Saturday, 31 December 2016

Morning Prayer - Saturday 31 December 2016

Christmas Season 
John Wyclif, Reformer, 1384

Psalm 102
O Lord, hear my prayer and let my crying come before you. Hide not your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; when I call, make haste to answer me, For my days are consumed in smoke and my bones burn away as in a furnace. My heart is smitten down and withered like grass, so that I forget to eat my bread. From the sound of my groaning my bones cleave fast to my skin. I am become like a vulture in the wilderness, like an owl that haunts the ruins.

I keep watch and am become like a sparrow solitary upon the housetop. My enemies revile me all the day long, and those who rage at me have sworn together against me. I have eaten ashes for bread and mingled my drink with weeping, Because of your indignation and wrath, for you have taken me up and cast me down. My days fade away like a shadow, and I am withered like grass.

But you, O Lord, shall endure for ever and your name through all generations. You will arise and have pity on Zion; it is time to have mercy upon her; surely the time has come. For your servants love her very stones and feel compassion for her dust. Then shall the nations fear your name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth your glory, When the Lord has built up Zion and shown himself in glory; When he has turned to the prayer of the destitute and has not despised their plea.

This shall be written for those that come after, and a people yet unborn shall praise the Lord. For he has looked down from his holy height; from the heavens he beheld the earth, That he might hear the sighings of the prisoner and set free those condemned to die; That the name of the Lord may be proclaimed in Zion and his praises in Jerusalem, When peoples are gathered together and kingdoms also, to serve the Lord.

He has brought down my strength in my journey and has shortened my days. I pray, ‘O my God, do not take me in the midst of my days; your years endure throughout all generations.
‘In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands;
‘They shall perish, but you will endure; they all shall wear out like a garment.
‘You change them like clothing, and they shall be changed; but you are the same, and your years will not fail.
‘The children of your servants shall continue, and their descendants shall be established in your sight.’

Isaiah 59.15b-end
Truth is lacking, and whoever turns from evil is despoiled.

The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, and was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm brought him victory, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in fury as in a mantle. According to their deeds, so will he repay; wrath to his adversaries, requital to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render requital. So those in the west shall fear the name of the Lord, and those in the east, his glory; for he will come like a pent-up stream that the wind of the Lord drives on.

And he will come to Zion as Redeemer, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression, says the Lord.
And as for me, this is my covenant with them, says the Lord: my spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouths of your children, or out of the mouths of your children’s children, says the Lord, from now on and for ever.

John 1.29-34
The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him; but I came baptising with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptise with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’

The Collect
Almighty God, you have given us your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin:
grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; 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.


Another day another . . .

opportunity to minister God's Grace.

Today was a day very much taken up by ministering to the bereaved - one opportuniy came in that shape of a service at the Crematorium, another took me on a visit, another still a gathering for a family to remember being family and to remember loved ones who had departed, yet another taken up with paperwork and the preparations for a service next week - and more pastoral stuff besides.

It has been a most wonderful day indeed.

Lord, comfort those who mourn and strengthen those with mental health issues. Help us to be willing and ready to be a support and friend in the dark times and to set the captives free from the dark places.

For those I have met and the opportunities to engage I thank you - help me to serve and give and never count the cost - carrying my cross and denying myself and my sill ambitions.

Bless and equip me to be a blessing I pray.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Morning Prayer - Friday 30 December 2016

Christmas Season

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

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

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

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

Psalm 112
Alleluia.
Blessed are those who fear the Lord and have great delight in his commandments. Their descendants will be mighty in the land, a generation of the faithful that will be blest. Wealth and riches will be in their house, and their righteousness endures for ever.

Light shines in the darkness for the upright; gracious and full of compassion are the righteous. It goes well with those who are generous in lending and order their affairs with justice, For they will never be shaken; the righteous will be held in everlasting remembrance. They will not be afraid of any evil tidings; their heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their heart is sustained and will not fear, until they see the downfall of their foes. They have given freely to the poor; their righteousness stands fast for ever; their head will be exalted with honour.

The wicked shall see it and be angry; they shall gnash their teeth in despair; the desire of the wicked shall perish.

Psalm 113
Alleluia.
Give praise, you servants of the Lord, O praise the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord, from this time forth and for evermore. From the rising of the sun to its setting let the name of the Lord be praised.

The Lord is high above all nations and his glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, that has his throne so high, yet humbles himself to behold the things of heaven and earth?
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ashes, To set them with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a place in the house and makes her a joyful mother of children.
Alleluia.

Isaiah 59.1-15a
See, the Lord’s hand is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.
Rather, your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness. No one brings suit justly, no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, conceiving mischief and begetting iniquity. They hatch adders’ eggs, and weave the spider’s web; whoever eats their eggs dies, and the crushed egg hatches out a viper. Their webs cannot serve as clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they rush to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, desolation and destruction are in their highways. The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths. Their roads they have made crooked; no one who walks in them knows peace.

Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us; we wait for light, and lo! there is darkness; and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope like the blind along a wall, groping like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among the vigorous as though we were dead. We all growl like bears;   like doves we moan mournfully. We wait for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us. For our transgressions before you are many, and our sins testify against us. Our transgressions indeed are with us, and we know our iniquities:transgressing, and denying the Lord, and turning away from following our God, talking oppression and revolt, conceiving lying words and uttering them from the heart. Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands at a distance; for truth stumbles in the public square, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and whoever turns from evil is despoiled. The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice.

John 1.19-28
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord” ’,as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ John answered them, ‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

The C.ollect 
Lord Jesus Christ, your birth at Bethlehem draws us to kneel in wonder at heaven touching earth: accept our heartfelt praise as we worship you, our Saviour and our eternal God. Amen.

One funeral, no weddings and a Communion

The day now past had many encounters and was full of blessings, challenges and battles today and found me return home so cold that I snuggled up to get warm and woke a couple of hours later - which is a rather rather interesting phenomenon I usually reserve for care homes in the Winter!

Today's encounters were interesting as many are taken up with what is a rather average loss of celebrities and yet to them appears to be something out of the ordinary - a portent of things to come and the indication of a year to be forgotten. Oddly I would have said Brexit, Trump, Johnson (Chump) and many other things made 2016 a year to forget - but hey ho!

Personally I'm looking at a year of blessing in the lives of those with whom we have engaged and the ways in which I have seen God work around me. Not been an easy year but it has been a year - and there are many things to reflect upon.

But the many people I have engaged with today for that I am grateful - and moderately happy with the person I was and the person I was working with and for. For the blessings, I thank God and for the increased workload: Well that's a bonus, innit? The devil makes work for idle hands - hopefully it appears that  I might never get to work for him then ;-)

The opportunity (and ability) to stand with those who mourn is so a blessing - may tomorrow as we bring the other partner of a marriage a the final service just weeks after their other half be a blessing and bring some healing and comfort. Lord use me to shine your light in that dark place.

So onto sleep and the new day beyond.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Death - it's not a celebrity issue!

What do the numbers 53, 60, 96, 95 and 84 mean to you I wonder?  Do they mean anything at all?

For those who appear to be obsessed with celebrity deaths, these are the ages of George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Ricard Adams, Liz Smith and Debbie Reynolds who have all died recently (Reynolds being the latest).

A number of people have engaged in in the 'tragic' news - tragic on the grounds that they were stars; they were famous and did stuff that put them in the public eye. They tell me how. "There's something going one with all these stars dying!" And you know what - they are right.

Now consider the ages 94, 88, 95, 88, 70, 98, 88, 67, 80, 91 (my last ten funerals) and have a think about the fact that in some of those there were a handful of people left to mourn the loss of a life and yet in the stories that represented their lives there were heroic acts, selfless love, tragic lives and lives lived to the full.

A heroine taken and heroin taking another - that would be the heading for a couple of the celebrity deaths; a mother's broken heart accounts for another and 'just being old' a couple more of the celebrities.

But there's no conspiracy - as (a much quoted and more often unattributed) comment puts it - the high number of celebrity deaths corresponds with the rise to fame of film and music stars and the birth of the 'celebrity' whom so many now worship makes a large number of the deaths nothing more than a statistical reality and a reflection of candles burnt. Now I know one of the recent deaths was extremely sad in that the loss of one celeb' played a part in the second death but look at the 'December' deaths and tell me which of them cause a real surprise:

Liz Smith: 95      Richard Adams: 96       Debbie Reynolds:84       Carrie Fisher: 60
George Michael: 53    Rick Parfitt: 68      Zsa Zsa Gabor: 99          A A Gill: 62
Greg Lake: 69     Peter Vaughan: 93        Andrew Sachs: 86

Now look at the list again and having removed those who have clocked up a fair number have a stop and think about lifestyle choices of the 'surprise' deaths that remain - could it be that the 'sex, drugs and rock and roll' lifestyles and the like have played a part here?

So we now reach a place where it becomes pretty obvious that despite the newspaper hype and the fairtydust folklore attitudes of many around me (and I am assuming that the people here are little different to the people elsewhere) and you will see that God, most definitely, is not building a rock and roll band. Neither did he read Watershed Down and cry out, "Author, author!" only top find him standing before Him in an eyeballing later.

Regardless of who a person is or what they do - a life is a life and yet some seem to count the life of the star as something more than the life of a woman who cleaned toilets or worked at a lathe and walked to work because the money didn't allow for a bus or the man who was working four jobs during the time when short-time working, layoffs and the like (aah, remember the 60's and a time when the UK had a manufacturing industry?) - and all that to put love in the home, food on the table; clothes on their children's backs.

We need some perspective - all life is valuable and the loss of life is always a tragedy for someone.

It is sad that many who had so much in life get more again in death whilst the 'have not's' are buried quietly with barely a nod or, sadly at time, a person to note their passing.

One of the saddest funerals I have ever done was for a person who devoted their life to the service of others and yet when the died at 104 there was just me, the organist and their carer from the Old Folk's Home to mark her passing. The stories were few because none who knew them were alive and those who might have been family, albeit distant, had no relationship with them because they were separated by the generations!

So - here's a plea. We are called to comfort those who mourn and the greatest role I have as a Priest is that of helping the well, and the dying, to die well - regardless of whether that event is imminent of perhaps(but who knows) years off. We have all buried people in their teens, a time when death isn't even the glimmer of a fear and the assumption is that there to be tens of years before them.

So we can but live each day as if it were our last and act as if someone is watching (and of course they are - and I don't mean Santa either!) and an account of our actions will asked of.

Yesterday the Church remembered the 'Holy Innocents' - those children under two who were put to death by Herod as he sought to remove Jesus from this world. Today we ignore the children, those innocents, who die around the world in refugee camps, warzones, places where famine, poor sanitation and the lack of effective (or cost-available) drugs all conspire.

I have met people who have spent inordinately large sums of money to mark the passing of a celebrity and yet these same people were resolute in their lack of support for the Christian Aid envelope stuck through their letterbox. How happy we are to pay out for what is unimportant whilst the important - and isn't life always important? -  is ignored.

So a message to those around me: 'Wake up before you go go" because you only get one chance to do good things on this earth whilst you're here - and after that there's some clarification to be sought. A no, a Band Aid Tee Shirt doesn't count as having acted charitably, it means you were more likely than not just indulging the celebrity cult with a bit of salve (after all, the local who told me they spent almost £500 to be at the concert: "But it was for a good cause," and, "They really loved nn and, at last, got to see them!!   Yeah, that sounds like charity doesn't it?

Psalm 146:3-9 has a pointer in all this:

"Don’t put your life in the direction of those who know nothing of salvation life for they are as flawed and fallible as you. They live their lives of illusion on the screen, the stage and in their own existence and yet, they so often fail to have what it takes to live life to the full - and yet people seek the empty reality wrapped in the misplaced glamour that the masses crowd in to give them

But when they die, their fantasies, the appearance and the applause die with them so why not, instead, put your hope in God and know what real blessing and turn peace; what things make for a whole person and a fulfilled and blessed life are all about?

God has never decided to no longer reply to His fans, neither has he erected high fences to keep us away because He wants His privacy. God always stands up for the wronged and feeds the hungry (without selling you a Tee Shirt) and acts to release captives of all kinds.God loves all people, protects the strangers, takes the side of orphans and widows, but (and this probably is a warning - so take it as such) makes short work of the wicked."

Let's admire and applaud talent and ability - but never let us lose our balance such that we make them the small gods of our age who can lead us nowhere and do little of substance for us and be a dissipation rather than blessing.

Just saying.

And now praying:
Gracious God, 
surround us and all who mourn this day with your continuing compassion. 
Do not let grief overwhelm your children, or turn them against you. 
When grief seems never-ending,
Take them one step at a time along your road of death and resurrection
In Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen



Morning Prayer - Thursday 29 December 2016

Christmas Season 
Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Martyr, 1170

Psalm 19
The heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. One day pours out its song to another and one night unfolds knowledge to another. They have neither speech nor language and their voices are not heard, Yet their sound has gone out into all lands and their words to the ends of the world. In them has he set a tabernacle for the sun, that comes forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber and rejoices as a champion to run his course. It goes forth from the end of the heavens and runs to the very end again, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to the simple.

The statutes of the Lord are right and rejoice the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is clean and endures for ever; the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold, sweeter also than honey, dripping from the honeycomb.

By them also is your servant taught and in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can tell how often they offend?
O cleanse me from my secret faults!

Keep your servant also from presumptuous sins lest they get dominion over me; so shall I be undefiled, and innocent of great offence.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

Psalm 20
May the Lord hear you in the day of trouble, the name of the God of Jacob defend you;  Send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you out of Zion; Remember all your offerings and accept your burnt sacrifice; Grant you your heart’s desire and fulfil all your mind.

May we rejoice in your salvation and triumph in the name of our God; may the Lord perform all your petitions.

Now I know that the Lord will save his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven, with the mighty strength of his right hand. Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will call only on the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen, but we are risen and stand upright. O Lord, save the king and answer us when we call upon you.

Isaiah 57.15-end
For thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite. For I will not continually accuse, nor will I always be angry; for then the spirits would grow faint before me,  even the souls that I have made.

Because of their wicked covetousness I was angry; I struck them, I hid and was angry; but they kept turning back to their own ways. I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will lead them and repay them with comfort, creating for their mourners the fruit of the lips.

Peace, peace, to the far and the near, says the Lord; and I will heal them. But the wicked are like the tossing sea that cannot keep still; its waters toss up mire and mud. There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.

John 1.1-18
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in UIKeyInputDownArrowthe darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

The Collect
Lord God, who gave grace to your servant Thomas Becket to put aside all earthly fear and be faithful even to death: grant that we, disregarding worldly esteem, may fight all wrong, uphold your rule,
and serve you to our life’s end; 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.


Jesus isn't all 'Good News'

The day now past turned the white of the Christmas season to red as the Church remembered the 'Holy Innocents'. Herod rushed in and took the lives of the boys, row and under - and Rachel wept for her children because they were no more.

And she weeps still in places throughout the world: Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine and many other places besides - but it's not just about violence or internecine struggles or fundamentalism; let's not forget the industrialists and the pharmaceutical companies and the may putting lives on the line through political scheming and shareholder dividends!

Today I sorted a funeral for one at the other end of the scale, almost 100, and celebrated a newly minted life, engaged in the most odd thing I thing I may have ever done in terms of passing on a blessing and had another encounter with things spiritual. The problem with sin and the powers that feed from it in all of its various manifestations is that it is like having moles. Mind you, I went to a posh church a couple of years back and found a member telling me how they needed a anew lawn every few years because of the moles. That is the problem with many in the Church today. Always far too happy to 'get a man in' rather than do it themselves.

Perhaps we've contracted Church and the sin of the world out to Jesus and instead of calling Him 'Lord' are now just calling Him 'Workman'? The whole point is that we do it with Him rather than sit back assured of heaven and eternity and Him stopping the drip under the sink!

So a varied and blessed day - the problems, like the moles, were dealt with where they were obvious and many felt better for having buried them alive (so we will see them again shortly I guess). But life continues to be a challenge and to invite us to grasp what we can, ignore what we ought and to work where we aren't.

Lord, for a day gone and the encounters within in it - I thank You.
For those bound by sin and caught in error, I pray you illuminate the dark places of their hearts and lives and actions.
For those whom I have been used to bless, thank you - and for those I didn't, sorry :-(
And for tomorrow - keep me humble, keep me honest and open the gates of heaven and give me the keys to the tool cabinets to get the job done.

And for the innocents who have gone - and will be taken: Give your Church to stand with and for them and to commend those we cannot save to your grace, love, care and mercy.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Morning Prayer - Wednesday 28 December 2016

Christmas Season
The Holy Innocents

Psalm 36
Sin whispers to the wicked, in the depths of their heart; there is no fear of God before their eyes. They flatter themselves in their own eyes that their abominable sin will not be found out.

The words of their mouth are unrighteous and full of deceit; they have ceased to act wisely and to do good. They think out mischief upon their beds and have set themselves in no good way; nor do they abhor that which is evil.

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens and your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness stands like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep; you, Lord, shall save both man and beast.

How precious is your loving mercy, O God!
All mortal flesh shall take refuge under the shadow of your wings. They shall be satisfied with the abundance of your house; they shall drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the well of life and in your light shall we see light.

 O continue your loving-kindness to those who know you and your righteousness to those who are true of heart. Let not the foot of pride come against me, nor the hand of the ungodly thrust me away. There are they fallen, all who work wickedness. They are cast down and shall not be able to stand.

Psalm 146
Alleluia.
Praise the Lord, O my soul:
while I live will I praise the Lord;
as long as I have any being, I will sing praises to my God.

Put not your trust in princes, nor in any human power, for there is no help in them. When their breath goes forth, they return to the earth; on that day all their thoughts perish.

Happy are those who have the God of Jacob for their help, whose hope is in the Lord their God;
Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; who keeps his promise for ever;
Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong and bread to those who hunger.

The Lord looses those that are bound;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous;
The Lord watches over the stranger in the land; he upholds the orphan and widow; but the way of the wicked he turns upside down.

The Lord shall reign for ever, your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.
Alleluia.

Genesis 37.13-20
And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” “I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.”

Matthew 18.1-10
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling-blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling-block comes!

‘If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire.
‘Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.

The Collect
Heavenly Father, whose children suffered at the hands of Herod, though they had done no wrong: by  the suffering of your Son and by the innocence of our lives frustrate all evil designs and establish your reign of justice 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.


Passing through this veil of tears

So farewell to Princess Leia and George Michael - one heroine taken and one taken Heroin: More grist to the mill for those who are bemoaning 2016 as a tragic year of celebrity loss. Add to this Richard Adams, the author of Watership Down at 96 and I'm sure there's enough material for another sermon there!

Life appears to be a lot like a scale - stuff is added and taken from pan of life and the balance is lost. People stick stuff into their bodies and live for themselves and th it own pleasures and desires and then the world are called on to act surprised when eventually the pan stop is hit and life stops with it!

Thoday was a day off so I only had a handful of conversations and concerns to deal with, but they are all (fittingly) 'interesting'. The funerals closed in a bit more yesterday but no one will be writing or talking about the deceased I'm dealing with - and yet they should. People who have stories and history and lived during a time in our nation's 'darkest hours' - and not only survived but carried on and made life, love and endeavour theirs. 'carpe diem' is a great epithet to live by - but it should have as a caveat: "But don't seize the wrong stuff and stick it in your bodies!' and "Live for more than yourself and the desires that lead to death!"

The problem is that people get a bit uptight when we allude to, or better still talk directly, about 'bad habits' and lifestyle. They ask who gives us the right to pass judgment when, perhaps ironically, that is the rule and practice by which the questioner themselves lives by. We are asked to note the tragic end of some lives and to pray for the repose of their souls, because that is what God would have us do, and I do that with a sense that the ledger is closed and the trip to the audit officer (AKA God) is in the appointments book and all is done. I don't see Jesus waking the dead up and offering them a subscription to heaven as a last kindly act (for where in that does the Hebrews 9, "Live one, then die and then be judged," bit fit in? Neither do I see heaven populated buy everyone as Jesus returns and cries 'ho,ho, ho' as he opens His sack to reveal everyone is in the 'nice' list.

A critic on the radio spoke of a recently deceased 'star' using the words, "They lived life to the full and took everything out of the world that they could', sadly though at the end of their life all that the world provided will be left in the world, for no one takes it with them!

And the treasures and beautiful things that could have been stored up in heaven, where were they used and how did they poses the person who perhaps thought they possessed them instead?

Lord, we pass this way but once - help us to journey well and to put our treasures in the heavenly places and our energies in those around us - to struggle and contend against that (and those) who stand against the love, life and light of the true God.

Help us to comfort those who mourn and to speak the truth in truth and love - to eschew campaigns and instead take up our Bibles; to gently correct rather than loudly applaud that error might be addressed and salvation taken up; to win people for Christ rather than seek to be popular ourselves.

Lord, this day has done its stuff and the sun has moved on to our 'brethren 'neath the Western sky'; tomorrow beckons and there will be sin, pain, loss and triumph too. Help me to bless what you are doing - to correct what others are doing - and to ensure that what I am doing looks and smells like you.

Thank you for all that we have and are and can be.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Morning Prayer - Tuesday 27 December 2016

Christmas Season 
John, Apostle and Evangelist

Psalm 21
The king shall rejoice in your strength, O Lord; how greatly shall he rejoice in your salvation!
You have given him his heart’s desire and have not denied the request of his lips. For you come to meet him with blessings of goodness and set a crown of pure gold upon his head. He asked of you life and you gave it him, length of days, for ever and ever. His honour is great because of your salvation; glory and majesty have you laid upon him. You have granted him everlasting felicity and will make him glad with joy in your presence. For the king puts his trust in the Lord; because of the loving-kindness of the Most High, he shall not be overthrown.

Your hand shall mark down all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you.
You will make them like a fiery oven in the time of your wrath; the Lord will swallow them up in his anger and the fire will consume them. Their fruit you will root out of the land and their seed from among its inhabitants. Because they intend evil against you and devise wicked schemes which they cannot perform, You will put them to flight when you aim your bow at their faces.

Be exalted, O Lord, in your own might; we will make music and sing of your power.

Psalm 147.13-21
Sing praise to the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion; For he has strengthened the bars of your gates and has blest your children within you.
He has established peace in your borders and satisfies you with the finest wheat.
He sends forth his command to the earth and his word runs very swiftly.
He gives snow like wool and scatters the hoarfrost like ashes.
He casts down his hailstones like morsels of bread; who can endure his frost?
He sends forth his word and melts them; he blows with his wind and the waters flow.
He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and judgements to Israel.
He has not dealt so with any other nation; they do not know his laws.
Alleluia.

Exodus 33.12-23
Moses said to the Lord, ‘See, you have said to me, “Bring up this people”; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, “I know you by name, and you have also found favour in my sight.” Now if I have found favour in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favour in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.’ He said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ And he said to him, ‘If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favour in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.’

The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favour in my sight, and I know you by name.’ Moses said, ‘Show me your glory, I pray.’ And he said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, “The Lord”; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But’, he said, ‘you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.’ And the Lord continued, ‘See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.’

1 John 2.1-11
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, ‘I have come to know him’, but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, ‘I abide in him’, ought to walk just as he walked.

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says, ‘I am in the light’, while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness.

The Collect
Merciful Lord, cast your bright beams of light upon the Church: that, being enlightened by the teaching of your blessed apostle and evangelist Saint John, we may so walk in the light of your truth that we may at last attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ your incarnate 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, 26 December 2016

A day of relaxation and reflection

Today is a day to be chilled in - the kid's played Monopoly (of the Pokemon kind), the dogs were walked and football was watched.

But there was still some time for the pastoral and for prayer and reading and reflection - which is only right and fitting really, otherwise I wouldn't know who I was :-)

Jesus has been remembered, people have been ministered too and God continues to be good - and unlike many of the gifts to be replaced, rejected or stuck in a cupboard until a decent time has been observed for them to be binned arrives; I wonder how many of us will have found a new enthusiasm for Him over the coming months?

Merry Christmas

Morning Prayer - Monday 26 December 2016

Christmas Season 
Stephen, Deacon, First Martyr

Psalm 13
How long will you forget me, O Lord; for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long shall I have anguish in my soul and grief in my heart, day after day?
How long shall my enemy triumph over me?

Look upon me and answer, O Lord my God; lighten my eyes, lest I sleep in death; Lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him,’ and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.

But I put my trust in your steadfast love; my heart will rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has dealt so bountifully with me.

Psalm 31.1-8
In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Incline your ear to me; make haste to deliver me.  Be my strong rock, a fortress to save me, for you are my rock and my stronghold; guide me, and lead me for your name’s sake. Take me out of the net
that they have laid secretly for me, for you are my strength. Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.

I hate those who cling to worthless idols; I put my trust in the Lord. I will be glad and rejoice in your mercy, for you have seen my affliction and known my soul in adversity. You have not shut me up in the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in an open place.

Psalm 150
Alleluia.
O praise God in his holiness; praise him in the firmament of his power.
Praise him for his mighty acts; praise him according to his excellent greatness.
Praise him with the blast of the trumpet; praise him upon the harp and lyre.
Praise him with timbrel and dances; praise him upon the strings and pipe.
Praise him with ringing cymbals; praise him upon the clashing cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Alleluia.

Jeremiah 26.12-15
Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, ‘It is the Lord who sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will change his mind about the disaster that he has pronounced against you. But as for me, here I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.’

Acts 6
Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait at tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.’ What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated some men to say, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.’ They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council. They set up false witnesses who said, ‘This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us.’ And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

The Collect
Gracious Father, who gave the first martyr Stephen grace to pray for those who took up stones against him: grant that in all our sufferings for the truth we may learn to love even our enemies and to seek forgiveness for those who desire our hurt, looking up to heaven to him who was crucified for us, Jesus Christ, our mediator and advocate,  who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Sunday, 25 December 2016

Christmas Day for the family beckons . . .

. . . as today slowly crawls to an end and I have to say that today was one of the best Christmas Days on offer, ever! It even eclipses the Christmas when I got my first Scalextric (GP3) racing car set - and that is saying something. My Mecano clockwork motor (No.2) is now in the shadows and all because God made the decision to come to earth as a man.

The past three days have seen eight services and one Christmas lunch for those who would otherwise be alone take place and yet by the time we drew stumps and settled down at home to watch 'Die Hard', although it was heading towards six pm - the rush was immense.

Today there have been many people communicated (that means given bread and wine) and talked with and engaged with and loved and cared for just as God commands us to do - and I was but a minor part and can therefore take no credit for anything but the choice of film tonight!

Today as we remembered the coming of Jesus, the Christ, the opportunity was there for us to lead others into His presence and this, as ever, was a great joy indeed.

Lord, Thank You for today and the encounters and the blessings and the opportunity to sing the last verse of 'O Come all Ye Faithful' three times - something I look forward to every year. may tomorrow's day of rest be a family affair and may we 'riotously' celebrate the birth of the babe.

be with those who are lonely at this time, comfort those who mourn and touch our broken world with your love I pray.


Halfway to Bethlehem

Three of the six Christmas services done and I am buzzing. The nearer we got as we journeyed with the nine lessons the more excited I got at the prospect of celebrating God Mandy man. The Kid's Club was riotous and here was a funny sad moment as the family who came and then realised that we weren't proper church, mumbled something about 'being back in a minute' and legged it to add to the numbers at the 'real church down the road',
.
Midnight was amazing, first time I've worn a chasuble in our little Church but it was fun and the use of something that hadn't been seen here for possibly twenty-five years blessed some of the older members - which has to be a blessing.

Lord, what a journey - from Pentecostal to looking like they'd expect Rome to appear, and yet it is all the same Church - just different and with a lot mitre theology stuffed into it I guess.

For the dolls I managed to reach, to offer pastoral care and to bring the body and blood of the Christ, I am so grateful - and for those for whom chance is it's fells short, well there's always tomorrow :-)

 Less the remaining services and help me to make the Christ known as this Sunday (a mini Easter) collides with the first Advent of our Lord. May my tongue indeed be the pen of a ready writer: Lord give me the words and I will sing your praise and preach salvation made real through the babe of Bethlehem.

Ouch those who mourn or are in bad places mentality, emotionally and physically. May we do more than feed those who come todayfor Communion and the 'don't be home alone @ Christmas' meal.

Help me to make the light of Christ visible that He might illumine and warm their hearts today.

Hallelujah!


Saturday, 24 December 2016

Morning prayer - Saturday 24 December 2016

Advent 
Christmas Eve

Psalm 45
My heart is astir with gracious words; as I make my song for the king, my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

You are the fairest of men; full of grace are your lips, for God has blest you for ever. Gird your sword upon your thigh, O mighty one; gird on your majesty and glory. Ride on and prosper in the cause of truth and for the sake of humility and righteousness. Your right hand will teach you terrible things; your arrows will be sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies, so that peoples fall beneath you.

Your throne is God’s throne, for ever; the sceptre of your kingdom is the sceptre of righteousness. You love righteousness and hate iniquity; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows. All your garments are fragrant with myrrh, aloes and cassia; from ivory palaces the music of strings makes you glad. Kings’ daughters are among your honourable women; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.

Hear, O daughter; consider and incline your ear; forget your own people and your father’s house. So shall the king have pleasure in your beauty; he is your lord, so do him honour. The people of Tyre shall bring you gifts; the richest of the people shall seek your favour. The king’s daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is embroidered cloth of gold. She shall be brought to the king in raiment of needlework; after her the virgins that are her companions. With joy and gladness shall they be brought and enter into the palace of the king.

‘Instead of your fathers you shall have sons,
   whom you shall make princes over all the land.
‘I will make your name to be remembered through all generations;
   therefore shall the peoples praise you for ever and ever.’

Psalm 113
Alleluia.
Give praise, you servants of the Lord, O praise the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord, from this time forth and for evermore. From the rising of the sun to its setting let the name of the Lord be praised. The Lord is high above all nations and his glory above the heavens.

Who is like the Lord our God, that has his throne so high, yet humbles himself to behold
the things of heaven and earth?

He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ashes, To set them with princes, with the princes of his people.

He gives the barren woman a place in the house and makes her a joyful mother of children.
Alleluia.

Isaiah 58
Shout out, do not hold back!
Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways,as if they were a nation that practised righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgements, they delight to draw near to God.
‘Why do we fast, but you do not see?
 Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?’

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast-day, and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the fast that I choose:
  to loose the bonds of injustice,
  to undo the thongs of the yoke,
  to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
  and bring the homeless poor into your house;
  when you see the naked, to cover them,
  and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you,
  the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
  and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
  then your light shall rise in the darkness
  and your gloom be like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you continually,
  and satisfy your needs in parched places,
  and make your bones strong;
  and you shall be like a watered garden,
  like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
  you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
  you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
  the restorer of streets to live in.

If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
  from pursuing your own interests on my holy day;

if you call the sabbath a delight
  and the holy day of the Lord honourable;

if you honour it, not going your own ways,
  serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;
  then you shall take delight in the Lord,
  and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;

I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

3 John
The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. I was overjoyed when some of the friends arrived and testified to your faithfulness to the truth, namely, how you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends, even though they are strangers to you; they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on in a manner worthy of God; for they began their journey for the sake of Christ, accepting no support from non-believers. Therefore we ought to support such people, so that we may become co-workers with the truth.

I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing in spreading false charges against us. And not content with those charges, he refuses to welcome the friends, and even prevents those who want to do so and expels them from the church.

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. Everyone has testified favourably about Demetrius, and so has the truth itself. We also testify for him, and you know that our testimony is true.
I have much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink; instead I hope to see you soon, and we will talk together face to face.

Peace to you. The friends send you their greetings. Greet the friends there, each by name.

The Collect
Almighty God, you make us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of your Son Jesus Christ:
grant that, as we joyfully receive him as our redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him when he shall come to be our judge; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


'Choosing' to be called

Today has been another quiet day - early start checking all the Christmas services are squared away so I can confidently deliver the first batch of service sheets to one of the churches as I was there doing a service in the churchyard. That done there was time for a quick pastoral visit before heading off to the crem' for another funeral and then then in to the last day of the Holiday Film club (sausages for lunch added to an already good day) and then some more paperwork before off out to have a meeting. But by 19:00 the work day was done and I relaxed with the family (and won my first ever Mario Kart race - a real miracle indeed!).

Pastoral encounters were rich and wonderfully enabled me to reconnect with one of my lost concerns. Last calls to undertakers to make sure nothing had come through their door that needed my attention before. Christmas (nothing worse that a call next Wednesday to attract the attention and first contact I could have made today) - and all was quiet on that front (hallelujah).

Tomorrow will be a few home Communions visits and some pastoral hand-holding and then it begins as the six services and the church Christmas meal like toes. when the shoes have been removed, begin to spread themselves out a bit.

This has been a day of privilege and prayer - of thanks for all that is wonderful in the ministerial role and all that challenges and demands of us in the role too. For the insights and words of healing and help I have to thank God. For the folly and distracted bits, I alone take credit for them.

More of You and less of me tomorrow Lord - may I reach the words of life and be seen to be living them as well. May I hide from the gaze of others lest I obscure their view of you.

And for the wonderful encounter with the RC lady - Thank You for the blessing we find in others; may those who have met me be able to say that same too :-)

And thank you for the woman who has taken two jobs from my hands and like Stephen freed my hands and time to do other things. Keep sending people to us Lord, we need all the joy we can get and there's no greater joy than people who seek after you :-)

It's just gone one o'clock and all is very well with my soul.

Don't they know it's Christmas?

So Angela Tilby has got people muttering about her, and it's not her (when I was at Cambridge) trademark 'must have' raincoat that's being discussed but clergy and the 'day off'. Of course the day off in question this weekend is this Sunday, which is Christmas Day.

She makes a nod to the fact that some will cancel their early Communion so that they can be at home with their families and bemoans this act of 'family-olatry' and points to something quite interesting that is perhaps lost in the noise. She makes the observation: "Family worship, it seems, can tip over quite easily at this time of year into worship of the family."

The problem is, I don't think she's got it all wrong. I know some will point at her and make mention of the fact that she's single (or was when I regularly encountered her) as if that precludes her from having any right to make an assessment or comment of stuff that concerns family. But surely she has family of some sort and regardless of the actual status of the woman, she also has the right to an opinion.

Some years back, whilst servicing my title post we had a fellow Curate who felt that a midnight service and two services on the next morning were too much and so, having complained about workload, family time and 'getting tired' was given a retired cleric to come and do the services for them. Many around me sneered at this whilst I merely despaired of it all and joyfully went about my Christmas daily tasks with joy and excitement.

More recently I knew of another Curate who took the Christmas Eve off so they could spend time with their family! I have to say that I was as appalled at that as I was unsurprised at their actions :-(

Our family has always protected meal times and this was, and remains, the only time that the telephone goes unanswered. The family time around the table and the 'how was your day?" conversations with our four children and us two parents around the table was, and is, important. The problem is that we live in a world where clergy are comfortable reporting the fact that they don't attend a church service when on holiday as they confuse their faith with work and workplace!

Where we are we do the Christmas services, and often do a 'don't be home alone @ Christmas' meal too, making Boxing Day our family Christmas. We don't get to go off visiting family because they're too far away and no sooner would we arrive than we'd need to be back to do midweek Communions, celebrate feasts and holy days and do the occasional offices that crowd in directly after Christmas as the mortuaries are emptied. The 'post' wotsit week off can come when it can and will be used to let us to our visiting then! Simple, innit?

The reality is that Christmas Day is a working day and it is either arrogance or ignorance that causes people to assume that they have a right to veto what is rightly demanded of them in the role they have made theirs. If medical staff decided that they wouldn't work on a Christmas Day because it impinged  upon their family rights the world would be up in arms. Consider the response should ambulance technicians, paramedics and drives all decide that family came before the job; would we sit happily by and applaud this I wonder?

As annoying as it might be to some, I have to say that I think Angela Tilby has got it right, and some of my colleagues need to take a moment to realise that we are not in an office hours work environment where we can decide that the answerphone goes on with the early evening news and is turned off when the BBC Radio Four 'Today' programme is ended! The old chestnut regarding emergencies and the fact that they usually are not an emergency and can therefore waits until the next day - or as a colleague recently said (to nods of affirmation), "If it wasn't an emergency during the day which should it be something I have to get involved with during the night?" Complete and utter tosh!

Our children were between the ages of two and eight when I entered the Anglican ministry - we worked out ways of doing Christmas which fitted into the fact that there were a number of services on the menu. The luxury (not a right) of being able to modify one's work to suit what we want is a privilege many clergy seem to assume is a right - perhaps we need all clergy to go to 'a real job' for a couple of weeks each year so we can make real the demands of commuting and being stuck in an office or a factory and living and working to the clock and the whim of workload, workplace pressures and unsympathetic management.

A comment passed by a much younger cleric indicated that Angela Tilby was reel a 'dinosaur', a relic of a time gone by and totally unrepresentative of 'today's Church'.

Could it be that the reason the Church (at large and the CofE in particular) finds itself beset by so many problems is that we have changed calling into a job and forgotten that first and foremost we are merely laos (God's people) who have the privilege of worshipping God as believers first and foremost  and as ministers of the Gospel by dint of the calling we claim is on us.

Perhaps the homes where 'church' is the job one partner does whilst the other has little or nothing to do with it - and I know clergy homes where the non-ordained partner refuses to answer the 'work' phone - could this be part of the problem?

Or perhaps reducing services to maintain a perceived proper personal quality of life at the expense of the preaching of the Gospel; applauded as 'looking after their family' whilst ignoring the fact that the family of God and the needs of those who are far off are neglected by those of a similar mind and vilifying Tilby because her views are not yours.

There has to be a balance (says the bloke who forgets to take days off) and being Anglican there has to be a via media - but the problem is that too many clergy are servicing themselves and the demands that they have created with regard to family rather than the rightly-discharged presbyteral ministry.

Feel free to disagree - but here I stand with Angela Tilby and her unpopular views. It's always good to realise that we often grow more by engaging with people with whom we might disagree than those who say and think no differently from us: May God help,us all to dialogue and discover God's words above the noise we all to often create.

Pax

ps. The only Office hours clergy should be keeping are the daily office hours :-)

pps. At the end of the day we need to dialogue, step back and think - we all make our own decisions and want to be right, but the execution of this right on our part does not confer 'wrongness' on the other person,

Friday, 23 December 2016

Morning Prayer - Friday 23 December 2016

Advent

Psalm 128
Blessed are all those who fear the Lord, and walk in his ways. You shall eat the fruit of the toil of your hands; it shall go well with you, and happy shall you be. Your wife within your house shall be like a fruitful vine; your children round your table, like fresh olive branches. Thus shall the one be blest who fears the Lord.

The Lord from out of Zion bless you, that you may see Jerusalem in prosperity all the days of your life. May you see your children’s children, and may there be peace upon Israel.

Psalm 129
‘Many a time have they fought against me from my youth,’ may Israel now say;
‘Many a time have they fought against me from my youth, but they have not prevailed against me.’

The ploughers ploughed upon my back and made their furrows long. But the righteous Lord has cut the cords of the wicked in pieces.
Let them be put to shame and turned backwards, as many as are enemies of Zion.
Let them be like grass upon the housetops, which withers before it can grow,
So that no reaper may fill his hand, nor a binder of sheaves his bosom; And none who go by may say,
‘The blessing of the Lord be upon you. We bless you in the name of the Lord.’

Psalm 130
Out of the depths have I cried to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication. If you, Lord, were to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you shall be feared. I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; in his word is my hope.

My soul waits for the Lord, more than the night watch for the morning, more than the night watch for the morning.

O Israel, wait for the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy; With him is plenteous redemption and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

Psalm 131
O Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not raised in haughty looks. I do not occupy myself with great matters, with things that are too high for me. But I have quieted and stilled my soul, like a weaned child on its mother’s breast; so my soul is quieted within me.

O Israel, trust in the Lord, from this time forth for evermore.
adings, the first may be read here, or both may be read after the canticle.

Isaiah 63.1-6
‘Who is this that comes from Edom, from Bozrah in garments stained crimson?
 Who is this so splendidly robed, marching in his great might?’

 It is I, announcing vindication, mighty to save.’

 Why are your robes red, and your garments like theirs who tread the wine press?’

 I have trodden the wine press alone, and from the peoples no one was with me;
 I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath;
    their juice spattered on my garments, and stained all my robes.
 For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year for my redeeming work had come.

 I looked, but there was no helper;
 I stared, but there was no one to sustain me;
     so my own arm brought me victory, and my wrath sustained me.
 I trampled down peoples in my anger,
 I crushed them in my wrath,
     and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.’

2 John
The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us for ever: Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love.

I was overjoyed to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father. But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning—you must walk in it.

Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward. Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. Do not receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person.

Although I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink; instead I hope to come to you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

The children of your elect sister send you their greetings.

The Collect
God our redeemer, who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son: grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour, so we may be ready to greet him when he comes again as our judge; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


A lighter day?

Started with the usual Thursday round of morning prayer followed by Communion and then found myself helping (I hope) with the final bits for the Christmas meal before producing orders of service and doing pastoral stuff. Been a tiring day, think I need a new pair of shoes - hard on the sole is saving souls!!

Been a day of blessing with so many mental health needs to be dealt with and so few resources to be found.

Prayed, reflected and realise that most of today has to be confidential, so I'm leaving today as it is and, not even 00:30, I'm getting an early night.

Pax

Thursday, 22 December 2016

A prayer on the train

or in the bus or in the car, walking to work, working at home - or just being:

Dear God, You know me. Don't you?
I'm not just a person on a bus or a train.
I'm not just another face on CCTV;
or just another login name.
I'm me, and I have stuff going on.

Love life issues;
bills to pay.
Egos at work to deal with;
an overflowing inbox.

So please, give me strength.
Guide me to focus on what's really important.
And help me make the most of every moment of this new day in this new month.
Thank you.

Amen.

Morning Prayer - Thursday 22 December 2016

Advent

Psalm 124
If the Lord himself had not been on our side, now may Israel say; If the Lord had not been on our side, when enemies rose up against us; Then would they have swallowed us alive when their anger burned against us; Then would the waters have overwhelmed us
and the torrent gone over our soul; over our soul would have swept the raging waters.

But blessed be the Lord who has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth. Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowler; the snare is broken and we are delivered. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who has made heaven and earth.

Psalm 125
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but stands fast for ever. As the hills stand about Jerusalem, so the Lord stands round about his people, from this time forth for evermore. The sceptre of wickedness shall not hold sway over the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous turn their hands to evil.

Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are true of heart. Those who turn aside to crooked ways the Lord shall take away with the evildoers; but let there be peace upon Israel.

Psalm 126
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then were we like those who dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with songs of joy. Then said they among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has indeed done great things for us, and therefore we rejoiced.

Restore again our fortunes, O Lord, as the river beds of the desert. Those who sow in tears shall reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed, will come back with shouts of joy, bearing their sheaves with them.

Psalm 127
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the Lord keeps the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.

It is in vain that you hasten to rise up early and go so late to rest, eating the bread of toil, for he gives his beloved sleep.

Children are a heritage from the Lord and the fruit of the womb is his gift. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy are those who have their quiver full of them: they shall not be put to shame
when they dispute with their enemies in the gate.

Isaiah 56.1-8
Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come,  and my deliverance be revealed. Happy is the mortal who does this, the one who holds it fast, who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it, and refrains from doing any evil.

Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely separate me from his people’;
and do not let the eunuch say, ‘I am just a dry tree.’

For thus says the Lord: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me  and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,and hold fast my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them  besides those already gathered.

2 Peter 3
This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you; in them I am trying to arouse your sincere intention by reminding you that you should remember the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour spoken through your apostles. First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts and saying, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!’ They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water, through which the world of that time was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgement and destruction of the godless.

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

The Collect
God our redeemer, who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son: grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour, so we may be ready to greet him when he comes again as our judge; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Wow! Hallelujah!

A day in which just about everything has shone. Good news on the pastoral front. Another amazing funeral that saw the Gospel preached and the bereaved blessed. God's love was made real in a number or ways to a number of people: And I got to be part of it all"

The only words I can think of are: Wow!  and Hallelujah!

Going to bed with a smile on my face and praise on my lips - can this get any beget that this (without the return of Jesus)?

Today started with Isaiah 55 - so many nuggets in it: 'seek God while you can, and 'God's word never returning empty' with the cherry that is 'going out in joy and being led back in peace'. And I was, and I did and I am and ... Wow! The psalms underpinned all that and the nod to Lot and judgement and stuff just made the task before me more important still.

Lord for the places my feet were found I thank you.
For the times when I was aware of your presence in my life today I bless you.
For the presence of your Holy Spirit acting in those I saw I worship you.
Today and its labours have come to an end - give me sleep and make me to rise tomorrow with added zeal, increased courage and a gentleness of spirit. 
Help me to bring peace where there is none; understanding where there is ignorance and confusion: love and acceptance where there is rejection and pain. Help me to be your man and to take Jesus, the Christ, into all that I do and am.

And a postscript: be for those who have needs today the God who answers by fire.
Bless you God - Marantha. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Morning Prayer - Wednesday 21 December 2016

Advent

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come?

My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not suffer your foot to stumble; he who watches over you will not sleep. Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord himself watches over you; the Lord is your shade at your right hand, So that the sun shall not strike you by day, neither the moon by night.
The Lord shall keep you from all evil; it is he who shall keep your soul.

The Lord shall keep watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time forth for evermore.

Psalm 122
I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ And now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem;

Jerusalem, built as a city that is at unity in itself. Thither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as is decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord. For there are set the thrones of judgement, the thrones of the house of David. R

O pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls and tranquillity within your palaces.’
For my kindred and companions’ sake, I will pray that peace be with you.
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek to do you good.

Psalm 123
To you I lift up my eyes, to you that are enthroned in the heavens. As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, or the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until he have mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of the arrogant, and of the contempt of the proud.

Isaiah 55
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money,  come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.
See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts,  nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

2 Peter 2.4-end
For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgement; and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he saved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood on a world of the ungodly; and if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example of what is coming to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by their lawless deeds that he saw and heard), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgement —especially those who indulge their flesh in depraved lust, and who despise authority.

Bold and wilful, they are not afraid to slander the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not bring against them a slanderous judgement from the Lord. These people, however, are like irrational animals, mere creatures of instinct, born to be caught and killed. They slander what they do not understand, and when those creatures are destroyed, they also will be destroyed, suffering the penalty for doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, revelling in their dissipation while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! They have left the straight road and have gone astray, following the road of Balaam son of Bosor, who loved the wages of doing wrong, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm; for them the deepest darkness has been reserved. For they speak bombastic nonsense, and with licentious desires of the flesh they entice people who have just escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for people are slaves to whatever masters them. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment that was passed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb,
‘The dog turns back to its own vomit’, and, ‘The sow is washed only to wallow in the mud.’

The Collect
Eternal God, as Mary waited for the birth of your Son, so we wait for his coming in glory; bring us through the birth pangs of this  present age to see, with her, our great salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

A funny sort of day

Touching base with many different people in a variety of ways - it seems that as we get closer to celebrating the incarnate we lose that self-same attribute in ourselves. Jesus, the invisible God made visible and made flesh - clergy, man made invisible, as we communicate by text, email and social media!

A quick encounter with someone by telephone is worth a hundred texts and to actually manifest ourselves physically before someone - well it's akin to a theophany in the Bible - and for some, as rare too!

Being aware of someone's existence is something but being in their physical presence is something else. As I sense God in my life I am uplifted, quickened and enabled - I call upon Him, sometimes to answer by fire as the story relating to the contest with the Baal followers, because I have a confidence that He's there. Do those I serve have the same confidence in me?

Today a day of encouragement and hope from a organisation of the same name and funeral visits, another Kid's Club, pastoral stuff and an evening off. Lost a couple of people - amazing how someone moving and changing get their mobile number can cause them to just vanish - not even the support workers can find them. It's worrying that there are so many mentally ill people slipping through the net, if the welfare state is in such a state that it can ignore and incompetently handle the mad like this, isn't it time that the Church got mad and brought some sanity to it all?

But here I am, knackered tonight, eyes heavy and it's not even midnight - the Christmas rush hasn't bit yet - there's no time - and it's always my busy time of year, because that's what I reckon the Boss always has too. So Lord strengthen me, fill me with your Holy Spirit, and make me to become an incarnate presbyteral entities - burn the paperwork and, having  buried the dead, proclaim the Christ in the company of a living and broken world - in the flesh.

For all that today was I thank you and for all that tomorrow will be I bless your name.