I’ve read quite a few things recently about clothes and how these can influence our moods and actions. Holding meetings by Zoom or on Google Hangout or watching services on Facebook Live may have changed how we view getting dressed: is there any point, or can we just stay in pyjamas?! If we’re working from home, do we have to wear our usual work clothes or uniforms, or can we be just as effective in casual clothes?
So often, what we wear is tailored to what we are doing (I’ve been on quite a few walks by rivers recently and in the end decided to buy a pair of wellies as I wanted to be able to walk in the rivers!) It’s definitely easier psychologically at times to wear clothes which fit what we are doing; if I am dressed ‘professionally’, I feel more ‘professional.’
Col 3:12-14 urges us to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, teaching us to bear with each other, forgive each other and put on love, which binds all those virtues together in perfect unity. These are the ‘clothes’ we’re commanded to wear each day (not just on special occasions.) Such clothes help us to get along with each other and to live together as God’s chosen people. They never get old or tatty and never need replacing by other attitudes; they are always relevant and beautiful.
One of the beauties of walking in the countryside is the many woods and rivers close to us which provide us with the opportunity to savour and examine God’s wonderful creation. There are so many different trees, so many wildflowers and so many creatures to examine that it is truly mind-blowing.
When it’s hot, we tend to wilt a little, and the little streams and brooks, not to mention the fast-flowing rivers and waterfalls found in many valleys, become sources of refreshment. Ps 23:2 talks about God leading us beside ‘quiet waters’; Ps 68:9 talks of being refreshed by God’s abundant showers. The Bible often speaks of water in this way: as the source of refreshment, cooling, and life. Trees planted by water tend to thrive and not wither (Ps 1:3):
Jeremiah speaks of God leading us beside streams of water on level ground so that we do not stumble (Jer 31:9):
All of us feel like wilting and withering at times as the ‘heat’ of life drains us and saps us. If we are to thrive like the trees planted by streams of water, we need to drink daily from God and allow His living water to flow from within us, refreshing our weariness and providing life-giving water not only to us but to those around us. (John 7:37-38)
As we prepare our hearts to celebrate Pentecost this coming Sunday and continue to pray for people to come to know the Lord as part of the ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ prayer initiative, my daily readings today looked at John 16, where Jesus prepares His disciples for His death and for the arrival of the Holy Spirit. As with so many conversations with Jesus, the disciples were slow to understand (as are we!) They felt grief, sorrow and confusion (as we so often do), but Jesus said, ‘But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.’ (John 16:7)
The Holy Spirit is known by many names: advocate, counsellor, comforter, consoler, and encourager all being ways to translate the Greek word ‘parakletos‘, which literally means someone who is called alongside us. The Holy Spirit’s role is to demonstrate to the world truths about sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-11) and to dwell inside the believer, giving us assurance of our adoption into God’s family (Rom 8:15-16) and giving us the power we need to be witnesses to Jesus Christ. (Acts 1:8) One of the most amazing truths we learn about the Holy Spirit is that He intercedes for us through wordless groans (Rom 8:26). No matter how helpless and frustrated we feel, we can be encouraged to know that the Holy Spirit lifts us before the throne of grace and comes to us to guide us into all truth.
J-P spoke to us tonight from the Parable of the Sower (Matt 13:1-22). We are people created in God’s image (Gen 1:27) who are sinners; we must never put ourselves on a pedestal, but must also realise that we have the capability to follow God and to lead others to God too.
Growing things takes time and patience; we must not be discouraged if people don’t seem to respond swiftly. For salvation to come, our spiritual ears need opening and this parable shows us that understanding can take time and depends on the soil (our hearts.) For some, the path is so dry it has no soil left. Hearts are closed; hurts have wounded people to the point that they don’t believe God can love or accept them. For some, there is great enthusiasm in the moment (perhaps at events like Big Church Day Out, for example!), but faith doesn’t last on the rocky road of life. For others, the thorns of doubt and unbelief have strangled faith (perhaps the death of a loved one has become a stumbling-block, for example). In all these cases, we need to show love and patience, for faith can ultimately only flourish in good soil.
As we seek to share the good news with others, let’s put Jesus on the pedestal and be there for each other, showing patience with each other’s rate of growth, for we are all at different stages. Plants ultimately need light to grow and thrive, and Jesus is the light of the world. ‘For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.’ (2 Cor 4:5-6)
Stephen spoke this morning on Holy Communion from 1 Cor 11:23-26, 33. Even though at the present time we are physically apart when we share Communion, this act brings us together as we remember Christ and what He has done, and this is an opportunity for us to receive afresh from God. Sharing in Holy Communion is not simply a ritual, something that we do out of duty or to prove our faith; it is our obedient response to Christ’s command to remember His broken body and the blood shed for the forgiveness of sins and a symbol of our union with Christ and our unity with each other.
Participating in Holy Communion acts as a bridge between who we were, before we knew God, and who we are now, His beloved children. In many respects, our lives could be said to resemble clay pots that have been broken by sin. Paul talks of us carrying treasure in jars of clay (2 Cor 4:7-10); we have the treasure of Christ’s life within our earthly bodies. We may be broken (like the ‘china girl’ in the film ‘Oz The Great And Powerful’), but Christ in us restores us, repairs us and makes us new creations. In some ways, we become like a plastic pot rather than a fragile clay one, for even though we are hard-pressed, we are not crushed; even when perplexed, we are not in despair. When we are persecuted, we are not abandoned; when we are struck down, we are not destroyed. All this is because we carry around in our bodies the death of Jesus and so His life is now lived through us. (Gal 2:20)
At the start of lockdown, my daughter-in-law would make a short video at the end of each day of thing her family had done, a two-minute clip of craft activities, learning activities, fun in the garden and mealtimes to remember this unusual time. After a week or so the videos would appear every other day or so; after a few weeks, once a week.
Why did she stop making daily videos? Largely because the ‘novelty’ of lockdown soon wore off and a new routine was established which seemed quite repetitive and boring. Somebody reinvented the boardgame ‘Monopoly’, renaming it ‘Monotony’, to reflect the feelings most of us have had during lockdown.