Thought for the day 29th June 2020 – 4th July 2020

29th June 2020 Rev Paul Bettison 

Kingdom
There are, in the world, many countries, nations, and states, but very few kingdoms. That is if the dictionary entry – a community or territory over which a single sovereign rules – is used to define what constitutes an kingdom. It appears that kingdoms are relegated to the past.
Yet in the most commonly used prayer of the church, we express the hope ‘Your Kingdom come, on earth as in heaven’. In the opening chapter of the Gospel according to Mark we read that Jesus began his ministry by proclaiming that the Kingdom of God had come near. Throughout the New Testament, the Kingdom of God (or for Matthew the kingdom of Heaven), takes a central place. It seems that throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus pointed to the Kingdom that whilst not being ‘of this world’, could be experienced ‘in this world’
So, what might this Kingdom look like? The body of Jesus’ teaching that we call the Beatitudes may give us a clue. ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God’. ‘Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled’. In the words of theologian Marcus Borg “The coming of God’s Kingdom means blessing and happiness for the poor. It means food for the hungry; they will be filled”
He goes on to suggest that the meaning of the Kingdom of God is “what life would be like on earth if God were king and the rulers of the world were not”.
As we prepare to emerge from the life-changing experience of the pandemic and catch a glimpse of the future, may the vision of the Kingdom of God – a Kingdom of justice and peace – be both our goal and our hope.
‘So be it, Lord: thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away;
Thy kingdom stands, and grows for ever,
Till all thy creatures own thy sway.
John Ellerton
Our Prayer;
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those
who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

 

 30th June 2020 Revd Philip Bee

When it comes to home improvements, my family always laugh. In my time, I have: fitted a bathroom cabinet upside down, in spite of protests from my children who were helping; installed a toilet cistern without tightening up the fittings, flooding the upstairs of the house; and been screwed shut inside a shed I was building with my father, from whom I learned all my skills in home improvement. My family now opts for GSI (Get Someone In) rather than DIY.
A surge in “home improvement” took place from the 1980s when big DIY stores like B&Q opened. But think… Is my home any more inviting to others for having brick block paving on the driveway or a new pagoda straddling the patio? When Jesus talks hospitality, he is primarily concerned about compassionate welcome. He wants disciples to look out for those in need and then respond with the generosity of God.
Occasionally in the past my family has made space for others to stay with us: a woman from Eritrea, extending her time at university for a critical operation; a pregnant 15 year old who needed to learn to look after a baby; a Congolese refugee who arrived with my son one Christmas. The list is not as exhaustive as Jesus might expect of his disciples. However, on those occasions when it’s happened, oddly we’ve found the presence of others to be a blessing rather than a burden. Home improvements, if you like, of the sort that really matter!
Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the One who sent me. (Matt 10:40)
Prayer: Generous God, open my eyes to people’s need and open my heart to them in welcome. Amen.
Reflect: Who have been your home improvements?

 

1st July 2020 Revd Paul Bettison 

Church
It feels like an eternity since, due to the pandemic restrictions, places of worship together with many other venues used for communal gatherings, were closed.
Now there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. As we prepare for the re-opening of churches, albeit to a limited extent, maybe it’s time to reflect upon what it is that we are to open.
So, today’s ‘Thought’ simply offers a prayer of Thomas Ken (bishop of Bath and Wells 1685-1690):
God, our Heavenly Father, make, we pray,
the door of this church wide enough to welcome all who need human love and fellowship and a Father’s care;
but narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride, and lack of love.
Here may the tempted find help,
the sorrowing receive comfort,
and the penitent be assured of your mercy;
and here may all your children renew their strength
and go on their way in hope and joy,
through Jesus Christ our Lord
Amen

 

2nd July 2020 Revd Paul Bettison

Compassion
How often when watching on TV, images of attacks, accidents, or extreme poverty, do you like me avert your eyes? The sight of suffering and distress upsets and disturbs us.
In a recent online sermon Revd Zadie Orr encouraged us to “Go out, as Apostles, and show compassion”, and in so doing, she echoed words of Jesus found in Luke’s Gospel; ‘Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate’. But compassion is costly. For the root of the word ‘compassion’ is ‘suffer with’. To show compassion can be upsetting, distressing, and disturbing yet in the words Marcus Borg “the purpose of the Christian life, of life in Christ, is to become more and more compassionate beings”.
To be compassionate requires us to have eyes that are open to the suffering of others, and hearts that are open and willing to respond with loving kindness. In these challenging times may we be compassionate as our Father is compassionate. May we also be prepared to open our hearts to acknowledge that we too welcome the loving kindness that is shown to us by others.
Our Prayer:
Brother, sister, let me serve you;
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christ-light for you
in the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.
I will weep when you are weeping;
when you laugh I’ll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow,
till we’ve seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven,
we shall find such harmony,
born of all we’ve known together
of Christ’s love and agony.

Brother, sister, let me serve you;
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.
© Kingsway’s Thankyou Music

 

3rd July 2020 Revd Paul Bettison 

The Rainbow
We’ve seen, since the beginning of the outbreak of the pandemic, the appearance of lots of rainbows; wonderful and inspiring they look too. The rainbows are expressions of appreciation for carers who, in these challenging times, are devoting themselves to the welfare of others. Initially it was workers in the NHS that were the focus, but very soon it was recognised that there were many other people who, likewise, were deserving of our gratitude.
Within the Jewish and Christian Faiths, the rainbow is a powerful sign and symbol of both hope and promise. A rainbow appears in one of several of John Constable’s paintings bearing the title ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows’. The sky is brooding, dark, and stormy. Yet, penetrating the clouds and overarching the spire of the cathedral is a rainbow. Art critics point out that the rainbow is a late addition to the painting, not appearing in earlier versions and sketches. They suggest that Constable used the weather to express the range of feelings that he was experiencing. If they are correct, then the picture is truly ‘worth a thousand words’.
Maybe the picture has something to say to us as we move, as it were, out of the eye of the storm.
‘I trace the rainbow through the rain, And feel the promise is not vain, That morn shall tearless be.’   George Matheson
Our Prayer;
Gracious God,
You promise abundant life.
Let goodness and mercy surround all for whom I pray.
For the weary, let there be rest;
For the anxious, calm waters;
For those in deep shadow, glimmers of light.
For the poor, let there be plenty;
For the hungry, nourishing food;
For the thirsty, clean water.
For the persecuted, let there be protection;
For the displaced, a new home;
For the victimised, safe shelter.
God of rainbows, of promise, and of hope, I offer these prayers in the name of Jesus.
Amen
Lynne Frith (adapted)
4th July 2020 Revd Paul Bettison 
The beauty of holiness
Surrounded by scars, caves and cliffs, and nestled in the
picturesque Yorkshire Dales, Settle is a magnet for anyone who can appreciate the beauty of the countryside. Its beauty may well have inspired Congregational minister Benjamin Waugh, who was raised there, to write the hymn ‘Now let us see thy beauty Lord’. According to my dictionary, the word beauty means ‘pleasing to the senses – especially that of sight’. Some people see beauty in nature, others in a mathematic equation. Some in a work of art, others in the anatomy of a human heart. For, to quote the proverb first attributed to Plato, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’.
Throughout the Old Testament we find references to the beauty of God. That theme features in another familiar hymn – ‘O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness’. That which is holy – of God – is beautiful. But how about turning it around? That which is beautiful, is of God.
So, what things of beauty do you see today?
Our Prayer:
Now let me see your beauty Lord,
As I have seen before;
And by your beauty, inspire me
To love you and adore.
Amen
                                        Benjamin Waugh (adapted)

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