Wednesday Worship: Isaac Watts celebrates this hymn writer and ‘father of English hymns’.
You can find the video here: https://youtu.be/aXGb7Qwc74k
The service sheet is here: https://thoughtsfromareader.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Wednesday-Worship-25-November.docx
I hope you enjoy it!
This ‘Thought for the Day’ comes from my vicar, Canon Annette Reed. She has kindly allowed me to share it with you as I like it a lot.
If you had walked into Holy Trinity Church in Great Paxton village this week, you would have been greeted by a building site.
The Cambridgeshire Saxon building was full of dust and the sound of old concrete plaster being drilled off from the interior walls by two very capable contractors. For years, the lower part of the walls had been very damp. No one had quite realised that several years ago concrete plaster had been applied to the walls in an attempt to stop rising damp.
The result being that more moisture had been trapped due the surface not being able to breathe.
Hence the on going damp, musty problem.
Apparently putting on concrete plaster was a common approach in the 1960’s – we are wiser now.
Once the old defective plaster had been drilled off, we could see the problem that was being covered up. We hope that now that thick coating has been removed, the walls will dry out ready too have a new appropriate mortar mix applied sometime in 2021 so the walls can breathe.
There is a saying that you never know what is really going on behind closed doors.
Nor can we really know what is going on behind someone’s stoic smile or cheerful words.
Many of us keep our inner most thoughts and secret struggles to ourselves, preferring to be a closed book rather than risk being laughed at or criticised.
We might have a lot going on in our hearts and minds which we are not even aware of ourselves.
I know how easy it can be to put on a brave face when really we are hurting inside.
We conceal how truly are – but long for someone to reach out and connect with us in a meaningful way.
There is a lovely prayer which comes towards the beginning of one of our church services which begins:
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hidden.
What an amazing thought that God knows exactly our state of being.
We don’t have to conceal anything or hide behind a hard exterior.
He invites us to come to him – just as we are.
The walls of Great Paxton Church are free now of a hard coating that was causing a lot of problems.
My prayer for all of us is that some at least of the barriers we put up may soften and as we learn to breathe in God’s goodness and healing presence we find it easier to truly be ourselves.
Take care and may God bless you all in these difficult days.
I’ve had a bit of a blog re-design, after running the site for nearly two years. I hope you like it – let me know what you think!
Highlights include a cleaner look, being able to see whole posts straightaway and a search box instead of the overly long list of tags.
Sleep, Rest and Letting God be God
The last in my series on finding God in the ordinary is here:
You can follow along using a service sheet here:
Calling a friend, or the importance of friendship and community
Also a short act of remembrance for Armistice Day
Service sheet available here (not essential):
‘Checking Email’ – or God and the World of Work
Here is another Wednesday Worship video for you on God and the world of work. While the UK is back in lockdown I will be doing these weekly again.
Service sheet is available here: https://thoughtsfromareader.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Wednesday-Worship-4th-November-2020.docx
Also a link to the Theology of Work Project: https://www.theologyofwork.org/
A ‘Thought for the Day’ for Black Cat Radio – 31st October 2020
By the time you hear this I will have the final results of a degree I’ve been doing as an allegedly mature student. Now, though, I’m still waiting for them to come out. There’s a lot of waiting now for all of us. We’re waiting for an end to the pandemic. We’re waiting to see what will happen about Christmas. We’re waiting to see what the economic effects are going be. We’re waiting for a vaccine. Some are waiting for Covid test results. And all this is quite apart from any other waiting we might have to do. We might be waiting for an operation or to hear if we’ve got a job. We might be waiting to see someone again who we haven’t seen for a long time. There are all sorts of things we have to hang around for.
Waiting often suggests a kind of passive, helpless time. It can suggest that we can’t do anything but see what fate has in store for us. And being told to wait can be very annoying, as well. What choice do we have, after all? But a Dutch Catholic priest and writer called Henri Nouwen suggests a different way of waiting, called active waiting. This means remembering that what we’re waiting for is growing up right now, like a plant, even if it’s still a seed hidden underground right now. Then we can wait with hope, knowing that what we’re waiting for is working to burst into our lives and change things. And as we wait, we can take a mindful approach of noticing what’s going on and looking out for the first signs that things are changing.
So, I’m going to try this and see if waiting can be not so bad after all, and perhaps you might like to join me?
A sermon on the Bible for Bible Sunday, 25th October 2020.
It’s slightly over 400 years since the publication of the Authorized, or King James, version of the Bible in 1611.
This was the only authoritative English Bible for reading in churches until the Revised Version in the 19th century.
It’s been called “the most influential version of the most influential book in the world, in what is now its most influential language”.
“The most important book in English religion and culture”.
And “the most celebrated book in the English-speaking world”.
It’s so influential that Cambridge students of English have to read it so they can understand the many biblical references in English literature.
It’s added 257 sayings and expressions to the English language, more than any other single source, including Shakespeare.
These include “a drop in the bucket”, “a fly in the ointment”, “at his wits end”, “in the twinkling of an eye” and “the skin of your teeth”.
And the King James is still the most popular translation in the United States, despite the many different versions that we have now, all produced to keep up with our ever-changing language, better translation techniques and technology.
King James didn’t get people to spend 7 years translating the Bible just to produce a good read and a source of quotes.
Although we can read the Bible like that and some people do.
They marvel at the beauty of the language, the poetry, the vivid images, the exciting stories.
And they feel they’ve taken part in a cultural activity like reading a novel or visiting a museum.
Before I became a Christian I considered the Bible a book of interesting stories, like other books I’d read, and I suspect I’m not alone in this.
It’s also possible to spend hours analysing the Bible as if it’s just any other ancient book.
We can decide what kind of writing each part is, when it was written and by whom, what exactly this particular Greek or Hebrew word means, and so on.
I’m not knocking these things – they can help us get a deeper understanding of what’s being said.
They can also help us avoid either interpreting things too rigidly and literally or dismissing everything as myths.
They can help us not take verses out of context and use them to browbeat others or to justify violence, hatred and our own prejudices.
Plus, these things keep biblical scholars happy and off the streets!
But if we get too deep into technical analysis we might forget what the Bible is actually for.
What is the Bible for?
The Bible isn’t just a good story, a collection of ideas, things you should and shouldn’t do, or a fascinating historical document.
Although it contains all these things and more, it’s a collection of books, that changes us by pointing to the living word of God – Jesus.
It guides us, teaches us and helps us discover the truth about humanity, God and the world.
It’s not that there’s necessarily an easy answer to every question in the Bible (if there was, Christians wouldn’t argue so much).
But it shows us which way to go to begin or carry on a relationship with God, how to be transformed by the power of God’s Spirit so we begin to live good lives, and where to find real help, peace, hope, guidance and comfort.
Why read it?
But none of these things can happen unless we actually open it.
As an old Chinese proverb says, “a book unopened is but a block of paper”.
There’s a story about a young couple who went on honeymoon and, due to a flight delay, arrived at their hotel in the early hours of the morning.
The next morning they complained that their room was ridiculously small, had no windows and only a single bed settee.
Having booked a honeymoon suite, they’d been given a box room, they complained.
The manager came upstairs and asked if they’d noticed the double doors, which the couple had assumed was a wardrobe.
Beyond the doors was a room with a four‐poster bed, a balcony with a sea view, flowers and champagne.
They had spent their wedding night in the lobby of the best suite in the best hotel in the country.
It can be the same with the Bible if we’ve never sat down and read it properly.
We might know some of the stories or books but stick with the Sunday school stories we learnt as children.
Or we might hear bits of the Bible read here every Sunday but never find out how and where they fit in the overall story.
If we don’t read the Bible for ourselves we could miss out on the treasures it contains.
We could stay in the lobby and miss the good things that are waiting for us on the other side.
This is why today’s collect asks God to help us hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the scriptures.
Without all this the Bible is just another book on the shelf and we miss out on its power.
A power that can transform not just us as individuals but our whole society.
Faithful readers of the Bible have set up just legal systems, cared for the poor and helpless, improved working conditions and made widespread education available.
Overcoming some of the difficulties
It’s true that reading the Bible can seem a daunting task.
It’s long, it contains strange names, it has bits we don’t understand and bits that seem just horrible.
And we all have a million other things that need doing.
But there are lots of Bible reading plans which break it down into small, manageable chunks.
There are books which help with the hard bits.
There are versions written in different styles for different people.
We can listen to it through apps or online.
There are Bible study groups.
Why not ask each other about it – all of us need help sometimes.
And we can probably safely skip the really long lists of names if we want to.
In the process we might be surprised at what we discover, what we learn and how we change if, in the words Colossians, we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly.
So, let us keep our hearts and our minds open to what God might be saying to us today through words that have been changing the world for thousands of years.
Questions to ponder for bible sunday
Do you have a regular Bible reading pattern or is the Bible more of a mystery to you?
How can we deal with the more difficult passages involving things like violence, subjugation of women and slavery?
Do you have a favourite Bible passage or Bible translation?
Do you use apps or websites to read the Bible or do you prefer paper?
Are there helpful reading plans or guides that you’d like to share?
‘Liturgy of the Ordinary’ – Losing Keys
A video looking at losing keys, or confession and repentance:
You can find a service sheet if here if you’d like one: