Daily Update #223

Pause:  As we prepare to look at God’s Word let us quieten our minds, so that
   His Holy Spirit may speak to us today.

Readings:  Ezekiel 18 : 21 – 28;   Psalm 130;  Matthew 5 : 20 – 26

“But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die.  None of the offences they have committed will be remembered against them.  Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live.  Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord.  Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”  Ezekiel 18 : 21 – 23

Our reading from Ezekiel chapter 18 comes in the middle of a message from the Lord, to the prophet and so to the people, warning them of the perils of sinning against the Lord.  Such words from the Lord are nothing new; from the very beginning God made it very clear that although the people of Israel were to be his chosen ones that didn’t mean that they could do just as they pleased.  Very early on in their history God gave them the Law, setting out what he expected of them.  This was not done to bring the people into submission, but to open up the way to a life of joy with their Lord.  Obedience to God’s law brings peace with one another and with God.

However, as we know only too well, knowing the law, and keeping it, are often two completely different things.  Thankfully we have a gracious God who, whilst condemning the sin, confirms his love for the sinner over and over again.  In the Old Testament we see this in the role of the priest, leading the people to confession of their wrongdoing and then the offering of a sacrifice to God to bring about forgiveness.  Of course, this was only a temporary solution to the problem of sin; the shed blood of a goat, even one with no blemishes, could not fully take away the people’s sins; the sacrifice and ceremony had to be repeated annually until a permanent “solution” could be found.

Which is where Jesus comes into the picture.  In Galatians chapter 4 Paul writes, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.”  That phrase “born under the law” is important, because Jesus was fully human when he lived on earth, and was, like each one of us, subject to the Law laid down by God hundreds of years earlier.  What sets Jesus apart is that he lived a sinless life, even though he faced all of the temptations and problems that we do.  When Jesus shed his blood on the cross of Calvary his sacrifice was a perfect offering for the sins of the whole world, and as a result we can know God’s forgiveness at any time.  We don’t have to wait for an annual offering; as I said in the Reflection a couple of weeks ago, when we turn to God and ask for his forgiveness he is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 

God is always ready to hear us, always ready to forgive, and as we see from the reading in Ezekiel when we do confess, “none of the offences (we) have committed will be remembered against (us).”  The psalmist knew this; in verses 3 and 4 of today’s Psalm we read, “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.”   

Thank you, Heavenly Father, that you were willing to send your beloved Son to bring us back into your loving arms.  Thank you, Jesus our Saviour, that you were willing to give yourself for us that we might be adopted into your heavenly family.  Thank you, Holy Spirit, for revealing these truths to us.  Thank you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

The Big Quiz – 26th Feb 2021

This week is quiz week! See you on Friday, don’t forget to invite your friends and family. Click the image below to join the action…

The Big Love Southbourne Quiz will be line on this website and on FaceBook at 7.15pm on Friday 26th February. Anyone can play; individuals, couples, families or groups connected by their own video conference. 20 questions in 4 rounds, plus a special double points bonus question! All you will need is a pen & paper to write down your answers.

The answers will be given at the end of the quiz – once you have marked your sheet, send your team name and score to welovesouthbourne@stjohnssouthbourne.com

A bench to remember Mark

We are fund raising for a bench that be a fitting memorial for Mark. The piano bench would be suitably engraved and placed in the St. John’s Church grounds for all to enjoy. The picture below is the style of bench chosen.

Any extra funds raised would enable the purchase of WW1 and WW2 benches from the same company, and form part of an ongoing project with the Parish Council to improve the war memorial area.

You can contribute to this work by visiting the link below:


Do have a look at the fundraising page and let others know who might like to donate towards this.

A tribute to make can be found here.

A Tribute to Mark Everson

It is with great sadness that we share our dear friend Mark has passed away. Mark was part of the St. John’s for many years and served as Church Warden, Organist and was the source of much humour and laughter. He also served on the Parish Council, were he spent a number of years as vice chair.

A Tribute to Mark

I first met Mark in about 1968 when I joined the choir of St. Pancras in Chichester where he
was organist and choir master. Being of a similar age and both single we spent a lot of time
together. At the time he was working at Toynbees Nursery in Barnham.

I had been a Morris dancer with the Martlet Sword and Morris Men for over 10 years by
then and it was natural that I invited Mark along. I gave him the club’s accordion and
suggested he might like to play. He was very reluctant at first, but he came along to
practices and began to play along side the other musician. Mark was self-taught and,
because he had a very good ear, he was able to pick up the tunes very quickly.
In the summer of 1970 the Men were due to dance on The Green at West Wittering but the
main musician was late in arriving. There was a crowd waiting so I said to Mark that he
would have to play and asked him what he would like to play.

He chose a dance that he was comfortable with and so his career as a Morris man began.
Mark became lead musician a few years later and played for the dancers in festivals abroad,
Morris gatherings all over this country and in the Royal Albert Hall on at least two occasions.
Mark loved the organ and spent many hours playing in St John’s Church in Chichester which
had a better organ and acoustics than St Pancras. In his terms he loved to ‘give it wellie’.
He was my best man when Jan and I got married in St Pancras in 1972 and shortly after he
moved to become organist at Southbourne where he had lived with his parents since a small
boy. According to Mark there were only four people in the congregation at the first service
he played at! But Mark being Mark struck up a very good relationship with the vicar, Ron
Poil, and things improved. About this time he moved from Toynbees to work for Arun DC as
Mark was very popular in the folk and morris dance world and became bagman (secretary)
and squire (club leader) of the Morris Men and then chairman of the Folk Dance and Song

By the time we came to live in Southbourne in 1983 Ron was thinking and planning to re-
order the church. One of the first things to happen was that the robed choir was disbanded
and ‘modern’ songs were slowly introduced although Mark already knew a number of songs
from ’Sounds of Living Waters’. A singing group was formed to lead the worship, a keyboard
was purchased and Mark had to learn new songs from ’Songs and Hymns of Fellowship’.
Adult musicians slowly started to appear but as the congregation increased, young
musicians came along until there were enough to form their own worship group. Mark loved
seeing the youngsters and gave them a lot of encouragement where many organists would
have been put out. Musicians came and went but Mark remained ever faithful. His sense of
fun was there for all to see. He often played Morris tunes as the congregation left after a
service and any tunes that took his fancy such as the themes for Captain Pugwash and Z cars
which amused people and gave everyone a lift.

He was a great mimic and no one was safe! One of his favourite ones was copying Roy
Barraclough who impersonated a large bosomed lady on TV. At Morris festivals on the
continent he would play the ‘Englishman abroad’ by rolling up his trouser legs and putting a
knotted handkerchief on his head much to the amusement of his mates and bewilderment
of locals.

Once he retired from work he enjoyed going to music recitals in Chichester and Portsmouth
Cathedrals and even as a resident at Glebe House, he would get on the 700 bus and travel
all over the countryside, changing buses several times, and going for a walk at the farthest
point, much to the worry of his friends.

Mark was a ‘one-off’ and will be sorely missed by all who spent time with him.

Written by Geoff Collett, 2021

Nunc Dimittis

A tribute from Revd Cliv & Marion Jenkins

Every Sunday morning I would be greeted with the words,
‘Morning Vicar!’ Often mimicked in a ‘posh’ accent! I would
respond ‘Morning Organist!’ in a variety of regional accents
from across the UK. There was a joke circulating a number of
years ago in ‘vicar’ circles: ‘You can negotiate with terrorists,
but with organists, don’t even try!’
Mark was nothing like the caricature of a traditional Church
Organist. Just the opposite, adaptable, able to improvise and
create musical arrangements never heard in Church before!
Who can remember the theme from the children’s cartoon,
Captain Pugwash being played at the end of a service?!
For Mark’s 70 th birthday, the Church family came together for
an evening of musical skits and entertainment with a few
cameos. A Brief Encounter and the nineteen eighties trilogy,
Back to the Future. The scripts centred on Mark,otmail who
laughed throughout the evening.
He was a faithful Churchwarden for my early years at St John’s
and a good friend. He could always be relied upon to offer his
counsel and support.
For gatherings outside of the Church Mark was often
accompanied by his trusty accordion. On the seashore; carol
singing around nursing homes and even dressed as a shepherd
for the toddler group Christmas nativity.
He will be sadly missed by young and old alike, but what a joy
to have known the NOT grumpy old organist! Order! Order!!

A tribute from Revd Sara-Jane Stevens 

Dear dear Mark.  What a kind friend!  Full of laughter, smiles, encouragement, comfort and wisdom.  You made me ache with laughter, and I know I made you giggle too.  You were such an encouragement when I was accepted to theological college, and told me about all the things a vicar should not be (you’d known a few!). We laughed ourselves sore rehearsing and performing my Vicar Of Southbourne sketch, “no no no no yes!!!!!).  And you had such a heart of love for those around you, we cried in prayer for those we loved. I will miss you, sir, you funny ole soul.  Rest well and keep smiling! 

A tribute from Revd Stuart Silk

Just a little note to say I was sorry to hear about dear Mark. It is over a decade now since we came to Southbourne, but I can clearly recall his welcoming smile, friendly interest, and heart for God and his people (of all ages).  I know he will be greatly missed, but we grieve not as those without hope, but knowing we will see him again as he is safe with the Lord. I would liked to have been at his funeral, but fully understand the limitations of lockdown.  I’m sure it will be a fitting tribute to a wonderful man.

A tribute from Mark Warwick, Tree Officer

I remember him very fondly. I had returned to West Sussex in 2001 as a relatively inexperienced Tree Officer and got to know him through work. So for 20 years or so we had infrequent but regular contact and I always enjoyed his company. It is nice to follow in his footsteps at Arun, where I assumed something similar to his old role back in 2018. I see much evidence of his work, particularly those Tree Preservation Orders which are a nice legacy. Following his retirement Mark used to visit the Greenspace offices occasionally and always brightened up the room! He will be greatly missed not only by staff across the District Council, but also by his colleagues at the West Sussex Tree Officers Group, of whom he was one of the originals.

A tribute from Rosie & Richard Harrison

As a family, we have always had a real affection for Mark. We have many happy memories of
him – always friendly, kind and cheery. We especially remember the love and acceptance of
our young people, including our three who loved to share jokes with him and make him laugh.
His boyish humour was irrepressible – our teenagers loved him for that but also because they
knew that he cared about them. Mark was genuine and real – he had no ‘airs and graces’
(unless he was pretending to be ‘posh’! )

We remember him too for his musical gifts – carol singing with Mark playing his ‘squeeze box’
was always such fun! His enthusiasm for playing the organ was evident, adapting to different
music styles, whether it was playing alongside guitars and keyboard or playing the more
serious sacred music. He always gave his all to playing and singing in church – ‘give it some
welly’ he used to say – and we did – how could we not?!

One lasting memory of Mark was at our son’s wedding when he decided to toll the church bell
(the first time in many years) as the happy couple processed down the aisle! He didn’t bargain
for the cobwebs that fell on his best suit- from a bell that had been dormant for years!
Although we haven’t seen Mark for some years, we still remember him well. He certainly was
‘one of a kind’ and he will be remembered for years to come. We are so glad to have had the
privilege and joy of knowing and sharing many happy times with Mark.

A tribute from Arun District Council

We are very sad to share with you that Mark Everson has recently sadly died. Those
of you who have worked at ADC for some time will remember Mark who worked as
the Tree Officer until his retirement in 2010.
Mark was a true and original member of the ‘Arun family’ having started with Arun in He used to refer to rising every morning to stand at the end of his bed and to
sing the ‘Arun anthem’ – he never did say what the anthem was, but we got the
Mark was the Tree Officer for many years having worked his way through the parks
service. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of plants and trees which was
regularly tapped by his colleagues – he also knew many of the more interesting trees
in the district personally. He could be described as old school in his methods,
utilising his trusted Dictaphone and the services of word processing colleagues up
until his retirement. He would be well remembered by many of the public of Arun who
dealt with their tree issues – he is still likely to hold the record in the number of cups
of tea provided when on-site visits.
Mark had a wicked sense of humour; he introduced many of us to various members
of the community and our colleagues through his impersonations and had an
unmistakable snigger, which would often have to be constrained at team meetings –
there really was never a dull moment in his company. The office was a lively place
with Mark the ‘lark from the parks’ as he used to refer to himself. One of his stories
was of the customer who phoned Mark to explain that he had ‘nettles in his back
passage’ and wanted Mark to do something about it immediately!
Mark had an eye for unusual gifts, the tackier the better, and would delight in
presenting these to his colleagues on notable occasions. Anyone leaving the team
would be filled with a slight sense of dread as to what he may have procured from
his favourite retail outlets. His retirement was the perfect opportunity to return the
favour but of course he relished the sentiment.

Another string to his bow was his musical talent. He was a self-taught organist who
played for his local church and played the Accordion for the Martlet Sword and
Morris Men. Several of the team would often go and join Mark with the Martlets at
the pub on a Wednesday summer evening.
Until recently Mark continued to visit the office to see his old colleagues, proudly
making use of his free bus pass from Southbourne to Bognor and revelling in
introducing himself to the newer members of the team. He would talk about old
times and share many of his stories and experiences whilst at Arun, it was clear that
he genuinely missed his ‘Arun family’ and held his time at Arun in such high regard.
More recently it was clear that his memory was not what it once was, which was
difficult to see for those who knew him well. Mark was a much-loved colleague and
very decent man. He will be fondly remembered and sadly missed by all those who
had the pleasure to work with him.

A tribute from Cliff Robinson

What a lovely, lovely, man – a great and valued colleague and, since he retired, wonderful company when we sat together at the weekly lunchtime concerts at Chichester Cathedral, listening to glorious music, with Mark’s (not so) sotto voce asides sometimes reducing me, and those within earshot, to tears of silent laughter.
I was a planning officer with Arun DC and, for many years, enjoyed a superb, often hilarious, working relationship with Mark whose arboricultural advice was invariably spot-on, and often delivered in a humourous, sometimes outrageously irreverent, but always hugely professional, manner. But, The Trees, and the Environment, were his top priorities every time. I worked with him “for the other side” since we both had retired from Arun, and his qualities of professionalism, humour and warmth endeared him to clients. Mark was a joy to know, and to work with, and I will miss him sorely, and treasure my memories of him. Lunchtime concerts at the Cathedral will never be the same again. 

A tribute from The Poil Family

What a wonderful human being ! His humour and good sense kept us all sane, so many times. He was always able to get a great tune out of whatever instrument he was playing. So many years of fantastic service to the church community in Southbourne. Much loved and fondly remembered.

Funeral & Remembrance

The Funeral for Mark Everson took place on Tuesday, 23rd February at 11.30am. You can view the service via the crematorium web portal:

Website: https://www.obitus.com
Username: Nuro7851
Password: 131042

If you would like to share a memory of Mark, or a picture, please email admin@stjohnssouthbourne.com

A Bench for Mark

If you would like to make a donation towards a bench to remember Mark, please see the donation page.

Every Blessing

Daily Update #222

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’

Mark 1:14-15

6  Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the Lord.
9 ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.’

Isaiah 55:6-9

Isaiah is densely packed with theology!  Our passage today deals with two key theological principles.  Firstly, God overcomes sin and makes us his own (vv.6-7) and secondly God is not like us (vv.8-9).  

Let’s look at the second of these first.  Have you ever paused to think about how different God is from us?  It’s worth considering in some detail.  Christians argue that our purpose is to get to know God and to enjoy him forever.  It’s worth lining up the differences between God and mankind!  

Here’s a table to get us thinking about these:  

SaviourIn need of salvation
“I am” – from and of himselfContingent and dependent
Love, light, spiritDust, flesh and blood
Simple and triuneComplex and unipersonal
UnchangingFickle and unfaithful

Some of these differences are easy to follow, others are harder to grasp.  Ask me if (like me) you puzzled over the fact that God is simple and triune, whereas we are complex and unipersonal!  

Given the vast differences between God and mankind, it’s not surprising that God’s thoughts and ways are radically different from ours.  Yet we can often be amazingly presumptuous in our thinking about God.  How often has someone said to you something like “I like to think of God as…..”  What a massive presumption!  Who are we, mere mortals, to try to express an opinion on what God is like?!?  A much more appropriate (and fruitful) approach is to mine the riches of scripture to learn about God as he reveals himself in his word.  

Secondly, let’s look at salvation.  Isaiah commands his readers to seek the Lord and to call on him while he is near.  What is the purpose of this?  It is so that the wicked will forsake their ways and thoughts, turn to the Lord and he will have mercy on them.  Isaiah promises that our God will freely pardon those who repent.  As our introductory passage from Mark shows, this is how the Lord Jesus began his ministry.  The good news (or gospel) is that God will freely pardon all those who believe in Jesus.  We know this to be true from the gospels and also from the evidence of the death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus.  His body and blood, laid down as a fitting sacrifice for all mankind, is the way the Lord chose to provide the salvation which we enjoy now.  The prophets (including Isaiah) foretold it, Jesus delivered it.  We just need to put our faith and trust in this free gift and reconciliation with God is ours!  

As we ponder the grace of our God, his love for mankind and his condescension towards us, our only possible response is to give him all the thanks and praise which are his due.  He was under no obligation towards any of us, and yet his overwhelming love has restored us and given us eternal life in Jesus.  

Sometimes we need to pan back from the cares and concerns of the day and survey the wider picture.  There’s a lot on our minds right now.  Pause for a few minutes and set aside these cares and concerns and instead focus on how different God is from us and how gracious he is towards us, offering each one new life and reconciliation.  Let’s rejoice in this good news now, and make sure we share it with others as soon as we can, it’s so much more important than those cares of today!  

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

Tomorrow’s passage:  Ezekiel 18:21-28

Daily Update #221

Hello everyone,
Today’s readings include Jonah chapter 3, Psalm 51 and Luke 11:29-32. As we looked at
Psalm 51 last Wednesday and Luke 11:29-32 refers to the sign of Jonah, let’s look at Jonah.
The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne,
removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
One of the things I occasionally wonder is, ‘What do people actually do with what I say?’ By
that I mean, do they hear and obey what I think God is saying? Or do they think, ‘That’s nice,
thoughtful, or even helpful?’ Or even on rare occasions, ‘I’d never realised that,’ or, ‘I hadn’t
thought it applied to me,’ and, ‘I had forgotten that…’ A preacher’s life can be perilously
uncertain. However well crafted our words, once they leave our mouths, it is up to the
listener to hear..
The reason I mention this is that few people must have felt this more than Jonah. He is sent
to a faraway and hostile place. If he isn’t frightened, he is not that fond of the people and
was even disappointed with the outcome. But he did deliver the message. A lone voice. You
may be a lone voice, and it might feel inadequate, but be encouraged, for God’s voice
comes quietly to the listener and can open the heart.
Jonah Chapter 3 pays far more attention to the response than the message.. Though
Jonah’s message is likely to have been longer than presented here, the Hebrew uses just
five words, putting the emphasis on the response. Which definitely makes an impression.
We simply see four things which mark his repentance.

  1. He arose from his throne – giving up his right to rule.
  2. He removed his robe, giving up the finery of self aggrandizement.
  3. He covered himself with sackcloth, rejecting earthly comfort and pleasure.
  4. He sat in ashes, expressing his grief over his sin.
    Clearly the king took God at his word. When the message God gave Jonah to give to
    Nineveh was received, he can’t have known what to do with himself….
    So I wonder if reading God’s words, what happens when I read something striking home,
    that reminds us of our need to change. The reality is that God’s word brings light and mercy
    into darkness and deviance, [Powlison]. The chaos of our sinful selves will be well exposed
    and explained to us when we meet the Lord, but let’s not put off change until then, let’s allow
    God’s word to change us now.
    If Lent is a time of reflection, then which thrones do I need to give up? What self promotion
    fools me into thinking that I am more than a mere person? What sorrows can I give to God?
    Which griefs can he turn to joy?
    Reading prayerfully, quietly and honestly, we can learn to accept that God loves us enough
    to change us, rather than destroy us. Perhaps it is time to revisit Psalm 51 after all….
    Be still, take time to remind yourself that he is God and that he loves you. Give thanks that
    Jesus came to rescue you and not to condemn you. And pray. Pray honestly, pray about
    your need, pray in light of God’s character, pray to build that relationship.
    Perhaps you could start like this…..
    Almighty God,
    whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
    and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
    give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
    and, as you know our weakness,
    so may we know your power to save;
    through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
    who is alive and reigns with you,
    in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
    one God, now and for ever.
    A prayer for a global pandemic
    ‘Love…bears all things,
    believes all things,
    hopes all things,
    endures all things.
    Love never ends.’
    (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)
    Loving God,
    strengthen our innermost being
    with your love that bears all things
    even the weight of this global pandemic
    even the long haul of watching for symptoms
    of patiently waiting for this to pass
    watching and waiting,
    keeping our gaze fixed on you,
    and looking out for our neighbours
    near and far.
    Instil in our shaken souls
    the belief and hope that all things
    are possible with your creative love
    for strangers to become friends
    for science to source solutions
    for resources to be generously shared
    so everyone, everywhere, may have what they need
    for your perfect love that knows no borders
    may cast out any fear and selfishness that divides.
    May your love that never ends
    be our comfort, strength and guide
    for the wellbeing of all and
    the glory of God.
    From Christian Aid
    Tomorrow’s readings – Isa 55:6-9, Ps 138 & Matt 7:7-12

Daily Update #220

Today’s Readings:  Isaiah 55:10-11.    Psalm 34:4-6, 21-22.   Matt. 6:7-15.

“9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For just as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there but, to the contrary, saturate the earth, and make it germinate and sprout, and give seed to the sower and and bread to the eater, 11 so is my word which goes out of my mouth: it does not come back to me empty, but, to the contrary is bound to do what I please and to flourish where I have sent it”(from Alec Motyer’s ‘New Devotional Translation’).

Our two verse reading from Isaiah 55 provides great encouragement and reassurance about the power of God’s word. This is about more than the Bible. It encompasses the will and the commands of God plus the work of the Holy Spirit and of His Son Jesus Christ. As we read each Christmas in the wonderful first chapter of John’s gospel “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Peter Kreeft has summarised all this quite helpfully as follows: ‘Christ is the Word of God in person. The Bible is the Word of God in writing. Both are the Word of God in the words of men. Both have a human nature and a divine nature.’

Isaiah 55:11 makes it clear that, like the rain and the snow in verse 10, when God speaks, His living Word “will never be fruitless, never come back empty-handed…His Word is full of His creative power to achieve what the Word expresses. God’s Word is His personal messenger. It goes where He ‘sends’ it and achieves what He commands it” (Dr Alec Motyer). The prophet, Jeremiah wrote “The Lord said to me, ‘You have seen correctly for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled’ ” (Jeremiah 1:12). So God not only proclaims powerful commands, but He is also watching to ensure that they are fulfilled! This is just like Genesis 1:3 where we read “And God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.” This is the first of nine occasions in that chapter where God speaks out, as the Creator, to bring aspects of our world into being – including us! We can struggle to share God’s truths but Isaiah 55:10-11 shows that:

1.  God’s word has both a present and an eternal purpose that reflects His holiness.

2. God’s word fulfils His intended purposes. It always does His work completely.

3.God’s word is fruitful. It supports the essentials of life and it brings beauty and joy.

And finally, here are three wise and encouraging comments on today’s theme:

1. ‘So our building and promotion of the church is not the result of our works but of 

    the Word of God which we preach… Here you see that everything is produced by 

    the Word’ (from Martin Luther’s ‘Lectures on Isaiah’).

2. ‘The soul can do without everything except the Word of God, without which none at

    all of its wants are provided for’ (from Martin Luther’s ‘On Christian Liberty’).

3. ‘God and His Word are the reality we need.the Rock under our feet’ (from John

    Piper’s ‘Coronavirus and Christ’).

Today’s Prayer: Thank you Father for the power of your word. We praise you that it enables you to accomplish the good things that you desire and that your purpose is always pure and loving. Lord Jesus, Word made flesh, thank you for bringing your Father’s truths to us and for fulfilling your mission to save us from our sins. Holy Spirit please reveal to us each day new and wonderful truths from the Bible. Amen.  

Daily Update #219

Lev.19:1-2,11-18                    Ps 19:7-end                   Matt 25:31-end
Are you a good neighbour?

This morning’s reading from the Old Testament, on first glance seems very negative. I count twelve ‘do not’s’. The lectionary has also missed out verses 3 to 10, which would have added a few more!

Leviticus 19 
The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.
11 “‘Do not steal.
“‘Do not lie.
“‘Do not deceive one another.
12 “‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.
13 “‘Do not defraud or rob your neighbour.
“‘Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.
14 “‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.
15 “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favouritism to the great, but judge your neighbour fairly.
16 “‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people.
“‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbour’s life. I am the Lord.
17 “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbour frankly so you will not share in their guilt.
18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.
A close inspection of these laws shows a standard which protects both us and our neighbours. In this context, our neighbours are anyone we might come into contact with. I also believe that these laws protect us from ourselves and they promote a loving attitude. The Old Testament laws, passed on from Moses, predate social media, but the principle still holds on how our conduct might impact people, whether in the real or virtual world. There are so many ways we can reach people today, with communication at our fingertips.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke chapter 10), Jesus made it clear that your neighbour might be someone who’s path you have never crossed before (assuming you don’t walk on the other side of the road). Although this parable was an example of helping someone in dire need, we will come across people this week not necessarily lying unconscious by the road, who we can nevertheless bless with a word of encouragement, or even to just to allow them the opportunity to be listened to.
With respect to the wider law, especially the ten commandments, we can see two distinct categories. Those laws outlining our actions and attitudes towards God, and those dealing with those around us. When Jesus was challenged (in order to trap him) to state which was the most important commandment, he replied (Matt 22:37), “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This was a direct quote of Deut 6:5, summing up the first category which covers our relationship with God. He went on to quote the other section of the law concerning our relationship with people, by quoting this passage we have read today from Leviticus, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
The expression we seem to have adopted recently is “new normal”, which we could morph into “new opportunities”. As a church we might now think of ourselves as a united congregation of those who love the Lord, by taking ‘church’ with us wherever we go; rather than describing activity being limited to meeting in a building. Who will God bring you into contact with this week? Let us be mindful of opportunities which are presented to us, to be a good neighbour.

Dear Lord,
Help us to be good neighbours this week, and let us be your church wherever we go. Prompt us to shine for you and to share the unfathomable depths of your love with those we meet physically or virtually. Enable us to be Good Samaritans and put into action the words of Jesus to ‘go and do likewise’.

Tomorrow’s reading: Isa 55:10-11