BigRead13 Day 16 : Guises

The #BigRead13 Day 16

You can find day 16’s post from the #BigRead13 here.

Such a long Bible passage today that I’m not going to reproduce it.  If you want to read Luke 24:13-35 you can here.  It’s the story of the Emmaus Road – two men returning home, talking about what they heard and saw about Jesus, when they meet a stranger.  They invite the stranger to join them, and when he breaks bread with them they recognise him as Jesus, and proclaim his resurrection.

We’re asked to think about the many guises in which God comes to us, and where we might have missed him and found him. It’s very easy to know where we’ve found him:

  • Sarah, my wife, whose honest and faithful love shines through to me.
  • The friend who, the day my Granny died, took pity on me, gave me a cup of tea and the Howells Hymnus Paradisi to listen to. It worked.
  • Several of my twitter pals who remember when something big and scary is coming up, pray for it, and remember to ask me afterwards.
  • The clergy and readers who brought God to us when Ben was first born and in Special Care – and more especially, the sheer kindness of the SCBU nurses.

And the times I’ve missed him?  Far harder to tell – because if I see him eventually, he’s no longer missing. Perhaps though:

  • My Uncle Arnold.  I never really met him until after his stroke – I must have been around ten. The warmth of his smile and, in retrospect, his love for his wife, even when he was not able to act on it. God was there in his smile. I only realised it too late.
  • The kids who picked me last for football teams as a teenager at school. Hidden, deep, in what seemed like childish cruelty, was God nudging me to volunteer to switch to cross country and do something better for myself, and for my fellow students.

Much to ponder on this. And much to stay alert for. To spot the signs. To be thankful for them. And to pray that we see them wherever we go, for God is in each of us.

BigRead13 Day 15 : Story

The #BigRead13 Day 12

You can find day 12’s post from the #BigRead13 here.

John 21:20-23 is today’s text:

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” 23 So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

And today’s quote from The Horse and His Boy:

“Child,’ said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”

What is our story with God? I do worry that we spend a lot of time worrying about how God relates to others when we should be worrying how he relates to us and we to him. At the final judgement, I can see that we may be called to account for how well we have spread God’s word.  But that can only be secondary to how well we have lived our life with God ourselves.

Talking of final judgement and knowing how our own story ends:

BigRead13 Day 14 : Learn

The #BigRead13 Day 14

You can find day 14’s post from the #BigRead13 here.

John 13:34-35:

34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

We’re given a passage from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe about learning, and pondering how what we learn sets us up in life.

I’ve already posted this Lent about how I learned about religion at school, drifted away and came back late in my teens.  So I can’t talk about that again.  So what else can I talk about?

I suppose I’d like to tell you about my friend Michael.  I was five.  I was top of my class, intellectually.  Michael was bottom. Michael was good at all the games we played at break time.  I, it is fair to say, was not. Yet we were the best of friends. Why? Because we watched each other’s backs. I (so my mother tells me, I’ve not remembered as vividly), would sit with him and help him with schoolwork.  He’d make sure I got picked for teams and included in things. What I learned was the value of true friendship – the value of loyalty. We drifted apart – moving twenty miles away, aged 10, to a village with no public transport made keeping in touch hard.  But I still do recall the unlikely pair we made, loyally making sure we were each included in the things the other wasn’t so good at.

And so, for Jesus, the most loyal friend we can have:

 

BigRead13 Day 13 : Safe?

The #BigRead13 Day 13

You can find day 13’s post from the #BigRead13 here.

Today’s reading is Hosea 11:10:

They shall go after the Lord,
who roars like a lion;
when he roars,
his children shall come trembling from the west.

We’re also with the children in Narnia in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe when they first learn that Aslan isn’t a lion – that he isn’t safe, but is good. How do we feel about this?

Lions are a powerful image throughout the Bible.  God is often seen as a Lion in Christian imagery – in Revelation we see God as the Lion of Judah which harks back not only to this reference in Hosea but right back to the start in Genesis.  Lions aren’t always good though – Daniel is thrown to the lions; and in 1 Peter we are warned “be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil as a lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

But as with humans, there are good lions and bad. Yet even the good lions aren’t “safe”.  Think of the lion tamers in the circuses of old putting their head into the lion’s mouth. If they were safe, this wouldn’t be an impressive feat – we wouldn’t marvel at the lion tamer’s bravery and skill.

Perhaps though this is how I feel about God.  We’re asked to trust in a God who isn’t safe – like the lion tamer, will we have our courage to trust our lives to him?

An unusual video for today… Lions who love us… what else but our first dance at our wedding? A lion, with love, who welcomes both kings and vagabonds. Sounds familiar, eh?

BigRead Day 12 : Rebuild

The #BigRead13 Day 12

You can find day 12’s post from the #BigRead13 here.

Today’s Bible reading is Luke 12:22-34:

22 He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.28 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

A whole chunk of text today rather than a single verse or two. We’re asked to think on whether our dreams are too small and how we might cope with God’s big plans.

How easy is it not to worry as Jesus tells us? It isn’t. It’s been a long day today. Full of worry. But then I started watching a film. OK, so it wasn’t very realistic. But Denzil Washington trying to stop a runaway train made me realise life really wasn’t that bad.

I’ve not got much to say today, really, except to share with you a piece of music before a prayer:

We thank you that you wish to come and live in us and with us. We pray for a right attitude and the strength to copy as changes are made.

Lord, you know all our secrets.  You know when our attitude is wrong. You know when we need to change. Lord, help us to welcome you in, to turn to you, to change our lives so that, at the last, you will welcome us in to your heavenly kingdom.  Help us to rebuild our lives on your foundations. Lord, hear our prayer.

BigRead13 Day 11 : Quirks

The #BigRead13 Day 11

You can find day 11’s post from the #BigRead13 here.

Ephesians 4:1-3:

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The light shineth

We’re asked to ponder today our quirks – what is it about us that most annoys others? Accompanying the Biblical text above is a tip from The Screwtape Letters wherein Screwtape advises Wormwood as to how to make a married couple wind each other up deliberately. Perhaps you’d like to post in the comments below the ways in which I annoy you, dear reader?  Without thinking about it too much, I’d have thought my trying to know something about everything; my tendency to be defensive and then to wallow in an assumption that I am the lowest of the low might be up there.

How do we face up to this?  How can prayer help?

Lord, I pray that I offer understanding of others – when they annoy me, allow me to understand that often their way of doing things and saying things is as good as, or even better, than mine.  Lord, help me to realise too that my ways may annoy others – help me to guard against doing this deliberately. and to notice when I’m doing it, and to try and change my ways.

Perhaps it even comes back to the point the other day about the name of Jesus.  Sometimes we really do mean “Oh God, give me strength”.

 

BigRead Day 10 : Tears

The #BigRead13 Day 10

You can find day 10’s post from the #BigRead13 here.

Psalm 38:8-9 today:

I am utterly spent and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.

O Lord, all my longing is known to you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.

 

 

 

 

Oh how this has chimed with life over the last few weeks. Life has been one relentless hurly-burly of hopefulness to see hope dashed, coupled with an arthritis flare and an unceasing stream of emails containing more and more work – mostly stuff I must do rather than stuff I want to do.

I mustn’t grumble though; others have lives that are far worse than mine.  I still have (most of) my health (and most of my own hair!), a wonderful wife, a super son, a cute cat, relative monetary wealth…  But that hasn’t stopped me (selfishly, admittedly) feeling a bit crushed. It is in the darker hours though that I do feel God is there, holding me up, listening to me when I can’t unburden on friends, family or colleagues.

 

BigRead Day 9 : Hope

The #BigRead13 Day 9

You can find day 9’s post from the #BigRead13 here.

Today we were set Revelation 21:4:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.

Our challenge – to think what we might hope for when Jesus comes again. Well, this could be a short assignment I guess – this verse says it perfectly.  Jesus to restore all that is wrong with this world; Jesus to put right that which we have made wrong; Jesus to draw us all to him.

On a wintry day like this, the end of today’s C S Lewis quote from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – speaking of Aslan:

And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.

Spring is an excellent metaphor for what we hope for when Jesus comes again. New life breaking through; fresh growth; putting off that which is grey and putting on that which is colourful and joyous.

I guess this gives me the excuse to share my favourite hymn ever:

BigRead 13 Day 8 : Name

The #BigRead13 Day 8

You can find day 8’s post from the #BigRead13 here.

Today we have been set John 20:31:

But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

There was also an extract from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – where the children don’t really know who Aslan is, but nevertheless their hearts leap at his name. Our challenge to reflect on – how do we feel, deep down, when you hear the name God or Jesus?

Funnily enough, I talked about this with a friend the other day. Why do some Christians bow their heads when they hear Jesus’ name in the Creed? Is it just because “At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow?” Or is it something deeper – an acknowledgement of respect, rather than an action learned by rote?

It’s not just about a physical response. There is a reaction to hearing the words “God” and “Jesus”.  Sometimes they’re used too easily by people – “For God’s sake”, “Jeez”. And that seems to either trigger no reaction, or mild unhappiness – not rabid anger. But hearing those names used properly triggers at least some reaction – perhaps not a Toronto blessing style one, but happiness; gladness; comfort that I know my redeemer liveth, and who he is.

 

BigRead13 Day 7 Prayer

The #BigRead13 Day 7

You can find day 7’s post from the #BigRead13 here.

Today’s Bible quote is Mark 11:22-24

22 Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

The quote from the Magician’s Nephew is along very similar lines – the child wondering whether [Aslan?] doesn’t just know what people want, with the Horse saying that he likes to be asked.

This is a question that bothered me as a youngster at school about prayer.  Why do I have to ask God for what I (or others) need?  If he is all-seeing and all-knowing, doesn’t he know better than I do?

The passage above caused me further thought when I properly started thinking about my faith. Why, if I prayed, didn’t the things I’d asked for happen?  As a young boy, I’m sure I prayed for what all young boys pray for – like a new bike; a train set; a puppy. Perhaps now because I’ve realised that that is praying for what I want rather than what I (or others) need?

Psalm 130 also speaks to me here – and this is a particularly plaintive, beautiful setting of it. Prayer of praise always. Prayer of intercession? Again, always – but perhaps the answer won’t be obvious? But it will be there when you most need it – out of the depths, indeed…

If you’ve got this far, I really do recommend you go and read what Pam has to say on prayer. I’ll be pondering it more over the next few days.