Rocky Road Epistles Chapter 1

Rocky Road Epistle 19th March 2020

Chapter 1

I wonder if I should start as Paul does in the letter to the Romans?

Laura, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be a minister and set apart to pastor the flock of Rocky Road……To all in RRBC who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the first of the Rocky Road Epistles which is going to all those associated with RRBC. A regular pastoral letter, to encourage, to keep you informed and ensure you of my prayers. To those of you on e-mail I will send it electronically in future.

I will try to write each week with a reflection on the week’s Bible passage, give the passage for the coming week, possibly mention a hymn or song, offer suggestions for prayer and publish any information we need to pass on.

We may not be meeting in worship, but we can keep on journeying with God. Prayer is vital, spending time with God’s word will feed us and through communicating by phone, e-mail or letter we can encourage each other.

Passage for next week is Romans 8 v.28-39

Reflection Phillip has kindly written this one based on the passage for this week at church Matthew 26 v.6-13

Jesus is anointed at Bethany

Some years ago, when I was commuting to college I regularly travelled by train.  Arriving at King’s Cross one afternoon I discovered that my train, the 1640 for King’s Lynn via Cambridge was in the platform, but the few of us who were early for the departure were held back behind the barrier.  I was moved at one point by cleaners wanting to mop the platform and felt slightly uneasy when I saw railway staff peering all around the outside of the immaculately clean train.  At the same time others inside the carriages were scrutinising the luggage racks and looking under the seats.  I wondered if something was wrong and when the station master, wearing a red carnation in his buttonhole, appeared on the scene I asked him if the train would depart on time.  “I can assure you sir”, he confidently said to me, “your train will leave on time”.

You yourself might not do much train travelling, but immaculately clean trains, staff inspecting the carriages, freshly mopped platforms and officials with red carnations assuring you that a departure will leave on time are not everyday occurrences on the railways.  Shortly before departure we were allowed to board, but not in the last section, that was guarded by two plain clothes security men, and at the last minute somebody joined the train.  When I got off at Cambridge and walked back along the platform I glanced in and saw Princess Margaret on her way no doubt to Sandringham.  So, I have travelled on the royal train, or rather Princess Margaret travelled on my train to Kings Lynn.

A lot of preparation was made for the princess, and in a similar way one person in our reading made preparations for her king.  Matthew in his gospel doesn’t tell us her name, but in the parallel reading in John she is identified as Mary whose sister Martha was also present at the home (John 12:1-8).  Mary took a bottle of very expensive perfume and anointed Jesus’ head.  Jesus would have been reclining on a low couch, propped up on his left elbow with the right hand free for eating and his feet and his head indeed his whole back visible and accessible from behind.  I think the best way to describe it is to imagine yourself laid on a bed and you want to find something on the bedside table.  You prop yourself up with your left elbow, search with the right hand and meanwhile your whole body is stretched out. 

What Mary did was scandalous in that she poured the perfume on Jesus in full public view and John tells us that the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  In fact, I wonder if it was the smell that first drew everyone’s attention to what was going on.  Imagine the scene as one by one they sense the fragrance, turn to see where it is coming from and there is Mary, oblivious, it seems, to all around her.  She is busy anointing her Lord.

Mary anointed Jesus because she loved him.  I doubt at this point if she understood all that was going to happen to Jesus, frankly how could she.  Even though Jesus had spoken about his death before, and indeed uses this incident to speak about it again, I don’t think Mary was blessed with any more insight than the others as to what it was all about.  She did it out of love, unconscious of all that was going on around her with just one object in mind; she wanted to do something loving and beautiful for her master, while he was there to do it to. 

I think that thought, that Jesus was only going to be around for a limited time, is a good one to hold onto when it comes to interpreting Jesus’ comment that you will always have the poor with you.  Jesus was not saying we should tolerate unnecessary poverty.  But rather he is contrasting the ever-present reality of the poor with his limited time left on earth. 

In this story we see Mary who out love and devotion did something beautiful and expensive for Jesus.  It was probably more than she could afford, but in anointing him she showed humility and love that stretched beyond what others might think and showed her true feelings for her Lord.

What lengths do we go to, to welcome a royal visitor?  For the King of Kings offers to travel with us every day.  We cannot physically anoint Jesus’ feet, but we can care for one another.  As Jesus himself says elsewhere, what we do for the least of his sisters and brothers we do for him.

Phillip

Hymn

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
when the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
will your anchor drift or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
fastened to the rock which cannot move,
grounded firm and deep in the Saviour's love!

Will your anchor hold in the straits of fear,
when the breakers roar and the reef is near?
While the surges rave and the wild winds blow,
shall the angry waves then your bark o'erflow?

We have an anchor….

Will your anchor hold in the floods of death,
when the waters cold chill your latest breath?
On the rising tide you can safely stay,
while your anchor holds in life’s ebbing day.
            We have an anchor

Will your eyes behold through the morning light,
the city of gold and the harbour bright?
Will you anchor safe by the heavenly shore,
when life's storms are past for evermore?   

We have an anchor                                                   Words: Priscilla Jane Owens, 1882.

Prayer

We are faced with real uncertainty at the present time. The coronavirus is a real threat to our normal way of life. Many are understandably anxious and afraid and at times like this, prayer will become even more important.

For the Christian, prayer is talking to God. We are encouraged in the bible to bring everything before the Lord (Phil 4:6-7). One theologian said: ‘the way to be anxious for nothing is to pray about everything’. We are also taught that prayer is powerful and effective (James 5:17).

It is worth noting that this Sunday (22 March) is day of prayer for our nation. The Archbishop of Canterbury made the call in a joint-article with the Archbishop of York, John Semantu.

Here are some prayers from the organisation CARE

A General Prayer about the coronavirus situation

Sovereign God, in Your mercy please comfort and heal vulnerable patients who are ill with Covid-19. Protect all those looking after them, especially doctors, nurses and carers, and prevent this virus from seriously disrupting the everyday lives of our communities, cities and countries. Grant great wisdom to those in authority to make effective plans and help us all to be vigilant but not give in to panic. Amen.

A Prayer especially for the most vulnerable

Compassionate God, we pray for vulnerable people to be reassured, and supported safely and effectively to protect them from coronavirus. Please strengthen anyone who is seriously ill with it because of underlying conditions. Bring healing and comfort to them and their families. Amen.

A Prayer for peace in uncertain times

Lord, You are the Prince of Peace and the King of Love who casts out fear. Please help us not to be anxious about Covid-19 but to seek Your wisdom and stay vigilant about taking precautions, planning ahead and showing compassion to those who may be vulnerable. Amen.

A Prayer for Church Leaders

Heavenly Father, please grant Your faith, hope and love to church leaders as they consider the best ways to protect people from being exposed to Coronavirus. Show them any practical measures needed and inspire them by Your Spirit as they minister to their congregations. Amen.

A Prayer for those in authority

Gracious God, please grant strategic wisdom and insight to those in government, local health authorities, and providers across the NHS as they decide how to use the funding that is available and distribute staff and other resources to meet the needs brought about by Coronavirus. Amen.

A Prayer for Italy

Lord, we intercede for Italy - so badly hit by the virus; almost 10,000 people infected and nearly 500 deaths. Please comfort and strengthen those affected, medical and nursing staff, and agencies taking decisions to protect and to provide for everyone’s needs. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

A Prayer for those facing economic pressures and job losses

Merciful Lord, in this time of economic instability, please send your great comfort to those who are worried about their finances and carry many burdens and responsibilities. Please help us to come alongside them, and give great wisdom to the Government to know how best to provide for everyone. Amen.

Encouragement in prayer

On a Sunday morning, around 10.45am, take time to pray, read the week’s passage & reflection and even sing a song or hymn loudly (sorry neighbours!).

On a weekday morning around 10am pause to pray for a few minutes, use the prayer diary or the directory to pray for a few people from our fellowship as well those you are concerned for.

Suggestions

To encourage you don’t forget there is a 15-minute Daily Service on Radio 4 Long Wave at 9.45am. I have put in a note from Phillip on how to access it, see below.

Also there is a projected Sunday morning service on BBC 1, as well as “Songs of Praise”.

Lastly you should each receive a phone call from a deacon, hopefully you will receive phone calls from other church folk and I hope you will ring other people.

All RRBC groups are stopped at the moment.

So Philosophy Group, Young at Heart, Wednesday Fellowship, House Group, ‘The Ark’ Community Café and morning prayer meetings are not meeting.

Cancelled Events

  • Saturday 28th March Men’s night out
  • Monday 30th March Deacons Meeting at 10.30 am
  • Thursday 9th April Maundy Thursday Communion Service 6.30pm
  • Friday 10th April Good Friday ~ March and United service
  • Sunday 12th April Easter Sunday ~ Breakfast 9.15am, Service 10.45am
  • Wednesday 22nd April Rally at Gretton
  • Sunday 26th April, KDF Spring Communion at Burton Latimer
  • Saturday & Sunday 2nd & 3rd May Art and Craft Event
  • Wednesday 7.30pm 20th May, Action Team from Kosovo visiting RRBC
  • Sunday 7th June Big Lunch

The Daily Service

One of the greatest secrets of the BBC is the Daily Service.  It is broadcast at 9.45 in the morning on radio 4 Long Wave.  I call it a secret because it takes some finding. 

If you have an old radio that has a Long Wave band, also used for Test Match Cricket, you can easily receive it, but if you’ve got a newer digital (DAB) radio, then you have to search.  On DAB tune in to radio 4 just before quarter to ten, press the NEXT or → button once or twice until the display changes to “DAILY SERVICE” or “D SERVICE” then press the SELECT or CONFIRM button. 

You can also listen to radio via a TV.  For example, if you have a Virgin set-top box Radio 4 Long Wave is on channel 911.  Alternatively, if you have BBC Sounds on your mobile phone or access the radio via a computer you can listen to the Daily Service at any time. 

The Daily Service is produced fresh every day, it has a bible reading, a short reflection, music – both traditional and contemporary and always appropriate prayer.  There is a lot to be said for joining with others and knowing that as you say the Lord’s prayer in your own home it is being reflected the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.