Thought for the day 2nd – 13th November 2020

2nd November  – Rev Paul Bettison 

Turn the key in the ignition, the engine roars into life and we’re off. I rarely give it a second thought.  Just imagine my horror when, instead of being greeted by the purr of the engine, my ears were attacked by what sounded like the screeching of a cat in distress.  The starter motor had failed.  I was fortunate in that two kindly chaps offered to get me going by rocking the car back and forth.  It worked.
We tend to take so much in life for granted and only when it has gone or doesn’t work do we appreciate our dependence upon it.  During recent months there has been, I guess, a realisation that our lives are enriched by our contacts and relationships with others.  It would be so easy to take them for granted.  Perhaps the same could be said for our relationship with the God who created us and loves us.
The two kind Samaritans rocked my car back into life. The starter motor in the car needs attention.  It’s good to ask ourselves the question “Are there relationships of mine that need attention?” In order to restore some of our relationships maybe we need a bit of rocking too.
Our Prayer:
Gracious God,
today, I want to thank you for
the relationships that enrich my life,
and the lives of others.
I want to thank you too,
for my relationship with you.
Help me never to take those
relationships for granted,
but appreciate, nurture, and cherish them.
Amen

 

4th November  – Rev Paul Bettison 

‘Light up the sky with Standard Fireworks’.  Do you remember the advert?  Fireworks, Standard or otherwise, certainly do light up the sky.  Whilst I guess that this year communal bonfires and firework displays will be few and far between, we will remember times past.  Looking back to the South Leeds of the1950s I recall vividly the build-up to bonfire night; the ‘chumping’ (for the uninitiated, gathering of wood, furniture, and anything else that was flammable), and the spending of pocket money on fireworks, Scottish bangers being a favourite, to be stored in an old biscuit tin.
As the sun set on the evening of 5th November, fires would be lit, and ‘responsible adults’ (and others not so responsible) would light the blue touchpaper, stand well back, and watch the spectacle as Rockets, Roman Candles, and Catherine Wheels would light up the dark sky.  Quite a sight.
Whilst the sight of the fireworks was spectacular, it was short lived – over in a flash.  The bonfire however was something different.  Once lit, its light and heat intensified, the sky displaying a rosy hue for hours.  In fact, I remember walking to school the following morning and seeing the remains of fires, embers still glowing.  But even that faded and by the time I returned home, apart from the melted tar between the cobble stones, there was little evidence of the fires to be seen.  As the proverb reminds us, ‘All good things come to an end’. Or do they?  There are some things that last for ever.
The psalmist reminds us, ‘The Love of God endures for ever.’  In a letter to the members of the Christian Church in St Paul writes that there are three things that last for ever, the greatest of them being love itself.
For our prayer today, some words from Psalm 136;
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.
He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

 

6th November  – Rev Paul Bettison 

Ian would, at the end of our lesson, stand at the front of class and indulge our English teacher by reciting a poem.  “What will it be this week Ian?”  His default position would be. ‘Porridge’.
‘I don’t like porridge, skinny and brown,
waiting for breakfast when I come down’.
I developed an aversion to poetry – Ian has a lot to answer for. That’s a pity because, as Poet Laureate Simon Armitage writes, “Poetry is one of those few occasions when you can experience language for something other than information.  It gives people a chance to play with language.”  So it does.
Readers of these ‘Thoughts for the Day’ may have picked up that I have, as of late, been introduced to the work of Malcolm Guite, poet, priest, and singer-songwriter.  I find his poems, mostly in sonnet form, to be enlightening, inspiring, and enriching.
There is much poetry to be found in Scripture.  We ought not to be surprised at that. For I believe that, rather than being a textbook containing information, the bible is a treasure trove of gems, expressing people’s experience of the God; pointing to the God who is indescribable yet in our midst. It has been said that the bible is the story of a love affair between God and God’s people.  What better form is there in which to speak of such a relationship than in poetry?
In the words of Luci Shaw, poet and author, as she commends one of Malcolm Guite’s books; ‘Each of Malcolm Guite’s sonnets is like a Celtic knot, with threads of devotion and theology cunningly woven into shining emblems of truth and beauty.” And so they are.
Gracious God,
I thank you for the gift of language,
enabling me to express my thoughts
and my feelings.
But sometimes, I find it difficult to express
just what I think and feel.
And I’m sure that I’m not alone in that.
I thank you for those
who use language in a special way.
Drawing on imagination and imagery,
they can craft words into poems
that both delve deep into human experience
and point beyond to eternal truths.
Today, I want to thank you for them
and their gifts.
Amen

 

Paul Bettison  9th Nov

It was 150 years ago that the first postcard appeared on the scene, and picture postcards were soon to follow. The image of a seaside town, country idyll, or saucy cartoon on one side, and space to write a brief message on the other.  The default position was ‘Weather lovely.  Wish you were here’.  A friend of mine, when in jocular mood, would scribble ‘Weather here.  Wish you were lovely’. So, are you lovely?
Stuart, in his recent online sermon made mention of the early morning experience of looking in the mirror.  Maybe not a lovely sight.  Sometimes it’s a good thing to possess a sense of humour.  Especially when looking in a mirror.
It seems that some folk are obsessed by a desire to look lovely.  I take that to mean beautiful.  It’s a sad reflection on the values of society that there needs to be a Bill before Parliament the aim of which is to ban the offering of Botox or cosmetic fillers to under 18s.  Perhaps we need to promote the age-old saying that ‘Beauty is only skin deep’.
Better still share the message found in 1 Peter;  ‘Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, rather it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.’
How about this for a message on a postcard; ‘Weather’ you feel it or not, you are lovely in God’s eyes!
Our Prayer:
Gracious God,
Yes, I know that there’s more to
us than meets the eye,
but sometimes I need help to
see beyond outward appearances.
Remind me that you see us all as your creations,
valued and loved.
Amen

 

11th November  – Rev Paul Bettison 

“Hello, I must be going”.  The title of both a biography of Groucho, one of the comedy quartet ‘The Marx Brothers’, and one of their comic songs.  No sooner had he arrived than he prepares to leave.  I don’t know the context, but it’s clear that he doesn’t want to hang around.  Maybe the situation was too uncomfortable or distressing, who knows?
I know well the feeling.  Having had, over the years, the privilege of leading many Remembrance Day Services, I know how poignant and painful those services can be.  Sometimes, hearing read out the names of ‘the fallen’, often members of every family in a village, I have felt like running away.  Likewise, the haunting sound of the lone bugler playing the Last Post, marking the beginning of the Two Minutes Silence, followed by Reveille can be almost too painful to bear.  “Hello, I must be going”
But stay we must as we remember all those whose lives have been lost or forever diminished by acts of war.  Yet, important though it is, remembering is not enough.  Only by seeking peace with justice, supporting all people affected by the ravages of war, and staying with those who suffer will God’s Kingdom come on earth as in heaven.
Our Prayer:
What shall we pray for those who died,
those on whose death our lives relied?
Silenced by war but not denied,
God give them peace
What shall we pray for those who mourn
friendships and love, their fruit unborn?
Though years have passed, hearts still are torn;
God give them peace.
What shall we pray for those who live
Tied to the past they can’t forgive
Haunted by terrors they re-live?
God give them peace.
What shall we pray for those who know
Nothing of war, and cannot show
Grief or regret for friend or foe?
God give them peace
What shall we pray for those who fear
war, in some guise, may reappear
looking attractive and sincere?
God give them peace
God give us peace and, more than this
show us the path where justice is;
and let us never be remiss,
working for peace that lasts.
John L Bell and Carnwardric Parish Church (Glasgow) Worship Group© WGRG, Iona Comunity

 

13th November  – Rev Paul Bettison 

‘Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better’ –Hearing the phrase summons up in my mind a picture of the hapless, Frank Spencer, TV character of the 1970s, resplendent in gaberdine Macintosh and jaunty beret, eager to advance himself and become “better and better”.
The mantra, attributed to Frenchman Emile Coure, is used by advocates of auto-suggestion.  As I understand it, the idea is that, by repeating the phrase over and over again, we convince ourselves that it is true, and spurs us on to achieve better things. ‘Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better’. Was Frank? Am I?  Are we?
Much of society seems to have been fooled into thinking that humanity is progressing towards Utopia, engaged in a constant drive to achieve perfection; the perfect appearance, the perfect house, the perfect….  The ‘perfect’ has been seen to be in the future. However, the present pandemic and damaging of the natural world may have put paid to the idea that we are on a journey towards perfection.
Participants in a recent bible study were encouraged to reflect upon the perfection to be found in the Creation Stories in the Old Testament. ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good’. Struggling to make sense of their experience of hardship, suffering and dis-ease, the communities out of which the stories emerged, came to the conclusion that the problems lie in their departure from a right relationship with the God behind and within all of Creation. Note the difference?  Here there is a desire to regain what was lost, rather than attain something not yet known.
Food for thought?
Our Prayer;
Creator God,
help us to live gently upon the earth,
nurturing each hectare wisely,
cherishing each good gift gratefully,
re-using, recycling, and restoring faithfully,
deferring to the needs of others generously,
acting justly and loving kindly.
Amen
Jenny Dyer (adapted))

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