I am delighted to announce that two new books, based around the work on this blog and some I found languishing on my computer have been published.
Introducing Voices Through Mark. Mark is the feature gospel in the coming lectionary year, so it could be useful for that.
Voices Through Mark journeys through all of Mark’s gospel from John the Baptist up to The Plot to kill Jesus.
We hear the voices of the characters encountering Jesus for the first time and the development of what Jesus means to them and the world.
Suitable for use as private reflection or in worship.
Price £7 plus £2.00 postage.
It is a bit early, but in this strange current world, who knows what might happen, so here is Voices Through Lent
Beginning with an Ash Wednesday appraisal of our lives in the light of the Ten Commandments, we journey together through Lent, hearing the voices along the way.
It follows the Lectionary readings for Years A, B and C from Ash Wednesday to Lent 5.
Each of the 16 voices stands alone, but weaves together to forma whole.
The pieces in this book are suitable for personal or public reflection and worship following the lectionary readings for the first five Sundays in Lent leading up to Holy Week.
I have copies available, or it is available directly from Moorleys, price £4.50 plus £1.50 postage.
I am doing a offer of both together for £11 plus £2.50 postage
I can also make the text of either book available as a PDF. Please contact me.
All my books are available from Moorleys, or you can order directly from me – please use the contact form below to contact me. If you live near me, I can leave one in the porch for collection or get it put through your door. Or as per the Eyam plague, goods and money can be left at the boundary marker!
Thanks to everyone who has encouraged me to do this and helped make it possible – and to those who support it.
Both Voices Through Advent and Christmas (£4) and Voices Through Holy Week and Easter (£4.50)are also still available.
22 That same night Jacob got up, took his two wives, his two concubines, and his eleven children, and crossed the Jabbok River. 23 After he had sent them across, he also sent across all that he owned, 24 but he stayed behind, alone.
Then a man came and wrestled with him until just before daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he was not winning the struggle, he hit Jacob on the hip, and it was thrown out of joint. 26 The man said, “Let me go; daylight is coming.”
“I won’t, unless you bless me,” Jacob answered.
27 “What is your name?” the man asked.
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have struggled with God and with men, and you have won; so your name will be Israel.”
29 Jacob said, “Now tell me your name.”
But he answered, “Why do you want to know my name?” Then he blessed Jacob.
30 Jacob said, “I have seen God face-to-face, and I am still alive”; so he named the place Peniel.31 The sun rose as Jacob was leaving Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Even today the descendants of Israel do not eat the muscle which is on the hip joint, because it was on this muscle that Jacob was hit.
When I was a girl, our Saturday tea times were spent watching tv, eating bread and dripping and watching the wrestling on ITV. Think Giant Haystacks and Mick McManus. That was how life was, certainly in our corner of the world in the 1970s – we knew how to live!!
In those wrestling matches there was a lot of play acting, I suspect a lot of throwing the matches and it was more about the entertainment.
Today’s readings are of real struggles and a real wrestling with God. Particularly as we hear Jacob’s story. We’ve been following that story through the readings and now we come to the point of his wrestling with God.
This is Jacob the trickster. He has misled and taken advantage of his brother, his father and his uncle. Perhaps he is feeling he is about to get his comeuppance…
Jacob has taken his wives, servants, children and all his worldly possessions across the river. But for now he is alone – Just him and God – and a struggle ensues.
Jacob comes out of the encounter limping. He has struggled with God and he bears the marks of his encounter.
Are we up for wrestling with God? Or would we rather have everything simple and straightforward – no struggle required? I think faith worth having is a faith we’ve struggled with. Until we have wrestled with what it’s all about and what it means to us, it remains an inherited faith, not one that will stand up under pressure. It is very easy to trot out trite platitudes, but until we have wrestled we do not know if they stand up or not.
It’s unlikely that we will come away from a true struggle with God unmarked. It is in the struggles that we are changed, that we are stretched, in the facing up to the realities of our lives. There is nothing wrong with wrestling with God, having an honest conversation, admitting our fears, where we are going…
Don’t be afraid of the struggle, for in that we will be formed. Jacob came away not just with a dislocated hip, but also with a new name. It was at that point he became Israel – and the rest, as they say, is history. But without his willingness to wrestle with God – who knows.
Am I willing to struggle with God? To wrestle over who is in charge? How God will bless me? What I need to let go of? What I ought to be doing? To let God touch me, challenge me, humble me and equip me? Will I receive his blessing, his new name, his future?
As I reflect on bible passages, I like to put myself in the story and hear the voice of the characters. So here is my voice in this.
Wrestling, still grappling, trying to gain the upper hand.
Searching, seeking, longing, to be.
Still yearning for that blessing, not the stolen one, but God’s blessing on me and my life.
And now you come, I am marked, forever, by our struggle; from now on I am changed.
You call me by a new name, a new purpose a new me.
I have met God, we have struggled, I am renewed and I am alive.
Struggling, I wrestle with you Lord.
I search and I seek, I long for you to touch me, to change me to make me new, in you.
I come to you, knowing that answers are not always easy, faith is not always easily come by, that sometimes I need to wrestle – with my conscience, my selfishness, my manipulative ways, my wants and even with you.
In the struggle Lord, re-form me, renew me, rename me, re-purpose me and reassure me.
Bless me Lord I pray. Bless each one of us. Meet us in our struggle, touch us, renew us and may we know we are alive in you.
My hymn suggestion for today is O Love That Will Not Let Me Go, such a beautiful hymn that ties together both Psalm 23 and Jacob’s struggles. It means so much to me of being able to trace God’s rainbow through the rain and the God whose love never lets us go, whatever the struggle. And this is a beautiful rendition of it:
This is the text of my Going Deeper Daily Devotions for today:
Todays reading is Hebrews 12:1-24, but I am only going to read the first few verses, I will leave you to read the rest yourself.
As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.
When I was learning to drive, the one best pearls of wisdom that the wonderful Llewelyn imparted to me is “look at where you want to go”. Keep your eyes focussed on the road ahead at where you are journeying to.
Don’t look at the front of the bonnet, you are not prepared for what is ahead, and especially don’t start admiring the scenery to the left or right – or that is where you will end up heading.
It turns out, that is not only useful advice for driving, but also for faith. I would dare to suggest it is also good advice for a pandemic.
We are running a race, Hebrews tells us. I sincerely hope it is not a physical running race, or I don’t stand a chance! If I can expand the metaphor further, it is not a sprint, but a marathon. It is not about a short sharp burst of energy, but about the long game. The race that lies before us is probably long and winding, with unexpected twists and turn – more like a steeplechase with various different obstacles! – but no so systematically placed. We will all run it in our own way, with our own style. But the writer of Hebrews tells us to run, always keeping our eyes on Jesus. He is where we are going, he is the reason for the journey, it is on him we depend. Take our eyes off him and we will become distracted, drop focus, lose momentum in our step, become confused about where we were going, what the goal actually was, or just head off in the wrong direction all together.
With our eyes fixed on Jesus, we will not be distracted by the things on the periphery – those things that scare us, confuse us, take out focus, our interest, or just take us from the road and land us in a ditch.
Jesus should be our focus, the way, the guide. With our eyes on Jesus, we are not avoiding the here and now, not just looking to the future, but thinking like Jesus each step of the way.
It seems very trite to ask,
‘what would Jesus do?’
but actually it can be a great question. We will only reach the end if each step works. As we plough on with our natural reactions, it can be a great question to pull us up in any situation – never mind what I feel, what my knee jerk reaction might be, what would Jesus be doing in this situation? How is my vision of him going to effect what I do here, now?
When I finish this race, will I be able to look Jesus in the eye?
The passage finishes with these words:
22 Instead, you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, with its thousands of angels. 23 You have come to the joyful gathering of God’s first-born, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, who is the judge of all people, and to the spirits of good people made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, who arranged the new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that promises much better things than does the blood of Abel.
That is race’s end – The city of the living God. To the joyful gathering of God’s people. To Jesus.
Each day, may that be our focus.
Lord you call us to run this race of life.
We want to run it always with you, always with our eyes fixed on you and not distracted by things that do not matter.
And so each day may we look to you and live in the way that you would.
May God bless us this day in our journey and every day. May we know his presence. Amen