January 2022 Readings and Prayers

''LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY''

Reading & Prayer 21st January 2022

Reflections on Sunday's readings from John

All our readings for this coming Third Sunday of Epiphany, have a major focus on hearing the word of God, and listening to it so that it penetrates the heart and leads us forward on the path which, through our baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have been called to follow.  We are a liberated people, yet so often we find ourselves separated from our spiritual source, imprisoned by our culture and its norms, alienated from God who in Christ has given us all that we could wish for if we would just let him in to transform us into Christ-like people.

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Reading & Prayer 10th January 2022

Reflection from Jill Pargeter

During the past couple of years, we have all experienced difficulties of one kind or another and with isolation and loss, it's easy to feel like you're on your own. Today's passage reminds us that whatever we are going through, Jesus understands. Our God is not a far-off entity; He has lived a human life and has experienced all the emotions and feelings that we feel: anger, sadness, loss, betrayal and loneliness, as well as many of the positive emotions, like joy, gratitude and serenity. So, be encouraged; however you feel today, Jesus understands and shares your feelings, and He will give you His 'grace to help in time of need.'

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Reading & Prayer 7th Jan 2022

Reflections on Sunday's readings from John

This coming Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which effectively brings Christmas to an end.  The Lord’s baptism is the second of the great Epiphany signs.  The first was the story of the coming of the Magi to the infant Jesus in which he is revealed to the Gentiles (nations) as the Saviour of all people.  The third sign will be the water into wine episode in the Gospel of John, next Sunday, in which Jesus is shown as the new creation for the life of the world.  This Sunday, at his baptism, he is shown as the Son deeply loved by the Father on whom the Holy Spirit rests, the Spirit that will guide him through his ministry, works, teachings, suffering, death and on into resurrection, the full life of the Spirit.  This Sunday’s Eucharist will or should remind us all how we too, through baptism, are deeply connected to Jesus as beloved sons and daughters of God, and how the fire of the Spirit should inflame us as we live this life.

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Reading & Prayer 3rd Jan 2022

Message from Marisha

Many will be very happy that we have begun a new year, glad that the last one is over. That is understandable. It seems we have a predisposition to dwell on past events especially not so good ones but the Lord tells us to 'remember not the former things' or in other words move on.  He has plans for us, good ones; He will refresh us once again.

Perhaps you have seen; in some African countries it would seem that there is nothing but barren deserts for years even and then suddenly the rains come in the mountains and once again river are formed in the dry wilderness. Grass grows, flowers bloom, even fish buried deep emerge. It is truly a miracle. For those witnessing it all the words of Isaiah are a sure reality.

Though we may not have such dramatic scene to inspire us we can still trust that the Lord will bring pertinent miracles into our lives too. Let us look forward with hope and faith for the Lord is good and his mercies endure for ever.

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 Readings & Prayer 21st January 2022

All our readings for this coming Third Sunday of Epiphany, have a major focus on hearing the word of God, and listening to it so that it penetrates the heart and leads us forward on the path which, through our baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have been called to follow.  We are a liberated people, yet so often we find ourselves separated from our spiritual source, imprisoned by our culture and its norms, alienated from God who in Christ has given us all that we could wish for if we would just let him in to transform us into Christ-like people.

Nehemiah 8: 1 – 3; 5 – 6; 8 – 10

It is around 450BC.  Most of the Israelites who were exiled in Babylonia in the previous century have now returned to their homeland.  Their religion and identity as the people of God is undergoing a renewal.  It would now be known as ‘Judaism’ and the people as ‘Jews.’  Today’s reading is about Ezra the priest-scribe reading and expounding the Torah, the Law of Moses (presumably the whole of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible) at the request of the people in Jerusalem.  The nation of Judah/Israel is still under the rule of Persia, the dominant power of the day.  Nehemiah, the former butler to the king, is now governor of Judah and is involved in the instruction of the people.

The purpose of this passage as our first reading is apparently to stress the importance of the communal listening to the scriptures as we do in our church services.  Although private reading and study is also important, it is the reading, listening and the expounding of scripture when the people come together for worship which is at the heart of their growth in faith, discipleship, and community identity and cohesion.

Also highlighted here is the eagerness and willingness of the people to hear the word of the Lord.  It helps them more easily to understand what is being read and taught, even moving them to tears!  Are we really listening when the readings are being read, or just hearing and possibly forgetting?  The Bible, properly read, listened to and taken to heart, with the help of some appropriate study and teaching, is given to us as a gift to help us in our journey of transformation into Christ.

Psalm 19

This psalm, praising the glory of God may be a merger of two originally separate hymns.  The first part (vs.1 – 7) may have been adapted from a pagan Babylonian hymn to the sun god.  The second part (vs. 8 – 15) where God is referred to as Yahweh, ‘the Lord,’ praises God for the gift of his law, showing it not as constricting but rather liberating Israel to live truly as God’s people.  We will recite verses 5–10 in our services.

1 Corinthians 12 – 31a

This is Paul’s famous image of the human body as an analogy of the Church, the Christian community, with all of its parts being interdependent.  There is unity and diversity within the body, so there is also in the Church.  Paul outlines the equality of all the members because they have all been baptized into one body through the one Spirit.  This point is stressed because of the elitism and arrogance of some members of the Corinthian Church.  It could be any Church, even today!

Paul concludes by grading the gifts of the Spirit in the life of the Church.  As will be amplified in a whole chapter which follows this one, top of the list is love and service to others.  Personal ecstatic experiences like speaking in tongues, however beneficial to the spiritual life of the individual and (hopefully) the community, always come last (see ch. 14: 4).

Luke 4: 14 – 21

Following his baptism by John and his wilderness retreat, Jesus returns to Galilee ‘in the power of the Spirit.’  In his home synagogue he set out his mission programme, drawing on the Isaiah prophecy of ‘good news to the poor’ using a variety of metaphors that express healing and liberation.  The necessary response, as with Ezra in our first reading, would be for those people, and for us as we hear them today, to listen to his word and receive it in our hearts.  These are not just words about the mission of Jesus to encourage us, but for us to share, to practice, to live by, so that we become good news for others.

A prayer for this Sunday

God our Father, through Jesus you speak to us today your message of Good News.  May we accept for ourselves the grace that he proclaims.  Inspire us to draw on the Holy Spirit that you have already given to us, that we may be enlightened and set free for service to you and to the people around us.  With this sure help may we too bring your Good News to the poor and to those in prison; may we give sight to the blind and help to those who are downtrodden, in whatever form these conditions take, that all may enjoy your happiness, healing and salvation.  We ask this in the name of the one who calls us to follow him, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

 Reading & Prayer 10th January 2022

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16

Loving Father, thank you for coming to us on earth in the form of Jesus.  Thank you that we can call You Lord and Friend.  Because You have experienced every emotion and every temptation as a man, we know that we can come to You for comfort and strength when we face difficult times.  Help us to trust You with our emotions and just as You are there for us, may we reach out to others who need our support.  Amen 

 Readings & Prayer 7th January 2022

This coming Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which effectively brings Christmas to an end.  The Lord’s baptism is the second of the great Epiphany signs.  The first was the story of the coming of the Magi to the infant Jesus in which he is revealed to the Gentiles (nations) as the Saviour of all people.  The third sign will be the water into wine episode in the Gospel of John, next Sunday, in which Jesus is shown as the new creation for the life of the world.  This Sunday, at his baptism, he is shown as the Son deeply loved by the Father on whom the Holy Spirit rests, the Spirit that will guide him through his ministry, works, teachings, suffering, death and on into resurrection, the full life of the Spirit.  This Sunday’s Eucharist will or should remind us all how we too, through baptism, are deeply connected to Jesus as beloved sons and daughters of God, and how the fire of the Spirit should inflame us as we live this life.

Isaiah 43: 1 – 7

The anonymous prophet usually known as ‘Second Isaiah’ addresses the Israelites in Babylonia who are soon to be permitted to return to their homeland after 50 or so years of exile.  He reminds them that God is deeply committed to his people, assuring them that he has not abandoned them but is going to bring them home.  The powerful images of creation and exodus, of water and fire, remind us as Christians of the greater event that followed – the new creation and liberation through water and the Holy Spirit in the coming of Jesus Christ.

Psalm 29

‘This is among the most ancient of psalms, originally a Canaanite celebration of Baal, the storm god, who is often represented as standing on a bull about to hurl a thunderbolt.  It has been adopted and applied to Yahweh, the Lord.  The sevenfold ‘voice of the Lord’ in nature, storm and earthquake is reminiscent of the imagery of Sinai, describing the earth-shaking phenomena of Israel’s first experience of the Lord.  The magnificent cedars of Lebanon and the daunting solitude of Kadesh are powerful phenomena dwarfed by the divine strength.  The psalm is full of raw power.  The divine name resounds like a battle-cry throughout the psalm, which may well have served as a sort of victory hymn’ 

Henry Wansbrough  (Introduction to Psalm 29 in the Revised New Jerusalem Bible)

Acts of the Apostles 8: 14 – 17

After the first great persecution of the young Christian movement in Jerusalem which included the martyrdom of Stephen, the Christian mission has spread to other districts of the Jewish homeland.  Philip the Deacon has gone north to Samaria preaching and healing in the name of Christ.  His success in enabling many conversions among the Samaritans has drawn the attention of the apostles in Jerusalem.  It appears that the Samaritan baptisms have not been completed, something is lacking.  So the apostles go to lay hands on the newly baptized as means of ensuring that these baptisms had the sanction of both the apostles and the Holy Spirit.  This passage has often been taught as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation.  It is not.

Confirmation came along much later when infant baptism became the norm.  Theoretically at least, Confirmation was to enable those who were baptized in early life to make their own affirmation of their baptismal promises when they had grown up and could understand what their baptism meant and what it required of them.  

Luke 3: 15 – 17 & 21 – 22

The baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of his ministry.  But it is more than that.  It signifies the beginning of the ‘last days,’ the age of the Spirit and the reign of God.  Jesus reveals this in his own person and life.  The Spirit of God dwells uniquely and fully in him.

The earliest Christians found the whole idea of Jesus submitting to John for baptism as rather embarrassing.  Luke’s solution is seemingly to remove John from the scene (verses 19 and 20 which are omitted in today’s reading) by referring to his arrest by Herod the Tetrarch.  The focus is then purely on Jesus following his baptism.  It is then, while he is praying, that the Spirit is described as descending on him, and the voice from heaven declares his divine Sonship.

Luke shows Jesus at prayer at all the important events in his life.  An example surely for us to follow.  Do all our actions and decisions begin with prayer? 

A prayer for this Sunday:

God our Father, with your whole people reborn in baptism we give you thanks.

We thank you that in Jesus, each of us has become your beloved son or daughter.

We ask you to fill us with the fire of your Holy Spirit, the Spirit who guided and strengthened Jesus in life and death.

May this Spirit set us free to serve you and one another with unselfish, grateful love.

We ask this in the name of your Son and our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen

 Reading & Prayer 3rd January 2022

Do not remember the former things,

or consider the things of old.

I am about to do a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

and rivers in the desert.

The wild animals will honour me,

the jackals and the ostriches;

for I give water in the wilderness,

rivers in the desert,

to give drink to my chosen people,

the people whom I formed for myself

so that they might declare my praise.

Isaiah 43:18-21

Father God Almighty, we give you all thanks and praise for your faithfulness to us, for being with us through dark times and for giving us hope. Through the birth of your Son Jesus Christ you brought a great light into the world, and through him we might know you our creator and redeemer. May we who have received the light shine in your world and pass on all that we know of you. Amen