Bill's Blog

J John on Hope

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Last week I came upon this article, which I reproduce in full here.  It's well wotrth a read and is very much along the lines of what Crossing Places stands for.  Enjoy - but also be changed by it.

Bill

 

"Popular belief has it that the third Monday of January is the most depressing time of the year. In fact this is probably now one of those self-fulfilling prophecies that will indeed prove to be true. Whatever the case, it’s certainly true that January, with cold rain lashing against the windows, Christmas bills still unpaid and the summer a long way off, is not associated with universal jollity.

That given, let me therefore commend to you that great virtue, hope. Let me take the letters of HOPE and suggest four important aspects.

  • Hope Heals. By pointing forward, hope helps us put the past behind us. Hope takes hurts, sorrows, defeats and wounds, and buries them. Doctors suggest that hope helps physical healing; it is certainly a major help to psychological and spiritual recovery. In fact, by allowing us to move on, hope even helps that most difficult task, forgiveness.
  • Hope Overcomes. Hope stops us from being deterred and helps us to think in terms of possibilities rather than problems. Hope has a way of levelling mountains and raising spirits; it crushes obstacles into stepping stones and transforms difficulties into challenges. To be without hope is to be, in every sense, hopeless; it is to see yourself as being pushed around by hostile forces beyond your control. To be without hope is to be defeated before you start.  
  • Hope Prioritises. Twenty-first-century life is a constant battle against a dozen challenges in a dozen areas of life. Without hope life becomes ‘one thing after another’ and we find ourselves constantly engaged in either crisis management or damage control. It’s easy to have a life where events take control and eventually crush us. We can all identify with those moments when you find yourself simultaneously facing forty-five unread emails, ten unanswered text messages, a leak and a punctured car tyre. Hope gives you a changed perspective on life. It takes the hundred things we could do and highlights the handful that we must do. Hope lets us begin to define who wewant to be.
  • Hope Energises. Hope is a source of power and energy for life. Hope gets us out of bed, has us smiling as we walk into the office, boosts our morale as we struggle with paperwork, helps us dismiss someone’s criticism and takes us home still able to hum a melody. Hope gets us through January.

We all need hope. The problem is there’s a lot of fake stuff on offer. There is hope that is deluded and hope that is diluted. There is even that most fragile and futile of things, hope in hope itself.

So where do we find true hope? We need hope that is proven, that has been tried and tested over the years and found to be reliable through both good and bad times. We need hope that is unlimited, that can handle all our moral failures, our problems in relationships, health and finance, and all the thousand things that life – and death – can throw at it. We need a hope that is inexhaustible; a hope with sufficient resources to handle, not just our problems, but those of our family, our friends and everybody else without running out. We need a hope that is everlasting, something that will not just work today and tomorrow but for years, indeed for the countless ages of eternity. And, finally, we need a hope that we can relate to; a hope that isn’t just a principle to admire but a person who can sympathise and understand us, a person who we can know and love.

Those are the very toughest of requirements. When I look around to find who can meet them I find myself coming back again to the one who taught the highest wisdom, knew God as his father, forgave sins, healed the sick, raised the dead and who triumphed over death itself. When I need hope I know that there’s only one person big enough for all that life can throw at me. That’s ‘Christ Jesus our hope’ (1 Timothy 1:1 niv)."

J.John
Revd Canon

Hidden Life

Saturday, 06 January 2018

Hidden Life - January 2018

First, Happy New Year to all our readers!  I hope you’ve enjoyed the seasonal festivities and are even now putting your running shoes on and looking joyfully and determinedly to fulfil your New Year’s resolution.

Like most people, getting back into the swing of things in early January isn’t my idea of fun, but it has to be done. 

As a gardener, I’m inspired by the earliest spring flowers, like snowdrops and aconites, getting ready in a week or two to push up through the soil and display their brilliant whites and yellows to remind us that life goes on – out of sight or in plain view.

The fact is that many plants – including cyclamen, crocus and hyacinth – need a cold spell to press the starter button and get growing.

It’s the same with us. It may feel like the dead of winter when nothing much is happening in north Northumberland, but in fact God never stops working in us and through us.

For example, The URC, Glendale Crossing Places Trust, St Mary’s and St Ninian’s are starting Messy Church on 14th January. Thinking and planning has been going on since early last year, gathering people and enthusiasm and building hope.

It’s an experiment, of course, and it may fall flat, but there’s only one way to find out…

It’s another sign of life in the churches up here. Cooperation is vital – there’s no single church which could carry Messy Church on our own. The following week, we celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  Messy Church is just the latest tangible evidence of Christians working together across the denominations to proclaim the Kingdom of God and for the good of the community.

What is happening where you are? For many rural churches, struggling against decline, it’s tempting to think of this as winter.  But we need to remember that God calls the shots, not us. He is not finished with His creation or His church.  There is every reason to pray about your future and be hopeful. 

The early spring flowers have an early slot in the growing season before they get overshadowed by the larger plants later in the year. To everything there is a season (read Ecclesiastes 3) but the life that God has put in us and in our churches never stops. And where there’s life, there’s hope. 

Now have a walk round a garden this month and see how many signs of life you can spot!

At the Right Time (4)

Sunday, 24 December 2017

“At the right time…”  God’s Kingdom

Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Relent, Lord! How long will it be?  Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.  Ps 90:12-14

Advent reminds us of the “now-and-not-yet” nature of the Kingdom of God. We wait, sometimes with heartfelt longing, for the realisation of Jesus’ promise, “Look – I am coming soon!”  While we wait, God’s word reminds us of life in the kingdom, and that some aspects are visible today. We see lives healed, new schemes for bringing justice and peace out of conflict, hearts turned towards a loving God. But the work is far from finished. Those of us who are older may feel like the Wise Man in TS Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi”:

… All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

Or, as the old preacher, S.M. Lockridge, famously said, “It’s Friday… but Sunday’s coming!”

 

 

Lord, prepare us for your Advent coming.

In our prayers today we try to come to you,

sure that you will come the rest of the way.

Lord, prepare us for your coming – in the world.

Come, drive away despair from our politics;

revive our dreams of justice;

restore our passion for what is good, right and true.

Establish your just and gentle rule in places like Zimbabwe and Somalia

where peace has been powerless

and violent people have had their day.

Set a flame to the fuse of justice in places like Syria and Burma

where arrogant people have defied the moral order year after year.

Guard well the new springtime of hope in Egypt and Libya

where peace has come like a gift,

wrapped in reconciliation and gladness.

In particular, Lord, we long for a fairer distribution of food and land

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Lord, prepare us for your coming – in our community.

In the problems of our locality

help us never to forget the supremacy of love.

May love motivate our care for our neighbourhoods.

May love heal the social ills which drag us into despair.

May love inspire our citizenship to rise beyond mediocrity.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus

Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

 

Look forward in hope

to the coming of your Saviour,

prepare the way for Christ your Lord;

welcome him with love and faith

when he comes in glory.

And the blessing of God almighty,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

be among us and remain with us always. Amen.

At the Right Time (4)

Sunday, 24 December 2017

“At the right time…”  God’s Kingdom

Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Relent, Lord! How long will it be?  Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.  Ps 90:12-14

Advent reminds us of the “now-and-not-yet” nature of the Kingdom of God. We wait, sometimes with heartfelt longing, for the realisation of Jesus’ promise, “Look – I am coming soon!”  While we wait, God’s word reminds us of life in the kingdom, and that some aspects are visible today. We see lives healed, new schemes for bringing justice and peace out of conflict, hearts turned towards a loving God. But the work is far from finished. Those of us who are older may feel like the Wise Man in TS Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi”:

… All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

Or, as the old preacher, S.M. Lockridge, famously said, “It’s Friday… but Sunday’s coming!”

 

 

Lord, prepare us for your Advent coming.

In our prayers today we try to come to you,

sure that you will come the rest of the way.

Lord, prepare us for your coming – in the world.

Come, drive away despair from our politics;

revive our dreams of justice;

restore our passion for what is good, right and true.

Establish your just and gentle rule in places like Zimbabwe and Somalia

where peace has been powerless

and violent people have had their day.

Set a flame to the fuse of justice in places like Syria and Burma

where arrogant people have defied the moral order year after year.

Guard well the new springtime of hope in Egypt and Libya

where peace has come like a gift,

wrapped in reconciliation and gladness.

In particular, Lord, we long for a fairer distribution of food and land

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Lord, prepare us for your coming – in our community.

In the problems of our locality

help us never to forget the supremacy of love.

May love motivate our care for our neighbourhoods.

May love heal the social ills which drag us into despair.

May love inspire our citizenship to rise beyond mediocrity.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus

Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

 

Look forward in hope

to the coming of your Saviour,

prepare the way for Christ your Lord;

welcome him with love and faith

when he comes in glory.

And the blessing of God almighty,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

be among us and remain with us always. Amen.

At the Right Time (3)

Friday, 22 December 2017

“At the right time…”  God’s Light   (Advent Week 3)

After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”… Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”  Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”  Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.         As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.   So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor.  As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. (John 13:22-30)

Jesus later leads the disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane: the Light of the world, the bringer of light to creation walking with his followers into a darkness deeper than night.

In a short while, mortal fear will drive a wedge between them and their Lord. At the threat of arrest, they will forsake him and feel that precious relationship is shattered.  But Jesus will not leave them there.

The meal they have shared, and which we share, is the point at which his disciples are invited to take and eat, to make him part of them in a new way.  And we still do today.

All my songs are timid and all my steps are small;

You skip prism oceans and swab the cattle stall.

 

All my strength is fissile and all my play lacks glee;

You spin jokes with atoms, and skittish chemistry.

 

All my tasks are twilight and all my efforts dusk;

You yield ancient riddles and hide the mammoth’s tusk.

 

All my breaths are driftwood and all my blood impure;

You left perfect fluid on earth’s vindictive shore.

 

And all my seesaw yearnings and all my famished trust

Are fed in Your last banquet of wine and wounded crust.                 Stuart Henderson

 

 

Let us give thanks for

The touch of God’s hand in the darkness, reminding us we are not alone

God’s trustworthiness: he will not leave us – even though we may leave him

God’s glory, seen on Sinai at the giving of the Law, on the Mount of Transfiguration and wherever people meet God together in their need.

Let us pray for

Those who are blind or who live with other impairments; and their carers and loved ones

Those blinded by grief, greed or anger

All who bring people the light of hope, that together they may step into God’s light and know him.                                                                                 

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.  The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.     John 1:4-9

John dies in prison, the disciples run away, the tomb is sealed.

But the end of the Sabbath marks the first day of God’s new creation. With the dawn comes the promise of the new age of the Kingdom reign of God on earth.  Nothing can frustrate God’s plans. 

The prayers of God’s people down the ages are answered.

We pray:

God of love and truth,

We pray for local churches and areas and groupings of churches

that they might be responsive to the leading of your Spirit,

able to discern the gifts of ministry and the signs of your call.

God of grace, you call us and you equip us for our calling.

Open our ears to hear your call.

Open our eyes to read your word

and to see your world as Christ sees it.

Open our hands to give what we have and what we are

back to you for your service.

Open our hearts to the wonder and the glory of your love,

that we might all minister in the way of Christ;

in whose name we pray. Amen.

God our deliverer,

whose approaching birth

still shakes the foundations of our world:

may we so wait for your coming

with eagerness and hope

that we embrace without terror

the labour pangs of the new age,

through Jesus Christ. Amen.

At the right time... (2)

Friday, 15 December 2017

At the right time…”  (2) God’s Absence

When (John’s disciples) came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’” Luke 7:20

John the Baptist, forerunner of the messiah – the God who comes – so convinced and yet, when utterly alone and facing death in prison, wondered if he’d got it all wrong.  “Are the one who is to come?

The first shout in the Bible was not, “God, where are you?” but “Adam, where are you?” He is the seeking God, the God who comes to us because we cannot, or will not, come to him.   He is the Father, waiting for the prodigal son.

Yet for so many who feel only his absence in grief, fear or need – a God-shaped hole in the universe. He seems too often the God who is not here, or like a blank pixilated face in TV reports. How can we see him, meet him, put our trust in him?

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?  O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.  In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed… From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God.   Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no-one to help. Ps.22:1-11

To pray like this takes courage, and at least accepts the possibility of his presence.     

                     

 

Advent God, we worship you: the God who comes.

You are not remote from the world you have made,

but each day you come to us, blessing us with your presence.

You came in creation itself, as your Spirit moved over the waters of chaos.

You came in Jesus Christ, made flesh in our world of weakness and need.

You came in power to raise him from death, a mighty promise for all creation.

 

Each day you come, by your Spirit, gently and powerfully working

in the lives of men and women.

At the end of time you will come, in power and righteousness,

in mercy and redeeming love.

Grant us the grace to welcome your coming.

Inflame our love to yearn for your presence.

Enlarge our vision to recognize your coming day by day.

We greet you, Advent God.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.  Amen.

At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind.  So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.  Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Luke 7:21-23

We pray:

for those in need – without jobs, proper housing, food or hope;

for those who suffer because of health or abuse;

for those who have stopped looking for God            

 

Paul calls us to be ambassadors for Christ.  We follow Jesus who, like his people Israel, went into the desert, into exile, into temptation, so that we need not be banished there.  We can learn on that desert road that God calls others out of that far country, to return to the waiting Father. It is we, who know and are shaped by the Father’s love, who must show them the way.

 

Lord Jesus Christ your world awaits you.

In the longing of the persecuted for justice;

in the longing of the poor for prosperity;

in the longing of the privileged

for riches greater than wealth;

in the longing of our hearts for a better life;

and in the song of your Church,

expectation is ever present.

 

O come, Lord, desire behind our greatest needs.

O come, Lord, Liberator of humanity.

O come, Lord, O come, Immanuel.

 

May the Father of the prodigals, the Son and Brother of grace, and the Spirit who brings us into God’s presence be our companions tonight and always. 

At the Right Time (1)

Sunday, 03 December 2017

Advent reflection: “At the right time…”  God’s Voice

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. Jn 1:1-4

It’s quite possible now that one constant in our scientific thought, the speed of light, is faster than we thought possible.  Thus we’re faced with the thought that one day we could send signals back in time…

This reminds us that the only fixed point in the universe is the God who created it.

In the beginning… God the lord of time itself, creating it, bringing it into being, acting outside time.  And not just at the very beginning, but ever since, too. When we pray, somehow we feel that anything is possible.

God has watched over creation and over humanity since its beginning. He lives in infinity.  Yet he acts in our time.  And he acts with a different sense of time from ours. We may feel something waited for is now too late, or too soon, or never going to happen. But God’s timing is perfect.

…when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world.  But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Gal 4:3-5

Advent is a season that reminds us that we are still waiting, that the Kingdom of God is coming, that the best is yet to be.

God created time with a word.  “Let there be…”  And there it was – light, form, life, humanity.  And he declared it “good”.  Ah, if only things could stay that way.

The Un-born

I have seen the child in the womb

neither asking to be born,

or not to be born, biding its time

without the knowledge of time,

model for the sculptor who would depict

the tranquillity that inheres

before thought, or the purity of thought

without language. Its smile forgave

the anachronism of the nomenclature

that would keep it foetal. Its hands

opened delicately as flowers

in innocency’s garden, ignorant

of the hands growing to gather them

for innocency’s grave.

Was its part written? I have seen

It waiting breathlessly in the wings

to come forth onto a stage

of soil or concrete, where wings

are a memory only, or an aspiration.            R S Thomas

God’s word brought us into our world, our context – and into the possibility of sin, lies and death.

So, although “in the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, in these last days he has spoken to us by his son… through whom he made the universe.” (Heb.1:1f.)

 

The word became flesh – a baby’s cry.  More than an idea becoming reality – love becomes graspable, holdable, kissable, crushable; someone to talk to, to talk with.  Someone who would answer to us, as well as his father.  Love becomes truth. And at a word, we discovered ourselves loved.

We Pray:

God of revelation,

we thank you that you are not a silent God,

isolated from humanity,

leaving us to guess and speculate

about the things that matter.

We pray for those who read and speak your word to many or few,

may they speak and live truly, embodying your Good News.

We pray for those who have no voice,

for the illiterate and the hard-hearted,

those brutalised into unbelief, and the powerless.

Lord, create in us a hunger for your word,

a thankfulness for your gospel,

and a faithfulness to your commands;

through Jesus Christ Our Lord.

God of eternity,

when the voice of the prophet was silent

and the faith of your people low;

when darkness had obscured light

and indifference displaced zeal:

you saw that the time was right,

and prepared to send your Son.

Set us free from fear and faithlessness

that we may be ready to welcome him

who comes as Saviour and Lord.

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