Category Archives: TFTD

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.

Thought for the Day : Saturday 5 September

Thought for the Day by Toby Parsons

Readings: 2 Samuel 17:1-23 and Acts 10:17-33

Have you ever had something weighing on your mind, which you’ve then shared with a friend?  And their response was to explain what you should do.  That might actually have been helpful – perhaps they simply put into words the decision you’d already made. 

But it might instead have added pressure, raising the question of whether you should take their advice.  And if a couple of other friends then pitched in too, all with different opinions, how did you decide which one to listen to?

In our passages today, there’s a lot of advice being given.

In the reading from Samuel, Absalom hears from both Ahithophel and Hushai about what his next move should be.  He has to make a tactical decision in his war with David.  Now there’s all sorts of intrigue and follow up in the rest of chapter 17.  And that flows from the decision that Absalom has to make between his two advisors.

In Acts 10, Cornelius the centurion hears instruction from an angel to send for Simon Peter, who at that point is wrestling with a vision from God about cleanliness.  These threads knit together just after the end of today’s reading, with Simon Peter declaring to Cornelius in verse 34 that “God is no respecter of persons” – that the existing concepts of clean and unclean are no longer relevant.

It’d be easy to say that the difference between the passages is that the “advice” in Acts comes from God, so we can be confident in it.

But throughout history many things have been done in the name of God that are very hard to listen to, let alone accept as divinely-inspired.  We have to be careful with visions, prophecies and direct revelations of God’s word to us – without, of course, closing our ears, eyes and hearts.

There’s no fail-safe for how to do this.  Prayer, discussion with others, and reading all help.

Perhaps we can try to picture ourselves with Jesus at that first communion?  Reminding us that his body is about to be broken and his blood shed for all.  Accepting his coming death and still praying forgiveness for his persecutors.  Promising that, through God, love does indeed conquer everything, even death itself.

If we continue the conversation that we’ve just been picturing, if we imagine Jesus going on to share his advice on whatever it is that we’re wrestling with at that moment, do we end up with something credible? 

Could the words we think we’re hearing really have been spoken by someone who told us to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and to love our neighbour as ourselves? 

Does the advice we might already have heard from others really reflect the compassion, humility and patience of Jesus in that moment?  The way forward might still be uncertain, but each decision we make along the way should surely be rooted – as best as humanly possible – in that pure, sacrificial love.

Thought for the Day : Friday 4 September

Thought for the Day by Richard Barton

Acts 10: 1-16

Simon Peter and I are both horrified.

In Simon Peters dream, the sheet was covered in all kinds of animals birds and reptiles. The voice said “kill and eat”

Simon Peter and I are both horrified. But for different reasons.

For Simon Peter a good Jew, eating any meat or food that was not kosher was unthinkable. Leviticus has a list of unclean animals birds and reptiles, and I can imagine lots of them were on the sheet that Simon Peter saw. Owls and cormorants, winged insects other than locusts and crickets, moles and rats, lizards and hooved animals that do not chew the cud. Jewish law stated that eating such animals made the person unclean.

For me, I am a vegetarian and have been for over 30 years. I don’t eat the meat of any animal, not because I think it makes me unclean, but partly because when I stopped eating meat I didn’t miss the taste and partly because I believe that eating less meat can help with the sustainability of this planet. I would also be appalled to think that many species of animals that may be in danger of extinction might be appropriate for the dinner table.

The voice in Simon Peters dream says “What God has made clean, you must not call profane”

This is the point at which Peter realises that “God treats everyone on the same basis” that in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile. It is a key moment in the development of the early church and a concept picked up by Paul in his letters.

To many of us the idea that as Simon Peter says “God treats everyone on the same basis” that no one is unclean, that Gods love is for all without exception, is a given. It is so obvious, and part of our faith that making this point becomes almost boring. God loves everyone! And we say “Tell me something I don’t know!”

And yet, in todays world the divisions between Jew and Gentile are arguably still present, together with tensions between of those of other faiths and none. Add to these conflicts the tensions between races, political systems, people of different cultures. Not to mention the conflict over climate change and how to care for the environment.

What is perhaps needed is for us to do more than blithely accept this truism, that Gods love is for all. But somehow to live it. To see in absolutely all people and all creation something made in the image of God and to work towards a world where nothing that God has made is profane.

Thought for the Day : Thursday 3 September

Thought for the Day by Katherine-Alice Grasham

Acts 9:32-43

I never know what to make of stories of miraculous healing like these in today’s bible passage from Acts. I am disabled and chronically ill, and so far, have not been healed from any of my ailments (in fact, I keep being diagnosed with more!!) It’s something I wrestle with on a daily basis – why does God heal some people and not others, not me?

My best friend preached on the topic of healing this Sunday, and we went out for a pint afterwards to chat about it. I was reminded whilst we were talking of a passage from the Inclusive Church Disability Resource by John M. Hull –

“(Jesus) healed people by helping them to escape the ritual taboos which marked them out as impure, by restoring them to the communities from which they had been banished, by eating and drinking with them, when no-one else would even touch them, and by restoring them to life in all its fullness. In many cases this healing process was accompanied by a cure, but it was the healing that we should emphasise, because it was being healed that saved them.”

Nowadays, although there is obviously still stigma and discrimination against disabled people, we do have laws protecting us, we are sometimes able to work if we are given support and resources, at least in this country. I am still part of my community, and people will still eat and drink with me and touch me. So where is the healing going to happen, if I am not to be given a cure?

I wonder if – for me, anyway – my healing has been the acceptance of my disabilities and limitations. That acceptance has meant that even when I can’t do everything that I’d like to be able to do, I am still living life in all its fullness – the fullness of God’s grace and love. The word “healing” comes from a root that means “to make whole”. I am made whole because I know that God loves and values me, no matter what I can or can’t do. I am also lucky that I am able to speak openly about my illnesses in order that I might help others – that’s healing too.

These are just my thoughts and ramblings on this topic. It’s very hard to condense into one short post!! But I hope that it will be a starting point for discussions and further thought, and I pray that if you need healing – in whatever form that may come in – that you receive it.

Thought for the Day : Wednesday 2 September

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Thought for the Day : Tuesday 1 September

Thought for the Day by Robin Fishwick

Readings: 2 Samuel 12:1-25 and Acts 9:1-19a

Striding out from the pavilion

Pavilioned in splendour
And girded with praise

When Robert Grant penned those words, I suspect  the pavilions he had in his mind were magnificent buildings he had seen in his childhood in India. My childhood was in the Midlands and the what that  line evoked in my mind was the pavilion of Bramshall Cricket Club and smells of creosote, tea and pineapple weed. We would go there on Sunday afternoons in the sixties, because my Dad was the captain. I would like to say that I remember watching him with pride as he strode out to play a captain’s innings and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but that wouldn’t be true. My main memories were of travelling to Bramshall in the back of Mr. Mitchell’s  Ford Anglia and drinking Vimto in the Beer Garden of the Butcher’s Arms after the matches.

As humans we like to have our gods in pavilions – or something similar – not the Bramshall kind, but the Robert Grant kind. We imagine them drinking mead in Valhalla or nectar in Olympus, only occasionally taking an interest in Earthly affairs and then making some little intervention before going back to their feasting. Even in the Christian tradition we can lapse into this way of thinking; of a God who sits in the pavilion watching things unfold and occasionally strides out to play a few strokes when things start getting out of hand – David has just had Uriah done in in order to steal his wife. I can’t have that.  I’ll have to smite his baby. Saul is persecuting the disciples. What? Really? I’ll give him a blinding light and tell him what for.

Some people don’t believe in divine intervention, because they don’t believe in a God to intervene. Some people don’t believe in divine intervention because they don’t think God ever steps out of the pavilion. But for me the main problem is the question “What is God doing the rest of the time?”

“Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done…” So Jesus told us how to open our conversation with God. This opening is not there to put you off disturbing God, but it serves as a reminder that Heaven is not a remote place where God is and we are not, but a kingdom that comes and a will that is to be done. It is a reminder that God is already on the job of love being brought to the world, there in every fibre of our being. The purpose of prayer, as has often been said before, is not so much to ask God to intervene as to find what God is doing and how we can join in.

Thought for the Day : Monday 31 August

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

Readings: 2 Samuel 11 and Acts 8:26-