Monday, 31 March 2014

Caption Contest - Back by popular demand


I've said 'Sorry' and now need to make amends - you have a week to share and get the best caption for this one:

Blue Sky Thinking - Inclusivity

This is one of those thoughts that has caused a fair bit of dialogue - but perhaps that's because what it says is real!

Now that's a thought in itself, innit?


Morning Prayer - Mar 31

John Donne, Priest, Poet, 1631

Psalm 70
O God, make speed to save me; O Lord, make haste to help me.
Let those who seek my life be put to shame and confusion; let them be turned back and disgraced who wish me evil.
Let those who mock and deride me turn back because of their shame.
But let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;
let those who love your salvation say always, ‘Great is the Lord!’

As for me, I am poor and needy; come to me quickly, O God. You are my help and my deliverer;
O Lord, do not delay.

Psalm 77
I cry aloud to God;
I cry aloud to God and he will hear me.

In the day of my trouble I have sought the Lord; by night my hand is stretched out and does not tire; my soul refuses comfort. I think upon God and I groan; I ponder, and my spirit faints.
You will not let my eyelids close; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I consider the days of old; I remember the years long past; I commune with my heart in the night; my spirit searches for understanding.

Will the Lord cast us off for ever?
Will he no more show us his favour?
Has his loving mercy clean gone for ever?
Has his promise come to an end for evermore?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he shut up his compassion in displeasure?
And I said, ‘My grief is this: that the right hand of the Most High has lost its strength.’

I will remember the works of the Lord and call to mind your wonders of old time.
I will meditate on all your works and ponder your mighty deeds.

Your way, O God, is holy; who is so great a god as our God?
You are the God who worked wonders and declared your power among the peoples.
With a mighty arm you redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph.
The waters saw you, O God; the waters saw you and were afraid; the depths also were troubled.
The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; your arrows flashed on every side; The voice of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lit up the ground; the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was in the sea, and your paths in the great waters, but your footsteps were not known.
You led your people like sheep by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Exodus 2.11-22
One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and saw their forced labour. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his kinsfolk. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. When he went out the next day, he saw two Hebrews fighting; and he said to the one who was in the wrong, ‘Why do you strike your fellow Hebrew?’ He answered, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Then Moses was afraid and thought, ‘Surely the thing is known.’ When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses.

But Moses fled from Pharaoh. He settled in the land of Midian, and sat down by a well. The priest of Midian had seven daughters. They came to draw water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. But some shepherds came and drove them away. Moses got up and came to their defence and watered their flock. When they returned to their father Reuel, he said, ‘How is it that you have come back so soon today?’ They said, ‘An Egyptian helped us against the shepherds; he even drew water for us and watered the flock.’ He said to his daughters, ‘Where is he? Why did you leave the man? Invite him to break bread.’ Moses agreed to stay with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah in marriage. She bore a son, and he named him Gershom; for he said, ‘I have been an alien residing in a foreign land.’

Hebrews 9.1-14
Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary. For a tent was constructed, the first one, in which were the lampstand, the table, and the bread of the Presence; this is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a tent called the Holy of Holies. In it stood the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which there were a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy-seat. Of these things we cannot speak now in detail.

Such preparations having been made, the priests go continually into the first tent to carry out their ritual duties; but only the high priest goes into the second, and he but once a year, and not without taking the blood that he offers for himself and for the sins committed unintentionally by the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary has not yet been disclosed as long as the first tent is still standing. This is a symbol of the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshipper, but deal only with food and drink and various baptisms, regulations for the body imposed until the time comes to set things right.

But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

The Collect
Merciful Lord,
absolve your people from their offences,
that through your bountiful goodness we may all be delivered from the chains of those sins which by our frailty we have committed;
grant this, heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ's sake, our blessed Lord and Saviour,
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

No, it's not a 'normal' blog!

Had a most challenging and enjoyable conversation with someone who felt they need to make the point that my blog wasn't a 'normal' Christian blog! My response went along the lines of 'No surprise there then Sherlock!' because it isn't supposed to be, and here's why:

Many of the 'normal' Christian sites I encounter trawl out the same old theological explanations (often it seem lifting them from other places) relating to the same old theological issues. They work hard at looking clever (something I'd never be able to carry off) and and amongst their highly polished (something I'd never claim to have) web presence they produce extremely clever theological thinking - often proving it with proper theological words and quotes from the great and influential theological minds what clever people refer to (I can't event spell SchloerMarker!).

Sadly, what I try to do here is look at issues that collide with me and having survived the impact define some baseline for me, and perhaps others, to begin to dialogue with and establish some sort of understanding of the issue before me (and perhaps us).

I will engage with things theological but, thanks to some excellent training which taught that theologians are accessible or academic, I have decided that I favour the former and so try to appeal to things with less syllables and fewer names of the Germanic variety*!

I will also continue to leave myriad typos as I rush in, scribble and rush out again - it's the curse of the scratchpad nature of the blog (but will try to remedy said typos at some stage to protect the brains of those around me).

I accept that this place will never be one with a myriad of whatever it is that those wonderfully polished site with loads of neat little adverts and clever little gadgets have to make it stand out as 'something to win prizes'**

What you will find here is stuff that I come across, dialogue with, find myself (and others) challenged by as something we can engage in and develop our own apologetic as we do theology in a real and everyday manner.

So that's me and this place and who, what, how and why it is here - please feel free to become a part of it and make it your own in whichever way you can - All are welcome to view my own brand of weirdness and my journey for integrity in my own faith and ministry life.

Pax



*mind you hypocritically, and just a little inconsistently, I will continue to turn to Barth, Moltmann, Bonhoeffer, Hauerwas and many other of my inappropriately germanic styled heroes as I seek to grow my faith and learn.

** A cool comment from someone who stumbled across the site and, applauding some drivel I'd scribbled, made a number of 'design and features' suggestions which, they assured me, would make me 'an award winning'  offering. Not the aim (but of course if you'd like to applaud - feel free (and if you'd like to offer suggestions, correctives and dialogue - feel freer still).

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Can't make it to church?

So here we are at one of the most misunderstood (even - or should that be especially? - by some clergy) celebration of the church's year. A misunderstanding that causes pain and confusion and brings about some of the very worst preaching of the year.

So let's try to sort out some of the confusion:

It is not about Mums, nor is it about being a Mum and definitely not about having never been a Mum, and yet this is what many will hear and will take comfort, sadness or distress from it!

Today is something which dates back to the fifteen hundreds (16th Century) when Christians returned to the place they were baptised and celebrated their membership of the Church in their 'Mother' church.

A day when, the service done, people often visited the family home and, picking flowers on the way (a tough task in later industrial Britain), gave Mum a small gift (cheap - not expensive).

A day when those in service were given a day off to go 'a mothering' (days off not being that forthcoming) and so it was also a celebration - one which centred upon being part of the family: Physical and Spiritual.

The problem we have is that there will be people in our congregations this morning who having never been a mother will be feeling that this is something that speaks of their barrenness. Others who have had mothers who were less than perfect and never had the love, care and support that so many assume that women all possess will find the lauding of mothers painful and will hear words that speak of the paucity of love they have experienced. Some, whose mothers have departed this earth will be sad as they remember the woman they no longer see.

And then there are the mothers who are still with us and who are celebrated today as Mothering Sunday and Mother's Day (a truly secular shopping opportunity) collide.

Today is a day that proclaims LOUDLY this truth:


Today may we all, male or female, find the comfort and joy of this truth residing in our hearts.

For those who get presents, flowers and the like - enjoy it, for the role of being a mother is a tough and demanding one - one for which the help, inspiration and enabling of God is an added boon - and you should take the applause that is truly deserved.

For those who don't - look to the cross and the greatest gift we can have, the assurance of acceptance, love  and belonging and rejoice in that added gift of eternal life.

And for those whose mothers are no longer with us - we commend them, once again, to God's grace, love, care and mercy and give thanks for their lives and the nurture and love we received from them.

I have to include this because it made me smile - and I hope it has the same effect on you too:



Collect for Mothering Sunday
God of compassion, whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary,
shared the life of a home in Nazareth, and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself:
strengthen us in our daily living that in joy and in sorrow
we may know the power of your presence to bind together and to heal;
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.

Exodus 2.1-10
Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him for three months. When she could hide him no longer sh got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He w crying, and she took pity on him. ‘This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,’ she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go an get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Yes.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child and nurse it for me and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, ‘because’, she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’

Colossians 3.12-17
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Gospel John 19.25-27
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said
to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Post Communion
Loving God,
as a mother feeds her children at the breast you feed us in this sacrament with the food and drink of eternal life: help us who have tasted your goodness to grow in grace within the household of faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Oddly, you might think, being mothering sunday here;s a piece of music I think fits the bill:


Saturday, 29 March 2014

Life Looking Dark?

Then hopefully this image will provide a moment of encouragement, solace and hope:


Even in the deepest hole (and I used to work very deep underground at one stage - places where natural light has never been) the slightest glimmer of light becomes so amazingly intense.

May the light of God's love shine into the dark places of your life today

BT - making compromised accounts a daily nightmare

BT have blessed me (in the most negative of senses) with their email provision of late and it's amazing progress in making my service so secure to the extent that whenever I try to log in it tells me that I can't because of 'unusual' activity! Assuming my account has been compromised I find that I am forced to change my email password and then - within minutes find myself being told this too is compromised.

I get one download and then 'Bingo!' we're back into the whole load of cobblers again

And Again

And AGAIN!

What a complete load of rubbish this new 'improved' BT MAIL is.

I wonder, am I alone in this nightmare scenario?


Friday, 28 March 2014

Thought for the day: Life Belt Inside

There are a number of 'pay it forward videos out there but I thought I'd post this as a Friday 'thought for the day' - But we don't do good to get good back, do we?

video

Blue Sky Thinking - Blame

Listening to the radio today it seems that some are looking at the Malaysian air disaster and asking the question, 'Who is to blame - who can we sue?'

Oddly it appears that this attitude is being supported, nay encouraged, by legal firms - now there's a surprise - and so perhaps this thought is also their mantra:


Morning Prayer - Mar 28

Psalm 22
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me, and are so far from my salvation, from the words of my distress?

O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer; and by night also, but I find no rest. Yet you are the Holy One, enthroned upon the praises of Israel. Our forebears trusted in you; they trusted, and you delivered them. They cried out to you and were delivered; they put their trust in you and were not confounded. But as for me, I am a worm and no man, scorned by all and despised by the people. All who see me laugh me to scorn; they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying, ‘He trusted in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him deliver him, if he delights in him.’

But it is you that took me out of the womb and laid me safe upon my mother’s breast.  On you was I cast ever since I was born; you are my God even from my mother’s womb. Be not far from me, for trouble is near at hand and there is none to help. Mighty oxen come around me; fat bulls of Bashan close me in on every side. They gape upon me with their mouths, as it were a ramping and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint; my heart has become like wax melting in the depths of my body. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd; my tongue cleaves to my gums; you have laid me in the dust of death. For the hounds are all about me; the pack of evildoers close in on me; they pierce my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; they stand staring and looking upon me. They divide my garments among them; they cast lots for my clothing. Be not far from me, O Lord; you are my strength; hasten to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword, my poor life from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth, from the horns of wild oxen.
You have answered me!

I will tell of your name to my people; in the midst of the congregation will I praise you. Praise the Lord, you that fear him; O seed of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, O seed of Israel. For he has not despised nor abhorred the suffering of the poor; neither has he hidden his face from them; but when they cried to him he heard them. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; I will perform my vows in the presence of those that fear you.

The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord shall praise him; their hearts shall live for ever. All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall bow before him. For the kingdom is the Lord’s and he rules over the nations.

How can those who sleep in the earth bow down in worship, or those who go down to the dust kneel before him? He has saved my life for himself; my descendants shall serve him; this shall be told of the Lord for generations to come. They shall come and make known his salvation, to a people yet unborn, declaring that he, the Lord, has done it.

Exodus 1.1-14
These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. The total number of people born to Jacob was seventy. Joseph was already in Egypt. Then Joseph died, and all his brothers, and that whole generation. But the Israelites were fruitful and prolific; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.
Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, ‘Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.’ Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labour. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labour. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

Hebrews 7.11-end
Now if perfection had been attainable through the levitical priesthood—for the people received the law under this priesthood—what further need would there have been to speak of another priest arising according to the order of Melchizedek, rather than one according to the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. Now the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.

It is even more obvious when another priest arises, resembling Melchizedek, one who has become a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of him,
‘You are a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchizedek.’

There is, on the one hand, the abrogation of an earlier commandment because it was weak and ineffectual (for the law made nothing perfect); there is, on the other hand, the introduction of a better hope, through which we approach God.

This was confirmed with an oath; for others who became priests took their office without an oath, but this one became a priest with an oath, because of the one who said to him,
‘The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest for ever” ’— accordingly Jesus has also become the guarantee of a better covenant. Furthermore, the former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect for ever.

The Collect
Almighty God,
whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
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 March 2014

Vicars or Bishops - some initial thinking

When I joined my current diocese there was a motion before the Diocesan Synod to abandon all sector ministry posts so that the money could be used 'where the need was'! This was one of those issues that drew a raggedy line between the two camps and left a few in the no man's land that appeared between them.

I, fortunately, didn't have anything to do with the discussion and watched with varying degrees of horror as slips (and prejudices) were displayed, often in the most unappealing and attractive of ways, leaving me dismayed and rather disappointed with the whole sorry episode. Since then I have seen the same awfulness inflicted on a number of occasions and on a number of issues (women in ministry, homosexuality, women with pointy hats - to name just three) and none of the three sides (for, against and 'who cares) have emerged unscathed or mentality secure!

But I digress, let us get back to the letter and the situation before us for in it I see a few interesting considerations:

i. There is a fair amount of duplication in that every diocese does the same thing. Is there potential for some of the core services to be amalgamated such that areas like personnel (which I'm told we must have because of Common Tenure) and many of the administrative and ministry areas to be removed to regional centres?

ii. Could we bring about the situation whereby those who are engaged in sector ministry might also be given a church to run too? Now this might be a bit of a challenge for those who find themselves out and about every week but some roles - Hmmm?

iii. What about reverse engineering it and making those who have jobs and are up to the task (and I mean 'up to' rather than desirous, for the church has many inept wannabees who seek positions  of power) sector minsters?

iv. It does seem odd that in an apparently constricting organisation the senior management is left in the ivory palaces whilst those on the high street are reduced. Surely the answer is fewer, smarter (that means able and called), pointyhats and more people out there growing the business and bringing in the money and the members (I apologise for the commercial tone of this - I do think we're a spiritual entity really!!!).

v. If a pointyhat really equates to four 'on the ground clergy' do we need to ask ourselves how many we need to function effectively (and where we need them). Now this is an emotive issue because like the military who have realised that despite 'the Few' and the Dambusters, there might be less case for an Air Force than some might think, feelings run high. But the questions need to be asked - don't they?

Now forty-four diocesan bishops makes sense on the grounds that we have (I assume) forty-four areas know as a diocese. The sixty-nine suffragan (or area) bishops make sense if they are all doing valid and effective ministry.

BUT

Has the time come to rethink the diocesan boundaries and structures and the way that they are services and supported?

Clergy are judged by many things I'm sure (so why does everyone, including 'Rev' assume it's merely about the ability to pay?) and as the apparent attitudes amongst some of 'train up, train out' policies as found in ministerial development reviews seem to make me feel I'm back in the City of London I wonder who assesses and rationalises/shapes those top layer of the Church.

Goodness me, what a challenging piece of writing that letter is - I've only splurged for ten minutes but my head is buzzing with questions, thoughts and confusions.

How you doing with it?

Vicars or Bishops?

I've been passed a photocopy of a photocopy that someone has photocopied and it makes quite interesting reading as it contemplates the question of the most effective disbursement  of the churches' money. But I guess I'd best let you read it for yourself:

'The dispute over the residence for the new Bishop of Bath and Wells typifies much that is wrong with the senior management (if it can be described as such) of the Church of England. Crucially, no one seems to have asked if a new Bishop is even necessary.

According to the most recent Church Commissioners annual report, there are 44 diocesan and 69 suffragan bishops, costing £25 million a year. There doesn't seem to have been any significant reduction in their numbers since the mid-Eighties, despite the substantial fall in churchgoers. Conversely, the number of parochial clergy seems to be undergoing almost constant reduction.

The Commissioners support for bishops and cathedrals in 2012 was £34.9 million, while support for parishes was £42.5 million: arguably, far too much concentration on the 'chiefs' at the expense of the 'indians'. All these bishops incur office costs on top of diocese and support staff: why aren't these back office functions combined? What are all these bishops doing? Much of their duty seems to be administrative and can be done better at lower cost by people trained to such roles.

I'm a regular churchgoer and treasurer of my local church, which is served by a priest who has five other parishes. All Six have grade 1 listed church buildings with their attendant maintenance issues. The local communities over which the priest has responsibility for the cure souls are spread over 80 square miles, served by poorly maintained, unlit, narrow, rural roads.

Many churchgoers would gladly swap a couple of bishops for seven parochial clergy, which seems to be the exchange rate. A local priest, available and accessible to the community, is much more use than an occasional visit from a bishop who knows very little about local people and their lives.'

Michael Price, Burstwick, East Yorks


Blue Sky Thinking - Terminal?

Now, having worked with those who have been diagnosed as having a 'terminal' illness, I have to say that I like this thought:


Morning Prayer - Mar 27

Psalm 56
Have mercy on me, O God, for they trample over me; all day long they assault and oppress me.
My adversaries trample over me all the day long; many are they that make proud war against me.
In the day of my fear I put my trust in you, in God whose word I praise.
In God I trust, and will not fear, for what can flesh do to me?

All day long they wound me with words; their every thought is to do me evil. They stir up trouble; they lie in wait; marking my steps, they seek my life. Shall they escape for all their wickedness? In anger, O God, cast the peoples down. You have counted up my groaning; put my tears into your bottle; are they not written in your book? Then shall my enemies turn back on the day when I call upon you; this I know, for God is on my side.

In God whose word I praise,
in the Lord whose word I praise,
in God I trust and will not fear: what can flesh do to me?

To you, O God, will I fulfil my vows; to you will I present my offerings of thanks, for you will deliver my soul from death and my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living.

Psalm 57
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for my soul takes refuge in you; in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge until the storm of destruction has passed by. I will call upon the Most High God, the God who fulfils his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me and rebuke those that would trample upon me; God will send forth his love and his faithfulness. I lie in the midst of lions, people whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and your glory over all the earth.

They have laid a net for my feet; my soul is pressed down; they have dug a pit before me and will fall into it themselves. My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready;

I will sing and give you praise. Awake, my soul; awake, harp and lyre, that I may awaken the dawn.
I will give you thanks, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praise to you among the nations.

For your loving-kindness is as high as the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and your glory over all the earth.

Genesis 49.33-50.end
When Jacob ended his charge to his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.

Then Joseph threw himself on his father’s face and wept over him and kissed him. Joseph commanded the physicians in his service to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel; they spent forty days in doing this, for that is the time required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him for seventy days.

When the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph addressed the household of Pharaoh, ‘If now I have found favour with you, please speak to Pharaoh as follows: My father made me swear an oath; he said, “I am about to die. In the tomb that I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me.” Now therefore let me go up, so that I may bury my father; then I will return.’ Pharaoh answered, ‘Go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear to do.’

So Joseph went up to bury his father. With him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s household. Only their children, their flocks, and their herds were left in the land of Goshen. Both chariots and charioteers went up with him. It was a very great company. When they came to the threshing-floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they held there a very great and sorrowful lamentation; and he observed a time of mourning for his father for seven days. When the Canaanite inhabitants of the land saw the mourning on the threshing-floor of Atad, they said, ‘This is a grievous mourning on the part of the Egyptians.’ Therefore the place was named Abel-mizraim; it is beyond the Jordan. Thus his sons did for him as he had instructed them. They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field at Machpelah, the field near Mamre, which Abraham bought as a burial site from Ephron the Hittite. After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.

Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, ‘What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?’ So they approached Joseph, saying, ‘Your father gave this instruction before he died, “Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.” Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.’ Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, ‘We are here as your slaves.’ But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.’ In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

So Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father’s household; and Joseph lived for one hundred and ten years. Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation; the children of Machir son of Manasseh were also born on Joseph’s knees.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die; but God will surely come to you, and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’ So Joseph made the Israelites swear, saying, ‘When God comes to you, you shall carry up my bones from here.’ And Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.

Hebrews 7.1-10
This ‘King Melchizedek of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him’; and to him Abraham apportioned ‘one-tenth of everything’. His name, in the first place, means ‘king of righteousness’; next he is also king of Salem, that is, ‘king of peace’. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest for ever.

See how great he is! Even Abraham the patriarch gave him a tenth of the spoils. And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to collect tithes from the people, that is, from their kindred, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man, who does not belong to their ancestry, collected tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had received the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case, tithes are received by those who are mortal; in the other, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.

The Collect
Almighty God,
whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
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.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Blue Sky Thought - Family, Friends and Love

This is one of those extremely inflammatory conversation starters - separates men from boys, politically left from right, the haves from the have-nots and so on.

We all have our 'most important' things in life - but have you got your priorities right I wonder?



Morning Prayer - Mar 26

Harriet Monsell, Founder of the Community of St John the Baptist, 1883

Psalm 38
Rebuke me not, O Lord, in your anger, neither chasten me in your heavy displeasure. For your arrows have stuck fast in me and your hand presses hard upon me.

There is no health in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no peace in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; their weight is a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness. I am utterly bowed down and brought very low; I go about mourning all the day long. My loins are filled with searing pain; there is no health in my flesh. I am feeble and utterly crushed; I roar aloud because of the disquiet of my heart.

O Lord, you know all my desires and my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart is pounding, my strength has failed me; the light of my eyes is gone from me. My friends and companions stand apart from my affliction; my neighbours stand afar off. Those who seek after my life lay snares for me; and those who would harm me whisper evil and mutter slander all the day long. But I am like one who is deaf and hears not, like one that is dumb, who does not open his mouth.

I have become like one who does not hear and from whose mouth comes no retort. For in you, Lord, have I put my trust; you will answer me, O Lord my God. For I said, ‘Let them not triumph over me, those who exult over me when my foot slips.’

Truly, I am on the verge of falling and my pain is ever with me. I will confess my iniquity and be sorry for my sin.
Those that are my enemies without any cause are mighty, and those who hate me wrongfully are many in number.
Those who repay evil for good are against me, because the good is what I seek.

Forsake me not, O Lord; be not far from me, O my God. Make haste to help me, O Lord of my salvation.

Genesis 49.1-32
Then Jacob called his sons, and said: ‘Gather around, that I may tell you what will happen to you in days to come.
Assemble and hear, O sons of Jacob; listen to Israel your father.

‘Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might and the first fruits of my vigour, excelling in rank and excelling in power. Unstable as water, you shall no longer excel because you went up on to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—you went up on to my couch!

‘Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords.  May I never come into their council; may I not be joined to their company - for in their anger they killed men, and at their whim they hamstrung oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.

‘Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He crouches down, he stretches out like a lion, like a lioness—who dares rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and the obedience of the peoples is his. Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he washes his garments in wine and his robe in the blood of grapes; his eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.

‘Zebulun shall settle at the shore of the sea; he shall be a haven for ships, and his border shall be at Sidon.

‘Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between the sheepfolds; he saw that a resting-place was good, and that the land was pleasant; so he bowed his shoulder to the burden, and became a slave at forced labour.

‘Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a snake by the roadside, a viper along the path,
that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider falls backwards.

‘I wait for your salvation, O Lord.

‘Gad shall be raided by raiders, but he shall raid at their heels.

‘Asher’s food shall be rich, and he shall provide royal delicacies.

‘Naphtali is a doe let loose that bears lovely fawns.

‘Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall. The archers fiercely attacked him; they shot at him and pressed him hard. Yet his bow remained taut, and his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, by the name of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, by the God of your father, who will help you, by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father are stronger than the blessings of the eternal mountains, the bounties of the everlasting hills; may they be on the head of Joseph, on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.

‘Benjamin is a ravenous wolf, in the morning devouring the prey, and at evening dividing the spoil.’

All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, blessing each one of them with a suitable blessing.

Then he charged them, saying to them, ‘I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my ancestors—in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave in the field at Machpelah, near Mamre, in the land of Canaan, in the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial site. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried; there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried; and there I buried Leah—the field and the cave that is in it were purchased from the Hittites.’

Hebrews 6.13-end
When God made a promise to Abraham, because he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, ‘I will surely bless you and multiply you.’ And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise. Human beings, of course, swear by someone greater than themselves, and an oath given as confirmation puts an end to all dispute. In the same way, when God desired to show even more clearly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it by an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God would prove false, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us. We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek.

The Collect
Almighty God,
whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
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, 25 March 2014

Blue Sky Thought - Righteous

Now this is one of those thoughts that starts fights - so let's get it on:


Morning Prayer - Mar 25

The Annunciation of Our Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary

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

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

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

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

Psalm 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.
Alleluia.

1 Samuel 2.1-10
Hannah prayed and said,
‘My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God.
 My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory.

‘There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.
 Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.

The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honour. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.

‘He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail.
The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered; the Most High will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed.’

Romans 5.12-21
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned—sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgement following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Collect
We beseech you, O Lord,
pour your grace into our hearts,
that as we have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel,
so by his cross and passion we may be brought to the glory of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Blue Sky Thought - What Hope?

This is a true saying, and worthy of all those who call themselves Christian to be received and contemplated:


Morning Prayer - Mar 24

Walter Hilton of Thurgarton, Augustinian Canon, Mystic, 1396
Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, Martyr, 1980
Paul Couturier, Priest, Ecumenist, 1953

Psalm 5
Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my lamentation. Hearken to the voice of my crying, my King and my God, for to you I make my prayer. In the morning, Lord, you will hear my voice; early in the morning I make my appeal to you, and look up. For you are the God who takes no pleasure in wickedness; no evil can dwell with you. The boastful cannot stand in your sight; you hate all those that work wickedness. You destroy those who speak lies; the bloodthirsty and deceitful the Lord will abhor. But as for me, through the greatness of your mercy, I will come into your house; I will bow down towards your holy temple in awe of you.  Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness, because of my enemies; make your way straight before my face. For there is no truth in their mouth, in their heart is destruction, their throat is an open sepulchre, and they flatter with their tongue.

Punish them, O God; let them fall through their own devices. Because of their many transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them sing out their joy for ever. You will shelter them, so that those who love your name may exult in you. For you, O Lord, will bless the righteous; and with your favour you will defend them as with a shield.

Psalm 7
O Lord my God, in you I take refuge; save me from all who pursue me, and deliver me, Lest they rend me like a lion and tear me in pieces while there is no one to help me. O Lord my God, if I have done these things: if there is any wickedness in my hands, if I have repaid my friend with evil, or plundered my enemy without a cause, then let my enemy pursue me and overtake me, trample my life to the ground, and lay my honour in the dust.

Rise up, O Lord, in your wrath; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies. Awaken, my God, the judgement that you have commanded. Let the assembly of the peoples gather round you; be seated high above them: O Lord, judge the nations. Give judgement for me according to my righteousness, O Lord, and according to the innocence that is in me.

Let the malice of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; for you test the mind and heart, O righteous God. God is my shield that is over me; he saves the true of heart. God is a righteous judge; he is provoked all day long. If they will not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent his bow and made it ready. He has prepared the weapons of death; he makes his arrows shafts of fire. Behold those who are in labour with wickedness, who conceive evil and give birth to lies. They dig a pit and make it deep and fall into the hole that they have made for others. Their mischief rebounds on their own head; their violence falls on their own scalp.

I will give thanks to the Lord for his righteousness, and I will make music to the name of the Lord Most High.

Genesis 47.1-27
So Joseph went and told Pharaoh, ‘My father and my brothers, with their flocks and herds and all that they possess, have come from the land of Canaan; they are now in the land of Goshen.’ From among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to his brothers, ‘What is your occupation?’ And they said to Pharaoh, ‘Your servants are shepherds, as our ancestors were.’ They said to Pharaoh, ‘We have come to reside as aliens in the land; for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks because the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now, we ask you, let your servants settle in the land of Goshen.’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land; let them live in the land of Goshen; and if you know that there are capable men among them, put them in charge of my livestock.’

Then Joseph brought in his father Jacob, and presented him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Jacob, ‘How many are the years of your life?’ Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The years of my earthly sojourn are one hundred and thirty; few and hard have been the years of my life. They do not compare with the years of the life of my ancestors during their long sojourn.’ Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from the presence of Pharaoh. Joseph settled his father and his brothers, and granted them a holding in the land of Egypt, in the best part of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had instructed. And Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their dependants.

Now there was no food in all the land, for the famine was very severe. The land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished because of the famine. Joseph collected all the money to be found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, in exchange for the grain that they bought; and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. When the money from the land of Egypt and from the land of Canaan was spent, all the Egyptians came to Joseph, and said, ‘Give us food! Why should we die before your eyes? For our money is gone.’ And Joseph answered, ‘Give me your livestock, and I will give you food in exchange for your livestock, if your money is gone.’ So they brought their livestock to Joseph; and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses, the flocks, the herds, and the donkeys. That year he supplied them with food in exchange for all their livestock. When that year was ended, they came to him the following year, and said to him, ‘We cannot hide from my lord that our money is all spent; and the herds of cattle are my lord’s. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our lands. Shall we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land in exchange for food. We with our land will become slaves to Pharaoh; just give us seed, so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate.’

So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh. All the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe upon them; and the land became Pharaoh’s. As for the people, he made slaves of them from one end of Egypt to the other. Only the land of the priests he did not buy; for the priests had a fixed allowance from Pharaoh, and lived on the allowance that Pharaoh gave them; therefore they did not sell their land. Then Joseph said to the people, ‘Now that I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh, here is seed for you; sow the land. And at the harvests you shall give one-fifth to Pharaoh, and four-fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones.’ They said, ‘You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be slaves to Pharaoh.’ So Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt, and it stands to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth. The land of the priests alone did not become Pharaoh’s.

Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the region of Goshen; and they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied exceedingly.

Hebrews 4.14-5.10
Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. And one does not presume to take this honour, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,
‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’;

as he says also in another place,
‘You are a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchizedek.’

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

The Collect
Almighty God,
whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
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 March 2014

Made me Smile: Cellphones in church

This is one of those images that just makes you smile - especially because it happens so many times during the course of a year (and often to the same people).


Don't people realise that their friends and family are in church (after all, isn't everyone(?

Can't Make it to Church? (Mar 23)

So here we are at another Sunday. What do we have before us today I wonder?

God answers the cries (should that be the moans?) of the people as they journey away from captivity, quenching their physical thirst. We get perhaps an insight of what it is to be God and endure all that moaning (not us surely?) in the words of Psalm 95.

I wonder whether Paul's mind, when he wrote the words we have from Romans today, and thinking had those OT folk in mind when he wrote, 'Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into us through the Holy Spirit that has been given us.'

Now there's a thought - suffering, endurance, character and hope - I meet many who suffer, and claim to do so myself at times, and yet many I meet fold their cards and, bemoaning their lot, give up and the character that is so often formed is never something to write home about. There's little joy and less praise - merely moaning (just like to OT fold in Genesis). But we do have a hope and that hope is fixed and made real in Jesus, the Christ, and lived out in us in and through the enabling of God's Holy Spirit.

And why?

because although we were far from God, Jesus died for us and reconciled us to Him and His love, life and fellowship.

How cool is that?

Jesus ably illustrates this truth when someone who was part of a despised people group, a Samaritan, comes to draw water from a well. being a man and a Jew He breaks all the rules and engages with her with the upshot being that she, like those in the wilderness is shown the source of water - living water that fill and refreshes and sustains - a water that means those who have it will never be thirsty again.

May we all know the presence of that water in our lives today and every day of our lives.



Exodus 17.1-7
From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’

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.” ’

Romans 5.1-11
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

John 4.5-42
So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples said to one another, ‘Surely no one has brought him something to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.’

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.’



The Collect
Almighty God,
whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
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.

Post Communion
Merciful Lord,
grant your people grace to withstand the temptations
of the world, the flesh and the devil,
and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Morning Prayer - Mar 22


Psalm 3
Lord, how many are my adversaries; many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say to my soul, ‘There is no help for you in your God.’ But you, Lord, are a shield about me; you are my glory, and the lifter up of my head.

When I cry aloud to the Lord, he will answer me from his holy hill; I lie down and sleep and rise again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not be afraid of hordes of the peoples that have set themselves against me all around. Rise up, O Lord, and deliver me, O my God, for you strike all my enemies on the cheek and break the teeth of the wicked.

Salvation belongs to the Lord: may your blessing be upon your people.

Psalm 25
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies triumph over me. Let none who look to you be put to shame, but let the treacherous be shamed and frustrated.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you have I hoped all the day long. Remember, Lord, your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions, but think on me in your goodness, O Lord, according to your steadfast love.

Gracious and upright is the Lord; therefore shall he teach sinners in the way. He will guide the humble in doing right and teach his way to the lowly. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. For your name’s sake, O Lord, be merciful to my sin, for it is great.

Who are those who fear the Lord? 
Them will he teach in the way that they should choose. Their soul shall dwell at ease and their offspring shall inherit the land. The hidden purpose of the Lord is for those who fear him and he will show them his covenant.

My eyes are ever looking to the Lord, for he shall pluck my feet out of the net. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am alone and brought very low. The sorrows of my heart have increased; O bring me out of my distress. Look upon my adversity and misery and forgive me all my sin. Look upon my enemies, for they are many and they bear a violent hatred against me. O keep my soul and deliver me; let me not be put to shame, for I have put my trust in you. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for my hope has been in you. Deliver Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.

Genesis 46.1-7, 28-end
When Israel set out on his journey with all that he had and came to Beer-sheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in visions of the night, and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again; and Joseph’s own hand shall close your eyes.’

Then Jacob set out from Beer-sheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to carry him. They also took their livestock and the goods that they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and they came into Egypt, Jacob and all his offspring with him, his sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters; all his offspring he brought with him into Egypt.

Israel sent Judah ahead to Joseph to lead the way before him into Goshen. When they came to the land of Goshen, Joseph made ready his chariot and went up to meet his father Israel in Goshen. He presented himself to him, fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. Israel said to Joseph, ‘I can die now, having seen for myself that you are still alive.’ Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, ‘I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him, “My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. The men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have.” When Pharaoh calls you, and says, “What is your occupation?” you shall say, “Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our ancestors”—in order that you may settle in the land of Goshen, because all shepherds are abhorrent to the Egyptians.’

Hebrews 4.1-13
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
‘As in my anger I swore, “They shall not enter my rest” ’,
though his works were finished at the foundation of the world. For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.’ And again in this place it says, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he sets a certain day—‘today’—saying through David much later, in the words already quoted,
‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’ 

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day. So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labours as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

The Collect
Almighty God,
you show to those who are in error the light of your truth,
that they may return to the way of righteousness:
grant to all those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ's religion,
that they may reject those things that are contrary to their profession,
and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Blues Sky Thought: Office Rules

Many years ago I was given this wonderful piece of advice about the way that people worked in the organisation. It didn't take long to realise that my mentor had given me a wonderful analysis of the innermost workings of that organisation.

Enjoy:


How glad I am to have left that world

Morning Prayer - Mar 21

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, Reformation Martyr, 1556

Psalm 40
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me out of the roaring pit, out of the mire and clay; he set my feet upon a rock and made my footing sure. He has put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many shall see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not turn to the proud that follow a lie.

Great are the wonders you have done, O Lord my God. How great your designs for us! There is none that can be compared with you. If I were to proclaim them and tell of them they would be more than I am able to express. Sacrifice and offering you do not desire but my ears you have opened; Burnt offering and sacrifice for sin you have not required; then said I: ‘Lo, I come.
‘In the scroll of the book it is written of me that I should do your will, O my God; I delight to do it: your law is within my heart.’ I have declared your righteousness in the great congregation; behold, I did not restrain my lips,
and that, O Lord, you know. Your righteousness I have not hidden in my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your loving-kindness and truth from the great congregation.

Do not withhold your compassion from me, O Lord; let your love and your faithfulness always preserve me, For innumerable troubles have come about me; my sins have overtaken me so that I cannot look up; they are more in number than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails me. Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me. Let them be ashamed and altogether dismayed who seek after my life to destroy it; let them be driven back and put to shame who wish me evil. Let those who heap insults upon me be desolate because of their shame. Let all who seek you rejoice in you and be glad; •
let those who love your salvation say always,
‘The Lord is great.’

Though I am poor and needy, the Lord cares for me. You are my helper and my deliverer; O my God, make no delay.

Psalm 41
Blessed are those who consider the poor and needy; the Lord will deliver them in the time of trouble.
The Lord preserves them and restores their life, that they may be happy in the land; he will not hand them over to the will of their enemies.

The Lord sustains them on their sickbed; their sickness, Lord, you will remove. And so I said,
‘Lord, be merciful to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.’

My enemies speak evil about me, asking when I shall die and my name perish. If they come to see me, they utter empty words; their heart gathers mischief; when they go out, they tell it abroad. All my enemies whisper together against me, against me they devise evil, Saying that a deadly thing has laid hold on me, and that I will not rise again from where I lie. Even my bosom friend, whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. But you, O Lord, be merciful to me and raise me up, that I may reward them. By this I know that you favour me, that my enemy does not triumph over me. Because of my integrity you uphold me and will set me before your face for ever.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.

Genesis 45.16-end
When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, ‘Joseph’s brothers have come’, Pharaoh and his servants were pleased. Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Say to your brothers, “Do this: load your animals and go back to the land of Canaan. Take your father and your households and come to me, so that I may give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you may enjoy the fat of the land.” You are further charged to say, “Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Give no thought to your possessions, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.” ’

The sons of Israel did so. Joseph gave them wagons according to the instruction of Pharaoh, and he gave them provisions for the journey. To each one of them he gave a set of garments; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five sets of garments. To his father he sent the following: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey. Then he sent his brothers on their way, and as they were leaving he said to them, ‘Do not quarrel along the way.’

So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. And they told him, ‘Joseph is still alive! He is even ruler over all the land of Egypt.’ He was stunned; he could not believe them. But when they told him all the words of Joseph that he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. Israel said, ‘Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I must go and see him before I die.’

Hebrews 3.7-end
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, as on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your ancestors put me to the test, though they had seen my works for forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and I said, “They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known my ways.” As in my anger I swore, “They will not enter my rest.” ’

Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end. As it is said,
‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’

Now who were they who heard and yet were rebellious? Was it not all those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses? But with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, if not to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

The Collect
Father of all mercies,
who through the work of your servant Thomas Cranmer renewed the worship of your Church and through his death revealed your strength in human weakness:
by your grace strengthen us to worship you in spirit and in truth and so to come to the joys of your everlasting kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Mediator and Advocate, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

When home and ministry and love collide

I was challenged today about where I, and the family, am and how long we see ourselves being there and this is perhaps the toughest part of 'being in ministry' because I don't have a job, I'm part of a family.

The problem is that as much as one might want it not to be so, the family has to undergo change, but as much as we might like to think we will always be family, leaving ends that situation. This first came home to me when we left our sending church and headed off to a strange place a (very) long way away from home. I didn't leave my church, I left my family and even though we all said differently, the reality was that our images began to fade from the family photograph that day.

The problem with becoming a minister in a place is that first we enter as a stranger and then come to love (and hopefully be loved) the people we are called to pastor. People come (bringing joy) and people go (and regardless of who they were or how they went - there has always been pain, tears and sadness) - the ebb and flow of life made all the more painful because often, even when we disagreed, church members can become more of a family to us than those who have the biological DNA of family within them.

I have been asked how much longer I might be with those around me and this, coupled with the myriad number of people who have asked whether I might be 'promoted' to a vacant post within the deanery, starts to make me think. The problem is that it's not a change of job - even though that appears to be how those outside of this body (and family) might view it - it is an offering up of one's family and an invitation to a bereavement of a very deep and painful kind.

I have come to love where I am and even though it's far from anything that looks like the Arsenal and boasts no magic shops and has a proliferation of odd accents and funny expressions, I have to say that the thought of leaving it brings a certain pain. My desire to see Christ offered up and made real to the people here is more passionately felt now than it was even a year ago.

My love for those who have come to faith and are growing and offering themselves in so many different ways; those who are truly seeking to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Christ; my brothers and sisters in leadership who work so tirelessly to meet the many needs of this town and its inhabitants. My passion for a big building that has been a sacred space for so many years and the Church who throughout the ages has borne witness to the persistent love and commitment to Christ and from this ministered so wonderfully.

I see the faces of those who have gone before - those who I have wept over at the news of their death and have walked proudly from their graves and crematorium services - those saints who have made their mark and left a legacy of pride and love. Those saints to whom I can still minister, albeit now in their homes or places where they are cared for, and celebrate in the Eucharist a lifetime of Christian commitment.

So please, please, understand that when you ask me about 'moving on' you are not asking me about a new job somewhere - you are asking when I'm going to leave my family and set off to find another elsewhere (which I have before and will probably have to do again when that calls comes).

Please realise that it is about more than moving home (and I have done this in my service and submission to Christ and it holds no fears when the time is right).

Please realise that 'promotion' doesn't come into it - what is at the heart of our ministry is submission to Christ and the being in the right place - that place we're supposed to be in - rather than a 'good or better job'.

for those testing their callings to ministry, please understand that the journey is fraught with the pain of leaving and the joy of arriving home and understand the agony in between. In a brief flash of time it is like the agony of death and the joy of resurrection - a microcosmic flash of Christ on the death and that Easter morning in one. It is a place of sacrifice, cost and putting your ministry where your words are.

And as you do - please pray for all those in ministry.