Thursday, 23 March 2017

A prayer for London in a time of loss

Lord, in a day where wicked hands have acted to take life, we look to you whose desire is for healing, peace, unity and concord in our world.

We commend to you the lives of those taken and pray for those who have suffered loss.

We bring before you those who have been injured in body, mind, and spirit.

We pray for those who, perhaps far off, fear for their loved ones caught up in this violence.

You call us to be a people who always seek justice and show mercy; Lord, may this be our strong resolve as we seek to stand to protect others;

We pray for our Police and others who run towards danger to serve and protect others.

We pray for our nation, and for the world, that it might know your peace and love.

Shine your light in the darkness and give us hope through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Morning Prayer - Thursday 23 March 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. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and your glory over all the earth.

Jeremiah 14
The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought:

Judah mourns and her gates languish; they lie in gloom on the ground, and the cry of Jerusalem goes up. Her nobles send their servants for water; they come to the cisterns, they find no water, they return with their vessels empty. They are ashamed and dismayed and cover their heads, because the ground is cracked. Because there has been no rain on the land the farmers are dismayed; they cover their heads. Even the doe in the field forsakes her newborn fawn because there is no grass. The wild asses stand on the bare heights, they pant for air like jackals; their eyes fail because there is no herbage.

Although our iniquities testify against us, act, O Lord, for your name’s sake; our apostasies indeed are many, and we have sinned against you. O hope of Israel, its saviour in time of trouble, why should you be like a stranger in the land, like a traveller turning aside for the night? Why should you be like someone confused, like a mighty warrior who cannot give help? Yet you, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name; do not forsake us!

Thus says the Lord concerning this people: Truly they have loved to wander, they have not restrained their feet; therefore the Lord does not accept them, now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.

The Lord said to me: Do not pray for the welfare of this people. Although they fast, I do not hear their cry, and although they offer burnt-offering and grain-offering, I do not accept them; but by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence I consume them.
Then I said: ‘Ah, Lord God! Here are the prophets saying to them, “You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you true peace in this place.” ’ And the Lord said to me: The prophets are prophesying lies in my name; I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name though I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come on this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword. There shall be no one to bury them—themselves, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their wickedness upon them.

You shall say to them this word: Let my eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease, for the virgin daughter—my people—is struck down with a crushing blow, with a very grievous wound. If I go out into the field, look—those killed by the sword!
And if I enter the city, look—those sick with famine! For both prophet and priest ply their trade throughout the land, and have no knowledge.

Have you completely rejected Judah?
Does your heart loathe Zion?
Why have you struck us down so that there is no healing for us?

We look for peace, but find no good; for a time of healing, but there is terror instead. We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord, the iniquity of our ancestors, for we have sinned against you. Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake; do not dishonour your glorious throne; remember and do not break your covenant with us. Can any idols of the nations bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Is it not you, O Lord our God? We set our hope on you, for it is you who do all this.

John 8.31-47
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be made free”?’

Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.’

They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does.’ They said to him, ‘We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word. You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.’

The Collect
Eternal God, give us insight to discern your will for us, to give up what harms us, and to seek the perfection we are promised in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Journal: where did that day go to?

I knew it was going to be busy but . . .  That has to be the label for today!

Started early and ended in the next day as funeral preparation, a funeral, a sneakily added home Communion, music practice, bishops certificate (I'm sure that should have an apostrophe) and then a tidy up of the church building for a funeral and more admin were found to be in the box marked 'today'.

A nice funeral - not sure why we went in so late but the person in front wasn't going to rush even though they could see it was drifting away from them. But we made a good fist of it and clawed five minutes back for the next persona and did it all with the star of the day taking their bow. The Gospel was preached and the dead honoured: Doesn't get much better than that really.

That said, there appears to be an increasing trend, a return to the early days when I started doing funerals, to plaster saint those who have gone; not sure I'd be comfortable saying what the person in front of me said. The day is coming when the hearts of all will be revealed and the deeds done in the darkness witless be exposed to the light, so we need to check that the things we are and do accordingly - and one of the ways of doing this is the examen; an action much like this.

There were so many joys to be found in today:
1. Lord, for the opportunity realised and taken to bring bread and wine into the day of one person, I give You thanks. To be able to stand as friend and priest is the ultimate joy for me and to minister You in word and sacrament, and proclaim your love, is a privilege and joy beyond measure.

2. For the. opportunity to minister your grace and proclaim your gift of life realised as we pay our respects to a departed loved one, my gratitude for the role and the access to things it receives knows no bounds. As I think of those who have gone before and those left behind, commending them to Your grace, love and mercy, and holding those who remain in Your love and my prayers, I offer You my hands and heart.

3. I thank You for the opportunity to correct error. Help me always to study Your word that I may neither preach, nor live, in error. Take my mind and discipline me to be true and authentically Yours. may I revel in the label 'born again' and may I never be captured by the disease of numbers and the lure of the clink of coins.

4. For the places today where my careless word or thoughtless action has wounded, I lay this and those I may have wounded before You. Create in me a clean heart and a willing mind to minister Your Grace to all. Those who have been blessed by our encounters I can but credit to You and give You thanks.

Lord, You know my needs and my very thoughts are known to You before a word leaves my lips.
You know my needs and my wants and deal with them accordingly.
You provide my daily bread and prepare a way before me that I might follow Jesus, the Christ.
Forgive me my sins as a model for the way I should forgive others, minister to me as You would have me minister to others that I might learn and be made whole in, and for, and through, You.
For You are my hope, my health, my love and my life.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Morning Prayer - Wednesday 22 March 2017

Lent

Psalm 38
Rebuke me not, O Lord, in your anger, neither chasten me in your heavy displeasure. For your arrows have stuck fast in me and your hand presses hard upon me. There is no health in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no peace in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; their weight is a burden too heavy to bear.

My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness. I am utterly bowed down and brought very low; I go about mourning all the day long. My loins are filled with searing pain; there is no health in my flesh. I am feeble and utterly crushed; I roar aloud because of the disquiet of my heart.

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

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

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

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

Jeremiah 13.1-11
Thus said the Lord to me, ‘Go and buy yourself a linen loincloth, and put it on your loins, but do not dip it in water.’ So I bought a loincloth according to the word of the Lord, and put it on my loins. And the word of the Lord came to me a second time, saying, ‘Take the loincloth that you bought and are wearing, and go now to the Euphrates, and hide it there in a cleft of the rock.’ So I went, and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me. And after many days the Lord said to me, ‘Go now to the Euphrates, and take from there the loincloth that I commanded you to hide there.’ Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. But now the loincloth was ruined; it was good for nothing.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: Thus says the Lord: Just so I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own will and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing. For as the loincloth clings to one’s loins, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord, in order that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory. But they would not listen.

John 8.12-30
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’ Then the Pharisees said to him, ‘You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.’ Jesus answered, ‘Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgement is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.’ Then they said to him, ‘Where is your Father?’ Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’ He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

Again he said to them, ‘I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.’ Then the Jews said, ‘Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come”?’

He said to them, ‘You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.’

They said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.’ They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father.

So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.’ As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

The Collect
Eternal God, give us insight to discern your will for us, to give up what harms us, and to seek the perfection we are promised in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Journal: A day off

Well, a third of a day off anyway!

Before the world starts the, "You have to take your day off," tirade, I had to square away some of the funerals in terms of getting the CDs burnt, the service paperwork done, a regimental flag found (ended up buying one from ebay), and other arrangements made. The next seven days have as many funerals (and there's none on the weekend) so it's a bit of a marathon. In fact with nineteen, which was not only the average age of the US soldier in Vietnam, is now but the high water mark of my monthly funeral service tally. A new record - can't be bad can it?

The day started with the usual daily Office (usually done between 04:30 and 06:00 depending on what's ahead - the busier I am, the earlier it gets done) and soon found itself taken up by funeral stuff. By 07:30 I'd had a brew and was well into the first set of stuff.

It's odd but I have come to realise that the world at large assumes that service just happen. If only this were true, but the reality is that to get liturgy and content in the right place, to do the right stuff about people, get names right, make sure the tensions in the service (any service, every service) are created and resolved: This takes work. Thankfully there are colleagues who work at providing quite poor liturgy as a spur for me to keep in working at it!

So notes written up, myriad numbers of telephone calls made (seems I spoke to one FD nine times during the course of the morning), service and other related sheets put together, printed and put in their relevant envelopes - I found myself done such that lunch and a film became ours a little before half one. A great day thus far, and for that, time with the other half was my reward and joy for the second part of the day.

We went to the wrinkly film club. It so unlike my earlieat film club experiences where I'd buy a ticket (3p) and head to the toilet to let my mates in through the fire exit before we sang the rousing 'We are the boys and girls well known as, the minors of the ABC . . . '.

Today's extravaganza coat £3 and came with a brew (Tea, the nectar of the gods - unless it's the stuff most churches dish up after the service). The film was 'I, Daniel Blake' and it didn't take long to see why they'd checked for concealed weapons before we entered, after all the Job Centre is only across the road from the cinema! This is a must see for people and I think it's a film we need to show to Church sometime. The film is about a man and his dealings with the benefits and employment related processes in the U.K. It made me angry, reduced me to tears and brought back so many memories of when I worked in that sector. Church was seen in it as perhaps one of the only true moments of hope.

Film finished, we left ready to have a fight - the adrenaline was flowing - with the shops as I purchased more comestibles to feed my heavy administrative appetite before heading home. Got home and then (without a brew) went and did a food shop and saw no one I knew; which is so very odd it made me stop and think for a moment. A trip out without encountering a single soul:; had the apocalypse begun?

Home again (without any sense of a bit of  'jiddedy jig' or a fat pig in eveidence) a bit more funeral admin before an episode of 'The Undertaker' (I kid you not) - my TV of choice at the moment and then a snuggle in the settee with a good wife (left the book elsewhere) and a chick flick on Netflix. Bliss.

Early to bed tonight (before midnight) and now all is quiet in the house and the breathing next to me is regular as a little hushed it's time to reflect on where me and God have been today. It's now that I realise how many opportunities for engagement I've had today thanks to the telephone - something we clergy (and the world) seem to have forgotten as we text and email our way through the day.

Lord, for the opportunities to enter the homes of others through a bit of copper I can but thank You. For the difference a call has made - the making of a virtual incarnacy theirs - I give You praise. Not as good as a simple touch and a real presence, but today I will give You thanks because as I was in one place, You, and another person were standing with me in the work of being Church as they visited someone in hospital.

Lord, help me to raise up born again believers who give without counting the cost. Help me to walk I Your footsteps and experience the security and life-changing reality that this brings and may others walk in those footsteps behind me - for aren't we called 'leaders' as well as followers.

Father for the daily bread, the forgiveness of my sins, the fact that today I do not think I have out You to the test but walked as friends in partnership as family: I love You so very much. Bless all I am and do tomorrow - may my encounters speak of You and my life show Your love and the work of Your hand.

Let's do this again tomorrow, eh?

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Morning Prayer - Tuesday 21 March 2017

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, Reformation Martyr, 1556
Lent

Psalm 6
O Lord, rebuke me not in your wrath; neither chasten me in your fierce anger.
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am weak; Lord, heal me, for my bones are racked. My soul also shakes with terror; how long, O Lord, how long? Turn again, O Lord, and deliver my soul; save me for your loving mercy’s sake. For in death no one remembers you; and who can give you thanks in the grave?

I am weary with my groaning; every night I drench my pillow and flood my bed with my tears. My eyes are wasted with grief and worn away because of all my enemies. Depart from me, all you that do evil, for the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer. All my enemies shall be put to shame and confusion; they shall suddenly turn back in their shame.

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.

Jeremiah 11.18-12.6
It was the Lord who made it known to me, and I knew; then you showed me their evil deeds. But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. And I did not know it was against me that they devised schemes, saying, ‘Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will no longer be remembered!’ But you, O Lord of hosts, who judge righteously, who try the heart and the mind, let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.

Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the people of Anathoth, who seek your life, and say, ‘You shall not prophesy in the name of the Lord, or you will die by our hand’—therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: I am going to punish them; the young men shall die by the sword; their sons and their daughters shall die by famine; and not even a remnant shall be left of them. For I will bring disaster upon the people of Anathoth, the year of their punishment.

You will be in the right, O Lord, when I lay charges against you; but let me put my case to you. Why does the way of the guilty prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive? You plant them, and they take root; they grow and bring forth fruit; you are near in their mouths yet far from their hearts. But you, O Lord, know me; You see me and test me—my heart is with you. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and set them apart for the day of slaughter. How long will the land mourn, and the grass of every field wither? For the wickedness of those who live in it the animals and the birds are swept away, and because people said, ‘He is blind to our ways.’

If you have raced with foot-runners and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you fall down, how will you fare in the thickets of the Jordan? For even your kinsfolk and your own family, even they have dealt treacherously with you; they are in full cry after you; do not believe them, though they speak friendly words to you.

John 7.53-8.11
Then each of them went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’

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


Journal: And Jesus said . . .

"What you need is a meeting!"

Well that's what so many who call themselves Church seem to think!

In fact, it seems to me, on reading the Bible, that's exactly what He never said. We don't blow God's socks off by having all those business meetings and it seems that we don't ring his bell with all the Church services we put on either. It's odd that so many of the people I meet think that the way to a successful church lies in business meetings and more church services: "If we create a Gantt chart, He must come" (He'd be rude not to after all that planning, wouldn't He?)

I thought of Isaiah 1 and How God did a 'Vic' as He got stuck in:
"Oi, you lot. Stop it with all those sacrifices— they mean nothing to me. I'm up to here with them- pack it in!
And your offerings - they're just stuff - and you think you make a pleasant smell in my nostrils? Stop the stink, it's worse than the Arsenal on Boxing Day with the awful aftershaves and cheap cigars!

All those services - I hate with all my being - they're not a blessing, they're a burden to me; I am sick and tired of them. And when you pray: I have to stick my fingers in my ears and sing Ed Sheeran  to avoid listening I'm so sick of it all!"

It was at this point that I was drawn back to the day I'd had yesterday. God seemed to be shouting at me so much last night (how rude some might say) and I was getting excited (quietly, so as not to distract from the decisions and discussions). What a super day: Got to, and through, Birmingham in record time such that we were forty-five minutes early for the first appointment and managed to fit in an extra hospital visit elsewhere for my passenger and return home before the Archers (gave up listening a few years back!) contaminated Radio Four again. This was what we are called to be: engaged and taking His light and life into the world. This is where we are called to be (no, not Birmingham, please try to keep up Clarence (thank you Joyce Grenfell) - rejoicing I. The presence of others i the presence of a God. Celebrating God made visible in the person before you and in the love of the mega-visible God that is Jesus, the Christ.

Back home there was time for beans on toast before the telephone rang and I found myself off to enjoy an encounter with madness. I'm beginning to think that there must be a leak in the local factory as there's so much of it around at the moment - will, it makes a change from the chaos that occurs when the hormone factory has the same problem I guess!

Madness comes in many shapes and sizes and (band excepted) it's never pleasant. Sometimes it comes out of the blue and we as Church need to step up and provide care, protection and the sort of Prayer God loves to listen to as we stand in the gap and offer protection and love. Sometimes, when the corners are laid out  and the image before you starts to take shape, you realise that there is something quite damaging emerging and this is where the tension begins.

Sometime we see something which, if we act, cause people to think we might be a bit bonkers ourselves and this is usually enough to cause us to hold back. BUT, when that issue manifests itself as something difficult (or even tragic) later on, everyone asks the question, "Why didn't you do something about it?" Too often I have faced the problem of being a time waster when challenging things only to be told (occasionally at the funeral) how right I was.

My job is to seek healing for the mentally ill and protection for those who encounter it in others. This is the business of Church God is interested in and unstop His ears, focuses His eyes and speaks His healing into. As we bandy around the 1:4 mental health statistic and talk of how 'everyone' has, or will be, affected by the fallout from mental health issues, God calls us to be aware but look to the one person before us and be Church to them.

And then came kid's club and it was a mixed feast: Clashes, fed-up kids as school and them clash and pronouncements are made over them, chocolate cake, pool, chess and some food conversations. This is such a blessing - amazed we don't have to turn volunteers away.

Then, almost immediately following on we had the PCC meeting. Some good stuff done and a chance to look at the end of year figures and stuff in preparation for the annual meeting. But I've done this bit to death and so look to the important stuff.

We love numbers and planning meetings and name badges and titles and stuff. God loves people and engaging with them and having names that speak of what He is and does. Tonight I look to Jehovah Jireh, the God who 'sees to it' and pray for the intervention of Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals.

Lord, we are poor and weak and fragile. Our knees grow weak at times and our minds become places of chaos and despair. We see what has never been and fear what will never be. Touch those broken in heart, mind and spirit. Bring Your healing and Your presence to bind up the broken-hearted and make Church the family it should be.

For paperwork signed tonight and for wrongs righted and hope made ours in Jesus, I praise You. Give us rest that we might rise tomorrow and engage the enemy once again in spirit and in truth.
Praise Your holy and life-giving name.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Morning Prayer - Monday 20 March 2017

Joseph of Nazareth

Lent

Psalm 25
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies triumph over me. Let none who look to you be put to shame, but let the treacherous be shamed and frustrated. Make me to know your ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you have I hoped all the day long. Remember, Lord, your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting.

Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions, but think on me in your goodness, O Lord, according to your steadfast love. Gracious and upright is the Lord; therefore shall he teach sinners in the way. He will guide the humble in doing right and teach his way to the lowly. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

For your name’s sake, O Lord, be merciful to my sin, for it is great. Who are those who fear the Lord? Them will he teach in the way that they should choose. Their soul shall dwell at ease and their offspring shall inherit the land. The hidden purpose of the Lord is for those who fear him and he will show them his covenant. My eyes are ever looking to the Lord, for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.

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

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

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

The Lord lifts up the poor, but casts down the wicked to the ground. Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make music to our God upon the lyre; Who covers the heavens with clouds and prepares rain for the earth; Who makes grass to grow upon the mountains and green plants to serve our needs.

He gives the beasts their food and the young ravens when they cry. He takes no pleasure in the power of a horse, no delight in human strength; But the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their trust in his steadfast love.

Isaiah 11.1-10
A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on himt he spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Matthew 13.54-58
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
God our Father, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph the carpenter to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary: give us grace to follow him
in faithful obedience to your commands; 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.


Journal: that 'works one day' arrives

Three Communions and a couple of baptisms were on the calendar for today. Started with a BCP Communion where I obviously got excited as they left later than usual. Who on earth puts Meribah, justification AND the Samaritan woman all in the same set of readings and expects a five minute homily? Second Communion was fun and the sermon, different from the first service, was a thing of passion and joy (for me anyway - can't speak for the hearts).

Arrived at the next place to find the congregation leaving in droves before they got boxed inby the baptism party. Sadly they never arrived which meant we (me and the Wardens) got to do some stuff instead before I headed home.

Baptism the second did happen and I found myself engaged in conversations and the like such that I was still there ninety minutes after the start time. There were conversations about Jesus and His childhood, one of the children I'd talked too went and produced a drawing of Jesus doing stuff. Met a Viking and his family and remembered how much I liked the Swedish friends I used to have whilst studying.

Final Communion of the day was a slow march, but it still ticked all the boxes even though it lacked the dynamism of the am services. Some good conversations and a steady end to a full on day. In all the day took up almost twelve hours from beginning to end - brunchinner (realised as we sat down to eat dinner that I'd somehow missed Lund and breakfast) came just before 20:00 and yes, I did fall asleep in the settee for about ten minutes in front of the TV :-)

Lord, for the many conversations held today, may they have been a blessing to the other parties.
For the woman who came and talked about her situation, be God in her life.
For the child baptised, may she grow in the Christian faith and my her sponsors keep their end of the bargain.
And thank You for the privilege that being in ministry is.


Sunday, 19 March 2017

Journal: Men's breakfast, A party and more

Had a go at a men's breakfast today - good turn out and great fun. Really weird when I find myself about to stand up and still not sure what I'm supposed to say. But it went and I was reminded of so much that God has done in my life. Memories of blind seeing and other amazing things were dropped in front of me as I played the cards before me.

It's odd but when I think of the various phases of my life and the opportunities I have been given, and how easily we forget them as time moves on, I realise how blessed I am. And have been - for so many years as a Christian.

Phase two of the day was taken up with funeral visits and related stuff - also encouraging and fun before we hit the last phase in which we had a birthday party and filled the church building. Talked to many new people and had a really energised evening.

Kept coming back to the 'is there a man amongst you who'd offer his son a stone if he asked for bread or a snake is he asked for fish? If we, being awful can give our kids good things, how much more will God, who is good, give his kids?

Sunday looks 'interesting' with fives services in two different locations - nine of them home - some of the natives looked restless when they found I wasn't going to be with them. Needs so Prayer, wisdom and stuff I reckon.

For today's bread - the forgiveness I have been shown (and shown), the trust rather than test that has been today's walk and the ability to touch people with You love.
Lord accept the praises and thanks of a simple man.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Morning Prayer - Saturday 18 March 2017

Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, Teacher of the Faith, 386

Lent


Psalm 3
Lord, how many are my adversaries; many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say to my soul, ‘There is no help for you in your God.’

But you, Lord, are a shield about me; you are my glory, and the lifter up of my head. When I cry aloud to the Lord, he will answer me from his holy hill; I lie down and sleep and rise again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not be afraid of hordes of the peoples that have set themselves against me all around.

Rise up, O Lord, and deliver me, O my God, for you strike all my enemies on the cheek and break the teeth of the wicked.  Salvation belongs to the Lord: may your blessing be upon your people.

Psalm 25
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies triumph over me. Let none who look to you be put to shame, but let the treacherous be shamed and frustrated. Make me to know your ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you have I hoped all the day long. Remember, Lord, your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting.

Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions, but think on me in your goodness, O Lord, according to your steadfast love. Gracious and upright is the Lord; therefore shall he teach sinners in the way. He will guide the humble in doing right and teach his way to the lowly. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

For your name’s sake, O Lord, be merciful to my sin, for it is great. Who are those who fear the Lord? Them will he teach in the way that they should choose. Their soul shall dwell at ease and their offspring shall inherit the land. The hidden purpose of the Lord is for those who fear him and he will show them his covenant. My eyes are ever looking to the Lord, for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.

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

Jeremiah 10.17-24
Gather up your bundle from the ground, O you who live under siege! For thus says the Lord: I am going to fling away the inhabitants of the land at this time, and I will bring distress on them, so that they shall feel it.

Woe is me because of my hurt! My wound is severe. But I said, ‘Truly this is my punishment, and I must bear it.’ My tent is destroyed, and all my cords are broken; my children have gone from me,  and they are no more; there is no one to spread my tent again,  and to set up my curtains.  For the shepherds are stupid, and do not inquire of the Lord; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered.

Hear, a noise! Listen, it is coming—a great commotion from the land of the north to make the cities of Judah a desolation, a lair of jackals.

I know, O Lord, that the way of human beings is not in their control,  that mortals as they walk cannot direct their steps. Correct me, O Lord, but in just measure; not in your anger, or you will bring me to nothing.

John 7.25-36
Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, ‘Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.’ Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, ‘You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.’ Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many in the crowd believed in him and were saying, ‘When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?’
The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering such things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent temple police to arrest him. Jesus then said, ‘I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.’ The Jews said to one another, ‘Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, “You will search for me and you will not find me” and, “Where I am, you cannot come”?’

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


Friday, 17 March 2017

Morning Prayer - Friday 17 March 2017

Patrick, Bishop, Missionary, Patron of Ireland, c.460
Lent

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

Great are the wonders you have done, O Lord my God. How great your designs for us! There is none that can be compared with you. If I were to proclaim them and tell of them they would be more than I am able to express. Sacrifice and offering you do not desire but my ears you have opened; Burnt offering and sacrifice for sin you have not required; then said I: ‘Lo, I come. ‘In the scroll of the book it is written of me that I should do your will, O my God; I delight to do it: your law is within my heart.’

I have declared your righteousness in the great congregation; behold, I did not restrain my lips, and that, O Lord, you know. Your righteousness I have not hidden in my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your loving-kindness and truth from the great congregation.

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

Let all who seek you rejoice in you and be glad; let those who love your salvation say always, ‘The Lord is great.’ Though I am poor and needy, the Lord cares for me. You are my helper and my deliverer; O my God, make no delay.

Psalm 41
Blessed are those who consider the poor and needy; the Lord will deliver them in the time of trouble. The Lord preserves them and restores their life, that they may be happy in the land; he will not hand them over to the will of their enemies. The Lord sustains them on their sickbed; their sickness, Lord, you will remove. And so I said, ‘Lord, be merciful to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.’

My enemies speak evil about me, asking when I shall die and my name perish. If they come to see me, they utter empty words; their heart gathers mischief; when they go out, they tell it abroad. All my enemies whisper together against me, against me they devise evil,  Saying that a deadly thing has laid hold on me, and that I will not rise again from where I lie. Even my bosom friend, whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.

But you, O Lord, be merciful to me and raise me up, that I may reward them. By this I know that you favour me, that my enemy does not triumph over me. Because of my integrity you uphold me and will set me before your face for ever. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.

Jeremiah 10.1-16
Hear the word that the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the Lord:
Do not learn the way of the nations, or be dismayed at the signs of the heavens; for the nations are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are false: a tree from the forest is cut down, and worked with an axe by the hands of an artisan; people deck it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor is it in them to do good.

There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might. Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For that is your due; among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is no one like you. They are both stupid and foolish; the instruction given by idols is no better than wood! Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz. They are the work of the artisan and of the hands of the goldsmith; their clothing is blue and purple; they are all the product of skilled workers. But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation.

Thus shall you say to them: The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.

It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightnings for the rain, and he brings out the wind from his storehouses. Everyone is stupid and without knowledge; goldsmiths are all put to shame by their idols; for their images are false, and there is no breath in them. They are worthless, a work of delusion; at the time of their punishment they shall perish. Not like these is the Lord, the portion of Jacob, for he is the one who formed all things, and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance; the Lord of hosts is his name.

John 7.14-24
About the middle of the festival Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach. The Jews were astonished at it, saying, ‘How does this man have such learning, when he has never been taught?’ Then Jesus answered them, ‘My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.

‘Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?’ The crowd answered, ‘You have a demon! Who is trying to kill you?’ Jesus answered them, ‘I performed one work, and all of you are astonished. Moses gave you circumcision (it is, of course, not from Moses, but from the patriarchs), and you circumcise a man on the sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man’s whole body on the sabbath? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement.’

The Collect
Almighty God, who in your providence chose your servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people: keep alive in us the fire of the faith he kindled and strengthen us in our pilgrimage    towards the light of everlasting life; 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.


Journal: Meeting in McDonald's

Another action packed day: Started with the Daily Office followed by Admin and service prep, Thursday Communion, funeral visit,  service in the Crem', cup of tea, service in the church building, quick stop to chat and drink tea with the mourners, home Communions, quick bite to eat and then off to another funeral visit in a McDonald's between me and the home of the person sorting the service (so I could be somewhere between their home and mine).

A mixed and sad day as I've been taking the deceased Communion for some time now and have known them for some fourteen years and valued, respected and loved the man. The privilege of doing any funeral is always tinged with the reminder that I am not there to let my personal grief be indulged with. There's a person who I have seen on a few occasions conducts funerals at the Crem' and they invariably cry during the service - one day, without being prompted, they told me that they always find the service to be sad and 'always' cried. That made me sad because surely, if that's the case, then the service either becomes about you, leads the people into tears and exacerbates their distress (one they took had pretty much everyone howling - I know because the FD officiating called me over and pointed it out!) and takes the focus off the person in the box beside you.

From funeral to home Communions where I had the privilege of sharing my privilege with someone looking to make this ministry their own. They enjoyed the experience (I think, haven't debriefed them yet) and the next step is to run through the home Communion theology, service sheets and the way we keep the liturgical year. It is so good to have people come and ask to do stuff - a real blessing indeed.

So with two of my home Communion customers having cancelled their standing orders for a happy meal visit, I'm in the lookout for more. Thankfully have added three more customers and have the potential of two more - so the empire building continues. Have what looks like three more care homes to add to the list too so if all goes well might not only be going corporate but have another volunteer in the offing too so expanding the workforce too!

All I need is a volunteer for the admin' and I can settle down into the stuff of ministry: Winning souls for Christ and pastoring them.

Off to look at last year's stat's!

Lord, I thank You for the gifts you give, the gifts of grace which help us live, and ministering before Your throne I truly strive them all to know; and especially pray, with fervent heart, that of them all there's two whose part I pray that others they will know as in their daily walk they grow.
So Lord this day may administration and celibacy find someone with a stronger, tidier, mind.
Give me the broken and ignore my desk!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Morning Prayer - Thursday 16 March 2017

Psalm 34
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall ever be in my mouth. My soul shall glory in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Look upon him and be radiant and your faces shall not be ashamed.

This poor soul cried, and the Lord heard me and saved me from all my troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them. O taste and see that the Lord is gracious; blessed is the one who trusts in him. Fear the Lord, all you his holy ones, for those who fear him lack nothing. Lions may lack and suffer hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.

Come, my children, and listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Who is there who delights in life and longs for days to enjoy good things? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from lying words. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their cry.

The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.

The righteous cry and the Lord hears them and delivers them out of all their troubles.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and will save those who are crushed in spirit.

Many are the troubles of the righteous; from them all will the Lord deliver them. He keeps all their bones, so that not one of them is broken. But evil shall slay the wicked and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord ransoms the life of his servants and will condemn none who seek refuge in him.

Jeremiah 9.12-24
Who is wise enough to understand this? To whom has the mouth of the Lord spoken, so that they may declare it? Why is the land ruined and laid waste like a wilderness, so that no one passes through? And the Lord says: Because they have forsaken my law that I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, or walked in accordance with it, but have stubbornly followed their own hearts and have gone after the Baals, as their ancestors taught them. Therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I am feeding this people with wormwood, and giving them poisonous water to drink. I will scatter them among nations that neither they nor their ancestors have known; and I will send the sword after them, until I have consumed them.

Thus says the Lord of hosts:
Consider, and call for the mourning-women to come; send for the skilled women to come; let them quickly raise a dirge over us, so that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids flow with water. For a sound of wailing is heard from Zion:
‘How we are ruined! We are utterly shamed, because we have left the land, because they have cast down our dwellings.’

Hear, O women, the word of the Lord, and let your ears receive the word of his mouth; teach to your daughters a dirge, and each to her neighbour a lament.
‘Death has come up into our windows, it has entered our palaces, to cut off the children from the streets and the young men from the squares.’

Speak! Thus says the Lord:
‘Human corpses shall fall like dung upon the open field, like sheaves behind the reaper, and no one shall gather them.’

Thus says the Lord: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord.

John 7.1-13
After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. So his brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.’ (For not even his brothers believed in him.) Jesus said to them, ‘My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil. Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.’ After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. The Jews were looking for him at the festival and saying, ‘Where is he?’ And there was considerable complaining about him among the crowds. While some were saying, ‘He is a good man’, others were saying, ‘No, he is deceiving the crowd.’ Yet no one would speak openly about him for fear of the Jews.

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


Journal: And breathe!

Amazing day, both up and at 'em before the streets were fully aired today with one of us heading for Brum and the other off to Stafford as we were engaged in pastoral and evangelism stuff. I had the Stafford ticket and so found myself in the diocesan Evanagelism and Outreach Team meeting where we discussed so many cool things it made my head spin and my heart pump little faster.

People often quote what they think is a Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times," but it seems that this is actually a Western creation. The same is true of the supposedly African saying, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The latter popped up in connection with the refugee crisis in Sudan and can be found in a number of places relating to it and appears by many to have been assimilated into their nation's wisdom.

Both sayings are valid in their own right; each conveys something of value even though their source is not that billed. The problem with Christianity is that when it comes to the corruption and/or misquoted words of Jesus there are so many that have been taken up and assimilated into Church culture by well meaning folk.

I recently heard someone offer that great saying of Jesus, "God helps those who help themselves!" But of course this pickpocket's charter of a saying has no biblical source to give it warrant and is in a par with  friend's "You'll be stronger if you get over this by yourself!".

Seems to me that the Church is slowly rewriting the words of Jesus (who is possibly the most misquoted person ever) and whilst some might do it consciously, the majority are doing it out of ignorance and it is merely an attempt to paraphrase a passage or give the gist of something in the Bible. But it's damaging and needs to be addressed. This is a call on those of us who teach to do so with integrity.

That said, the way for the Church to be what it is meant to be is for us to set off together in the direction that leads to the Son. Too often we spend so much time in the planning that we never get round to setting off and actually doing it. Too often we wait for everyone to be ready before we set off and so are found dead at the meeting point having never left! For the things that need to be done quickly, where speed is of the essence, we need to get out and do it with but a few but for the important things, such as preaching the Gospel, we need to go together: think I've the 2017 church direction sorted :-)

Ministry is full of contrasts and yesterday was no different for later in the day I swung from a funeral in a graveyard to overhauling a church hall boiler in the space of perhaps an hour and then straight into a music practice which, almost seamlessly, went into a bishops certificate course. Variety is the spice of life (another thing Jesus never said) and I, for one, am thankful for it.

Every now and then, people challenge me to consider where I should be and the role I should be doing. As an 'almost average' cleric in the CofE I can guarantee a life of living below the radar and doing the stuff and being left in peace to do what I believe I'm called to be, I usually shrug off suggestions of bigger, better and different. That said I realise that I am called to listen and respond to God's voice and perhaps have let the background noise drown Him out. So during Lent I've decided to listen to see what I should (and shouldn't) be doing along with the questions Kipling's working men provide.

Now that could lead to interesting times indeed.

Lord, here I am - send me: A response I have made many times and reiterate today.
I know you have eternity settled for me, help with the day ahead!
Give me my daily bread.
Forgive my many sins.
Help me to forgive those who sin in my direction.
Help me not to become sin and to out you to the test.
Bless those I encounter and give me ears that hear and lips that speak Your words of life.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Morning Prayer - Wednesday 15 March 2017

Lent

Psalm 35
Contend, O Lord, with those that contend with me; fight against those that fight against me. Take up shield and buckler and rise up to help me. Draw the spear and bar the way
against those who pursue me; say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation.’

Let those who seek after my life be shamed and disgraced;
let those who plot my ruin fall back and be put to confusion.
Let them be as chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord thrusting them down.
Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.

For they have secretly spread a net for me without a cause; without any cause they have dug a pit for my soul. Let ruin come upon them unawares; let them be caught in the net they laid; let them fall in it to their destruction.

Then will my soul be joyful in the Lord and glory in his salvation. My very bones will say, ‘Lord, who is like you? You deliver the poor from those that are too strong for them,
the poor and needy from those who would despoil them.’

False witnesses rose up against me; they charged me with things I knew not. They rewarded me evil for good, to the desolation of my soul. But as for me, when they were sick I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting; When my prayer returned empty to my bosom, it was as though I grieved for my friend or brother; I behaved as one who mourns for his mother, bowed down and brought very low.

But when I stumbled, they gathered in delight; they gathered together against me; as if they were strangers I did not know they tore at me without ceasing. When I fell they mocked me; they gnashed at me with their teeth.

O Lord, how long will you look on? Rescue my soul from their ravages and my poor life from the young lions.

I will give you thanks in the great congregation; I will praise you in the mighty throng.

Do not let my treacherous foes rejoice over me, or those who hate me without a cause mock me with their glances. For they do not speak of peace, but invent deceitful schemes against those that are quiet in the land. They opened wide their mouths and derided me, saying ‘We have seen it with our very eyes.’ This you have seen, O Lord; do not keep silent; go not far from me, O Lord.

Awake, arise, to my cause, to my defence, my God and my Lord! Give me justice, O Lord my God, according to your righteousness; let them not triumph over me. Let them not say to themselves, ‘Our heart’s desire!’ Let them not say, ‘We have swallowed him up.’

Let all who rejoice at my trouble be put to shame and confusion; let those who boast against me be clothed with shame and dishonour. Let those who favour my cause rejoice and be glad; let them say always, ‘Great is the Lord, who delights in his servant’s well-being.’

So shall my tongue be talking of your righteousness and of your praise all the day long.

Jeremiah 8.18-9.11
My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick. Hark, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land:
‘Is the Lord not in Zion?
‘Is her King not in her?’
(‘Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their foreign idols?’)
‘The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.’
For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt,    I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.

Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?

O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!  O that I had in the desert a traveller’s lodging-place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a band of traitors. They bend their tongues like bows; they have grown strong in the land for falsehood, and not for truth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, says the Lord.

Beware of your neighbours, and put no trust in any of your kin; for all your kin are supplanters, and every neighbour goes around like a slanderer. They all deceive their neighbours, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongues to speak lies; they commit iniquity and are too weary to repent. Oppression upon oppression, deceit upon deceit! They refuse to know me, says the Lord.

Therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: I will now refine and test them, for what else can I do with my sinful people?
Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceit through the mouth. They all speak friendly words to their neighbours, but inwardly are planning to lay an ambush. Shall I not punish them for these things? says the Lord; and shall I not bring retribution on a nation such as this?

Take up weeping and wailing for the mountains, and a lamentation for the pastures of the wilderness, because they are laid waste so that no one passes through, and the lowing of cattle is not heard; both the birds of the air and the animals have fled and are gone. I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a lair of jackals; and I will make the towns of Judah a desolation without inhabitant.

John 6.60-end
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’ But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.’ He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.

The Collect
Almighty God, by the prayer and discipline of Lent may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings, and by following in his Way come to share in his glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Journal: Give me just a little more time

Looking like a very interesting month as the number of funeral services keep on growing! Monday saw a ninety-five year old lead me to the Crem' on a motorcycle hearse - a life of military service celebrated - a good day's work indeed.

Looking up I realise that there are still eleven funeral services involving church, Crem' and graveyard before the month's end - how cool is that?

It's a month with new challenges as I look towards Saturday and speaking at a men's breakfast, the following week I'm doing a talk at a dinner and have a couple of other interesting things like it suddenly pencilled in too! Perhaps I need to stop losing weight so I can become a big fat movie star!!

The month has been tinged with sadness as friends from church have left us. Our beloved Ivy has gone, Larry is no longer with us, Michael has finally succumbed after a long and valiant fight and Brian is with us no longer - having had a tough end to it all. May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

It's a sad thing but having worked in, and with, teams most of my working life I have to say that the one place I have never really found a true collegiality is in the Church. I pray for the churches in our town and consider many to be, if not friends, acquaintances - but the standing together and working for one another such as is found in the engineering world has not been a defining or enduring reality.

I've realised that in recognition of this I am slowly slipping away from the opportunities to engage in shared nothingness - I really can't be bothered with the dissipation and the game-playing, life's too short and the task is so big. It's not that I want people to do things my way; I merely want them to do!

I saw someone I know this week and whilst I'd usually stop and engage with them, this week I realised that they'd been part of Church and had now, passing fad passed, moved in to their next passion of the moment. It was at that moment that I thought, "I don't have the time for this!" and so, praying for them as I went, left them in the distance without them noticing I'd ever been there and carried on to do the task in hand. My presence only seems to cause them embarrassment so it was a win-win outcome I guess: But it is tinged with a sadness that leaves a dent on the paintwork.

It is always sad when people you think are with you prove to be no different that the Christian heroes of the Bible. They deny you at the point when things are troubled in the same way Peter did in a courtyard and like the old Lone Ranger joke where surrounded by a screaming horde he turn to his native Indian companion and says, "Just you and me against all these," hears the words, "what do you mean 'you and me' white man?"

Lots wife told him to 'curse God and die' because she wouldn't go with him - a bitter integrity we sometimes lack in the world of Church.

The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church of Christ - we will leave that to the Christians :-)

Lord, thank You for the privilege and challenge of Church,
Help us to stand as one and to have an integrity that takes the world's breath away.
To be different through the love we share,
To be courageous and honest,
To be loving and kind,
To follow You and never to count the cost.
Make me, make us, more like You.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Morning Prayer - Tuesday 14 March 2017

Psalm 50
The Lord, the most mighty God, has spoken and called the world from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth; our God comes and will not keep silence. Consuming fire goes out before him and a mighty tempest stirs about him. He calls the heaven above, and the earth, that he may judge his people:
‘Gather to me my faithful, who have sealed my covenant with sacrifice.’

Let the heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge.
Hear, O my people, and I will speak:
‘I will testify against you, O Israel for I am God, your God.
‘I will not reprove you for your sacrifices, for your burnt offerings are always before me.
‘I will take no bull out of your house, nor he-goat out of your folds,
‘For all the beasts of the forest are mine, the cattle upon a thousand hills.
‘I know every bird of the mountains and the insect of the field is mine.
‘If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the whole world is mine and all that fills it.
‘Do you think I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?
‘Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and fulfil your vows to God Most High.
‘Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall honour me.’

But to the wicked, says God:
‘Why do you recite my statutes and take my covenant upon your lips,
‘Since you refuse to be disciplined and have cast my words behind you?
‘When you saw a thief, you made friends with him and you threw in your lot with adulterers.
‘You have loosed your lips for evil and harnessed your tongue to deceit.
‘You sit and speak evil of your brother; you slander your own mother’s son.
‘These things have you done, and should I keep silence?
‘Did you think that I am even such a one as yourself?

‘But no, I must reprove you, and set before your eyes the things that you have done.
‘You that forget God, consider this well, lest I tear you apart and there is none to deliver you.
‘Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honours me and to those who keep my way will I show the salvation of God.’

Jeremiah 8.1-15
At that time, says the Lord, the bones of the kings of Judah, the bones of its officials, the bones of the priests, the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be brought out of their tombs; and they shall be spread before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, which they have loved and served, which they have followed, and which they have inquired of and worshipped; and they shall not be gathered or buried; they shall be like dung on the surface of the ground. Death shall be preferred to life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family in all the places where I have driven them, says the Lord of hosts.

You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord: When people fall, do they not get up again?
If they go astray, do they not turn back?
Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding?
They have held fast to deceit, they have refused to return. I have given heed and listened, but they do not speak honestly; no one repents of wickedness, saying, ‘What have I done!’ All of them turn to their own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle. Even the stork in the heavens knows its times; and the turtle-dove, swallow, and crane observe the time of their coming; but my people do not know the ordinance of the Lord.

How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us’, when, in fact, the false pen of the scribes  has made it into a lie? The wise shall be put to shame, they shall be dismayed and taken; since they have rejected the word of the Lord, what wisdom is in them?

Therefore I will give their wives to others and their fields to conquerors, because from the least to the greatest everyone is greedy for unjust gain; from prophet to priest everyone deals falsely. They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace’, when there is no peace. They acted shamefully, they committed abomination; yet they were not at all ashamed, they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time when I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the Lord.

When I wanted to gather them, says the Lord, there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered, and what I gave them has passed away from them.

Why do we sit still?

Gather together, let us go into the fortified cities and perish there; for the Lord our God has doomed us to perish, and has given us poisoned water to drink, because we have sinned against the Lord. We look for peace, but find no good, for a time of healing, but there is terror instead.

John 6.52-59
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’

He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

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


Monday, 13 March 2017

Morning Prayer - Monday 13 March 2017

Psalm 26
Give judgement for me, O Lord, for I have walked with integrity; I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered. Test me, O Lord, and try me; examine my heart and my mind. For your love is before my eyes; I have walked in your truth. I have not joined the company of the false, nor consorted with the deceitful.

I hate the gathering of evildoers and I will not sit down with the wicked. I will wash my hands in innocence, O Lord, that I may go about your altar, To make heard the voice of thanksgiving and tell of all your wonderful deeds. Lord, I love the house of your habitation and the place where your glory abides.

Sweep me not away with sinners, nor my life with the bloodthirsty, Whose hands are full of wicked schemes and their right hand full of bribes. As for me, I will walk with integrity; redeem me, Lord, and be merciful to me. My foot stands firm; in the great congregation I will bless the Lord.

Psalm 32
Happy the one whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered. Happy the one to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, and in whose spirit there is no guile. For I held my tongue; my bones wasted away through my groaning all the day long. Your hand was heavy upon me day and night; my moisture was dried up like the drought in summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and my iniquity I did not hide. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let all the faithful make their prayers to you in time of trouble; in the great water flood, it shall not reach them. You are a place for me to hide in; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with songs of deliverance.

‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; I will guide you with my eye. Be not like horse and mule which have no understanding; whose mouths must be held with bit and bridle, or else they will not stay near you.’

Great tribulations remain for the wicked, but mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord. Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord; shout for joy, all who are true of heart.

Jeremiah 7.21-end
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Add your burnt-offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh. For on the day that I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt-offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them, ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but, in the stubbornness of their evil will, they walked in their own counsels, and looked backwards rather than forwards. From the day that your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day; yet they did not listen to me, or pay attention, but they stiffened their necks. They did worse than their ancestors did.

So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. You shall say to them: This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips. Cut off your hair and throw it away; raise a lamentation on the bare heights, for the Lord has rejected and forsaken the generation that provoked his wrath.

For the people of Judah have done evil in my sight, says the Lord; they have set their abominations in the house that is called by my name, defiling it. And they go on building the high place of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire—which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of Slaughter: for they will bury in Topheth until there is no more room. The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the animals of the earth; and no one will frighten them away. And I will bring to an end the sound of mirth and gladness, the voice of the bride and bridegroom in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for the land shall become a waste.

John 6.41-51
Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’

The Collect
Almighty God, by the prayer and discipline of Lent may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings, and by following in his Way come to share in his glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Saturday, 11 March 2017

Journal: A green day

Today was taken up with pastoral things and green things as I found myself in a couple of locations talking to people about ethical, morals and the values and standards that define us and our nation.

Would that the world and the Church embrace the same Values and Standards of the British armed forces. (remembered by the mnemonic CDRILS).

Courage: Moral and physical
Discipline: Self and imposed discipline
Respect: For others and for oneself
Integrity: WYSIWYG - are you/we what we tell people we are?
Loyalty: All found in that one word really
Selfless Commitment: Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friend

As I look at new recruits as they make their first contact with the military and begin their first day of training I wonder what they will look like when they pass off the square at the end of it all.

As I look at the Church I see what I fear most in the world as fewer and fewer of the Values and Standards are upheld and more and more people tell me what Church should be in their, often puffed up and dismissive of others, view.

One thing the Church is becoming is certainly not a mighty army. Is it any wonder that so many speak of decline when the world has so infected the Bride of Christ? It seems the grace and love that saw it grow became ingpfected by the leaven of power and politics under the Holy Roman Empire and the death knells are being rung by those who wish to see the world and Church become one - but not in an evangelistic sense - tragic.

As for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Father God, the Bride of Christ has taken on the mantle of Gomer and now sleeps with others in the name of integrity and inclusiveness and yet displaying duplicitous and exclusivity. Mutual flourishing  has become a pot of wilting flowers detached from the plant such that eventually both will surely wither and die. Many I talk with share things in secret for fear of being outed as dissenting voices and  merely remain silent. The conditions by which women were given their pointy hats have been trampled down and there is no shame apparent.

Lord, have mercy upon us and renew a right spirit within us, Your Church.

Forgive us Lord, for we know exactly what we do,