Friday, 29 May 2015

Morning Prayer - 29 May 15

Psalm 142

I cry aloud to the Lord; to the Lord I make my supplication. I pour out my complaint before him and tell him of my trouble.

When my spirit faints within me, you know my path; in the way wherein I walk have they laid a snare for me. I look to my right hand, and find no one who knows me; I have no place to flee to, and no one cares for my soul. I cry out to you, O Lord, and say: 
‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living. Listen to my cry, for I am brought very low; save me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me. Bring my soul out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name; when you have dealt bountifully with me. then shall the righteous gather around me.’

Psalm 144

Blessed be the Lord my rock, who teaches my hands for war and my fingers for battle; My steadfast help and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield in whom I trust, who subdues the peoples under me.
O Lord, what are mortals that you should consider them; mere human beings, that you should take thought for them?
They are like a breath of wind; their days pass away like a shadow. Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down; touch the mountains and they shall smoke. Cast down your lightnings and scatter them; shoot out your arrows and let thunder roar. Reach down your hand from on high; deliver me and take me out of the great waters, from the hand of foreign enemies, Whose mouth speaks wickedness and their right hand is the hand of falsehood.
O God, I will sing to you a new song; I will play to you on a ten-stringed harp, You that give salvation to kings and have delivered David your servant. Save me from the peril of the sword and deliver me from the hand of foreign enemies,
Whose mouth speaks wickedness and whose right hand is the hand of falsehood; So that our sons in their youth may be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters like pillars carved for the corners of the temple. Our barns be filled with all manner of store; our flocks bearing thousands, and ten thousands in our fields;
Our cattle be heavy with young: 
may there be no miscarriage or untimely birth,no cry of distress in our streets.
Happy are the people whose blessing this is. Happy are the people who have the Lord for their God.

2 Chronicles 22.10-23.end

Now when Athaliah, Ahaziah’s mother, saw that her son was dead, she set about to destroy all the royal family of the house of Judah. But Jehoshabeath, the king’s daughter, took Joash son of Ahaziah, and stole him away from among the king’s children who were about to be killed; she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus Jehoshabeath, daughter of King Jehoram and wife of the priest Jehoiada—because she was a sister of Ahaziah—hid him from Athaliah, so that she did not kill him;he remained with them for six years, hidden in the house of God, while Athaliah reigned over the land.
But in the seventh year Jehoiada took courage, and entered into a compact with the commanders of the hundreds, Azariah son of Jeroham, Ishmael son of Jehohanan, Azariah son of Obed, Maaseiah son of Adaiah, and Elishaphat son of Zichri. They went about through Judah and gathered the Levites from all the towns of Judah, and the heads of families of Israel, and they came to Jerusalem. Then the whole assembly made a covenant with the king in the house of God. Jehoiada said to them, ‘Here is the king’s son! Let him reign, as the Lord promised concerning the sons of David. This is what you are to do: one-third of you, priests and Levites, who come on duty on the sabbath, shall be gatekeepers, one-third shall be at the king’s house, and one-third at the Gate of the Foundation; and all the people shall be in the courts of the house of the Lord. Do not let anyone enter the house of the Lord except the priests and ministering Levites; they may enter, for they are holy, but all the other people shall observe the instructions of the Lord. The Levites shall surround the king, each with his weapons in his hand; and whoever enters the house shall be killed. Stay with the king in his comings and goings.’
The Levites and all Judah did according to all that the priest Jehoiada commanded; each brought his men, who were to come on duty on the sabbath, with those who were to go off duty on the sabbath; for the priest Jehoiada did not dismiss the divisions. The priest Jehoiada delivered to the captains the spears and the large and small shields that had been King David’s, which were in the house of God; and he set all the people as a guard for the king, everyone with weapon in hand, from the south side of the house to the north side of the house, around the altar and the house. Then he brought out the king’s son, put the crown on him, and gave him the covenant;they proclaimed him king, and Jehoiada and his sons anointed him; and they shouted, ‘Long live the king!’
When Athaliah heard the noise of the people running and praising the king, she went into the house of the Lordto the people; and when she looked, there was the king standing by his pillar at the entrance, and the captains and the trumpeters beside the king, and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets, and the singers with their musical instruments leading in the celebration. Athaliah tore her clothes, and cried, ‘Treason! Treason!’ Then the priest Jehoiada brought out the captains who were set over the army, saying to them, ‘Bring her out between the ranks; anyone who follows her is to be put to the sword.’ For the priest said, ‘Do not put her to death in the house of the Lord.’ So they laid hands on her; she went into the entrance of the Horse Gate of the king’s house, and there they put her to death.
Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and all the people and the king that they should be the Lord’s people. Then all the people went to the house of Baal, and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan, the priest of Baal, in front of the altars.Jehoiada assigned the care of the house of the Lord to the levitical priests whom David had organized to be in charge of the house of the Lord, to offer burnt-offerings to the Lord, as it is written in the law of Moses, with rejoicing and with singing, according to the order of David. He stationed the gatekeepers at the gates of the house of the Lord so that no one should enter who was in any way unclean. And he took the captains, the nobles, the governors of the people, and all the people of the land, and they brought the king down from the house of the Lord, marching through the upper gate to the king’s house. They set the king on the royal throne. So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been killed with the sword.

Romans 3.1-20


Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written,
‘So that you may be justified in your words, and prevail in your judging.’ 
But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), ‘Let us do evil so that good may come’? Their condemnation is deserved!
What then? Are we any better off?No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin,as it is written:
‘There is no one who is righteous, not even one; there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.’
‘Their throats are opened graves; they use their tongues to deceive.’ The venom of vipers is under their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.’ Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery are in their paths, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.’
Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For ‘no human being will be justified in his sight’ by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.



The Collect

O Lord, from whom all good things come: grant to us your humble servants, that by your holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by your merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Morning Prayer - 28 May 15

Lanfranc, Prior of Le Bec, Archbishop of Canterbury, Scholar, 1089

Psalm 143
Hear my prayer, O Lord, and in your faithfulness give ear to my supplications; answer me in your righteousness. Enter not into judgement with your servant, for in your sight shall no one living be justified.

For the enemy has pursued me, crushing my life to the ground, making me sit in darkness like those long dead. My spirit faints within me; my heart within me is desolate. I remember the time past; I muse upon all your deeds, I consider the works of your hands.I stretch out my hands to you; my soul gasps for you like a thirsty land. O Lord, make haste to answer me; my spirit fails me; hide not your face from me lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear of your loving-kindness in the morning, for in you I put my trust;  show me the way I should walk in, for I lift up my soul to you. Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies, for I flee to you for refuge.

Teach me to do what pleases you, for you are my God; let your kindly spirit lead me on a level path. Revive me, O Lord, for your name’s sake; for your righteousness’ sake, bring me out of trouble. In your faithfulness, slay my enemies, and destroy all the adversaries of my soul,for truly I am your servant.

Psalm 146
Alleluia.
Praise the Lord, O my soul: while I live will I praise the Lord;  as long as I have any being, I will sing praises to my God. Put not your trust in princes, nor in any human power, for there is no help in them. When their breath goes forth, they return to the earth; on that day all their thoughts perish. 

Happy are those who have the God of Jacob for their help,whose hope is in the Lord their God; Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; who keeps his promise for ever; Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong and bread to those who hunger.
The Lord looses those that are bound;the Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous
The Lord watches over the stranger in the land, he upholds the orphan and widow; but the way of the wicked he turns upside down.
The Lord shall reign for ever, your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.
Alleluia

2 Chronicles 20.1-23
After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites,came against Jehoshaphat for battle. Messengers came and told Jehoshaphat, ‘A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; already they are at Hazazon-tamar’ (that is, En-gedi). Jehoshaphat was afraid; he set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the towns of Judah they came to seek the Lord

Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said, ‘O Lord, God of our ancestors, are you not God in heaven? Do you not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations? In your hand are power and might, so that no one is able to withstand you. Did you not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it for ever to the descendants of your friend Abraham? They have lived in it, and in it have built you a sanctuary for your name, saying, “If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgement, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house, and before you, for your name is in this house, and cry to you in our distress, and you will hear and save.” See now, the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy—they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession that you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not execute judgement upon them? For we are powerless against this great multitude that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

Meanwhile all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. Then the spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the middle of the assembly. He said, ‘Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you: “Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them; they will come up by the ascent of Ziz; you will find them at the end of the valley, before the wilderness of Jeruel. This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.” Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.’

Then Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshipping the Lord. And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice

They rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God and you will be established; believe his prophets.’ When he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy splendour, as they went before the army, saying,

‘Give thanks to the Lord,  for his steadfast love endures for ever.’ 

As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the Ammonites, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. For the Ammonites and Moab attacked the inhabitants of Mount Seir, destroying them utterly; and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.

Romans 2.17-end
But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? You that boast in the law, do you dishonour God by breaking the law? For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’

Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.

The Collect
O Lord, from whom all good things come: grant to us your humble servants, that by your holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by your merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Morning Prayer - 27 May 15

Psalm 119.153-end
O consider my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law. Plead my cause and redeem me; according to your promise, give me life. Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes.

Great is your compassion, O Lord; give me life, according to your judgements. Many there are that persecute and oppress me, yet do I not swerve from your testimonies. It grieves me when I see the treacherous, for they do not keep your word. Consider, O Lord, how I love your commandments; give me life according to your loving-kindness. The sum of your word is truth, and all your righteous judgements endure for evermore. Princes have persecuted me without a cause, but my heart stands in awe of your word. I am as glad of your word as one who finds great spoils. As for lies, I hate and abhor them, but your law do I love. Seven times a day do I praise you, because of your righteous judgements.

Great peace have they who love your law; nothing shall make them stumble. Lord, I have looked for your salvation and I have fulfilled your commandments. My soul has kept your testimonies and greatly have I loved them. I have kept your commandments and testimonies, for all my ways are before you. Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding, according to your word. Let my supplication come before you; deliver me, according to your promises. My lips shall pour forth your praise, when you have taught me your statutes.

My tongue shall sing of your word, for all your commandments are righteous. Let your hand reach out to help me, for I have chosen your commandments. I have longed for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight. Let my soul live and it shall praise you, and let your judgements be my help. I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost; O seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.


2 Chronicles 18.28-19.end
So the king of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead. The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘I will disguise myself and go into battle, but you wear your robes.’ So the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle. Now the king of Aram had commanded the captains of his chariots, ‘Fight with no one small or great, but only with the king of Israel.’ When the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, ‘It is the king of Israel.’ So they turned to fight against him; and Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him. God drew them away from him, for when the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him. But a certain man drew his bow and unknowingly struck the king of Israel between the scale armour and the breastplate; so he said to the driver of his chariot, ‘Turn around, and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.’ The battle grew hot that day, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot facing the Arameans until evening; then at sunset he died.

King Jehoshaphat of Judah returned in safety to his house in Jerusalem. Jehu son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, ‘Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the Lord. Nevertheless, some good is found in you, for you destroyed the sacred poles out of the land, and have set your heart to seek God.’

Jehoshaphat resided at Jerusalem; then he went out again among the people, from Beer-sheba to the hill country of Ephraim, and brought them back to the Lord, the God of their ancestors. He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, and said to the judges, ‘Consider what you are doing, for you judge not on behalf of human beings but on the Lord’s behalf; he is with you in giving judgement. Now, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take care what you do, for there is no perversion of justice with the Lord our God, or partiality, or taking of bribes.’

Moreover, in Jerusalem Jehoshaphat appointed certain Levites and priests and heads of families of Israel, to give judgement for the Lord and to decide disputed cases. They had their seat at Jerusalem. He charged them: ‘This is how you shall act: in the fear of the Lord, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart; whenever a case comes to you from your kindred who live in their cities, concerning bloodshed, law or commandment, statutes or ordinances, then you shall instruct them, so that they may not incur guilt before the Lord and wrath may not come on you and your kindred. Do so, and you will not incur guilt. See, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the Lord; and Zebadiah son of Ishmael, the governor of the house of Judah, in all the king’s matters; and the Levites will serve you as officers. Deal courageously, and may the Lord be with the good!’


Romans 2.1-16
Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, ‘We know that God’s judgement on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’ Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgement of God? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.

The Collect
O Lord, from whom all good things come: grant to us your humble servants, that by your holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by your merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Can't make it to Church (24 May 15)? 'Business as unusual!'

So that's it then. Jesus has been crucified, dead, buried, come back and just when everyone thinks it's going to be 'business as usual' He legs it back up to heaven and it becomes 'business as unusual'!

There they all were (in one place), the weak and wobbly believers,  when suddenly there's a sound of rushing wind and there it is, a flame appears above each of their heads! This is the coming of the Holy Spirit - a 'He' not an it, for we are speaking of a person and not some abstract entity or something in a sheet and looking like the ghost that the older expression (Holy Ghost) might suggest.

But how do we best understand the Holy Spirit? For me, one of the best expressions we have is that of 'paraclete' - meaning someone who comes alongside to render assistance. Assistance in a number of ways (it's where we get the word 'paramedic' from: One who comes alongside to offer support and solutions to things medical).

When you're lost and need a guide to get you to somewhere safe: That's the Holy Spirit!

When you're up a gum tree and need someone to get you back to a place where your feet are on the ground and there's less terror and things are firmer: That's the Holy Spirit too!

When you need some good advice from an unbiased and supportive person: Yep, you've guessed - it's the Holy Spirit you want!

Need someone to cheer you on? The Holy Spirit's your man!

In fact, you need it, He's the source and He is always with you. The same Spirit that raised Jesus (the Christ) from the dead; who is Jesus (the bible tells us that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are 'dot for dot' (they use the word 'allow heaters') the same: Imagine a piece of colour printing where the colours don't line up: That's what Jesus and the Holy Spirit aren't like - they are exactly the same 'dot for dot'!

This is the day when the age of the Spirit comes to us and we look to the second coming of Jesus.

This is the day when we find the inspiration (it mean's God's very own words) filling our ears and His touch changing our lives - we are enabled, empowered and our redemption is made all that more real.

How can anyone not really want that?



The Collect
Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, ignite in us your holy fire;
strengthen your children with the gift of faith,
revive your Church with the breath of love,
and renew the face of the earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.




Acts 2.1-21
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”




Ezekiel 37.1-14
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.’


John 15.15-29
If you love me, you will keep my commandments and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees it nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 

Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. 

These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.



Post Communion Prayer
Faithful God,
who fulfilled the promises of Easter
by sending us your Holy Spirit
and opening to every race and nation
the way of life eternal:
open our lips by your Spirit,
that every tongue may tell of your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Night Prayer (Compline) on the eve of Pentecost

The Lord almighty grant us a quiet night and a perfect end. Amen.

Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.

A period of silence to reflect on the day now past

Most merciful God, I confess to you, before the whole company of heaven and one another, that I have sinned in thought, word and deed and in what I have failed to do.
Forgive me my sins, heal me by your Spirit and raise me to new life in Christ. Amen.

O God, make speed to save us. O Lord, make haste to help us.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning is now and shall be for ever. Amen. 
Alleluia.

Before the ending of the day, Creator of the world, we pray
That you, with steadfast love, would keep Your watch around us while we sleep.

From evil dreams defend our sight, From fears and terrors of the night;
Tread underfoot our deadly foe That we no sinful thought may know.

O Father, that we ask be done Through Jesus Christ, your only Son;
And Holy Spirit, by whose breath Our souls are raised to life from death.


Psalm 86
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and in misery.
Preserve my soul, for I am faithful; save your servant, for I put my trust in you.
Be merciful to me, O Lord, for you are my God; I call upon you all the day long.
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For you, Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer and listen to the voice of my supplication.
In the day of my distress I will call upon you, for you will answer me.
Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord, nor any works like yours.
All nations you have made shall come and worship you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wonderful things; you alone are God.
Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you, that I may fear your name.
I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and glorify your name for evermore;
For great is your steadfast love towards me, for you have delivered my soul from the depths of the grave.
O God, the proud rise up against me and a ruthless horde seek after my life; they have not set you before their eyes.
But you, Lord, are gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and full of kindness and truth.
Turn to me and have mercy upon me; give your strength to your servant and save the child of your handmaid.
Show me a token of your favour, that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed; because you, O Lord, have helped and comforted me.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning is now and shall be for ever. Amen.

I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. The old shall dream dreams and the young shall see visions.
Joel 2.28

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
AllInto your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
For you have redeemed me, Lord God of truth. I commend my spirit.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Keep me as the apple of your eye. Hide me under the shadow of your wings.


The Nunc Dimittis (Song of Simeon)
Alleluia.The Holy Spirit, the Advocate, alleluia,
shall teach us all things. Alleluia, alleluia.

Now, Lord, you let your servant go in peace: your word has been fulfilled.
My own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people;
A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; 
as it was in the beginning is now and shall be for ever. Amen.

Alleluia.The Holy Spirit, the Advocate, alleluia,
shall teach you all things. Alleluia, alleluia.

Intercessions, thanks and general prayers may be offered here.

The Collect
God, who as at this time taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things
and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

In peace we will lie down and sleep; for you alone, Lord, make us dwell in safety.
Abide with us, Lord Jesus, for the night is at hand and the day is now past.
As the night watch looks for the morning, so do we look for you, O Christ.
Come with the dawning of the day and make yourself known in the breaking of the bread.

May the Holy Spirit of God bless and sanctify us so that we may be consecrated in the truth. Amen.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Called? Back from Conference (and it's not 'Yes')

One of the most consistent things to come out of my conversations regarding those who have been to a selection conference is: 'Please don't just ignore us!'

I have encountered a few (well eight to be exact) people who felt that the message, 'Go away and forget about it all,' was the wrong message to give because whet they heard was, 'Go Away - you are a failure!' I am sure this was not the case but the fact is that there is pain and confused perception on one side and an almost embarrassed and, albeit well-meaning, something or other from those occupying the 'sending' side.

Then again others (four) have told me that all they wanted to do was be left alone to come to terms with the outcome and then return (or perhaps not) when they felt like it.

First and foremost we need to see the person before us. I have had conversations with people who shared their checklists with me and yet I felt that, laudable as they were, we merely turned a 'friend' into a candidate who we deal with as if we were merely replacing fallen books in a library! We need to communicate the fact that the person before us is not a 'failed candidate': They have not failed - they have merely not been selected at this time! We have a situation whereby, should they continue to seek to discern a felt calling to ordained ministry, they are in the position of 'Not Yet!'

Of course if the letter said 'Go away and do not come back' or 'have a look at Reader or some other form of ministry, just not ordained' the challenge is a bit different, but let's assume we're dealing with the 'Not Yet!' for now and have a think about what we do.

I'm effectively reading back and brainstorming and creating this as I go. It's probably wrong in some people's books but it's been the essence of supporting those who have had the 'not yet' badge pinned to them:

i.a Be honest regarding selectors and process - because to ascribe a lack of vision or anything that dismisses the selectors as a bunch of idiots is to question those who got a green light to continue! I have a great deal of trust in selectors and whilst we all have the potential to get it wrong, I think the system is pretty trustworthy. To undermine it in any way is to render the process, and the candidate before you, as having a lesser value. It's an outcome - that's it, the most positive and supportive way forward from it is now the important thing to be seeking.

But

1.b Be honest regarding the candidate and the report*  - Be careful you don't undermine the person before you either. The prize for this goes to the person whose response was to cancel the 'failed' candidate's room at a clergy conference and then proceed to effectively 'sack' them from shadowing them as, 'They were no longer suitable!' Yay, way to go on the encouragement and pastoral care fronts guys! 

ii. Expect emotions - but what emotions I can't say because I have encountered anger, defeat, unbelief, tears, resignation (of the, 'I knew this would happen,' kind) and more besides. The key is to be open to all and any and to be honest and supportive and to realise that you might just be the person on the help desk when the telephone rings and you have a frustrated or, worse still, bereaved customer before you! They will be exhibiting all of the Kübler Ross** stuff that you might expect when their is a loss:And you need to be able to deal with it just as you might had they called and told you someone they loved had just died!

I should add here that you should also be aware of your own emotions too as I have found some supporters on the journey to be more wounded and confused (and angry and bitter and cynical and ...... (add your own bit here) such that they are a bigger problem than the candidate themselves.

iii.Do not send them away - this is the biggest mistake I think I have encountered as it confirms the fact that the person before you (or in this case not before you) is not wanted. You think you're giving space, they think they're being binned! Get with them face-to-face and up close and personal (no George, not that personal dear . . . step back little!) and guide them to a place where the next step is not only theirs but is also beneficial to discerning the next step and putting aside the knee-jerk (often destructive) response.

iv. Be flexible - one of those who has dealt with returning candidates told me they always impose some breathing space and yet I have realised that for some this is the very opposite and the candidate is later found suffocated because they needed the oxygen of engagement and the hope that comes from regrouping and reassessing. Vocation, like combat, is often laid our and the paths are assumed to be straight, and then the first round is fired and the terrain is discovered and before you know it there's a bit of a rethink on the cards!

So there we are, some initial thoughts created from the experience and example of some that I have met. I hope it is helpful and that you see this as an invitation to internally discuss the stages open to you in supporting a candidate and externally with all, and any, who will do so (I'd love to because I want to be someone who helps restore the broken and testing vocation has great potential to be that thing that bears people!



Can we fix it?
Yes we can!

*If you have the report before you. The first engagement might not have that and even if it is in the hands of the candidate they have to show it to you (or permit you to have a copy).

** Elisabeth Kübler-Ross is famous in the grief, loss and bereavement side of being a minister. She listed five attributes that might, or might not, occur and even re-occur when someone has suffered a loss; and loss is about more than death of a person (it can be a career, a limb, a prized possession and much, much more besides - including the perceived, feared or realised loss of vocation and calling!):

The five traits are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

Morning Prayer - 23 May 15

Psalm 42
As the deer longs for the water brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God. My soul is athirst for God, even for the living God; when shall I come before the presence of God?
My tears have been my bread day and night, while all day long they say to me, ‘Where is now your God?’

Now when I think on these things, I pour out my soul: how I went with the multitude and led the procession to the house of God, with the voice of praise and thanksgiving, among those who kept holy day. 
Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, and why are you so disquieted within me?
O put your trust in God; for I will yet give him thanks, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

My soul is heavy within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of Jordan, and from Hermon and the hill of Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the thunder of your waterfalls; all your breakers and waves have gone over me. 

The Lord will grant his loving-kindness in the daytime; through the night his song will be with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God my rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me, and why go I so heavily, while the enemy oppresses me?’ As they crush my bones, my enemies mock me; while all day long they say to me, ‘Where is now your God?’

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? and why are you so disquieted within me?
O put your trust in God; for I will yet give him thanks, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Psalm 43
Give judgement for me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people; deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked. For you are the God of my refuge; why have you cast me from you, and why go I so heavily, while the enemy oppresses me?

O send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling, that I may go to the altar of God, to the God of my joy and gladness; and on the lyre I will give thanks to you, O God my God. 
Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, and why are you so disquieted within me?
put your trust in God; for I will yet give him thanks, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Deuteronomy 32.48-end, 34
On that very day the Lord addressed Moses as follows: ‘Ascend this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, across from Jericho, and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites for a possession; you shall die there on the mountain that you ascend and shall be gathered to your kin, as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his kin; because both of you broke faith with me among the Israelites at the waters of Meribath-kadesh in the wilderness of Zin, by failing to maintain my holiness among the Israelites. Although you may view the land from a distance, you shall not enter it—the land that I am giving to the Israelites.’ 
Is not this laid up in store with me, sealed up in my treasuries?

1 John 5
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. There are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree. If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. If you see your brother or sister committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God will give life to such a one—to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal.

We know that those who are born of God do not sin, but the one who was born of God protects them, and the evil one does not touch them. We know that we are God’s children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

The Collect
Risen, ascended Lord, as we rejoice at your triumph, fill your Church on earth with power and compassion, that all who are estranged by sin may find forgiveness and know your peace, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Church Growth: A growing area?

One of the (many) challenges I have before me is to be found in the area of church growth. 

The problem is that the only substantial growth I'm generally coming across is in people who are looking to examine and produce academic papers on the subject. I have over the past few weeks met a handful for folk, all of whom were 'church growth experts'. This was a claim they substantiated by their post graduate qualifications in the subject and the academic papers they had presented!

Now don't get me wrong, I love academic study, but in conversation this morning I have come to realise a few interesting, and quite challenging (well they were for me but I'm pretty thick!) things too. So let us stop and take stock of things for a moment (before you reach for the sticks, stones and house bricks):

If you were to read a certain book on church growth by some who was doing it you will find people reconciled to God through Jesus (the Christ) enjoying being the people of God and celebrating that reality in the company of those who were both 'near and far off'. It was just like looking at the Church that Acts describes; unity in the Church and enjoying the favour of those who were not followers of 'The Way'.

Interestingly the same person who was running this expression of Church has now moved up the ladder a bit and the same freedoms that saw them establish successful and authentic Church is now replaced by structures, strategies, administrative block(age)s and all the stuff that makes running a number of which bodies manageable. It makes sense that different levels of Church need differing parameters and areas of control - but formalising the informal is sometimes the way to impede or constrict it!

This is perhaps a problem with the planned management training of potential bishops and other senior church staff as found in the Green report. We might have a bunch of people who have all the management tools that the world uses but without that spark that gives life to the dust and makes it live, without the breath of God, the reach, which causes us to soar like an eagle.

Everywhere I look I find Church Growth strategies and yet as one of my heroes, Stanley Hauerwas, says:


Church growth strategies are the death rattle of a church that has lost its way!

But, of course, Church growth is big business and the dual truths that are to be found in the expressions that:

In the the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed man is king!

AND

Hungry men will follow the least likely of people in the hope that bread is to be found in them!

I hear of missional communities and of groups of people who are doing church in a fresh and engaged manner and yet, when I get to meet the people billed as the leaders of these happenings find something small and sometimes very much less that the PR might suggest.

Again, please don't think I'm knocking these - because I am most definitely not - but understand that as wonderful as this glowing embers are, replicating them in every aspect is (I am beginning to think) sheer folly. I have recently read a great piece of academic writing and within it find something successful grasped at, dissected and placed under the rigours of academic investigation and then the component parts are listed. But sadly, just like a flower or animal we have dissected, examined, understood the physiology and then itemised - the reality is that when we come to replicate or re-assemble the blessed thing all we have is something that is dead. We might understand the component parts and the processes but regardless of whatever it is that we have found, the reconstructed entity is dead.

We can scan a living hand and make a 3-D print of it and even though we might work hard to make it look like it is alive, it will never have the life of the original!


We talk of 'Best Practice' and we grasp at 'effective models of Church' and yet in doing so rationalise and construct some sort of Frankenstein-like monster which has the attributes of life but is not only pretty scary but pretty ugly too - and I see the Bride of Christ as something beautiful.

It is underpinned by prayer and enabled and given life by the Holy Spirit.

It is a body who are of one heart and mind, united in their hunger for the word and the love of those around them (close, near and far off) and this makes the what we now call 'missional'.

It is a bunch of people who support each other spiritually and, when the need arises, financially too; a people who pick up the fallen; heal the broken; correct those in error.

Authentic Church contains all of the above (and I'm sure you can all add to the list which is why we are all doing so well). It draws on the opportunities to put tools in the box so that we can build church (Tools like Mission Shaped Introduction and Mission Shaped Ministry and LYCIG* and more besides).

Desperation calls for desperate measures - but we aren't desperate, were assured and rather than worrying about numbers we are concerned with reconciling people to God through the Cross of the Christ and the fulfilment of the calling we have as the people of God.

we are, aren't we?




*LYCIG     Leading Your Church into Growth