Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
On the church path on Sunday morning lay a small underdeveloped horse chestnut fruit that had fallen from a nearby tree. There are a number of old established trees along the path but normally they do not shed their fruit until autumn. However, the recent long hot dry spell has made it more difficult for even their deep roots to find sufficient water to sustain themselves. Thus they shed some weaker fruit to conserve energy for the remaining fruit to grow to their full potential.
But that fallen horse chestnut reminded me of St Paul’s advice in his letter to the young church at Galatia when he said: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Galatians 5:22–23.
So, just as the fallen fruit of the chestnut will feed the birds and animals, we are to use those fruits of the Holy Spirit that St Paul describes; they dwell in each and every one of us. We are called to act in such a way as will bring love joy and peace, not only to our own lives but to all those we meet. That way by our lives and actions all will see God in us. Hopefully we will inspire others to act and live in the same way, making the world a much better place in which everyone can live together in harmony.
The chestnut tree is a gift of God which will grow in every season, producing its fruit at the appointed time, so will the gifts of the Spirit grow in us. Let us then use those gifts to the best of our ability; to try to ensure that everything we do, we do for God.
The Gospel reading on Sunday reminds us to: “Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Matthew 7:15
We are faced with false prophets, in the form of temptations every day. “Buy this product it will make you younger, older, healthier, more attractive or less attractive. This offer is so good that we will have to end it in 24 hours! So buy now!!” My old granny used to say: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Those sorts of temptations we can usually deal with quite easily but there are others more subtle which are perhaps not so easy to decide. For example, you might be offered a job, may be a promotion, that you feel is just made for you. The only problem is that it is on the other side of the country. It is a tempting offer but a long way from friends and family and everything you know and trust. Should you take it? This is where discernment comes in. Obviously you will need to think long and hard, talk to family, and perhaps a trusted friend. Make a list of the advantages on one column of a sheet of paper and the disadvantages on the other. When Jesus restored the sight of Bartemaeus He said to him “Go your way, your faith has saved you” Mark 10:52. We, who are sighted, often feel that every blind person would want to be able to see as we can. Yet think about it. Up to now Bartemaeus has not had to worry about getting about, someone will lead him; he has not had to worry about earning a living to support his family, someone else will help him. Now having been restored to sight he has to take on all those cares and worries that beset us all. It was some big deal for him to want to be restored to sight but he had faith in Jesus’ ability, he trusted him. In the same way God loves you and wants what is best for you and so you know that you can trust Him. Therefore there is every reason to include Him in your decision making process. Ask yourself: What does God want me to do? Talk to Him, ask Him and listen for His reply.
We can and we must: Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 KJV. That is the only way to deal with wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Have you taken your summer holiday yet, or are you still looking forward to a break from work? Perhaps you are restricted to taking your holiday when school is out. Maybe you are planning a winter holiday this year. Whatever your plans remember that eighty years ago a manual worker would have had to make do with the statutory Bank Holidays as the only respite he would have from his daily grind. And he would not be paid for not working on those days either! In contrast a senior local government employee would be granted up to 48 days paid holiday each year in addition to the Bank Holidays.
The Holidays with Pay Act which was passed by Parliament in 1938 changed all that. Now everyone was entitled to one weeks paid holiday. Not that everyone could afford to go away of course; the lowest earners needed their basic weekly income just to pay for rent and food. For them the passing of the Act meant they could have a few days off work without having to worry about making ends meet, but it did not mean they could suddenly afford a seaside holiday.
As you jet off to sunny climes, think about your not too distant relatives. Think, too, about all those today struggling to make ends meet, for whom a holiday in the sun away from the daily grind is a mere pipe dream. Jesus said: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 KJV. Let us be grateful that He is here for us to give us the rest we need.
It has been extremely hot here for several weeks now. No rain is forecast for the rest of this week at least. So it is not surprising that a fire has broken out on the moorlands to the east of Manchester followed by two more in the west that joined together. There is some question that they were started deliberately, although why anyone would do that is beyond me! Any way they have spread like, well, like wild fire across the peat moors. Aerial photos show the extent of the devastation; at least nine square miles have been consumed by fire. Fortunately there has been no loss of human life although wild life experts tell us that whilst anything that could fly or run has escaped the blaze, those unable to do so, like the chicks of the birds or the young mammals will have died. Fire brigades from across the country, together with units of the army, have been doing their best to extinguish the flames but, of course peat has for centuries been a source of heat and light so it is very difficult to stop it from burning below the surface. The conditions in which they are working are terrible not only the heat but the choking smoke making it difficult, if not impossible to see or even breathe. Yet the fire fighters are working on and will eventually bring the fires under control and then extinguish them completely.
Daily we may face apparently insurmountable obstacles, sickness, bereavement, the loss of job, home, or family member. Often these may seem, like the moorland fires, impossible to overcome. But there is hope. Right at the beginning of his Gospel St John wrote: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5 NIV. And that is our hope for the future. We must hold it before us at all times. As the moors will, in time, regenerate and the birds and animals return, life for us too will go on. Let us be thankful then that God has said: Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 NIV. The Lord will walk with us as we walk the desolate moors of our lives without burning our feet and breathing freely without choking on the smoke. Thanks be to God
Jack and I have been best friends since our school days. He was my best man at our wedding and his wife Jane is godmother to our daughter, so, yes, we are pretty close. Over the years our careers have taken us in different directions. Jack took a job opportunity on the other side of the country, so we’ve not seen as much of each other as we would have liked, but we have always kept in touch, spending time together when possible. He has not enjoyed the best of health recently so it was a pleasant surprise to receive a phone call on Wednesday evening to say that they were staying with friends locally and could they call to see us the following day. Well, yes, of course they could, we would be delighted to see them!
As you can imagine we were up with the dawn chorus on Thursday, the house was cleaned from top to bottom, bread was made, cakes were baked, and fresh flowers cut from the garden adorned every room. Everything sparkled a joyous welcome. Oh and “no you can’t wear that shirt, I know it’s comfortable but go and find a decent one”.
It was whilst looking out a suitable shirt that Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins came to mind. (Matthew 25:1-13 NIV) Five had prepared in case the bridegroom was delayed by bringing enough oil with them for their lamps whilst the other five had not. When the bridegroom eventually arrived the wise girls were ready. They welcomed him, lit his way into the festivities and went in with him. The foolish girls did not have enough oil to light their lamps and so were shut out.
So the question is simply this; are you ready for the coming of the Lord or are there still a few cobwebs in the corners that need attention? After all when comforting the disciples, Jesus said: 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:2-3 NIV. When He returns to call you home, will you be ready to welcome Him, to go with Him or will there still be some untidiness, some areas of your life that need attention? But before that, in this life when He taps you on the shoulder to say “I’ve a job for you” will you be ready to go with Him?
Yes thanks, we all had a great time together that afternoon. Just like old times in fact.
I am an Authorised Local Preacher in an Anglo Catholic parish church, in the Diocese of Essex UK