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Be still for the presence of the Lord

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I have loved Paul’s letter to the Ephesians over the past few weeks.

This letter although written for new Christians converts in Ephesus, is so relevant for us today. The reading today talks of using our time wisely, not wasting it. It advises that we  make sure we are spending it doing a God would have us do.

So busyness for busyness sake is out.

We mustn’t feel that we HAVE to be doing all the time, because in always DOING ,how are we to discern how God have us spend our time.

In church this morning we sand “Be still for the presence of the Lord”. The Lord wishes us to allow ourselves to be still, to rest in his presence, to hear him, be at one with him.

He gives us permission to” NOT BE BUSY” but WE have to give ourselves that permission.

Ephesians 5,15-20  (Message Bible)

Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.

Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!
So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.

Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.

PEACE BE WITH YOU – WHAT DID JESUS MEAN?

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Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”   Luke 24;36

Peace be with you but what did Jesus mean when he said this.

On Tuesday I went for a sermon prep walk, down to the coast guards cottages at Langton Herring on the Fleet in Dorset. It  was  so peaceful with an air of tranquility. It was so so peaceful, I cant really explain how I felt.Suddenly something spooked the birds and they started tweeting. In a field nearby a pheasant was calling and I suddenly became aware of the sound my feet were making as I walked along the gravel path  but this didn’t transcend the peace and tranquility. It was if the noises were God drawing my attention to the surroundings, say “hello, take a look, enjoy ,be inspired by the beautiful world that surrounds you”
I felt the sun on my face and just could’t stop but think what a beautiful part of the world, and how fortunate I am that God has placed me here.

His gift to me.

But it got me thinking ,what did Jesus mean. Was it just a greeting, Shalom, to his friends, is traveling companions or was it something deeper.

“Peace be with you” Those words are profound – through his gift of peace Jesus is healing their memories. They had vivid memories of their time with him, as fellow travelers on the road, but not all of their memories were good. There was the Garden of Gethsemane of course, the memory of how they had deserted Jesus, leaving him to face his trial and execution alone. And uppermost in Peter’s memory would have been the scene outside the high priest’s house when he had denied any knowledge of Jesus, and had sworn and cursed at the mention of his name. A memory that would have cut him to the quick, sickening him every time he thought about it, perhaps making him wonder whether he could go on living with himself. The sort of memory that only God’s forgiveness can heal.

And now the risen Jesus is with them, offering not anger at their betrayal, desertion and denial, but peace, healing and a new beginning. Their memories can’t be forgotten or wiped out; we know that in our own lives – yet they can be taken up, healed, and held in God’s peace. The power that bad memories have to blight and diminish lives is replaced by a greater power; the power of God’s forgiveness, won through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. That power, that peace, set them free and it can do the same for us today.

Then I thought about  Philippians 4:7 where we have a wonderful promise: “The peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It is important to note the context of this promise, because that’s where we find the condition: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” God’s peace is promised to guard those who pray—with thanksgiving—about everything. This peace will transcend our ability to understand it.

The believer who places his or her full confidence in a loving God and is thankful in every circumstance will possess a
supernatural peace. An inner calm will dominate the heart. The faithful believer will know peace—his heart and mind are “guarded” by it—despite the tempest raging without. No one, especially those outside of Christ, will be able to fathom that peace. To most, it will remain a mystery how someone can be so serene in the midst of turmoil.

The peace that comes from being in a right relationship with God is not the peace of this world. The world’s peace depends on having favorable circumstances: if things are going well, then we feel peaceful; when things go awry, the peace quickly dissipates. Jesus made the distinction between His peace and the world’s vacillating peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27).

God’s supernatural peace surpasses natural understanding.

God’s supernatural peace is beyond our understanding.

God’s supernatural peace is personal to us all.

God’s supernatural peace is at the heart of out relationship with him.

God’s supernatural peace is for us all

Amen

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The Fleet, Weymouth ,Dorset

Judas

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I have sinned; I have brought an innocent man to death

Words spoken by the repentant Judas but not often heard

This is not easy to write about. Traditionally Judas is seen as the figure of evil,the betrayer who put Jesus on the cross. However without this betrayal the Messiah could not have fulfilled the scriptures foretelling of a trial in rejection by his people. Judas was instrumental in bringing about the peoples ultimate salvation from Rome only he did not comprehend the enormity of his actions at the time. The angry return of the money only solidified his guilt and his decision to commit suicide was a last, desperate human effort to allay his shame. By providing the mechanism by which the Resurrection could be fulfilled, some suggested Judas became the first martyr for the church.

Judas was handpicked by Jesus to be a disciple empowered to preach the gospel. Given authority to heal the sick,to cast out devils however he had weaknesses as did the other disciples. He was not among the most intimate of the group as Peter James and John. Judas might have felt one reason for this was because he was an outsider and not from Galilee, coming from Kerioth in the district of Jerusalem. On this point I asked you to consider whether Jesus may have specifically chosen an outsider that’s the one whom he knew would betray him in order that they would be no recriminations against the remaining 11 disciples and their families as they all came from Galilee.

Scripture tells us that Judas was a man of financial ability,, trusted to keep the common purse even though Matthew, the tax collector would have been better qualified.Judas was a man persuasive reasoning reflected by a scene in the home of Mary of Bethany. Mary had anointed Jesus with a rich appointment. Judas saw this act of love as a waste of precious money and should be sold and the money given to the poor. He was above suspicion by the other disciples after the final hours of his own life. At the Last Supper Jesus is that in the place of honour.. Maybe climbed near the Lord on the left so they could talk quietly. The composite picture of Judas as an ordained apostle of financial competence, with persuasive verbal abilities and the persona to command personal respect has compelled some to have compassion for him. Judas has been portrayed as almost virtuous, presented as a merely misguided patriot who actually love the Jesus and only hung himself because his scheme to force Christ into political leadership against Rome did not materialise.

It has been suggested that Judas used his reason in a clear sighted and call manner to discern that the Ministry of Christ was over I’m Judas saw a head on collision with the Roman authorities so he simply arrange to have the Lord arrested with the expectation that Christ would be out of harms way. Or was Judas so caught up in the hype of being one of the chosen is one, and by bringing about a confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees, Jesus would be provoked becoming the leader of a politically motivated uprising against Roman occupation. Judas would in turn become one of the select few and therefore become the master of a very large common purse. But when Jesus didn’t fight back and the Romans took control of Jesus judas lost his resolve. The 30 pieces of silver he received was only a small amount which would not having surety safety following the betrayal, nor would it has provided him with a lifestyle free from guilt. Is this an indication that his motive was was financial? Probably not as he wanted to return it but then what was his motive for the returning of the money was it to distancing from the event. We know that he knows he made the wrong choice and regretted it taking his own life. The second century Greek teacher Origon suggests that as soon as Judas fully realised just what he had done he rushed to commit suicide in order to meet the Lord in Hades replace of all the dead and there he intended to break the Lord’s forgiveness.

One final observation: didn’t the Apostle Peter also betray the Lord by his denials? So, what’s the difference? Sure, Peter wept in bitter remorse for his betrayal, but Judas too confessed, “I have betrayed innocent blood” and gave back the thirty pieces of silver. So what’s the difference?

The difference is in the way that Peter and Judas see the crucified Lord. Peter had confidence in the mercy of Christ, and Judas did not! Judas’ greatest sin was not in having betrayed Christ, but in having doubted his mercy.

And so, here is what the story of our brother Judas should move us to do: to surrender ourselves to the one who freely forgives, to throw ourselves likewise into the outstretched arms of the Crucified One.

He sought out Peter after his denial to give him forgiveness, so who knows how he might have sought out Judas at some point in his way to Calvary! When Jesus prays from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34), he certainly does not exclude Judas from those for whom he prays.

Horrible was the nature of my sins,

but boundless mercy stretches out its arms

to any man who comes in search of it.

This is what Christ’s Passover can do for each and every one of us.

Good Friday

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The day is near, the time has come

Bread is broken, Wine is drunk
The deal is done,

Fate has been sealed
Sealed with a kiss, the sign of love, no less
How times have changed, how people change
From cries of love, to cries of hate
The awaited one came, they couldn’t see
He healed, taught love but, still they did not see
Now time has passed, they’ve had their chance,
they chose their path.
Hand are washed, backs are turned
The cross stands high, one of three, for all to see
Bang, bang, bang,
Nails,
one, two and three
The crown of thorns, to crown a king
Spills blood for sins He came to bear
The sky, it darkens
Father
Forgive , forgive, forgive
It’s over
BUT NOT THE END

by  Margaret  Preuss-Higham

Count your blessings

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When the month of April is mentioned, the word that usually follows very quickly is “ showers” . April showers reminds me of the song made famous by Al Jolson.

It goes like this;

“Life is not a highway strewn with flowers, still it holds a goodly share of bliss.
When the sun gives way to April showers, here is the point you should never miss
Though April showers may come your way, they bring the flowers that bloom in May
So if it’s raining, have no regrets, because it isn’t raining rain, you know(It’s raining violets)
And where you see clouds upon the hills, you soon will see crowds of daffodils.
So keep on looking for a blue bird, and listening for his song, whenever April showers come along”
lyrics by B. G. De Sylva.

Al Jolson recorded ‘April Showers’ in the autumn of 1921 and a critic said that he sang it with faith to move mountains and audiences. The lyrics remind us that even “April showers may come” our way,” they bring the flowers that bloom in May”. Of course, the rain is synonymous with bad things, and troubled times and ‘the mayflowers’ with good things and brighter future. We are told to “keep on looking for the Bluebird’ while listening for his song”, which again is urging us to look for the good and not to dwell on the bad things in life.

When I listen to these words, for me the “bluebird “ represents God, the Daffodils, the flowers that bloom in May and the violets, which are growing in the church yard, are a few of the many blessings God showers on us. God showers us with so many blessings , that at difficult times it is hard to bring them to mind.

This year, the beginning of April coincides with the end of Lent, when the Church journeys with Christ to the Cross during Passion tide. On Easter Sunday Christians all over the world celebrate the Resurrection of the Risen Christ. It is a time also to remember our baptism. Christ’s death and Resurrection brings hope to all, in his death he bought to us reconciliation with God, a great blessing.

I once heard an interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, when he was asked if he considered himself to be an optimist. His reply was “I consider myself a prisoner of hope, yes, I am a prisoner of hope” Without hope, where would we be ?

So the next time you are caught in an ‘April’ shower or any rain shower, instead of worrying about getting wet, smile and think of Gene Kelly singing and dancing in the rain and count your many blessings.

CARRY YOUR CROSS AND FOLLOW ME.

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Jesus call us to take up our cross.

MARK 8.34-38 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel will save it.  For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?  Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Today we are challenged by Jesus to take up our Cross. We carry the Cross, we received at our baptism. However, just because we wear it and carry it doesn’t mean to say that live our life any differently from those who don’t wear the Cross. We have to chose to live by the cross,to follow Christ,listen to his teachings and carry them out.To carry the Cross will not be a walk in the park , it is not to been viewed as the  road to wealth and ease. It will be a life of self denial and sacrifice, a walk towards the riches of a deeper relationship with God.

I found this song by Scott Krippayne which I share below;

Cross of Christ

I will lay down the burdens I’ve spent my life bearing
And confess I’m a sinner for whom Jesus died
I will live every moment in the light of His mercy
And I won’t take for granted His loving sacrifice

I will carry the cross of Christ, hold to the hope I’m given
Reach out to those in need and show them love, yeah, yeah
Yeah, with all of my soul and strength, as long as my heart is beating
I’ll follow the one who laid down His life for mine
And carry the cross of Christ

I will make it my mission to serve those around me
To care for the broken and pray for the lost
I will walk in the footsteps of my Lord and my Savior
And I’ll live out the gospel no matter what the cost

I will carry the cross of Christ, hold to the hope I’m given
Reach out to those in need and show them love, show them love
Yeah, with all of my soul and strength, as long as my heart is beating
I’ll follow the one who laid down His life for mine
And carry the cross of Christ

And I will not lay it down ’til I lay it at His feet
No, I will not lay it down ’til I touch eternity, yeah

I will carry the cross of Christ, hold to the hope I’m given
Reach out to those in need and show them love, show them love
Yeah, with all of my soul and strength, as long as my heart is beating
I’ll follow the one who laid down His life for mine
And carry the cross of Christ

I will carry the cross of Christ, hold to the hope I’m given
Reach out to those in need and show them love, show them love
Yeah, with all of my soul and strength, as long as my heart is beating
I’ll follow the one who laid down His life for mine
And carry the cross of Christ

IS GOD DRIVING YOU THROUGH YOUR LIFE?

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Is God in your driving seat?

Last week we had Jesus being tempted/tested by Satan. Satan appears again this week, but in the person of Peter who seeks to prevent Jesus from doing what he must do.
Why does Peter do this? He has not “set his mind on” the things of God, but on human things. Jesus’ harsh critique of Peter involves more than just the few words spoken on this occasion. Jesus say to Peter” Peter get out of my way! Satan ,get lost! you have know idea how God works.Even after the clear words from Jesus, Peter still hasn’t got the proper picture. He needs an “attitude adjustment”. He is seeing with “human eyes” rather than through the will and eyes of God. He tells Jesus what is and what is not going to happen — typical of first-born children? He wants to be a leader, not a follower. Are we ever guilty of having such attitudes?

Jesus then proceeds to tell those around him the following him how things will be.
“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead.
You are not in the driving seat, I am.”

Something that is not always easy to let somebody else be in the driving seat. As Christians we must accept that God is in the driving seat, he has our route planned from the very beginning. I take you back to the words we heard a couple of weeks ago “ this is my son ,listen to him”

God is in the driving seat.

Being a follower of Christ means making sacrifices, the disciples left their families, not knowing where they were going or what they would end up doing. Following the teachings of Christ doesn’t make for an easy life,it is not a paved road to wealth and an easy life.It involves hard work, persecution,deprivation and deep suffering.
Peter saw only parts of the picture and we must be careful not to make the same mistake.

As Satan tempted Jesus, life brings us many temptations, the temptation to turn away in time of difficulties when the cross gets to heavy to carry. At times it is so hard to love your neighbour. The message says ‘we must not run from suffering’ our suffering and the suffering of others. Jesus calls us to embrace suffering. He says follow me and I will show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to save yourself your true self. Jesus wants us to choose to follow him rather than lead a life of sin and self-satisfaction. He wants us to stop trying to control our own destiny let him direct us as I said before he is in the driving seat and he knows better than we do what real life is about he also submission, He asked us only to lose our self-centred determination to be in charge.

Jesus addresses the crowds saying “whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up the cross and follow me”. We wear the cross of Christ crucified from our baptism, we carry his cross and as I said last week we cannot walk away from this cross it is with us always whether we remain faithful.
Jesus call us to self-denial so that we may continue to evolve spiritually as God intended. By learning to lives together unselfishly in this life, we may be preparing ourselves for the next great evolutionary leap forward, when individuals willingly sacrifice all so that we may live together in love. If you had begun to imitate Christ, you are ready for the next step in the great adventure of life the God puts before us here for.
We have a duty, we are trustees not of the church but of the christian faith. we are responsible for the continuing faith in this place and in the country, so no pressure. When reading compline at Abbotsbury I was reminded of the benedictine monks who did the same nearly a thousand years ago. Will there be a christian community here in a thousand years time.? if we do as jesus directs and we continue to carry his cross, listen to God and do his bidding and above all let him, God, be in the driving seat.

all are from dust and to dust all return

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Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens, not forgetting schnitzel with noodles, words from the song my favourite things as sung by Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. What is this song have to do with lent. For many people, lent means giving up that favourite something: Your favourite glass of wine, favourite chocolate bar, maybe maybe even go one step further and give up smoking a good. abstaining from some of these things may improve your health, and Lent provides a framework in which you can learn to control your impulses. But as well as these negative resolutions, there’s been a move over the last few years to make more positive resolutions during Lent. Instead of giving up or cutting down take positive action. Think you’re going to start doing for them.

On Sunday we had the reading of the Transfiguration where a voice from heaven said about Jesus “this is my son, who love, listen to him” when I spoke about giving time for reflection, for prayer, to listening to God. So how about starting to learn to pray better. We need to pray that God will give us strength to keep our Lenten discipline; but praying doesn’t come easily.

In Matthew 6.v5-6 Jesus says
“When you pray, you mustn’t be like the play actors. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on street corners, So that people will notice them. I’m telling you the truth: they have received very bored in full. No: when you pray, go into your own room, shut the door, and praise your Father who is there in secret. And your father, who sees in secret, will repay you”

Prayer is meant to be an intimate process an intimate time between you and God, it is about our own yours and mine ,our individual relationship with God, so it must be free from distractions and directed 100% at God and not done to impress others. If possible we should find a quiet place and have a quiet time with God is once-a-day. But that is not always easy, if you work at it it is possible to find quiet moments and places, that moment might not always be in church, the parent it might be when children are in bed when we are walking.

Prayer is not easy especially without about privacy I believe it was Rowan Williams who says even he has time when he finds it hard to pray so maybe this Lent will be a good time start refocus on prayer and seek out Times of absolute quiet perhaps moving to a period of meditation creating a deeper inner stillness so that we can be alone with God. As I said on Sunday,maybe God has something he wishes you do for your church, an idea for outreach into the community.

Let’s just go back to Matthew and the ending of v6 “and your father,who sees in secret,will repay you.not that prayer is done for reward and Jesus doesn’t say what kind of reward we should expect. That,too, is part of the point. Simply knowing God better is reward enough; but there may be other things as well.What is clear is that he is inviting his followers to a life in which inside and out match perfectly because both our focused on the God who sees in secret.

Amen.