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Reflections

These reflections help us look into the Bible to discover what God is saying to us today. We find Bible passages to read and questions to ponder. The themes are listed in the index below with each theme divided into seven sections.

Money – Mammon

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 The Reading: Matthew 6:19-24

 “You cannot serve God and mammon” (v.24) RSV

 The word ‘mammon’ is a transliteration of the Greek word. Despite its current usage it does in fact only occur twice in the Bible. It is used by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (v. 24), and in Luke’s difficult parable, ‘The Unjust Steward’ – “make friends … by use of unrighteous mammon” (Luke 16:9).

Mammon could well be translated by the word ‘money’, since in these days money represents our wealth. But in fact mammon is wider than money and includes all the riches of this world. In other words it could be summed up in the word ‘materialism’. Its danger lies in the fact that we live for it and put our trust in it. It replaces our primary trust and love of God. As Paul warns: “As for the rich in this world, charge them not … to set their hopes on uncertain riches …” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Riches may of course consist of lots of money in cash, in bank and in investments. It may also consist of luxurious possessions and lands. It may consist of beauty and brains or even brawn. One way or another mammon consists of all the good things that God gives us richly to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17), but ruined by becoming a substitute for God.

These things, these created objects, no longer become the signs of God’s goodness to us, but become in themselves objects of worship. We attribute to them far more worth than we do to God.

Jesus warns us that we cannot serve two masters. We cannot pursue material prosperity and security, and hope to fit in God as well. But if we put God first, even though it may seem to be to our financial detriment, we will find that he will always provide all our needs. After all “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul” (Mark 8:36)?

Help me, O Lord, to trust you in all things. May I love you more than money and financial security. Thank you. Amen.

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1 What warnings does James give to the rich?

James 5:1-6

2 What did Jesus tell the inheritance seeker?

Luke 12:13-15

 

Trinity – Peter’s Trial

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The Reading: John 21:15-17 

“… he said to him the third time …” (v.17) RSV

Peter sadly failed Jesus during his trial; he denied him three times. He did this while warming himself over a charcoal fire. We now see him approaching Jesus on the shore whilst he was cooking fish on a charcoal fire. Smell is a very strong sense and links occasions and triggers memories. The fire on the shore brought back to Peter his three denials of Jesus. Jesus knew that Peter was still staggering under the burden of guilt, and the subject had to be broached.

His first question was “Do you love (agape i.e. sacrificial love) me more than these?” (v.15) Peter had claimed that even if all the other disciples failed him, he would not. Manifestly, he had not loved Jesus more than the other disciples had. Peter replied “You know that I love (phileo i.e. human friendship) you.

The second time, Jesus asked him, “Do you love (agape) me?” (v.16). In other words, forgetting about others, can you, Peter, say you love (agape) me? Peter replied, as he did each time, “Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you”. Peter knew that he had not loved with agape, but loved with phileo.

The third time Jesus asked him, “Do you love (phileo) me?” (v.17). Peter was grieved with this question. He was not grieved that Jesus had asked the same question three times (for he had not), but that “the third time” he had asked him a different question. That time he was querying whether Peter had even loved him as a friend. Peter’s reply was adamant. “You know everything; you know that I love (phileo) you” (v.17).

Jesus wants us too to face the past honestly. Only when we acknowledge our limitations as well as our sins, can he open the way for a better future. Peter was restored and re-commissioned: “Feed/tend my lambs/sheep” (vv. 15-17). This he will do for us too.

Thank you Lord that you give me a future and a hope. Amen.

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1 What had Jesus taught Peter about forgiveness?

Matthew 18:21-22

2 How would Peter show love (agape) to Jesus?

John 21:18-19

Trinity – Threefold Cord

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 The Reading: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

“A threefold cord is not easily broken” (v. 12) RSV

Two are better than one, for if one falls the other can help. This is the thrust of our passage from Ecclesiastes. The best example of this is to be found in a good marriage. This is not to decry the single life, but most people find that they need mutual companionship and encouragement. Marriage can be an enormous strength to both parties.

But another example of the strength of two is to be found in the friendship of Jonathan and David. The bible says that their love for one another was stronger than the love of women (2 Samuel 1:26). David was hounded by Jonathan’s father, King Saul, and was in fear for his life, but Jonathan helped him and saved him. Yes, two are better than one, especially where there is love.

But our text extols the presence of a third. Surely there is a problem here. We normally say, ‘Two is company, but three is a crowd’. That certainly applies to marriage.

But Ecclesiastes insists that the “threefold cord” (v.12) is strongest. What is meant by this?

There is a ‘third’ who is always welcome and who will always enrich. God wishes to be at the centre of any relationship or partnership. This third Presence will not diminish or threaten the other two, rather, it will enable true love and sacrifice to flow. The two will become as one through the inspiration of God’s presence.

What is our state? Are we in a business partnership, or marriage, or companionship? Seek the Lord’s presence and blessing. If you can pray with your other half then do so.

Remember that God is himself a happy threesome. He manifests perfect harmony and huge creativity!

Thanks you Lord that you will always come and make your dwelling where you are honoured and invited. Amen. 

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1 Who were the three who were joined by a divine fourth?

Daniel 3:23-25

2 Look at the promise that God will dwell with us.

John 14:23

Trinity – Last Supper

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 The Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

“Do this in remembrance of me.” (v.24) RSV

When we remember Jesus each time we take the bread and the wine there are, I believe, three things in particular that we can ‘remember’. The first is the life and death of Jesus in the past. The second is the life and strength of Jesus in the present. And the third is the life and return of Jesus in the future. So today’s ‘trinity’ is the past, the present and the future.

The Bread and Wine help us remember our Lord who went about in Israel “doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil”. (Acts 10:38) We remember his love and death, his resurrection and his ascension. In every way, we are drawn to praise and thanksgiving for such a live lived and sacrificed for us. We remember that as a result, our sins are forgiven and new life has been received.

Then secondly, we remember that the risen Christ is present with us right now. He not only lives in heaven to intercede for us, but he also comes to us through the Holy Spirit to be with us. He strengthens and guides us through daily life. He is our breath, our joy and our constant companion. He promised that he would never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)

Finally, we remember that we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (v.26). In this life we are sojourners; we are passing through. As the song goes, ‘This world is not my own; I’m just a passing through’. Of course we love this beautiful world that God has made and we seek to bless it in every way. Yet, always in our sights there lies that vision of all things made new: a new heaven and a new earth. One day Jesus will return, banish evil and create a united heaven and earth. “Even so, come Lord Jesus”. (Revelations 22:20)

Heavenly Father, thank you that the Last Supper (Holy Communion) speaks of the wonders of Jesus; such a Saviour. Help me to remember his life in the past, the present and the future each time I eat and drink. Amen. 

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See Matthew’s emphasis on the past and Luke’s emphasis on the future.

Matthew 26:27-28, Luke 22:17-18