2017: Advent Faith #7


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

Ezekiel 36:24-28 (NIV UK)

24 ‘“For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

Reflection

Faith is not about a half-formed theory that might explain some things about the world … but about living our life, in all its real, messy, inconvenient, untidy, beauty – all its perplexing mystery and loveliness, all its crazy teasing, testing, hurting, laughing, crying wonder. Because life is like that every day – faith must be faith for that kind of everyday life.

Prayer

Lord, if we accepted your gift of a new heart and a new mind it would change everything: how we deal with other people, how we serve you in the world, how we build your Kingdom in the world. Take our “stubborn hearts of stone”, Lord, and make us your people. Amen.

 

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Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer

 


TIP … from the blog
Balm to heal the world
A blog post inspired by this quote from World News in Prayer of June 8, 2017: “So again I turn to all the pieces of my faith – to hymns and scriptures, to prayer and worship. Maybe there is a Balm in Gilead, or a Blessed Assurance, even an Amazing Grace.”

2017: Advent Faith #6


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

Jeremiah 1:4-10  (NIV UK)

4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

5 ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
      before you were born I set you apart;
      I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’

6 ‘Alas, Sovereign Lord,’ I said, ‘I do not know how to speak; I am too young.’

7 But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am too young.” You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.

9 Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.’

Reflection

A religion that skates over the top of our real experience of life is going to hold few attractions for the man or woman of our times.

We want a faith that addresses us where we are … reaches deep into the secret fears and deep-seated anxieties that are part of the reality of our personality … faith that brings strength or peace, or answers to nagging questions that refuse to go away.

Prayer

Lord, teach us how to speak about our faith in you – without arrogance or embarrassment – but with the gentle integrity of someone who knows the One they speak about. Amen.

 

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Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer

 


TIP … from the blog
Circle me, Lord
includes a video of a 6-year-old sharing the benefits of encircling prayer when our faith falters.

2017: Advent Faith #5


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

Hosea 6:1-6  (NIV UK)

1 ‘Come, let us return to the Lord.
     He has torn us to pieces
            but he will heal us;
     he has injured us
            but he will bind up our wounds.
2 After two days he will revive us;
            on the third day he will restore us,
            that we may live in his presence.
3 Let us acknowledge the Lord;
            let us press on to acknowledge him.
     As surely as the sun rises,
            he will appear;
     he will come to us like the winter rains,
            like the spring rains that water the earth.’
4 ‘What can I do with you, Ephraim?
            What can I do with you, Judah?
     Your love is like the morning mist,
            like the early dew that disappears.
5 Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets,
            I killed you with the words of my mouth –
            then my judgments go forth like the sun.
6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
            and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Reflection

This faith of ours is not about whether the cups and plates are washed right, or whether the correct procedural hoops have been negotiated; or whether we have “gone through channels”. It is about love – and love is risky and messy and disruptive and scary.

Prayer

Lord, you have no interest in the externals of religious practice and procedure – why did we ever think you had? With you, Lord it is all about the heart. Set my heart right with you … keep my heart right with you. Amen.

 

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Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer

 


TIP
The wells of salvation
The blog post that inspired me to adopt a theme of the month.

2017: Advent Faith #4


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

Micah 5:1-5a  (NIV UK)

1 Marshal your troops now, city of troops,
            for a siege is laid against us.
      They will strike Israel’s ruler
            on the cheek with a rod.
2 ‘But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
            though you are small among the clans of Judah,
      out of you will come for me
            one who will be ruler over Israel,
      whose origins are from of old,
            from ancient times.’
3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned
            until the time when she who is in labour bears a son,
      and the rest of his brothers return
            to join the Israelites.
4 He will stand and shepherd his flock
            in the strength of the Lord,
            in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
      And they will live securely, for then his greatness
            will reach to the ends of the earth.
5 And he will be our peace
            when the Assyrians invade our land
            and march through our fortresses.

Reflection

In those dark moments when we wonder if anyone cares, or if we matter to anyone, a feeling that crushes us and weighs us down … an emotional dead weight on our soul … in those moments of emotional confusion … when the outlook is bleak … the faith of the Church rings across the centuries, sending a message of confidence and hope into the very fibres of our soul: ‘a mother may forget her child’ (Isaiah 49:15), but God will never reject us, or forget how important we are to him.

Prayer

Bethlehem today is a bustling town full of issues and hurts, pressure points and broken dreams. Lord, comfort your children there, and in all the other Bethlehems, wherever the divide between possibility and reality is so painfully obvious.

 

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Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer

 

2017: Advent Faith #3


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

Micah 4:6-13  (NIV UK)

6 ‘In that day,’ declares the Lord,
 
      ‘I will gather the lame;
            I will assemble the exiles
      and those I have brought to grief.
7 I will make the lame my remnant,
            those driven away a strong nation.
      The Lord will rule over them in Mount Zion
            from that day and for ever.
8 As for you, watchtower of the flock,
            stronghold of Daughter Zion,
      the former dominion will be restored to you;
            kingship will come to Daughter Jerusalem.’
9 Why do you now cry aloud –
            have you no king?
      Has your ruler perished,
            that pain seizes you like that of a woman in labour?
10 Writhe in agony, Daughter Zion,
            like a woman in labour,
      for now you must leave the city
            to camp in the open field.
      You will go to Babylon;
            there you will be rescued.
      There the Lord will redeem you
            out of the hand of your enemies.
11 But now many nations
            are gathered against you.
      They say, ‘Let her be defiled,
            let our eyes gloat over Zion!’
12 But they do not know
            the thoughts of the Lord;
      they do not understand his plan,
            that he has gathered them like sheaves to the threshing-floor.
13 ‘Rise and thresh, Daughter Zion,
            for I will give you horns of iron;
      I will give you hooves of bronze,
            and you will break to pieces many nations.’
      You will devote their ill-gotten gains to the Lord,
            their wealth to the Lord of all the earth.

Reflection

Real faith is always vulnerable to mockery by a world that sees only the superficial, temporal, material fact and lacks the spiritual insight to see deeper, truer, eternal values and realities at work in every situation.

To the eye of faith, God is never absent.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, that no matter where we are in our life, or where we have been – your love holds out the promise of new beginnings. This changes everything! Amen.

 

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Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer

 

2017: Advent Faith #2


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

Micah 4:1-5  (NIV UK)

1  In the last days
     the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established
         as the highest of the mountains;
     it will be exalted above the hills,
         and peoples will stream to it.
2  Many nations will come and say,
      ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
          to the temple of the God of Jacob.
     He will teach us his ways,
          so that we may walk in his paths.’
     The law will go out from Zion,
          the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
3  He will judge between many peoples
          and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
     They will beat their swords into ploughshares
          and their spears into pruning hooks.
     Nation will not take up sword against nation,
          nor will they train for war any more.
4  Everyone will sit under their own vine
          and under their own fig-tree,
     and no one will make them afraid,
          for the LORD Almighty has spoken.
5  All the nations may walk
          in the name of their gods,
     but we will walk in the name of the LORD
          our God for ever and ever.

Reflection

The promise of God is that he doesn’t need us all to be great theologians, or startling preachers; or even very brave – just to be courageous enough in our Christian witness to let him use our little knowledge, our little faith, our small amount of understanding as he can do, and will do – to demonstrate his power.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for your promise, that takes away our fear. We see the world differently when we see that it is still your world. We deal with the future differently when we understand that it is still your future, and that you hold us now, and will hold us then. Amen.

 

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Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer

 

2017: Advent Faith #1


Medina/Rabat, Malta (Photo: Irene Bom)

During our Presbytery meeting in Malta a few months ago I recruited three of my colleagues (and one spouse) to join me in putting together a series of daily posts for Advent 2017 (December 3 to 24).

Rev. Laurence Twaddle, minister in Geneva, will kick us off with reflections on FAITH; Rev. Kim Hurst, minister in Malta, has prepared reflections on HOPE featuring some of her poems; and Rev. Andrew Gardner, minister in Brussels, will shine a light on the theme of JOY. Most of the photographs for the series are by Lindy Twaddle.

Generally, I will introduce the theme for the week on Sundays. To round things off, for the 4th Sunday of Advent (24 December) I have a prayer sheet on the theme, “Love is the greatest”.

Week 1: ADVENT FAITH

By way of introduction to this week’s theme, a reading, short reflection and a prayer to set you on your way.

John 20:24-29  (NIV UK)

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’
     But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’
     A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’
     Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’
     Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

Reflection

‘blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ (John 20:29)

Fortunately for us, seeing the risen Jesus in the flesh is not a prerequisite for a vital relationship with him. “For we live by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7) – blessed faith, lived out day by day, moment by moment.

Advent Prayer: Keep Us Awake

‘Keep alert, for you do not know when the time will come.’ (Mark 13:33)

God our rock and our salvation
so much of faith is waiting
like a pregnant woman waiting in hope
like a people under siege, holding out till relief comes
like the soul lost in the darkness,
unable to see even a glimmer of light
yet stumbling through the night because somewhere out ahead,
day will surely break
God be with us in our waiting

Living God, keep us awake in faith,
faith that acts;
when our faith grows weary, strengthen us
when our faith grows fearful, give us courage
when our faith grows despairing, give us witnesses
and when the faith of others falters,
may we be a light in their darkness.

Source: the Christian Aid website.
 

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Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer

 


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