Thought for the month
August 5th sees the start of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, as the eyes of the world focus on the games. A number of New Testament letters make reference to Olympic sport including Hebrews: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1–2).
The Christian life is compared to a race, but although we face struggles and obstacles, there is a great crowd of witnesses cheering us on. We have a heavenly Father who loves us and a Saviour who has run the race before us. If we keep our eyes fixed on him, he will ensure we finish the race.
During the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the British athlete Derek Redmond was running in the semi-finals of the 400 metres. About 250 metres from the finish his hamstring tore. He fell to the ground in pain and stretcher bearers came over to him. However, Redmond wanted to finish the race and so he started hopping toward the finishing line.
Suddenly Jim Redmond, Derek’s father, ran out of the stands towards him. “You don’t have to do this” he told his son. “Yes, I do” said Derek, to which his father said, “We’re going to finish this together.” They completed the lap with Derek leaning on his father’s shoulder. As they crossed the finish line, the spectators rose to give Derek a standing ovation. Although he didn’t win an Olympic medal, Derek Redmond finished the race with his father at his side. Let’s not forget the encouragement we have to finish the race!
Found in the Upper Holloway Baptist Church newsletter,
but on the web elsewhere and unattributed
Only a few minutes after the result of the EU Referendum had become clear, BBC Radio 4’s 2016 news coverage was interrupted for “Prayer for the Day”. We thought it worth sharing what Canon Simon Doogan said.
The campaigning is finished; the argument is over, if only for a while. Some people will be elated today, others in the depths of disappointment, maybe even despair. I’ve been wondering what one man in particular would have made of it all, and that’s the sixth-century monk to which our parish church in County Down is dedicated, St Columbanus.
One of the figureheads of the first great continental monastic movement, Columbanus castigated kings and challenged popes. We have thirteen sermons bearing his authorship, alongside six letters, two sets of monastic instructions, a number of poems and a penitential. And then among them he quietly slips the phrase “totius europae”, the first written reference to the distinct concept of Europe.
Yet uppermost in Columbanus’ mind wasn’t political boundaries, so much as people sharing a common Christian faith. Now that’s a spiritual vision few may recognise today. But then, over the coming weeks and months, the accuracy or otherwise of a host of pre-referendum visions and forecasts will start to become clear. Surely what most of us really care about is how circumstances will change for real people on the ground.
So I’ve not wasted time thinking about which way Columbanus might have cast his vote, but I have been mulling over what Columbanus might have prayed, and what I keep coming back to is one of the things he shared most strongly with his Saviour, a heart for the poor. “Lord, whatever is shortly to unfold for our country, we think of those for whom life may be a struggle, and ask that, for them, whatever the final outcome, things can be made better. Amen.”
You can listen on-line to the Radio 4 EU Referendum 2016 programme (Prayer for the Day starts at 06:43:27)
The 21-year-old princess who spoke from South Africa to say – “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be short or long, shall be devoted to your service” – has now served our country and Commonwealth as Queen for more than 60 years, and the weekend of 10–12 June will see many things happening to honour her 90th birthday.
As someone described by A. N. Wilson as “an unobtrusively devout woman whose Christian faith is central to her life” one of the celebrations that will undoubtedly be very significant to her is the publication of The Servant Queen – and the King she Serves by HOPE, the Bible Society and the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. This 64-page tribute uses her own words to draw out the importance in her life of her faith in Jesus, and in her foreword to the book, the Queen acknowledges the role her faith has played in the many years of her service as monarch.
Yemi Adedeji, HOPE’s associate director, says: “Let’s bring our communities together to give thanks to God for Her Majesty’s life of service to the Commonwealth. And let’s pray for her, as she has asked us to do since before her coronation.”
In times when nothing stood
But worsened or grew strange,
There was one constant good
She did not change.
Philip Larkin (1977)
This month’s picture comes from a blog (click the picture) in which Pam Webster reflects on Acts 1:6–14, a passage that tells of the day, just forty days after that very first Easter, when Christ was taken up to heaven, and the disciples were left standing and staring, and probably feeling very alone.
But that blue sky wasn’t the end of the story. The disciples had been told by their Master that they would be given power to tackle the task he had given them to do, the work of being his witnesses, his presence, here on earth. The time for action was coming.
Ten days later, God was there in a new way. His presence with them no longer depended on a physical presence: through the Holy Spirit he would be with them for all time, equipping them and working in and through them.
This May we have opportunities to celebrate – Ascension Day (5 May) and the Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church (15 May) – and then to ponder on the mystery of our three-fold God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, on Trinity Sunday (22 May). But, as the first disciples, we too need to have our focus on what we are called to do, not content to be just passive observers: “Men and women of Fife, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”
The lectionary reading for Easter Day is Luke 24:1-12, which starts: On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”
The women had been puzzled at the sight of the empty tomb until they were reminded that Jesus had indeed said it would be necessary for him to suffer, die, and arise again. Then they began to see the resurrection as part of God’s plan for the salvation of the world. Their puzzlement turned into purpose. Their worry turned into witness. And they went and told the other disciples all that had happened.
It was only right that they remembered Jesus clearly at the empty tomb. The Greek term translated “tomb” in v.2 is mnemeion, literally “place of remembrance”, is the source of our English term “mnemonic,” something that helps us to remember things clearly. His empty tomb is an effective reminder, not of a dead person buried there, but of the living Christ who taught us the truth, died for our sins, rose from the dead, and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.
The empty tomb can fill us in ways nothing else can. It can fill us with faith in the One who vacated it! It can fill us with hope in the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the resurrected Saviour, Jesus Christ! It can encourage us to follow the women at the tomb in becoming faithful witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection so that others may find hope beyond the grave! And it can fill us with unshakeable joy, because through our risen Saviour, we too shall find life on the other side of death!
Adapted from Noel Schoonmaker’s sermon