Each week the Revd Dr Paul Smith gives a Reflection for the week containing a message for thought and it is published in our weekly Noticesheet. The Reflection is also published here for reference.


2022

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This week a Reflection from Esther – Fifth Sunday of Easter 15th May

Peter was a character. Even though he was one of the first to be called by Jesus, it took him a long time to really get what Jesus was talking about. And for all his bold statements about following Jesus, when it became life threatening, he panicked. Although Peter was reconciled to Jesus, and after Pentecost preached and healed many in His name, when faced with the vision in today’s reading, he panicked again. Because Peter was still learning. On this occasion, God tells him the same thing three times to make sure he gets it. How like us. How often does our heavenly Father have to tell us something more than once? Let’s be encouraged by Peter’s story, as we continue to learn and grow as disciples of Jesus.

God Bless, Esther


This week a Reflection from Chris – Fourth Sunday of Easter 8th May

Last Sunday we were thinking about the conversion of the Apostle Paul. It was as miraculous as any in Scripture or throughout Christian history. Yours may not have been nearly as dramatic, but it represented just as radical a change of direction for you. Take time to reflect on the direction of your life before and after your conversion. Be prepared to tell others what Christ did for you.

God Bless, Chris


Third Sunday of Easter 1st May

Peter and Paul were the pillars of the early Church. We have vivid and clear accounts of their calling to serve the Lord in Acts 9 and John 21. Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. Peter is reconciled to Jesus (and perhaps, more crucially, to himself) despite having denied him three times. Paul was a fierce persecutor of Jesus and his followers. But he was literally stopped in his tracks – the original “Damascus Road conversion”. But Jesus called Paul to serve him knowing that his energy could be turned around to positive purposes. What contrasting figures they were (a fisherman and a religious scholar)! What major faults they could have been held accountable for (denial and persecution)! Yet, they both served the Lord because he had called them. Whatever our failings, God can transform us and use our potential for good and for God’s glory.

God Bless, Paul


Second Sunday of Easter 24th April

The gospels tell several stories of Jesus’ appearances to his followers after they discover the empty tomb. These are encounters with individuals and groups of believers. The risen Lord does not appear at large, as he did during the days of his earthly ministry. The groups and individuals were varied and over a period, so that it wasn’t private hallucination or group hysteria as some allege. John tells of Jesus’ appearance through the closed door. The first time Thomas wasn’t there. The second time, Thomas made sure to be present. He’s sometimes called “Doubting Thomas” but this is unfair. He wanted to believe for himself, not as a borrowed conviction. Jesus knew his personal needs and spoke to him obviously knowing what he had said to the other disciples when he missed out. Jesus is still present in the lives of individuals and in their gatherings. We are now witnesses to his resurrection, indeed, his presence in the world.

God Bless, Paul


Easter Day 17th April

Luke’s Easter story highlights the role of women as the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. The men don’t come off terribly well when you ponder the implications of the comment, “but these words seemed to them an idle tale”! At least Peter wonders and hurries to check out the tomb. He leaves pondering what could have occurred. Many in our agnostic society may, at heart, think news of the risen Christ is “an idle tale” and withhold commitment. But this merely reflects that they may be looking in the wrong place. “Why look for the living among the dead?” Scepticism is a kind of search among the dead. Faith, like the women and Peter, is open to wondering, to remembering what Jesus said, to the possibility that hope in a risen Christ points to eternal life. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Happy Easter to you all!

God Bless, Paul


Palm Sunday 10th April

Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem in a deliberately symbolic demonstration. Conquering heroes of the day arrived astride a horse. It was more like driving a Ford Fiesta than an armoured car … or a tank. The gesture was an act of humility – the coming Messiah came in peace and gentleness. His mission was to win people for the kingdom of heaven by love not by force. But he also came as the rightful heir of Jerusalem. His ancestor King David had flown from the rebellion of Absalom in the opposite direction over the Mount of Olives on a donkey. Jesus came to reverse that fateful flight. Those who invade territory not their own inevitably come in force, cruelty and committing war crimes. Jesus’ arrival threatened those who thought it was their right to be in charge. By force they did away with him, but even his death was not the end.

God Bless Paul


Fifth Sunday in Lent 3rd April

In the perfume industry someone known as a “nose” develops scents. A good nose, after 7 years’ training can distinguish between thousands of different smells! Smell is a powerful but elusive sense. Fragrance denotes attractive smells, and they can fill a space. Martha anointed Jesus’ feet, filling the house with fragrance. It was a lavish act, perhaps in gratitude to Jesus raising her brother Lazarus from the dead. Jesus took it as a preparation for his burial, as he faced crucifixion. Anointing was also a sign of his kingship – his throne would be his cross. Judas did not have a nose for fragrance. He only sniffed out waste and complained. How perverse to think that the scent of sacrifice was a stench! We may not be talented like a perfumer, but we can fashion our lives into a sweet aroma in response to Jesus’ sacrificial love for us.

God Bless, Paul


Mothering Sunday 27th March

Mothering Sunday is not without its problems, especially for those who have a difficult relationship with their mother, or who struggle with being a mum. Gordon Giles suggests we can widen its meaning. 1. The Church is our faith-mother where our journey through life and faith is nurtured. In this sense motherhood isn’t only in the traditions and teachings of the church, but in the whole church membership. We are the body of Christ, and that Body nurtures our faith through the ministry of women and men. 2. We can ponder the example of Jesus’ human mother Mary, who served and suffered a great deal. 3.  The fourth Sunday of Lent is also known as Refreshment Sunday and became associated in the UK with domestic servants being released for the day to return home. Mothering Sunday is not just about making a fuss of our mothers, although that is also a good thing!

God Bless, Paul


Third Sunday in Lent 20th March

Cruelty and natural disaster are traumatic events and present really troubling questions. Jesus was asked about persecution of pilgrims and about a tower that fell on unsuspecting victims. These two events obviously troubled Jesus’ contemporaries. Interpreting Jesus’ answer needs careful thought. I suggest he’s saying that suffering, whether from cruelty or accident (such as a building collapse), is not about the victims getting just deserts. However, all humans are sinful and mortal. It is our responsibility, whilst alive, to turn to God in honesty about ourselves and dependence on God’s forgiving mercy. Like a failing fruit tree, we may not produce the good expected of us. Whilst we live, we have the time, like the second chance given to the failing fig, to repent and believe. Indeed, the good news that God is full of grace towards us, is like making extra provisions for a fruit tree by aerating the soil and adding fertiliser.

God Bless, Paul


Second Sunday in Lent 13th March

The decision to stay or flee must be an agonising one for anyone under threat of injury or death. “Get away from here! Herod’s after your blood!” Even if their concern for him was genuine, this choice was one the Pharisees put to Jesus. His response is to refuse the either/or they put to him. He has work to do and will not be distracted. But this “work” also involves leaving Galilee for Jerusalem where it will reach its terrible conclusion: for there the prophet must give up his life. We know with hindsight that this work was to win salvation for the world in and through Jesus’ crucifixion. That work would be “finished on the third day”. In the meantime there was urgent humanitarian work: healing peoples’ oppression and disease. That was, to Jesus, far more important than any worry about threats to his person.

God Bless, Paul


First Sunday in Lent 6th March

At the beginning of Lent we contemplate the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness. He was driven there by the Holy Spirit straight after his baptism. He spent the time preparing for his mission. The gospel writers portray the temptations as a drama, but it’s their inner meaning that I find illuminating. Jesus contemplated how he was to fulfil his mission – setting his priorities which would guide him through the most testing of times once he began to appear in public. The temptations were a subversion of the powers he had at his disposal. He could work miracles, but not for his own gratification. He could attempt salvation through political power. He could win over hearts and minds by dramatic display. But none of these was the way of the cross. Only a complete emptying of himself of “all but love” would achieve the salvation for which his heavenly Father sent him into the world.

God Bless, Paul


27th February

The Transfiguration is a key point in the mission of Jesus. Hitherto he has been active in and around Galilee. Henceforward Jesus’ face is set towards Jerusalem. It also come a week after the disciples and Jesus were discussing his identity. He is Messiah. The disciples, led by Peter, find it incredible that this means suffering and being put to death. Surely the Messiah would come in triumph to defeat the enemy? Moses and Elijah appear at the transfiguration discussing with Jesus his “exodus” – the manner of his departure in Jerusalem. In other words, his death. Jesus’ true glory is the cross and resurrection. At the heart of the Christian faith, lies redemption that comes in and through Christ’s suffering and death. There is no other way. As we enter Lent, preparing for Holy Week and Easter, let us, with Jesus, set our face towards those events that led to our redemption!

God Bless, Paul


6th February

Queen Elizabeth was staying in Kenya with Prince Phillip when she heard of the death of her father King George VI, on 6 February 1952. She returned home immediately and was proclaimed, ‘Queen Elizabeth II’ aged just 25. Accession Day marks the anniversary of the reigning monarch taking the throne. It is the beginning of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The Queen is Supreme Governor of the Church of England as well as being head of state. In both capacities it is appropriate to pray frequently for her work and her needs. The CofE provides various prayers to help with this. We thank God for a sovereign who has faithfully served her people as a Christian leader despite many setbacks and family difficulties. Public opinion about the Queen and the royal family may vary over time, but throughout, her steadfastness of purpose to serve her people for life has given her subjects a great deal of stability. Local community celebration plans are afoot and we hope to join in as appropriate.

God Bless, Paul


30th January

The birth stories of Jesus reach their climax when Jesus is presented in the Temple on his 8th day. Two faithful figures, Simeon and Anna, meet the young family and recognise the child embodies their hopes and prayers. Simeon held Jesus and praised God. He warned Mary that she would suffer because Jesus would certainly divide opinion about him! Anna praised Jesus to those of a similar heart and mind to her. Luke writes all these details to demonstrate who Jesus would grow up to be and to create a link between God’s promises of long ago, and what he was now doing in and through Jesus. When we hold a tiny baby we wonder what they will grow up like. There’s so much potential wrapped up in a miniature person! We may hold Jesus in different ways: in the communion bread; in our hearts; in each other. Can we also proclaim him joyfully to those around?

God Bless, Paul


16th January

Jesus turned water into wine (John 2:1-11) at the wedding in Cana. John says it was the first of his signs and that his disciples believed on him. There are seven signs throughout the gospel, each of which reveals something more of Jesus’ true nature. The miracle at the wedding, John writes, happened “on the third day”. This is a resonant phrase because it was “on the third day” that Jesus rose again. What it means is that Jesus’ miracle turning water into wine (800 litres of it!) wasn’t just a face-saver for the potentially embarrassed family, but pointed to a greater, cosmic transformation. Through death on the cross and rising again “on the third day”, Jesus was pointing to the saving grace of the cross and resurrection. The cosmos will be transformed from being insufficient (“the wine has given out”), into an abundant fulness. Let’s join that wedding!

God Bless, Paul


9th January

Reflection from Paul
The season of Epiphany runs from 6th January to Candlemas on 2nd February. “Epiphany” means “making manifest”, revealing. It derives from the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus and the way Matthew shows us Jesus being revealed to the nations, not just his own people. Candlemas celebrates the occasion when Jesus was brought to the Temple for his dedication and the elderly prophets Simeon and Anna encounter Jesus. They speak of him as the hope of Israel, but also point forward to his suffering. When Jesus is lifted up for all to see, he is lifted on the cross. This will be the full revelation of who he is: Saviour, by his death on the cross, and new life for the universe, in his rising again on Easter Day. Will we faithfully journey with him, from cradle to cross and on into resurrection life?

God Bless, Paul


Introduction
Following the Revd Dr Neil Popham leaving Bradwell for a new post at the end of September 2021, the church has been looked after by the Revd Dr Paul Smith. Paul has carried on Neil’s tradition of a message each week in the Noticesheet in the form of a short Reflection. They are printed below.


2021

Fourth Sunday of Advent 19th December

Reflection
Luke tells us about Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. Both women are experiencing unusual pregnancies and could so easily have been viewed with suspicion by their society. Arriving for her visit Mary would have called out (there were no doorbells in those days!) When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, her six month-old baby, John, leapt in the womb. It must have been an unusually hard kick! The one who would be the herald of Jesus, recognised the Lord present as a tiny foetus in Mary’s womb. He jumped for joy. As the two mothers share their experiences, Mary also expresses her joy at what the Lord is doing. Not only are two babies on their way (an exciting prospect for any expectant mother), but they also believe these are real signs that God is fulfilling his promises made long ago. They rejoice that they will see
salvation in their day. May we also jump for joy!

God Bless, Paul


Third Sunday of Advent 12th December

Reflection
This week on Sunday we’re thinking of Joseph, a star in the carpenter’s shop. Spare a thought for the man! He was a conscientious and gentle person. He had to decide whether to risk his social standing by accepting Mary when he found out she was expecting. He overcame his fears through an angel’s message in a dream. He played the role of step-father to Jesus. We might reasonably believe that he taught Jesus the skills of a chippy (the Greek word suggests the kind of wood-working involved with house building). But he must have also mentored the young Jesus, treating him as his own flesh and blood. Today, many men play the role of step-parent. The vast majority do a “good enough” job, providing a role model and patiently bearing with children they haven’t physically fathered. It’s a great gift,
responsibility and privilege. Thank God for them!

God Bless, Paul


Second Sunday of Advent 5th December

Reflection from Paul
This week we’re thinking about Zechariah, Elizabeth and John the Baptist. Zechariah was doing duty in the Temple when an angel appeared, announcing to the stunned old priest, that his wife, barren hitherto and well past child-bearing, was expecting. Elizabeth received a visit from her younger relative, Mary, at the behest of the angel who’d announced the birth of Jesus. The women supported each other in highly unusual (suspicious?) pregnancies. God was preparing people and the coming of the Messiah in unexpected ways, demonstrating clearly how divine purposes
and ways of doing things may seem obscure. With hindsight and the eyes of faith, it makes wonderful and delightful sense. If life is doing strange things to you, pray for the future gift of godly hindsight! In the meantime, hang in there! Look for possible sources of support in someone who may well understand what you’re going through from first-hand experience

God Bless, Paul


First Sunday of Advent 28th November

Message from Paul
In many churches Advent is marked by the lighting of candles on the Advent Wreath. Its origins may lie in pre-Christian winter rituals, but since 16th C in Germany, the tradition has developed of lighting successive candles and associating meanings to each one. Whatever the meanings (figures in the Christmas story, or certain themes) all focus on the coming of the light. Advent is a time of preparation and the successive weeks of the season provide us with a sense of anticipation. With our forebears in the faith, we watch and wait for the coming of Christ. There is a deliberate double-meaning to this! Not only do we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, but we also renew our belief and hope that one day Christ will return in glory. If we are to be faithful to his teaching, we will be vigilant and prepared for his
coming again.

God Bless, Paul


Christ the King Sunday before Advent 21st November

Message from Paul
Some recent news reports, including Reuters, have estimated that Pfizer/Moderna is making $1000 a second on its covid-19 vaccines. This is in sharp contrast to Astra-Zeneca that produces the vaccines at a non-profit cost. The (PVA) People’s Vaccine Alliance say that Pfizer have sold the vast majority of their doses to rich countries, leaving low-income nations in the lurch. Daniel 7 presents a vision of a divine judge taking his seat. ‘The court sat in judgement, and the books were opened’ (vs 12). As we approach Advent, we turn to the season of hope. One of the things Christians hope
and pray for is justice. We often think of the final judgement as something to do with personal morality. But our hope can also be that injustice and patent unfairness towards the world’s poor, underprivileged and vulnerable will be dealt with decisively, and those who took advantage are finally judged

God Bless, Paul


Remembrance Sunday 14th November

Reflection from Paul
A reflection offered by The Revd Phil Corrigan (RAF chaplain). Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, 8th President of the UN General Assembly, wrote: “The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war”. In a world that is seeing huge political change, where old tensions are rising and new threats are emerging, the greatest honour we can afford to the fallen is, like them, to engage ourselves daily in the fight against oppression, inequality, injustice and terror, wherever we find it. Remembrance Sunday draws me into that ‘sacred space’, where I can remember the fallen of the armed forces. I also
remember the wounded and wonder where they are today. I resolve afresh to pray and work for peace. For there is great truth in what Pandit says.

God Bless, Paul


Third Sunday before Advent 17th November

Message from Paul
As COP26 continues, it may be easy to think that only the actions of large and powerful organisations matter. But the Bible also tells us about the actions of each individual and even if they seem small, against a backdrop of power and leadership, they matter. This is true on a scientific level, too. Only a degree or two in earth’s temperatures can cause havoc. Only small amounts of carbon dioxide and methane cause global warming. Think of the story of the widow’s mite (Mark 12:42) and Jesus’ commenting that in giving all she had she gave more than all the rich contributors. We may feel that there is little point in our small actions in the face of massive carbon emissions and global environmental damage. We learn from the widow’s offering that all our actions are important. In the midst of COP26, we need to be faithful in our praying, believing and acting.

God Bless, Paul


Service for All Saints Sunday 31st October

Message from Paul
Whilst most people think of the last day of October as Halloween, in Germany and the USA it is also observed as Reformation Day. It marks the date in 1517 when Martin Luther is supposed to have nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of Wittemberg Cathedral, sparking off events which would come to be known as the Reformation. As our LEP is made up of denominations that have their roots in the Reformation, it is good to recall what it stands for. The day reminds us that the Church should be semper reformanda (always reforming). Luther insisted that we are saved by grace through
faith; that the Bible is to be read, understood and interpreted by all Christian people and is ultimately authoritative; that the laity have just as important a role and ministry as the clergy. How we shape the Church should embody these fundamental Christian truths, and they should shape each individual follower of Christ, too.

God Bless, Paul


Service for the last Sunday after Trinity 24th October

Message from Paul
I wonder what your belief about the Bible is? The CofE holds that the Bible contains all that is necessary for salvation. “Contains” is the significant word here. Whilst it maintains that the Bible is ultimately authoritative for Christians, it doesn’t mean that the Bible is the literal word of God. If the Bible contains what God has to say to us then interpretation is necessary to understand its meaning and how it applies to our Christian lives. That’s where the role of the Holy Spirit comes in. Also built into Anglican beliefs is the idea that the Bible’s message is to be “unpacked” and applied in different ways depending on when and where any group of Christians are. Through the agency of the Holy Spirit, human reason, tempered by tradition and always held up to the “gold standard” of the Scriptures, seeks to
understand the message contained in the Bible. Wisdom, study, shared discussion are all part of that corporate work we do to understand and live by the written word of God. Our living Word is Jesus, and all we believe the Bible tells us must be reflected in and be faithful to that living Word of God.

God Bless, Paul


Service for 19th Sunday after Trinity 10th October

Message from Paul
I’m writing this the day before going on holiday for three weeks. Holidays are something we’ve grown to appreciate more because we’ve not been free to go away for the period of complete lockdown. Of course, not everyone can go away on holiday – it is a privilege, and perhaps to be cherished all the more as such. What is important for Christians and other people of faith, is the principle of Sabbath. In ancient times God commanded the children of Israel to stop and rest: once every 7 days, but also once every 7 x 7 years. The whole land was to be allowed to lie fallow, debts were to be written off, and a year’s rest for all to be observed. That may seem impossible in today’s world, but the principle is vital to build into our lives. Periodically we and all creation need rest. Rest is vital to ongoing life. I hope and pray each of you is able to find rest as a part of your Christian life!

God Bless, Paul


Service for 18th Sunday after Trinity 3rd October

Message from Paul
In some ways this is a “hello!” message, although most of you will know me. Neil is moving to Cippenham to take up the post there and members of Bradwell Church and the local community are facing change once again. I want to thank Neil for all he has done during the last 2¾ years or so. Coping with lockdown and staying longer than the original contract were not anticipated, to say the least! But I know Neil rose to the challenge and continued ministering faithfully during the long months of lockdown. He also managed to get us into online worship and on more than one occasion he has helped me with technical advice, recommendations and guidance. I’m very grateful for all of that! We are all having to get used to a different world, and it isn’t easy for everyone to adapt to. The thing that many will
say has sustained them is their faith. Being more precise, perhaps its not faith as a “thing” in itself, but faith in God that makes all the difference. In times of change and upheaval God’s people have found their faith and trust in God supports them. May this be so for each of you!

God Bless, Paul