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

 

BEACON BLOG

 

Thoughts we have shared during the past month or so:

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

 

Are we part of Christ's family?

 

To fulfill His mission on Earth, Jesus did not surround Himself with religious leaders nor with His family, but with those willing to dedicate themselves to God’s service. However, He did not reject the idea of families working together, as we see in His calling of Peter and Andrew, also James and John.

 

Similarly our Christian calling may involve family or be within the context of the church; or it may require us to work with strangers outside the context of our Christian worship.

 

The current pandemic has been devastating for many who have suffered as a result of illness, or of the illness of others. It has had a profound effect in other ways such as loss of work or ability to meet with others.
It has also meant that many have had to depend on others to meet some of the needs of life. For some this has meant relying on family, friends or neighbours. Others have had to turn to a stranger.

 

When Jesus speaks of those doing the will of God being his Mother, Brothers or Sisters, He does not mean that they are literally his blood relatives. He means that those people are part of His life, as if family.

 

As we serve God we should welcome those willing to work with us to proclaim God’s Love and to show His Love in the world. It may feel that they mean as much to us as our family. This doesn’t lessen the meaning of family, but elevates the importance of fellow workers, those whom we serve and those who meet our needs at this time through Jesus, our Lord.

 

Doubt is not denial

 

I have every sympathy with Thomas. For whatever reason, he had not been there when Jesus had appeared to the others and could not believe what they were telling him. If you have ever heard or joined in a debate about the reality of the resurrection, you will know the sort of things that might have been going on in Thomas’ mind. The other disciples were hallucinating, or their grief had made them delusional, it wasn’t really Jesus or someone else had been crucified. So Thomas says “Unless I see, unless I touch.”


In John 11 v 16 we see that Thomas was totally committed to following Jesus wherever it led, even to death.


In John 14 v 5 we see that he was prepared to ask questions when confused but in this situation he could not believe what he considered unbelievable – until a week later when Jesus appeared to them again and said to Thomas, “Do not doubt, but believe.”


Now doubt is not total denial but being in two minds. You know and accept this but you cannot accept that. Thomas knew and believed in Jesus but could not accept that he had died and then risen from the dead - until he saw, then “My Lord and my God!” Jesus had died, he could see the wounds and Jesus had risen, for there he was!


We can never be in that house in Jerusalem or walk the dusty paths as the disciple did. But the Gospel writer is clear, “these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God”. Why, so we can subscribe to a creed, so that we can join an organisation? Better than that. So that “through believing you may have life in his name.”
 

 

 

A reflection for Palm Sunday by the Rev Dr Paul Glass, entitled Statements and Responses (https://youtu.be/B0tFaEU08zY)

 

It was planned - all of this - engineered. And it’s so unexpected in Mark’s Gospel
where up to now Jesus has been all about concealing who he was. The Messianic Secret.
But not here.
This is a statement in the loudest possible terms.
The fact that he rode into the city rather than walked as any other pilgrim would have done.
And don’t let the donkey fool you.
It was as much a royal mount as a horse.
This is a statement. Bold and strong.
And like any bold statement long waited for and anticipated…
It gets a response.
Cloaks were expensive.
Far more so than coats today.
Jesus even talked about patching one earlier in Mark’s story.
To lay them down on the path where they could be trampled and torn -
it showed devotion, respect, an excitement that resulted in extravagant acts.
And those acts are statements too.
Rejoicing in deliverance for a people under foreign occupation.
Celebrating the freedom to be generous.

 

Sometimes you just need the opportunity to roll out onto the streets and cry praise
(tinged with a healthy dose of justice of course).
There was a sense that freedom was in the air.
That something important was happening.
Statements being made.
In our locked down world how does that feel?
When discussions about the right to gather and have your say
are all around us.
When we have been shut away for so long.
When doorstep applause and the banging of pans has shown our solidarity and spoken to the things that are close to our hearts.
What is our response of praise to the love that we see and know?

 

 

Has the pandemic given us a chance to do something new?

 

I love reading multiple translations of a passage to help me make sense of what I am reading. One of my favourites is one called “The Message” - which translates scripture into modern-day English. Here is how The Message interprets John 12:24-25:

 

Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

 

It’s hard to believe, but it has been over a year now since the pandemic began and we all had to change how we go about living our lives. We changed how we work, see family and friends, travel, and worship, among many other things. It has been hard, and awful, and at times, devastating. Many of us wanted, instead, to cling to what life had been before - and many of us are still longing to go back, for life to return to "normal" - whatever that was. We liked being the grain of wheat and we want to continue being the grain of wheat if we can. But perhaps we have been given a chance to do what Jesus calls us to do in this passage - to give up our lives for something new, for something more closely resembling the kingdom of God.

 

This time of struggle has made us get more creative about caring for our neighbour. At times it has opened our eyes to neighbours who were in need right under our noses before. If we take this time of continued upheaval to let go of the life we had before, and be reckless in our love, perhaps something new will flourish that looks more like what God wants for us.

 

Is God calling you to be more than just a grain of wheat? How has God cared for you and nurtured you in this time of being buried? Where have you seen signs of new life and new growth spring forth? Are there areas of your life you need to tend to? Are there areas of your life you need to let go of and realize that you cannot or should not go back to?

 

May we ponder all of these things in our hearts with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

 

Moan, moan, moan - but does it really help?

 

John 3 verses 14 to 21

 

I wonder how many times through this pandemic you have been unhappy with things and complained out loud or inwardly to yourself? Perhaps you haven’t agreed with Government decisions, perhaps you have been angry at the people who seemed to mindlessly flout the rules put in place to keep us all safe, perhaps you’ve complained when you were unable to attend church, or if you were, you were unable to sing; there are many reasons of late why we are likely to have moaned.

 

And this is how it was with the Israelites as they travelled slowly towards the promised land. They took their frustration out not only on their leader Moses, but also on God. They had forgotten the miracles God had performed for them, their faith was waning, and they refused to obey God’s law (see Psalm 78).

 

We see too that when the Israelites complained things only got worse. They improved at once though when the people recognised that they had sinned against God through their attitude and actions. When the bronze snake was hung on a pole the Israelites didn’t anticipate the fuller meaning that Jesus would bring to this experience. In the Gospel reading Jesus explains that just as the Israelites of old were healed of the sickness caused by the snake bites by turning their gaze towards the snake on the pole, we today can be healed from the sin that pervades our lives by turning our gaze towards Jesus’ death on the cross. You see it was not the bronze snake that healed the Israelites, it was their renewed belief in God’s healing power, in God’s compassion for them, in God’s love for those created in God’s image and called beloved.

 

Today, God’s healing power, compassion and love exists for each one of us too; it is there for the taking but like the Israelites we too need to recognise the times we stray away from the path of light that guides us and turn back wholeheartedly towards God. Amen.

 

 

What makes a church?

 

Our reading is from John 2, verses 13 to 22

 

In the middle of a lockdown, many of our church buildings are closed for public worship, though a few are open. We have had to get used to worshipping in our homes, using You Tube videos or Zoom video meetings, or through worship sheets like this one, or a mixture of all three and perhaps other possibilities. Many will miss the architecture and the atmosphere of their building, or the fellowship and bustle and chatter before and after services. Some people have been deprived of that for nearly a year. This causes us to ask what makes a church?


In our reading, Jesus was forcing people to face the same question. Traditionally there was only one “house of God” for the Jews - the Temple. That was where God dwelt. There is very little archaeological evidence of synagogue buildings in and before Jesus’ time - some scholars would say there was none. There is evidence in Jewish writings that synagogue meetings happened in this period, but not perhaps in dedicated buildings. The house of God was the Temple. And, as you may imagine if there is only one house of God it becomes even more special. And here Jesus is, wading into this holy place, clearing it out and laying down rules as to who can do what there! What right had he? Jesus would appear to be claiming to be the “messenger of the covenant” whom God promised to send to his Temple in Malachi 3: 1-4, who would purify not only the Temple, but God’s people - starting with the religious officials! But then he gets even more radical. When he says “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days”, he is essentially saying God is not living in the Temple Herod built, but in his own body. He is the real temple, the real house of God.


Do we tend to get too attached to our local building? Sometimes churches are called Bethel, which is Hebrew for “house of God”, and sometimes we think God dwells there and we feel we cannot worship him anywhere else. Jesus challenges that way of thinking. He is the one above all in whom God dwells. In him God became flesh and dwelt among us. And it is in drawing closer to Jesus in a personal relationship that we enter God’s house and offer him the worship he truly seeks. And we can do that anywhere - in our kitchen as much as in St. Paul’s Cathedral, or in our local chapel.

 

Draw close to Jesus, and he will draw us close to the Father and the Spirit, so we can worship him in Spirit and in truth.

 

It's Lent

 

I wonder if you have you given anything up for Lent?


Why do we do it? Is it to prove we can do without it, or we sense that our life needs to be more balanced? Many people practice Dry January nowadays for the same reasons - to practice self discipline and for health and wellbeing.

 

Lent is a time for reflection on our discipleship; our walk with Jesus and to identify with him in the wilderness and his walk towards the cross. He said NO to being satisfied by food or power, but rather remaining focused upon His Father’s will for him even to give up his very life.

 

Giving something up can reveal how much we actually desire or need or not need it anymore; what we really want out of life; an opportunity to address a healthy balance of nurturing body, mind spirit and soul. It can reveal what we are actually hungry for, and I don’t mean chips or chocolate, cake or your Sunday lunch!


The following readings reveal where we can go to quench our thirst and hunger.
As you read what do you notice? Does anything jump out to you?

 

Read: Isaiah 55:1-2; 6

 

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.

 

Read: John 6: 25-35

 

Jesus the Bread of Life

 

25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.

27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?

31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.

33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

 

In order to answer the question: What am I hungry for? it may help to ask: What do I fill my life with? Think for a moment: What do we see people filling their lives with? Jot them down (e.g. work, family, to do lists, TV. worry...)

 

Whatever we are choosing to fill our lives with reveals two things:
Firstly ... What we are hungry for so we do it/run after it, spend most of our time doing it...


And secondly ...


What we are really hungry for... covering up the real hunger. What we can fill our lives with isn’t the real deal. It doesn’t really satisfying the real hunger and thirst within us

 

Maybe this Lent we can reflect upon what God is asking me to let go of, or be a bit more empty of so I have more room to become more of the person God sees?

 

“Come to me," Jesus says to people over 2,000 years ago and says it to us today...”and you will never be hungryor thirsty again. For I am the bread of life."

 

 

 

 

Sunday 7 February

 

Today's reflection is on the Gospel reading from Mark 1, verses 29 to 39

 

Over Christmas there was a programme about Princess Diana; it showed Diana reaching out to shake hands with people with Aids, breaking down the prejudice which entrapped and isolated them. Like those handshakes Diana gave, the freedom Jesus came to bring from all that holds us captive is not some abstract idea; it’s real and tangible. At a time when our inability to touch each other is especially painful, Jesus still reaches out to touch us and lift us up as he did Simon’s mother-in-law. The good news of the kingdom is for all; but it’s also for each of us individually and personally. However unlovable or unforgiveable we may feel we are, we matter and God in Jesus reaches out to us.


Take a time to sit quietly

 

Loving God, we pray for the community and country of which we are a part. For those who are exhausted with caring for others and long for a break. For those who have had enough of restrictions, of not being able to meet with friends and family, and feel they cannot stand it any longer, and for those who are angry and frightened, who feel their only hope is just to try and hang on until things get better.

Loving God, we pray for the leaders of the world, as they try and bring the pandemic under control.
Give them the wisdom and courage to respect every human life and seek freedom, justice and peace for all people.


Loving God we pray for the church, unite us by your Spirit, and enable us to witness to the hope we have in you.


Loving God, come to us now, as you have come to your people in every age. We thank you for all who have reflected the light of Christ. Help us to follow their example and bring us with them to live for ever in your kingdom. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

 

Sunday 31 January

 

Powerful words, porwerful actions: A reflection, by the Rev Dr Paul Glass on Mark 1, verses 21 to 28.

 

I was only a child you understand. Around 10 I would guess. Full of vim and vigour. I have to say I was not all that interested in religious things. Well, to be honest it was all a bit boring - as far as I could make out synagogue was pretty much a bunch of old men telling us what another bunch of old men had said.

 

But that day even I could tell that something new had happened, something very different and really quite exciting. And let me tell you Capernaum doesn’t get exciting very often. We’re a village. The days for the fifteen hundred people who live here are all about the rhythms of the lake and of fishing. It was only later that I found out that this was one of the first places Jesus came…that coming to the synagogue and what happened next were some of the first things that he did as part of his ‘ministry’ I suppose you’d call it. Well if that’s the case…what an entrance!

 

Powerful words and powerful actions. First came the powerful words. He got up in the synagogue and started to teach. Wow. You could have heard a pin drop. It wasn’t loud or strident or angry. It was just absolutely full of knowledge and authority. You wanted to sit and listen all day - and from me that’s really saying something. You felt he knew, inhabited the words he said. Like he said them with a level of understanding that you’d never heard before.

 

He didn’t say - ‘well rabbi so and so says this, but rabbi so and so says something different’. He just spoke. What he said was truth - you just knew it. Then, of course, came the powerful action. A voice rose from the back of the building. Loud and pained and in torment. I was only ten or so and it really scared me. ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? I know who you are. The Holy One of God!’ I remember it so well. Not just because the guy was unnerving but because he used that name - Holy One of God. I had no idea what it meant but it sounded important and names have power don’t they? Well Jesus was having none of it. ‘Be quiet!’ he said, ‘come out of him.’ There was a loud cry…and the guy was quiet, still, at peace. All the anger and sinewy violence gone. Just like that.

 

Powerful words, powerful actions - ever since that day that’s been my understanding of what real faith looks like. The day Jesus came to Capernaum.