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Sunday Pause for Thought Trinity 15 : God has No Favourites

Sunday Pause for Thought Trinity 15 : God has No Favourites

Sunday 24 September 2017

The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity


Common Worship Lectionary

Proper 20

Exodus 16.2–15 The Lord sends manna from heaven
Psalm 105.1–6, 37–45* God’s faithfulness to Israel
Philippians 1.21–30 Living is Christ and dying is gain: live worthy lives
Matthew 20.1–16 Parable of the labourers in the vineyard


Discipline is the dominant note as God’s people grumble their way through the wilderness. God’s care is firm but tangible. In our struggles we need encouragement and Paul shows his converts at Philippi what good and wise encouragement looks like. No parable of Jesus strikes us more shockingly than Matthew 20 – what sort of world is it about? It is not about our world, but God’s – where fortunately for us, his grace takes no account of our deserts. Pray to be glad that God has no favourites.


These lectionary resources were originally written for RSCM Sunday by Sunday magazine and are reprinted here with their permission.

For further information about their work do visit

Planning worship

Sunday Pause for Thought – The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday Pause for Thought – The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity


The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

Common Worship Lectionary

Proper 19


Exodus 14.19–31 Israel saved by Moses parting the waters
Psalm 114 or Israel fled from Egypt to sanctuary in Judah


Canticle: Exodus 15.1b–11, 20, 21 Moses’ song after the Exodus
Romans 14.1–12 Do not judge, for we are all accountable to God
Matthew 18.21–35 Seventy-seven times forgiveness? The unforgiving servant


The parable in Matthew is terrifying and brings dramatically home the message of the Lord’s Prayer – to forgive readily as we ourselves are forgiven by God. Christians, like others, can squabble and divide about matters that seem to be in the end of minor importance. Paul reminds us that only love can restore a true sense of proportion. It is hard to trust that, even despite all appearances, all shall be well. Pray always to hold to the great signs of God’s love.



Sunday Pause for Thought – The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday Pause for Thought – The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity


The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity


Common Worship Lectionary

Proper 18


Exodus 12.1–14 Instructions for celebrating the first Passover
Psalm 149 God is on Israel’s side
Romans 13.8–14 Awake from sleep – put on the armour of light
Matthew 18.15–20 Reprove sinners; bind and loose on earth and in heaven


We all live with the past – a wonderful combination of blessings and burdens. Let us pray that we commemorate past blessings with joy. The Passover meal tells of the great release to which the meal was the preview and gives us a promise of Jesus as active redeemer. Paul reminds us of the commands to love and to live the good life, always in the setting of the urgency of God’s call. We need to heed the wise teaching that we hear and to ask others to support us on our journey of discipleship.


Sunday Pause for Thought – The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday Pause for Thought – The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity


Common Worship Lectionary

Proper 17


Exodus 3.1–15 God reveals the divine name to Moses at the burning bush
Psalm 105.1–6, 23–26, 45b* Seek the Lord, make known his deeds
Romans 12.9–21 Let love be genuine; overcome evil with good
Matthew 16.21–28 Jesus predicts his death; ‘Take up your cross’


In Exodus, Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush is crucial – a sacred moment with the name of God. Jeremiah reminds us that the service of God is not an easy ride and we can protest to him at its impossibility, but he will surely see us through. Paul gives simple and basic moral teaching and we are asked to accept and follow in God’s grace. The Gospel reading asks us to consider whether we can bear to become nothing for the sake of having everything in the end. Let us pray to accept ill from others with true patience.


Sunday Pause for Thought – The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

Sunday Pause for Thought – The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

Saying yes to Jesus leads straight into a practical role. Peter, the rock, signifies the church in its day-to-day life – its ultimate victory on behalf of God is sure. We are reminded in the Old Testament readings that the greatness of God dwarfs us all and that we are constantly being challenged to choose death or life. Paul tells us that we should be a distinctive presence – in the world but not of it. Perhaps we should reassess our sense of importance before God. We pray that confession of Christ leads us to an active part in his purpose.

Readings :

Exodus 1.8 – 2.10

The Israelites in Egypt are oppressed; Moses is born
Psalm 124 Our help is in the Lord, who made heaven and earth
Romans 12.1–8 Present your bodies as holy, for we are members together
Matthew 16.13–20

Peter declares Jesus to be the Messiah




Sunday Pause for Thought – Tenth Sunday after Trinity 2017

Sunday Pause for Thought – Tenth Sunday after Trinity 2017

These lectionary resources were originally written for RSCM Sunday by Sunday magazine and are reprinted here with their permission.

For further information about their work do visit


Sunday by Sunday


Sunday 20 August

The Tenth Sunday after Trinity/The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost/The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Common Worship Lectionary

Proper 15


Genesis 45.1–15 Joseph is reconciled to his brothers
Psalm 133 How good it is when kindred live together in unity!
Romans 11.1–2a, 29–32 God has given the Law so he can be merciful to all
Matthew 15.[10–20] 21–28 The Canaanite woman’s son is healed


Human beings seem always to be putting limits of some kind on our sense of God’s love for creation. Paul reminds us that in the light of Christ we can hold on to a conviction of the role of Christ for everyone. This is a lord and master who serves all, and who seeks to rescue us from our brokenness. The Canaanite woman serves as a test case for Jesus’ ministry of rescue to all. She perseveres and her need is met. Do we need to persevere more doggedly in our faith in God and not be discouraged?


Sunday Pause for Thought : Ninth Sunday after Trinity 2017

Sunday Pause for Thought : Ninth Sunday after Trinity 2017


These lectionary resources were originally written for RSCM Sunday by Sunday magazine and are reprinted here with their permission.

For further information about their work do visit

Planning worship



Sunday 13 August 2017

The Ninth Sunday after Trinity


Common Worship Lectionary/Revised Common Lectionary

Proper 14


Genesis 37.1–4, 12–28 Joseph dreams he will become great and tells his brothers, who sell him into slavery
Psalm 105.1–6, 16–22, 45b* Praise for God who rescued Joseph from slavery and Egypt from famine
Romans 10.5–15 Confessing Jesus as Lord leads to salvation
Matthew 14.22–33 Jesus walks on water and rescues Peter from sinking



The Gospel reading gives us a picture of God’s utter reliability in life’s storms. Yet on our part, trusting God can always be strengthened, as testing may show. The family strife that led into Joseph’s being sold into Egypt’s will in due course reap huge benefits for his people. Paul reminds us that God’s acceptance is open to all – Jews and Gentiles alike can join in the faith of Jesus. We might therefore pray to accept gladly that God has no favourites, and that we should all deepen our trust in God’s love and power.





St Augustine wrote of God in his ‘Confessions’:

“You, my God, are supreme… You are the most hidden from us and yet the most present amongst us, the most beautiful and yet the most strong, ever enduring and yet we cannot comprehend you. You are unchangeable and yet you change all things. You are never new, never old, and yet all things have new life from you.”





a stone at dawn

cold water in the basin

these walls’ rough plaster


after the hammering

of so much insistence

on the need for naming

after the travesties

that passed as faces,

grace: the unction

of sheer nonexistence

upwelling in this

hyacinthine freshet

of the unnamed

the faceless

 Amy Clampitt

Sunday pause for Thought

Sunday pause for Thought




In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread:
you put this rather beautifully,
and gave me leave to sing my work
until my work became the song.

In sorrow shalt thou eat of it:
a line on which a man might ring
the changes as he tills the ground
from which he was taken. Thistle, thorn

(in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed),
these too shall it bring forth to thee,
all the days of thy life till the end,
the synagogue of the ear of corn.

Poem and plowman cleave the dark.
One can’t eat art. But dust is art,
and unto dust shall I return.
O let my song become my work.

Amanda Jernigan, Adam’s Prayer





“Nothing holds firm.  Everything is here today and gone tomorrow.   But the good things of life– truth, justice, and beauty– all great accomplishments need time, constancy, and memory, or they degenerate. The man who feels neither responsibility towards the past nor desire to shape the future is one who forgets.  And I do not know how one can really get at such a person and bring him to his senses.”                                                



-Dietrich Bonhoeffer (d. 1945)

to love and obey

to love and obey

Book with opened pages of shape of heart


The French scientist and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin sums it up nicely in his book “The Divine Milieu.” He writes:

“God obviously has no need of the products of your busy activity since he could give himself everything without you. The only thing that concerns him, the only thing he desires intensely, is your faithful use of your freedom and the preference you accord him over the things around you. Try to grasp this: the things that are given to you on earth are given to you purely as an exercise, a ‘blank sheet’ on which you make your own mind and heart. You are on a testing ground where God can judge whether you are capable of being translated to heaven and into his presence. You are on trial so that it matters very little what becomes of the fruits of the earth, or what they are worth. The whole question is whether you have learned how to obey and how to love.”





‘Silence’, said Seraphim, ‘is the cross on which man must crucify his ego’;

‘Silence transfigures a man into an angel; it is the spiritual practice which most surely preserves inner peace.’

He was constantly repeating the words of St Ambrose, ‘I have seen many who were saved by silence but none who were saved by chatter.







We cannot know the indescribable face
Where the eyes like apples ripened. Even so,
His torso has a candelabra’s glow,
His gaze, contained as in a mirror’s grace,

Shines within it. Otherwise his breast
Would not be dazzling. Nor would you recognize
The smile that moves along his curving thighs,
There where love’s strength is caught within its nest.

This stone would not be broken, but intact
Beneath the shoulders’ flowing cataract,
Nor would it glisten like a stallion’s hide,

Brimming with radiance from every side
As a star sparkles. Now it is dawn once more.
All places scrutinize you. You must be reborn.

Delmore Schwartz, Archaic Bust Of Apollo (After Rilke)

Rublev for Trinity Sunday

Rublev for Trinity Sunday




One day, God walked in, pale from the grey steppe,
slit-eyed against the wind, and stopped,
said, Colour me, breathe your blood into my mouth.

I said, Here is the blood of all our people,
these are their bruises, blue and purple,
gold, brown, and pale green wash of death.

These (god) are the chromatic pains of flesh,
I said, I trust I shall make you blush,
O I shall stain you with the scars of birth

For ever, I shall root you in the wood,
under the sun shall bake you bread
of beechmast, never let you forth

To the white desert, to the starving sand.
But we shall sit and speak around
one table, share one food, one earth.

Rowan Williams


Easter – and the possibilities of transformation?

Easter – and the possibilities of transformation?



When we read when we read the Gospel accounts of the resurrection we note how varied  these experiences were.  There is always a mystery, a greater depth,  new things to uncover about the transformation possible because of  Easter.  If we delve beneath the surface of these Easter encounters, we do not find human strength and resolve ,and certainly no blasts of the trumpet or an elaborate liturgies. Instead we find fragility: people who are often at their lowest point, whose whole world has collapsed. In the case of the disciples it is because they believed Jesus to have disappeared for ever. And for us we always come to an Easter celebration  with pressing questions that we want to put to God’s today .  These questions may not be answered immediately or in the way that we want or expect – but Easter is not about putting a heavenly lid on this earthly experience : it is about interpreting earthly experience  in the light of  Christ.  So it is vital that we bring those questions and trying not to hide behind them amidst all the confidence and triumphalism Easter.


This holding together of life and death , light and darkness , sorrow and joy is one of the reasons why  this piece of work  given to me by my friend Nigel Dwyer  is so important . in his workshop he  produced  an image of the resurrection  in the  symbolic  clarity  and likeness of that  glass egg  but surrounds it  with a crown of thorns . it is all placed on a copper base which  refracts the light  and holds  the reality of that Crown in place . It is almost as if the clear brightness of the light  in the egg  bursts out of  the  dangerous  sharpness  of the  points  on that crown of thorns .


So let  us bring  OUR  questions , our Fears,  are vulnerabilities into  the Easter narrative . we are offered freedom to accept  and live  God is risen life  of encounter,  renewal and  forgiveness . This piece of art reminds me that  Christ  encounters us all  in our fragility  and in our love  today  and every day .



Love and Light

Love and Light



fresh life


and then my heart

pulled itself apart

and, filled to the brim

with a new light,

overflowed with fresh life.


now even the heavens

are thankful that

because of love

i have become

the giver of light



Sometimes best to admit : mystery ?

Sometimes best to admit : mystery ?


Wherever we go exploring in the world around us, we find

mysteries. Our planet is covered by continents and oceans whose

origin we cannot explain. Our atmosphere is constantly stirred

by poorly understood disturbances that we call weather and climate.

The visible matter in the universe is outweighed by a much larger

quantity of dark invisible matter that we do not understand at all.

The origin of life is a total mystery, and so is the existence

of human consciousness.

Freeman Dyson, “How We Know”

Lord help us to see

Lord help us to see

World in eye


Vision is quite simply about seeing.

In religious terms it means seeing the world as God’s world. It means refusing to conform to the world’s standards and values, or to go along with that cynical pessimism which some call realism but is in fact a terrible, destructive despair. To believe in God is to believe that there is a power for good in the world, a power that makes itself known in the deepest and most creative drives and forces in people and in nature; a power that in the last analysis is irresistible.

To believe in God is to believe that in the end goodness will triumph over evil, justice over injustice, peace over war, that love will prove more powerful than violence, and that the compassionate service of others will prove more lasting than the gratification of oneself.

Vision in these terms is seen by the New Testament to mean a profound and revolutionary change in our understanding and in what we believe to be possible: a change in how we perceive the world, our neighbours and ourselves.

It is as profound and as dramatic as the recovery of sight to one bom blind, or the rebirth of one who is as good as dead. It has to do with faith and with hope; and it is at once utterly realistic and enormously costly.

It is, in a word, what Jesus means by the Kingdom of God; and it is the vision for which he lived and died.


Where do our lives point?

Where do our lives point?



Matthew 3 The Proclamation of John the Baptist

3In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’* 3This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.” ’
4Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.



What we wear – our clothes often give expression to something about ourselves and about the occasion for which we wear them. We dress down when we are relaxing, walking or shopping. We dress up for a special occasion – a party, baptism or wedding. Clothes are indicators of what we may be doing or where we are going. Work clothes can be protective – overalls and aprons – and they might also express roles and responsibilities: Nurses wear uniforms, and Doctors white coats (well Doctors used to!)

Mind you, clothes don’t always communicate in quite the way that one might  expect. In my last parish, one Christmas morning I stood-in at a local parish church that had no Vicar. I did the 8 o clock Communion Service and then had to race back for the first service in my own parish at 9am. Timings were rather tight. On the by-pass where I nicely picked up a bit of speed I was horrified to be pulled over by the Warwickshire Constabulary. As the police officer walked towards me in his black uniform and hi-viz yellow jacket I took some comfort that I was wearing my black cassock and clerical collar. I stepped out of the car and clearly caught the officer by surprise: ‘Been to a fancy dress party Sir?’ he asked, suspiciously. ‘Certainly not’ I exclaimed. My cassock was no protection or explanation, and certainly no guarantee to this officer of the law that I really was a law-abiding driver going about essential soul-saving business. After a brief conversation the police officer sent me on my way and I wished him a Happy Christmas. He returned the season’s compliments with a warning not to drive too quickly – ever witty his parting words were ‘You’ll not get to heaven driving like that.’ I haven’t, of course – forgotten the advice!

What are we to make of the description of John the Baptist in verse 4 of the reading from Matthew’s Gospel?

Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.’

What kind of uniform is this? How are these clothes indicative? What does this strange garb say?

The clothes John wears are austere, uncomfortable, crude. He stands in the tradition of Old Testament prophets preaching repentance and reform to the people of Israel. His clothes communicate his sense of mission and his message: John is fierce, uncompromising, and he rejects creature-comforts and all that distracts from the main concern of his life. His style of life is a stark alternative to conventional living: What he wears, what he eats, where he lives, how he behaves – all these point towards the message of God’s judgement and mercy which he brings to Israel: ‘Repent, Prepare, Confess, Be baptized.’

In Christian Art John is often depicted in the action of pointing – his arm and finger outstretched – not pointing in accusation, but pointing the viewer towards the one who is the centre of his focus: Jesus, the Saviour – “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). John points to Jesus as the one who comes to heal and reconcile humanity to God through his teaching and his death on the cross.  And John’s own death, martyred because of his uncompromising preaching, also witnesses to the justice and love of God in Jesus: “I must decrease, he will increase” says John. The purpose of his life is to point others towards the glory of God present on earth in Jesus.

As a prophet, John’s whole life – his words, his manner and conduct, his dress – point towards God; he points towards the presence of God in Jesus. To what, or to whom, do our lives point? What indication do we give of the values which are at the heart of our lives? As I share this I am mindful of the extraordinary life of Nelson Mandela and the values of justice, compassion and forgiveness that he pointed us towards by his living example. He was a powerfully impressive and charismatic man, and yet his example takes us to deeper truths, the truths by which he lived.

The prophecy of Isaiah which we hear this morning foretells of one on whom the Spirit of the Lord will rest, and the way in which this person lives and conducts himself will indicate the grace of God at work in him –

2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

The integrity of the Lord’s chosen indicates the truth at the heart of his life, the Spirit of God at work in him. He points to God, the source of his wisdom and goodness.

This season of Advent offers us some essential values by which to live, and through which our lives can point to God in Jesus Christ. Perhaps the greatest Advent pointer is Hope.


Without hope people die. Without the hope that things can change, there is little incentive for anything. Without hope, it is hard for people to love, and if we cannot love, we cannot will change, we cannot be those who struggle with patience and endurance to bring the future into being. Without hope, we have no investment in the future and therefore no investment in the present. Isaiah speaks of liberation from captivity, of peace and homecoming, and the restoration of joy. We believe and affirm the power of God to bring hope out of despair, to bring the new into being, to confound the dreary cycles of cause and effect, to make of the cracks, of the black earth of death, the seed bed of resurrection. Imagine what would have happened to Mandela had he given up hope: hope for change and hope for a better world free of division and hatred.


Advent is a good time to prepare for new life, for the birth of Christ within us, to clear the way so that we have more courageous self-examination, more open hearts, more receptive spirits, more loving kindness towards ourselves and others.


So amidst the activity of the coming days let us be people who embody hope and point to the source of hope. I pray that your preparations for Christmas may be blessed with hope.