Sunday, 31 August 2014

Caption Contest - Magic Spray

We've seen Santi Cazorla sprayed, whatever next with the magic spray being used by the referees in the premier League? Here's a 'could happen?' moment for you to engage your humour with:


Can't make it to church - August 31

Today's Gospel reading takes us to a place we often talk about and yet rarely, like Peter, really want to go. Jesus is talking about His death and, as is often the case, the minute we start looking at the cost, we being to look elsewhere. Rather than look at the cost we merely focus on the benefits and claiming the benefits look to our rights whilst glancing anywhere other than at our responsibilities; and Jesus points to the fact that we really do live in a world where unless there is pain there is definitely no (eternal) gain!

Now this doesn't mean that being a Christian is something whereby pain is volunteered for, but when the need is before us, neither do we run away. When battle is engaged, we are resolute in our faith and the defence of it. Jesus sums it up rather nicely (but He would, wouldn't He?) when He says:
‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

I recently met someone who was under the impression that they were 'God's gift to the Church' because they 'did stuff' and yet, although they did indeed 'do stuff' they were working on a human level and when it came to things of a spiritual nature had about as much understanding as the rubber ducks that grace my bookshelves (don't ask me why they're there - they were something people bought me a few years back) and that's a big problem with Church:

People are under the impression that 'doing = good Christian' and whilst we find (in the book of James - chapter two) the following cautionary words:

"What good is saying you have faith if it's not seen in your actions - do you think anyone is saved by it? You see someone with no food or clothing and say, 'Go well, be blessed,' but don't feed or clothe them. What use if your faith? The answer is, "None at all," because faith, without good works, it is impotent, dead and useless.

Some say, "You have faith and I have works." My response to that is: "But if you don't do good stuff how can you show your faith - I have faith and from this comes good stuff. Some say I believe in one God, which is great, but so too do the demons!" 

Faith and works are one and the same - they are inseparable; for from one comes the other and together we demonstrate the reality of our Christian belief. Then comes the coup de main as Jesus tells us:

"If you want to be a follower then you need to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me - Those who wish to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what profit is there if you gain EVERYTHING but lose your life? 

And this brings us rather conveniently back to the Gospel passage where the same words are to be found with the challenge it puts before us to put aside the things we want to do to please ourselves and to be willing to pay the price (as Jesus did on the cross) and follow Him (Jesus) on the path that may cost us everything in this life. Human things or divine things - It's our choice - nothing is forced upon us - and we are free to choose (I just wish sin was less attractive, don't you?).

The Collect for today is a great blessing:

God of glory, the end of our searching, help us to lay aside all that prevents us from seeking your kingdom, and to give all that we have to gain the pearl beyond all price, through our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Father God, come to us today and aid us in our daily life.
May we give without counting the cost,
Receive without feeling the shame of need,
Love without demanding reward
And bless because our faith demands that we act.
Be with us, heal, strengthen and bless us as we seek to take up our cross and follow Jesus, the Christ.
Amen.

Matthew 16.21-28
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’

Exodus 3.1-15
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’

But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.” ’ God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”:
This is my name for ever, and this my title for all generations.



Psalm 105.1-6,23-26,45b
O give thanks to the Lord and call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises, and tell of all his marvellous works. Rejoice in the praise of his holy name; let the hearts of them rejoice who seek the Lord. Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face continually. Remember the marvels he has done, his wonders and the judgements of his mouth, O seed of Abraham his servant, O children of Jacob his chosen.

Then Israel came into Egypt; Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. And the Lord made his people exceedingly fruitful; he made them too many for their adversaries, whose heart he turned, so that they hated his people and dealt craftily with his servants. Then sent he Moses his servant and Aaron whom he had chosen. That they might keep his statutes and faithfully observe his laws. Alleluia.

Romans 12.9-21
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


Post Communion
Lord of all mercy,
we your faithful people have celebrated that one true sacrifice which takes away our sins and brings pardon and peace: by our communion keep us firm on the foundation of the gospel and preserve us from all sin; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

I'm confused Vic; they seem to think they're Christian

The title of this entry relates to something I've said regarding the Jehovah's Witnesses and the fact that I said I didn't think they were Christian, I received this challenging (and most excellent) comment:

'I'm confused Vic; they seem to think they are?'

Indeed they do, or at least they want others to think that they are, but using the name Jesus in a different context to that which is considered to be orthodox doesn't make you Christian and more than using Man U as a focus for ridicule makes you their supporter. But the 'Christian' claim adds, or at least attempts to add, some integrity and implicit value to a bunch of (albeit nice) people who are not, as I understand it actually Christian.

I used to have a number of friends who talked of the bloke who started the thing off some 150 years hence and was quite impressed by some of their stuff, it all started to go wrong when I read about him flooding 'miracle wheat' what wasn't- in fact it was a bit of a scam and, if I recall correctly, he was found guilty of being just a bit dodgy!

But let's no dwell in ad hominem but look at what they believe - and here it might help if we had a look at the Creed, for this is surely a benchmark document. Here we find that the Witnesses focus entirely on Jehovah (the name sort of gives it away) - just one God (without the other two persons of the Trinity) and I have a recollection somewhere that Jesus and the archangel Michael are viewed as being one and he same. I also recall a quite interesting conversation with a friend over the lack of a cross with Jesus (my witness friend called it a 'torture stake') because they deny it was the way Jesus died (so no crosses either).

Mind you, Christian bits aside, there is a great belief that the first 144,000 faithful Witnesses make it into heaven with Jesus (useful to include Him, helps to confirm the 'Christian' label) and after that, the rest end up on Earth doing the gardening (so that's a religion that would work for my Wife's Dad - Tony's Grandad)!

They tend to use The New World Translation (NWT) because it's a version that they translated from all the original texts; and yet oddly it is apparently at odd with the versions I have on my shelf in a number of places. I have always been most taken up with John 1 which tells me: 'In beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and God was the Word.' But I find the NWT leads me to think that 'the Word was a god' and that's a big difference that supports the non-Trinitarian stance.

There's much that others point to regarding them (the Witnesses) but this (on both sides, the claims and the ridicule), stuff that is subsidiary and resides in the shadows behind the major errors - mind you they do think Jesus returned some hundred years back and this is why it's all gone Pete Tong since (was told that by a lovely bloke peddling magazines in Lichfield just after Easter - good to have no dogcollar some days!).



I guess I'll leave this short explanation as to the reasons I don't see Jehovah's Witnesses as Christian with a 'word from my sponsor' - remaining in John, this time in chapter 14:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
Jesus said to him,  “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves."

I hope this provides some explanation to your question.

Morning Prayer - August 30

John Bunyan, Spiritual Writer, 1688

Psalm 76
In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel. At Salem is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion. There broke he the flashing arrows of the bow, the shield, the sword and the weapons of war. In the light of splendour you appeared, glorious from the eternal mountains. The boastful were plundered; they have slept their sleep; none of the warriors can lift their hand. At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both horse and chariot fell stunned.

Terrible are you in majesty: who can stand before your face when you are angry?
You caused your judgement to be heard from heaven; the earth trembled and was still, when God arose to judgement, to save all the meek upon earth.
You crushed the wrath of the peoples and bridled the wrathful remnant. Make a vow to the Lord your God and keep it; let all who are round about him bring gifts to him that is worthy to be feared. He breaks down the spirit of princes and strikes terror in the kings of the earth.

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

Lord, how long will you be angry, for ever?
How long will your jealous fury blaze like fire?
Pour out your wrath upon the nations that have not known you, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon your name. For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his dwelling place. Remember not against us our former sins; let your compassion make haste to meet us, for we are brought very low.

Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and wipe away our sins for your name’s sake. Why should the heathen say, ‘Where is now their God?’ Let vengeance for your servants’ blood that is shed be known among the nations in our sight.
Let the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners come before you, and by your mighty arm preserve those who are condemned to die.
May the taunts with which our neighbours taunted you, Lord, return sevenfold into their bosom.

But we that are your people and the sheep of your pasture will give you thanks for ever, and tell of your praise from generation to generation.

2 Samuel 2.1-11
After this David inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?’ The Lord said to him, ‘Go up.’ David said, ‘To which shall I go up?’ He said, ‘To Hebron.’ So David went up there, along with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David brought up the men who were with him, every one with his household; and they settled in the towns of Hebron. Then the people of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.

When they told David, ‘It was the people of Jabesh-gilead who buried Saul’, David sent messengers to the people of Jabesh-gilead, and said to them, ‘May you be blessed by the Lord, because you showed this loyalty to Saul your lord, and buried him! Now may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you! And I too will reward you because you have done this thing. Therefore let your hands be strong, and be valiant; for Saul your lord is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.’
But Abner son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ishbaal son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim. He made him king over Gilead, the Ashurites, Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin, and over all Israel. Ishbaal, Saul’s son, was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and he reigned for two years. But the house of Judah followed David. The time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.

Acts 5.27-end
When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour, so that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time. Then he said to them, ‘Fellow-Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!’

They were convinced by him, and when they had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonour for the sake of the name. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.

The Collect
God of peace,
who called your servant John Bunyan to be valiant for truth:
grant that as strangers and pilgrims we may at the last rejoice with all Christian people in your heavenly city;
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.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Maintenance of true religion

Many years back, in a lecture on what it was to be 'Church', those of us who were assembled were told how we were training to, "Become a modern day shaman for those in the community in which we were to serve."

The lecturer told us how we were to discharge our duties by baptising all, and any, babies brought to us, bury their dead, marriage their love struck and be, "Guardians of the faith of the community."

What we weren't told was that it was also, by our believing, we would ensure that others could comfortably disbelieve. It is an 'odd but true' situation that when the pastor/priest/leader comes to a place of disbelief or uncertainty the whole structure and stability of the community becomes oddly unstable. It is as if by introducing an element of disbelief that the disbelief felt by others is made less real - and that's a real odd un, innit?

That we might suspect something does not exist or function as we thought is something that we all, at times, have in our own realities. But tell us that we might be right and rather than celebrate and engage in this unbelief the result is rather a confusion with parallels in the unresolved grief such as we saw with Princess Diana. It's great for us to have doubts but when those who are supposed to not have doubts on our behalf do so, then we don't have the wherewithal to withstand it! Worse still, we have to believe what is being unbelieved to compensate for the unbelief of the professional believer.

To compound the situation the belief of others brings the freedom to disbelieve or doubt and as long at they (the priest/pastor/leader) keep up the role then we are free to harbour disbelief. When meaningless is delivered to our door we have to 'man up' and make sense of the emptiness that is a reality for some who profess a Christian faith.

This poses a real challenge for us in ministry because merely 'doing our job' and faithfully believing in a community means that we are there for the delivery and maintenance of folk religion - baptise my baby so it will be lucky (a real quote) - and by maintaining a place of faith endorse a people of no faith! This means, if we are to make faith real, that we must be taking the faith out and be engaging with the people around us.

I engage with many people who speak fondly of the central church building in our town, referring to it as 'their church' and recalling weddings and other occasional offices that confirm this as a reality. If we were to say it was going to close there would be uproar and yet try to get the people to come in to a service and you'd think they'd been asked to run naked through the town. Oddly, some would be more keen to do that than attend a service! All of which means that we need people to be educated as to what Church is all about.


We need to meet with and engage with people to help them see the difference, and the similarity, found in people when they take upon themselves the label 'Christian'.

We need to have a church populated by people who understand their faith and have the ability to share it - which means sound teaching and intelligent leadership - inside the building, outside in the parish and when (and wherever) they are asked to give an answer for the hope that they have in Jesus.

We need those in leadership to be continually engaged in developing their own faith and to dialogue and grow in it so that their personal Christian walk is vibrant and lively; the steadfast and engaged faith, coupled with a desire (and ability) to share is the key to growth and a mature (and lively) congregation.

Or we can remain faithful and within our own walls waiting for 'them to come in' and maintain the folk religion of the masses around us.

Morning Prayer - August 29

The Beheading of John the Baptist

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

And I said: ‘O that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away and be at rest.
'Then would I flee far away and make my lodging in the wilderness.
‘I would make haste to escape from the stormy wind and tempest.’
Confuse their tongues, O Lord, and divide them, for I have seen violence and strife in the city.

Day and night they go about on her walls; mischief and trouble are in her midst. Wickedness walks in her streets; oppression and guile never leave her squares. For it was not an open enemy that reviled me, for then I could have borne it; nor was it my adversary that puffed himself up against me, for then I would have hid myself from him. But it was even you, one like myself, my companion and my own familiar friend. We took sweet counsel together and walked with the multitude in the house of God.

Let death come suddenly upon them, let them go down alive to the Pit; for wickedness inhabits their dwellings, their very hearts. As for me, I will call upon God and the Lord will deliver me. In the evening and morning and at noonday I will pray and make my supplication, and he shall hear my voice. He shall redeem my soul in peace from the battle waged against me, for many have come upon me.

God, who is enthroned of old, will hear and bring them down; they will not repent, for they have no fear of God. My companion stretched out his hands against his friend and has broken his covenant; his speech was softer than butter, though war was in his heart; his words were smoother than oil, yet are they naked swords.

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

2 Samuel 1
After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag. On the third day, a man came from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground and did obeisance. David said to him, ‘Where have you come from?’ He said to him, ‘I have escaped from the camp of Israel.’ David said to him, ‘How did things go? Tell me!’ He answered, ‘The army fled from the battle, but also many of the army fell and died; and Saul and his son Jonathan also died.’ Then David asked the young man who was reporting to him, ‘How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan died?’ The young man reporting to him said, ‘I happened to be on Mount Gilboa; and there was Saul leaning on his spear, while the chariots and the horsemen drew close to him. When he looked behind him, he saw me, and called to me. I answered, “Here, sir.” And he said to me, “Who are you?” I answered him, “I am an Amalekite.” He said to me, “Come, stand over me and kill me; for convulsions have seized me, and yet my life still lingers.” So I stood over him, and killed him, for I knew that he could not live after he had fallen. I took the crown that was on his head and the armlet that was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord.’

Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them; and all the men who were with him did the same. They mourned and wept, and fasted until evening for Saul and for his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. David said to the young man who had reported to him, ‘Where do you come from?’ He answered, ‘I am the son of a resident alien, an Amalekite.’ David said to him, ‘Were you not afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?’ Then David called one of the young men and said, ‘Come here and strike him down.’ So he struck him down and he died. David said to him, ‘Your blood be on your head; for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, “I have killed the Lord’s anointed.” ’

David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan. (He ordered that The Song of the Bow be taught to the people of Judah; it is written in the Book of Jashar.) He said:
Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!
Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon; or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice, the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.

You mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew or rain upon you, nor bounteous fields! For there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more.

From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back, nor the sword of Saul return empty.

Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.

O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you with crimson, in luxury, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.

How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle!

Jonathan lies slain upon your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.

How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!

Acts 5.12-26
Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.
Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees), being filled with jealousy, arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and said, ‘Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.’ When they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching.

When the high priest and those with him arrived, they called together the council and the whole body of the elders of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the temple police went there, they did not find them in the prison; so they returned and reported, ‘We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.’ Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were perplexed about them, wondering what might be going on. Then someone arrived and announced, ‘Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!’ Then the captain went with the temple police and brought them, but without violence, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

The Collect
Almighty God,
who called your servant John the Baptist to be the forerunner of your Son in birth and death:
strengthen us by your grace that, as he suffered for the truth,
so we may boldly resist corruption and vice and receive with him the unfading crown of glory;
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, 28 August 2014

Morning Prayer - August 28

Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, Teacher of the Faith  430

Psalm 78.1-39
Hear my teaching, O my people; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will pour forth mysteries from of old, such as we have heard and known, which our forebears have told us. We will not hide from their children, but will recount to generations to come, the praises of the Lord and his power and the wonderful works he has done.

He laid a solemn charge on Jacob and made it a law in Israel, which he commanded them to teach their children, that the generations to come might know, and the children yet unborn, that they in turn might tell it to their children; so that they might put their trust in God and not forget the deeds of God, but keep his commandments, and not be like their forebears, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, and whose spirit was not faithful to God.

The people of Ephraim, armed with the bow, turned back in the day of battle; they did not keep the covenant of God and refused to walk in his law; they forgot what he had done and the wonders he had shown them. For he did marvellous things in the sight of their forebears, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
He divided the sea and let them pass through; he made the waters stand still in a heap.
He led them with a cloud by day and all the night through with a blaze of fire.
He split the hard rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink as from the great deep.
He brought streams out of the rock and made water gush out like rivers.

Yet for all this they sinned more against him and defied the Most High in the wilderness. They tested God in their hearts and demanded food for their craving. They spoke against God and said, ‘Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?
‘He struck the rock indeed, so that the waters gushed out and the streams overflowed, but can he give bread or provide meat for his people?’

When the Lord heard this, he was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob and his anger went out against Israel, for they had no faith in God and put no trust in his saving help. So he commanded the clouds above and opened the doors of heaven. He rained down upon them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. So mortals ate the bread of angels; he sent them food in plenty.
He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens and led out the south wind by his might.
He rained flesh upon them as thick as dust and winged fowl like the sand of the sea.
He let it fall in the midst of their camp and round about their tents.
So they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they desired.

But they did not stop their craving; their food was still in their mouths, when the anger of God rose against them, and slew their strongest men and felled the flower of Israel. But for all this, they sinned yet more and put no faith in his wonderful works. So he brought their days to an end like a breath and their years in sudden terror. Whenever he slew them, they would seek him; they would repent and earnestly search for God. They remembered that God was their rock and the Most High God their redeemer.

Yet they did but flatter him with their mouth and dissembled with their tongue. Their heart was not steadfast towards him, neither were they faithful to his covenant. But he was so merciful that he forgave their misdeeds and did not destroy them; many a time he turned back his wrath and did not suffer his whole displeasure to be roused. For he remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes by and does not return.

1 Samuel 31
Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines, and many fell on Mount Gilboa. The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchishua, the sons of Saul. The battle pressed hard upon Saul; the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by them. Then Saul said to his armour-bearer, ‘Draw your sword and thrust me through with it, so that these uncircumcised may not come and thrust me through, and make sport of me.’ But his armour-bearer was unwilling; for he was terrified. So Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. When his armour-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. So Saul and his three sons and his armour-bearer and all his men died together on the same day. When the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley and those beyond the Jordan saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook their towns and fled; and the Philistines came and occupied them.

The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. They cut off his head, stripped off his armour, and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to carry the good news to the houses of their idols and to the people. They put his armour in the temple of Astarte; and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men set out, travelled all night long, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan. They came to Jabesh and burned them there. Then they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh, and fasted for seven days.

Acts 4.32-5.11
Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. ‘Ananias,’ Peter asked, ‘why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!’ Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter said to her, ‘Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price.’ And she said, ‘Yes, that was the price.’ Then Peter said to her, ‘How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.’ Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.

The Collect
Merciful Lord,
who turned Augustine from his sins to be a faithful bishop and teacher:
grant that we may follow him in penitence and discipline till our restless hearts find their rest in you;
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, 27 August 2014

Arsenal through to Champion's League

What an absolutely great game Arsenal had against Besiktas who kept the pressure on and as time ran out the pressure just kept on rising - sad to see them lose but thankful that Arsenal are in the hat for another season of Champions League football (along with City, Chelsea  and Liverpool). Thank goodness, thought Arsenal were going to have to share a coach with Man United for a few minutes back there!


No, no, no, the new Man Utd coach I meant was van Gaal!

Made me smile: Before the ice bucket challenge 2

video

Thought this was quite clever!

Made me smile: Before the ice bucket challenge


Yes indeedy - it's true!

Morning Prayer - August 27

Monica, mother of Augustine of Hippo, 387

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.

1 Samuel 28.3-end
Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. Saul had expelled the mediums and the wizards from the land. The Philistines assembled, and came and encamped at Shunem. Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, not by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, ‘Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, so that I may go to her and inquire of her.’ His servants said to him, ‘There is a medium at Endor.’

So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes and went there, he and two men with him. They came to the woman by night. And he said, ‘Consult a spirit for me, and bring up for me the one whom I name to you.’ The woman said to him, ‘Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the wizards from the land. Why then are you laying a snare for my life to bring about my death?’ But Saul swore to her by the Lord, ‘As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.’ Then the woman said, ‘Whom shall I bring up for you?’ He answered, ‘Bring up Samuel for me.’ When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman said to Saul, ‘Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!’ The king said to her, ‘Have no fear; what do you see?’ The woman said to Saul, ‘I see a divine being coming up out of the ground.’ He said to her, ‘What is his appearance?’ She said, ‘An old man is coming up; he is wrapped in a robe.’ So Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance.

Then Samuel said to Saul, ‘Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?’ Saul answered, ‘I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams; so I have summoned you to tell me what I should do.’ Samuel said, ‘Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? The Lord has done to you just as he spoke by me; for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand, and given it to your neighbour David. Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord, and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you today. Moreover, the Lord will give Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines; and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me; the Lord will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.’

Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, filled with fear because of the words of Samuel; and there was no strength in him, for he had eaten nothing all day and all night. The woman came to Saul, and when she saw that he was terrified, she said to him, ‘Your servant has listened to you; I have taken my life in my hand, and have listened to what you have said to me. Now therefore, you also listen to your servant; let me set a morsel of bread before you. Eat, that you may have strength when you go on your way.’ He refused, and said, ‘I will not eat.’ But his servants, together with the woman, urged him; and he listened to their words. So he got up from the ground and sat on the bed. Now the woman had a fatted calf in the house. She quickly slaughtered it, and she took flour, kneaded it, and baked unleavened cakes. She put them before Saul and his servants, and they ate. Then they rose and went away that night.

Acts 4.13-31
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. They said, ‘What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.’ So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.’ After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing had been performed was more than forty years old.

After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, ‘Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant:
“Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers have gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.”
For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.

The Collect
Faithful God,
who strengthened Monica, the mother of Augustine, with wisdom,
and through her patient endurance encouraged him to seek after you:
give us the will to persist in prayer that those who stray from you may be brought to faith in 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, 26 August 2014

Scotland/England and that referendum

I have to say that I'm feeling rather sad over the issue of Scottish independence for a number of reasons, the greatest of these being what a friend referred to as a prime example of 'Narrow Nationalism'! I'm concerned with poverty across the board (and borders) but this doesn't necessarily apply to those who want a 'Yes' vote - and that is indeed rather sad.

Add to this a comment from a young person from the oil capital of Scotland, Aberdeen, who (perhaps ironically wore a 'Yes' badge) thought that the money generated from the oil and gas industry that is centred in that place, "Hadn't made much difference or been seen here!" and the claims of wealth (see below) and the promise of Scotland as a land of plenty all seem just a little hollow if the OBR (Office of Budget Responsibility) are to be believed:

North Sea oil

Interesting that the Scottish claims, which generally appear to be founded in the land of 'I want it to be' are estimated by an expert on the subject, Sir Ian Wood, to be as much as 60% too high. A spokesman for the 'Yes' party response was something akin to, "That can't be right because we don't want it be!"

Look at the pound and the 'Yes' vote group are determined that they will keep the GBP (that's Great British Pound) 'because they want to!' and that is really all that needs to be known. Mind you, since then Alex has said that should it come to it they will keep the pound (Guess that will be the SAP - Scotland Alone Pound). I can't wait to see the exchange rate!

When in Scotland I was stunned to find out how many businesses from that side of the border are looking to move South should the 'Yes' vote succeed. I was then appalled when someone explained that a 'Yes' would lead to Scotland becoming an independent, England-free, third world nation as billions of SAPs were lost from tax income.

I see Scotland is keen to get rid of things that go bang in the night and this meaning nuclear would see British military establishments close. Personally I think this can only be good for those places in England that would be receiving them and so this is surely a win-win outcome. Mind you, can't see how the Scottish military are going to find a home in NATO but guess the border guards and those on guard outside Edinburgh would find something for those who choose to remain to do. I read somewhere that Scotland would have its own Special Forces (perhaps they could be called 'Special Brew'?) to protect the rigs and the like.

All in all I am sad because I don't think this campaign gives a monkeys about the people who live in Scotland and don't think it's beneficial for any of those who consider themselves British (which I do). I am sad because I found Scotland to be a wonderful place to be and found it populaced with extremely lovely people too - and I would like us to be working together for a common good.

BUT

I can understand that many would rather be free from England in their own country regardless of the fact that it might mean they can stand proudly, but bankrupt, rather than solvent but on their knees!

I can understand that a vote for the 'Yes' campaign might mean that at last Scotland could have its own Eurovision contestant and vote of their own!

I can understand that losing the BBC and other media channels (TV and Radio) might be seen as a good thing, after all they can always subscribe to Sky and other channels (can't they) but would they take all the great Scottish TV shows (Balamory to name the only one I can think of) with them? This would be a shame from my side of the TV!

Scotland could have their own monarch (I'd favour Billy Connolly) and bard (think J K Rowling's out of the running for that job) and better still - could, once it's gained the required status and approval (which I read takes 3-5 years) could even join the EU (I fancy the name ALBA myself).


So where we are waiting to see which way the vote goes - and I have to say that that anything other than a vote to stay together would be a tragedy for all concerned - mind you, shouldn't all members of the United Kingdom have a vote? The Scots as to whether they want to stay and the others as to whether we want to keep any union with them! Seems to me that this is a very one-sided divorce in prospect and should they go they will not only have to take over custody of the children (who one Glaswegian said were like people from nnnnn - an not popular people group - who had many of the jobs in England) and also pay their part of the national debt as they leave too.

Seems to be a divisive and wrong discussion all round - has nothing to do with the people only bitterness, rancour and division and I can only see the poor getting poorer North of the border and those to the South losing something money cannot buy :(

Morning Prayer - August 26

Psalm 73
Truly, God is loving to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. Nevertheless, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well-nigh slipped. For I was envious of the proud; I saw the wicked in such prosperity; For they suffer no pains and their bodies are sleek and sound; They come to no misfortune like other folk; nor are they plagued as others are; Therefore pride is their necklace and violence wraps them like a cloak.

Their iniquity comes from within; the conceits of their hearts overflow. They scoff, and speak only of evil; they talk of oppression from on high. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue ranges round the earth; And so the people turn to them and find in them no fault. They say, ‘How should God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?’
Behold, these are the wicked; ever at ease, they increase their wealth.

Is it in vain that I cleansed my heart and washed my hands in innocence?
All day long have I been stricken and chastened every morning. If I had said, ‘I will speak as they do,’ I should have betrayed the generation of your children.
Then thought I to understand this, but it was too hard for me, Until I entered the sanctuary of God and understood the end of the wicked: How you set them in slippery places; you cast them down to destruction. How suddenly do they come to destruction, perish and come to a fearful end!

As with a dream when one awakes, so, Lord, when you arise you will despise their image. When my heart became embittered and I was pierced to the quick, I was but foolish and ignorant; I was like a brute beast in your presence. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with your counsel and afterwards receive me with glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire in comparison with you. Though my flesh and my heart fail me, God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever. Truly, those who forsake you will perish; you will put to silence the faithless who betray you. But it is good for me to draw near to God; in the Lord God have I made my refuge that I may tell of all your works.

1 Samuel 26
Then the Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah, saying, ‘David is in hiding on the hill of Hachilah, which is opposite Jeshimon.’ So Saul rose and went down to the Wilderness of Ziph, with three thousand chosen men of Israel, to seek David in the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul encamped on the hill of Hachilah, which is opposite Jeshimon beside the road. But David remained in the wilderness. When he learned that Saul had come after him into the wilderness, David sent out spies, and learned that Saul had indeed arrived. Then David set out and came to the place where Saul had encamped; and David saw the place where Saul lay, with Abner son of Ner, the commander of his army. Saul was lying within the encampment, while the army was encamped around him.

Then David said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, ‘Who will go down with me into the camp to Saul?’ Abishai said, ‘I will go down with you.’ So David and Abishai went to the army by night; there Saul lay sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head; and Abner and the army lay around him. Abishai said to David, ‘God has given your enemy into your hand today; now therefore let me pin him to the ground with one stroke of the spear; I will not strike him twice.’ But David said to Abishai, ‘Do not destroy him; for who can raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?’ David said, ‘As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him down; or his day will come to die; or he will go down into battle and perish. The Lord forbid that I should raise my hand against the Lord’s anointed; but now take the spear that is at his head, and the water-jar, and let us go.’ So David took the spear that was at Saul’s head and the water-jar, and they went away. No one saw it, or knew it, nor did anyone awake; for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them.

Then David went over to the other side, and stood on top of a hill far away, with a great distance between them. David called to the army and to Abner son of Ner, saying, ‘Abner! Will you not answer?’ Then Abner replied, ‘Who are you that calls to the king?’ David said to Abner, ‘Are you not a man? Who is like you in Israel? Why then have you not kept watch over your lord the king? For one of the people came in to destroy your lord the king. This thing that you have done is not good. As the Lord lives, you deserve to die, because you have not kept watch over your lord, the Lord’s anointed. See now, where is the king’s spear, or the water-jar that was at his head?’

Saul recognized David’s voice, and said, ‘Is that your voice, my son David?’ David said, ‘It is my voice, my lord, O king.’ And he added, ‘Why does my lord pursue his servant? For what have I done? What guilt is on my hands? Now therefore let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If it is the Lord who has stirred you up against me, may he accept an offering; but if it is mortals, may they be cursed before the Lord, for they have driven me out today from my share in the heritage of the Lord, saying, “Go, serve other gods.” Now, therefore, do not let my blood fall to the ground, away from the presence of the Lord; for the king of Israel has come out to seek a single flea, like one who hunts a partridge in the mountains.’

Then Saul said, ‘I have done wrong; come back, my son David, for I will never harm you again, because my life was precious in your sight today; I have been a fool, and have made a great mistake.’ David replied, ‘Here is the spear, O king! Let one of the young men come over and get it. The Lord rewards everyone for his righteousness and his faithfulness; for the Lord gave you into my hand today, but I would not raise my hand against the Lord’s anointed. As your life was precious today in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the Lord, and may he rescue me from all tribulation.’ Then Saul said to David, ‘Blessed be you, my son David! You will do many things and will succeed in them.’ So David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place.

Acts 4.1-12
While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them, much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead. So they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand.

The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is
“the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.”
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.’

The Collect
Let your merciful ears, O Lord,
be open to the prayers of your humble servants;
and that they may obtain their petitions make them to ask such things as shall please you;
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, 25 August 2014

Iraqi Christians - a need for prayer

Open Doors calling for urgent prayer for the Iraqi Christians reporting that they are in great danger and that there is a real threat of being beheaded over the coming hours.

Where is the response to the UN statements of concern?

I see no real response from the Western nations, all I hear is silence from the Arab League and hear not one effective and influential Islamic voice speaking out against the situation.

The US are great at voting 'NO' in support of Israel yet are content to leave people on hillsides, resorting to UAVs and going onto the back foot when they should be looking to redress the situation they have helped create.

Shameful

PLEASE PRAY



Morning Prayer - August 25

Bartholomew the Apostle

Psalm 86
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and in misery. Preserve my soul, for I am faithful; save your servant, for I put my trust in you. Be merciful to me, O Lord, for you are my God; I call upon you all the day long. Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For you, Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer and listen to the voice of my supplication.bIn the day of my distress I will call upon you, for you will answer me.

Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord, nor any works like yours. All nations you have made shall come and worship you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wonderful things; you alone are God.  Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you, that I may fear your name. I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and glorify your name for evermore; For great is your steadfast love towards me, for you have delivered my soul from the depths of the grave.

O God, the proud rise up against me and a ruthless horde seek after my life; they have not set you before their eyes. But you, Lord, are gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and full of kindness and truth. Turn to me and have mercy upon me; give your strength to your servant and save the child of your handmaid. Show me a token of your favour, that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed; because you, O Lord, have helped and comforted me.

Psalm 117
O praise the Lord, all you nations; praise him, all you peoples. For great is his steadfast love towards us, •and the faithfulness of the Lord endures for ever.
Alleluia.

Genesis 28.10-17
Jacob left Beer-sheba and went towards Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’ Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’

John 1.43-51
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’

The Collect
Almighty and everlasting God,
who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach your word:
grant that your Church may love that word which he believed and may faithfully preach and receive the same;
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, 24 August 2014

Can't make it to church - August 24

Our Gospel reading deals with a situation which many of those in Church are probably familiar with, the 'wannabe leader'. The problem is that as much as we want people to be keen to become leaders, many of those who want to be up the front are keen to be lauded and recognised and regarded as important. I have met many who want to be in the spotlight but are not willing, or perhaps able, to recognise that Church leadership is about the person we follow and not us!

Jesus finds the same thing in our Gospel story and puts them straight by telling them that leadership demands servant hearts and a willingness to consider ourselves less than those we serve. Jesus points out that He has come as a servant and this is the way all of us should live - and to put the cherry on the cake He finishes by talking about standing with Him in His trials. Not a popular idea the having trials and problems, is it? Many will look to getting blessing, prosperity, money, power (the special significant other) and more besides - but it doesn't quite sit well, does it? (Shame I hear some cry!)

The Old Testament talks about being witnesses to the who, what and how of God and the Psalm brings into our thinking those who speak of God's majesty, power and kindness - for this is part of our role too - something these who lead do in abundance: Point to God not look in the mirror or direct the spotlight onto them.

We also seek unity and this means building people up and showing generosity and kindness. When this is a reality then we see things happen - people are added to the Church, miracles are seen and unity is everywhere. The collect for today sums it up wonderfully for us:

Lord God, the source of truth and love, keep us faithful to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, united in prayer and the breaking of bread, and one in joy and simplicity of heart, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Father, we thank you for giving us gifts to bless others and build the Church,
Help us to be the hands that heal and teach us to live the lives that accept,
make us aware of the blessing that we are to others and make us whole
By the blood of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Amen.



Luke 22.24-30
A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

‘You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Isaiah 43.8-13
Bring forth the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears! Let all the nations gather together, and let the peoples assemble.
Who among them declared this, and foretold to us the former things?
Let them bring their witnesses to justify them, and let them hear and say, ‘It is true.’

You are my witnesses, says the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no saviour. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses, says the Lord.

I am God, and also henceforth I am He; there is no one who can deliver from my hand; I work and who can hinder it?

Psalm 145.1-7
I will exalt you, O God my King, and bless your name for ever and ever. Every day will I bless you and praise your name for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord and highly to be praised; his greatness is beyond all searching out. One generation shall praise your works to another and declare your mighty acts.
They shall speak of the majesty of your glory, and I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
They shall speak of the might of your marvellous acts, and I will also tell of your greatness.
They shall pour forth the story of your abundant kindness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.



Acts 5.12-16
Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.

I wanna be the leader 
I wanna be the leader 
Can I be the leader? 
Can I? I can? 
Promise? Promise? 
Yippee I'm the leader, I'm the leader 


OK what shall we do?
Roger McGough

Post Communion Prayer
Almighty God,
who on the day of Pentecost sent your Holy Spirit to the apostles with the wind from heaven and in tongues of flame, filling them with joy and boldness to preach the gospel: by the power of the same Spirit strengthen us to witness to your truth and to draw everyone to the fire of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Morning Prayer - August 23

Psalm 68
Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered; let those that hate him flee before him.
As the smoke vanishes, so may they vanish away; as wax melts at the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God. But let the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; let them make merry with gladness.

Sing to God, sing praises to his name;exalt him who rides on the clouds. The Lord is his name; rejoice before him. Father of the fatherless, defender of widows, God in his holy habitation! God gives the solitary a home and brings forth prisoners to songs of welcome, but the rebellious inhabit a burning desert.

O God, when you went forth before your people, when you marched through the wilderness, The earth shook and the heavens dropped down rain, at the presence of God, the Lord of Sinai, at the presence of God, the God of Israel. You sent down a gracious rain, O God; you refreshed your inheritance when it was weary. Your people came to dwell there; in your goodness, O God, you provide for the poor.  The Lord gave the word; great was the company of women who bore the tidings: ‘Kings and their armies they flee, they flee!’and women at home are dividing the spoil.
Though you stayed among the sheepfolds, see now a dove’s wings covered with silver and its feathers with green gold.

When the Almighty scattered the kings, it was like snowflakes falling on Zalmon.  You mighty mountain, great mountain of Bashan! You towering mountain, great mountain of Bashan! Why look with envy, you towering mountains, at the mount which God has desired for his dwelling, the place where the Lord will dwell for ever?

The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, even thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them, the Lord of Sinai in holy power. You have gone up on high and led captivity captive; you have received tribute, even from those§who rebelled, hat you may reign as Lord and God.

Blessed be the Lord who bears our burdens day by day, for God is our salvation.
God is for us the God of our salvation; God is the Lord who can deliver from death.
God will smite the head of his enemies, the hairy scalp of those who walk in wickedness.
The Lord has said, ‘From the heights of Bashan, from the depths of the sea will I bring them back,
‘Till you dip your foot in blood and the tongue of your dogs has a taste of your enemies.’

We see your solemn processions, O God, your processions into the sanctuary, my God and my King. The singers go before, the musicians follow after, in the midst of maidens playing on timbrels In your companies, bless your God; bless the Lord, you that are of the fount of Israel. At the head there is Benjamin, least of the tribes, the princes of Judah in joyful company, the princes of Zebulun and Naphtali. Send forth your strength, O God; establish, O God, what you have wrought in us. For your temple’s sake in Jerusalem kings shall bring their gifts to you. Drive back with your word the wild beast of the reeds, the herd of the bull-like, the brutish hordes. Trample down those who lust after silver; scatter the peoples that delight in war. Vessels of bronze shall be brought from Egypt; Ethiopia will stretch out her hands to God.

Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth; make music in praise of the Lord; He rides on the ancient heaven of heavens and sends forth his voice, a mighty voice. scribe power to God, whose splendour is over Israel, whose power is above the clouds. How terrible is God in his holy sanctuary, the God of Israel, who gives power and strength to his people!
Blessed be God.

1 Samuel 23
Now they told David, ‘The Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and are robbing the threshing-floors.’ David inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’ The Lord said to David, ‘Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’ But David’s men said to him, ‘Look, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?’ Then David inquired of the Lord again. The Lord answered him, ‘Yes, go down to Keilah; for I will give the Philistines into your hand.’ So David and his men went to Keilah, fought with the Philistines, brought away their livestock, and dealt them a heavy defeat. Thus David rescued the inhabitants of Keilah.

When Abiathar son of Ahimelech fled to David at Keilah, he came down with an ephod in his hand. Now it was told Saul that David had come to Keilah. And Saul said, ‘God has given him into my hand; for he has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars.’ Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. When David learned that Saul was plotting evil against him, he said to the priest Abiathar, ‘Bring the ephod here.’ David said, ‘O Lord, the God of Israel, your servant has heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. And now, will Saul come down as your servant has heard? O Lord, the God of Israel, I beseech you, tell your servant.’ The Lord said, ‘He will come down.’ Then David said, ‘Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?’ The Lord said, ‘They will surrender you.’ Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, set out and left Keilah; they wandered wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition. David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul sought him every day, but the Lord did not give him into his hand.
David was in the Wilderness of Ziph at Horesh when he learned that Saul had come out to seek his life. Saul’s son Jonathan set out and came to David at Horesh; there he strengthened his hand through the Lord. He said to him, ‘Do not be afraid; for the hand of my father Saul shall not find you; you shall be king over Israel, and I shall be second to you; my father Saul also knows that this is so.’ Then the two of them made a covenant before the Lord; David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home.

Then some Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah and said, ‘David is hiding among us in the strongholds of Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah, which is south of Jeshimon. Now, O king, whenever you wish to come down, do so; and our part will be to surrender him into the king’s hand.’ Saul said, ‘May you be blessed by the Lord for showing me compassion! Go and make sure once more; find out exactly where he is, and who has seen him there; for I am told that he is very cunning. Look around and learn all the hiding-places where he lurks, and come back to me with sure information. Then I will go with you; and if he is in the land, I will search him out among all the thousands of Judah.’ So they set out and went to Ziph ahead of Saul.

David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the Arabah to the south of Jeshimon. Saul and his men went to search for him. When David was told, he went down to the rock and stayed in the wilderness of Maon. When Saul heard that, he pursued David into the wilderness of Maon. Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. David was hurrying to get away from Saul, while Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them. Then a messenger came to Saul, saying, ‘Hurry and come; for the Philistines have made a raid on the land.’ So Saul stopped pursuing David, and went against the Philistines; therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape. David then went up from there, and lived in the strongholds of En-gedi.

Acts 3.1-10
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

The Collect
Almighty God,
who sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your Church:
open our hearts to the riches of your grace,
that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in love and joy 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.

Friday, 22 August 2014

UK Shoplifting (and need for Foodbanks) growing exponentially

Shoplifting has gone up in the UK by 7% and the stuff being lifted is food. The reason for this is the fact that according to experts, people are finding their finances squeezed.

On Radio Four earlier today a Mum said she went shoplifting for food because even though she has used Foodbanks, the stuff they gave her was not healthy and so she, from the desire to feed her kids healthy food, went shoplifting. Now she acknowledged that this was wrong - but felt she had no choice.

This news item brings a couple of issues to the fore:

More and more people are finding it hard to live and the potential for rises in interest rates some time soon will see mortgages and other rate-related rise and this will exacerbate the situation. More people will have less to pay out on food, especially as the real value of income decreases each year any,way. There is already a rise in loan sharks and the spectre of interest rate rises will only feed this.

So many of those who support Foodbanks appear to go for volume rather than quality (and I know I'm probably wrong in this) but I always encourage those who decide to donate to go for middle of the road rather than cheaper stuff - my thinking being that I'd rather see five pounds worth of quality, low salt, low sugar, low additive foodstuff (say six tins) than twelve tins of foodstuffs that will affect the health of the recipients. Our local Foodbank is happy to receive fresh vegetables (a good thing with Harvest drawing near once again) and this is a good thing.

There is an immense need for Christians:
To support (and if there isn't one, to establish) Credit Unions;
To work together with Foodbanks;
To engage with groups like Christians Against Poverty (CAP)
To speak up for the marginalised and those in poverty and other needs



Soapbox back in cupboard




Daily Quiet Time or Prayer or . . .

Office or study or . . .

It doesn't matter what you call it the issue is that if you do it you do it right and this is where it gets hard (as if doing it wasn't hard enough)!

When I was a student there were a bunch of really dedicated Christians in the Christian Union(CU). They got together and did their daily study, getting together each morning and having their 'Quiet Time'. They would read their Bible study notes and the passage set for the day.

Another group were the Navigators - a disciplined bunch who would work through various themed programmes - using the Topical Memory system these guys would learn a new passage each day and would test each other on the verses that had passed. These were the storm troopers of the CU, they learned their stuff and could be found stopping students in the corridor and asking them (in various ways) what they thought of Jesus and Christianity.

Then came another group who were a bit hit and miss with their Quiet Times. They tended to start the month well and slowly slide into variable observance. This was the group I was usually part off and it was not because I didn't see the benefit of reading the Bible or didn't want to spend time reading, thinking and praying but because I had a life. I can hear some say that the life I had was probably indisciplined and you may well be right, but things got in the way and the best plans and highest intentions were binned because I'd be out all night praying with people or discussing the Bible and arguing with the atheists (always been there) or doing other stuff.

What I noticed was that then, and now, that some who did their daily wotsit religiously, by which I mean, legalistically and without much enthusiasm or joy. They ticked the box and 'did their duty' and as much as I applaud their commitment (would that there were more who were committed) I was, and am, sad that some do it as drear and dread duty rather than as a place of sanity and a source of joy.

I made a promise when I was ordained that I would do my daily office - that is my morning and evening prayer - and this promise, and the keeping of if, is a commitment and a challenge. A commitment because, like feeding the cats, it is something I have to do because I need to feed the spiritual man (and I promised God and a pointyhat - not one and the same thing I'd do it) and a challenge because it requires a discipline - that's why I do it the minute I wake, getting up earlier to ensure it happens before the demands and distractions of the day conspire to distract me - and it needs to be something I want to do.

So here's a little plea to those who stumble across these words:

If you are a Christian you need to feed the spiritual person every day - lest they become emancipated and eventually starve.

If you are a Christian you need to find some joy in being so, if it is a joyless, lifeless and draining experience then slowly, but most assuredly, you're living in a time stamped existence - one that leads to being an ex-Christian!

If you don't take time out to consider the world around you and the needs nearer to you and to regard them with spiritual eyes and listen regarding them with anointed ears then how can you make sense and pray intelligently and form a world view and a rational understanding that fits your faith view and satisfies those of no faith?

So my plea is this:
Read your Bible
Understand what's happening in the world, work, home, church, elsewhere
Use your brain
Use your tongue to talk to God (and people)
Get excited
Be passionate (or as passionate as you can be)

Do this and you'll find yourself craving time where you can dialogue, reason and rejoice in being a person of faith - and you'll find people want to be doing it with you.



Happy Friday

Morning Prayer - August 22

Psalm 51
Have mercy on me, O God, in your great goodness; according to the abundance of your compassion blot out my offences. Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my faults and my sin is ever before me. Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, So that you are justified in your sentence and righteous in your judgement. I have been wicked even from my birth, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

Behold, you desire truth deep within me and shall make me understand wisdom in the depths of my heart. Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear of joy and gladness, that the bones you have broken may rejoice. Turn your face from my sins and blot out all my misdeeds.

Make me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence and take not your holy spirit from me. Give me again the joy of your salvation and sustain me with your gracious spirit; Then shall I teach your ways to the wicked and sinners shall return to you.

Deliver me from my guilt, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. For you desire no sacrifice, else I would give it; you take no delight in burnt offerings. The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

O be favourable and gracious to Zion; build up the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will accept sacrifices offered in righteousness, the burnt offerings and oblations; then shall they offer up bulls on your altar.

Psalm 54
Save me, O God, by your name and vindicate me by your power. Hear my prayer, O God; give heed to the words of my mouth. For strangers have risen up against me, and the ruthless seek after my life; they have not set God before them.

Behold, God is my helper; it is the Lord who upholds my life. May evil rebound on those who lie in wait for me; destroy them in your faithfulness.

An offering of a free heart will I give you and praise your name, O Lord, for it is gracious. For he has delivered me out of all my trouble, and my eye has seen the downfall of my enemies.

1 Samuel 22.6-end
Saul heard that David and those who were with him had been located. Saul was sitting at Gibeah, under the tamarisk tree on the height, with his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing around him. Saul said to his servants who stood around him, ‘Hear now, you Benjaminites; will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, will he make you all commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? Is that why all of you have conspired against me? No one discloses to me when my son makes a league with the son of Jesse, none of you is sorry for me or discloses to me that my son has stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as he is doing today.’ Doeg the Edomite, who was in charge of Saul’s servants, answered, ‘I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech son of Ahitub; he inquired of the Lord for him, gave him provisions, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.’

The king sent for the priest Ahimelech son of Ahitub and for all his father’s house, the priests who were at Nob; and all of them came to the king. Saul said, ‘Listen now, son of Ahitub.’ He answered, ‘Here I am, my lord.’ Saul said to him, ‘Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, by giving him bread and a sword, and by inquiring of God for him, so that he has risen against me, to lie in wait, as he is doing today?’

Then Ahimelech answered the king, ‘Who among all your servants is so faithful as David? He is the king’s son-in-law, and is quick to do your bidding, and is honoured in your house. Is today the first time that I have inquired of God for him? By no means! Do not let the king impute anything to his servant or to any member of my father’s house; for your servant has known nothing of all this, much or little.’ The king said, ‘You shall surely die, Ahimelech, you and all your father’s house.’ The king said to the guard who stood around him, ‘Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because their hand also is with David; they knew that he fled, and did not disclose it to me.’ But the servants of the king would not raise their hand to attack the priests of the Lord. Then the king said to Doeg, ‘You, Doeg, turn and attack the priests.’ Doeg the Edomite turned and attacked the priests; on that day he killed eighty-five who wore the linen ephod. Nob, the city of the priests, he put to the sword; men and women, children and infants, oxen, donkeys, and sheep, he put to the sword.

But one of the sons of Ahimelech son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David. Abiathar told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. David said to Abiathar, ‘I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I am responsible for the lives of all your father’s house. Stay with me, and do not be afraid; for the one who seeks my life seeks your life; you will be safe with me.’

Acts 2.37-end
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.’ And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

The Collect
Almighty God,
who sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your Church:
open our hearts to the riches of your grace,
that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in love and joy 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.