Reflections

During these difficult times we will be writing some short reflections. These will be published here and made available through the Facebook and Twitter pages.

Reflections this week by Rev David Denniston

Monday 1st March

Be Merciful

Reading

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6: 36

Thought 

The mercy of God is revealed in Jesus; in his teaching, his actions, his life and – of course – in his death. As we look to Jesus we know that God is merciful towards us, no matter how we may have failed him, wronged him or hurt him. 

This mercy shown towards us is undeserved, but it is amazing and wonderful!

But if God’s mercy is something for which we are truly and deeply grateful, then this teaching of Jesus that we, in turn, should be merciful towards others is something by which we are hugely challenged!

We may know that we have received mercy from God, but it is not always easy for us to show mercy towards others who may have failed us, wronged us or hurt us.

But it is to this that we are called by Jesus.

Let us ask for God’s help to enable us to be merciful to others, just as he is merciful to us.

Prayer 

Lord of Lent,

we rejoice in the mercy you have shown towards us.

We acknowledge that we are not worthy of your mercy, 

for we have so often failed you, wronged you and hurt you. 

But we thank you with our whole hearts 

that you are so wonderfully merciful towards us.

May we, in turn, be enabled to be merciful 

towards any who fail, wrong or hurt us;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

Tuesday 2nd March

Like Snow

Reading

Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow;
though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Isaiah 1: 18

Thought 

When we are honest with God and with ourselves, and robustly examine ourselves in God’s light, then we become aware of the many ways in which we fall short.

To become aware of our sin can be difficult to bear. So easily we can become overwhelmed by a sense of failure, guilt and despair.

But that is not what God wills for us. Nor is it where the call to be honest with ourselves, reflect upon our lives and admit our failings should end. For there is the wonderful promise of forgiveness and cleansing, no matter how deep or dark our failings might be.

This is what this verse in Isaiah is saying to us. Picturing our sins as being like scarlet or red like crimson is to emphasise how serious and deep they are.

But  the promise of forgiveness and cleansing is clear!

Our sins will be so forgiven and cleansed that they will be like pure snow or cleansed wool. No stain will remain.

Let us be confident, then, in coming to God, confessing our sins and failings, and fully trusting in his promise of complete forgiveness and thorough cleansing.

Prayer 

Lord of Lent, 

when we are tempted to despair

because of our awareness of our failings and sins, 

may we remember your unfailing promise to forgive and to cleanse. 

So may we be confident in approaching you to confess our sins, 

knowing that you will wash away all our sin and guilt;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

Wednesday 3rd March

Refuge

Reading

In you, O Lord, I seek refuge;
do not let me ever be put to shame;

in your righteousness deliver me. Psalm 31: 1  

Thought 

There will be few of us who do not feel at some times battered or beleaguered by what life throws at us. For some people the storms of life take a still greater toll as all they knew is threatened by the destructive forces that seem to blow up out of nowhere to assail them: illness, loss, a financial crisis, unemployment, relationship breakdown and so on.

Life, it seems, does not deal with us equally when it comes to those things we must face, and nor are we equally equipped with the resources to face such storms. Not all people have supportive friends, a caring family, a financial ‘cushion’, emotional resilience or the inner resources that others can call upon to face difficulties. 

During the current pandemic a ‘meme’ has appeared repeatedly on social media about not being in the same boat, but being in the same storm… it seems to have originated from something that the writer and broadcaster Damian Barr said ‘We are not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm. Some of us are on super-yachts. Some have just one oar’.

That is very true, even if it has been so over quoted it is in danger of becoming a cliché!

There is, however, one resource that we all have in the storm. One refuge where we can find shelter. One to whom we can turn and who will not turn us away or let us down. No matter who we are, what we have done, how strong or weak our faith, God has promised to be a refuge for us.

When the storms hit and we feel that we may be overwhelmed, let us turn to the Lord who is our refuge.

Prayer 

Lord of Lent, 

when the storms of life come upon us, 

may we seek in you a refuge, 

and find in you the shelter and the strength we need;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

Thursday 4th March

Planted by the Water

Reading

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,  sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17: 7-8

Thought 

The picture of a tree by the water (which is also to be found in Psalm 1) is both striking and meaningful. 

Those who trust in the Lord draw on his life and sustenance. They can face the difficult and dry times with confidence. They bear fruit. They are stable and secure in times of storm or drought, because their roots go deep.

This image reminds us of the importance of putting down deep roots into God’s goodness; allowing the Spirit of God to fill us, refreshing and strengthening our inner lives; drawing on God’s life and light and love.

By continuing in prayer, being faithful in devotion and spiritual discipline, and remaining open to the Spirit of God, we will be strong and stable even when the storms hit. We will continue to have spiritual life and bear fruit even when faced with the heat of temptation or hard testing. We will have the reserves on which to draw, even in times of spiritual drought and dryness.

Prayer 

Lord of Lent, 

may we gladly maintain the patterns of prayer, 

the rhythms of devotion, 

the disciplines of the spirit, 

and constant openness to you, 

that we may remain strong and stable, fruitful and fearless, 

when hard times come;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

Friday 5th March

You will answer me

Reading

I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
  incline your ear to me, hear my words.

Psalm 17: 6

Thought 

Any reading of the Psalms will reveal that the Psalmists knew the full range of emotions and experiences, not least in this matter of calling out to God. There was sometimes despair and sometimes praise; sometimes doubt and sometimes assurance; sometimes the sense of God absent or indifferent and sometimes the assurance of his presence and concern.

But so often, even in the midst of these very honest expressions of the various aspects of faith… and doubt!…  there are these confident affirmations. And our verse today contains one such affirmation; ‘you will answer me’.

The Psalmist is convinced that when he calls out to God, God will answer.

While we, like those who wrote the Psalms, can go through all kinds of experiences and emotions; our faith – like theirs – sometimes shot through with doubt, nonetheless we can confidently affirm that if we call upon God he will answer.

Let us affirm that anew today and go to God with our prayers, trusting in him to hear, and to answer.

Prayer 

Lord of Lent, 

like the Psalmists of old, 

we may sometimes fall into times of doubt and despair. 

Even in such times, remind us of the promises you have given 

and the confidence we can have,

that when we call upon you, you will answer. 

So, hear our prayers this day 

and renew our faith that you will hear us and answer us;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

Saturday 6th March

Pardoning Iniquity

Reading

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of your possession? He does not retain his anger for ever, because he delights in showing clemency.
He will again have compassion upon us;  he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins  into the depths of the sea.

Micah 7: 18-19

Thought 

I very much like that thought of God casting all of our sins into the depths of the sea. It assures me that once I confess my sin, God pardons it and it is forever gone. What an amazing assurance! What amazing grace!

That great Dutch Christian lady, Corrie Ten Boom once said ‘God takes our sins – the past, the present and the future – and dumps them in the seas, and puts up a sign that says No Fishing Allowed’.

How true!

If God has – as we affirm and believe – forgiven our sins, pardoned our iniquity and (in the words of Micah) ‘cast all our sins into the depths of the sea’ then we should not always be dredging them up again! 

Let us receive God’s forgiveness, accept his pardon and let our sin and guilt go. God has dealt with these and they are gone forever.

Prayer 

Lord of Lent, 

we rejoice in your forgiveness and pardon of all our sins, 

and praise you for the liberating joy 

of knowing that you have cast our sins into the depths of the sea. 

Help us to acknowledge and accept this truth 

and live as those whose iniquity has been pardoned, 

whose guilt has been lifted, 

and whose sin is no more;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen