Daily Devotions for week 25th – 30th May by Geoff Bellamy
Reflection for Wednesday 27th May
You might like to re-read Psalm 23.
Today we are thinking about verse 3, “he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
I’d suggest the first part is not linked to the second, directly, it is rather evidence that the verse numbers, added later, are pretty arbitrary, the first part really belongs to the previous verse.
Do we have a soul? That’s a very tricky question indeed! What do we even mean by having a soul? Most people, I suspect, think of it as being that extra, special part of us which can survive this earthly life, and can live on with God eternally.
Whatever we believe the soul to be, the Psalmist says that God, our Shepherd, restores it. Let’s stop and think about this for a moment. Do I need God to restore my soul? Times of testing can drag us down and make us despondent. Let’s ask
God to restore our souls.
The Psalm continues with God leading us, as He did in verse 2, but this time “in paths of righteousness”, possibly also translated as “right paths”. The second translation is easier to grasp than the traditional one, “paths of righteousness.”
Perhaps if we think about being and doing the things which put us right with God, that might be helpful, it enables us to ask ourselves hard questions about how we live, what we say, and don’t say….! Another moment required to reflect on this for us all.
The Psalmist adds that God leads us in this path “for his name’s sake.” When we do and say right things, we bring glory to our God, when we don’t, and yet still claim to be followers of the ways of God, we bring criticism not just onto ourselves, but onto our God as well. We make it too easy for those who don’t believe to say, “ Well, if that’s what belief in God does to a person, I don’t want it, thank you.”
Another moment to reflect on that fact that, as believers, we must stick close to God, to His word.
The paths of righteousness are hard paths, therefore, to walk in. We need God, our Shepherd, to lead us, lead us, note, not just go with us. God will lead us if we let Him and want Him to do this.
A short prayer:
Lord God, my loving Shepherd, restore my soul from darkness, take me and lead me forward in Your glorious and lovely paths. Bless me by enabling me to shine for You in the world, so that Your light may shine into the lives of those around me. I ask it in the name of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.
Aldersgate Sunday 24th May 2020
Call to Worship: From the second letter to Peter:
May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the
knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine
power has given us everything needed for life and
godliness, through the knowledge of him who called
us by his own glory and goodness.
Hymn StF 319 Christ triumphant, ever reigning
1 Christ triumphant, ever reigning, Saviour, Master, King!
Lord of heaven, our lives sustaining, hear us as we sing:
Yours the glory and the crown, the high renown, the eternal name.
2 Word incarnate, truth revealing, Son of Man on earth!
Power and majesty concealing by your humble birth:
Yours the glory…
3 Suffering servant, scorned, ill-treated, victim crucified!
Death is through the cross defeated, sinners justified:
Yours the glory…
4 Priestly king, enthroned for ever high in heaven above!
Sin and death and hell shall never stifle hymns of love:
Yours the glory…
5 So, our hearts and voices raising through the ages long,
ceaselessly upon you gazing, this shall be our song:
Yours the glory… (Michael Saward, 1932)
Glory to you, O God: you raised Jesus from the grave,
bringing us victory over death and giving us eternal life.
Glory to you, O Christ: for us and for our salvation
you overcame death and opened the gate to everlasting life.
Glory to you, O Holy Spirit: you lead us into the truth and breathe new life into us.
Glory to you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
If we have fallen into despair, Lord, forgive us. If we have failed to hope in you, Lord, forgive us.
If we have been fearful of death, Lord, forgive us. If we have forgotten the victory of Christ, Lord, forgive us.
May the living God raise us from despair, give us victory over sin and set us free in Christ. Amen.
Almighty God, you have exalted your only Son, Jesus Christ, with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven.
Mercifully give us faith to know that, as he promised, he abides with us on earth to the end of time,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
Today is the 7th Sunday of Easter but is also named as Aldersgate Sunday. This day, the Sunday on or before 24th May each year, is put aside to remember the conversion experience of John Wesley, founder of our Methodist tradition.
His account of the moment of his ‘conversion’ may be familiar but I’d like to share it with you again and include the rest of his journal entry for that day, and the following morning.
I’d like to suggest that the life we live as followers of Jesus Christ is not so much about what we do, as about who we are.
Wednesday, May 24, 1738 – I think it was about five this morning that I opened my Testament on those words, “There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, even that ye should be partakers of the divine nature”
[From the 4th verse of the second letter of Peter which is included below. It is also set for this Sunday.]
Just as I went out, I opened it again on those words, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God” [Mark 12:34]. In the afternoon I was asked to go to St. Paul’s. The anthem was, “Out of the deep have I called unto Thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice.”
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans.
About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
The following morning Wesley made this entry in his journal:
The moment I awakened, “Jesus, Master,” was in my heart and in my mouth; and I found all my strength lay in keeping my eye fixed upon Him and my soul waiting on Him continually.
John Wesley’s life had been spent trying to do all the right things to lead a fruitful Christian life. Bear in mind that by the time he had this conversion experience he had been ordained into the Anglican church for 10 yrs! The experience of his conversion changed, not so much the things that he did, but who he was, as a disciple of Jesus.
Anne and I had the joy of visiting Aldersgate Street in East Central London last year when it was still possible to go further that the end of our garden path. Nothing remains of the meeting house where John Wesley’s conversion experience took place but there is a beautifully maintained memorial garden on the site. However, interestingly, at the back of the garden is a monument consisting of a single wooden cloister (pictured right), sheltering a short stretch of wall. Fixed to this wall are memorial tablets commemorating sixty-two individuals, men, women and children, each of whom lost their life while attempting to save another. Here’s a couple of examples I made a note of:
“William Drake lost his life in averting a serious accident to a lady in Hyde Park, April 2nd, 1869, whose horses were unmanageable through the breaking of the carriage pole”.
“Mary Rogers, stewardess of the steamboat ‘Stella’, March 30th, 1899 self-sacrificed by giving up her life belt and voluntarily going down in the sinking ship”. Some of those remembered are as recent as 2003.
It is known as the Watts Memorial after the Victorian painter, George Fredric Watts.
His belief was this: that the monument be instructional and to offer examples of model behavior undertaken by people of sound and decent moral character. These acts of heroism should be conceived of as a product of an exemplary life rather than just a single brave moment.
An exemplary life rather than just a single brave moment. It is more than what we do, it is who we are.
In John Wesley’s Sermon 31 on how Christian faith upholds the law, he says this about love:
“The only value in faith is whether it leads to love. Faith is a temporal virtue. Love is everlasting.
Some people would disagree with me here and say that faith is greater than love. But love is everlasting; it existed when time began. It existed in the angels who, from the moment of their creation, could see God in heaven. They had no need for faith, neither general faith in the sense of believing in the spiritual dimension, nor special faith in the saving power of the death of Jesus. There was no need for faith before the foundation of the world. But love existed then, a great ocean of love. And God has given each of his children, from the moment of their creation, the power to exist and the power to love”.
When we accept this great love and when we enter into this deep and lasting relationship of love with God, it changes who we are.
Hymn 593 H&P And now, O Father, mindful of the love https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTBkw994IR8
Some of you may remember this beautiful hymn from Hymns & Psalms. I thought of it because of its comparison between the extraordinary love of God and our own shortcomings. It also reminds us of Christ’s full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the world.
If you are unfamiliar with the tune (Unde Et Memores) I hope you will read it through.
1 And now, O Father, mindful of the love
That bought us, once for all, on Calvary’s tree,
And having with us him that pleads above,
We here present, we here spread forth to thee
That only offering perfect in thine eyes,
The one true, pure, immortal sacrifice.
2 Look, Father, look on his anointed face,
And only look on us as found in him;
Look not on our misusings of thy grace,
Our prayer so languid, and our faith so dim;
For lo, between our sins and their reward
We set the passion of thy Son our Lord.
3 And so we come: O draw us to thy feet
Most patient Saviour, who canst love us still;
And by this food, so aweful and so sweet,
Deliver us from every touch of ill:
In thine own service make us glad and free,
And grant us nevermore to part from thee. (William Bright, 1824 – 1901)
Find and read the gospel set for today – John 17: 1 – 11
‘After Jesus had spoken these words …’ (17:1) Here we go again! After what words? Our reading in context.
But briefly, I promise, and I will let the gospel speak for itself.
Remember that John writes his gospel so that you may come to know who Jesus is. He believed that the meaning of many of Christ’s words and actions would only be understood after his glorification. Understanding would only come after the Spirit who spoke in the name of the risen Christ, had come to ‘lead’ all his disciples ‘into all truth’.
The start of this chapter follows a long conversation with his disciples where he talks about himself being the way to the Father and offers them words of reassurance, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God, now trust in me’. He talks about the coming of the Holy Spirit, ‘I will ask the Father and he will give you another councillor who will never leave you’ (so fitting as we are preparing for Pentecost next weekend), and he talks about himself as the True Vine. There are some other more sensitive topics which he covers too. He tells them about the world’s hatred and especially the way the disciples will be hated for following him. He reminds them of the sadness they will feel when he is gone and the frustration of not having time to share everything with his friends. But the underlying power of his dialogue with them is encouraging them to face life as they find it and to reassure them of the continued support they will be receiving – from the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.
The verses we have just read are John’s record of the great high priestly prayer of Jesus on the night before he died. It is the prayer of someone who is aware that the critical turning point in his life has arrived, the moment towards which his whole ministry had been moving. This was the culmination of every aspect of his earthly ministry and he refers directly to his rising and to his ascended glory. It’s time for Jesus to face the world as he finds it, and it’s time for him to pass on the baton. What does he do then? He turns to the Father, he prays for himself, for his disciples and for all believers. He affirms his glorification through the completion of the work his Father gave him to do, and then he prays for the protection of his followers.
It is humbling to reflect I think, that as Jesus faces torment, humiliation and an agonising death, he prays for oneness and unity, not of himself with God, but of his body the Church. We need to see ourselves in this line of followers for whom Jesus offers prayers and encouragement, and we must respond to its urging.
I said that today it would be brief! I mentioned above about the sadness and loss that his disciples would be feeling after Jesus was gone so I include now a short piece entitled ‘Never again – and yet always’. Peter, who we shall be hearing from next week and who becomes the Rock upon which the Church is built (Mt.16:18), spends time in reflection after the Ascension of Jesus.
“Never again Jesus shall we break bread together in this world.
Never again will you teach me to fish on Galilee.
Never again will I go walking on water with you.
Never again will you wash my feet.
Never again will you greet me from the dawn-lit shore.
Never again will you sleep in my boat, oblivious seemingly to the wind and waves.
Never again will you preach in my village, disturb our worship, yet bring healing and hope
to so many at evening.
Never again will you stay at mine and enjoy home cooking.
Never again will you rouse me from deep sleep to watch with you and pray.
Never again, Jesus, this side of heaven will we laugh, weep and walk together.
Yet sometimes I feel sure you will still chide me for my lack of faith,
for my head strong will and stubborn pride, and for my ignorant presumption.
Sometimes too – and I shall grieve at this – I will sense your gaze when I deny or betray you,
even though you are not there with me.
For whenever the cock crows I will weep.
Whenever fish are grilled on charcoal I’ll remember.
Yes, Jesus, I will so miss you, a cloud has veiled you from my sight.
You have gone, but only that part which eyes, ears and hands can sense.
And yet always you are and will be with us,
not as past memory, but as present tense and future hope.
Not as the Carpenter, but as the King.
Not as the stranger, but as our friend.
Not as the victim, but as our Saviour.
We shall know you as the scriptures burn within us.
We shall touch you in the neighbour that we love.
We shall hear you in the silence when we pray.
We shall see you when bread is broken and wine is outpoured.”
Yet these are but a foretaste of that joy – when you will come, and we shall be with you forever,
and never shall cloud veil you from our sight.
I was mindful as I read this and decided to include it (sorry, I am unable to credit it), of how much of this might be our own experience now, our desperate sense of ‘never again’, of all those things we are missing that mean so much to us. But I hope it also echoes the hope onto which we may cling during these dark and difficult days of isolation. ‘And yet always’!
Find and read 2 Peter 1: 1 – 11
Prayers of intercession (praying for others)
In the power of the resurrection we offer our prayers to God.
Let us pray.
Remember, O Lord, in your love, the Church throughout the world …
fragmented congregations, isolated individuals, disrupted ministries …
May your whole Church still be a whole Church and know your power …
declare your love in words and actions and be a sign that Christ is risen.
Lord of life,
hear us in your love.
Remember, O Lord, in your love, the world you have created …
enough for all if we dare to share, room for all if we love our neighbour …
hope for all if we look for the signs in your creation, of harmony, balance and co-existence …
May the whole earth be transformed by mercy and rejoice in hope.
Lord of life,
hear us in your love.
Remember in your love those who suffer . . .
the victims of violence and injustice, of abuse and intimidation, of poverty and malnutrition …
the fear and threat of CovID-19, the exhaustion and fatigue of essential workers …
the pressure faced in strained relationships and family challenges …
and those who mourn . . .
May all in need find comfort, strength and freedom in the living Christ.
Lord of life,
hear us in your love.
Remember in your love those who have died …
those who have confessed the faith and those whose faith is known to you alone.
May all your children receive grace and light according to their needs and come at last
to share with all the saints in life eternal.
Lord of life,
hear us in your love.
Gracious God, we ask these prayers through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and Saviour. Amen.
Hymn StF 661 Give me the faith which can remove
1 Give me the faith which can remove 3 My talents, gifts, and graces, Lord,
And sink the mountain to a plain; Into thy blessed hands receive;
Give me the childlike praying love, And let me live to preach thy word,
Which longs to build thy house again; And let me to thy glory live;
Thy love, let it my heart o’er-power, My every sacred moment spend
And all my simple soul devour. In publishing the sinner’s Friend.
2 I would the precious time redeem, 4 Enlarge, inflame, and fill my heart
And longer live for this along, With boundless charity divine,
To spend and to be spent for them So shall I all my strength exert,
Who have not yet my Saviour known; And love them with a zeal like thine,
Fully on these my mission prove, And lead them to thy open side;
And only breathe, to breathe thy love. The sheep for whom the Shepherd died.
(Charles Wesley, 1707 – 1788)
Blessing – The Collect for today
Almighty God, you raised up your servants, John and Charles Wesley,
to proclaim anew the gift of redemption and the life of holiness.
Pour out your spirit, and revive your work among us; that inspired by the same faith,
and upheld by the same grace in word and sacrament, we and all your children
may be made one in the unity of your Church on earth, even as in heaven we are made one in you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.
“The best of all is, God is with us”
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