Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Walking a fine line (2) - What's it got to do with you?

So there you are, you've decided to try and dialogue with the person what's got (you fear) a  'bit of a problem'. The first response that comes back at you is more often than not:

'What's it got to do with you?' When you get it, how will you handle it? Here's a few suggestions:

Returning to part of the 2 Timothy 4.2  passage we are told that we should:

'Tell people what they need to do, tell them when they are doing wrong, and encourage them.' 

You can't get clearer than that now can you? Of course, as ever, 'it ain't what we do but the way that we do it - that's what gets results'  and Paul is clear on the way that we do it: 'With great patience and careful teaching.'

Combine this with a bit more Paul (and since Paul is so loved, who can deny that this is right) and toss in Galatians 6 (yes I know I love this passage):

'People. If anyone is doing wrong (sinful) stuff then you who are spiritual should restore them gently and lovingly. Be careful that you don't cross the line and sin in the way that you do it because it's easy to do it the wrong way.
Regardless - watch out for each other because that's what Jesus, the Christ, really wants so none fall or get lost.' (RVV))

Let me hear a 'Simples' from the crowd! The 'What's it got to do with you?' has an answer ladies and gentlemen.

Of course, if one wanted to be pedantic (and apparently I often do) then we might also turn to a bit of blood, fire and the promise of destruction (Yes indeed, time for a bit of Ezekiel - you can see why some of the modern errors out there eschew this stuff can't you?) - and I'm thinking of Ezekiel 3 in particular (again RVV):

'You are a sentry for the people of God. If the alarm needs to be raised and you don't do it and people end up dead then you're responsible. BUT, if you shout and bang your mess tin and the people, even though they hear you, continue as if nothing is wrong, then you've done what you should have done and even if their live is forfeited, that's because they were just plain stupid!'

The world is filled with a great many 'really stupid people' (RSP) and one of the hallmarks of them (theist and non-theist) is that, upon hearing what you have to say, they raise two fingers (real or implied) and continue unabated.

I've sounded the alarm and done my bit - the rest is up to you. The key to this Christian business though is keeping an eye open for the other person (and trusting that they will do the same for you).

I'll leave this here (five minute rule) with another Pauline command (Romans 16.17-18) as a final thought:

'Guys, I beg you to be on the lookout for those who cause divisions and, corrupting the word of God I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and trip believers up through their dodgy doctrine and avoid them because despite their TV programmes, their CDs, DVDs and merchandising, they do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery deceive, and corrupt, the hearts of the naive.'

Hope this helps some of us develop the courage to dialogue, understand the issues, study and restore the weaker people among us.


  RVV = Revised Vic Version 








One of those 'make you smile' cartoons

Now I know this is an old cartoon but every time I see it I find myself smiling and it's the middle of the week and I thought some of you could do with a smile:




Walking a fine line

One of the many important challenges of the pastoral role is that of 'protecting the flock'! No simple task for there are many wolves out there waiting to devour the sheep, many shepherds who are looking to steer the faithful away from the truth and loads of well meaning people who have simply got the wrong end of the stick or been sucked into error.

The potential for people to slip into error is great for that which, at first glance, appears to be sound can easily turn out not to be. The sadness is that many who follow, error more often than not, genuinely believe they are following the truth and this is where the problems begin, Problems because of the options before us when this happens:

i. Sigh and walk away having said nothing - AKA 'keeping the peace'

ii. Engage with them, find out more, and issue a caution - AKA 'making trouble for yourself'

iii. Teach and preach orthodoxy and hope people spot the errors themselves - AKA 'Living in hope'

Option i  is the oft preferred method of choice because silence is golden and peace, however uneasy, reigns. This has been my option of choice at times because it's simple and avoids all that nasty conflict. But while it removes the frustration of dealing with people who refuse to even consider that they might be wrong it leaves them on the wrong track. Now as much as the 'leave them to their own ends' approach is compelling, The Bible tosses a spanner into the works in so many places (which we will cover shortly).

Option ii is fraught with problems because those who hold a different position will beat their breasts and complain to any who will listen (and there's always many of them) about you being negative. They will go on about how you oppose the things of God and are quenching the Spirit and, best of all, proclaim (loudly) how you, as an accuser of the brethren, are the very spawn of satan. It is this that 'encourages' so many of us to adopt the first option. After all, as a survivor of such an engagement last year put it: 'They aren't going to listen, their idiot friends make your life hell, what's the point, best leave them to it!'

I love option iii because it is the thinking shepherd's approach. You look at what's going on and then you see where it deviates from that which is right and then you teach that which is right in the hope that those under your care will, like the Alien toys in Toy Story emit a loud 'Oooooh!' as the penny drops - job done. Well that's the idea - but whilst some will make the connections, many require the explicit approach of option ii. if you're really going to do the job properly.

Attempting to counter error is fraught with bumps, potholes and rubble designed to knock you off your bike. The minute you engage with any suspected error the same old responses appear. It's like playing Sonic as you pass through familiar levels in pursuit of that final goal.

Next instalment will take a look at the response you get and some biblical responses (which will be great because there are so many unbiblical to choose from)

Here's a thought from 2 Tim 4.2 to be going on with:

'Tell everyone God’s message. Be ready at all times to do whatever is needed.
Tell people what they need to do, tell them when they are doing wrong, and encourage them. 
 Do this with great patience and careful teaching.'

Happy Wednesday

Morning Prayer - Apr 30

Easter
Pandita Mary Ramabai, Translator of the Scriptures, 1922

Psalm 16
Preserve me, O God, for in you have I taken refuge; I have said to the Lord, ‘You are my lord, all my good depends on you.’ All my delight is upon the godly that are in the land, upon those who are noble in heart.

Though the idols are legion that many run after, their drink offerings of blood I will not offer, neither make mention of their names upon my lips. The Lord himself is my portion and my cup; in your hands alone is my fortune.

My share has fallen in a fair land; indeed, I have a goodly heritage. I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel, and in the night watches he instructs my heart. I have set the Lord always before me; he is at my right hand; I shall not fall. Wherefore my heart is glad and my spirit rejoices; my flesh also shall rest secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Death, nor suffer your faithful one to see the Pit.

You will show me the path of life; in your presence is the fullness of joy and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Psalm 30
I will exalt you, O Lord, because you have raised me up and have not let my foes triumph over me.

O Lord my God, I cried out to you and you have healed me. You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead; you restored me to life from among those that go down to the Pit.

Sing to the Lord, you servants of his; give thanks to his holy name. For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, his favour for a lifetime. Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

In my prosperity I said, ‘I shall never be moved. You, Lord, of your goodness, have made my hill so strong.’
Then you hid your face from me and I was utterly dismayed.  To you, O Lord, I cried; to the Lord I made my supplication:
‘What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit?  Will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness? Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me; O Lord, be my helper.’

You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness;
Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; O Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

Exodus 16.11-end
The Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” ’

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: “Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.” ’ The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. And Moses said to them, ‘Let no one leave any of it over until morning.’ But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.

On the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, two omers apiece. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, he said to them, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded: “Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord; bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.” ’ So they put it aside until morning, as Moses commanded them; and it did not become foul, and there were no worms in it. Moses said, ‘Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. For six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is a sabbath, there will be none.’

On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, and they found none. The Lord said to Moses, ‘How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and instructions? See! The Lord has given you the sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gives you food for two days; each of you stay where you are; do not leave your place on the seventh day.’ So the people rested on the seventh day.

The house of Israel called it manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. Moses said, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded: “Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, in order that they may see the food with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.” ’ And Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the Lord, to be kept throughout your generations.’ As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the covenant, for safe-keeping. The Israelites ate manna for forty years, until they came to a habitable land; they ate manna, until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. An omer is a tenth of an ephah.

Colossians 2.1-15
For I want you to know how much I am struggling for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me face to face. I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I rejoice to see your morale and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

The Collect
Almighty Father,
you have given your only Son to die for our sins and to rise again for our justification:
grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth;
through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Prosperity - Word of Faith - Heretics or Heroes?

I have to admit that I really struggle with so much of the flashy gold, sharply dressed, 'name it - claim it' brigade. Recently, watching a sermon by one (I didn't watch it all because I didn't want to pay the $$$ for the whole thing) I struggled to hear how all I needed to do was 'live in the triumph of Christ' and take the riches He has for me. Health, wealth, 'that job I've dreamt of' - all of them were mine - all I needed to do was claim them in the name of Jesus!

So I turned over to another channel and found a really slick performance going on. 'Let me have a BIG AMEN', they said - strutting up and down. They went on to repeat this little mantra:

'If you believe in your heart and say it with your mouth, it shall come to pass. God is Faithful'

Interestingly, or perhaps not, I know many who deeply believe stuff and proclaim it and it's never happened.

Perhaps God is unable to do what He is supposed (but being God, don't you think He'd know His job?).

Perhaps the people just didn't believe it enough (after all, belief is not the easiest thing to have now, is it?)

Perhaps they didn't say it enough and, like hits that generate money on a blog, there's a certain number of times that it needs to be said before you get it!

But fortunately the large gentleman in the shiny suit answered my question (perhaps God told Him I was wondering about it):

'And some of you do not receive because of your sin!'

Bazinga! There it is, the small print that says you aren't going to get it. That's it then - game over man, I know I'm a sinner and even though I've confessed it, repented of it and seek to sin less, it seems I'm not going to get what I want because of it. *

And because God was talking to him he heard what I have just written and continued:

'But you say to me, 'I've confessed my sins, why don't I receive?' and I have to tell you that what's getting in the way is your unconfessed sins, those sins you don't even know are there. They are stopping you from getting that job, From getting that house, From being healed.'

'Oh, no,' think I, 'There goes the farm! After all I have confessed, repented and work at living a right life (I haven't managed to rest in my redemption and celebrate Grace just celebrate yet), I'm doomed!'

And the bloke on the TV does it again:

'But you can give God your unconfessed sin and open the doors to the riches God wants to give you . . . let's pray ."

So he prays and they sing a song and I wonder whether the way forward is the next sermon in the series when, Hallelujah, I find the answer is already available and mine, all In need to do is send a donation and in return I will receive 'free of charge' the book:

 'How to confess stuff you never knew was there so you can get all the stuff you really deserve because after all that was the reason Jesus died - to make you healthy, wealthy and ....'

No, it's not the name of the real book (for that would tell you who this snake oil salesman was) and the final word of the title most certainly wasn't 'wise' either. Perhaps it should be, 'Look how rich He has made me!'

Now, can someone explain how on earth there is any integrity (worldly or Christian) in what I saw on my TV and how I can have any confidence in the proof texting, they hype and the misquotes?

As a pastor my desire is to see people in union with God, living for God because of the cross of Jesus, the Christ, and enabled by the Holy Spirit. I don't want to see people bound by law and weighed down by restrictions and demands upon them they can't keep. I know God provides and heals and blesses, but that, like Grace is a gift, not a right and I cannot comprehend a God who is a cross between Santa, the easter Bunny and the Genie from the bottle.


God meets our needs - and sometimes fulfils our wants too. In return he expects us to mirror Him and do the same in the world we find ourselves for Jesus came to bring peace to the earth - and He did - but we need to take it and share it because he opened the depot and filled it high, but unless we take it out and distribute it and help others to join the distribution firm, this world will live broken and out of control.

Now you don't need to send me money for that (but if you do :-)  )

I'll have to give it away!

Pax

*This would explain how, even though the Arsenal have been in the top spot of the English Premier League for longer than any club this season, they've fallen to fourth place - it's not Arsene Wenger's fault - it is my sin what took them there before it was accomplished!

Morning Prayer - Apr 29

Easter
Mark the Evangelist

Psalm 37.23-41
When your steps are guided by the Lord and you delight in his way, though you stumble, you shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds you fast by the hand. I have been young and now am old, yet never have I seen the righteous forsaken, or their children begging their bread. All the day long they are generous in lending, and their children also shall be blest.

Depart from evil and do good and you shall abide for ever. For the Lord loves the thing that is right and will not forsake his faithful ones. The unjust shall be destroyed for ever, and the offspring of the wicked shall be rooted out. The righteous shall possess the land and dwell in it for ever. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and their tongue speaks the thing that is right. The law of their God is in their heart and their footsteps shall not slide.

The wicked spy on the righteous and seek occasion to slay them. The Lord will not leave them in their hand,nor let them be condemned when they are judged. Wait upon the Lord and keep his way; he will raise you up to possess the land, and when the wicked are uprooted, you shall see it.

I myself have seen the wicked in great power and flourishing like a tree in full leaf.
I went by and lo, they were gone; I sought them, but they could nowhere be found.
Keep innocence and heed the thing that is right, for that will bring you peace at the last.

But the sinners shall perish together, and the posterity of the wicked shall be rooted out. The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. The Lord shall stand by them and deliver them; he shall deliver them from the wicked and shall save them, because they have put their trust in him.

Psalm 148
Alleluia.
Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all you his angels; praise him, all his host.
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you stars of light.
Praise him, heaven of heavens, and you waters above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of the Lord; for he commanded and they were created.
He made them fast for ever and ever; he gave them a law which shall not pass away.

Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps; Fire and hail, snow and mist, tempestuous wind, fulfilling his word; Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars; Wild beasts and all cattle, creeping things and birds on the wing; Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the world; Young men and women, old and young together; let them praise the name of the Lord.

For his name only is exalted, his splendour above earth and heaven. He has raised up the horn of his people and praise for all his faithful servants, the children of Israel, a people who are near him.
Alleluia.

Isaiah 62.6-10
Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have posted sentinels; all day and all night they shall never be silent. You who remind the Lord,take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it renowned throughout the earth. The Lord has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies, and foreigners shall not drink the wine for which you have laboured; but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the Lord, and those who gather it shall drink it in my holy courts.

Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway, clear it of stones, lift up an ensign over the peoples.

Acts 12.25 - 13.13
Then after completing their mission Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem and brought with them John, whose other name was Mark.

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. But the magician Elymas (for that is the translation of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, ‘You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now listen—the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun.’ Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.

Then Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and returned to Jerusalem;

The Collect
Almighty God,
who enlightened your holy Church through the inspired witness of your evangelist Saint Mark:
grant that we, being firmly grounded in the truth of the gospel,
may be faithful to its teaching both in word and deed;
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, 28 April 2014

Made me Laugh: Marriage and cards

I love this so much that I think it may have to go on my wall:


Morning Prayer - Apr 28

Easter Season
George, Martyr, Patron of England, c.304

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 146
Alleluia.
Praise the Lord, O my soul: while I live will I praise the Lord; as long as I have any being,
I will sing praises to my God. Put not your trust in princes, nor in any human power, for there is no help in them. When their breath goes forth, they return to the earth; on that day all their thoughts perish. Happy are those who have the God of Jacob for their help, whose hope is in the Lord their God; Who made heaven and earth,
the sea and all that is in them; who keeps his promise for ever; Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong and bread to those who hunger.

The Lord looses those that are bound; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous; The Lord watches over the stranger in the land; he upholds the orphan and widow; but the way of the wicked he turns upside down. The Lord shall reign for ever, your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.
Alleluia.

Joshua 1.1-9
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying, ‘My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory. No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’

Ephesians 6.10-20
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

The Collect
God of hosts,
who so kindled the flame of love in the heart of your servant George that he bore witness to the risen Lord by his life and by his death:
give us the same faith and power of love that we who rejoice in his triumphs may come to share with him the fullness of the 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.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Can't make it to church? - Apr 27

Easter has been and gone and here we are, with Jesus' followers (less one) hiding in a locked room for fear of the authorities. After all, they've killed the Boss; if they find them that fate will be theirs too. Wouldn't you be locked away? Hopes, leader and courage have all been taken from you (despite what Mary told them).

And then there He is. Standing there before them in a locked room and speaking peace into them - not just to them.  In fact the Shalominess must have been liquid and flowed like treacle (rather than the oil that dripped from Aaron's beard) as He blows on them so they receive the Holy Spirit, and then he's gone!

They filled with no more apparent faith at this encounter (and yet blowing works for Benny Hinn, why not Jesus?) are still hiding in the room a week later (so it's not just modern Church leaders that have that problem then!) and this time the missing Thomas is with them. He's already told them that seeing is believing and because he hasn't he doesn't!

Here He is again, back in the locked room and Thomas believes (because he's seen?). Here's a man who is back from the dead (read the Acts account) and the disciples are unmoved by the meeting. perhaps this should make those who encourage people to engage with their faith and see little result a bit more relaxed - if it don't work for Jesus, why should it work for us? No wonder people can't get out there and witness and make Christ known in word and the way we live!

And then there's Thomas - the doubter - the curse of the Church. Or is he? For I think not - I think he's a proven hero and is exactly what Church should be about, for we must never leave our brains at the door, we must always challenge, test and examine lest we end up following a con and letting our ears be tickled by compelling, and yet wrong. teaching.

So today - in your locked rooms (physical or spiritual) welcome the risen Christ into your presence and let His Shalom flow over you bringing a peace that the world neither understands or can diminish. Let Him touch your body, mind and circumstance and may you proclaim the triumphant reality of Easter in that He is indeed risen. What better words to cry - what better reality to live.

Collect
Risen Christ, for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred:
open the doors of our hearts, that we may seek the good of others and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace, to the praise of God the Father. Amen.




Acts 2.14a,22-32
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.

‘You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know - this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. For David says concerning him,
“I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover, my flesh will live in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”

‘Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,
“He was not abandoned to Hades,  nor did his flesh experience corruption.”

This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.

John 20.19-31
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’

After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.



Post Communion
Lord God our Father,
through our Saviour Jesus Christ
you have assured your children of eternal life
and in baptism have made us one with him:
deliver us from the death of sin
and raise us to new life in your love,
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Grace - Cheap, Costly and Hyper

This represents the opening section of something that I think might become a bit of a magnum opus (or at least a Feast) because Grace, for me at least, one of the issues of Christianity. (note: in my nomenclature - Capital G Grace is God's to us)

Grace is, as I understand it, my not getting what I deserve because of the love of a God that caused him to take flesh (incarnate meaning what it says on the tin) and humbling Himself, die upon the cross to reconcile me to God, the Father. Jesus getting what He did not deserve so that I didn't get that which I did deserve! Or to use Wesley's words: 'Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my God should die for me? '

In his book 'the cost of discipleship', Dietrich Bonhoeffer contributes much on the subject of  grace and the call to die to self and take up our own cross is clear. Grace,
according to Bonhoeffer, can be 'cheap' in that it can be found in a grace without discipleship, the cross, the Christ (truly man and resurrected). We find forgiveness without repentance preached - it's yours for the taking, free.

Now, I'm not denying that Grace is free, but the danger is that we treat is as something of little value because of the price tag attached to it for us - for it comes at an inestimable price. But let Bonhoeffer help set the scene:

'.Grace is represented as the Church's inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing.' (Cost of discipleship. P. 45)

The tragedy of such a grace is that having told us sin is defeated and proclaiming that we are therefore no longer sinful, it is too small a step to find ourselves caught up in sin! After all, costly Grace is taken up with admonishing and correcting and adhering to law, but the cheap side of the market often takes Paul's words regarding the condemnation and impotence of the law to heart and seeks to reside wholly in Grace. A popular and appealing position from where I, struggling to put the old man to death, am sitting.

For me the reality is somewhere in the middle, law having the power to condemn whilst Grace speaks of my innocence (justification).

With Paul's challenge to me (Romans 6) is ringing in my ears: 'What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?' I fear this (perhaps cruelly labelled, 'hypergrace' position  might just be leading us into error. But since so many who occupy this position like to work from Paul's words, perhaps it is best that he speaks up (ibid):

'By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.'
Grace costs us nothing and demands everything! We are dead to sin. New creations who walk 'in newness of life' - this is the walk of discipleship, or no longer being 'under the law' but living within it so that those who are might see how we live and consider their own walk. Because we are 'under Grace' we are enabled, by the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit, to live godly and Christlike lives.

Grace demands discipleship. a discipleship that looks to keeping the commandments and possessing the circumcision of the heart that marks us out as true believers.It confers blessing and screams forgiveness (justification) but to reside in that mercy, under the blood of the Lamb, requires more than us just being willing to receive it - and yet it is not a reward for works either lest we might boast. The cost of Grace is, for me, found in the conviction of sin and the desire to see more of Jesus, the Christ, and less of me each day made more obvious by the shadow of the cross.

And so my journey to dialogue with, challenge and understand this, for me, new and emerging group begins. This is but the first step of, I fear, many and though some may disagree and even doubt my own faith - that's where Grace comes in, isn't it?


Suggested reading
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1959, The Cost of Discipleship, Second edition, London, SCM Press Ltd  (1963 reprint - Macmillan Paperbacks Edition)
Romans

Morning Prayer - Apr 26

Easter Season
Saturday of Easter Week

Psalm 116
I love the Lord, for he has heard the voice of my supplication; because he inclined his ear to me
on the day I called to him. The snares of death encompassed me; the pains of hell took hold of me; by grief and sorrow was I held. Then I called upon the name of the Lord: ‘O Lord, I beg you, deliver my soul.’ Gracious is the Lord and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord watches over the simple; I was brought very low and he saved me.

Turn again to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has been gracious to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. I believed that I should perish for I was sorely troubled; and I said in my alarm, ‘Everyone is a liar.’

How shall I repay the Lord for all the benefits he has given to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.
I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.
O Lord, I am your servant, your servant, the child of your handmaid; you have freed me from my bonds.
I will offer to you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the name of the Lord.
I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people,

In the courts of the house of the Lord, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.
Alleluia.

Exodus 14.15-end
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground. Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and so I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots, and his chariot drivers. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.’

The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.’
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.’ So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the Lord did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

1 Corinthians 15.51-end
Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
‘Where, O death, is your victory?
   Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.

The Collect
Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new in him:
grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory;
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be praise and honour, glory and might,
now and in all eternity. Amen.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Possibly the best penalty ever?

Yes indeed folks, this combined my love of football with my love of laughter. Perhaps one of the best disguised penalties I've ever seen, talk about sending the keeper the wrong way!


video

sorry about the quality

Caption Contest - You tell me!

After the last (most excellent) caption contest, here's a little something for the weekend:


Of you go then - be clever . . . 


Morning Prayer - Apr 25

Easter Season
Friday of Easter Week

Psalm 115
Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory, for the sake of your loving mercy and truth.

Why should the nations say, ‘Where is now their God?’ As for our God, he is in heaven; he does whatever he pleases.

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak; eyes have they, but cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear; noses have they, but cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel; feet have they, but cannot walk; not a whisper do they make from their throats.

Those who make them shall become like them and so will all who put their trust in them. But you, Israel, put your trust in the Lord; he is their help and their shield.
House of Aaron, trust in the Lord; he is their help and their shield.

You that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; he is their help and their shield.
The Lord has been mindful of us and he will bless us; may he bless the house of Israel; may he bless the house of Aaron; may he bless those who fear the Lord, both small and great together.
May the Lord increase you more and more, you and your children after you.
May you be blest by the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth he has entrusted to his children. The dead do not praise the Lord, nor those gone down into silence; but we will bless the Lord, from this time forth for evermore.

Alleluia.

Psalm 149
O sing to the Lord a new song; sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.

Let Israel rejoice in their maker; let the children of Zion be joyful in their king. Let them praise his name in the dance; let them sing praise to him with timbrel and lyre. For the Lord has pleasure in his people and adorns the poor with salvation.

Let the faithful be joyful in glory; let them rejoice in their ranks, with the praises of God in their mouths and a two-edged sword in their hands; to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples; to bind their kings in chains and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute on them the judgement decreed: such honour have all his faithful servants.

Alleluia.

Exodus 13.17-14.14
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearer; for God thought, ‘If the people face war, they may change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness towards the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt prepared for battle. And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph, who had required a solemn oath of the Israelites, saying, ‘God will surely take notice of you, and then you must carry my bones with you from here.’ They set out from Succoth, and camped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
Then the Lord said to Moses: ‘Tell the Israelites to turn back and camp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall camp opposite it, by the sea. Pharaoh will say of the Israelites, “They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has closed in on them.” I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, so that I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army; and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.’ And they did so.

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the minds of Pharaoh and his officials were changed towards the people, and they said, ‘What have we done, letting Israel leave our service?’ So he had his chariot made ready, and took his army with him; he took six hundred picked chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt and he pursued the Israelites, who were going out boldly. The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, his chariot drivers and his army; they overtook them camped by the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, “Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians”? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’ But Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.’

1 Corinthians 15.35-50
But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’ Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. Not all flesh is alike, but there is one flesh for human beings, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory.

So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.

What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

The Collect
Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new in him:
grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory; to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might, now and in all eternity. Amen.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Hypergrace - sound or warp(ed) factor?

I've today come across Joseph Prince and find him, like the Curate's egg to not be all bad and yet whilst I like much of his Christology and his emphasis on grace there is something that just doesn't quite sit comfortably with me.

It might be the Word of Faith like resonances and the prosperity that goes along with 'name it claim it' theology. It feels like Hagin and Copeland reheated and mind-melded with Ron Bell on one side and yet the fast-paced presentation (is he prompted or does he really do all that in a structured 'ad lib' manner?) is quite clever and compelling in terms of showman (mind you that would be Bell I guess) and clever revelation (Chinese for boat being the amalgam of symbols that add up to eight people (Noah and his missus plus three kids and their other halves) in a floating thing, neat or what?).

The bloke doesn't ask for money - but there's plenty of opportunity to spend it.

He does talk about Jesus never having any disease and never being poor - and there's plenty of claiming stuff (but there's too little of that with some) and it don't feel too triumphal.

I've started reading some of his stuff and wonder what I'll find when the smoke clears - anyone out there that can point me to some sound considerations of the man would be most welcome. I'm not looking for the the 'he's a false whatever' stuff - just stuff that will let me see when the horizon ends.

I've read a short treatise on 'hypergrace' (a genre I assume Prince might be considered to be part of) and now have found someone who is a walking, talking, living preacher of it (and looking good for 51 - already hate him :-)  ).

Thanks

Morning Prayer - Apr 24

Easter Season 
Thursday of Easter Week

Psalm 114
When Israel came out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of a strange tongue, Judah became his sanctuary, Israel his dominion.
The sea saw that, and fled; Jordan was driven back.
The mountains skipped like rams, the little hills like young sheep.

What ailed you, O sea, that you fled? O Jordan, that you were driven back? You mountains, that you skipped like rams, you little hills like young sheep?

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turns the hard rock into a pool of water, the flint-stone into a springing well.

Psalm 148
Alleluia.
Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all you his angels; praise him, all his host.
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you stars of light.
Praise him, heaven of heavens, and you waters above the heavens.

Let them praise the name of the Lord; for he commanded and they were created. He made them fast for ever and ever; he gave them a law which shall not pass away.

Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps; Fire and hail, snow and mist, tempestuous wind, fulfilling his word; Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars; Wild beasts and all cattle, creeping things and birds on the wing; Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the world; Young men and women, old and young together; let them praise the name of the Lord. For his name only is exalted, his splendour above earth and heaven.

He has raised up the horn of his people and praise for all his faithful servants, the children of Israel, a people who are near him. Alleluia.

Exodus 13.1-16
The Lord said to Moses: Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals, is mine.
Moses said to the people, ‘Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, because the Lord brought you out from there by strength of hand; no leavened bread shall be eaten. Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out. When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this observance in this month. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival to the Lord. Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen in your possession, and no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory. You shall tell your child on that day, “It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.” It shall serve for you as a sign on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that the teaching of the Lord may be on your lips; for with a strong hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt. You shall keep this ordinance at its proper time from year to year.

‘When the Lord has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your ancestors, and has given it to you, you shall set apart to the Lord all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your livestock that are males shall be the Lord’s. But every firstborn donkey you shall redeem with a sheep; if you do not redeem it, you must break its neck. Every firstborn male among your children you shall redeem. When in the future your child asks you, “What does this mean?” you shall answer, “By strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from human firstborn to the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord every male that first opens the womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.” It shall serve as a sign on your hand and as an emblem on your forehead that by strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.’

1 Corinthians 15.29-34
Otherwise, what will those people do who receive baptism on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptised on their behalf?

And why are we putting ourselves in danger every hour? I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters, as my boasting of you—a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord. If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it? If the dead are not raised,
‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’

Do not be deceived:
‘Bad company ruins good morals.’

Come to a sober and right mind, and sin no more; for some people have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

The Collect
Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new in him:
grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory; to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might, now and in all eternity. Amen.

Hello - Can you tell me what the job's like?

The beginning of a rather interesting telephone call as one of those considering applying for a job engaged with me. Of course they didn't ask the one important question (are you going for it). Of course, even if I had been I'd have answered exactly the same way because I'd like to think that vacancies are all about having the right person in the post - after all, it's not like we're in the world now, is it?

What made it interesting was my ability to see the parish as a complete entity with four separate buildings whilst the person on the other end of the line see one!  Still, it was fun to talk about a place where the churches work together so well and to dwell on a fantastic past (Capital city of Mercia you know) and an equally promising future. The web presence is A work in progress - but better than it was (I hope).

So here we are - just a few days and the applications will be in and the sifting will be done - wonder who else might pop in, for it's always fun when someone appears and says they're thinking of moving in and then starts asking about ASA, Parish Share and the like - you know, the stuff you usually ask when thinking of joining a church :-) or telephones and asks about the job (been from same college or friend of a friend so far).

Exciting times ahead :-)


Made me laugh - Sleighed

And realise that the schoolboy sense of humour might be mine forever:

video

definitely not one to be drinking whilst watching :-)

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

So many confused people out there

How odd it is that the same people who tell me that this is not a Christian country are the same people who tell me that this will be an Islamic nation within ten years and they are happy with it and then in the same breath continue to say that they want a 'non-religious' nation as they don't have a belief!

How odd it is that, when things fall apart and life has sunk to its lowest point, come a knocking on the church door to find acceptance, forgiveness and support. The Church is full of hypocrites and run for the benefit of a God who condemns and prevents people from living the way they want and yet, when the fruit of living for ourselves falls from the tree it's not the world - it's not our families - who offers support for the previously endorsed actions!

How odd it is that when people come up to me with a list of the so many reasons God cannot exist I can find people whose lives and the fruits of their engagement with God tell me something very different.

A few years back when the Labour Party were in power Prime Minister Tony Blair's 'king of spin', Alastair Campbell, made the statement, 'We don't do God'. But in fact Blair (and many other MPs) did indeed do God and God features large in Westminster. He might not be mentioned but He is there and the Judeo-Christian heritage of our nation is there for all to see.

A few years back one of the then MPs told me that their greatest fear was that one day the nation would eschew its Christian heritage and would become an epicurean, self-serving, culture. A society that would endorse postpartum abortion, euthanasia and 'assisted suicide' making our green and pleasant land into what they described as Gehenna!

Interestingly, a few days back, some people put their names on a piece of paper stating how they wanted a non-Christian society. Unsurprisingly, many of those who signed want to live in the very same world my MP friend didn't!

I exist to be a signpost to a place of safety - a place of acceptance and support and care and so much more.

Yes, there are attitudes and lifestyles that I consider wrong (but they don't remove the relationship or the fact that I'm there for you).

Yes, there are mindsets and beliefs that I don't think are compatible with that which the Bible calls us to make our own and assign to God (but I won't throw you out of the church).

Yes, there are standards I expect you to keep, and promote, and things I expect you to do (after all, I expect the same - and more - from me) but I know that you'll not always manage to make it happen too!

Church - a place where brains are engaged - dialogue engaged - facts are not ignored

Pity the world can't make the same claims innit?

Happy St George's Day



Made me smile: Clergy Retreat

This is one of those images that made me smile and nod in tacit agreement:



Morning Prayer - Apr 23

Morning Prayer
Wednesday of Easter Week

Psalm 147.13-end
Sing praise to the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion;
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates and has blest your children within you.

He has established peace in your borders and satisfies you with the finest wheat.
He sends forth his command to the earth and his word runs very swiftly.
He gives snow like wool and scatters the hoarfrost like ashes.
He casts down his hailstones like morsels of bread; who can endure his frost?
He sends forth his word and melts them; he blows with his wind and the waters flow.
He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and judgements to Israel.
He has not dealt so with any other nation; they do not know his laws. Alleluia.

Exodus 12.37-end
The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. A mixed crowd also went up with them, and livestock in great numbers, both flocks and herds. They baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt; it was not leavened, because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.

The time that the Israelites had lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. At the end of four hundred and thirty years, on that very day, all the companies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. That was for the Lord a night of vigil, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. That same night is a vigil to be kept for the Lord by all the Israelites throughout their generations.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: This is the ordinance for the passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, but any slave who has been purchased may eat of it after he has been circumcised; no bound or hired servant may eat of it. It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the animal outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. The whole congregation of Israel shall celebrate it. If an alien who resides with you wants to celebrate the passover to the Lord, all his males shall be circumcised; then he may draw near to celebrate it; he shall be regarded as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it; there shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you.

All the Israelites did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. That very day the Lord brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, company by company.

1 Corinthians 15.20-28
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For ‘God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’ But when it says, ‘All things are put in subjection’, it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.

The Collect
Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new in him:
grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory; to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might, now and in all eternity. Amen.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Getting our minds right about immigration

Many years ago I placed a poster on the staff noticeboard advertising a meeting for those who wanted to support a 'Britain for the British' group of which I, with my Dutch name, was the Chairman. The Secretary was a chap with a German name and the Treasure was a bloke of Polish extraction.

Few got the joke at first but the point, from our side at least, was clear - three European names attached to three people who couldn't be more British (Cockney, East London and West London respectively) if they tried. Yet there they were, the National Front types, making their claims that immigration was the curse of our nation.

Today I have heard the same views (from a different, sanitised, party) and heard about how it is in the national interest to restrict access - and I don't disagree that when it comes to economic migrants there is merit in this thinking, especially when it means that those whose lives are threatened or are disadvantaged.

In my reality, ever since Windrush's West Indians started arriving, there has been disapproval for those people who, 'Were coming over here and taking our jobs!'  This is what I knew to be the case (as a ten year old) and it was reinforced by Powell's 'River of Blood' (and who knows, perhaps he will be proved right one day I guess) speech and the resultant (1971) Immigration Act (where access for dependent's was restricted) and it is confirmed again today by UKIP (what a fine and upstanding political party they are) and the poster below:


Nothing like the bigotry of days gone by at all:



What does the Bible have to say about it all I wonder? Leviticus 19 says:

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."

Zechariah 7 has something to add too:“Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”

The presence of people from other lands has made my birthplace (London) the wonderful place it is. From the Hugenots and the Jewish settlers (Old Jewry in the city has a wonderful synagogue) through to those from other places today. All that we should ask is that whilst bringing their cultures they embrace, and live within, ours with respect and that we return the compliment.

It is to our pride and credit that we, as a nation, have sent our men to battle for the weak and oppressed and opened our arms to them. 


Please do not support unfair attitudes to immigration - use your brains and hearts the way God intended.

Morning Prayer - Apr 22

Easter Season 
Tuesday of Easter Week

Psalm 112
Alleluia.
Blessed are those who fear the Lord and have great delight in his commandments.
Their descendants will be mighty in the land, a generation of the faithful that will be blest.
Wealth and riches will be in their house, and their righteousness endures for ever. Light shines in the darkness for the upright; gracious and full of compassion are the righteous. It goes well with those who are generous in lending and order their affairs with justice, For they will never be shaken; the righteous will be held in everlasting remembrance. They will not be afraid of any evil tidings; their heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their heart is sustained and will not fear, until they see the downfall of their foes. They have given freely to the poor; their righteousness stands fast for ever; their head will be exalted with honour. The wicked shall see it and be angry; they shall gnash their teeth in despair; the desire of the wicked shall perish.

Psalm 147.1-12
Alleluia.
How good it is to make music for our God, how joyful to honour him with praise.

The Lord builds up Jerusalem and gathers together the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up all their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars and calls them all by their names.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his wisdom is beyond all telling.
The Lord lifts up the poor, but casts down the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make music to our God upon the lyre; Who covers the heavens with clouds and prepares rain for the earth; Who makes grass to grow upon the mountains and green plants to serve our needs.
He gives the beasts their food and the young ravens when they cry.
He takes no pleasure in the power of a horse, no delight in human strength; But the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their trust in his steadfast love.

Exodus 12.14-36
This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day you shall hold a solemn assembly, and on the seventh day a solemn assembly; no work shall be done on those days; only what everyone must eat, that alone may be prepared by you. You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread, for on this very day I brought your companies out of the land of Egypt: you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a perpetual ordinance. In the first month, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day, you shall eat unleavened bread. For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether an alien or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your settlements you shall eat unleavened bread.

Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Go, select lambs for your families, and slaughter the passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood in the basin. None of you shall go outside the door of your house until morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike down the Egyptians; when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over that door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you down. You shall observe this rite as a perpetual ordinance for you and your children. When you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this observance. And when your children ask you, “What do you mean by this observance?” you shall say, “It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians but spared our houses.” ’ And the people bowed down and worshipped.

The Israelites went and did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron.
At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his officials and all the Egyptians; and there was a loud cry in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead. Then he summoned Moses and Aaron in the night, and said, ‘Rise up, go away from my people, both you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord, as you said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you said, and be gone. And bring a blessing on me too!’
The Egyptians urged the people to hasten their departure from the land, for they said, ‘We shall all be dead.’ So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading-bowls wrapped up in their cloaks on their shoulders. The Israelites had done as Moses told them; they had asked the Egyptians for jewellery of silver and gold, and for clothing, and the Lord had given the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. And so they plundered the Egyptians.

1 Corinthians 15.12-19
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

The Collect
Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new in him:
grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory; to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might, now and in all eternity. Amen.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

YOLF!

Wise words on this wondr'ous Easter morn!


Can't make it to church - Easter Sunday - April 20


What other words can be used today than those above?

Today we celebrate the fact that Jesus, having died, has risen from the dead and in so doing has broken the only power that sin has - death! The only weapon, the only power that sin has is no longer and by the death and resurrection of Jesus all of creation is reconciled to God.

That which separates, debilitates and condemns is no more and we are free to live a new life in Christ - HALLELUJAH - HE IS RISEN!



Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’

Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’

She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 

When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ 

Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 

Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’

She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).

Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ 

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.   John 20.1-18

The Collect
Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new in him:
grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory; to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might, now and in all eternity. Amen.





Post Communion Prayer
God of Life, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross,
and by his glorious resurrection have delivered us from the power of our enemy:
grant us so to die daily to sin,
that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his risen life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Easter Morning - 5:30 am

From the darkness of the tomb
the despair on st side of a hill,
three men on crosses,
dying.
The denial of a faithful friend
as inside the council assault with fists
assail with words
and cover in spittle.




Saturday, 19 April 2014

Easter Eve - Apr 19


Passiontide
Easter Eve

Psalm 142
I cry aloud to the Lord; to the Lord I make my supplication. 
I pour out my complaint before him and tell him of my trouble. When my spirit faints within me, you know my path; in the way wherein I walk have they laid a snare for me. 
I look to my right hand, and find no one who knows me; I have no place to flee to, and no one cares for my soul.
I cry out to you, O Lord, and say: 
‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.
‘Listen to my cry, for I am brought very low; save me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me.
‘Bring my soul out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name; when you have dealt bountifully with me, then shall the righteous gather around me.’

Hosea 6.1-6
‘Come, let us return to the Lord; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us; he has struck down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth.’

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes away early. Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have killed them by the words of my mouth, and my judgement goes forth as the light. For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings. 

John 2.18-22
The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The Collect
Grant, Lord,
that we who are baptized into the death of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
may continually put to death our evil desires and be buried with him; 
and that through the grave and gate of death we may pass to our joyful resurrection;
through his merits, who died and was buried and rose again for us,
your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.