"The Beacon reflects Christ's light, shares God's love and serves the community."

 

BEACON BLOG

 

Thoughts we have shared during the past month:

(click on the Bible reading references in italics to go to them)

 

Sunday 20 September

 

"It's not fair"

 

Today's reading is from Matthew 20, verses 1 to 16 

 

Reflection by our Minister, the Rev Catherine Wagstaff

 

‘It’s not fair!’ When I was a young Mum and a Primary School teacher this was a complaint I would hear on an almost daily basis… ‘It’s not fair! Children have a very acute sense of fairness - their judgments are clear and obvious to them, and they exhibit a deep sense of self-righteousness if judgements are made that they feel are not fair. But you know, it's not only children who take this attitude is it?

 

‘It's not fair!’ is a cry that can be heard in all manner of different situations - the common thread being that the one declaring lack of fairness is always using their own yardstick to measure the fairness of a situation – they feel that somehow they have been dealt with unjustly. Can you recognise this in yourself?

 

In our Gospel reading we have a parable told by Jesus to illustrate what the Kingdom of God is like… 

 

Imagine how those workers felt who received a full day's wage even though they hadn't been able to do a full day's work - they can proudly present a day's wage to their family… they rejoice at the landowner's generosity - and I can imagine those who had worked for the whole day would have felt pretty excited too! ‘If these men, who have worked far less of the day than I have, get this wage ... just imagine what I might get!’ We can imagine too how disappointed they felt when all they got was the same as everyone else. ‘That’s not fair! We've worked 2, 3, 4 or even 5 times as long as these labourers, surely we deserve more than they?’ And of course in human terms this isn’t fair, we can understand them feeling extremely miffed about it, moaning, wanting to assert their rights ... The landowner’s treatment of them has not been fair.

 

So this familiar story teaches us about God’s generosity - it challenges us about our need of status or being better or more worthy than others and they teach us that God looks on need and not on merit. The church is not about deciding who God should reward but is about expanding its boundaries to include rather than exclude those who, like the labourers are, for whatever reason, still waiting to be called in. So the story teaches us about God’s compassionate justice, God’s extraordinary generosity, God’s outpouring of love. A compassion, justice, generosity and love that are bigger than anything we can possibly imagine or understand. This should challenge our small mindedness to the core - our audacity to judge, to decide who God can love, or where the reach of God’s compassion can extend. God’s generous love, God’s perfect, compassionate justice is demonstrated most completely for us on the cross - a love that cried out from the cross to the criminal hanging beside him, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.

 

Am I being fair to you? The question really is, are we able to demonstrate God’s compassionate, generous, self-giving sense of fairness to all whom we meet, hear about or read about in the papers; openly demonstrating what we know to be true - that all humanity is equally loved by God, equally precious to God, equally worth dying for. God calls his people to take the risk and to do just that, demonstrating God’s perfect understanding of fairness and justice in all that we think, say and do.

 

Listen to, or join in, this song Come On And Celebrate

 

Sunday 13 September

 

This Sunday's Gospel reading is all about forgiveness and can be found in Matthew 18, verses 21 to 35

 

Time to Reflect – think about:


Unlimited forgiveness - how easy is it to forgive - can we move on from the hurt we feel.

 

In our gospel reading Peter wanted to know what he must do about forgiveness. We may find the word 'sorry', is easily said, often used and sometimes it is not really meant.


Peter thought he was being very generous by saying that a person should forgive seven times. The number seven was thought to be the perfect number. Jesus answers Peter that this is not enough, and even seventy times seven would not be enough. Seventy times seven at that time was thought to be an infinite number.


What Jesus is guiding Peter and us to understand is about forgiveness that it is not a worldly thing, but something that is at the heart of His teaching. Jesus told Peter the parable of the King and his unmerciful servants to illustrate that his followers should be willing to forgive and the consequences if they do not. In parts of the world they find it is difficult for people to forgive because their honour is at stake. When someone is hurt, they want to hurt back. They want revenge for what has happened, but that is an endless route.


Revenge or retaliation is the way of the world and Jesus shows us that forgiveness starts from God. By accepting His forgiveness, we are transformed in His likeness so that we too should offer forgiveness to others in the same way.


To forgive someone when you have been hurt, or had your life affected is not easy. During this time of lock down, people will have been hurt, disappointed, and maybe angered by neighbours or people taking more food than they need. We need to let go of those feelings and embrace God’s love. It is said that when a victim forgives, it stops the bitterness hardening their heart and ruining their life, that by forgiving, a person is changed from being the victim into a survivor. The generosity of what the victim has done may touch the life of the offender, to the extent that in some cases; the act of forgiveness, has changed their ways and in some cases made them friends.

 

Why not listen to this song, Lord I Come To You

 

Sunday 6 September

 

Today's reading is Matthew 18, verses 15 to 20

 

Holding Together - A meditation by Paul Glass

 

So what do we do when we disagree?
In a society that is polarised …
Not willing to listen …
When politicians spout hatred, encourage fear and cling onto power … because that’s what matters.
When people pile in on Twitter and debate is stifled.
When you feel like what you have to say needs to be in even BIGGER CAPITALS than before just to be heard.
When people say the most outrageous things … simply to be noticed.
How do we model a better way?
And in that modelling … is it possible to be too nice?
Not to take on bullies because we’re so nervous of conflict?
Not wanting to offend because we feel it’s not Christian?

An equal problem … of course …
Is those who enjoy conflict so much that they are always wading in … enjoying that sense of counting people out.
Relishing a sense of moral superiority.
‘How can you possibly hold that view?’
Their moral certainty frightening to behold.
What a minefield it is.
Holding together rather than tearing apart.
Learning how to disagree with understanding and care.
Seeking a community view rather than constantly speaking only your own mind.
But in these days of sadness and loss and new normals and ‘what do we do next?’ - holding together and learning how to do that with grace and skill and love and wisdom and courage maybe the most important thing we can do.
And maybe … just maybe … it is something we can take out into the world and model how things could be - for the benefit of all.

 

Listen to this song by Matt Redman, When The Music Fades

 

Sunday 30 August

 

Our reading today is from Matthew 16, verses 21 to 28

 

Reflection by the Rev Hilary Nabarro


‘Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’ Except that it doesn’t actually say that. It says, “If any desire to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and keep following me.” And that changes the emphasis. If we read ’become my followers’, it sounds like a one-off decision, which results in our now having a certain status: we are now ‘followers’, or disciples.


In fact, the last thing discipleship conveys is status; rather it is about denying self – not as some miserable narrowing of life, but because our life has been completed submitted to another, and now that life consists of continuously following. Jesus has already made it clear where he himself is going: ‘From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’ Our job isn’t to argue for some alternative direction or route, but to keep on following in our Master’s footsteps. Only by doing this will we discover that the denial of self in order to follow the Suffering Servant was actually the path to total fulfilment, to true ‘life’ in all its fullness.

 

Listen to, or join in with, The Servant King, by Graham Kendrick

 

"So let us learn how to serve, and in our lives enthrone him,
each other’s needs to prefer, for it is Christ we’re serving."

 

Sunday 23 August

 

Today our reading is from Matthew 16, verses 13 to 20

 

A reflection by Rev Dr Paul Glass on our reading. "A Different Story".

 

There are some sentences that need unpicking. There are some sets of words that have a world of meaning underneath. There are some statements that you need to have background knowledge of before they take on their full weight - and when they do…everything changes.

 

Take Matthew 16.13. It sounds simple enough - ‘Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi.’ Uncomplicated. The arrival at a town. But not just any town. A long journey north. A new town. Only recently built and renamed. A blasphemous, idolatrous horror The seat of Roman government named after Caesar and Philip. Puppet King - builder of the city - Herod the Great’s son. Caesarea Philippi. A town of politics - of Kings and rulers and uneasy relationships. Politics seeping from every stone.

 

So a long journey to a new town and then - after telling us the town with all the weight and story that went along with it - the rest of Matthew’s verse: ‘he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”’ A question about identity outside a town where, who and what you were, and the power you wielded were everything. A political question that immediately starts pointing to other questions: ‘whose story do you want to be a part of?’ ‘what kind of story is this?’ ‘where is all of this going?’ And the question becomes personal…inescapable. ‘Who do you say I am?’ And Peter (for once) gets it right. In a flash of faith and recognition. ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.’ In a world of gods and empires he sees through. In a world of powerful leaders who love to cling to power, and huge corporations whose wealth and power dwarf nations.

 

Who do we give allegiance to? Tell the story of? Worship? Adore? Who do we say the Son of Man is?

 

Take time to read the Bible passage slowly and prayerfully again. Is there a word or a passage that stands out to you? Pause to spend time with that word/ passage. What is the Holy Spirit saying to you? If Jesus were stood before you what would you like to ask him?

 

You may like to listen to (or join in with) this song by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend: Speak O Lord

 

Sunday 16 August

 

Our reading today is from Matthew 15, verses 21 to 28

 

A few thoughts from the Rev Canon Harvey Richardson:

 

This wonderful story is essentially about Prayer.

First, we notice that the woman from outside Israel is moving towards Jewish territory, and Jesus, the Saviour of the world, is also moving, but travelling towards Gentile territory. Here is a great truth that whenever we seek God, he is already moving towards us!

 

Secondly, the woman is ‘continuingly screaming and crying out’ as she runs towards Jesus, desperately seeking help for her troubled daughter. She is the embodiment of fervent intercessory prayer. Too often, in our prayers, we submit a ‘shopping list’ of our worries to God! So, let’s remember that our prayers for others are cries from our heart - body and soul!

 

Thirdly, we notice a major surprise - Jesus ‘answered her not at all’. How often our prayers are met with silence - and frequently, in our panic, we imagine we have heard God’s voice, when really there was nothing at all. Perhaps we need to learn how to become silent inside ourselves.

 

Fourthly, another surprise. In spite of Jesus’s apparent rejection and his comments about ‘the lost sheep of Israel’, the woman doesn’t give up, but persistently pleads with Jesus in a gesture of deep prostration. So, we must never ‘give up’ on our prayers; but at the same time we must come down from our places of ‘self-importance’ and adopt a humble, low-lying position so that the flow of God’s grace can come down and reach us.

 

Fifthly, the woman boldly engages Jesus in conversation, in which ‘mercy’ is kept at the top of the agenda. Whatever her background, her status, her race, her gender - past, present or future - God’s mercy is paramount. In our prayers, whether we feel ‘on top of the world’ or ‘down in the dumps’ (even like a little dog at its master’s table), whether or not we feel ‘religious’, whether we feel foolish or clever, we will catch a tiny scrap of God’s bounty, his love.

 

Lastly, when Jesus declares ‘O woman, great is your faith!’, he is raising her to the sublime status of ‘Beloved’. Let’s make no mistake, God loves you and me so much, and is dying to make us his ‘Beloved’. When we pray, let us - out of the silence - cast ourselves at Jesus’s feet, implore him for his help, in the knowledge that his mercy, grace and love will never fail

 

Take time for relfection as you listen to The Sound of Silence

 

Sunday 9 August

 

The second Sunday of the month is when we would normally hold Creative Church for families, so Deacon Michelle Legumi created thoughts for today with families in mind.

 

We will use three words: Praise, Please and Pause.

 

Praise Using the letters of the alphabet think of things to praise and thank God for starting with A, B, C, D....etc . See how far you can get! (If you are with others take it in turns to use a letter). We have so much to say thank you and to praise you for. Thank you for being such an amazing God.

 

Please forgive me. Think about the past week. Have you always been kind and loving in what you have thought about, how you have felt about others in your family/friends/people on TV and how you have acted? Do you need to say sorry to someone? A prayer to say SORRY. Dear God, I am sorry for not being loving and kind this week especially when.....................(insert your own words). Thank you that you always forgive me because you love me. Help me to be more loving and kind next week and show me how.

 

Read Matthew 14: 22-33 or you could watch this video to familiarise yourself with the story.

 

Pause: Here are some questions to think about. You may only use one or you might want to work through all of them. Make time to sit with the questions and maybe discuss them with those you are with.

 

How do you think Peter felt when he saw Jesus? What made him get out of the boat? Why do you think Peter started to sink? Jesus told Peter off for not trusting him enough! Who do you trust in your life and why do you trust them? What is your experience of trusting God? What are the things I need to trust Jesus for in my own life right now? How can I develop a stronger faith in Jesus? What can help me? Write down or draw those things that can help you to develop a stronger faith and what you need to trust Jesus for. Stick it somewhere you will see it to remind you to do them or to ask for help.

 

And finally, click here to enjoy this version of The Blessing by children from the United Kingdom, USA, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. 

 

The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you The Lord turn His Face toward you and give you peace. Amen

 

 

Sunday 2 August

 

Our reading today is from Matthew 14, verses 13 to 21

 

Reflection by Rev Dr Paul Glass 

 

The Hour Is Late

 

To tell you the truth I was exhausted and it felt like everything was going wrong. I mean - what more could happen? I’d decided to follow Jesus - to drop everything else and go where he was going. But that was the problem. It was beginning to feel like his mission was likely to be over before it had ever really begun. It had been a catalogue of disasters.

 

We’d gone with him to Nazareth - his own home town and the people there had completely rejected him. Didn’t want to have anything to do with us - to the point where they where they took offence at us. Things were on the verge of getting quite nasty…we left in a hurry. Then John was beheaded. Yes - the baptiser. The person who had been called to prepare the way. Herod made sure that everybody knew about it. Killed on a whim in the most horrible way. It was to show us who was in charge. A political act. Yes - everything was going wrong. There was pressure everywhere.

 

I’m going to be honest with you - we were frightened. This was not what I thought was going to happen. Not at all. Suddenly I felt that events were getting out of control pretty quickly. I was scared. really scared. We all needed a breather - to get away and to let the dust settle a bit. Regroup and plan what to do next. But, of course, that wasn’t going to happen - not a bit of it. Jesus was pursued by a crowd, as always, they were needy - as always. And hungry as well. I have to say our resources were about as low as they could get. The crowd’s resources as well as ours. Those who had chosen to follow - the 12 of us - we were about as low as we could get. We were completely exhausted, frightened of what the future held. Beset on all sides by bad news and now confronted by a hungry crowd.

Of course - when our human resources seem completely exhausted - that’s when God provides. When we’re tired and there’s nothing left, and things seem pretty desperate and there’s nowhere else to turn - that’s when things happen. Jesus sat there and prayed. As a response to all that all he was faced with - he prayed. And you know what happened next…

 

 

Sunday 26 July

 

Our reading today is Matthew 13 verses 31 to 33 and 44 to 52

 

Reflection by Rev Dr Paul Glass - you can watch it here

 

‘Tell me the answer now.’
‘What should I write?’
‘Do I really have to go searching for it?’
All things that I have heard said in classrooms (both real and virtual).
Because we’re used to having it now aren’t we?
We’re used to the parcel with the smile coming the next day.
Immediate access. Faster speeds.
Information at our finger tips.
Answers asap.
But the kingdom, we are told, is hidden.
It does not yield it’s answers so quickly or easily as all that.
It takes work ... and dare I whisper it ... effort.
It requires patience and searching and asking and thinking.
It needs clear vision and careful thought.
So we must be looking constantly, and know what we are watching for.
Any sign of injustice needing to be challenged, or example of love;
any desperate need or picture of sacrifice ... those are places where you might just capture a glimpse.
Like a good angler knowing where the fish are more likely to be found,
so we too, through experience and listening may catch the signs of the kingdom.
And when we see it - when we find it at work - how valuable it is!
What we wouldn’t give to encourage it, grow it, see it flourish.
Because when we discover it - when we are caught in its swell it is as of we see what life should be about.
When we see it, if we are wise, we realise that we are seeing God.
And that is the most precious and wonderful of things.
To see and understand and recognise the presence of God at work in the world.
Who would not want to join that work?
Who would not give their all to throw themselves at once into that glorious water?

 

Sunday 19 July

 

Our readings today are from Romans 8, verses 12 to 25 and Matthew 13, verses 24 to 30, 36 to 43

 

“Where, then, did these weeds come from?” We often live with the assumption that if we do good, work hard, and be nice everything should work out as we want. That’s the illusion with which the slaves in today’s parable live. “Master,” they ask the farmer, “did you not sow good seed in your field?” Of course he did. They know he did. That’s why they are so surprised when they discover the weeds. The weeds have shattered their illusion. This isn’t supposed to happen. “Where, then, did these weeds come from?” There is an urgency to their question. They want to know what happened and who is responsible.

 

So do we. That’s what we want to know when we discover weeds in our fields. We want an explanation and someone we can blame, hold accountable, and even punish. Jesus, however, seems less interested in this approach than we are.“An enemy has done this,” he says. That’s it. He doesn’t explain it. He doesn’t identify or name the enemy. He doesn’t give instructions to find, drive out, and punish this enemy. Behind our desire for an explanation and the name of the culprit is a truth many of us neither like nor want to accept. It’s one of the challenges of today’s gospel. It’s the challenge to become more than who we think we are. It’s a challenge that arises every time we face the weeds of our life and world.

 

The reality, according to Jesus, is that our lives and our world are a field in which good and evil, life and death, joys and sorrows, that which we want and that which we don’t want grow and live side by side. The wheat and the weeds stand together in our world and in each of our lives. That, Jesus says, is what the kingdom of heaven is like. That’s good news for us. It means that despite the weeds in and around us the kingdom is still here. The weeds do not overcome or make absent God’s kingdom. It may not be the fullness of the kingdom but it is, nevertheless, the kingdom. But what about those weeds? What do we do about them? Surely we should do something. Not according to Jesus. “Let them grow together until the harvest,” he says. That makes no sense. How can we let them be? For many the binary view of the weeds are bad and the wheat is good prevails. We must do something. We need to take a stand, draw a line in the sand, establish some boundaries. “Don’t you want us to pull up the weeds,” the slaves ask their master. “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.” These aren’t just generic weeds. The parable speaks of a particular weed called zizania. It’s sometimes known as darnel or false wheat. It grows with the wheat. It looks like wheat. Its roots intertwine with the roots of the real wheat. The difference between the two is not always readily apparent. It seems the separation between the wheat and the weeds is not as clearcut as we often believe.

 

In any event, we are not the ones to make that judgement. We’re not the ones to uproot those we see as weeds. Jesus is clear about that. “Let them grow together until the harvest,” he says. Jesus shows more interest in growth than extermination. He is willing to wait and to be patient. If we are his followers we too will wait and be patient amongst the weeds of our life. While we patiently wait let’s not get too excited about the end of this parable. Let’s not revel in and celebrate the end of the age and the coming of Jesus as some divine weed whacker. Jesus instead commands love. Love your enemy. Love your neighbour. Love yourself. Love God. Forgive the weeds? Love the weeds? The gospel is always a challenge to us. So, yes, forgive them. Love them. Maybe that’s how the wheat begins to disentangle its roots from the weeds and show itself to be wheat and not weeds. Maybe love and forgiveness are what life in the mixed field of God’s kingdom and this world is like.

 

Time to reflect: Take time to read the Bible passages slowly and prayerfully again. Is there a word or a passage that stands out to you? Pause to spend time with that word/ passage. What is the Holy Spirit saying to you? If Jesus were stood before you what would you like to ask him?

 

Sunday 12 July

 

Our reading today is from Matthew 13, verses 1 to 9 and 18 to 23

 

Reflection by Revd Dr Paul Glass


Now I am just a character in a story so why should you listen to anything I’ve got to say?


But I have been sat for hundreds of years now in this parable that Jesus told and I have heard more than enough sermons about it. Some of them were even half decent. But I think I’ve earned the right, as the sower, to have my say. Not that this is the only way of unpacking the story you understand. I’ve listened long enough to know that there are hundreds of different takes on what is going on here. That’s the beauty of being in a parable - I’m up for a bit of interpretation ... absolutely. As you wrestle with the meaning of what Jesus said there are a couple of things I would like to point out. First things first. The fact is that I broadcast seed - you know - throw it wide so that it goes everywhere. That little fact should get you thinking. I mean the seed is going all over the place. That’s kind of the point of the whole of the situation.

 

And that’s been one of the benefits of this lockdown situation actually. There’s been so much worship up on the old internet. Facebook, zoom, YouTube - the place is heaving with worship that anybody with a device and wi-fi can get into. Has the seed ever been more widely sown? Of course - you do need to let people know it’s there. But the possibilities are endless - as that John Wesley said - ‘The world really is my parish.’ Don’t be frightened of throwing the seed far and wide. We’ve been a bit timid over the past few years and people need to hear.

 

Oh and there’s a second thing I’d like to say. People go on and on about the different types of ground and what they might mean. What I don’t hear so much of is people saying ... why can’t the soil be changed? I mean does it always have to be rocky ground - or with a bit of stone clearance and some nice manure could that soil be changed into something more fertile? Don’t assume that the soil here can only ever be one thing. With some expertise and some loving care soil can be transformed. So don’t think anything is ever wasted and don’t let yourself get into the way of thinking that some places or people are out of bounds because the soil is so hard or rocky or full of weeds. There are all kinds of ways to change that. Anyway, as I said - from someone who has done a lot of listening over the years - a couple of ideas. I’d better get back to sowing. After all - it’s what I do best.

 

Sunday 5 July

 

Our reading today is from Matthew 11, verses 16 to 19 and 25 to 30

 

‘Come’ is a word we use when giving invitations. ‘Come to me,’ says Jesus, ‘all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens,’ The criterion for coming is simple: being weary and burdened. No wonder people who come to Jesus find themselves with other people who are worn out, under pressure and at the limits of their patience, and therefore not always easy companions.


Why come? So that Jesus can give rest. But Jesus says more: ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.’ Rest is part of what Jesus offers people who come to him and I think we all need that! Yet Jesus also offers the opportunity to keep in step and learn from him. Jesus’ words of invitation were spoken to people who were totally unpleasable, as we all can be in our worst moments.


Zechariah’s message to the dispirited people of Israel was, essentially, similar: ‘Your king comes to halt the warring, to restore hope.’ He spoke of people being prisoners of hope, a powerful image of being simply unable to escape hope, they are bound to hope. It makes me wonder what a world imbued with unpreventable and uncontainable hope might look like? This king is a rest-giver, a hope-giver, who comes to us. What might it be like if we lived as people of inescapable hope even in these strange times?

 

What might it be like to live as though no one is overlooked, as if our King has come to everyone to offer rest and hope?