Saturday, 30 November 2013

Advent - An essential journey

'Christmas is almost here,' were the very first words I heard as I was greeted by one of the people I often engage with. Their opening gambit made I countered with: 'Advent is almost here - Christmas is still a way off!' The look on their face told me that I had the upper hand as, once again, I (being the soul representative of the whole Church where I am) had completely flummoxed them!

'Oh yes,' they said, It's December on Sunday. Advent calendars!'

I wasn't expecting such a strong response, for I was now on the back foot and struggling to select the correct response.

Did I begin by explaining that to be a true Advent calendar then, looking at next year, the number one window wouldn't always coincide with the first of December (it would start on Nov 30)?

Perhaps I should do the, 'The advent journeying is the road to the fulfilment and joy of God's plan of salvation,' spiel. Always good to bring in the the themes of Advent: The Patriarchs; The Prophets; John the Baptist and The Virgin Mary - that speak of the situation, solution, preparation and delivery.

Then again there's always the 'It's not Christmas until ......' Tack. The 'keeping Christmas special - Jesus, the reason for the season and all that stuff' - real Advent calendars, the cards that don't have penguins, Santa, snow or polar bears (no, I'm not being Polar Bearist!).

There was the explanation of our purple patches - those penitential preparations whereby the spiritual house of our soul is cleaned in preparation for the coming of a newborn or the joyful acclamation that 'He is risen!'.

So many valid choices - but which one to take?

Well, which one would you have taken?

Morning Prayer - Nov 30

Andrew the Apostle

Psalm 47

Clap your hands together, all you peoples; O sing to God with shouts of joy.
For the Lord Most High is to be feared; he is the great King over all the earth. He subdued the peoples under us and the nations under our feet. He has chosen our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loves. God has gone up with a merry noise, the Lord with the sound of the trumpet.

O sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with all your skill. God reigns over the nations; God has taken his seat upon his holy throne. The nobles of the peoples are gathered together with the people of the God of Abraham. For the powers of the earth belong to God and he is very highly exalted.

Psalm 147.1-12
How good it is to make music for our God, how joyful to honour him with praise.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem and gathers together the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up all their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars and calls them all by their name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his wisdom is beyond all telling.

The Lord lifts up the poor, but casts down the wicked to the ground. Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make music to our God upon the lyre; Who covers the heavens with clouds and prepares rain for the earth; Who makes grass to grow upon the mountains and green plants to serve our needs.
He gives the beasts their food and the young ravens when they cry.
He takes no pleasure in the power of a horse, no delight in human strength;
But the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their trust in his steadfast love.

Ezekiel 47.1-12
Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple towards the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me round on the outside to the outer gate that faces towards the east; and the water was coming out on the south side.

Going on eastwards with a cord in his hand, the man measured one thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the waist. Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed. He said to me, ‘Mortal, have you seen this?’

Then he led me back along the bank of the river. As I came back, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees on one side and on the other. He said to me, ‘This water flows towards the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become fresh. Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes. People will stand fishing beside the sea from En-gedi to En-eglaim; it will be a place for the spreading of nets; its fish will be of a great many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.’

John 12.20-32

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’

The Collect
Almighty God,
who gave such grace to your apostle Saint Andrew
that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ and brought his brother with him:
call us by your holy word,
and give us grace to follow you without delay and to tell the good news of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Night Prayer - 29 Nov

Day of Intercession and Thanksgiving for the Missionary Work of the Church
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.

A period of reflection on the past day followed by an act of penitence.

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

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.

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 139 vv 1-18
O Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You mark out my journeys and my resting place and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but you, O Lord, know it altogether. You encompass me behind and before and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, so high that I cannot attain it. Where can I go then from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I make the grave my bed, you are there also. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there your hand shall lead me, your right hand hold me fast.

If I say, Surely the darkness will cover me and the light around me turn to night, Even darkness is no darkness with you; the night is as clear as the day; darkness and light to you are both alike. For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I thank you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvellous are your works, my soul knows well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my form, as yet unfinished; already in your book were all my members written, As day by day they were fashioned when as yet there was none of them. How deep are your counsels to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I count them, they are more in number than the sand, and at the end, I am still in your presence.

Search me out, O God, and know my heart.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning is nowand shall be for ever. Amen.

Creator God, may every breath we take be for your glory,
may every footstep show you as our way, that, trusting in your presence in this world,
we may, beyond this life, still be with you where you are alive and reign for ever and ever.

Matthew 24.13,14a
The one who endures to the end will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations.

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

The Nunc Dimittis (Song of Simeon):
O King most blessed, on the day of judgement number us among your chosen.

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.

O King most blessed, on the day of judgement number us among your chosen.

Intercessions and thanksgivings offered here.

The Collect
Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet;
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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.

Want a neo-Pagan/confused funeral?

Best go for a non-Christian (not actually sure it deserves the label 'humanist') service then!

Fancy a confused committal where the dearly departed is committed to Mother Earth and their spirit is set free to oblivion in the knowledge that because the people present will treasure their memories their life has found merit and meaning and they can rest safe in the knowledge that they lived for a purpose.

How's about being commended to 'all that is' and set free to be part of the whole realm of creation, tasking their part in the overall canvas of life and having the place they rest sanctified and hallowed to their memory for eternity?

The more I listen to people doing these services - especially the geezer what reads out cards, messages and emails as if it's a wedding - the more I wonder what some of these people are doing (other than making money out of the fact the customer knows nnnn 'Wasn't religious' so they offer something that is hopeless in oh so many ways!).

I am always surprised by the people who claim to have no faith and not be religious and the ways in which they cling to a hope of heaven, eternity and all that stuff. When I pointed out to one that what they'd delivered was the hope of Christianity coupled with some folklore and neo-confused pagan (ooooh, nature is so clever) tosh - the response was. 'Oh, but it gives them comfort to think there's more!'

Which is of course true but what I had before me was a snake oil salesman - offering hopelessness masquerading as hope and a terminal experience billed as something that with some confused continuance.

What makes it sadder is that some I have spoken to have told me how when the words, 'They weren't religious' are used by the person contracting the funeral then the potential for something 'humanist/non-religious' to be sourced is great. later though it transpires that this wasn't quite what the family might have wanted - they just didn't want to appear as if the deceased was an active Christian - and ended up with something quite different from that which they might have hoped for.

How very sad - and rather frustrating too :-(

Morning Prayer - Nov 29

Day of Intercession and Thanksgiving for the Missionary Work of the Church

Psalm 139
O Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You mark out my journeys and my resting place and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but you, O Lord, know it altogether. You encompass me behind and before and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go then from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I make the grave my bed, you are there also. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there your hand shall lead me, 
your right hand hold me fast.

If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will cover me and the light around me turn to night,’ Even darkness is no darkness with you; the night is as clear as the day; darkness and light to you are both alike. For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvellous are your works, my soul knows well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth; Your eyes beheld my form, as yet unfinished; already in your book were all my members written, As day by day they were fashioned when as yet there was none of them.

How deep are your counsels to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I count them, they are more in number than the sand, and at the end, I am still in your presence. O that you would slay the wicked, O God, that the bloodthirsty might depart from me! They speak against you with wicked intent; your enemies take up your name for evil. Do I not oppose those, O Lord, who oppose you? Do I not abhor those who rise up against you? I hate them with a perfect hatred; they have become my own enemies also. Search me out, O God, and know my heart; try me and examine my thoughts. See if there is any way of wickedness in me and lead me in the way everlasting.

Isaiah 22.1-14
The oracle concerning the valley of vision. 

What do you mean that you have gone up, all of you, to the housetops, you that are full of shoutings, tumultuous city, exultant town? Your slain are not slain by the sword, nor are they dead in battle. Your rulers have all fled together; they were captured without the use of a bow. All of you who were found were captured, though they had fled far away. Therefore I said: Look away from me, let me weep bitter tears; do not try to comfort me for the destruction of my beloved people. 

For the Lord God of hosts has a day of tumult and trampling and confusion in the valley of vision, a battering down of walls and a cry for help to the mountains. Elam bore the quiver with chariots and cavalry, and Kir uncovered the shield.  Your choicest valleys were full of chariots, and the cavalry took their stand at the gates. He has taken away the covering of Judah. 

On that day you looked to the weapons of the House of the Forest, and you saw that there were many breaches in the city of David, and you collected the waters of the lower pool. You counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall. You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or have regard for him who planned it long ago. 

On that day the Lord God of hosts called to weeping and mourning, to baldness and putting on sackcloth; but instead there was joy and festivity, killing oxen and slaughtering sheep, eating meat and drinking wine. ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ 
The Lord of hosts has revealed himself in my ears: Surely this iniquity will not be forgiven you until you die, says the Lord God of hosts.

 Matthew 11.2-19
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.” 
Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. Let anyone with ears listen!

‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another, 
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.” 
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’

The Collect
Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven
that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit
and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Making a Luddite of a Vicar?

Or making a stand for real people and quality provision?

That was the position I found myself in this week as I sorted a funeral with a crematorium I've never visited before.

The first challenge came when I asked about the CD and was told that their system didn't use CDs. 'What you need to do is tell us what pieces of music you want and we get them from the catalogue and send them to the player through the internet!' 

Those who know me will also know that I am all for technology so I merely wondered why (out loud) I couldn't merely bring a couple of mp3 tracks on a USB stick (or email them) rather than have them source what I already had. But this wasn't how they did it!

Then we moved on to the hymns and I was offered  the organ or other instruments with or without voices. 'Oh!' said I, 'You don't have an organist then?'

'No, we have a computerised system. It's much simpler for everyone,' came the response.

So I explained that having a real organist means that they can 'track' the people singing so that they play to accompany the people singing rather than the people struggle to sing to the regimented and rigid rendition of the computer. The horror of a computerised 'organist or worship band in a box' is that it plays whatever it plays regardless of pitch, tempo or number of verses the people will be singing! (A 'for instance' being the fact that I have been subjected to the blessed band in a box systems giving me one verse too many or few as the device saw fit and there was either silence (or sound) accordingly.

'No one has ever said anything like that before,' came the (obviously surprised) voice at the other end! 'Using the computerised system is a much easier way of doing it because you don't have to pay for an organist and it's all automated.'

An there, perhaps, my friends lies the real reason. It's all about cutting expenditure (so does the charge to the customer drop accordingly I cynically wondered).

I didn't ask if the customer had to pay for the music tracks that have to be 'bought from the catalogue' (although again I assume that they do)!

Seems to me that computer generated music is another area when humans are being replaced by machines and wonder how lone it will take before we're all serviced by computers and only the privileged few will be able to work. The worst Sci Fi scenario appears to be heading towards being reality :-{

As a postscript I must relate the experience of a shop in Birmingham which has now been refurbished to have two check-outs with human operators and eight 'serve yourself' checkouts (with one staff member to assist). A loss of six staff (and that's on 'how many shifts?") - how long before computer Vicar is with us?

Morning Prayer - Nov 28

Psalm 125
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but stands fast for ever.
As the hills stand about Jerusalem, so the Lord stands round about his people, from this time forth for evermore.
The sceptre of wickedness shall not hold sway over the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous turn their hands to evil.
Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are true of heart. Those who turn aside to crooked ways the Lord shall take away with the evildoers; but let there be peace upon Israel.

Psalm 126
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then were we like those who dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with songs of joy.
Then said they among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has indeed done great things for us, and therefore we rejoiced. Restore again our fortunes, O Lord, as the river beds of the desert.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed, will come back with shouts of joy, bearing their sheaves with them.

Psalm 127
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the Lord keeps the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.
It is in vain that you hasten to rise up early and go so late to rest, eating the bread of toil, for he gives his beloved sleep.
Children are a heritage from the Lord and the fruit of the womb is his gift. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.
Happy are those who have their quiver full of them: they shall not be put to shame when they dispute with their enemies in the gate.

Psalm 128
Blessed are all those who fear the Lord, and walk in his ways. You shall eat the fruit of the toil of your hands; it shall go well with you, and happy shall you be. Your wife within your house shall be like a fruitful vine; your children round your table, like fresh olive branches. Thus shall the one be blest who fears the Lord. The Lord from out of Zion bless you, that you may see Jerusalem in prosperity all the days of your life. May you see your children’s children, and may there be peace upon Israel.

Isaiah 21.1-12
The oracle concerning the wilderness of the sea.
As whirlwinds in the Negeb sweep on, it comes from the desert, from a terrible land.
A stern vision is told to me; the betrayer betrays, and the destroyer destroys.
Go up, O Elam, lay siege, O Media; all the sighing she has caused I bring to an end. Therefore my loins are filled with anguish; pangs have seized me, like the pangs of a woman in labour; I am bowed down so that I cannot hear, I am dismayed so that I cannot see. My mind reels, horror has appalled me; the twilight I longed for has been turned for me into trembling. They prepare the table, they spread the rugs, they eat, they drink. Rise up, commanders, oil the shield! For thus the Lord said to me: ‘Go, post a lookout, let him announce what he sees. When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs, riders on donkeys, riders on camels, let him listen diligently, very diligently.’ Then the watcher called out: ‘Upon a watch-tower I stand, O Lord, continually by day, and at my post I am stationed throughout the night.  Look, there they come, riders, horsemen in pairs!’ Then he responded, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the images of her gods lie shattered on the ground.’
O my threshed and winnowed one, what I have heard from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, I announce to you.

The oracle concerning Dumah.
One is calling to me from Seir, ‘Sentinel, what of the night? Sentinel, what of the night?’
The sentinel says: ‘Morning comes, and also the night. If you will inquire, inquire; come back again.’

Matthew 10.34-11.1
‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;  and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’

Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities.

The Collect
Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven
that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet;
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Morning Prayer - Nov 27

Psalm 110
The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’

May the Lord stretch forth the sceptre of your power; rule from Zion in the midst of your enemies. ‘Noble are you on this day of your birth; on the holy mountain, from the womb of the dawn the dew of your new birth is upon you.’
The Lord has sworn and will not retract: ‘You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.’
The king at your right hand, O Lord, shall smite down kings in the day of his wrath. In all his majesty, he shall judge among the nations, smiting heads over all the wide earth. He shall drink from the brook beside the way; therefore shall he lift high his head.

Psalm 111
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the faithful and in the congregation.The works of the Lord are great, sought out by all who delight in them. His work is full of majesty and honour and his righteousness endures for ever. He appointed a memorial for his marvellous deeds; the Lord is gracious and full of compassion. He gave food to those who feared him; he is ever mindful of his covenant. He showed his people the power of his works in giving them the heritage of the nations.

The works of his hands are truth and justice; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever; they are done in truth and equity. He sent redemption to his people; he commanded his covenant for ever; holy and awesome is his name. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have those who live by it; his praise endures for ever.

Psalm 112
Blessed are those who fear the Lord and have great delight in his commandments. Their descendants will be mighty in the land, a generation of the faithful that will be blest. Wealth and riches will be in their house, and their righteousness endures for ever.

Light shines in the darkness for the upright; gracious and full of compassion are the righteous. It goes well with those who are generous in lending and order their affairs with justice, for they will never be shaken; the righteous will be held in everlasting remembrance. They will not be afraid of any evil tidings; their heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their heart is sustained and will not fear, until they see the downfall of their foes. They have given freely to the poor; their righteousness stands fast for ever; their head will be exalted with honour. The wicked shall see it and be angry; they shall gnash their teeth in despair; the desire of the wicked shall perish.

Isaiah 19
An oracle concerning Egypt.
See, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them. I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians, and they will fight, one against the other, neighbour against neighbour, city against city, kingdom against kingdom; the spirit of the Egyptians within them will be emptied out, and I will confound their plans; they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead and the ghosts and the familiar spirits; I will deliver the Egyptians into the hand of a hard master; a fierce king will rule over them, says the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts.

The waters of the Nile will be dried up, and the river will be parched and dry; its canals will become foul, and the branches of Egypt’s Nile will diminish and dry up; reeds and rushes will rot away. There will be bare places by the Nile, on the brink of the Nile; and all that is sown by the Nile will dry up, be driven away, and be no more. Those who fish will mourn; all who cast hooks in the Nile will lament;  and those who spread nets on the water will languish. The workers in flax will be in despair, and the carders and those at the loom will grow pale. Its weavers will be dismayed, and all who work for wages will be grieved.

The princes of Zoan are utterly foolish; the wise counsellors of Pharaoh give stupid counsel.
How can you say to Pharaoh, ‘I am one of the sages, a descendant of ancient kings’?
Where now are your sages? Let them tell you and make known what the Lord of hosts has planned against Egypt. The princes of Zoan have become fools, and the princes of Memphis are deluded; those who are the cornerstones of its tribes have led Egypt astray.
The Lord has poured into them a spirit of confusion; and they have made Egypt stagger in all its doings as a drunkard staggers around in vomit. Neither head nor tail, palm branch nor reed, will be able to do anything for Egypt.

On that day the Egyptians will be like women, and tremble with fear before the hand that the Lord of hosts raises against them. And the land of Judah will become a terror to the Egyptians; everyone to whom it is mentioned will fear because of the plan that the Lord of hosts is planning against them. On that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the Lord of hosts. One of these will be called the City of the Sun.

On that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the centre of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border. It will be a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt; when they cry to the Lord because of oppressors, he will send them a saviour, and will defend and deliver them. The Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians; and the Egyptians will know the Lord on that day, and will worship with sacrifice and burnt-offering, and they will make vows to the Lord and perform them. The Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing; they will return to the Lord, and he will listen to their supplications and heal them.

On that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.

On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage.’

Matthew 10.16-33
‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

The Collect
Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven
that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Five days to Advent and ...

All around me I'm finding people with Christmas trees in their windows, lights flashing as if to say, 'Stuff Advent' it's Argostide already get with it! Further down the road there are people with houses already sparkling with icicle lights and festoons proclaiming something just twenty-nine days too early!

The season of Advent has apparently been gazumped and as children prepare to remove the chocolate from their December Calendars (the calendars formerly known as 'Advent') we know that we've moved straight into the Christmas season. A season which formerly began on Christmas Eve once upon a time.

Now Christmas gets earlier and earlier and no sooner has Boxing day been and gone than the lights vanish and the trees are discarded or consigned back into garage, shed or attic. The twelve days of Christmas have become thirty-one days and people are already moaning about (and I jest not) 'The Church types trying to hijack the season!'

Losing Advent is one of the biggest losses of the Church year for the journey of preparation of the penitential kind and the clearing up the house that is us in readiness for Jesus, the Christ, God's chosen and anointed one is important and necessary. It's taking away the twice yearly spiritual health check and repair sessions and replacing it with a 'gimme, gimme, gimme' mentality that makes us all just a little worse each year.

So whilst this might sound like a 'bah, humbug' session it's not.

What this is is a call for those who lead churches to move away from the popularist 'let's fill the church building for a month with people who won't hear the Christmas message or understand the truth of Jesus as the salvific and atoning act of Grace and celebrate how popular we can be!'

I don't care about being popular - that was never the call upon us (was it?).

I don't care about the fact that one cleric I have met is boasting of thirty-three carol and Christingle services - a new record.

What I care about is that the same people who cram into their church building won't have a clue about Jesus or His divinity or His sacrifice or the journey from Isaiah to Bethlehem's stable and from there to Calvary.

What I care about is being more than a seasonal attraction alongside Santa's Grotty - after all, if there's one thing we need to be making known, it is this:

Getting them into Church - it's not enough!!

Had a great discussion with someone who was trying to convince me that 'getting people into the church building (especially with regard to Christmas) was enough!'

I tried, rather unsuccessfully, to convince them that whilst it was indeed good to get the people in, it counted for little other than a round of applause from those who wanted to count the number of people through the doors and perhaps those who assume that these convert into some form of income!

It doesn't matter how many people we drag through the doors if we fail to preach Christ - Baby, Bloke, Broken and how He was raised again FOR US!

If Immanuel (God with us) become merely 'carol time' and if Advent is set aside for Argostide then what on earth are we playing at?

But try as I might (and believe me, I did try) I couldn't get past the fact that what made a successful Christmas for this church (if I'm not mistaken) was that Christmas - it's all about numbers!

Oh yeah - and that Hallmark tableau moment when the kids, dressed for the part, have their photo's taken the grandparents sniff at the sight.

Mitchell & Webb: There is No God

Having come to enjoy these two with their Apple vs PC offerings I have to say that this is a rather good poke at the Church - well it made me laugh anyway.

I hope it does the same for you (and what a great present their DVDs make when Advent is finished :-)  ):

Mind you I have to say that I've never been convinced by all the 'face of Jesus in a pizza' and other shrines that crop up so my faith is still intact after this clip.

Not only that but after the two Manchester clubs results on Sunday (City 6-0 win over Spurs and Man U 2-2 draw with Cardiff) and Everton drawing with Liverpool, I have to say that as an Arsenal fan I began today with a slight (albeit incredulous) smile before seeing this clip :-)

Morning Prayer - Nov 26

Psalm 97
The Lord is king: let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of the isles be glad.

Clouds and darkness are round about him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

Fire goes before him and burns up his enemies on every side. His lightnings lit up the world; the earth saw it and trembled. The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declared his righteousness and all the peoples have seen his glory. Confounded be all who worship carved images and delight in mere idols. Bow down before him, all you gods.

Zion heard and was glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoiced, because of your judgements, O Lord. For you, Lord, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.

The Lord loves those who hate evil; he preserves the lives of his faithful and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light has sprung up for the righteous and joy for the true of heart.

Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name.

Psalm 98
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things. His own right hand and his holy arm have won for him the victory. The Lord has made known his salvation; his deliverance has he openly shown in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his mercy and faithfulness towards the house of Israel, and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.  

Sound praises to the Lord, all the earth; break into singing and make music. Make music to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the voice of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn sound praises before the Lord, the King.

Let the sea thunder and all that fills it, the world and all that dwell upon it. Let the rivers clap their hands and let the hills ring out together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. In righteousness shall he judge the world and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 100
O be joyful in the Lord, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness and come before his presence with a song.

Know that the Lord is God; it is he that has made us and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and bless his name. For the Lord is gracious; his steadfast love is everlasting, and his faithfulness endures from generation to generation.

Isaiah 17
See, Damascus will cease to be a city, and will become a heap of ruins. Her towns will be deserted for ever; they will be places for flocks, which will lie down, and no one will make them afraid. The fortress will disappear from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus; and the remnant of Aram will be monk junk like the glory of the children of Israel, says the Lord of hosts. 

On that day the glory of Jacob will be brought low, and the fat of his flesh will grow lean. And it shall be as when reapers gather standing grain and their arms harvest the ears, and as when one gleans the ears of grain in the Valley of Rephaim. Gleanings will be left in it,vas when an olive tree is beaten—two or three berries in the top of the highest bough, four or five on the branches of a fruit tree, says the Lord God of Israel. 

On that day people will regard their Maker, and their eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel; they will not have regard for the altars, the work of their hands, and they will not look to what their own fingers have made, either the sacred poles or the altars of incense.

On that day their strong cities will be like the deserted places of the Hivites and the Amorites, which they deserted because of the children of Israel, and there will be desolation. 

For you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge; therefore, though you plant pleasant plants and set out slips of an alien god, though you make them grow on the day that you plant them, and make them blossom in the morning that you sow; yet the harvest will flee away on a day of grief and incurable pain. 

Ah, the thunder of many peoples, they thunder like the thundering of the sea!
Ah, the roar of nations, they roar like the roaring of mighty waters! 
The nations roar like the roaring of many waters, but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away, chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind and whirling dust before the storm. At evening time, lo, terror! Before morning, they are no more. This is the fate of those who despoil us, and the lot of those who plunder us. 

Matthew 9.35-10.15
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than for that town.

The Collect
Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven
that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet;
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Taking a Gap-Year For God

I have to say that I never thought I'd encourage people to give anything but their lives on this blog but I am keenly aware that there are a bunch of young people who have given up a year of their lives to learn more about their faith and themselves by embarking upon the YWAM (Youth With A Mission) 'Year For God'.

This has taken one of the young people from our church (and I have to be honest and proudly admit that they are ours) and has opened up the opportunity for five of them to work In Romania with Roma people. An opportunity that will yield more than the financial costs - and they've already raised money to get out to work where they are now - but still means that there are costs.

To this end they've set up a site which tells a little more about them and gives people the chance to be part of the work by supporting them. The site can be found here and reckon that if everyone who visits donates a solitary pound then they've probably got enough to change the lives they seek to work with and their own too.

And for those who don't feel called to give - can I encourage you to contribute in a much more important and effective way than mere money: Please pray for them and their journeying, the work they do and the changes to their own lives that the experience will bring. Changes that will live with them and make them better citizens.

Thank You

Made tea come out of my nose!

Yes, someone's managed to get tea to do a full circuit as a opened the image below whilst drinking tea!

One of the best gaffes I've seen for ages (how I hope it's real):


Common Worship Eucharist - A simple Key

Following on from last night's 'Eucharistic Bingo' I started thinking about the Eucharist and how I could explain simply the way to navigate one's way around the service and came up with this.

Hopefully it's simple - I've checked and someone who has never tried to navigate their way around found that it proved quite simple and effective. So with that in mind, here is what I hope might just be a fairly useful aid to liturgical confidence and competence in delivering (or following) the Common Worship Eucharist with proper seasonal elements in the right places.

Let's hope so :-)

Eucharistic Bingo - A game for all the Church?

Last night I was privileged to play a new game that made the Common Worship Eucharistic service (Eucharistic Prayer A) take on a whole new, and rather exciting, form as I realised that we were playing an hitherto unknown (well at least to me it was unknown) form of bingo.

Beginning with the greeting (Page the first) which formed a tacit 'Eyes down, look in' we moved into the the prayer of preparation and the summary of the Law before the 'Invitation to Confession' arrived. Of course, being 'Christ the King' this came from somewhere others than page the second (or 168 if you have the black book!) and there was a rustling of pages as people attempted to find the words I was using.

That done I lured them into a sense of (false) security as the numbers fell back into line (they expected the Collect to be somewhere else)  until I threw in a seasonal Gospel Acclamation for the day (Christ the King, try and keep up) - of course the fun bit had just passed as the Old Testament was followed by a reading of the New Testament and the Gospel in one; leaving the question, 'What should I do now?' Well of course I read an abridged Gospel (last paragraph) and got on with the sermon.

Moving on with the credal component (page 7 or 173 - try and keep up) we came to the peace -another seasonal offering which resulted in more page flicking from the pews as they sought to find from whence I was reading it (or was I merely 'making it up' as had been claimed one day with my collect to St Roke and his talking Monkey). And from here we headed into the Eucharistic prayer, which of course seeing it was going to be 'A' and because it was the day itself (Christ the King - have you forgotten that already?) I did the wonderfully long preface with all the sexy 'kingdom' bits towards the end (How I love that) and realised that, once again, people were looking for the source of my words.

They all went to page 19 (or 185 if you have the full book) and then started flicking, and some were still flicking by the time we reached the mystery of faith (or page 20 [186] to you) and probably hadn't found it when we were back at page 12 (178) and the Lord's Prayer; where it became apparent that some cheeky types hadn't moved from and rather than flicking the pages had been slyly waiting for us to 'catch up' with them and the place they'd been waiting at.

Of course there's still fun to be had  as a few (page 15 [181]) were not being presumptuous as I, and the majority began to approach a merciful Lord!

By the time everyone had been communicated, being on the downwind leg, they merely acquiesced to the post Communion prayer, which being 'Christ the King' (have you got that bit now?) and remained at the page they had pre-selected (16 [182]) and waited to see where I be going with it. We went for being sent out in the power of His Spirit  and topped and tailed it with the blessing for 'Christ the King' before dismissing them.

And so they left thankful for the sacrament and tired from trying to keep up with me.

Me? I realised that when it came to feasts and festivals that it would perhaps be a great idea to bring along some tailored order of service (yes, I know I was merely visiting) and hand them out to make the experience a little less intense in terms of page manipulations.

Still - let's look on the bright side - it wasn't using the ASB :-)

As for the bingo?

Now winner so I took the fifty pence piece home with me for another day!!!

Morning Prayer - Nov 25

Catherine of Alexandria, Martyr, 4th century
Isaac Watts, Hymn Writer, 1748

Psalm 92

It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to your name, O Most High; To tell of your love early in the morning and of your faithfulness in the night-time, Upon the ten-stringed instrument, upon the harp, and to the melody of the lyre. For you, Lord, have made me glad by your acts, and I sing aloud at the works of your hands.

O Lord, how glorious are your works! Your thoughts are very deep. The senseless do not know, nor do fools understand, That though the wicked sprout like grass and all the workers of iniquity flourish, It is only to be destroyed for ever; but you, O Lord, shall be exalted for evermore. For lo, your enemies, O Lord, lo, your enemies shall perish, and all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered. But my horn you have exalted, like the horns of wild oxen; I am anointed with fresh oil. My eyes will look down on my foes; my ears shall hear the ruin of the evildoers who rise up against me.

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon. Such as are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be vigorous and in full leaf; That they may show that the Lord is true; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Psalm 96
Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord and bless his name; tell out his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations and his wonders among all peoples. For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; he is more to be feared than all gods. For all the gods of the nations are but idols; it is the Lord who made the heavens. Honour and majesty are before him; power and splendour are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples; ascribe to the Lord honour and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the honour due to his name; bring offerings and come into his courts.
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth tremble before him. Tell it out among the nations that the Lord is king. He has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity. Let the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad; let the sea thunder and all that is in it; Let the fields be joyful and all that is in them; let all the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord. For he comes, he comes to judge the earth; with righteousness he will judge the world and the peoples with his truth.

Isaiah 14.3-20
When the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon:

How the oppressor has ceased! How his insolence has ceased!
The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, the sceptre of rulers, that struck down the peoples in wrath with unceasing blows, that ruled the nations in anger with unrelenting persecution. The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth into singing. The cypresses exult over you, the cedars of Lebanon, saying,
‘Since you were laid low, no one comes to cut us down.’ Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come; it rouses the shades to greet you, all who were leaders of the earth; it raises from their thrones all who were kings of the nations. All of them will speak and say to you: ‘You too have become as weak as we are! You have become like us!’ Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, and the sound of your harps; maggots are the bed beneath you, and worms are your covering.

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon;  I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit. Those who see you will stare at you, and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who would not let his prisoners go home?’
All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb; but you are cast out, away from your grave, like loathsome carrion, clothed with the dead, those pierced by the sword, who go down to the stones of the Pit, like a corpse trampled underfoot. You will not be joined with them in burial, because you have destroyed your land, you have killed your people.

May the descendants of evildoers nevermore be named!

Matthew 9.18-34

While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, ‘My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.’ And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.’ Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well. When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute-players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, ‘Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. And the report of this spread throughout that district.

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you.’ And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, ‘See that no one knows of this.’ But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district.

After they had gone away, a demoniac who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the one who had been mute spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, ‘Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.’ But the Pharisees said, ‘By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons.’

The Collect
Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet;
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Christ the King

When the soldiers came to the place called “The Skull,” they nailed Jesus to a cross. They also nailed the two criminals to crosses, one on each side of Jesus.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive these people! They don’t know what they’re doing.”

While the crowd stood there watching Jesus, the soldiers gambled for his clothes. The leaders insulted him by saying, “He saved others. Now he should save himself, if he really is God’s chosen Messiah!”

The soldiers made fun of Jesus and brought him some wine. They said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!”

Above him was a sign that said, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals hanging there also insulted Jesus by saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and save us!”

But the other criminal told the first one off, “Don’t you fear God? Aren’t you getting the same punishment as this man? We got what was coming to us, but he didn’t do anything wrong.” 

Then he said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into power!”

Jesus replied, “I promise that today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23.33-43

Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet;
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

May you today meet with Jesus, The Christ,
May you be touched by the fact that you are loved
Loved enough that someone would die in your place
That you might be reconciled to God
And be brought into the joy that the knowledge
of eternal life is yours.

Just reach out and touch the hem of His garment

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Daily Office - Nov 23

Clement, Bishop of Rome, Martyr, c.100

 Psalm 78.1-39
Hear my teaching, O my people; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will pour forth mysteries from of old, Such as we have heard and known, which our forebears have told us. We will not hide from their children, but will recount to generations to come, the praises of the Lord and his power and the wonderful works he has done.

He laid a solemn charge on Jacob and made it a law in Israel, which he commanded them to teach their children, that the generations to come might know, and the children yet unborn, that they in turn might tell it to their children; So that they might put their trust in God and not forget the deeds of God, but keep his commandments, and not be like their forebears, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, and whose spirit was not faithful to God.

The people of Ephraim, armed with the bow, turned back in the day of battle; They did not keep the covenant of God and refused to walk in his law; They forgot what he had done and the wonders he had shown them. For he did marvellous things in the sight of their forebears, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan. He divided the sea and let them pass through; he made the waters stand still in a heap. He led them with a cloud by day and all the night through with a blaze of fire. He split the hard rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink as from the great deep. He brought streams out of the rock and made water gush out like rivers. Yet for all this they sinned more against him and defied the Most High in the wilderness. They tested God in their hearts and demanded food for their craving. They spoke against God and said, ‘Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? ‘He struck the rock indeed, so that the waters gushed out and the streams overflowed, but can he give bread or provide meat for his people?’

When the Lord heard this, he was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob and his anger went out against Israel, For they had no faith in God and put no trust in his saving help. So he commanded the clouds above and opened the doors of heaven. He rained down upon them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. So mortals ate the bread of angels; he sent them food in plenty. He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens and led out the south wind by his might. He rained flesh upon them as thick as dust and winged fowl like the sand of the sea. He let it fall in the midst of their camp and round about their tents. So they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they desired. But they did not stop their craving; their food was still in their mouths,

When the anger of God rose against them, and slew their strongest men and felled the flower of Israel. But for all this, they sinned yet more and put no faith in his wonderful works. So he brought their days to an end like a breath and their years in sudden terror. Whenever he slew them, they would seek him; they would repent and earnestly search for God. They remembered that God was their rock and the Most High God their redeemer. Yet they did but flatter him with their mouth and dissembled with their tongue. Their heart was not steadfast towards him, neither were they faithful to his covenant.

But he was so merciful that he forgave their misdeeds and did not destroy them; many a time he turned back his wrath and did not suffer his whole displeasure to be roused. For he remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes by and does not return.

Isaiah 13.1-13
On a bare hill raise a signal, cry aloud to them; wave the hand for them to enter the gates of the nobles. I myself have commanded my consecrated ones, have summoned my warriors, my proudly exulting ones, to execute my anger.

Listen, a tumult on the mountains as of a great multitude!
Listen, an uproar of kingdoms, of nations gathering together!
The Lord of hosts is mustering an army for battle. They come from a distant land, from the end of the heavens, the Lord and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole earth.

Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty! Therefore all hands will be feeble, and every human heart will fail, and they will be dismayed. Pangs and agony will seize them; they will be in anguish like a woman in labour. They will look aghast at one another; their faces will be aflame.
See, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the earth a desolation, and to destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light.
I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity;
I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant, and lay low the insolence of tyrants.
I will make mortals more rare than fine gold, and humans than the gold of Ophir.
Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the Lord of hosts on the day of his fierce anger.

Matthew 9.1-17
And after getting into a boat he crossed the water and came to his own town? And just then some people were carrying a paralysed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’ Then some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he then said to the paralytic—‘Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.’ And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding-guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.’

Creator and Father of eternity,
whose martyr Clement bore witness with his blood
to the love he proclaimed and the gospel that he preached:
give us thankful hearts as we celebrate your faithfulness, revealed to us in the lives of your saints,
and strengthen us in our pilgrimage as we follow your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Remember when Everyone knew about Church?

That time when just about everyone, yes ALL the people you met, knew the Lord's Prayer (traditional version) and could quote passages (King James Version) and knew that the time before Christmas was Advent and the time before Easter was Lent (and they knew this was a 'purple' season too!)?

I happened to mention to someone that Advent started next week and they, being rather typical of the people I tend to meet these days, assumed that I was talking about a new club. After all Trinity has become Kuda (which is, if memory serves me correctly, the name of a Tapir in India) so it makes sense that Advent might be another renaming!

I explained that Advent was the time before Christmas and immediately they picked up on it and asked whether that was another name for the twelve days before Christmas!!

Thus stopped in my tracks I moved the bus back a little and explained that the twelve days of Christmas actually began on Christmas Day (which this year, I added, will happen on the 25th December) and ends with Epiphany (5th January) - so they occur AFTER Christmas.

 Quick as a flash, back comes the response, 'Epiphany? Isn't that what they do when someone dies - Why do they do it for Christmas?

'No, no, no.' said I (patiently), 'That's an epitaph!'

'Yes, that's what you said. Why do one at Christmas because that's all about giving presents not dead people. That's Hallowe'en!'

So I began to explain that Hallowe'en was not about epitaphs nor dead people and get on to All Souls, Saints and all that stuff when I came up with a great idea!

I looked at them and said, 'Never mind - soon be Christmas won't it?' And left knowing when I'd been soundly beaten :-)

Made me Laugh: Touching the Ragged, Naked and Heavy-laden!

There they were - walking along the road ...

Some  people turned to stare. 

Others quickly looked away as if the sight would somehow contaminate them; afraid to be seen staring.

Recalling my old parish priest, Father Mike, who always admonished me to "care for the sick, feed the hungry and clothe the naked," I was moved by some powerful inner urge to reach out to touch this unfortunate  person.

Wearing what can only be described as rags, carrying her treasured worldly possessions in two plastic bags, my heart was touched by this person's condition.  

Yes, where some people saw only rags, I saw a true, hidden beauty.

A small voice inside my head called out,

"Reach out, reach out and touch!"

And so, of course being obedient, I did!

I won't be in Church this Sunday!

And apparenty the case comes up early January

Thank you Ian and Mark :-)

Morning Prayer - nov 22

Cecilia, Martyr at Rome, c.230

Psalm 63

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

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

My soul shall be satisfied, as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise you with joyful lips, When I remember you upon my bed and meditate on you in the watches of the night. For you have been my helper and under the shadow of your wings will I rejoice.

My soul clings to you; your right hand shall hold me fast. But those who seek my soul to destroy it shall go down to the depths of the earth; Let them fall by the edge of the sword and become a portion for jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God; all those who swear by him shall be glad, for the mouth of those who speak lies shall be stopped.

Psalm 65
Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; to you that answer prayer shall vows be paid. To you shall all flesh come to confess their sins; when our misdeeds prevail against us, you will purge them away. Happy are they whom you choose and draw to your courts to dwell there. We shall be satisfied with the blessings of your house, even of your holy temple. With wonders you will answer us in your righteousness, O God of our salvation, O hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. In your strength you set fast the mountains and are girded about with might. You still the raging of the seas, the roaring of their waves and the clamour of the peoples. Those who dwell at the ends of the earth tremble at your marvels; the gates of the morning and evening sing your praise. You visit the earth and water it; you make it very plenteous.

The river of God is full of water; you prepare grain for your people, for so you provide for the earth. You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges; you soften the ground with showers and bless its increase. You crown the year with your goodness, and your paths overflow with plenty. May the pastures of the wilderness flow with goodness and the hills be girded with joy. May the meadows be clothed with flocks of sheep and the valleys stand so thick with corn that they shall laugh and sing.

Isaiah 11.10-12.end
On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious. On that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that is left of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Ethiopia, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.

He will raise a signal for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart, the hostility of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not be hostile towards Ephraim. But they shall swoop down on the backs of the Philistines in the west; together they shall plunder the people of the east. They shall put forth their hand against Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites shall obey them. And the Lord will utterly destroy the tongue of the sea of Egypt; and will wave his hand over the River with his scorching wind; and will split it into seven channels, and make a way to cross on foot; so there shall be a highway from Assyria for the remnant that is left of his people,as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt.

You will say on that day: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say on that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted.

Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Matthew 8.23-end
And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A gale arose on the lake, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’

When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. Suddenly they shouted, ‘What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?’ Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. The demons begged him, ‘If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.’ And he said to them, ‘Go!’ So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighbourhood.

The Collect
Heavenly Father,
whose blessed Son was revealed to destroy the works of the devil
and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life:
grant that we, having this hope, may purify ourselves even as he is pure;
that when he shall appear in power and great glory
we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom;
where he is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Funerals - more than just a 'service'

One of the most important roles we have in our ministerial life is that of funerals. To play a part in the last opportunity people will have to be physically present in the same place as a loved one is a great privilege and a potential nightmare unless care is taken, and thankfully it usually is.

One of the greatest blessings I have heard of was the cleric who received a visit from a family member who come to say that they'd never realised who the deceased really was until they'd heard their life story contextualised by them. How cool is that - and what an example of what it is that we who do funerals should be aiming for.

One of the biggest challenges comes in the form of note-taking and this is not always easy. The prospect of a grieving wife whose sum total of information regarding her lost husband came down to: 'He was my husband!' So what are you going to do with that? After all, the people at the service will be expecting more in any eulogy than, 'Here's nnnn, he was nnnn's husband (and potentially someone's father and grandfather too)!' It's not often that the twenty minutes afforded in a Crematorium is enough to do a life justice  is enough but to find it's far too much is an even greater nightmare.

The answer is simple - you play detective. You knock on doors, find workmates, members of the same clubs and you dig. And yes, I know that takes time, but what else do we have but time when it comes to a pastoral need? You take the bob - you do the job - simple, innit?

The little details are all too often  the biggest points on which memories are hung and so nothing is too small or irrelevant. A 'for instance'  has to be the passing comment about the wartime church organist and the funny way they played a popular tune as the couple left the church after their marriage. A piece of gold amongst what the family thought of as 'Gran's ramblings' that led to the family leaving to that tune that meant nothing to them and allowed a woman who had been snatched by Alzheimer's to be reached by the service.

Whilst music is on the menu, it's probably worth a mention that regardless of our own preferences, the family's choice is usually what you go with. I know this can be a but dodgy; after all I'm the bloke who found himself standing by a coffin, curtains closing, as a Gangsta rap tune assaulted our ears! Not bad for an eighty something, turned out that the great grandson had changed it because he and the dear departed used to listen to it together - aargh! There are some limits but we advise and comply.

Hopefully those who read this find so etching if value in it and for those I've been discussing the issue of  funerals, I hope it draws things together a little more.

What's the worst / best / weirdest music you've had at a funeral service?