Monday, December 17, 2018

Be an Angel 17


Advent Angels 17



In this passage, Jesus tells his disciples that, though the priorities of the world in which they live don’t apply in the kingdom of heaven. In a society which gave very little value to young children, he proclaims that it is children, and others who are vulnerable, who come top of God’s agenda. Their angels stand before God in heaven, in the front row, so to speak ; God notices them above all others, and so should those who follow him.

In an age in which the enormous extent of the abuse of children – common throughout history – has been increasingly coming to light in all sections of society, including the church, this passage is especially powerful. Attitudes which idolise and prioritise the mighty  which were common in Jesus’ time is still common today. It is often hard to hear for the quiet voices of those who have little influence. Jesus reminds us, though, that while they may not have the world’s ear, God does not miss a single cry for help from them.

·         When you were a child, do you recall times when you felt your voice was not heard, or when it did not occur to you to speak up?

·         Think of any children in your life now – family, friends, church members. How well do you really know them? How often do you get down to their level and really listen to what they are saying?

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Be an Angel 16


Advent Angels 16



After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, his followers continued to spread his message. The Roman and Jewish authorities, who thought they had crushed the threat to their power by crucifying Jesus, found that instead, the trouble seemed to have multiplied. A savage wave of persecution followed. James was killed and Peter was thrown into prison.

The church “prayed fervently to God for him” and in the middle of the night, an angel appeared to him in his prison cell and set him free. He thought he was dreaming, and so did the members of the church. Rhoda, the woman who answered his knock at the door, initially left him standing outside, because she was so surprised to see him there.

The story doesn’t promise that nothing bad will happen to Christians; it begins by telling us about the killing of James. It does remind us, though, that we are not forgotten by God when we are in trouble, and that the concern and prayers we offer for one another is not wasted.

·         Why do you think prayer matters, if you do? Does it matter to you if you know others are praying for you?
·         The angel in this story is a messenger proclaiming liberation. Is there anything you feel you need liberating from?

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Advent Angels 15


Read: Daniel 6

The famous story of Daniel in the lions’ den is set at roughly the same time as yesterday’s story, though now Nebuchadnezzar has been succeeded by King Darius. His courtiers, jealous of the power he has given Daniel, another of the Jewish exiles, cook up a plot which will not only – they think – get rid of Daniel, but also make Darius the author of Daniel’s misfortune. Darius doesn’t seem to realise that forbidding the people of his empire to pray to anyone but him will put Daniel in an impossible position, but once the edict has been made, according to the customs of his nation, even he can’t undo it. Much against Darius’ will, Daniel must be thrown to the lions.

The next morning Darius comes to the den fearfully, sure that he will find no more than a pile of bones, but Daniel is safe. He says that “God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths.” We never see this angel, but Daniel is in no doubt that God has intervened to save him.

Although this story is set in a world far removed from our own by time and distance, political manipulation of the kind which lands Daniel among the lions is just as much a reality now as it ever was. The story of Daniel reminds us, though, that God affirms those who act with integrity.

·         What “lions” have you faced in your life? Have you ever feared being torn apart, emotionally, physically or spiritually?

·         Pray for those who suffer because they have acted with integrity. Could you do something to support the work of Amnesty International or Freedom from Torture which works with the “Daniels” of our own day?


Be an Angel 15


Friday, December 14, 2018

Be an Angel 14


Advent Angels 14


Read: Daniel 3

This story is set in Babylon, where the Jewish people had been taken into exile. Three young Jewish men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, have found favour with King Nebuchadnezzar and risen to high office in his court. But Nebuchadnezzar is a megalomaniac, and decides to set up a golden statue of himself and command that everyone should bow down before it. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, as good Jews, are not prepared to do this, and as a result, are thrown into a furnace so hot that that the flames kill those who put them into it.

King Nebuchadnezzar is astonished to see, though, that not only are the three men not burned up, but that there seems to be a fourth in the furnace with them, “and the fourth has the appearance of a god”. When the three men are called to come out, their hair is not even singed, and they don’t smell of the fire. Nebuchadnezzar praises God who has “sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him.”

·         What do you think of this story of miraculous deliverance? What about those who are faithful and yet are not delivered from trouble? Can this story still be an encouragement to them?

·         The angel in this story does nothing except be present with the three men. Is it sometimes enough simply to know that God is with us, even if we are not miraculously delivered? Have you experienced this in your life?

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Be an Angel 13


Advent Angels 13



Abraham has been promised that God will give him more descendants than the stars in the sky, but as he has been able to have no children with his wife Sarah, and she is now too old to expect to bear children, he can’t understand how this can be. Sarah gives him her servant girl, Hagar, so that she can bear a child for them, but then becomes jealous when her son Ishmael is born. When Sarah eventually gives birth to Isaac, Ishmael and Hagar are, essentially, not needed any more. Sarah insists that they be driven out into the desert.

Hagar knows that she and the child are bound to die there, unprotected and without water, and leaves Ishmael under a bush so that she won’t have to witness his death, but just when she had given up all hope, an angel appears to her, and points her towards a well of water, promising that she and the boy will be saved, and that God will make a great nation of them too. She has met this angel before, when she was pregnant and ran away from the ill treatment of Sarah. Then the angel sent her back, but now he leads her away to a new life.

In this story, someone who is among the most powerless people in the Bible, a powerless slave woman, is protected and honoured by God. She is a reminder that God works through people who may be overlooked by everyone else.

·         Who can you think of, in your family , church or neighbourhood whose voice might be unheard or discounted?

·         Imagine encountering their “guardian angel” – what might the angel say to you about the way they are treated, and how might you reply?

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Be an Angel 12


Advent Angels 12

Read: Tobit 5

The book of Tobit is in the Apocrypha, a collection of writings not included in all Bibles. It is a story about a virtuous man called Tobit, who has become blind. He sends his son, Tobias, to retrieve some money of his, which he has left with a fellow Jew in Persia, so that he can be given a proper burial when he dies, and his widow be provided for. Tobias is anxious about the journey, but when he goes out to look for someone trustworthy to go with him, he is met by  a young man who turns out to be the angel Raphael.

Tobias doesn’t realise that he is travelling with an angel, but Raphael takes care of him all the way to Media and back, enabling him to cast out a demon which has been killing the bridegrooms of a woman whom he ends up marrying, helping him find the healing salve which will restore Tobit’s sight, and, of course, getting Tobit’s money back. The story ends with Raphael revealing his identity and blessing Tobias and his bride, Sarah. Raphael tells Tobit and Tobias that it was he who “read the record of your prayer before the glory of the Lord.” “Do not be afraid; peace be with you” he says, “Bless God evermore.”



It is a story which is well worth seeking out, if you haven’t got it in your own Bible – the Bibles in the pews in Seal Church include the apocrypha. This story seems to have been much loved in the Renaissance – there are many versions of it, though Raphael is usually depicted as having a splendid set of wings, so it is hard to see how Tobias didn’t notice there was something strange about his friend! 

The story of Tobias and the angel could be seen as an early version of a “buddy movie”. Have you ever had a “buddy” who has travelled with you through difficult times? What did their help mean to you

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Be an Angel 11


Advent Angels 11



The story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, told very briefly in Mark’s Gospel, unlike Matthew and Luke’s version, ends with the enigmatic statement that “the angels waited on him”. No explanation is given of what these angels are doing, but the impression is that they are in some way caring for him.

The wilderness was regarded in the time of Jesus as a place of danger, the haunt of demons, literally a wild place, where wild things were. Jesus has met one of those “wild things”, the rebel angel the Bible calls Satan, the accuser. He has not given in to his temptations, but at the end of such a struggle it is easy to see how he might need the ministry of the angels.

·         When you have been through a tough time, what helps you to regain your balance and energy?

·         Who or what are the “angels” you need to wait on you, the messages you need to hear at that time?

Monday, December 10, 2018

Be an Angel 10


Advent Angels 10


The next group of angels all in some way protect or guide people, so I have called them all Guardian Angels.


The Israelites are being led by Moses through the desert on their way to the Promised Land of Canaan, but the lands through which this caravan of ex-slaves passes is not empty. It belongs to various tribes, none of whom are pleased to see this huge crowd enter their territories. What if they decide not to move on? Balak, the king of Moab, decides to send for a Moabite holy man, Balaam, to curse the Israelites. Numbers 22.1-21 describes how Balaam is reluctant to go at first – he recognises the power of the God of these people. Eventually he concedes, and sets off on his donkey to meet the King near where the Israelites are encamped.

In the story in today’s reading, though, we discover that, though Balaam is now keen to make the journey, his donkey has other ideas. The donkey can see what Balaam can’t, that there is a large and ferocious angel barring the way. Eventually the donkey points this out to Balaam (this is one of only two “talking animal” stories in the Bible – the other is the snake who talks to Eve in the Garden of Eden).

In the end, though Balaam does meet with King Balak, he refuses to curse the Israelites. He cannot curse what God has blessed.

·         Have you ever found the way ahead that you wanted to take blocked? Looking back have you ever seen that this was actually a good thing, even if it felt frustrating at the time?

·         Whose voices do you listen to when you need to make a decision? Do we sometimes need to pay attention to the voices of the “donkey” , the voices we are tempted to write off as unimportant?

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Be an Angel 9


Advent Angels 9


Read: Judges 6

The story of Gideon is almost comical. The Israelites, only fairly recently settled in the land of Canaan after the exodus, are being attacked by their neighbours, the Midianites. There are no kings, and effectively no formal government at the time; Israel is led by “judges”, people chosen for their military prowess or wisdom. At this time, however, there is no clear leadership.

As the story begins, Gideon, a farmer, is hiding himself and any produce he can from the rampaging Midianites who are laying waste the land. He is terrified. When the angel of the Lord appears suddenly in front of him and addresses him as “you mighty warrior” Gideon is dumbfounded. Surely the angel doesn’t mean him? He is, as he points out, the least in his family, which is part of the weakest clan in the tribe of Manasseh. The angel is adamant, though, and eventually Gideon, however fearfully, accepts the challenge of confronting the Midianites. He is a wonderfully human character, a mix of courage, fear, foolhardiness and genuine faithfulness to God.

·        
Do you recognise anything of yourself in Gideon?

·         The angel sees something in Gideon which he cannot see in himself, that he is a “mighty warrior”. Has someone else ever seen something in you which you have been blind to?

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Advent Angels 8


Day 8: Warrior Angels


Jewish theology, and the Christian theology which followed it, held that angels had free will, just as humans did.
By the time of Christ, an idea had taken root that some angels had rebelled against God and were determined to try to influence the world for evil. A figure who had originally been simply considered to be a member of the heavenly court appointed to test humanity, called the Accuser (the Satan, in Hebrew) gradually morphed into what was now called the Devil, a figure of evil. He was still a creature, not an equal of God, but was often seen as the moving force behind the evil in the world.

In the book of Revelation the Satan (described here as a dragon) and his angels fight with Michael, the warrior archangel of God. It is a bitter battle, but there is no doubt in the writer’s mind about the outcome. The Satan and his angels are God’s creation, however wrong they have gone, and ultimately under his control.

The book of Revelation was written by an exiled Christian leader at a time of persecution by the Romans. He speaks in coded language of the struggles against oppression which he and his fellow Christians are going through. It may seem that they are in the grip of evil, but it will not last forever. God is good, and his love will eventually triumph over evil.

The archangel Michael, one of the few named angels in the Bible, is usually portrayed in art as a soldier, often treading underfoot a dragon like devil. Churches dedicated to Michael are often located on the tops of hills, like St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, and Mont Saint-Michel in France, because it is felt that they stand at the boundary of earth and heaven. There are often legends attached to them about St Michael fighting with and outwitting the Devil

·         What difference does it make to the way we live our lives if we believe that love is stronger than evil? 

·         Have you ever experienced a real struggle between the temptation to do evil and good in your life? What happened?

Be an Angel 8


Friday, December 07, 2018

Be an Angel 7


You can find the Gospel accounts of Jesus birth and the events that surrounded it here.
http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=411166732
There's a great version of the Nativity story from the Bible Society here https://youtu.be/URMtYSvMJys

Advent Angels 7


Day 7: Warrior Angels


The king of Aram has been waging war on Israel, but every time he tries to attack, the Israelite prophet Elisha hears from God telling him where the attack will fall. Eventually The king of Aram realises that Elisha is the fly in the ointment, and resolves to get rid of him. He sends a large and well-equipped army to surround the prophet’s house in the middle of the night. When Elisha’s servant gets up in the morning, he is (rightly!) terrified at the sight of all these soldiers, hell-bent on eradicating Elisha, and presumably him as well.

Elisha, though, does not seem afraid, and asks God that his servant’s eyes should be opened. “Do not be afraid,” Elisha says to him “for there are more with us than there are with them.” The servant sees that  the mountains all around them are filled with an even greater army, the army of God, with all its horses and chariots of fire.

·         Imagine you are the servant in this story. What might it feel like suddenly to see that you are not alone and that “there are more with us than there are with them”?

·         When you are going through difficult times, what sources of strength outside you do you have to call on?

Thursday, December 06, 2018

December News from Rochester Diocese


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Thursday 6  December 2018

Welcome to the December edition of Rochester Diocese's monthly e-newsletter. 




Our new quarterly magazine Together has now arrived to shine a spotlight on the life, faith and work of the Church locally.

With a fresh, modern design and in a convenient ‘handbag’ size format, there is plenty to interest churchgoers and non-churchgoers alike. Read more about it here

We've been getting some great feedback: "I think the new magazine is great. Much more readable, in fact I read it from cover to cover." Click to read it online

If you haven't seen it in your church or community, please let us know so we can look into it for you: communications@rochester.anglican.org


News in brief
Stories from around the parishes

Advent Quiet Day...At Home!
Advent peace offered online in Tonbridge ahead of Christmas bustle. Read more

First interfaith awards in Bexley
Churches among those recognised at faith awards. Read more
Lost sheep
Knitted sheep overrun church in woollen welcome. Read more 

#FollowTheStar hits Matfield
Locals share their Christmas journey for BBC radio series. Read more

Diocesan Update
All you need to know this month from the Diocese and National Church


USE 'A CHURCH NEAR YOU' THIS CHRISTMAS
Bishop James is encouraging churches to make sure their Christmas services are updated on the national A Church Near You (ACNY) site.  Every church has a free ACNY page and with half a million visitors expected to the site in December alone, now is the perfect time to start. Find out why here.


CALLED TOGETHER: STORY SO FAR 
Just over a year ago the new vision for the Diocese, Called Together was launched. Much progress has already been made around our three aims. Read an update on each aim here: Grow, Enrich, Resource. Or download a full round-up here


NEW HARARE BISHOP WELCOMED
Bishop James has welcomed news that the Very Revd Dr Farai Mutamiri (pictured), former Dean of Harare Cathedral will be the next Bishop of Harare. Bishop James is in Zimbabwe during December, with whom we have a valued companionship link, to mark the retirement of the current bishop, Bishop Chad Gandiya. Read a Church Times article here.


BE INSPIRED: CHURCH CASE STUDIES 
From tea and coffee making facilities, to glass doors that invite people to come in, if you are part of a congregation thinking about changes to your church building, take a look at our case studies from across Rochester and Canterbury dioceses to inspire and encourage you. More here


CLERGY HOUSING: STRATEGY SHARED
Clergy houses often hold a significant place in the hearts and minds of the local church and community, as well as for those that live within them. Following a consultation, a new Clergy Houses Strategy has been developed, inspired by the Called Together vision. Find out more here


TABLES NEED A HOME
The tables in the Chancel at the Diocesan Offices are due to be replaced. The current ones are available though to a good home! You must be able to collect and a small donation is welcome. Please contact: Mark Trevett on mark.trevett@rochester.anglican.org 


Video of the month: Bishop Simon's Advent message


"All young people want for Christmas is peace: peace of mind." Watch Bishop Simon Burton-Jones' Advent message as he talks about the rising prevalence of mental health issues among young people and the role that churches can play in supporting them. Read the full story here


CONNECT WITH US. FIND US AT:



Safeguarding
The safeguarding of children, young people and vulnerable adults in our churches is of utmost importance and the Diocese takes its responsibilities in this area very seriously. We have a range of policies, forms and advice notes as well as a regular programme of training to assist parishes with their safeguarding needs.

C2: Leadership safeguarding training 


  • Monday 28/01/19 at  All Saints Church, Church Green, Frindsbury, Rochester ME2 4HE Book here
  • Saturday 09/02/19 at Diocesan Offices,St Nicholas Church, Boley Hill, Rochester ME5 1SL Book here
  • Thursday 14/02/19  at The Anglican and Methodist Church of St Andrew, Maidstone Road, Paddock Wood, Kent, TN12 6DZ Book here
  • Monday 18/03/19 at All Saints’ Church, Bark Hart Road, Orpington BR6 0QD Book here

C3 Clergy and Lay Ministers Safeguarding Training

  • Tuesday 15/01/19 at St John’s Church, 251 Eden Park Avenue, Beckenham, Kent, BR3 3JN Book here
  • Wednesday 27/02/19 at St Nicholas Church, Rectory Lane, Sevenoaks, Kent TN13 1JA Book here
Online modules: The C0 and C1modules are available online and are recommended for anyone who needs a basic level of awareness of safeguarding

If you have any questions about Safeguarding, or need to report an issue, please contact the Safeguarding team here or call them on 01634 560 000.



Resources

Top resources to support you in your work, life and faith - or just to share with others.

Children's Christmas book reviews
Our new magazine - Together - features resources and books. Mike Harrowing, Team Leader for High Hopes – a Christian project that runs faith-fuelled activities for schools and churches in Tonbridge – entered into the Christmas spirit and reviewed three children’s Christmas books. Take a look here
 

Book for Church Wardens 
“Churchwardens are the great unsung heroes of the Church of England” says the Bishop of Lichfield, in his foreword to this newly published book - Rotas Rules and Rectors. Written by former church warden, Matthew Clements, the book shares his experiences to encourage others in this role. Visit www.beingachurchwarden.com/


Events and Training


View local and Diocesan events in our What's On Calendar. Add your own event too! Explore the courses available at the St. Benedict's Centre here and St. Augustine's College of Theology here.

  • Advent and Christmas Services - Throughout December, Rochester Cathedral - Make Rochester Cathedral part of your Christmas this year with a variety of services and events. Click here for full details

  • Christmas Unwrapped Sunday 9 December 6pm to 8pm, KICC, Buckmore Park - Join J.John for a festive celebration to kick off Christmas. A FREE event hosted by the organisers of JustOne at Priestfield Stadium. More details here: www.christmasunwrappedkent.co.uk/

  • Bethlehem: Town of Hopes and Fears - December 9, 6pm, St Matthew’s Church, Wigmore, ME8 0NX An opportunity to remember and pray for those living in 21st Century Bethlehem, with pictures and recent reports from the place itself - organised by the Diocesan Friends of the Holy Land.

  • Dementia Friendly Carol Service - 12 December 2.30pm to 4.30pm, St. Matthew's , Wigmore, ME8 0NX This is an informal service for those who find it difficult to take part in more traditional Carol Services. We will sing favourite carols followed by refreshments and time to chat.

  • Christingle 50 Years - Saturday 15th December,  12.30pm, Rochester Cathedral.  The Children's Society is celebrating 50 years since the first Christingle service. Join this special service led by the Diocesan Youth Council.

  • Comedians and Carols - December 22, 7:30pm-10pm Christ Church, Chatham. An evening of laughter, sing-songs and mince pies. Compered by Paul Kerensa (writer for BBC1’s Miranda and Not Going Out) Advance tickets £7.50 Call 01634 907055 or visit: www.luton.church

Vision and Aims


CALLED TOGETHER UPDATE
  • As the year draws to a close, view an update of what has been achieved so far with Called Together here

Vacancies and appointments





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