Sunday reflection

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent
“Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from the dread enemy.”Psalm 64:1.
“Those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell upon them – do you think they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?” Jesus, in today’s Gospel Luke 13:1-9.In the Gospel today, there are references to two disasters. The first is the massacre of Jews making a pilgrimage from Galilee to the Temple in Jerusalem, when the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate sent in troops to slaughter them. Perhaps he feared a riot but, for Jews to be killed as they offered animal sacrifices according to their law, this polluted the place of worship not only because of their deaths but by mingling the blood of humans and animals in a way that would cause even greater offence. The second is the collapse of the Tower of Siloam, which fell on eighteen people and killed them. These disasters then have resonances today as the war in Ukraine continues with Russia seeking to invade as did the Romans and with many civilian deaths and the collapse of much of the infrastructure resulting. 
Those present ask Jesus whether the victims had perhaps brought the tragedy upon themselves by offending God so greatly that he wanted to punish them in this way. That would chime with the thinking of the day but Jesus responds with a firm denial of their suggestion – but he also warns them that, unless they repented, they too would perish. In the New Testament, to perish was not just death but judgement too in a way that denied the possibility of eternal life as in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
In the face of so much territorial conflict and death then and now, one recent image in particular bore testimony to the true cost of suffering. The sixth Station of the Cross has an account, not in the Gospels, of the sweat, blood and spittle on Jesus’ face being wiped off with her veil by a nun called Veronica as he carried his cross along the Via Dolorosa to Calvary. The woman Veronica is legendary, although there is a saint of this name, and her name has arisen because of the relic created when the mark of Jesus’ face was imprinted as it was wiped on a piece of cloth. The true image – the Vera Iconica – of Jesus’ face during his suffering eventually led through the retelling of the story to the creation of the woman now called Veronica and a cloth relic long before the Shroud of Turin, in which the body of Jesus was said to have been wrapped. So, it was significant that Marianna Podgurskaya, who had to flee from a Ukrainian maternity hospital being shelled by Russian troops, should name her baby Veronika, a true image of the ongoing warfare and suffering today.
Whatever the origins of the relic, compassion was shown to Jesus by a bystander looking on as his suffering continued. As tragedy unfolds in the ongoing war, there are also many opportunities to be not just spectators but helpers working to relieve the suffering of so many displaced and traumatised people. In the face of such adversity, we may be able to do little to relieve the immediate suffering caused by the war but there will be more local opportunities to become a Vera Iconica too, not just a legend like Veronica, but true images of love and compassion where it is needed.
With my prayers; Pob Bendith

Christine, Guardian

Sunday reflection

Reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent and the war in Ukraine.
“Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” From today’s Gospel, Luke 13:31-35.
“What a world to be born into.” BBC reporter Jon Dennison, on the birth of baby Veronika after her mum Marianna Podgurskaya had to flee from a Ukrainian maternity hospital being shelled by Russian troops.
Today’s Gospel is the account of some Pharisees coming to Jesus to warn him that he should flee as Herod is after him. Their motive is two edged – do they genuinely want to warn Jesus that his life is in danger or are they scheming to get him out of their way too? Whatever their reason, Jesus refuses to change his plans and tells them that he must continue on his way to Jerusalem – which he does, remaining steadfast in his intent despite the opposition he is encountering. In doing so, he goes to his death – but also to his later resurrection. 
Much of this account has resonances with what’s happening in the ongoing warfare in Ukraine. President Zelensky has been advised by some to flee but would risk being called cowardly if he did. Others want him to stay but his own life and those of his family would be endangered if he does. He faces a very difficult choice and, in time of war, it’s always hard to know who can be trusted and what advice to heed or discard. The same choice affects his people – should they flee or remain? Some have no choice, others do and the consequences are shown on a daily basis as weeping loved ones part without knowing when or if they will meet again. Scenes such as the abandoned babies and toddlers hidden in a basement, a frail woman being carried in a blanket by four people  or the terrified animals panicking in the zoo indicate the terrible suffering unfolding each day and the awful consequences of what is happening as food, water, fuel and shelter begin to run out. 
When it was suggested that he should flee, Jesus was not diplomatic in his reply, calling Herod a fox. This is Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee and one of the sons of Herod the Great who tried to have Jesus killed as a baby when he had the male children under the age of two slaughtered in the Massacre of the Innocents. That plan failed – at that time, Jesus and his family did flee, going to Egypt as refugees and only returning when it was safe to do so when Herod died. 
There are times in every life when, in less heightened but still painful circumstances, we also have to choose when to leave and when to remain where we are. As Lent continues with thoughts of the wilderness in mind, so the journey Jesus took leads on to the confrontation, dereliction, suffering and death of Holy Week. However, it will also lead to a fresh understanding of sharing a meal together at the Last Supper, to forgiveness for those who are penitent even at the end of life on Good Friday and to new life at the resurrection on Easter Day. In the wilderness of ruin and devastation being witnessed today, there are also people sharing the little they have and staying where they whilst over two million refugees have fled. The Massacre of the Innocents and the flight of refugees are not just Biblical accounts but continue today – and at the heart of Christianity is One who experienced it personally and whose life shows that death is not the end, though it may seem so currently.
At the heart of the war today is the capital city, now known as the Ukrainian Kyiv but previously as the Russian Kiev. One derivation of the name suggests that Kie was a king and that it may be Hebrew in origin, meaning uncommon blessing. In whatever is currently unfolding, may uncommon blessings eventually prevail – but at what cost for the Innocents and all involved?
With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

Sunday reflection

As the Guardian is away at a funeral and then a family celebration, today’s reflection is the latest pastoral letter from the Bishop of St Asaph. Writing about prayer, these links will take you to the versions in English and Welsh, the First Sunday of Lent.

With the prayers of all at St Melangell’s

Lent Prayers


Duw pob cariad, tyn ni’n agos atat ti,fel y gwyddom bod dy bresenoldeb gyda ni. Adnewydda ein ffydd, er mwyn inni dy helpu i gynyddu’r ffydd honno mewn eraill.Llenwa ni â gobaith,er mwyn inni ddod â’th obaith i’r byd. Cofleidia ni mewn cariad, fel y dangoswndy gariad i bawb a gyfarfyddwn.Una ni, fel aelodau Teulu Asaph,i wneud dy ewyllys fel y deled dy deyrnas trwy Iesu Grist ein Harglwydd. Amen.Annwyl Gyfeillion,


God of all love, draw us close to you,that we may know your presence with us. Renew our faith, that we may help you grow that faith in others.Fill us with hope,that we may bring your hope to the world. Enfold us in love, that we may demonstrate your love to all we meet.Unite us, as members of the Teulu Asaph,to do your will and make your kingdom come through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

March Services

Lent at St Melangell’s Shrine Church and Centre.
Services at St Melangell’s in March will focus on Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday and recalls the time Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness after his baptism. There are actually 46 days in Lent but Sundays don’t count as the day of resurrection so, if you choose to give something up, it can still happen on a Sunday which may make it harder as well easier to abstain from! 
Jesus chose to spend a lengthy time being solitary, whereas so many of us have had this forced upon us by the pandemic, and it’s clear that he was tempted to use his abilities to serve his own interests. As he fasted during that time, surviving on what the desert could offer for survival, so his followers have traditionally also given up food or something dear to them to join with him in the spiritual journey and in overcoming the temptation to be self-serving.
Due to the pandemic, people may now see this differently as we’ve already had to give up so much due to the various lockdowns that the prospect of giving something up for Lent may seem ironic. This year, emerging from the wilderness of Covid and its restrictions, some of the temptations ahead of us may be to remain afraid despite Omicron being milder than previous Covid variants or to be selfish about our own expectations without considering the consequences for other people. There are still things we need to be cautious about despite the statistics diminishing and deaths are still occurring from it although hospital admissions are much lower than they were. The ongoing issues with the supply chain, the increased cost of living and fuel or the tensions between Russia and Ukraine may all combine to make us feel fearful about what’s happening and anxious about the way the world is. So, rather than give something up for Lent when so much has already been lost, why not consider giving something away? Each day, why not do something for the benefit of other people, such as donating items to the Food Bank, leaving an anonymous bunch of daffodils for someone to find or doing something to help those around? In all, those 40 acts will make a positive difference in the face of such negativity – and you can still have a rest on Sundays!
The services in March will be held on the following dates:

Ash Wednesday, 10am: Ashing and Litany

Thursdays 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th:Holy Eucharist at noon. 

Sundays 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th, Mothering Sunday: Service of reflection at 3pm.

There will also be a Lent Group, by Zoom – please get in touch for further details. All services at St Melangell’s will be held according to the current guidance of the Welsh Government and the Church in Wales, which still advises the use of masks, social distancing and hand sanitiser. For further details, please ring 01691 860408, check the website or contact
With my prayers,

Christine, Guardian.

Sunday reflection

Reflection for the Sunday before Lent

“Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.” From Luke 9:28-36, NRSV.

“The International Judo Federation has suspended Vladimir Putin as honorary president and ambassador.” Online BBC news update. 

Today’s Gospel is the Transfiguration of Jesus, appropriate for a world being changed by love, hope and bravery as well as hatred, fear and warfare. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has happened, despite diplomatic endeavours, and there has already been much bloodshed and destruction. Sanctions have been imposed in various ways (though President Putin will not probably be too affected by losing his presidency of the International Judo Federation!) and it’s clear that sporting sanctions are already having an effect in motor racing and football. With financial sanctions, loss of airspace, provision of supplies and the various other responses to the invasion, what lies ahead is likely to be protracted and complicated. However, with President Volodymyr Zelensky (a former comedian now being lauded a hero by many) facing the actions of President Putin (a black belt in judo facing much international criticism) there is a sense of disbelief and terror as well as absurdity at some of the things that are happening. Has so little been learned from the lessons of history?

There was disbelief at the Transfiguration, too, when Peter, James and John were also terrified by what was happening and were the only disciples taken up a mountain by Jesus to pray. When the figures of Moses and Elijah appear, representing the Law and the Prophets, not only is God’s glory revealed but a cloud descends, from which a voice is heard saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him.” (v35) This echoes the words at Jesus’ baptism, which confirms the start of his ministry just as the transfiguration confirms what lies ahead: the departure or exodus to Jerusalem. The sleepy disciples will later have difficulty staying awake in Gethsemane but, for now, they are roused by the glory they witness and Peter wants to build a reminder of what has happened – even as it’s taking place. That’s occurring as war breaks out today, too, with reporters and photographers capturing events as they unfold.

Understandably, Peter wants to linger in that holy place but they all come back down the mountain and are then faced with a mentally ill man shrieking at them. From the glory of what they’ve just experienced on the mountain, now the reality of daily life has to be confronted. And that’s what happens when Jesus heals the man, who is restored to his right mind. That is our hope too as glory and transfiguration encounter pain and disfiguration in our world today. Like those first disciples, we may be bewildered and terrified or faced with events we can’t comprehend but we are also figures in the ongoing struggle between the transfiguration and the disfiguration of life and will have opportunities to make a difference – one way or another – in the situations we embody. 
So: go, figure!
With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

Sunday reflection

Reflection for Creation Sunday

“Jesus said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid and amazed and said to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and water, and they obey him?” From Luke 8:22-25, NRSV.
 “Very likely, what with enemies, and mountains, and rivers to cross, and losing our way, and next to nothing to eat, and sore feet, we’ll hardly notice the weather.”Puddleglum in ‘The Silver Chair’ by CS Lewis. 
Today’s Gospel could not be more appropriate as Europe comes to terms with the deaths of 16 people and deals with the aftermath of Storm Eunice whilst bracing for more windy weather to come. Some minor storm damage has occurred at the church here but compared to the top of the spire being blown off St Thomas’ church in Wells, Somerset we have been fortunate. To see the wind remove such heavy stone was testimony to its strength with the highest wind gust ever recorded in the UK at 122mph by the Isle of Wight. Witnessing its power was both exhilarating and frightening!
So, it’s no wonder that the disciples are petrified when a severe storm blows up on the Sea of Galilee whilst they are sailing across it. Jesus has told them to do this and they have obediently done so, with him being so tired by the crowds and unconcerned about the weather that he falls asleep. The Sea of Galilee, also called Lake Gennesaret, is the lowest freshwater lake in the world and ocean winds from the hills of Galilee in the West, cold winds from the Labanese mountains in the North and warm winds from the desert in the East sweep over it. Storms occur there very frequently and, as fishermen, the disciples would have known that and probably expected this one to blow itself out. However, the tempest threatens to overwhelm the boat which, with its low sides to facilitate hauling in the catch, would easily fill with water. They wake Jesus up, sure that they are going to perish, and he rebukes the wind and waves which cease and calm is restored. Rather than sympathising with them in their fear, Jesus asks the disciples, “Where is your faith?” and they are astounded that even the elements obey him. “Who then is this?” they ask.
There are times for all of us when the storms of life itself as well as the weather threaten to overwhelm us or cause disaster of some kind, making us terrified or fearful. It’s tempting to become immersed in the panic like the disciples who cried out, “WE are perishing”, understandably thinking of their own safety rather than being concerned for their sleeping leader too. Perhaps we know people who seem unconcerned about unfolding events or are so anxious about possible adversity that they over-react.
That was the case with Puddleglum, the Marsh-Wiggle character invented by CS Lewis. He is gloomy and pessimistic, always seeing the worst of things, but was apparently based on the actual person of his gardener Fred Paxford. Perhaps we know someone like him – or are we like him ourselves?!
With the tensions between Russia and Ukraine, the threat of war is bringing fresh storms to Europe and the possible consequences are horrifying. The words of Jesus to his disciples then have an added resonance as we face this today, knowing that faith will not remove hardship or adversity but will enable prayer and trust to be considerations as well as fear and peril. The disciples saw the wind and waves obey the command of Jesus and asked, “Who then is this?” Each of us has to answer that question for ourselves and the position Jesus occupies in our own lives today, too. This Creation Sunday, also Septuagesima and the Second Sunday before Lent, we can also turn to Jesus for help in this gathering storm as did those frightened disciples, hearing once again his reply: “Where is your faith?” 
With my prayers, pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian. 

Our service today will be on zoom

Hallo everyone

I hope you’ve come safely through the stormy weather and haven’t had much storm damage.

There is slight storm damage at the church with some guttering blown off and mortar from the outside of the porch falling onto the step. There’s also debris as well as water on the road and, with the continuing high winds and at least three couples in convalescence, it seems to me to be sensible to hold the service by Zoom instead this afternoon at 3pm rather than travel.

Zoom link:

Please have psalm 46 and Luke 8:22-25 to hand if you’re likely to be present.

With my prayers,

Sunday reflection

Reflection on the Sermon on the Plain, irony and BP.

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God….. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” Luke 6:20,24, NRSV. 
”The first female Commissioner, Cressida Dick, has been brought down partly by anti-women behaviour and the anti-women crime of officers within her own force… The Met investigates the Government as the Government picks a new Met Commissioner.” James Reynolds, on the resignation of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. 
Some years ago, the controversial Monty Python film ‘Life of Brian’ depicted the scene in which Jesus goes up a mountain side to teach the crowds following him. There are so many people that those on the edge can’t hear and they ask what Jesus is saying. As the message is passed back, it becomes distorted and “Blessed are the peacemakers” eventually reaches those at the back as “Blessed are the cheesemakers.”  
This scene is based on Chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount, but today’s Gospel is taken from Luke’s similar account which is often called the Sermon on the Plain. Rather than preaching remotely above them, Luke’s Jesus is accessible to the crowds, meeting and healing them. The people have come from different places and some will also be there just out of curiosity with others present to jeer. In this series of sayings which are known as the Beatitudes or the attitudes about being, Matthew refers only to blessings whereas Luke mentions woes, too. He depicts Jesus contrasting the poor and rich, the hungry and the full, those who weep and laugh as well as those who are hated or praised. That still applies today. 
One of these in particular has a real irony currently: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God – woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” Today, many are struggling with the cost of living, with housing equity also having risen by £900 billion since the pandemic began. Some are having to choose between heating and eating, whilst Shell announced profits of £14.3 billion and BP of £5.6 billion in providing the fuel which so many can’t afford. Do the poor in that situation feel blessed? Shareholders in BP will receive at least a billion pounds in dividends – are they woeful? How can being poor be a blessing when it can be so degrading and why is being rich a woe when money can also do good? Other ironies, such as what’s happening with the resignation of Dame Cressida Dick and the Metropolitan Police’s investigation of those who will be involved in appointing her successor and may have broken the law, also resonate powerfully with Jesus’ words. Do they feel blessed in being humiliated?
Jesus is telling those who will listen to him that worldly values are not necessarily those of the kingdom of heaven and that the poor and hungry, the broken-hearted and reviled are close to God’s heart. Perhaps the blessing in it is that those who have nothing else in life have to trust in God and his promises whereas those who have much don’t need to rely on him. It’s a way of life that may seem strange but is part of the Kingdom values on which Jesus based his own life – that broken figure on the cross not only showed Jesus’ own commitment to God’s promises but also to their later fulfilment on Easter Day. 
The word blessed is related to the French ‘blessée’ meaning wound and there are times for all of us when we are wounded and wrestle with the challenge of finding healing. This Septuagesima Sunday, as Lent begins to draw near, if we or those around us are hurting, if life doesn’t seem to add up or contrasts are great, then in seeking the blessing that perhaps we’ve not considered, could we find ourselves closer to the Kingdom of Heaven than we realise?
With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.