8th November, Remembrance Sunday, 2020


The reading is here

Matthew 25:1-13


Reflection on Matthew 25: 1-13, Remembrance, by Rev Fiona Ogg

Think of the Macdonald’s logo, or the Apple logo - what they are?  

Each has a meaning deeper than  golden arches or an apple with a bite missing.


For many years most people couldn’t read so symbols were very important - 

almost a language - just like emojis are now!

Flowers were the emojis of the day

Even now - think of the significance of being given a red rose!

In some countries white flowers are for when someone dies.


A red poppy is recognised as a symbol but for what?


We remember those who have died / been lost / injured / given so much during times of war

We remember how much each person is ready and willing to do and sacrifice for others.


When we see the poppy perhaps we’ll remember 

Great-grandfather was away in the war, abroad fighting, 

or somewhere in this country working in a factory to support the war effort.

When we see the poppy perhaps we’ll remember that

while Great-grandfather was away, 

great-granny and her friends worked in the fields 

to make sure there was enough food for her family - 

when we see the poppy perhaps we’ll remember 

those who were medical and dealt with so much pain and hurt.

When we see the poppy we remember so much



Today is Remembrance Sunday - 

an annual event when people round the world will stop, 

take time to remember and reflect on the deeper meaning of the symbol of a poppy.


This ritual of marking events is felt to be important - it always has been.

Many such are recorded in the Bible.

For example, Jesus of Nazareth especially timed his visit to Jerusalem 

to coincide with the annual celebration of Passover.

Jesus was crucified and died.   

Following very closely after Jewish Passover, 

Christians celebrate Jesus’ resurrection as Easter, 

and wear the symbol of the cross to remind them of this.

Building of the theme of sacrifice that happened at Passover, 

Christians, link into a deeper understanding that, for them, 

Jesus was ready and willing to give his all 

to be the sacrifice that saved and saves people from separation from God.

Easter marks, amongst other meanings, 

the release from the past, 

and a new life and hope that come living and dying for others.


When we see a cross, 

we remember that Jesus was ready and willing to give his all 

so that people could have the hope of a something more than this current life.

When we see a poppy, 

we remember the people who were ready and willing to give their all 

so that their loved ones too would have the hope of freedom and something more than this current life. 


In the reading today, we read of a group of bridesmaids.

Weddings are new beginnings, a trust in a different future.

Half were wise, prepared, ready and willing to participate.  

In the dark of the night their light shone out.

The other half were not wise, nor ready, unwilling to participate 

and remained in the dark.

In the darkest of times, 

those who are wise look for light of hope. 


When we see the poppy 

we give thanks that in difficult times, 

people find they are strong, 

have more courage than they know, 

are ready to commit to serving others.

To trust there is something more than this current life.

and find the light of hope. 


When we see the poppy we remember so much.


Each year, as a wreath of poppies is laid at War Memorials

And these words are spoken


They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.  

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.  

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, 

we will remember them.


When you see the poppy, 

remember it is so much more than a flower - 

I wonder, what will you remember?     Amen



Prayer, (from Common Order, p411)

God of goodness and truth, 

we offer our broken spirits for your healing, 

our searching for your guiding light; 

through Jesus Christ our Lord.


God of light and love, 

you desire that all your people should live in your peace.  

Grant us the humility to seek your forgiveness 

and the will to practice it in our dealings with others.


Help us in days to come 

to seek the good of the world, 

to work for the increase of peace and justice, 

and to show tolerance and open-mindedness 

towards those whose character and customs differ from ours. 


Grant that our remembrances this day 

may be consecrated for practical service, 

and the world made better for our children’s children.


Receive our prayers for the well-being of all people; 

especially those who mourn and are sad, 

for all in distress, 

both know to us and unknown.


Hear us for the peace of the world, 

for the wise resolution of conflicts, 

and the release of captive 

and oppressed people everywhere.  

Grant that the people of the world 

may do your will and live in your spirit; 


through Jesus Christ our Lord 

who gave us this prayer - 

Our Father, who art in heaven, 

hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done, 

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, 

as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, 

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, 

and the glory, for ever, amen


1st November, 2020

Reading is here

Matthew 23: 1-12

All Saints Day by Rev Donald McCorkindale


Today is All Saints Day - a day when we remember all the saints - not just the ones like Andrew that has his own special day coming up at the end of November or St George that we might remember in April or David at the beginning of March. All Saints - a day to remember all the people of God past and present who have done great things and who have done the little things well and faithfully. We are all Saints - the Scriptures calls the people of God, the Church of God, the ‘saints of God’. Maybe there is a sense in which were not saints yet! But we are on a journey - a journey in which we become more Christlike - more Saint like. When asked what a saint is a young child once replied ‘A saint is someone that the light shines through’ - he may have been thinking of a stained glass window - but how right he was - a saint is one through whom the light shines! There is an aspirational thought for us! Maybe something of being saintly is to lead an authentic life. In the gospel passage today Jesus encounters the religious leaders of his day and he is able to say ‘yes they are they the respected leaders and you must do what they say - but don't do what they do. Maybe not so much respected as ‘recognised’ as the leaders. Jesus could see in them are a disconnect between what was said and what was done - and maybe in our own time and over recent months many of our political leaders have found themselves caught between what they said and what they were seen to be doing.


An authentic genuine life where what you see is what you get, is maybe something that Jesus expects of disciples no gap no gulf between belief and behaviour. On this All Saints day as we also think something on the reformed and reforming nature of our church we remember that we are a church always in need of reform. And I want to say that 500 years on from those Reformation days that would divide the church, so much of what divides the denominations has of course been healed in more recent times and it's good that there is so much ecumenical working across denominational divides. The church is always in need of reform and our own Church of Scotland is of course wrestling with big questions of radical restructure, and radical change, structural reform. As convener of the business committee of the General Assembly and as an Assembly Trustee I have been involved in many of those conversations recently and I keep coming back to the thought that I heard from a change management consultant many years ago who said ‘that there are only three things that you can change - structures, policies and mindset and you have to change them all - and the most difficult is always mindset!’ And as I think on that and think on the need for the church to be reformed continually I remembered that the church is not anything other than the gathering together of the Saints of God


It's you and me and together, we need to recognise our own need for continual reform. How can I be a better version of myself tomorrow as opposed to yesterday. We need to reflect upon our life our beliefs, our behaviour that we might be seen to have something within us of God. Something other... something beyond the ordinary and mundane of our existence. On this All Saints Day, let us remember that the church is a school for sinners much more than a rest home for the saints! Together we journey to become... to become more Christlike to become more saintlike.


Happy All Saints Day to you all - Saints and Sinners! Amen.


Prayer, from Nick Fawcett’s A Common Worship, Year A

Father God,

We come before you today, ready to listen, to hear your words of wisdom.  


We thank you bringing order out of chaos, 

shaping the universe and creating the world.

Especially today, we thank you for the men and women of faith, all who, across the years and our own lifetime, have given us an example to follow.

We thank you for the Abraham, Moses, Deborah and Ruth, 

for the prophets and those held by church to be saints.

Forgive us when we fail to live up to our inheritance and faith.

Forgive us when the way we behave gives you a bad name.

Forgive us when we treat others without the grace, compassion and mercy we take for granted from you, God.


We pray for the world.

In these unsettling and worrying times, 

may we be bearers of light, hope, love to all around us.  

Help us to reach out to family and friends, near and far, by phone, email, internet, letters, any way we can and share your love.

We pray for all today’s faithful, 

may we continue to follow in the footsteps of those before us.


May we remember we are part of a great company of your people, stretching across the generations.

Thank you for our place in your family.

Loving Father, we offer this prayer in the name of Jesus 

and the power of the Spirit.  Amen 


Something to do

Last week you were encouraged to sit for a moment and think about loving yourself and you love others.


This week, how about thinking of how you have showed that love to others.  What acts of kindness have you shown to others?


Where does that kindness come from?  


Deep within?  Yes, well - but …


where does that kindness come from?


Something bigger than yourself - the company of God’s people? 

How about from God?


Perhaps you could make a list of think of those around you who would like something kind in their life right now.  


If you are a child - you could do a job for your parents - without being told!

Or even, (shock!) do you homework without being reminded?


If you are an adult, don’t rely on others to be kind!  Or on the kindness of others towards you.  How about making sure your neighbour has seen someone today - even from a distance.  Send a note / post card / email to someone you might not normally be in touch with.  


There are so many ways to share God’s love through kindness.  the list on the fridge door might help give you a boost when you need it.


You, too, are one of God’s people, the saints - 

go out and live up to God’s expectations!


25th October, 2020

The reading for today's reflection https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+22%3A34-46&version=NRSV


Reflection on Matthew 22:34-46, by Rev Fiona Ogg

Today is Bible Sunday - 

one day to highlight the most important books ever. 

According to the Guinness World Records by 1995 the Bible had sold over 5 billion times! 

Next was Mao Tse-Tung’s Little Red Book at only 850 million. 

So, the Bible’s a record breaker.


Why?


The Bible is a collection of writings that tell of God’s relationship with people, 

and their relationships with each other - 

of how one relationship impacts and influences the other. 

If we believe we are made in God’s image, 

how does how God love for us show in how we treat others and ourselves?


O wad some power the giftie gie us, To see oursels as ithers see us!

Robert Burns To a Louse

Oh that some power would give us a gift to see ourselves as other see us. 


How do others see us?

How do we see ourselves?

How does God see us?


Let’s have a look at today’s passage and try to understand a little of God’s relationship with us - 

and of our relationship with God, others and ourselves.

Anything we say or write or do is open to interpretation - 

no less so any passage from the Bible. 

To truly understand an underlying meaning, 

we need to know context.   

We’ll look at the meaning of ‘heart’, 

then consider what’s at the heart of our relationship with God and with ourselves.


The most well known verses of this passage are verses 37 - 40.


The NIV reads - 

Jesus replied, 

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart 

and with all your soul and with all your mind. 

This is the first and greatest commandment. 

And the second is like it: 

Love your neighbour as yourself. 

All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.’


Other versions use strength or might instead of ‘mind’ - 

scholars suggest these are closer to the original meaning.   

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart 

and with all your soul and with all your strength / might.’ 

Mind didn’t mean anything to the Jews of Jesus time.


Jewish understanding was that theheartsustained life. 

The mind was not known of, 

it was assumed that intellect was seated in the heart. 

Your heart was more than the organ pumping blood around the body - 

your heart is where you understand things, 

your heart made connections - 

your heart was / is the centre of your existence. 

Wisdom dwells in the heart, 

which also discerns between truth and error (Proverbs (14:33).


From ancient days, many Jews say a morning and evening prayer, the Shema (Deut 6:49)

Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, 

and with all your soul, and with all your might (or strength).

This dedicates each day to God 

and is one of the cornerstones of Jewish faith and tradition.


Shema reminds Jews of the primary importance of the heart, 

for the heart to be first in their relationship with God. 

This is the context in which Jesus uses the word, heart.


In this section of his writings, chapters 21-25, 

Matthew records Jesus repeatedly challenged by the religious authorities; 

Jesus’ unsettling presence showed up how much their hearts were not engaging with interpretation of the law. 

The Sadducees had tried to trick Jesus in a legal tangle about marriage and now, the Pharisees thought they’d have another go at challenging Jesus.


Jesus’ answer reminded the Pharisees of the importance of this centring on the heart of God - love God first, 

then others as yourself - 

God, others, yourself. 

Shema clearly links love, God, others, self, heart, soul and strength.


Where do we usually put ourselves in this list? 

We often ignore the last bit reads ‘othersasyourself’.


Putting others first seems noble and self-sacrificing 

but that’s not what we are told to do. 

Unless we look after ourselves 

we won’t be of use to anyone else. 

I’ll be tired, hungry and cranky. 

We can be so self-critical! 

If I keep telling myself I’m rubbish, 

I’ll start believing it, 

others will pick that up and believe it too. 

Would I allow others to talk like that of eg my child? 

Think again of that quote from Burns - 

what would we give for the power to enable us to see ourselves as others see us? 


Christianity teaches that God sees everyone as ‘His’ children - 

and God doesn’t put us down! 

God sees and accepts us as we are, 

then encourages each of us to think of all we can be. 

Honest self-acceptance and a healthy love of self are not un-Biblical or un-Godly. 


God’s love for each of us is characterised by heartfelt grace, forgiveness, mercy. 

Remember, 

there is nothing that will stop God loving us (Romans 8:37-39), 

‘(my) unfailing love for you will not be shaken … says the Lord, 

who has compassion on you’ (Isa 54:10) 

and ‘we love because He (God) first loved us’ ( 1 John 4:190


God loves us, cares for us, is gentle with us - 

yes, challenges us like Jesus challenged the religious authorities - 

because God has a heart full of love and care. 


‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’ 

If God loves me, how can I not love myself?   


So go, put your feet up, 

have a cuppa, 

be gentle on yourself 

and remember that God loves you. 

Then, go out and love your neighbour as yourself. Amen


We pray for your presence with each one of us in our different places as we share your word and praise your name together today. Please support us to encourage others with love and understanding.


Prayer, by Eilidh Canning of Ardnamurchan Parish Church

Dear Lord,

Thank you for the many blessings of beauty and love you reveal to us when we need to lean on you, especially in recent times, when we feel disconnected from our communities and forgotten by friends and loved ones.  Thank you for being our constant guide and companion when life is challenging. 

Remind us every day of your precious love. Remain our source of strength and endurance as we battle with diminished hope arising from the wrongs and desperate need we see around us and, in our attempt, to tackle the spread of this deadly virus currently threatening our World and those we love.

Help us to reflect that bright hope you bestow upon us in the things we do and say, especially towards those who are lost or discouraged and need to learn about the love and forgiveness you freely give to all who ask of you. 

We know you never meant for life to be easy for us, and we humbly accept your will and ask that you continue to shape and guide us into the people you want us to be as we work together towards a world where there is acceptance, respect and love for everyone.

In Jesus name. Amen


18th September, 2020

The reading from Matthew 22:15-22 can be found at this link https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+22%3A+15+-+22&version=NRSV

Reflection on Matthew 22:15-22, by Rev Donald McCorkindale

Politics and religion are things not to talk about in company - some say! Perhaps it’s because they alway beg the question ‘who holds truth?’. 


My truth may not be your truth - because we have different values at our core that define who we are and how we behave and interact with others.


Conservative or Socialist, Nationalist or Unionist, Democrat or Republican? Literalist or liberal - different fundamental values and beliefs which have shaped humanity thru’ the generations. For the faithful Jew of Jesus’ day the question of politics and the practice of faith go together. Many would say this is as true in our time.


Specifically for the Jews who questioned Jesus, the focus of attention was on their relationship with their Roman landlords.


For some, the Torah - the God given law - was without question the only rule of Law and life - and particularly the version of Torah as prescribed by the Scribes and Pharisees. These Leaders kept developing God’s law, defining the law more and more, initially by way of clarifying the law in particular circumstances, but as is - often the way in those circumstances they could be accused of overcomplicating it. 


Jesus is being invited to critique their work. The questioners are out to entrap him, waiting for him to damage his credibility in the face of Jewish Law or give them reason to accuse him of downright rebellion.

But here, in this encounter, Jesus is more circumspect than we see him in other conversations. If the prosecuting Pharisees were attempting to box Jesus in, then Jesus instead shows mastery in being able to slip away without creating cause for ‘Sentencing’. In the subtlety of his words he leaves them, and the listener, plenty to ponder and reflect upon.


For the Pharisees, the Torah influenced their whole relationship with Roman authority and civil law; including the question of “does the law of God permit you to pay your taxes?”. The Pharisees were rejecting Roman rule/taxation, yet there were other Jews, the Herodians, who were supportive of taxation under Roman oppression. This faction perhaps recognised the ‘good’ that could be done through a fair system of taxes that allowed for the betterment of society (or wanted to keep in with the Romans in order to maintain their position in the power hierarchy!)


There is a common assumption that taxes imposed by external rulers are a bad thing but not everyone believed that. Maybe even Jesus in his answer to the conundrum posed by his questioners had a degree of sympathy with such a view. The question of taxes is of course a relevant one for our own societies - in our own times.


Without tax revenue the furlough scheme - ‘Job Retention Scheme’ as a response to the pandemic would not have been possible; and it is inevitable that the economic cost of Covid-19 will need to be paid back through taxation for years to come. 


Taxation then is not just a question of moral integrity or religious interpretation, it is woven into the fabric of how societies work and is huge factor in whether our societies work fairly - or not.


Although the Pharisees may have a motive of entrapment at play in asking Jesus a question about taxes, we recognise that the theme of the conversation is a sincere one.


For a people of faith, what relationship is to be encouraged with the society, and civil authorities, in which they live?


Jesus, with a delicate argument, leaves the Pharisees in no doubt about the interconnectedness of religion and civil life when he points out that the coins in their very own pockets, portray the head of the Roman Emperor himself. 


The two cannot be separated. As People of faith we are called not only to live in the world but to influence it towards becoming a world of fairness and justice.


What are the values that define us? Will we take time to reflect and review - are the Kingdom Values Jesus taught part of our being - and acting. What are the values that we are called to use as we challenge the world’s unfair systems, and seek to establish the society that God desires for the world?

Amen.


Prayer

We lay our broken world 

in sorrow at your feet, 

haunted by hunger, war and fear, 

oppressed by power and hate.


Here human life seems less 

than profit, might and pride, 

though to unite us all in you, 

you lived and loved and died.


We bring our broken towns, 

our neighbours hurt and bruised; 

you show us how old pain and wounds 

for new life can be used.


We bring our broken loves, 

friends parted, families torn; 

then in your life and death we see 

that love can be reborn.


We bring our broken selves, 

confused and closed and tired; 

then through your gift of healing grace 

new purpose is inspired.


Come Spirit, on us breathe, 

with life and strength anew; 

find in us love, and hope, and trust,

 and lift us up to you.


CH4 721, words by Anna Briggs©️This is the Day, Wild Goose Publications


Something to do and think about.

When did you last make pictures of coins? 

Take a handful of coins, especially if you have any foreign coins in the house. Lay them flat, take some paper and crayons, or old pencils. Lay the paper over the coins and rub over the coin to leave an impression of the coin on the paper.


Look at the different coins and think about the different governments that rule over the countries the coins come from. Who gets the money? What is done with the money?


Who likes paying taxes! Yet, think of how they share financial resources that enable the sharing of health care, education, roads, police, fire services and so much more.


Each time you have a coin in your hand, take a moment to think about what is represented by the coin. What does the coin now represent?


11th Sept, 2020

The reading from Matthew 22:1-14 can be found from this link https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+22%3A1+-+14&version=NRSV


Reflection on Matthew 22:1-14, by Rev Donald McCorkindale

The bells were ringing because there was a wedding.

The streets are lined with people because there was a wedding. 

The crowds had begun to gather because there was a wedding.


But this time no one arrived. Oh no! 


Where were the guests who had been invited to the wedding?

Where were the well-dressed invited to the wedding? 

Where were the important people invited to the wedding? 


No one came. Oh no! 


Some said they were too busy to come to the wedding. 

Some said they didn't have a hat to wear to the wedding. 

Some said they needed more time to come to the wedding.


So no one arrived - oh no!.


The king told his servants to invite everyone to the wedding. 

The king told his servants to invite all the crowds to the wedding. 

The king told his servant to invite anyone to the wedding. 


Does that mean us? Oh no.

 

But the king wanted everyone to come to the wedding, 

the food is already - so come to the wedding! 

I'll give you the outfits - so come to the wedding 


So everyone replied - oh yes!

 

So everyone who was waiting was invited to the wedding. 

Everyone who was watching was invited to the wedding. 

Everyone who was poor and least was invited to the wedding. 

And they began to celebrate - oh wow! 


Are we invited to go to the wedding? 

Shall we go, now, and go to the wedding? 

Is there a place for us to go to the wedding? 


There is! Let's go - oh yes! 


There is a place for us at the wedding! 

It's a celebration for all, this wonderful wedding! 

It's a ‘kingdom of God’ this picture, this wonderful wedding! 

It's a story of welcome, this wonderful wedding! 


Are you invited? 

Oh yes. 

You are invited. 


So often the in the Scriptures the image of the feast is used as a metaphor of God's abundant goodness. A feast, a table prepared for the sheep of Psalm 23. That Psalm we reflected upon a few weeks after Easter - and here we are again as we continue in our journey through the Covid pandemic. What does it mean for us to know that we are in the company of the one who comforts as a shepherd and cares for his sheep? 


I'm always fascinated with the way that Psalm begins with talking about God and concludes talking to God.

 

We are invited, we are invited into a relationship with Almighty God.


The parable that we heard from Matthew chapter 22. 

It’s a difficult parable. 

There are certainly things I'm not sure I fully understand. 

There are bits that I do. 

It's a parable that speaks of all being welcomed - 

all invited.


We like to think that we are invited to the parties, don't we.

 

When we are, we have to make a response - 

and maybe there are things that we we want to know before we're going to say yes. 

What expected of me - is there going to be some responsibility laid upon me?

 

Well when we think of the invitation that comes from God, yes. 

Yes it's a big ask 

and there are responsibilities that go with sharing in God’s plan and purpose for the world.

 

When were invited to the party we might want to know who else is going to be there - 

we might want some time to think if we really want to go to the party. 

Maybe we feel there is no need. 

Maybe we feel but we don't want to go to some religious party when surely science has all the answers. 

I mentioned at the beginning the Science and Faith conference being organised by Grasping The Nettle. 

These are real and important issues for us all in our 21st century world. 

Where does faith, 

where does the response to Gods invitation, 

fit in in our world today? 


Here is a kingdom parable, 

a parable that seems to allow into Gods kingdom some unlikely characters. 


Really? 


What do we expect other than that Almighty God's invitation is going to be for all!


it is, as I've said, a parable with its difficulties.


There are bits that I'm really not sure that I understand. 

What of the clothes, the garments? 

What also the one who was cast out from the party?

 

Before I dwell too much on the bits I don't understand - 

I hear in this parable something of words of challenge to the church - 

that has to realise that sometimes it has forgotten kingdom ways - 

and has become an institution, 

with its own culture and tradition and rules, 

that sometimes keeps people out.

And maybe what is true of my church, 

is true of my community, 

my life. 


Here is a parable that speaks of kingdom values of invitation and welcome to all.

To all.

All are invited! 

All are welcome - 

rich and poor, 

black and white, 

doubting and certain, 

the holy and not so, 

the messy the tidy, 

the gay, the straight, 

the introvert, the extrovert, 

the accepting and the questioning.

God says all are invited, 

all are welcome to the adventure of life and love and faith

Amen.


Prayer

Praise the Lord!

Give thanks for the Lord is good and his love is with me for all time!

Thank you God, that I am invited to Your party: 

it’s a party like no other, 

a party were I don’t have to dress up, 

don’t have to put on a party face 

or make small talk. 

At this party, I can be myself - 

it’s how you would expect me to be. 

Help me to accept myself as you do.

It’s a party where I can relax and feel at home with you, God.


Lord God, at this party I’ll meet friends and stranger - 

and they’ll be themselves too! 

It’s as ourselves that you welcome us.


It’s at this gathering that despair is transformed to hope, 

fear to joy, loss to new beginnings, 

loneliness into acceptance and community.

So many new relationships will be started at this party in God’s house, God’s kingdom.


Not only at times set aside to worship you, God, but at all times,

 may we also be welcoming hosts to those who share our lives, 

even for five minutes. 

May the party bags be full of prayers for others, 

the gifts of love to share, 

acceptance, welcome, support, wisdom and hope - 

we pray these gifts will wrap our lives in the values and attitudes of your Kingdom.


As you include us in your party, may we, in your image, include others too.

Amen


Something to do

If you were to be able to have a party just now, - 

Who would you invite to your party? 

Anyone at all -

Who would you like to have in your home?

Who would you like to introduce to who else?

Who would you leave off the list?

How would they all fit in together?


Big question … Why these people?


What is it you value enough about them to put time and effort into hosting them?


What is it about yourself that God values enough to invite you to ‘His’ party? And, what about the others there?


Maybe, along with the gifts in the party bag mentioned in the prayer, these questions are in the party bag for us to wonder upon?


4th October 2020

The reading for today is found here https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+21%3A33+-+46&version=NRSV

Reflection on Matthew 22:33-46 - The parable of the tenants. by Rev Fiona Ogg

 

The point is, ladies and gentlemen,

that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.

Greed is right.  Greed works.


So said Michael Douglas’ character, Gordon Gekko, in the 1987 film Wall Street.  


Greed continues to surround people, each and every day.  

CEOs salaries are many times the salary of their lowest employee.  

TV Adverts play on people’s greed for more and more … stuff!  


‘Get your new settee for Christmas!’  

Great-Aunty Agatha may notice the settee isn’t as saggy 

but she’ll get more support and joy from sharing and being part of the family, 

the children playing, the chat and relationships being celebrated.  

Christmas celebrates the closeness of the relationship between God and humanity, 

the sharing of God’s love and the closeness of God’s kingdom. 


In the developed world, most people have more stuff than needed, 

but seem unsatisfied and greedy for more - 

the impulse buys, must look in this shop incase there’s anything I like …  

Recently, many have had a clear out - 

perhaps in part, having so much stuff while others have little just feels wrong.  


What gives more fulfilment, gives a sense of worth and value - 

spending time and energy on the acquisition of stuff 

or on our relationships with others?  

Restrictions of movement have perhaps shifted priorities, 

reminding many of the need, as well as want, of relationships.


Maybe we need to think about needs instead of our wants, 

and also our attitudes towards our possessions, and their purpose.


In this country, the basic physical needs of most people are met; 

a roof over-head gives shelter, 

food on the table nourishes, 

clothes warmth, 

beyond that, what really is the purpose of excess stuff?  

Of course, stuff adds layers of interest to life, 

but there’s a point where we simply have too much stuff.   

Our energy is spent looking after stuff that is of little or use - 

yet we won’t give it away or share it with others.  

It’s easy to forget, like the vineyard tenants, 

excess doesn’t really belong to us - 

but is meant to be shared.  


Current restrictions have reminded us that basic emotional needs are hugely important.  

Good relationships with ourselves and with others 

give us so much worth and value that cannot be substituted by excess.  

We feel more confident, feel valued, 

we have worth, 

we have a place amongst the group of people we live with, 

and that group has a place in the wider world.  

Individually and collectively, 

fulfilled emotional needs build a sense and framework of cohesion, 

to support for individuals through the bad times 

and celebrate in the good. 


But sometimes families, groups, communities 

build a wall around themselves 

and push out those they feel don’t belong, or fit, 

so they can keep for themselves what they have, 

and no sharing.  

Lives are impoverished and diminished by this attitude 

and the context is of want or greed - not need.  


Instead, time and energy are better spent building up people and communities to live lives of fulfilment and thrive!  

Jesus reminded Israel, and reminds us today there is something more, 

something deeper than our greed - 

something within us, 

spirit connecting with spirit, 

that acknowledges we are rooted in something bigger than ourselves.  

Are these connections evidence of being linked together as part of God’s Kingdom?


Matthew explores the confrontation between human attitudes and God’s attitude.  

The religious leaders were so immersed in their own attitude of greed 

they had become oblivious to the needs of others.  

The 700 year old story Jesus told of the vineyard was quoted from the prophet Isaiah (chapter 5)!  And it speaks to us today over 2000 years later.  

It’s a chronic problem - 

greed affects humanity as a whole, 

always has and, sadly, probably always will.


Parables, each time we read or hear them, 

invite us to tease out the meaning; 

we are encouraged to delve deeper into our spiritual needs.  

The parables slowly reveal creation as God meant it to be 

and reveal the timeless truth of the prophets and Jesus 

that, in faith, we are encouraged to  clear out of our lives what is really not essential, 

to make way for new purpose, new hope and fulfilment for all.


The story of the vineyard provokes a sense of outrage at the greed of the tenants 

and the injustice of the murders of the servants and of the son.  

Why?  The injustice of greed!


The tenants may have worked hard and want to keep for themselves the fruits of their labour

 but this ignores the fact that it isn’t actually theirs to keep.  


Whose is the soil that nourished the vines?  

Whose is the vineyard?  

These belong to the owner of the vineyard.


Whose if the world in which we live?  

Where did the gifts and talents come from 

that allowed the tenants to look after the vines?

that allow us the fruits of our labour, the necessities and stuff of our lives?


iI’s deeper than the superficial story.


Our gifts and talents are God-given and not only for us but for those around us too.  


Greed feeds only the individual.  

The vineyard tenants were interested in only themselves 

and when the servants and son came, 

they were reminded that all we are 

and all we have is God-given 

for the benefit of all - 

we are expected to share the fruits of our labour with the needy.  

What they had was not theirs to keep for themselves.  

What we have is not ours to keep for ourselves. 

 In God’s kingdom,

what we have is for a share of God’s creation.


God is generous - 

the vineyard flourished!  

in God’s kingdom, 

there is enough to go around!  

We say, 

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, 

on earth as it is in heaven.  

May we mean it, amen



Prayer by Maris Buchanan

Dear Lord,

We come to you in prayer - 

we want and we need to have this time with you.


We know that you have created this world for us - 

perhaps not in six days as we know the days 

but in six periods of time.  

You created all the wonders of the universe - 

the climate, the landscapes, the natural resources - 

every single thing that enables life and prosperity.


At this time of harvest in our country, 

we are especially thankful for the produce of our lands 

and we ask that you guide us in the wise use of all that we receive.  

We must gives and share, giving with love and kindness.


But we know, Lord, that over the years 

we have not cared for all your wonders, all your gifts as we should.  

In many parts of the world there is hunger and war; 

accidents and natural disasters are occurring.  

People are dying from illnesses hitherto unknown.


We cannot understand all the things that are happening 

but with your help and forgiveness, Lord, 

we can seek and be guided 

to the knowledge to overcome disease and disaster.  

Guided by your love we strive to ensure safely and equality for all.  

We must ask, Lord, for your guidance for the way ahead.


Let us close now with the well known words of Francis of Assisi

 who  reminds us of our responsibilities, 

of our duties to others and to our environment.


St Frances prayed - 


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me bring love.

Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.

Where there is discord, let me bring union.

Where there is error, let me bring truth.

Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.

Where there is despair, let me bring hope.

Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.

Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.


O Master, let me not seek as much

to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,

to be loved as to love,

for it is in giving that one receives,

it is in self-forgetting that one finds,

it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,

it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.

 Amen. 



Something to do

Have a look at the newspaper or watch the news - then think of various world and national leaders.  It could be politicians or it could be leaders of organisations such as Google, Apple, the WHO, UN, social influencers …


What makes them look like a leader?


What would you think should be on their CV?  School qualifications and or work experience and why are those important?


What qualities and interests would you like to hear in a personal statement? 


What about how they see the future - or how they treat others?


What kind of behaviour would you expect from them?


How would you expect them to behave and respond when things go well, or when things go badly?


What would make you respect or reject that person?  

How do we treat our leaders?  


In our faith how do we understand leadership and authority? 


Leadership and authority are different things.  We will be led by people who do not always have authority.  Authority involves trust, and people trusting someone into the future, to make choices on things yet to be experienced.  






27th August, 2020 - whose authority?

The reading from Matthew 21 can be found at this link https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+21%3A23+-+32&version=NRSV


Who are the people of authority and power in your life - yes, even adults have people of authority and power around them.


Might be a medical person, the teacher of your children, the police - or maybe the leaders in your community? 


What is it about that person that makes them a person of integrity to you and enables you to accept that their authority and power?


If they are a medical - is it their medical expertise?

A teacher, - is it their ability to engage develop others?

police - is it their ability to bring justice?


We accept authority and power over us because we expect these people to have deep and thorough knowledge of their area of expertise, 

to use their expertise with a degree of empathy and care for the well being of those around them - 

and at the same time take personal responsibility for their own use of their power and authority.    


Overall though, we accept everyone is entitled to an off day and that they had their flaws.  Yes?


My parents were figures of authority and power in my young life.   When she was caught out doing something she’d told my brother and myself not to do, Mum’s favourite saying was ‘Do as I say and not as I do!’  She’d laugh, admit her mistake and show us how to try to do better in the future.  


That’s one of the ways we learnt to deal with mistakes and off days, with integrity.  


Don’t brush it off, accept responsibility for the mistake, learn from the experience and try to be better in the future.


We all have those moments - 

but do we, knowing our own failings, try to cover up by bragging about how virtuous we are, how our integrity remains intact - 

we certainly don’t make a profession out of it.  


What happens to our perception of integrity when we think of MPs - 

you laughed just now, didn’t you!


There are people who have abused their authority and power in some way or another.  

Even when that person does take responsibility for their mistake, 

asks forgiveness and seeks to move on, 

the public perception is that the person is no longer trustworthy, 

even those who really did deserve rehabilitation.


Forgiveness and rehabilitation is one point but 

the main point is that those in authority and power over us should always strive to be people of integrity, 

using that authority and power wisely and to good effect.


Matthew wrote about how Jesus epitomised this.


The second half of Matthew’s Gospel tells of the growing conflict between Jesus and those in power and authority, in particular, religious leaders.  

In chapters 14-20 we read of the expectations the people had of the Messiah, 

and then we read of the contrast, 

of how Jesus was not a military leader but a prince of peace;  

Of how in God’s Messianic kingdom, shown in the life of Jesus 

we can all see how the power and authority of God are used so that the lives of all, 

not only Jews, men, materially wealthy are bettered 

but those with little materially, or spiritually, or emotionally, the forgotten and marginal in society are important too.  


Yet, those who should have known better, the religious leaders, Pharisees, were amongst those expecting a military leader and when Jesus was being hailed by the ordinary people as a that kind of Messiah, the religious authorities were worried about how the Roman authorities would react.  


In chapter 21, we read of Jesus entry into Jerusalem, like a king - being cheered in by a crowd, but riding on a donkey!  That was different, what did it tell of the status of Jesus when he rode as one of the people.  Next he went  to the temple and threw out those who were making money out of worship - these were actions that challenged the power and authority of the religious leaders.


The religious leaders didn’t expect this Messiah!  


The religious authorities didn’t see their mistake; they made a virtue of thinking themselves superior and right; they couldn’t see they’d misread their job description and fallen short of God’s expectations.


They asked Jesus, ‘By whose authority are you doing these things?’  Trying to get the Pharisees to think it through for themselves, in typical Jesus teaching fashion, he answered with a question.   Tying themselves in knots only to answer, they were all woads and bluster, with no substance or integrity, instead of admitting Jesus’ authority is from God, they said, ‘We don’t know.’


Jesus told a story of two sons, one son said yes but didn’t do a job, the other said no but did it!  Jesus linked the unworthy of society with the son who said no to the father but did the job, inferring that those who said yes and did nothing … well, Jesus left the religious leaders to work out for the parallels for themselves.


Talk is cheap - actions speak louder than words.  

The religious authorities and power bragged, blustered and boasted of how virtuous they were 

but didn’t actually look after the widows and orphans, 

didn’t feed the hungry, 

didn’t care for the sick and marginal - 

their integrity was in tatters - 

they didn’t practice God’s values of generosity, kindness, peace, patience, sharing, caring and love.  


During this creation-tide season we can see the accepted values of the world being turned upside down by the values of God’s kingdom.  


A kingdom in which honour is gained by serving others 

not expecting them to serve you

Forgiveness is essential, 

because we all make mistakes.

True wealth is gained by sharing what we have.


God’s kingdom - an upside down kingdom where everyone is welcome and power structures are flipped on their head - a new kind of creation.  Amen to that!



Prayers
you turn the world inside-out and upside-down 

God of boundless love and unlimited grace,

or is it the right way around? 

Jesus speaks to us of the first being last and the last being first. 


Show us the messy and marvellous path of love 

that will turn us inside-out and upside-down 

but also know it finally leads us the right way around.


So we pray for those in places of privilege and power; that those who give empty words and empty promises might be fill the words with justice and the honesty of humility. 


We pray for those under the thumb of privilege and power: 

for voices silenced, breath suppressed, lives destroyed. 


You see justice and exploitation, 

you see hatred, violence and cruelty, 

you see the destruction of hope, the denial of love - 

help us to see it to and teach us to share your anger.

May we open ourselves up to your power and authority, 

to channelling that energy into serving others.

To fighting evil and working for your kingdom


Encourage us to be of that same mind, 

of that same spirit, 

of that unity in Christ, 

that first created the world as you would have it be. Amen. 


20th September, 2020 - Workers and wages

The reading from Matthew 20:1-16 can be found at 

www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+20%3A1-16&version=NRSV

Thanks to Rev Donald McCorkindale for this reflection.

Matthias Claudius, during the 18th Century was onetime Commissioner of Agriculture and Manufacture in Germany, for a time a bank auditor and a newspaper journalist - he was a bit of a poet too... and in 1783 Das Bauernlied - the peasants’ song was published. You have heard of it - we began our worship with it - and in English it’s known as ‘We plough the fields and scatter’ - the great Harvest Hymn.


Matthias like many of his generation had turned from the Church being persuaded by the 18th Century view that humanity was its own saviour and master of its own destiny. History repeats itself. And repeats itself also in the stories like Matthias’ turning point when following serious illness he turned again to the maker of all things, and the God who loves and cares for all people and for all creation.


The beginning of September through to 4th October, St Francis of Assisi day is now marked as Creation Time. In past times in mid September or early October we have gathered in Church Buildings and brought our Harvest gifts to be shared with others in the community and though the local Foodbank... a time to celebrate and give thanks for all the fruits of creation - the produce of land air and sea... and to reflect upon our part in sharing not only God’s good gifts - but God’s justice for all.


In this Harvest Thanksgiving celebration we might have focussed on a more traditional Harvest Bible reading.  Such as Deuteronomy 26 where the people are reminded to 

Recount the story of redemption from slavery... ‘So the Lord brought us out of Egypt 

with amighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and 

wonders. Hebrought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk 

and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” 

Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him. Then you and 

the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things 

the Lord your God has given to you and your household.


We could - but let’s stick with the passage from Matthew - as we continue our journey with the Revised Common Lectionary. This parable speaks of God’s immense justice for all. How do you feel about the story... does it rip your knitting... does it make your blood boil... that the people who worked only an hour got the same as those who worked all day. We are so conditioned by the accepted economic model - the more you work the more you get. But Jesus is presenting a radical thought - what if everyone had enough to meet their needs... to feed their family, keep a roof over their head - and enjoy basic human rights and needs. What is everyone was content with ‘enough’?


Chris Hughes is one of the richest men on the planet. Chance had it that a college roommate would be one Mark Zuckerburger - Chris was part of the founding team that brought Facebook to the world. Chris Hughes is thoughtful, humble and honest about his luck... so says a review of his book ‘Fair Shot - rethinking inequality and how we earn’. Chris Hughes presents a meditation on the great issues of the 21st Century Economy. From a position of wealth and having known having less... he proposes the possibility of a fair income for all - irrespective of ability to work, or availability of work.


Jesus’ parable points us there too - towards the extravagant love and justice of God - who wants good things for all creation... and invited us to share in being part of the solution. As the wealth-poverty gap continues to widen around the world... we do well to pause and take stock…


Perhaps like Matthias Claudius we pause and wonder at the beauty of creation, and sing - ‘all good gifts around us are sent from heaven above - then thank the Lord, then thank the Lord for all his love.’


These last few months have brought devastation and sadness, luck to some and mis-fortune to many... and the realisation that life is fragile... job security fleeting... wealth transitory... life is unfair at times…


God invites us to remember what we do have... to support those who do not have... and seek to be a part of the journey to justice, peace, security, goodness and love for all. 


Prayer for others and ourselves

Lord God, in the reading today we heard about a vineyard owner 

giving all the workers the same pay, 

even though some had worked for longer than others. 


Those who start work at the beginning of the day 

expecting their full pay, and getting it, 

yet when they see others getting the same payment, 

they feel cheated. 

We pray for those who feel suddenly undervalued - 

who wonder, ‘Am I not worth more?’ 


We pray for those who start work at the end of the day, 

expecting less, but receiving so much more!

When they see others getting the same, 

they felt overwhelmed.

We pray for those who suddenly feel they have a value no one else sees.


Yet, Lord God, our perspective is not your perspective. 

We pray for all who see the situation from only their point of view - 

it’s not that we are undervalued, or overvalued

but that, in your eyes God, 

we are all valued and have worth.


The harvest for each worker was gauged against their own expectations.

Still today we judge ourselves against each other, 

and the feelings that come from those comparisons are how we value ourselves.

The harvest of our expectations, of ourselves and others, 

is not as you would value us.


Our prayer is that we stop judging ourselves and others by our values - 

the harvest of that is greed, jealousy and unhappiness. 

But that, through worship, we see judge ourselves and each other by your values - 

the harvest of that is knowing each person has worth, 

each will find more equity, justice and fulfilment. 


May there be a harvest of 

love amongst the hateful, 

compassion amongst the needy, justice for all. 

May we know each of us is loved beyond measure, 

all are treasured, because you Lord, 

desire a harvest of love for the world. Amen.


30th August, 2020 - setback and restarts

Setbacks and new starts.


Is the Bible relevant to life today?  Yes!  But, contextualisation is hugely important.  


It’s full of stories of people who have the similar feelings and problems as we do but whose context was different.  Read a passage though a couple of times and check out what happened before it and after.  This sets the passage in the wider context of the what else is going on.  Often passages are read and understood out of context and therefore lose their meaning.   There are many great commentaries and study guides, on bookshelves and online to help with this; please do use them to help you hear the timeless messages of the wonderful God inspired library of books that is the Bible.


Today’s passage from Matthew …  


If we read only the verses mentioned we lose the context of Jesus outburst and we miss that at this stage of Jesus’ ministry he is highlighting the different expectations people have of him - is he the Messiah (Saviour) Jews expected to lead them out of slavery by the Romans, or is he the long-expected Messiah of the Bible who will turn expectations upside down and replace them with, what are called, Kingdom values?


Jesus explored with small groups, here his disciples, who they thought that he, Jesus, was.  This was a turning point with Jesus challenge to his followers to see him as more than an earthly Messiah.  Then came Peter’s revelation of Jesus as Biblical Messiah!  But Jesus urged his followers to hold onto that knowledge as the time was not right for full disclosure to the world.  


Have you ever had a great experience when you got something so right you felt like you could almost walk on water!  Peter had!  He had realised just who Jesus was.  Jesus not only Peter’s friend, a man, a prophet, healer and teacher - but so much more.  Peter blurted out, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’  Perhaps the writers of the Bible left out the exclamation marks  but Peter’s words fully deserve !!!


The astonishment Peter felt was a ‘Wow, awesome!’ moment,  He would open his mouth and say what everyone else was thinking but didn’t want to say.  Jesus confirmed Peter was right and went on to say he’d build his church ( followers of Jesus, those realise Jesus is the Son of God ), on Peter; Peter was the foundation stone, the first person in Jesus’ church.


Soon after that, Jesus started talking of his death and resurrection.  Perhaps, although he heard all Jesus said, Peter only actually listened to the bit about his death?  Peter, characteristically, immediately said, ‘Never, Lord, this shall never happen to you!’  Such a human response to hearing of the coming death of someone you love.


Jesus answered vehemently, ‘Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’


Put yourselves in Peter’s sandals.  After the euphoria of realising who Jesus really is, suddenly Peter is brought to earth with a crash.  ‘Satan’!  What’s that about??


Imagine Jesus’ outburst, Jesus pauses, takes a breath then explains.  His sights set on the bigger context, greater mission, of showing God’s love to all, in ways that challenge the prevailing mind-set.  In human terms Peter was tempting Jesus to pull back from ultimate commitment to God’s cause.  


When faced with a huge, scary, difficult, life changing, challenge it’s so tempting to encourage ourselves and loved ones to step back and take an easy option.  


For example, at the start of the Covid restrictions it was predicted that some people would decide to use the time to seriously re-evaluate their life - am I working to live or living to work, where do my family and friends fit in to my life, what about my stress and anxiety levels?


We have an opportunity to pause and wonder about achieving a more fulfilled and happier life.  

We can continue focussing on the hamster wheel of work, or the restraining memories of bad experiences of the past - or look at the freedom offered by leaving all that behind and embracing  other values to live by.


From verses 24 to 28, Jesus explains the need to let go the past, to leave the old life style of focussing on self and the expectations of the world, or, in faith, in future nurture one’s soul and live as Jesus did, for others, showing and sharing God’s love and compassion for all.


As The Message puts it. ‘Look, does it make sense to truly become successful, but then to hand over your very soul? What is your soul really worth?’


Peter really did experience a setback with the response of Jesus but in that was the hope of a different, and better, future.  That’s what faith in God offers to all.  We can all reset and restructure our lives round a different set of values; God’s values bringing to life our soul and making life worth living.  


There has been much in the media about the resurgence of community spirit, and much of that has been driven by people of faith: this will only last if we all reset to values of Jesus, living with the love, compassion, justice of God’s kingdom and bringing new life for all. 


May your soul thrive in living out the life of the kingdom of God.  Amen


Rev Fiona Ogg


Prayers - Meditation, from Spill the Beans, Issue 36, p 13

Peter:God forbid it Lord!

Jesus:Get behind me Satan!

Peter:This shall never happen to you!

Jesus:Don’t try and trip me up!

Peter:I’m telling you what’s best for you!

Jesus:I’m telling. You what’s essential for me!

Peter:Do you realise what you’ve said?

Jesus:Do you understand what I’ve said?

Both:No, I don’t think so.


Peter:I and the rock.

Jesus:You are the stumbling block!

Peter:I have concerns of you.

Jesus:I have concerns of God.

Peter:You are supposed to establish

Jesus:I am supposed to establish

Peter:The earthly kingdom

Jesus:The heavenly kingdom.

Peter:You cannot die!

Jesus:I must die!

Peter:Do you realise what you’ve said?

Jesus:Do you understand what I’ve said?

Both:No, I don’t think so.


A thorny issue to become a stumbling block: the very idea of God being nailed to the cross. 

A cross of suffering and shame and scandal - a stumbling block itself. 

A reminder of death to our self.  Amen.


23rd August, 2020

Reading from Matthew 16: 13-20 - Who do you say I am?

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+16%3A13+-+20&version=NRSV

Reflection on Matthew 16:13 - 20 - Stepping out in faith: who do you say I am?

That account from Matthew’s gospel is one that’s also told in Mark and Luke. It’s a pivotal moment in the gospel story. Jesus had taken his disciples away up north - up to Caesarea Philippi - away up in the north where the river Jordan begins its journey... down through the Holy land, down to the Dead Sea. but away up there in the north - Caesarea Philippi - a Greco Roman city. Very much the hub of all things cultural and indeed religious - a melting pot of many different ways and beliefs. And it was there that Jesus asked his disciples “who do people say that I am?”

Some say you’re John the Baptist others say Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets. 


I suppose there have always been different ideas... different things said about Jesus. Some of them right, some of them misunderstanding. I always remember hearing one of my university lecturers preach and I suppose having a wee jibe at his own academic profession. Preaching on this passage he said Jesus led his disciples to Caesarea Philippi and said ‘who do people say that I am?’ and they said ‘you are Emmanuel you are the revealer of the revealed; you are the second persona of the una substantia, you are the logos incarnate’ - and Jesus said. “what?” 


Well sometimes we can over complicate. It was Simon... Simon who responded on behalf of the disciples and said ‘you are the Messiah the son of the living God’ and Jesus said to Simon ‘you are a rock and on this rock I will build my church.’


And Peter - Simon Peter the rock did indeed go on to become the leader of the emerging Christian church. But leaders are nothing if there are no followers and the church would be built on the affirmation of faith of disciples then and disciples through the ages. The church built on the belief that Jesus is the Messiah the Son of God. And so our passage here is a challenging pivotal point not just for Peter and his fellow disciples then, but for followers, for you and for me today. 


In these challenging times as faith practices are disrupted when we can't be in church buildings and we are discovering new spiritual habits  - what does that mean for the church as it continues to awaken and re-awaken faith in Christ developing and re-shaping and sustaining faith? 


I’ve heard some speak recently of the realisation of something almost sacramental in a meal shared with family and friends. I’ve heard of folk who spoke of hearing a church bell ringing and hearing in that a call to pause and to reflect upon the important things in life, and many appreciating anew the sheer wonder and joy of moments shared in the beauty of creation and nature.


Jesus’ question then and now who do people say I am who do you say I am also causes us to reflect upon another question - who am I? Who are you in the light of your engagement in the things of faith.  Who are you?and who are you becoming?


Let me leave the final word at the moment to Peter in this reflection:


Whose questions?

‘Who do people say I am?’

It was your question, Jesus!

Your question to us, not mine to you or anyone else!

It was you who asked what people are saying about you, who they think you are.

I had a feeling it was a leading question; a loaded question; 

not really the question you were heading towards.


Of course people think you’re like another John, 

preaching repentance and talking to crowds out in the wild places.

Or Elijah - with your command over natural forces and the miracles you’ve done.

Or Jeremiah - not being popular with the authorities and not appeasing people.

But you’re more than a prophet and greater than any other teacher.

Any you don’t care much what people make of you.

You do your work with a passion.


‘But who you you say I am?’

Your question, remember!

Not one I was asking of you.

What kind of answer did you expect?

We could all echo what our people had been saying … 

you’re like John, yes, like Elijah, like Jeremiah … 

but more, more than any of them.


But not one of us said anything.

Except me, opening my mouth as usual, 

and still remembering what you’d said bout how it is what comes out of us that shows us up.

The thing is, it felt like it didn’t come from me, well, not just from my own thinking, 

but something bigger, deeper, sudden but so sure.

You are the Messiah.

You are the Son of the living God.

And you confirmed I could not have known it, said it, 

from my own ordinary human knowing alone.


But you had more to say,

‘Who do you say I am?’

Jesus, I never asked you that question!

Whether I wanted to hear it or not, you told me who you say that I am, 

‘Simon,’ you said, ‘you are Peter - ‘the rock.’

And I wanted to say I am no rock, Jesus!

I am no foundation stone for any building!

I am no starting place for a community!

Why would you trust me with a set of keys, 

let alone the ones that open doors to your Kingdom and to heaven?

Why would you give me the authority, the responsibility, 

to make choices on earth that will be echoed in heaven?


But if I can be so sure of who you really are, 

how can I doubt what you are saying of who I really am?


That’s a whole other question, Jesus …

(Reflection from Spill the Beans)



Prayers.

Dear God, we come as parents, teachers, crofters; we all have so many different labels; we are all individuals who come to worship you.  God, you know who we think we are and you accept us and our worship.  Thank you for bringing us together through love of you, many individuals labelled as followers of Christ. 


You have called each of us by name, shown us your love in so many ways, through our relationship with you and Jesus, love shown through family and friends.  We may not know it but you are always with us.


We seek to share your love with all around us.  Forgive us when we fail and help us respond with courage to the requests you make of us to be your presence in the lives of others.  Bless us with confidence and hopefulness for the future.


We pray for those around us who live with us, hurt with us, feel with us, die with us and love with us.  We pray for a world where indifference and political correctness far outweigh passion for justice.  May we never shy away from using the gifts and talents you give, to speak out against individualism, fear and persecution. 


We pray for those we know who need your love in their lives - the old and young, the sick and dying, those who are hungry for food and comfort …


God of all, we ask for you blessing on all we are and on all we do.  May we be the little rocks on which your kingdom is built where we are.  Amen.


Something to do - Who am I?

Look up your name and find out what it means.  What do you think, does it suit you and do your family and friends think it suits you?  What other names are you called eg Mum or Dad; do you have a nickname; what about at work, what was your title?  


Do these names label you and do you feel you are defined by them - what about the you, the you only you know.  You are also known as a child of God - how do you feel about that?  God knows you inside out and knows who you are and loves you regardless of who you think you are.