I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.
Pruning can be an enjoyable task in the garden, usually in the spring or autumn, as trees and shrubs need their annual prune after fruiting, or just a little tidy up, both straight forward jobs. Some plants actually need to be cut down to the root each year – buddleia or raspberries for example; it encourages new, vigorous growth and the following year they will produce lots of purple flowers for the bees and butterflies, or lovely juicy fruit to eat fresh or make jam, as appropriate.
But sometimes it is not such an enjoyable task if the plant has disease or has not been producing the fruit it should have. Bigger decisions have to be made and it is a much more complex job. Sometimes just one branch needs to be removed, or a few sections cut out, but sometimes it is much more serious and more has to be done, even cutting down to the root stock. For those plants which don’t appreciate such drastic action they have two chances, as my gardening neighbour says, recover and flourish or die.
Are we ready for God to take the secateurs to us, be that a gentle prune or a severe root job?
Father God, thank you that you are the vine-grower and lovingly tend your plants. Thank you that you know the best for me and know what needs to be pruned out of my life. Give me the grace to recognise your pruning and respond to it positively. Amen.
John 12: 24-26
Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
On Sunday morning we looked at these verses from John as we thought about Harvest. In verse 24 the idea is that a single grain of wheat dies in the ground in order to grow and become many grains, but what struck me is that what grows is not just dependent on the right conditions of good soil, heat from the sun, and water from rain, but what pollinated the flower of the plant from which the seed came. If the wheat was pollinated from the same type of wheat, then more of the same wheat will grow from the grain, but if it was cross-pollinated from a different type of wheat or grass, it will not be a true strain of the wheat.
If our lives are pollinated by God, we will grow and flourish and bring glory to Him; but if they are pollinated by things of the world, we will struggle to grow in our faith and will not be good witnesses for God.
Father God, thank you that you are the master gardener and know what is best for each one of us. Thank you that as we put our trust in you more and more you will help us grow in your likeness and bring glory to your name. Guard us against the temptations of this world so that we may be true to you in all we do and not bring dishonour on your name. Amen.
Psalm 62:1-2; 5-6
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.
For God alone my soul waits in silence; for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
Silence can be hard to come by in our culture today. We have the radio or the television on to catch the latest news; we put a CD on or the MP3 player for some calming/uplifting/ relaxing/spiritual music; the children are playing in the next room; the traffic and pedestrians outside are a constant hum in the background. Silence can be hard to come by, and sometimes we avoid it as we find it uncomfortable, but silence be found in an attitude of mind as we focus on God and cut out all the extraneous noises around us as we wait to hear from him. Like the Psalmist we know he is our salvation and our hope, which is why we need to wait to hear from him. As we wait in silence we will know the reassurance of his salvation and hope, and we shall not be shaken.
Father God, my rock and my salvation, my fortress. I praise you for your constancy, your saving power and your strength. I thank you that you are the solid foundation on which I stand, upheld by your grace and mercy, secure in your love. Amen.
Genesis 12:1. Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’
Life is a risky business. It always has been, but it is even more so at the moment. We live with risk every day. Do I get up? Will I slip on the bathroom floor? Will I scald myself while making a cup of tea? Do I go out? Will I unknowingly be in close contact with someone with Covid-19 and get a message through Test and Trace to self-isolate for 14 days? I have just completed a risk profile form for a financial adviser as I begin to think about semi-retirement in 2021 which has made me think again about risk and my attitude to it – at least with regard to my pension. Am I a reckless or cautious person? I suspect I am on the cautious side of the scale which made me think about my attitude to God and faith. Am I cautious in my walk with God? If God told me to go from my country, my kindred and my father’s house would I do it? Perhaps it wasn’t such a risky business for Abram, who lived in a nomadic society and was used to being on the move, but to leave family and friends and move to a completely different land at a time when there was no means of keeping in touch and little possibility of going back was still a big risk.
I need to challenge myself and my willingness to take risks for God, to step out in faith when He asks me to, as Abram did.
Father God, thank you that you are with us every step of our lives. With you beside us, your Spirit inside us, there is no risk. Give us your peace, strength and confidence to follow your plan for our lives, turning our fear of risk into a willingness to step out in faith. Amen.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Jesus gave this commandment to his disciples during his last supper with them, before going out to the Garden of Gethsemane to be betrayed and taken to his death. He had spent three years teaching them how to live together, loving and caring for one another and those around them. Up until March we were able to meet together, support each other and be seen to be doing it, so that those in the world around us would see Jesus’ love as we loved each other and those in the community. How do we show love in lockdown? I know love is happening between us – more frequent phone calls and e-mails, cards and gifts sent to each other, shopping done and delivered, but how can it be seen by others?
Some of us find it hard to talk about our faith but we can talk about our Christian family and how we love one another to those to whom we are witnessing, whether that is face to face, on the telephone or on Zoom or Facetime. And we need to ask God how, in this new way of living, we can show it to the wider community. I don’t know the answers but I know God does!
Father God, thank you for your love to us, that we can show to one another through so many different ways. Help us to be creative and innovative, open to your lead as to how that might be shown to others in the community around us. Amen.
Zechariah 9:9, Matthew 21:5
Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See your King comes to you, (righteous and having salvation), gentle and riding on the back of a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’
Gentle, why is the coming king (Jesus) described as gentle? We often think of gentleness as something reserved for looking after children, or people who are sick, or the elderly, but here is a king being described as gentle. And this is the King of Heaven, the King of Creation, the King of all the earth, the King who will sit in Judgement at the Last Day. Perhaps it picks up the theme that Lynette wrote about on Monday, of God knowing all our weaknesses and failings and yet still persevering with us, through his Grace – being patient and gentle with us as he continues to encourage and coax us to follow him.
Father God, thank you that you are a gentle God, loving us patiently as a parent loves a child and longs to see it grow. Thank you that in Jesus we have the perfect model parent, gentle with children, with his disciples and with the people he taught through stories and parables, and gentle even on the cross to the criminal hanging next to him. Help us to be gentle with ourselves and with each other in the living of our lives together. Amen.
While staying with them, Jesus ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This’, he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
Breathe on me, breath of God
Come, Holy Ghost, our soles inspire
Holy Spirit we welcome you
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me
Spirit of God, unseen as the wind
Last Sunday in the morning Zoom service Melissa helped us think about God’s holiness (the first commandment), what Jesus did to make us holy, and the fact that as Christians we have God’s spirit living within us helping us to become like Jesus, in other words, to become more holy. We call God’s spirit the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost and as the five titles above show, we often sing hymns and songs about the Holy Spirit being within us, or asking the Holy Spirit to remind us of its presence within us and guide our thinking and doing and being. It is good to sing such words and remind ourselves of these things when we meet together, but as Jan reminded us, the Holy Spirit is within us all the time. How do we remember all the time, as we are going about our daily lives, that the Spirit is within and we are holy? We are the temple in which God’s Spirit lives here on earth at this moment, every moment of every day.
Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit, thank you that the Father sent the Son Jesus to die on the cross as my Saviour, and after his work on earth was complete sent the Spirit to live within every person who acknowledges you as Lord and Saviour of their lives. Thank you that you live within me now and will guide me through the coming minutes and days as I listen to you and follow your still small voice within. Please forgive me that that voice sometimes has to shout to make me hear you; may those times grow fewer as I listen to you more. Amen.
The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.
It seems strange to read this passage and think that God would actually stop people being able to hear Him, but this was in response to the continued disobedience of Israel under Jeroboam and Judah under Uzziah, despite the warnings of other prophets. This was the final threat, that he would withdraw sending His word through any more prophets if they did not heed Him and, as you might be aware, there was 500 years’ silence from God between the Old and New Testaments. But then he sent His Word, the living Word in Jesus Christ, and His Word would never be withdrawn from His world again.
Father God, thank you that you sent us your Living Word in your Son Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour. Please help us to be your living witnesses to those around us who do not yet know you, to draw them from their disobedience to follow your word and acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Amen.
1 Cor 1:3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Cor 16:23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
2 Cor 1:2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Cor 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Gal 1:3 Grace and peace to you from God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Gal 6:18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters.
Eph 1:2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Eph 6:22-23 Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.
Phil 1: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Phil 4:23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Col 1:2b Grace and peace to you from God our Father.
Col 4:18c Grace be with you.
1 Thess 1:1b Grace and peace to you.
1 Thess 5:28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
2 Thess 1:2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thess 3:18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
1 Tim 1:2b Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Tim 6:20b Grace be with you.
2 Tim 1: 2b Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
2 Tim 4: 22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.
Titus 1:4b Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Saviour.
Titus 3: 15b Grace be with you all.
Philemon 1: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Philemon 1:23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Let us all prayer this prayer to one another today:
To Northway Church – Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with you all. Amen.
Thus the heavens and earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Right at the beginning of the bible we read that God created a day of rest, a ‘holy day’, which became our ‘holiday’, and as I am resting from my work on holiday in the beautiful Lake District it made me realise afresh how important it is to set aside time to rest, away from our regular, daily work. That work might be employment, or volunteering, or running a family home, or living our daily lives in retirement, but we all need a rest or a break from it occasionally. It has been difficult during lockdown and shielding, and even as restrictions began to lift a little, to be able to take holiday. Furlough was not holiday, it was not being able to go to work. For those of you who have not been able to get away on holiday, finding a way of ‘resting’ is important and definitely not something to feel guilty about!
Father God, thank you for your sabbath rest. Thank you for your permission, and encouragement, that we should take time away from our daily work to rest. May we all find time and space to rest and to enjoy the work you rested from, your creation of earth and sky and sea, trees and plants, animals and birds and life around us. Amen.