Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Wearing a poppy with pride

It's time for me to point people towards the (ever growing) collection of poppy images that can be used as avatars on Facebook, Twitter and so many other places.

There are all poppies with cap badges, branches and even cadet forces too and by using them during the time when we remember those who have gone. we do this especially through the observance of All Saints, All Souls, Remembrance Sunday, Armistice Day and other events; marking the passing of those who have departed this life and paying our respects to them. It is in the doing of this that we echo Binyon's words 'We Will Remember Them' in a tangible and obvious manner.

So for those who would like a poppy with a badge all you need to do is:

Google Vic the Vicar + Avatar + the name (i.e. Royal Signals or ATC or hussars) and you should find the badge you want.

If you cannot find the badge then add a comment to this blog and I will add it to the collection as quickly as I can.

A new addition to the poppies this year has been one for those who wish to honour the dead (by the way - 'Glorious' means they are in glory - it is not glorifying war) and draw attention to the lives lost through the actions of the Islamic State (IS) - because 'Never Again' means exactly that:

Please wear a poppy to support those who have served the cause of peace and justice throughout the years and have served to protect our land and uphold, and observe, the various conventions that protect the weak and oppressed.

Morning Prayer - 22 October,

Psalm 119.105-128
Your word is a lantern to my feet and a light upon my path. I have sworn and will fulfil it, to keep your righteous judgements. I am troubled above measure; give me life, O Lord, according to your word. Accept the freewill offering of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me your judgements. My soul is ever in my hand, yet I do not forget your law.

The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your commandments. Your testimonies have I claimed as my heritage for ever; for they are the very joy of my heart. I have applied my heart to fulfil your statutes: always, even to the end. I hate those who are double-minded, but your law do I love. You are my hiding place and my shield and my hope is in your word.

Away from me, you wicked! I will keep the commandments of my God. Sustain me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be disappointed in my hope. Hold me up and I shall be saved, and my delight shall be ever in your statutes. You set at nought those who depart from your statutes, for their deceiving is in vain. You consider all the wicked as dross; therefore I love your testimonies. My flesh trembles for fear of you and I am afraid of your judgements.

I have done what is just and right; O give me not over to my oppressors. Stand surety for your servant’s good; let not the proud oppress me. My eyes fail with watching for your salvation and for your righteous promise. O deal with your servant according to your faithful love and teach me your statutes. I am your servant; O grant me understanding, that I may know your testimonies. It is time for you to act, O Lord, for they frustrate your law.

Therefore I love your commandments above gold, even much fine gold.
Therefore I direct my steps by all your precepts, and all false ways I utterly abhor.

2 Kings 9.1-16
Then the prophet Elisha called a member of the company of prophets and said to him, ‘Gird up your loins; take this flask of oil in your hand, and go to Ramoth-gilead. When you arrive, look there for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, son of Nimshi; go in and get him to leave his companions, and take him into an inner chamber. Then take the flask of oil, pour it on his head, and say, “Thus says the Lord: I anoint you king over Israel.” Then open the door and flee; do not linger.’

So the young man, the young prophet, went to Ramoth-gilead. He arrived while the commanders of the army were in council, and he announced, ‘I have a message for you, commander.’ ‘For which one of us?’ asked Jehu. ‘For you, commander.’ So Jehu got up and went inside; the young man poured the oil on his head, saying to him, ‘Thus says the Lord the God of Israel: I anoint you king over the people of the Lord, over Israel. You shall strike down the house of your master Ahab, so that I may avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord. For the whole house of Ahab shall perish; I will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah. The dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and no one shall bury her.’ Then he opened the door and fled.

When Jehu came back to his master’s officers, they said to him, ‘Is everything all right? Why did that madman come to you?’ He answered them, ‘You know the sort and how they babble.’ They said, ‘Liar! Come on, tell us!’ So he said, ‘This is just what he said to me: “Thus says the Lord, I anoint you king over Israel.” ’ Then hurriedly they all took their cloaks and spread them for him on the bare steps; and they blew the trumpet, and proclaimed, ‘Jehu is king.’

Thus Jehu son of Jehoshaphat son of Nimshi conspired against Joram. Joram with all Israel had been on guard at Ramoth-gilead against King Hazael of Aram; but King Joram had returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds that the Arameans had inflicted on him, when he fought against King Hazael of Aram. So Jehu said, ‘If this is your wish, then let no one slip out of the city to go and tell the news in Jezreel.’ Then Jehu mounted his chariot and went to Jezreel, where Joram was lying ill. King Ahaziah of Judah had come down to visit Joram.

Acts 27.1-26
When it was decided that we were to sail for Italy, they transferred Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort, named Julius. Embarking on a ship of Adramyttium that was about to set sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul kindly, and allowed him to go to his friends to be cared for. Putting out to sea from there, we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. After we had sailed across the sea that is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship bound for Italy and put us on board. We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind was against us, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. Sailing past it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.

Since much time had been lost and sailing was now dangerous, because even the Fast had already gone by, Paul advised them, saying, ‘Sirs, I can see that the voyage will be with danger and much heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.’ But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. Since the harbour was not suitable for spending the winter, the majority was in favour of putting to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, where they could spend the winter. It was a harbour of Crete, facing south-west and north-west.

When a moderate south wind began to blow, they thought they could achieve their purpose; so they weighed anchor and began to sail past Crete, close to the shore. But soon a violent wind, called the northeaster, rushed down from Crete. Since the ship was caught and could not be turned with its head to the wind, we gave way to it and were driven. By running under the lee of a small island called Cauda we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control. After hoisting it up they took measures to undergird the ship; then, fearing that they would run on the Syrtis, they lowered the sea-anchor and so were driven. We were being pounded by the storm so violently that on the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard, and on the third day with their own hands they threw the ship’s tackle overboard. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest raged, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.

Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul then stood up among them and said, ‘Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and thereby avoided this damage and loss. I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before the emperor; and indeed, God has granted safety to all those who are sailing with you.” So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we will have to run aground on some island.’

The Collect
Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us your gift of faith that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to that which is before, we may run the way of your commandments and win the crown of everlasting joy; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

'It's like you were born again!

It's an odd reality that in life there are times when the only way to progress comes through finding the ability to stand still! So often we find ourselves talking about great advances made in some area or the other. Today the news has been filled with the news that a man whose spinal cord was severed has had it repaired and is walking and driving again. Darek Fidyka, speaking of his feelings towards the treatment he had received said, "When you can't feel almost half your body, you are helpless, but when it starts coming back it's like you were born again."

Darek's words struck me because for many of us we can remember a time when we were living lives in which we were out of touch with our feelings, unable to control our bodies or regulate our thinking, and it was the coming into relationship with God, the Father, through the actions of Jesus, the Christ, that caused us also to be able to say, "We were helpless and were out of touch with ourselves and the surroundings around us until we met Jesus and, regaining our senses and right mind, it was like being born again!"

Today as we celebrate the first steps of a man for whom medicine has made so much difference I wonder how many of us can remember what it was like when were were were out of control and distant from God? Much more so I wonder how many of us have stopped to check that we're still in touch with 'all of ourselves' because I meet so many Christians who are obviously not living as believers in all departments; so many who limbs, brains and tongues most definitely function wrongly and over which they too apparently have no control!

My prayer is that those who claim to be 'Christian' (beginning with me) will take the time to see which part of their body, and their lives, they are out of touch with in terms of Christian living. How many of us are not standing tall, walking straight or thinking rightly because the connections between them and God - their intentions and realities - are severed or severely limited?

I leave us all with the words of Paul (Romans 7) where he says:

Now, which finger do you choose to use?

"I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate."
As we celebrate medical advances I pray that we will, by examining ourselves, make advances in our own lives and the way that we have control of our whole body and mind.


Morning Prayer - October 21

Psalm 87
His foundation is on the holy mountains. The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of you, Zion, city of our God.

I record Egypt and Babylon as those who know me; behold Philistia, Tyre and Ethiopia: in Zion were they born. And of Zion it shall be said, ‘Each one was born in her, and the Most High himself has established her.’

The Lord will record as he writes up the peoples, ‘This one also was born there.’

And as they dance they shall sing, ‘All my fresh springs are in you.’

Psalm 89.1-18
My song shall be always of the loving-kindness of the Lord: with my mouth will I proclaim your faithfulness throughout all generations. I will declare that your love is established for ever; you have set your faithfulness as firm as the heavens. For you said:
‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn an oath to David my servant: “Your seed will I establish for ever and build up your throne for all generations.” ’

The heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, and your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones; For who among the clouds can be compared to the Lord? Who is like the Lord among the host of heaven?

A God feared in the council of the holy ones, great and terrible above all those round about him. Who is like you, Lord God of hosts? Mighty Lord, your faithfulness is all around you.
You rule the raging of the sea; you still its waves when they arise.
You crushed Rahab with a deadly wound and scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
Yours are the heavens; the earth also is yours; you established the world and all that fills it.
You created the north and the south; Tabor and Hermon rejoice in your name. R
You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand and high is your right hand.

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before your face. Happy are the people who know the shout of triumph: they walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance. In your name they rejoice all the day long and are exalted in your righteousness. For you are the glory of their strength, and in your favour you lift up our heads. Truly the Lord is our shield; the Holy One of Israel is our king.

2 Kings 6.1-23
Now the company of prophets said to Elisha, ‘As you see, the place where we live under your charge is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, and let us collect logs there, one for each of us, and build a place there for us to live.’ He answered, ‘Do so.’ Then one of them said, ‘Please come with your servants.’ And he answered, ‘I will.’ So he went with them. When they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. But as one was felling a log, his axehead fell into the water; he cried out, ‘Alas, master! It was borrowed.’ Then the man of God said, ‘Where did it fall?’ When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick, and threw it in there, and made the iron float. He said, ‘Pick it up.’ So he reached out his hand and took it.

Once when the king of Aram was at war with Israel, he took counsel with his officers. He said, ‘At such and such a place shall be my camp.’ But the man of God sent word to the king of Israel, ‘Take care not to pass this place, because the Arameans are going down there.’ The king of Israel sent word to the place of which the man of God spoke. More than once or twice he warned such a place so that it was on the alert.

The mind of the king of Aram was greatly perturbed because of this; he called his officers and said to them, ‘Now tell me who among us sides with the king of Israel?’ Then one of his officers said, ‘No one, my lord king. It is Elisha, the prophet in Israel, who tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedchamber.’ He said, ‘Go and find where he is; I will send and seize him.’ He was told, ‘He is in Dothan.’ So he sent horses and chariots there and a great army; they came by night, and surrounded the city.

When an attendant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. His servant said, ‘Alas, master! What shall we do?’ He replied, ‘Do not be afraid, for there are more with us than there are with them.’ Then Elisha prayed: ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw; the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. When the Arameans came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, and said, ‘Strike this people, please, with blindness.’ So he struck them with blindness as Elisha had asked. Elisha said to them, ‘This is not the way, and this is not the city; follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.’ And he led them to Samaria.

As soon as they entered Samaria, Elisha said, ‘O Lord, open the eyes of these men so that they may see.’ The Lord opened their eyes, and they saw that they were inside Samaria. When the king of Israel saw them he said to Elisha, ‘Father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?’ He answered, ‘No! Did you capture with your sword and your bow those whom you want to kill? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink; and let them go to their master.’ So he prepared for them a great feast; after they ate and drank, he sent them on their way, and they went to their master. And the Arameans no longer came raiding into the land of Israel.

Acts 26.24-end
While he was making this defence, Festus exclaimed, ‘You are out of your mind, Paul! Too much learning is driving you insane!’ But Paul said, ‘I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth. Indeed the king knows about these things, and to him I speak freely; for I am certain that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.’ Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?’ Paul replied, ‘Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am—except for these chains.’

Then the king got up, and with him the governor and Bernice and those who had been seated with them; and as they were leaving, they said to one another, ‘This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.’ Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to the emperor.’

The Collect
Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us your gift of faith that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to that which is before, we may run the way of your commandments and win the crown of everlasting joy; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, 20 October 2014

'No Child Taken'

This week sees a 'Cake Sale' at Glascote Methodist Church to raise awareness, and money, for Tear Fund's 'No Child Taken' campaign.

So if you live in, or near, to Tamworth (Staffordshire - not the upsidedown world version) then I'd like to encourage you to put it in your diary.

If you don't, then I'd like you to consider having a cake sale in your church or home or workspace or any other place where you think it might be able to do it.

In addition to this a plea to churchgoers of all complexions (leaders and above) to make this something those in your church know about and take onboard as something to support.

And don't forget to tell people about

Morning Prayer - October 20

Psalm 80
Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, you that led Joseph like a flock; Shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim, before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your mighty strength and come to our salvation.

Turn us again, O God; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry at your people’s prayer?

You feed them with the bread of tears; you give them abundance of tears to drink. You have made us the derision of our neighbours and our enemies laugh us to scorn.

Turn us again, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You made room around it, and when it had taken root, it filled the land. The hills were covered with its shadow and the cedars of God by its boughs. It stretched out its branches to the Sea and its tendrils to the River.

Why then have you broken down its wall, so that all who pass by pluck off its grapes? The wild boar out of the wood tears it off, and all the insects of the field devour it.

Turn again, O God of hosts, look down from heaven and behold; Cherish this vine which your right hand has planted, and the branch that you made so strong for yourself. Let those who burnt it with fire, who cut it down, perish at the rebuke of your countenance.

Let your hand be upon the man at your right hand, the son of man you made so strong for yourself. And so will we not go back from you; give us life, and we shall call upon your name.

Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

Psalm 82
God has taken his stand in the council of heaven; in the midst of the gods he gives judgement:

‘How long will you judge unjustly and show such favour to the wicked?
You were to judge the weak and the orphan; defend the right of the humble and needy; Rescue the weak and the poor; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. They have no knowledge or wisdom: they walk on still in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are shaken. Therefore I say that though you are gods and all of you children of the Most High, Nevertheless, you shall die like mortals and fall like one of their princes.’

Arise, O God and judge the earth, for it is you that shall take all nations for your possession.

2 Kings 5
Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favour with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’ So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. And the king of Aram said, ‘Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.’

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, ‘When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.’ When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.’

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.’ So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.’ But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’ He turned and went away in a rage. But his servants approached and said to him, ‘Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?’ So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present from your servant.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will accept nothing!’ He urged him to accept, but he refused. Then Naaman said, ‘If not, please let two mule-loads of earth be given to your servant; for your servant will no longer offer burnt-offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord. But may the Lord pardon your servant on one count: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow down in the house of Rimmon, when I do bow down in the house of Rimmon, may the Lord pardon your servant on this one count.’ He said to him, ‘Go in peace.’

But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, thought, ‘My master has let that Aramean Naaman off too lightly by not accepting from him what he offered. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something out of him.’ So Gehazi went after Naaman. When Naaman saw someone running after him, he jumped down from the chariot to meet him and said, ‘Is everything all right?’ He replied, ‘Yes, but my master has sent me to say, “Two members of a company of prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim; please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.” ’ Naaman said, ‘Please accept two talents.’ He urged him, and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and gave them to two of his servants, who carried them in front of Gehazi. When he came to the citadel, he took the bags from them, and stored them inside; he dismissed the men, and they left.

He went in and stood before his master; and Elisha said to him, ‘Where have you been, Gehazi?’ He answered, ‘Your servant has not gone anywhere at all.’ But he said to him, ‘Did I not go with you in spirit when someone left his chariot to meet you? Is this a time to accept money and to accept clothing, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves? Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you, and to your descendants for ever.’ So he left his presence leprous, as white as snow.

Acts 26.1-23
Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You have permission to speak for yourself.’ Then Paul stretched out his hand and began to defend himself:

‘I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am to make my defence today against all the accusations of the Jews, because you are especially familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews; therefore I beg of you to listen to me patiently.

‘All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my own people and in Jerusalem. They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I have belonged to the strictest sect of our religion and lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial on account of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors, a promise that our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship day and night. It is for this hope, your Excellency, that I am accused by Jews! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

‘Indeed, I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is what I did in Jerusalem; with authority received from the chief priests, I not only locked up many of the saints in prison, but I also cast my vote against them when they were being condemned to death. By punishing them often in all the synagogues I tried to force them to blaspheme; and since I was so furiously enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities.

‘With this in mind, I was travelling to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, when at midday along the road, your Excellency, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.” I asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord answered, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

‘After that, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout the countryside of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and do deeds consistent with repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. To this day I have had help from God, and so I stand here, testifying to both small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would take place: that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.’

The Collect
Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us your gift of faith that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to that which is before, we may run the way of your commandments and win the crown of everlasting joy; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen..

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Can't make it to church? October 19

Our first reading is rather interesting because everyone I've spoken to has apparently chosen to pass it, and the 1 Thessalonians reading, by and focus on the Gospel taking up the theme of 'rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and giving to God that which is God's'! That's a bit of a shame because the three do tend to coalesce nicely with the Psalm, as ever, bringing that little extra to the party.

I find the Old Testament interesting because Cyrus, a Persian king, is the bloke that took on, and defeated, Babylon and brought about the return of the Jewish exiles to Jerusalem and yet his victory, something that bring military might and political will together,  makes him an instrument for God. Mind you, much like those who suffer under the hands of the Islamic State today, I get the impression that the interference, and presence, of foreign powers in their fortune is only just a little less welcome that the presence of those who oppress them!

The very act of asking, or assuming, God's blessing upon those whom might otherwise be regarded as 'the enemy' is a tough task indeed and yet here we have Cyrus appearing to be 'God's servant'. How cool is that that God can use those who are far off, those who have no knowledge or relationship with Him, to bring about that which is a blessing for His people!

The reading gives us a few indications as to the reason for Cyrus' place in the history of the Jews - here's a couple of them:

i - God is calling, and using, him to make real the promise that Israel would be redeemed,

ii - God is doing it to get Cyrus to realise who He (God) is and how (and there's also a what concerning the way) the relationship with His people works.

Combine this with the people in Thessalonica who were far off and worshipped idols but were then filled with God's Holy Spirit and became imitators of Paul and his gang and, more importantly imitators of Jesus, the Christ. Here we have people who were used but we used as people with a relationship rather than merely as the means to an end. God can use those who are close and those who are far off to do the stuff He needs to get done- which one of these are we I wonder?

Add to the mix the Gospel reading where people are trying to trip Jesus up regarding the payment of taxes - where we end up with one very simple question is simple:

Who are you going to serve - What rules your life: God or man?

If it's going to be the things of this world (which fall to moth, rust and thieves) then that's fair enough - crack on and enjoy life to the full (because at least you can be happy running after the things that fall apart, stop working and get nicked!).


If you're going to choose to follow Jesus then be aware that taking up a cross can damage your health and following Jesus and denying yourself can lead to a loss of friendship and results in people opposing you and trying to trip you up at each and every turn (Have you read what happened to Jesus during His earthly ministry?)

It's a simple choice really! But make the right one and God will come to the rescue using the most unlikely people and by means of the most amazing situations and you'll indeed be able to sing His praises because He is, indeed, wonderful and holy.
Would that I was at least a bit like Him in being holy ;-).
Would that we run the race and come through to the end as a people tried, tested and approved,

The Collect
Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us your gift of faith that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to that which is before, we may run the way of your commandments and win the crown of everlasting joy; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Father help us to have the knowledge to choose rightly the things on offer to us that we might pass up the offer of those things that fall apart and turn to rust for the eternal verities of life.

Use us in the places and in the times when the need is made real,
Send us out to minister you Grace and to show your friendship
And help us in our daily struggle to endure burdens and to overcome those who would wound us.
This we ask in your mighty and most wonderful name. Amen.

Isaiah 45.1-7
Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him— and the gates shall not be closed: I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me. I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you, though you do not know me, so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the Lord do all these things.

Psalm 99
The Lord is king: let the peoples tremble; he is enthroned above the cherubim: let the earth shake.
The Lord is great in Zion and high above all peoples. Let them praise your name, which is great and awesome; the Lord our God is holy. Mighty king, who loves justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.

Exalt the Lord our God; bow down before his footstool, for he is holy. Moses and Aaron among his priests and Samuel among those who call upon his name; they called upon the Lord and he answered them. He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud; they kept his testimonies and the law that he gave them. You answered them, O Lord our God; you were a God who forgave them and pardoned them for their offences.

Exalt the Lord our God and worship him upon his holy hill, for the Lord our God is holy.

1 Thessalonians 1.1-10
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of people we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place where your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

Matthew 22.15-22
Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Post Communion Prayer

We praise and thank you, O Christ, for this sacred feast: for here we receive you, here the memory of your passion is renewed, here our minds are filled with grace, and here a pledge of future glory is given, when we shall feast at that table where you reign with all your saints for ever. Amen.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Look at me - I'm a BEing not a DOing!

I've just listened to a sermon from some trendy worthy what's important and all-powerful (obviously not working in a UPA or Estate Church then!) regarding the fact that, as Christians, we are called to be human beings - the emphasis being on the 'BE" rather than human doings!

"We're not called to do anything in our Christian life but BE," he shouted. "Hallelujah," cried the people in the venue with him.

"We're not called to DO anything, we need to stop DOing and learn to be. Jesus doesn't ask us to DO anything other than BE with Him," he continued (to rapturous applause and cheers of 'Amen' and 'hallelujah').

Now as someone who has preached for as long as I can remember, it's true that we cannot buy or work our way into heaven - it's a free gift given to us by the sacrificial, one-time only, atoning death of Jesus, the Christ, on the cross - why am I disturbed by the words? Perhaps it's the fact that many who call themselves Christian are already doing so little!

I meet so many 'hobby Christians' who pop in to a service when it suits them and their social life.

I meet so many who are full of good intentions (and we know where they lead) and empty of good works. Those who tell me of what God is encouraging them to do and be; yet somehow they fail to turn encouragement into anything real and tangible.

I am a total supporter that ALL God wants us to do is to love Him in the company of the Son and enabled by the power of His Holy Spirit. For years I have preached this message:

"All God wants you to do is sit on your bums and love Him!"

This is in line with the 'human BEing' message that I heard today - we are in total agreement.

BUT that's not the end of the story for out of my BEing with God comes something that wants to express my love and DO stuff:

It might be singing His praise

It might be dancing

It might be doing stuff in the church or for the Church or for those outside the church or For the Church

It should include stuff that makes us look like Jesus to the world and like Church in our worship and outpouring of love (and that also means obedience)

The problem is that BEing is not the end in itself but the BEginning of our our Christian life and this is because Jesus calls us to DO.

To take up our cross, denying ourselves the things that deny God and follow Jesus
(Matt 16.26 // Lk 9.23)

To GO out into all the world and make disciples of those we meet, teaching the what the Bible says (and that's another 'DO' in some people's book when in fact it is a massive 'BE') and teach those we meet to keep God's commandments (not suggestions).
(Matt 28. 19 // Mk 16. 16)

I'm struggling with those who are preaching a message that tells believers that eternity is about BEing with God in heaven for all eternity and so we need to stop worrying about DOing and get used to 'just BEing' with Him now - and this means stopping worrying about what we do and, "Relax and just enjoy who we are in Him!"

It's great to be told that God wants us to , "Lie down with Him beside the quiet waters and to lay back on the grass and celebrate 'just being'," but the problem is that as great as that sounds (and I'm certainly up for some of that) I am continually called back to Jesus as a role model - and He certainly was a DO'er and concerned that the call to, "Just Be and chillax (is that a word?) in God," is a call to condemn those who don't know Him (Jesus) to something that condemns them.

I am continually called back to Romans 10. 14-15 regarding those who are distant from God:

"But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? 
 And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? 
 And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? 

 That is why the Scriptures say, 
“How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”  "

Would it be nice to think that those who proclaim that we're human BEings rather than Doings were actually DOing because they BE following Christ's example of loving service and sacrifice. That said, perhaps the next time someone has a need, the Church should just tell them that we're sorry but we're busy 'being' can they come back later when we are 'doing'?

So very grateful Jesus wasn't just BEing when my needs were before Him!