Thursday 10th June

Dear All,

 

This month we continue to hear from a wide variety of people from across our Diocese as we journey through 2 Corinthians, delving into Paul’s letter through the lens of generosity. Welcome to Generous June.

Today’s reflection has been written by David Potterton, priest-in-charge - Lyndhurst, Emery Down and Minstead is called Fix our eyes on the unseen eternal God.

 

Reading: It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:13 – 18

 

Reflection: When the UK Government admits that its benefit system, ‘can be complicated at the best of times’, it is hardly an encouragement to seek help! Here, St Paul tells the church in Corinth that they are all in receipt of ‘benefits’. He writes, ‘All this is for your benefit’ - but what was it that was to their benefit? 

 

There were significant difficulties to be overcome in Corinth, yet Paul reminds them that they are nevertheless united in the ‘benefit’ of resurrection. Notice that he says that they ‘believe and speak’ the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead which gives grounds for their belief that the ‘One who raised Jesus from the dead will raise them all too with Christ and present us together in his presence.’

 

Paul’s persecution as a follower of Jesus was well documented and the church’s problems in accepting his authority would have been no secret either. These were troubling times in Corinth and a solution was needed if the ministry and mission of the church was to succeed in ‘reaching more people with the grace of God with thanksgiving overflowing to the glory of God’.

 

Losing sight of the ‘benefits’ of resurrection to our own lives and failing to resolve differences can destroy our unity and prevent us from speaking what ‘we believe with the same spirit of faith’. Here in today’s verses, we find a persuasive connection between the ‘reluctant disciples’ who received this letter AD55 and the ‘resistant disciple’ I can be as I read it today.  I too need to be reminded of those ‘benefits’ which flow from a personal and shared faith in the resurrection. And it is in understanding these ‘benefits’ that will enable us [me] ‘not to lose heart’ in the worst of times.  Whether enduring relentless persecution like Paul or living through painful relationships like the Corinthians, we are in these verses called back to what matters the most, to the benefits which flow to us and through us from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

 

And what benefits they are! Did you know that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead two thousand years ago is available to us right now to transform and empower us to live holy lives (Ephesians 1: 22ff)?   The story many tell of their own resurrection from the dead, having received new life in Christ, is of personal transformation which is expressed in many ways.  For me, I have the discovered peace, even in my most destructive pain; trust has been recovered in the most testing of relationships; I’ve experienced the healing of deep hurts, been empowered to overcome personal objections and most gloriously, learned to love my life again. For me, these are the gloriously uncomplicated ‘benefits of resurrection which flow from my faith in a resurrected Christ!

 

Generous June calls us to a joyful generosity in our support of the ministry and mission of God which is to declare and display the ‘benefits’ of his resurrection as they flow into our lives!  I can’t help but wonder if Paul’s emphasis on resurrection unveils his confidence that sharing together in the sin busting resurrection power of Jesus was their only hope of ever being reconciled and united again.  He knew that only a resurrected people speak less of our difficulties and seek to support others in theirs. A resurrected church will think less of its own pain and work together to relieve the pain of others.  In short, when we get the benefit, others will gain the blessing!  Now that’s a benefit system worth supporting and as we give generously in support of the ministry and mission of our parishes, others will hear of the resurrection of Jesus and be empowered to live lives which will simply overflow to the glory of God, with gratitude, not just for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, but for their own!  And that would be mission accomplished in Corinth, and wherever you serve your risen Saviour!

 

Worship through music: It Is Well with My Soul  Traditional & Christopher M. Rice https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHe_qmo3gX4

God bless,

Jane 🙏

Wednesday 9th June

Dear All,

 

This month we continue to hear from a wide variety of people from across our Diocese as we journey through 2 Corinthians, delving into Paul’s letter through the lens of generosity. Welcome to Generous June.

Today’s reflection has been written by Sera Rumble, curate at St Denys, Southampton is called The Life in Us is Christ at Work.

 

Reading: Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practise cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. 2 Corinthians 4:1-12

 

 

Reflection: I admit to having a soft spot for these verses. 

As a teenager I was ready to give up. It was a year since I’d decided to ‘do business with God’ and commit to following him. One year on, I was utterly miserable, totally disillusioned and immensely lonely. Despite being surrounded by crowds of people, I felt really isolated, because none of them wanted to take their own faith, or my faith seriously.  I lost heart. I wanted to give up. 

But then I encountered these verses, and there was one line that just made my heart sing. ‘There are many enemies, but we are never without a friend.’ Vs 9. It was the Good News Version I was reading and it spoke into my darkness, not fixing my situation, not suddenly making me popular or understood, but taking me beyond the mess, the brokenness and the loneliness to the treasure beyond. It brought me to Jesus Christ. And he kept me going. 

My journey through life with Jesus regularly brings me back to these verses, and I encounter them in new ways as my situation changes and my understanding grows. I take delight in seeing myself as a jar of clay (with numerous cracks, let’s admit it) shaped by God the great craftsmen; I am challenged in the call to plain speaking when witnessing to God’s amazing work; I am sobered by the reminder that the way of Christ is the way through suffering, not avoiding it. But each time, no matter the complexity or layers I delve into, I’m brought back to the treasure. To Jesus Christ.

It’s tempting to think that the treasure we hold within us is a strategy or plan to solve lots of problems, or maybe is a logical or persuasive idea to the big questions we face, or even an attractive & marketable image that will appeal to everyone. That’s not our treasure. 

The treasure we carry in us is a person. The person of Jesus Christ and the life he lived, the death he died, and life he claimed for all. The person of Jesus Christ who reveals to us the glory of God in the darkness. The person of Jesus Christ who is constantly at work through sacrifice & death, through resurrection and redemption to bring his life and love to the world. We have a treasure that never runs out, is never passive and never depends on situations (or us) being perfect before shining through. 

And so, as we encounter these verses once again in our journeys with Christ, can we imagine what it would look like to be generous with the treasure of Christ? Maybe to dwell and not rush away from conversations that reflect his love; to persist with the projects that are unglamourous but reflect his redeeming nature; to invest in the marginalised so they can reflect to us all God’s glory. And let’s not worry about being jars of clay, for the treasure within us is priceless. 

 

Worship through music: Let Your Light Shine In The Darkness (2013) - New Scottish Hymns https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsHgl-RMvfY

 

 

God bless,

Jane 🙏

Tuesday 8th June

Dear All,

 

This month we continue to hear from a wide variety of people from across our Diocese as we journey through 2 Corinthians, delving into Paul’s letter through the lens of generosity. Welcome to Generous June.

Today’s reflection has been written by Jonathan de Bernhardt Wood is called This train is bound for glory

Reading: Now if the ministry of death, chiselled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory! Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory!

Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that[b] was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside.  Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:7-18

 

Reflection: In this bible passage Paul mentions ‘glory’ eleven times in five verses, which is going some. I don’t find it particularly easy to read as a result, but the notion of glory is clearly something Paul sees as profoundly important. Glory can be understood in two different ways. As a boy I became a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, in part because of the quote from one of their managers that echoed around the old stadium: “The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style”. That’s one understanding of glory – magnificence or great beauty, a gleaming wonder, ‘a glorious sunny day’. Glory can also be about honour for great achievements (a kind of glory that Spurs, alas, seem incapable of achieving). I suspect in this passage both meanings apply, but it is God who has done the achieving for us.

Sometimes, though, it can be a bit of a stretch to imagine we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another as Paul says. Life can feel rather more like a repetitious eddying around our failings and flaws that refuse to budge. Living generously can sometimes feel like yet another thing we don’t do as well as we should. Why aren’t we more forgiving, more patient, more thoughtful, more loving, more compassionate, more generous? Why do we keep going around in circles rather than moving, changing and growing? 

A mistake can be to think this change or growth is something we initiate, or that we are responsible for. The truth is living generously is itself a spiritual gift, a gift freely given by God.  Galatians 5 tells us that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control”. The beautiful prayer of St Anselm expresses our struggles with generosity perfectly: “I owe you more than my whole self, but I have no more, and by myself, I cannot render the whole of it to you”. As Paul says, it is not us but God who is at work transforming us ‘from one degree of glory to another’ – a progressive sanctification as some scholars have called it – so that we increasingly reflect the God who created us. Living generously therefore must start with this prayer for the spiritual gift of generosity, for the Spirit to give us the energy and drive to live the generous life we long to live.  

The song ‘this train is bound for glory’ communicates this wonderfully. The rhythm perfectly reflects the repetitious sounds of train travel, and that sense of heading to a specific destination, with the promise of the moment of arrival. No sense of meandering futility, but of a journey that leads inevitably from one degree of glory to another until God’s full glory is revealed in us.  The journey is not powered by us, and we have the great blessing to be a passenger. The tempo, the momentum, the joy of it – all comes from God, powered by God, given by God. We are joyous passengers, enjoying the glorious splendour of it all. Thanks be to God! This train is bound for glory!

Worship through music: This Train is Bound for Glory a traditional folk song sung (2016) by Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & The Old Crow Medicine Show. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEL3TDu9GOg

  

God bless,

Jane 🙏

Monday 7th June

Dear All,

 

Reading: Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ towards God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:1-6

 

Reflection: My husband is a keen sailor. He’s part of a sailing club with access to two yachts on the Hamble and is often found out on the Solent in all weathers. I, however, am a confirmed landlubber. There’s not much I dislike more than sailing. I know that my husband would love it if I ever gained a qualification called “Competent Crew”. However, when I look at what is involved in gaining such a qualification (a five day course on board a yacht) there is little chance that it’s something I could ever achieve. There’s a lot to be learned before you can be deemed competent crew – and I guess that’s fair enough to ensure safety on the seas and to avoid troubling the RNLI or coastguard with incompetent sailors.

Throughout life, it’s possible to pick up many competencies. If you’ve ever passed a driving test then you know how much effort that was for you. Some people spend hours practising a musical instrument or a sport – and of course as competence grows, so does confidence – and we end up in a virtuous spiral of improvement that results in a gift or talent being  honed and polished. A few may even achieve excellence! But even to become competent and confident in anything, there usually has to be quite a lot of effort on our part. 

Paul writes to the Corinthian church about confidence and competence. But this competence is not on a musical instrument, or as a sailor. Instead it is competence as a minister or servant of the message of God in Jesus. This competence and confidence does not come about as a result of hours of practice or study. Instead it is simply given by God. It’s as if I woke up one morning suddenly able to tell a jib from a halyard and confident to handle a helm. Like every other aspect of the Christian life, it is sheer gift. 

God has made Paul, his fellow apostles, and through them the whole church competent, worthy and fit to live lives of service to the gospel and to share the life of the Spirit with others. God has given his very self – through the person of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit to the church, and this gift has meant that all we need to live and share this life is already written on our hearts through the Holy Spirit. God has given us all that we need by way of confidence and competence in Jesus because he has given us himself.

In case you think competence doesn’t sound like a very lofty ambition, and we should be pursuing excellence, consider this – we already have from God all that we need to be walking references for the Christian life. Pursuing excellence and seeking to live by more than we have already been given by God means relying on our own strength rather than God’s. And we might never get there!

Living a full, abundant life that mirrors the generosity of God is achievable for all of us precisely because it doesn’t depend on our ambition or abilities. There is nothing to hold us back from being walking references to Jesus and the life he brings.  God has already given us the competence and confidence –and the only certificate of competence we need is the life we live.

 

Worship through music: Turn your eyes upon Jesus by Helen Howarth Lemmel (1922). Sadly no one knows the artist is. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5qc0EcNgqw

 

 

 

God bless,

Jane 🙏

Sunday 6th June

Dear All,

Today Sunday 6th June 10am Worship on zoom  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82198001568?pwd=UUFzSDVBTGVweTVNQk82d3JrUCs5UT09

This month, as we journey through 2 Corinthians we are delving into Paul’s letter through the lens of generosity and hearing from a wide variety of people from across our Diocese. Welcome to Generous June.

Today’s reflection We are the aroma of Christ has been written by Gemma Ball, youthworker at Bentley, Binsted and Froyle.

Reading: But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God. 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

Reflection: In today’s reading, Paul talks about the Church and people of God as being the aroma of Christ. Paul’s use of the idea of a triumphal procession is really helpful in understanding what the aroma of Christ means. Triumphal processions were great public occasions when the victory of a battle was celebrated. The general would lead the procession and music and incense were used as part of the ceremony. The incense burnt to the gods in a Roman triumphal procession smelled wonderful to a Roman as it symbolised victory. However, the same aroma was a bad smell to a captive prisoner of war in the parade, who would soon be executed or sold into slavery.

Think of the word ‘aroma’ and things like spices or cooking come to mind. Or think of a synonym like ‘fragrance’ and the idea of a sweet perfume comes to mind. Or think of another synonym like ‘smell’ and perhaps we start to think of more unpleasant things like the bin that desperately needs taking out. The sense of smell remains in our memories like no other sense. A certain smell can take us back to a holiday we went on 10 years ago – the smell of tar takes me back to when I was in Monaco when they were doing roadworks in 30-degree heat. A specific perfume can remind us of a special day or the person that wore it – there’s a perfume my mum always wore when I was young so when I smell that scent, I think of my mum.

Aromas and smells can bring about specific memories, ideas and feelings. In the triumphal procession, the fragrance of incense is unseen, however, the effects of it cannot go unnoticed. Similarly, our actions emit aromas which again, cannot go unnoticed.

Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6 that when we give to the needy, we mustn’t announce it with trumpets to be honoured by others, but to give in secret, not letting our left hand know what our right hand is doing. Instead of seeking reward, we should give to the needy as an act of selfless generosity.

And so, in a similar vein to Jesus, Paul helps us to understand that our actions have an effect, whether good or bad, a pleasing fragrance or a bad smell. In the context of Generous June, our generosity, whether that be giving our time or money, is not without effect. 

Selfless giving, whether that be our time or money, as Jesus describes in Matthew 6, gives a pleasing aroma, one that stays in people’s memories for good and one that rejoices and praises God.

God bless,

Jane 🙏

Saturday 5th June

Dear All,

 

Tomorrow Sunday 6th June 10am Worship on zoom  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82198001568?pwd=UUFzSDVBTGVweTVNQk82d3JrUCs5UT09

 

This month we are hearing from a wide variety of people from across our Diocese as we journey through 2 Corinthians, delving into Paul’s letter through the lens of generosity. Welcome to Generous June.

Today’s reflection has been written by Michael Smith, rector of Winton, Moordown and Charminster, entitled, the ability to forgive is given by Christ.

 

Reading: So I made up my mind not to make you another painful visit. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained?  And I wrote as I did, so that when I came, I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice; for I am confident about all of you, that my joy would be the joy of all of you.  For I wrote to you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but to some extent—not to exaggerate it—to all of you. This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person; so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. I wrote for this reason: to test you and to know whether you are obedient in everything.  Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ.  And we do this so that we may not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

When I came to Troas to proclaim the good news of Christ, a door was opened for me in the Lord; but my mind could not rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said farewell to them and went on to Macedonia.

2 Corinthians 2: 1-13

 

Reflection: One might suggest that forgiveness is the hardest gift to give as well as to receive. Forgiveness requires the ultimate act in generosity. It can take us to the depths of our emotions. Sometimes, forgiving ourselves is the hardest thing to do too. But in Christ we have the knowledge that over and over again we believe in a God that gives the ultimate gift – the generosity of forgiveness over and over and over again. 

As a teenager I was introduced to the Taizé Community. At the age of 18 I spent 18 months there as a volunteer. It was a life shaping and transforming experience. I have returned many times since both for spiritual refreshment but also to introduce others to the community and their mission of unity. In 2005, during evening prayer, in the midst of summer, surrounded by his fellow monks (brothers) and thousands of young people, the founder of the community, Brother Roger was brutally murdered. 

A week or so after his death, along with tens of thousands of others, I attended Brother Roger’s funeral. The new Prior of the community, Br Alois expressed this prayer ‘God of Goodness, we entrust to your forgiveness the person who, in an act of sickness, put an end to the life of our Brother Roger. With Christ on the cross, we say to you: Father, forgive her; she does not know what she did.” The overwhelming sense at that funeral service was one of forgiveness – of the generosity of heart that ran like a river through the community. In the book in homage to Br Roger’s life, forgiveness is described as ‘one of the greatest risks…to forgive: this is as far as love can go... the assurance of forgiveness is the most unheard of, the most unbelievable, the most generous of Gospel realities. It makes us free, incomparably so.’

Christ, through the cross, enables us to be free. Those words of Christ (and prayed on that August day in 2005 in Taizé) ‘Father, forgive them...’ resonate time and again. Do we have the generosity of spirit to forgive – to give of ourselves so that we are freed to give in other ways too and fulfil our potential in God? Releasing the joy that will, sometimes after a time, come from forgiveness in order for us to be fulfilled in our faith and walk with God? The gift of forgiveness is also so life-giving in the faith communities of which we are a part. It releases something in us and around us that might be difficult to express, but opens up in us all a generosity through that trust in God and gives us a renewed freedom.

I conclude with some more words from Taizé and Brother Roger:

 

Will you welcome each new day as God’s today?

In every season, will you find ways of discovering life’s poetry, 

on days full of light as well as in winter’s frozen nights? 

Will you discover how to bring joy to your humble dwelling by small signs that cheer the heart?

 

Gather everything that happens, 

trivialities included, without reservation, regret or nostalgia, in inexhaustible wonder. 

Set out, going forward one step at a time, from doubt towards faith, 

not worrying about the impossible ahead. 

Light fire, even with the thorns that tear you. 

 

Worship through music: God is forgiveness written and sung by the Community of Taizé https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGgGFguXwms


 

 

 

God bless,

Jane 🙏

Friday 4th June

Dear All,

 

This month we are hearing from a wide variety of people from across our Diocese as we journey through 2 Corinthians, delving into Paul’s letter through the lens of generosity. Welcome to Generous June.

Today’s reflection has been written by Debbie Sellin, Bishop of Southampton.

 

Reading: I urge the brothers to go on ahead to you, and arrange in advance for this bountiful gift that you have promised, so that it may be ready as a voluntary gift and not as an extortion.

The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written,

‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
   his righteousness endures for ever.’

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; 12 for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9: 5-15  

 

Reflection: I wonder what gifts you have received that lead you instinctively to a response of gratitude. Often, it’s the unexpected gifts – the meal left on the doorstep when you’re going through a bad time; the flowers sent just to say you’re being thought about; the homemade loaf of bread fresh from the oven because your neighbour had made more than they needed.

The verse I read at the beginning comes in a passage that speaks of the overflowing nature of generosity that comes from God. Three episodes in the history of God’s people are referenced – a verse in Proverbs that comes in a chapter offering wisdom on riches and poverty; a psalm that was sung reminding the people that acts of generosity lead to righteousness; a prophecy from Isaiah that speaks of a God of abundance, who gives his children all they need, and more.

So what is Paul saying to the church in Corinth?

He is reminding them of the nature of God – a God of abundance. And the call to his people is to be like that. In Jesus we see what that looks like translated into human behaviour. Jesus modelled this in the way we used his time – spending time with the poor, those in need, those on the edges. And Jesus spoke in parables that painted a picture of a Kingdom of growth – the mustard seed growing to be the tallest tree, the yeast proving the dough.

As Christians we know that everything we have comes from God – and our response to that is a life of gratitude – thanks be to God!

That instinctive response will shape our life and we will find ourselves more and more living lives that model that of Jesus – a life of gratitude that becomes a life of generosity.

Some of us find that easier than others – we can be either glass half full or glass half empty people. Listen to these words of wisdom from Charlie Mackesy in the book, ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’:

‘Is your glass half empty or half full? asked the mole

I think I’m grateful to have a glass, said the boy.’

As we respond in gratitude to all that God has given us – unexpected , undeserved – we allow his abundance to flow through us and out to others.

Augustine knew this God – who he addresses in his Confessions:

‘You gather all things to yourself, though you suffer no need. You support, you fill, and you protect all things. You create them, nourish them, and bring them to perfection. You seek to make them your own, though you lack for nothing.’

Take a moment to recognise all that God has given you and give thanks for his indescribable gift.

 

Worship through music: King of Glory, King of Peace words by George Herbert, tune Gwalchmai by Joseph David Jones (1868), originally harmonised by J S Bach, sung at the National Service of Thanksgiving in celebration of Her Majesty The Queen's 90th Birthday at St. Paul's Cathedral. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKVXTMEXbaw

 

 

 

God bless,

Jane

Thursday 3rd June

Dear All,

 

This month we are hearing from a wide variety of people from across our Diocese as we journey through 2 Corinthians, delving into Paul’s letter through the lens of generosity. Welcome to Generous June.

Today’s reflection has been written by Rachel Noel, Priest-in-Charge, Pennington.

 

Reading: For we write to you nothing other than what you can read and also understand; I hope you will understand until the end - as you have already understood us in part—that on the day of the Lord Jesus we are your boast even as you are our boast.

Since I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a double favour; I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you sent me on to Judea. Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to ordinary human standards, ready to say ‘Yes, yes’ and ‘No, no’ at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been ‘Yes and No.’ For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not ‘Yes and No’; but in him it is always ‘Yes.’ For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’ For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen’, to the glory of God. But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first instalment.

But I call on God as witness against me: it was to spare you that I did not come again to Corinth. I do not mean to imply that we lord it over your faith; rather, we are workers with you for your joy, because you stand firm in the faith. 2 Corinthians 1: 13-24

 

Reflection: I wonder if today’s passage brings to mind the character Jim Trott from the Vicar of Dibley for you too? Jim is a long-standing member of Dibley’s parish council. Whenever Jim is asked a question, he tends to stutter no, no, no, no before finally saying his answer ‘yes’. I suspect all of us have moments where we’re hesitant, not quite sure… no, no, no… yes

Paul is making clear that his answers are not like that… he is trustworthy, his answers have been reliable… but even more so, he spells out that 

‘In Jesus, every one of God’s promises is a ‘yes’’… an absolutely, unequivocal ‘yes’. 

We have this totally faithful, trustworthy God… 

and this God has put his seal on us…

In Paul’s time, a seal was a sign of ownership, for animals and slaves… and a sign of identity of a particular group… in an era where society was very structured, and income, livelihood and survival depended on that belonging somewhere… that seal was a sign of safety, connection and belonging.

So, God is putting his seal on us… we belong, we find our identity, our safety in God….

God is giving each of us a great big yes. How awesome is that!

This isn’t just a personal me, God thing… being marked with a seal was a corporate thing too, a belonging to each other… the seal on ‘us’, 

But it gets even better… the generosity of God, being with us in Christ flows out to us too…

giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first instalment… just the first instalment… This is a bit mind-bending stuff… as if once wasn’t ‘enough’!

Not only is it in Jesus that every one of God’s promises is a yes…

We see God’s generosity with us too, this flowing of the spirit in our hearts, God’s yes is to us too. This abundance of God.

This isn’t to go to our heads… for us to try and be bigger than who we are… to lord it over others…

But it’s also not our duty, burden, or obligation.

God’s abundant generosity in Christ with us…. His spirit in our hearts gives us that security of belonging in the faith…

And that comes out in joy…

We belong to each other; we work with each other for joy…  

Just take a moment and let that sink in… God’s generosity to us, invites us to respond with joy…. And to work with each other for enjoyment… 

Augustine reminds us of the distinction between what we use, which gets used up and is a means to something else… And what we enjoy, which is of value for its own sake…

For me, this passage reminds us that we’re invited to be generous with each other, to enjoy the people around us (many of whom the world rejects with a big no)... We’re called not to treat each other with the no, no, no, no, yes answer... But to put into practice God’s utter yes of Jesus with us... And our response, in joy and through the spirit, is yes… to generously be with and delight in each other.

 

(If you would like to listen to the daily reflection click here and then scroll down or subscribe to the podcasts here)

 

Worship through music: words & music (2011) by Trent Prees, Andrew Judd & Garage Hymnal https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCdHBjL5HT0

 

Lyrics: When legs are heavy feet are worn
Our spirits sink and writhe and turn
We will fix our eyes on our eternal prize

Once we were blackened dead in sin
And now death has lost its sting
For in Jesus victory over death is won

Stand firm, be strong, courage, hold on for our God

Time will come when days are done
All will bow before the holy one
Glory, honour, majesty
I forever worship thee alone, my God

Like the fool who built the boat
When the rains were not in sight
Faith is trusting God there’s more than meets the eye

We are fools but not ashamed
We are tired not overcome
We have treasures hidden deep in jars of clay

 

 

 

God bless,

Jane 🙏

Wednesday 2nd June

Dear All,

 

This month we will hear from a wide variety of people from across our Diocese as we journey through 2 Corinthians, delving into Paul’s letter through the lens of generosity. Welcome to Generous June.

 

Reading: We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again, as you also join in helping us by your prayers, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted to us through the prayers of many.

Indeed, this is our boast, the testimony of our conscience: we have behaved in the world with frankness and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God—and all the more towards you. 2 Corinthians 1: 8-12

 

Reflection: Today’s reflection has been written by Jonny Goodchild, Assistant Curate at St. Mary’s Southampton.

 

 

(If you would like to listen to the daily reflection, please subscribe to the podcasts at  https://www.generousjune.co.uk/sign-up-to-receive-updates/)

 

Worship through music: His Grace Is Good Enough For Me by Easlyn Orr (2018)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frfGGhK28ew

 

  

 

God bless,

Jane 🙏

Tuesday 1st June

Dear All,

 

This month we will hear from a wide variety of people from across our Diocese as we journey through 2 Corinthians, delving into Paul’s letter through the lens of generosity. Welcome to Generous June.

 

Reading: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7


Reflection: God is comfort by Rt. Revd David Williams, Bishop of Basingstoke

 

 

(If you would like to listen to the daily reflection, please subscribe to the podcasts at  https://www.generousjune.co.uk/sign-up-to-receive-updates/)

 

Worship through music: God of All Comfort by Ellie Holcomb (2019)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hhf5Ghk-O7E

 

 

 

 

God bless,

Jane 🙏

 

Friday 11th June

Dear All,

 

This month we continue to hear from a wide variety of people from across our Diocese as we journey through 2 Corinthians, delving into Paul’s letter through the lens of generosity. Welcome to Generous June.

Today’s reflection has been written by David Williams, Bishop of Basingstoke, 

is called The Indescribable Gift.

 

Reading: 2 Corinthians 9: 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.  

It is always Gods movement towards us that invites a response.  That response is one of thankfulness but also of action.  That action, the giving of oneself in response to God’s gift to us, involves a generosity that can mean giving our time, our energy, our friendship, our space, our money and possessions.    

 

Reflection: Grace, Gift, Gratitude and Generosity are four evocative words that have helped me to understand the indescribable gift that is Jesus himself. In John 1, Jesus is described as The Word who became flesh and dwelt amongst us, it is this first movement of God that leads us to faith.  It was this understanding and experience that in Jesus God gives himself to us that led me as a young man to become a Christian. The second word gift is very close to the word grace and Paul uses this word in 2 Corinthians – literally meaning “God’s favour”.  

 

We are called to live every day attentive to that favour, gift or grace – not some lofty theological concept, but a moment-by-moment appreciation, unique to each day. This might be a moment of beauty, of colour, texture or sound; an appreciation of companionship; the awe and wonder of creation, the taste or smell of good coffee all comprised of moment-by-moment gifts from a God who loves us so deeply, and so values the goodness of creation, that the eternal Word would become human and live among us. Immanuel – God is with us.

 

In the face of such an indescribable gift the only response is gratitude. Those who live with an “attitude of gratitude” find surprising transformation! They tend to be much more positive, have a higher self-esteem and less materialistic than others, more willing to forgive and help others.

 

From gratitude comes generosity. At first sight this seems a paradox, for surely gratitude is about what you have received, and generosity is what you give.  I prefer to think of it as a loop or cycle of gratitude and generosity, deeply connected and intertwined. It starts in the heart of God, a divine grace, it leads to thankfulness, like Paul, a gratitude for the gifts of each day and then comes full circle and produces a sort of human grace where we give generously to one another.

 

We are called to live with open hands, gratefully remembering Gods indescribable gift, his sustaining and gracious presence in every moment, and then our relationships thrive and our soul stops diminishing and we are invited to enter an abundant living – where we celebrate God’s grace, revealed fully in Jesus. If we believe that God is the source and sustainer of all good gifts then our only reasonable response is gratitude that leads to loving God and neighbour. God has gone to unfathomable extremes to be in relationship with is. A generous soul will emerge from the grateful part of us, aware of the gifts of each day and immersed in the grace of Jesus.

 

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.   Amen

 

Worship through music: Indescribable written (2002) by Laura Story, sung (2017) by Chris Tomlin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-zJHgaoVa4

 

God bless,

Jane 🙏

Saturday 12th June

Dear All,

 

Tomorrow Sunday 13th June

9.30am Awbridge Morning Worship

9.30am Braishfield (with Farley Chamberlayne) Morning Worship

11am Timsbury Family Worship

6pm Michelmersh Holy Communion - Common Worship

 

This month we continue to hear from a wide variety of people from across our Diocese as we journey through 2 Corinthians, delving into Paul’s letter through the lens of generosity. Welcome to Generous June.

Today’s reflection has been written by Sarah Dockree, from Swaythling, she is a BCM in training and her reflection is called We walk by faith and not by sight.

 

Reading:  For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5v1-10

 

Reflection: Walking is described in the dictionary as “moving at a regular pace by lifting and setting down each foot in turn, never having both feet off the ground at once”. It’s not flying, running or even jogging – it’s not especially fast or exciting, indeed for many of us – it just “is” and we rarely give it much, if any thought. In fact if we start to think about it too much it can suddenly seem rather complex and awkward!

When it comes to being generous, there is maybe a temptation to overthink the how, why and when – to get caught up in different theories, to worry we haven’t or aren’t enough or to worry about whether we’ve got it right. It’s all too easy to feel we don’t know where to start – that we don’t know what to give or to who. Maybe we are familiar with the focus being on money which often has the effect of immediately making us feel uncomfortable – even defensive sometimes.

When we hear Paul talking about walking, or living as other translations use, by faith, in today’s reading, I believe he is challenging us to keep a constant reminder of the bigger picture, to remember at all times that God is bigger, that he holds the future, that he determines and guides our steps. If we are walking through life in this way – keeping in mind we do not know the full story, the full picture, then we will find being generous sort of just flows from us. 

I believe Paul is challenging us here to trust that God will use what we offer him – what we give. We aren’t asked to spend hours worrying whether we are giving the right amount, to the right person or organisation, or whether we should give one item instead of another (although it can be right to consider these things prayerfully) – but instead I believe we are asked just to give – to give without questioning whether we are right or not but trusting that God will use what we give him. Just as with our walking – to just do it, for it to be a part of how we live.

When I was working as a physio, many years ago, I remember the sheer joy when a patient who, for whatever reason was having to learn or re-learn how to walk, managed their first steps – a myriad of complex reactions, synapses and processes and often months of careful and sometimes painstakingly slow training and rehabilitation, and suddenly it all came together and walking was achieved.

I have often found those who have not given their giving hours of thought to be the most generous – when those struggling for food themselves bring along a donation to the foodbank so that they can be part of helping others – even if it’s just because they didn’t like it, this inbuilt, un-thought through generosity can teach all of us a lot. I will never forget many instances when we lived in rural Nigeria, of people inviting us into their homes and sharing wholeheartedly, what they hardly had themselves. Generosity needs to be part of us putting one foot in front of the other, part of the mundane activity we call walking as it were, as we go through life, living in the faith that God holds us and all he has given us. And yet, when we do this, when we manage it, the joy and delight it can bring and the effects it can have are as stark and awe inspiring as seeing those patients take their first tentative steps after months of learning or rehabilitation.

 

Worship through in the music: The Spirit Lives to Set Us Free (Walk in the Light) written (1978) Damian Lundy  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDcbYk-9C-Y

 

 

God bless,

Jane 🙏

Monday 14th June

Dear All,

 

As we continue to delve into Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, through the lens of generosity, we will hear from a wide variety of people who live and work across our Diocese. Today’s reflection has been written by Debbie Sellin, Bishop of Southampton, is entitled The old has gone, the new has come.

 

Reading: So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5: 16-21

 

Reflection: One of my surprises in lockdown was the gentle comfort I got from watching the TV programme, The Repair Shop. Filmed in the Weald and Downland Living Museum, members of the public bring along much-loved items to the barn for repair. The items have lost their sparkle, they’re broken and need to be carefully restored by the experts there. The reveal at the end is always one of emotion as people discover their much-loved possession brought back to life. The marks of age are still there, the character is maintained but the sparkle returns and the objects can be used for what they were designed to be.

Paul is reminding the church in Corinth of the amazing truth that, in Christ, we become a new creation. Jesus came to earth, amongst other things, to usher in the new Kingdom and as Christians we live in the hope of what is to come, seeing signs of the Kingdom around us and living with the promise that this Kingdom will reach fulfilment in God’s perfect timing. And we are made new – as we turn to Christ so we begin a new way of living. But God isn’t making something new out of nothing. This is the creation, our lives included, that God has begun from the very beginning. The world has corrupted what God has made and so, as he does the work of reconciling us to himself, we become the people and the world that God has always intended us to be.

I remember a conversation with a friend when we were students and she was beginning to explore what faith might mean for her life. I want to know Jesus more, she said, but I’m scared that it will mean I will need to become someone different. And what we read here in Corinthians is the opposite of that – as we draw closer to Jesus we become our true selves and can find freedom and joy in living as we have been made.

I wonder where we feel completely at ease to be our true selves – that can be hard and so often we wear a mask. But the joy of this promise is that God knows us – as Psalm 139 says, we are fearfully and wonderfully made – God knows us so well. 

So what parts of our old life do we need to shed – where do we need to be restored and renewed so that our lives might shine with the glory of God? We have been made new – are we living that as a reality or are we clinging on to the old self?

Let’s live as children of the heavenly Father who showers us with his love – fills us with his grace – and calls us to live new lives in the Kingdom of God.

 

Worship through music: New Start by (2015) Elevation Youth 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPJO2qNHFT8

 

 

God bless,

Jane 🙏