Lent | Day 2 – Abraham’s Call

Genesis 12:1-9fargo-dscn2577
The Call of Abram
12 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.[a]
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”[b]

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. TheLord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring[c] I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.
Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.

 

Genesis 17
The Covenant of Circumcision
17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to himand said, “I am God Almighty[a]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram[b]; your name will be Abraham,[c] for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan,where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant,you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”
19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.[d] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.
23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, 25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen;26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day.27 And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.

Lent |Ash Wednesday

In the liturgy for Ash Wednesday it writes:

Brothers and sisters in Christ, since early days Christians have observed with great devotion the time of our Lord’s passion and resurrection and prepared for this by a season of penitence and fasting.
By carefully keeping these days, Christians take to heart the call to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel, and so grow in faith and in devotion to our Lord.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word.

Lent is a time when Christians are encouraged to go deeper in their faith. There are a number of ways in which St. Hilary’s is doing that this Lent. Firstly we have home groups meeting during the week with discussions based around christian themes within the film ‘The Kings Speech’. If you want to know more – please get in touch.

During our Sunday evening services will are going to be looking at journeys of characters in the bible and then each week will follow those journeys with selected bible readings posted here. Please do you join us in deepening our faith throughout this time of Lent.

For the next week, our posts on the blog will follow the bible readings looking at the callings. As we engage with the callings of people within scripture they can help us to examine our own calling and where God is asking us to serve him.

Today, with it being Ash Wednesday and the start of our journey into Lent it seems appropriate to start with Jesus and his baptism and temptation in the Wilderness.


 

The Baptism of Jesus   the_baptism_of_the_christ_21
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[d] by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The temptercame to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[e]
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[f]

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[g]
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[h]
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
 (Mark 3:13-4:11)

24th December – Luke 24

24

Luke 24

Valerie Sparks

Valerie is a Reader at St. Hilary’s church.  She is married with two adult children and admits to enjoying murder mysteries on ITV3 as a means of relaxation!
 Today we reach the end of our Advent journey with Luke.  The journey began with the birth of Jesus.  It ends with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
 There is a wide range of emotions on display in this chapter.  The women at the empty tomb were ‘wondering’ and terrified.  The disciples ‘did not believe’ their story; it sounded ‘like nonsense’.  Peter was left ‘wondering to himself what had happened’.  It’s a picture of confusion and bewilderment.  The two disciples on the road to Emmaus, their faces downcast, spoke of Jesus in the past tense.  ‘He was a prophet’; ‘we had hoped’.  But their hope had gone – replaced by despair.
 Yet all that confusion and despair turned to joy.  So what changed?
 The ‘stranger’ who joined them and walked with them, who explained the Scriptures to them; the ‘stranger’ who they recognised in the breaking of the bread, was Jesus.  Not dead, but alive!
The disciples knew the reality of the resurrection.  Jesus was alive and present with them.
 And so Luke’s gospel ends on a note of joy.  The reality of the resurrection stayed with the disciples even as Jesus left them and was taken up into heaven.  They returned to Jerusalem with great joy (v52).
 At the beginning of his gospel Luke declared he was writing his account ‘so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught’ (1v4).  Because of the witness of these first believers, we, who live by faith not sight, can know the same joy that they experienced.  We can know the living reality of the risen Jesus who walks with us through our day to day lives.  We too, through the power of the Holy Spirit, ‘the power from on high’ he promised (v49), can have our minds opened so that we can ‘understand the Scriptures’ and feel our hearts ‘burning within us’ as we discover new truths and see their relevance to us today.
 Today it is Christmas Eve.  In a few hours’ time we shall remember with joy the coming of the Christ child.  Once again we shall celebrate the wonder of the incarnation and sing of ‘Jesus, our Emmanuel’.
 Jesus, our Emmanuel – God with us.
 Because Jesus was born as man and shared our humanity; because he died on the cross and paid the price of sin for us; because he rose from death and is alive for evermore , we can know the living reality of Emmanuel – God with us – now – today and every day.
 As we end our journey through Luke’s gospel, let us take that great truth with us through the Christmas season and on into 2015 trusting in our risen Lord’s promise:
    “… surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28 v 20

23 December – Luke 23

23

Luke 23

Calum Piper

Calum is Curate of St. Hilary’s Church.
 Have you ever wondered whether we would celebrate Christmas if it wasn’t for the story of Easter?
 All of Luke’s gospel has been leading up to these chapters where the Roman cross of punishment takes of a completely new meaning, but if Jesus hadn’t died would we celebrate Christmas?
 Christmas, as we know, celebrates the birth of Jesus who came into the world in a miraculous way and was then greeted by either ends of the political and economical spectrum of society. As we have read over the past month Jesus had a great ministry. He healed, he taught, he performed many other miracles but would we have celebrated his birth for his ministry without the cross?
 Throughout Luke Jesus predicts his death three times and alludes it to a few other times. The cross is absolutely essential to Jesus’ ministry and so the cross becomes central to our Christmas story. We can rejoice that our saviour has been born, but as we do that, the cross looms large. Jesus’ birth brought about great things and I hope you have been encouraged and challenges by many parts of his ministry over the last 23 days but to be able to celebrate him being a saviour we have to remember his death upon the cross.
 As we read through chapter 23 today, what always stands out for me when I read about the crucifixion of Jesus in Luke is that even as he is undergoing great agony he prays for forgiveness for those who are killing him (v.34) and grants forgiveness to one of the criminals at his side (v.43).
Putting the cross central to the nativity scene means remembering that we have been forgiven by God if we choose to follow the cross and it allows us to know that we have received God’s love and forgiveness.
 2 Peter 3 puts it like this:
‘21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.
22 ‘He committed no sin,
    and no deceit was found in his mouth.’
23 When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. (2 Peter 3:21-25)

 

 

22nd December – Luke 22

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Luke 22

Calum Piper

Calum is Curate of St. Hilary’s and married to Jess. He loves cycling and athletics and gets ever so slightly crazy every 4 years with the Olympics.
 Luke 22 charts the final few hours of freedom that Jesus had. He knew that the time was rapidly approaching when he would be betrayed but in verse 15 we read ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer’. Jesus was eager to share table fellowship with his friends and followers.
Passover was a time for family in the Jewish tradition, where the whole family gathered together to celebrate and remember the exodus from Egypt. It was a well known ritual which was recited by every family in nearly exactly the same way.
As its the 22nd December, family may already have arrived or be arriving in the next few hours and no doubt plans have been formed for all us regarding the big day itself on the 25th.
For my family Christmas has always involved a nice breakfast in pyjamas, present unwrapping, a big Christmas Dinner, watching the Queens speech followed by unwrapping a few more Christmas present. We have our routine, we enjoy our routine and we stick to it.
Jesus however when we read on in Luke 22 takes the repeated ritual of Passover and gives it a new significance. The bread and wine becomes representative of him. He takes a festival of the past and centres it on himself and therefore God. Whilst God was very much involved in the Passover, celebrating the feast may, for some, have become more important than the meaning of the festival itself.
As we make final preparations for Christmas we have the opportunity to ensure that we don’t forget about Jesus being central to all we do and celebrate.
In verse 29 Jesus says ‘And I confer on you a kingdom just as my father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’. This was a promise made to the disciples but it extends to us. Through his death Jesus extends to us his kingdom that we may celebrate in true freedom which can only truly happen if Jesus is Lord of our Christmas feasts.

21st December – Luke 21

21

Luke 21

Alan Ward

Alan is Rector of St. Hilary’s Wallasey
 When looking at a range of mountains from a distance, have you ever noticed that the peaks look so very close together? Of course we know that once we get closer and travel through the range we’ll discover that there may be many miles between each peak.
Passages of prophecy in the Bible are quite like that. Several future events can be predicted in one chapter, but there may be many years, or even centuries, between their fulfilment. Luke 21 is one of those parts of the Bible.
This chapter is often read on the first Sunday of Advent, because it looks beyond the first coming of Jesus to his second coming, taking in references to events in between as well.
Notice that the chapter begins with teaching about the danger of being too attached to the things of this age: a story about a woman who gave away all she had (v1-4) and a warning about allowing worldly concerns and pleasures to dull our spiritual alertness (v34-36).
In between these, the main thrust of Jesus’ teaching is that we should not be shaken by events that may happen in the world around us.
What should we not be shaken by? Within a generation, the most earth-shattering event in Bible lands would be the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 (v5-6 & 20-24). This would have been the equivalent of the 9/11 attacks in our day. Don’t be shaken.
False Messiahs, international conflict, plagues and “natural” disasters will characterise the world down the centuries (v8-11). Don’t be shaken.
Jesus foretells the severe persecution of the disciple community which occurred fairly consistently during the first century at the hands of the Jewish and Roman establishments (v12-19). This obviously continues today under oppressive regimes. Don’t be shaken.
In the face of all these potential disturbances, we are not to be deceived (v8), we are to stand firm (v19), we are to be on watch (v36). Although there are different interpretations as to what Jesus meant in verses 32-33, not until we see the clear signs of Jesus’ return are we to lift up our heads and greet him as the coming King of the new age (v25-28).
Don’t be shaken; stand firm.

20th December – Luke 20

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Luke 20

Calum Piper
Calum is Curate of St. Hilary’s and married to Jess. He loves cycling and athletics and gets ever so slightly crazy every 4 years with the Olympics.
“He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
Throughout this chapter Jesus has had his authority questioned a number of times. Firstly by the chief priests and teachers of the law, then by their spies and then finally by the Sadducees.
They didn’t trust Jesus, he was preaching a message that wasn’t theirs, and he had a ministry that was transforming people’s lives and setting them free from some of the laws of their society so that they might be free people.
Verse 38, written above, is one of my favourite verses. God is a God of life and all that know him and share in his ways and his teachings are alive and given life by God. One of the many reasons why Jesus was disliked by those in authority was because he was transforming many people’s understanding of God, the same understanding the religious leaders of the time had taught and demonstrated.
Sometimes the view we have of God and the rules we believe God has laid down in our lives – aren’t Godly at all. It can be that there are rules we have enforced in our own lives, thinking they bring God honour but they don’t. Sometimes we even view God in a certain way that brings him honour, like many of the leaders we read of in the gospel account (they did love God), but we don’t see all of God. Some parts of God become difficult to us because those bits of who God is take us out of our comfort zones and make us challenge those parts of our lives we don’t want to face or we are quite comfortable.
God is the God of the living, for to him all are alive.
Let God show you the full picture of who he is and his love for you, that it might transform your life, so that you might be alive for him.

19th December – Luke 19

19

Luke 19

Jess Piper

Jess is married to Calum, and moved to Wallasey in July 2014. She is a pastoral worker at St Saviour’s Church, Oxton, while exploring a call toward ordained ministry. In her spare time, she sings in the University of Chester choir, and is passionate about seeing communities of people grow in their knowledge and love of Jesus.
 I wonder if you’ve ever wanted something so much, that you’ve been prepared to do absolutely anything to get it, even if it meant making a fool out of yourself? We see in today’s passage that Zacchaeus did. Zacchaeus wanted to see this Jesus which he had heard so much about, and so he climbed a tree, because as the gospel tells us, he was short in stature and could not see because of the crowd (vs.3). This would be seen as an undignified act for a man of his stature in society, but Zacchaeus’ desire to see Jesus was so great, that he was prepared to climb the tree, regardless of what anyone thought.
As we have journeyed through Luke’s gospel together, the continuing theme that we have seen over again, is the effect that Jesus has on our lives; how our lives look when Jesus comes onto the scene. And this part of Luke 19 is no different. Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus transforms him; it causes him to ‘make a U-turn’; and changes the direction of his life completely.
But the great thing about this story is, though Zacchaeus was so desperate to catch a glimpse of Jesus, he never expected Jesus to see him, let alone call him down from the tree and invite himself into Zacchaeus’ house. Of course, for those of us who know Luke’s gospel, this is not uncommon of Jesus, but for the people around at the time, even for Zacchaeus himself, this was a surprise! Jesus came, as we saw in chapter 4 to ‘bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, give the blind their sight, let the oppressed go free, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Luke 4:18-19).
But Zacchaeus didn’t fit into this category, surely? He was a tax-collector, who exercised his power and authority to exploit others. So why did Jesus choose to meet with him? Well, if we look at vs.10, we get a glimpse into the answer. Jesus came to ‘seek and save the lost’. Zacchaeus was lost. His power, authority and wealth governed his life. But, as a result of Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus’ wealth loses hold of him, and he offers to give ‘half of his possessions to the poor’ and repay all those he has defrauded (cf. vs.8). ). This, though is not to be seen as a fulfilling of a rule, or a command which was given by Jesus, but instead should be viewed as a gift which Zacchaeus’ freely gives as a spontaneous act of repentance, love and gratitude. It’s what happens when we allow Jesus into our hearts. When we respond to Jesus, we shouldn’t feel that we ‘have to do certain things’ or ‘live a certain, (an often strict) way’, but instead we should ‘want’ to do these things, out of thankfulness and gratitude to God for all the things he has done and given to us. That’s what salvation does – it changes us, opens our hands and our hearts, and turns our focus from ourselves toward God.
The amazing thing about Zacchaeus is that Jesus called to him while he was still a tax-collector, still a sinner, and he does very much the same thing for us. We see this in Paul’s letter to the Romans, when he says that God showed his love to us, by sending Jesus to die for us, while we were still sinners (cf. Romans 5:8).
Zacchaeus shows that God calls out to everyone, regardless of who they are, or what they have done. So whether you are rich or poor, Jesus’ call to you is one that results in radical transformation. The question is, are you prepared to climb the tree, and open yourself up to all the things God has in store for you?
 ‘When the Lord comes, may he find us watching and waiting’.

18th December – Luke18

18

Luke 18

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.

Our passage today contains some of the golden nuggets of Jesus’ teaching. He reminds us that God is a God of justice who hears his people when they cry out to him. The world has been shaken this week by stories of violence and injustice. It can be difficult to come to terms with the acts of violence we have seen especially when our prayers include prayers for peace so regularly. Jesus reminds us in verse 7-8 that God hears the prayers of his people and that we must be faithful in perseverance trusting that God will one day bring about his perfect rule of peace and justice.
Leading on from that, we get an insight into Jesus’ all embracing ministry. Children are brought to him for blessing but the disciples attempt to stand in the way. Jesus’ response to them is to call the children closer and teach. His teaching is that our faith is to be like that of a child. A faith of obedience, simplicity and trust to name a few qualities.
Where might you need to reshape aspects of your discipleship so that you might walk unhindered as a child with Jesus?
And finally within that faith we are called to walk a journey towards God. It is within this passage Jesus starts his journey towards Jerusalem. As Christmas draws closer our readings will draw us closer to the story of the cross. As we explore our own lives and faith are we disciples moving closer to God or have we become stuck where we are? The time for preparation is nearly over and the time for celebration is nearly here. Are you ready to celebrate Jesus in all his fullness or are there areas of your Christian journey that need to be looked at?
As Jesus sets off to Jerusalem with his disciples he tells them again about the son of man being mocked, flogged and killed. He tells them not to scare them, but to prepare them. This week has brought home to me the brokenness of this world, I find myself now longing for Jesus’ return and his rule of justice more than ever and that is my persevering prayer of trust:
Come Lord Jesus

17th December – Luke 17

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Luke 17

Dot Gosling

Dot is a Pioneer priest in North Wales and is passionate about encouraging others to find a relationship with God, that is theirs and not an inherited faith from family or church.
 So here we are in Luke ch 17 and what a passage it is! Talking about repentance and forgiveness, faith, obedience, and then we come across these few verses where we see a Samaritan who knew what gratitude was all about! Ten lepers who were obviously aware of who Jesus was call to him asking for mercy, or in other words they wanted to be made whole. They had been outcasts for too long and I’m guessing they had heard of other healings and they wanted to be healed. He didn’t touch them, or ask if they believed, he simply said go and show yourself to the priests. This is something that anyone with leprosy would have had to do had they been healed, as the priest would have been the one who said they could go back to their family.
 As they went, they became aware that they no longer had the disfiguring hallmark of leprosy, they were clean, whole healed, it meant they could be restored again to their families. Wow!  But although there were 10 lepers who were healed, there was only one who went back to Jesus to say thank you. This man was a Samaritan, someone who the Jews would not talk to, but we know very well that Jesus didn’t seem to care about rules and religious conventions, but obviously this man  didn’t care for religious rules and conventions either, as he wouldn’t have gone back otherwise…
 At this time of advent as we are waiting for the remembrance of the birth of Christ, perhaps we too could be mindful of a) being grateful for things we don’t necessarily expect to happen, b) be more aware of remembering to say thank you to God & others around us and c) building up our faith by seeking God first and then asking Him to heal things in your life so that you too can be restored to full health, not necessarily physically although God can do that, but spiritually in order that we find peace with God and others.