Fish on Friday: Living on the Edge

Every Friday, the wonderful Revd Helen Arnold (Lead Chaplain of Thames Valley Police) leads a short reflection on Teams for TVP Officers & staff. I get asked every so often to lead – this was my offering for yesterday…

I recently listened to a 3-part podcast from one of my favourite Christian speakers, Beth Moore, who is an American Bible teacher, writer, speaker. The podcast is called ‘On Edge’ which I felt was fitting for the times we are living in. However, it was into the second of the three podcasts when Beth mentioned about being with this particular audience, somewhere in New Hampshire in 2013. I had mistakenly thought this was a new podcast. Everything that she was speaking about at that time in 2013 was very relevant to today!

In the podcast, Beth was talking about different groups of people as well individuals who found themselves on the edge at various times and situations. One example was a group of people on the edge of moving into the a land that God had promised them. The other was about a woman who grabbed onto the hem of Jesus robe as he walked by her. Just for context!

What struck me about this and as I have thought about living on the edge more this week – is that a)people have often (throughout history as it turns out) found themselves living on the edge of something and b) if we are on the edge so much of the time – are we really ever on solid ground? How do we know?

Many people have found themselves living on the edge of something over the last year – as I also reflected on this in relation to the one year anniversary of lock down. The edge of sanity, breakdown, break up. The edge of health and illness, life and death. The edge of a job or relationship, financial security. The edge of decisions with potentially huge consequences both seen and unseen. We might even be on the edge of greatness, of break through, new opportunities. Edges everywhere you look!

We might wonder however we ended up on the edge of where we are as it seemed just to have happened. Edges are important though. At the end of the podcast, Beth Moore, talked about edges and hems are being necessary as without them everything falls apart. The hem on a garment keeps it from unravelling. Sometimes we are on the edge of something new to keep the rest of life from unravelling. We need an edge, it is the edge that can lead us to solid ground.

I heard this poem recently – I think it is fitting for those on the edge.

For Longing by John O’Donohue
Blessed be the longing that brought you here
And quickens your soul with wonder.
May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.
May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.
May the forms of your belonging—in love, creativity, and friendship—
Be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.
May the one you long for long for you.
May your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.
May a secret Providence guide your thought and nurture your feeling.
May your mind inhabit life with the sureness with which your body inhabits the
May your heart never be haunted by ghost-structures of old damage.
May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.
May you know the urgency with which God longs for you.

Candlemas: Faithfulness & Sacrifice

I’ve fallen off the wagon again so time to get back on it! I love the story of the Presentation of Christ in the temple – this richness, the tradition and the symbolism of the Jewish tradition. More striking is how Jesus comes to fulfil these things and as a baby at that! This would likely have been so beyond Mary & Joseph to even begin to comprehend. I find it still beyond comprehension! This story also talks about the faithfulness of God in the lives of Simeon and Anna in a real and loving way. Faithfulness beyond comprehension!


Presentation of Christ

Malachi 3:1-5
Luke 2:22-40

The readings over these Sundays have shown us the different Epiphany experiences of various people – the Wise Men, Eli & Samuel, Mary, Joseph and young Jesus, grown-up Jesus and John the Baptist, Mary and the disciples at the wedding at Cana, Jesus speaking publicly in the synagogue of Nazareth and this morning we are in the temple at the Presentation of Jesus as an infant.

On this outer edge of this season we see the Epiphany experiences of Mary and Joseph; Simeon and Anna which show us the goodness and faithfulness of God.

What does Epiphany mean? In the everyday it means to have ‘a moment of great or sudden revelation or realization.’ Those moments when something new blows through your mind – you see the world, people, a situation in a totally new way. Epiphany moments can cause a fundamental change in one’s life.

The Epiphany stories of the people we have met in our Bible readings are the stories of their revelations and realizations of God the Father and Jesus the Son. I wonder if Mary and Joseph realized who they were holding in their arms?

Today we come to the finale of the Christmas story as we re-join Joseph, Mary and Jesus in the early days of their family life. We also meet Simeon and Anna as they experience a meeting of God in the baby of Jesus as he is presented in the temple and to the world.

What I think is fascinating is that this story began a few hundred years before it actually took place. Malachi is the last prophet of the OT, hence his is the last book as well. At its closing there was roughly a 400-year gap when God was silent.

The opening verses of Malachi tell of the Lord’s messenger to be sent to prepare the way and then the Lod will suddenly come to his temple. This is what is happening in Luke – first with John the Baptist but also with the presentation of Jesus in the temple.

The story of Jesus beyond Christmas begins with the three typical Jewish rites – circumcision, redemption and purification. We will look at each one of them briefly. What is atypical is that Jesus is the infant that would ultimately fulfil the prophetic representation of each of these rituals as he grew up.

Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day of his young life – this has already happened as this was the first action of devout Jewish parents for a firstborn son. Circumcision is first commanded in Genesis by God. It would serve as a sign of the covenant (a promise) between God and Abraham. The rite of circumcision was God’s way of requiring the Jewish people to become physically different – by cutting off – because of their relationship to Him as the chosen people of God.

The New Testament also talks about circumcision, but this is of a spiritual nature; not a physical. Colossians 2:11 ‘In him (that being Jesus) you were also circumcised, in the putting off the sinful nature.’ We too, like the Jewish people, are to be different because of our relationship with Him.

We all have bits of ourselves – if we are honest – that could be cut off. Those things in our characters or personalities that are difficult or unpleasant, that make life harder than it needs to be. We also have areas of sin that need to be cut out – this is what Paul is talking about have cut off with the reference to circumcision. This is what Jesus came to do for those who believe in Him.

The second rite is the Rite of Redemption. There would have been a period of time between the circumcision and the presentation of Jesus. This is what is happening in the passage today – Jesus is now 6 weeks old.

The Rite of Redemption was a reminder to the Jewish people that ‘the Lord brought them out of Egypt with his mighty hand’ (Exodus 13). God had redeemed His people from their slavery in Egypt. Young Jewish parents would then present their firstborn son to God, symbolizing the act of giving him up to God by saying ‘He is Yours and we give him back to You.’ Then they would immediately redeem him or buy him back effectively.

In the New Testament – Jesus fulfils this very rite as he came to redeem us. Ephesians ‘in Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.’ We must all be redeemed! For us non-Jews, we are not bought with birds from God by our natural parents. Rather, it is Christ who buys us with his life from our sinful, natural states and gives us to God.

Thirdly, the Rite of Purification. This is the last of the baby birth rites. After a baby was born, the mother was ceremonially unclean for a period of time after. When this time was over (33 days for a boy and 66 days for a girl), the mother was to bring offerings to the priest.

The required sacrifice was a lamb plus a turtle dove. However, if the mother could not afford a lamb, she was to take two turtle doves. This is what Mary and Joseph bring, the offerings of poverty – they brought the least sacrifice permitted by Jewish law. Yet they had in their arms the greatest sacrifice that God could ever make for purification – Jesus. They brought the least and were given the greatest. Jesus came to purify a people for himself that are his very own. That means us.

Malachi talks of the Lord being like a refiner’s fire and fullers’ soap. These are both painful ways of being cleaned – a refiner’s fire is incredibly hot to burn off the impurities of gold and silver. If Mom or Nan has ever had a go at you with the soap and a brush – you will know the pain of being cleaned with a hard scrub.

Again, these OT images of physical purification are translated into spiritual purification in the NT. What do I mean? We are made clean through the confession and repentance of sin. That is how we are made clean and restored into a right relationship with God. This is not to be taken casually or lightly. We are all of course imperfect individuals who will get it wrong and live to sin another day – but that is not reason or excuse enough to keep on sinning!

Repentance means to turn away from, to go in the other direction. It is making a conscience decision to stop and turn around. We make the decision to put the fire or soap or whatever metaphor we want into His hand and he does the burning and the scrubbing – far more gently than we could ever hope for. Painful yes. Necessary – absolutely!

Where do Simeon and Anna fit into this? They were at the temple the day that Jesus was presented. They are proof of the faithfulness of God.

Simeon was told that he would not see death until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Simeon held on to this promise by living a devout life and waited – maybe for decades until finally the day came. Simeon got himself ready through devotion, worship, prayer, watching and waiting. Anyone wanting to experience the glory of God, want to deepen your relationship, strengthen your faith – be like Simeon and work at it!

Simeon’s faithfulness is rewarded by God’s faithfulness as he responds to seeing the baby. He praised God but also spoke painful prophecy – the sword piercing your own soul too.

The faithfulness of God also features in Anna’s story. I don’t think you can talk about Simeon and then ignore Anna. She was the next person Jesus is presented to. Her life has been defined by death – as Jesus’ would be. Anna was widowed probably when she was 20 or 21, she would not have had children – and now she is 84 – so spent 65-ish years in the temple.
Anna has lived a life of patient hope; as has Simeon. She didn’t waver, didn’t give up but daily lived with faithfulness and expectation until the day the Messiah arrived.

On this day of presentation, we too can present ourselves again to God. We don’t need to sacrifice any lambs or birds we can go directly to the Father. If we can hold the three rites: circumcision, redemption and purification as what Jesus ultimately came to do for us; we will come to fuller understanding of Jesus and a richer life in him. We too will live in patient hope.

We need circumcision to cut away those things in us that do not bear fruit. Jesus will do a much better job of this than we ever will. We need redemption to be brought into the family of God. Only Jesus can do this for us with his blood. We need purification as we need clean hands and a pure heart. Again – it is in the death and resurrection of Jesus that we are cleansed.

God is faithful in all of these things and all through our lives if we look to the example of faithfulness of Simeon and Anna. This morning we again get a chance to present our imperfect yet profoundly and deeply loved selves to God as we share in the body and blood of Jesus at the communion rail.

Christmas Day Sermon 2018: Random Thoughts on Luke

I am very happy to have discovered the art of Virginia Wieringa this year ( This is Angels from the Realms of Glory.  I preached this sermon 3 times this morning (and have consumed a decent amount of communion wine!) and was told that it ‘was a smack up the head’ for one occasioanl church attender. In a good way though – I checked.

Merry Christmas! Love & prayers.

Christmas Day 2018

Isaiah 9:2-7 & Luke 2:1-20

God our Father,
whose Word has come among us
in the Holy Child of Bethlehem:
may the light of faith illumine our hearts
and shine in our words and deeds;
through him who is Christ the Lord.

One of the many things that I love about this season is how the story of the first Christmas comes alive. We see it in the pictures on Christmas cards; we hear it in the words of Christmas carols; we watch the drama played out in Christingle and Crib services.

Even in the commercialization and secularization of our society, the story of that first Christmas does get told – not always in words but in the symbols and pictures; seen if we pay attention to the world around us.

We know that many people who do not normally darken the door come to church for Christmas services. Maybe – naively on my part – they want to hear the first Christmas story told again in a way that is familiar, comfortable. The church tells the story of that first Christmas through our worship and liturgy.

But sometimes it can be easy to over-look things when we are familiar with the story. As I was preparing for this morning, I came across three aspects of Luke’s account that I want to share with you.

The first thing is that the birth narrative of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel is a whole seven verses. The birth of our Lord, the most significant event in humanity and creation – is told in a very factual and succinct seven verses. There is no donkey, no innkeeper, no stable, no cows, sheep, roosters or other barnyard companions mentioned and no mention of the name Jesus. We have what amounts to an itinerary of facts!

Very beautiful facts no doubt! Facts that have created some of the most beautiful art and music the world has ever seen.
The second is that if you noticed that His name is not mentioned anywhere in the Luke reading? I really hadn’t paid attention to this before now. The name Jesus is not said in those first 20 verses of Luke 2. He is there of course – he gets noticed as an unborn child (verse 5); then he is ‘her (Mary’s) child’ and ‘her firstborn son’. The angels tell the shepherds of ‘a Saviour, who is the Messiah.’ Then they go to see ‘this child’ and ‘the child’.

It is interesting (at least to me) that Luke doesn’t use the child’s name – after all he was careful enough to name the Emperor Augustus and the Quirinus the Governor of Syria. Why their names and not the name of Jesus, the name that will go on forever?

One explanation is that by including Augustus and Quirinus the historical evidence is strengthened – to ground the birth of Jesus at a particular point in history. The name of Jesus will go on forever though! In fairness to Luke, he is the one who for the very first time proclaims our Saviour’s personal name – ever – from the beginning of time. Jesus.

He does that in the first chapter of Luke when Gabriel appears to Mary to give her the news that she will conceive and bear a son whom she will name Jesus.

Jesus. The very name at which one day every knee will bow.

Jesus. The very name at which every tongue will confess.

Jesus. A name with no parallel in any vocabulary.

Jesus. A name with power like no other name.

Gabriel tells Mary ‘He will be great’. Oh yes he is.

This is who and what we are to celebrate this morning. Jesus and his greatness. It is easy to get caught up in the busyness of this season – there are lots of lovely things happening – don’t get me wrong. But if the focus is not ultimately on Jesus – the true meaning gets lost.

The next thing that I noticed was that the angels and shepherds get 13 verses in which their tale is told with more detail than Mary and Joseph.
The shepherds went with haste and found the child lying in the manger. I think that haste is a good word – it means ‘excessive speed of urgency of movement or action; hurry’. We often say ‘don’t be hasty’ when cautioning others (not usually ourselves) about making decisions too quickly.

Those shepherds working the night shift that blessed night, rough, tough and on the margins of polite or good society go with haste to the manger. So captured or at least curious by what the angels proclaimed go with haste in the truest sense of the word.

Do we come with haste to the manger this Christmas?

There is an urgency to the Christmas story, to the message of Jesus. It was the shepherds who were told who this child is. This child – the Saviour, the Messiah, the Lord.

The shepherds’ arrival may have helped Mary and Joseph to confirm what had been their own secret up to now. I thought about this in a new way too – what would it have been like for Mary and Joseph as the shepherds arrived?

The secret is now out!

I am not sure if you have had the experience of a secret being let out! It can be quite shocking and uncertain – what happens next?! Who knows!? Maybe it was a relief – that all that they had been through – God was faithful to his word.

God is faithful to his word. Always. What a relief that is. In this uncertain world and in uncertain times – we can look to the manger and know that God is faithful!

We also need to look in the manger – not just at it. Many people, Christians too, come to see the manger – but they never look in the manger. For some, Jesus remains the baby forever. A baby that is easily contained in the manger that gets brought out once a year – looked at – and then put away again.

Jesus is not meant to be contained to the manger. Isaiah 9:6 – For a child has been born to us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders. Now I don’t know about you – but I have not heard that said about many newborn babies. A baby may be a good eater, sleeper or pooper but has authority resting upon its shoulders?! Jesus did not just appear one night in Bethlehem as if out of nowhere. He has always been around – part of the Trinity. Always more than a baby!

As we celebrate today – we can spend a little more time at the manger worshipping the baby born to us. The baby who becomes the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

I love these names – I can identify with each of them as titles for the Child that has been born to us. He is my Counsellor when I struggle; Mighty when I am weak; Everlasting when unwanted changes come my way; the bringer of Peace when I am distressed.

I hope that you will know and experience the great love God has for you this Christmas.

Not just at Christmas but at every moment of every day of your life – when things are calm and happy but more so when you are stirred up throughout.

I hope that you will know the Lord’s favour upon you.

I hope the name of Jesus falls sweetly on your ears and off your tongue.

The Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace lead you and guide you always.


Summer Reading: Trinity 3

I think I might be the only person between the 2 congregations doing the ‘Summer Reading’ but I am really enjoying it. I don’t have anything for Trinity 2 as I got a week off! More on 1 Samuel and the exploits of the great prophet and the anointing of Saul as God gives in to human demands; 2 Corinthians and Paul and Mark’s continuation of Jesus’ early days…

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Psalm 20
2 Corinthians 5:6-17
Mark 4:26-34

How is the summer reading going? Hope you didn’t think I would forget!

Samuel – our hero Samuel is getting on pretty well. He remains faithful to the things that God has called him to do – mostly warning the Israelites of the doom that is about to befall them if they don’t get their act together.

Samuel is an excellent study about what the OT is really all about – God calling his people – Israel – to fear him, serve him, listen to him and follow him and it will be well! God will ensure their safety and survival, they will prosper and live in peace.

But they can’t seem to do it. Israel acts out of turn, making bad decisions, do the things that God has expressly told them not to do. The whole of the OT is the story of a people who messed up and the God who wanted them to do better.

Part of the problem with the Israelites is that they keep worshipping other gods along with God. They make some decisions that they did not consult big G God on and they are punished. Samuel pleads with Israel to return to God with all their hearts and put away the foreign gods and God will deliver them from the Philistines. The Philistines are one of the biggest and most troubling enemies of Israel. Goliath was one of them.

Israel’s second problem is that it wants to be like the neighbours – they want a king. By doing this they are rejecting God. He gives in – gives them want they want – with a full warning of what the human king will do to them.

Samuel has the job of anointing that first king – Saul. Saul is handsome, he is from the right family – wealthy father. From the outside he is the ideal king. You know what he did at his coronation?

Saul hid! Samuel has to go and find him to present him to his people!

Saul tries at the beginning – he is given two jobs – reign over the people of Israel and save them from their enemies. Yet Saul acts out of turn, doesn’t obey God, makes his own decisions. God would have established Saul’s kingdom forever – but doesn’t. We pick up the reading this morning where God has finally had enough – He is sorry that he made Saul king over Israel. Samuel and Saul part company too.

Why is this good for summer reading? If we are feeling frustrated at the state of this country or community – Israel provides an excellent example of what it is to get what it wants – and then realize it isn’t that great. The story may have been totally different if Israel had sought out what God wanted for them.

How often do we do that in our own lives? Demand things of God – want him to do things our way? Sometimes he will give us want we want – and we learn the hard way! God wants our obedience, we are to listen and follow him – not the other way around.

In the end God will get his way – it is a new day for Samuel at the start of chapter 16. He is to put Saul and the past behind him so that he can anoint the next king – one of the sons of Jesse. David. The ruddy faced and beautiful boy.

We do well to remember that God does not look on outward appearances, but on the heart.

2 Corinthians – we haven’t moved too far forward you jars of clay! I hope that you have not been crushed, driven to despair or struck down in the last two weeks.

You are light that shines in the darkness! Have you been shining?

Do not lose heart – you can be renewed day by day.

At the beginning of Ch 5, Paul talks about the earthly tents that we live in. I think this is a great analogy of our bodies. They are temporary. When I look in the mirror – this is not the stuff of forever.

Many of us here have faced and continue to face health issues – it can be scary, uncertain, frustrating – crushing, despairing to be unwell or disabled.

We know that Paul suffered in his body as well – he had a thorn in the flesh – not sure what it was – eye sight or kidney issues. Paul talks about our eternal home – in the heavens that God is preparing for us. We are to be forward-looking people. We have the Spirit as a guarantee. This is where our confidence should be.

How is your confidence this morning? What are you confident in?

Paul is calling us to be confident in Christ. Probably one of the hardest things to do is to ‘walk by faith, not by sight’. Psalm 119 – your word is a lamp unto my feet and and light to my path. The light is on the feet – we get enough vision for the next step – not the whole journey. Walking by faith in all the life throws at us.

Mark – Jesus is still going strong! He remains in Galilee and has recently appointed his 12 apostles who are sent out to proclaim the good news. The crowds are growing.

Jesus also has some family troubles! In the early days of his ministry they do not come across particularly well. His family – Mary and his brothers (Joseph is assumed to have died by this point – message for us on Father’s Day – Jesus would have experienced the death of his own earthly father as many of have) have tried to restrain him – he is out of his mind!

This is the biological, earthly family of Jesus. They grew up under the same roof – ate, drink, slept, played, worked and worshipped together for 30 years and they think Jesus is crazy. Mark is a good read for anyone who has a complicated family! Jesus gets that! Happy Father’s Day!

Jesus begins teaching in parables about the kingdom of God. He uses analogies of the seed and sower, lamps under bushel baskets, more scattered seed and the mustard seed.

Why these things? Well – lamps and mustard seeds represent everyday miracles. We all know how they work. The kingdom of God is in the everyday stuff of life. This is drastically different from the kingdom of military power that many people thought Jesus would bring – including the disciples.

Jesus is saying nope – this Kingdom of God starts small and grows large – much larger than we can ever imagine. Once a mustard seed start growing they need very little care and not much water. And they grow! They spread quickly – not exactly something you would want in a well-tended garden! Mustard seeds have small beginnings. They also make a delicious mustard – my favourite of all the condiments!

The kingdom of God starts small and grows – spreading out and changes the taste of the world around it.

As a church – and I mean as a parish – we need to spread out and change the taste of the world around us. Church is not contained to these four walls, this hour on a Sunday and only the people sitting here. Lord help us if that ever becomes our view of His church!

What we do as a church may feel small – but it will grow like a mustard seed if we let it. If like Paul we walk by faith and refuse to let circumstances crush or perplex us. If we choose to learn from the example in Israel as Samuel pleaded with them to serve God and follow him. It we focus more on our hearts, and the hearts of others and not on outside appearances – then we live in obedience and it will be well.

So there you go – caught up once again with the summer reading!

Summer Reading: Trinity 1

I have left things a bit fallow recently with no solid reason. Things have just been full recently – full schedule and some travel. As Ordinary Times begins again today as all the good festivals and celebrations are done until Advent(!) – this is a good time to start again.

The Lectionary follows 1 Samuel, 2 Corinthians and Mark until well into July. So I decided to try to convince the congregations why these books need to be on their summer readings lists…

3/6/18 – Trinity 1

1 Samuel 3:1-20
Psalm 139:1-5; 12-18
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Mark 2:23-3:6

This morning we settle into Ordinary Time – the green season – once again. The big festivals of the church year are over until Advent; in the Lectionary we settle into readings from 1 Samuel, 2 Corinthians and the Gospel of Mark until the end of July. This has made me want to encourage you in your summer reading!

In preparation for this morning I went very high tech – I got a notebook and my Bible and had a slow read – starting in chapter 1, verse 1 in each book until I got to the readings this morning. It was rather enjoyable – paying attention to the people named, what they are doing, where they are, the challenges they are facing. Some people feel daunted by the Bible – especially the OT. But you need to start somewhere!

I thought I would give you a brief synopsis on each book to hopefully entice you to read too!

1 Samuel – set in 10th Century BC. Describes the rise of the prophet Samuel and the reigns of Israel’s first two kings – Saul and David. In the Old Testament is it placed in the history section.

The first few chapters are quite well known – beginning before the birth of Samuel with his parents Hannah and Elkanah and the awful yet fertile Peninnah who torments the childless Hannah. God answers Hannah’s prayer and Samuel arrives. In due season Samuel is taken to Eli the priest to minister to the Lord. Eli’s scoundrel sons also feature in the early chapters – they are naughty! Samuel carries on growing in stature and favour with the Lord. But he doesn’t yet know God.

Ch 3 – the calling of Samuel. Preachers preach on this when they want you to do something in the church! Just kidding – sort of. God calls Samuel and he gives the exemplary response of Here I am!

The Books of Samuel tell about God’s involvement in Israel’s history – he hears the requests of the people – especially the request for a king. Samuel highlights the importance of human choices – people get what they ask for, even if the result it that judgement falls on them of God’s purposes are temporarily thwarted

Why should Samuel go on your summer reading list: if you think God has forgotten you or doesn’t hear your prayers. Be encouraged by the story of Hannah.

Got problems with your adult children? Eli’s inability to lead his children costs them all – more of a cautionary tale. I suspect that Hannah’s prayers for Samuel help to protect him from the influence of Eli’s sons but also helped him to grow in favour and stature.

Got an obedience problem: example of Samuel – Here I am!

Not sure what God is calling you to do – are you listening for his voice? It took Eli the Priest a few tries to get it right.

This is a fascinating read – read it slowly – maybe a chapter a day. Note the names, what they are doing, what happens to them. Where is God?

2 Corinthians – written as part two of a letter from Paul to the church in Corinth. Paul is writing the letter from Macedonia, so he is away from them. The mood is sombre as Paul is aware that things have not improved much at Corinth since his first letter – written about 6 months before this one. In fact there are new problems.

Paul starts the letter with offering the consolation which God offers to his believers. Paul wants them to know the deep peace which believers are able to experience through knowing God’s consoling presence in the midst of suffering. Paul has just been through a hard time himself and has had to cancel his trip to Corinth.

Good read if things are tough right now – God can deal with that. We can know his deep peace in the midst of our suffering – we don’t have to pretend!

Feeling a bit boxed in? Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. We are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. It is in Jesus that we are changed.
Paul talks about treasures in jars of clay – the Gospel. The gospel is the treasure and we are jars of clay – us weak and frail human beings.

The big picture of 2 Corinthians is Paul wanting us to know the sufficiency of God’s grace to compensate for our human weakness. Christ’s ministry comes through ordinary people. So if you are feeling a little weak or ordinary – this book is for you! You are exactly who God uses. God is wanting to shine in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus.

Some of the greatest encouragement comes in this book – we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

2 Corinthians is a good read if we need a boost as and when we feel defeated about life or the church. It is inevitable. We don’t have to fake it or pretend that all is well when it’s not. Despite circumstances the grace of God will always be sufficient.

The Gospel of Mark – jumps right in – gets to the point very quickly. You would be right if you assumed Mark is my favourite of the Gospels. He pulls us into the story of Jesus really quickly. No Christmas – no mention of Baby Jesus, shepherds and angels but a lot of Easter in Mark. The in-between bits are all about Jesus’ ministry. It is thought that Mark is the earliest Gospel written.

Apparently, it is the most widely translated book in the world – into more than 800 languages and dialects. Many Bible translators start with Mark’s Gospel once they codify a new language.

Mark begins by introducing the ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus about the same time; John has begun his ministry of water baptism and proclamation. Jesus meets John and gets baptized, then he gathered a few disciples who follow him around Galilee and his home is now Capernaum.

Jesus makes an entrance in the synagogue there – preaching and teaching. This is core to Jesus’ ministry. It was the first thing he did in Capernaum – before any healings. Mark is saying something about what Jesus came to do!

There have of course been healings – men, women, the guy that comes through the roof on this mat, various illnesses, shrunken hands, and demons. Some very public healings to make a point about his authority, the rules of the Sabbath, what can and can’t be done in a synagogue.

The Pharisees are on to Jesus and are already looking for ways to destroy him too. All of this and we are only at the beginning of Ch 3.

Mark wants his readers to know Jesus as he focuses on his acts and sayings. Mark does not discuss the physical attributes of Jesus nor talks about what influenced Jesus to do what he said and did. Rather Mark presents Jesus as a hero whose life is worthy of reflection and emulation.

Mark is a great read if you want to know more about Jesus and what he did while on earth. It is fast – Jesus was busy. However, Jesus taught about sabbath rest. Got problems resting? Jesus didn’t have a problem with it – neither should you!

The end of Mark leaves us with the question of what will one do with what God has done for Jesus and what this Jesus asks of those who hear about him? It is one of those books that keep you thinking long after you have finished it.

So there we go – a beginning to the summer reading! Each of these books – 1 Samuel, 2 Corinthians & Mark have something to teach us about God and how he operates in his world and the lives of individual believers.

We live in a world that can be complicated and confusing – so can or lives as we face changes and challenges. We need to know what the word of God has to say – otherwise we are standing on the opinion and advice of humans. However well intentioned that advice might be – it may not hold up in the end.

As we spend time in these books over the next several weeks – I encourage you to have a closer look too. It isn’t a race and there is no exam at the end. Take a fresh look at what God might be saying to you and His church.