Come to the Light

We have just returned from a lovely holiday in Cornwall and were blessed with beautiful weather too.  From our holiday home we sat out on a small veranda from where we had the most wonderful view.  Beyond the holiday site we looked out onto fields where sheep, cattle and goats grazed and then beyond another field, we could see the sea.  In the morning in the sunlight, it was a beautiful blue and in the evening the sun shone on it so that it appeared to be a shining golden light almost too bright to look at.

Light makes everything look so much different, whether it’s the sun sparkling on the sea or the light shining through the trees. When the sun breaks through the clouds on a cold wintry day it doesn’t just brighten our surroundings, it can also lift our spirits too as we are reminded of how different and welcome that sunlight is when we have been without it for a long time.

“Let there be light” said God at the dawn of creation.  Everything needs light to grow, plants, trees, in fact all that God created needs the sunlight to live and grow.  The wonderful balance of nature of rain and sunlight sustains all living things but through greed and power and just because we can, we have compromised nature to such a degree that we are seeing the climate changing in all directions, floods, unbearable heat, fires out of control. 

“The true light which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1 v9).  This light came into the world also at a time when everything looked hopeless for God’s people. They had lost their way and were living under the brutal regime of Roman occupation.  This new light which some recognised changed lives for ever.  Even though some could not or would not accept this light and sort to destroy it, it could not be destroyed, it shone all the brighter defying everything including death that was done to it. The light of Christ which we celebrate each Easter morning  is the light that sustains us, helps us to grow, nourishes us and shines into every part of our being, through the difficult and desperate times in our lives, that light, that love that assurance however we understand  it remains and even at the darkest times when we may feel the light has gone, it’s like the Footsteps poem the writer says,  ‘during the saddest and most troubling times of my life, there were only one set of footprints’ and in the dream the Lord replies ‘my precious child… it was then that I carried you’

The Cave

There was once a dark cave, deep down in the ground, underneath the earth and hidden away from view.  Because it was so deep in the earth, the light had never been there. The cave had never seen light. The word ‘light’ meant nothing to the cave, who couldn’t imagine what ‘light’ might be. Then one day, the sun sent an invitation to the cave, inviting it to come up and visit.

When the cave came up to visit the sun it was amazed and delighted because the cave had never seen light before, and it was dazzled by the wonder of the experience.

Feeling so grateful to the sun for inviting it to visit, the cave wanted to return the kindness and so it invited the sun to come down to visit it sometime, because the sun had never seen darkness.

And so the day came and the sun came down and was courteously shown into the cave.

As the sun entered the cave, it looked around with great interest, wondering what ‘darkness’ would be like. Then it became puzzled, and asked the cave, ‘Where is the darkness’?

Source unknown

Sunday Services

Please join us on Sunday 25th July

9.15                    Holy Communion at Holy Trinity Church Lane End – Revd Philip Smith

This service is also live streamed and can be joined via
Meeting ID: 344 875 1858
Passcode: clare

9.30                    Holy Communion including baptism at St Peter and St Paul, Stokenchurch – Revd Mark Ackford

11.00                  Morning Prayer and Praise at St Nicholas, Ibstone – Revd Mark Ackford

11.00                  Holy Communion at St Mary le Moor, Cadmore End – Revd Philip Smith

“You’ll Never Walk Alone”

England, Flag, Country, Nation, Football, English

Each one of us is on a journey through life, and right now during these continuing pandemic times that journey can seem to continue to be a tough one, even though we are just about to reach a full relaxation of our covid protocols in a couple of weeks’ time.

For me this should be a thing to celebrate, but I do not know about you some of my anxieties persist as questions remain about is this change too much too soon.

However, one thing on the horizon to brighten up my day is the fact that as I write this piece for the blog in a few hours’ time England will be playing in the semi-final of the European Football Cup, soon Wembley Stadium will be ringing to those familiar football anthems such as ‘Three Lions’ as the England and Denmark football teams play for that place in the final against Italy.

For me however there is only one Football Anthem, not that I am a Liverpool FC supporter and that is “You’ll Never Walk Alone” which is based on a show tune from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel. Here are just a few lines:

When you walk through a storm

Hold your head up high

And don’t be afraid of the dark…

The words are poignant and powerful because they are honest. Life can be tough and sometimes it takes courage just to keep going. But then the song resonates with the Christian faith that we are never alone on the journey. God is our beginning and our end and we journey with Christ, who is our light and hope.

Walk on, walk on

With hope in your heart

And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

As we adjust to living with the coronavirus post lockdown, the message that I would like to share with you is ‘you are not alone’. You are precious to God and Christ walks with you…

What can I give Him?

Recently I came across a reading from the 2nd book of Kings which I have to confess I had not read before or if I had, I had completely forgotten this story. It tells of a widow who is desperately trying to prevent her children from being taken away into slavery as payment to her creditors.  She implores Elisha to help her. Elisha asks a strange question, “what do you have in the house?” She replies that she has nothing except a jar of oil. I imagine that when the woman says she has nothing but the oil in her house she has probably sold everything else to pay off her debts.  Oil would be the last thing because it was such an important commodity for food and many other things too, a very precious item.

Elisha then instructs her to borrow as many vessels from her friends and neighbours as possible and to start pouring the oil into all of these containers. She does this and the oil keeps on pouring and eventually it stops. She returns to Elisha who tells her to sell the oil to pay off her debts and keep the remaining oil for her and the children to live on.

This story put me in mind of the time when Jesus had been preaching to a huge crowd, we are told around 5,000 and they all needed feeding.  All that was available was two loaves and five fishes.  Almost as impossible for the task as the woman’s oil was but when Jesus intervenes, when as always he responds with love, the people are fed, with twelve baskets of food left over.

When we give our heart to Jesus he can do so much, so much more than we can imagine. We may think that our gift is too small or of no consequence even, but if it is offered to God to do with however he wants then it does indeed come from our heart, given in love to be transformed through God’s grace.

 ‘What can I give him, poor as I am,

if I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb,

if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part,

Yet what I can I give him, give my heart’

(In the bleak mid-winter  – Christina Rossetti  )

The Power of the Timid Prayer

What’s prayer for?
To get us out of circumstances? To get us through them? So that God will give us the strength and wisdom and insights we need? To know God better, a two way conversation, as long as we take time to listen as well as speak?? To thank Him for all He does for us? I think it can be all of these things.

Why don’t we always pray?
We tried it before and it didn’t seem to work? We think God has not got time for us? We are too busy? We think our own words are not good enough to be effective? That’s the role of leaders in the church and not ourselves?

In the Thursday evening home group at St Peter and St Paul church, we have been looking at the prayers of people in the Bible these past few weeks, and I have noticed that whether it is someone very well-known in their time, or someone in obscurity, there is no one ‘proper’ way to pray to God and we can always know that that He hears us. Our prayer may even take the form of a song , as Mary’s did when she heard she would be the mother of the Saviour of the world, Jesus. (Luke 1).

Prayer may be silent, a looking towards God without words, or without words spoken aloud as we see in Hannah’s prayer of desperation for a baby in 1 Samuel 1 v 12. Some prayers are long, as in the case of Nehemiah, (Nehemiah 1 ) or quite short as in the case of a father’s heartfelt prayer I read in my recent Bible reading.

I came across the story in Mark 9 about a father with a son afflicted since childhood by an evil spirit which caused untold problems for the son and the family. This father was scared and desperate for help. Jesus’ disciples could not help him so he came then to Jesus.
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever been overcome by a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness? If so, then you know how he must have felt. Like that father, you and I sometimes become fearful, very anxious about the circumstances we are in, unable to see a solution. The worry may keep us awake at night.
This man’s desperation and fear were immediately recognized by Jesus, and Jesus would have seen the suffering and pain that the father was experiencing. When the father explained the terrible problems his son experienced, he made a plea: “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
The father was unsure whether Jesus could help but said his timid prayer ‘ I do believe; help me overcome my doubts’.
Essentially, he recognised that his faith was far from perfect, and he did not have enough faith by himself – so could Jesus, please, help him to have enough faith.
Jesus then proceeded to heal the son, and the father would have been filled with happiness and elation that his son was now whole again. His faltering, uncertain prayer had been answered!

How encouraging it can be for us when we understand that the power is not in the prayer itself, not in the precise words we say, but the power is in God who hears our prayers and has the compassion to answer them. Our prayers do not have to be eloquent, and a frightened plea, a “Help, Jesus”, was sufficient. That father’s faith would have grown as he saw Jesus answer and so, too, can ours.

(concept here suggested by Syzygy Missions Support Network. )

The Green of ‘Ordinary’

We are now in Ordinary Time, the rich liturgical colours of purple, gold, red and white now give way to green which will remain until the end of November.

The word Ordinary can sound a bit negative, something that is somehow lacklustre, disappointing maybe or substandard. Food in a restaurant can be described as fairly ‘ordinary’, we might say the clothes we are wearing are just ‘ordinary’ or a football team’s performance was pretty ‘ordinary’. It’s not quite an insult but it certainly isn’t a compliment! There is a tendency to live in a way where we must have the next thing lined up to look forward to- we move ever onwards from big to bigger from good to better from exciting to more exciting and in this context Ordinary sounds dull, unsatisfactory and to be avoided. We are bombarded with products or events that are bigger and better, all new, best ever, more flavours more fabulous offers only available until….  I never cease to be surprised at how quickly the Easter Eggs appear in the supermarkets after Christmas. All this plays into our expectations that are constantly angled towards whatever we do today will be more exciting and more satisfying than yesterday.

However, we have in a sense had a long period of ‘ordinary time’ during this last lockdown.  Our expectations have had to be revised and our way of life has certainly had to change in all sorts of ways.  There has of course been much hardship, sadness, loneliness  and distress which cannot be underestimated. But there has also been an awakening to time, slowing down, looking around and to use a familiar phrase, ‘smelling the roses’ (although it’s still a bit early for that). A new appreciation for God’s wonderful creation which, in our busy lives we can so easily overlook or take for granted.  Bishop John Pritchard once told a group of us to look at an area of 12 square inches on the ground wherever we were. Just spend time looking at this area and just see what is there.  I have done this on a patch of grass and it is surprising when you look closely what you can see. 

This ‘Ordinary Time’ in our church year gives us time to rest, refresh and reflect.  A time to listen to God’s call, because he chooses the ‘ordinary’ people like you and like me to be his witnesses and to bring his love into this world which will once again be driven by a  culture of ‘must have’ and pursuit of bigger and better.

All around us the colour green is everywhere, the colour of ‘Ordinary Time’. It is symbolic of resurrection which we see each spring, of hope and new life and immortality (the leaf shall not wither, psalm 1.3). It calms and restores and can help to heal. May we during this time embrace this beauty and let it flow into our hearts making the path for God to enter our hearts too, because that is where he longs to be.

This poem is used by Paula Gooder in her book Everyday God  – reflections of the importance of being ordinary

The Bright field

I have seen the sun break through to illuminate a small field for a while, and gone my way and forgotten it.

But that was the pearl of great price, the one field that had treasure in it. I realise now that I must give it all that I have to possess it.

Life is not hurrying on to a receding future, nor hankering after an imagined past. It is the turning aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush, to the brightness that seemed to be transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits you.


Sunday Services

Sunday 25th July

9.15 ~ Holy Communion at Holy Trinity, Lane End ~ Revd Philip Smith

This service is also live streamed and can be joined via
Meeting ID: 344 875 1858
Passcode: clare

9.30 ~ Holy Communion with Baptism at St Peter & St Paul, Stokenchurch ~ Revd Mark Ackford

11.00 ~ Holy Communion at St Mary le Moor, Cadmore End ~ Revd Philip Smith

11.00~ Praise and Prayer Service at St Nicholas Ibstone ~ Revd Mark Ackford

I wonder if you could fix this?

Over the past few years one TV programme has shown an insight into humanity that is quite unique. As with many ideas it’s quite simple. People bring broken things into a workshop in the hope that the amazing team of crafts folk can perform their magic. Of course we never expect anything to be beyond repair and they’ve never shown the outtakes or if any object was not fixed.

In ‘The Repair Shop’ every story touches our lives because they resonate with us as we may have a similar object. The Team also go the extra mile and though some are experts in their field, some are Jacks and Jills of all trades.

The picture shows the toy train that my wife Lucy had as a child, which she repaired and repainted at her Mother’s house for all the visiting great grandchildren to enjoy. Over the last few years we have both repaired many items and gained much pleasure from this.

There are now thankfully many movements gaining ground across the world encouraging us all to reuse and repair, with Repair Cafes popping up everywhere. Gaining more traction too is ‘The Right to Repair’. For many years manufacturers have been designing in obsolescence, so new laws are being planned to make it easier to repair household appliances, for economic and ecological reasons.

But for me one of the best things about the programme is the beauty of the community and the camaraderie of the Team which is so warm and infectious. This is in part due to their personalities that are great in front of a camera but also because of the love of their craft and their genuine empathy and love of people too.

‘My God’ a song by Stuart Townend has the lines: My God knows my failures, speaks forgiveness, gives me strength to try again. My God takes the broken and makes me whole.

I just love ‘The Repair Shop’ as it’s a breath of fresh air, and it should be on ‘prescription’. There are no big egos, and a constant reminder to us all that God takes the broken and makes us whole.

If I was ever to have the immense joy of strolling into that beautiful barn and meeting those wonderful people, and they have restored my cherished object I would just have to say, ‘can I give you a hug?’

Philip Smith