Exodus 12: 37-51 (or whole chapter)
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Galatians 5: 1
The ‘Passover’ is being celebrated in Jewish communities at this time. It is a ‘Pilgrimage Festival’ that focuses on freedom; on liberation. The original Passover is detailed in the book of Exodus (chapter 12) which is currently one of the scheduled readings in the Anglican Lectionary. The parallels and connections with the Easter message are many and wonderful.
At this stage in their history the people of God were freed by His power from slavery in Egypt. A lamb was slain, without its bones been broken, and its blood painted on the doors of their homes, causing the Lord to ‘pass over’ them and thereby saving them from death. A special meal was eaten including bread without yeast; only those that were circumcised could partake. This circumcision a sign of the covenantal relationship they had with God. God’s people then set out on a pilgrimage to the land that God had promised them.
Easter celebrates the provision of freedom through Jesus Christ. Jesus the Lamb of God died for us; His bones were not broken (John 19: 31-37, Exodus 12: 46). Jesus’ blood became the means by which death is defeated; God’s judgement upon us now passes over us and onto Christ (2 Corinthians 5: 21) if we put our faith in Him and repent. This marks the beginning of a new covenantal relationship on the basis of grace and faith where it is our hearts that are circumcised through that faith (Deuteronomy 30: 6, Romans 3: 30). A new meal is celebrated in this new relationship, the Eucharist (or Holy Communion), where we remember Christ’s death and resurrection and Jesus as the bread of life (John 6: 48). We then begin a pilgrimage ourselves within His Kingdom to its fullness that He has promised us in eternal life.
We are currently hugely restricted in our freedom and the freedoms we have become so accustomed to. The ‘real’ freedom we have in Christ though, has not been diminished or lost at all! It is for freedom that we have been set free so in this time we must exercise our faith in Christ and not become imprisoned in our outlook or fall foul of unbelief taking us back into a form of slavery. We need to stand firm, convicted of our eternal destination, and walking this pilgrimage of freedom whatever our situation or circumstances.
To Ponder: Rev Kim spoke a few weeks ago on the imprisoned Paul (the apostle). Paul still lived in Christ’s freedom despite the loss of his physical liberty. What lessons can we take from today’s reflection and Paul’s example to help us and to glorify God this day?
Prayer: Lord help us to stand firm in the freedom that you have purchased for us. Give us life through your Holy Spirit and may the Holy Spirit so lead us that we keep in step with Him with His fruit becoming evident in our lives. Amen
From Galatians 5
Praise: Freedom. Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3f5dVlfMPY
We are in a climate today where many people are becoming more open to talk about
God and examine their need for Him. Many are seeking answers to life in this time and
are reaching out to those who believe in Jesus for counsel. As believers, we know that
God is always moving and will make good out of all situations. As we attempt to look
through the lens of the Kingdom, we may even get excited for what God will be doing in
the midst of the tough situation we are in.
However, there will always be many who will question God no matter the situation and
will demand that God prove himself in the ways that they want Him to. Matthew wrote in
his gospel that in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the religious leaders came to Jesus
asking for a special sign to prove He really was the long-awaited Messiah. They were
not satisfied with all the miracles and acts He had done. But Jesus knew that evidence
was not the issue. We read in Matthew 12: 39-40.
…but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah
was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of
Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.
Using the reference to the story of Jonah, Jesus was drawing his listeners a picture that
would show them exactly what He came to do. Just as Jonah was delivered from certain
death, so would Jesus be delivered from the grips of death. Just as the fish could not
contain Jonah and coughed Him up, so the grave would not be able to contain Jesus.
Death’s claim on Jesus would have a maximum limit of three days.
But unlike Jonah who ran away originally from God’s mission for Him, Jesus willingly
came to accomplish His mission. And unlike Jonah, who languished in the belly of the
fish, powerless to save his own life; Jesus had the authority to lay His life down and the
authority to take it up again (John 10:18). Jesus gave us the sign of Jonah, the sign of
a miraculous, unstoppable life and of authority over death, so that we will believe, and
that by believing we will have life in his name (John 20:31).
Jesus has already provided the ultimate sign for everyone. His death and resurrection
have provided all we need and more. Through this sign of Jonah, we know that death
has been conquered and eternal life had been won for all who believe in Him. There is
no need for any more signs. As others reach out to us in this time, let us always be
mindful and recognize this as an opportunity to share this sign (gospel) with all who
seek for answers.
Prayer – Risen Jesus, I have seen the sign of Jonah in your death and in your
resurrected life. Thank you for giving me eyes to see the sign, and the faith to
believe that your resurrection life is but a preview of the life you are giving to me
as I place my faith in you. AMEN
John 21: 15-25
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.”
1 Peter 5: 6
Why do we do what we do? Why do we enter relationships, why struggle for promotion, seek education, compete in sports; or conversely why do we not do what we could do? Our motives in these matters reveal our hearts, our characters and personalities; but understanding ourselves and our motives is a complicated matter! Understanding God and our relationship with Him is complicated too. If we are honest with ourselves, often in this relationship, we see God as the one to make our lives as we think they should be; our motives in seeking His will and glory are at best mixed. Think about these matters in the context of our current situation. We will all be trying to figure out how we feel, what we are supposed to do and what is God doing in it all? Dependent on our character and personality we will be responding in different ways: coping; thriving; struggling; feeling down; fearful; hopeful; and so on. There will be differing tensions in our lives and relationships.
Our Gospel reading today in John 21 follows on from that which we considered on Monday. It is the famous reinstatement of Peter following his denial of Christ (John 18: 15-18, 25-27). Peter is a person whom most of us can relate to. He gets things right, he gets things wrong, he is quick to understand and often misses the point (e.g. Matthew 16: 13-23); he’s obviously human! If we follow Peter’s life through the Gospels, into Acts and in his own letters we witness his growth as God refines him often through gracefully breaking him. In today’s reading Jesus is really working on Peter’s motives. Does Peter love Christ, if so look after the Church (vs. 15-17). Peter was to love Christ above all else, this would motivate him to care for the Church and be prepared to give up his life for the Lord (vs. 19); Jesus the author of Peter’s faith was perfecting that faith, that person.
We, like Peter, will often fail and often obey Christ. We will all be struggling in our lives in different ways. The best way to cope, no to overcome, is to “humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand,” to submit to Him and trust Him. He will work His purposes out in us, refine us and bless us, then “lift us up in due time.” He will gracefully break us to bless us and to give glory to His name; Hallowed be His name.
To Ponder: What are you struggling with right now? Tell your loving Father and ask Him to reveal your heart to you. How can you submit to Him and trust Him in a way that would enable His power to work in you? Who can you love and bless?
Prayer: By the raising of your Son you have broken the chains of death and hell: fill your Church with faith and hope; for a new day has dawned and the way to life stands open in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
Sometimes as we deal with the new realities of semi-isolation, working and learning from home, and physical distancing, it’s hard not to feel just a bit overwhelmed as we try to figure out how to perform our old roles in new ways. Maybe we have new daily routines to establish, new technologies to master, or even new responsibilities to perform. And because all these circumstances are new, we might not feel like we’ve got things quite under control, so we feel anxious and wonder how we’re going to get through it all.
In life, there are always things that are beyond our control such as the decisions our leaders make, or the way other people behave or react to change, among so many others. But there are many other things we can control, such as how we prepare our hearts and minds to face the day, the amount of effort we put into the activities we engage in, and of course, the attitude with which we approach our lives. As Christians, it is important to remember that our identity remains in Jesus Christ, independent of any other actions or outcomes.
In reading through the book of Acts, in particular the journeys of St. Paul, it’s hard to not be impressed by his faith and perseverance. At the point in his life that is written about in Acts 27, Paul finds himself a prisoner onboard a ship enroute to stand trial before Caesar. It was a difficult voyage right from the start and Paul tries to warn the ship’s masters about the weather, but they ignore his advice and sail on. The weather turns worse and becomes a hurricane, driving them out to sea. In the middle of this dangerous crossing, God reveals to Paul that he and the ship’s crew would be safe, so Paul encouraged the crew, “Keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me”. (Vs 25). Then further into their journey, Paul encourages them to eat something to keep up their strength because they had been so worried that they hadn’t eaten anything. “ After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves.” (Vs 35-36) Despite having thrown the cargo and ship’s tackle overboard to lighten the load, their ship did eventually break apart as they ran aground, but miraculously everyone survived, just as God had told Paul.
In this account of Paul’s journey, we see examples of things that were out of his control, but ultimately God promised him that he and the crew would survive. Paul couldn’t control the weather or whether the leaders would listen to his advice, but with God’s strength, Paul was able to trust Him with the plan that He had for his life.
As followers of Christ, we too can trust God with our lives. With His help, we can shift our focus from the things we can’t control, to the opportunities that God has right in front of us to share in His love and faithfulness.
Prayer: Help us, Lord, to not live in fear of the current or future storms, but to always look for You whenever we ﬁnd ourselves in one. We thank You for not letting us face them alone, and ask for Your help to draw strength from Your promise that You will never leave us nor forsake us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
John 21: 1-14
“Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ ”
John 21: 7a
On a fog bound mountain in Northern England’s Lake District I was unsure of the direction to take. Even with map and compass I needed to wait for the fog to clear to be sure of where to go. Gradually the fog was burnt off by the sun and I ascertained where I was and stepped out with confidence. I often imagine that this is how the disciples felt in those first few days after the resurrection of Christ: was He really alive; who is this Guy; what does it all mean; what do we do now? In today’s Gospel passage we see the fog of confusion being lifted by the light of the Son in grace filled and powerful ways.
In their confusion the disciples had returned to the familiar territory of night fishing (vs. 1-3). It was a fruitless endeavor but as dawn came, in a recurrent act of power over creation that must have surely stirred the disciple’s memories, Jesus directed them to cast again their nets (vs. 4-6 & Luke 5: 1-11). The sight of Jesus and this reoccurring miracle was enough to convince Peter of Jesus’ identity so that he again leapt from the boat in an act of faith (vs. 7b & Matthew 14: 22-33). The group then shared fellowship with Christ as they ate around a morning fire and Christ broke bread with them (vs. 10-13); another welcomed ritual revisited. They then, ‘KNEW it was the Lord,’ (vs, 13b).
This account confirms the RISEN Christ in physical form; He was not a vision or spirit but the real person; the Risen Saviour. The disciple’s faith may have faltered or even failed but their love for the Lord was instantly reignited around that dawn fire. The fog was clearing and their direction becoming clear as they had fellowship with Christ.
As we seek to understand and know Jesus may the bible act as our map, the Holy Spirit as our compass to guide us into fellowship with Christ through an act of faith where we leap from the false security of our self-built life-boats. May we see His power over creation and may His Spirit of fire burn within our hearts as the light of the Risen Lord dawns within us dissipating the fog of our confusion. Hallelujah He is Risen indeed!
To Ponder: If we believe the evidence and accounts of the physically risen Jesus Christ what should we do? What does the resurrection mean for us today?
Prayer: Lord of all life and power, who through the mighty resurrection of your Son overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new in Him: grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Jesus Christ, may reign with Him in glory; to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be praise and honour, glory and might, now and in all eternity. Amen
1 John 4: 7-21
“This is love: not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
1 John 4: 10
On Monday and Wednesday of this Holy week we have thought about the relevance of Jesus in our lives today and in relation to our fears. Today, on this Good Friday, I would like us to consider the relevance of His death.
In my roles as a Police Officer and now a Priest I have often encountered folk in a time of crisis. Catastrophes have a habit of making us take stock of our lives, to consider their meaning and the inevitability of death; sobering! This world crisis is causing all of us to do just that from the highest levels of Government to our everyday lives; how easily does the impression of control dissipate and how quickly does the frailty of life become evident. The truth though is that we were not created for death; we were created for life…in a relationship with our creator, God Almighty. It is our rebellion against God and decision to go our own way that brought in the reality of death, “the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Romans 6: 23). The renewed gift of life comes from God in and through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus paid ‘the wages’ of our sin by dying in our stead as an ‘atoning sacrifice,’ (1 John 4: 10). If we believe in Jesus we have forgiveness and life; life eternal (vs. 13-16).
This truth demonstrates Jesus’ ultimate relevance and especially in the circumstances we find ourselves in today. It is true that Jesus came to die for us but it is also vitally true that He came to live for us too; defeating death and its power. Death has lost its sting and victory (1 Corinthians 15: 54- 57); instead God, in love, gives us the victory in Jesus Christ. Hallelujah!
To Ponder: How much fear does death hold in your heart; how much freedom does faith in Jesus give you? Mediate on today’s Scriptures and watch our Good Friday service online on this website today – do we or do we not have the victory in Christ?
Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, who in your tender love towards the human race sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon Him our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross: grant that we may follow the example of His patience and humility, and also be made partakers of His resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen
Are we living intentionally—or automatically? It’s so easy for us to get up each morning, do our work/school studies, enjoy some relaxation/fun, and fall into bed each night without giving any thought to God’s involvement in our lives. But to not be mindful of how He has blessed, guided, protected, and warned us is an unwise way to live. Just consider the benefits of keeping our spiritual eyes and ears open throughout the day.
Those who are aware of the Lord’s presence during their daily activities enjoy the peace of knowing that He is always in control and working to accomplish His good purposes. Every experience with Him teaches us to know and love Him more. We begin to feel joyful about even the most routine things in life. Psalm 16:11 touches on this:
“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.”
When we learn to see God’s footprints in our days, we will become aware of the scope of His involvement in our lives. Maybe He strengthened you for a task or opened a door of opportunity. Perhaps He guided your decisions or helped you respond in a godly way to a difficult person. Perhaps in this time he has positioned you to be in the life of another to be of support in some small but very important way.
Each night before you go to sleep, take some time to reflect on the day’s activities. The Lord is constantly with you, guarding and guiding your way. He wants you to see Him in everything and understand life from His perspective as you rely on His wisdom and power to face any challenge.
Prayer – Near the end of each day pray about your day. Look for ways that the Lord was clearly present and guided you. Review the day and ask the Lord to reveal things that you missed or could have done differently. Confess, ask for forgiveness and pray for strength for the next day. Ask the Lord for wisdom to see how He is working in everything you do. Praise Jesus for His presence and love.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4: 18
On Monday in this Holy week we began to think about how Jesus is absolutely relevant. Today I want us to think about this in relation to fear. Fear in one sense is our natural response to danger and in as much is incredibly important; who would not want to realise the threat of a grizzly bear! Fear in other ways can be debilitating and damaging to our lives, health and relationships when it grips us and is out of control. I believe we all know and experience this sort of fear at times in our lives. A study (*) in 2018 showed that 91.4% of worries did NOT come true for those suffering from high anxiety. I’ve heard of similar studies and statistics and know this to be true in my life (False Expectation of Actual Reality). When faced though with real dangers, such as COVID 19, how are we to react, how does Jesus help?
God is love (vs.8) and He has demonstrated His love for us by sending to us Jesus His Son (vs. 10). Jesus has shown His love for us by giving up His life for us (vs. 10) and by so doing enabling His Spirit to live within us (vs.13 & 15). To receive Him we simply need to believe in Him and have faith (vs. 15) which means we can then ‘know and rely on the love God has for us,’ (vs. 16). As we get to know God and His love it is harder for fear to dwell in our hearts and minds because this perfect love drives it out (vs. 18). This because we know that we have eternal life (John 3: 16), that God is working everything out in accordance with His will (Ephesians 1: 11) and because He has already determined our days in this world (Psalm 139: 16).
So our reaction needs to be proportionate and wise, being sensible in what we do (Psalm 32: 9), but without letting fear control us. Instead we put our trust in God through Jesus and look at the situation from His perspective; we see the reality of our circumstances in the light of eternity. This means trusting Him, preaching His promises to our hearts and especially our minds and not filling the latter with too much material that evokes fear. Prayer and the bible are essential in this approach and Christ utterly vital. Living for God and not for ourselves is key; our motives can drive fear or welcome peace (the latter if we trust God’s sovereignty rather than our control). Know the Lord, know His love and banish that fear!
To Ponder: Meditate on today’s passage (1 John 4: 7-21); how much does God love you? If fear is in your heart pray on these verses and promises of God: Psalm 27: 1-2; Isaiah 41: 10; & Matthew 8:17. Trust God and let His perfect love drive out that fear
Prayer: Praise you oh God for you are the God of all compassion and comfort who comforts us in our troubles. You Lord Jesus suffered for us so that we might know the love of God. As your sufferings flow into your lives so also may your comfort that we are enabled to comfort others. Lord God take hold of our right hand and let us hear you say, “Do not fear I will help you.” May your perfect love drive out our fears. Amen
(From 2 Corinthians 1 3-5 and Isaiah 41: 13)
*Exposing Worry’s Deceit, 2019: Lucas S. La Freniere Michelle G. Newman
In Matthew Chapter 6, Jesus tells His disciples not to worry. Not about what they will eat, what they will drink or what they will wear. He reminds them about the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, and how our Father in Heaven takes care of them, so don’t they realize how much better He will take care of His people because He knows these things are essential to their lives. Jesus asks if any one of them can add even a single hour to their lives by worrying. Rather than worrying, He tells His disciples to focus on God’s will for their lives. In verse 33 he says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”. Jesus promises that even during these times of adversity, we can trust in God’s love as he calls us to seek Him first, and He will provide for us out of His abundant mercy and love.
In our families, God calls us to build up our loved ones to have one purpose in mind, which is to love God with all their heart, all their soul, and all their might. “Impress them (God’s command to love) on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up”. Deuteronomy 6:7
In our work, whether at home or in our place of business, God calls us to remember that we do not work for our paycheque or for our employer, we work as faithful people of integrity and high character for the honour of our God. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving”. Colossians 3:23-24
In dealing with our fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ, it is important that we are seen to be disciples of Jesus. His plan is that other people would know us by our love for one another as Christians. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters”. 1 John 3:16
In helping the vulnerable people in our communities, God calls us to be committed to helping the weak, the sick, the poor, the dispossessed and marginalized. Jesus feels so strongly about this that He views our love for the most vulnerable people among us the same as loving Him. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and, of mine, you did for me”. Matthew 25:40
My prayer is that we discover the joy, purpose, and peace that comes from being people who seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Philippians 2: 1-11
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit…..”
Philippians 2: 1
Holy week has begun. This week we can walk, metaphorically, in the footsteps of Christ’s Passion from His triumphal entry into Jerusalem through His death on the cross to His almighty resurrection. Many of us though are isolated in our homes, lives restricted, family and other relationship tensions are increasing and we all look to the present and future with, at the very least concern, if not fear. We can legitimately ask if Easter and Christ make a difference? The answer is a resounding YES, ABSOLUTELY. Here’s how:
Our reading in Philippians tells us of Christ’s journey in humility and obedience from majesty, to humanity, to a horrifying death, to resurrection and return to glory (vs. 6-11). Christ became a man, one of us, like us, and yet without disobedience to God. He truly understands us and is able to help us (Hebrews 2: 18; 4: 15-16). As we put our faith in Him He gives us His Spirit to enable us and empower us. As we are united with Him He gives us encouragement, comfort, love, tenderness and compassion (vs. 1-2). Gifts that can genuinely help us in these days. How does it work practically?
As we spend time with Christ in prayer and study of His Word (the bible); He slowly transforms us and helps us to have His attitude of humility and love (vs. 5). Here is a suggestion to enable this ministry of Christ’s in your life - picture in your mind a child or adult puzzle book. Think of one of the challenges, a maze where you have to find your way to the centre or a mass ball of string and you have to follow your line through the confusion to its origin. Now in prayer tell Jesus of one of the difficulties in your life right now; perhaps tension, or anger, boredom or fear. Follow the maze or string of this emotion till you find its cause (the outward sign being a symptom of an inner source). Perhaps the origin is self-centeredness or resentment towards another or even a fear of death. Give this real issue in prayer to the Lord and ask for His healing and help. Then step out in a deliberate act of faith to overcome this issue. Our reading today suggests putting another’s interest before our own, or being loving and compassionate and being of one mind (vs. 3-4).
Jesus has shown how this is possible as one of us and in His Spirit He gives us the power to imitate Him. Jesus is more than relevant, is more than able, He is absolutely essential.
To Ponder: What are your symptoms of distress and upset? Pray on these matters and ask the Holy Spirit to show you their source. Give that issue to the Lord and ask direction for an act of faith in line with His Word and will. Pray on it with someone you trust then step out in His strength.
Prayer: Lord in our distress and fear give us your encouragement, comfort, tenderness, compassion and unity with you through your Holy Spirit. In your power enable us to walk in humility and obedience in your steps loving you, others and ourselves. May we trust in the power and love of Almighty God that raised you to life enabling our relationship with Him through you. Amen
NB. We will continue with this theme on Wednesday looking at how Jesus helps us with fear and on Friday how He helps us with life and death
In 2024, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.