Friday, 19 September 2014

Morning Prayer - September 19

Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury, 690 

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 Samuel 23.1-7
Now these are the last words of David:
The oracle of David, son of Jesse, the oracle of the man whom God exalted, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the favourite of the Strong One of Israel:

The spirit of the Lord speaks through me, his word is upon my tongue.
The God of Israel has spoken, the Rock of Israel has said to me: One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.

Is not my house like this with God?
For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure.
Will he not cause to prosper all my help and my desire?
But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away; for they cannot be picked up with the hand; to touch them one uses an iron bar or the shaft of a spear. And they are entirely consumed in fire on the spot.

Acts 12.18-end
When morning came, there was no small commotion among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. When Herod had searched for him and could not find him, he examined the guards and ordered them to be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.
Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they came to him in a body; and after winning over Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for a reconciliation, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat on the platform, and delivered a public address to them. The people kept shouting, ‘The voice of a god, and not of a mortal!’ And immediately, because he had not given the glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.

But the word of God continued to advance and gain adherents. Then after completing their mission Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem and brought with them John, whose other name was Mark.

The Collect
Almighty God,
who called your Church to bear witness that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:
help us to proclaim the good news of your love, that all who hear it may be drawn to you;
through him who was lifted up on the cross, and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Morning Prayer - September 18

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 Samuel 19.24-end
Mephibosheth grandson of Saul came down to meet the king; he had not taken care of his feet, or trimmed his beard, or washed his clothes, from the day the king left until the day he came back in safety. When he came from Jerusalem to meet the king, the king said to him, ‘Why did you not go with me, Mephibosheth?’ He answered, ‘My lord, O king, my servant deceived me; for your servant said to him, “Saddle a donkey for me, so that I may ride on it and go with the king.” For your servant is lame. He has slandered your servant to my lord the king. But my lord the king is like the angel of God; do therefore what seems good to you. For all my father’s house were doomed to death before my lord the king; but you set your servant among those who eat at your table. What further right have I, then, to appeal to the king?’ The king said to him, ‘Why speak any more of your affairs? I have decided: you and Ziba shall divide the land.’ Mephibosheth said to the king, ‘Let him take it all, since my lord the king has arrived home safely.’

Now Barzillai the Gileadite had come down from Rogelim; he went on with the king to the Jordan, to escort him over the Jordan. Barzillai was a very aged man, eighty years old. He had provided the king with food while he stayed at Mahanaim, for he was a very wealthy man. The king said to Barzillai, ‘Come over with me, and I will provide for you in Jerusalem at my side.’ But Barzillai said to the king, ‘How many years have I still to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? Today I am eighty years old; can I discern what is pleasant and what is not? Can your servant taste what he eats or what he drinks? Can I still listen to the voice of singing men and singing women? Why then should your servant be an added burden to my lord the king? Your servant will go a little way over the Jordan with the king. Why should the king recompense me with such a reward? Please let your servant return, so that I may die in my own town, near the graves of my father and my mother. But here is your servant Chimham; let him go over with my lord the king; and do for him whatever seems good to you.’ The king answered, ‘Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do for him whatever seems good to you; and all that you desire of me I will do for you.’ Then all the people crossed over the Jordan, and the king crossed over; the king kissed Barzillai and blessed him, and he returned to his own home. The king went on to Gilgal, and Chimham went on with him; all the people of Judah, and also half the people of Israel, brought the king on his way.

Then all the people of Israel came to the king, and said to him, ‘Why have our kindred the people of Judah stolen you away, and brought the king and his household over the Jordan, and all David’s men with him?’ All the people of Judah answered the people of Israel, ‘Because the king is near of kin to us. Why then are you angry over this matter? Have we eaten at all at the king’s expense? Or has he given us any gift?’ But the people of Israel answered the people of Judah, ‘We have ten shares in the king, and in David also we have more than you. Why then did you despise us? Were we not the first to speak of bringing back our king?’ But the words of the people of Judah were fiercer than the words of the people of Israel.

Acts 12.1-17
About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.

The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, ‘Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.’ He did so. Then he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’ Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’

As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many had gathered and were praying. When he knocked at the outer gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. On recognising Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the gate, she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind!’ But she insisted that it was so. They said, ‘It is his angel.’ Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the gate, they saw him and were amazed. He motioned to them with his hand to be silent, and described for them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he added, ‘Tell this to James and to the believers.’ Then he left and went to another place.

The Collect
Almighty God,
who called your Church to bear witness
that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:
help us to proclaim the good news of your love,
that all who hear it may be drawn to you;
through him who was lifted up on the cross,
and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Update on Iraq: September 17

This report from Iraq (via Operation Mobilization) speaks for itself and highlights the need to continue praying and supporting all those affected by the actions of IS in Iraq (especially as we seem to be distracted by the Scottish referendum at the moment):

“I no longer have any words to tell the people,”
the local pastor says, with an overwhelming sense of sadness. “After all that has happened and all I have heard, I have no words left to give them.”

The Pastor, a strong-looking, tall man in early middle age, takes time for us in his office in northern Iraq. A security monitor in the corner shows the road outside the church, a silent reminder of the ever-present threat of increased insecurity.

Inside the office, a quiet air conditioner makes the room much more comfortable than the corridor outside, where several people mill around. Guests of the church fill the rooms and floors night after night. They are guests because they no longer have a place to call home, having been chased from their cities and their villages by the Islamic fundamentalists of Islamic State, or ISIS.

The Pastor states, “We try to prioritise the most needy, but how do we turn people away? How can we do that?”

We sit together, and I ask him about the challenges he is facing, wanting to know more so that that people can be informed and stand with him in prayer.

A few days earlier we had sat together and talked about the church’s planned activities to support these internally displaced people (IDPs) from elsewhere in Iraq. The Pastor had outlined the plan to hire a wedding hall to house and feed another 50 families. He had listed the differing departments the church had designated–some overseeing the provision of food, some the distribution of clothes, still others the essential items for sleeping night after night in a hall full of people.

This local church in northern Iraq is a compelling example of a church putting love into action.

During this meeting, the Pastor spares more of his precious, much-demanded minutes to give an update on the progress of plans to start a school for IDP children–plans that just got approval in an astonishingly quick two days. He recounts a more troubling development. “A key leader is leaving,” he says resignedly. Not a major problem, in normal circumstances. But these are not normal circumstances. Right now the church needs all the leadership it can get, as it struggles to minister to a multitude, who are traumatised, despairing, and facing an utterly uncertain future. But it is impossible to blame the leader for wanting to leave. Utterly horrific stories are emerging of cases where fleeing people have had a child grabbed from them by ISIS.

This is how bad the situation is. Many Iraqis are trying to leave, hoping to reach a bordering country, and then, if they can, countries beyond. And church leaders are amongst them.

“I’ve had to think: if [ISIS] can do that to people there, they can do it here,” another church leader explained to my colleague. “I’m starting to wonder if I should send my wife and daughter somewhere safer.”

“What’s your biggest challenge? How can the [global] Church pray for you?”
I’d asked these same questions the day before to another pastor, in a city close to the border. The same answer came: “So many of our people are leaving. They’ve lost confidence in the country; they don’t feel they can live here.” 

Late the previous evening, I’d stood on the curb in a hot, dimly lit town street as I waited with another pastor for our vehicle to have its leaking fuel line fixed. “It’s only by God’s grace that I keep going each day,” he said. “I’m so tired.”

We met with dozens of families who filled block after block of unfinished concrete building shells. The pastor was surrounded by people pressing in to tell him their needs. Caught up in a sea of bodies, his face was shining with a tangible sense of the presence of Jesus. Those I’ve worked with, who walk most closely to situations of despair, who minister to the needs of the most desperate, are sometimes marked by this joy. Not bleakness or a sense of world-weariness, but a sense of God’s presence that is unstained by the vileness of this life that washes over them in their daily encounters. The presence of Jesus was amongst those people that evening, as the pastor moved amongst them.

Yet he, too, spoke of key people leaving. In the book of Exodus, Moses holds his arms up, and the battle favours his people. Yet when his arms drop from weariness, the battle turns against them. Victory comes when those around him–his key lieutenants–hold up his exhausted arms. There’s no clearer picture of Christian leadership in situations where the task is so great. No leader can minister alone; they need their team around them. Right now across northern Iraq, at one of the church’s most crucial hours, leaders are being abandoned. Alone, they can only stand for so long.

Please pray for these leaders.
Pray that despite the despair they face every day, and the huge needs they are struggling to meet, they would be able to keep going.
Pray that they would find, somewhere, words of hope to speak to people who have lost everything.
Pray that their co-leaders, where they can, will stay.
Pray that others will rise up, even those young in faith, who will stand with them.

The early church leaders only had, at most, three years of discipleship before the task of building the church was turned over to them. This is an incredibly important time for the church in Iraq and in the Kurdish regions. And yet its leaders face being abandoned at the height of their struggle.

In response to the current crisis, OM has launched a relief project that is currently being implemented in four locations in North Iraq, helping thousands of people from Christian, Yazidi and minority Muslim backgrounds, with basic food aid, hygiene kits, mattresses, and blankets to help with immediate needs. Just $100 will provide a FOOD PACKET to feed a family of six for one month. $200 will feed two families. It will make a huge difference to Muslim refugees who are terrified and trying to survive.

The situation is very fluid, and the response is adapting in some places on an almost daily basis.



Please pray and think about other ways you might be able to help

Churchastrain

I struggle with many of the Christians who tell me how we do too much and boast that this their primary message from the pulpit and on the streets is : The Church needs to stop doing and 'Just Be'!" Now accepting that this is a mantra I have used myself I have to ask why does it cause such me such angst?

A conversation regarding this led me to realise that for many of us in Church the most apt analogy is that where the gathering of Christians is portrayed as a train, and here's my reasoning:

The locomotive is full of people with energy, vision, enthusiasm and commitment. It doesn't matter how long they've been Christian or how long they've been in the church or eve how old they are, these are the drivers, doers, movers and shakers. They have a head of steam and are keen to keep themselves and the church on the rails.

Behind them is the ministry team - those people who are keen to enable, equip and release those moving the train forward; fuelling, watering, maintaining and repairing wheresoever the need might arise.

Then come the carriages, each bearing the good names like 'just be' and 'family commitments' and (full of)  'good intentions' and once they are coupled to the tender, the train is ready to leave the station - with nothing to slow it's steady (also known as 'snail's pace') progress towards growing the kingdom.

Well nothing except perhaps the endeavours of the stalwart members (also know as 'stalewart' in some circles) who populate the brake van at the rear of the train whose job, as I'm sure many will already know, is to apply the brakes should the whole caboose start to run too quickly. This is done effectively in so many instances by the application of the mantras of 'tried that before, it didn't work' and 'we're not THAT sort of church' and the like.


When I was in my sending church I had a family and was a member of a church and there was little conflict between the two. We went to church and lived our lives as a family and the two aspects of our life rarely collided. If we went away for the weekend we did it in such a way that we had Friday and Saturday and managed it so that, as much as possible we were back for the Sunday service. After all, Sundays are usually taken up with getting up and having something to eat and then heading home so what did we miss by leaving early on a Sunday or late on a Saturday?

We balanced and managed our lives so that the two important things worked together and we were blessed by it (and I hope family and church were too) and so were not confined to the 'family' coach but were free to get on the footplate.

The 'Good Intentions' carriage is another struggle; for we all fall foul of this minefield. We all want to be useful and to be an active members (we do, don't we?) - but the problem is that we don't put the stuff in our diaries or perhaps we really mean to be somewhere but then the lure of friends and getting together or visiting a pub or doing any one of a million other things that crop up just get in the way. The problem is that this is the active outworking of the passage where the Bible tells us that where our treasure is, that's where our heart is to be found. If we are really engaged and committed then we will move heaven and earth, put off the distractions and get onboard with Church. It's like having friends who never come round (or perhaps never invite you to their homes) - eventually you realise that they are friends at all - same applies to Church: You get to realise that they are acquaintances and destined to never be close (or even, to be honest) friends (at all)!

The Stalewarts at the back are a real challenge because these are really the people who, knowing the
track, should be up the front in the loco' but instead struggle to keep their church as it was when they were young (a great example being a church member who recently told me that they wished the children who visited wouldn't because , "It spoiled the service!" Ironically it is a church with almost no children in it - wonder why?). Armed with buckets of water to extinguish the flames in the firebox they criticise and carp and complain and hearken back to the old days when, "You couldn't get a seat!"

Should they find people who want to take the church in a new direction they apply the brakes and rush round making sure the points are set in the 'right' direction and then, assured that they are on a familiar track, allow the train to proceed. Even then, should things start to speed up past the point of their liking then on go the brakes again until those driving things get the message and slow down, give up or (better still) leave!

Then along come the 'Just Be' folk - the people who, as I have in the past, tell everyone that it's not about doing but just resting in the Lord. The problem with this is that my reason for telling people this is to get them to develop a relationship with God because things will come out of that whilst it seems others are content to have those around them 'being' and equally content with them not doing.

When I was first married, having a wife who didn't drive, when I came home and knew she was shopping I would take the route I knew she'd be on so that I might see her and give her a lift home. At other times, if she was somewhere and it started raining, I'd go and pick her up to save her from getting drenched. The outworking of my love was that I did things for the focus of that love. This is what 'Just Be' is all about - it fosters stuff as the outworking of the relationship.

James 2 sums it up wonderfully for us:

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?
Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Goodbye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”- but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.
What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless."

Faith produces doing and if you're not doing and yet claim to have a faith then something is wrong. Of course - just to make sure you don't get it wrong - if you go off doing stuff all the time and think this shows you be a Christian, then you've got it wrong (again) because regardless of how much you do, how much you give to the church or how many stained glass windows, pews or silver you give - you can't work or buy your way into heaven: It's all about relationship with God through Jesus, the Christ.

So some simple questions:

Are you on the train that is Church?

If you answered 'Yes': Where are you on it?
If you answered 'No' would you like to find out how you can be?


All aboard



Morning Prayer - September 17

Hildegard, Abbess of Bingen, Visionary, 1179

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 promise.
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 Samuel 19.8b-23
Then the king got up and took his seat in the gate. The troops were all told, ‘See, the king is sitting in the gate’; and all the troops came before the king.
Meanwhile, all the Israelites had fled to their homes. All the people were disputing throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, ‘The king delivered us from the hand of our enemies, and saved us from the hand of the Philistines; and now he has fled out of the land because of Absalom. But Absalom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle. Now therefore why do you say nothing about bringing the king back?’

King David sent this message to the priests Zadok and Abiathar, ‘Say to the elders of Judah, “Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his house? The talk of all Israel has come to the king. You are my kin, you are my bone and my flesh; why then should you be the last to bring back the king?” And say to Amasa, “Are you not my bone and my flesh? So may God do to me, and more, if you are not the commander of my army from now on, in place of Joab.” ’ Amasa swayed the hearts of all the people of Judah as one, and they sent word to the king, ‘Return, both you and all your servants.’ So the king came back to the Jordan; and Judah came to Gilgal to meet the king and to bring him over the Jordan.

Shimei son of Gera, the Benjaminite, from Bahurim, hurried to come down with the people of Judah to meet King David; with him were a thousand people from Benjamin. And Ziba, the servant of the house of Saul, with his fifteen sons and his twenty servants, rushed down to the Jordan ahead of the king, while the crossing was taking place, to bring over the king’s household, and to do his pleasure.
Shimei son of Gera fell down before the king, as he was about to cross the Jordan, and said to the king, ‘May my lord not hold me guilty or remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem; may the king not bear it in mind. For your servant knows that I have sinned; therefore, see, I have come this day, the first of all the house of Joseph to come down to meet my lord the king.’ Abishai son of Zeruiah answered, ‘Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the Lord’s anointed?’ But David said, ‘What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah, that you should today become an adversary to me? Shall anyone be put to death in Israel this day? For do I not know that I am this day king over Israel?’ The king said to Shimei, ‘You shall not die.’ And the king gave him his oath.

Acts 11.19-end
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they associated with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians’.

At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

The Collect
Most glorious and holy God,
whose servant Hildegard, strong in the faith,
was caught up in the vision of your heavenly courts: by the breath of your Spirit open our eyes to glimpse your glory
and our lips to sing your praises with all the angels;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Apointed for man to live once . . .

. . . and thenhave the opportunity to change your mind perhaps?

"Was an Atheist" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

As one who enjoys the naked pastor cartoons I have to say that this one raises a smile with me. After all, it not only sums up the human condition but also raises the question I long to ask regarding those who hold what I can only think of as dodgy theological positions too.

But whatever you think, believe or want to believe: enjoy!

Morning Prayer - September 16

Ninian, Bishop of Galloway, Apostle of the Picts, c.432
Edward Bouverie Pusey, Priest, Tractarian, 1882

Psalm 132
Lord, remember for David all the hardships he endured; How he swore an oath to the Lord and vowed a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:
‘I will not come within the shelter of my house, nor climb up into my bed; I will not allow my eyes to sleep, nor let my eyelids slumber, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.’
Now, we heard of the ark in Ephrathah and found it in the fields of Ja-ar. Let us enter his dwelling place and fall low before his footstool.

Arise, O Lord, into your resting place, you and the ark of your strength. Let your priests be clothed with righteousness and your faithful ones sing with joy. For your servant David’s sake, turn not away the face of your anointed. The Lord has sworn an oath to David, a promise from which he will not shrink:
‘Of the fruit of your body shall I set upon your throne. If your children keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them, their children also shall sit upon your throne for evermore.’

For the Lord has chosen Zion for himself; he has desired her for his habitation:
‘This shall be my resting place for ever; here will I dwell, for I have longed for her. I will abundantly bless her provision; her poor will I satisfy with bread. I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her faithful ones shall rejoice and sing. There will I make a horn to spring up for David; I will keep a lantern burning for my anointed. As for his enemies, I will clothe them with shame; but on him shall his crown be bright.’

Psalm 133
Behold how good and pleasant it is to dwell together in unity. It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, even on Aaron’s beard, running down upon the collar of his clothing. It is like the dew of Hermon running down upon the hills of Zion. For there the Lord has promised his blessing: even life for evermore.

2 Samuel 18.19-19.8a
Then Ahimaaz son of Zadok said, ‘Let me run, and carry tidings to the king that the Lord has delivered him from the power of his enemies.’ Joab said to him, ‘You are not to carry tidings today; you may carry tidings another day, but today you shall not do so, because the king’s son is dead.’ Then Joab said to a Cushite, ‘Go, tell the king what you have seen.’ The Cushite bowed before Joab, and ran. Then Ahimaaz son of Zadok said again to Joab, ‘Come what may, let me also run after the Cushite.’ And Joab said, ‘Why will you run, my son, seeing that you have no reward for the tidings?’ ‘Come what may,’ he said, ‘I will run.’ So he said to him, ‘Run.’ Then Ahimaaz ran by the way of the Plain, and outran the Cushite.

Now David was sitting between the two gates. The sentinel went up to the roof of the gate by the wall, and when he looked up, he saw a man running alone. The sentinel shouted and told the king. The king said, ‘If he is alone, there are tidings in his mouth.’ He kept coming, and drew near. Then the sentinel saw another man running; and the sentinel called to the gatekeeper and said, ‘See, another man running alone!’ The king said, ‘He also is bringing tidings.’ The sentinel said, ‘I think the running of the first one is like the running of Ahimaaz son of Zadok.’ The king said, ‘He is a good man, and comes with good tidings.’

Then Ahimaaz cried out to the king, ‘All is well!’ He prostrated himself before the king with his face to the ground, and said, ‘Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delivered up the men who raised their hand against my lord the king.’ The king said, ‘Is it well with the young man Absalom?’ Ahimaaz answered, ‘When Joab sent your servant, I saw a great tumult, but I do not know what it was.’ The king said, ‘Turn aside, and stand here.’ So he turned aside, and stood still.

Then the Cushite came; and the Cushite said, ‘Good tidings for my lord the king! For the Lord has vindicated you this day, delivering you from the power of all who rose up against you.’ The king said to the Cushite, ‘Is it well with the young man Absalom?’ The Cushite answered, ‘May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man.’
The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, ‘O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would that I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!’

It was told Joab, ‘The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.’ So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the troops; for the troops heard that day, ‘The king is grieving for his son.’ The troops stole into the city that day as soldiers steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle. The king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, ‘O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!’ Then Joab came into the house to the king, and said, ‘Today you have covered with shame the faces of all your officers who have saved your life today, and the lives of your sons and your daughters, and the lives of your wives and your concubines, for love of those who hate you and for hatred of those who love you. You have made it clear today that commanders and officers are nothing to you; for I perceive that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased. So go out at once and speak kindly to your servants; for I swear by the Lord, if you do not go, not a man will stay with you this night; and this will be worse for you than any disaster that has come upon you from your youth until now.’ Then the king got up and took his seat in the gate. The troops were all told, ‘See, the king is sitting in the gate’; and all the troops came before the king.
Meanwhile, all the Israelites had fled to their homes.

Acts 11.1-18
Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’ Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, ‘I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But I replied, “By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” But a second time the voice answered from heaven, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, “Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.” And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?’ When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.’

The Collect
Almighty and everlasting God,
who called your servant Ninian to preach the gospel to the people of northern Britain:
raise up in this and every land heralds and evangelists of your kingdom,
that your Church may make known the immeasurable riches of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Morning Prayer - September 12

Morning Prayer, September 12, Psalm 139, 2 Samuel 16.1-14, Acts 10.1-16,

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.

2 Samuel 16.1-14
When David had passed a little beyond the summit, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him, with a couple of donkeys saddled, carrying two hundred loaves of bread, one hundred bunches of raisins, one hundred of summer fruits, and one skin of wine. The king said to Ziba, ‘Why have you brought these?’ Ziba answered, ‘The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride, the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat, and the wine is for those to drink who faint in the wilderness.’ The king said, ‘And where is your master’s son?’ Ziba said to the king, ‘He remains in Jerusalem; for he said, “Today the house of Israel will give me back my grandfather’s kingdom.” ’ Then the king said to Ziba, ‘All that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours.’ Ziba said, ‘I do obeisance; let me find favour in your sight, my lord the king.’

When King David came to Bahurim, a man of the family of the house of Saul came out whose name was Shimei son of Gera; he came out cursing. He threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David; now all the people and all the warriors were on his right and on his left. Shimei shouted while he cursed, ‘Out! Out! Murderer! Scoundrel! The Lord has avenged on all of you the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, disaster has overtaken you; for you are a man of blood.’

Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, ‘Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.’ But the king said, ‘What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, “Curse David”, who then shall say, “Why have you done so?” ’ David said to Abishai and to all his servants, ‘My own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord has bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look on my distress, and the Lord will repay me with good for this cursing of me today.’ So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went, throwing stones and flinging dust at him. The king and all the people who were with him arrived weary at the Jordan; and there he refreshed himself.

Acts 10.1-16
In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, as it was called. He was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God. One afternoon at about three o’clock he had a vision in which he clearly saw an angel of God coming in and saying to him, ‘Cornelius.’ He stared at him in terror and said, ‘What is it, Lord?’ He answered, ‘Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa for a certain Simon who is called Peter; he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.’ When the angel who spoke to him had left, he called two of his slaves and a devout soldier from the ranks of those who served him, and after telling them everything, he sent them to Joppa.

About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.’ The voice said to him again, a second time, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.

The Collect
Almighty and everlasting God,
you are always more ready to hear than we to pray and to give more than either we desire or deserve:
pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,
forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.