Wednesday, 31 December 2014

On the seventh day of Christmas ...

Apple having put aside their Twelve Days of Christmas giveaway this year has given me the chance to get people thinking, praying, learning, listening (to some great music) and finding app's they might not have otherwise done: Day Seven ...

The Church
Well, my church anyway, is remembering John Wyclif(fe), a man who caught my imagination as a twenty something year old newbie Christian thanks to a mention of him (and Tyndale) in a sermon. Interestingly Tyndale was both misquoted and taken out of context with the words:

'The lowliest plough boy with the Bible in his own language will know more of God's will than the highest cleric in the land!' 

Words that were then used to support Wyclif's own words:

'Moses heard God's law in his own tongue; so did Christ's apostles. Englishmen learn Christ's law best in English.'

Here we have a Yorkshireman whom many of those I know from Leicestershire claim as their own whilst others see him as being from County Durham. What it is to be popular!

But the reality is that here we have a man who is theologian and translator of the Bible (New Testament at first) into English who unlike Tyndale (who was strangled and burned at the stake) had a stroke whilst saying Mass on Holy Innocents' Day, 28 December 1384 and died on the 31st December. Mind you - his body was later dug up almost thirty years later and he was denounced as a heretic and excommunicated from the church. His remains were burned and the ashes ended up being scattered in the River Swift (where, oddly, I fish from time to time).

Rumour has it that Wyclif remains silent throughout!

This is a man who was a strong leader, a fine theologian and a good priest (what more can anyone ask?) and rightly is remembered, and honoured, today as the 'bright morning star' of the Reformation for it was him (and others like him) who set laid the track that would, a couple of year's later, bring the changes that Luther and others are so praised (or despised) for.

Would that we had more like him with us today.

Requiescat in pace

The World
Is busying itself with The end of an old year and the beginning of something new.

Around 50% of us will be making resolutions to be or do or have something or other!

Around 5% of the population will actually keep their resolution; that's a 'one in ten success rate'!

Many years ago I mad a resolution never to make resolutions and for some thirty plus years I have managed to keep that resolution; not a bad hit rate I reckons/

Just like those who have been given diaries which are written in at first and then scribbled in occasionally before being tossed in the bin, we have lives in which we write our good intentions only to fail and become more discouraged.

Tonight more people will find themselves looking towards uncertainty and promise in equal measure in the year ahead and I found this piece of advice (which is part of today's gift):

If you are going to make a resolution: Be specific.

Decide exactly what you are going to do

Decide when you are going to do it by

How many, how much, who with, where and how will you do it all need to be answered.

Better to make one achievable goal than many you will almost certainly fall short of.

Simple - innit?

Something to watch
A rather useful film on Wycliff - worth a watch if you know little of the man and his work:

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Something to listen to

Here\s a little number that Wyclif probably tapped his toes to:

and here it is in a more modern (and recognisable) form:

O God, your justice continually challenges your Church to live according to its calling:
Grant us who now remember the work of John Wyclif
contrition for the wounds which our sins inflict on your Church,
and such love for Christ that we may seek to heal the divisions which afflict his Body;
through the same Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever. Amen.

Morning Prayer - 31 December 14

John Wyclif, Reformer, 1384

Psalm 102
O Lord, hear my prayer and let my crying come before you. Hide not your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; when I call, make haste to answer me, For my days are consumed in smoke and my bones burn away as in a furnace. My heart is smitten down and withered like grass, so that I forget to eat my bread. From the sound of my groaning my bones cleave fast to my skin. I am become like a vulture in the wilderness, like an owl that haunts the ruins. I keep watch and am become like a sparrow solitary upon the housetop.

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

My days fade away like a shadow, and I am withered like grass. But you, O Lord, shall endure for ever and your name through all generations. You will arise and have pity on Zion; it is time to have mercy upon her; surely the time has come. For your servants love her very stones and feel compassion for her dust.

Then shall the nations fear your name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth your glory, When the Lord has built up Zion and shown himself in glory; When he has turned to the prayer of the destitute and has not despised their plea. This shall be written for those that come after, and a people yet unborn shall praise the Lord. For he has looked down from his holy height; from the heavens he beheld the earth, That he might hear the sighings of the prisoner and set free those condemned to die; That the name of the Lord may be proclaimed in Zion and his praises in Jerusalem, When peoples are gathered together and kingdoms also, to serve the Lord.

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

Isaiah 59.15b-end
Truth is lacking, and whoever turns from evil is despoiled.

The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, and was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm brought him victory, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in fury as in a mantle. According to their deeds, so will he repay; wrath to his adversaries, requital to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render requital. So those in the west shall fear the name of the Lord, and those in the east, his glory; for he will come like a pent-up stream that the wind of the Lord drives on.

And he will come to Zion as Redeemer, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression, says the Lord. And as for me, this is my covenant with them, says the Lord: my spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouths of your children, or out of the mouths of your children’s children, says the Lord, from now on and for ever.

John 1.29-34
The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him; but I came baptising with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me tobaptise  with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’

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

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

On the sixth day of Christmas ...

Apple having put aside their Twelve Days of Christmas giveaway this year has given me the chance to get people thinking, praying, learning, listening (to some great music) and finding app's they might not have otherwise done: Day Six ...

The Church and the World
Today all is quiet in the Western Church - but one hundred years ago today things were just a little different and to mark the centenary of the 1914-18 conflict SGM (Lifewords) have created a facsimile of the New Testament that would have been carried by those engaged in the conflict (Active Service  John's Gospel):

SGM Lifewords

This conflict changed the world in so many ways and lasted some 244 weeks - perhaps 2015 might present an opportunity for churches (and individuals) to get hold of some of these and use them as part of remembrance and commemoration where you are. Why not take the opportunity to bring the Church and the World into relationship by looking at the war memorials in your buildings and create some links and mark those who marched away from your home town?

Karaoke and Church Resources

We have somehow developed a couple of traditions associated with New Year in our church. The first is that we pray until early into the next year and some how it has also become a bit of a standard feature for us to engage in the wonderful art of Karaoke. 

I'm about to start producing Christian CDG (music and video files) and wonder how many of you out there would like to experiment with this as a resource. I already have a place where service resources can be found and am happy to extend it to this if it would be helpful.

For what is on offer already, take a look here .

Something to listen to

Following a request for something instrumental:

And for the person who asked for another piece of music by Adrian Snell, here is one of my favourite pieces:

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

Morning Prayer - 30 December 14

Psalm 111

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

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

The works of his hands are truth and justice; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever; they are done in truth and equity.

He sent redemption to his people; he commanded his covenant for ever; holy and awesome is his name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have those who live by it; his praise endures for ever.

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 59.1-15a
See, the Lord’s hand is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. Rather, your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness. No one brings suit justly, no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, conceiving mischief and begetting iniquity. They hatch adders’ eggs, and weave the spider’s web; whoever eats their eggs dies, and the crushed egg hatches out a viper. Their webs cannot serve as clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they rush to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, desolation and destruction are in their highways. The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths. Their roads they have made crooked; no one who walks in them knows peace.

Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us; we wait for light, and lo! there is darkness; and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.

We grope like the blind along a wall, groping like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among the vigorous as though we were dead.

We all growl like bears; like doves we moan mournfully.

We wait for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us. For our transgressions before you are many, and our sins testify against us. Our transgressions indeed are with us, and we know our iniquities: transgressing, and denying the Lord, and turning away from following our God, talking oppression and revolt, conceiving lying words and uttering them from the heart.

Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands at a distance; for truth stumbles in the public square, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and whoever turns from evil is despoiled.

The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice.

John 1.19-28
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord” ’, as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ John answered them, ‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

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

Monday, 29 December 2014

On the fifth day of Christmas ...

Since Apple have put aside their Twelve Days of Christmas giveaway this year I thought I would have to do something too redress the gap left by them: Day Five ...

The (Western) Church
Today the Church in the West commemorates Thomas (a) Becket (whilst the Eastern Church takes up with the 'Holy Innocents') that 'troublesome' priest from the twelfth century who, as Archbishop of Canterbury,  having upset his sometime patron and friend King Henry II, was murdered by four of his (the king's) Barons. The reason  being that having Henry uttering the words, 'Will no one rid me of this troublesome / turbulent / meddlesome* priest?" they assumed that he wanted the priest removed.

Such was Henry's apparent remorse at the death that he walked barefoot from London to Canterbury - mind you, a cynical lecturer of mine led me to write, 'The world around Henry was appalled and were stirred up against him because of the act - so it was an easier option to walk than war!'

And Thomas was made a saint with Canterbury Cathedral his shrine. He seems to have been a good written. Definitely a shrewd, and brave, man who (if the accounts in the clip below are accurate) stood between for what he considered to be right and knew the God he served with a passion.

Hopefully this sheds some light on the man and makes the facts a little more accessible.

* Take your pick here. I was taught 'troublesome' at school, 'turbulent' at college and 'meddlesome' at Uni' - all fit the bill :-)

The World
Today looks at turbulence in many forms today with travel being at the forefront of the news with:

+ The apparent loss of AirAsia Indonesia flight QZ8501 with 163 people on board,

+ The 'Norman Atlantic' ferry fire where, having removed 316 people,  162 remain onboard awaiting rescue from the disabled vessel.

So often we glibly talk of 'journeying mercies' and yet, despite the safety record of land, sea and air transport, life is always fragile and precious. Who will you be praying for over the New Year celebrations I wonder?

How many of us pray when we read the news? Is it just 'news' or a call to reflect and pray and, where possible, become more fully engaged?

The Common Worship Lectionary
One of the greatest things I have on my phone and on my computer is Simon Kershaw's offering of an electronic Common Worship Lectionary which resides on the equally excellent Oremus site.

This application integrates into your computer's calendar and into your pocket regardless of what device you have. IPhone, Android, iCal, Outlook, iPad, Blackberry and Palm are all catered for - and it even support those who enjoy BCP too! So for those of us who promised at their ordination to study and pray, and for those who would like to know what the readings for Sunday might be (if your church uses the lectionary that is) - this is the app' for you!

Each and every day you can find the readings, the commemorations and feasts, the colours for the day (it's a traditional church thing for those of you who are now confused!) and there's also the Collects and Post Communion Prayers too.

Who could ask for anything more? This sets the benchmark for liturgical calendars

Something to listen to

Some chant:

And something a little newer from the Rend Collective (who are always worth listening to):

Lord God,
who gave grace to your servant Thomas Becket to put aside all earthly fear and be faithful even to death:
grant that we, disregarding worldly esteem, may fight all wrong, uphold your rule, and serve you to our life’s end;
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.

Morning Prayer - 29 December 14

Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Martyr, 1170

Psalm 19
The heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. One day pours out its song to another and one night unfolds knowledge to another. They have neither speech nor language and their voices are not heard, yet their sound has gone out into all lands and their words to the ends of the world. In them has he set a tabernacle for the sun, that comes forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber and rejoices as a champion to run his course. It goes forth from the end of the heavens and runs to the very end again, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to the simple.
The statutes of the Lord are right and rejoice the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure and gives light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean and endures for ever;
the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold,more than much fine gold, sweeter also than honey, dripping from the honeycomb.
By them also is your servant taught and in keeping them there is great reward. Who can tell how often they offend?

O cleanse me from my secret faults!
Keep your servant also from presumptuous sins lest they get dominion over me; so shall I be undefiled, and innocent of great offence.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

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.

Isaiah 57.15-end
For thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite. For I will not continually accuse, nor will I always be angry; for then the spirits would grow faint before me, even the souls that I have made. Because of their wicked  covetousness I was angry;    I struck them, I hid and was angry; but they kept turning back to their own ways. I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will lead them and repay them with comfort, creating for their mourners the fruit of the lips.

Peace, peace, to the far and the near, says the Lord; and I will heal them. But the wicked are like the tossing sea that cannot keep still; its waters toss up mire and mud. There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.

John 1.1-18
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

The Collect
Lord God,
who gave grace to your servant Thomas Becket to put aside all earthly fear and be faithful even to death: grant that we, disregarding worldly esteem, may fight all wrong, uphold your rule, and serve you to our life’s end; 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.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

On the fourth day of Christmas ...

Since Apple have put aside their Twelve Days of Christmas giveaway this year I thought I would have to do something too redress the gap left by them: Day Four ...

The (Western) Church
Today commemorates the 'Holy Innocents' - the event which under the command of Herod saw a number of boy children (two and under) put to death in an attempt to kill Jesus. It's was a day when the words of Jeremiah 31 (A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.) were fulfilled and speaks of the death of innocents through the action of the powers of darkness and oppression. So as we remember how dark forces acted against the coming into the world of the light that is Jesus - we ought also to spare a moment for the many innocents who have lost their lives in Syria and Nigeria and so many other places in our news of late.

Take a listen to to the Carol at the foot of this page and think of the words that relate to 'then' and 'now' too.

Time to make a stand, offer prayers and issue a plea for the light to be made manifest through... oh yeah, you and me!

The Western World
Is enjoying alcohol to the extent that here in the UK we, the general public, are spending some £21bn each year to combat the effects of it! So much so that the head of the College of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Clifford Mann, has called for an end to the soft approach currently used and the adoption of arrests, fines and imprisonment as a means of curbing the situation.

It seems that some things may always be with us, and that Hogarth's fears then are very much the reality for many of us today. Surely a cause for shame, prayer and engagement by the Church.

Christian 'Phone Apps (PrayerMate)

Watch the video and if you think that this App will do something to help you pray just that little more efficiently and effectively (and we all want to pray well but yet somehow rarely do it seems) then visit Andy Geer's website  and get yourself a copy - iPhone and Android versions available.

I have mine and I'll review it a bit later down the line when I've seen how it's worked for me.

Still - it's free, what do you have to lose?

Something to listen to

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

Can't make it to church? 28th December 14

Today we have remember the 'Holy Innocents' - the children who were put to death by Herod in his quest to ensure that any competition to being king was quite literally 'put down'.

If we looks at the Gospel reading (Matthew 2.13-18) we find the following:

"Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

‘A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’

Thus says the Lord:
A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.

The Passage in Jeremiah to which the Gospel refers is our Old Testament reading for today (31.15-17 15):

"Thus says the Lord:
A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.

Thus says the Lord: Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your work, says the Lord: they shall come back from the land of the enemy there is hope for your future, says the Lord: your children shall come back to their own country."

The commemoration today recalls the children who were put to death on the orders of Herod to ensure that Jesus was found and killed and this serves a couple of purposes for us in that first and foremost we realise that we are some two years into Jesus' life (which is why those boys who were up to the age of two were put to death) - a nice reminder that the Hallmark card moment of the Shepherds and Magi crowded into the stable is merely a nice image rather than a reality!

The second purpose is to remind us of the sort of bloke Herod was, for this puppet ruler was not averse to killing people who got in the way, especially if he thought they might be out to take his crown; and Jesus really fitted that bill from the description the Magi used of Him when they encountered Herod!

Herod had put to death his own children and so his actions were indeed in keeping with the story. Interestingly, outside of the Matthew account, we have little to add weight to the story until the late fourth/early fifth century when a Roman writer, Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius. mentions it in one of his writings, the second book of 'Saturnalia' (chapter 4):

'When the Emperor Augustus heard that among the boys in Syria under two years old whom Herod, king of the Jews, had ordered to kill, was his own son, he (Augustus) said: it is better to be Herod's pig, than his son.'

The problem with the account from Matthew and the reality surrounding it is that whilst some have hundreds, thousands even, as the number of those boys put to death, the reality would have been (due to the size of Bethlehem) something around one or two dozen! This is such beer that it wouldn't generally be worth a mention outside of those people who had been directly affected by the event!

That said, historical accounts of the time (and the man) do appear to indicate that this is not out of character and would have been rather likely rather than something fictitious designed to support the claims of a bunch of 'religious nutters' (my words)!

So just as we found in Mary the first follower of Jesus; the first to put their life and their ambitions on the line for the Messiah - Today we are looking at the first to have their lives taken from them because of Jesus having come into the world. Stephen might have been the first to stand for Jesus as the Christ and so lose his life for it - but the male children of Bethlehem were the first to lose their lives because of the opposition to Jesus.

This is a tough call because whilst we recall the death we do so with an air of sadness that innocents were killed and remember that today, across our 'civilised world', they still do. Today should cause offence at those who use their power wrongly; who take life because they can and do so to meet their own ends. As the light comes into the world the response is for the wicked to turn up the darkness! Herod did it then - other continue to do it now.

So today is a call for us to take up the challenge and oppose the darkness - bringing the light that is within us into the world 'so that all may see by it!', and the New Testament reading (1 Corinthians 1.26-29) is of assistance here:

'Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise;

God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.'

Christians are not called to 'leave their brains at the door; neither are they called to engage in self-serving cleverness to be something. No we are called to be salt and light and peace to the world - it's about humility not being one of the proud. It is about serving rather than being served!

So today the call is upon us to be everything the world isn't. It is a call for us:

To celebrate people rather than self-promoting wisdom.

To seek truth rather than being subjective and puffed up with clever egotistical tosh!

To seek peace and engage in dialogue where others will merely stuff fingers in their ears and ignore everything that they choose to ignore.

And so from this we pray the collect (and the Post Communion prayer)for today:

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

Post Communion Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ,
in your humility you have stooped to share our human life with the most defenceless of your children:
may we who have received these gifts of your passion rejoice in celebrating the witness of the Holy Innocents to the purity of your sacrifice made once for all upon the cross;
for you are alive and reign, now and for ever. Amen.

Now there are that many songs or pieces of  music that I could offer you for this day and yet one that fits the bill is the 'Coventry Carol' which has within it references to the 'Holy Innocents' and their death:

Saturday, 27 December 2014

On the third day of Christmas ...

Since Apple have put aside their Twelve Days of Christmas giveaway this year I thought I would have to do something too redress the gap left by them: Day Three ...

The (Western) Church
Celebrates the feast of St John (the Evangelist - the theologian - the Divine)
Him what has a Gospel and some letters and Revelations.
It's Him what (as the Evangelist) has an Eagle as his symbol and this is often said to be the reason for the design of many of the lecterns - as the place from whence the word goes out into the world!

The Western World
Continues generally unabated with its sad affection with crime as the body of Father Gregorio Lopez was found near the Mexican city of Ciudad Altamirano. Fr. Lopez accused the drug gang 'Guerreros Unidos'* of the kidnap and murder of 43 young people (something few see to have been affected by in this country) in September and it is this group that many suspect to be behind the killing. He is the third priest to have been killed this year!

* United Warriors

Apparently Christians are still coming in for attention from the state as reports of crosses being torn down and congregations tear gassed. The number of those who have made Christianity a lifestyle is, according to some, as large (if not larger) than the number of those in the Communist party itself - and this is obviously seen as a bit of threat.

So much of a threat it seems that the authorities are enforcing rules forbidding minors from engaging in any religious practice in an attempt to put an end to stop Christian organisations working with those under the age of 18 whilst 'requiring' local legislatures to work with this age group to spread an atheist message.

So Christians are still spreading the word, making a stand for what is right, and being opposed.

Hallelujah or what?

Something to listen to

and for those who like something a little older in style'

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

Morning Prayer - 27 December 14

John, Apostle and Evangelist

Psalm 21
The king shall rejoice in your strength, O Lord; how greatly shall he rejoice in your salvation!

You have given him his heart’s desire and have not denied the request of his lips. For you come to meet him with blessings of goodness and set a crown of pure gold upon his head. He asked of you life and you gave it him, length of days, for ever and ever. His honour is great because of your salvation; glory and majesty have you laid upon him.

You have granted him everlasting felicity and will make him glad with joy in your presence. For the king puts his trust in the Lord; because of the loving-kindness of the Most High, he shall not be overthrown. Your hand shall mark down all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you. You will make them like a fiery oven in the time of your wrath; the Lord will swallow them up in his anger and the fire will consume them. Their fruit you will root out of the land and their seed from among its inhabitants. Because they intend evil against you and devise wicked schemes which they cannot perform, You will put them to flight when you aim your bow at their faces.

Be exalted, O Lord, in your own might; we will make music and sing of your power.

Psalm 147.13-21
Sing praise to the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion; For he has strengthened the bars of your gates and has blest your children within you.
He has established peace in your borders and satisfies you with the finest wheat.
He sends forth his command to the earth and his word runs very swiftly.
He gives snow like wool and scatters the hoarfrost like ashes.
He casts down his hailstones like morsels of bread; who can endure his frost
He sends forth his word and melts them; he blows with his wind and the waters flow.
He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and judgements to Israel.
He has not dealt so with any other nation; they do not know his laws.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 26 December 2014

On the Second Day of Christmas ...

Since Apple have put aside their Twelve Days of Christmas giveaway this year I thought I would have to do something too redress the gap left by them: Day Two ...

The (Western) Church
Celebrates the Feast of Stephen - One of the first Deacons* (Acts 6), Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7) and commemorated today.

Many people know of the feast, even if subliminally, thanks to the carol:  'Good King Wenceslaus'

* people selected to 'wait at tables and deliver charity so that the Apostles could get on with their job

The Western World
Today is a day set aside for other worshippers to gather together in search of close fellowship and a sprit of camaraderie and joy as they seek that elusive bargain and return the stuff they received yesterday!

They're not doing Boxing Day as they are still having a 'lockdown' to try and address the Ebola crisis - in fact Christmas didn't happen this year for many!

Merciful Lord, we thank you for the signs of your mercy revealed in birth and death:
save us by the coming of your Son,
and give us joy in honouring Stephen, first martyr of the new Israel;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Morning Prayer - 26 December 14

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

Look upon me and answer, O Lord my God; lighten my eyes, lest I sleep in death; Lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him,’ and my foes rejoice that I have fallen. But I put my trust in your steadfast love; my heart will rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has dealt so bountifully with me.

Psalm 31.1-8
In you, O Lord, have I taken 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.

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.

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

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

The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

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

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

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Can't Make it to Church? Christmas 2014

It's Christmas and therefore it's all about:


An invisible God becoming a very visible human. Thank to the willingness of a teenage girl:

Mary: An of course Joseph without whom things might have been equally difficult!

The Roman Empire; who make sure that she ends up in a place that is far from home and far from comfortable either!

Yes this story has it all:  World powers, travel, drama, a personal interest story as an unmarried girl has to tell her fiancĂ© she's pregnant, a God interest and some smelly Shepherds.

Goodness me, not even Tom Stoppard could produce a plot like this (although perhaps his ex, Miriam, would have been handy at the delivery perhaps!).

At last - the fourth verse is with us too!

So beginning with Isaiah, a chap who some seven hundred years before the event is foretelling the birth of a Messiah who will do wonderful things (take a look at the job description in the Isaiah passage: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Increasing authority) and suffer some terrible stuff too!

This child, born in a catspaw of a nation, is to bring God's Grace - which means getting what we'd like but don't deserve from a God who doesn't call in the debts we've run up but scrubs them off the sheet! -  and bringing His (that's God's) love, light and peace to those who choose to accept it.

The 'accepting it bit is only fair, after all if you don't want it then you don't have to have it you know! But as the Titus passage so succinctly puts it, 'Here it is: salvation to all'

How very cool is this?

So the Romans send Joseph, who takes Mary from Nazareth, to Bethlehem to make sure that the Isaiah prophecy comes true and the Light comes into the world; a world that He created! A place where another of the readings, from John One, really hits the spot too, for it talks of Jesus as the light and how we, through His coming, living, dying and resurrection, can become 'children of God' - But you'll need to look at that yourself).

So here we are: 'Jesus is the reason for the season' and all that stuff as we put 'Christ back into Christmas!' But we need to understand what is on offer for us here:

It is the offering of self for others: and were are the others and Jesus is the self that is offered.

It is Jesus putting everything that is divine aside to engage with everything we do as someone who is truly human (Jesus isn't playing a role - He is truly human) so that this 'sin' thing can get dealt with 'Once and for all!'

It is that revelation moment when those who say they will believe when they see it - see it! This is why the journey begins with the lowest of Bethlehem's society - after all if it was good enough for them then we must be OK because we are nowhere near as smelly or despised (I hope!).

It is an offer of God's Christmas presence - something that keeps on being true for every day of our lives should we so wish. Not an 'arm up the back' or 'leave your brain at the door' life - but a life that puts others first and brings into the game an 'otherness' that defies reason (especially self-serving reason).

It seemed to the Warden that numbers might indeed lower this year!

And later we'll have some geezers from the East appear. these are the brightest and the best - but we will save that until Epiphany (when they arrive at the scene).

The Collect
Almighty God, you have given us your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin: grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; 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.

Isaiah 9.2-7
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness - on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and for evermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Titus 2.11-14
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all has appeared to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Luke 2.1.20
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Post Communion Prayer
God our Father, whose Word has come among us in the Holy Child of Bethlehem: may the light of faith illumine our hearts and shine in our words and deeds; through him who is Christ the Lord.

And why not listen to the 'world's favourite' Christmas song:

(have to say that it's not mine but then again I'm not of this world - I'm just passing through :-)

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Eve

The traffic has stopped and the people they flocked to the stores for to spend all their lolly
'twas Christmas you see but they weren't filled with glee and few of the poor souls were jolly.

And the churches were empty, for no one was flocking to celebrate God at this time,
and uttered the Vicar, the Bishop, and even the Choir:
'how terribly shocking, how terribly sad, we've sunk it the mire - How did it get so bad?

'Do you remember the time when missing church was a crime - A time when all (high and low) flocked to visit?
But now (holy cow!) when they gaze at our crib and most passing by ask, "who is it?' '

Is it 'pro-Palestinian' they ask, and then say, 'In these modern times shouldn't the couple be gay?'
And they wonder, appalled at the ox and the stall, 'Isn't that unhygienic a new baby in hay?'

But why would they think that - What on earth have they heard?
Because I'm sure that we've told them - we've read them the Word!
Made sure that they know and made sure that they've heard!

Have we packaged the Christ-child as a Christmas card motif?
Have we made our observance something that's votive?
Have we made Christ a campaign - not really the reason - and missed the whole point of this odd Christmas season?

Are we caught up with campaigns and positions and rights
 such that our celebration this special of nights
rings hollows and empty and facile and trite?
Have we forgotten it all, that God's love made flesh is the point of tonight?

So to all Bishop and Vicars and Pastors and Leaders,
To laity all - and especially lay Readers!
To all Christians who sigh and bemoan, this affair with twists in their knickers, removing their hair!
To those who will point to decline and not growth - a plea to remember as carols they sing:
It's us that make others aware of the King!

So don't sit in your huddles and quail at the sight of less congregations this wonderful night
But make the Christ real in the way that we live and celebrate Jesus

God's Christmas presence - His gift!

Morning Prayer - 24 December 14

Psalm 45
My heart is astir with gracious words; as I make my song for the king, my tongue is the pen of a ready writer. You are the fairest of men; full of grace are your lips, for God has blest you for ever. Gird your sword upon your thigh, O mighty one; gird on your majesty and glory.

Ride on and prosper in the cause of truth and for the sake of humility and righteousness. Your right hand will teach you terrible things; your arrows will be sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies, so that peoples fall beneath you. Your throne is God’s throne, for ever; the sceptre of your kingdom is the sceptre of righteousness.

You love righteousness and hate iniquity; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows. All your garments are fragrant with myrrh, aloes and cassia; from ivory palaces the music of strings makes you glad. Kings’ daughters are among your honourable women; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.

Hear, O daughter; consider and incline your ear; forget your own people and your father’s house. So shall the king have pleasure in your beauty; he is your lord, so do him honour. The people of Tyre shall bring you gifts; the richest of the people shall seek your favour.

The king’s daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is embroidered cloth of gold. She shall be brought to the king in raiment of needlework; after her the virgins that are her companions. With joy and gladness shall they be brought and enter into the palace of the king.
‘Instead of your fathers you shall have sons, whom you shall make princes over all the land. I will make your name to be remembered through all generations; therefore shall the peoples praise you for ever and ever.’

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

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

He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ashes, To set them with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a place in the house and makes her a joyful mother of children. Alleluia.

Isaiah 55
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,    and delight yourselves in rich food.  Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
   for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

2 Peter 2.4-end
For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgement; and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he saved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood on a world of the ungodly; and if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example of what is coming to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by their lawless deeds that he saw and heard), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgement —especially those who indulge their flesh in depraved lust, and who despise authority.

Bold and wilful, they are not afraid to slander the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not bring against them a slanderous judgement from the Lord. These people, however, are like irrational animals, mere creatures of instinct, born to be caught and killed. They slander what they do not understand, and when those creatures are destroyed, they also will be destroyed, suffering the penalty for doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, revelling in their dissipation while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! They have left the straight road and have gone astray, following the road of Balaam son of Bosor, who loved the wages of doing wrong, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm; for them the deepest darkness has been reserved. For they speak bombastic nonsense, and with licentious desires of the flesh they entice people who have just escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for people are slaves to whatever masters them. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment that was passed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb,
‘The dog turns back to its own vomit’, and, ‘The sow is washed only to wallow in the mud.’

The Collect
Almighty God, you make us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of your Son Jesus Christ:
grant that, as we joyfully receive him as our redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him when he shall come to be our judge; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Time to wheel out the Christmas joy

And for me this is where it begins with this amazingly great piece of animation;

Morning Prayer - 23 December 14

Psalm 128
Blessed are all those who fear the Lord, and walk in his ways. You shall eat the fruit of the toil of your hands; it shall go well with you, and happy shall you be. Your wife within your house shall be like a fruitful vine; your children round your table, like fresh olive branches. Thus shall the one be blest who fears the Lord.

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

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

The ploughers ploughed upon my back and made their furrows long. But the righteous Lord has cut the cords of the wicked in pieces. Let them be put to shame and turned backwards, as many as are enemies of Zion. Let them be like grass upon the housetops, which withers before it can grow, So that no reaper may fill his hand, nor a binder of sheaves his bosom; And none who go by may say,
‘The blessing of the Lord be upon you. We bless you in the name of the Lord.’

Psalm 130
Out of the depths have I cried to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication. If you, Lord, were to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you, so that you shall be feared. I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; in his word is my hope. My soul waits for the Lord,
more than the night watch for the morning, more than the night watch for the morning.

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

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

Isaiah 54
Sing, O barren one who did not bear; burst into song and shout, you who have not been in labour! For the children of the desolate woman will be more than the children of her that is married, says the Lord.
Enlarge the site of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left, and your descendants will possess the nations and will settle the desolate towns.

Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; do not be discouraged, for you will not suffer disgrace; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the disgrace of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. For the Lord has called you like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, like the wife of a man’s youth when she is cast off, says your God.

For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer.

This is like the days of Noah to me: Just as I swore that the waters of Noah would never again go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, I am about to set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of jewels, and all your wall of precious stones. All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the prosperity of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you. If anyone stirs up strife, it is not from me; whoever stirs up strife with you shall fall because of you.

See, it is I who have created the smith who blows the fire of coals, and produces a weapon fit for its purpose; I have also created the ravager to destroy. No weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgement. This is the heritage of the servants of The Lord and their vindication from me, says the Lord.

2 Peter 1.16-2.3
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.

So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions. They will even deny the Master who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Even so, many will follow their licentious ways, and because of these teachers the way of truth will be maligned. And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced against them long ago, has not been idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

The Collect
God our redeemer, who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son: grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour, so we may be ready to greet him when he comes again as our judge; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, 22 December 2014


Yesterday I met someone who told me about the 'brilliant' news that we had a woman bishop, so I asked them why it was brilliant, but they said they didn't know!

Yesterday I met someone who told me that, 'They'd had it with Church because,' because we had a woman bishop, so I asked them what was so bad, and they said fear too much!

Yesterday I had a conversation with a bunch of people. They thought it was a sermon!

Yesterday I was taken to one side and told how people in their church wanted 'more of the Bible, more about Jesus, more about how to live as a Christian!'

Yesterday I met people who saw past their rights, their wants and themselves to offer a hand to others because that was who they were because of Jesus, the Christ!

Yesterday bread and wine and a young woman who said, 'Yes' whilst those people who passed by outside, thinking they saw 'Church', were confused by what was really 'family'!

Yesterday was a time of joy and tears and remembrance and hope and loss and assurance focused on a piece of wood, a broken body and a healed people.

Yesterday was not the 'foreign country where things were done differently' but an extension of that tomorrow brought to us by one outside of time who chose to confound reason and logic by doing things differently.

And today?

Is it just yesterday reheated?


Something to be served fresh - something that is new every morning?

Lord, guide my feet to stay upon the path.
Help me to keep my mind from straying and my tongue from tripping others.
Help me to see in those I meet the image of the invisible God made visible.
Help me to not have opinions but assurances.
Make me a mirror for the living God.
Make me a disciple.
A friend.
A priest.

Morning Prayer - 22 December 14

Psalm 124
If the Lord himself had not been on our side, now may Israel say; If the Lord had not been on our side, when enemies rose up against us; Then would they have swallowed us alive when their anger burned against us; Then would the waters have overwhelmed us and the torrent gone over our soul; over our soul would have swept the raging waters. But blessed be the Lord who has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowler; the snare is broken and we are delivered. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who has made heaven and earth.

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.

Isaiah 52.13-53.end
See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high.  Just as there were many who were astonished at him - so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals - so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.

Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.

Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper. Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

2 Peter 1.1-15
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ:

May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants in the divine nature. For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is short-sighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins. Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.

Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to refresh your memory, since I know that my death will come soon, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

The Collect
God our redeemer, who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son: grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour, so we may be ready to greet him when he comes again as our judge; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Can't make it to church? 21st December 14

Here we are at the end of our journey to Bethlehem and in case you've forgotten today is all about Mary - A young woman whose 'Yes!' Led to her being the mother of Jesus! the Christ, and becoming one of the heroes of the Christian faith.

Well she should be, but sometimes people have made so much of her and made such excessive claims that she gets lost in the noise of misplaced worship. If she was anything other than a woman born of the natural relationship that cause children to come into the world then her role would have been nothing other than playing a part in a play - it would all have been a 'con'! So she was not 'immaculately conceived'. After Jesus' death on the cross she was a full on member of the church and played an influential part as a member - and then died. Elijah's chariot didn't appear to take her to heaven, she was an ordinary woman in an extra-ordinary role, and like almost every other human (I have Elijah and Enoch on my list) she died!

Neither is she 'co-redemptorix' (meaning she and Jesus are joint saviours of the world) - I opened the door for the Queen once to allow her to enter and do a speech, but I was the means by which the door was opened and can claim no royal credentials at all. It's the same for Mary for she was the 'theotokos' - the God Bearer - and she did the job wonderfully.

What we need to take from the readings, and the woman, today is that Mary was the first Apostle. Forget the claims of those who left nets! Mary said 'Yes' and put her life and the potential for stoning and being acted against on God's menu. Her 'Yes' brought her into a place where obedience and stamina for the role was required.

We too, as Christians, need to make our 'Yes' something that causes us to have changed lives, to put aside our will and instead utter the words, 'Whatever you want, I'm your person - lead on!' Words that will cause us to deny ourselves and cause us to take up our cross and put aside the things we desire (which aren't always sinful) and do that which makes us look and live in ways that are compelling, open and attractive.

We have through the birth of Jesus, the Christ, a link into the spiritual hose of David and the right to be called 'beloved'. All of us - Jew and Gentile, those who were near and those who were very far off - have access to forgiveness, enabling and peace because Jesus came into the world.

Thank you Mary for being such a willing follower - may we all be so willing in our lives.

The Collect
God our redeemer, who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son: grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour, so we may be ready to greet him when he comes again as our judge; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The  Magnificat  (Luke 1:46-55)
And Mary said,
 “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

2 Samuel 7.1-11,16
Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.'  But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.

Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.

Romans 16.25-27
Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith - to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever! Amen.

Luke 1.26-38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

Post Communion Prayer
Heavenly Father, who chose the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the mother of the promised saviour: fill us your servants with your grace, that in all things we may embrace your holy will and with her rejoice in your salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.