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22nd June – A Prayer for Today

Image copyright BBC

This morning BBC Radio introduced ‘Rethink’ – their open discussion about how society and our lives might change for the better after the COVID-19 crisis. At the root of this is one of the biggest questions the UK and the world face: what has the Coronavirus crisis taught us and what should we, individually and collectively, change to improve our lives after it?

‘Rather than analysing what might happen when the world moves beyond the pandemic, this project asks a wide range of thinkers - as well as BBC radio audiences - to consider what they want to happen. It will explore everything from the way we travel to how we assess individual health risks, how we look after the elderly and look out for the young, the future of globalisation, what it means to live a good life, and who we most value and reward in our society.’

Lord,
help us to rethink –
what we see and how we see it,
who we see and how we see them,
what we use and how we use it,
what we consume and who really pays,
what we spend and how we spend it
and what we want and what we need.
As we stand at the edge of change
may Christ light our way;
may your Kingdom come.
Amen.

Michael Mays

On the Way…

A story of transforming love.

Based on Luke 24.13-35

The past few months have been a trying time for as all as we’ve struggled with the Covid 19 pandemic. Many have watched as loved ones have suffered and even died as the health and caring services have struggled to cope with the thousands upon thousands who have been and still are being struck down by it.

And whilst reflecting on our own family and friends it struck me very forcibly that Alison and I have been extremely fortunate. Both daughters and a daughter-in-law have suffered and thankfully recovered. But hundreds of thousands of others have died! And millions of relatives and friends have been left distraught.

It was then that I recalled that amazing post-resurrection story of the two disciples walking home from Jerusalem on the Emmaus Road. Those two disciples were also very distraught. Perhaps even scared witless by what might happen to them as well. They were so totally unaware who the ‘stranger’ was that joined them on that road. They still didn’t even recognise him as he walked with them and they recounted to him the happenings and the crucifixion and the women saying that he was alive!

Grief does that to you. It can totally block associative recognition, and leave you in a state of shock that renders you almost totally unaware of the reality around you. And that seems to exactly fit their responses to Jesus as he then responded to them on their journey! They knew others had said Jesus was alive and yet the impossibility of overcoming death was still at play in their minds! To them, Jesus was now dead – all hope was lost in their pain and sorrow!

I want you to fast-forward now to what happened at the table at the home the two disciples invited Jesus to enter. They had prepared a meal for their guest, and it was only when that ‘stranger’ picked up a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, and then shared it with them that the proverbial ‘penny dropped’ – their eyes and minds were opened - and as Jesus disappeared from their sight they then said to one another: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

I guess by now it was truly dark outside. But regardless of the lack of street lights and the danger of being out after dark they immediately went back to share the Good News with the other disciples!

What a transformation that was! I wonder what time they got back to Jerusalem? Because in those days they would get up at dawn and go to bed when it got dark – so it must have been very late!

That simple disclosure at the table where Jesus took the bread, gave thanks and then gave it to the disciples has always been, for me, a moment of healing. It dealt with past fears and restored them to a right, and real, relationship with the living Christ once more. I guess that is one reason why John Wesley viewed the Eucharist as a liturgy for healing.

I would suggest that as we’re not currently allowed to offer a Eucharistic service to one another at this time I see no reason why this story can’t be used as a basis for a simple ’Love Feast’ instead. Where it’s possible to be with your nearest and dearest or even ‘bubble’ with a neighbour/friend - Love can be shared. It is in sharing love that love can transform and heal – but when isolated we can miss out on that opportunity to serve one another. So if you are able to share, then please do so and serve one another. Methodists do believe in the priesthood of all believers! (Our church requires the ordained to officiate at the Eucharist)

I would invite you to set your table with a plate containing a piece of bread front of you. Then knowing that you are held in the ever-loving arms of our God who is with us on our journey no matter where we are, or how we are feeling – imagine Jesus confirming his real presence with you as you lay yourself and all your anxieties and troubles at his feet. Then simply take the bread, give thanks to God for it, and in eating trust Jesus to take away any anxieties and restore his affirming love for you.

Jesus said:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid”.

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

Luke 24.13-35 (NRSV):

13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ 19He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ 25Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Nb.
I use this translation as it is acknowledged to be as accurate a translation as is possible.
You may like to see a comment that is in Andy’s letter referring to how some translations can be very misleading.

Dave Tomlin20/06/2020

Prayer for World Refugee Day 2020

I offered a prayer for World Refugee Week – and then, this morning, found this prayer published yesterday by JPIT.

God of Hope,

We worship you as the God of those in exile,
to whom you hold out the hope of finding peace and security.

We pray for those on a journey away from their homes.
For sisters and brothers on the move who are fearful and hungry and tired,
For those in camps, facing the dangers of COVID-19 without a safe place to isolate.
For those separated from loved ones, holding on to the hope of reunion.
For all at risk of exploitation and trafficking.

We pray for those on the journey of seeking asylum in the UK.
For sisters and brothers struggling to make ends meet with little support.
For those in lockdown, forced to relive the traumas of past experiences.
For those hoping for a better future for themselves, their loved ones and the country they call home,
For all waiting for good news.

Be with everyone on a journey, God of Hope,
And give us the wisdom and perseverance to keep travelling towards your kingdom of peace for all people.

Amen

Traidcraft Newsletter 19 June 2020

Loving Sparrows: From putting out the recycling to avoiding the rubbish heap

Some thoughts on Matthew chapter 10

by Rev. Andy Murphy

I remember once having quite a spiritual experience as I went to put out the recycling. There on the ground lay a little sparrow; not a new-born chick but not much more than a fledgling. This poor little bird lay on its back breathing slowly. It was so fragile, so sweet, so helpless and vulnerable, and it was going to die. It has obviously hit one of the windows and fallen to the ground. It had a wound on the back of its head but it was still breathing – its helpless little face looking upwards. Not struggling, not writhing, just breathing.

As I stood there, my first emotion was utter powerlessness: I was sure a vet couldn’t save it, Emily doesn’t keep anaesthetics in the house, and I had no idea how to humanely put it out of its misery. But really, as I looked at it, there was no misery: this little sparrow was quite at peace. And then I remembered Jesus’ words, and a voice spoke in my mind: “It’s okay, I know about this, I am here.” I got the real sense that God was holding that little bird as it died. And then I heard the words: “And you are worth more to me than many sparrows.”

Jesus said,

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father.  And even the hairs of your head are all counted.  So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

(Matthew 10:29-31)

This sense of God’s love that enfolds all of God’s creation should be the overriding thought in our minds as we read the Bible. This is the God who made this beautiful world and every species of every plant and creature, and who has a special place in his heart for human beings.

Matthew chapter 10 can otherwise seem quite a ‘dark’ chapter. It’s about going out on mission and facing opposition and persecution. It comes as a reality-check to anyone who thinks following Jesus will be easy. The disciples of Jesus will face much opposition in this world – from the rulers and authorities of the world, to even those within their own family. Jesus didn’t mince his words. He wanted to be honest with his followers about what they might find as they went out in his name. It certainly wasn’t to be a stroll in the park. Neither will it be for his followers 21st century.

But, Jesus says, “have no fear”. Everything hidden will be uncovered, all secret injustices will be exposed, and so will our faithfulness to him. Go out and tell his good news in the light, don’t be ashamed of the message, and don’t fear those who might hurt us.

Yet, Jesus says (in verse 28), there is one whom we should be wary of; one who could torment us and lead us away from God’s kingdom – lead us towards ‘hell’ (Gehenna). Some would delete this verse from the Bible altogether, while many think that it is actually referring to God. Some popular Bible translations have even taken the liberty of inserting God’s name into this sentence, because the Greek is unclear whom Jesus is talking about. [e.g. the Good News Bible, the Living Bible, New Living Translation, Contemporary English Version. And many other versions capitalise the ‘Him’ or the ‘One’ to give the same impression.]

That choice of translation comes from a longstanding and widespread idea (going back to the middle ages) about God being the one who desires to cast us in hell for all eternity (or is somehow morally bound to do so). It baffles me as to why modern translations would to want to reinforce this dubious idea, and I think it is certainly not the God that Jesus represents: our loving heavenly Parent. This is why we need to hold in mind from the start the overriding truth of God’s love for all creation.

Now, going down the road to hell or ‘Gehenna’ (as Jesus called it) may be a possibility. Metaphorically-speaking, descending to the ‘rubbish heap’ (as Gehenna was in those days) can and does happen, whether by falling to the depths of hatred and depravity in this world, or by refusing to accept God’s loving grace in our lives – living instead in torment and shame. But it is never God who would choose to send us there. It is not God who desires to torment us. There are other forces, others lords, other idols which can enslave us (if we let them). And the Bible speaks of one who stands over them – the serpent, the satan, the devil, the prince of darkness, Beelzebub. Jesus often spoke about such an enemy, but when talking on God’s behalf he always said: “Do not be afraid”.

Psalm 86 reminds us that God is ‘merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Psalm 86: verse 15). Remember that God the Parent is the one who cares even for the little sparrows; the one who loves us as his own children, and is so desperately in love with us that he counts the hairs on our heads: there is nothing about us that goes unnoticed: there’s no joy in us that doesn’t make God burst with laughter; and there’s no injury or injustice to us, no pain or heartache, that doesn’t also wrench the heart of God; no prayer is too small; no worry too insignificant; our tears are not merely drops in the ocean to God – they are the pools of compassion that God swims in. One day he will wipe away those tears, we are told: One day when the Lamb sits on the throne in the Holy City, and the work begins of healing the nations (Revelation chapters 21 and 22).

Sometimes we meet situations where there seems no way out, no answer, no rescue. But Jesus says: “Do not be afraid, precious child: all these things are in God’s loving hands”. Our prayers may not be answered as we long for – but that doesn’t mean God isn’t holding us with the utmost love. There are mysteries, there are unfathomable griefs, and it has always been this way, but there is no injustice that won’t be undone, no hurt that won’t be healed, no grief that won’t be turned to joy, when Jesus makes all things new.

Andrew T. Murphy, 19th June 2020

19th June – A Prayer for Today

This week is Refugee week. This year’s theme is Journeys of Hope.

For many refugees and asylum seekers, the journey they have been on has been one of hope. Hope for change, hope for refuge, hope to be reunited with those they love.

Lord,
We hope
for a society that welcomes the stranger.
Help us to play our part
in making this hope a reality:
by creating a welcoming environment
in our hearts and our minds
in our churches, our communities
and our nation.
Amen.

‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.’ Leviticus 19:33-34

Today’s prayer and the thoughts wrapped around it draw on material offered by JPIT (The Joint Public Issues Team of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church).

Michael Mays

Emergency appeal for the Methodist Church in Sierra Leone

Dear friends,

I am very grateful as a Methodist Minister that the church provides everything my family and I need in terms of enough money to live off and pay the bills, and a lovely home to live in. We do not take this for granted and are very thankful. I am very thankful that Church and Circuit financial reserves and the regular giving of our members means that this commitment can continue even when some of our regular income sources have temporarily stopped. In some parts of the world this is sadly not the case.

One of our members at Market Harborough, Anita Beer, has recently visited Sierra Leone on the West coast of Africa. Anita took greetings from us, visiting and getting to know some of the churches over there. Unfortunately, the Methodist Church in Sierra Leone has been struggling to pay its ministers for several months, and the Coronavirus crisis has hit them and their families, and many in their communities, very hard. The closure of church services has meant a loss of regular income, and many in the neighbourhoods have not yet been reached by any government help. The Methodist Church in Sierra Leone has launched a fundraising campaign simply to try to provide food to its 120 ministers and their families, and some of the most vulnerable in their communities.

It would be a tremendous Christian act of solidarity and practical love to help out our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone at a time like this.
So we are launching this Circuit-wide appeal until the 30th June.

The Circuit Hardship Fund (set up for this crisis) has already committed £300 to help.
Market Harborough Methodist's benevolence fund has also committed £300 to this.
We will be sending this £600 to them immediately. But it would be wonderful if we could add to that total to be able to help more families in need.

If you are able to give, and you would like to, you can donate in the following ways, via our Circuit treasurer, Richard Huntington:

  • By sending a cheque payable to "Market Harborough Circuit Stewards Account" to Richard Huntington at his home address.
  • By dropping an envelope with cash or cheque through the letterbox of Market Harborough Methodist Church, addressed to Richard Huntington.
  • By phoning Richard to ask about details for a bank transfer payment.

(For any of these, please mention that it is for the Sierra Leone Appeal.)

I recognise that some of you may be experiencing financial hardship yourselves at the moment, and if you would like to speak to me about this, or accessing the Hardship fund for someone else, please ring me on 01858 462889.

Thank you for your love and support,
With every blessing,
Andy

16th June – A Prayer for Today

Today in Parliament, under an Urgent Question procedure, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be asked to make a statement on the economic outlook for the UK and the Government’s strategy to protect jobs and the economy. As our nation comes out of Lockdown there is so much to do.

Lord,
We pray for all those who have power and influence;
all who bear the heavy responsibility of governance.
May they look with compassion,
may they work diligently,
may they seek consensus
and may they walk humbly;
so that we build a nation where none are left behind
and all have sufficient.
Amen.

Michael Mays

Footnote

On this day, 16 June 1933, the National Industrial Recovery Act became law with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signature. The U.S. New Deal was a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations. The plan focused on what historians refer to as the "3 Rs": relief for the unemployed and poor, recovery of the economy back to normal levels, and reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression.

A prayer on Methodist Homes (MHA) Sunday

14th June 2020
by Rev. Andy Murphy

This prayer is based on Isaiah 40: 28-31, remembering all those who continue to sacrificially care for others, those who have endured months of isolation, and those who face difficult decisions daily about the care of their loved ones.

Everlasting God, God of old and young,
You are the creator of all things,
your wisdom is beyond our understanding,
your ways are far above our ways,
you never grow tired or weary, although we often do.
Sometimes we stumble and fall,
and yet you renew our strength,
your grace lifts us up,
hope energises us; love finds a way.

We pray for those who are downcast or struggling at the moment.
We pray for all in care homes, nursing homes, sheltered housing, hospitals and hospices, for all who love them, and for those who care or provide for them daily.
We thank you for places where older and vulnerable people are loved and valued – and for organisations like MHA.
And we pray that you will help us to cherish the life you have given us, from birth until the end of our earthly lives when you welcome us into eternity.

In your strength, and in your presence,
may we soar on wings like eagles,
run and not grow weary,
walk and not be faint.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Reflection on the Gospel for the 14th June 2020

Gutted!

When he saw the crowds, Jesus had compassion for them. (Matthew 9 v.36)

A few years ago, there was a short television series on the work of hospital chaplains in Birmingham; the focus was the work with children and was, of course, multi-faith. My particular memory was of a kindly no-nonsense Methodist minister who had established a special rapport with a young lad who was very keen on his football team. He was pinning all his hopes on attending an event away from the hospital ward, but all depended on his condition. As it turned out, his hopes were dashed, and it fell to the Methodist chaplain to give him the bad news. She broke it to him as best she could, adding her own heart-felt reaction: “I’m gutted for you, sweetheart!”

What has brought all this to mind is the description of Jesus’ reaction to the local crowds. These distant descendants of the Sinai generation, the ones God bore ‘on eagles’ wings’ (Exodus 19 v.4), were now like sheep without a shepherd, harassed and helpless. In the English translation of Matthew we are told that Jesus had compassion on them. The Greek could be more literally rendered, ‘he was gutted for them’. There was something visceral in the response of Christ, a love which compelled action: teaching, proclamation, and effective healing; no-one in need was neglected.

This is the hallmark of the Gospel. On that the New Testament evangelists are agreed. It was a strong visceral compassion that drove the good Samaritan to take great risks in rescuing the injured traveller on the bandit-stricken Jericho road – no social-distancing for him! In the same way a father risked shame and scorn and ridicule when he spotted in the distance his lost son returning from the far country in the parable of the prodigal. No matter what the neighbours thought and said, he ran out to meet him, flinging his arms around him. It’s Luke who reports both parables, and they are rightly seen as landmarks in the gospel story (Luke chapters 10: 25-37 and 15: 11-32).

Last week was Trinity Sunday when we heard the words of the ‘great commission’ from Matthew’s last chapter. This time the work of outreach is to exclude neither Samaritans nor Gentiles, but the motivation is the same as that described in today’s passage, from the course of Christ’s Galilean ministry. The spring of the apostolic mission, the source from which it flows, is the mission of Jesus himself in teaching, proclamation and healing; its motivation is visceral compassion.

Where charity and love are present, God himself is there, and, though we cannot now see his exalted Son, he is always with us by the Spirit, to the end of the age, calling us to carry on his work.

Trevor Thomas (June 9th 2020)

P.S. Gutted! – a postscript for our time:

There was no social-distancing rule for the compassionate Samaritan on the Jerusalem to Jericho road, so he was free to exercise a moral choice (Luke 10: 33-34). Our Covid-19 situation is different. We do not give our neighbours a ‘wide berth’ out of choice, but in responsible compliance with a necessary Government directive. The disquiet of many people at the social and emotional cost shows how much we know we are missing. But the gospel of divine love is not exhausted. Even in current circumstances the compassionate imagination is finding new avenues for expression, including Peter Arnold’s haircut in aid of the Ambulance Drivers’ Charity. Well done, Peter!

(Trevor Thomas, 10th June)