Category Archives: TFTD

Thought for the Day : Friday 26 March

Thought for the Day by Toby Parsons (All Hallows)

Reading: John 12:20-36

The grain of seed

At this moment the world is in crisis.

Right now I am shaken.

Several sentences in today’s reading from John 12 strike a chord with where we are at the moment.

But it’s the image of the seed in verses 24 and 25 which may offer us both reassurance and challenge: “Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over.

It can feel like we’ve been buried over the last year.  That the earth has closed in around us, shutting out light and warmth.  We’ve almost been in a dormant state.  Life has continued, but in a subdued way – a kind of hibernation, or a seed waiting to germinate.

As we move into spring, the shoots of new growth are starting to appear.

We see it in the natural world.  And, God willing, we start to see it in relation to covid.  We pray that, as we move from Lent into Easter and beyond, we’ll be able to start socialising together and worshipping together more. 

It’s entirely natural that we want to get back to some semblance of normality, that we long for a return to life as it was pre-pandemic.

The end of verse 25 says “In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” 

And perhaps in there we can see a challenge to think about what we’ll permanently let go of?

Covid has undoubtedly brought a lot of suffering and reasons to lament.  We mustn’t underestimate the pain. 

But there have also been benefits.  We’ve walked more, and appreciated the outdoors, even if it’s just our local parks.  There have been lower emissions from traffic on Otley Road and planes flying over us.  Perhaps we’ve shopped more locally?  And kept in touch more with distant friends and relatives, albeit by zoom?

Some of these things we’ll choose to keep, and in doing so we’ll let go of our old ways.

And that applies to our church and spiritual lives too.  What will we need to let go of from before the pandemic, to create space for the seed to grow?  It may not be easy, but we have a particular opportunity as individuals, the church and society to be renewed and refreshed this Easter season. 

But to fully embrace that we’ll need to let go, not just hold on.

For your information … our programme of Thoughts for the Day will be paused during Holy Week and Easter, enabling our churches to explore other seasonal materials and also give the writers a well-deserved break !   We will then continue with TFTD’s from 12th April to 12th May, covering the wonderful resurrection stories from the Morning Prayer Lectionary.  There will be a further pause between Ascension Day (13th May) to Pentecost (23rd May) again bringing an opportunity to engage with other resources.

Thought for the Day : Thursday 25 March

Thought for the Day by Gill Griggs (St Chad’s)

Readings: I Samuel 2: 1-10 and Romans 5:12-21

There is a debate taking place in our society about compulsory vaccination for people working in care homes. On the one hand are those who insist that it should be purely a matter of individual choice and that no-one should be forced to do things which they are reluctant. On the other hand are those who are worried that allowing un-vaccinated staff into care homes risks infecting old and vulnerable residents;  The Government has made clear that they have not yet made up their minds.

This feels like the issue of individualism versus solidarity. Should personal freedom be the over-riding principle? Of course we all like our freedom to do what we want, but should that freedom only be allowed if the exercise of our freedom does not injure others. In many spheres, like the wearing of seat-belts, we seem to have agreed that it is right to insist that all car drivers are belted.

We are reminded of this delicate balance of individuality and freedom when we consider what St Paul is telling us about our solidarity in the passage for today from Romans, Chapter 5. He is suggesting that we are united with Adam in his original disobedience.  This not to say that we are responsible for what the mythical Adam is alleged to have done.; but that we are one with Adam; we are not just like him in wanting our own way, but that this is a universal inclination; in that way, we have solidarity with Adam.

But now that Christ has come amongst us, died for us, and been raised to the new life, we have the possibility of being one with Christ. Not just our allegiance but our whole being is one with Him. This is an idea that we need to reflect on. One thing that is to our advantage during this past year, is that we have time to sit and think; and perhaps to come to some conclusions,.

In a recent edition of The Observer there were 2 bullet points that caught my attention. One was the offer of grants to stricken shops and pubs; the other was to fears in the NHS that its pleas for more cash will be ignored. Both of these are important decision on which we ought to have an opinion. The more we work at these bullet points, we realize that we all have an opportunity to sit and think, and reach conclusions, and engage in useful conversation. Perhaps when the pandemic started, it may be that it was something we feared. But, by now, people may adjusted to the quietness.

Here is a poem for Spring from ‘Listen to Love’, which might stimulate our thinking:-

In coming from winter to Spring, love suffers. But soon its suffering is turned into blossoms and bursting grass-green joy, warm air and rainbows. It is young and free and above all alive.

Springtime is Easter when love rises from the earth, never again to be broken or destroyed.

Love in Spring is buttoned and belted, ready and waiting to meet life,it is  eager to try new things.

If Easter love is hurt, it forgives. If love in Spring does any harm, it is quick to set things right again

Spring love is irresistible and radiant. Listen to love in Spring as it grows.

Thought for the Day : Wednesday 24 March

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

Reading: John 12:1-11

Today we commemorate Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, assassinated in 1980 as he was celebrating Mass in the Chapel of the Hospital of Divine Providence.  He was declared a martyr, beatified on in 2015 and canonised in 2018.  Throughout his ministry in San Salvador Oscar Romero spoke out powerfully against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture amid a war between different internal factions.

It is perhaps no coincidence that we remember Oscar Romero on the day when our Gospel reading tells how the chief priests were planning to kill Jesus as well as Lazarus for as we are told: ‘Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.  So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.’

Just as Jesus was seen as posing a threat to the established order, so Romero challenged the state, as in one of his sayings: ‘A church that doesn’t provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed – what gospel is that ?’  Like so many martyrs down the ages, he was driven not only by his faith but also seeking to bring about social change, which emerged in response to the poverty and repression of ordinary people. 

In a letter read out during the beatification ceremony, Pope Francis described Romero as ‘a friend in faith, who invokes a strength and energy to build the kingdom of God’.

So, it is surely right on this day to give the final words to Saint Oscar Romero ………

‘If we are worth anything, it is not because we have more money or more talent, or more human qualities.  Insofar as we are worth anything, it is because we are grafted onto Christ’s life, His cross and resurrection … That is a person’s measure.’

This tribute by CAFOD tells us more about the life of Oscar Romero:

For your information … our programme of Thoughts for the Day will be paused during Holy Week and Easter, enabling our churches to explore other seasonal materials and also give the writers a well-deserved break !   We will then continue with TFTD’s from 12th April to 12th May, covering the wonderful resurrection stories from the Morning Prayer Lectionary.  There will be a further pause between Ascension Day (13th May) to Pentecost (23rd May) again bringing an opportunity to engage with other resources.

Thought for the Day : Tuesday 23 March

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

Readings: Jeremiah 22:1-5

Verse 3: “Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”

This passage is just as powerful in today’s context as it must have been when it was written. In a country where we are struggling and fighting for the right to protest against oppression, don’t you just want to scream out these words that God said?!

I had the privilege of hearing Krish Kandiah speak a few weeks ago, and he spoke about how often the bible calls us to care for the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow. Krish heads up an organisation called Home for Good, which promotes adoption and fostering within church communities. It takes part of that call – to care for the fatherless – very literally.

I applied to be an adopter a few years ago now. I was turned down because of my financial situation, which sadly hasn’t improved much since then for me to be able to reapply. But I believe that it will happen because I know I am called to do this one day.

Not all of us will be called to be foster carers or adoptive parents, but I wonder where other opportunities to take this God-given mandate literally, and seriously? In what situations can we as the church fight against oppression, and care for the foreigner, the fatherless, the widow, and anyone else who is oppressed and disadvantaged today. Why not spend a few moments praying about ways you might be able to take up this mantle.

Thought for the Day : Friday 19 March

Thought for the Day by Alan Griggs (St Chad’s)

Readings: Isaiah 11:1-10 and Matthew 13:53-58

A friend of mine went to University, and worshipped regularly at the college chapel; there he came across a group of other college members who had an unusual way of assessing sermons, which was often given by visiting preachers. Before the service, they made 2 equal piles of pennies, a good pile and a bad pile. Whenever the preacher made a good point they moved one penny on to the good pile; whenever they didn’t like what the preacher said, or thought it was not clear, they took a penny off the good pile and placed it on the bad pile. At the end of the sermon their pennies gave them an easy assessment of its value.

This is not a good thing to do (especially when I am the preacher!). But it does reveal how some people feel they have the right to sit in judgment over what is said in a sermon. The alternative way is to reflect how we are being judged by what is being said in the Word of God. It is thought that more than 50% of a sermon is done, or not done, by the people who hear it.

In today’s reading from Matthew we hear about the sermon preached by Jesus in his home town of Nazareth. He had been preaching and healing in different parts of Galilee. There had been large crowds eager to hear Him, and remarkable healings had taken place. The people heard him gladly, and many showed great interest in what was being achieved. But when he came to His own home town, things were very different.

In Mark’s account of this event, we are told, ‘he could not do any miracles there’.

Matthew, borrowing from Mark, modifies this; he doesn’t want to say that Jesus couldn’t do things; so he writes:
‘he did not do many miracles there, because of their lack of faith’ .

Both Mark and Matthew describe the hostile reception that Jesus received in Nazareth. He went in to the synagogue and was invited to speak; those who were present included his parents, his brothers and sisters, and those who had grown up with him when he was a boy.

They were amazed at the way he spoke – his knowledge and understanding. But to them he wasn’t a healer and miracle worker; he was the local boy that everyone knew. How could he be a prophet or anything like it? He was far too well known for that.

Mark’s gospel tells us that they said he was the local carpenter; Matthew simply says that they thought of him as the carpenter’ son. (There was a Jewish tradition that rabbis were excused the need to work, so they could devote all their time to their studies). They had come to hear him, partly out of curiosity, but they also made an assessment out of prejudice of what he said. This began before he even opened His mouth. They totally failed to come with an open mind; they had set their minds against him. We know how before long the religious leaders did the same, and in the end they crucified Him.

We have to choose: do we assess the Word of God, or does it assess us?

Thought for the Day : Thursday 18 March

Thought for the Day by Elizabeth Pearson (St Chad’s)

Readings: Jeremiah 19:1-13 and John 10:22-42

Keeping Faith during Challenging Times.

The readings today pivot on the central importance of faith and believing in God.  At the time of the reading of Jeremiah, there was great struggle and terrible destruction in Jerusalem, where it is clear that the people had abandoned God and were worshipping and making sacrifices to other gods. Jeremiah is ordered by God to take a jar out into the Valley of Hinnom and to break it in front of the priests and elders to show that it is broken and cannot be put back together. 

This is quite a stark illustration of the severity of the situation and how God was advising Jeremiah that the people could not be reasoned with, and as a result of their ignorance, they should be abandoned by the elders and priests, as they were not believers, would not listen, and nothing more could be done.

Furthermore, God warns that he will bring further punishment, and ultimately that they will become food for the birds and animals. This is happening because the people had seen healing, miracles, and had heard scripture and religious teaching, yet still did not believe, and no more time was to be invested in them. 

The second reading tells of Jesus’ rejection, where the people question him about being the Messiah. Again, Jesus tells them that they will not believe, and do not listen. That he is one with his Father. He also says “You are not my sheep”.  Following this, there is the threat of violence as they pick up stones to throw at him. Jesus says “It is written in your own law that God said ‘You are Gods'”.

Following the threats, Jesus returns across the River Jordan to the place where John has been baptising people, and stays there. No more miracles were carried out, but by their actions, Jesus aimed to show the truth, and many people there believed.

Like now, during difficult times, there is the danger to overlook our faith, and just focus on day-to-day routines, forgetting the essential practice of prayer, service to others, and worship. Jesus taught about the importance of repenting of our sins and forgiveness. He also saw the high value placed on being part of a religious community of like-minded people to learn and grow.  All these activities help us to be more loving and giving with our time, ourselves and those around us. It also shows us the high value placed on keeping good company, and being with like-minded people, who you are aligned with.

As Christians, and particularly during Lent, let’s celebrate the value and learning we get from our faith and how through some of the most challenging times, life is much more abundant and joyful when we can share together and worship (either literally, remotely or in private).

Thought for the Day : Wednesday 17 March

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

Readings: Jeremiah 18:13–23 and John 10:11–21

St Patrick (5th century AD)

Jeremiah is angry. He’s publicly warned the people – and so in effect the ruling elite – over and over again that if they persist in evil God will punish them, but if they repent God will be good to them. A familiar prophetic message, one that he really doesn’t want to deliver, but God’s word burns in his bones so that he is compelled to speak out. It’s a frustrating duty because it’s worse than unpopular, it’s dangerous. Even worse, it doesn’t seem to be working. No one listens, they just laugh at him and tell him he’s raving mad. So he’s fed up with God for insisting that he carries on with this pointless mission.

Perhaps he is a bit mad, or at least it looks like it, because some of the symbolic actions that God tells him to do are, frankly, weird. What would you do if you thought God was telling you to buy some underpants or knickers, wear them for some time without washing them, then hide them in a rock crevice by the river; then, later, go and find them and see what state they were in? To be honest I would think that had to be a delusion: either God was crazy or I was. But Jeremiah did as he was told, and there was a point to it – a very graphic, not to say stinking, demonstration of just how ruined Judah’s condition was as a result of their unfaithfulness to God, their idolatry and their oppression of the poor and needy.

But the rulers not only stubbornly refuse to listen, they get so fed up with Jeremiah’s prophecies that they decide to silence him by means of false charges. The religious establishment (the priests, the prophets, the respected advisers) are telling them what they want to hear; Jeremiah is way out of line. This was happening more than 2500 years ago, but those in power use the same techniques today – look at Alexei Anatolievich Navalny, currently in a Russian concentration camp (his words) after a string of false charges … and it would be easy to find many other similar cases.

Jeremiah’s reaction is understandable. They’ve crossed the red line. He complains to God and asks him to punish them as he (Jeremiah) had said God would. It seems obvious that’s what God must do now. But Jeremiah knows God could still change his mind, so he gives God some terrible advice: deal with them while you’re angry. Acting (or speaking) while in the heat of anger is the last thing one should do, as we know today and as Jeremiah should have known if he was familiar with any of the sayings about anger that were later collected in the biblical book of Proverbs. (See for example Proverbs 15:18 and 16:32.)

It seems to me Jeremiah is projecting his anger onto God. And while God’s judgement on the Kingdom of Judah did happen later – in 587 BC, when the Babylonian armies conquered Judah and destroyed Jerusalem – God didn’t follow Jeremiah’s advice and ‘smite’ them there and then.

Okay, so Jeremiah got that one a bit wrong. But I want to focus on his honesty with God, even when he wants revenge or when he finds his life and calling unbearable (chapter 20). When we pray, are we willing to open up to God and admit our feelings and our mistakes, even if some of them are shameful? God is our loving Father/Mother, who gladly forgives us when we get things wrong, and who wants our relationship with God to be real and genuine, without the self-censorship that we can easily fall into.

PS Apologies to those with Irish connections for not basing this Thought for the Day on St Patrick. But here’s a quick after-thought: Patrick was originally from what is now south-west England, in his day part of the Roman province of Brittania, but as a young man he was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland (Hibernia) to work as a slave. He escaped and got back home, but despite those dreadful years of slave labour there he later went back to Ireland and, as we all know, served God by spreading the Christian faith there. As with Jeremiah, even great suffering can bear much fruit.

Thought for the Day : Tuesday 16 March

Thought for the Day by Hilary Larkin (St Chad’s)

Readings: Jeremiah 18:1-12 and John 10:1-10

I rather like today’s passage from Jeremiah, about the potter and the clay. It takes me back to a period of time many years ago when I did a lot of pottery. I loved working with clay and the feeling of creating something beautiful out of it.

The process of making a clay pot on a wheel has probably not changed much from Jeremiah’s time to this. It’s messy and slow, the clay has to be well prepared first, and time, patience,experience and love are needed to make a decent hand thrown pot. It is not a quick assembly line job! Clay itself is of little value, being made of earth and water, only the finished well shaped pot holds value.

Jeremiah uses the imagery of the potter and his clay to get across God’s message in the same way that Jesus in the New Testament often uses parables. He lived at a time when the people of Judah had increasingly become corrupted and turned away from God and is warning the people of Judah that God will judge them and destroy their nation, but equally He can change his mind if they repent and turn back to God.

God can form us but if we don’t respond he will judge us, this seems pretty harsh but equally he can change his mind if we turn back to him. A reassuring thought, if we mess up our lives God will not give up on us. But we have to want that, we have to listen and allow God to guide us. Unlike the clay we have hearts that can respond. We are not in the hands of chance, God the potter loves and wants the best for us. Clay cannot mould itself, it needs to submit to the potter. However God knows that the people of Judah at that time will continue with their own agenda and (v12) ‘each will follow the stubbornness of their heart’.

We too can have stubborn hearts at times and allow ourselves to turn from what we know that God expects of us. We can be in danger of becoming cold, uncaring of others and our environment, greedy, selfish, I could keep going on! At those times it is up to us to choose to change our mindset, turn our hearts to God and allow ourselves to yield to God’s love and guidance.

In John’s Gospel we hear the parable of the Shepherd and His flock. The sheep listen and recognising the voice of the Shepherd follow Him and enter the sheepfold by the gate and are kept safe. Jesus says ‘I am the gate, whoever enters by me will be saved’ (v8). Again we are being told it is up to us to take responsibility and make a choice to follow the right path. Jesus won’t make us.

Do we really put our trust in God? It’s an ongoing process and so easy to fool ourselves into thinking that what we want is what God wants for us. It may not be!
Are we prepared to listen to God and allow Him to shape and guide our lives?

Thought for the Day : Monday 15 March

Thought for the Day by Hayley Matthews (All Hallows’)

Readings: Jeremiah 17:5-18 and John 9:18-41

I love the chap in the gospel, today, ‘I do not know whether He is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ It reminds me so much of the nineteen years I spent in Blackpool in an extremely challenging deprived parish. Members of our congregation would find themselves back on their estate or in the tower blocks having the mick taken out of their faith. ‘Go on then,’ people would say, ‘how exactly did Jesus rise from the dead?’ in peals of laughter. These and other awkward questions were met with just such a response; ‘No idea, mate, but what I do know is that Jesus has completely changed my life…’ followed by the evidence, usually just standing there, right in front of them. Truth be told, the evidence was always far more compelling than a theological argument about doctrine or supernatural miracles.

Just like the person in the passage from Jeremiah, the believer is not put to shame for following Christ, whatever others may do or say. Two of my favourite lines from that passage – often spoken before we take Holy Communion – are:

‘Heal me, Lord, and I shall be healed;
    save me and I shall be saved’

There is no sense of needing to know something, prove something or earn anything here. It is completely irrelevant whether or not we come from a deserving or undeserving family (‘who sinned, him or his parents?’). There is just a simple acceptance that whomever we are, whatever we have or have not done, all we have need of – all that is necessary for our health and our salvation – can be found in Jesus Christ and is there for the taking.

The writer makes it clear that whether or not they receive their healing, their cleansing, their release from guilt and shame, does not require depend upon on the faith of others or our own theological prowess – it is based entirely upon God’s action in our lives and in our hearts. It is about us being willing to accept the gifts on offer to us, should we humble ourselves to know our need of them. I know that I shall always have need of them. How about you?

  • Let us sit before God and allow the Holy Spirit to show us our need of God, particularly where we have hidden it even from ourselves.
  • Let us acknowledge those things we cling to, in order to ‘deserve’ God’s love and grace – and let them go.
  • Let us pray that we may all open ourselves up to God’s healing grace and salvation, knowing we are all truly and fully freed from shame, wherever we have come from and whatever we have done, however hidden they are or respectable things may seem on the surface.
  • Let those of us who feel ashamed of our backgrounds or past, release that shame into God’s healing hands and loving care. Allow yourself to feel fully aware that you are part of God’s family now, beloved, treasured, healed and forgiven.

Thought for the Day : Friday 12 March

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

Reading: John 8:48-59

There’s a very well-known story about a man trapped in the water (variations include him on a roof during a flood, lost on a large lake without his oars, or lost at sea). The man, being a good Christian, prays and believes that God will rescue him. A boat happens upon him and offers to help. The man refuses, saying, “No thanks, God will save me.” A rescue helicopter shows up on the scene and drops him a lifeline. Again, the man refuses the help, citing his faith in God to save him as he waves the would-be helpers away. Another boat tries to convince him to take their aid, but the man stubbornly won’t budge as he waits for God to rescue him. Inevitably, the man dies. When he gets to heaven, the man rather indignantly asks God, “Why didn’t you rescue me?” God answers, “Are you kidding me? I sent you a helicopter and two boats!”

After reading Jesus’ discussion with those opposing him in John 8, I immediately thought of the story of the stranded man because he, like the Jews arguing with Jesus, can’t see or understand what’s right in front of him.

John 8.48-59 is a continuation of a larger conversation taking place at the temple in Jerusalem during (and following) the weeklong Feast of the Tabernacles. Each night of the festival, an elaborate Temple light celebration took place in the courts of the temple to symbolize God’s glory coming down in the past and to express the prayers and hopes of it coming down to earth again with the Messiah. In John 8.12, Jesus calls himself that glory and Messiah, proclaiming, “I am the light of the world” thus beginning another of John’s ‘conflict narratives’; our text, where Jesus claims himself eternal, ends this particular debate.

Each of these conflict narratives in the gospel of John give us another perspective on what those who see Jesus are missing when they don’t see Jesus as Messiah. Like the man trapped but unable to see God as his rescuer through a boat passing by, the Pharisees cannot understand the man in front of him as the Messiah because he is not the Messiah they are willing to recognize. Instead, they see him as a madman with a demon at best, and at worst, a Samaritan heretic.

How do we fail to see what is right in front of us?

Where do we misunderstand a stranger? Maybe because they come from a different background from us, or have a different language? How can we reach out to make another welcome?