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January's Daily Message

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1 January 2021
2 January 2021
3 January 2021
4 January 2021
5 January 2021
6 January 2021
7 January 2021Rector’s Daily Reflections Thursday 7th January 2021

Thought for Today.

Given yesterday’s storming of the US Capitol Building, I thought it might be helpful for me to share some thoughts about Christian engagement with politics.

Let me start by saying that Christians are just as a capable as non-Christians of engaging in politics in ways which are profoundly selfish and destructive of the common good. It is sad to write this, but it is true.

But it is not the whole story. Within the Christian tradition of engagement with politics, there is much to celebrate, and I want to mention three particular principles which have been important to many Christians down the centuries.

First, engagement with politics is not an option. We might think that we can sit back and let other people make the difficult decisions, and by doing this, we can exonerate ourselves from any responsibility for all the bad things which happen in the world. But such exoneration is nothing more than a figment of our imagination. In a democracy, we all have a say, and we all have a responsibility for our communal decision making.

Secondly, all of us are imperfect; all of us make mistakes; and all of us can learn from each other. This should inject a healthy dose of humility into our conversations and our disagreements. Humility allows us to be passionate advocates of what we ourselves believe, without feeling that we have to paint our opponents as idiots or models of depravity.

And thirdly, politics is about seeking the Common Good. It is not about pursuing our own selfish ends. It is not about the pursuit and enjoyment of power for its own sake. Politics should be about harnessing the ideals and resources of the whole community so that all in the community may flourish. And if you are worried that this will make politics boring, rest assured that it won’t: there are plenty of discussions to be had when it comes to defining the Common Good in detail and working out the best way of achieving it!

Prayer for Today.

Lord, we thank you for all who are willing to be involved in the world of politics;
guide our politicians and give them the wisdom they need to pursue the common good, effectively and with compassion. Amen.
8 January 2021Rector’s Daily Reflections: Friday 8th January 2021

Thought for Today.

Today I am going to write about the value of honesty, and in particular the value of being honest with ourselves.

All of us make mistakes in our lives, and sometimes these mistakes cause us pain and suffering. When this happens, what do say to ourselves? Do we try and persuade ourselves that it wasn’t really a mistake at all? Do we ever accept that actually we’ve done something that was morally wrong?

It can be so hard to face up to the truth about ourselves and our behaviour. Earlier today I was reading a poem which challenges the lies which we so easily tell about ourselves. The poem is known as Psalm 38.

There is no beating about the bush in this psalm. It is painfully honest. In verse 5, the author states that his pain results from his foolishness. He doesn’t try to blame someone else. He accepts that he has been foolish. Later on in the poem, in verse 17, he doesn’t pretend that all is well and he’s on top of things. Quite the opposite: “truly, I am on the verge of falling and my pain is ever with me”. And finally, in verse 18, he doesn’t gloss over the fact that what he has done is morally wrong. He describes his behaviour as “iniquity” and “sin”.

How does this painful honesty end? With an impassioned plea to God: “Make help to help me, O Lord of my salvation”. Interestingly, the poem doesn’t then say that God heard his prayer, and everything was fine. It finishes with the impassioned plea – and how often this matches our own experience of prayer, when we’re not sure whether God has heard our anguished cries but hope and trust that he has!

Self-honesty isn’t always easy, but it can be the opportunity to encounter the God who loves us and wants to bring us healing. I wonder how God might be wanting to bring us healing in our own lives?

Prayer for Today

Lord, give us the courage to look honestly and lovingly at ourselves,
Noting our triumphs and our failures,
And looking to God to bring us healing and hope for the future. Amen.
9 January 2021Rector’s Daily Reflections: Friday 8th January 2021

Thought for Today.

Today I am going to write about the value of honesty, and in particular the value of being honest with ourselves.

All of us make mistakes in our lives, and sometimes these mistakes cause us pain and suffering. When this happens, what do say to ourselves? Do we try and persuade ourselves that it wasn’t really a mistake at all? Do we ever accept that actually we’ve done something that was morally wrong?

It can be so hard to face up to the truth about ourselves and our behaviour. Earlier today I was reading a poem which challenges the lies which we so easily tell about ourselves. The poem is known as Psalm 38.

There is no beating about the bush in this psalm. It is painfully honest. In verse 5, the author states that his pain results from his foolishness. He doesn’t try to blame someone else. He accepts that he has been foolish. Later on in the poem, in verse 17, he doesn’t pretend that all is well and he’s on top of things. Quite the opposite: “truly, I am on the verge of falling and my pain is ever with me”. And finally, in verse 18, he doesn’t gloss over the fact that what he has done is morally wrong. He describes his behaviour as “iniquity” and “sin”.

How does this painful honesty end? With an impassioned plea to God: “Make help to help me, O Lord of my salvation”. Interestingly, the poem doesn’t then say that God heard his prayer, and everything was fine. It finishes with the impassioned plea – and how often this matches our own experience of prayer, when we’re not sure whether God has heard our anguished cries but hope and trust that he has!

Self-honesty isn’t always easy, but it can be the opportunity to encounter the God who loves us and wants to bring us healing. I wonder how God might be wanting to bring us healing in our own lives?

Prayer for Today

Lord, give us the courage to look honestly and lovingly at ourselves,
Noting our triumphs and our failures,
And looking to God to bring us healing and hope for the future. Amen.
10 January 2021Rector’s Daily Reflections: Friday 8th January 2021

Thought for Today.

Today I am going to write about the value of honesty, and in particular the value of being honest with ourselves.

All of us make mistakes in our lives, and sometimes these mistakes cause us pain and suffering. When this happens, what do say to ourselves? Do we try and persuade ourselves that it wasn’t really a mistake at all? Do we ever accept that actually we’ve done something that was morally wrong?

It can be so hard to face up to the truth about ourselves and our behaviour. Earlier today I was reading a poem which challenges the lies which we so easily tell about ourselves. The poem is known as Psalm 38.

There is no beating about the bush in this psalm. It is painfully honest. In verse 5, the author states that his pain results from his foolishness. He doesn’t try to blame someone else. He accepts that he has been foolish. Later on in the poem, in verse 17, he doesn’t pretend that all is well and he’s on top of things. Quite the opposite: “truly, I am on the verge of falling and my pain is ever with me”. And finally, in verse 18, he doesn’t gloss over the fact that what he has done is morally wrong. He describes his behaviour as “iniquity” and “sin”.

How does this painful honesty end? With an impassioned plea to God: “Make help to help me, O Lord of my salvation”. Interestingly, the poem doesn’t then say that God heard his prayer, and everything was fine. It finishes with the impassioned plea – and how often this matches our own experience of prayer, when we’re not sure whether God has heard our anguished cries but hope and trust that he has!

Self-honesty isn’t always easy, but it can be the opportunity to encounter the God who loves us and wants to bring us healing. I wonder how God might be wanting to bring us healing in our own lives?

Prayer for Today

Lord, give us the courage to look honestly and lovingly at ourselves,
Noting our triumphs and our failures,
And looking to God to bring us healing and hope for the future. Amen.
11 January 2021Rector’s Daily Reflections: Monday 11th January 2021

Thought for Today

Today, I’m thinking about a particular place in Yorkshire, which I’ve always been meaning to visit. I hope to be able to visit it this year, perhaps in the Spring or early Summer, as soon as the restrictions have lifted sufficiently to permit such a visit.

The place I’m thinking of is Rievaulx, in North Yorkshire. In the Middle Ages, it was the site of a famous monastery, and the ruins of the monastery survive to this day. Perhaps you have visited the site yourself.

I’m thinking of Rievaulx because tomorrow is the day when the Church remembers Aelred of Rievaulx, a great saint and spiritual writer of the 12th century. We know quite a bit about Aelred from a contemporary biography, written by Walter Daniel.

There are many themes in Aelred’s writing, but perhaps the major theme is the importance of friendship. For Aelred, there is something profoundly beautiful and transforming about Christian love expressed through friendship.

Aelred invested a lot of time in friendship - his personal friendships, and in writing about friendship from a spiritual perspective.

I wonder what has been happening to our own friendships during these Coronavirus times? Perhaps some of our friendships have become deeper and more meaningful. Perhaps some of our friendships have become frayed, as a result of not being able to meet up with one another as we used to do, or simply because we’re tired and a bit fed up with all the restrictions.

Our friendships are so precious, and yet, at the same time, they are so fragile.
I wonder how we might nurture and protect our friendships during these challenging times?

Prayer for Today

Lord, thank you for the gift of friendship;
Help us to be good friends to one another during these difficult times,
Supporting one another with words and acts of kindness. Amen.
12 January 2021Rector’s Daily Reflections: Tuesday 12th January 2021

Thought for Today

Today I want to write about a quality which I think is much underrated, but something which is of great value, especially during times of stress and anxiety.

It’s not a character trait which will set the world alight. But it’s something we all value, and it’s something which can make all the difference to the well-being of an organisation or a community.

The quality which I am referring to is the ability to remain calm, particularly during times of stress. It is that calmness which provides space to think things through and make a considered decision. It is that calmness which means we don’t panic. It is also means that we don’t need to lash out at others who might happen to be around us. We keep a cool head, and by doing so help those who are around to remain calm too.

Jesus seems to have possessed this quality in abundance. In the gospels, we read of an occasion when Jesus was in a boat on the sea of Galilee. A great storm arose, and Jesus’ disciples were understandably worried that their boat would be swamped by the waves, and they would all drown. The disciples panic, and shout out to Jesus, “Save us! We are perishing!” But Jesus remains calm, saying to them in reply, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea, and all is calm.

I think so often in life we can be like those disciples, panicking and worrying when we face a time of great stress. We fear the worse and think disaster is about to overtake us. It in this times like this that we need to hear words of re-assurance. We need someone with us who can remain calm and help us to see that the situation isn’t in fact as hopeless as we might have feared. We need someone who can see the options and lead us to safety.

I wonder who provides that calming presence in your own life?

Prayer for Today

Lord, it can be so easy for us to get overwhelmed with the stresses of life;
Help us to receive your gift of calm,
and give us the wisdom and strength which comes from you. Amen.
13 January 2021Rector’s Daily Reflections: Wednesday 13th January 2021

Thought for Today

Today, I’m thinking about rain – not the hard and heavy kind, but the soft and gentle kind.

There’s a traditional prayer known as the Irish Blessing. Perhaps you know it? It goes like this: May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back, May the sun
shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, my God hold you in the palm of His hand. I was first introduced to this prayer in my last parish, and it’s stayed with me ever since. Whenever I hear the prayer read, it brings to mind holidays in Wales and the West Country, especially visits during the Springtime. I think of gentle hills and rich pastures, of daffodils and the smell of the sea. Perhaps you are already planning a holiday for this Spring.

There are so many signs of the coming Spring all around us. This morning I heard the birds chirping away, and saw some snowdrops, and thought to myself: yes, Spring is not too far away!

The morning was mild, and there was a light rain, which seemed to be giving new life to the trees, and the plants and the birds. It was as if God was reminding me that Spring is coming.

It happened that later in the morning I was reading psalm 68, and one of the verses of the psalm almost leapt out of the page: “You sent down a gracious rain, O God; you refreshed your inheritance when it was weary”. It is a reminder that God continues to send down his “gracious rain” upon us, watering the dry parts of our hearts and our lives, and giving us fresh hope for the future.

The gracious rain of God’s love and mercy continues to fall gently upon us, bringing us his gift of new life and new beginnings. And before we know it, it shall be Spring!

Prayer for Today

Lord, as we see the signs which beckon the coming of Spring,
help us to see the signs of new beginnings in our own lives and in our communities,
and renew our sense of hope for the months which lie ahead. Amen.
14 January 2021Rector’s Daily Reflections: Thursday 14th January 2021

Thought for Today

Have you ever visited Glasgow? I spent a few days there as a tourist a few years ago. There is much to see in the city, including the cathedral. The patron saint of Glasgow is St. Kentigern, and it was St. Kentigern’s feast day yesterday. St. Kentigern was nicknamed “Mungo”, meaning “very dear one”, and so he’s sometimes known as St. Mungo.

So, who was he? He was a Christian missionary who lived back in the 6th century. In his mid-20s, Kentigern began missionary work on the banks of the Clyde, on the site of modern Glasgow. He built a church, in the place where the current Mediaeval cathedral stands. He made many converts, not only through his preaching but also through the way he lived his life. It was obvious to at least some of his contemporaries that he was a holy man, and I think genuine holiness always tends to attract respect, if sometimes this respect is combined with incomprehension.

So, what might this man of the 6th century have to say to us today?

For me, his life has got me thinking about the nature of holiness. Kentigern’s reputation for holiness reflected, of course, the values and assumptions of his own time and place. What might holiness look like today? Perhaps you or I know someone we would say was definitely a “holy” person; or perhaps we might say that someone is a “real saint”. The word “saint” is simply another way of referring to a “holy” person. “Holy” people are not necessarily nice or pleasant people, and they are not always easy to get on with. But there is something about them which makes different from the rest of us – there is something about them which draws us closer to God, or at least makes belief in the reality of God’s existence easier than it might otherwise be.

I wonder what such “holiness” might look like to us and our communities, as we face the challenges of these Covid times?

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father,
we thank you for the holy men and women who have shaped our lives;
we thank you for their example,
and pray that we too may be influences for good in our own lives. Amen.
15 January 2021Rector’s Daily Reflections: Friday 15th January 2021

Thought for Today

Do you ever find yourself mixing up two words, which sound similar but actually are different in meaning? It’s very easy to do.

An example which comes to mind is the word “unity”. Sometimes we can use the word “unity” thinking it means the same as “uniformity”. But “unity” and “uniformity” are quite different. “Unity” recognises difference but emphasizes working together in partnership, with a shared purpose. “Uniformity” is about reducing difference and encouraging people to perform similar tasks in similar ways. Both “unity” and “uniformity” have their value, although their utility and relevance will vary according to the particular context, and the desired result.

I’m thinking of the difference between these two similar sounding words because we are coming up to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is traditionally held between 18th and 25th January every year. This year, the materials for the week have been prepared by the Grandchamp Community, a religious community in Switzerland. The community is made up of 50 sisters from different traditions and countries, who live and prayer together.

Note that it’s the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, not the Week of Prayer for Christian Uniformity. This week of prayer is about recognising and celebrating the differences among the various Christian communities, while at the same time giving thanks for all that we share together. It’s about learning from one another and working together so that we can become better at sharing the good news of God’s love with one another and with our wider communities. It’s about refocussing our lives on the essentials of our Christian faith. It’s all about being inspired, encouraged and challenged to grow in our faith.

I would encourage us all to look at the materials for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Prayer for Today

Lord, we thank you for the rich diversity of Christian traditions,
in our own country and around the world;
help us to learn from one another,
and seek out opportunities to pray, and worship, and work together. Amen.
16 January 2021Rector’s Daily Reflections: Friday 15th January 2021

Thought for Today

Do you ever find yourself mixing up two words, which sound similar but actually are different in meaning? It’s very easy to do.

An example which comes to mind is the word “unity”. Sometimes we can use the word “unity” thinking it means the same as “uniformity”. But “unity” and “uniformity” are quite different. “Unity” recognises difference but emphasizes working together in partnership, with a shared purpose. “Uniformity” is about reducing difference and encouraging people to perform similar tasks in similar ways. Both “unity” and “uniformity” have their value, although their utility and relevance will vary according to the particular context, and the desired result.

I’m thinking of the difference between these two similar sounding words because we are coming up to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is traditionally held between 18th and 25th January every year. This year, the materials for the week have been prepared by the Grandchamp Community, a religious community in Switzerland. The community is made up of 50 sisters from different traditions and countries, who live and prayer together.

Note that it’s the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, not the Week of Prayer for Christian Uniformity. This week of prayer is about recognising and celebrating the differences among the various Christian communities, while at the same time giving thanks for all that we share together. It’s about learning from one another and working together so that we can become better at sharing the good news of God’s love with one another and with our wider communities. It’s about refocussing our lives on the essentials of our Christian faith. It’s all about being inspired, encouraged and challenged to grow in our faith.

I would encourage us all to look at the materials for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Prayer for Today

Lord, we thank you for the rich diversity of Christian traditions,
in our own country and around the world;
help us to learn from one another,
and seek out opportunities to pray, and worship, and work together. Amen.
17 January 2021Rector’s Daily Reflections: Friday 15th January 2021

Thought for Today

Do you ever find yourself mixing up two words, which sound similar but actually are different in meaning? It’s very easy to do.

An example which comes to mind is the word “unity”. Sometimes we can use the word “unity” thinking it means the same as “uniformity”. But “unity” and “uniformity” are quite different. “Unity” recognises difference but emphasizes working together in partnership, with a shared purpose. “Uniformity” is about reducing difference and encouraging people to perform similar tasks in similar ways. Both “unity” and “uniformity” have their value, although their utility and relevance will vary according to the particular context, and the desired result.

I’m thinking of the difference between these two similar sounding words because we are coming up to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is traditionally held between 18th and 25th January every year. This year, the materials for the week have been prepared by the Grandchamp Community, a religious community in Switzerland. The community is made up of 50 sisters from different traditions and countries, who live and prayer together.

Note that it’s the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, not the Week of Prayer for Christian Uniformity. This week of prayer is about recognising and celebrating the differences among the various Christian communities, while at the same time giving thanks for all that we share together. It’s about learning from one another and working together so that we can become better at sharing the good news of God’s love with one another and with our wider communities. It’s about refocussing our lives on the essentials of our Christian faith. It’s all about being inspired, encouraged and challenged to grow in our faith.

I would encourage us all to look at the materials for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Prayer for Today

Lord, we thank you for the rich diversity of Christian traditions,
in our own country and around the world;
help us to learn from one another,
and seek out opportunities to pray, and worship, and work together. Amen.
18 January 2021Rector’s Daily Reflections: Monday 18th January 2021

Thought for Today

Today I’m going to write about the value of patience.

Earlier today I took a walk beside a large field. The field had been planted, and the first shoots of the crop were visible. I looked at the small green leaves and tried to guess what the crop might be. Was it wheat? Was it barley? Was it some other crop? It was simply impossible to say at this early stage, at least to my untutored eye. I would have to wait weeks, perhaps months, before I would be able to tell what was growing in this field.

This got me to thinking about how in life we often have to wait a while before we are able to make a judgement about the significance of something which might be happening. There can be a lot of pressure in our culture to come up with quick assessments, perhaps because that makes us appear clever and quick witted. But quick assessments aren’t necessarily accurate assessments. Often, we need time to gather evidence and time to put things into perspective. We also need time to allow ourselves to overcome prejudices and unjustified assumptions.

Sometimes it’s only a matter of waiting a few hours or days. But sometimes a much longer period of time needs to go by before we can understand the true significance of an event or experience. How long will it take before we can begin to understand the true significance of these Coronavirus times? Perhaps it will take years, or even longer.

Which brings us to the value of patience. We will always be tempted to make quick judgments about people, situations and events, and quick judgments have their place. But they are inevitably imperfect, and we need to be open to the possibility that our initial judgments will have to change in the light of subsequent events and new information.

Patience is the recognition that we still have much to learn - about ourselves, about others, and about our world.

Prayer for Today

Lord, in a fast-paced world,
help us to take the time we need to think things through;
and help us to be open to possibility
that our first thoughts are not necessarily our best thoughts. Amen.
19 January 2021Rector’s Daily Reflections: Tuesday 19th January 2021

Thought for Today

Earlier today, I had a lovely surprise. I was looking through the kitchen window and I saw some movement under the boughs of a tree. I could see the outline of a bird with brown feathers, and to start with I assumed it was a thrush or perhaps a female blackbird. I then looked again, and realised it was another species altogether. It was a female pheasant. Regular readers of these reflections might remember that I have written about our local male pheasant, who occasionally struts around the garden, displaying his magnificent plumage for all to see. But this is the first time that I can remember seeing a female pheasant in our garden. She didn’t stay in sight for long, but what a joy it was to see her! And also, I must admit that I was rather pleased for the male pheasant, too. I’m pleased he had a mate – or perhaps I’m making an unwarranted assumption here, and these two pheasants are yet to be introduced to each other!

The sight of the female of pheasant came as a complete surprise, and it has brought to mind the phrase “surprised by joy”. The phrase “Surprised by Joy” was used as the title of a book by C.S. Lewis, which traces the author’s life from childhood to his conversion to Christianity in 1931.

I think there are so often times when God surprises us by joy. Something happens, quite unexpectedly, which brings us a sense of joy and happiness which seems to have come from another world altogether. Perhaps someone gives us a call out of the blue, or we receive a card, or we see something beautiful in the natural world. Our whole being is filled with joy and for a moment at least we feel that we have been transported to another world.

Perhaps you have had such a moment of joy in the recent past; perhaps you will experience such a moment in the days or weeks ahead. Whenever such moments occur, they are reminder that God has not forgotten us – even if we might have forgotten him.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help us to be open to the new – to new possibilities and new friendships,
to new experiences and new perspectives. Amen.
20 January 2021Rector’s Daily Reflections: Tuesday 19th January 2021

Thought for Today

Earlier today, I had a lovely surprise. I was looking through the kitchen window and I saw some movement under the boughs of a tree. I could see the outline of a bird with brown feathers, and to start with I assumed it was a thrush or perhaps a female blackbird. I then looked again, and realised it was another species altogether. It was a female pheasant. Regular readers of these reflections might remember that I have written about our local male pheasant, who occasionally struts around the garden, displaying his magnificent plumage for all to see. But this is the first time that I can remember seeing a female pheasant in our garden. She didn’t stay in sight for long, but what a joy it was to see her! And also, I must admit that I was rather pleased for the male pheasant, too. I’m pleased he had a mate – or perhaps I’m making an unwarranted assumption here, and these two pheasants are yet to be introduced to each other!

The sight of the female of pheasant came as a complete surprise, and it has brought to mind the phrase “surprised by joy”. The phrase “Surprised by Joy” was used as the title of a book by C.S. Lewis, which traces the author’s life from childhood to his conversion to Christianity in 1931.

I think there are so often times when God surprises us by joy. Something happens, quite unexpectedly, which brings us a sense of joy and happiness which seems to have come from another world altogether. Perhaps someone gives us a call out of the blue, or we receive a card, or we see something beautiful in the natural world. Our whole being is filled with joy and for a moment at least we feel that we have been transported to another world.

Perhaps you have had such a moment of joy in the recent past; perhaps you will experience such a moment in the days or weeks ahead. Whenever such moments occur, they are reminder that God has not forgotten us – even if we might have forgotten him.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help us to be open to the new – to new possibilities and new friendships,
to new experiences and new perspectives. Amen.
21 January 2021
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