Thursday 22nd September
Reading: Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:6-10
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24
Reflection: Winter will soon be upon us and with it the reality of the shortfall in household income that will be hitting so many this winter. The stats make difficult reading – we have, I’m told, within the G7, the highest inflation rate coupled with the second lowest economic growth rate. As a country our economic gap between richest and poorest goes on growing - the richest 1% of UK earn 13% of the money… CRAZY!
We have all become too familiar with the scandal of the exponential growth in the use of food banks. At the turn of the last century, food was a high percentage of our income… today, for some families’ food takes just 10% of their household income!
The Scandinavian countries are held up as examples of societies that care - there are no beggars, no one living on the streets… why? Because they have realised that the well-being of society is about the well-being of the poorest. (How Jesus is that?!) When we pause to think about it, money in and of itself, has no intrinsic value, money has no moral value, it is what we do with our money that gives it moral value. Interestingly Jesus never demonises wealth, it's just that we can’t serve money and God and in Timothy Pauls says that it is the love of money that is the root of all evil.
Have we ever allowed ourselves to consider that when Jesus came to redeem the world, that includes our money? Do we need a change of mind set – so that taxation is no longer seen as a dirty word (and I guess that applies to the Common Mission Fund too!). Might we be prepared to see taxation not as a duty to state, but as a privilege to help others. We’d all pay more if we knew it would go to feed, house and clothe those in need.
Do we see money as ours? Or are we ready to view our money as something that is intrinsically good, and is for us to give away. Maybe we need to change our attitude to charitable giving… because deep within us, there is a desire for our money to be put to be put to good use, to be used for good.
Tom, in his previous church and our friends who work in the midlands have both started food banks in their churches. One of our churches has discussed the idea of becoming a Heat Hub, where the church is open during the day, for people to work, read, chat, play games, so that they don’t have to heat their homes. What we can do to bring hope? What are we as Church, as churches in our villages, as Christians in our communities, how are we going to act, how are we going to use our voice to bring the hope we have, in practical ways to others?
Worship through music: We seek your Kingdom Noel Robinson, Lou Fellingham, Andy Flannagan, Donna Akodu https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Lp2mMpSa1E
Worship through art:
The Love of Money is the Root of all Evil by Debbie Turner Chavers
Thursday 15th September
Reflection, readings and prayer:
As we mark the end of an era, today we move between reflection and prayer.
Individually and collectively we are mourning the loss of Her Majesty, the Queen, undoubtedly one of the world’s most faithful and famous Christian leaders, whose public service and Christian faith shone brightly for more than seventy years.
We pray: King of Kings, we give You thanks today for the life and faith of Your servant, our sister, Elizabeth. As countless people remember her life and legacy, may we be inspired anew to live for You in the service of others for as long as we may live. Amen.
As we lament the Queen’s passing, as God’s people have done since ancient times, we can still rejoice in the sure and certain hope of resurrection, in the famous words of Job 19:25-27: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!”
On Christmas Day 1952 the new, 26-year-old monarch spoke for the first time to the world, in what was to become, her annual Christmas broadcast:
Pray for me,’ she asked, ‘that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life.’
It was a prayer that God has answered. Six months later at her coronation, Elizabeth would make solemn promises, which she kept faithfully for the next seventy years. The newly crowned Queen promised three things: to govern appropriately, to maintain justice, and to profess the gospel of Christ - she did all this until her final breath.
As the Queen reflected on the millennium year, I remember being struck by the complete candour of the importance of her own personal faith in her Christmas broadcast of 2000: ‘For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life.’
Almost twenty-two years after that speech, more than seventy since Elizabeth became Queen, we witness contemporary leaders failing and falling at an unprecedented rate. Notions of duty, of promise-keeping, and of accountability to God can seem antiquated and even naive. But at such a time, Queen Elizabeth’s life-long example of consistency in private faith and integrity in public service is both startling and inspiring.
We pause and pray for Archbishop Justin Welby, as he prepares to officiate at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, seeking to bring comfort and hope whilst pointing a vast global audience towards Jesus.
At her coronation the Queen was presented with a Bible as these wonderful words rang out, not just in Westminster Abbey, but all around the world:
‘We present you with this book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is wisdom, this is the royal law, these are the lively (living) oracles of God.’
She was wearing a priceless golden crown adorned with 2,901 precious stones, she was sitting upon a throne in a thousand-year-old vaulted abbey, and yet God’s Word was recognized as ‘the most valuable thing this world affords’. Thousands of years earlier the Psalmist put it like this:
‘Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.’ Psalm 119:97-99
We pray: Lord, renew in me a reverence for Scripture, sharpen in me a genuine hunger for Your Word, and to give to me, as You gave to the Psalmist and to your servant Elizabeth, an ever-deepening love for Your Law.
Lord we pray, for all who are grieving the loss of a loved-one, in the prayer used at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth’s father King George VI:
ALMIGHTY God, Father of all mercies and giver of all comfort; Deal graciously, we pray thee, with those who mourn, that casting every care on thee, they may know the consolation of thy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
As we mourn, mindful of life’s transience, the God who loves us reassures us with these words:
...I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die… John 11:25-26
Worship through music with images: Tears and Celebration written by Andy Flannagan September 2022, sung by Katherine Jenkins 14th September 2022 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNeqtk7EyCs&t=48s
There has also been a moving new hymn written for this time by Rev. Dominic Grant, a URC minister in Barnet, sung to the tune is Thaxted - we know better to 'I vow to thee, my country'
We stand to mourn a sovereign,
a nation's guide and friend,
who through long years of tumult
was faithful to the end.
We offer our thanksgiving
for all that she instilled:
her constancy of service,
her lifetime's vow fulfilled.
Now from our world departed –
though never from our hearts –
receive her in the peace, Lord,
your love alone imparts.
And as we mark a passing
of sceptre, orb, and throne,
we'll find in her compassion
a pattern for our own:
that all who stand in mourning,
or languish now in fear,
may know again your promise
to wipe away each tear.
With her we'll join in witness,
Christ's mercies our refrain:
great Sovereign of the nations,
eternal is your reign!
Words: © Dominic Grant, September 2022 Tune: Thaxted
Used with permission
Thursday 29th September
Reading: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4: 4-9
Reflection: When redundancy hits unexpectedly, it’s hard, very hard and can be a trigger for previous experiences of loneliness, overwhelmed-ness and all sorts of insecurities to resurface. This happened recently to someone we know. There were a number of dark days, in fact a few weeks with waves of deep anxiety, but things have changed, not in their circumstances but in their head, in their attitude to what has happened. Turning to God, remembering that, “in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present (y)our requests to God,” with the support of friends, family and some shocked colleagues, they have reached a new place. They have reached the point where they can see God at work in moving them on, they can see that this was no longer where they should be working. As they have allowed themselves to realise that this could be a long-term good thing, a God-at-work thing, they have started to experience, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” and that God is, guarding their heart and mind.
The amazing thing to witness, the most encouraging testimony to God, has been this change of heart, with which has come the ability to face the last few days not just with integrity, but with God’s love and joy flowing through them, even towards the most difficult of personalities - something their shocked colleagues have remarked on.
God is at work in our lives, transforming us, when we allow our heads and hearts to be changed. So shall we think about, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” all things, “excellent or praiseworthy”, that God may permeate all that we are.
Worship through music: Rejoice written and recorded this September for this year’s harvest festival celebrations by Keith & Kristyn Getty and Rend Collective https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t19ISSmBQ-Q
Worship through art: The Sower in the Rain, drawn in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, March-April 1890, by Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890). Pencil, pen and reed pen and ink, on paper.