Sunday, 30 June 2013

So what is my Job? - Modelling

Part the second of my surrejoinder to the comments below focuses on the issue of 'modelling'.

I wrote:

'Those who are happy to come to the show and sing the happy songs and have their ears tickled - the day is coming when the battle will be engaged and you will find yourself 'not fit for purpose' - time to 'man up Church!

To which I received this response:

'How much more emotional manipulation are you going to employ on your site to get people to be doing what you, Vic, think people should be doing?

This isn't your job, Vic - your job is to seek after God and put yourself at his disposal.  Be loved by him and then love others as you are loved.


Your job is not to guilt-trip, embarrass or intimidate people into conforming to your ideology... this is the fast-track to burn-out.

Come back to me on this one, and tell me why I'm wrong.'


So I am doing exactly that.


The words, 'Your job is to seek after God and put yourself at his disposal. Be loved by him and then love others as you are loved,' are spot on and if each of us assume that were we to do this, all would be sweetness and light

.As a Christian, what you have described is the bedrock of my baptismal calling. What you have described is also correctly described as 'my job' in that, as a minister of the Gospel, this is indeed a part of my job too! This Leviticus 19 passage:

‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.'

Is someing in which we find the way of peaceful co-existence with others, for if we treat others as we treat ourselves then all will be well, won't it? Well it should be but this is often a one-sided transaction (but that still doesn't stop us, does it?) and the very act of trying to live in such a way is, at times, regarded as aggressive, arrogant or condemnatory; and if the way we treat ourselves and the 'love' we endow upon ourselves is 'different' to that which others consider to be love ( for instance 'permissive' or 'disciplined') then it become the path of conflict rather than peace.

For me, the tension becomes more marked, and demanding, when we unite those words with Deuteronomy 6 (something we often do in our Eucharist):

'Hear, O Israel:The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.'

For what we have now is an 'In, Out and Up' situation: Ourselves - Others - God

So I would answer to the call my critic makes regarding Leviticus 19 is that it is but the starting point not the pinnacle and with Deuteronomic utterances added, is something transformational and amazing. And my role is to model this and to live as a disciple in such a way that others can see me (warts and all) and hopefully in that point towards Him whom I (we) serve.

You see the reality is that my personal call, and responsibility, is to live out the realities about in such a way that others see this 'difference' and it challenges them to ask, 'How can I have that?' As I model the life (and attitudes) of a 'God lover' I model the life and attitudes of Him whom I follow, Jesus, and as I love - I encourage others to love in the same way for the same reason.

I am called to love the LORD (YHWH) with all my being - mental, emotional, spiritual and physical - and it is this that leads me to do more than just be happy. More than just be content to consume, for as my critic implies, the loving of others is an active, being out there part of the Christian life.

Unlike some of the advert's that tug at the heartstrings, we do not employ emotional manipulation (unless if course you think the cross and crucifixion is such) and we do not beat people into submission (verbally or physically) but rather we 'model' Christ. As I encounter those of no particular (and sometimes none) faith, I often hear them utter the words, 'I wish I could have your faith,' or the equally sad, 'I wish I could do what you do!' The reality is that they can have both and even if they don't embrace my faith, can still make the latter theirs (for non-theists do good stuff too!).

So I consider that I have not only a right, but a responsibility, to tell others that their life choices are not the best open to them. I also consider that this right demands that I practice what I preach, for there is no room for hypocrites in the Church, and model what is the right way in exactly the same way Jesus modelled it in NewTestament times.

If my thinking is right then, unless we consider Jesus to have used guilt-trips or intimidation that embarrased people (and I'm sure He never did that!), then I'm speaking the truth in love - another essential piece of modelling in a time when we so often neither live or speak truth, choosing merely to issue spin and deviance!

My call as Christian, and pastor, is therefore to model - and to do this in the manner, and in the footsteps, of Jesus - and I happen to think that this is what my words are doing.

Let those who have ears, let them listen - and for those who won't, or don't?

To quote Don McLean (Vincent):

'They would not listen, they're not listening still'



ps. It's no accident that I have kept this in the Old Testament - for it underpins the New and needs to be used as it deserves and demands. We are based on, and reside in, the whole word. Once we edit or re-invent we head for a world of potential self-justification rather than willing obedience :-)


Saturday, 29 June 2013

Armed Forces Day

As I prepare to set off for the National Memorial Arboretum I thought I'd take a second to remind you that today is Armed Forces Day!

There's a full programme of events at the NMA and I'm sure that, wherever you live, there is an event near to you too.

Please get involved and thank those who have served or continue to serve and spare a moment for those who have left this life through conflict or, having served, old age.

Honour our veterans and give thanks for the freedom we enjoy as a result of the service of others.


Daily Office - June 29

Peter and Paul, Apostles
Ember Day


Psalm 71

In you, O Lord, do I seek refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free;
incline your ear to me and save me.
Be for me a stronghold to which I may ever resort;
send out to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the evildoer and the oppressor.
For you are my hope, O Lord God, my confidence, even from my youth.
Upon you have I leaned from my birth, when you drew me from my mother’s womb;
my praise shall be always of you.

I have become a portent to many, but you are my refuge and my strength.
Let my mouth be full of your praise and your glory all the day long.
Do not cast me away in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength fails.
For my enemies are talking against me, and those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together.
They say, ‘God has forsaken him; pursue him and take him, because there is none to deliver him.’

O God, be not far from me; come quickly to help me, O my God.
Let those who are against me be put to shame and disgrace;
let those who seek to do me evil be covered with scorn and reproach.

But as for me I will hope continually and will praise you more and more.
My mouth shall tell of your righteousness and salvation all the day long, for I know no end of the telling.
I will begin with the mighty works of the Lord God;
I will recall your righteousness, yours alone.

O God, you have taught me since I was young, and to this day I tell of your wonderful works.
Forsake me not, O God, when I am old and grey-headed,
till I make known your deeds to the next generation and your power to all that are to come.
Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens;
in the great things you have done, who is like you, O God?
What troubles and adversities you have shown me,
and yet you will turn and refresh me and bring me from the deep of the earth again.
Increase my honour; turn again and comfort me.
Therefore will I praise you upon the harp for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.
My lips will sing out as I play to you, and so will my soul, which you have redeemed.
My tongue also will tell of your righteousness all the day long,
for they shall be shamed and disgraced who sought to do me evil.

Psalm 113
Alleluia.
Give praise, you servants of the Lord, O praise the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord, from this time forth and for evermore.
From the rising of the sun to its setting let the name of the Lord be praised.
The Lord is high above all nations and his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God, that has his throne so high,
yet humbles himself to behold the things of heaven and earth?
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ashes,
To set them with princes, with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a place in the house
and makes her a joyful mother of children.

Isaiah 49.1-6
Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away!
The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow,  in his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me, ‘You are my servant,  Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’
But I said, ‘I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my cause is with The Lord,  and my reward with my God.’

And now the Lord says,  who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him,
for I am honoured in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength - he says,
‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant  to raise up the tribes of Jacob  and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,  that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’

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 God,
whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul
glorified you in their death as in their life:
grant that your Church,
inspired by their teaching and example,
and made one by your Spirit,
may ever stand firm upon the one foundation,
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.

Friday, 28 June 2013

So what is my job? - Discipleship

A few days back I wrote:

'Those who are happy to come to the show and sing the happy songs and have their ears tickled - the day is coming when the battle will be engaged and you will find yourself 'not fit for purpose' - time to 'man up Church!

To which I received the following response:

'How much more emotional manipulation are you going to employ on your site to get people to be doing what you, Vic, think people should be doing?

This isn't your job, Vic - your job is to seek after God and put yourself at his disposal.  Be loved by him and then love others as you are loved.

Your job is not to guilt-trip, embarrass or intimidate people into conforming to your ideology... this is the fast-track to burn-out.

Come back to me on this one, and tell me why I'm wrong.'

The good thing is that I will indeed tell you - and will do it here so others might engage with the discussion here (or on the forum). It's going to be quick and dirty but hopefully will hang together enough to make some sense:

Now I don't have an 'ideology' as I understand the word (which I take to be socio-political and not theological) but I do have a 'theology' and that theology comes from the Bible (the book formerly known as 'authoritative') and it informs and enlightens me as to many things regarding many areas that conspire to build our (Christian) faith life, namely:

Discipleship

This is a word that is all too easily banded about and features large in the writings of so many people and small in the manifestation of same. I think that the real problem is that some people in church confuse discipleship with doing and employ some oddly twisted work ethic where salvation comes through work; this is something the Bible offers a corrective on in Ephesians 2.8-9:

'For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.'

Salvation comes through faith in God, which means in (and by) the salvific and atoning act of Christ upon the cross - and is worked out in us by the enabling of God's Holy Spirit. You cannot work your way into heaven!

In fact all God wants us to do is sit on our backsides and love Him. That's the message in a nutshell - purely and simply put. Of course as we sit God expects us to find out about Him and to talk with Him and to grow together with Him - it's just like being in any relationship: Without dialogue and communication and a developing relationship a marriage would be a sham and any friendship run on the same lines would be little more than a nodding acquaintance.

So here we are, in love with another person (who in this example just happens to be God) and this love soon turns into something whereby we know what pleases Him and so we do that; because we want to please and bless those we love don't we (we do, don't we?)? Here's an example from real life:

Many years ago when I drove and my wife didn't, if I came home and realised she was out shopping (in the days before mobiles) and it was raining, I would get in the car and drive the route to the shops to see if I could find her and give her a lift. I didn't do this because I was commanded to but because it was an outworking of my love for her. Form out of our love comes action!

This is what discipleship is, for:

First, I want to be a disciple because it brings me and the focus of my love closer - after all, I WANT to be more like Jesus.

Secondly, doing what is right helps me to be the person God WANTS me to be - so I am be obedient too!

Lastly - becoming a disciple shows other people, by the difference I have from the world, that there really is something in the God stuff - it is incarnational and, just as God incarnate came to save to to do we, in modelling and being part of that incarnacy through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we can proclaim that 'the Kingdom of God' is near.

Now, having all done 'disciple' to death we all know that it is someone who follows a teacher and is much like being an apprentice - we aim to learn from the master and to become as much like Him and Jesus tells us how we can do this in Matthew chapter 16:

'Then Jesus told His disciples, 
"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." '

Jesus is telling those who are His disciples to deny themselves (that is to not do the desires and wants) and to take up their cross (which is a burden of servanthood and potential suffering) and to follow (an active thing) Him. He is not saying come and be entertained and live lives that look like the world and live in their attitudes and see church as merely something to be enjoyed - He is telling them to get real and live life in the reality of the Christian faith seeking to be imitators of Him.

Now, whilst the writer of the comments above is right in that my call is to 'put myself at His disposal' it is also my calling to encourage others to do the same - and as I often hear myself saying - we need to be careful that we do not judge others (for as we judge, so too are we judged).

The call to discipleship is of of engagement for within the structure that is discipleship we find the call to 'love one another' and even more active is the call for us to 'love our neighbour as ourselves'.

There is also the call to 'go into ALL the world and baptising and teach others to obey God's commandments' - something that cannot be done by sitting in our comfort zones, living in the choices we wish to make and ignoring the call to be actively engaged. Of course, some seem to think that what God commanded is a moveable feast and this causes even more fun I guess - but it's good to have our challenges isn't it?

You see that whilst I seek to embrace the elements given above (and remember, this is a concise explanation) I have also to take on board the fact that I function as a believer and as one who has been called to 'shepherd the flock' too. I am also responsible for those under my care in that I encourage (for I never order) and attempt to lead by example.

But the bottom line is that, like a rowing crew I once used to see on the water, there are many who think that they are 'fit for purpose' but the reality is that once they to engage in the race, they will be devastated to find that they are soon 'rowed over' (that is to be left so far behind that it is like they were never there in the first place). My task is to ensure that we build a Church that conforms to the description in Ephesians chapter four:

'And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.'

What we have here is nothing more than a 'speaking the truth in love'  for just as 'inclusive' Church is not 'permissive' or 'liberal' Church, neither is the Church of Christ a place where we seek to put off discipleship (which means emulating Christ) and reside as children who need to be entertained lest they become bored. No, we are called to celebrate, emulate and admonish each other to work towards being Christlike in all the fullness that this implies - strong in word, faithful to the teaching of Christ and exercising good words - not because works bring faith but because faith without works is an empty and futile faith (if you don't believe me - take a look at James chapter two* and understand that:

'For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.'
So here we have part the first in my surrejoinder - there's more to come and I pray that within the haphazard and rushed nature of this response, there is something of reason and merit to be found.

Pax


*James 2. 14 - 26
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled”, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe - and shudder!
Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?
You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, 
“Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” - and he was called a friend of God.
You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.'

Street Angels - Something good hits the streets


Last night I was privileged to spend some time with Burton's Street Angels as they went about their Thursday night engagement with the partying population of that place. Going out in teams of four, each one having a role as Team Leader, Mel, briefed the others (who fulfilled roles doing First Aid, Radio Communications and the like) on last week's experiences and provided general intelligence of what was happening in the community (end of term for the college) and what they might expect.

This done the team loaded up and went out to work their patch (with me as gooseberry in two :-)) and what I saw was great. There were the guys who work at getting people into their clubs, the security people (doormen) and the general populace were all in evidence and the team were greeted and engaged with as friends. No wonder as they make life simpler by helping those who have had a little too much to drink, provide flip flops for those who can no longer balance on the amazing hiiiiiigh heels, pass out water, provide tea, coffee and help those who would otherwise get into trouble stay out of it!

As they walked the streets, one of those who passed them asked, "What are Street Angels?' to which the bloke she was with said, 'They look after you if you get drunk.'

Never has a truer word been said!

Street Angels are there to help those enjoying themselves do so in a safe and protected environment and many do it because it's an extension of their Christian ministry of getting out there and serving their communities - want to know more?


Then find one in your area and if you can't - then it's time to talk to CNI and start one where you are :-)





DAily Office - June 28

Irenæus, Bishop of Lyons, Teacher of the Faith, c.200
Ember Day

Psalm 88
O Lord, God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before you.
Let my prayer come into your presence; incline your ear to my cry.
For my soul is full of troubles; my life draws near to the land of death.
I am counted as one gone down to the Pit; I am like one that has no strength,
Lost among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand.
You have laid me in the lowest pit, in a place of darkness in the abyss.
Your anger lies heavy upon me, and you have afflicted me with all your waves.
You have put my friends far from me and made me to be abhorred by them.
I am so fast in prison that I cannot get free; my eyes fail from all my trouble.
Lord, I have called daily upon you; I have stretched out my hands to you.

Do you work wonders for the dead? Will the shades stand up and praise you?
Shall your loving-kindness be declared in the grave, your faithfulness in the land of destruction?
Shall your wonders be known in the dark or your righteous deeds in the land where all is forgotten?
1But as for me, O Lord, I will cry to you; early in the morning my prayer shall come before you.
Lord, why have you rejected my soul? Why have you hidden your face from me?
I have been wretched and at the point of death from my youth;
I suffer your terrors and am no more seen.
Your wrath sweeps over me; your horrors are come to destroy me;
all day long they come about me like water; they close me in on every side.
Lover and friend have you put far from me and hid my companions out of my sight.

Psalm 95
O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us heartily rejoice in the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving and be glad in him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God and a great king above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth and the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands have moulded the dry land.
Come, let us worship and bow down and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is our God; we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.
O that today you would listen to his voice:
‘Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, on that day at Massah in the wilderness,
‘When your forebears tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my works.
‘Forty years long I detested that generation and said, “This people are wayward in their hearts; they do not know my ways.”

‘So I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter into my rest.” ’

Job 41
‘Can you draw out Leviathan with a fish-hook,
   or press down its tongue with a cord?
Can you put a rope in its nose,
   or pierce its jaw with a hook?
Will it make many supplications to you?
   Will it speak soft words to you?
Will it make a covenant with you
   to be taken as your servant for ever?
Will you play with it as with a bird,
   or will you put it on a leash for your girls?
Will traders bargain over it?
   Will they divide it up among the merchants?
Can you fill its skin with harpoons,
   or its head with fishing-spears?
Lay hands on it;
   think of the battle; you will not do it again!
Any hope of capturing it will be disappointed;
   were not even the gods overwhelmed at the sight of it?
No one is so fierce as to dare to stir it up.
   Who can stand before it?
Who can confront it and be safe? - under the whole heaven, who?

‘I will not keep silence concerning its limbs,
   or its mighty strength, or its splendid frame.
Who can strip off its outer garment?
   Who can penetrate its double coat of mail?
Who can open the doors of its face?
   There is terror all around its teeth.
Its back is made of shields in rows,
   shut up closely as with a seal.
One is so near to another
   that no air can come between them.
They are joined one to another;
   they clasp each other and cannot be separated.
Its sneezes flash forth light,
   and its eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn.
From its mouth go flaming torches;
   sparks of fire leap out.
Out of its nostrils comes smoke,
   as from a boiling pot and burning rushes.
Its breath kindles coals,
   and a flame comes out of its mouth.
In its neck abides strength,
   and terror dances before it.
The folds of its flesh cling together;
   it is firmly cast and immovable.
Its heart is as hard as stone,
   as hard as the lower millstone.
When it raises itself up the gods are afraid;
   at the crashing they are beside themselves.
Though the sword reaches it, it does not avail,
   nor does the spear, the dart, or the javelin.
It counts iron as straw,
   and bronze as rotten wood.
The arrow cannot make it flee;
   slingstones, for it, are turned to chaff.
Clubs are counted as chaff;
   it laughs at the rattle of javelins.
Its underparts are like sharp potsherds;
   it spreads itself like a threshing-sledge on the mire.
It makes the deep boil like a pot;
   it makes the sea like a pot of ointment.
It leaves a shining wake behind it;
   one would think the deep to be white-haired.
On earth it has no equal,
   a creature without fear.
It surveys everything that is lofty;
   it is king over all that are proud.’

Romans 16.1-16
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.

Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ. Greet Mary, who has worked very hard among you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. Greet my relative Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; and greet his mother—a mother to me also. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who are with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

The Collect
God of peace,
who through the ministry of your servant Irenæus
strengthened the true faith
and brought harmony to your Church:
keep us steadfast in your true religion,
and renew us in faith and love,
that we may always walk in the way that leads to eternal life;
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.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Daily Office - June27

Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, Teacher of the Faith, 444

Psalm 90

Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or the earth and the world were formed,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn us back to dust and say:
‘Turn back, O children of earth.’
For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday,
which passes like a watch in the night.
You sweep them away like a dream;
they fade away suddenly like the grass.
In the morning it is green and flourishes;
in the evening it is dried up and withered.
For we consume away in your displeasure;
we are afraid at your wrathful indignation.
You have set our misdeeds before you
and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
When you are angry, all our days are gone;
our years come to an end like a sigh.
The days of our life are three score years and ten,
or if our strength endures, even four score;
yet the sum of them is but labour and sorrow,
for they soon pass away and we are gone.
Who regards the power of your wrath
and your indignation like those who fear you?
So teach us to number our days
that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.
Turn again, O Lord; how long will you delay?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us with your loving-kindness in the morning;
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Give us gladness for the days you have afflicted us,
and for the years in which we have seen adversity.
Show your servants your works,
and let your glory be over their children.
May the gracious favour of the Lord our God be upon us;
prosper our handiwork; O prosper the work of our hands.

Psalm 92
It is a good thing to give thanks to The Lord
and to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
To tell of your love early in the morning
and of your faithfulness in the night-time,
Upon the ten-stringed instrument, upon the harp,
and to the melody of the lyre.
For you, Lord, have made me glad by your acts,
and I sing aloud at the works of your hands.
O Lord, how glorious are your works!
Your thoughts are very deep.
The senseless do not know, nor do fools understand,
That though the wicked sprout like grass
and all the workers of iniquity flourish,
It is only to be destroyed for ever;
but you, O Lord, shall be exalted for evermore.
For lo, your enemies, O Lord, lo, your enemies shall perish,
and all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.
But my horn you have exalted like the horns of wild oxen;
I am anointed with fresh oil.
My eyes will look down on my foes;
my ears shall hear the ruin of the evildoers who rise up against me.
The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon.
Such as are planted in the house of The Lord
shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
they shall be vigorous and in full leaf;
That they may show that the Lord is true;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Job 40
And the Lord said to Job:
‘Shall a fault-finder contend with the Almighty?
 Anyone who argues with God must respond.’

Then Job answered the Lord:
‘See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?
 I lay my hand on my mouth.
 I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
 twice, but will proceed no further.’

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
‘Gird up your loins like a man;
   I will question you, and you declare to me.
Will you even put me in the wrong?
   Will you condemn me that you may be justified?
Have you an arm like God,
   and can you thunder with a voice like his?

‘Deck yourself with majesty and dignity;
   clothe yourself with glory and splendour.
Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
   and look on all who are proud, and abase them.
Look on all who are proud, and bring them low;
   tread down the wicked where they stand.
Hide them all in the dust together;
   bind their faces in the world below.
Then I will also acknowledge to you
   that your own right hand can give you victory.

‘Look at Behemoth,
   which I made just as I made you;
   it eats grass like an ox.
Its strength is in its loins,
   and its power in the muscles of its belly.
It makes its tail stiff like a cedar;
   the sinews of its thighs are knit together.
Its bones are tubes of bronze,
   its limbs like bars of iron.

‘It is the first of the great acts of God—
   only its Maker can approach it with the sword.
For the mountains yield food for it
   where all the wild animals play.
Under the lotus plants it lies,
   in the covert of the reeds and in the marsh.
The lotus trees cover it for shade;
   the willows of the wadi surround it.
Even if the river is turbulent, it is not frightened;
   it is confident though Jordan rushes against its mouth.
Can one take it with hooks
   or pierce its nose with a snare?

Romans 15.22-end
This is the reason that I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, with no further place for me in these regions, I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you when I go to Spain. For I do hope to see you on my journey and to be sent on by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints; for Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share their resources with the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. They were pleased to do this, and indeed they owe it to them; for if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material things. So, when I have completed this, and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will set out by way of you to Spain; and I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf, that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. The God of peace be with all of you. Amen.

The Collect
O God, the protector of all who trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
increase and multiply upon us your mercy;
that with you as our ruler and guide
we may so pass through things temporal
that we lose not our hold on things eternal;
grant this, heavenly Father,
for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Daily Office - June 26

Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, Teacher of the Faith

Psalm 90

Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or the earth and the world were formed,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn us back to dust and say:
‘Turn back, O children of earth.’
For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday,
which passes like a watch in the night.
You sweep them away like a dream;
they fade away suddenly like the grass.
In the morning it is green and flourishes;
in the evening it is dried up and withered.
For we consume away in your displeasure;
we are afraid at your wrathful indignation.
You have set our misdeeds before you and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
When you are angry, all our days are gone;
our years come to an end like a sigh.
The days of our life are three score years and ten,
or if our strength endures, even four score;
yet the sum of them is but labour and sorrow,
for they soon pass away and we are gone.
Who regards the power of your wrath and your indignation like those who fear you?
So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.
Turn again, O Lord; how long will you delay?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us with your loving-kindness in the morning;
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Give us gladness for the days you have afflicted us,
and for the years in which we have seen adversity.
Show your servants your works,
and let your glory be over their children.
May the gracious favour of the Lord our God be upon us;
prosper our handiwork; O prosper the work of our hands.

Psalm 92
It is a good thing to give thanks to The Lord
and to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
To tell of your love early in the morning
and of your faithfulness in the night-time,
Upon the ten-stringed instrument, upon the harp,
and to the melody of the lyre.
For you, Lord, have made me glad by your acts,
and I sing aloud at the works of your hands.
O Lord, how glorious are your works!
Your thoughts are very deep.
The senseless do not know, nor do fools understand,
That though the wicked sprout like grass and all the workers of iniquity flourish,
It is only to be destroyed for ever;
but you, O Lord, shall be exalted for evermore.
For lo, your enemies, O Lord, lo, your enemies shall perish,
and all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.
But my horn you have exalted like the horns of wild oxen;
I am anointed with fresh oil.
My eyes will look down on my foes;
my ears shall hear the ruin of the evildoers who rise up against me.
The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon.
Such as are planted in the house of the Lord
shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
they shall be vigorous and in full leaf;
That they may show that the Lord is true;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Job 40
And the Lord said to Job:
‘Shall a fault-finder contend with the Almighty?
 Anyone who argues with God must respond.’

Then Job answered the Lord:
‘See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?
 I lay my hand on my mouth.
 I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
 twice, but will proceed no further.’

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
‘Gird up your loins like a man;
   I will question you, and you declare to me.
Will you even put me in the wrong?
   Will you condemn me that you may be justified?
Have you an arm like God,
   and can you thunder with a voice like his?

‘Deck yourself with majesty and dignity;
   clothe yourself with glory and splendour.
Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
   and look on all who are proud, and abase them.
Look on all who are proud, and bring them low;
   tread down the wicked where they stand.
Hide them all in the dust together;
   bind their faces in the world below.
Then I will also acknowledge to you
   that your own right hand can give you victory.

‘Look at Behemoth,
   which I made just as I made you; it eats grass like an ox.
Its strength is in its loins, and its power in the muscles of its belly.
It makes its tail stiff like a cedar; the sinews of its thighs are knit together.
Its bones are tubes of bronze, its limbs like bars of iron.

‘It is the first of the great acts of God - only its Maker can approach it with the sword.
 For the mountains yield food for it where all the wild animals play.
 Under the lotus plants it lies, in the covert of the reeds and in the marsh.
 The lotus trees cover it for shade;
 the willows of the wadi surround it.
 Even if the river is turbulent, it is not frightened;
 it is confident though Jordan rushes against its mouth.
 Can one take it with hooks or pierce its nose with a snare?

Romans 15.22-end
This is the reason that I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, with no further place for me in these regions, I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you when I go to Spain. For I do hope to see you on my journey and to be sent on by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints; for Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share their resources with the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. They were pleased to do this, and indeed they owe it to them; for if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material things. So, when I have completed this, and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will set out by way of you to Spain; and I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf, that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. The God of peace be with all of you. Amen.

The Collect
O God, the protector of all who trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
increase and multiply upon us your mercy;
that with you as our ruler and guide
we may so pass through things temporal
that we lose not our hold on things eternal;
grant this, heavenly Father,
for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The Lord grants me a Sleepless Night!

This is a real struggle to write, and post, for many reasons. Those I trust will agree with the words and yet will tell me that they will, 'Put people off,' but to remain silent is to be complicit in the wrong that I see before me.

 Reminiscent of the days when the children were small I often find myself woken during the night - but not by a child who wants a drink, had a nightmare or merely 'can't sleep' (yet in seconds they do!); no, the cause of my disturbed sleep rests in the actions of others. Or perhaps I should say 'inactions'!

I find myself drawn to conversations, averted gazes and empty seats; to those I meet who have never heard the Gospel (and worse still, never seen it lived out before them by those who otherwise have described themselves as 'Christian'). I find myself challenged by those who appear to be comfortable with a self-serving church or those who are resigned to 'manage decline' rather than be enthused to 'grow the kingdom'.

Sharing my angst with a colleague recently, I have to be honest and say that their response: A shrug, rolled eyes and the words, 'I know, but what can you do?', didn't really do much to ease the pain.

So here I am wondering what people hear when I share the words:
'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.' 
(Matt 16.24//Mk 8.34//LK 9.23). 

I wonder how the words, '... And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple,' manage to slip past unheeded, without the slightest sense of remorse or even a hint of desire and a (never to be met) vow to change.

This is tough to say but I don't think the devil needs to prowl around looking for whosoever he might devour. There's no need for humanists or new atheists to jump up and down and plot the demise of the mentally-ill folk formerly known as 'Church'. The reality is that Church can deny Christ more effectively than them, after all, we know they don't believe in God so they would say that, wouldn't they?'

If we want to really destroy the Church it's better to engage in 'green on green' encounters rather than engage the enemy (red on green). An even more effective way to undermine our engagement with those who oppose us is by being indisciplined and using the most effective tactic of all: Practising the art of 'not turning up'!

So, I suggested that we might take up the challenge and seek to 'train the troops' and was told that to do this would, 'Turn people off!' So here I am wondering what I need to do to to, 'Turn them on!'

What I'm learning from my discussions is the bitter truth that if you do stuff the people watch. The reality for so many is that the thought, 'If you build it - they will come,' was wrong. Generally they don't come to do it with you; those who do come, come to watch!).

So here I am wondering how to add to those who are doing the stuff and 'denying themselves' are growing in faith and becoming true disciples and how those tepid believers can be warmed up so the they are not spewed out like a similarly heated cup of pale insipid tea.

For those who are engaged and walking toward the cross of Christ, denying themselves and working on becoming salt and light to the world - thank you for the encouragement and the faithful life you lead.

Those who are happy to come to the show and sing the happy songs and have their ears tickled - the day is coming when the battle will be engaged and you will find yourself 'not fit for purpose' - time to 'man up Church.' 

Time to become disciples and if not ...

Time to realise that the Christian life is costly - not just the price paid by Jesus, the Christ, on the cross but by the price we are called to pay in our own lives.

We need to be faithful and continue in the calling God has given us, to resist the urge to chase popularist methods and means and to stay consistent - our eyes fixed firmly on the cross - step by step and inch by inch. This is the way the Kingdom is won. Who will join us?

And so I continue to pray and do and be - for here I stand (walking) for I can do nothing less . .


Pax

Daily Office - June 25

Psalm 87
His foundation is on the holy mountains.
The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
Glorious things are spoken of you, Zion, city of our God.
I record Egypt and Babylon as those who know me;
behold Philistia, Tyre and Ethiopia: in Zion were they born.
And of Zion it shall be said, ‘Each one was born in her, and the Most High himself has established her.’
The Lord will record as he writes up the peoples, ‘This one also was born there.’
And as they dance they shall sing, ‘All my fresh springs are in you.'

Psalm 89.1-18
My song shall be always of the loving-kindness of the Lord:
with my mouth will I proclaim your faithfulness throughout all generations.
I will declare that your love is established for ever;
you have set your faithfulness as firm as the heavens.
For you said: ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn an oath to David my servant:
‘ “Your seed will I establish for ever and build up your throne for all generations.” ’
The heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, and your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones;
For who among the clouds can be compared to the Lord?
Who is like the Lord among the host of heaven?
A God feared in the council of the holy ones, great and terrible above all those round about him.
Who is like you, Lord God of hosts?
Mighty Lord, your faithfulness is all around you.
You rule the raging of the sea; you still its waves when they arise.
You crushed Rahab with a deadly wound and scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
Yours are the heavens; the earth also is yours; you established the world and all that fills it.
You created the north and the south; Tabor and Hermon rejoice in your name.
You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand and high is your right hand.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
steadfast love and faithfulness go before your face.
Happy are the people who know the shout of triumph:
they walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance.
In your name they rejoice all the day long and are exalted in your righteousness.
For you are the glory of their strength, and in your favour you lift up our heads.
Truly the Lord is our shield; the Holy One of Israel is our king.

Job 38
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
 Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
 Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

‘Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?—
when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band,
and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors,
and said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped”?

‘Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place,
so that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?
It is changed like clay under the seal, and it is dyed like a garment.
Light is withheld from the wicked, and their uplifted arm is broken.

‘Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
Declare, if you know all this.

‘Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness,
that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home?
Surely you know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!

‘Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
which I have reserved for the time of trouble for the day of battle and war?

What is the way to the place where the light is distributed,
or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?

‘Who has cut a channel for the torrents of rain, and a way for the thunderbolt,
to bring rain on a land where no one lives, on the desert, which is empty of human life,
to satisfy the waste and desolate land and to make the ground put forth grass?

‘Has the rain a father, or who has begotten the drops of dew?
From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the hoar-frost of heaven?
The waters become hard like stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.

‘Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, or loose the cords of Orion?
Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children?
Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
Can you establish their rule on the earth?

‘Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that a flood of waters may cover you?
Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go and say to you, “Here we are”?
Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or given understanding to the mind?
Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?
Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,
when the dust runs into a mass and the clods cling together?

‘Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
when they crouch in their dens, or lie in wait in their covert?
Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food?

Romans 15.1-13
We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Each of us must please our neighbour for the good purpose of building up the neighbour. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’ For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
‘Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name’;

and again he says, 
‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people’;

and again,
‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him’;

and again Isaiah says,
‘The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.’

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Collect
O God, the protector of all who trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
increase and multiply upon us your mercy;
that with you as our ruler and guide
we may so pass through things temporal
that we lose not our hold on things eternal;
grant this, heavenly Father,
for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Made me Laugh - Banking: A simple explanation

I have often struggled when trying to explain banking to some people and have often wished I could find something short and simple - and here, at long last, it is:





How cool is this?

Book-Aid: Our first book collection

It's been some time since we started being a collector for:

Book-Aid.org

So I thought I'd let you see how many books we have collected and encourage you to donate at the same time!  So here we go:



Twelve boxes of Christian books and Bibles - waiting for collection and a very big 'Thank You' to all who have contributed to the contents of them.

Petertide: Pauline Thoughts

I find the words of 2 Timothy hitting me like a speeding locomotive today as I begin to take time with God to ponder the anniversary of my own ordination and the forthcoming ordination and priesting of others I know. The words, written by Paul to Timothy, challenge and excite me causing me to press on in my work as a priest, 'Presenting myself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.'

I read that in the calling God has given us we are to 'endure suffering along with Paul, as good soldiers of Christ Jesus (who seek to please the commanding Officer not the world).'
Soldiers know the benefits of having a chain of command and the strength that working within such brings. The can follow orders as much as they can give them and the support of those with whom they stand is as sure as the support they give to others.

What we have before us is a call to Preach Jesus, the Christ, who was crucified, died and rose again. This is a calling that may bring us hardship, ridicule and suffering - but we, like the Word of God cannot be chained.

We must, like Paul, be willing to endure hardships and trials if they will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.

We need, daily, to remember this and proudly proclaim it:

If we die with Him, we will also live with Him.
If we endure hardship, we will reign with Him.
If we deny Him, He will deny us.
If we are unfaithful,  He remains faithful, for He cannot deny who He is.
Remind everyone about these things, 
And command them in God’s presence to stop fighting over words.
Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them.


And so the words that we must, 'Work hard so we might present ourselves to God and receive his approval that we are indeed, good workers who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth', hit me like hailstones on a summer's day.

This is the highest calling we have is that we handle the word of God and present Jesus, the living Word, with honesty and integrity - working on our studies and being open to His Holy Spirit can open the word of life to others without straying from that which is true.

Paul continues:

'Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behaviour.
This kind of talk spreads like cancer, as in the case of those who have left the path of truth, claiming that things that deny the Gospel and have, by so doing, turned some people away from the faith.

But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription:

“The LORD knows those who are his,”
and
“All who belong to the LORD must turn away from evil.”

Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights.
A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.
Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.'

What power there is, what a call to discipline and carefully constructed ministry.

A call to exhibit patience with difficult people and to love them, even though they may portray you as you are not, just as God loves us (and we can be difficult too!).

To know when to walk away rather than waste words achieving nothing but a weakening of the Church.

To be one in whom the Church can take pride that you wear its capbadge and follow the same commander in chief.

This is our call and our challenge - may God strengthen those who have taken it up and bless and enable those who do so over the past few, and coming, days.

Please pray for those who are to be ordained and priested at this time and pray for those for whom this milestone is now but a memory that all will indeed be 'workmen who are tried, tested, approved and enabled by God's holy Spirit'.

Pax

Daily Office -June 24

The Birth of John the Baptist

Psalm 80

Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, you that led Joseph like a flock;
Shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim, before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your mighty strength and come to our salvation.
Turn us again, O God; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry at your people’s prayer?
You feed them with the bread of tears; you give them abundance of tears to drink.
You have made us the derision of our neighbours and our enemies laugh us to scorn.
Turn us again, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
You brought a vine out of Egypt;
You drove out the nations and planted it.
You made room around it, and when it had taken root, it filled the land.

The hills were covered with its shadow and the cedars of God by its boughs.
It stretched out its branches to the Sea and its tendrils to the River.
Why then have you broken down its wall, so that all who pass by pluck off its grapes?
The wild boar out of the wood tears it off, and all the insects of the field devour it.
Turn again, O God of hosts, look down from heaven and behold;
Cherish this vine which your right hand has planted, and the branch that you made so strong for yourself.
Let those who burnt it with fire, who cut it down, perish at the rebuke of your countenance.
Let your hand be upon the man at your right hand, the son of man you made so strong for yourself.
And so will we not go back from you; give us life, and we shall call upon your name.
Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts;
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

Psalm 82
God has taken his stand in the council of heaven;
in the midst of the gods he gives judgement:
'How long will you judge unjustly and show such favour to the wicked?
'You were to judge the weak and the orphan; defend the right of the humble and needy;
'Rescue the weak and the poor; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
‘They have no knowledge or wisdom; they walk on still in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
'Therefore I say that though you are gods and all of you children of the Most High,
'Nevertheless, you shall die like mortals and fall like one of their princes.’

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

Malachi 4
See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.

Remember the teaching of my servant Moses, the statutes and ordinances that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.

Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.

Matthew 11.2-19
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
   who will prepare your way before you.”
Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. Let anyone with ears listen!

‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
   we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’

The Collect
Almighty God,
by whose providence your servant John the Baptist
      was wonderfully born,
and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Saviour
by the preaching of repentance:
lead us to repent according to his preaching
and, after his example,
constantly to speak the truth, boldly to rebuke vice,
and patiently to suffer for the truth's sake;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Scribbles on Today's Readings

1 Kings 19. 4-7, 8-15a - Galatians 3.23-29 - Luke 8.26-39

What are today’s passages trying to conspire to tell us?
What is God doing with His creation here?
Elijah’s struggles or something deeper?

And struggles, why? after all, he’s just reached the very top in Chapter 18 with the Baal Boys and the sacrifice contest!

But there’s Jezebel – the slapper who’s baying for his blood and causing him to hide in fear of his life and ‘give up’ (see, we all do it at some time, don’t we – things get to us and we chuck it in!). Elijah’s legged it to the South to hide in the desert  - and he lays down to sleep (a hint in OT literature that he’s ‘going to die’) – but in the low spot – God comes (an Angel – a Messenger from God).

Bottom line is that he’s fed and, still negative and down, watered. But God doesn’t walk away (a clue here as to how we treat depression and those broken people we meet?). God is patient and help Elijah to a place where he can engage and hear.

Not with the wind (WHOOSH) nor with an earthquake (YOU WILL LISTEN), not with the FIRE but in a small, still voice, does He speak into Elijah’s reality.

God sees past the immediate and works at the inner, unseen, deeper and real needs (if you can’t see it – it doesn’t exist – broken leg better than a broken mind) and even if you’re in your cave – He still makes it work.

Not always the loud and proud – like  Mount Carmel but in the secret places (our caves) where the still small voice can penetrate and bring healing and a future hope.

And this is what the Luke Passage tells us too:  For Jesus steps out of a boat and is confronted by another broken person, this time he’s naked and demon-possessed and running at him from the graveyard; and the demons start on Him.

Well first we need to understand ‘possession’ for it is actually not possession but oppression we are dealing with. We need to see past the ‘problem’ and ‘problem solved’ mindset that many apply with this story – for it’s about more than that. So what’s it telling us?

He’s ‘greeted’ by a naked bloke (Jews didn’t do naked, that’s when they disliked the Greeks habit of going the gym’ and wrestled naked) form the graveyard! (met one of those in Nyharuru) it’s a confrontation! The demons know who He is (what a pity humanity doesn’t recognise Him so easily) and they’re scared – they know who and what and what He can do to them – they have their match in Him just like the Baal followers on Mount Carmel.

Jesus is going to solve the problem and give the spiritual powers at work in the man their marching orders and they (the demons) beg Him not to send them to the pit (the abyss of rev 20) and so Jesus asks the demon’s name. The response is that there’s ‘loads of us’ (we are legion – means many) and so Jesus allows them to move home into the pigs and the pigs, decide to drown themselves rather than have house guests.

All interesting; unclean spirits, unclean meat – a link? Possibly, not for me today – saving the bacon for later!

The story is, thus far, about recognising Jesus’ authority rather than Him having to state it – it is just there (like the small voice in the cave) – all we need it for us to recognise that too! It’s not just about solving the problem but the how it is solved and the why and who, too.

Both the men in our stories were suffering from mental illness (demons and depression are exactly that in the OT and NT settings) and were in bad places and they were met with a small voice of authoritative compassion. The work and enabling of the Holy Spirit in us means that where we are, so too is the ‘Kingdom of God’ (basilea)

The Galatians passage tells us that we are ‘children of God’ and if this is true then the small voices and the recognition of God in us are ours also.

Here we have God showing patience and love and compassion and gentleness and the reason? Simple – we want those whom we touch to return home and tell their family and friends: how much God has done for them.

Can there be a better form of evangelism?


Saturday, 22 June 2013

Name that Tune: A Clergy Nightmare?

One of the interesting challenges I have to contend with is the telephone call from people who can't find a piece of music or the words to a song and this has caused me to build up a fairly comprehensive collection of music and hymn books.

The fun comes when someone asks for something they can remember from school days some sixty years past and they tell you it went like:
'dum de dum , de dum de dum,
Jesus keep me in thy sight, and guard me,
through the coming night.'

Now I know there will be many who have reached for their buzzers to place the answer 'The day is past and over' (setting St Antolius) but for many of us who weren't doing church before the second world war - it is a struggle.

Another recent struggle was found in the words, 'Lamb of God, Redeemer Blessed grant them your eternal rest.'

Ideas anyone (there is a prize ;-))

And here's part of the resource department:


Daily Office - June 22

Alban, first Martyr of Britain, c.250

Psalm 76

In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel.
At Salem is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion.
There broke he the flashing arrows of the bow,
the shield, the sword and the weapons of war.
In the light of splendour you appeared, glorious from the eternal mountains.
The boastful were plundered; they have slept their sleep;
none of the warriors can lift their hand.
At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both horse and chariot fell stunned.
Terrible are you in majesty: who can stand before your face when you are angry?
You caused your judgement to be heard from heaven; the earth trembled and was still,
When God arose to judgement, to save all the meek upon earth.
You crushed the wrath of the peoples and bridled the wrathful remnant.
Make a vow to the Lord your God and keep it;
let all who are round about him bring gifts to him that is worthy to be feared.
He breaks down the spirit of princes and strikes terror in the kings of the earth.

Psalm 79
O God, the heathen have come into your heritage;
your holy temple have they defiled and made Jerusalem a heap of stones.
The dead bodies of your servants they have given to be food for the birds of the air,
and the flesh of your faithful to the beasts of the field.
Their blood have they shed like water on every side of Jerusalem,
and there was no one to bury them.
We have become the taunt of our neighbours,
the scorn and derision of those that are round about us.

Lord, how long will you be angry, for ever?
How long will your jealous fury blaze like fire?

Pour out your wrath upon the nations that have not known you,
and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon your name.
For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his dwelling place.

Remember not against us our former sins;
let your compassion make haste to meet us, for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and wipe away our sins for your name’s sake.
Why should the heathen say, ‘Where is now their God?’
Let vengeance for your servants’ blood that is shed be known among the nations in our sight.
Let the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners come before you,
and by your mighty arm preserve those who are condemned to die.
May the taunts with which our neighbours taunted you, Lord, return sevenfold into their bosom.
But we that are your people and the sheep of your pasture will give you thanks for ever,
and tell of your praise from generation to generation.

Job 32
So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became angry. He was angry at Job because he justified himself rather than God; he was angry also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, though they had declared Job to be in the wrong. Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job, because they were older than he. But when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouths of these three men, he became angry.

Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite answered:
‘I am young in years, and you are aged;
therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you.
I said, “Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom.”
But truly it is the spirit in a mortal,  the breath of the Almighty,
that makes for understanding. It is not the old that are wise,
nor the aged that understand what is right.
Therefore I say, “Listen to me;  let me also declare my opinion.”

‘See, I waited for your words,
  I listened for your wise sayings, while you searched out what to say.

I gave you my attention,
   but there was in fact no one that confuted Job, no one among you that answered his words.

Yet do not say, “We have found wisdom; God may vanquish him, not a human.”
He has not directed his words against me, and I will not answer him with your speeches.

‘They are dismayed, they answer no more; they have not a word to say.
And am I to wait, because they do not speak, because they stand there, and answer no more?

I also will give my answer;  I also will declare my opinion.
For I am full of words;  the spirit within me constrains me.
My heart is indeed like wine that has no vent;
like new wineskins, it is ready to burst.

I must speak, so that I may find relief;
I must open my lips and answer.
I will not show partiality to any person or use flattery towards anyone.
For I do not know how to flatter - or my Maker would soon put an end to me!

Romans 14.1-12
Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarrelling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgement on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgement on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honour of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honour of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honour of the Lord and give thanks to God.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. For it is written,
‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’
So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

The Collect
Eternal Father,
when the gospel of Christ first came to our land
you gloriously confirmed the faith of Alban
by making him the first to win a martyr's crown:
grant that, following his example,
in the fellowship of the saints
we may worship you, the living God,
and give true witness to 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.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Chaplaincy and Church - Word, Prayer & People

One of the very interesting discussion to be had is that which relates to Chaplaincy and Church - a place where many similarities, differences, opportunities and restrictions converge.

For instance with Church the people (generally) want to be there and are not only happy to be engaged with but often demand or desire such engagement with a 'God-botherer'. The other side of the coin is that in a chaplaincy setting we find ourselves invited into a place or group of people but not all of those we encounter are perhaps so demanding. The key here is to remember that we are present and ready, willing and able to serve those around us regardless of their faith (or none faith) choices and that we are a presence of some form of what is best described as 'otherness' for those we seek to serve.

In a discussion recently the descriptor: 'Presence, Prayer and Proclamation' was used to describe the chaplaincy role and this is pretty close I guess for in the Christian world the word 'incarnational' (being physically 'in the flesh' present) is a most important one indeed for it speaks of Jesus, God made man. This is of course what we Christian Chaplains seek to live within and make real in our own ministry - working on the premise that 'the Kingdom of God' is where we are and that being filled with God's Holy Spirit we take Him into the settings we find ourselves like a lampstand that enables all to see by that light:
'No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a bowl or hides it under a bed. A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house.'
Lk 8:16

The prayer element within the Chaplain's ministry is something quite unusual in that whilst many are embarrassed at the offer of prayer, many seek it for themselves and (even more often) for those they love. Pray in the shape of petitioning for those we serve is a valid and oft rewarded element of the role and I personally have found myself praying for needs of a loved one and finding myself to be rewarded with the news that the crisis has passed and 'something amazing' (not my words) has happened.

We stand before God for those we serve and intercede for them asking for forgiveness, protection, healing and many other things and we also find ourselves standing before them speaking on God's behalf in the shape of:

Proclamation. That is 'preaching the Good News' (AKA Gospel) of Jesus, the Christ, and the power of the cross - his death, resurrection and enabling. Whether we do this by providing 'Padre's Hours' or perhaps engaging in lectures on 'Values and Standards' or leading discussions on aspects of attitudes and behaviour and the like, this is what we do. The key is to state the truth and point to that which is right without condemning or belittling - we do it as Jesus calls us in that we (who are hopefully spiritual) 'restore them gently' (taking care to check that we don't become hypocrites or promote double-standards).

The reality is the the Chaplain, regardless of setting must be someone who is:

A person of the Word,

A person of Prayer, and

A person of the people.

Thought for the Day: Loathe one another!

For such a small bunch - the folk of Westboro Baptist church come in for a great deal of attention if the conversations I have are anything to go by. It seems this small and rather sad bunch of people are engaged in taking the message of god to the world and the sad thing is that the message, and the god they have, is of their own making and the fruit of their hatred and vitriolic proclamations is the very fate that they pour upon others.


The Bible tells us (Matt 7) that as we judge we too will be judged - using the same measure and means! Not only that but the Bible adds, for very good measure, this commandment (John 13):
'Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. 
This is how everyone will recognise that you are my disciples -
when they see the love you have for each other.'

Obviously this isn't what we see when we look at Westboro and it soon becomes very clear that whoever they are following - it sure ain't Jesus, for (returning to Matthew 7) because (as it so clearly states: 'by their fruits will you know them!'

You don't get apples from a thorn bush - you don't get hate and vile proclamations from Christians!

So whether you have a faith or not
love one another, be kind and take care that you don't sow the wrong seeds in your life.

Happy Friday

Daily Office - June 21

Psalm 55
Hear my prayer, O God; hide not yourself from my petition.
Give heed to me and answer me; I am restless in my complaining.
I am alarmed at the voice of the enemy and at the clamour of the wicked;
For they would bring down evil upon me and are set against me in fury.
My heart is disquieted within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and a horrible dread has overwhelmed me.
And I said:

‘O that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away and be at rest.
‘Then would I flee far away and make my lodging in the wilderness.
‘I would make haste to escape from the stormy wind and tempest.’

Confuse their tongues, O Lord, and divide them, for I have seen violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they go about on her walls; mischief and trouble are in her midst.
Wickedness walks in her streets; oppression and guile never leave her squares.
For it was not an open enemy that reviled me, for then I could have borne it;
Nor was it my adversary that puffed himself up against me, for then I would have hid myself from him.
But it was even you, one like myself, my companion and my own familiar friend.
We took sweet counsel together and walked with the multitude in the house of God.
Let death come suddenly upon them;
let them go down alive to the Pit;
for wickedness inhabits their dwellings, their very hearts.

As for me, I will call upon God and the Lord will deliver me.
In the evening and morning and at noonday I will pray and make my supplication,
and he shall hear my voice.
He shall redeem my soul in peace from the battle waged against me, •
for many have come upon me.
God, who is enthroned of old, will hear and bring them down;
they will not repent, for they have no fear of God.

My companion stretched out his hands against his friend and has broken his covenant;
His speech was softer than butter, though war was in his heart;
his words were smoother than oil, yet are they naked swords.

Cast your burden upon the Lord and he will sustain you,
and will not let the righteous fall for ever.
But those that are bloodthirsty and deceitful, O God,
you will bring down to the pit of destruction.
They shall not live out half their days, but my trust shall be in you, O Lord.

Job 31
‘I have made a covenant with my eyes;
   how then could I look upon a virgin?
What would be my portion from God above,
   and my heritage from the Almighty on high?
Does not calamity befall the unrighteous,
   and disaster the workers of iniquity?
Does he not see my ways,
   and number all my steps?

‘If I have walked with falsehood, and my foot has hurried to deceit—
 let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!—
 if my step has turned aside from the way,
 and my heart has followed my eyes,
 and if any spot has clung to my hands;
 then let me sow, and another eat;
 and let what grows for me be rooted out.

‘If my heart has been enticed by a woman,
 and I have lain in wait at my neighbour’s door;
 then let my wife grind for another,
 and let other men kneel over her.
 For that would be a heinous crime;
 that would be a criminal offence;
 for that would be a fire consuming down to Abaddon,
 and it would burn to the root all my harvest.

‘If I have rejected the cause of my male or female slaves,
 when they brought a complaint against me;
 what then shall I do when God rises up?
 When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him?
 Did not he who made me in the womb make them?
 And did not one fashion us in the womb?

‘If I have withheld anything that the poor desired,
 or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail,
 or have eaten my morsel alone,
 and the orphan has not eaten from it—
 for from my youth I reared the orphan like a father,
 and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow—
 if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing,
 or a poor person without covering,
 whose loins have not blessed me,
 and who was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep;
 if I have raised my hand against the orphan,
 because I saw I had supporters at the gate;
 then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder,
 and let my arm be broken from its socket.
 For I was in terror of calamity from God,
 and I could not have faced his majesty.

‘If I have made gold my trust, or called fine gold my confidence;
 if I have rejoiced because my wealth was great, or because my hand had acquired much;
 if I have looked at the sun when it shone, or the moon moving in splendour,
 and my heart has been secretly enticed, and my mouth has kissed my hand;
 this also would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges, for I should have been false to God above.

‘If I have rejoiced at the ruin of those who hated me, or exulted when evil overtook them—
 I have not let my mouth sin by asking for their lives with a curse—
 if those of my tent ever said,

“O that we might be sated with his flesh!” - the stranger has not lodged in the street;
 I have opened my doors to the traveller - if I have concealed my transgressions as others do,
 by hiding my iniquity in my bosom, because I stood in great fear of the multitude,
 and the contempt of families terrified me, so that I kept silence,
 and did not go out of doors - O that I had one to hear me!
 (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!)

 O that I had the indictment written by my adversary!
 Surely I would carry it on my shoulder;
 I would bind it on me like a crown;
 I would give him an account of all my steps;
 like a prince I would approach him.

‘If my land has cried out against me, and its furrows have wept together;
 if I have eaten its yield without payment, and caused the death of its owners;
 let thorns grow instead of wheat, and foul weeds instead of barley.’

Romans 13.8-end
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

The Collect
Almighty God,
you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts
      whereby we call you Father:
give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service,
that we and all creation may be brought
      to the glorious liberty of the children of God;
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.