Sunday, 31 December 2017

Can't make it to church - Sunday 31st December 2017,

We start the proceedings today with a bit of praise and worship -  and why not? After all it's the first Sunday after Christmas so how on earth could we not be doing some really OTT rejoicing?

Of course, it wasn't Christmas when Isaiah wrote the words we begin with today for Jesus was some 600 years away, which raises the question: “Who was wearing the garment of salvation – wearing a robe of righteousness and taking delight in God’ and as we move on, we have to ask ourselves what righteousness appearing like shoots in a field (i.e. 'sprouting') before ALL nations was all about too. Add to the imagery of bridegroom and bride and we can see so many parallels for the ‘then’, the Bethlehem bit and the ‘now’.

It should come as no surprise that the first part is the closing hymn of praise for God  comes from self-same passage that speaks of Jubilee – the year of the LORD’s favour – the ‘good news’ that sets captives free, gives sight to the blind and all that good stuff.

The second part turns from self to many as Zion and Jerusalem feature in the voicing of the need to speak out until salvation and vindication are apparent to ALL nations and glory will be their realities  and become a sign of God’s power and glory. One voice for a collection of voices that are one corporate body – just like Church is the bride of Christ and and yet is full of individuals.

Isaiah speaks of the hope that is found, and made real, in the promises of God for His people - and that hope comes together, and is made real, in the person of Jesus - so Jesus is the fulfilment of the promises of God (cool or what?).

There’s a lot here and as we ponder it, Christmas and the second coming, collide with the ‘then’ of Isaiah in an amazingly special way: And there’s Jesus in amongst all the noise picking up the scroll and reading it in the synagogue (someone turn the oven off – its going to be a long service!) to a people who have been waiting for six hundred odd years. But why the wait and how do we make sense of the promises and the love of God that creates this recuse plan?

The Galatians reading comes in handy here for it tells us that after all the waiting, when the right time had come - God sent his Son - born of a woman, an exceptionally unexceptional (none of this immaculate conception stuff for her please) woman – to save an equally unexceptional humanity; the very people God had made exceptional before sin removed that truth and exchanged it for separation from God and a life that was a lie!

Paul puts it straight for those under the law could only be redeemed by one also under the same law – and this law of sin and death translates as ‘fully human’ (cool isn’t it, so lets get back to the sermon).

And through His death on a cross and the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit all humanity had before it the ability to see God as someone they could have a personal relationship with – and this is the power of the ‘ABBA’ word – for it’s not a childish ‘dada or daddy’ utterance but one that acknowledges, confers and accepts relationship with God. This is the most amazingly wonderful affirming life-changing good news that (outside of the words, “You are forgiven!”) you will ever hear! We are one with God and have become His heirs. The fact that we can celebrate a relationship, and I mean Family,  that recognises the Fatherhood of God makes ABBA something marvellous - how can you not be excited about that?

And that's the thing - the promise and the design and the sacrifice and lives that were forfeit being returned to the owners so that they can become God family and heirs of all He is and has. That has to be the most wonderful Christmas gift of all and realising that we need to ask what else there can be to say on the subject, especially when all we have left is the Gospel reading with some angels, Shepherds and a Christmas past?

And yet these Extraordinary, extraordinarily smelly shepherds are exactly what Jesus is coming to the world to reconcile to the Godhead. The excitement of the angels and the shepherds on that first Christmas – the excitement of our early Christmases as children, the excitement of Christmas as believers: Do we still have that? The added dimension that Christmas took on when we realised that this was the beginning of the Easter story - the joy, gratitude and the humbling awareness that Jesus comes to do it all for us, individually, so we might be reconciles and redeems and set fe to be exceptionally exceptional heirs of God. How can we not be 'clamourously foolish' ('hallel') as our we sing our 'hallelujahs'? Our OTT loves songs to God fr all we have been shown, given and promised?

A clergy colleague recently told me how they wished they could preach something else at Christmas because it had, "All become so ‘samey’ and ‘hackneyed’, " is this the reason for the lack of passion and commitment I see these days? Too many people have stopped following Jesus, the Christ, and instead merely go to church - a place where all is safe and nothing ever changes (aside from the candles on the birthday cake perhaps).

Perhaps our inability to be passionate and excited about following Jesus and making Him known if the root cause of the intermittent attendance and low numbers when events are put on in our towns, our churches and elsewhere?

Have we forgotten our first love and the joy we had in Christ and not only stopped living with Him but also stopped working with Him too?

What do we see when we encounter Jesus I wonder - perhaps this is a question we all need to asking ourselves as we enter a new year and decide whether we're part of the mission of Church or the miserable state it seems to be in so many places?

Perhaps we need to be like the Shepherds and 'rise up and follow' Jesus, the Christ!

The Collect

God in Trinity, eternal unity of perfect love: gather the nations to be one family, and draw us into your holy life through the birth of Emmanuel, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Isaiah 61.10 - 62.3

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the young plant come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendour in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Galatians 4.4-7

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Luke 2.15-21
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

Post Communion
Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son shared at Nazareth the life of an earthly home: help your Church to live as one family, united in love and obedience, and bring us all at last to our home in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Morning Prayer - Saturday 30 December 2017

Psalm 111
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
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
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.

Jonah 2
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying,
‘I called to the Lord out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, “I am driven away from your sight; how shall I look again upon your holy temple?”

The waters closed in over me; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped around my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me for ever; t you brought up my life from the Pit, O Lord my God. As my life was ebbing away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Those who worship vain idols forsake their true loyalty. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the Lord!’
Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land.

Colossians 1.15-23
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him—provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

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.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Morning Prayer - Friday 29 December 2017

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.

Jonah 1
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, ‘Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.

But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god. They threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them. Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep. The captain came and said to him, ‘What are you doing sound asleep? Get up, call on your god! Perhaps the god will spare us a thought so that we do not perish.’

The sailors said to one another, ‘Come, let us cast lots, so that we may know on whose account this calamity has come upon us.’ So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, ‘Tell us why this calamity has come upon us. What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?’ ‘I am a Hebrew,’ he replied. ‘I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’ Then the men were even more afraid, and said to him, ‘What is this that you have done!’ For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them so.

Then they said to him, ‘What shall we do to you, that the sea may quieten down for us?’ For the sea was growing more and more tempestuous. He said to them, ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quieten down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you.’ Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more stormy against them. Then they cried out to the Lord, ‘Please, O Lord, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.’ So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.

But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.

Colossians 1.1-14
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow-servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

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.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Can't make it to church - Sunday 24th December 2017

Today, being the last Sunday in Advent is a day when we reflect on the Virgin Mary. A bit later on it becomes Christmas Eve as well (something that confuses some people!) and ‘Yes’ you are expected to go to church tomorrow (or for the midnight service) as well!

Today’s readings start, not with Mary (as one might think) but with David wanting to build a house for God and instead, using what sounds like a Tony Blair soundbite, ends up with God speaking of how He’s going to build a house for David.

Now there’s some interesting links we can follow as of course David’s based in Jerusalem (a place favoured by Donald Trump!) and what with Jesus being ‘the Son of David, there's loads of links we can create (whether they fit or not).

David wants to build a physical house – God wants to build a spiritual house - there's also something political on offer here in terms of creating a dynasty too! There’s good news and bad too, but we miss out the talk of punishing David for his naughtiness as it seems we only want nice stuff as it’s Christmas!

People talk about a number of reasons for God not wanting a home – my take on it is that just as making Saul king was a rejection of God (who’d been doing that role pretty well ‘thank you’) so too does fixing God into a brick box constricts and restricts Him and gave David some sort of ownership of God, for He was in Jerusalem and so that was the only place to come if you wanted to worship Him!

We do that today, don’t we? We make our piddling buildings - no matter how old, ornate, ugly or whatever -  THE’ place people have to come to find God and in doing so miss the fact that God operates almost everywhere except in our churches some time.

“We are THE church in this place . . we are THE parish . . .  THE historic church!”

This is what we find ourselves saying far too often (and 'too often' in my book equals once). This is a thought that puts David's offer in a place where it has to be rejected!

But (ignoring the murderer bit) David is a generally good guy and there are real reasons for God to establish and support his reign and to enable him to live with stability and power as he leads the people to follow their God.

So what does Paul bring to the party with his passage?

Well the word ‘establish’ springs to mind. God establishes David and He establishes us, this means sets up and supports, through the power of the Gospel of Jesus, the Christ, to live for the glory of God. Our sins, like David’s, has been set aside and we are freed to worship Him and lead others into His presence (just like David). Praising and engaging with God is, after all, what we were made to be and do, and is what (thanks to the offering of Himself for us on the cross) we are now able to be and do.

And the Christmas message makes us not only partakers of the grace of God made flesh, but purveyors of this great news - we just don’t a place in Jerusalem of a political dynasty to do it with – we do it as one people united and called Church!

So, here we are – the day we think about Mary and she hasn’t had a look in yet. Perhaps the Gospel will change that (it has to or else we won’t be lighting the candle at the service ).

Yippee! It does. Gabriel pops up and tells her that God has a plan and she has a part in it – and she says ‘Yes’! Hallelujah for that (or else we’d be talking about the virgin Betty instead!).

Now the Blesséd Virgin Mary (BVM) is a real hero of the faith, the problem is that some people assume that she’s the pinup girl of the RC church who pray to her and talk tosh about her being immaculately conceived (which makes her role a con because unless she’s a real, sin-conceived, human then she’s someone merely playing a part) and seem to imply some sort of ownership.

The talk that she is ‘co-redemptorix’ (without her there would have been no redemption) is just a little appalling in the way that some say and believe that statement to be.

Mary is a Christian hero for ALL believers because she was obedient and submissive and agreed to play her part in the coming of Jesus – fully God and fully man – to this world.

She is a hero because she not only did the job but after His death was a key figure in the Church in Jerusalem (aha – another link with the OT readings). She did the stuff and kept the spirit of her promise to be God's woman.

She is a hero and if we, Christian believers, emulated her in the way she served and worked for the eternal kingdom heralded in through the incarnacy (that’s God becoming man) and beyond, then Church would be a different place today.

Perhaps today we might stop and think and then, knowing the challenges and the cost, also tell God that we are willing to play our part in the mission of Jesus in this world of ours; perhaps using the words:
“I am the Lord’s servant, may His word (and call) for me be fulfilled.”

The Collect 
Almighty God, as we prepare with joy to celebrate the gift of the Christ-child, embrace the earth with your glory and be for us a living hope in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

2 Samuel 7:1-16
After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”  But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:
“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’

“Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders[a] over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’”

Romans 16:25-27
Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith— to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Post Communion Prayer
Eternal God, for whom we wait, you have fed us with the bread of eternal life: keep us ever watchful, that we may be ready to stand before the Son of man, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, 22 December 2017

When's the Midnight Communion (and other equally challenging questions)?

I've been asked the same question regarding the times of the Sunday services, what candle we should have lit last week and when the midnight Communion will take place by more than a few people and it's prompted me to write this little aid to Christmas peace of mind and harmony. Where’s Victor Meldrew (CofE Clegy Response Unit) when you need him?

Never mind, I’ll have a go ;-)

Candles: This Sunday is the fourth Sunday in Advent (Advent 4) and on this day we reflect upon the Virgin Mary. We have already lit the pink candle (Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday - Advent 3) and thought about John the Baptist so hopefully the only candle left matches the other two we've already lit over the past three weeks!

Service Times: The times for the Sunday morning services will (in the majority of places be the 'usual' times because it's a Sunday in Advent (No Sooty, Sweep's got it wrong, it's not Christmas yet!).

After Noon we get into the services for Christmas Eve. These include carol services, nativities and the traditional midnight service (what's that Sweep, your midnight service starts at 15:00 because you don't like the dark? No wonder people have been asking what time the midnight service is!!!!).

Christmas sort of starts on Christmas Eve - traditionally we put up trees and do all the Ho Ho Ho(ly cow - what do you mean your Mother's coming to stay?) stuff and end up singing 'Yea Lord we greet thee born this happy morning' (note, morning not early afternoon. But (and there's always a but [and sometimes a [butt] too) the general point of a 'midnight' service is that it ends after midnight so asking, "What time does your midnight Communion  / Mass / Service start?" is valid - ask the wrong person, "When is your midnight services?" and you are liable to get the answer, "August!"

So make sure you understand what it is you want to know and ask the right question (simple stuff this isn't it?).

A simple plea: If it's not Christmas Day then please don't sing the last verse!

Christmas Day is a day set aside for generally having a great time welcoming the baby and wishing one another a Merry or Happy or Blesséd Christmas (come near me with 'Happy Holiday' and you're liable to be torched with the pink candle - save that for the colonies please).


We get up on Christmas morning and do a number of services (yes Sweep, one is a number - so too are two, three and four, and all of these will apply for some of the clerics in the land on Christmas morning!) because it's Christmas Day.

I should point out to that those who like to bleat about 'being tired' and having to 'do so many services' that this is what we (clergy and many lay ministers, wardens and others) actually do at this time of year - so don't expect me to offer any sympathy for all the hard work you've been expected to do, just be ready for a withering stare!

I perhaps ought to add the cherry on the cake with the fact that some of us, if really blessed, will also manage to pop out and do some home Communions too (yes, really!).

Now that's what happens on the 24th and 25th December.

I hope this helps some of those confused folk out there.

Stay safe this Christmas  - be careful with your questions ;-)

Additional material:
“Are you away for Christmas?”
“When is the Carol Service?” (Especially when asked three days after said service)

Morning Prayer - Friday 22nd December 2017

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.

Zephaniah 3.1-13
Ah, soiled, defiled, oppressing city!
It has listened to no voice;
it has accepted no correction.
It has not trusted in the Lord;
it has not drawn near to its God.

The officials within it are roaring lions;
its judges are evening wolves that leave nothing until the morning.
Its prophets are reckless, faithless persons;
its priests have profaned what is sacred, they have done violence to the law.
The Lord within it is righteous; he does no wrong.
Every morning he renders his judgement, each dawn without fail; but the unjust knows no shame.

I have cut off nations; their battlements are in ruins;
I have laid waste their streets so that no one walks in them;
their cities have been made desolate, without people, without inhabitants.
I said, ‘Surely the city will fear me, it will accept correction;
it will not lose sight of all that I have brought upon it.’
But they were the more eager to make all their deeds corrupt.

Therefore wait for me, says the Lord, for the day when I arise as a witness.
For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms,
to pour out upon them my indignation, all the heat of my anger;
for in the fire of my passion all the earth shall be consumed.

At that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech,
that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord.
From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, my scattered ones, shall bring my offering.

On that day you shall not be put to shame because of all the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. For I will leave in the midst of you a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord - the remnant of Israel; they shall do no wrong and utter no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths. Then they will pasture and lie down, and no one shall make ethem afraid.

Matthew 18.1-20
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. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

‘If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’

The Collect
O Lord Jesus Christ, who at your first coming sent your messenger to prepare your way before you: grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready your way by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at your second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in your sight; for you are alive and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
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.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Morning Prayer - Thursday 21 December 2017

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.

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.

Zephaniah 1.1-2.3
The word of the Lord that came to Zephaniah son of Cushi son of Gedaliah son of Amariah son of Hezekiah, in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah.

I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth, says the Lord. I will sweep away humans and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. I will make the wicked stumble. I will cut off humanity from the face of the earth, says the Lord. I will stretch out my hand against Judah, and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off from this place every remnant of Baal and the name of the idolatrous priests; those who bow down on the roofs to the host of the heavens; those who bow down and swear to the Lord, but also swear by Milcom; those who have turned back from following the Lord, who have not sought the Lord or inquired of him.

Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is at hand; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice, he has consecrated his guests. And on the day of the Lord’s sacrifice
I will punish the officials and the king’s sons and all who dress themselves in foreign attire. On that day I will punish all who leap over the threshold, who fill their master’s house with violence and fraud.

On that day, says the Lord, a cry will be heard from the Fish Gate, a wail from the Second Quarter, a loud crash from the hills. The inhabitants of the Mortar wail, for all the traders have perished; all who weigh out silver are cut off. At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will he do harm.’ Their wealth shall be plundered, and their houses laid waste. Though they build houses, they shall not inhabit them; though they plant vineyards, they shall not drink wine from them.

The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter, the warrior cries aloud there. That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements.

I will bring such distress upon people that they shall walk like the blind; because they have sinned against the Lord, their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath; in the fire of his passion the whole earth shall be consumed; for a full, a terrible end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

Gather together, gather, O shameless nation, before you are driven away like the drifting chaff, before there comes upon you the fierce anger of the Lord, before there comes upon you the day of the Lord’s wrath. Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his commands; seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the Lord’s wrath.

Matthew 17.22-end
As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.’ And they were greatly distressed.

When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, ‘Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?’ He said, ‘Yes, he does.’ And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, ‘What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?’ When Peter said, ‘From others’, Jesus said to him, ‘Then the children are free. However, so that we do not give offence to them, go to the lake and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.’

The Collect
God for whom we watch and wait, you sent John the Baptist to prepare the way of your Son: give us courage to speak the truth, to hunger for justice, and to suffer for the cause of right, with Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Morning Prayer - Thursday 14 December 2017

John of the Cross, Poet, Teacher of the Faith,1591

Psalm 53
The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ Corrupt are they, and abominable in their wickedness; there is no one that does good. God has looked down from heaven upon the children of earth, to see if there is anyone who is wise and seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way; all alike have become corrupt; there is no one that does good, no not one.

Have they no knowledge, those evildoers, who eat up my people as if they ate bread, and do not call upon God?

There shall they be in great fear, such fear as never was; for God will scatter the bones of the ungodly. They will be put to shame, because God has rejected them.

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.

Psalm 60
O God, you have cast us off and broken us; you have been angry; restore us to yourself again. You have shaken the earth and torn it apart; heal its wounds, for it trembles. You have made your people drink bitter things; we reel from the deadly wine you have given us. You have made those who fear you to flee, to escape from the range of the bow. That your beloved may be delivered, save us by your right hand and answer us.

God has spoken in his holiness: ‘I will triumph and divide Shechem, and share out the valley of Succoth.
‘Gilead is mine and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet and Judah my sceptre.
‘Moab shall be my washpot; over Edom will I cast my sandal; across Philistia will I shout in triumph.’

Who will lead me into the strong city?
Who will bring me into Edom?
Have you not cast us off, O God?
Will you no longer go forth with our troops?

Grant us your help against the enemy, for earthly help is in vain. Through God will we do great acts, for it is he that shall tread down our enemies.

Isaiah 32
See, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule with justice. Each will be like a hiding-place from the wind, a covert from the tempest, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land. Then the eyes of those who have sight will not be closed, and the ears of those who have hearing will listen. The minds of the rash will have good judgement, and the tongues of stammerers will speak readily and distinctly. A fool will no longer be called noble, nor a villain be said to be h honourable. For fools speak folly, and their minds plot iniquity: to practise ungodliness, to utter error concerning the Lord, to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink. The villainies of villains are evil; they devise wicked devices to ruin the poor with lying words, even when the plea of the needy is right. But those who are noble plan noble things, and by noble things they stand.

Rise up, you women who are at ease, hear my voice; you complacent daughters, listen to my speech. In little more than a year you will shudder, you complacent ones; for the vintage will fail, the fruit harvest will not come. Tremble, you women who are at ease, shudder, you complacent ones; strip, and make yourselves bare, and put sackcloth on your loins. Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine, for the soil of my people growing up in thorns and briers; yes, for all the joyous houses in the jubilant city. For the palace will be forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watch-tower will become dens for ever, the joy of wild asses, a pasture for flocks; until a spirit from on high is poured out on us, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust for ever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places. The forest will disappear completely, and the city will be utterly laid low. Happy will you be who sow beside every stream, who let the ox and the donkey range freely.

Matthew 15.21-28
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.

The Collect
O God, the judge of all, who gave your servant John of the Cross a warmth of nature, a strength of purpose and a mystical faith that sustained him even in the darkness: shed your light on all who love you and grant them union of body and soul 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.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Morning Prayer - Wednesday 13 December 2017

Lucy, Martyr at Syracuse, 304
Samuel Johnson, Moralist, 1784
Ember Day

Psalm 62
On God alone my soul in stillness waits; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall never be shaken. How long will all of you assail me to destroy me, as you would a tottering wall or a leaning fence?

They plot only to thrust me down from my place of honour; lies are their chief delight; they bless with their mouth, but in their heart they curse. Wait on God alone in stillness, O my soul; for in him is my hope. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken. In God is my strength and my glory; God is my strong rock; in him is my refuge. Put your trust in him always, my people; pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

The peoples are but a breath, the whole human race a deceit; on the scales they are altogether lighter than air. Put no trust in oppression; in robbery take no empty pride; though wealth increase, set not your heart upon it. God spoke once, and twice have I heard the same, that power belongs to God. Steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord, for you repay everyone according to their deeds.

Psalm 63
O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul is athirst for you. My flesh also faints for you, as in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So would I gaze upon you in your holy place, that I might behold your power and your glory.

Your loving-kindness is better than life itself and so my lips shall praise you. I will bless you as long as I live and lift up my hands in your name.

My soul shall be satisfied, as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise you with joyful lips, When I remember you upon my bed and meditate on you in the watches of the night. For you have been my helper and under the shadow of your wings will I rejoice. My soul clings to you; your right hand shall hold me fast. But those who seek my soul to destroy it shall go down to the depths of the earth; Let them fall by the edge of the sword and become a portion for jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God; all those who swear by him shall be glad, for the mouth of those who speak lies shall be stopped.

Isaiah 31
Alas for those who go down to Egypt for help and who rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord! Yet he too is wise and brings disaster; he does not call back his words, but will rise against the house of the evildoers, and against the helpers of those who work iniquity. The Egyptians are human, and not God; their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and the one helped will fall, and they will all perish together.

For thus the Lord said to me, As a lion or a young lion growls over its prey, and - when a band of shepherds is called out against it - is not terrified by their shouting
   or daunted at their noise, so the Lord of hosts will come down to fight upon Mount Zion and upon its hill. Like birds hovering overhead, so the Lord of hosts will protect Jerusalem; he will protect and deliver it, he will spare and rescue it.

Turn back to him whom you have deeply betrayed, O people of Israel. For on that day all of you shall throw away your idols of silver and idols of gold, which your hands have sinfully made for you.
‘Then the Assyrian shall fall by a sword, not of mortals; and a sword, not of humans, shall devour him; he shall flee from the sword, and his young men shall be put to forced labour. His rock shall pass away in terror, and his officers desert the standard in panic,’ says the Lord, whose fire is in Zion, and whose furnace is in Jerusalem.

Matthew 15.1-20
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat.’

He answered them, ‘And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, “Honour your father and your mother,” and, “Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.” But you say that whoever tells father or mother, “Whatever support you might have had from me is given to God”, then that person need not honour the father. So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God.

You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said:  “This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.” ’

Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, ‘Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.’ Then the disciples approached and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees took offence when they heard what you said?’ He answered, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.’

But Peter said to him, ‘Explain this parable to us.’ Then he said, ‘Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.’

The Collect
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, by your Holy Spirit you have appointed various orders of ministry in the Church: look with mercy on your servants now called to be deacons and priests; maintain them in truth and renew them in holiness, that by word and good example they may faithfully serve you to the glory of your name and the benefit of your Church; through the merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Can't make it to church - Sunday 10 December 2017

Today, being the second Sunday of Advent, we look to the Prophets* to give us a feel for things and the three readings come together give us a bit of a tough picture and some comfort too.

Let’s start with our 2 Peter reading which really starts by telling us to be patient: A timely word about time in this season of waiting. As we wait to celebrate the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem there’s a greater wait lurking in the background in the shape of the second coming (the ‘day of the Lord’) we have read so much of in our readings of late. People are always asking me when that day will be, wondering why it’s taken so long – Peter tries to put it into perspective here for us (and them) today – with the words:

“Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.”

We are being told, “Calm down and be patient, He’s coming, He’s just giving you a chance to ‘get it right’!” And actually, as much as I cant wait for Jesus to return, the day of His coming has a bit of terror in there too for everything will be destroyed. Not an easy day then is it?

As much as I look forward to Jesus’ return, suddenly I’m a bit glad of the wait so I can get myself sorted out a bit more! And let’s face it, I think that’s true for all of us (so take your time Lord, I’ll be be busy here getting stuff sorted. Meanwhile the world (and the Church) get caught up in he baby coming and Argos and gifts and food and days off from work and ignore the other coming. A real ‘eat, drink and be merry’ moment – we can leave the thought that ‘tomorrow we may die’ for another day (tomorrow perhaps?).

Of course that is unless He comes today I guess – but be assured, He is coming back – and that’s a challenging thought isn’t it?

Thankfully Isaiah steps in with a bit of comfort for us. So much so that he starts of with the word:

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” Here we have a word of encouragement that the sins are dealt with and things are looking up. Phew! That’s a bit of a relief, all we need is to wait doe someone coming, in the wilderness; crying out, “Prepare the way of the Lord!”
Perhaps there’s some good news to be had today, Because the first bit was a bit uncomfortable (wasn’t it?) and all this judgment stuff, well it’s not going to be a popular message now is it?

Isaiah is writing to a bunch of people who I were so wrong that God let them fall to foreign powers and be led off in captivity in foreign lands. But this is a word of consolation, a nod from God to say that they could come off the naughty step!

There would be a way back for them – that the highway in the desert – and though we humans are relatively short lived (like the grass)  - God and his promises (His word) will never fail.So cheer up, there’s something (just as He promised) coming. All we need to do is listen to the voice in the wilderness. And we get to hear about him in our Gospel as Mark tells us about John the Baptist.

Mark begins by taking us back into Isaiah and then immediately turn towards the voice in the wilderness: John the Baptist. Who ‘appeared’ in the wilderness and called the people who heard him to repent, that is turn around and walk away from the wrong stuff they were doing (and had done). To help them draw a line under all that had been He baptised them (a ritual, symbolic, washing away of the dirt of the past). And He told the people of the one who was to come – Jesus, the consolation of Israel – the babe of Bethlehem, the Messiah, the coming King!
 Here we are at week two of Advent with so much frightening stuff (to the extent that some might hope Jesus never returns) that the wait being explained moves over to show how Jesus is the ‘comfort’ we all so truly long for.

Perhaps that’s why the Collect (so named because it is a 'thought collecting' prayer)  is as it is. Meanwhile, just as we empty the clutter in our homes in readiness for those who will visit us over Christmas, so too should we be emptying the clutter that is sin from the spiritual house that are our bodies and or lives.

The Collect
Almighty God, Purify our hearts and minds, That when your Son Jesus Christ comes again as judge and Saviour We may be ready to receive Him, Who is our Lord and our God. Amen.

Isaiah 40.1-11
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

A voice of one calling:  ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.  And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

A voice says, ‘Cry out.’  And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’

‘All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.   The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures for ever.’

You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain.  You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’  See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

2 Peter 3.8-15a
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?

You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom that God gave him.

Mark 1. 1-8
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way’ –
‘a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”’

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the River Jordan. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt round his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: ‘After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

Post Communion prayer
Father in heaven, who sent your Son to redeem the world and will send him again to be our judge: give us grace so to imitate him in the humility and purity of his first coming that, when he comes again, we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith;  through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

* The four Sundays of Advent focus on things from a different perspective each week to help us understand what Jesus first Advent (coming) and the second Advent are all about.  Whilst it seems that many are taking various themes for Advent (Hope. Love, Faith, Peace - sausage, eggs, chips and beans, etc.)

In the Church of England, generally, we look to:
Week one: The Patriarchs (the ‘founders’ of Judaism),
Week two: The Prophets (who spoke for God to the people),
Week three: John the Baptist (the herald of Jesus, the Christ),
Week four: The Virgin (the Mother of Jesus).

Morning Prayer - Tuesday 12 December 2017

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

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

Then shall my enemies turn back on the day when I call upon you; this I know, for God is on my side. In God whose word I praise, in the Lord whose word I praise, in God I trust and will not fear: what can flesh do to me?

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

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

They have laid a net for my feet; my soul is pressed down; they have dug a pit before me and will fall into it themselves. My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready; I will sing and give you praise. Awake, my soul; awake, harp and lyre, that I may awaken the dawn. I will give you thanks, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praise to you among the nations. For your loving-kindness is as high as the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Isaiah 30.19-end
Truly, O people in Zion, inhabitants of Jerusalem, you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you. Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ Then you will defile your silver-covered idols and your gold-plated images. You will scatter them like filthy rags; you will say to them, ‘Away with you!’

He will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and grain, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. On that day your cattle will graze in broad pastures; and the oxen and donkeys that till the ground will eat silage, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork. On every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water—on a day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. Moreover, the light of the moon will be like the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, like the light of seven days, on the day when the Lord binds up the injuries of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow.

See, the name of the Lord comes from far away, burning with his anger, and in thick rising smoke; his lips are full of indignation, and his tongue is like a devouring fire; his breath is like an overflowing stream that reaches up to the neck - to sift the nations with the sieve of destruction, and to place on the jaws of the peoples a bridle that leads them astray.

You shall have a song as in the night when a holy festival is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel. And the Lord will cause his majestic voice to be heard and the descending blow of his arm to be seen, in furious anger and a flame of devouring fire, with a cloudburst and tempest and hailstones. The Assyrian will be terror-stricken at the voice of the Lord, when he strikes with his rod. And every stroke of the staff of punishment that the Lord lays upon him will be to the sound of timbrels and lyres; battling with brandished arm he will fight with him. For his burning-place has long been prepared; truly it is made ready for the king, its pyre made deep and wide, with fire and wood in abundance; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of sulphur, kindles it.

Matthew 14.13-end
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’

Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

The Collect
O Lord, raise up, we pray, your power and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness we are grievously hindered in running the race that is set before us, your bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit, be honour and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Morning Prayer - Monday 11 December 2017

Psalm 44
We have heard with our ears, O God, our forebears have told us, all that you did in their days, in time of old; How with your hand you drove out nations and planted us in, and broke the power of peoples and set us free. For not by their own sword did our ancestors take the land nor did their own arm save them, But your right hand, your arm, and the light of your countenance, because you were gracious to them.

You are my King and my God, who commanded salvation for Jacob. Through you we drove back our adversaries; through your name we trod down our foes. For I did not trust in my bow; it was not my own sword that saved me; It was you that saved us from our enemies and put our adversaries to shame. We gloried in God all the day long, and were ever praising your name.

But now you have rejected us and brought us to shame and go not out with our armies. You have made us turn our backs on our enemies, and our enemies have despoiled us. You have made us like sheep to be slaughtered, and have scattered us among the nations. You have sold your people for a pittance and made no profit on their sale. You have made us the taunt of our neighbours, the scorn and derision of those that are round about us. You have made us a byword among the nations; among the peoples they wag their heads.

My confusion is daily before me, and shame has covered my face, At the taunts of the slanderer and reviler, at the sight of the enemy and avenger. All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you and have not played false to your covenant. Our hearts have not turned back, nor our steps gone out of your way, Yet you have crushed us in the haunt of jackals, and covered us with the shadow of death. If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to any strange god, Will not God search it out?

For he knows the secrets of the heart. But for your sake are we killed all the day long, and are counted as sheep for the slaughter.
Rise up! Why sleep, O Lord? Awake, and do not reject us for ever. Why do you hide your face and forget our grief and oppression?
Our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly cleaves to the earth. Rise up, O Lord, to help us and redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.

Isaiah 30.1-18
Oh, rebellious children, says the Lord, who carry out a plan, but not mine; who make an alliance, but against my will, adding sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt without asking for my counsel, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh, and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt; Therefore the protection of Pharaoh shall become your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt your humiliation. For though his officials are at Zoan and his envoys reach Hanes, everyone comes to shame through a people that cannot profit them, that brings neither help nor profit, but shame and disgrace.

An oracle concerning the animals of the Negeb. Through a land of trouble and distress, of lioness and roaring lion, of viper and flying serpent, they carry their riches on the backs of donkeys, and their treasures on the humps of camels, to a people that cannot profit them. For Egypt’s help is worthless and empty, therefore I have called her, ‘Rahab who sits still.’

Go now, write it before them on a tablet, and inscribe it in a book, so that it may be for the time to come as a witness for ever. For they are a rebellious people, faithless children, children who will not hear the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, ‘Do not see’; and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.’ Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel: Because you reject this word, and put your trust in oppression and deceit, and rely on them; therefore this iniquity shall become for you like a break in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose crash comes suddenly, in an instant; its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a sherd is found for taking fire from the hearth, or dipping water out of the cistern.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. But you refused and said,
‘No! We will flee upon horses’ - therefore you shall flee! and, ‘We will ride upon swift steeds’ - therefore your pursuers shall be swift! A thousand shall flee at the threat of one, at the threat of five you shall flee, until you are left like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain, like a signal on a hill.

Matthew 14.1-12
At that time Herod the ruler heard reports about Jesus; and he said to his servants, ‘This is John the Baptist; he has been raised from the dead, and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’ For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been telling him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’ Though Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded him as a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and she pleased Herod so much that he promised on oath to grant her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.’ The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. The head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who brought it to her mother. His disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went and told Jesus.

The Collect
Almighty God, purify our hearts and minds, that when your Son Jesus Christ comes again as judge and saviour we may be ready to receive him, who is our Lord and our God. Amen.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Morning Prayer - Saturday 9 December 2017

Psalm 9
I will give thanks to you, Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all your marvellous works. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will make music to your name, O Most High. When my enemies are driven back, they stumble and perish at your presence. For you have maintained my right and my cause; you sat on your throne giving righteous judgement.

You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have blotted out their name for ever and ever. The enemy was utterly laid waste. You uprooted their cities; their very memory has perished. But the Lord shall endure for ever; he has made fast his throne for judgement. For he shall rule the world with righteousness and govern the peoples with equity. Then will the Lord be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in the time of trouble. And those who know your name will put their trust in you, for you, Lord, have never failed those who seek you.

Sing praises to the Lord who dwells in Zion; declare among the peoples the things he has done. The avenger of blood has remembered them; he did not forget the cry of the oppressed. Have mercy upon me, O Lord; consider the trouble I suffer from those who hate me, you that lift me up from the gates of death; That I may tell all your praises in the gates of the city of Zion and rejoice in your salvation.

The nations shall sink into the pit of their making and in the snare which they set will their own foot be taken. The Lord makes himself known by his acts of justice; the wicked are snared in the works of their own hands.

They shall return to the land of darkness, all the nations that forget God. For the needy shall not always be forgotten and the hope of the poor shall not perish for ever. Arise, O Lord, and let not mortals have the upper hand; let the nations be judged before your face. Put them in fear, O Lord, that the nations may know themselves to be but mortal.

Psalm 10
Why stand so far off, O Lord?
Why hide yourself in time of trouble?
The wicked in their pride persecute the poor; let them be caught in the schemes they have devised.
The wicked boast of their heart’s desire; the covetous curse and revile the Lord.
The wicked in their arrogance say, ‘God will not avenge it’; in all their scheming God counts for nothing.

They are stubborn in all their ways, for your judgements are far above out of their sight; they scoff at all their adversaries.
They say in their heart, ‘I shall not be shaken; no harm shall ever happen to me.’
Their mouth is full of cursing, deceit and fraud; under their tongue lie mischief and wrong.
They lurk in the outskirts and in dark alleys they murder the innocent; their eyes are ever watching for the helpless.
They lie in wait, like a lion in his den; they lie in wait to seize the poor; they seize the poor when they get them into their net.
The innocent are broken and humbled before them; the helpless fall before their power.
They say in their heart, ‘God has forgotten; he hides his face away; he will never see it.'

Arise, O Lord God, and lift up your hand; forget not the poor. Why should the wicked be scornful of God?
Why should they say in their hearts, ‘You will not avenge it’?
Surely, you behold trouble and misery; you see it and take it into your own hand.
The helpless commit themselves to you, for you are the helper of the orphan.

Break the power of the wicked and malicious; search out their wickedness until you find none.

The Lord shall reign for ever and ever; the nations shall perish from his land.
Lord, you will hear the desire of the poor; you will incline your ear to the fullness of their heart,
To give justice to the orphan and oppressed, so that people are no longer driven in terror from the land.

Isaiah 29.15-end
Ha! You who hide a plan too deep for the Lord, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, ‘Who sees us? Who knows us?’
You turn things upside down!
Shall the potter be regarded as the clay?
Shall the thing made say of its maker, ‘He did not make me’; or the thing formed say of the one who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?

Shall not Lebanon in a very little while become a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be regarded as a forest?
On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a scroll, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.
The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel. or the tyrant shall be no more, and the scoffer shall cease to be; all those alert to do evil shall be cut off  - those who cause a person to lose a lawsuit, who set a trap for the arbiter in the gate, and without grounds deny justice to the one in the right.

Therefore thus says the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: No longer shall Jacob be ashamed, no longer shall his face grow pale. For when he sees his children, the work of my hands, in his midst, they will sanctify my name; they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. And those who err in spirit will come to understanding, and those who grumble will accept instruction.

Matthew 13.44-end
‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’ When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.
He came to his home town and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?’ And they took offence at him. But Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour except in their own country and in their own house.’ And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.

The Collect
Almighty God, as your kingdom dawns, turn us from the darkness of sin to the light of holiness, that we may be ready to meet you in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.