As you drive or walk past those who are working (remembering advised Social Distancing if on foot) why not pray for them as they go past. Lift them in a silent prayer to God, He knows them and their situation. Those doing postal deliveries, refuse teams and utility workers, to name a few who keep our neighbourhoods working.
We have a growing prayer team here at Christ Church, if you would like prayer, please add it to the comments box. If it is for others please do not include personal details that could identify them to others.
This was titled as a prayer blog but really it is a daily bible reflection based on the New Testament readings for morning prayer. Where the readings may be changed, for a feast day, for example, the bible thread will be maintained for continuity. I do hope that out of these reflections you will find themes for prayer and your own reflection and study.
15/05 – 1 John 2:1-17 is a practical outworking of Christian relationship, love, and what it means to be in Christ. John is using the contrast of darkness and light to make it clear that if our actions, our sins, shape our lives then we are living in darkness. However, through Christ Jesus “the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining”. That happens when we live our lives showing that, by keeping the commandments of God the Father, the love of God is perfected. Too often Christians will talk about loving each other, but for that to be true, we must be aware we are invoking the love of Christ manifest through us. It’s not human love; it’s the sacrificial love of Christ. Our actions show us to be liars or followers of the ‘truth’. John is quite blunt about that. Lies are the darkness and truth the light. By keeping God’s word “we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked”. John sets down a marker, one that is uncomfortable but aspirational for us: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” It doesn’t mean we forsake the world, or that we should feel contaminated by it; it’s just that our love for God must take precedence. As Paul wrote in Philippians 3:8: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him”.
14/05 – 1 John 1 is where we start, though the lectionary doesn’t pick up on the first letter by John until Saturday. There are always questions of authorship but the chances of this being written by John are fairly strong, not only the language and style but also because of the early church fathers, Polycarp, who references the letter, and Irenaeus, who attributes the letter to John. Reading the first chapter one hears the gospel reflected in the words. If it wasn’t John who wrote them then it was a very good imitator. The use of ‘we’ confuses; however, in the third letter John slips into the singular. John declares the message he has: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” John points to true fellowship as he starts, a fellowship gained through walking, living, together in Christ Jesus, in God the Father. It is a letter on God’s loving relationship with us, and the anointing we have received. John is clear: we can walk in darkness; we do sin. If we claim we don’t, John says, we make God the Father, and Christ out to be liars: ‘His word is not in us’. So as we enter into this letter let us do so acknowledging what Christ Jesus has done for us, and be thankful – extremely thankful!
13/05 – Today is the day the church celebrates the Ascension of Christ, His departure from the disciples, after He had told them that they would be baptised with the Holy Spirit, that they would receive power from the Holy Spirit and that they would be His “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. After that Jesus was taken up as they watched. As they were looking “suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven””(Acts 1:1-11) So we stand on the bridge between two times, a bridge that has carried the lives of many before us and many to follow; unless, of course, Jesus returns soon. What are we to make of the time we have? Like many of the saints before us we are to witness ‘to the ends of the earth’, proclaiming the Good News, as led by the Holy Spirit. Let us attune ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit and do His work; that would be the real celebration of Christ’s ascension.
12/05 – The content of 1 Peter 5 is packed full and addresses different members of the Church. Leaders are called to be shepherds of God’s flock under their care, to watch over them – not because they must, but because they are willing, which is God’s purpose for them. Dishonest gain, which unfortunately we see too often, should have no place, leadership should be simply an eagerness to serve; not about lording it, but being examples. With regard to the ‘younger’ members (younger in faith or age?) Peter urges them to submit to their elders, to be humble to each other but also humble “under God’s mighty hand”. Finally we are warned: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith”. These closing paragraphs sum up Peter’s letter that has been aimed at others. Now the leaders have to understand the purpose and cost of leadership. However, that applies to us all, we are all ‘examples’ to each other and that realisation should never be far away from our thoughts. Let us pray that we are worthy of that role and that we walk with humility but declare our faith with boldness.
11/05 – 1 Peter 4:12-end picks up from the opening of the chapter where we are reminded of Christ’s suffering. Now Peter writes: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ.” This is a rallying call to people who are suffering. It is a reminder that we have a new birth “into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1:3-4). Often people complain that they are picked on because of their faith. The truth is that having a faith in Christ that is so visible is something to give glory to God for. Being picked on by colleagues or relations and friends, because of our faith, is to walk with Christ, it is living as a person called, called to be holy and special, God’s personal handiwork (Ephesians 2:10). As we draw to a close with chapter 5 next time, read the whole letter again as though you were a Christian from that period of time. Pray for all those who are fearful that they may have strength in Christ Jesus.
10/05 – This section from 1 Peter 4:1-11 picks up on the previous content of the letter: “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude.” It can’t be more blunt than that, and those words speak into all that has gone before. In reading what Peter is calling slaves and wives to be and do, he is calling for not weakness but enduring strength, especially in the reality of what is coming: “The end of all things is near” (v7). That is the canvas that 1 Peter is written on. Peter knows that unity is strength in times of trial, but also at any time if we are faithful servants of God. Verses 9 & 10 speak volumes: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” “They should speak the very words of God”, and serve each other “with the strength God provides”. When that attitude prevails then God is praised with a thankful heart: “To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” Let us not wait for persecution and dangers to prowl like lions, let us live by these standards now and make ourselves different from the world. In 1:22 we are called to have a “sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart”. That as a prayer should always be on our lips.
08/05 – Perhaps we make a mistake not reading this letter of 1 Peter as those who received it at the time would have done, as one letter. There is a real danger that, in breaking it down, we lose its real purpose and also that we overlay our modern day perceptions on the text, our views on slavery and the role of women in a marriage, for example, and miss the true intention of Peter. Let us go back to the start. In the first verse we read: “To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood.” It is a letter to a people who, having turned to Christ, are now learning that suffering is part of the journey. In verse 18 of 3:13-end, we read: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” That really sums it up, it speaks of our salvation and rebirth with Christ in the Spirit. Peter writes about Noah and his family being “saved through water, and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”. Jesus “has given us new birth into a living hope” (1:3). This letter is to a church that faces a ‘fiery ordeal that has come upon them’. It is a letter that expresses the hope that is before them/us in Christ. It expresses the foundations of their/our faith and gives strength and purpose to their/our lives. It equips us to: “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”(3:15)
07/05 – 1 Peter 3:1-12 opens with “wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands” in the same way as who? Unpalatable as it may be, the answer is slaves. Post-covid (hopefully), how are we supposed to view this statement when the rise of domestic violence has risen in a lot of countries? The answer is probably in the final part: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” The phrase ‘weaker partner’ may grate, but in a lot of cases the wife may well be physically weaker. That fact does not legitimise treatment that lacks respect. In fact, Peter is saying that wives and husbands are co-heirs of life (in Christ) and any lack of consideration would hamper the husband’s prayers; his relationship with Christ Jesus would be broken. So the onus in the relationship rests equally on both partners. In a Christian relationship Peter calls those who are married to “be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” He also suggests that this model should apply to all: “Finally, all of you, be like-minded.” This very much skims the surface of the passage and fails to reflect the structure and audience of the letter Peter has written. But it should focus our prayers on relationships that have gone wrong where abuse, physical or mental, takes place, and the damage that does to any children in such a toxic environment. Let us also pray for those who work with people suffering from the fallout of failed relationships, that God may grant them wisdom and protect them.
06/05 – 1 Peter 2:11-end is a really challenging text, it must have been as difficult for readers of that time as it is today. Is it possible that Onesimus would have read this? The possible dates of the two letters are quite close. What was it that caused him to flee from Philemon? How would Onesimus have taken the instruction that “it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God”. Add to that “if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you.” We are called to be slaves for Christ; in 2:16 we read “live as God’s slaves”. So what are we prepared to endure for Christ Jesus and how much of our lives are in His service? The statement that “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example” does not mean that we subject ourselves to suffering so that in some way we become more Christlike, that is a mistaken understanding. However, we do have to be prepared to embrace suffering as part of our Christian walk. Francis Chan in his book ‘Letters to the Church’ writes ‘suffering is prominent in the New Testament, not just in one book but in every book. It’s one of the clearest doctrines in the New Testament but we just don’t talk about it.’ (When suffering becomes strange. p132) There are many suffering today in their walk in Christ and they need our prayers, not only that justice will prevail but also that those suffering may be given strength to endure and so transform the lives of those causing the pain to know Christ and repent. May they be like Paul when he wrote in Philippians 1:12: “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.”
05/05 – 1 Peter 2:1-10 includes references to our status as a priesthood. Firstly a ‘holy priesthood’, like living stones making up a spiritual house, “offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”. Secondly we read that “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” How do we live out this status as a priesthood? “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance” (1:14) and “rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” (2:1). And what is the purpose? “That you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” How? “By obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart” (1:22). We are living stones, built upon the cornerstone, the stone that all the subsequent stones are orientated from and gives the building its direction. That stone is Christ Jesus revealed “through the living and enduring word of God”. The beauty of a house built of stone is the way that different stones are fitted together, bedded in. That beauty is lost in the uniformity of manufactured bricks. We are very different stones but called to fit together, and that requires the ‘sincere love’ written about in this letter. May God, as the master stonemason, position us together for His purpose and glory.
04/05 – 1 Peter 1:13-end picks up from the theme of verses 2-12 by writing: “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”” Yesterday raised the question of how we live within our culture. We get an answer to that question: “live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” Clearly, we are called to be different. Today we face issues over how society handles cultural issues and ethnicity. There is no room for discrimination; we have to respect difference. Do we want a homogenised society? So what does it mean for each of us? We are called out to be holy, set aside, different, and the first way given in this text is to obey the truth: “so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again.” In verse 3 earlier, we read “He has given us a new birth”. Now, it is “you have been born again.” Have we made that transition from being ‘given’ new birth to ‘receiving’ that gift? Praise God, that so many times people report that on becoming a Christian those around them see a real difference in them. That difference needs to grow and shine in us all as a beacon of hope to those who are desperate to change. Let’s be proud to be ‘foreigners’ for Christ Jesus.
03/05 – We start with the first letter of Peter, with verses 1-12. There are questions over whether the two letters attributed to Peter are by the same author and if either one are in fact by Peter. However, what matters is that they are part of the bible and therefore we take them to be inspired by God. Their authorship should not detract from what we can learn, and there is a lot. In verse 10 we read : “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke . ./ . . (v12) It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you.” That is an amazing statement; what is even more mind blowing is the sentence: “Even angels long to look into these things.” What things? “The gospel preached to you” by those sent by the Holy Spirit from heaven. We are so privileged to hear the gospel, to have the truth revealed to us and to understand the work of Christ Jesus in our salvation. Verse 3 refers to a new birth and links us back to John 3:7 where Jesus says to Nicodemus, “You must be born again”. Do we live as people born again? Sometimes people feel that they need to remain part of the culture around them to be relatable. Does that reflect on us as being different? That is a real tension for us all, but if we recognise that we have a truth revealed to us that is transformational, should we not be transformed? Lord God, help us to be transformed by your presence in our lives, help us to be your light in the circles of relationships in which we move.
01/05 – We end this series with Ephesians 6:10-20, one of the most popular and quoted passages in the tradition of Christian teaching. Paul is the master of metaphor and drawing on the culture around. Wrestling, mentioned in v12, was a popular sport in Ephesus; and people would have been familiar with a legionary’s dress, as they would see them around. However, the heritage of this passage may be in Paul’s knowledge of the Old Testament and the book of Isaiah, specifically chapter 59:14-17. Isaiah writes about God that: “He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.” With that in mind, Paul’s instruction to “put on the full armour of God” and to “stand firm” takes on a whole new power; this is what God took up in His confrontation with evil. This isn’t some Roman soldier’s kit, it’s God’s! It is only when we understand this that we can comprehend Paul’s statement: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” We are so often called to put on the armour of God, but we need to move on from a historic human military style to the awesomeness of God’s. As you hear God’s words “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you” Isaiah 60:1-2. Step up and “take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and pray in the Spirit on all occasions”.
30/04 – Ephesians 6:1-9 continues Paul’s focus on conduct; perhaps the section on ‘bondservants’ (ESV) or ‘slaves’ (NIV) is applicable in some ways. When we look at the work we do for others, especially in paid employment, it can be hard sometimes when the employer or client seems ungrateful, but Paul makes the point by calling for service that is “with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man”. If we take what we do each day as work for the Lord it can change our approach in many ways, it can also help counter the stress we can experience. Unfortunately verse nine, aimed at the ‘masters’, is something beyond our control (assuming we are not ‘masters’), but not God’s. If we are the ones paying for someone’s time then we need to take serious notice of what Paul writes, for we have the same master in the Lord and ‘there is no partiality with him’. We are the same in the eyes of God; just as our conduct will be called to account so will that of others, even if they don’t realise it. Many people suffer from workplace stress, from bullying and prejudice. We need to pray for them and lift them up to our Lord. We need also to pray that they can discover strength in thinking of themselves as serving the Lord and peace in having Him as their focus.
29/04 – Ephesians 5:15-end is, for many, contentious as it is easily represented as male dominance, that wives should be submissive and respectful of their husbands. It is undeniable that this reading has been used by some men to dominate their wives in less than healthy ways, but that attitude is fundamentally in error and is contrary to what Paul writes. The truth is this passage lays an immense responsibility on the husband. Just these words: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”, set a tone that denotes a sacrificial relationship. Christ gave himself up for the church; husbands are called to emulate that. Paul reinforces that by writing: “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.” Paul brings the threads together at the end by putting: “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” What is clearly apparent is the bench mark that Paul sets out in this passage on husbands. It is that of Christ and His relationship with His bride, the church. It is in the context of that goal and in the living out of it, that ‘the wife respects her husband’. However, there is an incomplete circle that needs to be closed. If the husband is called to emulate Christ in his love for the church, then the ‘bride of Christ’, His church is called to love Christ in equal measure. That works in the human relationship of marriage as well. The level of respect in the relationship is a reciprocal relationship of sacrifice. When that happens the circle is complete. We need to pray for relationships that are not balanced, where there is abusive dominance by either party. Let us pray so that we can emulate the relationship Paul calls us to, that of Christ and His church.
28/04 – In Ephesians 5:1-21 Paul continues to focus down on the conduct he expects of Christians. In the previous section Paul drew to a close with, “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” So he continues with: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Quite often we do things remembering what it means to live as a child of Christ, to do what we believe is right; after all that is what is expected. However, do we ever think our conduct to others could be a ‘fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’? (However, we need to be clear that it is the sacrificial nature of Christ’s death that is a ‘fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’, but that doesn’t mean our conduct can’t be seen in the same way.) Paul, it seems is giving us some advice: firstly ‘to discern what is pleasing to the Lord’. Note that Paul writes ‘try to discern’, yes Paul is saying that discerning the will of God isn’t a given, we don’t always get it right. Secondly, Paul writes ‘to understand what the will of the Lord is.’ What is it that God intends? What is His direction? How is He, how has He been, moving us so far? That, whether for us individually or as a church is best done in fellowship, with intentional listening, seeking what it is that ‘builds up’ each other and the church. Working, listening and acting together, let us ‘walk as children of light’.
27/04 – Ephesians 4:17-end again reflects back into the previous section of the chapter, where Paul wrote: “that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (v14). Paul starts this paragraph (v17) by writing: “testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” So clearly he calls us to ‘testify in the Lord’ through our actions, so that we are not the same as those who do not know Christ (v20).The rest of the chapter, from v25, is instruction on how to live and for those who may have gone astray to come back. Verse 32 sums it up: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” The truth is that to live the new life, “to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (v24), we need to “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (3:19). Let us be eager in our pursuit of that objective, holding each other as we grow in Christ, day by day.
26/04 – Today the church remembers Mark the Evangelist, the gospel writer, but we continue with Ephesians 4:1-16. Paul starts: “I, therefore”; the ‘therefore’ looks to what he has already written, the base line of what he has already established, all the resources and promises given by God the Father in Christ Jesus to us. Knowing all that we now do “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” Read verses 2-7, perhaps even write them out. We are called to work together for God’s purpose through the grace that has been “given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift”. What is the measure? It’s more than we can ‘we can ask or think’, because it is Christ, the power of the one at work within us, (3:20), who does it, not us. If we think it is us then we are not putting the focus on Christ. It is only through Him that we can achieve solid growth, in ourselves and in the church. When we understand our calling, a calling to discipleship, to “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ”, we can come together as the whole body, “joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped”. For when we do that and each part is working properly, then the body grows and so builds itself up in love. We acknowledge one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (4:6 & 1:23). It is then that we realise that the ‘power at work within us’ is not for our benefit but to benefit others, to reveal the ‘unsearchable riches of Christ’, Christ Jesus Himself.
24/04 – Today we build on the end of 3:8, where Paul wrote about “the unsearchable riches of Christ”. Now in 3:14-end we have that unpacked a bit, especially in verses 16-19, where Paul writes that God the Father may grant “you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” – ‘unsearchable riches’ indeed. We can’t search for those riches as Christ gives Himself through grace, and it is only through Him we find them. We, like Simon in Acts 8:18, can’t buy the Holy Spirit; as Paul writes in 3:16 that ‘it is according to the riches of His glory’ that God grants, gives, bestows, these riches. But we must be worthy and seeking, for the purpose of His glory. As we receive we give, a sort of countercurrent exchange (where there is a crossover of some properties between two flowing bodies, be they liquid, gas or solid powders), maybe applicable to spiritual encounters between God and human kind? Let us pray for that to happen for us, by God’s grace.
23/04 – Today the reading jumps to chapter 6:1-20, missing 3:1-13, but to keep continuity we will continue with chapter 3. At the start of the chapter the writer states “I Paul” and then gives his credentials: “a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles.” It seems a fairly firm statement as to authorship, as in 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians and Philemon. Paul affirms again that Gentiles are “members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,” a gospel of which he is a ‘minister’ (ESV), though ‘servant’ in the NIV is probably better. That role is given “according to the gift of God’s grace . . . by the working of his power.” How awesome is the statement that Paul puts down, that his role is to “preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ”. Verses 10, 11 and 12 should be read and held. Paul, the servant of the gospel is the seed sower to us, the church, so that with boldness and confidence, we may, “according to the eternal purpose that He (God the Father) has realised in Christ Jesus”, make a difference! That ‘gift’, available to Paul, is available to us. Are we willing to use the gift we are given?
22/04 – Ephesians 2:11-end echoes some of Romans and Colossians, the nature of the gentiles’ separation from the chosen race of God and their unification through Christ: “But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off, have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” For, as Paul writes, “He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near”. So now Gentiles “are no longer strangers and aliens”, having “access in one Spirit to the Father”, being “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.” For we are “being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Perhaps we tend to look at this through the lens of the historical unification of Jew and Gentile, but maybe we should be thinking in terms of people today who have still to come to know Christ. Shouldn’t we be looking at the strangers in our midst, for whom Christ is a mystery, as those far off, needing to be brought near? In welcoming them, they are no longer strangers to us or Christ; they should be with us as a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. God’s done it, we must live it out, make it real for people. After all, by making that ‘dwelling place’ a reality we can only strengthen the kingdom, the church, their lives and ours.