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Sunday 18th February 2018. Sermon about Lent

Mark 1 9-15; 1 Peter 3 18-22

Another Lent; another forty days. I don’t know about you, but I need to be very structured with Lent, otherwise the chance to reflect, challenge myself and to grow can get lost. And as a wise woman said to me once, Lent is a time to take things up, not just give things up. So here are some thoughts for Lent, which I offer to you and to me! As an ex English teacher I have used an acrostic!

L for Learn: Lent is a time to learn, a time to consider, a time to re-visit. Many of us are joining Lent groups through the next few weeks to learn more about our faith and ourselves. And we’re not the only ones to be thinking about ourselves. I was listening to the radio last week and to Father Brian D’Arcy. He sets himself these questions each week through Lent

‘In week one I ask myself: how do I describe where my life is now and what words describe the vision of life I’d like to have?
Week two will be: What makes me happy? What paralyses me?
And then: What gift or talent do I have that I am ignoring? How can I challenge myself more?
Followed by: How do I handle the crises of life? Fright Fight or Flight?
Coming to the end of Lent I’ll be positive: Name one hundred beautiful things that I take for granted. Lastly and looking ahead; what practical steps, after Easter will I take, to ensure I keep on changing?’
He said: ‘I plan to use these coming weeks to make me a better person and to leave behind lazy habits and harmful addictions.’
This Lent could be a time for us all to do that, to shake off the things that we don’t like about ourselves and to plan for the future as followers of Jesus Christ. And also to celebrate all that we have been given.

E for Encourage: we can encourage and support each other in our Lent journey and beyond and be encouraged. I am following ‘Life in the Psalms’ by Patrick Woodhouse through Lent, who was a canon at Wells Cathedral for several years. He has selected psalms for each of the five weeks of Lent and Holy Week (they are the shorter psalms or parts of 119) and organized them into sections: pilgrimage, prayer, wonder, the way, hope and, in Holy Week, suffering. He examines each psalm, reflecting on them and then posing a question or challenge to the reader. For example, the first psalm he uses is Psalm 122 ‘I was glad’ and explains and reflects on what pilgrimage means, for the reader and others. The reader is encouraged to support others in their pilgrimage and to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the world. The psalms can encourage us all, for they reflect the joy, despair and relationship with God that we all encounter in our lives. We all need encouragement, affirmation, direction. Lent can be a time for finding that and by sharing it with others.

N for Near: in the readings this morning we come near to the essence of our relationship with Jesus. We are reminded of our baptism through Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism and in Peter’s letter. The flood symbolizes baptism and baptism symbolizes salvation. Jesus’s baptism completely identified him as the Messiah, as God’s chosen one and also identified him with humanity’s sin, not his, becoming our substitute. It marked the beginning of his ministry. Marks’ pithy account of the baptism and the temptations show us Jesus’ obedience to God’s purpose for him. As baptized people, as people saved through the resurrection, we need to come near, to come nearer to Jesus in his time of temptation and contemplation as he prepared himself for his ministry and prepare ourselves once again to respond to what God asks of us. Lent gives us the opportunity to draw nearer to our Lord in times of quiet contemplation and times of worship and to respond to His call to us.

T is for Tell: many of you are going to follow the Faith Pictures course through Lent. The Farm Road group has already completed it and I can recommend it as it helped us all have a starting point to talk about our faith. Of course, some people can talk about their faith very easily: look at John the Baptist in Mark. But some time, when we are faced with an unexpected situation, words can fail us. Faith Pictures can help us to be better prepared. And that is what we are called to do: to spread the good news of the Kingdom. Our mission is to tell, to show, to mirror. Peter says in his letter, just before the verses that were today’s reading, ‘… you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But you must do this in a gentle and respectful way.’ So this Lent, talking is encouraged, in groups, in public and to God. We don’t have to have an in depth knowledge of scripture: we have to have an in depth relationship with Jesus who will give us the right words at the right time. Talking is good.

So, in whatever way or ways that lead us closer to Jesus and God’s purpose for us, let us use our time wisely this Lent, in worship, in prayer, in fellowship and in talking.

Let us pray

As the days lengthen
and the earth spends longer
in the light of day,
grant that we may spend longer
in the light of your presence,
O Lord,
and may those seeds
of your Word,
which have been long-buried
within us,
grow, like everything around us,
into love for you,
and love for people;
to become a visible declaration
of your Lordship in our lives
Grant, Father,
that this Lent there may be
a springtime for our lives in Christ. Amen.

(from a prayer by Dick Williams)

Jane Barry - Reader

Series On Exodus

Date Book Title
Sunday 27th Aug 2017 Exodus 1 : 8 – 2 : 10 Out of the water to serve

Sunday 10th Sept 2017
(Locking only)

Exodus 12: 1 - 1 Fear and protection
Sunday 17th Sept 2017 Exodus 14: 19 - end Overcoming the obstacles
Sunday 24th Sept 2017 Exodus 16: 2 - 15 Feeding the hunger
Sunday 1st Oct 2017 Exodus 17: 1 - 7 Grumbling and thirsty

Sunday 8th Oct 2017
(Hutton only)

Exodus 20: 1 - 4, 7 - 9, 12 - 20 A map for the way
Sunday 22nd Oct 2017 Exodus 32: 1 - 14 When we get lost
Sunday 29th Oct 2017 Exodus 33: 12 - end Seeing the glory


Locking 10am Sunday 17th September

This morning we continue with our theme – as you can see from the pew sheet – of EXODUS…….THE JOURNEY TO(WARDS) MATURITY. Moses and the journey of the people of Israel from Egypt to Canaan has to be THE most well known part of the Old Testament to peopleinside and outside churches in the UK, thanks to the films, documentaries etc that have portrayed it over the years. The latest Hollywood blockbuster Exodus: Gods and Kings was released only 3 years ago and some folks here may have seen it.

Over the past few weeks we’ve heard read the early parts of the Exodus story, the assembling of the cast if you will, but today we reach the pivotal point – the point at which the people of Israel , who were a population of migrant slaves, started out on their journey as the Children of the Living God.

Some 340 years ago, a middle-aged Christian believer was languishing in the Bedfordshire county prison, when he wrote what I’ve always thought of as the adult equivalent of The Tales of Narnia. Except that instead of 4 childrens journey from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to The Last Battle, this journey was from The City of Destruction to The Celestial City. The writer of course was John Bunyan and the book The Pilgrims Progress.

One of the spin offs from that book was the hymn with which we start our service, a hymn that I personally have not sung for a long time but to me sums up the Christians Exodus as well as any….
“He who would valiant be”….

The first chapter of Exodus contains a simple statement at v6 “Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died.” And 400 years passed. The supernatural acts of a God who regarded the Children of Israel as special were like a handed down story, told by parents to small children on their knees. For the average Israelite living in Egypt at the time of Moses return to them, their preoccupations were with jobs, feeding the family, being regarded as dangerous migrants…….actually not dissimilar from the issues in the UK and Western Europe today. And we are told that the Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out to God……to a God who I sense as I read the Scriptures had become little more than a tribal rallying point in times of trouble. Much like in the UK and Western Europe today……If all else fails, try prayer – its just possible there’s someone or thing out there. I believe its why, when Moses addresses the Israelite Elders after his burning bush experience, he speaks in this way “The Lord, the God of your Fathers-The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – has watched over you….” Not your God,but the God of your Fathers. They had no more than a second-hand experience of God……just like every single one of us in this church had only a second-hand experience of God at one point in our lives – one we’d heard of at Sunday School, perhaps, or at school, or from our parents or grandparents. For the Israelites, to be told by this pretty much stranger that “God was concerned about them and had seen their misery”….in English history think John Wesley preaching to the Bristol and Cornish miners…….no wonder they bowed down and worshipped. Perhaps prayer did work after all. They were on their way towards a first-hand faith.

Then we have the plagues, the first Passover which we heard read last week,then Pharaoh tells the Israelites to get out of his country…..then realises they’ll be a few million of the labour force short..and then – in todays reading - tries, and fails disastrously, to get them back. We know the story so well. So I just want to offer a few thoughts from another angle…the angle of the Pilgrims Progress. So much of the early chapters of Exodus foreshadow the mission of Jesus – the commissioning of a humble man out in the desert to be a kind of Saviour to the people, the abrupt start to his mission telling people of Gods love for them and a call to follow him, the performing of miracles, the requirement on the first Passover for the blood of an “innocent lamb” to be sprinkled on the doorposts as a sacrifice for the lives of those within etc etc. But from the moment in chapter 13 that the Children of Israel set out from being Egyptian slaves, the story turns equally into being our journey – collectively and individually – from a second-hand belief in a folklore God to a pilgrims progress for the rest of their (and our) lives towards a mature faith.
And as with Israel when Jesus came, as with us when we first realised there was something in this God-thing, so with the Israelites leaving Egypt - God takes the initiative and reveals himself to them personally. Out of the blue, so to speak, there appears – at the very time they are camped on the edge of the desert, ready to set out – the visual expression of the divine with them, a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

THE PILLAR OF CLOUD – GODS PRESENCE IN THE MIDST OF HIS PEOPLE. I can remember once, when we were in Sorrento, we decided to go on a walkabout tour. We had no idea where we were going, we just assembled in the main square….and our tour guide held aloft a small sign board and we followed her. Where she went, we went. When she stopped, we stopped. When she walked on, so did we. When she spoke, we listened. Much like it was for the children of Israel. They were starting to learn that they had a God who knew where they were going and would personally show them the way. But also, when danger presented itself, God’s presence in the Pillar of Cloud would swap position to the back of them – to position himself as a protection between them and their enemies. But to rely on God and not themselves was a whole new ball game for the Israelites – remember these were fragile people who had been abused by their Egyptian overlords for a long time. As soon as they see the Egyptians coming after them they panic…but it is just at that point when they cry out to God that he visibly acts and the pillar stands between them and the Egyptians. Before the Egyptians can get to the Israelites, they have to get past God first. But the Red Sea opens, and they walk through. Their journey of faith with God has begun. And it really was ONLY a beginning. Only 3 days on from their escape – and still led by the Pillar of Cloud - they cant find adequate water, and they start grumbling. God sorts it out via Moses and the water turns from bitter to sweet. The ironic thing is that the very next verse tells us that the very next place they came to was Elim, a place of 12 springs and 70 palm trees. God had been leading them in the best direction all along, but they had grown impatient and started to wobble in their faith. But still, even when they doubted God’s provision, He in his love turned the bitter water sweet; that is a picture of Gods unswerving love to his children even when we don’t deserve it. The NT has a word for that – its called grace. And friends, if we are honest, isn’t that our story as well? To put our trust in God to guide our lives,instead of trusting our own ingenuity, is not an easy or natural thing to do. It can only come step by step, as we learn to walk the path of the disciple. But of course, we have an advantage that even Moses, let alone the ordinary Israelites, didn’t have. Jesus’ death and resurrection brought with it a huge promise – the promise of Gods own Spirit not just walking ahead of us, but actually indwelling each one of us, and wanting to do the same thing as in the desert – guiding us, protecting us, teaching us step by step, day by day, how to hear his voice and follow him.

But of course, there are 24 hours in a day, and at this time of year in England, only about 12 hours of that are daylight.
THE PILLAR OF FIRE – GODS LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS. Thankfully the Children of Israel – and us – have a 24 hour God. Gods presence in the form of a Pillar of Cloud wouldn’t have been much good in the desert at night; the people would have likely got lost, confused, wandered off. So God adapts his presence to exactly the form needed to walk through the night. The pillar becomes one of fire, giving light, exactly what you need. Please note God did not say just walk during the daylight hours and have your needed sleep when night fall comes. Please also note that God did not – as he could easily have done as creator of the universe – give them 24 hours of daylight for their journey. The night, the darkness, was still there; they walked through it. God instead was teaching them a visual lesson fundamental to life – His all-sustaining presence would be with them whatever the time of day or the weather conditions. At the time I gave my life to Christ, there were sincere people around who unconsciously portrayed by their words the Christian life as “Come to Jesus and all your problems will disappear”. Well, it didn’t take long for me – and no doubt everyone here – to realise that isn’t what happens. The darkness, the problems of living as a human being, are still there……but now there is light as we face our obstacles, as we walk through the dark places and dark times, and little by little we learn that whatever we – like the children of Israel – face, there is Father God with us, and his Spirit within us, each step we take. Why do you think people sing “You’ll never walk alone” with such gusto? It’s the desperate cry of the human heart, to believe that whatever comes your way, there is someone watching over you. And as followers of Jesus, our story is one we need to share, because you only need to turn on your TV to see that for most folks in Britain today, that confidence does not exist.

THE BATTLE BELONGS TO THE LORD. If these first few chapters of the Israelites journey from captivity to the Promised Land teach them, its that the overcoming of the obstacles is to be Gods way, Gods timing, and using the resources God gives. Sometimes its purely supernatural – like the manna, the “bread of heaven”, that we’ll be thinking about next Sunday. Sometimes its the use of the resources to hand, like Moses throwing the stick into the pool of bitter water and it turning sweet. But always, behind it all, is Gods leading and acting. In one of his NT letters (GAL 5:25) Paul has this challenge…. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” I’m sure that sometimes, when the Pillar of Cloud and Fire started to move onwards, a lot of the Israelites would have preferred to stay put. But moving on in faith, for them and us, inevitably means that change becomes an expected part of life. When Jesus taught the words of what has become known as TheLords Prayer such as “Deliver us from evil and lead us not into temptation”, they weren’t to be just nice words to give us a fuzzy warm feeling; they speak it’s the core needs of a life following God day by day, night by night. One step at a time.

So there we have it. The journey of the Children of Israel is a pretty good picture of the journey of the Christian from second-hand belief, through the ups and downs of learning to walk guided by God, learning to trust him more and more along the way. What does maturity of faith look like? Well, as one pilgrim to others, I think that its something like this. Its the way of life described in literally the last verses of Exodus…CH40 Vses 36 -38…..In reading these simple descriptive statements 2 words for me echo; they are the words CONFIDENCE and OBEDIENCE. Life lived day by day with CONFIDENCE in a God who knows where and how to walk lifes journey with us, and OBEDIENCE to follow where He leads, knowing he will never leave us bereft. May that be our goal, both individually and as a church fellowship.

Cliff Dumbell, Reader

Hutton 10am Sunday 17th September

Exodus 14: 19 – end – Overcoming the obstacles

Do you ever feel that some people just breeze through life – they do well in their exams with little effort, they get a wonderful job which they love, they meet Mr or Miss Right, they have beautiful children, have a lovely home. That’s a bit idealised but you know what I mean. Other people I know seem to go from one crisis to the next. Their life is not an easy journey but more like an obstacle course – with things preventing them going forward on their journey of life. Their life has involved a lot of suffering and struggle – this may be you.

The Israelites, God’s people, had been going through a hard time- it was probably about 400 years. They were in Egypt, Joseph had prospered there and God’s people had grown there in number. A new king came along and knew nothing of Israel’s story and of Joseph and was threatened by their numbers. So he oppressed them and they became slaves. God raised up Moses as part of his plan to release them and move them to a better place. This is a story of suffering and redemption. Their time of suffering was to cease and they were to be freed to leave that place and start a new life. So here they are ready to move on buy with this huge obstacle in the way. Here they are wanting to go ahead with this great sea in front of them.

When you face obstacles in life I wonder how you deal with them? Like the Israelites we can focus on the obstacle and not on God saying – I’ll never change, I prefer the old life – this is too difficult if not impossible. Despite all the hardship and suffering the Israelites would have rather gone back to Egypt and be slaves. ‘It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert. Verse 12. Sometimes when it is time to love on from the time or place of suffering we can get cold feet, our suffering becomes out identity, our security blanket. Being a salve to pain, fear of hardship is preferable to freedom and new life. We say I can’t change the way I think and feel. I can’t forget the suffering and what happened to me, this is too scary, I might drown. When God chooses to deliver us from pain and suffering it will take trust and faith to move in to new life. When facing obstacles you can also do other things. Turn round and go back – they wanted that. Stay there and look at it – that’s when people get stuck or we ask God to remove the obstacle an d allow it to teach us to trust Him and form us . The Christian faith is about this new life – moving into freedom and not slavery, moving from fear into hope. The thing is that the Israelites had no need to fear as they were not alone. Verse 19 The angel of God had been travelling in front of them . This was actually God’s presence with them. He had been leading them to a place of deliverance. Now God’s presence goes behind them. Also the pillar of cloud goes from the front to the back. God sometimes goes behind us to protect us from harm. They knew where they should go – they now needed protection as they faced difficulty and danger. I remember Christmas 2014 just before being diagnosed feeling that there was somebody behind me, they were almost tangible. I believe that this was the presence of Jesus to protect me because of what I would soon face – though I knew nothing of that at the time. God often puts things in place before we actually need them.

The thing is that the Israelites felt totally powerless – yet they couldn’t do anything. Moses is God’s mouthpiece to them ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’ Verses 13,14. We have to be still and know that He is God – that He is all powerful. We need to stop and allow God to remove the obstacle in His time. Then and only then can we walk forwards into a new beginning and new life. The Israelites had to walk through the obstacle – God didn’t send them on a great re-tour round the Red Sea – they had to go right through it. Like the Children’s Story – we’re going in a bear hunt – in the story they come across different obstacles – each time saying – can’t go over it, can’t go under it, can’t go round it – have to go through it. And the Israelites had to go through the waters. It would have been quite a scary experience with walls of water on both sides and the Egyptian army behind you waiting to attack. Going through the water to a new life and start takes faith and trust. In fact it grew their faith and trust in God and in Moses their leader. Redemption comes in many guises – when we become a Christian and make a commitment to follow Jesus then we are redeemed and delivered. We are rescued from the old life and from all that makes us a slave there – a slave to sin, ways of thinking, acting and feeling. We are led out from Egypt to a land of freedom and plenty. This is what Jesus achieved for us on the cross – he broke the power of sin and death, he enabled us to stop being slaves and instead we become sons and daughters of God. There has to be a price to pay to set a slave free – Jesus did that on the cross. The cross was a rescue mission. But like the Israelites we have to choose to leave the old life and step into new life – step into the unknown with the Lord behind us. When we are baptised this is shown through the water – we go through the waters – this image works better when people are fully immersed in water. They go through the waters and come out a new person. That redemption and deliverance go on as we face obstacles and struggles in life. God is able to bring us through these times – the Lord can take situation and bring redemption through it. We need the courage to leave the suffering and past behind – the choose to stop being a slave to the old ways and instead enter into the new life that God wants to give to us. Obstacles in life can change us, help us to trust God more and allow God to come really close to us.

Let us pray:
Lord sometimes it is hard to want to move forward in my life – to follow your leading and your ways. Lord obstacles gets in the way which make me afraid. Lord help me to know and feel that you me and are behind me. Help me to stop being a slave to the past and to stop being defined by it. Help me to see that you can and will deliver me – help me to trust you and move forward into a new life and and a new beginning. In the name of Jesus, the redeemer. Amen.

Rev Anne Lee

Hutton 10am, Locking 6pm 27th August 2017

Exodus 1 : 8 – 2 : 10 “Out of the water to serve”.

This morning / evening we are going to be starting a short sermon series on the OT book of Exodus. In this sermon series, one of the things that will be seen is the faithfulness of God and how this faithfulness is seen as a golden thread running through history, starting from Abraham and God’s covenant promise to him in Gen 12, all the way through to Jesus and to us today here in Hutton and Locking thousands of years later.

Before we look at the story of the birth of Moses, I want to set the scene. God’s faithfulness and promise started with Abraham, then his son Isaac, to Jacob and then to Jacob’s children – who are the descendents of the 12 tribes of Israel, of which Joseph and Benjamin are born to Rachel, Jacob’s favourite wife.

Joseph, which we heard in the Bible reading a few weeks ago, was the one who had the richly ornamented cloak and whose brothers were jealous of him. Joseph was sold into slavery and taken to Egypt, where he became Pharaoh’s right hand man, saving many, especially his brothers and their father, from starvation when a famine struck.

Time passed and Gen 50 : 26 – the last verse in Genesis states that Joseph died at the age of 110, was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt – but not before he made the sons of Israel swear an oath saying ‘God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.’ So there is the expectancy sometime in the future of the Israelites coming up out of Egypt and when they do, Joseph’s bones are going to go with them. But God, being God, never says when anything is going to happen – no date is fixed.

Time passes. The Israelites have become exceedingly fruitful, multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them and in this passage of time, the history of the Israelite people has become lost from the story of the Pharaohs.

Telling the story of God’s love and faithfulness is important, otherwise over time, it becomes watered down and eventually lost. This is why stories, altars, pillars and markers are put up by the Israelites when significant things happened, to serve as memorials (Joel 1 : 3). A nation’s memory is so important; it must include all facets of history, even the bad bits, as it shapes their identity and can also serve as a reminder not to go down certain routes again.

This new king of Egypt, which we heard about in Exodus 1 : 8, is afraid – fear is a great motivator here, but the outcome of the fear is not good. It’s infanticide, it’s killing, it’s oppression. This new king didn’t know about Joseph – the history had been lost. All the good that Joseph had done had been forgotten. The Israelites’ story, background and history were lost in Pharaoh’s court. They had not been telling their story of how God had provided for them and those around them in the past. The Israelites had also changed from being shepherds to being used as forced labour under Egyptian slave masters to build store cities. So not only was their story lost, but also their original identity as shepherds, and this happened within about three generations. So not long.

But as we are going to see, God is faithful and will eventually provide a way out for them, the foundations of which are now being laid.

So there is oppression, hard labour, bitterness, ruthless slave masters and a race of people, the Israelites, which were dreaded by the indigenous population. But even in this situation, God caused the Israelites, his chosen people, to multiply and spread, so much so, that the king of Egypt begins to take drastic measures. He informs the Hebrew midwives to kill all the newborn boys, this way, the Israelites will have forced birth control and eventually die out. The men also went to war, so with less men, should the Israelites side with an enemy of Egypt, they would be less of a military threat.
But the Hebrew midwives have other ideas. They feared God, but not in the same way that the slave masters engendered fear, no, this is a healthy fear – it is an honour, respect, reverence, awe and wonder. This is a good fear, so the Hebrew midwives let the Hebrew babies live. In so doing, they risked their own lives. Pharaoh could have had them killed for disobeying him. He was also probably not impressed with them when they insinuated that Egyptian women were weak!

The result was initially positive, the Israelite population increased and because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own (Exodus 1: 21). Pharaoh now ups the stakes, as the midwives were not carrying out his orders, he widens the order to all his people – drown the baby boys.

The story now moves from the midwives, to a couple from the Israelite clan of Levi. There is fear in this story too, the fear of being found with a baby boy and having him taken from his parents and drowned. This fear had been lived with for three months, and to hide a new born child for three months must have been quite some doing. We can see in the story the care and tenderness of his mother, his father probably out working being oppressed by the slave masters. She gets a basket and makes it waterproof, places Moses in it and puts it in the reeds along the bank of the river Nile. Maybe she knew Pharaoh’s daughter would come and bathe here, because Moses was put in the reeds so he wouldn’t float away downstream and be lost forever. It was also possibly a calm and secluded area of the river Nile, as Pharaoh’s daughter was going to bathe there (I did wonder if she enjoyed skinny dipping, but as it’s not a recorded fact, I can’t include it in the sermon!). A lookout was posted and then waiting ensued. It was not known how this would end. Moses’ life hung in the balance – would he be found and would the outcome be good or bad? Life or death? A future or oblivion?

Pharaoh’s daughter saves the day – she is inquisitive and compassionate (and also possibly disobedient, as I expect she knew the edict that Pharaoh had issued about drowning all the baby boys) and sends her slave girl to investigate. On opening the basket, Moses cries – one of hunger probably, or of seeing full daylight again – but who can resist the cry of a baby? Pharaoh’s daughter might have been at a loss what to do, so when Moses’ sister Miriam arrives on the scene – all innocent like ‘Oh I just happened to be passing’ and suggests getting one of the Hebrew women to nurse Moses for her, she leaps at the suggestion. So Moses is reunited with his mother, and I love this bit, she is paid for the privilege of bringing up her son. I think that this is important, as her husband is probably being oppressed by the Egyptian slave drivers, so an extra income would come in very useful. I also suspect that because Pharaoh’s daughter is involved, this would offer a good degree of protection to Moses and his family.

In time, Moses mum took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son.

In this story, God’s hand can be seen as being at work – the situation, on the surface, seemed dire – but there is still hope, God hasn’t (and will not) abandon his people. When God speaks and makes a covenant, here I am thinking about the one with Abram in Genesis 12 which says:

The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

‘I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.

God cannot break his covenant, he is always totally faithful and trustworthy, even when things look their blackest. Moses’ parents gave Moses up in the hope that something good would happen, but if it didn’t, at least they tried. I suspect they also prayed to God about this, as the Levites became the tribe of Israel who assisted the temple priests in their role, as instigated by King David years later in 1 Chronicles 23 : 28, so maybe they had a closer walk with God and trusted him in this dire situation. Pharaoh’s daughter was not able to nurse Moses, and as a woman, her compassion was evident as she didn’t put him back in the basket, or, which were the orders of her father, drown him. So when Moses’ sister Miriam appears, Pharaoh’s daughter leaps at the opportunity and to reinforce her commitment, pays her as well!

These are critical months for Moses, as a child’s upbringing is important to forming his identity and who he is. Moses is a Hebrew and this Hebrew culture and upbringing is gently instilled in Moses in his formative years, because soon he is going to live with an Egyptian family, Pharaoh’s daughter no less. Looking ahead to Exodus 7, this experience, and nothing is wasted in God’s economy, would be put to good use, as Moses is to approach Pharaoh to ask ‘Let my people go!’ (Exodus 7 : 16).

So God is at work putting his people in situations and places where in time they will play a crucial role in being part of God’s purposes, so Moses was taken out of the water to serve, but his time for service and freeing the Israelites from Egypt was to come when he was 80years old (Ex 7: 7) . There were 80 years of preparation, 80 more years of oppression and slavery of the Israelites, 80 more years of crying out to God for freedom. It didn’t happen overnight.

So to sum up, there are two main themes that I would like to offer this morning / evening:

1) The importance of telling your story of how God has worked in your life, so that unlike Pharaoh, the story of God and his faithfulness and provision won’t be forgotten, and
2) Even when things are bleak, God is at work by putting people in places where he wants them to be, to further the advancement of his kingdom.

So we can apply these lessons to our lives and to do that, I want to finish by asking you:

1) Do we tell our story about God’s love and faithfulness so it won’t be forgotten in our nation? And
2) Are we where God wants us to be? So that we can: model godly character, make good work, minister grace and love, mould culture, be a mouthpiece for truth and justice and be a messenger of the gospel.


Chris Wilkins 26th August 2017

In February 2017, we are did a SERMON SERIES on James - see below -

‘Gems from James’ sermon series

Date Book Title
Sunday 5th February James 3: 1 - 12 Hold your tongue
Sunday 12th February James 4: 1 - 12 The Battle Within & Without
Sunday 19th February James 5: 7 - 20 Why me?
Sunday 26th February James 2: 14 - 26 Is faith enough?

Sermon at St Augustine's Locking: SUNDAY 5TH FEBRUARY 2017 James Chapter 3 Verses 1 – 12 - HOLD YOUR TONGUE!

Hands up, how many teachers or ex-teachers – either in the church or other places we’ve got here today……. Lets hear the reading……but don’t let anyone else think they’re excluded from these words from James. We’ll think about why in a few minutes!

We start today a short series of talks from the letter of James………Its so practical and down to earth, that its perfect as we come towards Lent and the period of time up to when we reflect on our Lords sacrificial death and celebrate his glorious resurrection. Let me briefly give you the context of the letter. Firstly,it was one of the earliest letters in the New Testament written – scholars reckon just before AD50, less than 20 years after Jesus death. Next, it wasn’t – as I once thought – written by James, the brother of John, who were 2 of the inner circle of Jesus disciples, along with Peter; it was written by another James, who was actually more important in the development of the early church. This James was the half- brother of Jesus himself, and he was a senior leader in the church at Jerusalem – the central mega-church whose founding at Pentecost and subsequent rapid growth is described in the early chapters of the book of Acts. Thirdly, the reason it was written was that – as again recorded in Acts – the rapid growth of the Jerusalem church brought it to the attention of the establishment religious and political authorities…..who saw it as a threat, just as they’d seen Jesus as a threat. The result, unsurprisingly, was persecution, which led many believers to quit Jerusalem for elsewhere in the Roman Empire. As an aside, does that sound somewhat similar to the situation currently facing Christians in Syria and Iraq? Anyway, back to the first century of the church. These dispersed groups of Christians were without the support of their central church so James, the senior pastor, sent them this letter to encourage them how to live out the practicalities of their faith in challenging times. For me, the key verse is ch2 v18 “I will show you my faith by what I do.”

And for todays talk….I will show you my faith by what I do – with my tongue.

HOLD YOUR TONGUE! What does the phrase mean. In everyday language, its quite simple – its Shut Up. But actually, we can visualise it in another way; its this. As we “hold” our tongue, in fact what we’re doing is pausing before we utter any words. And when you consider the things that have been said over the last 12 months by people of prominence in the UK and USA – let alone the rest of the world – “think before you speak” has to be some of the wisest advice that anyone can give.

1.VIEW FROM THE WORLD…..DITCH THE CLICHÉ! Out there, the world is full of clichés about words and the power of words – clichés that are massively destructive. Some are old, some are new; all need to be challenged. Heres one that’s been around for a while….”Do as I say, not as I do”. Wrong – that’s called hypocrisy. Jesus reserved some of his harshest words for hypocrites Matt23.v13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You shut the kingdom of heaven in mens faces.” And we’ve got 2 new clichés, thanks to the events of the last 12 months.

We have “post-truth”. Wrong. Truth is an absolute. There is nothing that comes after truth – except lies and distortions. Then we have “alternative facts”. Wrong. Facts are facts. Anything that is not fact is either fiction or a personal opinion. The Oxford Dictionaries, after much debate, named Post-truth as the word of the year for 2016. Listen to its definition…….. As to alternative facts, lets go to the online dictionary Wikipedia…..Jesus, in the great passages in Johns Gospel where he is describing his key characteristics made these statements “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” and “I am the Living Word”. And his life backed up those statements. Who do you believe to steer your life? Politicians or Jesus?

For me, though, the most destructive cliché about words and their misuse has been around for a long time. Its this:- “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Wrong, wrong, wrong. Ask anyone in the world of mental health. I was recently listening to a lady preaching about rejection; and she said that if you ask any congregation to raise their hands if they’ve never experienced rejection, it is rare to find many, if any, hands go up. And a goodly amount of that rejection is caused by the words we speak or the words that we don’t speak.

And in this hurting and confused world, many still look to the church, to us, for an anchor in the storm. So why do far too many testify to the church only increasing their disillusionment?

2 .VIEW FROM THE CHURCH…”DONT DIS ME BRO”…..or in the Queens English “Please don’t show me any disrespect, my brother!”
Do you know, we sometimes forget Jesus words “It is not the well who need a doctor but the sick”, and that many turn to Christ because they realise that all is not right in their lives. Many join church fellowships, bringing the baggage of hurting with them. And Christians who are young in the faith or damaged look not only to those of us who speak from the front, but to all the fellowship, to act as their teachers by example in word and deed. There are quite a few “dis’s” that people face – disrespect, disdain,being disengaged, feeling disenfranchised; they were some of the strongest emotions that drove peoples votes here and in the USA. What do folks look to see in the church? – the opposite! Respect for them, for each other and for those who have different opinions. Appreciation of them as individuals, irrespective of their level of talent, wealth, education etc. Acceptance of them as they are. Knowing that their views and perspectives will be valued, and that they will be included in the community’s life unconditionally. And when that spirit pervades a church, what do we see? We see healing of deep wounds start to happen, we see people gradually opening up to fully be thepeople God designed them to be, we see them reaching out to their unchurched friends and saying “Come and see what we’ve found”. Its not rocket-science. The early church – to which James belonged – didn’t have any study books on ‘How to grow your church’ or ‘The 12 steps to spiritual maturity’; but what they did have was a burning desire to live out life the Jesus way. It’s a familiar passage, but listen afresh to Acts ch2. Vses 42 -47…. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I want this fellowship to always be. So……

3.THE WAY AHEAD……BLESS YOU! Our passage in James is bluntly graphic about the dark side of the tongue. There is no way I could or would want to expand on what those verses say. But what do we do about it? We cant spend our whole lives in total silence in case we say something wrong. Well, I think V9 gives us a hint. “With our tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in Gods likeness.” Why don’t we decide to take this verse and actually erase the word “curse”? You could actually do it literally – write the verse on a piece of paper, pin it on a board and scrub out or cut out the word “curse”. What word would we want to put in its place? Well, the obvious one is love, of course…..but can I make another suggestion – it’s the word bless. And by that, I don’t mean the automatic catch phrase response to someone sneezing! If you look in the Oxford dictionary, one of the stripped-back meanings of the word bless is this – to give honour to someone as being divine ie as being a child of God. Its an active word, not the mushy touchy - feely word that love can often deteriorate into. How do we bless each other, our parents, our partners, our children, our neighbours? In a thousand different ways – in sending a card, in asking about their health, in making a phone call, in praying for them, in offering to help, in popping in….and just listening. As Ronan Keating famously sang on the soundtrack of the film Notting Hill “You say it best, when you say nothing at all”. But in most ways of blessing, the written or the spoken word is involved.

Let me give you a few quick true examples of words/people/churches and 1 example of blessing people… from TV….. Danny Taylor from Without a Trace. How do we look to live consistently- when we know, if we’re honest, our tongue is not too different from that described by James? Firstly, by determining to change and keep watch over our mindset and our tongue, and to look for ways to bless people day by day, inside the church and outside it. And by recognising that, like the recovering addict, we’re always just one step away from going backwards, and therefore looking day by day to the Holy Spirit to change us inside and finding other believers to support us on our journey.

But I’d like to leave us all with another challenge as well. It’s a toughie, but it's this. Our tongues are all too often the source of the fracturing of relationships. We’re going to have a moment of quiet now, and I’m going to ask the Holy Spirit to move among us….and prompt us if there is anyone we need to contact to seek to restore a fractured relationship, be that by letter, by email, by phone, or in person. Also, if there’s someone we could bless in the next week, as a practical step. Friends, it’s the Jesus way, and you and they are worth it.


Cliff Dumbell, Reader, St Augustine's Locking


Sermon at St Mary's Hutton: SUNDAY 5TH FEBRUARY 2017 James Chapter 3 Verses 1 – 12 - HOLD YOUR TONGUE!

Today we are beginning a 4 week sermon series on parts of the book of James. To get the most out of this I would encourage you to read the reading beforehand and let God speak to you before I or whoever else does. We are calling this series ‘Gems from James’.

So off we go….. In our modern day society we use words in so many ways don’t we – we speak directly to people face to face, we talk to them on the phone, we text people, put posts on Facebook, Twitter or whatever, we e-mail people and sometimes we write letters. I received a lovely letter from an old friend before Christmas – hand written and several pages long. It was quite a rarity and this friend is younger than me. Words are used in so many different ways aren’t they? Words themselves are neutral – squiggles on paper or sounds that come from our mouths. But in reality words are one of the most powerful things in the world. Think of the key times in your life and the things that have made you the person you are today for the good or bad. I bet each time you remember the things that were said – what an idiot, you silly boy, you’ll never achieve anything, I’m so proud of you, you’re my best girl, well done, I hate you, will you marry me, we’d like to offer you this post, it’s a boy, you’re fired, it’s not looking good, you can do it…… I’m sure we can all think of such phrases that have stuck in our minds and make us who we are today.

The title for this week is hold your tongue. In the book of James we hear what makes a mature Christian. So far James has mentioned in chapter 1 that they are patient. In chapter 2 they practice the truth. Now in chapter 3 they have power over their tongue. With any of the letters in the Bible I always have a sense of frustration as you only get one side of the correspondence and you have to guess what the writer is responding to. James is clearly writing to Christians because they are having problems controlling their tongue. In 1: 19 he writes ‘be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.’ And in 1: 26 he writes ‘If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.’

Our speech and how we use it is an indicator of where we are in our Christian life – it’s like a gauge or a measure of how much God has changed us. Firstly James speaks to teachers of the word – preachers, home group leaders, anyone with that role and warns us that we will be strictly judged. Our lives must match the things that we preach. There should be no great chasm between what I tell you and teach you and about how I live my life at home. No point me telling you to love your neighbour if I then go home and scream at the kids – I don’t. No point today teaching about the use of speech and then this afternoon telling someone how much I dislike someone in the church. I and all preachers and teachers must be wissywig – what you see is what you get. If you want to know what I’m like then ask my kids. They know me warts and all. Preachers and teachers use words as their instrument – so I/ we need to be careful of how we use our speech. Which leads James to talk to all Christians – you as well as me. James uses 6 images or pictures to make his point. They are the bit, the rudder, the fire, a wild animal, a fountain and a fig tree. We can pair them up – so firstly the bit and the rudder. Verses 3 and 4.

Our words have power – great power. Think of the effect that the words of the new US President have had on the world. He is trying to change the direction of the country by his words first and foremost. They are so powerful. Both a bit on a horse and a rudder on a boat are quite small things – but they have the ability to turn a ship round or make a horse change direction. So James says in verse 5 that the tongue is a small part of the body but has the ability to change a person or a situation. It makes great boasts says James. It exaggerates, twists the truth, tells lies. James says that we all stumble in many ways and the thing we all stumble with the most is with our speech. If we can keep what we say in check then the rest will follow – because it is difficult. This is set in a negative context – but you could also say it in a positive way.

Our words can also accomplish great things. A right and godly word can change your day, change the course of your life….. it can bring comfort and encouragement, it can bring someone to Jesus… we can invite… we can tell our story. In a negative and a positive way words are so important because they lead to deeds. In the second world war there was a caption ‘Loose lips sink ships’ about being careful what you said. But loose lips also sink lives too. The bit and the rudder have to overcome other forces – the wind and waves and the wild strength of the horse. So we struggle to say the right thing. Or sometimes we say the right thing in the wrong way. E-mails or texts are a great way to communicate – the downside though is you can misread them as you don’t know the tone of what is being said. Sometimes it is the way you say things that can hurt. Outside forces might be the people you are with – when someone gossips are we are pressured to join in. Or inside forces – we are angry and we can’t contain our angry words. What is important is the controlling hand of the bit and rudder – is it Jesus or is it us. Proverbs 18 says ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue.’ King David said ‘Set a watch O lord before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.’ (Ps 141) Jesus in Matthew 12 says ‘out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.’ What does our speech say about the state or our hearts? Secondly the images of fire and wild animals in verses 5 – 8. All fires start with a spark.

Our words can start a fire – can destroy and harm. To be honest some of the worst fires happen in churches. The people who have caused the most harm and hurt have been the ones who have a problem with their tongue. Again David said ‘My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated the fire burned, then I spoke with my tongue.’ Psalm 39. David had a temper and it came out in his speech. Maybe that is us also. Fire spoils and makes dirty – you get smoke damage even where there is no fire. Our words can spoil and taint as well as bring hurt. Jesus himself was wrongly accused of being a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. They said he was in league with Satan. On the cross they hurled cruel words at him. Fire and poison spread – so do wrong words. They need taming and each of us needs to stop things from spreading. A tame animal can be used for work and a fire for power. So words can be used for good. Think of Anna last week – who gossiped about Jesus. Lastly the water spring and the fig tree. ‘The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life’ Prov 10 Water – and words – can be life giving. Words such as God loves you, you look nice, I will help you…. Can change a person in an instant. Water like words can also cleanse – I forgive you, I am sorry. Salt water on the other hand can kill.

As Christians our words should bring life to others. The image of the tree shows us that our words should bear good fruit. Trees bring shelter and can feed us. Trees need good roots – so we need to be rooted in God’s word each day. There are 12 words if used daily they can transform your life – they are please, thank you, I’m sorry, I love you – (even to those we don’t like), I’m praying for you. So let us ask ourselves – do I have a problem with my tongue – as I believe while we all struggle some do have a bigger problem than others. If we do then we need to acknowledge it and do something about it. Give God your heart and your speech each and allow him to use you to be a blessing to others.


Rev Anne Lee, Rector, St Mary's Hutton and St Augustine's Locking

SUNDAY 12TH FEBRUARY 2017: James Chapter 4 Verses 1 – 12 'THE BATTLE WITHIN AND WITHOUT'

If you Google ‘wars in the 20th Century’ you will get a very long list. At the top of one webpage it gave a terrible statistic that 160 million people died in wars during the 20th century. The last century was the most murderous ever. Today there are 34 ongoing conflicts including the Syrian Civil war, the civil war in South Sudan (why David and Heather had to leave) and the Mexican Drug War. Today there are only 11 countries who are not involved in some conflict. Those who study these things say that since 2007 the world has become a much less peaceful place. They say that it will get worse not better. Wars always start with people – and in people wars start in the mind and in the heart. I have never been in a war situation – my mum was a girl in the Second World War and it was a terrible and frightening thing to live through. I have though listened to countless stories of people at war with each other, war in families, (very sadly often this comes out at a funeral visit when people have not spoken to each other for years and now they have to see each other), sometimes the reconciliation is too late, even wars in churches, I have listened to people battling with things within themselves.

Today’s reading from James is called the battle within and without. We will look at this in 3 sections – firstly the war with each other. James begins this chapter – what causes fights and quarrels among you? He was teaching about this because there was a problem between the Christians. In Ps 133 it says ‘How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity. It is like precious oil poured on the head… for there the Lord bestows His blessing.’ Unity is God’s way for His people – here they had gone off the path badly. James identifies different wars going on in the church. 2: 1 – 9 class wars between the rich and poor. People are being judged by their clothes and appearance and favouritism shown. Employment wars 5: 1 – 6 rich employers are not paying their workers a fair wage – some things never change. And church fights. I witnessed a real fight in a church that I worked at in Nottingham – but usually battles in church are more subtle and go on for months, years even and are far more destructive. Especially if they become part of the identity and history of that church. I still sometimes hear stories when I visit people in the parish, of events that took place years ago!!

Wars always begin in the heart and then the ammo that people use is their speech – which was last’s week’s sermon. In the church that James was writing to they were warring over positions in the church – wanting to be teachers and leaders. People thought that their ideas were the only right ones and their ways were the only right ways. Usually the root of the problem is the desire for power. This resulted in personal wars between individuals – people spoke ill of others, they judged them. When this sort of thing happens then it is like a bad stink that cannot be contained and which leaks out into the community. People may look on and say ‘behold how they hate each other’ rather than ‘behold how they love each other.’ At a couple of Locking PCC meetings ago we started to write a new plan for the future. After a church day of prayer various themes came out – one of which was unity and love. We then agreed – in this church we will -

• Work towards changing attitudes towards one another
• Reach out with love and kindness
• Respect one another
• Welcome all ages, cultures etc in love and friendship into our church community
• Be committed to always being kind to each other and those in the community – and to kindly stamp out any unkindness they come across

Taken really seriously and lived out – not just by the PCC – but by every church member – can and will totally transform the church.
Jesus prayed – That they all may be one as you Father John 17: 21

This is not just about us all getting on together – which is good – but is also about witness and mission. ‘By this shall all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ John 13: 35 So why are there wars in the church – we belong to the same family, love the same Jesus, all have the holy spirit. James explains why – what causes fights and quarrels – don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? It’s the problem of the heart and the problem is sin and that usually begins with selfishness – wanting what we want – you want something but don’t get it, you kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.’ Verse 2. Wanting what we want leads to wrong actions and also wrong praying – when you ask you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives.’ It has been said the purpose of prayer is not to get man’s will done in heaven but to get God’s will done on earth. You can tell when a person is at war within themselves – they are unhappy and never show any joy. Instead of being thankful for what they have, they complain about what they don’t have. They don’t get on with people because they envy others and what they have – either happiness, possessions or their position. Sometimes people are angry at God because their lives aren’t as they want and this anger spills over into anger at the church and people.

Which leads to the last point and which gets to the real root of the problem – people being at war with God. So how does a believer be at war with God? Well being friendly with the world – following the ways of the world, how it thinks and behaves, being no different from people around you who are not Christians. As yourself – in what way am I different from people around me? Have I sold out to what I hear and see, do I speak as the world speaks, do I do as the world does, do I think as the world does?

Which goes back to being selfish again – because me first – is the way of the world – rather than God first. If you were watched every second of the day would anyone watching it notice that there was something different about you? The devil would want us to be proud but it says God opposes the proud. James tells them to submit themselves to God, to resist the devil, to come near to God. If we seek our hearts and look at our lives and know that they are far from what God have them to be then we need to make a conscious decision to return to God. To return like the prodigal with a desire to change. We must be repentant before God can lift us up – as we know to repent is not just saying sorry but being willing to change direction. When this is sorted we will stop being at war with God, which results in war within ourselves, which results in wars and quarrels with others.

It always goes back to our relationship with God and our willingness to be changed and transformed by him. So today in this service there are opportunities to put things right – in Matthew we heard – if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, the come and offer your gift’ That is why we have the peace. Maybe there are people outside the church we need to stop warring with. Maybe we need to get right with God – use receiving Communion to draw close to God again. James says ‘He gives us more grace.’ When we step out in this way – then God will give grace – undeserved love and forgiveness and will give us all we need. Let us pray

Lord we are sorry when we quarrel with others, when we are proud and think we know best – we turn from that. We are sorry when we are at war in ourselves – we are unhappy because we want what others have, we envy and are dissatisfied with our lived rather than be thankful. Lord change our hearts and thinking. And when we are at war with you and follow the ways of the world – when we try to serve 2 masters and so don’t really follow you. Lord may we repent, turn from disobedience and may we come back to you. Amen

Rev Anne Lee, Rector, St Mary's Hutton and St Augustine's Locking

SUNDAY 19TH FEBRUARY 2017: James Chapter 6 Verses 7-20 'Why Me?"'

As I was preparing this sermon it struck me that 2 years ago this week on 17th, two days ago, I had surgery for cancer. It was a tough time as you may remember a week after the op, and I thought I was on my way to recovery, I was told they had found and removed another cancer and I needed chemo and more surgery. During that time I don’t think I said or even thought ‘why me’ – though at times I did think – please stop this, please may this all end, I can’t keep going, I can’t do this anymore. I was thinking about the title of this sermon – why me – and I was thinking what underlies that statement – what beliefs and ideas are within it? I came up with the following:- That somehow being a Christian excludes us from suffering in the world – that knowing and following Jesus means that we will always be protected and nothing bad will ever happen to us or our families. It also gives the idea that you are somehow selected for suffering – why me, why have I been chosen? And then we might think – I’m a good person, I’ve never hurt anyone – what have I done to deserve this? We forget that we are living in a fallen, broken world, that it is indiscriminate in who suffers and who doesn’t. It’s not just the world that is broken but we are too. We are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made – but our bodies fail us – I was born with a faulty repair gene for example which gives me a high risk of cancer. My body is fallen. When we say why me – we might be saying that to God – why have you allowed this? Couldn’t you have prevent it happening – you can do anything can’t you God? It’s that big mystery of suffering again. So my friends – let’s be real about some things – bad things do happen to Christians. The world is fallen and we are part of that – none of us are exempt. Instead of why me – we could say – why not me?

So what does James say about suffering? Firstly be patient – he says it twice along with stand firm. In John 16:33 Jesus says ‘In this world you will have trouble.’ Fact. But we need to be patient. James uses 2 words for patience verse 7 – 8 meaning long tempered and verse 11 the word he uses means endurance – to remain under – to carry something even though you are under great stress. Patience means ‘to stay put and stand fast when you’d like to run away.’ Scholars think that longsuffering refers to being patient with people, while endurance is about conditions and situations. The thing that James tells them to be patient about is the return of Jesus. I’m not sure that we get impatient for that do we? But it makes sense, as it is only when that happens that all suffering, sin, stress and pain will be totally gone from the world. James gives 3 pictures to put over his point. Firstly the image of the farmer – he can’t make the crop grow faster and he has no control over the weather. When we undergo suffering one of the biggest problems is losing control. We are at the mercy of the illness, the treatment, other people. Yet we must be like spiritual farmers – waiting for the precious, valuable crop to appear. It is out of our hands but in God’s hands. The crop might be the end of our suffering, it might be the harvest at the end of the age, it might be in seeing people become Christians. The soil is our hearts and the seed is the word. In our spiritual lives there are seasons.

People say – I’m going through a dry patch. Sometimes a time of hardship and suffering is God’s way of ploughing the hard ground. I have known people who were once quite hard and then something difficult or some suffering came their way and they changed – they became kinder, more patient, more open. Sometimes a time of endurance is actually preparation for a time of fruit – it might be the fruits of the spirit. This is something we don’t have to do alone – that is why we need to belong to church. James tells them to not grumble about each other. Tough times will test our tongues (yes it’s back to that again.) It is easy to moan and groan, to criticise, to seek for scapegoats when we are hurting. Farmers help out and support each other – remember when the Somerset levels were flooded – farmers from all over the country came to help. So we must support each other when troubles come. Like the farmer we should not give up working but keep going. The second image that James uses is the prophets. They were doing God’s will yet they suffered.

Sometimes suffering is as a result of faithfulness to God. Jesus was obedient to His Father but that led Him to the cross. Despite the suffering of the prophets God looked after them. It is said that ‘The will of God will never take you, Where the grace of God cannot keep you’. It may seem unfair – why me again – that the prophets- and indeed God’s people have to suffer. Yet it is true that our actions speak louder than words – that a life of faith lived out through suffering – in patience and even joy – speaks volumes to those around us. The farmer keeps working and the prophet keeps witnessing – despite the pain and trouble. The last image that James uses is Job. In verse 11 James says ‘we consider blessed those who have persevered.’ But you cannot persevere unless there is some hardship. Sometimes the blessing comes when we are going through trials – like the 3 men in the fiery furnace in Daniel – they were joined by who I believe was Jesus. At other times the blessing comes after. Job lost everything – wealth, family and health. Then his friends tell him he must have committed some terrible sin for this to happen to him. Job says he is innocent but not perfect. Everything was against him – it seemed like God was too. Job questioned God’s will but never gave up his faith. ‘Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him.’ Through his sufferings Job met God is a new and deeper way.

The second part of the reading is very practical and covers many situations – if you are in trouble then pray – may that be the first thing we do – unless it is an emergency. Then send an arrow prayer help as you dial 999. Trouble should bring us to God for help. To those who are happy – allow them to rejoice. If you are sick then ask for prayer and anointing with oil. If you sin then confess to others and be forgiven. If somebody strays from the faith and from church – then bring them back. All practical. So if and when we are in trouble and it will happen at some point – then keep going, keep working like the farmer – allow the suffering to soften your heart not harden it. Be like the prophets – who suffered because they were faithful but they kept witnessing. Be like Job – who lost the lot but was a changed man and met God in a new way. Let us all be patient and uphold each other when we suffer – carry them in prayer, in kindness and practical deeds, in listening and encouraging, in just being. And let us remember that Jesus will return and there will be no more tears, pain, sin, sickness or suffering.


The will of God will never take you, Where the grace of God cannot keep you.
Where the arms of God cannot support you, Where the riches of God cannot supply your needs, Where the power of God cannot endow you.

The will of God will never take you, Where the spirit of God cannot work through you,
Where the wisdom of God cannot teach you, Where the army of God cannot protect you,
Where the hands of God cannot mold you.

The will of God will never take you, Where the love of God cannot enfold you,
Where the mercies of God cannot sustain you, Where the peace of God cannot calm your fears, Where the authority of God cannot overrule for you.

The will of God will never take you, Where the comfort of God cannot dry your tears,
Where the Word of God cannot feed you, Where the miracles of God cannot be done for you,Where the omnipresence of God cannot find you.

Rev Anne Lee, Rector, St Mary's Hutton and St Augustine's Locking