Isa 65 + Swap Shop (no, not Noel Edmonds)

Liturgy linked to the week’s readings below, and a reflection on Isaiah 65, but before all that …

Saturday Morning Swap Shop!

No, not Noel Edmonds (joke for Brits of a certain age), but a place to recycle and restock your Sunday School / Messy Church / youth work resources cupboard.

(Gosh, doesn’t he look young in this? And rather dishy if you don’t mind me saying so.)

Sorry, where was I? Oh yes. Bring along the stuff you have spare, then buy or swap with other folks, have a chat over tea and cakes and generally have a good time.

Sat Nov 12th in Bedfordshire (central / southern England, midway between Cambridge and Milton Keynes). 10:00 to 11:30. Cash only.

Sadly I’m already double-booked that day or I’d be there like a shot. Hopefully this will be the start of a regular event, so perhaps I’ll see you at the next one?

If you are not within striking distance of  this event and you think it sounds good, why not organise one of your own? Let me know and I’ll be happy to advertise. These posts go out to over 2000 folks each week, plus more online, so we have a fair old reach.

Any questions or for more info, contact

Isaiah 65:17-25

Have a look at this half-eaten slice of toast. See anything?

Diana Duyser of Florida saw the face of the Virgin Mary. “When I took a bite out of it, I saw a face looking up at me – it was Virgin Mary staring back at me.” She subsequently sold the cheese toastie on ebay for $28,000.

What about this picture of black pac-man shapes? See a white square? Me too.

There is no white square. It’s cause by pareidolia, the tendency for our brains to make meaning from random data – seeing faces in the coals, kangaroos in the clouds or mistaking a set of random dice throws for a ‘lucky streak’ (there’s no such thing). Our minds work overtime to perceive patterns and see them where none exist, hence constellations called ‘the great bear’ which looks nothing like a bear, or superstitions where ‘I always win if I wear my lucky socks’ (provided you ignore the times when I don’t).

But we should not be too hard on our brains. They’re only trying to help. Back in prehistory, those of our ancestors who interpreted a random set of leaves as the face of a hidden tiger might have been wrong most of time, but on the odd occasion that they were right, they avoided being eaten. So it’s hardly surprising that their life-saving tendency to see patterns, especially faces, has been passed down to us.

So what does all this have to do with today’s reading?

Bad stuff happens. There’s a lot of heartache hidden behind the almost dismissive ‘No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime.’ These days we are less accustomed to death, particularly the death of a young person, but even in the days of 50% infant mortality, there was grief and loss and a cry to God, “Why?”

Life is unfair. ‘They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat.’ Why was God promising that the new heavens and new earth would be different? Because the old earth (ie, the one we are living it) was just like that. It was/is unfair. Bad stuff happens to good people. Good stuff happens to bad people. The Psalms are full of people crying to God, “Why?”

But we want to make sense of these seemingly (ie, genuinely) random tragedies and we search for patterns where there are none. Some people asked Jesus about this in relation to recent events (Luke 13) and Jesus replied by saying, “There is no pattern. Bad stuff just happens sometimes.” Specifically, he challenged three assumptions that they, and we, can have when trying to make sense of suffering. They are:

That suffering is a result of / is proportional to sin

“Absolutely not,” said Jesus. It simply does not work like that. God does not keep a tally chart of sins that then hit us with something nasty when we score enough black marks. No. No. No. Just, no.

That suffering is a sign of God’s judgment

This was a common belief, and with it the converse, that prosperity was a sign of God’s blessing. This is a dreadful scourge of some branches of modern Christianity and need stomping out of existence. To suggest to someone who is suffering that a) it is their fault and b) God is cross with them is to add unjust anguish on top of their woes and is a horrible example of taking God’s name in vain.

Look at the book of Job if you need convincing.

That we get to judge people based on what we think God thinks about them.

“Who are you,” asked Jesus, “to judge someone else’s servant?”

And dropped the mic.

But also good stuff happens.

And it happens just as randomly as the bad stuff. Jesus reminds us that God sends down his rain [a blessing in the Ancient Near East] on both the evil and the good.

Whichever we encounter, in our own lives or the lives of those we meet, our place is not to judge or pontificate or trot out easy platitudes. Our place is to be under-shepherds of the Good Shepherd, who walks through the valley of the shadow of death, and over the mountain tops, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep, and eating cheese toasties with those who hunger, whether or not after righteousness.


Liturgy for Proper 28

Isa 12 & 65

Confession and Absolution

Surely God is my salvation.
I will trust, and will not be afraid.
Surely God is my salvation.
I will trust, and will not be afraid.

for the Lord God is my strength and my might.
Surely God is my salvation.
He has become my salvation.
I will trust, and will not be afraid.

 Merciful God,
we confess our failings and wrongdoings to you.
By your grace restore us.
By your mercy deliver us.
By your loving-kindness strengthen us to walk in your ways.

 With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.
Surely God is my salvation.
I will trust, and will not be afraid.

Blessing and Dismissal

Before you call, may God answer.
While you are yet speaking, may God hear.
May God so create you anew,
that the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
And may the blessing of God,
Creator, Redeemer, and Comforter,
be upon you and remain with you
this day and always.

Go in peace
to love and serve our Lord.
In the name of Christ

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s