Thursday 28 February 2013

What makes church valid? post the first

An interesting discussion on the question 'what makes a church valid' soon stretched into what makes a service valid too.

After all, if you put on an evening service and you get six or seven people turn up for it, is this an effective use of the clergy's time?

Does the fact that those who come would not have come to a church service had the evening service not been on offer suddenly make it valid?

What about the same service with only four turning up, where does the line get drawn and how long is it before we perhaps consider the example from the Old Testament (Gen 18: 16 - 33) and find ourselves pleading for our services in the same way that Abraham pleaded before the LORD for the inhabitants of Sodom:

When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?  Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know. The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord.

Then Abraham approached him and said: 
“Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing - to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”
“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”
He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”
He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”
He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”
He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

So can we take from this passage some guidance? Do we decide that 'valid' church has to have more than ten in a service?

Do we look at fifty (midi church) as the number that renders a congregation, fellowship or church as valid?

Do we take one hundred (large church) as the critical mass (sorry not knocking high church here, honest!) and the number that confers validity, efficacy and sustainability?

I know of a person for whom, in my view, the existence of a church service is made valid because they cannot do morning services and because there is an evening service provided they can remain part of Church and come alongside others to worship. The fellowship, the provision and the ability to come before the Lord in a church setting all conspire to make this a valid service.

But what of those buildings which see but a handful for their evensongs, should we decide that they are 'no longer to be tolerated' after all, if we stop these services we can stay at home and watch 'Downturn Alley' and the like. To quote a colleague, 'They don't want to come out and I'm happy to let them!"

Are numbers the deciding factor?

Are we merely becoming lazy or downhearted when we resign ourselves to the fact that once of a Sunday (and in the morning) is enough?

Church - How do you like yours (and why and what and how and who and . . . )

How many do we need in a place before we can save it and those within I wonder?

Daily Office - Feb 28

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.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Daikly Office - Feb 27

George Herbert, Priest, Poet, 1633

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
King of glory, king of peace,
who called your servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honours
to be a priest in the temple of his God and king:
grant us also the grace to offer ourselves with singleness of heart in humble obedience to your service;
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.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Making people welcome - Do we?

I'm sure we all like to think of ourselves as a welcoming church but is this really true?

One of the people who came to a colleague's church last weekend told them that they'd tried another in the area and managed, even though the congregation was relatively small (around twenty) they managed to enter, take part in the service, and leave without being greeted or in any way engaged with. Knowing the dogcollar in that church I know that they would be saddened and disturbed by such a report and yet, also knowing the church (and having heard this regarding them before), I am confident that there is some truth in it.

Every year we have a visit from a mystery worshipper (MW) and this has proved really helpful for the church in that it highlights the things that we are doing well and brings to our attention the things we are missing. 

We like to think of ourselves as a welcoming and friendly bunch and yet, on one such visit, the MW managed to enter the building and visiting the toilet first, creep in during the melee at the back where Christmas cards were being sorted out, and sit down unnoticed. And then they were greeted by the people around them and engaged with and made to feel welcome.


It shows that, because we have someone at the door in the worship area rather that at the 'front door', we can miss that first, perhaps all-important, greeting.

Other thing we have been marked down for were the street signs (kids and council issue), the bins being out front (but there's nowhere else for them to go) and the 'basic biscuits' (their words) that were on offer (Jaffa cakes last week - Lent, never heard of it . . and yes, I know Sundays are outside of Lent!).

So, back to the latest report of not being engaged with, welcomed or waved off. How on earth can we do such a thing and hope to see our congregations grow? Some might say that that's a problem with evensong, for I can believe someone crept in, did and left without engagement at a non-Eucharistic service but (always a 'but'):

I have recently heard of someone who came to a Sunday parish communion and although they were given a sheet for the service and welcomed, were not spoken to or otherwise engaged with (other than a handshake at the peace) until they left. At the end, people vanished out back or sat in groups and chatted and they, after sitting in their seat for five minutes were totally ignored! And this is in a church where numbers are falling and the billed strategy is welcome and growth. Perhaps this could explain the continued fall in numbers.

So here's a plea: Please have a think about being a welcoming church. This doesn't mean that you engage the use of the dreaded 'Welcome Team' with their cheesy and often false-feeling pinning down of any unfortunate who happens to enter the building. What I mean is that we should BE a welcoming church rather than have a welcoming team. What's the point of doing the cheesy smile and then sitting the person amongst people who are interested only in their own little clique or circle friends?

One lady who visited us came because she'd tried another church and they were just a little too welcoming. They felt like they'd been assigned an escort who stuck with them throughout the service, the after service tea/coffee/squash and a biscuit thing and even walked with her to their car. they felt pressurised and that the whole thing was false, for having been assigned a minder everyone else ignored her.

Sadly she didn't stay as she found us a bit cramped - too many people in such a small space :-(

Why don't you ask a friend to come and visit your church and report back or perhaps, like us, you have such a scheme in the diocese.

The first thing a visitor remembers is the welcome - everything else merely adds (or detracts) from the church experience.

How's your?

Daily Office - Feb 26

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, or 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 25 February 2013

Anabaptism - A source of disunity?

Now here's a bit of a contentious issue for many I'm sure and I have to be brutally honest and say that it's not going to be an easy read for some. It's going to be a splurge for I have just fifteen minutes to scribble this and you'll get whatever it is that I've got when the bell rings!

For I engaged in an interesting discussion today on the attitudes of some churches, fellowships and congregations whereby those who have come from other than the nonconformist traditions are almost invariably passed, once again through, the waters of baptism in what, to be truthful, is an act of disunity and a dismissal of the validity of the baptism of other churches.

As I understand it, There is but one baptism and to rebaptise is to enter into nothing more than a wet witness and make the statement (albeit tacit) that their (subsequent) baptism has greater efficacy or validity than that previously undertaken. Of course this would be a wrong position and one that comes from a measure of ignorance, arrogance and a false understanding of what baptism is (and the way that it was enacted in the early Church).

Now having come to faith in a Baptist church and having myself been guilty of rebaptising others when I was in the pentecostal movement I can say that I know something of the place many will find themselves in. I am also aware that for many the liturgy of the established churches, which for this is example will be Anglican, is but the 'vain babbling of the heathen' and the baptism, even when undertaken as an adult, is considered to be worthless when compared with that pinnacle of the baptismal world: Believer's baptism!

Perhaps we find ourselves standing alongside Stanley Grenz in considering that 'Believer's baptism is obviously superior,' to any other form of baptism and this baptism is, 'a public affirmation of a person's conscious decision to place themselves under the lordship of Jesus!'
(p689, 684 - Theology for the community of God: Broadman and Holman 1994)

Then again perhaps we might care to take a look at the didache or consider the practice of the early Church to baptise, and admit to the Eucharist, infants, children and adults alike? Now some will say that this is a contentious issue and that the only baptism of merit was to be found in that of 'believer's baptism' but rather than extrapolate let's look at the Bible (which is always a good place to start) and consider first of all what constitutes a valid baptism.

We begin with the 'Great Commission' of Matthew 28:
'Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.'

Now here we have it from the Boss's very own mouth. The first step to making disciples is that we baptise them in 'The name of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit'.

So if the naughty Anglicans (and others) were baptising in any names other than the 'Three in One' then we'd see that what we had was naught but an improper baptism and therefore a rebaptism was not only legitimate, but could be demonstrated as such by warrant of Scripture. After all, here's an account of rebaptism from Acts 19:
'It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples.
He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”
And he said, “Into what then were you baptised?” 
And they said, “Into John’s baptism.”
Paul said, “John baptised with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
When they heard this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus.'

Whoo Hoo! Here we have it, rebaptism is legal because it's in the Bible and, Oh dear, what's that Sooty? What's that? The rebaptism was done because what they had wasn't a 'proper' baptism' but was that which John the Baptist did when he called the people to repent and prepare for the one who was to come (whose shoelaces he wasn't fit to tie)?

And not only that but the 'valid' baptism here was 'in the name of the Lord Jesus'
(ἀκούσαντες δὲ ἐβαπτίσθησαν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ in case you wondered ;-) )Not even the name of the 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit' but merely in the name of Jesus (which I'd consider enough myself but what does I know?).
So the evidence is that you can rebaptise where the former baptism was invalid, but of course when it's done in an Anglican (or even RC) church it is done in the name of the Three! So where's the warrant for a re-dunking other than some sort of misplaced need for 'confession from the candidate perhaps?

Well , of course the baptism is the first step and what we are also told is that there should be teaching, and that this teaching should be geared towards teaching obedience of all that Jesus has taught us. Now the Anglicans don't do this with their folk religion and their sprinkling do they? The words might be right but perhaps we can point to that? But of course neither do many of those who I have seen make commitments, get baptised and vanish in the pentecostal and nonconformist world either. And this is about nurture and discipleship not baptism so it seems that the anabaptists have lost the game anyway - and that perhaps their rebaptism is naught but arrogance and vanity mixed with a large dose of 'our church and churchmanship and beliefs and the like are betterer than what yours is!'

A great lecture from a man I admire greatly put it like this:

'When you start a club you recruit those who can hear and understand and respond. They put their hand up and ask to be a part, making the promises they need to make and changing their lives to become what they need to be to take up the full membership. This is what the missionary Church did - it recruited adults.

Then as the adults get married and have children, they wish for the children to be brought under the same canopy - for Christianity is an ethnic reality, not a Sunday thing. So they add their children who are baptised and brought up as Christians and come through to maturity and discipleship in the Church. This is what settled Church did - it includes the whole family in the promise and the covering of Christ's blood.'

So it's simple - both are valid and since I don't see the demand for a 'witness' in the act, just a coming I feel the anabaptist stance falls even further.

Add to that the number of noncomformists who are dunked and fall away, even though they have been done as older children or young adults, and I think you'll find little efficacy in their baptism when it comes to making disciples either. Mind you, that's down to the teaching and the nurturing of the church itself isn't it . . . or perhaps the taint of a first baptism remained and corrupts ;-)

There we go - bell gone and some food for thought

Apologies for typos and edit errors


Daily Office - Feb 25

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,
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.

Saturday 23 February 2013

Daily Office - Feb 23

Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, Martyr, c.155
Ember Day

Psalm 59
Rescue me from my enemies, O my God; set me high above those that rise up against me.
Save me from the evildoers and from murderous foes deliver me.
For see how they lie in wait for my soul and the mighty stir up trouble against me.
Not for any fault or sin of mine, O Lord;
for no offence, they run and prepare themselves for war.
Rouse yourself, come to my aid and see;
for you are the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel.
Awake, and judge all the nations; show no mercy to the evil traitors.
They return at nightfall and snarl like dogs and prowl about the city.
They pour out evil words with their mouths; swords are on their lips; 'For who’, they say, ‘can hear us?’
But you laugh at them, O Lord; you hold all the nations in derision.
For you, O my strength, will I watch; you, O God, are my strong tower.
My God in his steadfast love will come to me; he will let me behold the downfall of my enemies.
Slay them not, lest my people forget;
send them reeling by your might and bring them down, O Lord our shield.
For the sins of their mouth, for the words of their lips, let them be taken in their pride.
For the cursing and falsehood they have uttered, consume them in wrath, consume them till they are no more.
And they shall know that God rules in Jacob, and to the ends of the earth.
And still they return at nightfall and snarl like dogs and prowl about the city.
Though they forage for something to devour, and howl if they are not filled,
Yet will I sing of your strength and every morning praise your steadfast love;
For you have been my stronghold, my refuge in the day of my trouble.
To you, O my strength, will I sing;
for you, O God, are my refuge, my God of steadfast love.

Psalm 63
O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul is athirst for you.
My flesh also faints for you, as in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.
So would I gaze upon you in your holy place, that I might behold your power and your glory.
Your loving-kindness is better than life itself and so my lips shall praise you.
I will bless you as long as I live and lift up my hands in your name.
My soul shall be satisfied, as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed and meditate on you in the watches of the night.
For you have been my helper and under the shadow of your wings will I rejoice.
My soul clings to you; your right hand shall hold me fast.
1But those who seek my soul to destroy it shall go down to the depths of the earth;
Let them fall by the edge of the sword and become a portion for jackals.
But the king shall rejoice in God; all those who swear by him shall be glad, for the mouth of those who speak lies shall be stopped.

Jeremiah 7.1-20
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’

For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors for ever and ever.

Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are safe!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the Lord. Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, because you have done all these things, says the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently, you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your ancestors, just what I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, just as I cast out all your kinsfolk, all the offspring of Ephraim.

As for you, do not pray for this people, do not raise a cry or prayer on their behalf, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink-offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. Is it I whom they provoke? says the Lord. Is it not themselves, to their own hurt? Therefore thus says the Lord God: My anger and my wrath shall be poured out on this place, on human beings and animals, on the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched.

John 6.27-40
Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” ’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’

The Collect
Almighty God,
who gave to your servant Polycarp
boldness to confess the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world
and courage to die for his faith:
grant that we also may be ready to give an answer for the faith that is in us
and to suffer gladly for the sake of 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 22 February 2013

Made me laugh: Evangelism - who's most fanatical?

 The answer to the question was never in doubt. After all, who wants to live on the dark side . . . . of technology?

A friend once told me, 'Faith is for those who don't do science or technology,' but of course they were very wrong. The had no faith and didn't use Apple so I guess they were damned on two counts ;-)

And there was no Apple to blame for sin coming into the world, it was the pear (sic!) on the ground what caused it!

Jesus also said that He was the only gate - so makes sense that we avoids any other Gates and as the devil makes work for idle hands - God obviously wants us to be taken up with Jobs (products).

And I have to say that those who think the Garden of Eden was in Malaysia are obviously mistaken for it it was then Adam and Eve would have eaten the snake, not the apple!

Happy Friday ;-)

Daily Office - Feb 22

Psalm 22
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me, and are so far from my salvation,
from the words of my distress?

O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer;
and by night also, but I find no rest.

Yet you are the Holy One, enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
Our forebears trusted in you; they trusted, and you delivered them.
They cried out to you and were delivered;
they put their trust in you and were not confounded.

But as for me, I am a worm and no man, scorned by all and despised by the people.
All who see me laugh me to scorn; they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,
‘He trusted in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him deliver him, if he delights in him.’

But it is you that took me out of the womb and laid me safe upon my mother’s breast.
On you was I cast ever since I was born; you are my God even from my mother’s womb.
Be not far from me, for trouble is near at hand and there is none to help.

Mighty oxen come around me; fat bulls of Bashan close me in on every side.
They gape upon me with their mouths, as it were a ramping and a roaring lion.
I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint;
my heart has become like wax melting in the depths of my body.
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd; my tongue cleaves to my gums;
you have laid me in the dust of death.
For the hounds are all about me; the pack of evildoers close in on me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.

I can count all my bones; they stand staring and looking upon me.
They divide my garments among them; they cast lots for my clothing.
Be not far from me, O Lord; you are my strength; hasten to help me.

Deliver my soul from the sword, my poor life from the power of the dog.
Save me from the lion’s mouth, from the horns of wild oxen.
You have answered me!

I will tell of your name to my people; in the midst of the congregation will I praise you.
Praise the Lord, you that fear him; O seed of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, O seed of Israel.
For he has not despised nor abhorred the suffering of the poor;
neither has he hidden his face from them;
but when they cried to him he heard them.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
I will perform my vows in the presence of those that fear you.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord shall praise him;
their hearts shall live for ever.
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.
For the kingdom is the Lord’s and he rules over the nations.
How can those who sleep in the earth bow down in worship,
or those who go down to the dust kneel before him?

He has saved my life for himself;
my descendants shall serve him; this shall be told of the Lord for generations to come.
They shall come and make known his salvation,
to a people yet unborn, declaring that he, the Lord, has done it.

Jeremiah 6.22-end
Thus says the Lord:
See, a people is coming from the land of the north,
   a great nation is stirring from the farthest parts of the earth.
They grasp the bow and the javelin, they are cruel and have no mercy, their sound is like the roaring sea;
they ride on horses,  equipped like a warrior for battle, against you, O daughter Zion!

‘We have heard news of them, our hands fall helpless;
anguish has taken hold of us, pain as of a woman in labour.
Do not go out into the field,  or walk on the road;
for the enemy has a sword,  terror is on every side.’

O my poor people, put on sackcloth, and roll in ashes;
make mourning as for an only child, most bitter lamentation:
for suddenly the destroyer will come upon us.

I have made you a tester and a refiner among my people so that you may know and test their ways.
They are all stubbornly rebellious,  going about with slanders;
they are bronze and iron, all of them act corruptly.
The bellows blow fiercely,  the lead is consumed by the fire;
in vain the refining goes on,  for the wicked are not removed.
They are called ‘rejected silver’,   for the Lord has rejected them.

John 6.16-27
When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going.

The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the lake saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’

The Collect
Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday 21 February 2013

Made me laugh - Past the Xtra Strong mints

Saw this in a tweet from 'Derek the Cleric' and could resist posting it as it reminded me of one such person who could take your eyebrows off at ten paces.

Was thinking of buying TicTacs as I'd heard Arsene Wenger endorsed them then realised that he's probably confusing them with TacTics!

Now wonder we've got the end of season part next month :-)

Prayer - Who you gonna call on (and how)?

Last night we had an interesting turn of events as the Alpha course considered the issue of prayer, the statement:

'Christian prayer is to the Father, through the Son, by one Spirit,' 

caused a bit of a kerfuffle as people asked whether it was wrong to pray to the Son or to the Spirit.

'Are we only to pray to the Father then?' one asked, 'How does prayer work? How do we pray?'

Prayer is, of course, the name we give for our communications with those in places of power and authority, the ultimate person in that category being God. In the legal world, once all the facts have been laid out there is a prayer - a request for justice and recompense, comfort and satisfaction added to the thing.

So how do we view this communication?

Having yesterday celebrated twenty years of marriage I guess it has to be made on the same wavelength and in language - although I sometimes wonder what God makes of all the buzzwords, jargon and 'God language' we cloak our chats with Him in, especially those who seem to think God only reads the KJV and speaks in that same vogue!

'O Lord, Thou knowest whatest we havest partaken of and are found mean and in the poverty of our undoneness . . .'

Nah - God wants a face to face, mano e mano, full on conversation. To talk through the day gone, the things present and the stuff to come. Two-way communication with you speaking as who you are, nothing cloaked, all in the clear and open and honest; and He (I believe) talks the same language as you.

So how do we explain prayer? Can we pray to the Son; can we chat to the Holy Spirit? Does the Father get all our mail and hold all the conversations?

A knotty problem for those seeking to form an understanding of one of the staples of Christian living and whilst the words, 'Christian prayer is to the Father, through the Son, by one Spirit,' are indeed right - they might not be helpful. So here's a few of the analogies I've tried in my quest to bring clarity and understanding.

'God - Father Son and Holy Spirit' is the focus of our prayer and because sin separated us from being one with the Father we needed someone to bring us back into relationship with Him and this is done by the Son taking upon Himself the task of restoring that relationship by His, once and for all, atoning act on the cross. So it is by Jesus that we are able to be in the Father's presence.

Putting in in earthly terms and using marriage as the example, it is like a couple who have split because of the behaviour (AKA wrongdoings or sin) of one of the two parties. The Son acts as someone who brings about a restoration of the relationship, making the two one once again.

Now the Holy Spirit, that much misunderstood and nightshirt like spook image that some wrongly have of Him (for He is definitely a 'He' and not and 'It') works in this relationship as one who comes alongside and helps support the wayward, and now restored, party in the relationship to step away from and avoid the things that caused the breakdown in the first place. He helps direct our thoughts and gives us the information and advice we need to keep the thing flying properly.

Back to the earthly terms bit, the Holy Spirit becomes that best friend we all need; that person who tells us the truth when we need to hear it and gives that advice with stops us crashing and burning.

Which leads me nicely into the analogies:

Father = Runway,  Jesus = Air Traffic Control,  Holy Spirit = Co-pilot

As we seek to put ourselves on the runway it is Air Traffic Control who makes this possible by giving us permission to approach; the Co-pilot who calls out heights, works throttles, lowers gear and does the stuff that stops us crashing and burning. This is how it works with our prayer for we approach the Father because the Son gives us access and the Holy Spirit works with us to lower the workload and reduce the errors as we approach.

 One God but when looked at more closely we find that, like the spectrograph below, that God shows up as having three distinct components - each different and yet making the one and being equally part of that one element: God.

Ten minutes gone and tea drunk - off out (but more later)

Daily Office - Feb 21

Psalm 42
As the deer longs for the water brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God.
My soul is athirst for God, even for the living God;
when shall I come before the presence of God?
My tears have been my bread day and night,
while all day long they say to me, ‘Where is now your God?’
Now when I think on these things, I pour out my soul:
how I went with the multitude and led the procession to the house of God,
With the voice of praise and thanksgiving, among those who kept holy day.

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul,
and why are you so disquieted within me?
O put your trust in God; for I will yet give him thanks,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

My soul is heavy within me;
therefore I will remember you from the land of Jordan,
and from Hermon and the hill of Mizar.
Deep calls to deep in the thunder of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and waves have gone over me.
The Lord will grant his loving-kindness in the daytime;
through the night his song will be with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God my rock,
‘Why have you forgotten me, and why go I so heavily, while the enemy oppresses me?’
As they crush my bones, my enemies mock me;
while all day long they say to me, ‘Where is now your God?’

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?
and why are you so disquieted within me?
O put your trust in God; for I will yet give him thanks,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Psalm 43
Give judgement for me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people;
deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.
For you are the God of my refuge;
why have you cast me from you, and why go I so heavily, while the enemy oppresses me?
O send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me,
and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling,
That I may go to the altar of God, to the God of my joy and gladness;
and on the lyre I will give thanks to you, O God my God.
Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, and why are you so disquieted within me?
O put your trust in God;
for I will yet give him thanks, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Jeremiah 6.9-21
Thus says the Lord of hosts:
Glean thoroughly as a vine the remnant of Israel;
like a grape-gatherer, pass your hand again over its branches.

To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear?
See, their ears are closed, they cannot listen.
The word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn;
they take no pleasure in it.
But I am full of the wrath of the Lord;
I am weary of holding it in.

Pour it out on the children in the street, and on the gatherings of young men as well;
both husband and wife shall be taken, the old folk and the very aged.
Their houses shall be turned over to others, their fields and wives together;
for I will stretch out my hand against the inhabitants of the land,
says the Lord.

For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
and 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 ashamed, they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
   at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,
says the Lord.

Thus says the Lord:
Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Also I raised up sentinels for you:
   ‘Give heed to the sound of the trumpet!’
But they said, ‘We will not give heed.’

Therefore hear, O nations, and know, O congregation, what will happen to them.
Hear, O earth; I am going to bring disaster on this people, the fruit of their schemes,
because they have not given heed to my words;
   and as for my teaching, they have rejected it.
Of what use to me is frankincense that comes from Sheba, or sweet cane from a distant land?
Your burnt-offerings are not acceptable, nor are your sacrifices pleasing to me.
Therefore thus says the Lord:
See, I am laying before this people stumbling-blocks against which they shall stumble;
parents and children together, neighbour and friend shall perish.

John 6.1-15
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.

A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’

Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

The Collect
Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Daily Office - Feb 20

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 17
Hear my just cause, O Lord; consider my complaint;
listen to my prayer, which comes not from lying lips.
Let my vindication come forth from your presence; let your eyes behold what is right.
Weigh my heart, examine me by night, refine me, and you will find no impurity in me.
My mouth does not trespass for earthly rewards;
I have heeded the words of your lips.
My footsteps hold fast in the ways of your commandments;
my feet have not stumbled in your paths.
I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me;
incline your ear to me, and listen to my words.
Show me your marvellous loving-kindness,
O Saviour of those who take refuge at your right hand from those who rise up against them.
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings,
From the wicked who assault me, from my enemies who surround me to take away my life.
They have closed their heart to pity and their mouth speaks proud things.
They press me hard, they surround me on every side,
watching how they may cast me to the ground,
Like a lion that is greedy for its prey, like a young lion lurking in secret places.
Arise, Lord; confront them and cast them down;
deliver me from the wicked by your sword.
Deliver me, O Lord, by your hand from those whose portion in life is unending,
Whose bellies you fill with your treasure,
who are well supplied with children and leave their wealth to their little ones.
As for me, I shall see your face in righteousness;
when I awake and behold your likeness, I shall be satisfied.

Jeremiah 5.20-end
Declare this in the house of Jacob, proclaim it in Judah:
Hear this, O foolish and senseless people,
   who have eyes, but do not see,
   who have ears, but do not hear.
Do you not fear me? says the Lord;
Do you not tremble before me?

I placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass;
though the waves toss, they cannot prevail, though they roar, they cannot pass over it.
But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away.
They do not say in their hearts,
   ‘Let us fear the Lord our God,who gives the rain in its season,
   the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.’
Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have deprived you of good.
For scoundrels are found among my people; they take over the goods of others.
Like fowlers they set a trap; they catch human beings.
Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of treachery;
therefore they have become great and rich,  they have grown fat and sleek.
They know no limits in deeds of wickedness;
   they do not judge with justice the cause of the orphan, to make it prosper,
   and they do not defend the rights of the needy.
Shall I not punish them for these things?
says the Lord,

and shall I not bring retribution on a nation such as this?

An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land:
the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule as the prophets direct;
my people love to have it so,   but what will you do when the end comes?

John 5.30-end
‘I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgement is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

‘If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.

‘You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?’

The Collect
Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
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.

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Church - so what's that all about then?

The opening words in a really fun encounter which, at times, felt more like I was playing the Mel Smith Character in one of those most excellent 'Alas Smith and Jones' programmes. Putting something into the bin I noticed one of the locals (I didn't recognise) having a butchers at the noticeboard. and me being me I popped over to say good morning and to engage with them.

So there I am (replete in Norwegian shirt rather than dog-collar variety and therefore incognito) asking them if they're looking for anything in particular. They give me an odd look and so I explain that I'm the 'Vicar' and their opening gambit is: 'Church, so what that all about then?' 

"We're just a bunch of people who believe that Jesus died for us on the cross so that we can be in relationship with God and because of that, just like Jesus came to serve others, we try to serve those in our community too."

They look at me a bit quizzical and then ask, 'So how much do you charge for the tea and coffee and stuff then?' To which I respond, 'We don't charge anything - our Monday and Thursday mornings are free.'

'Free?' says they, 'What do you mean free?'

"We don't charge anything, tea, coffee, biscuits and cake are all free,' I say, beginning to doubt my own powers of communication, 'Nothing at all - no cost!'

'So if you're a member, it's all free then?' they ask.

'It's all free even if you're not a member - it's there for anyone in the community (or elsewhere) who happens to be passing and fancies dropping in for a cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit or cake . . we are just there to add something to the community; a place for people to come to if they fancy a change of scenery and some different people to talk with.'

'What about the lunch, is that free?' they ask. So I explain that it's not actually free but costs £1.50 to help to defray our costs.  'So that's not free then is it?' they asked again and continue with, 'So what do you do it for? Do you talk to people about God and stuff and get them to join when they come in then,' they ask.

My response to this is, 'No, we talk about the local news, what's on the television and anything else that crops us. We aren't looking to get people to come in and join us, we're looking for people to come in so we can offer them a cup of tea (or coffee) and a chance to relax with others from the community because there's nothing else, and nowhere else, to go round here.'

'So, what's that all about then?' they ask and just as I think I'm going to get stuck in a loop they see the bus coming down the hill and leg it off to the stop to catch it.

Indeed - 'Church, what is it all about then?'

Have I ever mentioned that I love this Vicar stuff?

Daily Office - Feb 19

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

You are my King and my God, who commanded salvation for Jacob.
Through you we drove back our adversaries;
through your name we trod down our foes.
For I did not trust in my bow;
it was not my own sword that saved me;
It was you that saved us from our enemies and put our adversaries to shame.
We gloried in God all the day long, and were ever praising your name.
But now you have rejected us and brought us to shame and go not out with our armies.
You have made us turn our backs on our enemies, and our enemies have despoiled us.
You have made us like sheep to be slaughtered, and have scattered us among the nations.
You have sold your people for a pittance and made no profit on their sale.
You have made us the taunt of our neighbours, the scorn and derision of those that are round about us.
You have made us a byword among the nations; among the peoples they wag their heads.
My confusion is daily before me, and shame has covered my face, at the taunts of the slanderer and reviler, at the sight of the enemy and avenger.
All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you and have not played false to your covenant.
Our hearts have not turned back, nor our steps gone out of your way,
Yet you have crushed us in the haunt of jackals, and covered us with the shadow of death.
If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to any strange god, will not God search it out? For he knows the secrets of the heart.
But for your sake are we killed all the day long, and are counted as sheep for the slaughter.
Rise up! Why sleep, O Lord? Awake, and do not reject us for ever.
Why do you hide your face and forget our grief and oppression?
Our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly cleaves to the earth.
Rise up, O Lord, to help us and redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.

Jeremiah 5.1-19
Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look around and take note!
Search its squares and see  if you can find one person who acts justly and seeks truth—
so that I may pardon Jerusalem.
Although they say, ‘As the Lord lives’, yet they swear falsely.
O Lord, do your eyes not look for truth?
You have struck them, but they felt no anguish;
you have consumed them, but they refused to take correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock;
they have refused to turn back.

Then I said, ‘These are only the poor, they have no sense;
for they do not know the way of the Lord, the law of their God.
Let me go to the rich and speak to them;
surely they know the way of the Lord, the law of their God.’
But they all alike had broken the yoke, they had burst the bonds.

Therefore a lion from the forest shall kill them,
a wolf from the desert shall destroy them.
A leopard is watching against their cities;
everyone who goes out of them shall be torn in pieces—
because their transgressions are many, their apostasies are great.

How can I pardon you?
Your children have forsaken me, and have sworn by those who are no gods.
When I fed them to the full,
they committed adultery and trooped to the houses of prostitutes.
They were well-fed lusty stallions, each neighing for his neighbour’s wife.
Shall I not punish them for these things?
says the Lord;
and shall I not bring retribution on a nation such as this?

Go up through her vine-rows and destroy, but do not make a full end;
strip away her branches, for they are not the Lord’s.
For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have been utterly faithless to me,
says the Lord.

They have spoken falsely of the Lord, and have said, ‘He will do nothing.
No evil will come upon us, and we shall not see sword or famine.’
The prophets are nothing but wind, for the word is not in them.
Thus shall it be done to them!

Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts:
Because they have spoken this word,
I am now making my words in your mouth a fire,
and this people wood, and the fire shall devour them.
I am going to bring upon you a nation from far away, O house of Israel,
says the Lord.

It is an enduring nation, it is an ancient nation,
a nation whose language you do not know,
   nor can you understand what they say.
Their quiver is like an open tomb;
   all of them are mighty warriors.
They shall eat up your harvest and your food;
   they shall eat up your sons and your daughters;
they shall eat up your flocks and your herds;
   they shall eat up your vines and your fig trees;
they shall destroy with the sword
   your fortified cities in which you trust.

But even in those days, says the Lord,
I will not make a full end of you. And when your people say,
‘Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?’
you shall say to them,
‘As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve strangers in a land that is not yours.’

John 5.19-29
Jesus said to them,
‘Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomsoever he wishes. The Father judges no one but has given all judgement to the Son, so that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Anyone who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him.

Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life.

‘Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

The Collect 
Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday 18 February 2013

What colour are you? (When Christians collide)

One of the most unsettling and destabilising elements that one can encounter is that of being 'taken out' by those who were previously thought of as being on the same side as you. This act of fratricide, also known as 'blue on blue' (blue being the colour designation for 'friendly forces'), is more likely to be the result of incompetence or error rather than an act of betrayal.

There is also the act of being taken out by those whom one assumed to be neutral (the colour designation for this being green) which gives rise to the 'green on blue' definition we hear from time to time when we find members of our forces being killed by those who we perceived not to be our enemies..

In conflict situations the colours are simple to understand:

Red = Enemy forces,
Blue = Friendly forces,
Green = Neutral forces
Yellow = unknown forces

One of the saddest elements I encounter in the area of 'church' is the 'blue on blue' situation where those who are (supposedly) on the same side actively engage in damaging another of their number.

This might manifest in a bit of internecine back-biting (sometimes theological or perhaps more commonly because of perceived threats) and sometimes in a bit of sneering (the 'looking down the nose that the OT speaks so poorly of) and spin. One of the most common instances I encounter is that where an issue crops up and a position is stated with the suffice, 'Not like them . . .'!

We all know that 'a house divided against itself cannot stand (Matt 12) and yet I'm ashamed to sat that I find many of us failing to engage in promoting unity; for we'd rather look to our own little kingdom than live for the Kingdom of God. Perhaps we need to remember that the zealot (who lives for his own cause and kingdom) cries out that,  'Those who aren't for us are against us,' whilst those who seek to build the Kingdom of God acknowledge that, 'Those who aren't against us are for us!'

The only line that needs to exist is that which separates sinful from righteous and when we find sin we act to help those caught up in it to cross that line and act rightly. We might not always agree on matters of choice or theology, liturgy or musicianship but these should never be show-stoppers and should never result in us damaging, or being damaged by, other believers.

And even when we've got that sorted, there will still be the odd 'Negligent discharge' (what we call it when someone fires off a round accidentally) that takes someone out - we have all fired those verbal bullets that result in others on the same side of us being wounded I'm sure.

But perhaps before we plan, plot or speak out we should consider the issue and let our response be guided by that wonderfully effective (and yet often also trite) question:

What Would Jesus Do?

I expect flak from those people who are coloured red and understand the fact that those in green, neutrals, are sometimes merely people who haven't made up their mind that they oppose me - But when when I see someone who is blue I don't expect to have to defend myself against them and neither should they. When I, or they, are in the wrong I would hope that what we find is 'gentle' correction and support - for we all fall, fail and stumble.

My prayer is that when we do it doesn't become a 'blue on blue'  or turn those who are green into a nice red colour!


Daily Office - Feb 18

Psalm 10
Why stand so far off, O Lord?
Why hide yourself in time of trouble?

The wicked in their pride persecute the poor;
let them be caught in the schemes they have devised.
The wicked boast of their heart’s desire;
the covetous curse and revile the Lord.
The wicked in their arrogance say, ‘God will not avenge it’;
in all their scheming God counts for nothing.
They are stubborn in all their ways, for your judgements are far above out of their sight;
they scoff at all their adversaries.
They say in their heart, ‘I shall not be shaken; no harm shall ever happen to me.’
Their mouth is full of cursing, deceit and fraud; under their tongue lie mischief and wrong.
They lurk in the outskirts and in dark alleys they murder the innocent; •
their eyes are ever watching for the helpless.
They lie in wait, like a lion in his den;
they lie in wait to seize the poor;
they seize the poor when they get them into their net.

The innocent are broken and humbled before them;
the helpless fall before their power.
They say in their heart, ‘God has forgotten;
he hides his face away; he will never see it.’
Arise, O Lord God, and lift up your hand; forget not the poor.

Why should the wicked be scornful of God?
Why should they say in their hearts, ‘You will not avenge it’?

Surely, you behold trouble and misery; you see it and take it into your own hand.
The helpless commit themselves to you, for you are the helper of the orphan.
Break the power of the wicked and malicious; search out their wickedness until you find none.
The Lord shall reign for ever and ever; the nations shall perish from his land.
Lord, you will hear the desire of the poor; you will incline your ear to the fullness of their heart,
to give justice to the orphan and oppressed, so that people are no longer driven in terror from the land.

Psalm 11
In the Lord have I taken refuge;
how then can you say to me, ‘Flee like a bird to the hills,
‘For see how the wicked bend the bow and fit their arrows to the string, to shoot from the shadows at the true of heart.
‘When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?’
The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven.
His eyes behold, his eyelids try every mortal being.
The Lord tries the righteous as well as the wicked, but those who delight in violence his soul abhors.
Upon the wicked he shall rain coals of fire and burning sulphur; scorching wind shall be their portion to drink.
For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds, and those who are upright shall behold his face.

Jeremiah 4.19-end
My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
   Oh, the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly;
   I cannot keep silent;
for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.
Disaster overtakes disaster, the whole land is laid waste.
Suddenly my tents are destroyed, my curtains in a moment.
How long must I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet?
‘For my people are foolish, they do not know me;
they are stupid children, they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.’

I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void;
   and to the heavens, and they had no light.
I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking,
   and all the hills moved to and fro.
I looked, and lo, there was no one at all,
   and all the birds of the air had fled.
I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert,
   and all its cities were laid in ruins
   before the Lord, before his fierce anger.

For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.
Because of this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above grow black;
for I have spoken, I have purposed; I have not relented nor will I turn back.

At the noise of horseman and archer every town takes to flight;
they enter thickets; they climb among rocks;
   all the towns are forsaken, and no one lives in them.
And you, O desolate one,
what do you mean that you dress in crimson,
   that you deck yourself with ornaments of gold,
   that you enlarge your eyes with paint?
In vain you beautify yourself.
   Your lovers despise you; they seek your life.
For I heard a cry as of a woman in labour,
   anguish as of one bringing forth her first child,
the cry of daughter Zion gasping for breath,
   stretching out her hands,
‘Woe is me! I am fainting before killers!’

John 5.1-18
After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’ At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.

Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.’ But he answered them, ‘The man who made me well said to me, “Take up your mat and walk.” ’ They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Take it up and walk”?’ Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.’ The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is still working, and I also am working.’ For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.

The Collect
Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
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.