Category Archives: Faith

Ruth: Chapter 1.

A modern re-telling of the Old Testament story of Ruth.

Ruth Declares her Loyalty to Naomi. Pieter Lastman c 1583 – 1633

Elek Mazur had brought his family to the United Kingdom soon after Poland had been admitted to the European Union. In 2005 he took his family from a small flat, in a rundown block in Wroclaw to live in Milton Keynes. Elek and Nadzia had been married 17 years when they arrived and had two sons, 15 year old Keilijan and Mahary, 13.

Soon after arriving in the UK, Elek started a small handyman business and in time, when the boys were old enough, they joined him transforming it into a thriving family concern. The boys had each learned different skills. Electrics for Kielijan, plumbing for Mahary while Elek continued the trade learned from his father, carpentry.

Together they they grew what Elek had started as a tiny, backyard business into a successful enterprise, which a few years after the boys joined their father in work outgrew their home and had to move into its own premises.

There was not a big Polish contingent around Milton Keynes, so as Keilijan and Mahary grew up, as well as joining Elek in the family business, they began to date local girls. In time both the boys married. First was the younger Mahary who married Ruth and a year later, Keilijan married Orlah, who had come to Milton Keynes from Ireland.

Not long after the second wedding, Elek died when the floor collapsed in an old house he had been working in, ironically to replace rotten wooden joists to make it safe.

The boys, who now had wives to support, carried on the business bringing in outside carpenters when needed on short term contracts. While the Mazur company supported the boys and their mother it no longer thrived and grew after the death of Elek.

All was not well in the remaining family. The boys had inherited a genetic disorder from their father, Elek. It was never discovered because of his premature, accidental death. So a few years later, it claimed the younger Mahary first and in one more year, Keilijan. Leaving a family of widows to fend for themselves.

At first Orlah and Ruth tried to manage the business, hiring in necessary skills. Slowly orders dried up as it seemed with the death death of the founders the good name was gone, The hired hands, with no stake in the business, were never as conscientious as Elek, Keilijan and Mahary.

To make matters worse, there had been a referendum in the United Kingdom and Nadzia’s adopted home had voted to leave the European Union. She had been in the UK many years and had even applied for and acquired a British citizenship, but after the vote to leave, Brexit as it was being called, Nadzia began to detect an undercurrent of if not hostility, certainly some unfriendliness, where there had been none before.

Nadzia resolved to return to Poland, though it grieved her to leave her daughters-in-law, the only remaining connection to her dead family. With Ruth and Orlah she set about winding up the business and distributing its assets between herself and the two girls. There wasn’t much to share out after settling some outstanding business loans. Terminating the mortgages on their homes, brought in a little extra, from the accumulated equity.

There wasn’t much money but Nadzia thought she had enough to return to Wroclaw, where she hoped she could find work before the money she had set aside to rent a small home ran out. The only thing left to do now before she packed up and left for Poland, was to tell Ruth and Orlah.

When Nadzia explained to Orlah and Ruth her intentions, Orlah decided almost immediately that she would go back to live with her family in Ireland. Ruth seemed unsure what to do for the best and withdrew into herself, while she considered her situation.

Very early the next day, Ruth quietly let herself into Nadzia’s home, she and Orlah both had a key each, and started to prepare breakfast for herself and her mother-in-law. It was almost ready when Nadzia came through the kitchen door. They sat down together for their meal, making desultory conversation, until Nadzia could no longer put off the question unanswered since the day before.

‘What will you do when I return to Poland’ Nadzia asked her daughter-in-law. Ruth slowly raised her eyes from her breakfast plate to meet those of her mother-in-law, holding them in silence for a few seconds before replying ‘I’m coming with you.’

Nadzia looked relieved but still asked why Ruth wouldn’t return to he own family, or stay in England, where she was from. ‘I loved your son and you are the closest I can be to him now he’s gone. Don’t make me stay.’ What about your parents, your mother.’ Nadzia asked. ‘I love them of course I do, but I’ve never been so close to mother as I have become with you. Please, don’t go without me.’

Chapter 2.

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Intercession Prayer for Sunday 3rd September 2017

The 12th Sunday of Trinity.


Audio expires after approximately 90 days.

God of grace and Father of life, You sent Your Son to live among us that we might find true and everlasting life in Him. Hear this prayer offered in Jesus name for Your church, Your world and for ourselves.

We give thanks for our clergy, and ministers of the church nationally, internationally and each in our own home towns. We pray for retiring clergy that retirement will bring new opportunities for them as we give thanks for their service.

When Jesus predicted his own death, Matthew tells us that Peter jumps in with both feet saying that isn’t what God would want. Peter presumes to know God’s mind. Father we pray that words we say and actions we do are as You guide us, not what we think or simply say is in Your name.

God of water, Lord of life. You gave us the water which sustains us and in which we are baptised. As Jesus was baptised in the Jordan, so we give thanks for everyone welcomed into Your family today by baptism in a spirit of love and trust.

We pray for our brothers and sisters in Texas, driven from their homes by floods. We pray also for India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Niger, less in the headlines, all suffering flooding of their own, without the massive, modern resources of America to deal with it and the reported over 1200 deaths.

Father God, comfort all who lost someone in floods. We give thanks for those who give aid and shelter until people can return to their homes. Support and strengthen those helping the clean up, that will take months, maybe years.

May the healing power of Jesus fill those hurting in body, mind or spirit. May he take away all that hurts or harms and give peace to those who need it.

Everlasting Father, you call us to live together in unity. Protect and guide all your children, bless our families and renew our communities.

Merciful Father Accept this prayer for the sake of Your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen.

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Eli’s Diary

An alternative telling of God’s call to Samuel.

An extract from the priest Eli’s diary.

Hannah presents her son Samuel to the priest Eli. Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, c.1665

It was a strange night. The boy Samuel kept coming and waking me, saying I’d called him; I hadn’t not once I just wanted to sleep. Three times he woke me. I was getting irritable by the third time. I’d already ticked him off for waking me twice.

The third time the lad Samuel woke me, I’d eventually realised what was going on. The boy had indeed heard a voice but because he couldn’t see anyone, he’d assumed it was my voice. It wasn’t of course. It was the Lord God’s.

When I realised it was God speaking, I was more gentle about sending Samuel away to lie down again. I told him that if he heard the voice again he should say ‘I am listening’ and then to listen carefully to what might be said. After that, to my relief, I was finally able to get a few hours sleep.

In the morning when I called Samuel to me, he came but his manner was not as usual, he was hesitant. He told me that the Lord had spoken to him, but seemed reluctant to say more. I asked him what the Lord had said. I may have been a bit abrupt with the lad. He told me everything after that and no wonder he was reluctant.

The message given to Samuel was about me and my boys. No wonder Samuel was uneasy this morning. My sons would have been the next priests to follow me but they desecrated the temple. There will be retribution on my sons.

Wet Feet

And that sinking feeling.

When Jesus walks out on the water to meet his disciples, as he approaches the boat in which his disciples are already, Peter steps out of the boat to go to meet Jesus. Within a few steps of leaving the boat, Peter begins to sink in the water and calls out “Lord, save me!”

Jesus reached a hand to Peter saying “You of little faith, why did you doubt.” Did peter really deserve what seems to be a rebuke? Was it lack of faith or simple fear that caused Peter to start to sink? Should fear be associated with lack of faith? There is a suggestion, though nothing explicit, that even Jesus was afraid on the night before his crucifixion, when he said “take this cup from me.”

If anyone were to be the one to leave the boat to go to Jesus, it was almost bound to be Peter. He was impetuous, often acting or speaking without thinking first. That doesn’t make him lacking in faith.

In the first place, Peter was brave enough with sufficient faith to get out of the boat, apparently the only disciple to do so. It is evident that Peter did not start to sink immediately, he had taken some steps toward Jesus. Clearly Jesus was more than just an arm’s reach from the boat. It was when Peter noticed the growing ferocity of the storm that he started to sink, I think through fear not lack of faith.

It was Peter’s faith that impelled him to leave the boat to go to Jesus. It was fear that was the cause of starting to sink, then comes a second act of faith which seems to be generally unremarked upon.

As Peter began to sink he called out “Lord, save me.” He could have called out to the other disciples in the boat to throw him a rope, which I suspect is what many people would have done. Peter may have been afraid but he had enough faith in Jesus for him to be who he called on to save him.

The Descent From The Cross

Thoughts on the painting by Peter Paul Rubens.

Descent From The Cross by Rubens 1612-1614

Reubens created The Descent From The Cross between 1612 to 1614, as the central panel of a triptych, where it can still be seen in it’s original location the Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp, Belgium.

One of the first things that struck me is that all of the figures in Rubens’ picture are fair skinned. It is highly unlikely that this would have been the case, though the two men, I take to be Joseph of Arimathea’s servants, leaning over the cross bar to Lower Christ’s body, do have that swarthy outdoor look about them.

The next thing that caught my attention is the colour of John’s clothing; red the colour of blood. The robe is very close in colour the the blood on Christ’s body, but this in itself I think is the wrong colour. Blood turns darker, almost brown as it dries.

All the characters in Rubens’ picture appear in one of the gospels, though not all in the same gospel. Nicodemus presence in this scene is only recorded in the gospel of John.

Another aspect of the picture that caught my attention is the title, The Descent From The Cross. Particularly the use of “Descent”.

Descent usually means to move down, fall or drop. What we see in Rubens’ picture is not just descent by moving down, but being taken down, or lowered. A physical act by a group of Jesus’ friends, family and followers, not of his own action.

If we think again of descent in a spiritual, instead of physical sense, it might have a different, allegorical meaning. The Apostles Creed tells us that:

He descended to the dead. (In some versions hell, instead of dead)
On the third day He rose again.

So it is possible that the title was a deliberate choice of words, to indicate that the picture is not solely depicting the physical act of taking Jesus down from he cross, so that he could be entombed.

Intercession Prayer for Sunday 23rd July 2017

The 6th Sunday of Trinity.


Audio expires after approximately 90 days.

Heavenly Father, whose love is wider than our imagination, send Your Holy Spirit as we pray to You in the name of Your Son, our redeemer Jesus Christ.

Thank You that we can worship you in our homeland, that we can do so without fear. We remember places where to worship in Your Holy name might bring persecution We pray that soon everyone of faith may have freedom to worship you.

When Jesus told the parable of the weeds (Matthew 13: 24-30), he showed the need for patience, to separate the wheat from the chaff. Give us patience not to get caught up by the ‘have it now’ inclination, but to have self restraint for the richer rewards to come. Let this patience not be lazy, just waiting. Help us to flower amongst the weeds.

As school holidays begin, we pray for the children and young people, their teachers and carers. May the holidays refresh them for the next school year.

We pray for those leaving school to begin work or higher education. For those nervous about joining a new school, college, university or working for the first time. Prepare and support them for the next steps of their journey, whatever those steps might be. Guide them always along Your path.

We pray for the people of Lincolnshire and of Coverack in Cornwall, affected by flash floods after the storms. Let the resources be available to clear the devastation and return homes to liveable condition, and livelihoods back to business. Lord, help the relief workers making buildings safe and habitable again and help residents rebuild their communities after the reconstruction and refurbishment is complete. We pray for generosity and compassion in finding them temporary accommodation until they can return to their homes.

We give thanks for our homes whilst we remember the homeless and the refugees, wherever they are and whatever the cause. As the world refugee crisis shows no sign of slowing, we think today of South Sudan where towns near the country’s border have lost over 90% of their population.

We pray for the negotiations taking place to agree the conditions of the UK departure from the European Union. We pray for the negotiators of both UK and EU that their discussions be constructive, not confrontational. Help them to quickly reach agreement on citizens rights that are fair to all and ends uncertainty of anyone making a home, living and working in a country other than their homeland.

Father we bring to You those we know who are unwell or injured in body, mind or spirit. Offer them Your healing, to each in the way best fitted to their own need and we each offer to You, Father, the unspoken words of our own hearts.

Living God who loves all that You have made, give to us your compassion that others may see it through us in how we treat our brothers and sisters, friends and neighbours. Let our ears hear Your words of grace, given to us by Your Son, Lord Jesus Christ.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of Your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen.

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Faith Without Thinking

But not unthinking faith.

Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant. 1893

I’ve been nominally a Christian since I was baptised as a baby. It’s in recent years that I’ve taken it seriously, trying to live by Christian principals. I’ve not done anything criminal or deliberately hurt anyone, nevertheless I’m probably not what you might call a good Christian.

I go to church each Sunday. I meet with Christian friends and discuss what being a Christian means. I read the Bible, sometimes. That might be part of what makes me Christian but not necessarily a good one.

Often on weekdays and when I’m not with my Christian friends, I am not thinking about behaving as a Christian. Of course it shouldn’t be necessary to be thinking about it all the time. Which is the point I probably need to explain a little more.

This post was inspired by a paragraph from a book, Unveiling A Parallel (To be reviewed later on Entertaining Angels Bookshelf). The passage is:

“Do you often hear an upright man professing his honesty? It is part of himself. He is so free of the law which enjoins honesty that he never gives it a thought. So with the man who is truly religious and no longer needs to guide himself bit by bit and rein, or measure his conduct by the written code.”
– From Unveiling a Parallel by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant 1893.

The book is fiction. We can still learn something from it, just as we learn from Jesus’ parables which were fiction but contained a truth.

The person referred to in the quoted passage never thinks about his religion which, in the book, we are not told what it is. The point is that he doesn’t need to think about it. Its principals are so deeply ingrained within him, that he doesn’t need to think about them to live by them. It is, or has become, his natural way of living, of conducting himself.

As Christians, shouldn’t we be aiming to live by Jesus’ teaching, to the extent we do not need to constantly think about it?  I’m not suggesting we should not think about or discuss The Bible and God and Jesus, just that living by its principals ought to become second nature to us, or that we should aim that it does.