Monday, July 01, 2019

Momentous significance

Evangelicals are often concerned to be friendly and informal. We don't want our worship to be stuffy and we have often done away with some of the trappings of high church tradition.

But there is a danger of our worship being slap dash and far too ordinary. The Pastor can easily become the genial MC and can even slip into Quiz Show host mode.

All of life is worship but there is such a thing as special public worship when the Lord assembles his people to renew his covenant with them. It is a Royal Command Performance when the Lord of hosts reviews his troops, gives them his marching orders and feasts with them.

We do not believe in transubstantiation. But we do believe that God Himself meets with us in a special way here. We are gathered up into the heavenly throne room in the Spirit. We participate in the body and blood of Christ.

By all means there may be a laugh and a joke on a Sunday morning, but let us also recapture the momentous significance that God is speaking to us and feasting with us.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Luke 19:1-10

You may want to look away now if you are coming to Warbleton church tomorrow.

What passes for some kind of structure / headings / handout so far:


Jesus Saves A Notorious Sinner

Luke 19:1-10 (page 1053)





Zacchaeus really wanted to see Jesus (vv1-4): do we?





Jesus wanted to see Zacchaeus, a notorious sinner! (vv5, 7, 10)





Jesus / Joshua saves a morally disreputable person in Jericho (v1; Joshua 2 and 6)





Jesus has come to seek and to save lost sinners like Zacchaeus (v10)





Luke 5:27-32





Luke 18:39; 18:17; 18:18-27





Jesus commands a come down and Zacchaeus gladly and promptly humbles himself (vv6, 8; 18:14)





Jesus honours / exalts Zacchaeus (vv5, 7, 9)





Revelation 3:20





Zacchaeus is transformed as a consequence of being saved by Jesus (v8)





è Rejoice afresh in the mercy of Jesus to sinners





è Be transformed by receiving Jesus

Monday, June 24, 2019

Up and down (Luke 18 & 19)


Humbling and exalting is a theme in Luke 18-19.



Two men go up to the temple to pray (18:9). One man exalts himself and the other humbles himself. This latter and not the other goes down to his house justified before God (18:14).



Zacchaeus exalts himself. He went up onto a sycamore tree (19:4) but Jesus commanded him to come down at once (19:5). Zacchaeus humbles himself and repents and Jesus exalts him, declaring that salvation has come to his house and that Zacchaeus too is a son of Abraham.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Ordinary Time


From The Rectory



As you may know, the Church of England divides the year into “Seasonal Time” (the festivals of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost and so on, associated with the life of Jesus) and what is known as “Ordinary Time”. After Pentecost or Whitsun on Sunday 9th June, we entered the long period of Ordinary Time which continues until Advent Sunday on 1st December.



It seems to me there’s wisdom in this division of time into the seasonal festivities and the ordinary. In life there are special occasions and great events, but much is ordinary and mundane. It does us good to come to terms with that. It would be a sign of immaturity if we were constantly unsettled and needing novelty. God always sees and knows. He never gets tired or bored. He cares about the little things as well as the big things, the normal, the ordinary and the routine. Wednesday afternoon, Friday night and Sunday morning might be different, but they all matter.



Sometimes there will be crises which have a great impact on us. We might suddenly be hit with a life-changing medical diagnosis, for example. One moment can change everything. Some generations live through extraordinary times. At the beginning of June, we particularly remembered the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. How can we know how we might have reacted if we had been required to storm an enemy beach under machine-gun fire? But most of us will not be at the centre of such an epoch defining event. Character is largely formed in the ordinary. It is sometimes then tested in the extraordinary, but perhaps more often it is proved in regular day to day faithfulness in the circumstances which God gives us, whether they seem momentous to us or not.



The Bible tells us not to despise the day of small things (Zechariah 4:10). In Jesus’ parable of the Shrewd Manager, Jesus says: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10). Or again, in the Parable of the Talents, the Master says: “'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'” (Matthew 25:21).



Ephesians 6:10-20 can feel like one of the most exciting and dramatic passages in the letter. Spiritual warfare and the armour of God are stirring and heroic themes. But it’s striking that this passage follows hot on the heals of instructions about relationships between husbands and wives, children and parents, slaves and masters (or employers and employees, as we might apply it). The great battles of the Christian life are sometimes fought out not in conscious confrontation with demonic hordes but in the presence of our loved ones at the kitchen sink. We might feel we would love to do great things for God, but the frontline of our fight for godliness this week might be patience with the kids when we’re all tired and hungry, or being considerate to our spouse, or a hundred little interactions that seem humdrum and insignificant. If we could see things from God’s perspective, we might see these daily opportunities for sin or for godliness as just as dramatic in their way as the stuff of which history is made.



Habit can be a great help (or hinderance!) in the Christian life. The Bible sometimes likens living for Jesus to a race. It is often more like a marathon than a sprint and it calls for a long obedience in the same direction. It might not be glamourous, but there is much to be said for faithfully plodding on, praying for God’s help to walk with Jesus. If we regularly chip away at some great task, over time, lots can be achieved. Many people have found over the years that a regular daily pattern of prayer and Bible reading has been a great help to them. Even something as simple as a bookmark, or a Bible reading plan, or some Bible reading notes, could make a real difference to just a short time each day deliberately paying attention to God’s Word.



Maybe we might pray that God would show us, perhaps in the midst our ordinary things, where our real battles for Christlikeness are. May God keep us faithful to him both in the special and in the ordinary.



The Revd Marc Lloyd


Saturday, June 08, 2019

Towards a Pentecost All Age Activity / Assembly


Some Google translations of "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Acts 2:21)



I did diligently check Google translate for the places names in v9, but the internet seems weak on Parthian!



(1)   Modern Greek: Óloi ósoi kaloún to ónoma tou Kyríou tha sothoún



(2)   Latin: Omnis enim quicumque invocaverit nomen Domini salvus erit



(3)   Arabic: sayatimu hifz kli min yadeu biaism alrabi



A random selection of languages:



(4)   Welsh: Bydd pawb sy'n galw ar enw'r Arglwydd yn cael eu hachub



(5)   Danish: Alle, der kalder på Herrens navn, vil blive frelst



(6)   Zulu: Wonke umuntu obiza egameni leNkosi uzosindiswa



(7)   Hawaiian: E ho'ōlaʻia nā mea a pau e kāhea aku i ka inoaʻo ka Haku



(8)   Spanish: Todos los que invocan el nombre del Señor serán salvos.



(9)   French: Tous ceux qui invoquent le nom du Seigneur seront sauvés



(10)                   German: Jeder, der den Namen des Herrn anruft, wird gerettet


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Looking for the Bride

Just as we are used to reading Luke-Acts as one two-volume work, Peter Leithart (Revelation, International Theological Commentary, T & T Clark, 2018, vol. 1, p22), suggests that we should read John-Revelation in the same way.

John's gospel begins with Jesus the bridegroom (3:29) at a wedding but he's not the one getting married in chapter 2. The woman at the well in chapter 4 seems like she should be the bride, but they don't get married. Maybe Mary Magdalene, the woman who meets one like the gardener after the resurrection, seems like a candidate, but Jesus can't stay. It is only at the end of Revelation that the bride is actually ready.

Revelation 21vv9-10, 22-22:5 - a handout

Indulging once again my passion for over complicated handouts, here's a draft for Sunday:


 An Extraordinary Angelic-guided Tour

Of the Blessings of God’s Coming Kingdom:

Six Things I Did Not See – And Two Great Things Not to Miss!

Revelation 21:9-10, 22-:22:5 (page 1249)



v9: The church, the bride of Christ (contrast chapter 17)



v10: The New Jerusalem – the mountain of Daniel 2 and Isaiah 2



“coming down out of heaven from God” (v10) – opposite of Babel



(1) A BETTER NEW TEMPLE CITY (21vv10-27)



The city a cube / pyramid (v16) like The Holy of Holies / a holy mountain



(a) no temple because… (v22) – John 1:14; 2:19-21



(b) no need for sun or moon because… (v23) – John 8:12



(c) no need to shut the gates because no night (v25)



(d) nothing impure, nor shameful nor deceitful but… (v27)



(2) A BETTER NEW EDEN CITY (22vv1-5)



River of the water of life (22v1) – John 4:10-13; 7:37-39



Tree of life (22v2f)



(e) no curse (22v3) – Genesis 3:14-19; Galatians 3:13



With God and the Lamb! (22vv3-5) – Exodus 28:36-38



(f) no end (22v5)



Have you booked? (22vv11, 14, 17) Will you invite others?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Psalm 23 - a handout


PSALM 23 (page 555)





Where do you place your confidence?



Who or what do you depend on / follow?







TRUST THE GOD WHO PROVIDES & PROTECTS







(1) The LORD is my good shepherd who takes care of his sheep even when they walk through the darkest valleys (vv1-4)





I shall lack nothing I really need (v1)





“I shall not fear” (v4)





“You are with me… and comfort me” (v4)







(2) The LORD is my generous host who shares his plenty with his people in the presence of their enemies (vv5-6)





You welcome and honour me and lavish me with abundant blessings (v5)





“I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for length of days” (v6)

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Psalm 23

God-willing I am going to preach on Psalm 23 on Sunday.

We are planning to sing Henry Baker's, The King of Love My Shepherd Is.

And Stuart Townend's version of the psalm.

The 1650 Scottish Psalter version we know, of course.

Michael Wilcock's commentary also mentions a version by George Herbert, The God of Love My Shepherd Is.

And Joseph Addison's, The Lord My Pasture Shall Prepare.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Acts 9:1-22 - A handout

If you are coming to Bodle Street or Warbleton churches on Sunday, you may wish to look away now. It might go something like this:


A case of mistaken identity

and a dramatic transformation



The Conversion and Call of Saul of Tarsus



Acts 9:1-22 (p1102)



(1) Meet Saul the Persecutor! (7:58; 8:1-3; 9:1-2)



(2) Saul meets Jesus the Risen Lord! (vv3-6)



A case of mistaken identity!

Jesus identifies with his people: to persecute them is to persecute him (vv4-6)

Lord (vv5, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17)

“Jesus is the Son of God” (v20)

“Jesus is the Christ” (v22)



Jesus is powerful and in control (e.g. vv11-12)



Jesus has mercy on his enemies



Saul is transformed from persecutor to preacher (vv20-22)



… and from persecutor to persecuted (v16, v23)



Jesus uses even very unlikely people to join his mission



Have you met Jesus as your Risen Lord in the Scriptures?



Have you understood that Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ?

His power and control? His mercy?



Might Jesus change and use you, and other unlikely people, in his mission?

Are you willing to speak and suffer for him?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A Basic Lesson in Theology

"The New England Primer was the first textbook printed in America and it taught the letters of the alphabet by short poems. Here's the first, teaching the letter A:

In Adam's fall,
We sinned all."

Tim Bayly, Daddy Tried: Overcoming the Failures of Fatherhood (Warhorn Media, 2016) p26 


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Acts 10:34-43 Easter Sunday Handout

Because everyone wants a 5 point sermon for Easter Sunday, not just merry japes with chocolate eggs.


RESURRECTION REVERSAL:



THE EASTER COMEBACK PROCLAIMED



Acts 10:34-43 (p1104)



The greatest comeback in history?



A remarkable reversal



Guest preacher: The Apostle Peter – the denier transformed!



Summary:

“The good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all” (v36)





(1) What Jesus did: Jesus the Messiah did good and healed (vv37-38)





(2) What the people did: they killed Jesus on a cross (v39)





(3) What God did: raised him from the dead and caused him to be seen (v40)





(4) What the Apostles are doing: proclaiming and testifying as eye-witnesses (v41-42)



The New Testament message Jesus commanded the apostles to preach (v42):



The Old Testament message of the prophets (v43):





(5) What all people must do: believe in Jesus (v43)

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Cups in the Bible

At this year's Maundy Thursday Communion, I am hoping to tell the story of Easter as the tale of two cups: the cup of God's wrath which Jesus accepts in the Garden and the cup of salvation and blessing which Jesus offers his disciples in the Upper Room.

In addition to these two passages, here is some of the biblical data on "cups" which contributes to the background:

Negatively:


Ps 75:8 – The Lord makes the wicked drink a cup of foaming wine mixed with spices down to the very dregs


Is 51:17-23 – Jerusalem is told that she has drunk to the dregs from the cup of God’s wrath and been made drunk, and caused to stagger, and now God will give this cup to their oppressors


Jer 25:15-29 – The cup of God’s wrath that makes people stagger.

The nations are going to be forced to drink from it so much that they vomit and fall to rise no more.


Lam 4:21 – Edom and Uz will be passed the cup and be drunk and stripped naked


Ez 23:31-34 – God’s people will be made to drink a large and deep cup which holds so much that it brings scorn and derision, drunkenness, ruin, sorrow and desolation.


And positively:  


Ps 16:5 – The Lord himself is the Psalmist's pleasant portion and cup.


In Psalm 23, the Lord prepares a feast for his servant and his cup overflows. (v5)



In Psalm 116, in gratitude for his deliverance, the Psalmist says:

“I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” (v13)



In 1 Cor 10, Paul speaks of the cup of blessing which we bless in the Communion service as a participation in the blood of Christ. (v16)

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Parish Magazine Item


From The Rectory



Obviously, I would like you to come to your parish church, well, pretty much every week, unless you are really infectious or otherwise unavoidably prevented from doing so. But if you do miss a week, you can normally catch up on sermons on the Warbleton Church website, here: warbletonchurch.org.uk/sermons-talks



A poor substitute would be to read a little summary or a copy of the handout in the parish magazine, but in case you missed this particular week and haven’t caught up online, or as a helpful reminder, here are some jottings on Psalm 126, which was the Psalm appointed for Sunday 7th April (today as I write), The Fifth Sunday of Lent, in the Church of England’s Lectionary.



Psalm 126 (page 623 in the Bibles in the pews at church)

Sorrow & Singing



[To get maximum benefit from this, you should now read Psalm 126 and keep it open before you. I suggest The New International Version, which we use in church and which you can easily find online but there are lots of other good modern translations available]



How do you feel? Really? Almost always there are reasons for both sadness (v1, vv4-6) and / or happiness (vv2-3, vv5-6), which we can also see in the Psalm.



(1) REMEMBER with gratitude that God restored his people in the past (vv1-3)



Verses 1 and 4 speak maybe of a captivity (literal or metaphorical?) or of some other kind of restoration. It is as if God saved the people while they were asleep! He did it for them without their help. They awoke from their nightmare and had to pinch themselves. It was like a dream come true!



Likely the Psalmist is looking back to The Exodus when the people stood and watched as God saved them from slavery in Egypt. Possibly he is thinking of the return from exile in Babylon. We would think of the death and resurrection of Jesus, when he redeemed and set free all who trust in him.



AND SO, because of what God has done in the past, we should:



(2) PRAY with confidence that God would restore his people in the future (vv4-6)



The “Negev” (v4) means “dry” / “barren”. It was the southern desert region towards Sinai. When heavy rains fell in the mountains, streams would appear in the Negev. Although a natural phenomenon, this seemed like a sudden “act of God”, like a miracle. The waters brought new life and dramatic transformation, sometimes overnight. We have probably seen that kind of thing on nature programmes on the telly, as the desert blooms.



Sowing (vv5-6) is a bit different. It involves planning and investment, hard work and slow long-term hope. God could of course restore us suddenly and without us doing a thing. But he may want us to pray and act. Although the people of Israel did not save themselves from slavery in Egypt and never could, they did at least have to walk through the waters as the Red Sea parted.



We should commit our fortunes, and those of our family, community, nation, world and church to the Lord. But this Psalm finds its ultimate fulfilment in the resurrection hope of heaven and The New Creation. Our lives may involve many sadnesses and tears, but we can know that the end of the story is a joyful harvest. Jesus is like the first fruits of the resurrection. Or the first bluebell of spring. Jesus Christ is risen indeed! And so the resurrection is coming! That is a solid basis for gratitude and confidence.



The Revd Marc Lloyd


Psalm 126 - various outlines / headings




Motyer, Psalms by the Day:



Tension. Now and not yet: laughter and tears



Joy: what Yahweh has done (vv1-3)



Longing: what Yahweh will yet do – prayer and answer (vv4-6)



* * *



Motyer, Journey: Psalms for Pilgrim People



 Instant coffee and stalactites: Living with God’s tensions



Satan, the idealist



Past and present



A1 (v1) Restoration

(a) The work of the Lord

(b) His sole work, without human contribution

B1 (v2) Voices in response

(a) The vocal joy of the recipients

(b) The observing world

A2 (vv3-4) Restoration

(a) Joy in what the Lord has done (v3)

(b) Prayer for more of the same (v4)

B2 (vv5-6) Another voice: A promise doubled

(a) Tears and joy, sorrow and reaping

(b) Weeping and joy, seed and sheaves



Miracle and providence



Praying for more



Waiting for miracle, living with providence



Instant coffee and stalactites



* * *



Kidner:



“It was like a dream!”



Joy re-lived (vv1-3)



Joy re-claimed (vv4-6)



* * *



Wilcock:



Something clear (restoration, vv1, 4), something obscure (but how are the two halves of the Psalm related?)



Something quick (flood), something slow (farming)



* * *



Goldingay,



Weeping and Laughter



Vv1-3, The recollection

Vv4-6, The prayer built on the recollection





* * *



The Expositor’s Bible Commentary:



The restoration is here!



Joy of God’s people (vv1-2a)

Proclamation among the nations (v2b)

Thanksgiving (v3)

Prayer (v4)

Assurance of prayer answered (vv5-6)



* * *



Spurgeon,



Leading captivity captive



A narrative (vv1-2)

A song (v3)

A prayer (v4)

A promise (v5)

Psalm 126 - a handout


 Psalm 126 (page 623)

Sorrow & Singing



How do you feel?



Sadness (v1, vv4-6) and / or Happiness? (vv2-3, vv5-6)



(1) REMEMBER with gratitude that God restored his people in the past (vv1-3)



Vv1, 4 – captivity (literal or metaphorical?)? / restoration?



V1 – It is as if God did it (for us) while we were asleep!



We had to pinch ourselves! It was like a dream come true!



The Exodus – the people stood and watched as God saved them!



The return from exile in Babylon?



The death and resurrection of Jesus



The logical connection between (1) and (2): AND SO…



(2) PRAY with confidence that God would restore his people in the future (vv4-6)



The “Negev” (v4) – means “dry” / “barren” – the southern desert region towards Sinai



“streams in the Negev” (v4) – a sudden “act of God”, like a miracle, new life, dramatic transformation



Sowing (vv5-6) – hard work, slow long-term hope



The resurrection hope of heaven and The New Creation

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Psalm 63 handout

Mrs Lloyd tells me that as usual I have possibly over complicated it, so maybe it should have just said:

Seeking?
Satisfied?
Singing?
Secure?

But here it is:


PSALM 63 (page 579)



Seeking, Satisfied, Singing, Secure?





John 1:38, Jesus asks: “What are you seeking?”





The Psalmist’s situation: maybe 1 Samuel 21-31 perhaps more likely 2 Samuel 15-17 (Title)







The Psalmist’s soul seriously seeks after God (v1)







The Psalmist has seen God and his splendid strength in the sanctuary (v2)







The Psalmist’s soul is satisfied in God (v5) and sings his praises (vv3-6f)



Acts 16:25



The Psalmist is secure in the shadow of God’s wing (v7f) and all who seek his life will be silenced (v9ff, esp. v11)



Romans 3:19



So…?







Our Saviour, the Anointed Messiah, the Davidic king (v11)

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Psalm 63 bonus material

Some extra jottings that might not make it into the sermon:



The worst brings out David’s best in terms of words and deeds

When things go wrong, sometimes we get bitter but sometimes we get better

God can use these challenges in our lives as opportunities for us to trust in him

When all is plain sailing and going well, perhaps it is harder to tell where our confidence lies

Sometimes we foolishly think we can depend on ourselves

Difficult situations can sometimes bring home to us that we need God


* * *


V1 – Goldingay: likely the Psalmist is saying that he habitually and ongoingly seeks God (not a one off unsatisfied search) – “That life involves searching, thirsting, fainting, bringing to mind, muttering, and cleaving. But it also involves looking, seeing, being filled, being supported, being delivered. And further, it therefore also involves glorifying, worshipping, lifting hands, resounding, rejoicing, and exulting.” (p255)

p263: “As one experiences ongoing pressure from other people, this involves ongoing searching, thirsting, aching, being upheld, and thus being more than satisfied. As part of that, it involves bringing to mind, sticking, seeing, beholding, and being helped. And as a result it involves glorifying, worshipping, lifting hands, resounding, praising, rejoicing and exulting.”

* * *


Only God who made our appetites can ultimately satisfy them.

God rich and inexhaustible

That is one of the great things about the Christian faith.

A small child can love God, but the oldest, wisest professor can still know more of him.

He is incomprehensible.





Thursday, March 21, 2019

Psalm 63 structure

Michael Wilcock says there's no very clear structure to Psalm 63 but some commentators find a pretty elaborate one.

For example, the Expositor's Bible Commentary sees a typical individual lament structure:

Complaint (v1)

Expression of confidence in the Lord’s ability to help (vv2-10)

Anticipation of public praise (v11)

But also gives the following outline:

The excellence of God’s love

(1) Longing for the Lord (v1) – A1

(2) The vision of God’s beneficence (vv2-3) – B1

(3) In praise of the Lord (vv4-5) – C1

(4) Longing for the Lord (vv6-8) – A2

(5) Vision of God’s judgement (vv9-10) – B2

(6) In praise of the Lord (v11) – C2

Motyer has:


Beginning and ending the day with God



A. At dawn (vv1-4)



Present (v1)

Past (vv2-3)

Future (v4)



B. At night (vv6-11)



Past (vv6-7)

Present (v8)

Future (vv9-11)


Goldingay does say that it doesn't divide up sharply but sees 3 sections of deepening urgency:


Vv1-4
Vv5-8
Vv9-11

And a cycle of:
Longing for God / need          v1                    vv5a, 8
Experience of God                  vv2-3a             vv6-/a
Worship of God                      vv3b-4             vv5b, 7b

For those who like alliteration's aidful art, it is perhaps worth mentioning Kidner's 3 'd's:



All My Longing



Vv1-4, God my desire



Vv5-8, God my delight



Vv9-11, God my defence

If it is not too ridiculous, I am thinking of going with lots of "s"s:


PSALM 63 (page 579)

Seeking, Satisfied, Singing, Secure?



The Psalmist’s situation: maybe 1 Samuel 21-31 perhaps more likely 2 Samuel 15-17 (Title)



The Psalmist’s soul seriously seeks for God (v1)



The Psalmist has seen God and his splendid strength in the sanctuary (v2)



The Psalmist’s soul is satisfied in God (v5) and sings his praises (vv3-6f)



The Psalmist is secure in the shadow of God’s wing (v7f) and all who seek his life will be silenced (v9ff, esp. v11)



So…?



Our Saviour, the Davidic king (v11)

Monday, March 11, 2019

On fear(s) and Easter


From The Rectory



In recent months I have written in these pages about desire, regret and hope. These articles have comprised something of a series in my mind, or at least to some extent, variations on a theme. I thought this month we might dare to think about fear, and bring it in to conversation with Easter.



The human mind seems to have an incredible capacity for fear. Sometimes this serves a useful purpose, and sometimes it can be maladapted. It is healthy, for example, for small children to have a certain fear of fire. But dysfunctional fears can paralyse and inhibit us. There is something wrong if a grown up can’t brave heating the house or lighting the hob.



No doubt there are fashions in fears, and trends to our terrors. According to a 2017 article, a recent survey found that in the UK the top ten phobias are: Heights (Acrophobia), Public speaking (Glossophobia), Snakes (Ophidiophobia), Flying (Aerophobia), Spiders (Arachnophobia), Crowds/Being outside (Agoraphobia), Clowns (Coulrophobia), Enclosed spaces (Claustrophobia), Mice and rats (Musophobia), The dark (Nyctophobia).



It’s possible that many of our fears are ultimately a fear of death (maybe emotionally or socially conceived) or images of it.



Woody Allen once commented: "I'm not afraid of dying. I just don't want to be there when it happens."



The Bible speaks of “those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:15)



And of course, the Bible’s account is that when we die, we will meet our Maker. When people meet God in the Bible, they are typically terrified because they realise that God is holy and that they are sinners, and therefore they fear his judgement.



Yet the most frequent commandment in the Bible is “Do not be afraid”.



It is Easter which answers this fear of death and of the judgment of God.



Jesus Christ is risen! He has defeated death. So, the ogre death has been tamed. In Bible language, death has lost its sting, its power to hurt us, because of Jesus’ victory. Death has become a servant who ushers us into the nearer presence of Jesus.



And Jesus, we know, welcomes repentant sinners with gladness and joy. For the believer, meeting him will be a delight, although we know we deserve his judgement. He has already paid in full the price for our sins so that we need not fear the judgement of God.



Whether that fully prepares you to fly to a meeting with a clown, carrying a rat, a snake and a spider, at night, in an open or enclosed space, at great height, where you must give a speech to an enormous crowd, is another question. But perhaps it begins to help to deal with our most fundamental fear and maybe to begin to get these other fears more in their place.



The Bible would say fear God (that is, hold him in awe and reverence, respect him, not cringe in terror before him) and there is nothing else we need really, ultimately fear.



A happy and confident Easter to you all!



The Revd Marc Lloyd




Thursday, March 07, 2019

On reading the Psalms


Psalm 91v3
I guess we could spend a lot of time and energy de-coding the multiple imagery of this and the other Psalms.

What does it mean to say “he will save you from the fowler’s snare?”

The fowler is a more powerful enemy.
He has set a trap, showing a certain amount of forward planning and cunning. 

His attack is presumably sudden and unexpected, likely painful, perhaps deadly.
And so we could go on. 

But it seems to me that the real idea is not to crack the code and extract the information, not to get rid of the word picture and replace it with pure propositions but to let the image do its work: to imagine ourselves for a moment as a bird rescued from the fowler’s snare. 

Perhaps our schooling has not served us well if we are too preoccupied with spotting and labelling techniques. "Ah, a personification in v6 - the pestilence that stalks". Okay, but let us dwell with the powerful picture. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Ash Wednesday Jottings So Far

The beginnings of a sermon introduction and outline for Ash Wednesday:


Ash Wednesday Notes 2019

Galatians 5:1-15 (page 1171)




May I ask, who had pancakes yesterday?

We had pancakes at 7am, because Jono had to be in school for extra maths at 8am.

And then the kids could have pancakes with their school lunch.

And then they were having pancakes at youth club too.

One can have too much of a good thing, maybe!



But did anyone have any special food today?



I suppose a simple plate of vegetables would be in the spirit of Lent.



But we had Sausages.

In fact, I am thinking of making Ash Wednesday always Sausage Day in the Lloyd household.



I may have told you before about the Affair of the Sausages?



The Affair of the Sausages was the event which sparked the Reformation in Zürich in 1522.

Huldrych Zwingli, the pastor of Gross Münster, spoke in favour of the eating of sausages in Lent and some people did in fact eat Sausages.

Zwingli defended them in his sermon entitled: “Regarding the Choice and Freedom of Foods”.

That sounds like a rattling good sermon, doesn’t it?!

The Reformer said that "Christians are free to fast or not to fast because the Bible does not prohibit the eating of meat during Lent.”



In fact, the Bible does not mention Lent at all.

So, you are free to observe Lent or not.

And it is up to you how you observe it.

We are not to judge one another in this, nor to be in competition, nor anything like that.



One of the great themes of the Reformation is the rediscovery of Christian Freedom.

Martin Luther had written a little book called “On The Freedom of a Christian”.

He famously said: "A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.

A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all."  



Freedom is also a great theme in the Bible.



Think, for example, of the great liberation of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt.

Eventually the people would be enslaved again the exile and would later regain some of their freedom.

At the time of Jesus, likely many hoped for freedom from the Romans.



I don’t know if you remember the 1995 epic, Braveheart, in which Mel Gibson plays the 13th Century Scottish Warrior, William Wallace.

We could perhaps do with his cry of “FREEDOM!” as highlighting something very important for the Christian.



Jesus came to bring freedom, but not necessarily in the way in which many of his contemporaries thought the Messiah would.



The liberty Jesus brings is not first of all civic or political.

He proclaimed liberty for the captives – but he didn’t lead a jail break.



There is much that we could say.

But let’s content ourselves today with three points and a so what.  



(1) Jesus brings freedom from the penalty of sin



(2) Jesus breaks the overwhelming power of sin



(3) Jesus will one day do away with the presence of sin entirely



So we are free:



Free to observe Lent or not as we see fit.



And free to serve in the new power of the Spirit, rather than in slavery to the sinful nature.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

A somewhat rambling, random and repetitious prayer for the beginning of a retreat or quiet day


Father, I find myself excited and a little anxious as I begin this time away.

I’m not entirely sure what I want or expect.

I am going to try to leave the results to you.

Help me to trust you.

Please take care of me and use this time for my good and your glory.



Lord, thank you that your presence and power and goodness don't depend on my faith or understanding.
You are there anyway and you are strong and good so that’s what counts.



Lord, I think I believe. Help my unbelief.

  

Father God,

Thank you for all your love and goodness to me;

For the many blessings you have given me;

And your presence here with me now.



Thank you specifically for…

Blessings of creation / “natural” blessings e.g. home, family, food, money, time, freedom etc.

Blessings of redemption / “supernatural” blessings e.g. election, justification, atonement, redemption, adoption, home etc.



Thank you for the time and resources which make this retreat possible and all those who have contributed towards it.



I commit to you all those whom I love and the situations and issues I have left behind particularly my family and those for whom I have a care and those covering for my absence.

Specifically, I pray for….



I turn from all that I know to be wrong

And turn back to you.

I confess…

Sins of commission….

Sins of omission….

Of thought, word and deed…



I offer you myself and this time.



Be with me.



Give me sincerity and simplicity of heart

And radical and absolute honesty.

Grant me worthwhile insight into my ways, which are sometimes a mystery to me.  

Thank you that you already know me better than I know myself and that you love me with all my faults and foibles.



Give me my daily bread.

And the measure of health and strength which I need.  



Increase my hunger for you and by your grace satisfy me with good things.



Grant me a fresh vision of you.



If it is your will, I pray for good rest and sleep.



Help me to slow down and attend to you and to myself.

May I get to the real business of why you would have me be here and not be distracted from it.

May I not fuss about things like noises and the temperature of the room.

Give me a measure of freedom from these things that I might devote myself more fully to you.



Give me your peace.



Thank you for the gift of the Scriptures.

And all that I have heard and learnt of them over the years.

Cause me to call to mind your word.

May it penetrate deep within me and soak into my mind, heart and soul.

Season me with your truth.



Teach me your ways that I might walk in them.



Lead me not into hard testing but deliver me from evil.



Even as I spend this time alone, make me forgetful of myself.

May I die to self and rise to new life in Jesus.

Make me like him and help me to follow him.

Use this time when I am alone not only for my own well-being, but for the good of others.



I abandon my agenda for this time and pray that your will would be done.



Help me to use this time wisely and well, without being precious or anxious.



Lord, I pray that I might not over-complicate discipleship.

Or at least that I might not use any complication as an excuse for lack of effort or for seeking godliness.

Help me to love you and love my neighbour.



I pray that there might be a certain simplicity about my character and life.



Help me to leave the results of this time in your hands.



For my good and the good of those I love and pray for, and to your glory, hear these prayers and the unspoken, even not fully known, prayers of my heart, which I offer and present to you in the name of Jesus Christ, claiming only his merits and by virtue of his all-powerful intercession.



Amen.