Category Archives: intercession

Just say “Thank you”…

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes…..Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!

(Luke 12. 22,23,27,28)

Spring in Scotland can involve every kind of weather – sometimes all in the same day – so we cherish the sunny and warm days when we get them. This April has been  particularly spectacular, and I am full of thankfulness for the season. There has been an explosion of colour, with bulbs flowering and primroses opening carpets of yellow faces to the sunshine. This part of my city is full of great trees, putting forth new leaves like a green lace, each one a different shade as the sunlight pours through their delicate transparency. There are streets and parks where cherry trees are weighed down under great handfuls of pink and white blossom, which turns into drifts of colour along the pavements as the wind carries it off. So much beauty, there for the seeing, for the savouring. One of the things I deeply appreciate about knowing Jesus as my Saviour, is knowing also to whom I can offer thanks for so much beauty poured out day after day for my blessing. And the very act of thanksgiving increases my pleasure, deepens the sense of being nourished deep in my soul by this gift of beauty. It is like storing up light against times of darkness, investing in warmth against the coming chill.

I know that in this world I will have troubles – although at the moment I am humbly aware of how blest I am to live in health and peace under a democratic government, where freedom and life are valued and my children can grow to their full potential. Only a few days ago, our brothers and sisters in Nepal were visited by the destructive power of an earthquake, and so many lives have been destroyed and disrupted – I know nothing of such grief, loss and fear. I am not proud to have been spared, but rather humbled, and challenged, to think what I can do out of the riches which I have, to meet even a few of the needs of those who are suffering so much. This is another result of thanking God for all I have and receive – it reminds me that none of it is mine in the first place, but only ever a gift to be held in readiness, to share with those who need. I have nothing by right, but all by gift, and I have it that I might serve God, love his children and share his glory with the world that needs to see it so badly.

In the passage I quoted above, Jesus is encouraging and teaching his disciples to have the right priorities in their lives as they await his return in glory. The incredible extravagance with which God creates and sustains beauty and fruitfulness all around us is given as an illustration of his power and care for his creation – even the most short-lived and ephemeral parts of it, like the wild flowers. Since our God is like this, should we not trust him to know what we need – we whom the psalmist describes as being made ” a little lower than the angels and crowned with glory and honour?” (Ps 8.5)

Jesus goes on to exhort us, his followers, to “seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” (Luke 12.31). God is not in the business of withholding good things from his children, but rather desires our ultimate and greatest good – that we might live and rejoice with him in his kindgom for ever. We may not understand why our idea of good things is not the same as his, nor why at times we receive good through suffering, pain, frustration and dreadful difficulties. But we have the example of Jesus, who trusted his Father would provide for him, and focused all his energies on obedience and proclaiming the coming of the kingdom. Now he is seated in glory, king over all, reigning and coming again to claim all his own to share in his joy.

As I walk through pleasant places, and pray for those in deep darkness and sorrow, may I be trusting the God who gives good gifts to his children, and thanking him for being faithful. May the beauty around me be a constant reminder that I need not worry about myself, but commit myself to God for his purposes and his glory, saying with the psalmist:

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

(PS 8.9)

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I believe..

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. AMEN

I belong to a church where we do not have much of a liturgy, so to attend an Anglican service while on holiday last week was a great treat, although it can be a challenge to know whether one is meant to be speaking or singing at times! One of the things I love best about the liturgy of the Anglican church is this recitation of the Creed, our statement of faith. In the earliest days of the church, Christians were known simply as ‘believers’, because their salvation depended solely upon belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the atonement for sins, and their future in  eternal life with God. In reciting the Creed, we are reminded of our total dependence on Jesus, and that of ourselves we bring nothing of worth to God.

These brief words contain sufficient material to keep us thinking, praising and adoring our precious Saviour, and the working out of them in practice is the employment of a lifetime. Today I am thinking particularly about that little phrase ‘ the communion of saints’, and what it can mean for us in practice.

In his great prayer the night before his death, Jesus prayed for his disciples, and for all who would come after into the family of believers, asking ‘ that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me.‘ (John 17 21-23).

This, this astonishing unity and intimate connection, is what we mean when we talk about the communion of saints. It is not mere friendship, but a profound union, arising out of our union with Jesus himself. As we believe in Jesus for salvation, he dwells in us, we live by his life; and because our fellow believers also live by that same life,  we have bonds at the deepest level of our being with them. We have the same Father, and the same great elder brother, and we see in one another evidences of his life working to transform us into his likeness. Our ultimate desires and ambitions are the same – the glory of God, the saving of souls, and the blessing of the church family – and our means of receiving from God are the same – reading the bible, praying, taking communion,  practising baptism.

The apostle Paul explores the implications of this unity many times in his letters to the young churches of Asia, including his assumption that believers will pray earnestly and intelligently for one another, even though they may never have met, share no cultural or language experiences, and have only their faith in common! It makes sense… when we are all part of the one body – with Christ as our head – then the suffering of one part calls for the support of the rest, and any practical help which may be given. Similarly, the joys of one part bring gladness to the whole body, so that everyone may be encouraged in their faith and hope.

I was blessed to have grown to faith in churches where it was a matter of routine to pray for christians all over the world – missionaries, ministers, and those to whom they were sent; persecuted believers in troubled lands, churches which were experiencing great blessing and growth. It never occured to me that it was odd to pray so earnestly for people I had not met, and I was taught to pray for them with as much passion as I might for those nearest and dearest to me. It was a wonderful lesson to learn early, and continues to bring great blessing, because when we come before God in order to pray for our brothers and sisters, we forget our own troubles, and fix our eyes upon him. We are reminded, even as we remind God, of his own promises to bless his children, to glorify his name, to provide resources for his work and to guide his servants – all these things which we also desire for our own situations.

So let us give ourselves to prayer for our fellow-believers, rejoicing that when we pray, we are together in God’s presence, in a fellowship which will be surpassed only in the resurrection when we meet face to face. What a blessing is the communion of the saints!