Thought for the week – 03/04/22

Friends
As I write, the talk in the Davidson household is largely around Will Smith. Is it or is it not okay to hit someone for disrespecting your wife? Everyone on the news and on social media has an opinion, and my own family is no different.
For those of you who missed this riveting piece of scandal from the Oscars the salient points are as follows: Will Smith, who is a very well-known American actor, was at the Oscars, waiting to see if he had won the Oscar for which he had been nominated, when the compere made a joke at the expense of his wife who has alopecia. Will jumped onto the stage, slapped the man around the face and said, “Keep my wife’s name out of your mouth.” The compere has declined to press charges and the two have made up. Will Smith went on to win the Oscar and in his acceptance speech, whilst apologising to the audience for having caused the disruption, said that he felt he was put on this earth to protect the women around him.

And what would Jesus do?

That’s a difficult one if we look at his story. On the one hand “He gave his back to the smiters and his cheeks to them that plucked out the hair. He hid not himself from shame and spitting” and on the other hand, he over-turned the tables of the money changers in the temple and set about them with a whip saying: “It is written ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’ but you have made it a den of robbers.’” Scholars tend to see his anger as being focused on the fact that the sellers of animals and the money changers were making it very difficult for people to actually get to God. Jesus it seems was meek and mild when it came to himself, but not so much when it came to others.
For me, the most interesting thing in the whole sorry incident was that fellow actor Denzel Washington told Will Smith: “At your highest moment be careful, that’s when the Devil comes for you.” For what it’s worth, my own belief is that physical violence is rarely the right answer. However, in our own lives where we are less likely to be thumped, but where people, accidentally or on purpose, can say quite hurtful things, it is worth our while to reflect that the Jesus response is both “turn the other cheek” and also, “do not be the one to get between God and another person.” As we seek to grow our own congregations it is worth wondering whether we are sometimes less encouraging than we could be, less kind than we should be.

God bless
Vicci

Thought for the week – 27/03/22

Friends

Throughout my life as a Christian, I have been encouraged to ask myself the question “Where was God in that?” or “Where did I meet with God today?” I have tended to think of it as a comforting question; a question that acknowledges that some days feel quite ordinary, perhaps even a little bit boring, and some days are horribly difficult, but if we ask the “Where was God in that?” question and are able to answer it, then “our fears may be dispelled, our loneliness eased and our hope reawakened” as the Methodist Worship Book puts it.

But perhaps I am wrong, or at least, not altogether right. Perhaps the question is not “Where was God in that so that I may feel comforted?” but “Where was God in that so that I might join him in action?”

As we look around us now at a world reeling from the effects of two years’ of global pandemic, war between Ukraine and Russia, rapidly rising energy prices, to say nothing of the cost of fuel at the petrol station, increases in food bills and so on, we see people of all faiths and none rising to the challenge to join in with those who are seeking to help. Food banks, baby banks, work among the homeless, the housing of refugees from Ukraine, or working with refugees and asylum seekers from other situations and other wars fill the time, effort and thoughts of a startling number of people. How do we identify where God is at work and join in? And how do we join in when many of our congregations are feeling worn and over-stretched? We may feel as if the last mountain-top experience was a very long time ago and that we have been travelling through the valley of the shadow of death for far longer than we care to think about.

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and
burdened and I will give you rest.” Now is the time to come, not when we have got through it all and feel at peace again, not when we know that “all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well” but right now, while we feel weary and burdened and fearful. It is time for us to re-gather ourselves as individuals and as the church family, to meet together, to pray together, to seek God and to find out where he is and what he is doing so that whether he is leading us further into the valley, or out onto the mountains, we need not ask the question “Where was God in that?” because the answer can only be “Walking beside us.”

God bless,
Vicci

Thought for the week – 20/02/22

Friends

“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Perhaps by the time you read this, the sun will be peeping through again, although at the moment, apart from a brief respite on Thursday, my weather forecast app is predicting rain all week.

We had a promise of spring last Saturday. The sun was out, the sky was blue, and although it was still quite chilly there was that freshness that hinted at better weather to come. In the same way, we have been in and out of lockdowns and semi-lockdowns and the decision taken by the government to try now to live with the virus is understandable, but perhaps also somewhat worrying. Stress levels, depression and anxiety are high across the country as people wonder what the future holds.

Yet we have been here before. The country and indeed the world has faced bubonic plague, tuberculosis and Spanish flu, to mention but a few, and out of these have come stories of survival, of perseverance, of heroism and of medical evolution.

We can perhaps take comfort in this as we look at our churches and wonder about dwindling membership and lack of interest in a life of faith in the wider community. The whole Biblical account from Creation onwards is a story of ebbs and flows. The people defy God, as with Adam and Eve, the building of the Tower of Babel and various events in the desert Exodus, and they ignore God, both in the lead up to the Flood and the various events and times challenged by the prophets in between David and the birth of Christ (about 1500 years). Subsequent to that first heady Pentecost, the Church has continued to rise and fall, and Methodism grew up as a movement to spread Scriptural holiness across the land because it was needed and not just because John and Charles Wesley thought it would be a good idea.

Matthew 24:35 tell us that Jesus said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” As we journey towards another Lent, another Easter and another hope for a more normal summer, we also journey in the knowledge that however confusing, worrying and stressful these times are, God is with us.

God bless, Vicci

Thought for the week – 30/01/22

Friends
I was a bit stumped for ideas this week, but on looking back at last year to see if there was inspiration to be had, I discovered that we had been talking about Jonah and that I had reflected on coming out of lockdown being somewhat akin to coming out of the belly of the whale and wondered what it might look like for us as Christians, what distinctiveness we might bring to a post-covid world. A year later, we are as a country having another stab at the same question and some wag has posted “2022 – 2020’s third attempt to actually happen” on my social media.

It’s tempting, in the face of apparent governmental disregard for rules, horrific stories of child abuse, threat of war in Ukraine and a steady rise in knife crime to think that what we bring that is distinctive is an ethic – a Christian morality that speaks against such things. However, it is not exclusively the domain of Christians to speak out or act against immorality, illegality and social breakdown, and the belief of the secular world that this is what exercises us is in itself part of why we are not perhaps as genuinely popular as one might imagine a faith built on the premise that “We love, because God first loved us” might be. God loves people and so we love people may be our strapline, but the world tends to see it as “God judges people and so Christians judge people and we don’t want any of that.”

The ethic-based, Christian morality model is not in and of itself a bad thing, but it is a temple model, based on the law and not on Christ. Christ after all tells us that we are going to fail, that we are imperfect beings in an imperfect world. In the face of the temple model, with its rules and regulations, Christ offered to wash his disciples’ feet, to walk with the most marginalised in society and to promise love and forgiveness for all who sought it from God, through him, strengthened by the coming of the Holy Spirit. Our call as we try once more to leave the belly of the whale and speak truth to Ninevah is perhaps not to point out all that is bad in society – after all, most can see it for themselves – but instead to underline that which is good: to tell the stories of those who have sought to help, who have found new purpose, who have loved in the face of adversity and brought hope to those who feared they had none.

God bless
Vicci

Thought for the week – 23/01/22

Friends

I’ve recently rediscovered those wonderful detective stories by Dorothy L Sayers, whose hero, Lord Peter Wimsey is always charming, apparently vague and frequently incisive. One of the short stories, is about a man who had an unknown, long-lost twin who was running around London committing terrible crimes while pretending to be him. In the story, the twins meet in a doorway and the one, believing himself to be looking into a mirror, fainted in shock when the reflection as he thought, turned around and walked away. I think I too might have fainted in such a scenario!

It did, however, remind me of our calling both to follow Christ and to reflect him in the world. In the story, it was easy for the twins to reflect each other, they were each the mirror image of their brother. For us, who call Christ brother, it is harder. When do we find the time to study the stories of Jesus deeply enough to find the truth which we should reflect? How do we build our relationship with him strongly enough to develop in ourselves the personality of Jesus? How can we welcome the Holy Spirit into the very depths of our being in such a way that we too speak God’s truth into a broken world?

Here at the start of the year, not long after we have promised anew to serve God and reflect his Son in the Covenant service, we are once more called to spend time in reading and prayer, in meditation and contemplation and in action as we seek to be Christ’s hands and feet in this world. There are days when the reflection is poor, and there are days when we might be told we are made in God’s image, but it is hard for us to believe it. Still, as we walk towards the door, it is not ourself that comes to meet us, but the living, loving Lord Jesus, seeking to show us such love, such truth, such faith and hope that we reflect him not because we have promised to try, although we have, but because in the face of such light, in the face of such love, we can do nothing else but share it – there is too much for us to hold selfishly to ourselves.

Centred in such love, it is hardly surprising that Jesus should say “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). I must admit to you that I have yet to achieve such heavenly perfection, but aspiration is a wonderful thing, and perhaps 2022 will be my year!

God bless
Vicci

Thought for the week – 16/01/22

Friends
Another Christmas and New Year has been and gone and I don’t know about you, but for me and my family, it all seems to be a long time ago already. The work of the Circuit continues apace, and as the senior circuit steward and I grapple with still more paperwork around stationing, and boilers stop working and roofs start leaking and things that have been planned are cancelled and future plans are made, the first few days of the year are flying by.

In the lectionary, everything has moved on apace also. The shepherds may still be wondering over the event they witnessed less than four weeks ago, the Wise Men are almost certainly still wending their way homeward, but the Gospel reading has moved us speedily to the early days of Christ’s ministry when, having already started to build his team of disciples, Jesus hand is tipped by his mother and he starts his ministry with the miracle of the water become wine.

We too, here at the start of the year wish to be filled with the transformative power of Jesus’ Spirit, do we not, to bring something special to the feast that is the life we have all been given. It’s not easy, especially at the moment, yet sometimes we see hope for the future in the very thing we thought was a worry. At Windsor, we have had to cancel the planned Burns’ Supper on the 22nd of January, but this has freed me up to attend the District Candidates Selection Committee where I have been asked to give due thought to becoming District Candidates Secretary. The hope for the future is surely strong when there is a need for someone to organise those who are exploring a call to ordained ministry.

We have very little information about Jesus between the birth and the reappearance on the world stage at around 30 years of age. We see him in the temple when he a few days old, and then again at about 13, and then not again until he is ready to start his ministry. What was he doing? If he had not been working his family would not have survived. If he had not been praying, his relationship with God would not have seen him through all that was to come.

If he had not been studying the scripture, he would not have been able to understand and interpret all that was to come.

As we too study, work and pray, may his example guide us in the coming days.

God bless,
Vicci

Thought for the week – 19/12/21

“Do not be afraid” the angel sang, “Do not be afraid” the hilltops rang.
Round about was filled with glory, drawing them into the story
Saying “Do not be afraid, do not be afraid.”
“Do not be afraid,” they sing today. “Do not be afraid,” oh hear them say.
For the world is turning onwards, God has got his hands upon us Saying, “Do not be afraid, Do not be afraid.”
“Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified.” Luke 2:9

Sheila Cassidy writes in the book: Confessions of a Lapsed Catholic – “Christian society in Britain has domesticated the Gospel. It is geared to loving God in moderation. We may give alms to the poor, visit the sick and the lonely, hold annual bazaars and flag days for those in need – in fact do any good works that do not threaten the pattern of our society. But to demand justice at the expense of people’s comfort or security – that makes us troublemakers.”

Well, you can decide for yourself whether or not you think she’s right. But we have domesticated our thoughts about angels. We make cutesy little figurines, we put on annual plays in which tiny little four year olds in white pillow cases with a sprinkling of silver tinsel stand before the congregations and proclaim with varying levels of confidence “You don’t need to be afraid.” No, of course I don’t need to be afraid! You are a third of my height, you weigh a tenth of what I weigh, if you do something I don’t like, I merely have to pick you up to stop you doing it – why on earth would l be afraid?
But the shepherds were afraid. The messengers of God inspire awe and the glory of God is both fearful and wonderful. Let us stand for one moment today and allow ourselves to feel the fear that we would feel if that angel stood before us and we, with no knowledge of how the story was to unfold, felt the glory of God around us.

Have a wonderful Christmas.
God bless, Vicci

Thought for the week – 12/12/21

On the third Sunday of Advent, we light the Joy candle. Advent is a solemn time of fasting and preparation, and yet also we have the joy of what is to come, the birth of a baby who changed the world.

At this time of year, we are urged to remember that not everyone finds Christmas a happy time. There are those who have suffered at this time of year and find the memory of old hurts and deep griefs amplified by their contrasts with the gaiety of Christmas. There are those who are worried that they cannot fulfil the hopeful wishes of expectant children and who may end up getting into debt and struggling to try to manage. There are those who are lonely and who, faced with the television’s relentless reminder that, according at least to the programmers, Christmas is all about family and coming home for the season, feel depressed and anxious that their lives do not look like that.

We are not wrong, and we are never wrong, to remind ourselves that not everyone sees the world as we do, and that things that may be lovely for us may be less so for others. However, we might also remember that we celebrate Christmas as the birthday of our Saviour, Lord and King. That we celebrate Christmas as the beginning of a 33-year story that culminates in Good News for all, joy to the world and death is not the end.

Joy is a more deep-rooted experience than happiness and can, I would suggest, exist even alongside sadness. It is an experience that recognises that when Julian of Norwich said “All will be well, and all will be well and all manner of things will be well,” she wasn’t being trivial but deeply, truthfully speaking out an absolute belief in the depth of the care of God for God’s people. Joy is a grateful optimism that believes that this is true not just for Julian of Norwich but for all people and at all times. That we are loved, and cared for and that because of this love, Jesus was sent. “God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) It is in the recognition of this faith that we light the Joy candle this week, as we prepare for the moment when the angels sang “Joy to the world and on earth peace and goodwill to all people.”

God bless
Vicci

Thought for the week – 07/11/21

Brothers and Sisters

Only a few weeks after the brutal killing of Sir David Amess MP, I find myself less inclined than usual to mark Guy Fawkes Day. Part of me enjoys the fun, the fireworks and the opportunity for one last sausage and soup picnic before the year really is too cold, and part of me finds that which we are remembering is too close to the knuckle. Of course, we are celebrating the failure and not the success of Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators, but faced with this recent assassination, with the inevitable memories of Jo Cox and before her of the bombing of the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton, it puts me slightly on edge. And then of course, there are the dogs who are petrified of the “big bangs” and all those who, having escaped to this country from a place where bombing and shootings were commonplace may be re-traumatised by what we see as a celebration.

On the other hand, it is a very British response to tough times. We take them, we laugh at them, we subvert them, we make them into something else. Ring-a-ring-a-roses was a song about dying from the plague; Baa baa black sheep was about workers’ rights and Georgie-Porgie, Pudding and Pie was about inappropriate sexual demands made by someone who was too powerful to refuse. Songs that have become children’s ditties were originally reminders, teaching tools and a way of claiming back some power.

This upside-down, back-to-front way of seeing the world is perhaps a reflection of our understanding of the upside-down of Kingdom values; our interpretation of teaching that says “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you”, and takes the cursed death of hanging on a tree, mixes it with the ritual uncleanliness of blood, and declares it to be God’s way of washing clean the sins of humanity. Whether the back-to-front nature of taking the Great Fire of London and writing a song about it to be sung as a four part children’s round is in fact Godly, or simply a particular way of healing difficulty through dark humour, it is true that we are called to live in this strange world of God’s where the first will be last and the last will be first, where it is easier for a small child to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than a rich and educated ruler and where the blind can be healed, but the priests and the Pharisees see less and less of what is going on.

What ever the case, when we see those sparkling fountains in the night sky, let’s send up after them a prayer of thanksgiving for Jesus, the light of the world.

God bless, Vicci

Thought for the week – 31/10/21

Sisters and Brothers

This Sunday falls on All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween as it has come to be called. The day before All Saints’ Day on the 1st and All Souls’ Day on the 2nd of November. It ushers in what has become a season of remembrance in the Church with Remembrance Sunday to follow.

In the very early days of the church, Christian martyrs were given a day to mark their martyrdom and so for example, St Stephen’s Day, marking the death of the very first Christian martyr is on the 26th of December, although we more usually call it Boxing Day. Eventually though, there were so many martyrs that we simply ran out of days in the year and so in the 8th century, the 1st of November was declared All Saints’ Day to mark the death of all the martyrs. It was then decided to designate the 2nd of November All Souls’ Day to mark those who had died in the faith. Over the years in various well-meaning sermons, I have heard preachers say that we are all saints and that All Saints’ Day is for everyone. I do believe we are all saints in one meaning of the word, and I do believe that when we sing “For all the Saints, who from their labours rest” we are talking about all those who have gone before us, but I sort of want to reclaim both days, because it is no small thing to have died because of your faith and although we do not usually run that risk in this country, still today there are countries where those who affirm Jesus as Lord are putting themselves at risk.

Perhaps because of Newton’s 3rd law (“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”) when faced with the celebration of All Saints and All Souls, the ancient Celtic tradition that ghosts returned to earth on the 31st of October before their New Year on the 1st of November, was marked by certain people as a time when the fabric between earth and heaven became thin, and people dressed up to scare off the ghosts or perhaps to confuse them. Who is to say? We are faced with the inevitable march of capitalism which requires that any and every day that can be turned into an opportunity to demand money shall do so and we now have the chocolate consuming, zombie-fest that is today’s Halloween. Like it or loathe it, it is here to stay for the moment, but whether we put up a pumpkin and offer the 6 year-old witch some sweeties, or whether we close our doors and curtains and pretend to be away, let’s take some time this week to remember all those who have gone before us and whose teaching and actions has lit for us the path that leads to Heaven.

God bless, Vicci