Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Daily office - July 31

Ignatius of Loyola, Founder of the Society of Jesus, 1556
Psalm 119.57-80

You only are my portion, O Lord; I have promised to keep your words.
I entreat you with all my heart, be merciful to me according to your promise.
I have considered my ways and turned my feet back to your testimonies.
I made haste and did not delay to keep your commandments.
Though the cords of the wicked entangle me, I do not forget your law.
At midnight I will rise to give you thanks, because of your righteous judgements.
I am a companion of all those who fear you,
those who keep your commandments.

The earth, O Lord, is full of your faithful love;
instruct me in your statutes.
You have dealt graciously with your servant,
according to your word, O Lord.
O teach me true understanding and knowledge,
for I have trusted in your commandments.
Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I keep your word.

You are gracious and do good;
O Lord, teach me your statutes.
The proud have smeared me with lies,
but I will keep your commandments with my whole heart.
Their heart has become gross with fat,
but my delight is in your law.

It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
that I may learn your statutes.
The law of your mouth is dearer to me than a hoard of gold and silver.
Your hands have made me and fashioned me;
give me understanding, that I may learn your commandments.
Those who fear you will be glad when they see me,
because I have hoped in your word.
I know, O Lord, that your judgements are right,
and that in very faithfulness you caused me to be troubled.
Let your faithful love be my comfort,
according to your promise to your servant.
Let your tender mercies come to me, that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
Let the proud be put to shame, for they wrong me with lies;
but I will meditate on your commandments.
Let those who fear you turn to me,
even those who know your testimonies.
Let my heart be sound in your statutes,
that I may not be put to shame.

Ezekiel 39.21-end
I will display my glory among the nations; and all the nations shall see my judgement that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them. The house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God, from that day forward. And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they dealt treacherously with me. So I hid my face from them and gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they all fell by the sword. I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions, and hid my face from them.

Therefore, thus says the Lord God: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for my holy name. They shall forget their shame, and all the treachery they have practised against me, when they live securely in their land with no one to make them afraid, when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies’ lands, and through them have displayed my holiness in the sight of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the Lord their God because I sent them into exile among the nations, and then gathered them into their own land. I will leave none of them behind; and I will never again hide my face from them, when I pour out my spirit upon the house of Israel, says the Lord God.

Mark 1.21-28
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

The Collect
Almighty God,
who sent your Holy Spirit
to be the life and light of your Church:
open our hearts to the riches of your grace,
that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit
in love and joy 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.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Daily Office - July 30

William Wilberforce, Olaudah Equiano and Thomas Clarkson, Anti-Slavery Campaigners 1833, 1797 and 1846

Psalm 48

Great is the Lord and highly to be praised, in the city of our God.
His holy mountain is fair and lifted high,
the joy of all the earth.
On Mount Zion, the divine dwelling place,
stands the city of the great king.
In her palaces God has shown himself to be a sure refuge.
For behold, the kings of the earth assembled and swept forward together.
They saw, and were dumbfounded;
dismayed, they fled in terror.
Trembling seized them there;
they writhed like a woman in labour,
as when the east wind shatters the ships of Tarshish.
As we had heard, so have we seen
in the city of the Lord of hosts, the city of our God:
God has established her for ever.
We have waited on your loving-kindness, O God,
in the midst of your temple.
As with your name, O God,
so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth;
your right hand is full of justice.
Let Mount Zion rejoice and the daughters of Judah be glad,
because of your judgements, O Lord.
Walk about Zion and go round about her;
count all her towers;
consider well her bulwarks; pass through her citadels,
That you may tell those who come after that such is our God for ever and ever.
It is he that shall be our guide for evermore.

Psalm 52
Why do you glory in evil, you tyrant,
while the goodness of God endures continually?
You plot destruction, you deceiver;
your tongue is like a sharpened razor.
You love evil rather than good,
falsehood rather than the word of truth.
You love all words that hurt,
O you deceitful tongue.
Therefore God shall utterly bring you down;
he shall take you and pluck you out of your tent
and root you out of the land of the living.
The righteous shall see this and tremble;
they shall laugh you to scorn, and say:

‘This is the one who did not take God for a refuge,
but trusted in great riches and relied upon wickedness.’

But I am like a spreading olive tree in the house of God;
I trust in the goodness of God for ever and ever.
I will always give thanks to you for what you have done;
I will hope in your name,
for your faithful ones delight in it.

Ezekiel 37. 15-end
The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the Israelites associated with it’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with it’; and join them together into one stick, so that they may become one in your hand. And when your people say to you, ‘Will you not show us what you mean by these?’ say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am about to take the stick of Joseph (which is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with it; and I will put the stick of Judah upon it, and make them one stick, in order that they may be one in my hand. When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from every quarter, and bring them to their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms. They shall never again defile themselves with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. I will save them from all the apostasies into which they have fallen, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes. They shall live in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, in which your ancestors lived; they and their children and their children’s children shall live there for ever; and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary among them for evermore. My dwelling-place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations shall know that I the Lord sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary is among them for evermore.

Mark 1.14-20
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

The Collect
God our deliverer,
who sent your Son Jesus Christ
to set your people free from the slavery of sin:
grant that, as your servants William Wilberforce, Olaudah Equiano and Thomas Clarkson
      toiled against the sin of slavery,
so we may bring compassion to all
and work for the freedom of all the children of God;
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, 29 July 2013

Daily Office - July 29

Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Companions of our Lord

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.

Ezekiel 37.1-14
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.’

Mark 1.1-13
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
   who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
   “Prepare the way of the Lord,
   make his paths straight” ’,
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

The Collect
God our Father,
whose Son enjoyed the love of his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus,
in learning, argument and hospitality:
may we so rejoice in your love that the world may come to know
the depths of your wisdom, the wonder of your compassion,
and your power to bring life out of death;
through the merits of Jesus Christ, our friend and brother,
who is alive and reigns with you,Nin the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Church of Wonga

Now as much as I don't agree with payday loans, they are of course better than the alternative, which is two large geezers knocking on your door to 'enquire' why Mr X hasn't had his money yet!

Just as payday loans were applauded for removing some of the the poor from the vagaries of the 'loan shark' (and we still have them and people 'helping' those around us get further into debt) the reality is that Justin is on the right track with his championing of Credit Unions and low-rate payday loans, helping to replace white goods without increasing the burden of debt and more.

One of those I spoke to on Friday said that 'the Church' ought to stick to i's own business and keep out of the financial world - after all, they said, 'You don't see banks opening churches now, do you?'

What a thought - perhaps Errol Damelin, Founder of Wonga, ought to draw up battle lines and open the Church of Wonga - Motto: 'Why not count on tomorrow to pay for today?'

I have to say that I think he looks the part - so why not? After all, money is the focus of many of those I meet and so a church that looked towards the accruing, spending and general worship of the stuff would be popular - and you could always take out a loan for the repayments (errr, I mean, offering!)

The reality is that Damelin and his organisation are meeting an obvious need - that's what business does.

What Justin is doing is trying to meet that same need, but in a better way, and this has to be good for everyone - well everyone except those who make money out of lending it that is) - and this has to be applauded and acted upon (Church is often poor at the former and invisible in the second of these).

For my money (and prayers), Justin has chosen his battlefield well - he just needs the CofE to be more circumspect in its investments now. Still, he looks good in the shirt!

He, and the CofE, will look even better when he's taken it off ;-)

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Ethical Investment is not really investment

Well, not in the financial sense anyway!

I find it interesting that when engaging in conversations with people the issue of 'the Church' and money often crops up and those who bring it up often work on the same script as me dear old Dad (what's no longer with us). It goes a little like this (they're in italics):

So why does the Church need money then, I thought it was rich?
Well it does have money, that's true, but it needs what it has to provide for the future by investing some so that they can spend the rest wisely.

Yeah, but if it spent the money it has it wouldn't need to be out with the begging bowl all the time - after all it's not like you've got much to pay for!
But there's loads we need to pay for - we have to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the buildings, gas, electric and water, staffing, housing, administration ... everything down to, and including, bread, wine and toilet roll.

But the government pays for that though, doesn't it?
Nope - everything we have to pay generally comes through the giving of the church members and fees* for some of the services that we do.

This is usually the point where the other party expresses surprise as they thought 'the Church' was in some way funded or subsidised by the state - after all (as one person put it) - the Queen owns all this so surely she should be paying for it!!!

It is about now that the conversation either tails off, or moves into the more interesting topic of investment.

The problem as we hit this area is that I am usually told that we should be getting the best returns we can on our investments but when I ask whether investing in arms companies, or in organisations that scar the earth or damage the environment in pursuit of profit the answer is, more often than not, a resounding 'No'. I then have to explain that the more risk and the dirtier the deed, the better the potential for high returns on invested capital and, of course, vice versa.

In monetary terms 'truly ethical' is really lending money at no interest to altruistic and beneficial companies. Those who will make a difference (in a good sense) but not a profit.

This is why there are quotas and limits placed on the 'ethical' definition and I have to admit that I'm not comfortable with them, for they go something like this (ballpark figures - I'm a dogcollar not an investment banker or manager):

An investment is considered ethical if the total involvement of the company being invested, in those acts which might be considered to have limited or dubious moral or ethical standards, comprises no more than twenty-five percent (25%) of its business.

This means that, with regard to the CofE and it's investments, they can invest in a finance group which has, as this is an issue at the moment a payday loans division, and as long as it's less that twenty-five percent of its overall business then they can still say they have ethically invested.

When it comes to armaments, munitions and other 'weapons of war', they can still invest in a company which produces them (or components for them - often harder to pinpoint) and here the threshold is lowered to say, ten percent.

The problem we are seeing with Justin's stand against high-interest, short-term, payday loans is that the investment division of the CofE are applying the limits and are, technically, maintaining the ethical investment stance. The easy answer would be to only invest in truly ethical institutions and accept that there's not going to be any real interest (could put it in the bank and see the same interest - except of course they are more than likely not investing their money ethically either and so the money still has that taint attached, albeit second or third hand).

I'd rather that we didn't put even a penny where it will be used for a business that denies the Biblical teaching - but that would surely means that interest and that nasty word, 'usuary', would have to crop up.

As one who supported a now defunct Credit Union I long for the day when we could see them working out of every church building, acting to combat the rising tide of debt and working to maximise what people have and helping them into healthy and sustainable lifestyles.

So before we laugh at Justin's misfortune we ought to realise the complexities of trying to balance the books and the problems of realising the best interest on what capital we have financially and ethically.

So let's applaud Justin and hope that which he has started will continue and that we will see an increase in church-based credit unions for our members and, most importantly, for the people we serve and live out the Gospel with.


*Usually another interesting conversation to be had regarding setting of fees by Parliament; Ranges from disgust to amusement to indignation that the State should 'dictate' to the Church :-)

Daily Office - July 27

Brooke Foss Westcott, Bishop of Durham, Teacher of the Faith, 1901

Psalm 41
Blessed are those who consider the poor and needy;
the Lord will deliver them in the time of trouble.
The Lord preserves them and restores their life,
that they may be happy in the land;
he will not hand them over to the will of their enemies.
The Lord sustains them on their sickbed;
their sickness, Lord, you will remove.
And so I said, ‘Lord, be merciful to me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you.’
My enemies speak evil about me, asking when I shall die and my name perish.
If they come to see me, they utter empty words;
their heart gathers mischief;
when they go out, they tell it abroad.
All my enemies whisper together against me, against me they devise evil,
Saying that a deadly thing has laid hold on me,
and that I will not rise again from where I lie.
Even my bosom friend, whom I trusted, who ate of my bread,
has lifted up his heel against me.
But you, O Lord, be merciful to me and raise me up, that I may reward them.
By this I know that you favour me, that my enemy does not triumph over me.
Because of my integrity you uphold me and will set me before your face for ever.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.

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.

Ezekiel 36.16-36
The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, when the house of Israel lived on their own soil, they defiled it with their ways and their deeds; their conduct in my sight was like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual period. So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for the idols with which they had defiled it. I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries; in accordance with their conduct and their deeds I judged them. But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that it was said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.

Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleannesses, and I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the produce of the field abundant, so that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you shall remember your evil ways, and your dealings that were not good; and you shall loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominable deeds. It is not for your sake that I will act, says the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and dismayed for your ways, O house of Israel.

Thus says the Lord God: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the towns to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. The land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined towns are now inhabited and fortified.’ Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places, and replanted that which was desolate; I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it.

James 5.7-end
Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘Yes’ be yes and your ‘No’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.
Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.

My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

The Collect
Almighty Lord and everlasting God,
we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern both our hearts and bodies
in the ways of your laws and the works of your commandments;
that through your most mighty protection, both here and ever,
we may be preserved in body and soul;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Grateful - Who wouldn't be?

That's me, and for good reason too!

The reasons are many and obvious but for those who might need for me to tell them, here they are:

We have a Housegroup that came into being from a joint Anglican/Methodist Alpha course and it has proved to be a blessing and a joy then and now. Such lovely people and such a depth in personalities and abilities that I'm blessed every time I'm with them and joyful when I think of them.

We are about to have our second shared service with the local Methodist church and their minister, Tim, is to preach - a source of blessing as we seek to work as Kingdom rather than within denominational limitations.

Tamworth Street Angels is coming together - an ambition of mine for some time - and the web presence and Twitter account are now in place.

The next stage of having the plans drawn up for a new building is underway. The result will, I trust and pray, allow us to engage even more with the community we exist to serve.

The potential for a Mission Shaped Ministry (MSM) course in the Autumn is on the way to becoming a reality.

And that's the tip of the iceberg.

There's family, friends and so much to be grateful for in so many areas that to list them would be tedious for those reading. So I'll stop here and just praise God for His goodness.

Happy Friday

Daily Office - July 26

Anne and Joachim, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Psalm 31
In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Incline your ear to me;
make haste to deliver me.

Be my strong rock, a fortress to save me,
for you are my rock and my stronghold;
guide me, and lead me for your name’s sake.

Take me out of the net that they have laid secretly for me,
for you are my strength.

Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.

I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
I put my trust in the Lord.
I will be glad and rejoice in your mercy,
for you have seen my affliction and known my soul in adversity.

You have not shut me up in the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in an open place.

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in trouble;
my eye is consumed with sorrow,
my soul and my body also.
For my life is wasted with grief,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails me because of my affliction,
and my bones are consumed.
I have become a reproach to all my enemies
and even to my neighbours,
an object of dread to my acquaintances;
when they see me in the street they flee from me.
I am forgotten like one that is dead, out of mind;
I have become like a broken vessel.
For I have heard the whispering of the crowd;
fear is on every side;
they scheme together against me,
and plot to take my life.

But my trust is in you, O Lord.
I have said, ‘You are my God.
‘My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies,
and from those who persecute me.
‘Make your face to shine upon your servant,
and save me for your mercy’s sake.’

Lord, let me not be confounded for I have called upon you;
but let the wicked be put to shame;
let them be silent in the grave.
Let the lying lips be put to silence that speak against the righteous with arrogance, disdain and contempt.

How abundant is your goodness, O Lord,
which you have laid up for those who fear you;
which you have prepared in the sight of all for those who put their trust in you.
You hide them in the shelter of your presence from those who slander them;
you keep them safe in your refuge from the strife of tongues.

Blessed be the Lord!
For he has shown me his steadfast love when I was as a city besieged.
I had said in my alarm,
‘I have been cut off from the sight of your eyes.’
Nevertheless, you heard the voice of my prayer when I cried out to you.
Love the Lord, all you his servants;
for the Lord protects the faithful,
but repays to the full the proud.
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait in hope for the Lord.

Ezekiel 34.17-end
As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats: Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet?

Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.

I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild animals from the land, so that they may live in the wild and sleep in the woods securely. I will make them and the region around my hill a blessing; and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. The trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase. They shall be secure on their soil; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke, and save them from the hands of those who enslaved them. They shall no more be plunder for the nations, nor shall the animals of the land devour them; they shall live in safety, and no one shall make them afraid. I will provide for them splendid vegetation, so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the insults of the nations. They shall know that I, the Lord their God, am with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, says the Lord God. You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, says the Lord God.

James 4.13-5.6
Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.’ Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.
Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Listen! The wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts on a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.

The Collect
Lord God of Israel,
who bestowed such grace on Anne and Joachim
that their daughter Mary grew up obedient to your word
and made ready to be the mother of your Son:
help us to commit ourselves in all things to your keeping
and grant us the salvation you promised to your people;
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, 25 July 2013

Daily Office - July 25

Psalm 7
O Lord my God, in you I take refuge;
save me from all who pursue me, and deliver me,
Lest they rend me like a lion and tear me in pieces while there is no one to help me.
O Lord my God, if I have done these things:
if there is any wickedness in my hands,
If I have repaid my friend with evil,
or plundered my enemy without a cause,
Then let my enemy pursue me and overtake me,
trample my life to the ground, and lay my honour in the dust.
Rise up, O Lord, in your wrath;
lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies.
Awaken, my God, the judgement that you have commanded.
Let the assembly of the peoples gather round you;
be seated high above them: O Lord, judge the nations.
Give judgement for me according to my righteousness, O Lord,
and according to the innocence that is in me.
Let the malice of the wicked come to an end,
but establish the righteous;
for you test the mind and heart, O righteous God.
God is my shield that is over me;
he saves the true of heart.
God is a righteous judge;
he is provoked all day long.
If they will not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent his bow and made it ready.
He has prepared the weapons of death;
he makes his arrows shafts of fire.
Behold those who are in labour with wickedness,
who conceive evil and give birth to lies.
They dig a pit and make it deep
and fall into the hole that they have made for others.
Their mischief rebounds on their own head;
their violence falls on their own scalp.
I will give thanks to the Lord for his righteousness,
and I will make music to the name of the Lord Most High.

Psalm 29
Ascribe to the Lord, you powers of heaven,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the honour due to his name;
worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
the God of glory thunders;
the Lord is upon the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is mighty in operation;
the voice of the Lord is a glorious voice.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon;
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord splits the flash of lightning;
the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe
and strips the forests bare;
in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’
The Lord sits enthroned above the water flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king for evermore.
The Lord shall give strength to his people;
the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.

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.

2 Kings 1.9-15
Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty men. He went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, ‘O man of God, the king says, “Come down.” ’ But Elijah answered the captain of fifty, ‘If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.’ Then fire came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.

Again the king sent to him another captain of fifty with his fifty. He went up and said to him, ‘O man of God, this is the king’s order: Come down quickly!’ But Elijah answered them, ‘If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.’ Then the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.

Again the king sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. So the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and entreated him, ‘O man of God, please let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight. Look, fire came down from heaven and consumed the two former captains of fifty men with their fifties; but now let my life be precious in your sight.’ Then the angel of the Lord said to Elijah, ‘Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.’ So he set out and went down with him to the king.

Luke 9.46-56
An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.’
John answered, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.’

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.

The Collect
Merciful God,
whose holy apostle Saint James,
leaving his father and all that he had,
was obedient to the calling of your Son Jesus Christ
and followed him even to death:
help us, forsaking the false attractions of the world,
to be ready at all times to answer your call without delay;
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, 24 July 2013

Tolerance: How do you do yours?

It doesn't matter who you are, or who you talk to, the reality is that everyone claims to be tolerant and yet tolerance for many is not a constant but a variable.

One of the fun things with tolerance us that it carries with it the potential for us to be more intolerant than those we might otherwise consider to be intolerant bigots. The reality is that those who who claim to be open-minded are, more often than not, more dogmatic and prescriptive than those they label as closed!

Try telling someone that they are behaving wrongly or have a flawed mindset and you will find yourself criticised and more likely than not, lectured, vilified and acted against - even if its done in a Christian rather than secular setting.

Oddly, remaining in a Church setting, using the Bible as the reason for your position, you will find yourself labelled as judgemental and 'narrow minded' and should you dare to use the word 'sin' then the gauntlet is well and truly laid down. Lob in salvation, new creation, different lifestyle and standards and that's a declaration of war (don't forget we're still talking about Church).

Tolerance, is an inconsistent state of being in that drawing line require consistent measurements and yet the traditional measure in this, our Judeo-Christian society, has of course been the Bible and removing this leaves us with what? I'm a Christian and so, perhaps surprisingly, I continue to take the Bible as my measure or yardstick (after all, that's what Canon means) but where do others turn for an authoritative and consistent constant?

It seems that many would have us work along a basis of consensus, that is keeping the majority happy, but what of those who are not happy or are perhaps acted against or dealt with unfairly because it pleases the masses?

What about those who support 'natural justice' where people 'get what they deserve' and where law is a movable feast to ensure that revenge (rather than justice) and desired outcomes (rather than fair play) are the rule?

We don't have to look too far back into the history of the world to see what happens when a society eschews rigid, and perhaps dogmatic, laws and takes up attitudes which support the masses or marginalises some parts of the community. Law has to be consistent and public attitude needs to support what is right rather that demand what is, for that moment at least, desirable.

Perhaps we should leave justice and tolerance to the press - but if we do what happens to those who are marginalised, vilified and generally belittled in newspapers like the Daily Fascist; those people who are benefit scroungers, career single-Mums, immigrants and the like? Look at the red tops and take five minutes to read them from cover to cover - do you find consistency, fair play and justice? No of course you don't - what you find is cries for vengeance and a stirring of the pot against whosoever they choice to act against (not always wrongly, just often) and the tub-thumping about rights and expectations (often dashed).

No, it's obvious that there's too much spin and inconsistency to trust the newspapers.

So what's left? Perhaps we need to look at 'family values and traditions' (as one politician recently put it. The problem being that we come full circle to find that these are embodied, and lived out, in the Bible. You see, the need for a consistent and coherent measure is essential and for some two thousand years, that has for our Western mindset be found in the Bible.

But the commandments - who has the right to 'command' anyone about anything - are not popular. After all, stealing is wrong if someone does it from you but isn't always wrong when you do it yourself ( a direct quote ladies and gentlemen - I jest not!). Not only that but there are times when stealing is OK because it's 'victimless' (after all, no one really suffers if you nick something from a shop or falsify stuff to get a little extra). It's not wrong to do stuff unless you get caught and that's perhaps the first consistent guideline of our society today: Don't get caught!

The next constant is that we have developed the attitude that says that as long as what we are doing makes us happy and gives us what we want, then that's alright. Everyone has the right to be happy and do what they want - unless of course they don't agree with your attitude and then they are wrong. But let's note the second constant: Being happy is a right!

The third constant is that no one has the right to tell other people what to do (unless of course it's us telling other people that is) and if they do then they are, quite legitimately, open to attack, and even more so should they impose their old traditional Bible stuff.  So constant the third: You're not the boss of me!

Starting to feel like I should be hitting piece of stone with a chisel as we move on the fact that our new tolerant society is happy for people to do what they want without any criticism or comeback, unless of course you decide that an attitude or lifestyle doesn't suit you. When this happens, even though they might not act against others who think or live as they choose not too, they are wrong because you have to agree. So the fourth constant is: Everyone has the right to think and act as they wish unless it goes against what I think, in which case they are wrong!

I hope that the above shows you why I opt for a consistent and just approach to tolerance - embracing the demands of Micah 6: 6-8 which calls for:
Justice - that means treating everyone the same, applying the rules consistently regardless of who or what.
Mercy - that means not looking for revenge but restoration. I want people to live differently and stop doing what is wrong and this underpins the application of the law.
Humility - I don't think of myself as being more worthy or valid than others and even thought I might not agree with what people choose to do, I accept their right to live as they choose (just as I have that right).

And of course, my fourth constant is to be found in the commandments which establish, and maintain, some consistent boundaries (even if you leave the God and Sabbath bits out!), namely,

Don't take murder (or even hurt) people,
Don't nick stuff,
Don't tell lies,
Don't swear - there are much better words open to you that expletives,
Be nice to your parents (nuclear families have lots going for them)
Be faithful in your marital/cohabitational relationships
Be happy with what you have - stop looking at others and let envy eat you away.

A nice set of rules that makes life good and relationship easier - what could be wrong with that?

Have nice day :-)

Daily Office - July 24

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.

Ezekiel 33.21-end
In the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month, on the fifth day of the month, someone who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, ‘The city has fallen.’ Now the hand of the Lord had been upon me the evening before the fugitive came; but he had opened my mouth by the time the fugitive came to me in the morning; so my mouth was opened, and I was no longer unable to speak.
The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, the inhabitants of these waste places in the land of Israel keep saying, ‘Abraham was only one man, yet he got possession of the land; but we are many; the land is surely given to us to possess.’ Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord God: You eat flesh with the blood, and lift up your eyes to your idols, and shed blood; shall you then possess the land? You depend on your swords, you commit abominations, and each of you defiles his neighbour’s wife; shall you then possess the land? Say this to them, Thus says the Lord God: As I live, surely those who are in the waste places shall fall by the sword; and those who are in the open field I will give to the wild animals to be devoured; and those who are in strongholds and in caves shall die by pestilence. I will make the land a desolation and a waste, and its proud might shall come to an end; and the mountains of Israel shall be so desolate that no one will pass through. Then they shall know that I am the Lord, when I have made the land a desolation and a waste because of all their abominations that they have committed.

As for you, mortal, your people who talk together about you by the walls, and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to a neighbour, ‘Come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ They come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear your words, but they will not obey them. For flattery is on their lips, but their heart is set on their gain. To them you are like a singer of love songs, one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; they hear what you say, but they will not do it. When this comes—and come it will!—then they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

James 3
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.

How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

The Collect
Almighty Lord and everlasting God,
we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern both our hearts and bodies
in the ways of your laws and the works of your commandments;
that through your most mighty protection, both here and ever,
we may be preserved in body and soul;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Five minutes left of the day

And as the words of Night Prayer soak in, and through, to bless and commit the days proceedings, hallowing them, I find myself reflecting on the ups and downs, the challenges (met and unresolved), and thanks and praise take the place of work and endeavour. So I thought I'd share with you the words of tonight's meditations:

The Lord almighty grant us a quiet night and a perfect end. Amen.

Our help is in the name of the Lord
Who made heaven and earth.

Time to reflect upon the day, now past, is taken - followed by:

Most merciful God, we confess to you,
before the whole company of heaven and one another,
that we have sinned in thought, word and deed
and in what we have failed to do.
Forgive us our sins, heal us by your Spirit
and raise us to new life in Christ. Amen.

O God, make speed to save us: O Lord, make haste to help us.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning is now and shall be for ever. Amen. 

The following may be said (or sung if you're game):

Before the ending of the day,
Creator of the world, we pray
That you, with steadfast love, would keep
Your watch around us while we sleep.

From evil dreams defend our sight,
From fears and terrors of the night;
Tread underfoot our deadly foe
That we no sinful thought may know.

O Father, that we ask be done
Through Jesus Christ, your only Son;
And Holy Spirit, by whose breath
Our souls are raised to life from death.

Psalm 143
Refrain: Show me, O Lord, the way that I should walk in.

Hear my prayer, O Lord, and in your faithfulness give ear to my supplications;
answer me in your righteousness.

Enter not into judgement with your servant, for in your sight shall no one living be justified.

For the enemy has pursued me,  crushing my life to the ground, 
making me sit in darkness like those long dead.

My spirit faints within me; my heart within me is desolate.

I remember the time past; I muse upon all your deeds;
I consider the works of your hands.

I stretch out my hands to you; my soul gasps for you like a thirsty land.

O Lord, make haste to answer me; my spirit fails me; 
hide not your face from me lest I be like those who go down to the Pit.

Let me hear of your loving-kindness in the morning,
for in you I put my trust; 
show me the way I should walk in, for I lift up my soul to you.

Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies, for I flee to you for refuge.

Teach me to do what pleases you, for you are my God;
let your kindly spirit lead me on a level path.

Revive me, O Lord, for your name’s sake;
for your righteousness’ sake, bring me out of trouble.

In your faithfulness, slay my enemies, and destroy all the adversaries of my soul,
for truly I am your servant.

Refrain: Show me, O Lord, the way that I should walk in.

Jesus, our companion, when we are driven to despair,
help us, through the friends and strangers we encounter on our path,
to know you as our refuge, our way, our truth and our life.

Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.

Matthew 11.28–end
Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
For you have redeemed me, Lord God of truth.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

Keep me as the apple of your eye.
Hide me under the shadow of your wings.

Gospel Canticle
The Nunc Dimittis (Song of Simeon - Luke 2.29-32)

Save us, O Lord, while waking, and guard us while sleeping, 
that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep may rest in peace.

Now, Lord, you let your servant go in peace: your word has been fulfilled.
My own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people;
A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; 
as it was in the beginning is now and shall be for ever. Amen.

Save us, O Lord, while waking, and guard us while sleeping, 
that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep may rest in peace.

A time of reflection, intercession and thank, followed by the Collect of the Day:

Almighty Lord and everlasting God,
we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern both our hearts and bodies
in the ways of your laws and the works of your commandments;
that through your most mighty protection, both here and ever,
we may be preserved in body and soul;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Conclusion

In peace we will lie down and sleep;
for you alone, Lord, make us dwell in safety.

Abide with us, Lord Jesus,
for the night is at hand and the day is now past.

As the night watch looks for the morning,
so do we look for you, O Christ.

Come with the dawning of the day and make yourself known in the breaking of the bread.

The Lord bless us and watch over us;
the Lord make his face shine upon us and be gracious to us;
the Lord look kindly on us and give us peace. Amen.

Priests and Privilege

I wonder how many people there are out there who think that the possession of a piece of plastic around the neck and the prefix 'Revd' make for a privileged class of people?

I wonder if they also realise just how right they are if they think that and also wonder if they realise that they are more than likely right for all the wrong reasons?

The reality is that privilege means that one gets invited to things that others generally don't as what appears to be a matter of habit and as a mark of who the person is. After all, if you're one of those suitably enobled people you get invited to stuff all the time - this is indeed privilege and preferment.

If you're one of those rare people who have won a medal in some major sporting arena, or perhaps in some major arena of conflict then you will also get yourself invited to things - So if you're Mo Farrar of Johnson Beharry VC, you can expect those invitations to select gatherings and amazing functions and happenings to fall through the letterbox all the time I I guess.

But if you think that's the all the case because you have that wonderful 'Revd' sellotaped to your business card then you have got the wrong sort of privilege in mind; after all, I haven't been invited to much in the way of gala functions, state balls, celebrity-filled junkets or the like in all of my time doing the job.

BUT - We are indeed privileged, and it goes like this:

I have been privileged to sit by the bed of a person who is departing this life and have had the privilege of helping their last moments in this world have shape, meaning and within the pain - a dignity.

I have been privileged to sit with those who have lost a loved one and help them come to terms with their loss, finding meaning, reason, hope and solace in the situation before them. Sometimes I have been able to bring a perspective of the person's life and to see within the haphazard jumble of life's events a consistency and qualities that closeness to them has previously obscured.

I have been privileged, as I was today, to find myself in a crematorium (or at a graveside) and, in the company of the deceased and their loved ones find before us someone whose life was to be not only celebrated but also given thanks for - even when they have left earlier than my 87 year average!

I have been privileged to celebrate life coming into the world and to give thanks for it in blessing and baptism services - often at times when those bringing the child knew only that they wanted to have God involved even when they didn't understand fully what that might mean (another privilege as I get to explain guilt, love, grace, sacrifice and relationship as found in Jesus, the Christ, and the cross).

I am privileged to have eaten out with the homeless on many occasions, sharing a sandwich and a brew as I find out who the image of the invisible God is made visible in!

I am privileged to be invited to dinners, but as there's no such thing as a free meal, that comes with saying grace (another privilege which I'd pay for - and with mess dinners - I do!).

The list could go on for a lot longer (are you still awake?) but I'll stop here (or shall I mention weddings, school assemblies, chaplaincies, marriage counselling, prayer ministry, preaching, church, worship and the rest? No, thought not ;-) ).

Suffice to say I am more privileged than perhaps many of you out there might think.


Mission Shaped Ministry

A brief 'heads up' for those who live within striking distance of Tamworth (Staffs) who might be interested in doing the 'Mission Shaped Ministry' (MSM) Course beginning on Thursday 26th September.

It's an amazingly valuable and effective resource for those engaged in (or thinking about) some form of Fresh Expression (FE) of Church and those who want to understand what it's all about and what FE might mean to them and their churches in an ecumenical setting (yes, that means people from ALL and ANY Christian churches are welcome)

The course covers various elements, including:
Starting, sustaining and growing fresh expressions of church;
Mission context;
The mission of God;
Vision and call;
Preparation for mission;
Listening for mission;
What is church?
Gospel and culture;
Team roles and behaviour;
Children and all-age;
Lessons from weaknesses;
Handling setbacks and failure;
Small group church;
Worship and the sacraments.

How Long Does it Take?
Six evenings and Six Saturdays (plus potentially a weekend residential too)

Then please contact me so we can gauge the demand and sort the thing out.
You can do that by messaging me or visit the St Francis' site (link on left of page) and mailing me.


Daily Office - July 23

Bridget of Sweden, Abbess of Vadstena, 1373

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.

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.
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.

Ezekiel 33.1-20
The word of the Lord came to me: O Mortal, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one of their number as their sentinel; and if the sentinel sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people; then if any who hear the sound of the trumpet do not take warning, and the sword comes and takes them away, their blood shall be upon their own heads. They heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; their blood shall be upon themselves. But if they had taken warning, they would have saved their lives. But if the sentinel sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any of them, they are taken away in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at the sentinel’s hand.

So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked ones, you shall surely die’, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life.
Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: ‘Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?’ Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel? And you, mortal, say to your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not save them when they transgress; and as for the wickedness of the wicked, it shall not make them stumble when they turn from their wickedness; and the righteous shall not be able to live by their righteousness when they sin. Though I say to the righteous that they shall surely live, yet if they trust in their righteousness and commit iniquity, none of their righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die’, yet if they turn from their sin and do what is lawful and right—if the wicked restore the pledge, give back what they have taken by robbery, and walk in the statutes of life, committing no iniquity—they shall surely live, they shall not die. None of the sins that they have committed shall be remembered against them; they have done what is lawful and right, they shall surely live.

Yet your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just’, when it is their own way that is not just. When the righteous turn from their righteousness, and commit iniquity, they shall die for it. And when the wicked turn from their wickedness, and do what is lawful and right, they shall live by it. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, I will judge all of you according to your ways!

James 2.14-end
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith without works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’, and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.

The Collect
Almighty Lord and everlasting God, we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern both our hearts and bodies in the ways of your laws and the works of your commandments; that through your most mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved in body and soul; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Daily Office - July 22

Mary Magdalene

Psalm 30

I will exalt you, O Lord,
because you have raised me up and have not let my foes triumph over me.
O Lord my God, I cried out to you and you have healed me.
You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead;
you restored me to life from among those that go down to the Pit.

Sing to the Lord, you servants of his;
give thanks to his holy name.
For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, his favour for a lifetime.
Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
In my prosperity I said,
‘I shall never be moved.
You, Lord, of your goodness, have made my hill so strong.’

Then you hid your face from me and I was utterly dismayed.
To you, O Lord, I cried;
to the Lord I made my supplication:
‘What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit?
 Will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?
‘Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me;
 O Lord, be my helper.’

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness;
Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

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.

Psalm 150
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.

1 Samuel 16.14-23
Now the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him. And Saul’s servants said to him, ‘See now, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord now command the servants who attend you to look for someone who is skilful in playing the lyre; and when the evil spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will feel better.’ So Saul said to his servants, ‘Provide for me someone who can play well, and bring him to me.’ One of the young men answered, ‘I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is skilful in playing, a man of valour, a warrior, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence; and the Lord is with him.’ So Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, ‘Send me your son David who is with the sheep.’ Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine, and a kid, and sent them by his son David to Saul. And David came to Saul, and entered his service. Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armour-bearer. Saul sent to Jesse, saying, ‘Let David remain in my service, for he has found favour in my sight.’ And whenever the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him.

Luke 8.1-3
Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

The Collect
Almighty God,
whose Son restored Mary Magdalene to health of mind and body
and called her to be a witness to his resurrection:
forgive our sins and heal us by your grace,
that we may serve you in the power of his risen life;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Sunday and its choices beckon

And, as usual, there's loads to be done and yet, regardless, it never gets to be anything but exciting.

I wonder how many of us will be getting stuck in to all the work today with just a little of the feelings of Lazarus' sister, Martha, who asked Jesus to tell Mary, the other sister, to get stuck in a bit.

Now Jesus answers Martha by telling her that there are choices to be made and whilst she has chosen to do the stuff, Mary has chosen to sit in Jesus' presence and learn. 'She has chosen what is better and it won't be taken away,' He says and this is a thought for some of those who choose to be just that little too busy working for Jesus rather that living (and working) with Him.

In my daily dealings with people I get to meet many who are so taken up with the business (and busyness) of Church that they don't get to hear sermons, or worship God through Jesus, the Christ. I meet so many who choose to be the person who makes everything happen and they, like Martha, are at times found moaning about the others doing nothing.

We make our choices and whilst we sometimes carry our loads without complaining, the reality is that we should be carrying just enough - that which is our calling, rather than trying to do it all on our own or in our own strength.

Those who seek to sit at Jesus' feet should do so remembering that what we learn there is empty unless it's put into practice and part of that is seen by us sharing the loads of others.

So today, sit in Jesus' presence as much as you can - learn from Him, emulate Him - for tomorrow, when the Resurrection has been celebrated, we are called to take up our cross, denying ourselves, and share the load with others.

Church is a team sport - isn't it?

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Preaching - a Rake's Progress

He walked in the room
full of foreboding and gloom
He knew he was doomed from the start
then the lecture began
and we, to a man, tried
to take preaching
The skill
To our hearts

Write it down - that's the key
Well, it don't work for me
'cos I stand there and read them instead
I stand there confused
They sit there bemused
It's not reading you know
So on with the show
Then I look up and find hat they've walked.

Put it onto flashcards - an idea that's cool
until you drop them, and
On picking them up
Read the cards out of order

And the sermon gets weird 
And the points, they get lost
(As I found to my cost)

Not long before you're tied to a rail
that's bound for the border.

So I just told them the facts
truth they could keep
But when I looked up
the church was asleep

So I tickled their ears
told them stuff that brought cheers
that white was black
and black was white
and whatever they did
it would all be alright
for heaven was theirs
it's not sin
it's not wrong
God just wanted them happy
that was the truth all along
and the church stood and clapped
and many came back

But deep down I knew I was wrong.

Daily Office - July 20

Margaret of Antioch, Martyr, 4th century
Bartolomé de las Casas, Apostle to the Indies, 1566

Psalm 20

May the Lord hear you in the day of trouble,
the name of the God of Jacob defend you;
Send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you out of Zion;
Remember all your offerings and accept your burnt sacrifice;
Grant you your heart’s desire and fulfil all your mind.
May we rejoice in your salvation and triumph in the name of our God;
may the Lord perform all your petitions.
Now I know that the Lord will save his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven,
with the mighty strength of his right hand.
Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we will call only on the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought down and fallen,
but we are risen and stand upright.
O Lord, save the king and answer us when we call upon you.

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 23
The Lord is my shepherd; therefore can I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.
He shall refresh my soul
and guide me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You spread a table before me
in the presence of those who trouble me;
you have anointed my head with oil
and my cup shall be full.
Surely goodness and loving mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Ezekiel 24.15-end
The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down. Sigh, but not aloud; make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban, and put your sandals on your feet; do not cover your upper lip or eat the bread of mourners. So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died. And on the next morning I did as I was commanded.

Then the people said to me, ‘Will you not tell us what these things mean for us, that you are acting in this way?’ Then I said to them: The word of the Lord came to me: Say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and your heart’s desire; and your sons and your daughters whom you left behind shall fall by the sword. And you shall do as I have done; you shall not cover your upper lip or eat the bread of mourners. Your turbans shall be on your heads and your sandals on your feet; you shall not mourn or weep, but you shall pine away in your iniquities and groan to one another. Thus Ezekiel shall be a sign to you; you shall do just as he has done. When this comes, then you shall know that I am the Lord God.

And you, mortal, on the day when I take from them their stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes and their heart’s affection, and also their sons and their daughters, on that day, one who has escaped will come to you to report to you the news. On that day your mouth shall be opened to the one who has escaped, and you shall speak and no longer be silent. So you shall be a sign to them; and they shall know that I am the Lord.

James 1.12-end
Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved.

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfilment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.

If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

The Collect
Lord of all power and might,
the author and giver of all good things:
graft in our hearts the love of your name,
increase in us true religion,
nourish us with all goodness,
and of your great mercy keep us in the same;
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.