TO KNOW GOD AND TO MAKE GOD KNOWN
TO KNOW GOD AND TO MAKE GOD KNOWN
The following are reflections extracted from 'Walking with God' by Chester Cathedral.
Various people were asked to choose a Bible passage and explain its significance to them.
A second page can be found here.
Each Wednesday, hopefully till the church reopens, a new reflection from the booklet will be posted.
The whole booklet can be found here. It will be printed shortly and available for when the cathedral reopens – it will be made freely available with a request for a contribution to Alzheimers Society.
Chosen reference: Psalm 46 Verse 10
Be Still and Know that I am God.
I have found this mantra ‘Be still and know that I am God’ has provided strength and reassurance. During my life I have had many periods of doubt and uncertainty both physically and spiritually, and at such times, this mantra is particularly helpful. Be still, stop and reflect - give due consideration to the problems at hand, but at the same time, know God is there.
Psalm 46 Verse 1
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble;
therefore we will not fear.
When I was 13 my parents were divorced. It was a very traumatic time. Amongst my pain and anxiety I had an increasing feeling that something or someone (which I couldn’t explain) was looking after me. On my daily journey home from school I walked past a Christian bookshop. One day a plaque which was displayed in the window caught my eye. It was the photo on it that initially attracted me. Then I read the words ‘God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble.’ It all made sense.I wasn’t on my own.
In times of trouble during my life and tackling problems physically, mentally and motionally (and often all three), I have held on to those words.
They bring me comfort and remind me that I am not alone and to trust that I will always be guided. After 45 years that plaque still hangs on my wall and those words are a reminder every day.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
At a time when I was feeling restless and dissatisfied with my ‘lot’ in life the Lord highlighted these verses to me, showing me how to have peace and contentment.
To trust in the Lord is placing myself in God’s hands, believing that His love will provide, protect and direct me. Doing good is trusting that God directs me in my daily life as I give myself to Him.
The ‘land’ is where I reside right now, God has provided my home, my neighbourhood and its location for me to live in and serve Him.
I feed on His faithfulness as I believe His promises. As I take His word into my thinking and attitudes, ‘consuming’ them into my life, then I experience more of His love and nature.
As I take delight in the Lord - loving Him, getting to know Him and loving to walk in His ways, then He inspires me with desires that are from Him and in accordance with His plans for my life.
Verses 7 & 8 go onto say, ‘Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him... Do not fret, - it only causes harm’.
I pray you’ll find your contentment in God too!.
Chosen Reference Psalm 23 Verse 1-6
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD
How this verse has helped me in my life
Psalm 23 gives me comfort and strength in my faith, and I always want to share with others how much uplifting joy can be found in those wonderful words. The promise from our Lord that we are created for a good life, never alone, always embraced and cherished by His fatherly love, guiding us to eternal life. Psalm 23 is the everyday encouragement and reminder to never ever let go. It is so powerful that, by learning it, I am always ready to draw strength from it. Please read it aloud like an affirmation it
will change your life too. Be bold, life is good with our Lord.
Job Chapter 2 Verse 10b
If we take happiness from God’s
hand, must we not take sorrow too?
This verse is one of the ones that have struck a chord with me throughout all the difficult times in my life. It has helped me through events in my adult life such as the deaths of my parents, and also helped me to make sense of the ones in my earlier years, which occurred before I was familiar with it.
Paradoxically, however, it has been most helpful in more recent years, when those sorrows are safely behind me and life seems to be going smoothly. That is because I realised, after some initial soul-searching, that it is legitimate to turn Job’s words on their head and feel that, having come through the various trials, there is no need for me to feel guilty about enjoying my present happiness. My situation may change, but I shall be ready for it.
1 Samuel Chapter 2 Verse 30
But declares the Lord,
“Those who honour me, I will honour them.”
My favourite verse in the Bible was written about 600BC - 2,600 years ago. It appears in the Book of Samuel, a book which narrates powerfully the story of the history of Israel and God’s chosen people, the Israelites and founders of the Jewish nation.
The boy Samuel was the child whom his mother, Hannah, never believed she could have. She was barren and unable to conceive children. From his birth, Hannah vowed to God to give Samuel back to Him and from his very early years, he lived with Eli, the priest in The Temple.
“Those who honour me, I will honour” were the words spoken by a prophet, a messenger from God, to Eli. They talked then as they do today of living a God-centred life. What does “honouring God” mean in everyday life in 2020? Well his son, Jesus, makes for the ultimate example to model this. And His word, the Bible, makes for the ultimate guidebook for us to read regularly and see us through the challenges of life. As people who find a personal faith with fresh and new perspectives, in good times and bad, Christians can respond to God’s calling and direction in every part of life - at home, at school or college or at work.
This immensely special verse has become significant for the wider Mitchell familya nd sits as the motto on our family Coat of Arms. It is my prayer that this verse will continue to be as powerful and impactful for future generations as it has been for me.
Across the City of Chester and the County of Cheshire, let’s commit to a renewed focus on honouring God in our own lives today.
Chosen reference: Esther Chapter 7 Verse 1-4
So the King and Haman went to Queen Esther’s banquet, and as they were drinking wine on the second day, the king again asked, “Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”
Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favour with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.”
I discovered the Book of Esther soon after starting my journey back to faith after many years being ‘too busy with work’ to consider how God fitted into my life. It was also a time when I had a job opportunity in what was traditionally a male dominated profession. I was struck by this attractive, courageous woman who was prepared to die to save her people. In obedience to her cousin Mordecai, Esther used her privileged court position to ask King Xerxes to save the Jewish people.
Although there is no mention of God in the Book of Esther, Esther’s beauty and power were gifts from God, gifts which she used to save her people. Although my life has never been at risk, Esther’s response to a life threatening situation challenged me to review my life and how my Christian beliefs fitted into it.
During my career I was privileged to receive my ‘Gifts from God’ – business training and skills - which enhanced my career and ensured I had a comfortable life. Now my working career is over I am able to offer these gifts to the service of God and to my role as a volunteer at Chester Cathedral.
Chosen reference: Ruth Chapter 1 Verse 16
Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge.
My first job after university was as Assistant Organist at Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire. Working at the Minster as Bursar was my future wife, Louise.
We began seeing each other in 1999 and were eventually married at Christmas 2001 in the Minster. Louise suggested that these words from Ruth were put on the front of the order of service as they spoke of love and companionship and about our shared ideals of family and commitment. In 2002 we moved to Chester with our daughter Laura on my appointment as Assistant Director of Music at Chester Cathedral. Louise left her family behind in Nottinghamshire and, Ruth’s words – although in a different context – were again relevant. As a professional musician, a career path taking me regularly away from home was an option available to me. Many musicians live a life touring the globe, but it was a life I did not want to contemplate as I have always prioritised family life above personal ambition. Louise and I have seldom been apart for any length of time and, for us, Ruth’s words remind us to be true to ourselves and no matter what we must deal with in our professional lives, family comes first.
Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.
I love this invitation the Old Testament God Yahweh makes to Moses from the Burning Bush. On noticing a bush ablaze, Moses has ‘turned aside’ to see why the bush isn’t burning up. To me, this speaks of the inexhaustible Mystery of God – a mystery which may be just within my sight, and to which I can turn by turning aside just a little. And having turned aside, I’m invited to remove the sandals from my feet.
In this invitation, I used to hear Yahweh asking Moses for respect; now, the invitation has grown to mean so much more. Now, I hear an invitation to stay awhile with Yahweh, this mysterious presence, not to move on quickly to something else; I hear an invitation to sensitive connection to the ground beneath my feet; I hear the risk of vulnerability. I believe that all ground can be holy ground, and this invitation is made by a loving God.
The invitation to turn aside, like Moses, to be curious and attentive and responsive, to stay a while, sensitive, risk-taking and grounded – all of this inspires my understanding of the importance of retreat times and underpins my work at Retreat House Chester. It’s about authentic encounter.
Genesis Chapter 1 Verse 2
And the earth was all tohu wabohu, all welter and waste, with darkness, raven-black, thick upon the face of the tehom, the fathomless Deep with a capital D;
while the spirit of God, that gentle ruah Elohim, settled like a mist over the face of the waters, cradling them in her warm feathers.
(TD's own very free translation of the Hebrew, with thanks to Robert Alter for the phrase ‘welter and waste’).
I was taught Hebrew in the 1980s by none other than George Brooke, and when we first went through Genesis 1 I was blown away by its beauty. But how do you translate this verse 2? You have to play with it to bring out the poetry.
I love the phrase tohu wabohu to describe the initial lifelessness of the earth, and then the mystery in the image of the ‘spirit’ or ‘ruah’ of God. What is she doing? Settling like a mist? Or cradling the waters with her feathers, as birds on the nest protect their young? Why choose? The Hebrew can bear both meanings, but I especially like the second one. It reminds me of the ravens that once nested on the Cathedral tower when I was one of the Cathedral clergy.
From my study window I could see the mother bird sheltering her young against February storms or soaking March rains. Without her they would have quickly died. And whenever I walked across to the Cathedral for Morning Prayer during the nesting season and looked up at the tower, she would give me a soft ‘honk’ of greeting. Sometimes God speaks raven.