Lord Have Mercy

Just before Jesus has the Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem we have a short story with great significance. Jesus is on his way from Jericho and once again a large crowd has gathered. His popularity was continuing, and it was no wonder that those in authority wanted to get rid of Him. There were two blind men sitting by the road and when they heard that Jesus was passing, cried out, ‘have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David.’

Now they may have simply been crying out for the mercy that comes with a donation to a poor person in the shape of money. We don’t know, but I think it was much more than that. The original word for cried out is ‘Krazo’ which literally means to cry out in anguish, and it is the same word used for the cry of a woman during the childbirth.

And clearly, they know where they stand on Jesus being the Messiah because twice they called Him, ‘Son of David’ which was a popular phrase for the Messiah.

And they were persistent. They were not going to be put off by the crowd telling them to be quiet. The crowd rebuked them, and they just cried out louder. They knew who Jesus was and their hope was in Him alone.

Jesus stops. He is on the way to face death in Jerusalem and He has a few things on his mind, but He still stops. Why? His compassion. Jesus was never too preoccupied to be compassionate and never in too much of a hurry to heal the sick.

Jesus asked them, ‘what do you want Me to do for you?’

‘Let our eyes be open’, they reply.

Jesus full of compassion for them heals them, there and then.

Not because of the crowds nor because of the worthiness or usefulness of the men. It was His choice because he was full of compassion.

He healed and they followed Him.

Today, as we fast and pray, we have much to cry out to the Lord for in prayer. When we do, we can cry out, ‘have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David’.

Jesus hears us and asks us, ‘what do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus has the same compassion for us as he did for those two blind men. So, we can ask Him for what others, and we need at this time.

In summary today I want to encourage you to Fast and Pray and join us at 7:30 tonight for Prayer and Praise via Zoom. And remember the story of the two blind men in your prayers.

  • Declare who Jesus is
  • Don’t be put off by others
  • Come with a faithful heart that Jesus will hear and respond because He is full of compassion
  • And then share what is on your heart for others and yourself
  • And may the Lord have mercy on each one of us. Amen

Soul Time

How is your soul? We don’t often ask that, but it is a question that I want each of us to consider. How is your soul today? Do you need rest for your soul today? Is it well with your soul at the moment?

With everything going on have you been taking time for your soul? If not, there is a danger that further downstream it will affect our attitude, thinking, words and deeds. If we want purity to colour all those areas, then we must consider how we are keeping our soul at this time.

Jesus speaks of this in Matt 11:28-30. You might like to read and meditate on this passage today.

The Passion Translation says – are you weary, carrying a heavy burden – and it is as if Jesus is reading my mind. Then come to me says Jesus – I will refresh your life, for I am your Oasis.

Now, more than being the name of a successful Brit Pop band with two very good albums but not much after that. An Oasis is a fertile spot in a desert, where water is found.

That is Jesus isn’t it – a drink of life-giving water for the thirsty in the middle of a dry and lifeless place.

The gospel goes on – simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me.

How many of us need that at this time and what an invitation Jesus gives?

And how can Jesus offer this to us? Well, the previous verse gives us a clue. In verse 27 we read about how connected Jesus is to God the Father – known fully and intimately. Jesus invites us each to come to Him today and receive all that the Father has for His children. To find rest for our soul.

Today, Jesus invites all of us who feel worried and burdened, from whatever has made us feel overwhelmed, exhausted and guilty, to come to Him. This is the rest, my soul, longs for; it’s what I was made for. To know with certainty I am loved, cared for and protected.

Knowing this gives my soul an anchor, and quiets the striving, relentless part of me that seeks security and significance. This is the message that will give each of us the abundant life Jesus offered. Not abundant with work but overflowing with love and filled with the true soul-rest we long for.

Let us do that now in prayer and can I encourage you not to rush onto the next thing but if you can just stay still for a few moments and rest in Jesus.

Lord, thank You for providing a rest for my soul that’s not attached to a person or experience. You created me for this rest, and I accept it now. Help me fully trust You with my heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Don’t Worry

Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will have enough worries of it’s own. Matthew 6:34.

Jesus famously said those words during what we now call the sermon on the mount after some great teaching on the whole issue of worry.

You may describe yourself as a serious worrier or someone who just breezes through life with not a care in the world. Wherever you fall on that scale I am sure most of us have had an anxious thought or two over the last few weeks. Here’s a few examples.

  • Does that cough mean I have the virus?
  • Can I manage my schedule as well as teach my own children English, maths, geography, history, PE and what on earth is PSHE?
  • If I keep eating all that comfort food will I have any clothes that fit me when we can finally come out of lockdown.
  • What happens when I have watched everything on Netflix’s?
  • How empty is my life without cricket to watch? (OK maybe that is just me)

It is natural to be concerned at this time because so many things are unknown and yet Jesus says, ‘don’t worry’. He doesn’t add unless there is a crisis. Jesus wants us not to be anxious in all circumstances.

How can we do this?

1. Understand your Father knows even better than us what we need.

2. He wants us to seek His Kingdom first and everything else will be given to you.

In other words, look to God rather than the crisis. Turn your anxious thoughts into prayers. Bring them to Jesus – seek Him first.

And finally take no thought for tomorrow, for tomorrow will have enough problems of it’s own.

I have found this wisdom from Jesus so helpful. If I start thinking about the weeks or months that the lockdown may go on for, I begins to increase my anxiety. My mind spirals and I can feel the panic starting to rise in me.

However, if I’m thinking about only today, as Jesus advises, it becomes more manageable. Actually, Psychologists have now caught up with Jesus on this one. They are recommending this as good practice for well-being during the current situation.

So, let us all focus on today and look to Jesus in this day and let God by His Spirit go ahead of us into all of our tomorrows.

Let us pray

Loving God,

Please grant me peace of mind and calm my troubled heart. My soul is like a turbulent sea. I can’t seem to find my balance so I stumble and worry constantly.

Give me the strength and clarity of mind to find my purpose and walk the path you’ve laid out for me. I trust your Love God, and know that you will heal this stress. Just as the sun rises each day against the dark of night.

Please bring me clarity with the light of God.

In your name I pray, Amen.

Be Still

Cathy spoke briefly on Sunday about Jesus quietening the storm while in the boat with the disciples. I want us to think a little more about this story.

Let me read it to you from Mark 4:35-41

35 That same day, when the evening came, He said to them, “Let us go cross to the other side.” 36 When they had sent the crowd away, they took Him in the boat just as He was. There were also other little boats with Him. 37 A great wind storm arose, and the waves splashed into the boat, so that it was now filling the boat. 38 He was in the stern asleep on a pillow. They woke Him and said, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

39 He rose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” Then the wind ceased and there was a great calm.

40 He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is that you have no faith?”

41 They feared greatly and said to one another, “What kind of Man is He, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

I just want to take a few moments to reflect on this story.

In the storm which must have been massive for the disciples to be scared as they were experienced fisherman the disciples woke Jesus and cried out, ‘Don’t you care for us?’ ‘We’re perishing!’

And that may have been your cry over the last few weeks or on other occasions. Jesus, don’t you care what is happening to me? Jesus don’t you care what this virus is doing?

Or maybe like the disciples it has felt like Jesus is absent at the moment. In the storm He was asleep in the back of the boat and didn’t seem concerned that they might die. Does it feel a little like that?

Then Jesus is woken, and He speaks, Peace, be still. The storm became calm. Then he turns to the disciples. ‘Why are you so fearful – why no faith?’

Now they were maybe more afraid of Jesus’ power and authority than they were of the storm itself.

There is so much to take from this story, but I just want to leave you with these thoughts.

–           Jesus was asleep in the boat during the storm because He knew is Dad was in charge. We can be still and sleep well because our Father God is still in charge.

–           Jesus is with us in the Storm – whatever that might be – He is with us

–           We need, especially at this time, faith not fear

–           Jesus has the power to calm a storm – just think about that – even the wind and waves obey Him. He now dwells in us by His Spirit and is with us. He is not absent or asleep, but Jesus is in us and right in the middle of this crisis asking us to trust in Him for every moment of each new challenging day.

So, may each of you know the peace and presence of Jesus in this storm and may we be a people of faith and not fear each day. May Jesus’ power be seen at work in this nation as we pray for Him to still the storm of this virus. May we make the most of every opportunity to live out our faith and not fear, but trust in God. Amen

Go and do likewise

Experts are making a comeback. Over recent years politicians have often said don’t believe what those so called experts are saying. Whether it is Trump or a discussions on Brexit (do you remember that one) we no longer believe the expects.
Well, now the experts are back, and we are desperate for them to tell us everything they know about this virus. How long it will last and how many will be affected. What should we do and how to stay safe? The radio and TV are now full of experts who up until recently, I imagine, were being kept away from us in a large lab with all the other mad sciences. Well maybe not, just my imagination running wild again.
The expert is back big time and it is no surprise. In these uncertain times we are all looking for guidance and direction as to what to do and how to cope with the situations caused by this virus. So with all this going on it is a great time to look to the life of Jesus for guidance on how to live. That is what we are going to do this week and thank you to Billy for the inspiration for this first reflection.
In Luke 10 an expert in the law wanted to catch Jesus out and so asks Him what he must do to inherit eternal life? Jesus, as ever, gets him to answer his own question through the law itself and ends with the expert saying ‘love your neighbour as yourself?’ The man, still not satisfied, continues, ‘but who is my neighbour?’ And Jesus replies with what is now one of the must famous stories ever about a Samaritan who was good!
Now we need to remember that the Samaritans were so despised by the Jews that people would cross to the other side of the road to avoid them. They would definitely keep their social distance. In fact, many people might even go further by spitting at them if they came too close. I wouldn’t suggest you try that one at Abington Park when you are out on your exercise.
However, this Samaritan showed compassion on the very people who despised Him by giving aid and help to the one who had been attacked and left for half dead.
We all have neighbours who are in great need currently. Elderly people, vulnerable people, people who are uncertain on how to cope, and in some cases unable to cope.
These are the people who Jesus asks us to show love and mercy to? Even if we did not get on with our neighbour in ‘normal times’ we should not just sit back and do nothing. We should look for ways to help them to survive this uncertain time without a thought for the past. At the end of his encounter with Jesus, the law expert was given one final phrase which I am sure was left ringing in his ear and is just as relevant to us now. ‘Go and do likewise’
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ,
you taught us to love our neighbour,
and to care for those in need
as if we were caring for you.
In this time of anxiety, give us strength
to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick,
and to assure the isolated
of our love, and your love,
for your name’s sake.
Amen.

The Truth is Out There

For todays reading I want us to go right back to the beginning of the chapter where we read this.

Do not let mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, so you will find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:3-4

The writer encourages us to bind mercy and truth around our necks – write them on your heart. In other words, make sure that we don’t depart far from them. Let us be a people who are full of mercy – especially at this time. May we be a people who hold onto truth like never before.

As you are probably aware there are loads of untruths springing up at this time. Here are some of the more popular myths around Covid-19.

  • A hot bath will prevent the Coronavirus disease. Not true
  • Hand dryers can kill the virus. Not true
  • Vodka can be used as an affective hand wash. Not true (better to use as a drink in this crisis time but only a small amount)
  • Eating garlic protects you against Covid-19? Untrue but might still be OK if you have Vampires!!
  • If you can hold your breath for 10 seconds without coughing, you don’t have the virus? Untrue
  • Drinking cow’s urine will protect you against Coronavirus? Not true and pretty disgusting

Jesus said in John 14:6, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ Can I encourage you to surround yourself with the truth of God’s word at this time. The passage tells us that if we do hold onto Mercy and Truth, we will find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and others.

So that is my prayer for each one of you.

Let us pray.

Keep us, good Lord,

under the shadow of your mercy

in this time of uncertainty and distress.

Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,

and lift up all who are brought low;

that we may rejoice in your comfort

knowing that nothing can separate us from your love

in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amen.

 

Draw close to God

Now that we must keep our social distance it has made me realise (despite being British) that I connect with people in quite a few ways. Handshakes, High Fives, Hugs and maybe quite tragically (according to my eldest son) the odd fist pump.

We are by nature tactile people. We need physical connections. We know the damage that it does to children who don’t have enough physical contact. We need it – it’s a human instinct.

It is strange, therefore, that currently we are not able to do that. And so you may think today’s word that I have chosen is maybe a little misplaced currently. The word I want us to consider is ‘Intimacy’. We read this is verse 32 of Proverbs 3

For the devious person is an abomination to the Lord, but the upright are in his confidence. Proverbs 3:32

We are in His confidence – we are close to our Father. The more we trust God – the closer we get to Him. Therefore, the closer we get to Him the more we trust Him. It’s echoed in our theme this year, ‘Trust in His Love’.

While we might not be able to have contact with others as we would like we can always have Intimacy with God.

One of the challenges during the next few weeks as we are in social isolation is to use the time to develop your Intimacy with God. Could you use this time to grow closer to God without some of the other distractions? Here are a few helpful thoughts.

  1. Turn your smartphone dumb – turn it to aeroplane mode for an hour each day and use that time just to be still, read scripture, write and say prayers. Being still is so difficult even in social isolation but it’s a vital discipline.
  2. Don’t watch or listen to the news all day long. Put on some worship music and be filled with hope rather than despair for a while.
  3. At the start of each day take 5 minutes to invite God into your day. Morning prayers are so helpful and that is how we are going to close this daily reflection today and after this video has finished why not be still and allow God to draw close to you. Share some intimacy with the Father.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. James 4:8

By the way the rest of that verse encourages you to cleanse your hands which is good advice at this time.

As we rejoice in the gift of this new day,

so may the light of your presence, O God,

set our hearts on fire with love for you;

now and for ever.

Creator God,

you made us all in your image:

may we discern you in all that we see,

and serve you in all that we do;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me.

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger. Amen.