Reflection on Matthew 16:21-28 by Margaret White

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”  

Famous opening lines from Charles Dickens “A tale of two cities” – but they might equally well have summed up Peter’s feelings in our reading this morning.  Poor Peter!  You can’t help feeling sorry for him, can you, partly I suppose because we can see ourselves mirrored in him – wanting to do our best, but somehow managing to put our feet in it – again!

In last week’s Gospel  reading Peter was enjoying the best of times.  Jesus asked the disciples “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  They came up with several answers, then Jesus asks, But who do you say that I am?”, and straightaway Peter says “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”.

Wow!  This must have been the best of times for him as Jesus tells him this must have been revealed to him by God, and proclaims that from now on he is Peter, the rock on whom the church will be built. High praise indeed from the man he’s chosen to follow, the man who called him to be his companion, the man who performs amazing miracles, and tells strange stories to explain God’s kingdom.

And then comes the worst of times, the foot in mouth moment, when out of concern  for his friend, for his very life,  Peter rebukes him for his plain speaking about his suffering and death.  Jesus turns and puts Peter in his place with words that were witheringly blunt, “Get behind me, Satan!  You’re not looking at this from God’s point of view, but a human view point.”

We might say well of course – he was human, wasn’t he?  But all along Jesus had been battling the idea the people had of him as a conquering Messiah, a hero who would lead his army to drive the Romans out and install Jesus as king..  This is what Peter thought too. Not so, says Jesus.  It means suffering and rejection, humiliation and death.  Peter’s confession of Jesus as Messiah was a divine revelation, his rebuke of Jesus was all too human, words from Satan even.  The best of times, the worst of times.

Peter and the other disciples haven’t yet grasped the topsy-turvy nature of what Jesus says.  How could they? It belongs in the realm of foolishness and incredulity – but that’s because we don’t think as God thinks.  We might say that God sees everything upside-down or inside-out, but perhaps God, the creator, sees everything the right way up, and we who see things through a glass darkly as Paul put it in 1 Corinthians.

And so when Jesus tells the disciples what is necessary if they want to really be his followers, it really is tough talking about loss, and sacrifice and death.  Not comfortable words, not the words these enthusiastic followers want to hear – but in Jesus topsy-turvy way these will bring hope, the hope of finding the only truly rewarding life. In the great reversal of the gospel, to save is to lose, and to lose is to find; to give all is to gain all, because the gifts are being offered back to the Giver, the one from whom everything comes, the source of all we have or are, the source of life itself.  

During the week I read about a Christian man and his wife who, when their children grew up and left home, decided to sell their big house and downsize, clearing out a load of accumulated stuff, saying goodbye to neighbours before moving, as they looked forward to living somewhere smaller. Hours before signing the paparwork their buyer informed them they were having to pull out, the deal was off.  They had to unpack, tell the neighbours they were staying and reassess their situation.  

Later that morning the phone rang.  An old friend and her husband had found themselves with nowhere to live and wondered if they had a spare room for a little while – of course they had room! Within a few days they had another phone callfrom a local organisation working with asylum seekers, and  now the house is like a gathering of the United Nations. They could have seen their experience as a disaster – the worst of times, instead they saw it through God’s eyes as an opportunity and it became the best of times.

Jesus asked “And who do you say that I am?”  I wonder what your answer to that question would be?  Would you answer, with Peter, you are the Messiah, the son of God?  Would you accept his topsy-turvy world of picking up your cross and following  him no matter how hard, how uncomfortable?  Can we learn to look upside down, or inside out, to see things, people, situations not as the world sees them, not making hasty judgements, but seeing that what the world counts as great is utter foolishness, and what the world counts folly is true wisdom, that in giving everything to Jesus, we get life itself, life in all its fullness?

Reflection by Dave Smith

Matthew 13:24-30 36-43

When I first looked at the reading for today, I thought to myself this is going to be easy, it starts off with Jesus teaching a parable, a story which uses an every day example to show a biblical truth, and the second half is Jesus explaining the meaning of his parable, that’s it job done. What can I add to that, reflection over and done within 30 or so seconds.

Let’s see if there is anything else that could be examined in this piece. As with everything in the bible, and with our lives it’s all a journey, we travel from being born, to death and then to our final destination. We have started our time of exploring what will be the shape of the churches of Walton and Trimley, Paul and Rachel led us through part of Jesus’ Great commission, focusing on “Therefore go” We start our journey, and in the parable you hear that the man sowed good seed in the land, it would be nice to think that we are the good seed than is being sawn in Walton and Trimley, but we all come with our own stuff, it’s like when you arrive at the airport, train station, with all your luggage , you suddenly realize that you have too many bags for your hands, and that big one the you managed to pick up at home, is now far too heavy to carry more than an hundred metres. I suppose that the luggage could be paralleled to the weeds in this passage. We could I suppose just go on holiday, with nothing, but then what would we do, even though we need what is contained in those bags, it is weighing us down, until we reach our destination, our hotel, where we can unshackle ourselves from our burdens, and find our place by the pool, or the bar, were hopefully great rejoicing will start for 7 to 14 nights, and then do the whole thing in reverse.

On Tuesday, in the morning I when on my first long walk, it was the furthest and longest I had been outside of my house or garden by myself. I saw that life as we remembered has started up again, the pictures are all in Walton, sorry Trimley, I didn’t have the energy to walk that far! So the pubs and restaurants, barbers and hairdressers, etc have started to open up their doors. The Church building is opened up this morning for worship. This is why, at this time, Paul’s study is important, this is a time for us to start growing, yes, we still have the weeds of the virus, and those who oppose the work of the church, and we should allow them to grow alongside us. It’s not time to be frightened, but we must follow the guidelines to keep us and our loved one’s safe. But we should be looking at the questions raised, we should look back and see how our lives and the lives of everyone in our churches have been transformed by Jesus. After looking back, we need to look forward to our destination, and discover the way we share the good news in our areas. So I would encourage you if you did not Zoom in last time to do so this Tuesday, details from Georgina in the office. Remember the good thing about traveling together is that you can share the burdens of your baggage with others.

So we are walking our path of faith, the weeds that try to hamper our journey are still there, we are growing, but the darkness that can destroy is still there. As with all journey we will come to a crossroads or a junction and we need to decide on which way we shall go, I thought what Rachel shared from Alice in Wonderland was poignant, confused Alice asked the Cheshire Cat which way should she go, he replies “Well, it depends. Where are you going?” Alice says, “I don’t know” To which that Cat say, “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go”. In some cases, the journey is more important than the destination. I remember as a child, my family, as I’m sure many of yours, when out for a Sunday drive, the destination wasn’t important, it was the joy of the journey.

As in the parable, don’t pull out the weeds, as you may well pull out good plaints at the same time, and destroy part of you crop. If you spend all your time focusing on everything else you lose sight of your destination and more importantly those who are traveling with you. Don’t get distracted, embrace you trials, they become part of your journey, the things that shape your experience of life, and you remember the happiness of you arrival, which will outweigh the troubles you had getting there.

Verse 42 says, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” I’m now going to play the first few minutes of a song called shine, by the band Transatlantic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tU4EdoD30Kg

“this love leaves none behind, while we shine”.

Who are you taking on Gods journey, There will be weeds on the way that will tangle around your feet, but they only try to slow you down. Follow Jesus, don’t be tempted by the enemy, the sons of the evil one, join with Jesus in the great commission, as he says “therefore go”. If you don’t, you’ll never reach your destination.

Amen

Reflection by Rachel Clarke

Matthew 11:16-21 and 25-30

My son and youngest daughter both have strong characters – this means when they play together, they sometimes have opposing ideas what game should be played. When they were both being homeschooled during lockdown they would go out onto the trampoline for “break time” (to be honest it was my break time, time for a cuppa and a listen to pop master on radio 2!!). My daughter  would want do gymnastics tricks and My son  liked using the net of the trampoline as a cricket ball net….there just wasn’t a compromise they could come to with such opposite views, and much arguing ensued. Each one rejecting the others game as boring!

In our gospel reading today Jesus paints a vivid picture with words,  – of children playing together in the market place – but when the flute players play  the others didn’t dance and when they sing a dirge the others don’t mourn. Some commentators have likened the dance to a wedding and the dirge to a funeral.

You can imagine the scene. They are in the marketplace, and the children are using it as a playground. one child says “Let’s play weddings” but when he plays he flute the others say this is boring. So the child says lets play funerals, and begins to sing a dirge  and the others say this is boring too. Then the child then says “what do you want?”, whatever we play is wrong!!  What is significant here is that both ‘games’ are rejected.

When we read the passage we can almost feel the exasperation of Jesus coming from the page.The  funeral dirge represents John the Baptists ministry of repentance, and the  wedding dance as Jesus ministry of celebration of Gods Kingdom.

But if  people want to reject something it seems they will. Whether it be Johns solemn presentation of judgement and repentance, or Jesus’ celebration of Gods lavish, generous love and forgiveness. 

But it seems  the people of Jesus’ day wanted to stick to their religious norms , they didn’t want anything different.And both of  these ministries were rejected. Jesus tells us that this is a description of how some people engage with the spiritual life: they are never happy; 

 Some churches today try to appeal to market forces they will give the people whatever they want, they will do anything to get bums on seats, but is this what the church needs? Gods message should never be a populist message,  but always one that seeks truth, whatever the world  or anybody thinks, and our ministries should reflect this too. We should always be thinking as a Church what is useful to us, and what is useful for the communities around us, at this time and in this place. What will help everyone grow further in knowing and loving God.

A great example is right that right now – we are doing church in a way that I suspect most of us never dreamed of  back in January. But it is hopefully something everyone here finds useful and helpful.

Our second passage is a prayer of praise and thanksgiving which Jesus prays to God the father. The CEV version translates v 25 as “ I am grateful you hide all this from wise and educated  people and showed it to ordinary people.”  In Jesus day wisdom was only for scholars that had studied for many years, for the vast majority of  people they assumed they couldn’t get close to understanding God and had to rely on experts like the Pharisees. But Jesus  turns this idea on its head – another  translation to “ordinary people” is little children- even a small child can  understand the gospel message.  The second section of this prayer shows how ALL of us can  know God through Jesus. As Nt wright puts it 

“Jesus had come to know his father the way a son does: not by studying books about him, but by living in his presence, listening for his voice, and learning from him as an apprentice does from a master, by watching and imitating. And he was now discovering that the wise and learned were getting nowhere, and that the ‘little people’—the poor, the sinners, the tax-collectors, ordinary folk—were discovering more of God, simply by following him, Jesus, than the learned specialists who declared that what he was doing didn’t fit with their complicated theories.”

Specialists of course are essential. In the Church’s case the  Rector the church wardens and other ministers are important and are  part of what makes our churches work . But in this prayer, Jesus emphasis that Gods wisdom is revealed to all – and Jesus is thankful for it.

All our church members have a place to share which direction are church should go, in order to minister to our communities. Our growing in God sessions on Zoom that start this Tuesday, our  as part of this idea. Of us coming together and sharing what god has put on our hearts, both individually and collectively.

But we don’t want this to make us feel overwhelmed  and this is where the final verses we heard today come in. Jesus addresses directly those who are weary and burdened. And I know many of us may feel like  weary at the moment, but even if we don’t, we can all recognise that feeling. Jesus’ response is to tell them and us  “come to me” 

Church can be wearisome for some and changes fill them with fear of more work, more slog and more rota filling. But Jesus  is talking about a yoke that is easy. A yoke is the wooden frame that would attach cattle to the plough. But when we look closely at this passage ,we see that Jesus asks us to take his yoke – we put on Jesus yoke on voluntarily. But when we put on the yoke of Jesus look to learn from Him-We find Jesus is gentle and humble of heart – and its here we will find rest for our souls.

So, In these changing times let us not be the ones who are never satisfied and always complaining, let us  be people  who know that to learn from God is to live in his presence and listen to his voice and let us be people who know we all all contribute our churches ministry. But mostly let realise we are surrounded with the love of Jesus who is humble of heart and will find rest for our souls. Amen.

Online booking for church opens

The booking form for attending St Mary’s church this Sunday is now live, please visit this link and complete the form by Thursday if you would like to attend church:

Online Booking Form for Sunday 12th July 

We will be holding our Zoom service as usual at 10am for all those who would prefer to stay online for the time being. If you are not on the list for receiving the Zoom access details please do contact the office.

 

 

Reflection by Wendy Fellingham

Matthew 10:24-39 + Jeremiah 20: 7-13

Apparently, Nancy Reagan once said – A woman is like a tea bag. It’s only when she is hot water that you realise how strong she is.

I’m sure this applies to men too, but you might want to agree with her???

In our Jeremiah reading he is having a moan … he had been asked by God to be a prophet and he is finding it tough, tougher than he thought perhaps, tougher than he thought was fair ….

Then in Matthew we see a similar theme – Jesus is talking to the 12 as he sends them out …. ‘it will be tough; you will meet opposition’ he is saying but  ‘just keep in mind that I am the one sending you,so when this does happen, don’t take it personally it is Me & my Father they are objecting to.’

Jesus urges them to be bold and proclaim what He has been doing & telling them, to pass on what they have learned and experienced.

We know with hindsight that this was indeed going to be a challenging commission. The early church faced many difficulties and were scattered to far ends of the earth, mainly because of persecution. This was not the disaster they may have imaginedthough … it was instrumental in taking this new gospel out to others.

I can’t help but think perhaps this is what is happening today??

We are caught up in a time of unprecedented difficulty and we are being driven out too – out of our comfort zones of; meeting for Sunday worship, sticking to the same patterns, same methods, same patterns of worship, same liturgy, same activities.

This is not the disaster we imagine either ….

We are being called to think outside of the box, to look at what we are learning, that we might not normally have considered.

Called to a new way of working perhaps …

What might that look like? I think we are being dropped some large hints:

Some of us who are not key workers have more time on our hands – we have been able, forced maybe, to slow down.

When going to the supermarket – we have been reminded not to take anything for granted, i.e. flour. I don’t know about you? but this caused me to be more grateful for what I do have.

We have seen more people looking out for each other. Chatting ‘over the fence’ getting shopping. The local band of volunteers –  Felixstowe Helping Hands & so much more.

We have found different ways of working as a church, ie Zoom, Radio, email and even snail mail – reaching more people, different people, some who would not normally go into any church. Not going to the far ends of the earth physically perhaps, but by technology.

Then there’s the little things – like a note of encouragement through the door, chatting to those we don’t know very well via Zoom coffee time.

This has been a steep learning curve for all of us – just as there was for the disciples in our reading but Jesus asks us to persevere, to learn from Him, knowing we don’t do any of this on our own.

We are precious to Him, & God notices even the little things, like 2 sparrows, we are so precious that He knows us through and through, right down to the number of hairs on our head.

Jesus says, ‘So don’t be afraid; you are worth many sparrows.’

It’s been a bumpy ride recently and the road ahead, as we find new ways of being church, may still be bumpy, but he walks with us.

Remember – it’s only when we are in hot water, we realise, with God’s help, how strong we are.

 

Prayer Poem by Nick Fawcett

Lord you don’t promise us comfort and wealth,

freedom from sickness, immaculate health:

faith brings no pledge of exemption from pain,

troubles oppress us again and again,

tragedies cause us to grieve and despair

sometimes their burden too painful to bear;

visions are shattered and hopes turned to dust,

prayer seems in vain, though we still try to trust.

Yet though such trials turn out to be true,

still I believe you will help me get through there by my side when I can’t carry on,

offering strength when all other has gone.

Even in sorrow you somehow bring joy

peace that no trials can ever destroy.

Light in the darkness continues to shine

turning the water of life into wine.

 

Wendy.

St Martin’s Trimley to open for private prayer

We are very pleased to announce that Trimley church will be open for private prayer on the following days from 23rd June:

Tuesdays.   10.30am-1pm

Saturdays  10.30am-1pm

Visitors will be able to enjoy the space of our beautiful church , pray and light a candle. We have procedures in place that reflect the most recent government and diocesan guidelines. These will be displayed as you enter the building. At St Martin’s somebody will be around to help if needed.

St Mary’s Walton is currently having building works done on the west side of the church. Once this is complete we hope to open for private prayer here as well. Watch this space!

I know that many people, including myself, have missed the quiet and sanctuary of our churches. Please do feel free to visit St Martin’s wherever you live in our benefice and beyond.

Rev Paul

 

Reflection on Matthew 9:35-10:8 by Annie Woodard

I want to begin by looking at what precedes this passage from Matthew’s gospel. In the two previous chapters we read the following headings: “Jesus heals a man with leprosy”, “ Jesus restores two demon-possessed men”, “Jesus forgives and heals a paralysed man”, “Jesus raises a dead girl and heals a sick woman” and “Jesus heals the blind and the mute”. And now our reading begins with these words: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and illness”.
What picture does this conjure up for you? Can you imagine what the atmosphere must have been like for those around Jesus? We can understand, can’t we, why people crowded around him. If you were ill or had a family member who was, you would want to bring them to this man who had the power to heal. If you weren’t ill, you would want to see what all the fuss was about for yourself. And we know that there were many in need. The next verse tells us that the crowds were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” and there were so many of them that Jesus describes them as a plentiful harvest. And his reaction was to have compassion. Jesus felt the distress of the people, his heart went out to them and he was moved by their plight.
Matthew’s gospel mentions the word compassion at least four times in relation to Jesus’ feelings towards other people. He felt compassion for the crowds who were hungry (14:14 and 15:32) and he felt compassion for the two blind men at the side of the road. (20:32).
But Jesus doesn’t stop at feeling compassion. He acts on it. He feeds the thousands and he restores sight to the blind and, in this passage which we’re looking at today, he prays for workers to reap the harvest, which is plentiful. He takes practical steps and he sends out his disciples to proclaim the message of the kingdom of heaven and to heal the sick, raise the dead and drive out demons. He gives them authority to continue his mission. He does not tell them to threaten anyone with God’s punishment but instructs them to show compassion and to show what God can do for them.

So, just as Jesus commissioned his disciples, he also commissioned us. In chapter 28 of Matthew’s gospel, after his resurrection, he tells the disciples – “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…..”
We are given authority to continue Jesus’ mission.
We may feel very unworthy or under qualified for this task! I know that I do. But we can take heart. Jesus didn’t send out those in authority, those who were already in positions of power or those who were the well-educated. He sent out a small group of twelve ordinary people; fishermen, tax collectors, even the one who was to betray him; a group of men all with their own shortcomings. But Jesus knew what they could achieve with the Spirit of God working through them. And, remember Jesus sent them out, at first, as a small group to the lost sheep of Israel. He didn’t send them out to try and conquer the world. It was a case of “think big, start small!” And Wow! Look what they started! Today millions of people all over the world worship and trust in God and follow a merciful Saviour.
I don’t know about you, but I often feel a bit overwhelmed when I consider the needs of the world; poverty, hunger, homelessness and sickness. It’s hard to know where to start or how to help. But maybe, just maybe, we’re right where God wants us to be. Our mission is right here in Walton and Trimley. We can be his disciples in our little part of the world.
So, I invite us all to ask ourselves – Where and who in our community is in need of Christian compassion and what are some of the actions, we can take to exercise compassion rather than just feel it?

Annie.

Rector’s Update

Dear friends,

It has been a busy week as the government announced formally that churches can open from 15th June for private prayer. Rest assured, our churches will be open on some days for private prayer once we have processed and arranged for the necessary cleaning and preparation that is needed to make entry as safe as possible. St Mary’s is currently having building work completed on the exterior and St Martin’s some remedial work on the tower so this may delay opening until this work has been completed. I know it may be tempting if you are a key holder to go into our churches and some of you have, but can I request during this time you resist and do not enter the building whilst we make preparations to open. Once we are open, please restrict yourself to the public opening times. We have one nominated person at each church who can enter to check the building so if you have an urgent requirement please contact them to discuss and they may be able to help:

Georgina South for Walton & Andrew King for Trimley.

It is clear that it will take some time for us to get back into our churches for worship. But once we do, we will begin a new chapter in our churches history. What will it look like? Where is God leading us, at this moment, together?

God has called us to be with you in this beautiful place for a reason and we will in time embark together on a new area of ministry and mission for our churches. I am excited about this, as I hope you are, and I want to begin in prayer, and continue in prayer as we work together into the future.

At the moment I am planning a series of sessions via Zoom and the telephone which I hope will allows us to study the bible, pray and discern God’s will for our benefice together. I hope that from those sessions we can get a strong sense of his direction and that we can come up with a vision that we can work towards.  This won’t be something we then put on a letter heading or an email and forget about, it will be something that all our mission and ministry will focus on in the years to come.

More details will come on this later, but I hope you will feel able to join in, the sessions will be open to everybody. In the meantime, I call upon us to begin praying now and ask him;

What is God’s plan for us together in this place?
How is he asking us to join with him to make that happen?

Please send any thoughts and words you might have on this to me via email.

I know things are strange and difficult at the moment. In amongst it all, it has also been nice not to have so many meetings and duties that somehow can get in the way of our mission together. Judging by the emails and calls that I get in response to my radio shows, I am convinced that we are about to enter a new era, and It is exciting to think that we can all be a part of this.

Stay safe and may God bless you,
Rev Paul

Reflection on Matthew 28:16-20

What an inspiring passage for today, way back in September last year, the last time I spoke to St Mary’s a lot of things have happened, Wendy’s cancer treatment got a lot more involved than we were expecting, these times we are all experiencing now, who would have thought at Christmas, that by Easter the country would have all but closed down and we would be living a life in quarantine, that most shops, cinemas and theatres, hairdressers, and barbers, pubs, and of course church buildings would all be closed, working from home, being furloughed, or worse not having a job to rely on

What is normal these days? We are taking the first tentative steps back to normal, although there are those who are saying that the government are moving too fast or too slow to release the lock down, so, in these days what does this passage say to us. The is a great hope contained in these words, known as the great commissioning, this is Jesus speaking to the remaining disciples, after his crucifixion, giving them instructions to continue his work, throughout the world. Now this is a little insignificant part of the world, how can this message grow the encompass the whole world from 11 people then, to the billions of people today, and remember back then, they could not go viral on You Tube or the internet, there was no social media to pass the word on, it travelled from person to person, I suppose that there is a sort of comparison to these days, butpeople were infected not with a deadly virus, they were infected with the word and the love of God.

As a church we face unprecedented times now, and we have an opportunity, to as this pandemic eases and this start to go back to normal, what will be the new normal for our church. Is this the time for the proverbial new broom of change to sweep through our dusty old churches and now go forward clean and refreshed? It’s been interesting in this time to see how the church has adapted to bring the word of God to people, you have seen that church, as an establishment can actually change and adapt, who would of thought of that!

Although, the title of this passage is the great commissioning, I look to the final words Jesus says, “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” this is the great promise, these are the words that Matthew choses to end his Gospel, these reassuring and impowering words of him who came to earth to be “God with us”.

We as a church need to, as government guidelines suggest, we need to keep the R factor as low as possible and well under 1, with regards to the pandemic, but wouldn’t it be good if we could by spreading the word and love of God, our churcheswould have an R factor of over 1 or more, we need to showthe love of God that is so evident in this world, I pray that this message of redemption, love and healing, spreads throughout our town, and country.

We have a song after this reflection called “I will follow”, is this a message to this church, by church I mean the people who assemble in the name of Christ, to go forward reenergised, to follow Christ into the mysteries of the future, to learn from the teachings of the past. Remember that our God is the same, yesterday, today, and for all our tomorrows.

So, church, and those who are listening to this reflection, who are searching for meaning in this word, what are we going to do? We have been given this commission, Jesus said in verse 18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”.

 

Dave Smith

Lay Pastor, Walton & Trimley