Read the Bible for Lent

Lent Booklet 2016 Cover w borderDuring Lent, members and friends of Churches Working Together in Didsbury are reading the Bible together. You can join us by reading our booklet in which a different person from each of the churches has written on a passage of Scripture for each day of Lent. If you would like to read with us, please feel free to download a copy of the booklet here or read it online at issuu. Don’t just give something up, start something new for Lent this year!

Streams in the desert

2014 lb cover 400

On Wednesday 5 March, the season of Lent begins. Churches working together in Didsbury have again published a booklet of Bible reading notes for the season. Copies are available from Christ Church West Didsbury, Didsbury Community Church, Didsbury Methodist Church, Didsbury United Reformed Church, East Didsbury Methodist Church, St Christopher’s Withington, St James and Emmanuel, the Welsh Presbyterian Church and, of course, from us at Didsbury Baptist Church. Help yourself to a copy and read the Bible with us through Lent.

Bible-Reading in Lent

Churches Working Together in Didsbury have produced a new booklet of Lenten devotional readings for 2011. People from Didsbury Baptist Church, Christ Church and St Christopher, Didsbury Community Church, Didsbury United Reformed Church, Didsbury and East Didsbury Methodist Churches, and Didsbury Welsh Chapel have provided articles. You can download your own copy by clicking here.

The individual reflections will be posted daily on the web at least for the first few days of Lent. Check them out from Ash Wednesday (9 March) at the Churches Working Together in Didsbury website.

Peace that disturbs

Today’s Bible readings are Isaiah 26.1–6; Psalm 118.18-27a; Matthew 7.21, 24-27.

The coming of the Lord is not all sweetness and light. For good news to the poor is bad news to the rich. And if the coming of Jesus will set right what is wrong, it will spell trouble for those who side with the wrong. The righteous will sing ‘this is the day the Lord had made’ but the unrighteous may not feel like singing at all. And who is to say that we will be found to be on the right side?

One thing is for sure: we are never more in danger than when we think we are OK. For not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom, and the lofty city is brought down. But those who put their trust in God, who hear the message of Jesus and act on it, can be quietly confident, not in themselves but in God. The Advent season prompts us to ask whose side we are on, what values we are living by, and what really matters to us. Advent is about waiting for the God who both comforts and challenges us.

All my hope on God is founded;
He doth still my trust renew,
Me through change and chance He guideth,
Only good and only true.
God unknown, He alone
Calls my heart to be His own.

Joachim Neander (1650 – 1680)

Lord of mountain and valley

Today’s Bible readings are Isaiah 25.6–10a; Psalm 23; Matthew 15.29-37.

It is difficult to know whether, in presenting the healing and feeding miracles of Jesus, Matthew had texts like Isaiah 25 in mind but I think it’s a good bet. Matthew’s Jesus ascends the mountain and great crowds gather before him. In keeping with Isaiah 25, Jesus heals their sick and, in effect, dries their tears, rolling back the forces of death. He sets them a sumptuous feast and the people praise ‘the God of Israel’. The words from Isaiah are not used but we can imagine that it was said on that day, ‘Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’ (Isaiah 25.9)

If we see in the ministry of Jesus a fulfilment of the promises of old, we also await a further, complete fulfilment yet to be revealed. We wait, with John the writer of the book of Revelation, for the day when God ‘will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away’ (Rev 21.4). In the meantime, we can take the psalmist’s words on our lips, ‘though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.’

Gracious God, please be with those of your children who today walk in the valley of the shadow of death; let them know your presence and in it find strength and consolation. Amen

Didsbury Churches’ Lent Reflections

click on image to download booklet

Churches Working Together in Didsbury are using the season of Lent to read the Bible, reflect and pray together by means of a booklet of daily Bible-reading reflections they have produced. You can download a pdf version of the booklet by clicking on the image on the left. The reflections will also appear daily online at http://cwtid.wordpress.com. There you can read the Bible readings for the day, read the daily reflection and make your own comments. Please check out the site, bookmark it in you browser and keep returning to participate in the discussion.

Out of the depths

The Bible readings for Wed 23 December are: Psalm 130; Malachi 2.17 – 3.12; Luke 1.57–66.

Today’s readings are united in the theme of waiting for God or trusting in God. It is the Lord who will redeem Israel (Ps 130), the Lord who will suddenly visit his temple (Malachi), and the Lord who restores the speech of Zechariah (Luke 1).

It is not immediately clear what is envisioned by ‘The Lord will redeem Israel from all its iniquities’ (Ps 130.8). Clearly, forgiveness is in view. Yet the Hebrew word for ‘iniquity’ also means ‘guilt’, ‘condemnation’ or ‘punishment’. Redemption then may imply a kind of healing of both sinner and sinned-against. It may imply that a time of distress, brought about as a consequence of wrongdoing, is coming to an end and a new chapter opening, much as for Zechariah in the Gospel reading.

This Advent and Christmas, we might ask whether we have been the cause of our own, or someone else’s, distress. Perhaps, this Christmas we can begin to put that right and help to make this Christmas memorable not for family squabbles but for forgiveness and reconciliation. Perhaps too, we might pray and work for those in our world who long achingly for justice and peace.

The song of Mary

The Bible readings for today are: Psalm 124; Malachi 2.1–16; Luke 1.46–56.

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
(Luke 1.46–55, the Magnificat)

What more can you say?

Divine initiative and human response

Today’s Bible readings are: Psalm 121; Malachi 1.1, 6–end; Luke 1.39–45.

The Visitation (Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth) from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (the very rich hours of the duke of Berry), a renowned book of hours.

The theme of divine – human interaction is never far from the birth accounts of Luke’s Gospel. The accounts speak of the working of God in the world and of the unfolding of God’s plan of salvation. Yet this ‘plan’ seems more open-ended than we might have imagined and always involves human beings who may, it seems, respond positively or negatively toward God. They may further God’s purpose or, in some sense, (wittingly or unwittingly) stand against it. Yet God has the last word and even the resistance of humanity is somehow ultimately overcome.

Zechariah does not believe the word of the angel and needs a sign; Mary, on the other hand (though still questioning) believes the angel and responds: ‘Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ Elizabeth lauds Mary for her faith. Yet God does not give up on Zechariah.

Through their faith and in spite of their lack of faith, God is at work among human beings wooing them, inspiring them and equipping them to will and to do what is right.

I think both Psalm 121 and Malachi 1 have there own contribution to make in this area but I will leave you to reflect on that and perhaps to leave a comment.

O little town of Bethlehem

Today’s Bible readings are: Micah 5.2–5a; Hebrews 10.5–10; Luke 1.39–45 [46–55].

For prophets and Gospel writers alike the town of Bethlehem had all kinds of associations that made it the ideal location for the birth of the deliverer / messiah. It was King David’s home-town and the place of his anointing as king (1 Sam 16). For Micah as for Luke it was near enough to Jerusalem to provide a point of comparison. The traditional capital had become corrupt so new hope would come, not from completely foreign quarters, but not directly from Jerusalem either. Thus John the Baptist springs from a priestly family, centred (presumably) on Jerusalem, but Jesus, from the nearby, yet alternative, Bethlehem.

Bethlehem was also the place where Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin. I have just been reading that story in Genesis 35.16–21 and was struck by similarities between it and Luke’s birth narrative. (The themes of journeying, childbirth and naming are prominent in both). Bethlehem became, for Rachel (and for Jacob) a place of threat, pain, and death but also a place of hope and celebration because of the birth of a child. So in Luke’s story, into the pain and distress of an oppressed people, came hope and peace in Jesus Christ.

Bethlehem today is again a place of tension, pain and distress. Can hope and peace  break through there anew in our day?

Christian Aid is featuring Bethlehem in its Christmas appeal.

Loving God, we pray for the people of Bethlehem and for a renewal of hope and peace there. Amen.

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