Posted on: 9th December 2019
“When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious.”
In 2009, a new tradition began in our household around Christmas. The day we put the tree up (there is still a lengthy and annual discussion around the right time to do this!), we watch ‘The Nativity.’ Partly because my wife was brought up in Coventry and has happy memories of the Cathedral. Partly because the true meaning of Christmas is summed up so beautifully. But mostly because Mr Poppy is hilarious. But it is the character of Gordon Shakespeare that I want to reflect on today.
Each year, the local newspaper prints a review of the nativity productions that take place. Every year, Mr Shakespeare looks for a new angle on the traditional story, a perspective that no one has before considered. In Nativity 1, he looks at Herod. This week our verse to consider is Matthew 2:16. If you were to read the full verse, the response to Herod’s fury was a tragedy to any family that had bore a child during that period. Traditions suggests this number could have been as many as 64,000 but the lower estimate would be between 8 to 20 innocent children murdered.
Herod was the King of the Jews, a title given by the Romans who gave him his power and authority. His desire to remain king led him to this act of brutality. Compare this to the words he spoke to the magi when they first arrived, in verse 8. “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” Herod was given the gift of welcoming the Son of God into the world, but he did not receive this gift well.
My challenge for you this year is to ask how you will respond to the coming of Jesus into the world. For some, Jesus is an unnecessary addition to a time for family, friends and celebration. For others, the message of Jesus challenges our way of living and leads to negative responses. And for others, Christmas is a time to celebrate the saviour of the world. Take time this year to consider your response of Jesus.
Posted on: 2nd December 2019
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
What do you look forward to the most at Christmas? I love talking to people about their traditions and habits. For some, they begin the season on November the 1st, the day after Halloween. The end of the celebration brings a 54-day anticipation of celebrating the ‘Light of the World’. For others, 25th November marks a month to go and is a legitimate mark for beginning to prepare. But the 1st December and the opening of the first advent calendar surely is the latest someone would choose to begin the anticipation.
In the gospel of Matthew, the writer begins by giving the build up to Jesus. He marks the significance of his birth to Mary, recording the genealogy from Abraham and from King David. This was a significant marker for those who were expecting the Messiah, because it fulfilled many of the prophecies that in the books of the prophets.
Three characters drew my attention this week as I read the ancestral list. Please take time this week to read Matthew 1, and let me know who stands out for you. For me, it was the mention of the female characters, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Uriah’s wife. I encourage you to have a look at the stories of these characters. For me, their stories speak of good coming from bad and God’s redemption of taking something broken and turning it in to something beautiful.
Whatever your tradition in the build up to Christmas, can I encourage you to consider the message of salvation and forgiveness that comes because Jesus came. He is the reason for the season.
Posted on: 18th November 2019
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”
“Those who read, succeed!” I would like to suggest that: “Those who listen to someone else read on audiobook can succeed too.” But I would go one step further and suggest that unless you do something with what you have read, you are reducing the amount of success you achieve.
In Matthew 7:24, Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house on the rock.” What you hear and what you read has the ability to shape and act as a foundation to build a successful life on.
In a book by the British Table Tennis Champion Matthew Syed, he tells the story of his rise to success in the sport. His PE teacher saw him play at the age of eight, and told him he was talented. This leads to a discussion about talent, gifts and training. Matthew was an exceptional player for his age, but he also had an older brother who had played against him in his garage, every night for a few years. Matthew had a desire to play Table Tennis, but he also had practiced more than anyone his own age had. His older brother and a table in the garage were the gifts he had to get ahead, but he had to put in the effort. The book is called ‘Bounce’.
St Paul, writing to the believers in Rome, reminded them of the responsibilities of their faith. He told them that the spiritual gifts they had been given are different, and also he reminded them that it is the grace of God that brings them their gifts. Spiritual gifts are given for a reason, for the good of others. Paul lets them know that they were all part of a body and they had a responsibility to build others up. The challenge for the early believers is the same for us now.
Take time this week to consider the abilities you have developed, that you may have not used for a long time. Is it time for you to go back to these and use them again? The Holy Spirit gives gifts too, for us to use for the good of others. My prayer is that you will take time this week to connect with God and ask him to help you use your gifts to help others.
Posted on: 7th October 2019
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”
Whenever I watch a programme that I have recorded on a Sunday evening, my first few minutes of watching is the tail end of a previous show. I see a person with a family heirloom, listening to a professional describing the period of history their item is from. I can see past their fake interest. Just like me, all they want to know is, “What’s it worth?”
During this week we are considering the value we place on others. In 1 John 3:1, we read that God has called us his children. Children and heirs. That is valuable. This implies that we are richly blessed. In Ephesians 1, Paul writes to the church, telling them that they have already received, “Every spiritual blessing through Christ Jesus.” We too are heirs of those spiritual blessings as God’s children.
Jesus tells a story in Matthew 13:44. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
My challenge for us all this week is to consider that there is treasure in everyone we meet. When we spend time talking to others we realise this treasure and are able to help others find their worth. But this process takes time and may cost us. Are you prepared to pay the price to help someone else know what they are worth?
Posted on: 30th September 2019
“Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man.”
The theme tune for an old film went like this, “If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call?”
This week we are considering inspiring to the full. An inspiring person has the ability to draw people to themselves. People are drawn to inspiring people. Being around someone who is inspiring changes you. As we navigate our way through this life we will meet people who have a passion and enthusiasm for their field of expertise. The challenge for all of us is, what is our field?
In the Old Testament, we read of many inspirational characters. One of these is Belteshazzar. He was a young man, taken from his home land because he was smart and strong. He was given the opportunity to become a great leader in his own ability, but at every moment he did something inspiring, he always gave the glory to God. His inspirational ability was to interpret dreams; a skill that helped save both his life and others on a number of occasions.
In Matthew 4, we read about how Jesus inspired those around him. If you were to ask, “What was Jesus’ message?”, you would find it in Matthew 4:23. Everywhere he went from that point on, crowds followed him. He was able to do great signs and inspire many to change their lives.
But there was somewhere where Jesus was not inspiring. A place where he was not recognised for who he was, but who he used to be. That place was his home town, Nazareth. How sad is it that we read in Matthew 13:58, “Jesus did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” The people that had seen Jesus while he was developing as a man could not recognise him as who he had become.
This week, I challenge you to find those people in your life who have inspired you, or who continue to inspire you, and tell them. If there are people you know who inspire others, but you just think of them as how they used to be, ask for forgiveness and see the best in them today.
Posted on: 3rd June 2019
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
What does that mean? What is God’s kingdom? What would it look like for us at St Wilfrid’s if God’s kingdom and will was done on earth as it is in heaven?
In Matthew 6:25, Jesus tells his hearers, “Do not worry.” I believe that the message of the kingdom of God is the same today. Do not worry. He tells them not to worry about their food, clothes or length of life. He doesn’t just tell them not to worry, he tells them what to do instead… “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”
There are some things in this world I just don’t get. Like sand art. Artists spend hours making elaborate sculptures. I’ve even seen the last supper depicted in sand. Then what happens? A few waves later…gone. We do our best at our house to keep tidy. What happens? Children! As time goes by, things change.
What if there was something that you could build that would last forever? In Matthew 6:19-20, Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”
The challenge for myself (and you if you dare) this week is to consider what I treasure the most. Do my treasures match the Lord’s Prayer? Do the things I treasure cause worry? Will my treasure last forever?
If you are experiencing periods of worry in your life at the moment, my prayer is that God will reveal to you those things that are of His kingdom, things that will last, that will bring you His lasting peace.
Posted on: 18th March 2019
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were hurting and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
A phrase used to challenge us to improve our lives and our work is, “If you always do what you’ve always done…” I will leave you to fill the rest in for yourself.
As we consider Jesus again this week, let us consider what he always did, wherever he went. In Matthew 4:23 we read that, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” In Matthew 9:35, we read that, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.”
There seems to be a pattern in Jesus’ behaviour. I would like to suggest that Jesus always did what he always did, and he always got the same reaction. Crowds followed him. The religious leaders hated him even more. I love the quote that Mother Teresa had on her wall. Part of it reads, “Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough: Give your best anyway.”
This week, my challenge for you is to consider all the good that you do, that strengthens your soul or makes a positive difference to others, and keep doing it.
My prayer for us all is that we will have the strength and motivation to meet the needs of those we can, just as Jesus did to the hurting and helpless. You may not have a gift of healing, but whatever gifts you have, consider how you can use them to be compassionate.
Posted on: 4th March 2019
“Bear with each other, forgive each other, as the Lord has forgiven you.”
During this half term we are considering how we can ‘Love like Jesus’. From reading the gospels, I think it is really clear what Jesus was about. Jesus was love. Sometimes this love was an obvious demonstration. In Matthew 4:23, after Jesus had returned from his testing in the wilderness and called the first disciples, he went throughout Galilee and preached, proclaimed good news and healed all who were sick. And people followed him.
This week we are considering how Jesus is forgiveness. The ultimate display of this is his sacrifice on the cross, for the forgiveness of all. In Colossians 3:13 it says we are to “bear with each other, forgive each other, as the Lord has forgiven you.”
It is a sacrifice to forgive. Forgiveness requires us offering something to someone who has wronged us, that they don’t deserve. So why does Jesus call us to forgive? We find the answer in Matthew 6:14.
In his book ‘Everybody always’, Bob Goff describes a person who he meets who is, “pure evil.” Bob gets the opportunity to meet with this man after his arrest for all the vile things he had done. During this encounter, the prisoner asked Bob to forgive him. Bob describes this as one of the hardest decisions he had ever made. This man had hurt someone Bob loved. If you are looking for an inspirational and motivational book to read, I cannot recommend this book highly enough, along with Bob Goff’s first book, ‘Love does’.
This week starts the period of lent. What are you going to sacrifice over the next 40 days? What is the reason behind your sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice was for the forgiveness of sins.
My prayer is that lent is a season of reflection, sacrifice and forgiveness in your life.
Posted on: 4th February 2019
“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted”
Before our current students and many staff were born, there was a film released called ‘Brewster’s Millions’, starring Richard Pryor and John Candy. The storyline is that Brewster’s long lost relative (who he had never met) died and left him all his money, amounting to over $300,000,000. The condition was that he had to lose $30,000,000 in 30 days to be able to claim the rest. There were rules – he could not give it away or tell anyone about it. In order to gain the full inheritance he had to lose. Brewster loved to lose.
Jesus’ teaching often sounded contradictory too. He taught, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first” (Matthew 20:16). He said, “If anyone wants to be great in the kingdom he must become the servant of all” (Matthew 20:26). He also taught, “If anyone loses their life for my sake, will find it” (Matthew 16:25). Jesus was the ultimate example, giving his life so that we can live.
In Luke 14, Jesus was at a Pharisees house. The Pharisees were a religious group that really struggled with the way Jesus seemed to contradict their teachings and rules. The Pharisees kept the Sabbath day holy; Jesus healed on the Sabbath. The Pharisees kept away from tax collectors and sinners; Jesus came to heal the sick and the lost.
Jesus talked in parables. There was once a wedding feast. When the guest sat down for the meal, the host asked one of the guests who had sat in the seat of honour to move for another guest. Imagine having to take the walk of shame from a position of honour to a lower place. Alternatively, imagine the feeling if the host took you from a low position and gave you a seat of honour.
We all face situations which can challenge our thinking. This week, as we think about loving to lose, we can have a fresh realisation that, as Paul says in Romans 8:28, “…that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Posted on: 9th January 2019
“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.”
What would you do if praying made a difference?
We have been meeting weekly in the Chapel to pray, every Tuesday. During this time, we have prayed for the school, for events, for those connected to the school, that there would be a sense of the presence of God in everything we do. Some of our prayers have been for loved ones who are sick. Many of these prayers have been answered. We continue to pray for people and situations that bring discomfort and pain and you are always welcome to come along.
Paul prayed. When you read the letters, he wrote to the churches that were growing after the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Ephesians 3, Paul is writing to the group of believers in Ephesus. Paul had visited this city on his travels and lots of people had believed in Jesus and were choosing to live differently. The difference made by the message of Jesus had caused some to riot and oppose Paul and his companions. The message of Jesus had been accepted by some but was opposed to the way of life of others.
Jesus prayed. Throughout the gospels, Jesus went to be alone with God to pray. He taught his disciples how to pray. In Matthew 18, Jesus promises that when we gather in his name, he will be with us. He also promised that whatever we agree on in his name, will be given. What an amazing promise.
What would you do if praying made a difference? Prayer and meditation is a strong part of all major faiths. It is an opportunity to deepen our beliefs and faith. It can strengthen our inner beings and can make differences in our lives. Whatever your resolutions for the New Year, consider prayer. What if this was the year that you began to ‘Love to Pray’.