Daily Message


November's Daily Message

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1 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections : Friday 30th October 2020

Here’s a question for you : is it a good thing to change your mind over some important issue? Does it show inconsistency and a lack of moral integrity, or does it show a willingness to be open to new ideas and new perspectives?

I’ve been thinking about this question because I am currently reading a biography of Sir Robert Peel, the British politician and Prime Minister of the Nineteenth Century. On several occasions, Peel changed his mind on key political issues. In each case, Peel was concerned with making a decision which he considered would be in the best interests of the country as a whole. Peel took the view that what was in the best interests of the country at one point in time might not necessarily be for the best when circumstances had changed. So he was prepared to change his mind, even to the extent of taking a position which seemed to be the complete opposite of the position which he had previously espoused. Needless to say, some people felt that he was inconsistent and untrustworthy. Indeed, some cartoonists enjoyed picturing him in the form of a rat. But Peel stuck to his guns. He did what he felt to be right, even at the risk of splitting his party. Peel put the well-being of his country before anything else.

Over our lifetimes, each one of us accumulates a whole range of opinions about lots of different things. Some of our opinions have simply been absorbed from our families and our friends, and from the news media. Other opinions might have been formed as a result of personal experience, or perhaps detailed study of a particular issue.

Our opinions can wield an enormous power over our own lives and the live of others- power for good and power for bad. It is good to look at them in the cold light of day and ask ourselves whether a particular opinion needs to be reviewed, perhaps in the light of changing circumstances, or because we have learnt more about ourselves or other people. It might be that our opinion remains the same as it has ever been, but at least we have been open to the possibility of change - and to be open to change is to be fully alive.

Prayer for Today

Lord, open our minds to new possibilities; and give us the wisdom to know when our opinions need to change. Amen.
2 November 2020Rector's Daily Reflections Monday 2nd November 2020

Here’s a quote for you, which I came across earlier today. “This is a time of real uncertainty for everyone and the Church will continue to be central to the life of our communities in bringing light and hope”.

Who is the author of the quote? The Bishop of London, the Rt. Revd. Sarah Mullaly.

What has struck me about this quote? Three things.

First, it recognises the reality of the uncertainty which we all face. When will life get back to some sort of normality? When will we have widely available vaccine? What will happen over Christmas? Will we be able to meet up with family members over the festive season? None of us know the answers to these or many other questions. Yes, we make our plans for the future, but at the same time we accept that we might not be able to put our plans into effect. One phrase which I find that I’m using a lot at the moment is: “let’s play it by ear”. Our lives are full of uncertainty at present, and that’s the way it is.

The second thing that struck me about Bishop Sarah’s quote is the reference to role of churches in our local communities. The Churches of the Church of England try their best to serve their local communities. We still have what is called the parish system. This means that our churches try to serve the inhabitants of their local area, which is known as the parish. Churches don’t exist for their own benefit. They exist to serve others. We’re always looking for ways we can do this better, so any suggestions would be gratefully received!

Finally, Bishop Sarah writes about the role of the Churches in bringing light and hope. Churches point to Jesus, in whom we see the light of God’s love shining into our world. In Jesus, we have a firm foundation for hope: God cares for us and our world, and there is always hope for the future. God raised Jesus from the dead, and in Jesus we too can experience God’s gift of new life.

In Jesus, God gives us light and hope. We shall need this in the weeks ahead.

Prayer for Today
Lord, you give us the light and hope we need to face the challenges ahead;
In a time of uncertainty, remind us that your loving care is always with us.
3 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: Tuesday 3rd November 2020

Thought for Today

It’s the time of year when people are thinking about Remembrance. This coming Sunday will be Remembrance Sunday, and there had been a question over whether the forthcoming national lockdown would mean that there would be no acts of remembrance this year. But yesterday afternoon the Prime Minister announced in Parliament that acts of remembrance can still take place, provided they are held outside with proper social distancing. I, for one, am pleased that the Prime Minister made this decision. It seems very right to remember the sacrifice of all who have given their lives for our country, especially in the First and Second World Wars.

When we remember the sacrifice of those who were killed and injured in war, we are reminded once again of the value of peace. Jesus said, “Blessed are the Peacemakers”. I think everyone would agree that war is something to be avoided if at all possible. This can only happen if we are all committed to be peacemakers and peacekeepers.

How might we be effective peacemakers? I asked a group of local school children this question earlier today. I was struck by their answers. One child said it was about being prepared to compromise. Another child said that it was about focussing on solutions which worked for everyone. Another child said that sometimes, if you are really annoyed with someone, the best thing to do is to walk away and give yourself time to calm down and reflect about the situation. Another child talked about the importance of taking turns.

I was impressed by the skills which these Primary School aged children had already developed. Even as young children, they knew the value of being peacemakers, and they knew the importance of developing skills in this field.

I wonder how we, as adults, might continue to develop our own skills as peacemakers? For much hangs on our ability to solve the complex conflicts of our world without resort to the violence, lies and injustice which cause so much suffering to our fellow men and women.

Prayer for Today

Lord, your Son Jesus pronounced your blessing on those who seek to make peace;
help us to be effective peacemakers,
in our families, our communities, and our world. Amen.
4 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: Wednesday 4th November 2020

Thought for Today

I had a fascinating conversation this morning with someone who is in a position of leadership. The person in question is the head of an institution and people had been asking them what was going to happen to the institution in the new year, and in the longer term. The questioners were looking for reassurance. They wanted to be told that everything was under control and the future looked positive. But the leader did not provide the required answer. Instead, the leader was completely honest. They said that actually they didn’t know what the future would bring. Things were uncertain in the longer term, and that was the situation.

Would you say this was good leadership or poor leadership? Some might say that the leader should have kept their doubts to themselves and given a positive and encouraging view of the future. Others might say that the leader should be commended for their honesty. In a world awash with spin and reassuring platitudes, perhaps it’s good to have someone with the courage to be frank and straightforward in their assessment of how bad things are- or how bad they think things are.

Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that we often find truth very hard to deal with, especially if the truth is an unpleasant one. We close our eyes and our eyes to truths which we find too challenging. And so, as individuals and as a society, we tend to dwell in a world of uncontroversial half-truths.

I am reminded of something which Jesus said. It’s in chapter 8 of John’s Gospel. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”. Only the whole truth has the power to make us free, and I believe that the whole truth is found in Jesus Christ. For me, this is what Jesus is all about: the fullness of the truth about God, and the fullness of the truth about what it means to be a human being.

Prayer for Today

Lord, give us the courage to face the truth as it is,
rather than the truth as we might want it to be,
and having faced the truth, give us the strength to look forward into the future,
with hope and trust in your goodness. Amen.
5 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: Thursday 5th November 2020

Thought for Today

Here’s a question for you: have you ever been taught a lesson in life by a squirrel?

Earlier today, I was walking beside the Cleeve in a Blewbury, and noticed a very adventurous squirrel. If you unfamiliar with Blewbury, the Cleeve is the local name for a large pond water in the centre of village. There is a wire fence across part of the Cleeve, stretching from one bank to the other. The fence is supported by posts, and along the top is some barded wire. I noticed a squirrel climbing along the barbed wire at one end of the fence. It paused and looked at the stretch of wire which lay between it and the bank on the other side of the water. After a moment or two, it started off on its adventure. With one spring, it leapt on to the top of one of the posts. It then scampered along a piece of barbed wire. Then more leaps, more scampering, and within a very short time this squirrel had successfully crossed the water and arrived safely on the other side. I must say I was impressed.

As I watched this squirrel travel along the wire fence, I began to think of the weeks and months in a different light. Just as the squirrel had its eyes focussed on reaching the bank on the other side of the water, we too have our eyes set on getting to the other side of the current lockdown. How did the squirrel achieve its success? Through determination, and by making the journey in steps, going from one post to the next, until the journey was complete. At times, the squirrel paused, to take a rest or to consider how it was to tackle the next stage of the journey. Applying this to ourselves, perhaps we can give ourselves a series of small milestones, something to look forward to every few days or so. We then pass from small milestone to small milestone, and before we know it, we have reached the end of the current lockdown! And if we need to pause and rest, that’s absolutely fine. Even squirrels enjoy a rest from time to time.

Prayer for Today

Lord, sometimes it can be frightening, even overwhelming, to look into the future;
help us to take things one day at a time and allow ourselves time to rest. Amen.
6 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: Thursday 5th November 2020

Thought for Today

Here’s a question for you: have you ever been taught a lesson in life by a squirrel?

Earlier today, I was walking beside the Cleeve in a Blewbury, and noticed a very adventurous squirrel. If you unfamiliar with Blewbury, the Cleeve is the local name for a large pond water in the centre of village. There is a wire fence across part of the Cleeve, stretching from one bank to the other. The fence is supported by posts, and along the top is some barded wire. I noticed a squirrel climbing along the barbed wire at one end of the fence. It paused and looked at the stretch of wire which lay between it and the bank on the other side of the water. After a moment or two, it started off on its adventure. With one spring, it leapt on to the top of one of the posts. It then scampered along a piece of barbed wire. Then more leaps, more scampering, and within a very short time this squirrel had successfully crossed the water and arrived safely on the other side. I must say I was impressed.

As I watched this squirrel travel along the wire fence, I began to think of the weeks and months in a different light. Just as the squirrel had its eyes focussed on reaching the bank on the other side of the water, we too have our eyes set on getting to the other side of the current lockdown. How did the squirrel achieve its success? Through determination, and by making the journey in steps, going from one post to the next, until the journey was complete. At times, the squirrel paused, to take a rest or to consider how it was to tackle the next stage of the journey. Applying this to ourselves, perhaps we can give ourselves a series of small milestones, something to look forward to every few days or so. We then pass from small milestone to small milestone, and before we know it, we have reached the end of the current lockdown! And if we need to pause and rest, that’s absolutely fine. Even squirrels enjoy a rest from time to time.

Prayer for Today

Lord, sometimes it can be frightening, even overwhelming, to look into the future;
help us to take things one day at a time and allow ourselves time to rest. Amen.
7 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections Friday 6th November 2020

Thought for Today

As I was driving earlier today, I noticed a hawk, hovering in the air some 30 feet above the side of the road. It had clearly seen something of interest on the surface of the road or in the verge. It was completely focussed on its prey, and it did not seem to notice the cars driving along the road. You will be pleased to know that my eyes were focussed on the road ahead, so I did n’t spend any time trying to identify the particular type of hawk. But I enjoyed seeing it, hovering in the air beside a busy road.

The sight of the hawk has made me think about the value of living in the present moment. The hawk was entirely focussed on the task in hand - hovering in the air to maintain its position, while it scanned the ground beneath.

As human beings, we often fail to live in the present moment. Our minds and thoughts might be harking back to something that has happened in the recent past, or perhaps many years ago. Or we might be thinking about the days or months ahead, trying to anticipate what the future might be like. By looking to the past or the future, we somehow fail to connect fully with the present moment. We can miss the joys and blessings which are all around us, because somehow we’re only half awake to the present.

Of course there are times when some form of disengagement from the present moment is entirely natural . It might be that we’re tired or stressed, and we simply don’t have the emotional space to be fully awake to the present moment. It might be that we are still processing a difficult or traumatic event which has happened in the past. It might be that we are anticipating a future event which will be profoundly significant for us, for good or for ill.

But for all of us, there are those opportunities when we can live in the present moment : times when we can choose to be fully alive to the people around us, and fully alive to the wonder of all created life. And in times like this, we can feel God’s presence with us, and know in our hearts how much God loves each one of us, and how much he cares for our world.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help us to feel your presence all around us, in the beauty of our world and in the love of those who care for us. Amen.
8 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections Friday 6th November 2020

Thought for Today

As I was driving earlier today, I noticed a hawk, hovering in the air some 30 feet above the side of the road. It had clearly seen something of interest on the surface of the road or in the verge. It was completely focussed on its prey, and it did not seem to notice the cars driving along the road. You will be pleased to know that my eyes were focussed on the road ahead, so I did n’t spend any time trying to identify the particular type of hawk. But I enjoyed seeing it, hovering in the air beside a busy road.

The sight of the hawk has made me think about the value of living in the present moment. The hawk was entirely focussed on the task in hand - hovering in the air to maintain its position, while it scanned the ground beneath.

As human beings, we often fail to live in the present moment. Our minds and thoughts might be harking back to something that has happened in the recent past, or perhaps many years ago. Or we might be thinking about the days or months ahead, trying to anticipate what the future might be like. By looking to the past or the future, we somehow fail to connect fully with the present moment. We can miss the joys and blessings which are all around us, because somehow we’re only half awake to the present.

Of course there are times when some form of disengagement from the present moment is entirely natural . It might be that we’re tired or stressed, and we simply don’t have the emotional space to be fully awake to the present moment. It might be that we are still processing a difficult or traumatic event which has happened in the past. It might be that we are anticipating a future event which will be profoundly significant for us, for good or for ill.

But for all of us, there are those opportunities when we can live in the present moment : times when we can choose to be fully alive to the people around us, and fully alive to the wonder of all created life. And in times like this, we can feel God’s presence with us, and know in our hearts how much God loves each one of us, and how much he cares for our world.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help us to feel your presence all around us, in the beauty of our world and in the love of those who care for us. Amen.
9 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: Monday 9th November 2020

Thought for Today

This morning, I found myself reading an ancient poem, known as Psalm 46. This poem was first written over 2000 years ago, and it has been a great source of comfort down the centuries. Martin Luther’s famous hymn Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott was inspired by the words of this psalm.

We don’t know the context in which the psalm was originally written. It speaks of a situation of great stress, a time of fear and anxiety which could be compared to the raging of a storm at sea or an earthquake on land. The author writes that “the nations are in uproar and the kingdoms are shaken”.

In such circumstances, it is only natural for us human beings to be afraid. But the author tells us that we should nor succumb to fear. Why? Because God is our “refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble”. God is here at work among us, restoring order and bringing wars to an end. Just before the end of the psalm, the author pictures God himself rebuking the forces of disorder which threaten to upset our world: “Be still! And know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth”. God’s authoritative voice is able to bring calm and peace to a troubled world. The picture I have in mind is someone who speaks to a crowd which is getting out of hand, and who is able to restore order through their words and their presence.

The author of the psalm places great emphasis on God’s presence with us. God is not some absent deity, who has to be summoned from the far-flung corners of the galaxy. God is there with us, in the struggles and the joys of our everyday lives. Confident that God is with us, that God is at our side, we can trust that all shall be well.

I find these words a source of great comfort. God is there with us, at our side, as we struggle with the struggles and challenges of daily life. And this means that as we face the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic, we do not do so alone. God is there with us, “ a very present help in trouble”.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help us not to forget that we are never alone, for you are always with us;
you are our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble. Amen.
10 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: Tuesday 10th November 2020

Thought for Today

Tomorrow is, of course, Armistice Day. Earlier today, I was with a group of school children. We were talking about the significance of wearing a poppy, and how we could be better peacemakers. Together, we composed a short prayer, taking each letter of the word “poppy” and thinking how the letters might help us to our lives in a way which promoted peace.

The children and adults worked together, and several different words were offered. For a word beginning with “p”, someone suggested the word “peaceful”, on the grounds that we’re going to find it difficult to be a peacemaker unless we model peacefulness in our own lives. Someone else suggested the word “patient”, on the grounds that peace-making takes time. We need to allow time to listen, and time to explore possible solutions. Complex problems and issues are seldom solved in a short period of time.

When it came to a world beginning with “o”, one of the adults talked about the value of being “obliging”, respectful of others and willing to help.

And when it came to a word beginning with “y”, another of the adults offered the word “yourself”, as in the phrase “Be yourself”. It can be hard to be a peacemaker if we are not honest about who we really are. If we start to pretend that we are someone else, how can we expect other people to trust us? And if we have not learnt to accept who we truly are, how can we learn to accept another person?

God calls each one of us to be peacemakers. But peace-making is seldom easy. I wonder how you and I might improve our peace-making skills?

Prayer for Today

Lord, give us the patience we need to be effective peace-makers;
Give us a willingness to listen, and to explore what might be possible;
Keep us positive, in the face of setbacks;
And inspire us with your vision of a world where war is no more. Amen.
11 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: Wednesday 11th November 2020

Thought for Today

As well as being Armistice Day, today is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours. Martin lived backed in the 4th century. He served as a soldier, and later left the army and joined a monastery. In AD 371, he was consecrated Bishop of Tours, and he died in 397. We know a lot about Martin from the life written by Sulpicius Severus, who knew Martin personally.

One of the most famous stories associated with Martin involves an occasion when he saw a beggar clad only in rags. It was the depth of winter and Martin took compassion on the beggar. Taking his sword, Martin cut his own cloak in half, and gave half to the beggar. Down the centuries, this scene has often been depicted in art.

The story of Martin and the beggar can still challenge us today. I wonder how might we be called to share what we have with others? God has given so much to each one of us. It might be that we have food or money to spare. But even if our material resources are limited, there are so many other things which we might be able to share with our neighbours. We can share friendship and conversation. We can offer practical help in so many different ways. And we can pray for one another.

The story of Martin and the beggar is also about seeing the need which lies around us. Martin could easily have ignored the beggar, but he chose not to do so. I wonder, where do we see the need around us today?

There is so much need all around us, and it is easy for us to get overwhelmed. But let us not get disheartened. If we can do one good act, the world will be better for it. When Martin shared his cloak with the beggar, he did not solve the problem of poverty. But he modelled a spirit of generosity towards the needs of others, and that spirit has always been at the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help us to share what we have with others;
Help us to reach out towards others in friendship and generosity. Amen.
12 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: Thursday 12th November 2020

Thought for Today

This morning I was reading one of the psalms, and it struck me that its message was particularly relevant to these Coronavirus times. The psalm in question is known as Psalm 62.

The author was experiencing a time of extreme distress. He felt that he was being assailed by hostile forces, which were trying to destroy him. It seems that he wasn’t alone in his suffering: the times of distress were affecting the people as a whole.

Where is comfort to be found during these distressing times? It is to be found in God. Other sources of comfort and security all have their limits: human beings will disappoint us; and we “should not set our hearts” upon our financial resources. Our comfort can be found in God because his love towards us is steadfast - it’s not a love which comes and goes. God’s love for us is eternal. But God is not only all-loving; he is all-powerful, too. In the words of the psalm, “power belongs to God”. Because God is all-powerful, he can be described as a “stronghold” and a “strong rock”. We can take refuge in God and be safe in the protection which he provides. Even if we feel that our own lives are falling apart, and the world around us is crumbling away, our trust in God’s love and power allows to say with confidence that we “shall never be shaken”.

Confident of the reality of God’s love and power, we can open our hearts to God in prayer, sharing honestly with him all that is troubling us, and not holding back any anger or confusion we might feel. This can be challenging to us, as sometimes we find it hard to be honest with God. Something else which we can find difficult is to be patient with God: to trust him to act in his good time. The author of the psalm instructs us to “wait on God alone in stillness”; how difficult such waiting can be!

Prayer for Today

Lord, in an anxious and fearful world, help us to trust in your love;
And give us the patience to wait on you, for in you is our hope. Amen.
13 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: 13th November 2020

Thought for Today

Well, today I’m going to offer my first reflection to do with Christmas. Some people might think that it’s a bit too early to be writing about Christmas, as we’re only in mid-November, but I think for many people the Christmas season has begun. It’s a lovely time of year, and a welcome source of jollity amid the challenges and anxieties of these Covid times.

As we celebrate Christmas together, I’m thinking of the words “comfort and joy”. These words have been chosen by the Church of England as a way of summarising the Christian message at this time of year.

I wonder whether you recognise where the phrase “comfort and joy” comes from? They form part of the chorus of a popular carol which starts, “God rest you merry, gentlemen”. The carol seems to have been written sometime in the 18th century, and it exists in various different versions. It also happens to be one carol where punctuation matters. The comma in the first line appears after the word “merry”, and not before, as the words aren’t meant to suggest that the gentlemen in question are inebriated!

From a personal point of view, “God rest you merry, gentlemen” is one of my favourite carols. It has a good tune, which is easily singable. And the words focus on the Christmas story.

I’m particularly pleased that the Church of England has decided to focus on the words “comfort and joy”. “Comfort and joy” is indeed the Christian message, not just at Christmas but throughout the year. The comfort is the knowledge of God’s love for us and our world, expressed in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. The joy is the knowledge that there is hope, and that the light of God’s love in Jesus shines as a light in the darkness of our fears and our anxieties.

I wonder where we might share God’s “comfort and joy” this Christmas time?

Prayer for Today

Lord, we know that Christmas will be different this year;
help us to support one another and be bearers of comfort and joy. Amen.
14 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: 13th November 2020

Thought for Today

Well, today I’m going to offer my first reflection to do with Christmas. Some people might think that it’s a bit too early to be writing about Christmas, as we’re only in mid-November, but I think for many people the Christmas season has begun. It’s a lovely time of year, and a welcome source of jollity amid the challenges and anxieties of these Covid times.

As we celebrate Christmas together, I’m thinking of the words “comfort and joy”. These words have been chosen by the Church of England as a way of summarising the Christian message at this time of year.

I wonder whether you recognise where the phrase “comfort and joy” comes from? They form part of the chorus of a popular carol which starts, “God rest you merry, gentlemen”. The carol seems to have been written sometime in the 18th century, and it exists in various different versions. It also happens to be one carol where punctuation matters. The comma in the first line appears after the word “merry”, and not before, as the words aren’t meant to suggest that the gentlemen in question are inebriated!

From a personal point of view, “God rest you merry, gentlemen” is one of my favourite carols. It has a good tune, which is easily singable. And the words focus on the Christmas story.

I’m particularly pleased that the Church of England has decided to focus on the words “comfort and joy”. “Comfort and joy” is indeed the Christian message, not just at Christmas but throughout the year. The comfort is the knowledge of God’s love for us and our world, expressed in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. The joy is the knowledge that there is hope, and that the light of God’s love in Jesus shines as a light in the darkness of our fears and our anxieties.

I wonder where we might share God’s “comfort and joy” this Christmas time?

Prayer for Today

Lord, we know that Christmas will be different this year;
help us to support one another and be bearers of comfort and joy. Amen.
15 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: 13th November 2020

Thought for Today

Well, today I’m going to offer my first reflection to do with Christmas. Some people might think that it’s a bit too early to be writing about Christmas, as we’re only in mid-November, but I think for many people the Christmas season has begun. It’s a lovely time of year, and a welcome source of jollity amid the challenges and anxieties of these Covid times.

As we celebrate Christmas together, I’m thinking of the words “comfort and joy”. These words have been chosen by the Church of England as a way of summarising the Christian message at this time of year.

I wonder whether you recognise where the phrase “comfort and joy” comes from? They form part of the chorus of a popular carol which starts, “God rest you merry, gentlemen”. The carol seems to have been written sometime in the 18th century, and it exists in various different versions. It also happens to be one carol where punctuation matters. The comma in the first line appears after the word “merry”, and not before, as the words aren’t meant to suggest that the gentlemen in question are inebriated!

From a personal point of view, “God rest you merry, gentlemen” is one of my favourite carols. It has a good tune, which is easily singable. And the words focus on the Christmas story.

I’m particularly pleased that the Church of England has decided to focus on the words “comfort and joy”. “Comfort and joy” is indeed the Christian message, not just at Christmas but throughout the year. The comfort is the knowledge of God’s love for us and our world, expressed in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. The joy is the knowledge that there is hope, and that the light of God’s love in Jesus shines as a light in the darkness of our fears and our anxieties.

I wonder where we might share God’s “comfort and joy” this Christmas time?

Prayer for Today

Lord, we know that Christmas will be different this year;
help us to support one another and be bearers of comfort and joy. Amen.
16 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: Monday 16th November 2020

Thought for Today

This morning I received a telephone call out of the blue. It was about a sheep, which had managed to get it’s head stuck in a fence. The person in question had been on a walk and had seen the sheep, and had been unable to extricate it from the fence. So, they thought they would give me a call, in case I might happen to know the name of the local farmer. I’m pleased they didn’t ask for advice about how to get the sheep out of the hedge, because I wouldn’t have a clue about how to do this!

The story of the sheep stuck in the fence brought to mind a story told by Jesus. Jesus pictures a farmer who has 100 sheep. The farmer loves all his sheep, so when one of the flock is lost, what does the farmer do? He leaves the 99 sheep where they are safe, and searches after the one which is lost. He keeps searching until he finds it. He then rescues it and puts it upon his shoulders, knowing that the sheep will be tired and anxious after all it has endured. He then comes home. He is so happy to have recovered this one sheep, that he can’t but share his joy with his neighbours, saying “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost”.

Jesus told this story to bring home just how much God loves each one of us. When we wander off and lose our way, God goes out to seek us, and bring us back.

In our world, we often accept compromises. We might have advised the farmer in Jesus’ story that he shouldn’t be wasting his time over the one sheep that was lost. He still had 99 left in the flock, and frankly 99 per cent was good enough. And if we were an economist, we might have talked to the farmer about opportunity costs. Why should the farmer waste his time looking for the lost sheep, when he could spend the time on some activity which was much more profitable?

But God doesn’t think like this. In God’s eyes, each one of us is of infinite value, and so each one of deserves the fulness of his love and his care.

Prayer for Today

Lord, sometimes in our lives we lose our way;
Thank you that you come and find us,
and bring us home to your love. Amen.
17 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: Tuesday 17th November 2020

Thought for Today

Earlier today, I was walking along near Hagbourne Church, and someone asked me the very simple question: “Where are you going?” I replied that I wasn’t actually going anywhere - I was just out for ten minutes of fresh air, before getting in the car and going back to the office. It was a fresh morning, and we both agreed that it was good to be out for a walk, blowing the cobwebs away. We then went our separate ways.

That simple question has got me thinking. There is an old story told about St Peter. During the persecution of Christians under Emperor Nero, Peter thought that he had better leave Rome. Discretion being the better part of Valour, and all that sort of thing. So, he leaves the city. But as he is travelling along the Appian Way, he meets Jesus in a vision. Jesus askes him the simple question “Quo Vadis?” – In English, “Where are you going?” Peter then realises that he should return to Rome and face the risk of persecution for his Christian faith. Peter returns to the city, and in due course suffers martyrdom.

There is a striking picture in the National Gallery, which illustrates the moment when Jesus appeared to Peter, as was travelling along the Appian Way. The picture is by Annibale Carracci, an Italian painter of the Sixteenth Century. The picture captures the intensity and drama of the scene.

I have a copy of the picture in my study. It challenges me to be courageous in my Christian discipleship. I see the picture, literally or in my mind’s eye, and that question comes back to me: “Quo Vadis? Where am I going?”

There are often times when I have to face difficult situations. Usually, I find myself praying to God for strength and wisdom, knowing that I can’t do what I need to do if I try to rely solely on my own strength. I find that, so often, it is my faith in God that gives me the courage I need. Is this also true for you?

Prayer for Today

Lord, when we don’t know what to do, give us wisdom;
When a course of action seems too hard for us, give us courage;
And when we are uncertain and perplexed about the future, give us hope. Amen.
18 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: 18th November 2020

Thought for Today

Earlier this morning, I was out for a walk, and I saw something which I did not expect to see. It was a greyish morning, although I could see some patches of blue in the sky. I happened to look up, and there it was: a rainbow in the sky. I don’t think it lasted long, but it was definitely there - a unexpected sight.

During this pandemic, the rainbow seems to have been adopted as a sign of hope. You can often see them, on walls and in people’s windows. The idea of a rainbow as a sign of hope goes right back to ancient times. The first book of the bible, the book of Genesis, contains many stories which the Jewish people felt were important to preserve - stories which taught deep lessons about what it means to be a human being, and how we relate to God and the world around us. Among these stories, are stories relating to a time when there was a great flood. God had lost patience with the wickedness of human beings. There was only one righteous man, called Noah. So, God prepared a great flood, but told Noah what was to happen, and instructed him to build his ark. The flood came, and eventually the waters subsided. God then made a solemn promise with Noah, his descendants and every living creature. God promised that never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth. And as sign of this promise, God promised to set his “bow in the clouds” – this “bow in the clouds” is traditionally seen as a reference to a rainbow. And so, for people familiar with the story of Noah and the flood, the sight of a rainbow is a reminder of God’s promise that there will never again be a flood, destroying every living creature.

The story of God’s promise to Noah points to a deep and fundamental point: God is committed to life here on our planet. God cares for life in all its myriad forms, and God wishes life to flourish. In fact, such is God’s commitment to life, that he decided to take on human flesh, in Jesus Christ, and become a human being.

And so, there is always hope. God is committed to life, and we shall get through these Coronavirus times.

Prayer for Today

Lord, when we are feeling dispirited or uncertain about the future,
Remind us that there is always hope, and these challenging times will pass. Amen.
19 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: Thursday 19th November 2020

Thought for Today

I was in a meeting earlier today, and someone used a phrase which has stayed with me during the day. During the meeting, the conversation turned to the stresses and strains of these Coronavirus times. One of the people in the meeting then said that the key thing to remember is that “it’s a marathon, not a race”.

It struck me that this is very good advice indeed. Of course, there’s part of us that wants things to have got back to normal as soon as possible. But I think there’s another part of us that realises that Coronavirus will be with us well into the New Year. It might be that it will be the Spring or even the Summer before we can feel confident that as a country, we have put the pandemic behind us. One of my colleagues had told me that he has been struck by the fact that he was now starting to see holidays and cruises advertised again – but none advertised to start before September 2021!

Life is a marathon, not a race. We need to pace ourselves. If we try to do too much, too quickly, we shall exhaust ourselves.

The image of life as a race to be run is used several times in the Bible. I think one of the most helpful uses of the image occurs in a book called The Letter to the Hebrews, which is to be found in the New Testament. The Letter to the Hebrews was written sometime in the 1st century in order to encourage Christians who were facing a time of difficulty. The author encourages his readers to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross”. There is so much in this passage which is worthy of comment, but I’m just going to focus on one word: perseverance. We are encouraged to run the race of life with perseverance. Perseverance is the quality which enables us to complete the marathon.

These current times call for perseverance. We’ll get there in the end. In the meantime, let us pace ourselves and look for ways to support one another.

Prayer for Today

Lord, how hard it is to be patient, especially in these Covid times;
Help us to live one day at a time and take things steady. Amen.
20 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: Friday 20th November 2020

Thought for Today

Were you able to have a lunch break today? I decided I would make myself a couple of sandwiches, and so I went into the kitchen, made the sandwiches, and looked out through the kitchen window, simply to see what was going on.

Within a moment or two, I spotted a friendly and rather chubby robin. He looked at me for a while, and I looked at him, and then he flew off. I think I’ve seen this robin before. I wonder what he thinks of me?

I then saw a grey squirrel, moving around on the ground. Some of the fur on the squirrel’s back was brownish, rather than grey. I wonder whether this is the squirrel’s winter coat? Every so often, the squirrel paused and started to dig into the lawn or the leaves. I couldn’t quite tell what it was doing. Was it burying something, to be eaten at a later date? Or was it digging something up? We have quite a few squirrels at the Rectory, so seldom a day passes when I do not see them, running around on the ground or in the trees.

I then looked out of the corner of my eye and saw a young Muntjac deer. It was stretching towards some greenery, which was a foot or so above its head. It stretched its neck towards the leaves, but this wasn’t quite enough for it to reach the leaves. I was expecting that it would then go onto its hind legs and raise itself that way. But it didn’t. Instead, it protruded its pink tongue, and this gave it the extra inches it indeed. With its tongue, it guided the leaves into its mouth, and then moved on to the next item of food, which seemed to be some ivy. I thought Muntjac didn’t eat ivy, but this particular Muntjac seemed happy to consume it. I was half expecting it to spit it out of its mouth, but it didn’t. Perhaps it was hungry; or perhaps it had unusual tastes!

It was so restful simply looking out of the window and watching the robin, the squirrel and the Muntjac.

I wonder: do we give ourselves enough time simply to stand still, and watch the birds and the animals which all around us?

Prayer for Today

In the busyness and noisiness of our day, help us to find the time to be still;
Help us to appreciate the birds and animals with which we share our lives. Amen.
21 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: Friday 20th November 2020

Thought for Today

Were you able to have a lunch break today? I decided I would make myself a couple of sandwiches, and so I went into the kitchen, made the sandwiches, and looked out through the kitchen window, simply to see what was going on.

Within a moment or two, I spotted a friendly and rather chubby robin. He looked at me for a while, and I looked at him, and then he flew off. I think I’ve seen this robin before. I wonder what he thinks of me?

I then saw a grey squirrel, moving around on the ground. Some of the fur on the squirrel’s back was brownish, rather than grey. I wonder whether this is the squirrel’s winter coat? Every so often, the squirrel paused and started to dig into the lawn or the leaves. I couldn’t quite tell what it was doing. Was it burying something, to be eaten at a later date? Or was it digging something up? We have quite a few squirrels at the Rectory, so seldom a day passes when I do not see them, running around on the ground or in the trees.

I then looked out of the corner of my eye and saw a young Muntjac deer. It was stretching towards some greenery, which was a foot or so above its head. It stretched its neck towards the leaves, but this wasn’t quite enough for it to reach the leaves. I was expecting that it would then go onto its hind legs and raise itself that way. But it didn’t. Instead, it protruded its pink tongue, and this gave it the extra inches it indeed. With its tongue, it guided the leaves into its mouth, and then moved on to the next item of food, which seemed to be some ivy. I thought Muntjac didn’t eat ivy, but this particular Muntjac seemed happy to consume it. I was half expecting it to spit it out of its mouth, but it didn’t. Perhaps it was hungry; or perhaps it had unusual tastes!

It was so restful simply looking out of the window and watching the robin, the squirrel and the Muntjac.

I wonder: do we give ourselves enough time simply to stand still, and watch the birds and the animals which all around us?

Prayer for Today

In the busyness and noisiness of our day, help us to find the time to be still;
Help us to appreciate the birds and animals with which we share our lives. Amen.
22 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: Friday 20th November 2020

Thought for Today

Were you able to have a lunch break today? I decided I would make myself a couple of sandwiches, and so I went into the kitchen, made the sandwiches, and looked out through the kitchen window, simply to see what was going on.

Within a moment or two, I spotted a friendly and rather chubby robin. He looked at me for a while, and I looked at him, and then he flew off. I think I’ve seen this robin before. I wonder what he thinks of me?

I then saw a grey squirrel, moving around on the ground. Some of the fur on the squirrel’s back was brownish, rather than grey. I wonder whether this is the squirrel’s winter coat? Every so often, the squirrel paused and started to dig into the lawn or the leaves. I couldn’t quite tell what it was doing. Was it burying something, to be eaten at a later date? Or was it digging something up? We have quite a few squirrels at the Rectory, so seldom a day passes when I do not see them, running around on the ground or in the trees.

I then looked out of the corner of my eye and saw a young Muntjac deer. It was stretching towards some greenery, which was a foot or so above its head. It stretched its neck towards the leaves, but this wasn’t quite enough for it to reach the leaves. I was expecting that it would then go onto its hind legs and raise itself that way. But it didn’t. Instead, it protruded its pink tongue, and this gave it the extra inches it indeed. With its tongue, it guided the leaves into its mouth, and then moved on to the next item of food, which seemed to be some ivy. I thought Muntjac didn’t eat ivy, but this particular Muntjac seemed happy to consume it. I was half expecting it to spit it out of its mouth, but it didn’t. Perhaps it was hungry; or perhaps it had unusual tastes!

It was so restful simply looking out of the window and watching the robin, the squirrel and the Muntjac.

I wonder: do we give ourselves enough time simply to stand still, and watch the birds and the animals which all around us?

Prayer for Today

In the busyness and noisiness of our day, help us to find the time to be still;
Help us to appreciate the birds and animals with which we share our lives. Amen.
23 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: Monday 23rd November 2020

Thought for the Day

As it is coming up to Christmas, and people are doing their Christmas shopping, I thought I would start a series of reflections on the subject of gifts which we might choose to give this Christmas. I am aware that finances are tight and people’s circumstances vary, so none of the gift suggestions will involve spending any money!

Today’s gift suggestion came to me this morning, as I was driving into the village. I pulled off the main road, and slowed down to 20 miles an hour, which is my custom when driving through a village. I seem to remember once having read a slogan along the lines of “Twenty’s plenty where people live”, and this message has stayed with me. There are so many hazards around, and it makes life so much safer for everyone if we slow down a bit. Well, this morning, I am pleased that I had indeed slowed down to twenty miles an hour. A man emerged from behind a parked car and decided to walk in the road in front of me, holding a mobile phone to his ear. He didn’t turn round to see whether there was a car driving towards him, and he just continued with his phone conversation as if he was walking on the pavement, and apparently without any thought to his personal safety. He seemed to pay no attention whatsoever to that fact that there was a car behind him.

The problem was that the man was neither looking nor listening. He could so easily have been hit by a car driving a little too quickly along the road.

I then began to think of the times when I haven’t been listening to God. I’ve been going my merry way without realising the physical, spiritual or moral danger I have been in. Only by God’s good grace have I been saved from disaster.

So, this Christmas, let us give each other the gift of listening. And let’s also be listening to God, so that we can hear the message of hope and comfort which he has for each one of us.

Prayer for Today

Lord, you have given each one of us two ears, and only one mouth;
Help us to listen, and not just to talk; but above all, help us to listen to you. Amen
24 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: Tuesday 24th November 2020

Thought for Today

Yesterday, I wrote about how we might give each other the gift of listening. Today, I’m going to write about the gift of graciousness.

I’m thinking about this because yesterday there was something which I needed to have dealt with, and despite my best endeavours, when it came to the evening, I still hadn’t got it done. Doubtless you have days like this! A whole lot of things had come up, which had required my immediate attention, and as it turned out there just weren’t enough hours in the day. So I emailed the person who was most directly affected by my failure to get the job done, and apologised to them, saying that I would be in touch the following day. They could very easily have sent back a terse and unhappy email. But in fact, their reply was very gracious. It was just the sort of email one wanted to receive at the end of tiring day.

Gracious behaviour costs nothing, but it makes such a difference to how we feel about ourselves and our relationships with one another. I think graciousness is doubly valuable during these Covid times. People are tired and the second lockdown has felt quite burdensome, however much we know in our heart of hearts that it is a good and sensible course of action. At times of stress, people often become a bit tetchy, and lose patience with one another at the slightest provocation. A gracious reply, a gracious response, makes all the difference. It calms us down and helps us get things into proportion.

God is gracious is with us, and so we should be gracious with one another. At Christmas time, we often read in church the opening section of John’s Gospel. The reading starts with the familiar words, “In the beginning was the Word”, and finishes with the declaration that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”. “Grace” and “graciousness” are closely related, and Christians would hope that through God’s grace, we might be enabled to live gracious lives.

I wonder how we might live our lives graciously in the days and weeks ahead?

Prayer for Today

Lord, give us the strength to live our lives graciously;
Help us to be kind in the words we say and the words we write,
And help us to treat one another with patience and respect. Amen.
25 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: Wednesday 25th November 2020

Thought for Today

Here’s a question for you: what makes you happy?

Earlier today, I asked this question to some school children. They gave a wide variety of answers. Some enjoyed playing football. Quite a few enjoyed playing with their younger siblings. Many said that they felt happy spending time with their family. A couple of children said that they were happy when people were kind to each other and were caring.

I then asked the children how we might share our happiness with others. Answers to this question included sharing what we have with others, telling jokes, and letting others join in with our games.

Overall, the children felt that happiness was about spending time with our families and our friends and sharing what we have with others.

Interestingly, none of the children suggested that happiness was about having lots of possessions or having an important job. Nor did any of the children suggest that happiness lay in getting lots of lovely presents for Christmas.

Perhaps it is inevitable that our perspectives change as we become adults. We are faced with the challenge of earning a living and paying the bills. And as adults, we have our responsibilities towards other family members, and these responsibilities can bring their stresses and strains.

But seeking happiness is still important for us as human beings, however old we are. Part of finding happiness is about knowing ourselves and being honest about what we have learnt brings true happiness into our lives. But another part of happiness is being willing to share our own happiness with others: happiness is something which grows, the more we give it away.

I wonder how we might give the gift of a little bit of happiness in the days and weeks ahead?

Prayer for Today

Lord, you know that sometimes we search for happiness
in places where it is not to be found;
help us to seek the true happiness which comes from you,
that happiness which comes from knowing and sharing your love. Amen.
26 November 2020Rector’s Daily Reflections: Wednesday 25th November 2020

Thought for Today

Here’s a question for you: what makes you happy?

Earlier today, I asked this question to some school children. They gave a wide variety of answers. Some enjoyed playing football. Quite a few enjoyed playing with their younger siblings. Many said that they felt happy spending time with their family. A couple of children said that they were happy when people were kind to each other and were caring.

I then asked the children how we might share our happiness with others. Answers to this question included sharing what we have with others, telling jokes, and letting others join in with our games.

Overall, the children felt that happiness was about spending time with our families and our friends and sharing what we have with others.

Interestingly, none of the children suggested that happiness was about having lots of possessions or having an important job. Nor did any of the children suggest that happiness lay in getting lots of lovely presents for Christmas.

Perhaps it is inevitable that our perspectives change as we become adults. We are faced with the challenge of earning a living and paying the bills. And as adults, we have our responsibilities towards other family members, and these responsibilities can bring their stresses and strains.

But seeking happiness is still important for us as human beings, however old we are. Part of finding happiness is about knowing ourselves and being honest about what we have learnt brings true happiness into our lives. But another part of happiness is being willing to share our own happiness with others: happiness is something which grows, the more we give it away.

I wonder how we might give the gift of a little bit of happiness in the days and weeks ahead?

Prayer for Today

Lord, you know that sometimes we search for happiness
in places where it is not to be found;
help us to seek the true happiness which comes from you,
that happiness which comes from knowing and sharing your love. Amen.
27 November 2020
28 November 2020
29 November 2020
30 November 2020