Saturday, 28 November 2015

Morning Prayer - 28 November 2015

Psalm 145

Praise. Of David.
I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name for ever and ever.  Every day I will bless you, and praise your name for ever and ever.  Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendour of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare your greatness. They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.

All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless you. They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power, to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendour of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The Lord is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds. The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing. The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfils the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them. The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.

My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and all flesh will bless his holy name for ever and ever.

Isaiah 24
Now the Lord is about to lay waste the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the slave, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the creditor, so with the debtor. The earth shall be utterly laid waste and utterly despoiled; for the Lord has spoken this word. The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers; the heavens languish together with the earth.

The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth dwindled, and few people are left. The wine dries up, the vine languishes, all the merry-hearted sigh. The mirth of the timbrels is stilled, the noise of the jubilant has ceased, the mirth of the lyre is stilled. No longer do they drink wine with singing; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it. The city of chaos is broken down, every house is shut up so that no one can enter. There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has reached its eventide; the gladness of the earth is banished. Desolation is left in the city, the gates are battered into ruins. For thus it shall be on the earth and among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten, as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is ended. They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; they shout from the west over the majesty of the Lord. Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord; in the coastlands of the sea glorify the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One.

But I say, I pine away, I pine away. Woe is me!
For the treacherous deal treacherously, the treacherous deal very treacherously. Terror, and the pit, and the snare are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth!
Whoever flees at the sound of the terror shall fall into the pit; and whoever climbs out of the pit shall be caught in the snare. For the windows of heaven are opened, and the foundations of the earth tremble. The earth is utterly broken, the earth is torn asunder, the earth is violently shaken. The earth staggers like a drunkard, it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again. On that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven in heaven, and on earth the kings of the earth. They will be gathered together like prisoners in a pit; they will be shut up in a prison, and after many days they will be punished. Then the moon will be abashed, and the sun ashamed;
for the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before his elders he will manifest his glory.

Matthew 11.20-end
Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven?

No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.”

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The Collect
God the Father, help us to hear the call of Christ the King and to follow in his service, whose kingdom has no end; for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, one glory. Amen.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Morning Prayer - 27 November 2015

Psalm 139
O Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You mark out my journeys and my resting place and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but you, O Lord, know it altogether. You encompass me behind and before and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go then from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there your hand shall lead me, your right hand hold me fast.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will cover me and the light around me turn to night,’
Even darkness is no darkness with you, the night is as clear as the day; darkness and light to you are both alike. For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I thank you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvellous are your works, my soul knows well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my form, as yet unfinished; already in your book were all my members written, As day by day they were fashioned when as yet there was none of them.
How deep are your counsels to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
If I count them, they are more in number than the sand, and at the end, I am still in your presence. O that you would slay the wicked, O God, that the bloodthirsty might depart from me!

They speak against you with wicked intent; your enemies take up your name for evil.
Do I not oppose those, O Lord, who oppose you?
Do I not abhor those who rise up against you?
I hate them with a perfect hatred; they have become my own enemies also.
Search me out, O God, and know my heart; try me and examine my thoughts. See if there is any way of wickedness in me and lead me in the way everlasting.

Isaiah 22.1-14
The oracle concerning the valley of vision.

What do you mean that you have gone up, all of you, to the housetops, you that are full of shoutings, tumultuous city, exultant town?
Your slain are not slain by the sword, nor are they dead in battle.
Your rulers have all fled together;Cthey were captured without the use of a bow.
All of you who were found were captured, though they had fled far away.
Therefore I said: Look away from me, let me weep bitter tears; do not try to comfort me for the destruction of my beloved people.

For the Lord God of hosts has a day of tumult and trampling and confusion in the valley of vision, a battering down of walls and a cry for help to the mountains.
Elam bore the quiver with chariots and cavalry, and Kir uncovered the shield.
Your choicest valleys were full of chariots, and the cavalry took their stand at the gates.
He has taken away the covering of Judah.

On that day you looked to the weapons of the House of the Forest, and you saw that there were many  breaches in the city of David, and you collected the waters of the lower pool. You counted the houses  of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall. You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or have regard for him who planned it long ago.

On that day the Lord God of hosts called to weeping and mourning, to baldness and putting on sackcloth; but instead there was joy and festivity, killing oxen and slaughtering she eating meat and drinking wine. ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’
The Lord of hosts has revealed himself in my ears: Surely this iniquity will not be forgiven you until you die, says the Lord God of hosts.

Matthew 11.2-19
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.”
Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. Let anyone with ears listen!

‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.”

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’

The Collect
Eternal Father, whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven that he might rule over all things as Lord and King: keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace, and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet;
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen. 

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Morning Prayer - 26 November 2015

Psalm 125
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but stands fast for ever. As the hills stand about Jerusalem, so the Lord stands round about his people, from this time forth for evermore. The sceptre of wickedness shall not hold sway over the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous turn their hands to evil.

Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are true of heart. Those who turn aside to crooked ways the Lord shall take away with the evildoers; but let there be peace upon Israel.

Psalm 126
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then were we like those who dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with songs of joy. Then said they among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has indeed done great things for us, and therefore we rejoiced.

Restore again our fortunes, O Lord, as the river beds of the desert.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed, will come back with shouts of joy, bearing their sheaves with them.

Psalm 127
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the Lord keeps the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.

It is in vain that you hasten to rise up early and go so late to rest, eating the bread of toil, for he gives his beloved sleep.

Children are a heritage from the Lord and the fruit of the womb is his gift. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy are those who have their quiver full of them: they shall not be put to shame when they dispute with their enemies in the gate.

Psalm 128
Blessed are all those who fear the Lord, and walk in his ways. You shall eat the fruit of the toil of your hands; it shall go well with you, and happy shall you be. Your wife within your house shall be like a fruitful vine; your children round your table, like fresh olive branches. Thus shall the one be blest who fears the Lord.

The Lord from out of Zion bless you, that you may see Jerusalem in prosperity all the days of your life. May you see your children’s children, and may there be peace upon Israel.

Isaiah 21.1-12

The oracle concerning the wilderness of the sea.

As whirlwinds in the Negeb sweep on, it comes from the desert, from a terrible land. A stern vision is told to me; the betrayer betrays, and the destroyer destroys. Go up, O Elam, lay siege, O Media; all the sighing she has caused I bring to an end.
Therefore my loins are filled with anguish; pangs have seized me, like the pangs of a woman in labour; I am bowed down so that I cannot hear, I am dismayed so that I cannot see. My mind reels, horror has appalled me; the twilight I longed for has been turned for me into trembling. They prepare the table, they spread the rugs, they eat, they drink. Rise up, commanders, oil the shield!

For thus the Lord said to me:
‘Go, post a lookout, let him announce what he sees. When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs, riders on donkeys, riders on camels, let him listen diligently, very diligently.’

Then the watcher called out:
‘Upon a watch-tower I stand, O Lord, continually by day, and at my post I am stationed throughout the night. Look, there they come, riders, horsemen in pairs!’

Then he responded,
   ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the images of her gods  lie shattered on the ground.’

O my threshed and winnowed one, what I have heard from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, I announce to you.

The oracle concerning Dumah.

One is calling to me from Seir, ‘Sentinel, what of the night?

Sentinel, what of the night?’ The sentinel says:
‘Morning comes, and also the night. If you will inquire, inquire; come back again.’

Matthew 10.34-11.1
‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’

Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities.

The Collect
God the Father, help us to hear the call of Christ the King and to follow in his service, whose kingdom has no end; for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, one glory. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Morning Prayer - 25 November 2015

Catherine of Alexandria, Martyr, 4th century
Isaac Watts, Hymn Writer, 1748

Psalm 110
Refrain: The Lord is king and has put on glorious apparel.
The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’

May the Lord stretch forth the sceptre of your power; rule from Zion in the midst of your enemies.
‘Noble are you on this day of your birth; on the holy mountain, from the womb of the dawn the dew of your new birth is upon you.’

The Lord has sworn and will not retract:
‘You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.’

The king at your right hand, O Lord, shall smite down kings in the day of his wrath. In all his majesty, he shall judge among the nations, smiting heads over all the wide earth. He shall drink from the brook beside the way; therefore shall he lift high his head.

Psalm 111
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the faithful and in the congregation.

The works of the Lord are great, sought out by all who delight in them. His work is full of majesty and honour and his righteousness endures for ever.
He appointed a memorial for his marvellous deeds; the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.
He gave food to those who feared him; he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He showed his people the power of his works in giving them the heritage of the nations.

The works of his hands are truth and justice; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever; they are done in truth and equity.
He sent redemption to his people; he commanded his covenant for ever; holy and awesome is his name.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have those who live by it; his praise endures for ever.

Psalm 112
Blessed are those who fear the Lord and have great delight in his commandments. Their descendants will be mighty in the land, a generation of the faithful that will be blest. Wealth and riches will be in their house, and their righteousness endures for ever.

Light shines in the darkness for the upright; gracious and full of compassion are the righteous. It goes well with those who are generous in lending and order their affairs with justice, for they will never be shaken; the righteous will be held in everlasting remembrance. They will not be afraid of any evil tidings; their heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their heart is sustained and will not fear, until they see the downfall of their foes. They have given freely to the poor; their righteousness stands fast for ever; their head will be exalted with honour.  The wicked shall see it and be angry; they shall gnash their teeth in despair; the desire of the wicked shall perish.

Isaiah 19
An oracle concerning Egypt. 

See, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them. I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians, and they will fight, one against the other, neighbour against neighbour, city against city, kingdom against kingdom; the spirit of the Egyptians within them will be emptied out, and I will confound their plans; they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead and the ghosts and the familiar spirits; I will deliver the Egyptians into the hand of a hard master; a fierce king will rule over them, says the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts.

The waters of the Nile will be dried up, and the river will be parched and dry; its canals will become foul, and the branches of Egypt’s Nile will diminish and dry up; reeds and rushes will rot away. There will be bare places by the Nile, on the brink of the Nile; and all that is sown by the Nile will dry up, be driven away, and be no more. Those who fish will mourn; all who cast hooks in the Nile will lament, and those who spread nets on the water will languish. The workers in flax will be in despair, and the carders and those at the loom will grow pale. Its weavers will be dismayed, and all who work for wages will be grieved.

The princes of Zoan are utterly foolish; the wise counsellors of Pharaoh give stupid counsel. How can you say to Pharaoh, ‘I am one of the sages, a descendant of ancient kings’?
Where now are your sages?
Let them tell you and make known what the Lord of hosts has planned against Egypt. The princes of Zoan have become fools, and the princes of Memphis are deluded; those who are the cornerstones of its tribes have led Egypt astray. The Lord has poured into them a spirit of confusion; and they have made Egypt stagger in all its doings as a drunkard staggers around in vomit. Neither head nor tail,  palm branch nor reed, will be able to do anything for Egypt.

On that day the Egyptians will be like women, and tremble with fear before the hand that the Lord of hosts raises against them. And the land of Judah will become a terror to the Egyptians; everyone to whom it is mentioned will fear because of the plan that the Lord of hosts is planning against them.
On that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the Lord of hosts. One of these will be called the City of the Sun.

On that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the centre of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border. It will be a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt; when they cry to the Lord because of oppressors, he will send them a saviour, and will defend and deliver them. The Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians; and the Egyptians will know the Lord on that day, and will worship with sacrifice and burnt-offering, and they will make vows to the Lord and perform them. The Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing; they will return to the Lord, and he will listen to their supplications and heal them.

On that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.

On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage.’

Matthew 10.16-33
‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

The Collect
Eternal Father, whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven that he might rule over all things as Lord and King: keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace, and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Blessed are the poor: Urban poverty and the Church

Recently I visited a parish on the very edge of a city centre and was treated to a tour of the features and facilities within its boundaries. We started at a splendid church hall with many rooms and a variety of posters and notices advertising Bridge and Canasta and the like. From there we went on to see the parish itself, row upon row of fine Edwardian and Victorian mansions boasting marvellous front lawns and palatial entrances.

As my host drove me round pointing out the homes of the notable residents, the celebrities and the ennobled I found myself reflecting upon how different it was from the estate church setting I work and reside in. My thoughts were then interrupted as my host pointed out a junction and pointedly explained how we had reached the boundary. 'That side of the road,' they said, 'is social housing. We don't have anything to do with them!" Point made, we drove on, more names bandied about as being residents, until we came to another junction and again we stopped and I was informed that this was another boundary. 'That road,' they said, pointing at what looked no different to the rest through my uneducated eyes, 'Used to be a lovely road, but now it's full of (voice dropping a little) of Asians!' The rest of the journey was much of the same, I was shown where the 'difficult parish' abutted their little piece of heaven and told stories of the great and good who were members of the paradise on earth that was theirs. 

Over lunch (not beans on toast by the way!) one of the parishioners told me how they'd be interested in any ideas I had to reach into their community. 'We want to bring in people like us, were not interested in doing stuff in the poorer bits,' they said, 'After all, what we want is to get the numbers back up so we can continue to enjoy everything we always have. We're not looking at the sort of mission you've been talking about!'

Thankful that I hadn't choked on the canapés or caught anything mission threatening from those gathered  in the place I mentioned social audits and the value of the palace that was their church hall (five rooms plus a kitchen and toilets almost as large as the building our church occupies!) was in attracting people and building relationships and left.

Laurie green in his book 'Blessed are the poor' Speaks of visiting  a parish with a view to serving his title (i.e. its first ordained job) in that place. He writes thus:

"so there we were, huddled in the back of a rather large saloon car being driven by the parish rector is surrounded by other members of his parish staff. The Rector was very keen to impress, and in many ways he had reason to be proud of his team's achievements. The parish church was extraordinarily large, and he proudly boasted that they nearly filled it with willing members every Sunday. 

He was now driving us around the rather prosperous neighbourhood and chanced to look across to the right where stood houses of distinctly lower quality than those we had viewed so far. He saw me looking more intently at them and, hoping to quell my fears, remarked:
'oh that's our council housing estate. But don't worry, I don't ever bother us.'  and on hearing that, my decision was made. I wanted to spend the rest of my ministry living in those areas that others like to ignore.'" *
So, having found a kindred spirit in the first few pages, would the restt of the book live up to expectations?

I found the book to be a wealth of theological reflection, which considering his now seminal work 'Let's do theology' (which appears in the hands of many training for ministry) should come as no surprise I guess. But add to this the insights of a man who has dedicated his ministry to working in the poorer places and ministering the love of God to those on the edges and thinking about it with the Bible aforethought and you soon realise that this is a bit of an understated gem.

This is a book in which missional thinking, good honest ministry, the Bible and theology all collide as Laurie leads us into thinking about what this part of the beatitudes ('blessed are the poor') really means in a world where they only seem to inherit being marginalised, vilified and ignored. This is an invitation for us to explore just how counter-cultural we are called to be - and it is most certainly something I would love to send to the PCC of the church I make mention of at the beginning of this blog. 
As someone blessed with living and working in an Urban priority area / Estate church I know the generosity and love, the enthusiasm for the Gospel lived out in a place where the minority are waged and everyday life is difficult. I also know that many around me in the wider community have definite views about social housing and those who have little. Those who have would like more and those who have little deserve all they get (but not my taxpayer's cash in benefits). The Rake's progress that was post-war social housing and it's demise with the 'Right to Buy' and the rise of the private sector landlords (and now housing associations who are providing a halfway house between state and private social housing) brings much fruit and many attitudes - not all of which are positive when it comes to the attitudes of the people formerly known as 'working class' towards the poor; for the poor have indeed become poorer, even amongst their own it seems.
This is no purely academic book on the poor and poverty (although the academic is present and appears correct) and it is not a quick read (200 pages requires some commitment); but it is an essential read for those looking to minister on the edges of our society. 

I have to say that, like most books with a 'theology' label, this is a book that doesn't come cheap with a price tag of £18.99 on Amazon (but under a tenner used) (AMAZON) but if you are serious about estate church and 'the poor' - which always sounds to me to be on a par with those who used to call out, 'Oh workman,' when I was a BT engineer as something just a little derogatory - then this is a book that demands shelf space.

* Introduction: page x   Blessed are the poor? Urban poverty and the church   
                                     SCM press  London    2015   ISBN 978 0 334 05365 1

Morning Prayer - 24 November 2015

Psalm 97
The Lord is king: let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of the isles be glad. Clouds and darkness are round about him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. 
Fire goes before him and burns up his enemies on every side. 
His lightnings lit up the world; the earth saw it and trembled. The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
The heavens declared his righteousness and all the peoples have seen his glory.
Confounded be all who worship carved images and delight in mere idols. Bow down before him, all you gods.
Zion heard and was glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoiced, because of your judgements, O Lord. For you, Lord, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. 

The Lord loves those who hate evil; he preserves the lives of his faithfuand delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Light has sprung up for the righteous and joy for the true of heart.

Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name.

Psalm 98
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things. His own right hand and his holy arm have won for him the victory. 

The Lord has made known his salvation; his deliverance has he openly shown in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his mercy and faithfulness towards the house of Israel, and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Sound praises to the Lord, all the earth; break into singing and make music. Make music to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the voice of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn sound praises before the Lord, the King. 

Let the sea thunder and all that fills it, the world and all that dwell upon it. 
Let the rivers clap their hands and let the hills ring out together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. In righteousness shall he judge the world and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 100
O be joyful in the Lord, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness and come before his presence with a song. Know that the Lord is God; it is he that has made us and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and bless his name. For the Lord is gracious; his steadfast love is everlasting, and his faithfulness endures from generation to generation.

Isaiah 17
An oracle concerning Damascus. 

See, Damascus will cease to be a city, and will become a heap of ruins. Her towns will be deserted for ever; they will be places for flocks, which will lie down, and no one will make them afraid. The fortress will disappear from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus; and the remnant of Aram will be like the glory of the children of Israel, says the Lord of hosts. 

On that day the glory of Jacob will be brought low, and the fat of his flesh will grow lean. And it shall be as when reapers gather standing grain and their arms harvest the ears, and as when one gleans the ears of grain in the Valley of Rephaim. Gleanings will be left in it, as when an olive tree is beaten - two or three berries in the top of the highest bough, four or five on the branches of a fruit tree, says the Lord God of Israel. 

On that day people will regard their Maker, and their eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel; they will not have regard for the altars, the work of their hands, and they will not look to what their own fingers have made, either the sacred poles or the altars of incense.

On that day their strong cities will be like the deserted places of the Hivites and the Amorites, which they deserted because of the children of Israel, and there will be desolation. 

For you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge; therefore, though you plant pleasant plants and set out slips of an alien god, though you make them grow on the day that you plant them, and make them blossom in the morning that you sow; yet the harvest will flee away on a day of grief and incurable pain. 

Ah, the thunder of many peoples, they thunder like the thundering of the sea!
Ah, the roar of nations, they roar like the roaring of mighty waters! The nations roar like the roaring of many waters, but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away, chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind and whirling dust before the storm. At evening time, lo, terror! Before morning, they are no more. This is the fate of those who despoil us, and the lot of those who plunder us. 

Matthew 9.35-10.15
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than for that town.

The Collect
Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by you be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Morning prayer - 23 November 2015

Clement, Bishop of Rome, Martyr, c.100

Psalm 92
It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to your name, O Most High; To tell of your love early in the morning and of your faithfulness in the night-time, Upon the ten-stringed instrument, upon the harp, and to the melody of the lyre. For you, Lord, have made me glad by your acts, and I sing aloud at the works of your hands.

O Lord, how glorious are your works!
Your thoughts are very deep. R

The senseless do not know, nor do fools understand, That though the wicked sprout like grass and all the workers of iniquity flourish, It is only to be destroyed for ever; but you, O Lord, shall be exalted for evermore. For lo, your enemies, O Lord, lo, your enemies shall perish, and all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered. But my horn you have exalted like the horns of wild oxen; I am anointed with fresh oil. My eyes will look down on my foes; my ears shall hear the ruin of the evildoers who rise up against me.

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon. Such as are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be vigorous and in full leaf; That they may show that the Lord is true; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Psalm 96
Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord and bless his name; tell out his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations and his wonders among all peoples. For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; he is more to be feared than all gods. For all the gods of the nations are but idols; it is the Lord who made the heavens. Honour and majesty are before him; power and splendour are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples; ascribe to the Lord honour and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the honour due to his name; bring offerings and come into his courts. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth tremble before him. Tell it out among the nations that the Lord is king. He has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.

Let the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad; let the sea thunder and all that is in it;
Let the fields be joyful and all that is in them; let all the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord. For he comes, he comes to judge the earth; with righteousness he will judge the world and the peoples with his truth.

Isaiah 14.3-20
When the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon:
How the oppressor has ceased!
How his insolence has ceased! 

The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, the sceptre of rulers,  hat struck down the peoples in wrath with unceasing blows, that ruled the nations in anger with unrelenting persecution. The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth into singing. The cypresses exult over you, the cedars of Lebanon, saying, ‘Since you were laid low, no one comes to cut us down.’ 

Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come; it rouses the shades to greet you, all who were leaders of the earth; it raises from their thrones all who were kings of the nations. All of them will speak and say to you: ‘You too have become as weak as we are! You have become like us!’ 
Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, and the sound of your harps; maggots are the bed beneath you, and worms are your covering. 

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! 
How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 
You said in your heart, 
‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne  above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon; I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.’

But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit. Those who see you will stare at you, and ponder over you:
‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who would not let his prisoners go home?’ 

All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb; but you are cast out, away from your grave, like loathsome carrion, clothed with the dead, those pierced by the sword, who go down to the stones of the Pit, like a corpse trampled underfoot. You will not be joined with them in burial, because you have destroyed your land, you have killed your people. 

May the descendants of evildoer nevermore be named!

Matthew 9.18-34
While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, ‘My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.’ And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.’ Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well. When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute-players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, ‘Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. And the report of this spread throughout that district.

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you.’ And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, ‘See that no one knows of this.’ But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district.

After they had gone away, a demoniac who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the one who had been mute spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, ‘Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.’ But the Pharisees said, ‘By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons.’ 

The Collect
Creator and Father of eternity,
whose martyr Clement bore witness with his blood to the love he proclaimed and the gospel that he preached:
give us thankful hearts as we celebrate your faithfulness, revealed to us in the lives of your saints,
and strengthen us in our pilgrimage as we follow your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Can't make it to church? 22 November 2015

The Christian year, liturgically speaking, begins with Advent Sunday and has its last Sunday (today) with Christ the King - and this, like every year, has been immense.

Advent sees us preparing  for the birth of Jesus and this is where our year gets started as we find ourselves with shepherds, magi, baptism, miracles, transfiguration, triumphal entry, betrayal, beating and finally death… And then resurrection: Rebirth, appearing, ascending, Spirit descending - living in the power of the risen Christ: And then repeat again!

The purple of Advent gives way to the white and gold of Christmas just as it does at Lent: two preparations: the first for a baby, the second for a resurrected Christ.

Today, Christ the King, we focus on the Lordship of Jesus, the Christ and we hold ourselves up against him and ask ourselves, “How have we done?”

Jesus, a King whose kingdom is not of this world coming in to a world of a cruel and wicked puppet King, and frightening him when he hears that the ‘King of kings is coming to his patch’!

Joy to the world! Yeah, if it's not your child going to be killed as Herod tries to eradicate the threat that this newborn King apparently is – after all, he’s killed his own kids to stave off any threat to his throne, what's the kids of others matter?

Preparation for the job ahead sees Jesus in the wilderness: how have we done in the comfort and plenty of where we find ourselves I wonder? What have, and how have we, experienced in our wilderness moments? How have we handled the job in hand?

Jesus comes as a servant into a place where the King lived to be served. He with all authority and power was vanished away to another country as a refugee – escaping death at the hands of a despotic leader. I wonder if He and His family were welcomed. Did the powers that be in Egypt have a debate and vote to not allow refugees into their land like the Americans just have?

Here we are at another Christ the King, but so what? One of the joys of being part of a church that is grounded in the word and focuses on the calendar is that we mark many important moments in our feasts and festivals and lectionary readings, but to what end? Do they challenge, inspire and change us, or are they as hollow as Christmas is for some when they have reached the age where it means socks, underpants and slippers? Have we lost the joy of our first love and allowed our zeal to become mere habit?

Every Sunday we pray, “Your Kingdom come…” And yet, as Justin Welby himself has said regarding the Paris murders, “I ask where God is and I have my own personal doubt over it.” We pray it, but when do we see it, hear of others experiencing it, experience it for ourselves?

And of that passing doubt; it needs to be treasured for it is in doubt that our faith is made real. I thank God for a man at the helm who shares the same highs and lows, trials and tests as me (though many will I am sure vilify and criticise him for his honesty).

This leads us to a junction where we can continue towards the cross, praying, reading, trusting, serving others and worshipping God in word, music, prayer and life.


We can decide that we need to take things into our own hands and so we campaign, we act in our own strong that bringing into being those things that we consider to be ‘best’ with little thought to what the Christ calls us to look and live like.


Assuming that our God is impotent and unable (or worse still: Unwilling) to act, decide to embark upon a popularity contest and rewrite the Bible and recreate God to make her popular and where there were commandments establish suggestions which possess nothing of the essential about them.

Which paths have we taken:   Personally. -  Corporately as congregation. -  Collectively as Church

Let's revisit today’s readings:

‘To Him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.
Do we believe this to be true?

Look! He is coming with the clouds, every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.
I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Are we expectantly looking to the East and the dawn that heralds the coming of Jesus, the Christ, the Almighty?

Then Pilate summoned Jesus again, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’
Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’

Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’
Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’

Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’
Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’

Are we listening to the authentic voice of Jesus in our lives, the lives of those around us and for our nation?

You can hear one of the versions I did of this Sunday's sermon HERE

The Collect
Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven that he might rule over all things as Lord and King: keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace, and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Daniel 7.9-10,13,14
As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgement, and the books were opened. “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

Revelation 1.4b-8

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,  and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.  Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

John 18.33-37

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?”

Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?”

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?”

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world - to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Post Communion prayer

Stir up, O Lord, The wills of your faithful people;
That they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
May by you be plenteously rewarded;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.