He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him…All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. Luke 4:15, […]
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Matthew 28:20 (NIVUK)
‘Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.’
Hebrews 13:5 (NIVUK)
I’m a fan of 1960s’ pop music so it was sad this week to hear of the death of Gerry Marsden, the lead singer of the Merseybeat band Gerry and the Pacemakers. They had many hits including ‘Ferry ’cross the Mersey’ and ‘I like it’, but perhaps their most famous song was ‘You’ll never walk alone’.
There is a song sung on New Year’s Eve around the world which you may well have joined in with or at least heard and yet few people know what it means. Its title is Auld Lang Syne which sounds as if it’s in a foreign language and for all intents and purposes it is since it’s a phrase in the Scots language of the 18th century. The title means ‘old long since’, or as we might say today ‘in days gone by’, or ‘a long time ago’.
Over the last week, we’ve had Black Friday, the time of the year when retailers are supposed to move from operating ‘in the red’ (at a loss) to operating ‘in the black’ (making a profit). Then we’ve had Cyber Monday, encouraging us to spend online. It seems everyone is after our money. Then we’ve had Giving Tuesday. Now we can move away from consumerism as the focus is on giving to a good cause. That makes me feel better – or does it?
Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have instructed a widow there to supply you with food. (1 Kings 17:9 NIVUK)
There was a famine in Israel and God tells Elijah that he is going to save his life through a widow at Zarephath. To understand how shocking this would have been to Elijah, when Jesus referred to this incident in his first sermon (Luke 4:24-29) the religious people tried to kill him. What was so shocking about this incident?
Most people have someone who is an inspiration in their lives – maybe it is a parent, or a teacher, or some charismatic character from the pages of history. One person who has inspired me is Corrie Ten Boom.
This week marked the ‘International Day of the Girl Child’ under the theme of ‘My Voice, Our Equal Future,’ commemorating 25 years since the adoption of the ‘Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action’ – the global agenda for advancing the rights and empowerment of women and girls everywhere.
When the people realized that Moses was taking forever in coming down off the mountain, they rallied around Aaron and said, “Do something. Make gods for us who will lead us. That Moses, the man who got us out of Egypt—who knows what’s happened to him?” (Exodus 32:1 The Message)
Moses has been on the mountain for a long time. Where is he? What is he doing up there? More to the point, what is God doing? The people are impatient, begin doubting and feel they need something more tangible to hold on to. So, they ask Aaron to make them a god who will be there and lead them. After all, with Moses AWOL how were they to know whether God was still interested in them?
This week Jennifer Lopez’s 12-year-old daughter, Emme Muniz, published a Christian children’s book on prayer called ‘Lord Help Me.’ With a wisdom beyond her years, she told People magazine that she has been passionate about prayer since she was five-years-old and believes that prayer has helped her get through small challenges like getting along with her brother to the bigger ones like helping to save the planet and its creatures. In her interview, she said, “I really hope children are able to learn to pray, share the book and spread the power of prayer after reading it.”
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (John 4:7 ESV)
A normal daily trip to collect water turned into a rather unexpected encounter. Jesus strikes up a conversation with this woman and very quickly she realises that he knows all about her. He knows of her complex past, and about her current situation and yet he is more than comfortable to ask her for a drink and to have a chat about faith.
‘They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?’ (John 6:42 NIVUK)
When people made this comment about Jesus, they were implying that he is one of us. And in a sense, they were right. Jesus is like one of us. He knows what it is like to grow up in a home. He knows what it is to be single and have friends. He knows what it is like to learn and to work.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:6 NIVUK)
The temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was an invitation not simply to break a rule but to engage in an act of revolution. Initially, the man and woman were in a right relationship with God. When they woke up their thoughts and imagination would go toward him, their delight was in him, for this God, who had made them, was their unifying centre.
Over the last few days, I’ve been reminded of two historic journeys. This September marks the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower setting sail from Plymouth taking 102 passengers to America to start a new life. On Monday, Israel’s airline El Al made its first-ever flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, which is seen as the beginning of a thawing of relations between the two countries.
Earlier this month my daughter celebrated her first wedding anniversary – how time flies it really a year ago we were stressing about dresses, flowers, marquees, and my father-of-the-bride speech? Thankfully, all went well, and here we are a year later with my only concern being what to get my daughter and son-in-law for an anniversary present.
At once Jesus realised that power had gone out from him. He turned round in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ (Matthew 5:30 NIVUK)
The daughter of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, was at the point of death, and Jesus was heading to heal her. On the way, a woman who had suffered some kind of menstrual problem for twelve years reaches out to him. This woman would have been considered far less important than Jairus’ daughter and her situation far less urgent and yet Jesus stopped for her. This woman didn’t just need healing, she needed words of comfort, acceptance, and restoration – all of which would take time. So, Jesus stops and gives her his full attention.
Then [the criminal] said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’ (Luke 23:42–43 NIVUK)
This criminal had reached the end of the line. He had been caught; justice had been metred out. There would be no last-minute reprieve. There was no hope of freedom. All he faced now was an agonising death by crucifixion. With all the thoughts and pain swirling around his head he still had the presence of mind to realise that the person being crucified next to him was no criminal at all. Seemingly, he was an innocent victim of a miscarriage of justice. And so, mustering up perhaps the last bit of energy he had left in his pain-stricken body, he asks for mercy and seeks hope for the future.
‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,’
So go the opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. This week I read the story of two churches. The first is a church in Staffordshire that has not been used as a place of worship for over 20 years and was found to have 400 cannabis plants growing inside. The second is a Greek Orthodox church that was destroyed by the 9/11 attack but is being rebuilt and will open on the 20th anniversary of that horrific day.
In times gone by when I heard the term ‘The Mask,’ my mind immediately thought of Jim Carry’s film of the same name. Carry plays a hapless bank clerk who finds a magical green mask that transforms him into a mischievous troublemaker with superpowers. More recently, ‘the mask’ has taken on an entirely different meaning as should I venture out on public transport or into my local supermarket my first thought is ‘have I got the mask with me?’
‘Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.’ (Isaiah 55:1 NIVUK)
In the space of one verse Isaiah invites people to come to the Lord God four times. These invitations are not just to Israel but to all nations (Isaiah 55:5–6) – they are universal calls to come – and they encapsulate the gospel message.
Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ (Luke 23:34 NIVUK)
It has always amazed me that these words from Jesus on the cross convey the idea of a continued past action, which means that Jesus was continually saying, Father, forgive them. In other words, he prayed this over and over as he was being crucified. As the nails were driven through his wrists, and then as his feet were nailed to the beam, and the soldiers gambled for his clothes, he is praying again and again Father, forgive them.