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Please click below for a copy of a letter written by Giles, it also includes the recent morning prayer reflections.
Archbishop of Canterbury launches free dial-in worship phoneline during coronavirus lockdown
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has launched a free national phoneline as a simple new way to bring worship and prayer into people’s homes while church buildings are closed because of the coronavirus.
Daily Hope, which is available from today, offers music, prayers and reflections as well as full worship services from the Church of England at the end of a telephone line.
The line – which is available 24 hours a day on 0800 804 8044 – has been set up particularly with those unable to join online church services during the period of restrictions in mind.
The service is supported by the Church of England nationally as well as through the Connections group based at Holy Trinity Claygate in Surrey and the Christian charity Faith in Later Life.
Although thousands of churches across the country are now running services and prayer groups online while public worship remains suspended, many people – especially older people – do not have access to the internet.
The line also recognises the impact of social distancing restrictions and self-isolation measures on those suffering from loneliness.
Statistics from Age UK suggest that 49% of older people believe the TV or a pet to be their daily source of comfort and interaction. While many organisations are encouraging people to use better use of technology, ONS figures also state that 2.5 million people aged 75 and above have never used the internet.
Callers will hear a special greeting from the Archbishop before being able to choose from a range of options, including hymns, prayers, reflections and advice on COVID-19.
Bible Gateway is downloadable as an app or you can click on this link:
It’s a great resource and has many differnet versions
Thought for the day. A reflection on Psalm 46 by George Fisher
What do you turn to for comfort when things go wrong or you’re under pressure? Food? Chocolate? Drink? Sleep? We all have our own places of refuge. I wonder what yours is.
I find Psalm 46 both reassuring and challenging. It doesn’t pretend that life is easy with no hardship. It talks about chaos and troublesome times with the world crumbling all around. In our lives we all have times when things go wrong and we’re experiencing that now with the present crisis. Verse 1 points to God as our refuge and strength when these inevitable times of trouble occur. We can be assured that God is with us – an ‘ever-present help in trouble’.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t always ‘feel’ God’s presence when troubles come and I don’t always find it easy to turn to God. I am too preoccupied with the problem. Verse 10 encourages us to be still and know that He is God. It’s wonderful at the moment that on Thursdays at 8pm we pause what we are doing and go out to applaud our wonderful NHS and other essential services workers. We are similarly called to pause in the midst of our turmoil and recognise that God is our God and is with us, whatever is happening. Personally, I find the best way to still my mind is to think of some of the promises of God such as ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’ (Hebrews 13:5) or to think of five things I can be thankful for even in the midst of problems. Through this I can start to centre my mind on what is good, on God’s provision and presence, not focus on the problem at hand. The psalm ends by reminding us that ‘The Lord Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress’.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you that we can always turn to you no matter what is happening. As we pause to pray, may we know your presence now, and find your help and peace.
Reflection on Matthew 6:21 by Clem Jackson
For where your treasure is, there is your heart
The other morning I woke with the 1993 Iona hit song “Treasure” going round my head. Joanne Hogg’s lilting voice was repeating over and over again the words of the refrain “where your treasure is there is your heart”.
The song is based on Matthew 6 with the refrain being verse 21. As the refrain kept repeating in my head I found myself wondering where indeed my heart is in this strange time we are all experiencing.
What is it that I can’t do at the moment that I really miss? What am I longing for? Am I really missing all the sport that I would usually spend lots of time watching, particularly as the football season draws to a close at this time? Surprisingly not!
You see, I think that the things that I am missing at the moment are the ‘treasure’ and, therefore, where my heart is. The things I am missing most, like many others, are not being able to hug my grandchildren; to spend time with our children and their families; spending time with our church family; singing worship songs in church with the band; meeting up with friends for a drink or a coffee.
Joni Mitchell once sang “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” and she was right. Perhaps this time we are going through will help us to refocus in preparation for when we can once again get back to normal life. Maybe we will all be able to continue being kind to one another, to look after one another and to value each other more.
What are you missing at the moment? What are your treasures? Have a listen to the song on YouTube and see what the lyrics stir in you. Then perhaps read the whole of Matthew chapter 6 to get Jesus’ perspective.
This link has some great resources from the Church of England
This verse was part of the daily readings at St John’s Morning Prayer recently and it struck me that it has a real message for us in these challenging days we are currently experiencing.
As we all live with the impacts of lockdown, and see the daily number of confirmed Covid 19 cases and deaths increasing, it’s understandable that many people may be feeling confused about where God is in all this. Perhaps you may have even been tempted to say those words from Psalm 22 that Jesus spoke on the cross: “My God, why have you forsaken me?”
How can we offer words of comfort to those suffering, those unable to say farewell to loved ones at a funeral, those unable to visit ailing relatives in hospitals, hospices and care homes? It can all seem so desperate, so overwhelming, leaving us feeling out of our depth and unable to be of any help.
But as people of faith we do have a hope; we need not only to hold on to that hope but profess it in what we do and say. It may be a kind word, a listening ear, an offer to pray, to be at the end of a phone. It might be offering to do some shopping or picking up medication if we are able. None of us individually can resolve the situation we are all in at present but, if we each find something we can do for someone, whilst sticking to the rules of social isolation, we can show that through us, his people, God is indeed faithful.
Verse 24 in this passage gives us a prompt: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Perhaps God is prompting you to make contact with someone today, someone who is on your heart. Why not pick up the phone or ping out an email. You might just make their day.
What is your prized possession? More importantly how would you feel about sharing/giving it to somebody else?
I was challenged recently about this when I read the story of Araunah in the Old Testament and his generosity towards King David in offering him the resources to build an altar and provide for the burnt offerings (you can read the full story in 1 Chronicles 21 verses 14 -30).
The challenge was this: offer your prized possession to someone in your family who values it as highly as you do.
As I started to consider this I honestly experienced difficulty in identifying what my prized possession actually was. As a lover of rings I thought about the ring my Aunt had given me many years ago, a silver wedding present from her husband. Then I considered my refashioned engagement ring we had recently collected from the jewellers. Being unable to make a decision about what seemed an important issue I went off to do something.
Within the hour I received a phone call from my daughter, ‘Mum, do you have 200g plain flour? We want to take part in an online cookery lesson (organised by one of her children’s schools) and we need some flour for the pizza dough’.
What a challenge that was for me! As a keen baker I usually have a good stock of all types of flour but my stock of plain flour was at an all-time low and I wanted to hang on to it! Time was of the essence as the ‘lesson’ was due to start within the hour so I had to make a decision and quick.
Did I have enough to give away so that I would still have enough for our own needs? What should I do? I measured the flour carefully as you would a rare commodity and was left with around 50g!
So the decision was made and I hot footed up to my daughter’s house to deliver the flour. I found out a few days later the recipe had been a huge success with the whole family.
‘God is interested in the real things of the heart. 1 Chronicles 21 shows us he doesn’t care much about sacrifices which cost us nothing but he looks for those moments when we lay something on the line that really matters to us.’*
For me it was flour that day; our prayer is that God will show us how to respond with the resources he has given us.
*Source: 40 Acts from Stewardship
This looks amazing,
Hope you are able to enjoy some of this from the comfort of your own sofa!
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
As we find ourselves living through unprecedented times, separated from family and friends, many of us confined to our homes, it might seem rather difficult to understand how God could indeed be working for our good.
But let’s look at the bigger picture and think for a minute about what might be good for us. The reduction in pollution due to restriction on travel might just be helping our world to heal a little; the many examples of kindness we see with people helping those in greater need; the amazing support shown to our caring services; the re-establishment of local community. All these are changes for good.
Of course the many thousands of deaths are not something we can see as working for good. The anguish of those unable to say their goodbyes to close family members is distressing beyond belief. But this verse was part of a letter to a fledgling church suffering much oppression, where professing a faith in Jesus could bring a death sentence. There are parts of our world where the same applies today.
When I was a young Christian I took this verse literally but there’s a danger in reading verses in isolation. Reading through the whole of Romans Chapter 8 we find St Paul referring to “… our present sufferings” and how “the Spirit helps us in our weakness”. Paul is showing that we will experience suffering; we will be weak, but he wants to encourage us in times of trial.
It may not feel like God is working ‘for the good of those who love Him’ at the moment but we can hang on to the truth of God’s love for us and, as we read in verse 39, “[nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ,
you taught us to love our neighbour,
and to care for those in need
as if we were caring for you.
In this time of anxiety, give us strength
to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick,
and to assure the isolated
of our love, and your love,
for your name’s sake.
God of compassion,
be close to those who are ill, afraid or in isolation.
In their loneliness, be their consolation;
in their anxiety, be their hope;
in their darkness, be their light;
through him who suffered alone on the cross,
but reigns with you in glory,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
For those who are ill
we entrust to your tender care
those who are ill or in pain,
knowing that whenever danger threatens
your everlasting arms are there to hold them safe.
Comfort and heal them,
and restore them to health and strength;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
For hospital staff and medical researchers
give skill, sympathy and resilience
to all who are caring for the sick,
and your wisdom to those searching for a cure.
Strengthen them with your Spirit,
that through their work many will be restored to health;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
From one who is ill or isolated
help me to trust you,
help me to know that you are with me,
help me to believe that nothing can separate me
from your love
revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord.
For the Christian community
We are not people of fear:
we are people of courage.
We are not people who protect our own safety:
we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety.
We are not people of greed:
we are people of generosity.
We are your people God,
giving and loving,
wherever we are,
whatever it costs
For as long as it takes
wherever you call us.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
This is a verse with particular resonance to Janet and myself. Back in 2005, when we were seeking to move from Derby to Sussex, this is the verse which we kept as a promise that the proposed move was part of God’s plan for our lives. During the ten months we were trying to sell our house in Derby this verse was prominent on a cupboard door in our kitchen, a constant reminder of God’s promise of His “plans to prosper you and not to harm you”.
But this amazing verse cannot be read in isolation. It needs to be read together with verses 12 & 13: “12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
This is part of the text of a letter Jeremiah “sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests … Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon”. Whilst we as a nation may not be in exile, we are at present ‘in captivity’ in isolation.
I sense that what we as a nation are required to do is as outlined in verses 12 and 13 above. In verse 14 God promises that He will “bring you back from captivity … gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile”. We can claim the promise of a return from captivity if we continue to “seek me with all your heart”.
None of us have experienced anything like this before.
The nation’s mood must be an echo of 1939 when such a vast threat hung over our very existence. It’s now a different war, on several fronts.
We are on the exponential upward curve of the statistics of Covid19. Our supermarkets are seeing the fruit of the battle against fear, reflected also by the evidence of the FTSE’s landslide. Then on top of all this each one of us is sensing the bereavement from regular face to face friendship and the real challenge of facing ‘ME’, the real inner self, unable any longer to shelter behind the fig leaf of daily activities.
We have no choice: we as individuals and as a community are entering a dark night of the soul. Perhaps we are being challenged, or even chastened? Is this what it means to be pruned?
The mystics tell us that the way up to God is the way down, down into the darkness of unknowing, of insecurity. It involves a stripping of temporary securities and a search for what is really real. It is process that cannot be controlled by our cerebral cortices: it can only be a gradual spiritual revelation that dawns though the vacuum of our own emptiness, or dare we say our nakedness?
Let us be certain of the most basic, most absolute eternal truth. Each one of us is loved, deeply loved. This is not only an external fact for all mankind, it is on offer as a deep internal rock for each of us who have been touched and warmed by the intimacy of Jesus.
Christ is in us, the hope of glory.
In these coming months let us absorb Paul’s ringing declaration:
“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39