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Thoughts for a week


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BEGINNING 19 SEPTEMBER 2021 


Assistant Chaplain Elizabeth writes:

I find this time of year highly evocative because it reminds me of childhood, of the end of the summer holidays and return to school.  Sometimes there would be new clothes and shoes for school and a new notebook and pens.  I also remember the nights drawing in and as a family, we used to sit down on Sunday evening to watch a BBC television series.  I especially remember “House of Cards”, with the scheming Chief Whip, Sir Francis Urquhart, who plotted the downfall of the Prime Minister, because of his fury and jealousy that he was not given a seat in the Cabinet.  “Yes, Minister” was a favourite too!

Perhaps because it is the “back to school” time, the Church in Wales gospel reading for Sunday is taken from Mark 9: 30-37, where Jesus mentions children:

          “‘Whoever receives a child like this in my name,’ he said, ‘receives me;

            and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me’.”


Many people, at first glance, have interpreted that Jesus recommended to the disciples that they should be meek, innocent and child-like.  Maybe some of us will remember singing the hymn:

“Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,

Look upon this little child.”

Some of the Victorian political reformers, drew on this text to argue against the use of children in factories, mines and as chimney sweeps; to argue for a basic education for all, and for sheltered accommodation in orphanages for children, who otherwise, were homeless street urchins: easy prey for unscrupulous people who chose to exploit them.  They were successful, thanks be to God!

It might be surprising, therefore, that in Jesus’ own time, this passage would have had a rather different meaning.

In Chapter 9 of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus predicts for the second time, the death and resurrection of the ‘Son of Man’.  When he does so, the disciples start to debate and discuss among themselves, who was the greatest among them.  If Jesus is saying that something awful is going to happen to him, shouldn’t there be some kind of discussion about the future?  Who would be the best to take over?

They discuss this, not openly with Jesus, but behind his back because they are scared to mention it.  Jesus knows.  He knows the danger they are in because they do not understand the situation and he knows the danger of covetousness.  That those who, by force of personality, will place themselves at the front of the queue, higher than others, will not ultimately, be the best person and He tells them to be received as a little child.

In that time, children were not viewed as dear, meek little beings to be treated with special gentleness and care.  Their status was equivalent, or rather lower than slaves and at least slaves were useful.  The warning is against the abuse of power and self-inflation: it is even better to go through life blinded or maimed than plot and scheme against others.  A lesson that was missed by Francis Urquhart, in “House of Cards”.  Let’s hope the school children will do better!


A Prayer for each day:

Iesu addfwyn, tosturiol a doeth, bydd gyda ni oll heddiw.  Cynorthwya ni i weld tu hwnt i’r ofn a hunan-dwyll, sydd yn ein bychanu ni.  Danfon Ysbryd y Gwirionedd I’n harwain yn dy Ffordd. Amen.

Gentle Jesus, merciful and wise, be with us all this day.  Help us to see through the fear and self-deception that can make fools of us all.  Send us your Spirit of Truth to guide us in your Way. Amen.


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BEGINNING 12 SEPTEMBER 2021


Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin,

and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred,

to go up to rebuild the House of the Lord that is in Jerusalem.   [Ezra 1:5]


Are you sitting comfortably?

Trusting God in his sovereign purposes is not always, if ever, easy.  In a world where ‘now’ is king and answers demanded instantly, one lesson, in amongst many, we should have learnt from the global Covid-19 pandemic is the need to develop more patient and trusting hearts.

Maybe, though, we have become used to working from our kitchen tables or sunny gardens at home.  The desire to go back to our work places, student rooms or vestries has worn off and we have become more comfortable with our new life ‘on screen’ with Zoom or the like.

The book of Ezra in the Holy Bible starts when many of God’s people had, for seventy years, lived locked down in a foreign place under very different rules.  If they felt abandoned and had settled down for that ‘new normal’ you may feel some empathy!  But this was precisely the time that God called his people to be obedient to his call, promises and purpose, and it is God who stirred their hearts to rebuild the Temple – part of which, a few hundred years later, came to be the headquarters of the Knights Templar.

In Christ Jesus each of us, temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), are built as living stones in His spiritual house, the Church (1 Peter 2:5), or even your local Grand Priory of the Knights Templar.  This week, is God, through the Holy Spirit, stirring you into action, to step out in faith and be fully committed in your witness to your love for and faith in Christ?  If so, are you willing to totally trust Him?


Prayer Points

Give thanks that you are never alone, and have the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father has sent in the name of Christ.

Pray that you would be willing this week to trust God and step out in faith in whatever way he stirs your heart and to do so as a witness to and worshipper of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Butterflies are often seen as a symbol of the Holy Spirit

  Comma butterfly  Comma butterfly - underside  Comma butterfly

A comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album) in the Grand Prior's garden today


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BEGINNING 5 SEPTEMBER 2021


'9/11'

11 September 2001

At this time there will be many remembrances of the ‘9/11’ attack on the Twin Towers in New York 20 years ago.  As a direct result the ‘war’ in Afghanistan started and was, effectively, then brought to an end last month.

During the course of the war thousands of civilians and armed servicemen and women were injured or killed – on both sides of the conflict.

We remember, especially, 457 British individuals who were killed.  As far as we are aware no members of the Order were killed but there are, no doubt, some who did serve in Afghanistan.

Those British Armed Forces personnel who served in support of the campaign from 11 September 2001 onwards receive the Operational Service Medal for Afghanistan.  In addition, the family or next-of-kin of those killed in action or who died of wounds receive the Elizabeth Cross.

                 Afghanistan Meda   Elizabeth Cross

(The specific eligibility criteria in both cases are available from the Ministry of Defence.)


On 11 September 2001, in New York, one particularly outstanding act of heroism, which has received much recognition, is that of Father Mychal Judge OFM, an Irish-American Franciscan, a chaplain to the New York City Fire Department since 1992.

Fr Mychal died in the line of duty after hurrying with firefighter colleagues to the burning World Trade Center.  As he prayed in the north tower’s lobby with rescuers and victims, the 68-year old priest was crushed by debris from the falling south tower.

The son of Irish immigrants Fr Mychal grew up in Brooklyn and decided while still in his teens to join the Franciscan religious order.  He was ordained as a priest in 1961, battled alcoholism with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous and developed a passion for ministering to marginalised communities including those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

His body was the first to be recovered from the rubble of these buildings.  More than 2,000 people attended his funeral including former President Bill Clinton and his wife Hilary Clinton as well as hundreds of firefighters.  As it happens we have a Dame who is a firefighter in Wales so we are well aware of the risks such professionals take every time they attend a fire.

One notable legacy of Fr Mychal is his own daily prayer:

Lord, take me where You want me to go;

Let me meet who You want me to meet;

Tell me what You want me to say;

And keep me out of Your way.

This prayer has echoes of one composed some 250 years previously by The Reverend John Wesley (1703-1791), an Anglican priest through whose Ministry the world-wide Methodist Church came into being.  He who put it this way:

Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can. 

We Templars everywhere and other Christian people could use these prayers as a suitable focus, not only during this period of 9/11 recollections, but also as a guide for our own ministry – ideally one of compassion, peace and humility.

Amen.

Day Lilly Hemerocallis
Day Lilly (Hemerocallis)
[Today in the Grand Prior's garden]


     

BEGINNING 29 AUGUST 2021


ABIDE IN ME

The Grand Prior, who is also the Spiritual Protector of the Grand Priory of All Britain, the Grand Priory of Wales and the Priory of England, highlights some verses from the New Testament :


Jesus said:


Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15: 4-5

St Paul wrote:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7


The last 18 months have been extremely challenging.  Many of us, and our families, friends and colleagues, have experienced loss, sickness, financial pressures, loneliness and anxieties.  One of the bright lights has been witnessing the Church play a prominent role in helping to meet both spiritual and physical needs of believers and non-believers alike.  Additionally, some Templars have been able to reclaim the time that would otherwise be allocated to commuting and hurrying from one place or work meeting to another and use it to seek God and to serve those around us.

The autumn is just around the corner, and with many places re-opening their doors and encouraging people to return, these verses of Scripture are wonderful reminders that those in Christ must stay in Christ.  Fruitfulness is a direct consequence of abiding in Christ.  Apart from Him, we can do nothing.  As the days get shorter and the demands on our time increase, how do we ensure that we are abiding in Christ?

Surely, Philippians 4:4-7 provides the watertight blueprint : rejoice in the Lord always; do not be anxious about anything; pray about everything with thanksgiving, and the peace of God will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

So, as we return to ‘busyness’, may we continue to intentionally carve out time to seek God and abide in Christ.


Prayer Points:

1. Thank God that as we abide in Him, He abides in us.

2. Pray that we would be disciplined in allocating time to seek Him and His will for our lives.

3. Pray that we would be ‘salt and light’ in our homes, churches and places of study or work, diligent to proclaim the Gospel and to serve our families, friends and colleagues.


Some of this year's fruit .....


    OSMTJ - Fruit - 26 August 2021 - 1   OSMTJ - Fruit - 26 August 2021 - 2

                         Wild Blackberries                                   Tomatoes (variety "Shirley")

          Photographs taken in the Grand Prior's garden - 28 August 2021


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BEGINNING 22 AUGUST 2021

Assistant Chaplain Lady writes:

On August 24th the Church celebrates the Feast of Bartholomew the Apostle.  Bartholomew is a relatively difficult saint to celebrate because we hardly know anything truly about him.  There are some who may believe that Bartholomew is the same person as Nathaniel – scholars have been known to argue about the truth or otherwise of this.  What we do know is that, in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Bartholomew is listed as being one of the twelve Apostles of the Lord Jesus.

Ancient writers on the history of the Christian faith write that Bartholomew was an apostle to India – possibly in the region of Mumbai (Bombay).  Along with his fellow apostle Jude, Bartholomew is also reputed to have brought Christianity to Armenia in the 1st century.  By tradition, Bartholomew is said to have been flayed alive, before being crucified upside down, thus becoming the patron saint of leather-workers.  In paintings and sculptures, Bartholomew is often represented as holding a knife, with his own skin neatly draped over his arm!  Bartholomew has also always been associated with healing, so there are a number of hospitals which have been named after him.  [One of the most famous of these is St Bartholomew’s in London – known affectionately as Bart’s.  This is the oldest hospital in Britain that has continuously provided medical services to the public from its original site.  It was founded by an Augustinian Canon by the name of Rahere in 1123, as was the nearby Church of St Bartholomew the Great.]

Bartholomew is also believed to be associated with the small Italian Island of Lipari, where he may have been buried.  During World War II, the fascist regime looked for ways to finance its activities, and ordered that a silver statue of Saint Bartholomew from the cathedral in Lipari was to be melted down.  But when the statue was weighed, it was found to only actually weigh just a few grams so it was returned to its place in the Cathedral of Lipari.  However, in reality, this statue is made wholly of solid silver and therefore should indeed be very heavy in weight.  This is a fairly recent miracle that has been associated with St Bartholomew. 

About Bartholomew himself we know almost nothing, except that he was an Apostle of Jesus. Far from being a negative thing, I think this is the most important thing about this rather mysterious and anonymous apostle.  For this teaches us that the call to serve is not really anything whatsoever to do with worldly status or fame.  If we look around us today, we will see much evidence of the reign of ego and of worldly fame; perhaps it is media stars and celebrities which tend to be the best known for this.  But an increasing number of children, when asked what they want to do when they grow up, say that they want to be famous, to be a celebrity or a star – and that the goal of reaching fame has become for them their vocation.  Some of our politicians can also seem rather the same way.  And the Church isn’t entirely exempt either: we see evangelists on religious TV stations, pastors of megachurches, and, unfortunately, some bishops and clergy who just love being in the spotlight, who love self-publicity.  I once heard someone say that their church was OK but it was hard to see God because the vicar always got in the way.  It’s a temptation clergy are aware of and must always resist – our job is to point people to God, not towards ourselves.

So Bartholomew’s anonymity shows us ‘it’s not all about us’.  Our job as Christians is to get out of the way and to enable people to catch a glimpse of the God and Father whom we serve.  We also know, from the life of this mysterious and anonymous apostle that we don't actually need worldly fame, because God loves us, and that is all we need – we ought to need no other adulation than that!!

Each and every one of us eventually will join the ranks of anonymous Christians who have served God throughout the ages.  In 2000 years’ time – and most likely long before that – we will all have been forgotten, except perhaps by the odd ancestor hunter who might still be digging our names out of archives and searching church registers to find historical information.

This might seem rather disheartening, but it definitely needn’t be such, because we know we are each a part of God’s creation and of his redeeming: we are each loved by God more than we could ever hope or imagine!  Part of our job as Christians, is to try to discover more of this love as we go about living our lives.  When we truly understand even a little bit of this love that God our Father and our Creator, truly has for us, our anxieties about worldly status, worldly importance and worldly fame, begin to lose their hold over us.  In God’s love we truly have everything we need.

So often we see the lives of the rich and famous descend into tragedy or disaster.  Worldly riches and fame often don’t bring true and lasting happiness.  The ordinariness of our lives is something which we as Christians should celebrate, if, like Bartholomew, our lives are built on the rock of faith and we have the knowledge of God’s true and eternal love, like a hidden jewel, burning deep inside us.

So Bartholomew is one of us: he is a follower, a disciple, and a servant of Our Lord Jesus Christ. An anonymous, unshowy person who gave of his best.  Bartholomew may well be someone we don’t know all that much about, but we do know that his soul is now residing with God where that great love will, at last, be fully known.

That is all that is needed.  All that truly matters.

Amen.

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BEGINNING 15 AUGUST 2021

This week we have two items to contemplate and consider.

Assistant Chaplain Darren writes:

Croeso my friends, I hope this finds you all well.  For our time together I thought we could look at Mary, the mother of Jesus as 15 August is her feast day.

Typically, it’s before Christmas, in Advent, that we hear much about Mary: we hear about her committing herself to God’s plan, Joseph having his moment of doubt and then their journey to Bethlehem.

There are many titles attributed to Mary in the various churches of the world.  In Latin circles she has been known as Mater Dei   ̶  Mother of God; the Orthodox church have known her as Panagia  ̶  all Holy.  One thing is true though, however we address her, she was chosen for a reason.  God created her for the part she would play in the miracle that is Jesus.

But, for me, the burning question is why was she chosen?  I think it comes down to a few reasons.  Firstly, she gave herself wholly to God.  When the archangel Gabriel revealed her part in God’s plan to her she didn’t resist.  She didn’t hesitate, she asked one question ‘me?’ and in no way should we construe that as resistance, rather she simply wondered if she was worthy of such a place in the Lord’s works.  She committed herself to Him and His will.  That commitment never changed, when she heard the prophecies of Simeon she stayed committed, as she travelled with Jesus; saw what he endured she stayed committed and finally, as her beloved Son hung on the cross for us, she remained, committed.

Committed.

Devoted is one of the words I would use for Mary.  She also had that little mischievous streak of a mother in her.  I’m sure many of us can think of a moment when our mothers have pushed us and we didn’t feel ready.  Mary did just this when she urged Jesus forward at the wedding in Canaan.  He didn’t feel that He was ready but, like any good mother, she saw His potential and gave Him that little nudge He needed.

Committed, Devoted and Insightful.

When we think of tough characters in the Bible; toughness in the sense of gritty, durable and focused on their goal, we often think of St Paul, the Christian-hunter turned evangelist.  Or maybe St Peter, the backbone of the resistance to Caiaphas after Jesus’ death.  It’s not often we think of Mary as being tough but I would argue that she is one of the toughest characters in the Bible.  She endured so much - a teenage girl accused of adultery, almost cast off by the man she loved, she travelled to Bethlehem under great hardship, she gave birth in a stable, she had to flee to Egypt to protect her Son, she journeyed with her Son, watched His works, saw Him turned on by the crowds, beaten, tortured and murdered.

I’ve known some pretty tough people over the years but Mary outstrips them all.  She was a fighter!

Committed, Devoted, Insightful, Tough.

Finally, the thing that resonates so much with me is Mary’s grace, her patience.  She never hated the men who murdered her Son, she never blamed anyone.  Motivated by love; love of God and love of her Son.  Mary is such a heroine of mine and thus I would encourage you my brothers and sisters to spend some time studying her, as it were - getting to know her if you don’t already.  She truly is a special Lady.

Committed, Devoted, Insightful, Tough, Graceful, and Motivated by Love.

Amen.


Assistant Chaplain Elizabeth writes:

The 15th August in the Eastern Orthodox Church and in Catholic and Anglican denominations is a day honouring Mary, the mother of Jesus.  It is a bit of a hot potato, and I will doubtless raise more questions than I can give answers!  But we are an ecumenical order and I think it is good to explore perspectives which we might not all share, but that we can respect, because they build up the faith of a brother or sister in Christ.

To the Orthodox, this day is known as The Dormition of Mary and in Catholic churches it’s the Feast of the Assumption.  Biblically, little is known about Mary after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Mary’s death is not recorded in the Bible, so we have to do a little bit of detective work!

When Churches makes doctrinal statements, they are usually based on, or inferred from Scripture, in order to build up faith and sometimes as a pastoral response.  So, what better place to start than “In the beginning ...”!

Eve was tricked by the wily serpent to take forbidden fruit, share it with Adam, resulting in the breakdown of the innocent relationship between God and humanity, and the curse of Eve was to suffer pain in childbirth.  Many attempts at reconciliation were made - through a covenant with Noah and the Ten Commandments for example - but nothing worked.  So, in a final attempt at reconciliation, God sent Jesus into the world, to be born of Mary, born fully human under the law (yet fully divine too).

The first step in the process of reconciliation, from the human direction was that Mary said “Yes!” Mary’s consent to God’s will mirrors Eve’s consent to the serpent.  She could have said “No”, just as Eve might have said “No”.  “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 
[1 Corinthians 15: 22]  
... but only after Mary had said “Yes”!

The next significant point in the peace process was that Mary was warned that her child would pierce her heart, that as his mother, she would be wounded in the core of her being.  And when it came to pass that Jesus was arrested, degraded of any human dignity and put to death shamefully on a cross, surrounded by villains and mocked with insults, the dire prophecy was indeed fulfilled.  We can understand why the disciples ran away  ̶  they were in danger  ̶  would we have done any differently?  But Mary didn’t run away in fear, nor did she crumple up in shame.  She stood by the cross, keeping vigil, waiting and watching her Son dying in an horrific way.

Is it possible that Mary just went away into the shadows and died of a broken heart?  Never to be heard of again?  Or is there more?  I don’t know, but I would like to believe so.  I would like to believe that there was a glorious end for a young woman who bore our Saviour Jesus and who did not desert Him in his final hours.

          Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
          Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

          Henffych Fair, cyflawn o ras, yr Arglwydd sydd gyda thi.
          Bendigedig wyt ti ymhlith menywod, a bendigedig yw ffrwyth dy groth, Iesu.

Amen.

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BEGINNING 8 AUGUST 2021

Surely there cannot be a better way to start and continue each day of the week than to pray and contemplate each phrase of ..... 


THE LORD’S PRAYER

 

         Our Father, who art in heaven,

              hallowed be thy Name;

         Thy kingdom come;

         Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

         Give us this day our daily bread.

         And forgive us our trespasses,

              as we forgive those who trespass against us.

         And lead us not into temptation:

         But deliver us from evil.

         For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory,

              for ever and ever.

         Amen.

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BEGINNING 1 AUGUST 2021

LAMMAS

The Warden of our Guild of St Thomas Cantilupe, Alison, writes: 

August is the last of the three summer months.  We have already progressed through the high summer days of June and July and now the harvesting of crops can begin in earnest.  On a recent car journey beyond the borders of our own county, Graham and I could see fields of golden grain, ripened by the sun and heat of just a couple of weeks ago.  In many of our communities, urban or rural, the tradition of a Harvest Festival Service now takes place in September or October but in past centuries the Christian feast of Lammas (Loaf Mass Day) was held on 1st August and this is marked in the calendar in The Book of Common Prayer.  On this day a loaf, baked with flour from newly harvested wheat, would be brought into church and blessed and the progression of the agricultural year, from Plough Sunday in early January, when ploughs would be brought to church and blessed and on to the Rogation days in May (before Ascension Day) would be seen to be bearing fruit.

Jesus lived at a time and in a place when many of his followers and those who came to hear him teach were very close to the natural rhythms and events of the agricultural year.  We read in St Luke’s Gospel (Chapter 6, verses 1-5) of how he walked through some cornfields on the Sabbath and took issue with the Pharisees who criticised his disciples for picking and eating some of the grain on that day.  He told parables about weeds, the mustard seed and the yeast used in bread-making and about a man who went out to sow corn (Matthew Ch. 3, vv. 1-33) and then we have the wonderful passage in St John’s Gospel that tells us that Jesus is the bread of life:

 

“… it is my Father who gives you the real bread from heaven.  For the bread that God gives is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world”
                                                                                                (Ch. 6, vv. 25-58)

 

In Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion, or The Lord’s Supper in some traditions, the bread, which may be in unleavened wafer form, is given to us as Jesus’ body.  We take the bread and wine in remembrance of him, our Saviour, who died for us and we give our humble thanks for that wondrous sacrifice.

Jesus as the bread of life is recognised in the English translation of that great Welsh hymn, ‘Cwm Rhondda’ or ‘Bread of Heaven’.  There are various versions of this but I quote its first verse from the current Methodist hymn book. ‘Singing the Faith’:


Guide me. O thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land:
I am weak, but thou art mighty:
Hold me with thy powerful hand:
Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven,
Feed me now and evermore;
Feed me now and evermore.


(William Williams, 1717-91, translated by Peter Williams, 1727-96.)

So, while we may not be taking loaves baked with flour from newly harvested wheat to our churches on August 1st, there is a connection between Lammas-tide and the absolute centre of our belief in Our Lord Jesus Christ as the bread of heaven, the One who sacrificed his life for us.  It was He who walked this earth alongside humble folk who knew and valued the essential food of life.  They were, perhaps unknown to them, in the presence of the Lord and Creator of us all, with whom we can meet in the bread and the wine whenever we take Holy Communion, for:

                                               “… God was man in Palestine

And lives today in Bread and Wine”

        as the poet, John Betjeman, wrote in his poem ‘Christmas’ – but before we get to that feast day in the Christian calendar, let’s give thanks and be reminded of all that Lammas tells us about the blessings of God’s many gifts to us and the greatest gift of all, Our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ.


A PRAYER:

 

Father God, we thank you for all your many gifts to us.

We are especially thankful for our daily bread

and for all the variety of foods that we can grow, buy or share.

We ask your blessing on farmers, market gardeners,

delivery and shop workers who supply us with food

and who often work unsocial hours.

Help us to remember that there are many in the world

who do not have enough to eat,

who suffer the effects of droughts or floods that can destroy

crops and livestock, or who live in war-torn regions.

Bless all who work to alleviate poverty

        and lack of food wherever it occurs and encourage us

in our charitable giving to support such work.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, the bread of heaven,

who gave his life for us ⁓

And who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, ever One God eternally.

Amen.

                                                                                        †   

BEGINNING 25 JULY 2021

Assistant Chaplain Lady writes:

My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ,

On 29th July churches across the world commemorate Mary, Martha and Lazarus; friends and companions of our Lord Jesus. 

Mary and Martha lived with their brother, Lazarus, in the village of Bethany, which is just outside of Jerusalem, on the ‘other side’, as it were, of the Mount of Olives.  You may remember, it was Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead.  In telling the story of the raising of Lazarus, St John, in his Gospel says that Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus, saying, ”Lord, behold, he for whom you have great affection is sick.” (John 11:3)  Obviously, Jesus had a special place in his heart for Lazarus.  John goes on to say, “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” (John 11:5).

If we look closely at the Holy Scriptures, we can see that Jesus and his disciples often stayed in the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus when they came to Jerusalem.  To Jesus, this was a place where he could kick back and relax and be among friends.  And indeed, they were truly good friends. 

Mary and Martha played a special role in the life of Jesus.  What’s interesting about them is that they were so different in personality from each other; yet, from every indication, Jesus loved them both the same regardless.

God’s love is more inclusive than we can ever imagine, that no matter how different from others we may think that we are – or we think our neighbour is – there’s a place in God’s family for all of us!!  As Jesus told his disciples,

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet,

that was cast into the sea,

and gathered some fish of every kind…” (Matthew 13:47)

As we listen to the way Mary and Martha are described in the Bible, I’d like for us all to take the time to think about all the Marys and Marthas you’ve met or have known in our lives, and all those whose personalities fall somewhere in the middle and to rejoice in the fact that each is precious in the sight of God.

So, what do we know about Mary and Martha?  They first appear in a passage in St Luke’s Gospel about Jesus and his disciples.  It begins, “It happened as they went on their way, he entered into a certain village, and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.” (Luke 10:38).

Jesus and his disciples often stayed in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus when they came to Jerusalem.  Yet, St Luke is clear to say that, “Martha received him into her house.” What does that tell us about Martha?  To me, I feel this indicates that first of all, that she was the oldest of the three siblings.  I also take it to mean that she was the one who was in charge of the household, and especially when it came to hospitality.  The actual name, Martha, means, “lady of the house.”  As for Mary, St Luke simply tells us that Martha, “had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.” (Luke 10:39).

From the outset, the picture we get of these two women is that of an older sister who was quick to assume responsibility and who did what was needed to be done, and of a younger sister who was comfortable deferring to authority and letting others carry the load.  Martha was pragmatic and concerned about the details.  Mary was idealistic and had her head in the clouds.  Martha was a doer.  She liked to stay busy.  She expressed herself by doing things for others.  Mary, on the other hand, was content simply to be herself. She was thoughtful and contemplative.  She expressed herself by her willingness to sit and listen and give another person her full and undivided attention.

Well, as you might imagine, this proved to be a source of contention between the two women.

According to St Luke,

“But Martha was distracted with much serving,

and she came up to him,

and said, ‘Lord, don’t you care

that my sister left me to serve alone?

Ask her therefore to help me.'” (Luke 10:40).

Each of us has our own varying personality traits, some of us rely on sensations – that is, facts and figures – while others are more intuitive, innovative and feel comfortable writing their own script.  They’re the type who’re apt to say, “Don’t confuse me with the facts; my mind’s made up.”

Some of us are predominantly thinking types of individuals, systematic and analytical, while some of us are predominantly feeling types, empathetic and emotional, and, lastly, some of us prefer to get things resolved and brought to a close, while some of us prefer to keep things open-ended, fluid and subject to change.

The point I'm reaching here is that God created us individually and uniquely and gave each of us a variety of ways to live in which to live our lives.  The challenge is to celebrate our differences and recognise the fact that we don’t all think and act alike.  Mary and Martha were as different as night as is to day, yet, they loved Jesus with all their heart, and he loved them back in return.

We see this played out in the story of the raising of Lazarus.  According to St John, Lazarus became seriously ill, and so, Mary and Martha sent for Jesus.  He’d healed others; perhaps he could save their brother.  As it happened, Jesus and his disciples were camping beside the River Jordan River, north of Jericho, near the spot where he’d been baptised. So, Mary and Martha sent word for him to come at once.  But it was a two-day journey to Bethany, and they didn’t leave until the next day.  By the time they got there, Lazarus had died.  St John says, “Then when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary stayed in the house.” (John 11:20).

Again, we see the differences in their personalities.  Martha was impulsive and quick to act.  Mary was pensive and content to wait her turn.  As St John tells the story, “Therefore Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.'” (John 11:21).

Can’t you just hear the anger in Martha’s tone of voice?  “If only you’d been here …” as if to say, “What took you so long?  It’s all your fault!”  If the tables had been turned, and it had been Jesus who’d sent for Martha, you’d better believe she would’ve got there quicker.  She would’ve left right away.  She wouldn’t have stopped to rest.  And when she got there, she’d take charge, do something, make it right.

After Martha spoke to Jesus, she sent for Mary.  When Mary got there, she fell at his feet and said essentially the same thing: “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” (John 11:32).  Yet, coming from Mary, we hear a different tone – not so much anger, as sadness and resignation.  This is seen in the fact that she began to cry.

And when Jesus saw her crying, he was so touched by her grief that he began to cry with her.  This is where we get the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)  He wept over the death of his friend, Lazarus, but, as importantly, he wept in sympathy with his friend, Mary. When he regained his composure, he ordered the stone sealing the tomb to be rolled back.  He prayed to God and called with a loud voice,“Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43)  And, to the amazement of all, Lazarus came out of the tomb, bandaged from head to toe, and Jesus said, “Free him, and let him go.” (John 11:44).

It was to be Jesus’ last miracle.  And if you remember, his first miracle was when he turned the water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. (John 2:1)  That was prompted by his mother, Mary.  How fitting, and, perhaps, ironic, that his last miracle was also prompted by a woman named Mary, and by her tears, that so moved him as to unleash his divine power and bring her brother back to life.  Mary had a special gift of quiet love and devotion that brought out the best in others – even in Jesus.

As for Martha, Martha had the gift of hospitality that set others at ease.  In the text St Luke says, ”Martha received him into her house.”  On another occasion, we’re told that ”Jesus came to Bethany… they made him a supper there.  Martha served…” (John 12:1-2).

Hospitality is one of the oldest and most time-honored of all skills.  Did you know that, in the early days, hospitals were actually wayside inns in which weary travellers could find food and lodging and refreshment from their journey?  They were called hospitals because their primary purpose was to provide hospitality.  This whole business of treating illnesses and wounds arose out of necessity, as guests came into the hospital bruised and scarred by the rigours of their travels.

The hospice movement inspired by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in Great Britain started off – and continues to this day – as an effort to recapture the spirit of hospitality by giving the terminally ill a comfortable and caring home in which to live out their final days.

Martha had the gift the skill of hospitality.  She opened her home up to Jesus.  She nurtured him with food from her kitchen.  She gave him a place to get away from the pressing crowds and to escape the hostility of religious leaders.

Hospitality is a wonderful skill, and, when offered in the name of Jesus Christ, it’s every bit as important as the ability to sing or play an instrument or teach a Sunday school class or preach a sermon.  Hospitality is one of the staples of Christian discipleship.

The meals we share with those who are sick or in grief; the visits we make to the homebound and elderly; the extra effort we put into welcoming visitors and helping them become part of our family of faith is as pleasing to God and is important to the mission of Christ’s kingdom on earth as is anything anyone could possible say or do.  Hospitality is a precious commodity.

Martha welcomed Jesus into her home.  She served him from her kitchen.  By contrast, Mary sat at his feet and held on to his every word.  According to St John’s Gospel, she may well also have been the woman who anointed Jesus with costly ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. (John 12:3).

And to close, we need to recognise that, whilst Mary and Martha and Lazarus also, were each individuals as people, Jesus made a place for each of them within his heart.  I truly believe that, as different and individual as each of us are, God still makes a special place for each of us in his Kingdom and he calls us all to share the Good News of his love with others.


Two prayers:

 

God our Father,

whose Son enjoyed the love of his friends,

Mary, Martha and Lazarus,

in learning, argument and hospitality:

may we so rejoice in your love

that the world may come to know

the depths of your wisdom,

the wonder of your compassion,

and your power to bring life out of death;

through the merits of Jesus Christ,

our friend and brother,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

Amen.

 

 

Father,

from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name,

your servants Mary, Martha and Lazarus revealed your goodness in

a life of tranquillity and service:

grant that we who gather in faith as Christian Knights Templar

may, like them, know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge

and be filled with all your fullness;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

                                                                                        †   


 BEGINNING 18 JULY 2021

Assistant Chaplain Elizabeth writes:

In St Mark’s Gospel (Chapter 6, verses 53-56) the writer tells briefly of Jesus and the disciples coming into port from the lake at Gennesaret, and anchoring there.  Almost immediately, word got round and soon, the sick from throughout the region thronged to wherever he was in the hope of receiving the healing touch of Jesus.  Many dragged themselves or were carried on mats, in the hope of merely being able to touch the hem of his garment.

And if anybody could do it, Jesus could!  Earlier in that episode, there had been a violent storm on the lake, and Jesus had braved the waves, walking out to the boat crewed by the terrified disciples, calmed the storm and brought them safely to shore.

The picture painted in my imagination is a stark one: there is the fear of the disciples in the storm-tossed boat and there is the alienation of suffering villagers.  Many had suffered horrible diseases and infirmities, perhaps for decades.  Today we enjoy the benefits of the National Health Service - admittedly over-stretched - but none-the-less, it is there, available to all and basically free.  It is almost impossible to imagine that in those days illness, especially chronic infirmity and disability, could mean a life-time of pain and alienation.  So the talk that Jesus was in the area sent up a flare which signalled hope.  Not just hope of a bodily healing but a hope to be able to be normal again, to belong again, to be able to do all those other little, daily things with ease and grace.

St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (Chapter 2, verses 19 and 22) also adds something to this meaning and which includes the majestic description of all, both Jew and Greek, far and near being joined in Christ: no longer

“strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household... And in him [Christ Jesus] you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

There’s a little more here: not only can Jesus dissolve the difference between sick and well, the near and the far, but in Christ we are invited to become, not merely guests at the banquet, but hosts.  That is, to become a place where Christ dwells, to keep open the way for others, to invite and to welcome others, as we ourselves have been graciously received.  And that unites us with the Templar vision all those centuries ago, that even in this day and age it is our duty and joy to keep the way open to pilgrims, to those who seek God in His temple.

Let us pray, in Welsh or English:

Dduw Iachawdwr, danfon dy Ysbryd Glan i'n calonnau i'n rheoli yn ol dy ewyllys, i'n cysuro yn ein dioddefaint a’n harwain tuag at y gwirionedd.  Boed Ii ni felly fyw fel y gwel eraill oleuni dy ogoniant yn disgleirio ynom ni ac ymofyn am dy ffordd.  Hyn oll ofynnwn yn Enw Iesu Grist.  Amen.

Healing God, send your Holy Spirit into our hearts to direct and rule us according to your will, to comfort us in our afflictions and lead us towards truth.  May we so live that others may see your light in us and seek to know your way.  This all we ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen.


                                                                                        †  

                     BEGINNING 11 JULY 2021

Assistant Chaplain Darren writes:

Croeso my brothers and sisters I hope this finds you well, I thought today I could share some thoughts with you around prayer.

One of the definitions of prayer in a dictionary I have is ‘an earnest hope or wish’; of course there is a lot more to it than that but I think that is a good place to start.  Many of us come to prayer as children and, let’s be honest, how many children’s prayers ask for world peace or for Mrs Jones three doors down to have her bunions fixed?  I remember my own prayers as a child involving the latest Ghostbusters toys or for my little brother to stop being so annoying.  I’m sure many of you reading this will remember similar prayers from your own childhoods.

As we grow our prayers do take on a more community focused approach; we still maintain prayers for ourselves of course but they tend not to be about Ghostbusters toys and more about health - either our own or a loved one, economic concerns or even help with a challenge we know is coming.  Alongside our own prayers we often pray for places that are experiencing hardship, we pray for relief from disasters both natural and man-made, we pray for those in need, we pray for the strength to live the Gospel and to be channels for God’s peace and love to all.

God hears our prayers.  He likes to hear them - I remember a parish priest when I was a child saying that God is like relatives who love us - when we pick up the phone and call them they are overjoyed to hear from us and will happily listen to all we have to say.  That analogy stuck with me from childhood right to the present day.

Recently, I was part of a study group who looked at prayer and over the course of this study we began to form what we called the 'traffic light of prayer':

Green light prayers - Prayers that will be answered quickly and pretty much how we are asking.

Amber light prayers - Prayers that may take a little time but will arrive, maybe not quite as we asked but they are answered all the same.

Red light prayers - Prayers that will be answered but when we are truly ready for it. Not when we want it, but when we are ready for it.  Prayers that often are answered in ways we simply do not see coming and often can only see, with our limited human perspective, in hindsight.

I was once asked by my daughter when she was around 6 years old, ‘Why does God not answer all our prayers?’  It’s a valid question and testament again that the mind of a child is sometimes a wonderful thing.  I got thinking on that question and I arrived at this: God is our Father, any of us reading this with young people in their lives will know that sometimes we have to say No, or Not Yet.  We never do it maliciously of course; maybe the young person is asking for a toy that is inappropriate to their age range, or something possibly dangerous, something that could cause harm if they have it now.

God, our eternal Father hears our prayers.  Like us, He never says not yet without a reason.  I’m sure we can all look at our lives and see examples of times when God has said not yet and when, eventually, our prayer has been answered it’s been at just the right time in the way and in the way we needed.

So my sisters and brothers I would like to close with these points:

What do you gain by regular prayer with God?  We will have different answers to that question, each of us I’m sure.

What do you lose with praying regularly to God?  Anger, greed, insecurity, fear, doubt are just a few things I lose when praying regularly to God.

Brothers and sisters, prayer is not always about gaining something, it’s not always about going to God with a shopping list.  Sometimes it is just a conversation with our Father that helps us lose so much of the baggage that this world can often lumber us with.

May I close with a prayer:

Father God, you hear us in love.
You are always ready to listen in patience, kindness and gentleness.
We are grateful Lord that you are such a loving and accessible Father.
We trust in your wisdom and commit our prayers to you.
We bring this and all our prayers to you
through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

Amen.

  

BEGINNING 4 JULY 2021

Assistant Chaplain Lady writes:

Let's have a look at the example of St Peter and St Paul by first setting the background from the Gospel of St Mathew, Chapter 16, verses 13 to 19:

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples,

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,

still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter said in reply,

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.

For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,

and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. 

Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;

and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 

 

One of our Assistant Chaplains writes:

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, 

Who were these two of the great pillars of the Church, the Apostles, St Peter and St Paul?  They both came from entirely different backgrounds.  Peter worked as a fisherman and was from rural Galilee.  Paul was a learned Pharisee from the university city of Tarsus.  Peter’s first language was Aramaic; Paul’s first language was Greek.  Peter knew Jesus from the time of Jesus’ baptism and was with Jesus until the time of Jesus’ passion and death; Paul only ever met the risen Lord, in the vicinity of Damascus.

For all their differences, they had at least one thing in common.  Both of these men found themselves at odds with the Lord.  Peter denied even knowing Jesus when challenged publicly, three times.  Paul violently persecuted the followers of Jesus, and thereby persecuted Jesus himself.

Yet, their resistance to the Lord did not prevent the Lord from working powerfully through them.  Paul was chosen to be the great apostle to non-Jews.  We know from the letter to the Galatians that Peter and Paul had a serious disagreement at one point about the direction the Church should be taking.  They were very different people and the Lord worked through each of them in very different ways.  They were certainly united in death.  Very early tradition recalls that both were executed in Rome by the Emperor Nero who blamed the Christians for the fire of Rome.

We are reminded that the way the Lord works through us is unique to each and every single one of us.  This can serve to reassure us that our many resistances to the Lord need not be a hindrance to the Lord working through us.  Peter who denied the Lord and Paul who persecuted the Lord went on to become great servants of the Lord.  Our failings do not define who we are.  Paul would go on to say, ‘the Lord’s grace toward me has not been in vain’.  Likewise, the Lord’s grace towards us, in our weakness and frailty need never be in vain if we continue to open ourselves to the workings of that grace, just as Peter and Paul did.


Let us pray:

                O God, as we remember the Apostles Peter and Paul,

                give us the noble and holy joy of this day.

                Grant, we pray, that your Church

                may in all things follow the teaching

                of those through whom she received

                the beginnings of our faith in your truth and love.

                Through the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour and friend,

                who lives and reigns with you

                in unity with the Holy Spirit,

                One God, for ever and ever.

                Amen.

_______________________




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