Thy Kingdom Come – “Lord, teach us to pray…a prodigal child”

 

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A father wraps a faltering hand around the head of a beloved son and draws him into his chest.  The son savours each moment – either because he never thought he’d get the chance to be here again or because he knows that one day it will all be taken away and never return.

It is a deeply personal story that some of us will know or it is the story of The Prodigal Son.

It is a reminder of the God who waits at the window – desperate for his tearaway child to return home or it is the story of Israel who finds herself in exile.

Either way, a father’s longing heart breaks as the child drifts a bit and soon he seems to forget who he is and what he is for.  The image of the Father has faded until you can barely see it.

The Lord’s Prayer… Our Father in Heaven.

The father is faithful. As the son asks for the inheritance he, effectively, wishes his father dead and breaks the family ties (or the covenant if you’re reading the story of Israel between the lines) but the father remains faithful, patient, determined.  Desperate for the chance to gallop up the path should the child come to his senses and into view.

To all who desire it, he offers the right to be children again (cf John 1)

The Lord’s Prayer… Hallowed be your name

When the homecoming BBQ is over and it is time to hang up the robe, the child is surely faced with a dilemma that the story doesn’t cover. How to respond.

The hand around the back of the head and the underserved embrace changed everything – grace does that. Honouring the Father’s name is what is required now.  The child (this child, every child) may have forgotten who he is and what he is for but the Father never did.  Because real Fathers never do.

The gospels go on to speak of another embrace (God’s arms outstretched like never before or since) which has restored the status and the resemblance and there is no turning back. The Father grants the right to be a child again.

And this is how the new creation breaks into the old.  This is how light fights back the darkness.

The Lord’s Prayer…#ThyKigdomCome

 

Thy Kingdom Come – “Childhood”

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The disciples came to Jesus and asked: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  He called a child over, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”  (Matthew 18:1-5).

 I wonder what Jesus meant when he challenged his disciples to “become like little children”?  I remember chatting about this with a group of friends once.  What is it about children that Jesus values and asks us to imitate?

We came up with a long list:  Children look at the world with awe and wonder.  They are innocent and uninhibited.  They have so much potential.  They have a real sense of justice, and what is right and wrong.  They express their emotions easily.  They live in the moment and have a real sense of fun. The list goes on.

I expect many of us have childhood memories that could relate to some, if not all of those aspects of childhood.

And then stuff happens. Along the way our confidence or self-esteem can get knocked, we can be disappointed, or hurt, or face rejection or bereavement, and we can become a bit jaded maybe.  Cynical even.

Jesus’ words challenge us in two ways:  Firstly they encourage us to look at those childlike qualities and to imitate them.  Secondly he affirms that children have deep worth, and inspires us to welcome them, to care for them, to nurture them.

Today a group of us met to pray for our schools.  It is a privilege for us in Blackley to have regular involvement with 5 schools, whether that is for assemblies, supporting governing bodies, or inviting the schools to church at Christmas, Easter and Harvest.

We acknowledged that our schools can sometimes be difficult places, and the hard- working and dedicated staff, as well as the children, face many pressures, with limited resources.

And so we prayed for our schools.  That they would be places of peace, nurture and safety.  That staff and students alike would flourish and grow.  We prayed for resilience: that as they grow up, the young people would maintain that deep sense of worth placed upon them by Jesus.  And we prayed that our schools would raise up citizens who would fight for justice and peace.

And as we prayed for our schools, for the staff and the children alike, we also wondered how, we, the church in Blackley, might seek to be part of the answer to our prayers:  how we might help support our schools further.  If you have any suggestions, please let us know!

 

 

 

Thy Kingdom Come – “The Sower”


Earlier today, a dozen or so of us were charged with an important task.  We were sent home with a plant pot and a gladioli bulb – prayerfully sown. We had used the Parable of the Sower as a focus for our prayer.  The bulb first representing a person, a family, a community or more.   We then held them before God and prayed for good soil and for the seed of the Word of God to land well.


Like so many of the parables it leads us on in our understanding of how God is working out his purposes – bringing in his kingdom.  Have you ever wondered what the people listening made of it?  They would be sure that when Jesus started to talk about sowing seeds that he would be picking up the old promises of of God planting his people in their own land again.  Jesus was about to tell them how they would be victorious any day soon…wasn’t he?


Imagine the reaction then as Jesus starts to talk about a sower with a bad aim! This wasn’t people being sown though – it was the Word.  Jesus seemed to say that, somehow or other, the seed (or Word) landing in different environments might be some kind of selection process or judgement.  


Some would hear the Word and it would be immediately snatched away or lost.  Others hear about Jesus and there is a little glimmer but it is going nowhere really.  There are those who hear the Word and grow in faith but just before the heavenly party poppers are out, an event or an illness or a loss has the new disciple in a stranglehold.  You know the parable.


With a plant pot and a sharpie pen in hand we prayed – some will have prayed for some good soil, some would have prayed for an accurate aim and others will have prayed that we do some groundwork.


Apparently they farmed a bit differently in Palestine back then.  The Sower might not have had a bad aim at all.  They sowed first and ploughed after.  Some seeds that landed badly may well have been lost but it wasn’t necessarily the end of the story.  With God there is never really an end to a story.  Don’t despair when the Word seems to land badly in a situation – pray for some kind of ‘ploughing in’ down the line somewhere.


The Children’s Society

the-childrens-societyEarly in October I attended a meeting at Christchurch Rectory. Joanne Nicholson of The Children’s Society came to share with us some information re the crucial work of the Society.
Who they are; The Children’s Society has helped change children’s stories for over a century.
What do they do? They fight poverty and neglect, helping children to have a better chance in life. 
I must admit I knew very little about their work and I was very impressed by what I heard. During the afternoon I remember thinking that our congregations should hear about this as I am sure that there are those who would like to be involved in and support this vital work.
I brought away an information pack and these are available from the Society.
They have speakers who are willing to come to take Sunday services and to tell of their work.An important work happening right here in Manchester.
Some of you will probably be fully informed re this amazing work but I would encourage others,to go to their website.childrenssociety.org.uk
The Society has need of help in so many areas it would be great if our churches were able to be involved.
I am leaving you with this prayer which can be found in one of the information leaflets.
Loving God, open my heart to your children.
May my ears hear their laughing and my eyes see their hurt.
May my hands be gentle and caring, yet strong and resolute where change is needed.
May I speak so all your children, the happy and laughing and the troubled and lost, may come to know your love and justice no matter where they are.
Amen
Sylvia.
For more information, please contact the Support Care team by Email on supportercare@childrenssociety.org.uk or call 0300 303 7000