilibet’ is that it celebrates who the queen was as a little child, rather than professing any particular laudable characteristic she developed in later life.  It is a name given by those closest to her at her most vulnerable age – a toddler learning to speak. I love that she has allowed it to remain used, by those who know her best, into her adult reign. I wonder if she did so to help her retain a sense of humility, and a sense of being truly known and loved, by some at least, as a humble child of God rather than the nation’s monarch.

Thought for the Day : Thursday 10 June

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

Readings: Job 16:1 – 17:2 and Romans 8:12-17

Even after a year of getting used to this funny time, of trying to do daily encouraging things like walks with friends, gardening, family zooms, committees and digging deep to stay cheerful,  there are days when lethargy strikes like a sledgehammer and everything feels fairly  pointless  and  by the end of the day that there isn’t much to show for it.

Like today in my life.

Then, giving myself a shake,  I finally settled down grumpily at 9 pm to writing Thought for the Day,   read Romans 12 and felt sledgehammered again but quite differently. We don’t, writes St. Paul,  have to be dominated by our human nature. We are children of God. We can call him Father (or mother). We are heirs of the kingdom of God with all that means. We are part of the great story of redemption through the love God in Jesus. Brother Ass, to use St Francis’ term for our bodies  – and hence, quite often, our natures –  is truly a great pain and an ass but we are not chained in that nature. What we do is really important as we try to be faithful to the way of Jesus but it’s not what we are. A bad day is not a life sentence.

As Job knew in the other reading for today. All he suffered  was real and mere words couldn’t work to change that. His situation was appalling and tragic, feeling completely handed over to the godless. His days were dreadful: full of the dread of what God might send, of what his despicable  neighbours might accuse him of. But, he says, as well as the witnesses on earth accusing him of being wicked he has a witness in heaven, a defender on high who knows that his prayer is pure and his hands free of violence. As we have the Spirit to plead with us and Jesus to redeem us and bring resurrection into each new day.

Whatever we feel like, whatever sour notes our day strikes, whatever feeling we have about  the aimless nature of our lives at present, this is not the story. We have to hold onto that and as Adriaan said in a previous TFTD, when life sucks or seems pointless, we have a witness and a parent in God, who we believe is there, and who redeems our rubbish days by resurrection all the time and every day. The God of love  is as he is in suffering, resurrected Jesus who walks with us.

So I went to bed rejoicing that a little of the day had been redeemed by such a gracious reminder, rather than regretting my day.

Thought for the Day : Wednesday 9 June

Thought for the Day by Nigel Greenwood (St Chad’s)

Readings: Job 15 and Romans 8:1-11

Today’s reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans is headed ‘Life through the Spirit’, and what could be more appropriate for the day when we commemorate the life of Columba, who founded the abbey on Iona ?

Born in Ireland during AD 521 and also known as Colmcille, he travelled with twelve companions using a wicker ‘currach’ to Scotland in AD 563 where he remained until his death in AD 597.  Columba was credited with bringing Christianity to Scotland and was buried in the abbey which he founded. 

Having spent a few days on Mull and gazing across the sea with an increasing sense of anticipation, I shall never forget setting foot on Iona for the first time.  The intensity of the atmosphere was so powerful that it felt like I could stretch out a hand and grasp the spirituality.  Over the next few days I walked the length and breadth of the island, but the highlight was an afternoon wandering around the rocks on St Columba’s Bay where it is believed Columba and his companions had landed so long ago.  The sense of being on Holy Ground was overwhelming as I was haunted by words of the hymn “Be still, for the presence of the Lord is here”.

Everyone who has visited Iona must surely be conscious of the remoteness, but for me it was reinforced on another occasion when stormy weather led to cancellation of the ferry for a couple of days and I was stranded beyond my planned time there – as the strong sense of isolation simply added to the overwhelming spiritual presence.

So much of Iona is summed up in this Prayer of St Columba:

Let me bless Almighty God,
     whose power extends over sea and land, whose angels watch over all.
Let me study sacred books to calm my soul:
      I pray for peace, kneeling at heaven’s gates.
Let me do my daily work,
      gathering seaweed, catching fish, giving food to the poor.
Let me say my daily prayers,
      sometimes chanting, sometimes quiet, always thanking God.
Delightful it is to live on a peaceful isle,
      in a quiet cell, serving the King of kings.

This video link conveys something of the Iona landscape and atmosphere:

Thought for the Day : Tuesday 8 June

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

Readings: Job 14 and Romans 7:7-25

Todays readings, show perspectives on not being perfect, on doing the wrong thing, on sin and on religious law. In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul anguishes over his failings,

21So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.24 What a wretched man I am!

Likewise, Job talks about the impossibility of perfection:

Who can bring what is pure from the impure?
    No one!

Paul is keen to have his cake, and not eat it.  He wants to show how the Christian faith was not about keeping the law, but that sin remained a living reality, something to resist. But if he cannot overcome the law; he cannot become pure, what is answer? He continues:

24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Rather than attempting an explanation of this, here is a poem from George Herbert. which takes up the theme of grappling with sin, and the hope of deliverance, or enrichment

Trinity Sunday

by George Herbert

Lord, who hast formed me out of mud,
And hast redeemed me through thy blood,
And sanctified me to do good;

Purge all my sins done heretofore:
For I confess my heavy score,
And I will strive to sin no more.

Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
With faith, with hope, with charity;
That I may run, rise, rest with thee

Note: In the 17th century George Herbert was rector of the rural parish of Fugglestone St Peter with Bemerton, near Salisbury . Here he lived, preached and wrote poetry. Having suffered for most of his life from poor health, in 1633 Herbert died of consumption only three years after taking holy orders.

Thought for the Day : Monday 7 June

Thought for the Day by Katherine-Alice Grasham (All Hallows’)

Happy Pride Month!!

One of my favourite aspects of queer life is chosen family. Your chosen family are those people who fulfil that role of family as a support system, often when people have been rejected by their family of origin after coming out. Many live within both family systems – chosen family and family of origin.

Chosen families are incredible and a big part of queer life for many people. But they can also be deeply spiritual, and there are so many examples of chosen family in religious texts. Most religions speak about adoption, and looking after orphans, but many also speak about widows – taking in people who have lost their partners, and sometimes by extension, their wider families. A beautiful example of this is the story of Ruth and Naomi.

Ruth was Naomi’s daughter in law, but when both of their husbands died, there was no expectation for Ruth to stay with Naomi as part of her family. But Ruth was defiant – she said “where you go I will go, and where you stay, I will stay.” Ruth and Naomi chose each other as family even after their traditional familial bonds were gone.

Jewish people read this story at Shavuot, the holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah. Sharing this story emphasises that people live a life of Torah when love and devotion are shown to everyone who is part of their chosen family, Jewish or otherwise.

Similarly, in queer chosen families, we see that strong love and devotion to each other, whether people share blood or not. We also see stories in scriptures of families of all shapes and sizes. The typical nuclear family is not the only religious model!

Thought for the Day : Friday 4 June

Thought for the Day by Emma Temple (All Hallows’)

Readings: Job 11 and Romans 6:1-14

‘Perhaps God wants you to be in the wrong place?’

These words were said to me on an advent retreat last year, while I was in the throes of anxiety about where to go next and what I should be doing with my life. They were the paradigm-shifting jolt I needed to get out of my anxious head, and realise the truth at the heart of our faith; that we are not called to be perfect, we are called to be Christ-like.

Working through Job this season, we’ve seen a man grappling with his commitment to sinlessness. Surely, he says, if he is blameless and his sins have been accounted for, he shouldn’t be suffering as he is? I think this is typical of how most of us see sin, whether we admit it or not – we think that if we carefully avoid doing the wrong thing, then God will reward us, whether that’s with prosperity in this life or salvation in the next. While I like to think I understand sin in a Romans 6 way, I more often slip into thinking like Job’s friends, cautiously avoiding doing the wrong thing, taking the wrong path, or being in the wrong place, often to the detriment of being loving and kind to myself and those around me.

But what Romans 6 tells us is that ‘sin shall no longer be our master’ – we have a new life through our baptism, a life that is free from the legalism of perfection. Sin rules over us just as much if we are constantly tiptoeing around it as if we are constantly falling into it; either way, we spend our lives in its service.

But the grace of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection frees us from this cycle to have life and life to the full. As we’re told in a quote often attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ‘Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.’

So perhaps God does want us to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, getting up to all the wrong things. Grace sets us free to live, to make mistakes, to love our neighbours courageously and actively, and to embrace the mess that comes with taking up our crosses following Jesus. Romans 6 calls us to dedicate our lives to this way of discipleship, to ‘offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.’

What are the ways you cautiously avoid sin in your life? What would it look like to be set free from those?

Thought for the Day : Wednesday 2 June

Thought for the Day by Toby Parsons (All Hallows’)

Readings: Job 9 and Romans 5:1-11

Suffering and sin.  Generosity and grace.

Our reading today (Romans chapter 5) covers these two pretty heavy themes.  We hear about glory in suffering.  And we go on to read of ungodliness and sin.

It’s not hard to find religious teachings that speak loudly of suffering and sin.  We may be told that our trespassess cause our tribulations.  Perhaps we should ask what we’ve done wrong in order to cause our suffering?  That was a question posed by some of Job’s friends, and to which he replies in today’s old testament reading (Job chapter 9).

Paul, the author of Romans, experienced plenty of tribulations.  And he was aware of his own weaknesses.  But he didn’t link them together along the “suffering is a punishment for sin” line.  Nor did he rejoice in suffering because it in some way cleansed or purified him from sin.

What we hear about instead in Romans is reconciliation, hope, and life through Jesus.

If we turn back to Job, we can read this plea – “If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more”.  In his death and resurrection, Jesus becomes that mediator.  God, in infinite grace and generosity, gives us the gift of hope.

That doesn’t mean that our lives are suddenly straightforward and easy.  That wasn’t the experience of Paul and other first century Christians.  It probably isn’t our experience today. 

Paul sets out a journey from suffering to hope.  There will be plenty of times when we can only make that journey with a lot of encouragement from the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes we’ll get stuck for a bit.  And no doubt we’ll get more things wrong along the way.  But we can keep moving in that direction.

We shouldn’t dismiss our suffering and sin.  But we should remember they’re always overshadowed by God’s generosity and grace.