22nd June 2020 – Revd Paul Bettison
It’s understandable if we are totally pre-occupied with the impact upon us of the pandemic. Yet, life restricting, life threatening, and life changing though it may be, Covid 19 is not like the Hokey Cokey – ‘what it’s all about’. There’s much more to life than the virus and its impact.
In the midst of this all-consuming pandemic is there not a danger of missing some things? The world is still both beautiful and brutal. Joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, certainties, and doubts, are still the stuff of life. That’s what it’s all about.
But we believe that there’s still more. For God, who in Jesus shared our human life, shares it still. God, whose Spirit is in each one of us, gives us open eyes to see, as it were, beyond Covid 19, and calls us to have open hearts to respond in love to those with whom we share our lives.
Now that really is ‘what it’s all about’.
In the stillness, help me to put aside for a few moments, concerns about the impact of the pandemic.
Help me to see in my life those things that bring me pleasure and fulfilment. Loving relationships, life-affirming gifts of art, literature, music, and much, much more.
Help me to recognise the needs of the people with whom I share my life, both those I know, and those I will never meet.
Help me to find meaning and purpose in my life – to love both you, and all that you love.
23rd June 2020 – Revd Paul Bettison
‘Tom’s written a book’
Back from a Chaplaincy Conference, I burst into the office and proclaimed, “Tom’s written a book”. A fellow Chaplain had, at the Conference, introduced us to his newly published collection of reflections. I half expected my colleague in the office to share my admiration for, and adulation of, Tom. But what was her response to “Tom’s written a book”? She simply said “Why?” I couldn’t answer.
Were those inspired to gather, preserve, (albeit by oral tradition – the telling of the story) select, and record the material in the book that we call the bible to be asked why they had done it, I wonder what their answer would be. Maybe Jeremy Young gives us a clue. In his book The Cost of Certainty he wrote ‘the bible is a record of the reactions of people with faith to what they took to be the activity of God in the history of Israel and the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. Their purpose? Perhaps to ensure that there was a record that would inform and inspire.
The writer of John’s Gospel, the book of signs, was clear about its purpose; ‘Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.’ (John 20 verse 31)
I have an inkling as to why Tom wrote his book. I’m in no doubt as to why we have the bible. How about you?
Some, remembering the past,
recorded what they knew,
or with their letters and laments,
their prophecy and praise,
recovered, kindled, and expressed
new hope for changing days.
For all the writings that survived,
for leaders, long ago,
who sifted, copied, and preserved
the Bible that we know,
give thanks, and find its story yet
our promise, strength and call,
the model of emerging faith,
alive with hope for all.
From Singing the Faith 463
24th June 2020 – Sue Ellis
I have to attribute the trigger for this thought to listening to BBC Sounds and 2 recent programmes these being ‘Your Desert island discs’ ( Radio 4 )where ordinary people have nominated their ‘discs’ relating to lockdown and given deeply moving stories , and also the musical biographical conversation ( Radio2) between Cerys Matthews and Tom Jones to mark Tom’s 80th birthday.
The stories and music evoke great pictures but also reflect the thought expressed by Tom Jones that he does not believe that he has done ‘cover versions’ of songs in his career, but that he has ‘taken them on’ and represented them in a different way.
I don’t think there are ‘cover versions’ of the Bible, yet there are many different presentations and interpretations. It has a core tune and themes, and certain parts are comforting, others are challenging and indeed difficult to understand. For me there is clear association between certain passages and certain times of my life.
So what resonates for this period? Within the Methodist Circuit we have been sent a prayer journal ‘Jesus loves us all’ and day 7 refers to ‘Love is an action word’, and the reading is 1 John 3 16-18:
‘We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us- and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does Gods love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech but in truth and action.’
Prayer ( adapted from ‘Jesus Loves us all’ Prayer Journal)
Loving God, thank you for your costly love. Please may the people I pray for, understand something of the strength of your love for them. Help me to use my resources – money and actions, well for others.
25th June 2020 – Revd Stephen Barnett
Like many of you, I along with my wife Sue, have had to make adjustments and discover the importance of establishing new daily routines. We have tidied our garage and garden shed, both now clean and tidy! Pottering around the garden is Sue’s delight, whilst I have been made a point of going for a walk most days, living where we do on the edge of such beautiful countryside.
I am Increasingly discovering the importance of stillness and silence, whilst out walking and engaged in daily prayer. Might this be the opportunity to find that divine centre, a place within ourselves where we can rest and be at home with God, where God is at the centre of our lives. To allow ourselves to be led to the quiet still waters, the water of stillness, being called to slow down, to become familiar with a different rhythm. Is it about allowing ourselves to live in the Grace of God, a place of unconditional love, peace and rest? This, I believe is how, God in Christ, impacts upon our lives and how he refreshes our whole being.
Prayer (Roots 2017)
We praise you,Lord Jesus,
for being the voice of peace when we are angry,
for being the voice of hope when we are afraid,
for being the voice of love when we feel rejected,
and for being the voice we can always trust,
at every stage of our life.Amen
26th June 2020 – Revd Paul Bettison
Do you remember sermons? Some may be memorable, others not quite so. It seems that some words contained in the final sermon preached on the first of March 589 AD by St David were remembered. “Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things that you have seen me do”. The words of St David were quoted by the preacher at a recent morning service broadcast from the cathedral bearing his name. They are words that I think it would be helpful for us to recall as we travel through these challenging times.
‘Be joyful’. Sometimes easier said than done. Yet I remember a hymn by Adelaide Anne Procter –
I thank the, Lord, that thou hast made
Joy to abound,
So many gentle thoughts and deeds,
Circling us round,
That in the darkest spot on earth
Some love is found.
The verse also speaks of the ‘little things’ that make such a difference to us and to others.
Ms Procter has something to say about faith too.
‘I thank thee. Lord, that here our lives,
Though amply blessed,
Can never find, although they seek,
A perfect rest,
Nor ever shall, until we lean
On Jesu’s breast.
Today, help me to be joyful
(I thank you for your understanding if I’m not!)
Today, help me to keep the faith
(Although sometimes there are challenges that make that difficult)
Today, encourage me to do the little things that make such a difference to those with whom I share my life.
(Even though they often go unnoticed, or seem to me to be insignificant)
Help me to ‘be joyful’, ‘keep the faith’, and ‘do the little things’, and in so doing be a channel of your love.
27th June 2020 – Revd Paul Bettison
Born in Song
‘Born in Song. God’s people have always been singing’. So run the first lines of Brian Hoare’s hymn, both words and music written and composed as he travelled by train from London to Chesterfield where he was to join in the celebration of the bi-centenary of John Wesley’s visit to Paradise Square in Sheffield.
The phrase ‘Born in Song’ is an echo of the first words of the preface to the 1933 edition of The Methodist Hymn Book. The preface to the URC hymn book, Rejoice and Sing, quotes Erik Routley; ‘Hymns are the folk-song of the church militant’
A couple of Gospel stories tell how, after supper, Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn. In letters attributed to St Paul, we read that the Christian community sang hymns together. So, hymn singing has an authentic pedigree.
So, what if, as of now, we are unable to gather to sing hymns and psalms. What if, because of Covid 19 restrictions we are unable to meet and ‘Make a joyful noise unto the Lord’?
Maybe we can use the opportunity to study the words of some of our hymns. Read them slowly and prayerfully. Perhaps they will take on a whole new meaning and, as it were, light may shine out from the page.
It could well be that, on occasion, the tune may have taken precedence. I well remember a friend of mine, having led worship in a country chapel, being thanked by a member of the congregation who said “I love that last hymn – but we usually sing it to different words’!
Again, maybe as we read the words of a familiar hymn, the tune can be heard within. Shades of Rodgers and Hart’s ‘With a song in my heart’.
God’s people have always been singing – and will sing again.
For the music of creation,
for the song your Spirit sings,
for your sound’s divine expression,
burst of joy in living things:
God, our God, the world’s composer,
hear us, echoes of your voice –
Music is your art, your glory,
let the human heart rejoice.
Psalms and symphonies exalt you,
drum and trumpet, string and reed,
simple melodies acclaim you,
tunes that rise from deepest need,
hymns of longing and belonging,
carols from a cheerful throat,
lily of lullaby and love song
catching heaven in a note
Shirley Erena Murray