Category Archives: Uncategorized

Keeping Count

This is the script of the worship I prepared for our online service this morning, led almost entirely by prerecorded slots.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?”

22 “No, not seven times,” answered Jesus, “but seventy times seven, 23 because the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a king who decided to check on his servants’ accounts. 24 He had just begun to do so when one of them was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25 The servant did not have enough to pay his debt, so the king ordered him to be sold as a slave, with his wife and his children and all that he had, in order to pay the debt. 26 The servant fell on his knees before the king. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay you everything!’ 27 The king felt sorry for him, so he forgave him the debt and let him go.

28 “Then the man went out and met one of his fellow servants who owed him a few dollars. He grabbed him and started choking him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he said. 29 His fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back!’ 30 But he refused; instead, he had him thrown into jail until he should pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very upset and went to the king and told him everything. 32 So he called the servant in. ‘You worthless slave!’ he said. ‘I forgave you the whole amount you owed me, just because you asked me to. 33 You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you.’ 34 The king was very angry, and he sent the servant to jail to be punished until he should pay back the whole amount.”

35 And Jesus concluded, “That is how my Father in heaven will treat every one of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

Matthew 18:21-35

Last week on a day when my lungs were really bad, I had to ring 111 for advice.  The doctor told me to take 10 puffs of Ventolin in one dose, two puffs at a time.  I very quickly discovered that ten is a difficult number to keep count of.   

Seven is a number beyond that which I would struggle to keep track of unless I was doing bars and gates! So seventy times seven is basically saying not keeping count – beyond any number that you can keep track of – just do it.  That is Jesus advice in the question of keeping tally in how often we, or more specifically I, might want to forgive someone.  Don’t count, there is no magic number assigned, just keep doing it.

Forgiveness is part of the Christian life, not being walked all over, but letting go of those things that someone has done to us that has hurt us, no longer letting it have any power in our life, or in the relationship with the person we feel has ‘sinned against us’.

Last week’s reading, the previous few verses to these, was about how to deal with disagreement in churches.  The first thing you had to do was not chunter about it behind their back but go and talk to them about it.  Probably if you haven’t got the guts to do that, you should let it go…

Jesus, as he often does, uses an exaggerated story – but to good effect. A man has had a huge debt forgiven him, but immediately goes out and threatens someone who owes him a very small amount.  It seems that he has immediately forgotten the kindness that has been done to him and is determined to have back what he is owed.  Ultimately that cost him the forgiveness and freedom that he had been gifted.

So I wonder, is one of the new paths God is opening up to us of forgiveness?  That is a radical way to live – a way we could all benefit and live freer lives from.

If we live in awareness of all that we have been given and forgiven, that must surely make us live a generous and forgiving life.  God’s grace in me, his generosity and forgiveness in my life, should lead to graciousness towards others.

God takes us to a new place, to live a new way.

In the Exodus passage God opens up the seas for his people to pass through to a new land and a new life.  As I said, when I read that passage, the immediate thought in my head was ‘What is God opening up to us?  What new land is God leading us to?’

Life feels like a constantly changing new land at the moment.  The sand seems to be constantly shifting beneath our feet, just when we think we have worked one piece out, something else changes, we are constantly reassessing.  But God is opening up a new place.

We have become part of a new Circuit, we are exploring where both physical and Zoom services are going, but God is taking us to a new place, opening the way before us.

Whatever that place will be, it must be a place of grace, of love, and of mutual forgiveness, living the life God has given us, the freedom from where we were, the release of the burdens we were carrying, that we affect our lives and our reactions.  That we may be patient with others, as God is with us, and live by forgiveness and grace – that free gift of God to each one of us.

May God bless us,
each on our journey with God
and each other.

May you know God’s presence,
this day
       and always.
          Amen

Giving My All

A video version of this blog is available here:

This is my offering for our Circuit’s Daily Devotions today. This is the script for those who need it for accessibility.

A Psalm of Praise to God:

Sing to God a brand-new song.
He’s made a world of wonders!

He rolled up his sleeves,
He set things right.

God made history with salvation,
He showed the world what he could do.

He remembered to love us, a bonus
To his dear family, Israel—indefatigable love.

The whole earth comes to attention.
Look—God’s work of salvation!

Shout your praises to God, everybody!
Let loose and sing! Strike up the band!

Round up an orchestra to play for God,
Add on a hundred-voice choir.

Feature trumpets and big trombones,
Fill the air with praises to King God.

Let the sea and its fish give a round of applause,
With everything living on earth joining in.

Let ocean breakers call out, “Encore!”
And mountains harmonize the finale—

A tribute to God when he comes,
When he comes to set the earth right.

He’ll straighten out the whole world,
He’ll put the world right, and everyone in it.

Psalm 98 from The Message Translation

In the centre of the Methodist Prayer Handbook, there is a suggested reading for every day of the year.  If you follow the bible readings on the Methodist Church App or website, this is what is used, but if you haven’t got access to either of those, they are listed there in the handbook.  If you haven’t got any other bible reading plan to follow, it is a good one to use.

At the moment it is working through John’s gospel.

Today’s reading is from Holy Week, we are used to hearing it in that context. But today we hear it in what the lectionary calls ‘Ordinary Time‘, part of our everyday lives, even in these far from ordinary times.

It is such a beautiful reading, I could listen to it any time. An account of outrageous love and someone who got what Jesus was about to offer for us.

John 12:1-11

At Bethany

1Six days before Passover Jesus went back to Bethany, where he had raised Lazarus from death. 2A meal had been prepared for Jesus. Martha was doing the serving, and Lazarus himself was there.
3Mary took a very expensive bottle of perfume and poured it on Jesus’ feet. She wiped them with her hair, and the sweet smell of the perfume filled the house. 4A disciple named Judas Iscariot was there. He was the one who was going to betray Jesus, and he asked, 5“Why wasn’t this perfume sold for three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor?” 6Judas did not really care about the poor. He asked this because he carried the moneybag and sometimes would steal from it. 7Jesus replied, “Leave her alone! She has kept this perfume for the day of my burial. 8You will always have the poor with you, but you won’t always have me.”

A Plot To Kill Lazarus

9A lot of people came when they heard that Jesus was there. They also wanted to see Lazarus, because Jesus had raised him from death. 10So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus. 11He was the reason that many of the Jewish leaders were turning from them and putting their faith in Jesus.

Jesus is here. It’s almost Passover, the time when we remember God coming to rescue his people from the mess they were in.  He’s come for a meal.  Martha is serving it – isn’t she always.  She shows her love and care by doing things.

I wanted to do something for Jesus, something to show him how special I think he is.

I’ve got this lovely bottle of perfume.  It’s really special, I’ve been saving it for the right occasion.  And do you know what?  I’ve decided this is it.  Who better to share it with than Jesus?

But I’m not just going to give him a splash, a quick squirt.  Oh no, Jesus deserves something far more extravagant.

And so that’s what happened.  I just couldn’t help myself.  When I thought about Jesus and all he meant to me I had to pour it all out, every last drop.  Then I wiped them with my hair – my precious hair!  How else could I show him how much I appreciated what he was, all that he had done – for my family, for us all…  I just needed to make some kind of gesture, an offering to Jesus.  This is what I had and I gave it.

Judas isn’t happy though, I can tell you.  He’s moaning about the waste of money.

Doesn’t he get it?  Has he never felt such passion that he just has to try to show it somehow?  Does he have no feeling of how special Jesus is?  I just had to do something, and if he can’t grasp that, I feel sorry for him.  He has been in the presence of Jesus all this time, yet he doesn’t understand that need to pour yourself out in offering to him.

~~~~~~~~~~

As I read that story and reflect on it, I can’t help but think about how I show God what he means to me. How I offer my greatest gift to God.

What do I have to offer God?

What am I holding back from God?  Keeping all of it, or some of it for myself?

How do I thank God, for what he has done in my life?

Perhaps today we can reflect on that…

In the ordinary time that is yet extraordinary, how each day do we offer ourselves, our all, to God?

And so let’s pray

Lord
today
I bring my offering to you,
pour out my life before you.

May I bring you my all,
not keeping anything back,
offering it all
to you.

As I think of all that you have given me,
all that you have done for me,
I worship at your feet
and bring my thanks,
my praise,
my love
to you.

But then Jesus said something really weird.  He started talking about his burial.  He said we wouldn’t always have him there?  I wonder what that’s all about?…

Today’s song suggestion is I Will Offer Up My Life, as we consider what we have to give to God and as we come in worship and offering – bringing all that we are, all that we have, and laying it before God.

May God bless each and every one of us
this day,
in all that we do,
in all that we are
and all that we lay before God.
Amen

My Lord and My God

Today is celebrated as the feast day of Thomas, he of doubting fame.  So several lockdown weeks after Easter, we find ourselves back in the upper room and remembering Thomas, who thought he had missed out, missed meeting Jesus, missed seeing what God had done, missed his opportunity to know God and believe. (Created for our Circuit Daily Devotions – click on the link or here if you want to hear me croak my way through it!)

Caravaggio_Doubting_Thomas

John 20:24-29

Jesus and Thomas

24 Although Thomas the Twin was one of the twelve disciples, he wasn’t with the others when Jesus appeared to them. 25 So they told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But Thomas said, “First, I must see the nail scars in his hands and touch them with my finger. I must put my hand where the spear went into his side. I won’t believe unless I do this!”

26 A week later the disciples were together again. This time, Thomas was with them. Jesus came in while the doors were still locked and stood in the middle of the group. He greeted his disciples 27 and said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands! Put your hand into my side. Stop doubting and have faith!”

28 Thomas replied, “You are my Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus said, “Thomas, do you have faith because you have seen me? The people who have faith in me without seeing me are the ones who are really blessed!”

They were all so excited,
they had seen Jesus
actually been in his presence
seen the scars,
yet also him walking and talking,
heard his voice
sending
and equipping.

And I missed it.

I wasn’t there
when Jesus came to all the rest
I missed that precious experience
of seeing,
hearing
and touching Jesus
again.

I hear of what you do and say
but haven’t know it for myself.

How can I know it was true?
How can I feel it in my soul?
How can I believe,
when I haven’t seen,
experienced,
touched
for myself?
How can I know?

I just can’t grasp it.

You tell me he’s alive,
that you’ve seen him,
but that’s not working
for me.

I saw him die,
I know he’s dead.
Your experience says different,
but I’m just not getting it.

I need to know,
I need to see,
to touch
and be touched.

Some how that seems weak,
my faith dependent on seeing
not believing,
but that’s what I need.

~~~

Oh how you know me Lord,
you know what I need
and you supply.

You allow me to see,
to touch,
to know.

How I wish I had the faith
to just believe,
but now
in reaching out
and touching
I know.

I believe.

You are alive

and you come to me
where I am,
how I am,
knowing what I my need
and meeting it.

You invite me to reach out
to you.

And so
I come to you.

Thank you Lord,
for your presence,
your risen presence.

Thank you for not
writing me off,
but coming to me.

Thank you
that you are there,
whether I feel
I can reach you
or not,
ever present,
in my life,
in your world.

Thank you for meeting me
when I find it hard to believe
or easy;
when I think I have missed out
or have been there for it all;
whether I have missed other opportunities to know you
or am taking this my first
– today Lord,
I see you,
feel you,
touch your presence
and I believe.

May I know that today,
however,
wherever I am.

Help me to believe.

You are My Lord
and My God.

 

We pray for those who are seeking,
searching,
longing:

Lord
as we long to see you
may we find you.
may we know your presence
and reality
in our lives.

If we feel that we have missed out
before today
May today be the day
when we meet you
and encounter you,
when we touch you,
when you invite us
to touch you
and to know you.

Bless us Lord
each one of us where we are
that we may believe
and know