Tuesday, 31 December 2019

A New Year Prayer

I know it's early, but some of you will have beds to go to (or will see this tomorrow): Regardless, I trust, hope and pray that you and yours will have a most blessed, peaceful and joy-filled New Year.
(Click on the image to see it full-size if it's too small).


Church: What is it good for? (setting the scene)

Recently, when asking this question of people around me, the response has sounded a lot like the Whitfield and Strong song ‘War’ for the answer has been: “Absolutely nothing!

This is a response that will cause many to shake their heads, sigh, and bemoan the post-Christian age we have apparently entered.

The reality is that people I meet are often more concerned with faith, belief and ‘spiritual’ things now than the Christians I engage with; they’re a bit like the 60s generation who embraced Krishna and other strange gods and danced their way up and down Oxford Street in London and grew their hair long, smoked pot and called everyone ‘man’. These were the hippies who sought peace, love (which generally just meant sex when and wherever it was available) and something spiritual to hang their trousers on!

The problem before them (and me too) is that the ‘Church’ (the universal body of believers) is represented by those who inhabit the local ‘churches’ (meaning the building, not the people) and generally speaking, taking a long, hard look at these building dwellers, there is little to convince people to move from their ‘absolutely nothing’ position to join them!

An additional problem is that the ‘church’, which in this context means the local brands on offer, has been found to be dodgy in its dealings. The press publicise the ‘naughty Vicars’ and their shameful goings on and people like me would say, “Today a priest, pastor, leader (select which you prefer) has fallen into sin. Pray for them and the people they have acted wrongly against. Remember that one person has fallen and rejoice in the many who have not.” 

The problem is not the dodgy person in the photographs spoken of in the many column inches that titillate, ignite the emotions and bring their condemnation to bear on the person in the dock. The press, and their readers, become accuser, jury and judge (even though many, if they were honest, have their own skeletons in cupboards, boxes and under their beds).

But, sadly, the hypocrisy of the press, the public and those who call themselves ‘Christian’ or ‘Church’ is obvious and apparent. To put it into context, let’s read the summing up of the human condition from the Apostle Paul (Romans 3.23):
“... All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God!” (A shuffling of feet and looking the other way moment for us all I fear). So there we have it: We are all sinners but some of us are unlucky enough to have been caught and had our shortcomings made public.

Now a very silly person (quite recently) said to me, “My sins are forgiven because I believe in Jesus. They don’t believe in Jesus and so theirs are not“. Words which bring another problem out into the light, because if we are ‘Christians’ then we struggle to overcome the old sinful nature and feel pain in the sins we commit because we have ‘fallen short’ of that which God calls us be and have wounded Jesus, the Christ, as grievously as those who nailed Him to the cross.

It is true that there is forgiveness on offer - continuing with the Paul passage (Romans 3.24-25):
“And ALL are justified freely by His (God’s) grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith...”. 

Every time we do something wrong ('sin') the truth is that God's love remains, He doesn't turn His back and walk away (although if He did would the scars convince you of His love for you where mere words we ignore?). Every time we sin, have sinned or will sin (or have people sin against us) the love of God remains ever-present and constant. The word 'justified' is an interesting one, because it's a legal term which means: 'found not guilty'.

A friend of mine proclaims the forgiveness of all humanity through the atoning act of Jesus, and it is true, that Jesus died to reconcile all humanity to the Godhead (that's Father, Sin and Holy Spirit). BUT (and there's always a 'but' isn't there - aside from the one writing this ;-) ) there's a little ting I'd like to draw your attention to: To be received by faith!

Forgiveness and reconciliation to God are there for all to receive. All you need to do is have the following:

Belief - accept that Jesus, the Christ, died to reconcile you to God and in that:
Acceptance - of the gift of Grace and acknowledge the things you have done wrong engage in:
Repentance - that turns us away from doing the wrong stuff and seek God's:
Restoration - to start living a new life set apart from the wrong stuff, and become a true:
Disciple - loving God; living and acting as a true believer should.

The old has gone - the new has come.
Hallelujah or what?

The next post in this series (Church. What is it good for - whose sin is greater) might prove to be shorter and yet somehow more messy. There's corporate (meaning the whole body and the leadership) guilt to discuss. A way forward for us all (local and universal) and so much more besides.

Thank you to anyone who has managed to read this brain dump scribble.

Pax




Morning Prayer - Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Christmas Season
John Wyclif, Reformer, 1384

Psalm 102
O Lord, hear my prayer and let my crying come before you. Hide not your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; when I call, make haste to answer me, for my days are consumed in smoke and my bones burn away as in a furnace.

My heart is smitten down and withered like grass, so that I forget to eat my bread. From the sound of my groaning my bones cleave fast to my skin. I am become like a vulture in the wilderness, like an owl that haunts the ruins. I keep watch and am become like a sparrow solitary upon the housetop

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

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

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

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

Jonah 3-4
The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, ‘Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.’ So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.’

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’ Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’

But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?’ And he said, ‘Yes, angry enough to die.’ Then the Lord said, ‘You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labour and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?’

Colossians 1.24-2.7
I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.

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

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

The Collect
Almighty God, who wonderfully created us in your own image and yet more wonderfully restored us through your Son Jesus Christ: grant that, as he came to share in our humanity, so we may share the life of his divinity; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.Amen.


Monday, 30 December 2019

Morning Prayer - Monday, 30 December 2019

Christmas Season 

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

 The works of the Lord are great, sought out by all who delight in them.
His work is full of majesty and honour and his righteousness endures for ever.
He appointed a memorial for his marvellous deeds; the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.

He gave food to those who feared him; he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He showed his people the power of his works in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of his hands are truth and justice; all his commandments are sure.
They stand fast for ever and ever; they are done in truth and equity.
He sent redemption to his people; he commanded his covenant for ever; holy and awesome is his name.

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

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

It goes well with those who are generous in lending and order their affairs with justice, for they will never be shaken; the righteous will be held in everlasting remembrance.
They will not be afraid of any evil tidings; their heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

Their heart is sustained and will not fear, until they see the downfall of their foes. They have given freely to the poor; their righteousness stands fast for ever; their head will be exalted with honour. The wicked shall see it and be angry; they shall gnash their teeth in despair; the desire of the wicked shall perish.

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

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

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

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

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; yet 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
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.


Saturday, 28 December 2019

Morning Prayer - Saturday, 28 December 2019

Christmas Season 
The Holy Innocents

Psalm 36
Sin whispers to the wicked, in the depths of their heart; there is no fear of God before their eyes. They flatter themselves in their own eyes that their abominable sin will not be found out. The words of their mouth are unrighteous and full of deceit; they have ceased to act wisely and to do good. They think out mischief upon their beds and have set themselves in no good way; nor do they abhor that which is evil.

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens and your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness stands like the strong mountains, your justice like the great deep; you, Lord, shall save both man and beast. How precious is your loving mercy, O God! All mortal flesh shall take refuge under the shadow of your wings. They shall be satisfied with the abundance of your house; they shall drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the well of life and in your light shall we see light.

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

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

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

Happy are those who have the God of Jacob for their help, whose hope is in the Lord their God;

Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; who keeps his promise for ever;

Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong and bread to those who hunger.

The Lord looses those that are bound; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;

The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous;

The Lord watches over the stranger in the land; he upholds the orphan and widow; but the way of the wicked he turns upside down.

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

Genesis 37.13-20
And Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.’ He answered, ‘Here I am.’ So he said to him, ‘Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.’ So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.
He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, ‘What are you seeking?’ ‘I am seeking my brothers,’ he said; ‘tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.’ The man said, ‘They have gone away, for I heard them say, “Let us go to Dothan.” ’ So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, ‘Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.’

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

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

‘If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire.

‘Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.

The Collect
Heavenly Father, whose children suffered at the hands of Herod, though they had done no wrong:
by the suffering of your Son and by the innocence of our lives frustrate all evil designs and establish your reign of justice and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Friday, 27 December 2019

Morning Prayer - Friday, 27 December 2019

Christmas Season
John, Apostle and Evangelist

Psalm 21
The king shall rejoice in your strength, O Lord; how greatly shall he rejoice in your salvation! You have given him his heart’s desire and have not denied the request of his lips. For you come to meet him with blessings of goodness and set a crown of pure gold upon his head. He asked of you life and you gave it him, length of days, for ever and ever.

His honour is great because of your salvation; glory and majesty have you laid upon him. You have granted him everlasting felicity and will make him glad with joy in your presence. For the king puts his trust in the Lord; because of the loving-kindness of the Most High, he shall not be overthrown.

Your hand shall mark down all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you. You will make them like a fiery oven in the time of your wrath; the Lord will swallow them up in his anger and the fire will consume them. Their fruit you will root out of the land and their seed from among its inhabitants.

Because they intend evil against you and devise wicked schemes which they cannot perform, You will put them to flight when you aim your bow at their faces. Be exalted, O Lord, in your own might; we will make music and sing of your power.

Psalm 147.13-end
Sing praise to the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion; For he has strengthened the bars of your gates and has blest your children within you. He has established peace in your borders and satisfies you with the finest wheat.

He sends forth his command to the earth and his word runs very swiftly.
He gives snow like wool and scatters the hoarfrost like ashes.
He casts down his hailstones like morsels of bread; who can endure his frost?

He sends forth his word and melts them; he blows with his wind and the waters flow.
He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and judgements to Israel.
He has not dealt so with any other nation; they do not know his laws. Alleluia.

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

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

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

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

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

The Collect
Merciful Lord, cast your bright beams of light upon the Church: that, being enlightened by the teaching of your blessed apostle and evangelist Saint John, we may so walk in the light of your truth that we may at last attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ your incarnate Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Thursday, 26 December 2019

Morning Prayer - Thursday, 26 December 2019

Christmas Season
Stephen, Deacon, First Martyr

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 150
Refrain:Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Alleluia. O praise God in his holiness; praise him in the firmament of his power.
Praise him for his mighty acts; praise him according to his excellent greatness.

Praise him with the blast of the trumpet; praise him upon the harp and lyre.
Praise him with timbrel and dances; praise him upon the strings and pipe.
Praise him with ringing cymbals; praise him upon the clashing cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Alleluia.

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Morning Prayer - Wednesday, 25 December 2019,

Christmas Season 
Christmas Day

Psalm 110
The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’
May the Lord stretch forth the sceptre of your power; rule from Zion in the midst of your enemies.

‘Noble are you on this day of your birth; on the holy mountain, from the womb of the dawn
the dew of your new birth is upon you.’

The Lord has sworn and will not retract: ‘You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.’ The king at your right hand, O Lord, shall smite down kings in the day of his wrath.

In all his majesty, he shall judge among the nations, smiting heads over all the wide earth. He shall drink from the brook beside the way; therefore shall he lift high his head.

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

Isaiah 62.1-5
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.  For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.

Matthew 1.18-25
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

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


Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Morning Prayer - Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Advent
Christmas Eve

Psalm 45
My heart is astir with gracious words; as I make my song for the king, my tongue is the pen of a ready writer. You are the fairest of men; full of grace are your lips, for God has blest you for ever. Gird your sword upon your thigh, O mighty one; gird on your majesty and glory. Ride on and prosper in the cause of truth and for the sake of humility and righteousness. Your right hand will teach you terrible things; your arrows will be sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies, so that peoples fall beneath you.

Your throne is God’s throne, for ever; the sceptre of your kingdom is the sceptre of righteousness. You love righteousness and hate iniquity; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.

All your garments are fragrant with myrrh, aloes and cassia; from ivory palaces the music of strings makes you glad. Kings’ daughters are among your honourable women; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.

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

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

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

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

Malachi 2.1-16
And now, O priests, this command is for you. If you will not listen, if you will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse on you and I will curse your blessings; indeed I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and I will put you out of my presence.

Know, then, that I have sent this command to you, so that my covenant with Levi may hold, says the Lord of hosts. My covenant with him was a covenant of life and well-being, which I gave him; this called for reverence, and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in integrity and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by your instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you have not kept my ways but have shown partiality in your instruction.

Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our ancestors? Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob anyone who does this—any to witness or answer, or to bring an offering to the Lord of hosts.

And this you do as well: You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favour at your hand. You ask, ‘Why does he not?’ Because the Lord was a witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did not one God make her? Both flesh and spirit are his. And what does the one God desire? Godly offspring. So look to yourselves, and do not let anyone be faithless to the wife of his youth. For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless.

Matthew 19.13-15
Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

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.


Monday, 23 December 2019

The seventh (and final) 'O' antiphon:

As we have almost reached the end of our Advent journey (17 - 23, December) in which the 'O' Antiphons feature and we move towards the celebration of Jesus, the Christ's first advent, take a look at the translation below and ponder upon Jesus, the Christ and his first advent in Bethlehem and let the words of 'O Emmanuel' wash over you:

O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, 
desire of the nations,
Saviour of all people: 
Come and set us free, Lord our God.


Morning Prayer - Monday, 23 December 2019

Advent

Psalm 128
Blessed are all those who fear the Lord, and walk in his ways. You shall eat the fruit of the toil of your hands; it shall go well with you, and happy shall you be.

Your wife within your house shall be like a fruitful vine; your children round your table, like fresh olive branches. Thus shall the one be blest who fears the Lord.

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

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

The ploughers ploughed upon my back and made their furrows long. But the righteous Lord has cut the cords of the wicked in pieces.

Let them be put to shame and turned backwards, as many as are enemies of Zion. Let them be like grass upon the housetops, which withers before it can grow, So that no reaper may fill his hand, nor a binder of sheaves his bosom; and none who go by may say, ‘The blessing of the Lord be upon you. We bless you in the name of the Lord.’

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

I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; in his word is my hope. My soul waits for the Lord, more than the night watch for the morning, more than the night watch for the morning.

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

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

Malachi 1.1, 6-end
An oracle. The word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.

A son honours his father, and servants their master. If then I am a father, where is the honour due to me? And if I am a master, where is the respect due to me? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. You say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food on my altar. And you say, ‘How have we polluted it?’ By thinking that the Lord’s table may be despised.

When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not wrong? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not wrong? Try presenting that to your governor; will he be pleased with you or show you favour? says the Lord of hosts. And now implore the favour of God, that he may be gracious to us. The fault is yours. Will he show favour to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. O that someone among you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hands. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the

Lord of hosts. But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and the food for it may be despised. ‘What a weariness this is’, you say, and you sniff at me, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in the flock and vows to give it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished; for I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name is reverenced among the nations.

Matthew 19.1-12
When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he cured them there.

Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?’ He said to them, ‘It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but at the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.’

His disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’

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


Sunday, 22 December 2019

The Sixth 'O' Antiphon (23rd December): O RexGentium

Almost there, today being the sixth day in our Advent journey (17 - 23, December) in which the 'O' Antiphons feature. Today it's the turn of 'O Rex Gentium' - take a look at the translation below and ponder upon Jesus, the Christ and his first advent in Bethlehem

O Come, King of all the nations,
bind in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid every strife and quarrel cease and fill the world with heaven's peace.



Saturday, 21 December 2019

Morning Prayer - Saturday, 21 December 2019

Advent 

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not suffer your foot to stumble; he who watches over you will not sleep. Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord himself watches over you; the Lord is your shade at your right hand, so that the sun shall not strike you by day, neither the moon by night. The Lord shall keep you from all evil; it is he who shall keep your soul. The Lord shall keep watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time forth for evermore.

Psalm 122
I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ And now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem; Jerusalem, built as a city that is at unity in itself. Thither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as is decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord. For there are set the thrones of judgement, the thrones of the house of David.

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 3.14-end
Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgements against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival.

I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.

At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the  Lord.

Matthew 18.21-end
Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made.

So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.

But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt.

When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?”

And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’

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.



The Fifth 'O' Antiphon (21st December): O Oriens

Today is the fifth day in the Advent journey (17- 23, December) in which the 'O' Antiphons feature.
Today it's the turn of 'O Oriens' - take a look at the translation below and ponder upon Jesus, the Christ and his first advent in Bethlehem.


O Dawn of the East, 
Brightness of the Light Eternal and Sun of Justice, 
Come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.


Friday, 20 December 2019

Morning Prayer - Friday, 20 December 2019

Advent 

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved, and though the mountains tremble in the heart of the sea; though the waters rage and swell, and though the mountains quake at the towering seas.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place of the dwelling of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; therefore shall she not be removed; God shall help her at the break of day.

The nations are in uproar and the kingdoms are shaken,  but God utters his voice and the earth shall melt away. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Come and behold the works of the Lord, what destruction he has wrought upon the earth. He makes wars to cease in all the world; he shatters the bow and snaps the spear and burns the chariots in the fire. ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.’

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Psalm 95
O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us heartily rejoice in the rock of our salvation. Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving and be glad in him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God and a great king above all gods.

In his hand are the depths of the earth and the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands have moulded the dry land. Come, let us worship and bow down and kneel before the Lord our Maker. For he is our God; we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice: ‘Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, on that day at Massah in the wilderness, when your forebears tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my works. Forty years long I detested that generation and said, “This people are wayward in their hearts;they do not know my ways.” o I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter into my rest.” ’

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 them 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.


The fourth 'O' Antiphon (20, December): O Clavis David

Today is the fourth day in the Advent journey (17- 23, December) in which the 'O' Antiphons feature.

Today it's the turn of 'O Clavis David' - take a look at the translation below and ponder upon Jesus, the Christ and his first advent in Bethlehem.

O Key of David and Sceptre of the house of Israel, 
Who opens that which no one can shut, 
Who shuts that which no one can open, 
Come and bring forth from his prison cell the captive that sits in darkness and the shadow of death."


Thursday, 19 December 2019

Morning Prayer - Thursday, 19 December 2019

Advent 

Psalm 144
Blessed be the Lord my rock, who teaches my hands for war and my fingers for battle; my steadfast help and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield in whom I trust, who subdues the peoples under me. O Lord, what are mortals that you should consider them; mere human beings, that you should take thought for them? They are like a breath of wind; their days pass away like a shadow.

Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down; touch the mountains and they shall smoke. Cast down your lightnings and scatter them; shoot out your arrows and let thunder roar. Reach down your hand from on high; deliver me and take me out of the great waters, from the hand of foreign enemies, whose mouth speaks wickedness and their right hand is the hand of falsehood.

O God, I will sing to you a new song; I will play to you on a ten-stringed harp, you that give salvation to kings and have delivered David your servant. Save me from the peril of the sword and deliver me from the hand of foreign enemies, whose mouth speaks wickedness and whose right hand is the hand of falsehood;

So that our sons in their youth may be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters like pillars carved for the corners of the temple; our barns be filled with all manner of store; our flocks bearing thousands, and ten thousands in our fields; our cattle be heavy with young: may there be no miscarriage or untimely birth, no cry of distress in our streets. Happy are the people whose blessing this is. Happy are the people who have the Lord for their God.

Psalm 146
Alleluia. Praise the Lord, O my soul: while I live will I praise the Lord; as long as I have any being, I will sing praises to my God. Put not your trust in princes, nor in any human power, for there is no help in them. When their breath goes forth, they return to the earth; on that day all their thoughts perish.

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

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

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.


19, December - the Third 'O' Antiphon: O Radix Jesse

The Third day of our journey towards Bethlehem and the first advent of Jesus, the Christ, sees us accompanied on the journey by 'O Radix Jesse':

"O Root of Jesse, Who dost stand for an ensign of the people, before Whom kings shall keep silence, and unto Whom the Gentiles shall make their supplication: come to deliver us, and tarry not."

Words to treasure and a hope to light the day for us.


Four O'Clock in the morning (19, December)

That moment when sleep is taken away by a still, small voice, calling your name.

If I was Samuel I’d merely sit up and say, “Speak LORD, your servant is listening,” and that would be that - job’s a good’un!

But I’m not, and the small voice that’s woken me, needing no invitation continues to speak as images flicker before me.

There’s a huddled man, a broken woman standing by, and with, her dying husband. A couple clinging to each other and to life and, in other news, there’s those who grow older and approach that time when the clock stands still and life comes to its end.

There’s newborns vying for attention alongside the long-lived, the foolish and the wise, the well-off and the poor, those sleeping rough around the town; the comfortable, contented Christians, and the sort of believers whose smug services I’ve read that God abhors.

There’s those who count beans and bums on pews and money on the plate.

Those who think they’ve joined a club and as church members put their subs into the plate:They’ve paid to watch the show, have their ears tickled and be told how they are the Church, whilst avoiding looking out of the window!

James begins to mutter something about ‘faith and works’ but fortunately he’s escorted from the building by the Churchwardens in fear that he might be a bad influence on their comfortable existence and the process that get the congregation down to a manageable size.

So I pray and read the word and scribble my thoughts and name the broken, the unhealthy, the ever-increasingly old, and clinging to the cross hear the words: this life was brought to you by the words, “Reconciliation and forgiveness,” and by the numbers One and Free.

This is the stuff of calling.

A God who disturbs our sleep.

A people who cry out for a shepherd to leave the ninety-nine and come and bring them home.

Who weep over the lost and tell the called that they’ve been sent.

What an amazing God we, who know Him and hear the songs he sings over us, are so privileged to call friend, lord and master.

Hallelujah or what?

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Getting ready for another day at the factory - 18, December 2019

It's a funny thing but the daily office, that waking with God, coupled with the 'O' antiphon for the day (O Adonai) took me into somewhere special today.
Its a normal day with parental calls, Holy Communion, Home Communion visits, a care home, funeral work (including some 'studio' time to finish yesterday's recordings, a couple of house calls and then the final of the Advent Group sessions.
I pray, as always, that my visits and encounters will bless others (and not just because I've left) and wait for the unexpected to come knocking with glee.
Today, as you walk with Jesus, the Christ, who will you meet and how will you make Him known?
O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, Who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush, and didst give unto him the Law on Sinai: come and with an outstretched arm redeem us. Amen.

Pax


18, December - the Second 'O' Antiphon: O Adonai

Today, the second day in the Advent journey (17- 23, December) in which the 'O' Antiphons feature, takes us further into our Advent observance with 'O Adonai' - take a look at the translation below and ponder upon Jesus, the Christ and his first advent in Bethlehem.
O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, 
Who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush, 
And didst give unto him the Law on Sinai: 
Come and with an outstretched arm redeem us.


Morning Prayer - Wednesday, 18 November 2019

Advent

Psalm 75
We give you thanks, O God, we give you thanks, for your name is near, as your wonderful deeds declare. ‘I will seize the appointed time; I, the Lord, will judge with equity. Though the earth reels and all that dwell in her, it is I that hold her pillars steady. To the boasters I say, “Boast no longer,” and to the wicked, “Do not lift up your horn. Do not lift up your horn on high; do not speak with a stiff neck.” ’

For neither from the east nor from the west, nor yet from the wilderness comes exaltation. But God alone is judge; he puts down one and raises up another. For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, well mixed and full of foaming wine. He pours it out for all the wicked of the earth; they shall drink it, and drain the dregs.

But I will rejoice for ever and make music to the God of Jacob. All the horns of the wicked will I break, but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.

Psalm 96
Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord and bless his name; tell out his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations and his wonders among all peoples.

For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; he is more to be feared than all gods. For all the gods of the nations are but idols; it is the Lord who made the heavens. Honour and majesty are before him; power and splendour are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples; ascribe to the Lord honour and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the honour due to his name; bring offerings and come into his courts. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth tremble before him. Tell it out among the nations that the Lord is king. He has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.

Let the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad; let the sea thunder and all that is in it; let the fields be joyful and all that is in them; let all the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord. For he comes, he comes to judge the earth; with righteousness he will judge the world and the peoples with his truth.

Isaiah 39
At that time King Merodach-baladan son of Baladan of Babylon sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. Hezekiah welcomed them; he showed them his treasure-house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armoury, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them. Then the prophet Isaiah came to King Hezekiah and said to him, ‘What did these men say? From where did they come to you?’ Hezekiah answered, ‘They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon.’ He said, ‘What have they seen in your house?’ Hezekiah answered, ‘They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.’

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the Lord. Some of your own sons who are born to you shall be taken away; they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’ Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘There will be peace and security in my days.’

Matthew 17.14-21
When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, and said, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.’ Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.’ And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’

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.


Tuesday, 17 December 2019

The First 'O' Antiphon (17th December): O Sapienta

Today is the first day in the Advent journey (17- 23, December) in which the 'O' Antiphons feature.
Today it's the turn of 'O Sapienta' - take a look at the translation below and ponder upon Jesus, the Christ and his first advent in Bethlehem.

O Wisdom, Who didst come out of the mouth of the Most High,
Reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.



Morning Prayer - Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Advent 

Eglantyne Jebb, Social Reformer, Founder of ‘Save The Children’, 1928

O Sapientia

Psalm 70
O God, make speed to save me; O Lord, make haste to help me. Let those who seek my life be put to shame and confusion; let them be turned back and disgraced who wish me evil. Let those who mock and deride me turn back because of their shame. But let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation say always, ‘Great is the Lord!’ As for me, I am poor and needy; come to me quickly, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay.

Psalm 74
O God, why have you utterly disowned us? Why does your anger burn against the sheep of your pasture? Remember your congregation that you purchased of old, the tribe you redeemed for your own possession, and Mount Zion where you dwelt. Hasten your steps towards the endless ruins, where the enemy has laid waste all your sanctuary. Your adversaries roared in the place of your worship; they set up their banners as tokens of victory. Like men brandishing axes on high in a thicket of trees, all her carved work they smashed down with hatchet and hammer. They set fire to your holy place; they defiled the dwelling place of your name and razed it to the ground. They said in their heart, ‘Let us make havoc of them altogether,’ and they burned down all the sanctuaries of God in the land. There are no signs to see, not one prophet left, not one among us who knows how long. How long, O God, will the adversary scoff? Shall the enemy blaspheme your name for ever? Why have you withheld your hand and hidden your right hand in your bosom?

Yet God is my king from of old, who did deeds of salvation in the midst of the earth. It was you that divided the sea by your might and shattered the heads of the dragons on the waters; you alone crushed the heads of Leviathan and gave him to the beasts of the desert for food. You cleft the rock for fountain and flood; you dried up ever-flowing rivers. Yours is the day, yours also the night; you established the moon and the sun. You set all the bounds of the earth; you fashioned both summer and winter.

Remember now, Lord, how the enemy scoffed, how a foolish people despised your name. Do not give to wild beasts the soul of your turtle dove; forget not the lives of your poor for ever. Look upon your creation, for the earth is full of darkness, full of the haunts of violence. Let not the oppressed turn away ashamed, but let the poor and needy praise your name. Arise, O God, maintain your own cause; remember how fools revile you all the day long. Forget not the clamour of your adversaries, the tumult of your enemies that ascends continually.

Isaiah 38. 9-20
A writing of King Hezekiah of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness: I said: In the noontide of my days I must depart;
I am consigned to the gates of Sheol for the rest of my years. I said, I shall not see the Lord in the land of the living; I shall look upon mortals no more among the inhabitants of the world. My dwelling is plucked up and removed from me like a shepherd’s tent; like a weaver I have rolled up my life; he cuts me off from the loom; from day to night you bring me to an end; I cry for help until morning; like a lion he breaks all my bones; from day to night you bring me to an end.

Like a swallow or a crane I clamour, I moan like a dove. My eyes are weary with looking upwards. O Lord, I am oppressed; be my security! But what can I say? For he has spoken to me, and he himself has done it. All my sleep has fled because of the bitterness of my soul.

O Lord, by these things people live, and in all these is the life of my spirit. O restore me to health and make me live! Surely it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but you have held back my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.
For Sheol cannot thank you, death cannot praise you; those who go down to the Pit cannot hope for your faithfulness. The living, the living, they thank you, as I do this day; fathers make known to children your faithfulness.

The Lord will save me, and we will sing to stringed instruments all the days of our lives, at the house of the Lord.

Matthew 17.1-13
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’ And the disciples asked him, ‘Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ He replied, ‘Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.

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.