This second book takes us deeper into Matthew’s gospel and into the Beatitudes. As Jesus sets out on ministry, he is empowered by the Spirit and selects his companions. Likewise, we also are given an indwelling Spirit and companions for the journey. We want to encourage you to walk this journey with others. You may already be a member of a contact group and if you are not, the list of current groups is at the end of this booklet. We also offer an opportunity to walk with others in the congregation in triplets or one on one settings. Send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in exploring this option.
Monday 17 October
Read Matthew 3:1-12
The first lesson of ‘How God helps us’ is that no matter how early you get up, he is always up and at it before you! The theologians have a word (or rather two) for it – ‘prevenient grace’. It simply means that God’s grace was in place before you even realised that you needed it. Of course, it primarily refers to the fact that “while we were yet sinners Christ died forus”. But it is also true over and over again that he anticipates our needs – he prepares the way: John the Baptist is sent to catch the attention of the people, to create the soul-readiness of a repentant and spiritually alive audience for the Christ, to remind them of the Messianic promise.
But he has not stopped preparing the way – how often has he put people in place just where and when he needed them in order to help you along the road. Reflect today on his pre-preparation for you and your journey toward him.
This passage, whose words sound so familiar because of their place at the very beginning of Handel’s Messiah, is the resounding prophecy of Isaiah to the people in exile – reminding them that God has not given up on them, nor forgotten them even though their neglect of him was the primary cause of the disintegration of their society and nation – and thus of their capture and deportation to Babylon.
The message is clear – God does not give up – even though he may allow us to suffer the consequences of our mistakes, he does not abandon us but stands ready to draw us back when we are ready to come. The returning involves a levelling of the hills and a lifting up of the valleys, to create a road for God – it means a working on our rough edges and our depths of disbelief and doubt and depression – but he is up for it – he will be the Shepherd with all it involves.
Wednesday 19 October
Read 2 Peter 3:1-13
And as he is patient and pre-prepared for us – we ought not to be surprised that he is just as patient and longing for others. He is a God who will reward in justice both good and evil – but he is prepared to give chance after chance to those who disobey. It is intrinsic to the character of a God who still went ahead with the creation of a world (and humankind) even though he knew, before he began, that we would mess it up and it would cost him his Son to rescue it. It surely ought to be the mark of his disciples too that we will go to any lengths to rescue anyone. We can be part of his patience and part of his preparation for others.
Thursday 20 October
Read Matthew 5:6, Psalm 42:1-5 and Psalm 63:1-5
The metaphor at the heart of this beatitude is embedded in the Psalms as you have seen. It is the cry of the soul for God when ‘righteousness’ is denied. The term ‘dikaiosune’ in the New Testament is variously translated righteousness, justice, justification, right-relatedness. The point is that we are not simply hungering for ‘a god’ to fill a hole in us – we are hungering for ‘GOD’ – the one who delivers social and spiritual justice, the one who deals with our sin and offers his righteousness to us; the one who sets us in the ‘justified’ place through no work or worth of ours, the one who enters into relationship with us. We are hungry and thirsty for this God whose character frees, releases, completes and involves us. This is the significant character of the Christian God – there is no other like him.
 See also Psalm 107:4-9. These words are also picked up in Mary’s Song the Magnificat ‘He has filled the hungry with good things’ Luke 1:53
Friday 21 October
Read Isaiah 55:1-7
This seeking, searching, ‘prevenient’ God demands a response. “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near”. We must walk toward him when we see him calling. Today do just that – consciously in thought, will and emotion walk toward him and embrace him once more. “O Lamb of God I come, I come!”
 See Hymn 68 in IPH. The words are by Charlotte Elliott
Saturday 22 October
A day for rest and reflection or catching up on reading missed earlier in the week. You may want to reflect on these questions along with the weekly reading:
What are the valleys that need filled or the rough places that need smoothed to allow God to move in my life?
Do I share God’s passion for others to be brought into the kingdom? If not, why not?
What am I thirsty for?
Do righteousness, social justice, right relationships lie at the heart of my actions?
Talk to your children about the preparations you make when a special visitor is coming for a meal. Make a list of the things you need to do such as cleaning the rooms or buying the food, cooking it and setting the table. Maybe buying some flowers to make the place look nice.
Take time to ask what preparations you would make if Jesus was coming. Probably all of the above but also sorting out your attitude to each other, asking forgiveness or offering it to those you have hurt or have hurt you. These are preparations we should make every week as Jesus is always here…. Finish by praying together.
Sunday 23 October
11.00am Harvest Thanksgiving Service – Derek McKelvey
Prepare the way