15th December – Luke 15

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Luke 15

Calum Piper

Calum is Curate of St. Hilary’s and is married to Jess. He loves being out by the coast and is a keen athletics fan.

As we read on today in Luke 15 Jesus is still talking in parables. He is still using the power of storytelling to engage with people. As I think back to childhood story times or even of going to watch pantomimes at this time ever year, the stories that were told were always tided up and completed by the end. Nothing was ever left undone; the story was always finished in a complete way.

 In verse 11 to 32 we find the parable of the lost or prodigal son. A well known story by so many and testimony of God’s faithfulness, abundance and forgiveness. This story plays a major role in many people’s faith journeys. But have you ever noticed in detail verse 28? ‘The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him’ (NIV). We never find out whether the older brother actually went in a joined the party.
 Christmas is traditionally a time for family and for happiness, much like the party that was going on in the parable. Yet for many there won’t be those families, or the families will be there but the joy and happiness will be lacking because of disagreements or bad experiences. We have all fallen out with friends and family members and struggled to forgive.
 But, this story is a story of God forgiving his child even though shame was brought on the family name. If God can forgive acts of shame, dishonour and abandonment time and time again, and throw a party to demonstrate it – there appears to be a call for us to do likewise.
 The older brother was invited in to the party but we don’t find out whether he ever went. We have an opportunity in these last few days of advent to put things right with family members and friends, to put difficulties aside and to allow them and ourselves to join a party together.

 

14th December – Luke 14

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Luke 14

Alan Ward

Alan is Rector of St. Hilary’s.
We once went to visit friends in Philadelphia, USA, and flew via Chicago airport. This meant going hundreds of miles further inland and then flying hundreds of miles back again to the east coast. Some journeys take us on a round-about route to our destination. This is often true of our Christian pilgrimage, but the Lord wants to teach us more of himself during these detours.
Since Luke chapter 9 Jesus has been heading for Jerusalem (9:51), but his route is far from direct. His disciples might well have wondered if Jesus had lost his way! Although he keeps his focus and pursues his goals, he has much to teach his followers in the meantime, and he has to endure much criticism from his opponents.
First, he was taking flak for healing on the Sabbath. So he taught that every day is a day for acts of love and compassion (v1-6) – and that shut them up!
Second, he showed them up by pointing to the way people grabbed the best seats in the house so that they could show off. So he taught us to show humility and be hospitable to those who can’t invite us back – that way we might receive more honour in the end. (v7-14)
Next, when someone was trying to impress him with a pious outburst, Jesus told a story about privileged people turning down an invitation to a banquet, only to discover later that their places at the feast had been taken by outcasts and vagrants. So he taught that everyone needs to respond (RSVP) to Jesus’ invitation to be part of God’s Kingdom. (v15-24)
By this time, Jesus’ teaching was attracting large crowds of ordinary folk, but he wasn’t going to allow anyone to just come along for the ride. My disciples – says Jesus – must be wholehearted in their commitment to me, putting me before worldly possessions and even before family and their own lives. (v25-34)
Our journey with Jesus may also involve many detours, many stops and starts, lots of challenging moments and dozens of lessons to be learned. But whatever else, let us be open to listen to what he is teaching us so that we may be more fully committed in our discipleship of the one who is our Lord and Saviour.

13 December – Luke 13

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Luke 13

Jonny Brennan

Jonny Brennan is the head of schools work and youth ministry at Wirral YFC, he loves coffee (a bit too much) and playing football.  He is married to Bex and they are expecting their first baby in February 2015!
Why is Jesus being born important to Christians?”
That was a question I received whilst doing some Christmas lessons in a local secondary school last week.
It was from a year 7 girl who did not go to church, was unsure if she believed in God, and I was standing at the front excited to tell her why Jesus was so important to me.  Where would I start!
Reading today’s chapter, roughly half of it is taken up with Jesus talking in Parables.  Parables are simply stories that were told in language and situations people could understand, whilst explaining the spiritual importance.
The parable of the barren fig tree, the parable of the mustard seed, these were all stories Jesus was telling that people could understand and connect with.
Reflecting on this got me thinking of my own life, how do I present the life changing message of the Gospel with people that maybe haven’t ever heard it before, can I give my testimony without any Christian ‘jargon’?
I was able to explain to the year 7 girl through some of my personal stories why Jesus is so important to Christians.  My first challenge is for us to think about our own life, just like I have done in preparation for writing this.
Can I tell someone exactly why I believe in God?
Can I do it without any ‘jargon’?
The second point I picked straight out from this story is that God is much more concerned about us than he is about rules and regulations!
Read verse 10-17, an incredible story which shows us the true character of Jesus, and shows us where we get it wrong so often.
The religious leaders were concerned with doing things the proper way, sticking to the rule book, because that supposedly got us favour with God.  But Jesus, like he so does often flips it 180, and heals the woman on the Sabbath.  We can see from verse 14 the leaders were not happy with this, but Jesus calls them ‘hypocrites’ and tells them exactly why he did what he did.
I can see so many parallels between then and now, and am passionate about seeing the church rise up and reach out and love people in action, whilst naming the name of Jesus in a way people can understand!

 

12th December – Luke 12

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Luke 12

Calum Piper

Calum has been Curate at St. Hilary’s since July. He got married in the summer to Jess, and loves cycling especially along the seafront around the Wirral.
During this advent and the coming Christmas season the word peace gets used quite a lot, mainly in association with the angels cry ‘Glory to God in the Highest and Peace to his people on earth’ (Luke 2). Yet within this chapter of Luke Jesus doesn’t seem to want to proclaim peace. In verse 51 Jesus even declares ‘Do you think I came to bring peace on Earth? No, I tell you, but division’ (NIV).
Many I am sure probably feel uncomfortable about this, it’s not an easy passage, but throughout this chapter Jesus is both proclaiming promises of faithfulness to Gods people and reminding them they have a duty to stand up for him. Christ followers aren’t called to look the same and live the same as others but are called to acknowledge Jesus in all things (v.8-10), not to store up earthly treasures (v.15), to trust in the faithfulness of God’s provision (v.32), and to live in eager expectation of the lords return (v.35-48), interpreting all that God is doing (v.56).
In the lead up to Christmas, this doesn’t seem like a particularly encouraging passage to read and learn from, yet what Jesus is doing is preparing his followers to live without him by their side. As supporters of Jesus we need to be visible. Living near the Mersey it is always easy to know when the two local clubs are playing because their supporters are visible being adorned in red or blue.
In the same way Christians need to be visible advocates of Jesus and his kingdom. Jesus makes clear that this will never be an easy task, but he reminds us, that God will always be there to strengthen us and support us in this deed. As Christmas gets ever closer my encouragement to you is to stand up and proclaim Jesus Lord of Christmas, and not submit to the vast consumer culture of Christmas.
Below is a video that is part of a Christian campaign about Christmas that was launched 2 days ago. Take a look and be encouraged.

11th December – Luke 11

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Luke 11

Matt Bentley

 Matt is the Fusion Youthworker for Wallasey. This is a pioneer role where three local churches from different denominations have committed to working and providing together for a youthworker to help them share the gospel with young people in Wallasey. Matt is from Liverpool and when he isn’t playing a keen football supporter.
Teachers can have a very big impact on us. We can learn so much from a teacher’s knowledge and this can develop us. Here in Luke 11 we see that Jesus is the teacher, but not no ordinary teacher, he was one that changed and challenged people’s lives with what he said.
The disciples asked Jesus a very crucial question which was, how do we pray? Jesus responds saying, “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation” (vs. 1-4). This prayer is extremely well known and is still used throughout the world today. This shows that Jesus’s words were powerful and had great impact on many people!
Jesus goes on to challenge people to use action as well as prayer too, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (vs. 9-10). We see here the words ‘knock’, ‘seek’ and ‘ask’, these words imply that there has to be action also from our part.
In versus 37 to 53 Jesus is challenging the leaders of that time that if they do not obey his way then they go against him. We have an opportunity especially around Christmas time to display Jesus’s ways to the people around us. Explaining to people the true meaning of Christmas may be one way we do this.
Jesus was an incredible teacher and he is straight to the point when he says:
“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (vs. 28).

10th December – Luke 10

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Luke 10

Valerie Sparks

Valerie Sparks is a Reader at St. Hilary’s Church.  She is married with two adult children and enjoys reading and non- strenuous walks in the local area.
I’m meeting up with a friend this week.  We spoke last month about getting together and this was the first week we were both able to find a ‘window’, as the saying goes, at the same time.  A common occurrence in life today, I fear.  Our lives are full of places we need to go or things we need to do.  Busyness is very much part of our 21st century lifestyle.
 Chapter 10 of Luke’s Gospel is full of going and doing.  “Go!  I am sending you out like lambs among wolves,” Jesus tells the seventy-two as he sends them ahead of him in twos (v3).  The punchline of the parable of the Good Samaritan which follows is “Go and do” (v37).  Then comes the little story of Martha and Mary where Martha is busy ‘going’ and ‘doing’.  Yet Jesus appears to reprimand her for her busyness when she comes to him with her complaint about Mary and demands that he tell Mary to help her.
 So often we use this little story to categorise ourselves; “I’m a Martha”; “I’m a Mary”.   But there’s more to it than that.  Jesus is not blaming Martha for being the practical busy person without whom life would soon come to a standstill.  He is gently telling her to stop flapping.  Her worries about all the preparations that had to be made were distracting her from what was more important – time with Jesus.
 Sometimes distractions can be a problem in our relationship with God.  In fact it’s possible to hide behind our busyness.  The Anglican nun, Sister Kirsty, in her book ‘The Choice’ suggests that ”we fill our lives with activity to avoid facing what God really wants of us”.
 At this time of year, as Christmas approaches, it’s all too easy to be ‘distracted by all the preparations’ that have to be made and to lose sight of the One who is ‘the reason for the season’.  At this time, at all times, it is vital that we find time each day to ‘sit at the feet of Jesus’ in Bible reading and prayer.  For it is only by so doing that we can be equipped for discipleship – equipped to ‘go and do’.

9th December – Luke 9

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Luke 9

Matt Bentley

Matt is the Fusion Youthworker for Wallasey. This is a pioneer role where three local churches from different denominations have committed to working and providing together for a youthworker to help them share the gospel with young people in Wallasey. Matt is from Liverpool and when he isn’t playing a keen football supporter.
It can seem that today the majority of the world has forgotten the significance of Jesus Christ. Being a youth worker I hear regularly children and young people asking “who is Jesus and what did he do?”. It sometimes saddens me that these young people don’t even know who Jesus is and what he has done.
Herod asks similarly, “so who is this man about whom I hear such stories?” (vs.9). Jesus caused heads to turn. He did this by the miracles he performed. In vs 10-17 we see how Jesus feeds five thousand people with only five loaves and two fish to start. We also see in vs 37-43 how Jesus healed a boy who was possessed. These miracles are examples of the awesome power that Jesus has.
Many people were wondering who Jesus was and there comes a point where Jesus asks the disciples, “but who do you say I am?” (vs.20). Peter’s response is one of truth when he says, “you are the Messiah sent from God!” (vs.20). At Christmas we see many images of a cute baby Jesus in a straw manager looking peaceful. But this baby wasn’t any ordinary baby, he is the Messiah sent from God. This is the answer to many people’s question of who is Jesus?
In versus 21-27 Jesus predicts his death and resurrection. This is the very reason why Jesus has come to earth! Jesus is of massive importance and I believe we should always remember who Jesus is and what he done.
Christmas can be a selfish time for some, but we can be challenged by the words of Jesus Christ:
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (vs.23).

8th December – Luke 8

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Luke 8

Martin Dickson

Martin is Director of Wirral Youth for Christ and is the Chair of The Wirral Statutory Advisory Council for Religious Education. He is passionate about Jesus and sharing the gospel to all people.
As the leader of a faith based missional organisation I feel a little nervous sharing the revelation that I don’t really like Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I love the opportunity to spend time catching up with friends and family, and I delight in the exuberant excitement on my children’s faces on Christmas morning. There are good things, great things, about Christmas but, for me, most of what we know as ‘Christmas’ is far from Christ centred. The seasonal over indulgence and obligatory commercialism concern me and let’s face it, the historical origins of the festival challenge the very notion that ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’ at all.
 I much prefer the notion of advent, a season of expectancy and personal preparation in response to the coming (the advent) of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World.
Of all the incredible words, phrases and titles attributed to Jesus, it is ‘Light of the World’ that most inspires me. In a world with so much darkness there is such great hope in our Saviour and King who chooses not to be distant but instead moves right into the darkness and brings forth light.
 This theme of light makes a cameo appearance in Luke 8.16 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” What if in this context Jesus was referring not to himself as the light, but You! It wouldn’t be out of character; just see Matthew 5. Could it be that you are the light this passage describes, not hidden but put on a stand by Jesus himself, so that you can show His light to all who look on. How radically different could Christmas be for those around you if they saw the light of Christ shining through you?
 As I type a storm is brewing outside and a word of warning comes to mind… In 1698 Henry Winstanley and his team of engineers completed their construction works on the treacherous Eddistone Rocks, 12 miles off the UK coast. Winstanley had built the most incredible lighthouse the world had ever seen; its light brighter than any other in history. All was well until the Great Storm of 1703. On the night of the 27th November 1703 the lighthouse was washed from the rocks without a trace and neither the structure nor the lighthouse keepers were seen again.
The light was the brightest the world had ever seen, it saved many a weary voyager from destruction, but when the storm came the foundation was found wanting and light was extinguished.
 …And so a challenge if I may, be light in your community, point out the safe route and make your foundations strong so that you may stand firm when the temptations and storms of life come your way.

7th December – Luke 7

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Luke 7

Dave Frodsham

Dave Frodsham, is the lead elder of Jubilee Church Wirral. He is married to Nicki, with three children and a dog! He is passionate about the church and loves sport particularly rugby.
The question of an individual being worthy of God’s attention is one that is much debated – what does God respond to? What is he looking for from us?
The writer to the Hebrews says “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Heb 11:6)
We know that being a Christian means having faith but how is that faith worked out. If we are not Christians does God answer those desperate prayers?
 Here in chapter 7 we find the healing of the centurion’ servant. Jesus comments how he has not seen such faith anywhere in Israel. The centurion had sent to Jesus to ask him to come and heal his servant. The Jews felt he was worthy of Jesus’ time but as Jesus is approaching he sends his friends to tell Jesus, that he doesn’t think that he is worthy. Jesus marvelled at these words and his statement that he believed Jesus could just say the word.
 We too need to have a sober assessment of our own worth; hopefully if we do other people will say that we are worthy.
The next account shows that Jesus can act when there is no faith – he responds out of his love, his compassion for the situation. It says in v11 “Soon afterwards” he goes to another town called Nain – not far away from Capernaum and his disciples and many others are following when they meet a funeral procession. The only son of a widow has died.  She would have no support now that her only son had died.
Jesus tells the woman not to weep and then touches the bier everyone stands still and he says “Young man I say to you arise.”  The guy sits up and starts speaking and fear seizes them as they see this is real power – they glorified God but call Jesus “a great prophet” they had no other higher title.
 John disciples then come and ask “Are you the one?” Jesus sends them back saying “Tell him what you have seen and heard.”  We must continue to tell those who enquire what we have seen and heard.

6th December – Luke 6

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Luke 6

Calum Piper

Calum has been Curate at St. Hilary’s since July. He got married in the summer to Jess, and loves cycling especially along the seafront around the Wirral.
Advent is always a busy time for people as they prepare for Christmas. Having said that, life is always generally busy, December just always feels a bit more so. Things may feel busier than ever now but that could just be because we aren’t forced to stop and not do anything.
God knew how important rest time was he built it into the ten commandments. Commandment number five reads:
‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither shall you, nor your son or daughter, nor you male or female servant, nor your young animals, nor any foreigner in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.’ (Exodus 20:8-11)
God knew the importance of rest that he led by example at creation, and in Jesus continued to lead by example. When we lose focus of what it means to keep a Sabbath, as the Jews seem to have done by Luke 6, Jesus reminds us that he is Lord of the Sabbath (v.5) and seems to suggest rhetorically in verse 9 that it should be used for doing good and saving life.
This teaching on the Sabbath is surrounded by Jesus’ healing ministry. Over the past few weeks as I have been speaking to numerous people about the Christian faith, one of the most popular topics has been about healing. It seems that a lot of people are happy to proclaim that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, but a bit more wary to proclaim that he really still heals people today.
As I have been thinking over this the past few days and reading through Luke 6 I have wondered; if we allowed time for Jesus to be Lord of our rest as well as our business, and if we allowed him to show us where to join in with what he is already doing (to borrow a phrase from Rowan Williams) would we see more healing and more miracles taking place today?