Reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent and Dewi Sant
Reflection for the first Sunday of Lent
There are many subtle temptations facing us as we continue to endure the desert experience of isolation and lockdown during the pandemic. Confronted with the example of Jesus, whose experience in the wilderness enables him to overcome temptation, and that of the Israelites who fail to resist it, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that the lengthy solitude of lockdown may bring out the best and the worst in us – especially when trying to work out the various ‘ifs’ that lie ahead if the schools go back, if the economy improves, if holidays become possible……. It may be a comfort to know that Jesus, in his humanity, knows what it’s like as temptation is faced for this is no robot for whom temptation was not a real issue. To overcome temptation in any wilderness situation takes time, effort and will – perseverance is key, for NASA rovers and humans alike!
With my prayers,
Reflection for the start of Lent
It’s now Lent in the church year, the time recalling the forty days and nights Jesus spent living very simply in the wilderness, facing temptations and reflecting on his future after his baptism. Following his example, Lent was traditionally when people fasted, gave up things that tempted them and reflected on their journey through life. Intended to strengthen the spiritual aspects of faith, it sometimes became just a battle with food and ended in disappointment when people quickly gave up as the biscuits won or excuses were made. I still remember the story of a child being asked by her mum to hull some strawberries while she went out. Knowing that her daughter loved eating them, her mother told her to turn her back if the devil tempted her to eat the berries. On return, seeing the telltale stains around her mouth, her mum asked why she hadn’t done this. The daughter replied that she had turned her back on him, but the devil had then pushed her onto the strawberries and made her eat them!
This Lent, whether we believe in the devil or not, so much has already had to be given up through being in lockdown and many people have had to live without seeing their family and friends or doing what they want to do when they want to do it. Realising that we can’t always have our own way or liberty can highlight how much we take for granted and how fortunate we may have previously been. However, this has been going on for much longer than forty days and part of the temptation has been to ignore the restrictions or become dispirited. For many, it’s been a desert experience of profound loss and the way ahead uncertain so, rather than only give things up for Lent this year at an already harrowing time, why not also take on something that will create fresh hope as the vaccines are given and a new, safer way of life becomes a possibility?
There are many online and media resources currently available for doing this but one local possibility could be using the new booklet about Welsh saints which includes Melangell. It’s a bilingual study resource which has been developed by the Methodist Church’s Learning Network Cymru Wales: Pilgrimage in Wales – walking with the saints. It focuses on the theme of pilgrimage and is based on the lives of four of the best-known Welsh saints, David, Winefride, Illtud and Melangell. Suitable for Lent, it can be downloaded without charge from walesworshipweb.blogspot.com and the booklet is helpful for Zoom discussion groups as well as individual use. It’s also available as a free A5 size paper booklet by emailing email@example.com
Wherever your journey takes you this Lent, may the desert experience brought by the pandemic teach us that, in following in the footsteps of Jesus and the saints down the ages, the wilderness can be fruitful when we learn how to survive in it and resist the easy temptations that are part of it. For that reason, the Lenten altar at St Melangell’s carries the traditional purple array, sackcloth and ashes as a sign of repentance and regret – but there is also a burning candle and some snowdrops as a sign of light and blessing. The loss and cost has been great but the new life bursting out in the flowers, trees and beauty all around us after the dearth of winter also testifies to re-creation and fresh hope – whether or not we can find the Lenten discipline to persevere. God bless us all in our wandering, wondering and seeking of the way ahead.
Shone out upon us from a human face.” From ‘Transfiguration’, poem by Malcolm Guite.
Available for free download here or via the links to those who authored it below.
Pererindod yng Nghymru – cerdded gyda’r saint
Adnodd astudio dwyieithog newydd gan dîm Rhwydwaith Dysgu Cymru yr Eglwys Fethodistaidd ar y thema pererindod ac yn seiliedig ar bedwar o’n seintiau mwyaf adnabyddus, Dewi, Gwenfrewi, Illtud a Melangell. Mae wedi ei lunio ar gyfer grwpiau trafod neu ddefnydd personol ac yn addas i’w ddefnyddio adeg y Grawys. Gellir ei lawrlwytho o walesworshipweb.blogspot.com ac mae hefyd ar gael fel llyfryn maint A5 am ddim trwy ebostio firstname.lastname@example.org
Pilgrimage in Wales – walking with the saints
A new bilingual study resource from the Methodist Church’s Learning Network Cymru Wales team on the theme of pilgrimage and based on four of our best-known saints, Dewi, Gwenfrewi, Illtud and Melangell. It is designed for discussion groups or personal use and is suitable for use during Lent. It can be downloaded from walesworshipweb.blogspot.com and is also available in a free A5 size booklet form by emailing email@example.com
Reflection for Creation Sunday
Reflection for Candlemas
“Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation……” Simeon, in Luke 2:22-40, NIV.
Today’s reflection is from the Grandchamp Community, a monastic community of about 50 sisters who come from different churches, countries and cultures. Evolving in the early 1930s and based initially in Switzerland, the sisters welcomed German and Dutch women into the community shortly after the Second World War, committing themselves to working for reconciliation as well as unity: “Ecumenical prayer, prayer for unity, was there at the heart of the life of our community from the start, and that is clearly the work of the Holy Spirit.” (Sister Minke).In adopting the Rule of the ecumenical Taizé Community in 1952, the sisters developed this outreach and have devised this year’s resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. So, rather than write a separate reflection, theirs for Day 7 follows as a means of establishing common ground. Perhaps you could light a candle where you are to add to those in the photo as a sign of the unity and hope that can be found despite the divisions that still remain in the body of Christ and the world we all share.With my prayers,Christine, Shrine GuardianPrayer for Christian Unity.
Growing in unity
“I am the vine, you are the branches” (Jn 15:5a)
1 Cor 1:10-13; 3:21-23 Is Christ divided?
Jn 17:20-23 As you and I are one
On the eve of his death, Jesus prayed for the unity of those the Father gave him: “that they may all be one … so that the world may believe”. Joined to him, as a branch is to the vine, we share the same sap that circulates among us and vitalizes us.Each tradition seeks to lead us to the heart of our faith: communion with God, through Christ, in the Spirit. The more we live this communion, the more we are connected to other Christians and to all of humanity. Paul warns us against an attitude that had already threatened the unity of the first Christians: absolutizing one’s own tradition to the detriment of the unity of the body of Christ. Differences then become divisive instead of mutually enriching. Paul had a very broad vision: “All are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God” (1 Cor 3:22-23).Christ’s will commits us to a path of unity and reconciliation. It also commits us to unite our prayer to his: “that they may all be one. . .so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21).
“Never resign yourself to the scandal of the separation of Christians who so readily profess love for their neighbour, and yet remain divided. Make the unity of the body of Christ your passionate concern.” The Rule of Taizé.
Holy Spirit, vivifying fire and gentle breath, come and abide in us. Renew in us the passion for unity so that we may live in awareness of the bond that unites us in you. May all who have put on Christ at their Baptism unite and bear witness together to the hope that sustains them. Amen.
To the members of the Family of St Asaph
A Pastoral Letter for the New Year, January 2021
We’re familiar, I suspect, with the story of the twelve disciples, who are an integral part of the story of Jesus in the Gospels. As sure as Snow White belongs with the Seven Dwarfs, so Jesus belongs with the twelve, if that isn’t too trivialising a thing to say. What is so fascinating in the Gospels is what a motley band the disciples are. They make a mess of things, they misunderstand, they question, they fail to believe and to follow. Over the course of the ministry of Jesus, however, they are forged into apostles, and Jesus is not afraid at his ascension to put the whole business of the Gospel of Salvation and the Church into their hands.
I was challenged before Christmas when someone said to me that they didn’t think that Christians today thought of themselves as disciples, and that people didn’t understand what a disciple was. It was a name which belonged in the Bible, but was hardly a contemporary description of faith, they said.
For me, the fundamental question of faith is whether I am a disciple. Faith is not an abstract exercise of the mind, it is how it affects my daily life. A disciple is one who learns: it is clearer in the Welsh, where disciple and pupil are the same word: disgybl. To be a Christian is to lay one’s life on the line, and to follow Jesus. We see the “crisis” of discipleship when Jesus calls the twelve – peremptorily – from their fishing or their tax collection or their political activism. He just turns up, it appears, and issues the invitation (we might be better saying “command”.) And they go with him, they leave their work, they leave their families, they set out on a journey from which, to tell the truth, they never return, and yet they come truly home. The gospels even tell us about one occasion when someone said “no”: a rich young aristocrat, who just couldn’t tear himself away from the privileges of his wealth (Mark. 10.17-27).
Jesus, I’m afraid, doesn’t call us to stay where we are, in the sense of saying our creeds with meaning, but otherwise going about our lives. He calls us to set out on a journey, away from the familiar, to become larger than we are, greater in spirit, holier in life, loving in service. Nor does he make it easy, “If anyone does want to come after me,” he says in Luke 9.23, “they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and so follow me.”
Are we frightened by this? Was it enough to be baptised or confirmed in the past, so that we need not heed the call that comes today or tomorrow, to go somewhere we don’t expect and to learn something new about the real meaning of life? This is what it is to be a Christian: to learn what God has in store for us and to follow it, to be a disciple. The disciples didn’t find following Jesus easy, and indeed, the Gospel according to John tells us that on one occasion Jesus’ teaching was so demanding that a lot of people gave up, and left. (John chapter 6, particularly v.66 ff) Jesus has to turn to the twelve, and say: “Are you lot off as well?” It is good old Simon Peter who replies on this occasion: “Where else could we go?”, he says, “You are the one who has the words which give eternal life.”
And that’s the promise – to follow Jesus, to go on the unexpected journey, is to discover the riches of a life beyond compare, beyond blessing. “He who would true valour see, let him come hither,” wrote John Bunyan in the seventeenth century. “One here will constant be, come wind, come weather. There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent his first avowed intent: to be a pilgrim.” Pilgrim follower, disciple. Are you a disciple? I can think of no better vocation, no more exciting journey in 2021 than to get up, shake off the lethargy or the disgruntlement, and to go through the door of life, and look to Jesus, who stretches his hand towards us, and for us to say to him: “Here I am, and where you lead, I will follow.”
At aelodau Teulu Asaph
Llythyr Bugeiliol ar gyfer y Flwyddyn Newydd, Ionawr 2021
Rwy’n siŵr ein bod yn gyfarwydd gyda hanes y deuddeg disgybl, sy’n rhan annatod o hanes Iesu yn yr Efengylau. Cyn sicred â bod Eira Wen yn perthyn i’r Saith Corrach, mae Iesu hefyd yn perthyn i’r deuddeg, os nad yw hynny’n ddywediad braidd yn ddifrïol. Yr hyn sydd mor gyfareddol yn yr Efengylau yw criw mor frith yw’r disgyblion. Maen nhw’n gwneud llanastr o bethau, yn camddeall, maen nhw’n amau, maen nhw’n methu credu na dilyn. Ond, dros gyfnod gweinidogaeth Iesu, maen nhw’n cael eu ffurfio’n apostolion ac nid yw Iesu’n ofni, adeg ei ddyrchafael, gosod yr holl fusnes o Efengyl Iachawdwriaeth a’r Eglwys yn eu dwylo. Cefais fy herio cyn y Nadolig pan ddywedodd rhywun wrthyf nad oedd yn meddwl fod Cristnogion heddiw yn ystyried eu hunain yn ddisgyblion ac nad oedd pobl yn deall beth oedd disgybl. Mae’n enw sy’n perthyn i’r Beibl, ond digon o waith ei fod yn ddisgrifiad cyfoes o ffydd, meddai. I mi, cwestiwn sylfaenol o ffydd yw a ydw i’n ddisgybl. Nid ymarfer damcaniaethol o’r meddwl yw ffydd, mae sut y mae’n effeithio ar fy mywyd pob dydd. Mae disgybl yn un sy’n dysgu: mae’r Gymraeg yn gliriach, mae’r un gair ‘disgybl’ yn golygu’r ddau air Saesneg ‘disciple’ a ‘pupil’. Bod yn Gristion yw cymryd eich bywyd yn eich dwylo a dilyn Iesu. Roedd ‘argyfwng’ disgyblaeth i’w weld pan alwodd Iesu’r deuddeg – yn ddirybudd – o’u gwaith yn pysgota neu’n casglu trethu neu’n gwleidydda. Mae’n ymddangos ac yn gwahodd (neu, efallai, yn “gorchymyn”.) Ac maen nhw’n ei ganlyn, maen nhw’n gadael eu gwaith, yn gadael eu teuluoedd ac yn cychwyn ar daith pen draw iddi, ac eto, maen nhw, mewn gwirionedd, roedden nhw wedi cyrraedd gartref. Mae’r efengylau hyd yn oed yn sôn wrthym am un achlysur pan ddywedodd rhywun “na”: uchelwr ifanc, cyfoethog, nad oedd yn gallu diosg breintiau ei gyfoeth (Marc: 10.17-27). Ond, mae arna i ofn, nid ein galw i aros yn ein hunfan y mae Iesu, nid i ddweud ein credoau dan deimlad ac, fel arall, i fyw ein bywydau yn ôl ein harfer. Mae’n ein galw i gychwyn ar daith, i ffwrdd o’r cyfarwydd, i ddod yn fwy nag yr ydym ni, i dyfu yn yr ysbryd, yn fwy sanctaidd mewn bywyd, yn gariadus mewn gwasanaeth. Nid yw ychwaith yn ei gwneud hyn yn hawdd i ni, “Os myn neb ddod ar fy ôl i,” meddai yn Luc 9:23, “rhaid iddo ymwadu ag ef ei hun a chodi ei groes bob dydd a’m canlyn i.” A yw hyn yn codi ofn arnom ni? A oedd derbyn bedydd neu fedydd esgob yn y gorffennol yn ddigon fel na fyddai raid i ni dalu sylw i’r alwad sy’n dod heddiw neu yfory, i fynd i rywle anghyfarwydd ac i ddysgu rhywbeth newydd am ystyr bywyd mewn gwirionedd? Dyma beth yw bod yn Gristion: dysgu beth sydd gan Dduw ar ein cyfer ni a’i ddilyn, bod yn ddisgybl. Doedd hi ddim yn hawdd i’r disgyblion ddilyn Iesu, yn wir, mae’n dweud yn un man yn yr Efengyl yn ôl Ioan fod dysgeidiaeth Iesu’n gofyn cymaint nes bod llawer o bobl yn rhoi’r gorau iddi ac yn gadael. (Ioan pennod 6, yn benodol a.66 ff) Mae Iesu’n gorfod troi at y deuddeg a dweud: “Ydych chi i gyd yn gadael hefyd?” Yr hen Seimon Pedr sy’n ymateb y tro yma: “Ble arall allen ni fynd?” meddai, ‘Ti wy’r un gyda’r geiriau sy’n rhoi bywyd tragwyddol.” A dyna’r addewid – dilyn Iesu, mynd ar y daith annisgwyl, darganfod cyfoeth bywyd nad oes ei debyg, y tu hwnt i fendith. Fel y dywedodd John Bunyan yn yr ail ganrif ar bymtheg “A fynno ddewrder gwir, o deued yma. Mae un o ddeil ei dir ar law a hindda. Ni all temtasiwn gref ei ddigalonni ef i ado llwybrau’r nef, y gwir bererin.” Pererin dilynwr, disgybl. Ydych chi’n ddisgybl? Alla i ddim meddwl am well galwedigaeth, nac am daith fwy cyffrous yn 2021, na chodi, diosg y syrthni neu’r anfodlonrwydd a mynd trwy ddrws bywyd, edrych at Iesu, sy’n ymestyn ei law, a dweud wrtho: “Dyma fi, a ble bynnag y byddi di’n arwain, byddaf i’n dilyn.”