Brexit + Rend

I’m not going to say anything about Brexit, and (what I consider to be) the catastrophic result.

Except:

  • I don’t know what it will mean for us, but I’m waiting-and-seeing.
  • and this is my prayer for a divided Britain (Take it away, Rend Collective!):

Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here
We pray

Come set Your rule and reign
In our hearts again
Increase in us we pray
Unveil why we’re made
Come set our hearts ablaze with hope
Like wildfire in our very souls
Holy Spirit come invade us now
We are Your Church
And we need Your power
In us

We seek Your kingdom first
We hunger and we thirst
Refuse to waste our lives
For You’re our joy and prize
To see the captive hearts released
The hurt, the sick, the poor at peace
We lay down our lives for Heaven’s cause
We are Your church
And we pray revive
This earth (We’re prayin’ for revival)

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This day (or thereabouts!) through the years

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Sometime round June 2009 – but there isn’t aproper date there. Mr FD peeping coyly round the chair!

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17.06.2010 – poppies photographed on one of my walks. I used to try to get into the hills around Clermont when I had gaps between lessons. It was great. In fact, I did this recently – I finished work before Mr FD so I went for a walk in the woods. “I’ll do 15 minutes, then turn round,” I said to myself. I just kept going and did a walk of 1 hour 40 minutes!! It was lovely! Here’s another photo from that same walk in 2010

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18.06.2011 – we were away with the Cycle Club and visited this chateau. No idea where it was!

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19.06.2012 – here is a small grey kitten.

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It must be Bib! She joined us at the very beginning of June, and here she is being sweet and appealing!

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Sometime in June 2013 – another cycle club voyage. This was a walk in some woods near the place we were staying. I found a tree stump to sit in, as you do!

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22.06.14 – the open air service and barbecue on the Plateau de Gergovie (this year’s is mentioned in dispatches over at Fat Dormouse)Rob the Rector plays his mandolin.

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June 2015… Another Cycle Club voyage, another picture of me lurking around tree stumps. I don’t much like this photo, but there you go.

And I didn’t take any photos today! Slapped wrist! Bad blogger!!

Tomorrow’s sermon

I’m preaching tomorrow. Here’s the text of the sermon, should you care to read it…

THE JOY OF FORGIVENESS

Readings: 2 Samuel 11:26-12:10,13-15; Psalm 32; Galatians 2:15-21; Luke 7:36-8:3

There is a story of two sisters, who had fallen out sometime in their past, probably over something not very serious, but in such a way that neither would climb down and apologise. So over the years, their disagreement grew and grew until they both refused to speak to the other, to have anything to do with the other, to even acknowledge the existence of each other. Their separation was complete. And as they grew older, each became more bitter about the whole affair. Then one of the sisters became friendly with a woman from the local church, she started going along to services, she heard the Good News of forgiveness and reconciliation, and she started to remember that on top of the wardrobe in the spare bedroom there was a portable typewriter. And her thoughts of this typewriter became more and more frequent; it seemed that every time she went into the room she thought about the typewriter, she couldn’t get it out of her mind. Then she had the strange urge to get it down and to write a letter to her sister whom she had not contacted, about whom she had not spoken for years, and to ask her forgiveness for the rift that had developed between them. And so, eventually, that is what she did. And even before she posted the letter, as she was folding it up to put it in the envelope, she said her whole body felt as if it was being washed all over and she had a sense of being forgiven. The burden had been lifted and she felt free of the bitterness and hurt and rejection that had been a part of her life for so long.

And this really is the theme of Psalm 32 – it is about the joy of forgiveness, and how it feels to know that sins truly are cleared away and gone. The first verses speak of this fact. “Happy are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sin is put away. Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, and in whose spirit is no guile”. In some versions the Psalm reads “Blessed are those…” but I like the more exuberant translation to “happy” reminding us that we should be joyful in being forgiven. Sometimes Christians are accused of being too “po-faced,” of not enjoying life; but we have New Life through the wonderful forgiveness of Christ and we should in fact be the happiest people on earth – and show this in our actions, in our demeanour, in our whole living. Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven.

In the New International translation, the first two verses of this Psalm read: Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. The expression “whose sins are covered” can be a little confusing; it sounds as though we are talking about “covering up” a sin, hiding it away so that it isn’t known about. But in this case, it means forgiven, as it does in 1 Peter when Peter says, “love covers a multitude of sins”. It forgives a multitude of sins, not hides them. As the Psalmist continues, “Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against him” we are reminded that we have been forgiven, we are blessed because, in the slightly old fashioned phrase we have been covered in the blood of the Lamb” – it is the sacrifice of Christ that brings us forgiveness, it is through his blood that we are cleansed. Our sins no longer count for God. It is through him, through his love, that we are brought true happiness by forgiveness of our sins.

The next verses read: “While I held my tongue, my bones withered away, because of my groaning all day long. For your hand was heavy upon me day and night; my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.”. This reminds us of the belief of the ancient world that unforgiven sin caused physical illness. You may remember the story of the paralytic who was lowered through the roof by his friends. Jesus did not heal the man by saying, “Get up and walk”. No, he was more perceptive than that; he knew that the man believed it was his sin that held him there on his bed, and so Jesus’ words were “Your sins are forgiven”. It was that forgiveness that released the man from his sickbed so that he was able to face the world – and his creator – again.

In these verses the Psalmist speaks of the physical distress he felt when he did not confess his sins, when he knew he was hiding what he had done from his Lord. Like the old woman in the story, he was growing bitter, and ashamed of his rift from God, and it hurt.  But, as he affirms in verse 5, in acknowledging his sin and confessing to God, he is brought release from his guilt and his pain. Just as when the old woman climbed down from her position of pride and wanting someone else to make the first move she discovered a sense of freedom and forgiveness, so it is with us.

In Scotland there is the island of Iona, where the Celtic saint Columba lived having brought Christianity from Ireland to Britain. There is the Abbey, which he founded, and a guesthouse, where pilgrims can stay and rest, learning more about their faith. I remember when I was staying with a group on the island; we followed the pilgrimage around the island, to places of significance in the life of Columba. We arrived at the beach where the saint landed his tiny coracle-boat hundreds of years before, and there the leader told us to find a pebble from the many thousands that were lying there. We all picked one up, and standing, looking across the sea, and feeling the weight of the stones in our hands, we remembered the secret sins that were on our hearts; then we asked God’s forgiveness and flung those stones as far into the sea as we possibly could. Our hands were weightless – our sins were forgiven.

Now think of the woman in the Gospel reading. We do not know who she was, we do not know what she had done, but what we do know is that she was truly sorry. She knew that her sin was weighing her down, that she would have done anything to rid herself of the dis-ease, the shame, the pain of the knowledge of what she had done. And she was offered the opportunity to throw all of her burden at the feet of Jesus – and she did. Finally, for her, there was no hiding, no deceit, no pretending: she came, broken and hurting before her Lord and gave it all to Him. And he took it, and he forgave it all. It no longer counted against her. Like the stone thrown into the sea on Iona, it was gone.

The Psalmist’s first impulse on recognising the joy that comes from sins forgiven is to tell others. “Therefore, let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them. You are a hiding place for me, you preserve me in times of trouble, you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.” I wonder if that is the case with us. When we know the joy of God’s forgiveness are we so filled with the joy of it that we share it with others? When we have been to church, when we have been at our devotions do people recognise that we have been with Jesus? I wonder…

When Moses had been on Mount Sinai, speaking with his God, on his return his face was shining, so that all could see that he had been with God. When we return to our homes after Church are our faces shining with the wonder of having been with our God? I can only speak for myself, but I’m pretty sure the answer is No more often than it is Yes. Perhaps today, bearing in mind what we can learn about the true joy of God’s wonderful forgiveness, we can return home and shine, just a little bit for God!

Then, when people we know ask us questions, we can share more convincingly the Good News of how Christ is our refuge in times of trouble. How, when the mighty floods of calamity hit us, we know that we can trust God to be there for us. I thank God that so far in my life, I have not been sorely tested; I have not suffered the difficulties in my life that others have. But every now and then, I look ahead, and pray sincerely that, whatever life may bring, I will be able to trust God to be my refuge.

We have already sung a hymn today, called Rock of Ages, which was written in the 1700s, by Augustus Toplady. I must confess that it is nowhere near number one on my list of favourite hymns, but it fits so well with the theme that I wanted us to sing it today. You see, Toplady wrote this hymn – or at least had the idea for it – when he was riding to a preaching engagement, and was caught in a horrendous storm. There was thunder and lightening, a complete downpour of rain, and the only place he could find to shelter from the storm was a small cave, hardly more than a crack in a rock. And as he cowered there, safe from the storm raging around him, he realised how Christ was the only refuge he had from the storms of his life and the guilt of his sin. “Rock of Ages,” we sang, “ cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee”.

May God give us all the strength that we need to face the storms that are in our lives now, or those that are to come. He may not necessarily take those storms away, but he will always preserve us and be with us. We only need to take his hand and cry out in our fear, and he will be there.

The next verses remind us of this loving care. One translation reads: “I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Do not be like a horse or a mule without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with a bit or bridle”.  “I will counsel you with my eye upon you” I must admit that I can’t help thinking this sounds a little threatening.  When I was teaching it was a phrase I used a lot, “Just remember,” I would say to the unruly brats, “I’ve got my eye on you.” Basically, I was saying, “I know what you’re like, I know that you’re likely to get into trouble, so I’m just waiting for it. I’m watching…”

I suppose, sadly, that is the case with God. He DOES know what we’re like; he DOES know that we’re likely to get into trouble. But all the same I prefer the translation that says, “I will counsel you and watch over you” – it sounds more loving and less threatening. Whichever translation we prefer the meaning is there: God watches over us, God cares for us. Sometimes I know it doesn’t feel like it, but we must learn to trust him and follow his ways for us.

And in the last verses we are reminded again of the rewards of trusting in God “Steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord”. The Hebrew word that is translated here as “steadfast love” is a word that is used when talking about the covenant made between God and Abraham, but it has a more emotional content as well, taking it far beyond a sense of legal obligation. God has made the covenant with those who put their trust in him, but it is not simply a legal covenant. It is a covenant full of love, and compassion and life. The rewards of taking this covenant out with God are so great, how can we refuse? Those of us who have made a covenant with God, those of us who have opened our lives to him, know this steadfast love. We know that we can trust God to be always there, to take our hand and to lead us in the paths of justice and of truth. And those of us who haven’t? Who still hold back from making the step that will bring us freedom, and reconciliation and forgiveness… Well, God is waiting. I was going to say, he is waiting for you to take the first step, but he isn’t, because he has already taken the first step by coming to earth as a man, by showing us the way, by dying a terrible death on a cross and by rising again. He has taken every step necessary except one. And God is there, waiting for you to take that last step, the one that takes you into his loving arms and opens the way to full and free forgiveness for all the sins that are holding you in your life of paralysis, the step that leads you to new life.

And then we can all follow the exhortation in the final verse: “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.” What else can we do? When we look at the wonderful gift that God has given us through his death and resurrection, when we realise that the guilt of unforgiven sins is taken from us, we are shaken from our paralysis and brought to life. We can but sing for joy, we can but rejoice and thank him, so that all who we meet do indeed know that we have been with Jesus.

***

As you may have noticed, I have played around with the order of service today – usually with morning prayer we have our confession at the beginning of the service, but today I wanted to put it after this sermon. I want us to really think about the joy that real remorse and forgiveness can bring. Remember the woman who came before Jesus, weeping and full of sorrow for her sin, and her joy when she received Christ’s forgiveness, confirming her, re-affirming God’s love for her, even after all she had done.

And today, in place of the words of confession from the service book, we are going to listen to a beautiful song from one of my favourite worship bands:

I am broken at Your feet
Like an alabaster jar
Every piece of who I am
Laid before Your majesty

I will bow my life
At Your feet, at Your feet
My lips, so lost for words
Will kiss Your feet, kiss Your feet

Oh, the gravity of You
Draws my soul unto its knees
I will never be the same
I am lost and found in You

 

As you listen, consider your sins, confess them to our God, and ask his forgiveness, and his help to walk once more in the ways he has planned for you. Bow your life to him, give him all that you are, that being lost you may be found in Him.

 

 

May in Books

Another month starting means another quick round up of the books that I read the month before (?!)

So, the first was “Caleb’s Crossing” by Geraldine Brooks.

I’ve read a couple of other books by this author which I have really enjoyed (“People of the Book” and “A Year of Wonders” both of which I would recommend) but I found this one a little disappointing.

Amazon says: Bethia Mayfield is a restless and curious young woman growing up in Martha’s vineyard in the 1660s amid a small band of pioneering English Puritans. At age twelve, she meets Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a secret bond that draws each into the alien world of the other. Bethia’s father is a Calvinist minister who seeks to convert the native Wampanoag, and Caleb becomes a prize in the contest between old ways and new, eventually becoming the first Native American graduate of Harvard College. Inspired by a true story and narrated by the irresistible Bethia, Caleb’s Crossing brilliantly captures the triumphs and turmoil of two brave, openhearted spirits who risk everything in a search for knowledge at a time of superstition and ignorance.

My notes read: “Historically interesting, with lots of detail. Started well but I felt the story petered out, and the end felt badly paced. Based on fact, there couldn’t really have been another ending, but I was a bit disappointed. Liked the narrator’s character.”

I’m not sure I’d recommend it as heartily as the other two books I’ve read by this author, but it wasn’t terrible! Maybe a *** book.

Next I read “Her Last Breath” by Linda Castillo

From the Amazon site: An extraordinarily beautiful Amish woman, a dangerous femme fatale, is the central figure in a story that reveals a dark side of Painters Mill and its seemingly perfect Amish world

What at first seems like a tragic, but routine car accident suddenly takes on a more sinister cast as evidence emerges that nothing about the crash is accidental. But who would want to kill an Amish deacon and two of his children? He leaves behind a grieving widow and a young boy who clings to life in the intensive care wing of a hospital, unable to communicate. He may be the only one who knows what happened that night. Desperate to find out who killed her best friend’s husband and why, Kate begins to suspect she is not looking for a reckless drunk, but instead is on the trail of a cold blooded killer amid the residents of Painter’s Mill. It is a search that takes her on a chilling journey into the darkest reaches of the human heart and makes her question everything she has ever believed about the Amish culture into which she was born.

This makes it all sound more dramatic thanh it actually was, but, as my notes testify, it was certainly gripping enough: “interesting, well-paced. Kept me reading & interested. Good.” I didn’t guess the killer or the motive until just before the big reveal, which is always a bonus!

I would certainly be happy to try another book in the same series (This is N°5, I believe). Probably a **** rating.

The third book, which I devoured, was “The Girl You Left Behind” by Jojo Moyes. It is set partly during the German occupation of France in 1916/17 – an occupation I hardly knew had occurred.

From Amazon: In 1916 French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything – her family, reputation and life – in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.

Nearly a century later and Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting’s dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened…

In The Girl You Left Behind two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for the thing they love most – whatever the cost.

Both threads of the story are interesting, but it is the WW1 parts that I found most convincing. I really couldn’t put this down, and read it in about three days. Okay, it’s not classic fiction, but it was a good story, well told. I think it’s the first Jojo Moyes book I’ve read, but I may well be looking for some more.

For me this is a ****+ 1/2 stars. I’m not sure why I won’t give it 5 stars, but I think that I will be saving that for really really good books!

I started reading a Phillippa Gregory in May, but I’ve not finished that yet, so will review it in June.

PS What do you think of the (slightly)  new look? I’m not sure but I fancied a change!

Three Cheers for Mr FD!

Who has found a job!

TBH I’m not sure I totally understand what he’ll be doing but it’s something to do with IT, and websites and computer programmes and Stuff. He had a phone interview on Wednesday, a face to face today, and was told that he would hear on Monday or Tuesday. In fact, he received an email at about half past four, offering him the job!!

He thinks it will be challenging, interesting and – best of all – he’ll be earning money! It’s only a temporary post, through till mid September, but it’s paid, gainful employment.

Huzzah for Mr FD!

I’m sure he’ll be great at it, whatever it is!