Trinity 3: Consequences & Moving Forward

An acrylic painting on wood illustrating the bible verse in Mark 4 describing the kingdom of God like a mustard seed. Jesus is seated with a child under the yellow-leafed branches of a tree showing her a tiny mustard seed. Jen Norton.

Trinity 3

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Psalm 20
Mark 4:26-34

If you can cast your minds back to last weeks or even better – read the readings for this week, we will continue to look at leadership and politics in the Old & New Testaments. Tis the season! Things have moved on for Samuel and Jesus.

We are a few chapters ahead in 1 Samuel. Israel’s first king Saul was anointed, it was a complete disaster as predicted and ended badly. Saul died by suicide and all his sons were killed by enemies. Saul was almost constantly at war and profited greatly from the plundering of his enemies. God had warned the Israelites what would happen; and it all came to pass in Saul’s kingship.

It was so bad that 1 Samuel 15:34 says “the Lord was grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel.” Think about God’s sadness for a moment. God was sad. Sad that the people disobeyed him, turned away from the plans and purposes he had. I suspect he was sad over Saul’s awful death and the deaths of his sons. Sad about the loss of life. There are events and people in this world that make God sad.

As a king, Saul was the ideal candidate. He was handsome, from the right family as he had a wealthy father. You know what he did at his coronation? Saul hid! Samuel the prophet had to go and find him to present him to his people. Imagine King Charles running out of Westminster Abbey! Saul tried at the beginning. He was given two jobs: reign over the people of Israel and save them from their enemies. Yet Saul acts out of turn, does not obey God, makes his own decisions. God would have established Saul’s kingdom forever but does not in the end. 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.

The whole of the OT is the story of a people who messed up and the God who loved them anyway. 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.

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 realise it isn’t that great. The story would 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 what 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 at outward appearances, but on the heart. It is jarring to think that God can be sad. I do not want to be the cause of God’s sadness nor be part of a country or community that makes God sad.

Mark – Jesus is still going strong. He remained in Galilee where he appointed his 12 apostles who were sent out to proclaim the good news. The crowds are growing as more and more people come to listen. 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? 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 no. This Kingdom of God starts small and grows large; much larger than we can ever imagine. Once a mustard seed starts growing they need very little care and not much water. And they grow! They spread quickly, not exactly something you want in a well-tended English garden! Mustard seeds have small beginnings and also make a delicious mustard. The greatest of all condiments!

The kingdom of God starts small and grows as it spreads out and changes the flavour of the world around it.

As a church and I mean as a parish, we need to spread out and change the flavour of the world, the village and our families 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 we choose to learn from the example in Israel as Samuel pleaded with them to serve God and follow him. If 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.

Trinity 2: Politics Matter!

1 Samuel 8:4-11,16-20
Mark 3:20-35

This last week has been politically fascinating; has it not? There have been elections in a number of countries around the world, the D-Day commemorations in the UK and France, the political debates in this country. You might not be interested and/or avoid the news right now. Regardless of feelings and even opinion; politics and particularly leadership matters very much to everyone.

The readings from 1 Samuel and Mark show us leadership from God’s perspective and the difficulty Jesus faced from his own family. Leadership is not an easy road to travel; never has been and likely never will.

I like the Old Testament. A lot. I am by no means an expert, it does take some time and energy to get one’s head around it and when you do there is beauty and story to be discovered. If I had to nut shell the Old Testament it is this: it is a story of a people who messed up and the God who loved them anyway. These people, Israel, had been chosen by God to be his people (unsure why them). As the ‘chosen ones’ they had to follow some rules; the Chema (love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, mind and strength and love your neighbour as yourself. Super easy!) Israel had to care for the neighbours, the widows and orphans and above love God.

Yet, they could not/would not do it. They focused on what they did not have, they worshipped other gods, nothing was quite good enough, they wanted what the neighbours had. Does any of this sound vaguely familiar?

In 1 Samuel, this all comes to a head as Israel demands a human king to look after them. Just like all the neighbours had. The Israelites thought this was a better option than obeying God. At this point, Samuel was an old man whose sons had chosen their own paths, disregarding their faith. Samuel would not be leading them for much longer.

Israel has reached a critical moment in their history, two ways to go here. The way of God or the way of themselves. This is the choice that every nation, people and we individuals still have.

Samuel gets a warning from God which he passes on about how awful the ways of a human king are going to be. A human king will turn their sons into war labourers, daughters will be put to work; he will take the best of their flocks, fields and vineyards for his friends, and then a 10% cut on top of that for his own personal use. This is grossly unfair.

However, the people will not listen and continue their demands, they are actively rejecting God for their own agenda. God’s response, despite the warning, is to give the people what they want. There are consequences, the Lord will not answer when they cry out because of the king. God did not do this because he is uncaring or gave up on his chosen people. He wanted to show them that His way is the better one, following him leads to life and not death.

If God is not at the centre of life and we choose to go our own way, there are consequences. It is foolish to think that free will comes without responsibilities.

Stay tuned as the first human king of Israel will be appointed in next week’s edition!

Mark’s Gospel

We are now in the early days of Jesus’ ministry and things are hotting up. Jesus is travelling, healing, teaching and gaining attention. He is quickly becoming a threat and irritant to the religious establishment by healing people on the Sabbath and declaring forgiveness of sins. This attention is likely causing some pressure on his family.

We do not know very much about Jesus’ family life. There are two incidents in Mark 3 that would indicate Jesus’ family life was not easy! His family certainly does not come across well. Mary and the brothers go to restrain him as public opinion was that ‘he had gone out of his mind’. Some of us may know what it is to have awkward/difficult/odd family members.

However, what Jesus is saying is lucid and makes sense. Jesus is pushing the disciples and the religious to look not just at the theory of God but the reality of God.

Everything Jesus was doing was good.

Everywhere Jesus went people were being restored to God, evil and sickness were banished, demons were exercised. The root of the problem was that the power Jesus was displaying could only come from two sources: God or the devil.

Jesus is not only proclaiming the word of God but performs it in action. If we read God’s word, then we should be able to see it in action. Evil simply cannot work against itself. His pushing was making his family and the religious leaders uncomfortable. His family was risking a bad reputation. The religious leaders could lose control of the population and they were willing to lie and deny the consequences of what Jesus was saying and doing was true.

We should be able to see the politics in action. The demands of the Israelites for a human king and rejection of God. The denial of what Jesus was teaching by those who were close to him and the false accusations by the establishment.

What can we do? How can we navigate the politics of the coming weeks and months? My suggestion is to put Jesus at the centre; read and listen to his word. Consider it in light of what we read or watch.

How do we keep God at the centre as a parish and as His beloved children? From the examples of 1 Samuel; choose God’s kingship over that of other imperfect and fallible humans. Care less about what the neighbours have and what you do not. God is faithful and he will give us what we ask for sometimes; be careful of what you are demanding and why. You just might get it!

From Mark, look to the love and goodness of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Living a God-centred life is not always easy. The temptation to lie and deny can be strong at times. Fixating on what other people think has a powerful influence on us; tuning it out to follow truth and conscience is never easy.

Good and saintly people of Charlwood and Sidlow Bridge, we will face consequences if we do not stay together. We cannot become divided over politics, opinion, preferences and all the myriad of things that can cause difficulties in churches.

We need to be united with God and with each. With God at the centre of our lives and churches there is a bright and hopeful future ahead of us.

Trinity Sunday: Born Again in Baptism

St Nicholas – 9:30 am
Baptism of Chloe Cooper-Berry

Trinity Sunday

Romans 8:12-17
John 3:1-17

This is a very special Sunday! On the church calendar it is Trinity Sunday which means we are celebrating God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit by reminding ourselves that they are one in the same These three are one. Does three equal one?!

We are also celebrating the baptism of Chloe Cooper-Berry. She has brought a lot of family and friends today. We are blessed to have you here! Chloe will be baptised in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Trying to understand how three equals one is confusing! Fortunately we are not alone in this. There was someone else who did not understand: Nicodemus. He was lucky that he was able to take his questions directly to Jesus as we can too of course. Only Nicodemus got to do it in person.

Nicodemus came to understand more about God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit through his conversation with Jesus that dark night in Jerusalem. Who is this guy? Nicodemus was a leader of a group of Jewish people called the Pharisees. He was a big deal in Jerusalem, he was well educated and important. Like most religious people, Nicodemus believes to some extent that God is love. But he believes that God’s love is measured and sensible and follows a set of rules. Yet there is something attractive about this Jesus.

Nicodemus is confused about Jesus and where he fits. This could be why he pays him a visit to get Jesus to fill in the proper forms, tick the right boxes. His confusion is given away in the detail about coming to see Jesus at night. Darkness or night in John’s Gospel represents confusion or a lack of understanding.

A second reason for going at night means that Nicodemus was concerned about being seen with Jesus. He was not willing to risk his reputation or position for Him. Nicodemus’ curiosity got the better of him. Nicodemus starts by telling Jesus that he knows that there is something special about Jesus. Only someone with a special relationship with God could do the things Jesus was doing. He is basically saying ‘I’m someone who can recognise what God is doing and you, Jesus, are doing a pretty good job’.

Jesus’ reply seems to mystify Nicodemus. I’m not sure what your response is when you hear the words ‘born again’. Have you ever thought about how you were born?
Has anyone ever asked you ‘are you born again’?

Nicodemus is picturing a physical re-birth which makes for some interesting mental images around re-entering his mother’s womb. This is not what Jesus means; he is referring to spiritual rebirth in which someone who already possesses life at the physical level comes to birth at a spiritual level.

This is what we are doing in baptism this morning; Chloe is going to be ‘born again’. This happens when I pour water on her head three times and say ‘Chloe, I baptise you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ Spiritual rebirth in baptism is about discovering life in all its fullness which comes only through being born again, or from above. Spiritual rebirth has to come from God. To see his kingdom we need to be born both of water (physically) and spirit (from above). We are all invited to be born again.

Luke & Esther and godparents Sally, Dean & Steph you have accepted the invitation on Chloe’s behalf. You have the great responsibility to now help Chloe understand what that means and to grow into the promises you have made to God and to her. We are here to help you do that.

The other thing that baptism prepares us for is the life after this one is over. John 3:16 is a very familiar verse. It is the first one I remember learning as a child. This verse sets out what it means to be a Christian. What is that?

An invitation to join God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit in the deep and endless richness of God’s love. To join in their being and doing forever. This eternal life is a new quality of life. It is made only possible through the love of God, which is shown in the astonishing fact that he loves the world so much that his only Son, Jesus should die for it.

This is the invitation that Jesus extended to Nicodemus that night and continues to extend to us today. I think that Nicodemus made a start that night in understanding what this love of God is really about, even if he does not quite yet understand. After this midnight meeting with Jesus, Nicodemus goes away changed.

How do we know? He appears on two more occasions in John’s Gospel. Nicodemus defended Jesus when he got into trouble with some other Pharisees. This shows that he is no longer as embarrassed to be seen with Jesus.

The final appearance of Nicodemus is after the crucifixion. He was the one who brought the myrrh and aloes for the preparation of the body. Along with Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus took the body, wrapped it with the spices in linen cloth and laid Jesus in the tomb.

Think for a second. Would Nicodemus risk everything, his whole life if he did not believe who Jesus was? If he did not want more of what Jesus was offering? I think Nicodemus had way too much to lose if it was untrue. Nicodemus appears to have accepted the invitation into the deepest relationship that we can be offered: a relationship with God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. The belief that God is Trinity is the foundation for the belief that God is also love.

Start with the Three and see that it is the deepest nature of One. In the Trinity we discover God’s character, personality, priorities and God’s reality. I can point you in the direction of large theological volumes if that is helpful. When we see the deepest nature of the One as Nicodemus did we are invited to join in the relationship of the Trinity, we are invited to the table to share love and life together. This is worth celebrating.

Pentecost: The Great Feast

Joint Parish Service for Pentecost

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104
John 15:26-27; 4b-15

Well, it is 10-ish in the morning and we are all gathered together in one place. Perhaps we should watch out for tongues of fire and listen for the sudden rush of a violent wind from heaven. Not to be confused with jet engines from the neighbours!

But I think we should pray first…

Creator God, as your spirit moved over the face of the waters bringing light and life to your creation, pour out your Spirit on us today that we may walk as children of light and by your grace reveal your presence. Amen.

No matter how many times I read Acts 2, it always sounds crazy, chaotic and it makes me somewhat uncomfortable. There may be a few people here this morning who would love a little fire and wind to liven things up. Equally there are others who would prefer things a little more ordered.

However, being made to feel uncomfortable about this passage, or any other, is necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes a sense of discomfort is needed to remind us of the areas in our faith that we may be ignoring or falling short in. If you leave here today feeling some discomfort; that might be good. The Holy Spirit was sent to change people, including us; to send us away differently, refined, plucked or pruned. The process of change can be uncomfortable through to downright miserable.

Unfortunately being a Christian was never meant to be convenient or wholly comfortable. It is meant to be lived together in both the joys and the sufferings. Jesus told the disciples that ‘the Advocate, whom I will send, will testify on my behalf; will guide you in all truth.’

Jesus points to the Holy Spirit to teach and remind the disciples everything that He had said to them. This is not a one-off, show me, show us event. The work, the presence of the Holy Spirit is an on-going, lifelong affair. It is only the Holy Spirit that can make the connection between God the Father, Jesus the Son and us.

The first thing we are taught about Pentecost is that the Holy Spirit is inextricably linked to the life of Jesus and his teaching. It is not some woo-woo spirit floating about like changing clouds.

‘IF you love me’ says Jesus, ‘I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate.’

IF implies a choice!

The love of the disciples for Jesus is demonstrated in Acts 2.

We do know that something astonishing is happening in Acts 2. Barriers of culture and language are being broken down as the Spirit falls on those gathered that day. Luke in his writing is struggling to find the language to describe what is going on. He uses ‘seem like’ and ‘sound like’, indicating he has never seen anything like what he is seeing before.

God is drawing new people from every nation at the time towards him. The people, mostly Jews, are encountering the Holy Spirit and being changed. Jesus changes people. We are seeing an in-breaking of the Kingdom of God.

When trying to understand the Holy Spirit it is helpful to remember that the Holy Spirit has been around from Genesis. It was the spirit hovering over the waters at creation. The Holy Spirit was active in the Old Testament but only on particular people at particular times. The first Pentecost saw the most powerful outpouring that had been experienced.

The other thing to keep in mind was the timing of this event. God was using a long-standing appointment on the kingdom calendar of the Jewish people. The Feast of Pentecost was meant to pour out the ‘old’ spirit in a ‘new and powerful way’.

For centuries 50 days after the Passover, the Jews have celebrated with a feast, traditionally called ‘The Feast of Weeks. The number 50 points to fullness, ripeness, to a time that is ready for something to happen. This was already a time of celebration. Pentecost happens 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus at Easter.

In the Feast of Weeks and at Pentecost, God was creating for himself a new people. When the disciples received the Spirit, they became witnesses for Christ. Here Jesus is forming a people for himself; His church and we are that church.

The Holy Spirit acts in three main ways on the Feasts of Weeks and Pentecost:

Firstly: It is a time to remember and give thanks for all that has been done for us. The Jewish people were to remember and celebrate their release from slavery by being generous to each other, feeding the widows, the orphans, the poor and other unfortunates. Our works, how we give our time and money should be a reflection of all that Jesus has done for us.

Looking back to the past to help explain a current situation is a common Jewish method of interpretation or understanding called ‘midrash’. This is what Peter is doing in Acts 2 when he refers to the prophecy of Joel to explain to the mostly Jewish crowd what is happening beyond ‘we are not drunk at 9 am.’ Joel announced that God was going to do something very special on Mount Zion (which is in Jerusalem). Peter is reminding and confirming that.

This is not about rewriting history or romanticising the good old days. We can remember again where we have come from, but we do not live in that past anymore.

Secondly: The feast was a time for great generosity; think generous grace and generous giving. The Jews were not allowed to come to the Lord empty-handed. Deuteronomy 16:17 states that ‘each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you.’ (Read twice).

Imagine for a second if our churches (meaning we the people) gave to God in proportion to the way He has blessed us? We would live and love in a completely different world and probably would not have budget shortfalls.

Reverend Bill Albinger was an Episcopalian priest in Hawaii whose small parish has a generous heart for the local people who face many social problems. Revd Bill wrote this about Pentecost:

‘This is where the power of the church is – the Spirit is not a power to boost us up and make us feel good, but it is the power and presence of God to bring a wholly new perspective in the way we live and love. It doesn’t matter so much if we are ‘slain in the spirit’ and knocked to the ground – what matters is the kind of changed person you are when you are on your feet.

What matters are the gifts you bring to the building up of community and the gifts you bring to the healing and repair of the world. This is where the power of the church is.’

At Pentecost we need to remember where we have come from and give thanks. By way of thanks we are to be generous with our time, talents and possessions for the benefit of the church and others.

Thirdly: The Feasts of Weeks and Pentecost are a harvest, the first fruits of church. The specific time of this event on Pentecost offers little doubt that God intended a highly significant feast of harvest.

This harvest is not wheat or barley. It started with the harvest of people in the streets of Jerusalem who encountered the Holy Spirit and went away changed. They went back to their towns and villages and they began to sow what they had learned and seen in Jerusalem, a call to a life in Jesus. We know they did as the church still exists today.

If the Jews are simply said, ‘well that was interesting, Peter spoke well, etc…’ and went on their way without being changed, who knows what would have happened. But they went and sowed. There was an article in a newspaper this week about 40% of British Christian being reluctant to share their faith.

Then we wonder why churches are closing and there are no young people in the church. It is not a great mystery. We have lost the spirit of that first Pentecost. Are we really too concerned about what other people think or of offending? Acts 2:21, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ How can anyone be saved if they do not know?

This is why we need the Holy Spirit; to intercede for us, to be invited to work in us and through us. To give us strength and conviction so that everyone will be saved. To lead and guide us in this life and into the next one.

On this Feast of Pentecost we can remember what God has already done for us, show our thanks for what He has done by being generous to others and to the church. We can think about what it is to be part of the harvest. We can ask for the Holy Spirit to fill us so that we can become more fully the people we have been created to be. This is a choice. Jesus sent the Advocate, the Spirit of truth, the Spirit to help us, to guide us; we never have to do this alone.

The Holy Spirit came to change us, the church and the world unapologetically, wholly and completely. And uncomfortably when necessary. We are part of a greater story that involves the past, the present and the future.

All a bit chaotic.

All true to the life and ministry of Jesus.

All true to the life and faith of Christians.

Easter 5: Courage

Easter 5


Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 22:24-30
1 John 4:7-21
John 15:1-8

While Easter feels like a long time ago , the Church is still in the Easter season between the Resurrection and Ascension and Pentecost. The readings of these weeks tell the story of the early church and what the disciples were getting up to.

Last week in Acts, Peter was speaking to the assembly after being arrested with John; this week Philip meets the Ethiopian eunuch for a life changing conversation. The Gospel readings have spotlighted the resurrection appearances of Jesus to those who needed to see him most. Last week we met the Good Shepherd who cares for his wayward sheep.This week, Jesus invites us to abide with him as branches on his vine. In both our readings this morning we are given examples of what happens when we pay attention and choose to stay in the moment with God.

The story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch begins with an angel of the Lord visiting Philip. The angel tells him to ‘get up and go toward the south’. Philip demonstrates immediate obedience, no argument, no excuses, Philip’s first response is not No! Most other people who encounter angels usually respond with surprise and shock, think of Mary, Joseph and Elizabeth. Philip does not seem to register any fear or shock, he got up and went.

The next thing that Philip does is hugely courageous. Again, he is told what to do and he does it. This time by the Spirit, ‘go over to the chariot and join it.’ Philip approaches the eunuch and asks if he ‘understands what he is reading?’ Whoa! Imagine for a moment the next time you are on a bus or plane or next to someone who is reading a Bible. Would you interrupt them and ask, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’

Would you do it?! This is courageous living! We, and by this I mean you, us, me need to be able to explain what faith is about. Not religion, not the churchy stuff, rather the Good News of Jesus as Philip did with the eunuch.

Philip appears to be fearless. Why? I think he knew and recognised the voice of The One calling him. The angel and the Spirit both spoke to Philip and he acted with courage and in obedience. Like the sheep with the Shepherd, he recognised the voice.

Philip was right in the middle of the new church which was growing rapidly, more people were being added every day, there were prayer meetings and meals together. Lots of activity and in the midst of that, Philip recognised the voice of the one who was calling him. He had no reason to fear!

Because he knew the voice, Philip was then obedient to what he was being called to do by approaching the eunuch. This led to an invitation to sit with him and proclaimed the Good News about Jesus. Philip baptised him right then and there on the side of the road.

What good news for the eunuch. We are not given his name but he is a foreigner in Jerusalem. He would have looked and spoke differently. As he was a eunuch he could never be fully accepted by the Jews despite being wealthy and of high social status in his own country. It is good news for other people when we overcome our fears and share the good news of Jesus by our example and by our words.

How can we find the courage to recognize, face and overcome fear? By getting to know the one who calls us. Spending time in his company.

John calls this abiding. Abide is a funny word. It is not normal in most people’s everyday language. It feels somehow outdated as we live in a world that does not allow for much to be static; change happens quickly and we seem to be waiting for the next ‘new thing.’ There is a quality to abiding that speaks of commitment and endurance. To abide is much more personal than just hanging about or waiting.

In these early verses of John 15 Jesus speaks of the vine and the branches; He is the vine and we are the branches. The great desire of Jesus and of God the Father is that we remain together. There is a warning about being apart from the vine; we can do nothing, we will not bear fruit and ultimately we will wither. The branches that do not produce fruit will be removed. I am sure we have all had times and seasons in our lives when we have been far from God and know what it is to wither.

‘Abide in me and as I abide in you’ says Jesus. Ben Quash, an Anglican priest and Professor of Christianity & the Arts writes, ‘the challenge of finding the right ways to be an abider in such a world is huge. It’s the challenge of finding the source from which all life flows, the springs of our own being, the grain with which we are meant to live, and which it damages us to go against. It means being part of communities for whom ‘abiding’ is a watchword – above all, for Christians, the Church.’
Christian abiding is not keeping things as they have always been, nor is it about gritting our teeth and staying the course. Abiding is dynamic, it has a sense of full and personal commitment. As Christians we are to be part of churches who abide.
‘ That is what Jesus does for us when we let him abide. Can we do the same by abiding in Him?

The beautiful hymn ‘Abide with Me’ provides an excellent discourse on what it is to abide. The writer of that hymn, Henry Francis Lyte, died of tuberculosis 3 weeks after its completion. ‘Abide with Me’ was apparently played on the deck of the Titanic as it sank and it has been played in Remembrance Services across the UK and the world today. At the opening ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics, singer Emeli Sande performed ‘Abide with Me’ to a universal audience and introduced this fine hymn to a new generation – but even in that there was a haunting sadness and beauty to it.

It is a call to the ‘help of the helpless, thou who changest not’ abide with me. It also speaks to the time when heaven’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee.’ Better times are coming, stay close!

Jesus abides in his Father’s love and we are to abide in Jesus’ love. We are called to be a part of this relationship. Abiding gives us a deeper experience of God’s love. As we experience that deep and full love, we should be able to love those around us deeper and better. People are always God’s priority. He first loved us and created us to be in a relationship with him and each other.

As this Easter season continues to unfold around us, we have been given the opportunity to study the early church and how they became a contemplative, compassionate and courageous church. They did this day by day, one person at a time – always listening for the voice of God to guide and direct them, so they could be courageous and obedient in the spreading of the Good News. May we be courageous, obedient and so full of love for others that we can do the same.