Sunday 5th February: 3rd before Lent: Matthew 5 15-20
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its savor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven ………..
This passage is part of what we call The Beatitudes when Jesus was giving people his pointers to the way in which they should live. Here he is encouraging them to continue to ‘shine as lights in the world’ – in other words, try to do the things which God has called us to do. As Christians we are expected to be living and acting in God’s name, sharing the good news about Jesus to others – not keeping it to ourselves. It’s not enough to go to church on a Sunday and think that that is all that God wants from us. Our whole lives are part of his plan, and we never know when what he is calling us to do will result in perhaps helping to change the lives of other people.
Can we this week listen carefully to God and carry out whatever he is urging us to do? A phone call? A prayer? A visit to someone on their own? Take up a challenge we feel we are being asked to consider? Or even just being ready to respond to strangers in a friendly way.
Sunday 12th February: 2 before Lent Matthew 6 25-34
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the lilies of the field grow: They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles strive after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.
In this very well-known passage from Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is telling people they do not need to worry. It sounds so simple, yet all of us struggle to accept that God is in charge, he will never leave us to cope with anything without his help, and though things may be challenging, he is there with us at all times. He does expect us to do what we can to meet whatever happens in our lives – but there is a vast difference between our trying to do this in our own strength and our leaning on God’s strength to provide whatever help we need.
Is there something you are facing at the moment which is causing you concerns, perhaps even overwhelming you? Can we renew our faith in God’s promise to be with us at all times, and to take our burdens on him? He is just a prayer away – and he will always be there for you.
Sunday 19th February; Sunday before Lent Matthew 17 1-9
After six days Jesus took with Him Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared before them, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If You wish, I will put up three shelters—one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While Peter was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown in terror. Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” He said. “Do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Do not tell anyone about this vision until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
This must have been a really special, yet frightening, experience for the disciples – simple fishermen being presented with an ‘out of this world’ situation high up on a mountain. So much to take in – but yet, again Jesus knows how they are feeling. “Do not be afraid” he said – and he continues to say this to us now. We may not have top-of-the-mountain visions to contend with, but life can be more than challenging at times, particularly when we are trying to follow God’s plan for our lives.
As we know, God never asks to do anything without providing us with the strength and whatever else we need to deal with it. But we do need to be keeping in touch with him. Often we can try and cope on our own, but this is not part of his plan. Ask for his help – keep saying our prayers – and God will indeed provide whatever we need.
Sunday 26th February: Lent 1 Matthew 4 1-11
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. The tempter came to Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” But Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took Him to the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple. “If You are the Son of God,” he said, “throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning You, and they will lift You up in their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Jesus replied, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9“All this I will give You,” he said, “if You will fall down and worship me.” “Away from Me, Satan!” Jesus declared. “For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’” Then the devil left Him, and angels came and ministered to Him.
Jesus was God’s son – but he was human, and as such must have felt all the emotions we do. He might well have wondered why God was testing him in this way – yet he didn’t turn away from the challenge but rose to it. It would indeed have been much easier for him to take the easy option of appearing to people in a spectacular way, just to prove he was God’s son – but Jesus knew he needed to follow the plan for his life, even though it meant his being hung on a cross to die for the sins of everyone.
Sometimes we have the opportunity to short-cut things to make life easier – but is this the right way to go? We need to ask God what he wants us to do, because his way is where we will find his supporting help, and will give the results God wants. May we keep our faith in God’s love, and have the courage to do things his way, even when they are not what we want to do.