In my part of the world, “Lent Lily” is the title of the sunny Daffodil, but the small, humble and neat Snowdrop is the flower that most springs to my mind at this season.
Lent for us always begins in the cold, today, snow flakes have danced on the cold wind, so very different to the images of desert and wilderness portrayed by artists in their depiction of the temptations endured by Jesus in the wilderness. Our winter turning into spring is a wilderness of ice, frost, and in the churchyard, brittle, brown, grey, twigs and branches broken by wind and storm, and tenacious Snowdrops and Crocus.
The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom like the crocus.
For, me, always, the sweet, humble Snowdrop, always arrives singing,
But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
My glory and the one who lifts my head.
She has fought a hard battle, the little Snowdrop, but here she is… singing the song of victory won; giving the glory to the Lord who keeps us in burning desert and icy waste, the One, who alone is His people’s strength.
The Christmas tree, the Stable under the altar dismantled, this morning we paused and marked “Candlemas” (2nd February). This was followed by the baptism of Evie Rose and Brooke Alison later in the morning, who like the infant Jesus were carried into God’s house to receive the Lord’s blessing and seal on their young lives.
How poignant it is to recall Anna and Simeon, both of great age, but still in the Temple waiting on God with prayers and fasting and God honours them; the Lord pours out on them His Holy Spirit, Simeon’s words are recalled and prayed everyday in acts of Worship, he and Anna live on in devout and faithful seniors, whose strength is renewed daily as they too, continue steadfast in faith and hope. Like Simeon, like Anna they have trusted in God’s word, and rejoiced in His salvation, walked in the light of His revelation.
What would their message be to today’s young ones.
I think it could well be,
“Draw back the curtains and let the light in. Open your heart and receive God’s Word, open the bible and find treasure, stored up for you from the Ancient of Days and praise God,
Once upon a time, St Augustine thought he heard a child singing
”Pick it up and read it. Pick it up and read it.” He thought at first the song was related to some kind of children’s game, but could not remember hearing the song before. Then it struck him that this might be God telling him to open and read the scriptures, so he found a bible picked it up and read it. And, then Augustine’s life really began.
Draw back the curtains, open the bible, and God and you can begin
The 5th Day of Christmas and the shining Dove still sits on a branch of the Christmas Tree. David and Linda placed him there with love, and during the weeks leading up to Christmas hundreds of local school children have gazed up at him and his companion, oh yes there is another, birds, like people love a companion.
Sadly, many people have been alone this Christmas Tide, some having lost their companion through bereavement, some because love has fled the nest. Some have had no nest to spend the holidays in; a cold doorway, a cold street, has been their lot, or maybe if lucky, a Christmas meal provided in the true spirit of Christmas by the warm generosity of willing, cheerful volunteers at a hostel, church, community centre.
Down in the garden, on a snowy day there is another bird, still singing, he rarely goes away, he enjoys the red berries on the Holly Bush, but his favourite berry is the small, white, sticky berry of the Mistletoe from which he gets his name, Mistle Thrush. He doesn’t ask a lot in exchange for his song, he is a generous giver, and his Christmas Carol will soon be replaced by a song for Epiphany and New Year. St Giles has a special service of Carols and hymns for Epiphany on the 7th January this year, and there is one Carol we often sing, the third verse always speaks to my heart.
Guard the nest that must be filled.
Even the hour when wings are frozen
God for fledging time has chosen.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the bird, is on the way.
(Eleanor Farjeon 1881-1965)
May it be so, for all, may Love, the Bird find his way to our homes, and hearts this winter tide, may it be that where the water and wings are frozen; love may break the ice, and 2018 come with Good Tidings to all people everywhere, with new friendships for the lonely, a home for the homeless, provision for the poor, healing for the sick, on the wings of love may we all fly.
A dark night, a cold night, a night to close the curtains shut the door, settle by the fireside and be thankful:
The street is hushed, traffic movement stilled: words remembered sing themselves, silently in my spirit’s ear.
“Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light
the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee to-Night.”
I shut my eyes, try, but cannot imagine what it would be like to be alone in the darkest, blackest of nights with no light at all. How would it feel to be alone in the darkest, blackest, coldest of nights with no warm presence of Christ wrapping me about with love.
“While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.”
I think, of all who sleep, the weary, the worn, the sad.
Of all who close eyes, and ears tight to shut out the pained cries of a world waiting for deliverance like a woman in childbirth,
“How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given”
I give thanks, and am lost in wonderment, I praise God that like a child born in the night, I am safely delivered, and snuggle my head in my Saviour’s breast;
You see I once sang, so long ago,
“Oh holy Child of Bethlehem, cast out my sin, and enter in: be born in me to-day,”
And He did, and was, and this I know to be true, that he gives to me and all who believe and receive Him the right to become “children of God.”
And so it was, that a man named Nicodemus came to Jesus by night (John 3.1)
And so it is that like Jesus all of the Children of Day are born in the night, and so it is that all His Children carry within them the Light of Christ.
Posted in love for all listening for the song of the Morning Stars….
I love this window, the babe, the Redeemer reveals His Sacred Face. I think of Mary and Joseph Waiting for Him, getting together the things a baby needs, watching and waiting. Outside of Church and Lady Chapel the world rushes on and yet, there are some, mums and dads to be, maybe who are, even in the throes of busyness ~ just waiting ~ whatever you are waiting for ~ we pray you are rewarded with joy. Posted with love from Rowley Church to all who will visit this coming Christmastide.
St Giles Church, Rowley Regis circa 1840
My friend Ken, often says Rowley folk have been a little careless with their churches, because we have had 4 churches on the top of the hill since 1199, that’s a long time, since before Magna Carta was signed, there has been a church on the hill, and even before the church was built a churchyard. We are coming to the end of 2017, frosty nights and mornings begin to make their presence felt and the churchyard trees are almost stripped bare; the crab apples have disappeared into squirrel larders, or maybe visiting badgers have enjoyed midnight picnics.
It seems strange, looking at this old drawing, that once upon a time, there were no trees; and so few gravestones, back in those days, Rowley was a village with very few houses, the tall building on the right, we called the ‘Mansion House’ when I was growing up – it wasn’t demolished until the early 1970s – all things change. Time doesn’t stand still, but I would like to think that tomorrow’s children will still have trees, that blue-tits, robins, woodpeckers and a friendly owl will still be around, and that the present 4th Church will still be playing host for School Carol Services, that the great tenor bell cast in Tudor times will still be calling out welcome to visitors to the Christmas Midnight Service, and that loving hands will be making a Holly Crown for the Advent Candles.
Who knows what the years may bring? It’s December 1st and Joyce Walker is taking a winter break, dreaming a dream, that our old churchyard, and long forgotten stories will spring to new life as The Living Churchyard Project unfolds – but first the Winter, Carols, Christmas the Snow.
Is this really Santa? Maybe Larry Emms, St Giles neighbour and friend knows?
“Thank you Larry, Terry, and the, so very many, more Rowley friends who came to visit the Christmas Fayre in the Church Hall – you helped raise £1679 towards keeping the children warm as they visit church over Christmas.” ~ from The Churchwardens, (Yvonne and Jean) and the Elves.
First we have the dark of night, and then the light of day.
When we were wandering, lost souls, children who cowered in the dark ~ God sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, that He might cast out all fear, To open the eyes of the blind.
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, saying, “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen”
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to Him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”
It’s not by power, not by might, not by merit, but by the blood of the Lamb that mankind is bought through the darkness of Halloween to the light of the Kingdom’s Day. May my prayers and your prayers be counted worthy to be offered with much incense (Rev. 8:3) with the prayers of All the Saints on the golden altar before God’s throne.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen”
(Posted for All Saints Day 1st November)
The garden has its seasons. Many autumns ago, the Briar Rose was planted. A bare root; so bare I wondered if it would survive the frosts, ice and snow of winter.
But it did producing that first spring time its small white flowers and delicate perfume and then as summer progressed Rose Hips to provide food for my friends the birds and for me colour on a grey, wintry day, the stems of my Briar Rose stay vividly green throughout winter
So, with the garden of my soul, I want to choose well what I sow and plant, to ensure I produce good fruit in all seasons:
Love, Joy, Peace, Forbearance, kindness, goodness,
Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control
(Galatians 5:22 N.I.V)
But, you know what, as with my garden, the weeds and wild things get in, they blow in on the wind, under the fence, over the fence, by every means fair and foul, from the wild wood surrounding my soul garden, they leave me no choice, these things which I didn’t want but to set to with tools called watchfulness and prayer. Life in the wild wood called the world, is wild, rough, tough, dangerous and threatening to my soul’s garden, yet sometimes, just sometimes I feel sorry for the wild wood because it is in need of of the Forester’s care and attention and perhaps, just perhaps mine?
How can the wild wood, the wild things of our wonderful, exciting times be changed?
In whose way of love
Lies the secret
Of all life,
And the hope of all people,
We pray for quiet courage to match
We did not choose to be born
Live in such an age:
But let its problems challenge us,
It’s discoveries exhilarate us,
Its injustices anger us,
Its possibilities inspire us
And its vigour renew us
For your kingdom’s sake.
(Prayer from a prayer card created for the Lambeth Conference 1998)
And Jesus said:
“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you”
I was dreaming that I was treading the streets of the Holy City,pottering about like a tourist. In my wandering I came upon the museum of that city of our dream. I went in, and a courteous attendant conducted me round. There was some old armour there, much bruised with battle. Many things were conspicuous by their absence. I saw nothing of Alexander’s, nor of Napoleon’s. There was no Pope’s ring, nor even the ink-bottle that Luther is said to have thrown at the devil, nor Wesley’s seal and keys. I saw a widows mite and the feather of a little bird. I saw some swaddling clothes, a hammer and three nails, and a few thorns. I saw a bit of a fishing net and the broken oar of a boat. I saw a sponge that had once been dipped in vinegar, and a small piece of silver. But I cannot enumerate all I saw, nor describe all I felt, whilst I was turning over a common drinking cup which had a very honourable place, I whispered to the attendant, ‘Have you got a towel and basin among your collection?’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘not here, you see they are in constant use.’ Then I knew I was in Heaven, in the Holy City, and amid the redeemed society.
Knowing that He came from God and went to God
Jesus took a towel and basin.
Only those whose sins are forgiven can really appreciate the beauty of a simple towel and basin.
The Lord Jesus didn’t just talk about loving; He loved.
Lovely thought, in Heaven the towel and basin are in constant use.
Lovely thought the Kingdom of Heaven is right here on earth, and we see it, know it in every kind deed done to another, and most especially
When brothers and sisters forgive as we have been forgiven.
Today, the 5th Sunday in Lent, and St Giles is looking down the road to Palm Sunday. Now it is our tradition for very many years to begin Palm Sunday with the blessing of palms, not in church, but over the busy main road in the Church Hall. Then following the processional cross, singing our Hosannas we cross over the road and complete a full circuit of the church wall before entering church at the west door.
This year might have been very different.
A procession yes. But no cross. Our beautiful silver cross has been stolen, it is very likely that the thieves had to cut it up to get it through the hole cut into the silver safe. Something beautiful stolen, spoilt.
Larry, lovely Larry, so grateful to the Lord for bringing through cancer surgery, not just once, but twice, quietly decided that St Giles would have a cross to follow. Larry was a carpenter by trade, and this is the cross that Larry made.
“Just temporary,” he said.
Just how temporary remains to be seen; this cross was handcrafted in love, received with love, and will be treasured in love. A simple cross made from wood, can there be any better cross to follow this Palm Sunday? A cross made by a carpenter in love for the carpenter who carried His Cross for us all.
“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
There is a redeemer
Jesus, God’s own Son
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Jesus my redeemer
Name above all names
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Oh, for sinners slain
Thank you, oh my father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
‘Til the work on Earth is done
There is a redeemer please click to listen
If you should find yourself on the top of Rowley’s very high hill, next Sunday (Palm Sunday) morning why not come and join the happy band following The Cross that Larry made.