Friday, July 21, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 22 July 2017 (St Mary Magdalene)

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord.’ 
John 20.18

Privileged with the first post-resurrection appearance, Mary's first response was a declaration of faith. We also have the privilege of seeing the Lord, but through the eyes of faith. And like Mary we must publicly proclaim him as Lord.

prayer diary Friday 21 July 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.' 
Matthew 20.27

The only glory in the Christian life is that of humble service. But what glory it is! For in so doing we serve not only God also, but walk the path that leads to his kingdom.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 20 July 2017

Jesus said: 'Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.' 
Mt 13.17

We are among those blessed to see and hear what so many longed for. Do not waste so precious a gift by taking it for granted. Instead daily give thanks to the Lord and serve him with all your heart, strength, mind, and soul.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 19 July 2017

'Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.' 
Matthew 13.7

Jesus explained that the seed that fell among thorns are those who lose faith in the face of the cares of the world. Take his warning then and do not lose eternal life for the sake of things that are passing.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 18 July 2017

Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.' 
Matthew 13.30

It may sometimes seem that there are those who escape justice in this life. But life does not end with the grave and justice must at last be faced. And severe indeed is the judgement for those who have refused to serve the Lord.

Monday, July 17, 2017

prayer diary Monday 17 July 2017

But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.' 
Matthew 12.21

Those without faith often cry 'extraordinary claims requires extraordinary proof.' Yet all the proof needed exists in the world around us. Demands for more in the shape of signs and wonders is a sign in itself – of an evil and adulterous generation.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

the parable of the sower: many are called, but how many answer?

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Gospel reading today is the parable of the Sower – one of the most well known of all the parables. As well it might be, for its theme is of tremendous importance: how it is that a child of God, created in his image and likeness, is to behave in the face of Divine Revelation, how it is they are to receive his Holy Word that he has given to them by means of the Sacred Scriptures and the Person of His Only Begotten Son, the second person of the Blessed Trinity.

Our Lord gives us four examples of how people might behave; but we might break them down into three categories. The first concerns those who hear the word of God and reject it; the second those who hear the word and accept it – and then live as though they do not; and the third those who hear and obey and whose faithfulness is shown through their fruitfulness.

Concerning the first group, those who reject the word, Christ gives two reasons for their behaviour. Those he compares to the path are led astray by the Evil One; and those to the rocky ground, at first believe and then fall away at the first sign of any trouble that may come as a result of being a believer in Christ. They will not carry the Cross. It is important to note here that Christ does not offer these reasons so as to some way excuse what they have done. He is simply stating why they have acted as they did; but the responsibility for their actions remain their own. We might do well to think of our Lord's own sobering words spoken in the final chapter of St Mark's gospel where, having told his disciples to  ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.' he continued by saying: 'The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.'

The second category are those whose faith Christ describes as being as if it had been choked by thorns. They have accepted the faith – but then been led astray by the cares of the world and the lure of material gain; they do not reject the faith publicly, but they have become 'unfruitful' ... effectively they may as well have renounced the faith for all the good it does them – and their example certainly does nothing to bring others to the faith. We may think here of the parable of the talents and of the servant who did nothing with his master's property but bury it in the ground. His reward was to be cast out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth – words that the Fathers of the Early Church always understood to mean as being damned.

And then finally we come to the last category, those who not only have heard the word, but understand and obey, and are fruitful as a result. Some of course will be more fruitful than others; but in that regard it is again useful to consider the parable of the talents. In that also some were more fruitful than others – but all heard the blessed words 'well done, good and faithful servant' and were called by their master to enter into his joy – which, again, has always been held to mean eternal life in heaven.

And as I reach the end, let me leave you with one further thought. It has no doubt struck you, if not today then on some previous occasion when you were reading this parable, that of all the examples our Lord gives, only one group is found to hear and understand, only one to be fruitful, only one to end in the place where all were created to be. All heard the word, all were called; but few responded, few were chosen, few were found worthy of eternal life with our Father in heaven. And this is sad indeed: freely was God's word and grace offered; but freely it was rejected. It remains for us to pray that those who hear but do not respond will be converted in their hearts; that those who hear and believe but then still fail to live as if they did will repent while time remains; and for us to pray that when the time comes we will be numbered among those who are found fruitful, among those blessed to hear the words 'well done good and faithful servant', among those called to enter into the joy of our master. All that indeed is something that we all should pray for not just daily, but unceasingly, in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 15 July 2017

But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. 
Matthew 12.14

Consider how the Pharisees, who thought themselves godly men, deliberately set out to break God's law with this conspiracy. Sometimes people fool themselves into thinking they can achieve good ends by evil means. But if the seed is not good, then neither can the fruit be. Do not be tempted to break God's laws for any reason.

Friday, July 14, 2017

prayer diary Friday 14 July 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.’ 
Matthew 12.8

Christ told the Pharisees he was Lord of the Sabbath; and indeed he is. But his dismissal of the petty and arbitrary rules that they imposed on the people of their day is not to be taken as an excuse for us to treat the Lord's Day as if it were no different than any other.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 13 July 2017

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' 
Matthew 11.28

Such famous words. And what true wisdom; for where else are we to find rest from all the troubles of this life other than in the one who created and sustains us?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 12 July 2017

Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants.' 
Matthew 11.25

Humility is the key to true wisdom. For those who think themselves wise often reject God's law; but those who are humble are grateful for what he teaches and so may enter into the eternal life that others fail to achieve.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 11 July 2017

'But I tell you that on the day of judgement it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.’ 
Matthew 11. 24

Sodom was notorious in Scripture for its decadent living; and great was its fall. But its punishment will seem mild to that in store for those who respond to all that God does for them with contempt and ingratitude.

Monday, July 10, 2017

prayer diary Monday 10 July 2017

‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.' 
Matthew 10.34

Christ does not, of course, want his followers going around attacking people with swords. But neither does he want them to back down in the face of every challenge for the sake of a quiet life. His Good News is not easy for every ear to hear – but that doesn't mean we must stop talking.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

fools for Christ?

Trinity Four May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

There is a tendency among those with a distaste for religion to believe that a lack of belief in God is a hallmark of intelligence; and that reason and rational thought is something that is the preserve of the atheist. One might be forgiven for thinking that, perhaps to their horror and bemusement, that there is a biblical justification for their beliefs. In our gospel reading today we hear our Lord say: 'I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants'. If Christ himself says that those who are wise and intelligent are the ones who reject his teachings and those who accept it are like innocent and trusting babes in arms, then who are we to argue? But of course Jesus is speaking with a certain irony here; and all the Church Fathers agree that his intent is not to praise those who turn their face from the Truth of his Word, but to condemn them; for what they consider to be their wisdom and intelligence is more to be thought of as an arrogance and pride that has led them very much astray. They may be wise in their own eyes; and in the eyes of the worldly; but they are not wise in either of the eyes of the Creator or his faithful children.

The reasons as to why a person might reject God are too numerous to go into here. But suffice it to say that it should be a cause of great sorrow to all Christians that there are those who are, like them, created in God's image and likeness who will go through life without the light of faith to guide them. The world contains very many spiritual dangers indeed; and it is difficult, if not impossible, to avoid pitfalls if you can not bring yourself to believe that holes even exist.

The lack of faith that exists in others demands a response from us. The first is to give thanks to God for our own faith – and the grace he grants us when faced with the many temptations that can cause one to fall away from the faith. We should also give thanks for those who have passed the faith as they have received it down through the generations; and particular thanks for those who have done their utmost to pass the faith on to us as individuals. We may think here of our own parents, our teachers, and those with roles in the ministries of the Church, particularly the clergy. All these have been obedient to the responsibilities that God has placed on their lives and we owe them a great debt of gratitude for the way in which they have not only instructed us in the faith but also for how they have corrected us when they have seen us going astray. There is no virtue – quite the opposite in fact – in minding our own business when doing so means allowing a brother or sister in Christ to draw too near to spiritual danger; and it is even worse to do so when that fellow-Christian is someone we have a particular duty towards when it comes to passing on the faith to them.

The next thing that it behoves us to do when it comes to the lack of faith in others is to pray for them. It does not matter who they are. If there are those in your own family who doubt or have fallen away, pray for them. If you do not, who will? If you have friends or neighbours who struggle with the faith or have abandoned it altogether, pray for them. Are we not called by God to love our neighbour as ourself? And what greater way is there to show that love than the spiritual assistance that comes from prayer? And pray also for those you do not know, in your communities, in this nation, and in all the corners of the world who live as strangers to God. Christ told us to make disciples of all nations; and while you may not be able to touch each person who has difficulties with knowing God yourself, at the very least you may pray for them that their hearts will be opened to his Truth and his Love.

And the last thing I suggest that Christians should do in the face of the unbelief of others is to know and live their faith as best they can. Knowing our faith allows us to defend it to others – and this is very necessary in an age where so many have a very distorted view of what it is that the Church teaches, a false version of Christianity promulgated by those in the media, academia, and other sectors of society who are hostile to the faith. We must also not only know enough abut the faith to defend it properly, but also be ready and willing to do so. Allowing those who behave like anti-Christs by spreading lies about the faith to do so unchecked is something no Christian should do. Learning about the faith, by the way, is a life long task; we should never believe that we have reached a point where we do not need to strengthen and deepen our faith. That is a task that only ends when, with the Grace of God, we have reached the place we were created to be – with God in heaven.

And to do that we must do more than know the faith – we must live it out. Living it out is one of the greatest ways of bringing the faith to others. We can not hope to convince others of its truth if we do not live as if we ourselves are convinced of its truth. Living it out will put the lie to the notion that it is the recourse of fools; living it out, ceaseless of the cost, will draw others to look again at what it is that we give our lives to; and living it out will, by God's grace, help others to believe in him - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 8 July 2017

Jesus said 'Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.' 
Matthew 10.28

The cost of following Christ's teaching in this life may sometimes seem difficult. But how much greater is the cost in the next life of not doing so.

Friday, July 7, 2017

prayer diary Friday 7 July 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Jesus said ‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves.' 
Matthew 10.16

Jesus knew his disciples would face dangers, yet he sent them anyway. But then, he was not afraid to face danger himself. And therefore neither must we fear what it may cost us to share the Gospel message.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 6 July 2017

Jesus said 'You received without payment; give without payment.' 
Matthew 10. 8

All God gives us, the bounty of this world and the gift of Christ's good news, is freely given to us. And so we must freely share them with others.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 5 July 2017

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” 
Matthew 10. 5-7

As Christians we are all sent into the world by Christ. And like those first disciples we must proclaim his good news in word and deed.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 4 July 2017

Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’ 
Matthew 9. 37,38

How many times have you heard these verses or even prayed them yourself? Have you ever stopped to wonder if you are called to labour for the Lord's harvest? You should – because it is something that all Christians are called to do

Monday, July 3, 2017

prayer diary Monday 3 July 2017

He said, ‘Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. 
Matthew 9. 24, 25

Those who put their faith in Christ have nothing to fear – in this life, or the next.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

the faith of Abraham

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Gospel reading today shows us the high expectations that God has of those who love him. Nothing or no one is to be put before him – not son or daughter, father or mother. We read much the same in our Old Testament reading concerning the sacrifice of Abraham. This passage is often used today by those outside the Church – and sometimes even by those within – in an attempt to show the unreasonableness of God. But, of course, they can only do so by interpreting the passage in ways contradictory to the way in which it has been read by the Church down through the generations. Such attempts to use the Word of God to speak against Almighty God and the teachings of his Church should always serve to remind us that even the devil himself can try to quote Scripture to his advance his evil purposes; and that it is done so frequently in the age in which we live should only high-light the Spiritual dangers of the world around us.

Properly understood – which is, of course to say understood in the way that the Church has always understood this passage – the story of the sacrifice of Abraham teaches us much. First it serves as a testimony to the great faith of Abraham. He is an old man, already approaching the end of his years. One of the great sorrows of his life was that for many years his marriage to Sarah was childless. Late in life God grants them a child; and more, promises that through this child he will have descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens. And then he is asked to sacrifice this child. If ever a man faced a temptation to defy the will of God, even a man like Abraham, one who spoke with the Almighty on such intimate terms that he could have no doubt that this command did indeed come from God, this was it. But Abraham responded to this challenge with a faithfulness and serenity that has served as an inspiration to all the generations that followed. He put his trust in God that he, Abraham, could be both obedient to the commandments of God and that God could even so still be faithful to the promises that he had made. And his great faith was rewarded.

And that is the second lesson for us from this story. It testifies to the great fidelity of God. He keeps his promises to us in all circumstances. We may find that this life gives us heavy crosses to bear – and indeed we may, and we should accept them in the knowledge that we were never promised that it would be otherwise – but if in spite of our burdens we remain faithful to God then we will find that he has always remained faithful to us … and that the crosses we have born are as nothing compared to the reward that comes from having carried them in the spirit of Christian love and fidelity.

And the last lesson I wish to speak of this morning that we may take from this account of Abraham's great faith is that even though it reminds us of the high expectations that God has of us, it also serves to demonstrate that God asks nothing of us that he is not willing to do himself. For the Church down through the ages has taught that in the story of Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son we see a foreshadowing of God's willingness to sacrifice his Son for us. But, of course, given that even that evidence of the Creator's great love for his children is twisted by those who hate God and religion to make a mockery of what the Father was willing to endure for the sake of his creation, it should therefore not surprise us that the story of Abraham has also been twisted by claims that it offers proof of the unreasonableness of God's demands upon his children.

But, as I have already noted, this twisting is really only evidence of the spiritual dangers of the age. For of course it is only by first loving God above all things that we can properly come to love others; and only by loving God above all things that we can come to be what it was that he created us to be – his loving children, destined to spend all eternity with him in heaven. This is something that the forces of spiritual darkness at work in the world are committed to working against. And all the more reason to give God first place in our lives always; and loving him always, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 1 July 2017

'Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.' 
Matthew 10. 28

Ironically, we live in a world where many won't defend their Christian faith against the values of secular society out of fear of a harsh word, or that they won't be popular. Christ warned us to fear nothing of this world – because if we do, the price we pay may indeed be that of our soul.

Friday, June 30, 2017

prayer diary Friday 30 June 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves.' 
Matthew 10. 16

The work of being a Christian and spreading the good news is not without its dangers. We should welcome them with joy, knowing that in facing these dangers we are doing God's work.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 29 June 2017

Jesus, sending out the twelve to proclaim the good news, said: 'You received without payment; give without payment.'
Matthew 10. 8

The gift of the good news of Jesus Christ was something freely given to us by God. It is our work to freely pass that good news on to others.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 28 June 2017

(Jesus, sending out the twelve, said) 'As you go, proclaim the good news 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' 
Matthew 10. 7

As Christians we are all called by Christ and sent forth into the world. In what ways do you proclaim to others that the kingdom of heaven has come near?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 27 June 2017

The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest.'
Matthew 9. 37-38

How often do you pray that people will answer the call to the ministries of the Church, especially the ordained ministries? How often and in what ways to your encourage or help others to answer that call? And how often do you listen to know as to what ways God may be calling you?

Monday, June 26, 2017

prayer diary Monday 26 June 2017

He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him 'follow me.' And he got up and followed him.'
Matthew 9.9

To the Jews of Jesus time tax-collectors were the worst of all sinners. And yet, being called, Matthew responded at once. Sometimes even those we think of as being the worst of all people only need the slightest nudge to jump at the chance of redemption. Who have you called lately?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

fear not for the body but for the soul

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Gospel reading today is part of the passage where our Lord, having chosen the 12 Apostles, is giving them their instructions prior to sending them out to preach his Good News in the towns and villages of the people of Israel. And one of the things that he told them that we heard read today was the following verse: 'Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.' The interpretation of those words are fairly obvious – Christ knew that speaking the Gospel truths are not without risks; and he wanted his disciples to understand that the seeming peace and comfort that may come by keeping quiet and going along with the world instead of preaching that truth is only temporary – whereas the benefits of being faithful to God and obeying his commandments, including his commandment to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples of all nations, are eternal.

I have no doubt that our Lord's words were of great comfort in the early centuries of the Church, when to be a Christian was to face persecution and death. The inspirational stories of the martyrs we have had passed down to us from that era demonstrate clearly that they refused to fear those who could kill the body; for they understood that it mattered nothing to preserve the life of the body if it was done at the cost of the soul. The life of the body is short and will end whether our time in this life is spent in comfort or in suffering; but the life that comes after this life is eternal and will be miserable indeed if those comforts have come at the expense of fidelity to God.

And surely those words of Christ must be of great comfort to those who face persecution and death today for the sake of the faith. For we must not forget that such persecution is not a thing of the past; it is not something that only took place in the bad old days of the Roman Empire. No, it continues today; and in fact Christians are the most persecuted people on the face of the earth today. Tens of thousands die for the faith each year; and tens of millions more face all kinds of suffering. And the suffering and death they face would end if they would only renounce their faith – but they refuse to do so, for they, like the martyrs of old recognise that those who kill the body are not to be feared; and they therefore place faithfulness to God and the eternal life that comes with that above any short-lived comforts they might gain in this life for the sake of renouncing their faith.

We, of course, do not face death on a daily basis for the faith. No one any time soon is going to put a gun to our head and threaten to pull the trigger if we do not deny Christ; no one is likely to beat us up, chase us through the streets, burn our homes, destroy our churches, or deny us our human rights for the sake of our faith. However, it would be a mistake to think because of that the Christ's words therefore only apply to people of long ago or people living far away. In our society Christians  are coming under increasing pressure to adapt the faith to conform with the values of secular society. Certain sections of the media endlessly condemn traditional Christian teachings as being unacceptable; indeed, in the United Kingdom only recently the leader of a major political party stepped down, saying that he no longer believed it was possible to both lead his party and be a faithful Christian. The modern world is becoming a very cold place indeed for those who take their Christian faith seriously. 

But that, I think, should not fill us with dismay. Rather, we should think of our Lord's words and be filled with hope. We have nothing to fear from those who can only kill the body; nothing to fear from those who can make our lives difficult; nothing to fear from those who will mock us and sneer at us and loudly proclaim we are fools, that our beliefs are out of step with the age we live in and are therefore unacceptable and must be either changed, abandoned or suppressed. For these are only the passing dangers and discomforts of this life; and enduring them does not diminish us in the least. Indeed we should welcome them, for they give us the opportunity to bear witness to Christ in the world – something we should daily give thanks for to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 24 June 2017

The day will come when the bridegroom is taken from them, and then they will fast.' 
Matthew 9.15

Fasting, along with many traditional penitential practices, are ignored by many. Yet we know from Sacred Scripture that they were commended to us by Christ himself. Should not then we, who call ourselves his followers, follow his teaching as much concerning this as we do with all other matters?

Friday, June 23, 2017

prayer diary Friday 23 June 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'For I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners.' 
Matthew 9. 13

And we know, of course, that Christ came to call all people to himself; for all indeed are sinners. But woe onto those who think they are without sin; for in that way they reject Christ's mercy and his promise of eternal life.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 22 June 2017

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic 'take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.' 
Matthew 9. 2

We all remember that Jesus told the man to take up his mat and walk; how many remember that he did so that he might display to the world he had the authority to forgive sins? For that was why he came, to save us from our sins. Do not deceive yourself, and thereby reject Christ, by believing you have no sins to be forgiven of.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 21 June 2017

Thomas answered him 'My Lord and my God.' 
John 20.28

the phrase 'doubting Thomas' has entered indelibly into common parlance. Yet this is the same man who was the first to clearly and unambiguously recognise and declare the divinity of Christ. We who walk the path he first trod should daily give thanks for his inspired witness to the truth of whom Christ is.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 20 June 2017

And Jesus said to them 'why are you afraid, you of little faith?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm.' 
Matthew 8. 26

Death comes to us all. But for those who put their faith in Christ, there is nothing to fear in this world.

Monday, June 19, 2017

prayer diary Monday 19 June 2017

'Foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.'
Matthew 8. 20

The material things of this world matter little. All that matters is following Christ.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 17 June 2017

‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.' 
Matthew 6.24

The things of this world exist to serve our bodily needs while we live. If we instead become slaves to them we lose our path in this life and risk our life in the next.

Friday, June 16, 2017

prayer diary Friday 16 June 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven … for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.' 
Matthew 6.20,21

Honestly ask yourself if it is the things of this world that matter most to you. Then consider the fact that there is not a single one of them that you can take with you to the next life. Why love that which you can not keep and may even serve to deny you the one thing that truly matters?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 15 June 2017

'And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.'Matthew 6.12

The Christian way is hard. It is not easy to let go of the slights and wrongs we suffer. And yet, even as we hope that God will forgive us, so too must we forgive others.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 14 June 2017

‘whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others.' 
Matthew 6.2

We all must do all we can to help others. But consider carefully your reasons for doing so. Is it to gain glory in the eyes of the world? Or because they are your brother and sisters deserving your love and care?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 13 June 2017

'But I say to you, 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.''
Matthew 5.44

Christ commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves. And as all are our neighbours, those who hate us as much as those who love us, so we must love and pray for all.

Monday, June 12, 2017

prayer diary Monday 12 June 2017

‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.'
Matthew 5. 38,39

The Christian does not seek vengeance for real or imagined wrongs. We must forgive – seven times seventy if needs be.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Trinity Sunday - God reveals himself to man

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Each year the Sunday after Pentecost we have Trinity Sunday. And it is a Sunday, you may have heard me say before, that some preachers regard with a degree of trepidation, for it is a day when they feel obliged to discuss one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith, that while God is One, he exists in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

But mysteries, I think, are only for explaining when it comes to the fictional kind we find in detective novels and television programmes. The nature of God, however, is not a problem for us to solve, to put neatly into a box so that it does not trouble us any more. When it comes to faith mysteries are for accepting. But that does not mean there is nothing we can say about the matter. Indeed, I would think it important that we consider how it is that we know that although there is only one God he is three persons.

First, let us begin by thinking about how it is that we know anything about God. Natural reason can tell us much. We know, for example, that everything in nature has a beginning and an end, even the universe itself; and that nothing within our universe can cause itself to come into being. That suggests that there must be something outside of nature, some force outside of time and space which brought our universe into being. That act of creation and the intricate design of the universe argues that that force must have intelligence or mind – in other words it must be some form of being. This being, existing outside of time and space, must needs be eternal, without beginning and without end; having the ability to create our seemingly infinite universe out of nothing, it must be all powerful; and of unlimited intelligence.

Such things about God we can learn from observation of the world around us. But, just as there are things we can learn about a person from observing their actions, and other we can only know if they tell us, there are things we can only know about God if he himself tells us. And it is more than reasonable to expect that God would choose to tell us something more about himself than we can gain by simply looking at the world around us; if a Divine intelligence creates a universe with other intelligent beings in it, then it simply makes no sense to imagine that he would then not communicate with us in some way.

And if fact, God has communicated additional information about himself to us. We have a record of these communications in Holy Scripture. And we call this information Divine Revelation, for by it we know that God has revealed information concerning himself to those he has created.

And I use the word 'know' rather than 'believe' deliberately; for knowledge comes not just from the head but also from the heart. And just as we can know things concerning God by use of our natural reason and looking at the world around us, our heads, so also we can learn of him by looking within ourselves, our hearts. We should not be surprised at this; for the one who created the world also created us. And this inner knowledge tells us that the one who created us also communicates with us.
We all have some experience of this, such as our in-built sense of morality by which we know right from wrong and good from evil; we have it also in our innate sense that this life is not all there is, that there is something about human existence that goes beyond the mere physical; and we experience it also in our instinct for the Divine, an experience shared by all people, in all places, throughout history. Others have experienced this Divine self-revelation more clearly, more personally, and more specifically. And we call the record of that Divine Revelation Sacred Scripture, which we have collected together in that wondrous book we call the Holy Bible.

And in the Bible we are told by God himself that he is three persons in one God. We see this in our reading from St Matthew's Gospel today when Christ himself commands his disciples to go out into the world, baptising all people in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We see it in our epistle from the Apostle St Paul when he blesses the church in Corinth with the words we now refer to as the Grace – words referencing God in the three persons of the Blessed Trinity. And we even see it in our Old Testament reading today, words taken from the very first verses of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, where we see first God himself, then his Spirit hovering over the waters, and then his creative Word spoken, saying 'let there be light' – and that Word, we know from the opening Chapter of St John's Gospel, was made flesh in Jesus Christ our Lord.

So we know that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because he has told us so in Sacred Scripture; and the knowledge of God that we have in our hearts assures us that what Scripture tells us is true. We do not have to understand how this can be any more than we have to understand how it is that he is eternal; how Christ can be both God and Man, or how it is that bread and wine becomes his Flesh and Blood for us in the Holy Eucharist. It is enough for us that God tells us it is so; and that we know in our hearts that it is true. A truth that I pray all people in all places will come to know in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 10 June 2017

'But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool.' 
Matthew 5.34,35

Of what use to you is an oath? If a person does not trust your word, will they believe you more because of your swearing? And if you speak a lie, why compound your sin by dishonouring God by your oath?

Friday, June 9, 2017

prayer diary Friday 9 June 2017

'But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.' 
Matthew 5 28

Christians are called to a high standard of holiness indeed. We must strive not only not commit the sin, but to avoid the thought of it also. You risk as much by your fantasies as by your deeds. Pray daily for purity of life and heart.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 8 June 2017

'For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.' 
Matthew 5. 20

Do not think of the worst person you have heard of and think as long as you are better than they you will see heaven. Instead, think of the holiest one and strive to be even holier than they. And pray always for God's grace to resist the temptations that surround you.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 7 June 2017

'No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.' 
John 15.13

Christian love is no sentimental thing. It is about denying the pleasures of this world so that the example of your life may testify to your faith, and if need be facing death itself for the sake of Christ.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 6 June 2017

'In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.' 
Matthew 5.16

Do not ever think that how you live affects no one but yourself. The example of your life is important – faithful living for good, unfaithful for ill. And woe unto you if you lead others astray.

Monday, June 5, 2017

prayer diary Monday 5 June 2017

Jesus said: 'Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.' 
John 12.25

The pleasures and comforts of this life come at infinite cost, for to set them above obeying Christ's commandments is to forfeit the hope we have of heaven.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pentecost - the fulfillment of God's promise

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today is the feast of Pentecost, one of the three great festivals of the Christian years, along with Christmas and Easter. All are part of God's plan for the salvation of humanity, and thereby show God's great love for his children. They also show his great faithfulness to us, for all show how he keeps the promises he has made to his children; and because of this we know that he will keep the other promises he has made to us. That is how someone shows that they are trustworthy, is it not? They keep the promises they have already made to you; and because of this you have every hope that you can trust they can make their other promises to you in due course.

Christmas celebrates the Incarnation. And the incarnation was God's fulfilment of the promise that he would send a Saviour. This promise is woven throughout the fabric of Old Testament. Easter celebrates the Resurrection. The Resurrection marks God's fulfilment of the promise that the Messiah he would send was to suffer and die for our sins; but that after his death would rise again after three days. This promise is contained many places in the Old Testament, but also in the New where it is reaffirmed again and again by the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Christ himself. And the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is also the fulfilment of a promise made to us by God, again by our blessed Saviour, when he told his disciples that after his Ascension he would not leave them alone, but with instead send them the Holy Spirit, who would remain with them, all those who followed him, in other words his Church, to the end of the ages.

Because of the remarkable events that occurred at Pentecost – by which I mean the Spirit-inspired courage that suddenly filled the disciples who were hiding in the upper room so that they were suddenly enabled to go into the very streets they had seen Christ carry his Cross through, streets filled with the very people who had arrested him and dragged him off to his mockery of a trial, torture, and death, and start preaching our Lord's Good News to them with such bravery and conviction that they convinced thousands of its Truth that very day, and continued in that courage and conviction until they had spread that Truth to all the corners of the Empire and those who followed them continued to all the ends of the earth – because of those remarkable events, that first day of Pentecost is often called the birth of the Church. It might be more accurate to call it the Manifestation of the Church on Earth – for the Church of God's faithful exists in Heaven as well as on earth; and we know that the Angels, whom we name in our Liturgies as being part of the Church were worshipping God in Heaven before the beginning of Time itself. But the sending of the Holy Spirit on that day not only granted God's people in the world to be part of his Church on Earth but also the Divine power to continue in Christ's work of drawing all people to himself. So calling Pentecost the day when the Church was born is an understandable short-hand way of describing it, even if not entirely accurate.

We learn much from Pentecost, but today let me make three brief points. The first is that, as I already said, by it Christ shows his faithfulness to the promises he made us. This means we can be sure that the reward of eternal life awaits all those who love him and show that love by being faithful to his teachings. The second is that we can believe him when he tells us that the Holy Spirit will remain with his Church unto the end of the ages. Indeed, we know we receive that same Spirit at our confirmation when we 'receive the seal of the Holy Spirit.' The Spirit that came upon the Disciples the first day of Pentecost has also come upon us. And this means that we must act with the same conviction as they did, sharing the Good News of our Saviour with all people, in all places, in all ages; and with the same courage as they did, unafraid of any consequences, whether those be risking the the loss of material comforts, a reduction in social prestige or giving offence to those who wilfully refuse to hear the Truth, or like to martyrs of that time and down through the ages to this very day loosing our very lives. For it matters nothing if we lose the whole world, even life itself, if by our faithfulness to God's word we gain our souls, our salvation, life eternal.

And the third and last point is that the Church is not something made by us but by God. She - and I say 'she' for the Church is also referred to as the Bride of Christ – she is not man-made but a Divine Creation. She is therefore, as we say in the Creeds, something Holy. And being a Holy creation of the Almighty she is not something for us to do with as we please. Her teaching are not ours, her holy & Apostolic traditions are not ours, her Sacraments are not ours. And being God's we can not change them either to suit ourselves or the whims and desires of others. We can only hand them on as they were handed on to us, from Christ to the Apostles, and down to our time.

And that is something we must do until the end of the ages, a time when another promise of God's will be fulfilled – the great and terrible Day when he will come again. And just as we rejoice in the other Great Promises fulfilled, marking them as great festivals of the Church, so too we will be able to rejoice on that day if we have done our best to be as faithful to God as he has shown himself to be faithful to us. Amen. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 3 June 2017

But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. 
John 21.25

No amount of books could contain the entirety of the Word made flesh. But, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Gospel contain enough for us to know Christ and trust in the Church he gave us.

Friday, June 2, 2017

prayer diary Friday 2 June 2017

He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ 
John 21.15

Those who love the Lord are called to feed his sheep, each according to the part they play within his Body the Church. But whatever that role, we must each strengthen our brothers and sisters through the example we give of Godly living.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 1 June 2017

‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.' 
John 17. 20

Christ tasked his disciples with bringing others to him, to be one with each other and with him. That task is now ours today. Work to bring others to faith in Christ.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 31 May 2017 (The Visitation of the BVM to St Elizabeth)

'And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?' 
Luke 1.41-43

Blessed indeed was the fruit of the Virgin's womb, the Word made flesh, God himself coming among man as one of us. And just as St Elizabeth was blessed by the visit of the Mother of God, so too we are blessed daily by our Lord's continuing presence among us.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 30 May 2017

'Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.' 
John 17.11

In the face of persecution we have protection; protection which is not freedom from suffering, but rather the peace that comes from the assurance we are one with Christ, the protection of the strength he gives to remain true to the faith whatever we face.

Monday, May 29, 2017

prayer diary Monday 29 May 2017

'I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’ 
John 16.33

Do not fear what you may suffer for the faith, rather expect suffering and glory in it. For by it you give witness to Christ and know you walk the narrow path to heaven.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

the ascension: Jesus, God and man in heaven

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

In our reading from Acts today we have the account of the Ascension. Jesus and the disciples gather together on Mount Olivet, about 'a sabbath's day journey from Jerusalem' or about a mile or so; he speaks to them; and then he is carried upwards until he is hidden by a cloud. Very dramatic – but why? Why ascend into heaven, why leave at all, as opposed to staying?

Well, first let consider that Christ is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He is God and God's dwelling place is in Heaven. He has come to earth according to his divine plan; that plan has been fulfilled; and therefore he has returned home. But his departure by way of his Ascension is more than simply by way of a 'job done.' It, like everything that God has done, does, and will do is done according to a purpose, according to a plan. And his plan here is all of a part with the reason why God became man in the first place.
Consider the Incarnation. God became man in order to suffer and die for our sins. As we say in the Easter Anthems 'for as in Adam all died, in Christ all are made alive. Or to put it another way, because man sinned, it was necessary that man pay the penalty for sin. But the penalty was too great for any ordinary man to pay; the only way it could be done if God himself became man and paid that price himself.

But being God, death could not hold him. And so he rose from the dead. And in doing so he destroyed the power of death over all men. Christ the man's resurrection from the dead gives us hope that all men, all of humanity, have the hope of eternal life in heaven. We know that the grave is not the end because Christ walked free from the grave.

And then comes the Ascension. Might Christ have stayed on earth to be with us? Perhaps – but to what purpose? We know from the Gospels, there were many who looked him in the eye when he walked this earth who refused to believe in him; many who witnessed the empty tomb who could not accept that he had risen from the dead. Why think things would have been any different had he remained? The same kind of people who refused to believe in him during his earthly ministry would simply claim he was some kind of imposter, not the Jesus who died, but someone else pretending to be him.

So there was nothing to be gained by his staying. But there was something gained to be gained by his departure. Christ was truly God and truly man; and it was as God and man that he returned to heaven. Real human flesh has entered into the heavenly realms; and this lets us know that at the end of the ages that we, as physical human beings may also enter into heaven. We say in the Creed each Sunday that we believe in the Resurrection of the dead; and we have always understood that to be a bodily resurrection, a time when by the power of God our body and soul, though separated at death, will be reunited.

The Ascension, properly understood, is a part of the Gospel's message of hope for all mankind. By Christ's incarnation and death on the Cross, our sins are forgiven; through his Resurrection we have the hope of eternal life; and by his Ascension we know that our own Resurrection to eternal life will not be in some vague spiritual form, but as flesh and blood human beings. And we know this because Christ ascended into heaven as a real flesh and blood human being, one who after his own Resurrection spoke with his disciples, touched them and was touched by them, cooked for them, and ate with them. We are truly the most blessed of people; which is why we must, as our Lord commanded just before his Ascension share his Gospel message of hope with all the world. And let us pray that we will always have the strength, the courage, and the Grace to do so, from now until the end of the ages. Amen. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 27 May 2017

'I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.' 
John 16 .28

Christ came from heaven and returned to heaven. And we who are in him by virtue of our baptisms may hope to one day be with him there, for this he has promised us.

Friday, May 26, 2017

prayer diary Friday 26 May 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.' 
John 16.20

The suffering of the Christian is a pleasure to the persecutor. But those who remain faithful despite the cost are rewarded with the bliss of eternal life. And what then of those who rejoiced? Pray for them that they will repent and be saved.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

the Ascension: 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven?'

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Angels, if our reading from the Acts of the Apostles today is anything to go by, can be quite scathing. The disciples are standing there, still quite stunned by our Lord's Ascending into heaven before their eyes; and before he has even fully gone – 'while he was going' St Luke tells us - two men in white, whom the Church Fathers have always assured us were angels, appear and say to them almost scoldingly : Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.

It is almost as if they are saying to the disciples: 'What are you doing standing around here? You have better things to be doing. Get on with it!' And what are those better things? The first is that they are to go back to Jerusalem and wait there, as we heard the Lord Jesus command them earlier in this passage, and wait for what he calls 'the promise of the Father', when they will be baptised by the Holy Spirit. And after that they have other work to do, work also entrusted to them by Christ just before his Ascension, which was recorded for by St Matthew at the end of his Gospel. He tells his disciples that 'all authority in heaven and on earth' has been given to him; And that therefore they must go 'and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.'

These words of our Lord are, of course, very familiar to us. We even have a special name for them – the Great Commission. And there is much about it, I would suggest, that the modern world would find objectionable. The idea that we must go out and make disciples of all nations gives the impression that the Christian way of life is better than all others; not a popular notion in a world that likes to think all ways are equally good. Teaching them what the Lord has commanded sounds very like indoctrination; something that the modern world frowns upon. And telling people they have to be obedient to those commandments seems like a challenge to personal autonomy; people in our age are entitled to live as they please and make their own choices and all that really matters is whether they are comfortable with those choices – and, it would seem to me, whether those choices are in conformity with secular liberal values.

But the fact that the Christian message is not in lock-step with the world around us is not something that should trouble us. Christianity from the beginning was a challenge to the culture rather than being a cheer-leader for whatever happened to be popular. Our Lord and Saviour Christ was crucified for challenging the accepted norms of his day. And the early Church was persecuted first in Israel and then throughout the Roman Empire for just the same reasons. For a time – a very long time – the values of Church and Society seemed to merge and so perhaps people forgot just how counter-cultural the Church could be. But those values have again diverged; and it is the mission of the Church to stay true to the Lord's commands, rather than trying to fit in with the culture of the day.

We have, we must remember, a commission from the Lord to do so. And a commission, we should note, is when someone in authority gives someone else a duty to perform and delegates to them the authority to carry it out. And there can be, of course, no higher authority than God. So we must take heed of the words the angels spoke on the morning of the Ascension. We must not stand around, looking up at the sky, as if we are confused and don't know what to do, waiting to be told what to do. We know what we must do - fulfil the commission that Christ gave us, baptising all nations, and teaching them to obey his commands. And this is something we, his Church, must continue to do so until the day he comes again as he promised us he would. Amen. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 24 May 2017

'When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.' 
John 16.13

Christ taught that the Holy Spirit would guide his disciples into all the truth. The Holy Spirit strengthened the Church in the beginning, guided her path down through the centuries, and still guides the Church today.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 23 May 2017

'Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.' 
John 16.7

Christ did not abandon his Church; he promised and sent the Holy Spirit 'to guide it into all truth.' And therefore we, as his followers, can trust his Church and must be faithful to her teachings.

Monday, May 22, 2017

prayer diary Monday 22 May 2017

'an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me.' 
John 16. 2,3

The true disciple should not fear suffering for the Lord. Around the world, many die for the faith, with the roll of martyrs growing daily. Pray for those who suffer for the faith, even as you draw courage from their example of faith in the face of adversity.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

'If you love me, you will keep my commandments'

In our Gospel reading today the Lord tells us that if we love him we will keep his commandments. The implications of these words are far reaching; for if it is only those who keep his commandments who love him then the opposite is also true – which is that those who do not keep his commandments do not love him. It is not enough merely to say that we love God; we have to show it in our actions, by living our lives according to his laws. We should be reminded here of the words that Jesus spoke elsewhere in Scripture, in St Matthew's – 'not every one who says to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.' Obedience and Salvation are linked together in a way that can not be separated.

Now, to the modern ear this may seem a terrible imposition. God is interfering with my freedom, they may say; because if I behave contrary to his laws he will hold me to account. But there is a certain lack of logic to such objections. We do not whine and complain about how the laws of man or the laws of nature are some terrible and unfair burden upon us. With regard to the laws of man we see them as being sensible and necessary; and with regard to the laws of nature they are simply a fact of life. 

Now, we may break these laws if we choose to do so; for we have free will. But we do so knowing that there are consequences. A person may choose to drive as fast as they want, whatever the speed limit may happen to be; but they do so knowing that over the course of time they will accumulate fines and penalty points and may well eventually lose their licence altogether. Or a person may chose to defy the laws of gravity and throw themselves off a cliff; but the result will be injury or death. And if disobeying the laws of man or nature has consequences, why should it seem like something so terribly strange or unfair that disobeying the laws of God should also come at a price?

But we should not really be thinking about this in terms of crime and punishment, of lawgiver and criminal, but rather in terms of love. For remember what it was that Christ said in those words we are looking at: 'if you love me you will keep my commandments.' The person who truly loves God will keep his commandments – not because they are afraid of the consequences of not doing so, but because they love God. And the person who does not keep his commandments can not be said to love him. 

Now some may find that conclusion objectionable. I do love God, they may say, but in my own way; and that way does not involve obeying his laws. And that is sad, because it goes against what Christ says not only in these words that we heard read this morning, but also elsewhere in Scripture. It is like the person who habitually drives far too fast objecting to being described as a law-breaker; or the person who proposes throwing themselves off a cliff objecting to being described as someone lacking in common sense. They may well object; but their objections do not make the descriptions any less true. And if God himself tells us that those who do not obey him do not love him, who are we to disagree?

Now, of course, most of us are in the position of wanting to show our love for God by obeying his laws; but being weak human beings, prone to falling prey to temptations, we sometimes go astray. But we are blessed indeed, for ever before we loved God, he loved us first. And in this matter he shows his love to us by the assistance he gives us in obeying him. 

We read of this help in our Gospel today when Christ promises to send the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to those who love him. The Holy Spirit will give his Grace to those who love God to help them obey God more and more so that, by Grace, obedience will increase, and thereby love for God will grow and increase also. That this is so is shown, I think, by some beautiful words from a saint of the Orthodox Church, Nikodemus of the Holy Mountain, who said:

 'The grace of the Holy Spirit which is given mystically to every Christian when he is baptised acts ... in proportion to our obedience to the commandments of the Lord. That is, if a Christian obeys the commandments of the Lord more, grace acts within him more … the more a man acts in accordance with the commandments of Christ, the more … the fire of Divine grace lights in his heart … '

This is, I think, a beautiful way of expressing what our Lord is saying to us this morning in our Gospel reading: God gives us the Grace to love him, that love for him is shown through obedience, and from that obedience flows more grace allowing us to love and obey him more and more, his love for us helping deepen our love for him endlessly. And so I end with the prayer that you will allow his Love to guide you to love him more and more each day until the time when you are with the one who is Love, the God who created you and desires nothing more than you love him in return. Amen. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 25 May 2017 (The Ascension)

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.' When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 
Acts 1. 8,9

We are called to be Christ's witnesses throughout the world until he comes again. Remember always that this work is the most loving you can ever perform for your fellow man, because by it you bring before him the way to save his soul unto eternal life.

prayer diary Saturday 20 May 2017

‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you.' 
John 15. 18,19

Christ was hated by the world. What of you – are you loved or hated? And if you are loved, is it because you make it seem as if you belong to the world, and never challenge it with Christ's truth? And if that is the case, are you truly Christ's?

Friday, May 19, 2017

prayer diary Friday 19 May 2017 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.' 
John 15. 12,13

Christ's love was to spare nothing, not even himself, so that all men might know the truth. His truth is sometimes hard, but we have no choice for his words are those of eternal life. If you truly love someone, you will make sure they know that truth also, whatever the cost, be it their friendship or your life.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 18 May 2017

'As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.' 
John 15. 9,10

Christ loves us all ever and always. But only those who abide in his love receive the rewards of eternal life. And to abide in his love you must be obedient to what he commands.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 17 May 2017

'Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.' 
John 15.4

Christ commanded that we abide in him. And so we must, by being faithful members of his body, the Church. For just as the branch withers when cut from the vine, so too our faith struggles and fails when we separate ourselves from Christ.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 16 May 2017

'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.' 
John 14.27

The world offers vain pleasures and things that pass away; Christ offers things that are eternal. Therefore we need never fear whatever it is that we face.

Monday, May 15, 2017

prayer diary Monday 15 May 2017 (Saint Matthias, Apostle and Martyr)

‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.' 
John 15.12

And how did Christ love us? He gave hard teachings to his followers; he told others to sin no more; and he commanded that we love God more than material possessions. Does the love you have for your neighbour reflect his example?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Jesus the Way to the Father

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Gospel reading today is a very familiar one, being one of the mostly popularly used at funerals. This is not surprising, as it contains some of the promises our Lord made concerning eternal life. And at times of grief and mourning these words are of great comfort. But today happily we read them in another context, that of our Sunday by Sunday worship. Given that happier context, let us consider a few points drawn from this passage carefully.

The first point concerns our Lord's reply to Phillip when he asks Jesus to show him the Father. And Christ says to him that if you have seen me you have seen the Father. To put this another way – if you have seen me, you have seen God. This is of great importance. Firstly, it puts the lie to those who try to claim that Christ was simply a holy man who gave us great teachings but never claimed to be God. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly for those of us who are people of faith, it means that Christ's promises and commands to us are of Divine Origin. What Jesus says is God speaking directly to us. The promises he makes us are ironcast; and the teaching he gives us come fromt the highest source possible or imaginable.

This bring me to my next point, that one of the greatest of his promises he makes us is contained within this passage; and it is the reason that this passage is so frequently read at funerals. It concerns the eternal life that await all who follow him; and as I already said this is of great comfort when we grive the loss of a loved one. But the implications of these words are far greater than simply as an aid to bouy us up a bit in times of grief. Our Lord's promise of eternal life with him in heaven is something to keep firmly before our eyes at every moment of our lives. It reminds us, as it says in the Prayer Book, that we are to lead our lives in the light of eternity – essentially, that we are always to keep in our minds the fact that this life is not all that there is and that there are consequences in the next life for our behaviour in this one.

This leads me to my next point, one of the very important teachings that Christ gives us concerning himself in this passage. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me. This can be a difficult teaching for those living in the modern age. We are, frankly, uncomfortable suggesting to others that what we believe is in any way better than what they believe. And so we excuse ourselves from evangelising by comfortable thoughts such as there are many paths to God and that a righteous person of goodwill may, by living out whatever creed they hold faithfully may well attain salvation. And there is indeed some truth in that thought. God is merciful and he does not expect the impossible from his children. A person who leads a good life according to the dicates of the natural law – the law written in the hearts of men by God, as St Paul tells us of in his letter to the Romans – someone who would most likely have sought baptism had the Good News of Jesus Christ been brought to them – that person's eternal happiness we leave in the hands of Almighty God.

But for those who call themselves Christians, that can be no excuse for not preaching the Gospel to those who have not heard it. Think of it like this. You are lost in a desert waste with a group of travellers. Luckily for you have been given instruction on the best direction to take in order to find your way to safety. More, you have with you a detailed map of the region you are in, one that shows the landmarks to follow and the dangers to avoid if you are not to be lost forever. And you even have a compass to help keep you on the right path.

Would it be right under those circumstances to say nothing to the others, but rather tell yourself that they have every hope of finding their own way to safety? The answer, I think, is obvious. Some, of course, might refuse to believe you and choose instead to try and steer their own course. And other might well begin to doubt you along the way, finding the journey too difficult. But those who stuck with you would have a reasonable chance of reaching safety.

And imagine if you did tell no one. How would those in authority judge you if reached the place of safety alone and it was discovered that you had known the way and shared that information with nobody else? Some might have made it to safety unaided – but no thanks to you. And others would probably have died, lost in the desert. All would be quite shocked, I imagine. You would certainly be condemned in the court of public opinion; and quite possibly in the courts of law as well if the legal system allowed for it. The blood of those who were lost would be upon your hands and no one would have any doubt that you deserved any punishment you received, not matter how severe.

It is no different if you do not share the sure and certain way to eternal with others that God himself in the Second Person of the Holy Trinity gave to us. And indeed, of what comfort is it for anyone to hear these words read at a funeral if they do not also know that their loved one had first had the oppurtunity to hear these words in life and had the chance to live by them? And so as I end, I do so with the prayer that you will always do your best to share with others the Good News that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him – for the sake of their salvation; and also for the sake of your own. Amen.