Thought for the Day 3rd Aug – 14th Aug

3rd August 2020  – Revd Paul Bettison 

We’ve been reminded more times than we’ve sung ‘And can it be’ that the New Normal for Churches will be quite different from the Old Normal.  How true.  We will learn how to let go of some things that over the years have become, as it were, part of the furniture. Much as in the same way, at some point in the nineteen fifties, the starting handle, once an essential item in the motorists’ toolkit, was consigned to the scrap heap.
During lock-down, many drawers and cupboards, garages and lofts, for long left undisturbed, have undergone a clear-out.  The more ruthless among us (and I’m the first to confess that I’m not included in their number) have used the maxim ‘If it hasn’t been used for, say, twelve months then it’s got to go’.
And yet as we move into the New Normal we will need to pay heed to a word of caution.  As long ago as 1512  German poet Thomas Murner, warned ’Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater’.  And the well-worn saying, now embedded in our vocabulary, first appeared in the poem bearing the title ‘Appeal to Fools’!
I’m reminded that Jesus, when asked, urged folk to pare back to basics the requirements of a body of Law, as handed down and expanded in the process, saying  ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  And love your neighbour as yourself.’ ‘On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets’.  The Law was not to be discarded but focussed on what was at the very heart of it’s purpose.
So, as we emerge from the old and enter the new we need to seek the gift of discernment in identifying what it is that we need to keep in order to best fulfil our calling and mission.  That is, we need the help of God’s Spirit in order to keep our eye on the baby.
Our Prayer:
Gracious God,
In the stillness I think back to how things were before all this disruption began.
I remember some of the things that were part and parcel of life for the chapel community of which I’m part,
and now, I wonder what things are going to be like in the future.
There are decisions that, along with others in the church family, I’ll have to make, what to cherish and hold on to, and what needs to be let go.
In all this, help me to be open to the guidance of your Spirit so that I, and the Church to which I belong, may usher in, and welcome, your Kingdom in this time and place.
Amen
 

5th August – Rev Paul Bettison 

The day on which I write this ‘Thought’ has been a good news day.  There have been reports of encouraging results from trials of vaccines designed to combat the Covid 19 virus.  There have been reports of treatments that may drastically reduce the effects of the virus and shorten recovery times.
But all this pales into insignificance when compared with a revelation contained in an article that I read in the newspaper.  When scanning the pages, my eyes inadvertently drifted towards a feature entitled ‘Style Clinic’ – not generally a topic that arouses my interest.  But here was good news indeed.  I quote; ‘Topshop has styling tips online to suggest outfits to work with face coverings’.  The information was reproduced in answer to a reader’s request for advice as to how to feel less self-conscious when wearing a cloth face mask in public.  Now this really is what we’ve been crying out for.  And there’s more. Practical tips follow.  ‘Try matching leopard print ones to a leopard dress’.  ‘Integrating your face covering into your look will mean you feel less self-conscious’.  Am I missing something?  Maybe, in order to feel less self-conscious when leading worship, I’ll search out a face covering in the appropriate liturgical colour.
So, what would be good news for you today?  If you struggle to identify what that might be, you could do no better than turn to the opening words of St Mark’s Gospel; ‘The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’.  Now we’re talking.
Our Prayer:
Gracious God,
May today be for me a good news day.
A day when I hear of acts of loving kindness, humanitarian policies, and discoveries that will enrich lives.
May today be for me a good news day.
A day when I sense your presence around me and within.
May today be for me a good news day.
A day when I see signs of your kingdom here as in heaven.
Amen
 

7th August  – Sue Ellis 

Are you a ‘cat’ or a ‘dog’ person – maybe neither? We would say we are dog people although it is a long time since we actually had a dog. When we go on walks the experience is always enhanced by the chance to make a fuss of someone else’s dog; in fact my husband still carries little dog biscuits in his pocket for furry friends.
But there is a lovely black cat that has entered into our garden and our lives. He belongs to a neighbour (although he clearly thinks our garden belongs to him.) She normally works away in the week and since her sons have mostly left home, we had been appointed as substitutes for feeding and affection. He is out all night and then- he just sits and mews at our door in the morning. Then once he has attention, sets off for his own front door, turning round several times to check you are following to let him in and feed him . So he has been delighted by lockdown and his people being forced to be at home; and we as neighbours have been snubbed as no longer of use- or so we thought….
But this week his mistress has gone away, leaving the sons at home and we discover by cat language and behaviour that we are actually still second choice – he is back mewing and rubbing legs for affection even though the lads are there.
So should we settle for being second best? Some say not, but in the bible there are instances of stories about people who were second choice – the most famous being King David the famous second king of Israel.
‘David was, most of the time, the second or the last choice: He was the second king of Israel (1 Samuel 16:1); the second husband of Abigail (1 Samuel 25); the last option to be anointed among his brothers, if not the forgotten one (1 Samuel 16:10-13). And the last option to, unthinkably, defeat Goliath.
We remember David. A lot of books were written about him. His psalms are sung in churches. His stories are being preached countless times; David’s heart was set on God, his mind on Him. Did he complain because he was the second king? No. Was he mad because he was almost forgotten when the prophet came? No. Was he intimidated because no one trusted his skills to fight Goliath? Not even.
Can we be like David, retaining confidence that even if we are not the first choice, we will still give our best to God? ‘
(Information about David adapted from an article by Ana under ‘Coffee cup adventures’ on the internet)
And so it is for us – we might have thought a cat our second choice, but what a special relationship with our friendly black cat where both parties get something back. He gets fed; and we get warmth and affection, and satisfaction in meeting the needs of another. (And yes, we know he is a cat and so his choice may turn again).
Reflection:
Loving God,
Thank you that before we loved you, you loved us first.
Thank you for testing us in our choices about first and second.
Show us that there are hidden depths to explore in choices and your love.
Amen

 

10th August  – Rev Paul Bettison 

Church Weddings have been, until recently, a no no.  Even now, with numbers of guests being restricted to thirty, many couples wishing to be married in Church have decided to postpone the ceremonies.  That has meant that one of the most familiar passages of scripture – One Corinthians Chapter 13 – has had few airings.  St Paul’s ode to love.  You remember it; ‘Love is patient and kind, not jealous or boastful…’. I guess that, when St Paul wrote to the members of the church community in Corinth, weddings were far from his mind.  They were a troublesome bunch.  From reading this and other letters that St Paul wrote to them, it seems that the motto of many of its members could have been “I used to be conceited, but I’m perfect now” or perhaps even “I’m not often wrong, but I’m right this time”.  Everything that St Paul says that love is, they are not.
In a sense, St Paul was saying that if, rather than behaving as they were, they showed love to each other, then they would be a reflection of God’s love in and for the world.  Love, he seems to say, is an attitude, a way of being, that shows itself in action, in acts of loving kindness and selflessness.  Unlike much else, this love, he says, endures.  Endures for ever.  And therein lies a paradox. For the one thing that lasts for ever is the love that is given away!
Our Prayer:
Gracious God,
Your love flows
like a stream,
into all of creation.
Your love
encircles this world,
displaying your faithfulness.
Your love
is patient and kind,
bringing wholeness and true peace.
As all things pass
and fade away,
love remains eternally.
I Thank you, Lord of Love,
and ask that you to help me
to reflect your love in the church
and in the world.
Amen
                                                    (John Birch, adapted)

 

 12th August  – Rev Paul Bettison 

The more mature of us will recall the late Tommy Cooper saying “I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure”.  A variant on his catch phrase is “I used to be uncertain, but now I’m not so sure”.
I thought, when reading a review of Richard Holloway’s latest book, ‘Stories we tell ourselves’, of another variation.  It runs like this; ‘I used to be certain, but now I’m not so sure’ The former Bishop of Edinburgh in the Scottish Episcopal Church is well known for his expressed loss not of faith, but of certainty.  The reviewer suggests that, in the book and elsewhere, the author acknowledges that he doesn’t know (about God) yet keeps on searching.  He goes on to quote a poem of Tennyson, ‘There is more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds’
(In Memoriam A. H. H. OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII: 96).
Now, from a former Bishop and his book to an Archbishop and his motto.  St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury at the turn of the eleventh century described theology as ‘faith seeking understanding’ (note ‘understanding’, not ‘knowledge’).  His faith had at its heart a love of God and a desire to understand what that means in and for life.  And that’s good enough for me.
In a world and church where certainty appears to be seen as both a strength and a virtue, I would want to say that certainty can close the door on discovery and, in a sense, render faith redundant.
Our Prayer:
Gracious God,
When my confidence is shaken
In beliefs I thought secure;
When my spirit in its sickness
seeks but cannot find a cure:
You are active in the tensions
Of a faith not yet mature.
You are love, help me to love you,
And keep on searching day by day.
May I feel my faith maturing
And follow Jesus, in his way.
Amen
                                            (Based on a hymn by Fred Pratt Green)

14th August – Rev Paul Bettison 

Gone are the days when, gazing into the sky over the Peak District, you could see British Airways 747s – Jumbo Jets. First, because of the coronavirus crunch, they were furloughed, now they are destined for the scrapyard.  However, in their place can be seen a new arrival.  The bearded vulture.  With wingspan of nine feet it is, apparently, quite a sight.  Only once before has one been seen in Britain.  Thought to hail from the Alps, it has chosen to spend its summer break amidst the peaks of Derbyshire.  Whilst it is regularly spotted above Ladybower reservoir, keep your eyes peeled because it may decide to venture North. Maybe to Birds Edge?!
Sometimes birds turn up in the most unexpected of places.
Come to think of it, Jesus turned up in the most unexpected of places too.  He shared meals with tax collectors, met with outcasts, and engaged in conversations with those of ‘ill repute’.  Elijah recognised God in a still small voice.  Jacob, whilst dreaming, as he slept, a stone for a pillow.
In our Thought for the Day, I invite you to join me as I reflect upon what is going on in the world, in our neighbourhood, and in our circle of family and friends, and try to catch a sight of God’s presence in it all.  Just like our visitor from the Alps, God can be spotted in the most unexpected of places.
Our Prayer:
Gracious God,
have I allowed you to pass me by
unseen, unnoticed,
without a word from me, or a thought;
that fleeting need
unacknowledged, unrecognised?
Lord, I ask you to give me your blessing
to pass on to those
whom I meet today.
To find in them
that little bit of you
that is in all of us.
Amen
                                                                          Val Smith in URC Handbook 2017

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