The Metropolitan Congregation

- serving and celebrating the LGBT communities of Manchester and the North West

Some Biblical Reflections

The following reflections were contributed by members of our church to the Inner Manchester Mission Network Lenten Booklet 2012 - I am the water of life

The bible texts on which these reflections are based are shown in the right-hand sidebar.


walt johnson2Jeremiah 17:5-10

Lent is a time for reflection, with a view to become better.

This section of Jeremiah deals with Judah's wrongdoing, which led to the downfall of their kingdom and subsequent exile, losing all that they had, including control over their own destiny. This excerpt deals with three themes: curses, blessings and the gateway to both.

"Cursed" is a word we seldom use in 2012; we say "unfortunate" or "unlucky": we observe that the lives of some seem more beset with problems than others. We no longer call down curses, as once was common-place. However, Jeremiah is clear that the greatest curse is turning from God, and this stems from pride, as our "[hearts] turn away from the Lord" (v5).

This Lent, can we identify parts of our lives where we in our pride turn from God?

"Blessing" is a word we use more frequently in 2012, but do we mean the same as "fortunate" or "lucky"? Again, we often comment that the lives of others are seemingly more easy-going, even "charmed". We say "Bless you'" and we receive the "blessing" at the end of our services; however, the prophet teaches that blessing is not a passive action, something which is done to us; moreover, we need to choose actively to go God's way, in order to receive blessing.

This Lent, can we identify part of our lives where we need actively to accept God's blessing?

This excerpt finishes by giving us advice on how we can change (vlO), the key to blessing. If we are open and allow God to "search the heart and examine the mind", we can return from the exile away from God's blessing.

Reflection: imagine your return from a "cursed exile" to a land of "blessing".  What is the first step on your journey?

Walt Johnson

dan5 smMatthew 21:33-46

The parable of the wicket tenants is one that we might easily gloss over, it doesn't have an especially uplifting message, and the parable story is a nasty one which appears to be about bad people getting away with murder.

The audience at the time would have spotted the situation that Jesus alluded to, that the Vineyard was the land of Israel, Jesus was the Landowner, the tenants were the nation's religious leaders and the servants were the prophets. They neglected their obligations, spurned the message of the prophets and eventually killed the son.

For us we can consider that each of us is entrusted with a Vineyard, a space to look after. We have to hold our leaders to account lest we end up being held responsible for their mistakes in their stewardship. When the Son comes to inspect his Vineyard, are we ready to say we've done our best? 

Lord you entrust each of us with a Vineyard, be it the child and their bedroom to tidy or the family with a house to maintain. You give us all a world to look after; the environment around us needs our care.

Help us to listen to your prophets telling us what we need to do and not spurn their message.

Help us to hold our leaders to account and to consider your guidance when we are asked for our opinions and votes.

Give us the encouragement when we need it, that our example may also inspire others.

Help us to be the best stewards of this world that we can be.

Dan Joseph

alma3Luke 15:1-3, 11-end

People think this job is all tea and biscuits. But after 33 years that's about as far from the truth as you can get.

I've been ignored, abused, thrown out of restaurants, off buses and had dogs chase after me down the street. And I earn just over the minimum wage so clearly it's not done for money. Love neither. I do it to keep a roof over my head and the bread basket full. Well at least not empty.

I expected more abuse to be honest when I heard about this new Jewish preacher on the block. Maybe he'd start on me, get all his mates to hound me off the streets. Nothing could surprise me anymore. Once your reputation's been trashed it's best to keep your head under the parapet.

That's what I was about to do, for safety's sake, but this Jesus bloke turned up unexpectedly and spoke to me - well, more than that, he welcomed me, invited me round for tea, said he'd even supply the biscuits.

'Course the religious crowd didn't like it. No pleasing some folk. But he understood you see. He could read me, could see my faults, the paths I'd taken by necessity or in error and what's more he really didn't care. Whatever stupid mistakes I'd made were behind me. It's never too late for a fresh start, a fair start and as I poured the tea and he ripped open the digestives I knew, finally, that I was home.

Alma Fritchley

dan5 sm

Jeremiah 20:10-13

The writer of this piece knew great difficulty in his world and life, and sings a song of praise for the action of God in his life.

We too know that our world is full of things that can make us fearful; we worry about natural disasters, war and violence within our communities; situations that seem beyond our control, and we may wonder where to turn to. We too wish we could share in the writer's triumphant song.

Lord, when we despair and doubt you, help us to sense you by our side; at work through the hands of others:

  • In the faces of strangers, working side by side to clear the streets after rioting.
  • In the actions of aid workers helping to relieve the effects of earthquakes.
  • In the actions of ordinary families, with their own economic problems but still finding the time and money to donate to charity and fundraise.
  • In the actions of the police, helping people find justice.
  • For those who help the most vulnerable people in our shores, who help those who are fleeing persecution in the hope of a new start and a second chance at life.
  • The teacher who helps a bullied child and the friends who are prepared to stand up for them.
  • In community groups that aim to help people coping with difference and change in their lives.
  • In the random acts of kindness from strangers.

Lord you are by our side always, help us to become more aware of you with each passing day and challenge us to become your hands to help others; as we are blessed by your presence, help us to become a source of blessing to others.

Dan Joseph

philip75pxEzekiel 37:21-28

From heart and mind, and through his own experience,
The prophet speaks a vision of perfection for his people.
Oneness with their God and unity among themselves shall be
The hallmarks of renewal when their present bondage ends.
Purity of faith and clarity of belief will bring rewards
Of peace and love from One who claims them as His own.

A pipe-dream, or a holy insight into what can be made real?
An everlasting covenant? Whose dwelling-place is here among us now?
How does the prophet's vision shine beyond
The life and death and rising of a Nazarene?
Where for us now are unity and oneness part of life's reality?
And who makes peace the aim of all their dreams?

Perhaps we should allow our minds to touch God's truth
Whether it's found in Gospel, prophecy, life or love.
Is understanding bound in testaments defined by time,
Or shall we open up our spirits to an everlasting voice?
Sometimes a prophet speaks beyond the context of his age
And shares a truth which never fades nor sheds its power.

Philip Jones

andy75pxMark 15:42-47

Today we wait.

The women waited until the Sabbath was over so they could clean Jesus' body and prepare it for a proper burial. They would have been numb with shock and anger at the events of the previous few days but today were unable to do anything - the Sabbath laws had to be obeyed and so they waited.

It's hard to wait in a society where gratification is immediate. We get into debt so that we can have the consumer goods that we are told we need. If we don't have the type of body we want, then money will buy us a so-called "perfect body". No dieting- just a bit of liposuction and we shall be fulfilled. We can use technology to communicate with our friends all over the world - no more waiting for the post we just go online and instantaneously connect.

Yet around the world we see people having to wait.

Tyrants were pushed from their thrones last year but were often replaced by more shadowy figures who still deny justice. People are made to wait for freedom as tyrants cling to power like drunks to bottles - aided by the Western democracies who value oil over freedom. People wait for an end to poverty, a cure for AIDS, and for a world to be fair to all instead of some.

Waiting is part of life. Mothers wait for 9 months for a baby to be born. We wait for:

  • growth and maturity;
  • study and qualifications;
  • results of job interviews;
  • news from our friends;
  • answers to prayer.

We wait with those:

  • who are ill;
  • who yearn for freedom;
  • and who are dying.

We wait with the knowledge that resurrection will come. We wait with the women at the tomb and yearn for better days to come.

Rev Andy Braunston

URC Daily Devotions

The URC provides a daily devotion with a short Bible reading, reflection and a prayer.

Today's Devotion

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Jeremiah 17:5-10

Thus says the Lord:
Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse—who can understand it? I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.

Matthew 21:33-46

‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’

Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes”? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’

So he told them this parable: ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them.

A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ”

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!”

Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’

Jeremiah 20:10-13

For I hear many whispering: ‘Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. ‘Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.’ But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonour will never be forgotten.

O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.

Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers.

Ezekiel 37:21-28

Then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from every quarter, and bring them to their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms. They shall never again defile themselves with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. I will save them from all the apostasies into which they have fallen, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes. They shall live in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, in which your ancestors lived; they and their children and their children’s children shall live there for ever; and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary among them for evermore. My dwelling-place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations shall know that I the Lord sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary is among them for evermore.

Mark 15:42-47

When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.

 New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, 1993, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

(The New Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted.)

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