Category Archives: Ashton-under-Lyne Blog

Sunday 31st May 2020 – Pentecost – A Reflection by Cath Sheldon (ALM)

The featured image above has a sense of both the wind and flames of Pentecost, and the call to move out into the world as God’s ambassadors and servants. [1]

Today is Pentecost or Whit Sunday the birthday of the Christian Church and a time for celebration and gifts.

Gift, what does that word conjure up?   Something given to us, something special that the person who is giving has taken the time to pick, or that one thing we were born with and able to excel at without trying, a talent.

On the very first Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples and gave them the gift to be able to go out into the world and spread the Gospel.   It says in Acts 2, ‘suddenly there was a noise from the sky which spread like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there’. (Flames of fire just like candles on a birthday cake!) The Holy Spirit being the ultimate gift from Jesus.

Jesus told them at The Ascension, “I am going so I can send the Spirit to you”. (The Holy Spirit is another name of comforter, which is very apt).  They were able to speak and be understood in different languages, what must that have felt like?

Just before the lockdown, the Parish of the Good Shepherd in Ashton-under-Lyne started a group to learn to speak Spanish, we were given simple phrases and words to learn, it certainly wasn’t something that happened straight away! So, it must have felt pretty frightening to the disciples, that they were able to understand and speak a language that was not their own.

Do we all have this gift, to be able to go out and spread the love that God has for us all?   Yes, I think we do, because it not just about speaking, it’s what we do and how we conduct ourselves.  We all know that person who has the knack of being able to say the right thing when someone needs a helping hand with a problem, it might not be the answer, but sometimes it is a pointer in the right direction.   Or that person who sees that something needs doing and organises a group to do it or just gets on with it without a big show.

The past few weeks have brought out the gifts in people. Simple things like shopping for those who are self-isolating, or making contact by phone or text to check that people are OK. We are reflecting the love of God with what we do in our daily lives.

The way we ‘do’ church has changed during the pandemic, many of us have followed services online, radio, television, from many different sources, and we have received each week, by post or email the service and prayer sheet.   And although we have not been able to meet up with our friends from our own church, we are able to worship God with others who we may never meet but have so much in common with.    But we are still in touch with other because we pray together, sing together.    The fact that we haven’t physically seen each other doesn’t necessarily mean we are apart, God has given us the gift of being part of the his greater family.

Some ‘gifts’ are waiting to be recognised.   It takes a nudge, a word, an email or a post on social media to start the ball rolling.   We question ourselves, could I do that?  Do I have the time? Am I qualified enough? Am I doing this for the right reason?   But if we put our trust in God, he will show us the way. God will help us fit things into our daily lives. God will show us where to find the time. God will point us in the right direction.

No matter what our gift is, it is a mission given by God, and all we need to do is trust in him.

References

  1. https://buildfaith.org/planning-for-pentecost, accessed on 29th May 2020.
  2. https://www.officeholidays.com/holidays/pentecost-sunday, accessed on 29th May 2020.

 

 

 

                                    

 

 

Pentecost 2020 – A Magazine Article by my Colleague Revd. Ben Brady

Pentecost

I love superheroes. I love reading graphic novels (comic books), watching the films and wondering which power I would like to have. Having a 7-month old child means early mornings but a surprise benefit of these early starts is that together Stanley and I have been working our way through the classic (in my opinion) Michael Keaton Batman films. Batman is one of my favourites. But whether the hero is bitten by a radio-active spider (Spider-Man), crashing to Earth from the planet Krypton (Superman) or even caught in Gamma rays and can’t control their temper (The Incredible Hulk) I love them all.

So, if you could have a super-power, what would it be? Speed, so you could complete lots of work in a short period of time? Invisibility, so you can have some undisturbed alone time? Flight, so you can really save on those flights during the summer holidays? Super strength, so you may be able to beat Mick from St Gabriel’s at boxing?

Personally, I find all of these worthy of countless hours of daydreaming.

However, two problems tend to arise. Firstly, I always seem to focus on how they would benefit ME.

Secondly, I’m pretty sure they are never going to happen and only appear in daydreams.

The Church celebrates Pentecost on Sunday 31st May this year. This is when we remember the gift of the Holy Spirit coming on to the disciples “like tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3). I find this image very dramatic.

Once in a school assembly, I heard someone say “The Holy Spirit came as fire onto all their heads!” Quite rightly, this received gasps of horror from the children. In some Christian icons, the Holy Spirit is depicted like a candle flame above the disciples’ heads. This holy anointing is so powerful, it calls to my mind the verse that speaks about “Children of Light” (1 Thessalonians 5:5). … Now comes the challenge, because this applies to us too, now. …. To carry this light into our homes, work and communities. But what does this look like?

We are told about the fruit of the Spirit. This is what we are to bear out with the Spirit within us. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

It is important to note that it says “fruit” not ‘fruits”. This is a real game changer. It means that unlike choosing whether you would rather fly OR have super strength, we get both. We don’t have to choose between having more patience or faith. We can pray for all the fruit of Spirit. I don’t know about you, but I definitely need at least a few of them daily!

God in his love for us sent us the Holy Spirit so that, just like planting a seed, we can bear this fruit. However, like tending a plant, we need to tend to ourselves. When I was in Uganda, I led a session on the Holy Spirit. I openly shared how personally I have experienced great senses of being loved and a deep sense of peace. We used the metaphor of a sponge saturated in water. Then over time the sponge dries out. There is no need to panic, just put the sponge into some water again. Over time, we may feel like we have dried out of patience, kindness or self-control. But Jesus says he is the “Living Water” (John 4:10) and we just have to ask to be filled again.

So I encourage you to nurture the Holy Spirit within you. Bear the fruit and pray to be refreshed whenever you need. In doing so, we can all bless and reflect the love of God onto all those with who we come into contact.

Revd Ben 

 



John 17: 1-11 – Sunday 24th May 2020

Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you (NRSV)

I wonder what Jesus means when he says these words? …

If we are to discover answers to this question, we need to look at the context.

In our Gospel reading, time seems to have stood still. The first 12 chapters of the Gospel cover the first 33 years of Jesus’ life. Then, from the beginning of Chapter 13 right through to the end of Chapter 17, we are in the Upper Room at a Passover Meal with Jesus and his disciples, his friends. This is last evening of Jesus’ time with his disciples before the Crucifixion.

We have watched Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. We have heard him talking of the Holy Spirit who will walk alongside them, live within them, help them to be witnesses to the love of God as they live their lives. We know that these actions and these words were spoken as much for us as for the disciples’ benefit.

In what Jesus says and does, he is encouraging us to share in his priorities for our lives: serving others; receiving their service to us with grace and love; witnessing to the love of God; listening to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit; and later in Chapter 17, placing a priority on working together as one, respecting each other, knowing that without our shared fellowship and witness, we are so much poorer.

And in the middle of all this, come those words of Jesus:

Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.

I guess that there are two ways that we can think about those words.

First, there is the wider context of all that Jesus has been saying and doing in the Upper Room and the wider context of the whole prayer in John 17. He could be praying that God will be glorified through the lives of his friends. Jesus has commissioned them to serve him and they will, from now on, be the ones through whom God is glorified. This means that we are the ones to be God’s visible presence in the world. Our actions, good or bad speak about the Lord that we claim to follow and serve. Our choices and actions speak loudly about the God we say we serve. We are the ones who will glorify God. Or our behaviour and actions could bring shame on the God we say we serve. So, Jesus prays that God will be glorified by the choices we make and by our actions.

Secondly, and in line with the immediate context of John 17: 1-6, Jesus could be talking about something very different. …

When Jesus talks about himself being glorified and so bringing glory to God, it seems that he has in mind the days which immediately follow this prayer. He sees the events of the crucifixion and resurrection as being about glory! And particularly, the events of Good Friday. For Jesus, the glory of God will be revealed in him at the cross and in his resurrection. As Jesus is lifted-up in the eyes of everyone, so he gives glory to God.

Glory is to be found, not in power and influence, but in obedient submission to God’s will.

Jesus’ throne is the Cross. God’s glory is revealed in suffering. God is revealed most clearly at the place of suffering.“Father, use these next hours,” prays Jesus in John 17, “to glorify me and to glorify you.” And Jesus re-emphasises this as he says to God the Father, in John 17:4: “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.”

Jesus’ example to us is one which centres on the Cross. It is at the Cross, the place of suffering, that God’s redeeming work is done. The place of weakness is the place of glory! This is the place where we discover who God really is, and God’s glory is revealed.

We are safe in the love of God, in some mysterious way, because of the Cross.

And because of the Cross, we too can serve others without counting the cost. And if we suffer, we can be sure that, in Christ, God has walked the same journey that we walk. God is not surprised or shocked by our struggles, but there alongside us each step of the way.

 

Prayers for Sunday 24th May 2020 from Jesuit communities in the USA.

Jesus Christ, you travelled through towns and villages “curing every disease and illness.” At your command, the sick were made well. Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love.

Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.

Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbours from helping one another.

Heal us from our pride, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders.

Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.

Be with those who have died from the virus. May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace.

Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. May they know your peace.

Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process. May they know your protection and peace.

Be with the leaders of all nations. Give them the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the well-being of the people they are meant to serve. Give them the wisdom to invest in long-term solutions that will help prepare for or prevent future outbreaks. May they know your peace, as they work together to achieve it on earth.

Whether we are home or abroad, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few, Jesus Christ, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare. In place of our anxiety, give us your peace. …… Jesus Christ, heal us.          Amen.

Ascension Day 2020

The Ascension begs a question: … What exactly is happening as Jesus goes into heaven?

Is this the triumphant finale, the final victory parade? When at last Jesus goes home to the Father, to be paraded through the streets of heaven in victory – much like the Liverpool  football team had hoped to be driving around the streets of the city in an open-top bus at about this time. Is it the time when Jesus is welcomed back into that indescribable unity which is the Trinity of the Godhead – back home at last?

Or is it a moment of desertion. The disciples have only just received Christ back among them after his death and now cruelly he is taken from them into heaven. A renewed relationship is abruptly ended!! A commission is given and then the bombshell is dropped.

“Listen!” says Jesus, “I have a job for you to do – to be my witnesses throughout the known world.”

“Great, Lord, when do we get down to business, when do we work out the strategy, when to do you provide the corporate plan of action, when do we do our Mission Action Planning?”

“Not us. … Not me!” says Jesus, “You! …… I’m going away and you’ll never see me again this side of heaven!”

Or is this, actually, rather than desertion, the point at which followers become leaders, children become adults. Is this primarily the point where Jesus followers can no longer hide behind a leader and have to begin to make important choices themselves.

For all the participants in this story, this must have been a confusing moment. A time which carried so much emotion – parting from friends, losing a friend and leader, going home …

All sorts of mixed emotions.

In the end all of these scenarios have more than a grain of truth to them.

Christ is going home in victory. A job well done.

Christ is leaving behind a ragged group of followers who must have felt deserted. Yes, he did promise the Holy Spirit as helper and guide. But what’s a Spirit when you’ve had real flesh & blood to relate to?

And perhaps most crucially for us, Jesus is asking this ragged group to stand up for themselves. To be what he knows that they can be with the Spirit’s strength – a missionary band that will turn the world upside down within a century.

St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer sums it up well …..

Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks compassion on this world. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

stteresaavilaquoAs we mark the Ascension today, of course we celebrate a job well done, the earthly part of Christ’s mission over. But, most critcally, the Ascension reminds us that we are the ones that count – between now and eternity God has left his concerns, his mission in our hands. And on Ascension Day, it behoves us to commit ourselves again to serving to God – to discovering his way and walking in it, to being his hands, eyes and feet here in the places that God has put us.

Sunday 17th May 2020 – 1 Peter 3: 13-22

My wife Jo and I studied together at St. John’s College, Nottingham when we were training to become priests in the Church of England. We both had overseas placements in the Summer of 1998. I went to Sri Lanka for 8 weeks and Jo went to South Africa. My placement was at Lanka Bible College on Christopher Road in Peradeniya, near Kandy which can be picked out on the map below in the centre of the island country. The main building of the college features in the image above! [1]

Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, is an island country lying in the Indian Ocean and separated from the Indian peninsula by the Palk Strait. It is located between latitudes 5°55′ and 9°51′ N and longitudes 79°41′ and 81°53′ E and has a maximum length of 268 miles (432 km) and a maximum width of 139 miles (224 km), (c) Encyclopedia Britannica, 1998.

Sri Lanka is primarily a Buddhist and Hindu country. Christians are very much in the minority – perhaps less than 5% of the population. The church is growing quite quickly, particularly in rural areas. … I want to introduce you to two of the people I met while I was staying there. … A woman called Lalani and a man called Anargith.

Anargith gave up work in the capital city, Colombo, to be a missionary in one of the driest and poorest parts of Sri Lanka. He exchanged a comfortable flat for a small grass-roofed mud house with no running water or sanitation. The nearest church was around 50 km away. He started sharing his faith with people in the villages around where he lived and, when I met him, he had a small group of people meeting in his home. In the months after I returned from Sri Lanka they began to build a church. When I last heard from Anargith, which must over 15 years ago now, none of the people in his church had yet been baptised.

Anargith explained that it would only be when they got baptised they would be marked out as converts from Buddhism. It was important that their faith was strong enough to cope with the persecution they most probably would face. They would be threatened and, if experience elsewhere in Sri Lanka was to be matched, the church building and their houses could be burnt down.

Lalani’s story is a little different. When I met her, she was Pastor of an Assemblies of God church in southern Sri Lanka. In the mid to late 1990s, her husband Lionel had a successful ministry in their village – a lot of people were becoming Christians. He received threats from local Buddhist community leaders, but he continued to work, and the church continued to grow.

A contract was taken out on his life and he was shot and killed.

Lalani had trained with her husband and after he died took over the role of Pastor to the Church in their village. When I met her she was still working in that same village – witnessing to people that she knows were involved in her husband’s death.

These are stories that have touched me personally. But throughout the world today there are many Christians suffering and dying for the faith that they hold so dear:

  • Many of the Saints who fill our Anglican calendar were martyred.
  • In Pakistan, Christians have regularly been accused under strict blasphemy laws and imprisoned without trial.
  • Some time ago I was told an astounding fact: There were more Christians tortured and killed in the 20th century than throughout the whole of the history of the church before that.

    One example of persecution in the 20th century is the deaths of seven bishops in Romania. Pictured are six of those seven bishops of the Eastern-rite Romanian Catholic Church who died during a fierce anti-religious campaign waged under the communist regime in Romania. Pope Francis recognized their martyrdom and beatified them in Romania on 2nd June 2019. Clockwise: Auxiliary Bishop Vasile Aftenie of Fagaras and Alba Iulia; Bishop Ioan Balan of Lugoj, Auxiliary Bishop Tit Liviu Chinezu of Fagaras and Alba Iulia; Bishop Valeriu Traian Frentiu of Oradea Mare; Bishop Ioan Suciu, apostolic administrator of Fagaras and Alba Iulia; and Bishop Alexandru Rusu of Maramures. Not pictured is Bishop Iuliu Hossu of Gherla. (CNS photo/courtesy Romanian Catholic bishops’ conference). [2]

Since the time of the early church, when the gospel has been proclaimed persecution and suffering have been close at hand. Sacrifices have been made, both by those sharing the good news of God’s kingdom and those accepting God’s rule. And Peter’s epistle reflects that. The passage set for today is about suffering for being a Christian.

But what do stories of persecution in Sri Lanka, or words of comfort from an apostle to Christians in the early church have to do with us in our communities?

Peter wants to stress that being a Christian will not be an easy ride. We can’t take our status as children of God for granted and then sit back with our feet up. Peter warns us what to expect, so as to enable us to be prepared. He then makes it clear what we are called to do:

First, says Peter: “Do what is just and right even if there is a personal cost. … For it is better to suffer for doing what is right than what is wrong.” When you see injustice in your local community do something about it, even if it is inconvenient, even if there is a real cost to you. Be the difference that makes the difference in your community.

Secondly, says Peter: “Be a witness to what God has done in Christ.” Share the faith that is in you. “For Christ suffered for sins in order to bring you to God.” What God does in history is consistent – right from the time of Noah, God has been active saving and transforming his world. Christ’s death and resurrection is part of that plan of salvation which is brought right up to date in our own generation in our own baptism. God’s work of salvation made real for us in our own baptism. God’s work of salvation made real for other’s as we share our hope with them.

And thirdly, let’s remember that in our own country we belong to the majority, there are others who experience being in the minority in our culture. How will we behave towards them? Will we ostracise them? Or will we welcome and support them? Will we push them away? Or will we recognise that although they are different from us, although they may worship in a different way to us, they too are God’s children.

Sadly, the Church, of whatever denomination, over the centuries, has not been good at accepting difference and has justified all sorts of atrocities in the pursuit of purity of doctrine. In our generation we are just as capable of bigotry. We can so easily slip into a pattern of thought which makes the other person less valuable than we are and that makes it seem OK to ridicule and hurt those different from ourselves. Our faith as Christians calls us to love and not to hatred. It calls those of us with  the privilege of being in the majority to give space to other views, to recognise those different from ourselves and children of God and fellow human beings. Our faith calls on us to be those who create the space for good dialogue and who always see the good in our neighbours.

So let me remind you of Anargith and Lalani who testify that God is with them in the midst of persecution.

Let me remind you of Peter, who is convinced that we will not find life easy as we give ourselves to God. But who is just as convinced that we will know we are ‘saved’: that we sit in the heart of God’s will, safe and secure in God’s love. Sure too, that as we seek to serve Jesus and to live lives that honour our Lord, we are doing something worthwhile even if we suffer for doing so.

References

  1. http://www.lbcs.edu.lk, accessed on 13th May 2020.
  2. https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/11622/pope-to-beatify-beatify-seven-bishop-martyrs-in-romania, accessed on 13th May 2020.

Sunday 10th May 2020 – John 14: 1-14

A reflection for Sunday 10th May 2020 – The Fifth Sunday of Easter

Revd. Pat Lodge

This week’s reflection comes from my colleague in the Parish of the Good Shepherd, Ashton-under-Lyne – Revd Pat Lodge.

Oh, my goodness, what an appropriate reading for the current times that we’re living in!

This is a Gospel reading that we may well be very familiar, partly because it often used in the funeral service, and the reason for that is that it is such a comforting reading.  It reminds us that Jesus is with us on the journey of life, that he loves us and cares for us particularly when we are sad, lonely, confused and troubled, and that he prepares the way ahead for us.

Before the disciples heard Jesus speak these words to them they knew that there were dark days ahead for them.  There they were, closeted in an upper room.  It had all been going so well.  They would have been planning for a future following Jesus, and helping him in his work.  And then, suddenly, their world fell apart.  Judas betrayed Jesus to Caiaphas.  Jesus was arrested and crucified. Peter had denied even knowing Jesus three times, just as Jesus had said he would, and they had no idea what was ahead of them.  For their own safety, they had locked themselves away in fear, in sadness and in apprehension about the future.  Ring any bells?

I think that situation chimes with all of us at the moment.  Our world was chugging along quite happily.  We were making plans for the rest of the year ahead and all was well till, suddenly, this dreadful virus sweeps through our world and stops us all in our tracks. Don’t we feel that fear and apprehension for the future that the disciples felt as we keep our distance from family, friends and neighbours, closeted away as we are in our homes as much as possible?  I know I have.

And then Jesus comes to comfort them and to show them the way forward, just as he does with us.  He lets them know that he’s with them, and asks them to trust in God the Father and in himself, just as he does us.  He tells them to hang on by putting their faith in him, just as he tells us.  He assures his disciples that he will be going ahead of them to prepare the way for them, just as he does us.

Thomas, perhaps harshly nicknamed Doubting – for wasn’t he in exactly the same boat that we’re in now in wanting to know more – wants some detail about what’s going to happen in the future?  What does Jesus mean by telling them that they know the way they must go?  And where is Jesus going?  He needs to know so that he knows where to follow him.  And then we hear, as the disciples did, those words of infinite comfort, strength, support and healing, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

No matter what we have to face in these dark and difficult days, no matter how long this uncertainty goes on for, we have Jesus’s assurance that he will be with us always, that he is there to help us on the onward journey from here, and that by following him will we have God’s promise of eternal life – and I think that’s a tremendous comfort right now.

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.
And he replied: Go out into the darkness
And put your hand in the Hand of God
That shall be to you better than a light
And safer than a known way.

from Desert by Minnie Louise Haskins

 

 

 

The Good Shepherd

The Good ShepherdEaster 4

Belonging is important. We want to feel that we belong. Even those of us who are introverts still want to feel that we have a place in society. And so many of us join different clubs and societies. So, we belong to things like Soroptimists, Rotary, Round Table, the Bowling Club, the Needlework Group, a Fan Club, a Football Team, we engage in other sports, and nowadays we join on-line groups – we have a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, some of us even have a blog. Even on-line, we belong!

Yet, as adults we like to believe that we a strong enough to make our own decisions, to be our own people. For some of us acknowledging that we need others, that we need to belong can be quite difficult. But we have to accept that it is true when we look at teenage culture over the past 50 years – the need to belong to the ‘in-crowd’, to wear the ‘right’ clothes, to listen to the ‘right’ music, to have the ‘right’ attitudes. All so very obvious and never more so that during the 1970s when I was a teenager. And those of us who are now in our 30s, 40s, 50s ….etc…. have to admit that when we were young we felt the possibility of rejection quite keenly. Indeed it is one of the main causes of serious teenage problems – eating disorders, drug/solvent abuse, delinquency. The need to belong often overcomes all other priorities – it can become more critical than right/wrong. And if we’re honest we’ll admit that it is true for all of us, whatever age we claim to be. The need to belong is so very important.

It’s not just peer groups/clubs/societies – we’re part of families – I’m a Farnworth – I couldn’t be anything else – I’ve habits that I recognise in my father, I’ve got the same concern for neatness and detail that my mother has. I inherit my baldness from my mother’s father. No matter how much I might have wanted to rebel against it in the past, I’m a Farnworth. I belong.

Then there’s our work. Before I went to college to train for the ministry I was a Civil Engineer, a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, something that I’d worked hard to achieve. I was a manager in Stockport Council – with 120 staff. I had a definite place in society – I belonged. Leaving all that and going back to college was surprisingly disorientating. The way I defined myself, and the sense of place and belonging had suddenly been taken away. Who was I now? How was I going to make my mark? Would I be accepted in this new world? If you’ve changed jobs, or perhaps left work to raise children, or gone back to work after raising children you’ll perhaps know what I mean. Not the end of the world by any means – actually a really positive challenge – but still a need to establish a new identity, a new sense of belonging.

This month the Parish of the Good Shepherd, Ashton-under-Lyne celebrates its Patronal Festival on the 4th Sunday of Easter (3rd May 2020). Each year, on the 4th Sunday of Easter our lectionary has us reading something from the 10th chapter of John’s Gospel, a chapter where Jesus talks of himself as the Good Shepherd.  In that chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus talks of belonging. “You do not belong to my sheep,” he says to his adversaries in the temple. “You do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”

There are at least three things that Jesus is saying about those who belong to him:

Firstly – “My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me.” Those who belong to Jesus have been ‘called’ by him – they’ve heard his call and have answered that call. We’ve been chosen – we’ve not just muscled our way into the club, we’ve been selected to play on the team. We have been called by Jesus and we follow his call. But not only are we called, we are known – nothing is hidden from him, he knows us inside out – and even knowing all the things we like to keep hidden, he has still chosen us! …  And why are we chosen? … To follow him – to live differently, to try to be like him, his attitudes/actions – to follow him.

Secondly – ‘I give them eternal life.’ Those who belong to Jesus have been given eternal life. All equal, all loved, all given the greatest of gifts – eternal life. Life lived now in friendship with God, life which is no longer purely part of a world which passes away. We often say that it is quality not quantity which counts – but here in Jesus gift of eternal life we get both – life to be enjoyed beyond our imagining, life which continues beyond the grave, both quality and quantity!

Thirdly – ‘No one will snatch them out of my hand.’ The best news of all. Those who belong to Jesus are safe, secure. Jesus is committed to them, no matter how tentative their commitment to him. Belonging depends on his love, not our faithfulness! No matter how black things seem, no matter how rebellious we are. He has hold of us with a grip that he will not release. If we wander away he will draw us back, if we stumble he will pick us up and set us back on our feet.

Belonging to Jesus is real belonging – its for keeps. It gives us the strength we need to cope when all other certainties have gone. We are at home, we’re safe. But don’t just take my word for it, listen to Jesus:

“My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”

(John 10:27-28)

References:

  1. The featured image for this article comes from the website ‘Catholic Exchange’ https://catholicexchange.com/scripture-speaks-good-shepherd, accessed on 30th April 2020.