Monday, 30 June 2014

A timely reminder

Now, can I say it any clearer than this I wonder?

England Football - Some World Cup Trivia

England managed to look after their players by bringing them home as quickly as possible to avoid injuries that might affect their day job and as they enjoy a long World Cup run in front of their televisions, here's a few bits of World Cup trivia for you to amaze your friends with (also handy for that moment when you want to drop something into the sermon to look knowledgeable about football).

click on image for full-size image
Hopefully this will provide the doom and gloom merchants with something to keep them happily moaning.

Have I mentioned I'm Dutch (once England go out that is!)?

Morning Prayer - June 30

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

You are my King and my God, who commanded salvation for Jacob. Through you we drove back our adversaries; through your name we trod down our foes. For I did not trust in my bow; it was not my own sword that saved me; It was you that saved us from our enemies and put our adversaries to shame. We gloried in God all the day long, and were ever praising your name.

But now you have rejected us and brought us to shame and go not out with our armies. You have made us turn our backs on our enemies, and our enemies have despoiled us. You have made us like sheep to be slaughtered, and have scattered us among the nations.
You have sold your people for a pittance and made no profit on their sale.
You have made us the taunt of our neighbours, the scorn and derision of those that are round about us.
You have made us a byword among the nations; among the peoples they wag their heads.

My confusion is daily before me, and shame has covered my face, At the taunts of the slanderer and reviler, at the sight of the enemy and avenger. All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you and have not played false to your covenant. Our hearts have not turned back, nor our steps gone out of your way, Yet you have crushed us in the haunt of jackals, and covered us with the shadow of death.

If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to any strange god, Will not God search it out? For he knows the secrets of the heart. But for your sake are we killed all the day long, and are counted as sheep for the slaughter. Rise up! Why sleep, O Lord? Awake, and do not reject us for ever.

Why do you hide your face and forget our grief and oppression?
Our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly cleaves to the earth.
Rise up, O Lord, to help us and redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.

Judges 2
Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, ‘I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you into the land that I had promised to your ancestors. I said, “I will never break my covenant with you. For your part, do not make a covenant with the inhabitants of this land; tear down their altars.” But you have not obeyed my command. See what you have done! So now I say, I will not drive them out before you; but they shall become adversaries to you, and their gods shall be a snare to you.’ When the angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the Israelites, the people lifted up their voices and wept. So they named that place Bochim, and there they sacrificed to the Lord.
When Joshua dismissed the people, the Israelites all went to their own inheritances to take possession of the land. The people worshipped the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel. Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of one hundred and ten years. So they buried him within the bounds of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. Moreover, that whole generation was gathered to their ancestors, and another generation grew up after them, who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.
Then the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and worshipped the Baals; and they abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; they followed other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were all around them, and bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. They abandoned the Lord, and worshipped Baal and the Astartes. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers who plundered them, and he sold them into the power of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them to bring misfortune, as the Lord had warned them and sworn to them; and they were in great distress.

Then the Lord raised up judges, who delivered them out of the power of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen even to their judges; for they lusted after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their ancestors had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord; they did not follow their example. Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord would be moved to pity by their groaning because of those who persecuted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they would relapse and behave worse than their ancestors, following other gods, worshipping them and bowing down to them. They would not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel; and he said, ‘Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their ancestors, and have not obeyed my voice, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died.’ In order to test Israel, whether or not they would take care to walk in the way of the Lord as their ancestors did, the Lord had left those nations, not driving them out at once, and had not handed them over to Joshua.

Luke 13.1-9
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’
Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” ’

The Collect
Lord, you have taught us
that all our doings without love are nothing worth:
send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ's sake,
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.........

Sunday, 29 June 2014

We all have choices to make!

I have been asked to make my position clear regarding people's 'lifestyle choices' and, being me, I am of course quite happy to do so for I believe we are to make it clear where we stand on issues that challenge us as 'Church' and to defend our faith whenever we are challenged so to do (of course that won't always be an immediate answer as life and opportunity conspire together to make this a 'some time' reality rather than in the 'now').

Now regardless of the issue, or the way that some might regard it, we have to surely start with the fact that outside of the autonomic functions all other responses are voluntary. This means that whatever we do we have to accept that we choose to do it. If we are hungry then even though the hunger exists we still have to decide that we will not only satisfy it but also decide when and how we will do it. A quick for instance being that we find ourselves in a state of hunger and so, walking past someone eating chips, we merely take their chips and eat them. Now we can't help the fact that we are hungry, in fact that's not the issue, but it's the way that we resolve or remedy the issue that we are focussing on here and there is always a right and a wrong way (something that Christians are aided in deciding through God's received word - the Bible - and though God's revealed Word - Jesus!).

If we are hungry we can do any one of a number of things. Here are a few suggestions:

i. Steal a sandwich from the local shop,

ii. Wait until lunchtime and then pop over to the local sandwich shop (used to be Benjys when I worked in the City of London) and buy yourself something to eat,

iii. Get a friend to buy you some food and bring it back for you,

iv. Meet a friend for lunch and eat and enjoy a time of fellowship.

There you go, four scenarios - three of which I reckon are acceptable. If someone stole a sandwich because they were hungry then most people would regard that as wrong. 'But,' they might say (when arrested), 'I was hungry - I had no choice!' Sadly though this defence would fail because the condition of being hungry didn't force them to act as they did.

Now modify the situation and make the person poor or perhaps diabetic (I add this because a diabetic friend of mine 'had' to eat when certain factors were at play - and yet even then they didn't steal the food even when there was a medical imperative). Would the scenarios change? Of course they would.

Perhaps they'd beg or visit the foodbank or do many other things to remedy the hunger, but the fact remains that they would still have a choice and selecting the wrong choice would not make it correct! This is the same for each and every one of us - we have a choice in the way that we respond to, and resolve the needs,  the desires that we have. It is wrong to say that we do not have a choice!

I have recently come across people who tell me that the means of resolving their needs or desires is on a parallel with my stealing sandwiches solution. What makes it interesting (for which you should also read 'frustrating') is the fact that they tell me that because they are doing it openly that they possess 'Integrity' and this integrity renders their actions to be morally acceptable. 'I'm not doing it secretly but doing it in public so everyone can see what I'm doing and my integrity makes the solution I am employing right!'  But of course it doesn't - it neither satisfies human law or Bible law. It is a wrong response to a wrong act.

The same people also tell me that what they do finds favour with a number of people and their approval is an indication of moral or legal rectitude. Oddly though, trying to use the same argument on them regarding fox hunting (or any other taboo area) does not find them accepting the act in the same way that they perceive they are acceptable! How odd (or perhaps human?)!

Prod these people again and they will tell me that 'everyone' regards them as being a 'good person' and when a dogcollar is added to the mix, a 'good Priest' too, but I have to say that if it crosses the line into the 'DON'T' area, then they might just have to accept that they are wrong (again!).

So here's a little request:

I'm happy for  you to have desires, passions, hungers, needs and whatever but please don't tell me that you don't have a choice - because truly you do! You might be hungry but you have a choice in the way that you resolve it and to defend yourself and your actions because others (in different circumstances) are eating is no defence! To say you have no choice in being hungry is true - but the way that you resolve it (who do you serve - your desires or God's demands to live rightly?) is quite frankly a matter of choice. Simple really isn't it?

Hope this hangs together as it's a quick bash on the keyboard to clear my head and clarify my thoughts before the next service takes over.

Can't make it to church - June 29

This weekend is one that has great import as it is one of the times during the year (which we call Petertide) when the Church of England ordains its clergy (this and Michaelmas, which is in September). It is a time when we celebrate two key figures of the Church: Saints (Simon)Peter and Paul. The former being renamed the 'Rock' and the latter responsible for writing much of the New Testament.

Two men who through different means (and yet the one same method) became the two of the most influential people in the Christian faith (up there with Mary in my book!) and they bring us great encouragement.

In Matthew 4 (Simon) Peter was fishing with his brother Andrew and Jesus calls them to follow Him - offering them the chance to become 'fishers of men'.

In Mark 14 we find him outside the High Priest's House (in the courtyard). When identified as a follower of Jesus he denies it - Three Times!

In John 21, after the resurrection, we find Simon and Jesus together again:

'When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 
“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” 
 “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” 
 Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” 
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” 
 Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, 
“Do you love me?” 
He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” 
 Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” '

Here is a man who had been in close relationship with Jesus and yet, when challenged, denied him three times. Here is a man who is asked three times by the risen Christ whether he loves Him. Peter is affronted and yet with each response his previous denials are erased and his commission (and the way he will die) is confirmed. And boy - does he do it well.

Paul is a man who appears in Acts. First (chapter 7) standing by as Stephen is stoned to death and later (Acts 9) as one who is set upon putting followers of 'The Way' to death. This is a man who encounters the Risen (and Ascended) Jesus as he journeys and the result is dramatic and life-changing. First he loses his sight and then (through the actions of an obedient follower of the Christ) regains it and become one of the most amazing leaders of the Church. First he kills followers and later he has to escape people who would wish to kill him because he is a follower - poacher turned gamekeeper or what?

Today we can take comfort that from denial, oppression and rejection we find acceptance, calling and ministry. That from disobedience comes forgiveness and from seeking to protect self comes the ability to seek first God's kingdom and all that that means - including the knowledge that this taking up of their own crosses will mean hardship and even death itself. And yet within all this is great blessing and eternal life. Today we can take comfort from the fact that these two great Christians did not always sit comfortably together - there were places where they rubbed and clashed against each other. Just like every family :-)

So today - wherever and whoever you are the good news is that:

'Nothing you've seen - nothing you've been.
 Neither height, nor depth, nor power or principality,
 Nothing in heaven or earth,
 Can separate you from the love of God'
 (Romans 8 - RVV*)

So take heart in the fact that God is there for you - forgiving and seeking to have not just a relationship but to have a working relationship with you.

Please pray for those men and women who have, and will be, ordained or priested during Petertide that they will preach the word in and out of season without fear, corruption or error.

Please pray for the whole Church that it will also act with courage and compassion without error or fear.

Pray for yourself, and others, who might be unable to make it to church that the blessing of God might be upon you, and them, and that His healing and enabling might be ours!


Zechariah 4.1-6a,10b-14
The angel who talked with me came again, and wakened me, as one is wakened from sleep. He said to me, ‘What do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it; there are seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And by it there are two olive trees, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.’ I said to the angel who talked with me, ‘What are these, my lord?’ Then the angel who talked with me answered me, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ I said, ‘No, my lord.’ He said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel.

‘These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.’ Then I said to him, ‘What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?’ And a second time I said to him, ‘What are these two branches of the olive trees, which pour out the oil through the two golden pipes?’ He said to me, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ I said, ‘No, my lord.’ Then he said, ‘These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole 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.

Acts 12.1-11
About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.

The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, ‘Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.’ He did so. Then he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’ Peter went out and followed him; he did not realise that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’

Matthew 16.13-19
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’

Almighty God,
whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified you in their death as in their life:
grant that your Church, inspired by their teaching and example, and made one by your Spirit,
may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, 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
Almighty God,
who on the day of Pentecost sent your Holy Spirit to the apostles with the wind from heaven and in tongues of flame, filling them with joy and boldness to preach the gospel:
by the power of the same Spirit strengthen us to witness to your truth and to draw everyone to the fire of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

*RVV - Revises Vic Version

ps.The three questions: Do you love me have greater import in that the 'love' response from Peter is a different word (and type) each time - this is an encounter that seeks total commitment and love, something Peter struggles his way towards with his responses. Just like us - he doesn't come easily!

Friday, 27 June 2014

Sophia and the 'Pink Church' - the opening shots!

A friend has asked me about 'Sophia' as they are struggling with friends who are seeking to redress the  'male dominated theology and language' of Church and society.

I often find myself rather frustrated when certain friends talk of the male domination that is Church especially when they descend into talk or 'rights, positive discrimination and redressing the errors of the past!' One of the biggest issues I encounter is the increasingly 'Pink Church' - that place which, as one clerical colleague put it, 'Seeks to undo all the misogyny of the past two thousand years!' (something for another day)

We need to be affirming all people and to be a truly inclusive entity and yet, as the tide turns, this is not the reality and I think we might be in danger of entering into something that might be somewhat terminal.

But back to the 'Sophia' issue:

Whilst at college I had many conversations with a feminist who asked why she should be expected to be celebrating God as man. Her position (in a nutshell) was: 'I am woman, what does Jesus 'the man' have to do with me and what does he know of my experience?'

She was heavily taken up by three main themes:
i. God as 'She'  (but if pressed would retreat to 'He, She or It')

ii. Sophia as a remedy to the 'God is male 'heresy

iii. A female Apostle by the name of Junia (whose name had been diminished by other apostles to oppress women).

It is the Sophia issue that is the focus of today's perambulations - it's an opening shot in the discussion and will be followed by some Bible references and related material later (for I think we often fail to establish concepts and points of agreement before we rush into what is often mere prooftexting):

I know 'Sophia' is Greek for wisdom but rather than being an actual person have seen this to be an anthropomorphic construct. War is male, beauty and wisdom are female - trains, cars and planes are 'she' - you know what I mean I'm sure!

Thinking of the female names we have with such roots: Grace, Chastity, Patience, etc. I find many confuse this, giving it the attribute of personhood and this is what I have found with Sophia. For it appears than many are so keen to have something upon which they can hang their argument and pin their hopes that their theology, and thinking, is rather slipshod and shoddy (now that's an invitation to a fight I'm sure). What makes challenging the views dangerous is the fact that any challenge is often met with the ad hominem that is 'sexist' or 'misogynist' rather than a robust and tight response.

I am of the opinion that the Sophia route is not only fraught with danger but leads those who embrace it into a place where the Wisdom literature is corrupted, bringing into being a new deity and denying the sex of Jesus, the Christ, the incarnate man. It is not a remedy for those who who claim that a male Trinity is offensive, divisive and even cruel for those who struggle with fathers or males but a denial of something important.

I have been challenged by many who bring cases of women who were damaged by men as evidence that we need to rethink God as a women to make the God character acceptable to them. The problem is that this is a wrong position to be taking for the issue is not how to compensate or impart some divine CBT (where coping mechanism and accommodation are sought) but to seek healing and wholeness in person and Church too! One (feminist) lecturer of mine once followed an extremely misandrist comment with the coup de grâce*, 'After all, all men are potential rapists!' Me, being me, and always up for a conversation added, 'And of course, conversely, all women are potential whores!'

Now although I thought that levelled the scores, the head of department cautioned me for 'sexist language' and discounted the lecturers comments with, 'Well that's who she is!' Now tell me that that wasn't a prime example of sexual inequality :-) !!!!

And back on track.

As we look at this area, of which I know absolutely nothing, I'd love people to point me to the bits they know and observations from their own experience and theology. My premise it that God embodies both male and female and that changing the gender to accomodate issues with the male changes neither sex (for gender is not 'sex' - sex is biological, gender is sociological and not transferable, unless you have an agenda!). we need to seek unity, equality and inclusivity and this demands healing, wholeness and orthodox thinking - all else is error.

Looking forward to this (gulp)

* perhaps that should have been  coup de main :-)

Morning Prayer - June 27

Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, Teacher of the Faith, 444

Psalm 31
In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.
Incline your ear to me; make haste to deliver me. Be my strong rock, a fortress to save me, for you are my rock and my stronghold; guide me, and lead me for your name’s sake. Take me out of the net that they have laid secretly for me, for you are my strength. Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.

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

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

But my trust is in you, O Lord.I have said,
‘You are my God. My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.
‘Make your face to shine upon your servant, and save me for your mercy’s sake.’
Lord, let me not be confounded for I have called upon you; but let the wicked be put to shame; let them be silent in the grave. Let the lying lips be put to silence that speak against the righteous with arrogance, disdain and contempt.

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

Blessed be the Lord! For he has shown me his steadfast love when I was as a city besieged. I had said in my alarm,
‘I have been cut off from the sight of your eyes.’
Nevertheless, you heard the voice of my prayer when I cried out to you.

Love the Lord, all you his servants; for the Lord protects the faithful, but repays to the full the proud. Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait in hope for the Lord.

Joshua 24.1-28
Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors—Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor—lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac; and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in its midst; and afterwards I brought you out. When I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, you came to the sea; and the Egyptians pursued your ancestors with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. When they cried out to the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and made the sea come upon them and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did to Egypt. Afterwards you lived in the wilderness for a long time. Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan; they fought with you, and I handed them over to you, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. Then King Balak, son of Zippor of Moab, set out to fight against Israel. He sent and invited Balaam son of Beor to curse you, but I would not listen to Balaam; therefore he blessed you; so I rescued you out of his hand. When you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, the citizens of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I handed them over to you. I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove out before you the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. I gave you a land on which you had not laboured, and towns that you had not built, and you live in them; you eat the fruit of vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.

‘Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’

Then the people answered, ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.’

But Joshua said to the people, ‘You cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.’ And the people said to Joshua, ‘No, we will serve the Lord!’ Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.’ And they said, ‘We are witnesses.’ He said, ‘Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.’ The people said to Joshua, ‘The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey.’ So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem. Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak in the sanctuary of the Lord. Joshua said to all the people, ‘See, this stone shall be a witness against us; for it has heard all the words of the Lord that he spoke to us; therefore it shall be a witness against you, if you deal falsely with your God.’ So Joshua sent the people away to their inheritances.

Luke 12.41-48
Peter said, ‘Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?’ And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says to himself, “My master is delayed in coming”, and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.

The Collect
O God,
the strength of all those who put their trust in you,
mercifully accept our prayers and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without you,
grant us the help of your grace, that in the keeping of your commandments we may please you both in will and deed;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Tamworth Street Angels - God's love on the streets

I was so immensely proud of all the people who don orange jackets and go out onto the streets of Tamworth to care for those people who need a friend for a variety of reasons (because people are vulnerable and in need of a friend for many reasons - not just because of the popular myth that it's all about alcohol!) for the reasons this letter gives:

World Cup goes Hollywood - made me smile

There are some extremely clever people out there and just as some stand and fight whilst others turn to flight or bite this makes for a timely smile-inducing image:

Morning Prayer - June 26

Psalm 37
Fret not because of evildoers; be not jealous of those who do wrong. For they shall soon wither like grass and like the green herb fade away.

Trust in the Lord and be doing good; dwell in the land and be nourished with truth. Let your delight be in the Lord and he will give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him, and he will bring it to pass. He will make your righteousness as clear as the light and your just dealing as the noonday.

Be still before the Lord and wait for him; do not fret over those that prosper as they follow their evil schemes. Refrain from anger and abandon wrath; do not fret, lest you be moved to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait upon the Lord shall possess the land. Yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; you will search for their place and find them gone. But the lowly shall possess the land and shall delight in abundance of peace.

The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash at them with their teeth. The Lord shall laugh at the wicked, for he sees that their day is coming.

The wicked draw their sword and bend their bow to strike down the poor and needy, to slaughter those who walk in truth. Their sword shall go through their own heart and their bows shall be broken.

The little that the righteous have is better than great riches of the wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. The Lord knows the days of the godly, and their inheritance shall stand for ever. They shall not be put to shame in the perilous time, and in days of famine they shall have enough. But the wicked
they shall vanish like smoke.

The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous are generous in giving. For those who are blest by God shall possess the land, but those who are cursed by him shall be rooted out. When your steps are guided by the Lord and you delight in his way, though you stumble, you shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds you fast by the hand.

I have been young and now am old, yet never have I seen the righteous forsaken, or their children begging their bread. All the day long they are generous in lending, and their children also shall be blest. Depart from evil and do good and you shall abide for ever. For the Lord loves the thing that is right and will not forsake his faithful ones.

The unjust shall be destroyed for ever, and the offspring of the wicked shall be rooted out.
The righteous shall possess the land and dwell in it for ever. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and their tongue speaks the thing that is right. The law of their God is in their heart and their footsteps shall not slide.
The wicked spy on the righteous and seek occasion to slay them. The Lord will not leave them in their hand, nor let them be condemned when they are judged.

Wait upon the Lord and keep his way; he will raise you up to possess the land, and when the wicked are uprooted, you shall see it.

I myself have seen the wicked in great power and flourishing like a tree in full leaf. I went by and lo, they were gone; I sought them, but they could nowhere be found.

Keep innocence and heed the thing that is right, for that will bring you peace at the last. But the sinners shall perish together, and the posterity of the wicked shall be rooted out.

The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. The Lord shall stand by them and deliver them; he shall deliver them from the wicked and shall save them, because they have put their trust in him.

Joshua 23
A long time afterwards, when the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their enemies all around, and Joshua was old and well advanced in years, Joshua summoned all Israel, their elders and heads, their judges and officers, and said to them, ‘I am now old and well advanced in years; and you have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the Lord your God who has fought for you. I have allotted to you as an inheritance for your tribes those nations that remain, along with all the nations that I have already cut off, from the Jordan to the Great Sea in the west. The Lord your God will push them back before you, and drive them out of your sight; and you shall possess their land, as the Lord your God promised you. Therefore be very steadfast to observe and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right nor to the left, so that you may not be mixed with these nations left here among you, or make mention of the names of their gods, or swear by them, or serve them, or bow yourselves down to them, but hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day. For the Lord has driven out before you great and strong nations; and as for you, no one has been able to withstand you to this day. One of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the Lord your God who fights for you, as he promised you. Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God. For if you turn back, and join the survivors of these nations left here among you, and intermarry with them, so that you marry their women and they yours, know assuredly that the Lord your God will not continue to drive out these nations before you; but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a scourge on your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land that the Lord your God has given you.

‘And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one thing has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you; all have come to pass for you, not one of them has failed. But just as all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the bad things, until he has destroyed you from this good land that the Lord your God has given you. If you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, which he enjoined on you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from the good land that he has given to you.’

Luke 12.32-40
‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

‘But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’

The Collect
O God,
the strength of all those who put their trust in you,
mercifully accept our prayers and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without you,
grant us the help of your grace, that in the keeping of your commandments we may please you both in will and deed;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Why (and for whom) are we doing 'church' ?

It seems to me that regardless of who you are the time comes when we need to stop and ask ourselves those vital question: 'Why am I doing it?' and 'Who am I doing it for?'

Recently I have encountered situations where these questions needed to be asked and they needed to be asked of those who 'minister' (with and without dogcollars), regular and irregular attender and even, perhaps especially, those who don't come too!

It seems to me that the answer to the first question, at least in the case of those who profess to be Christian, goes something like this:

1. Because it's Biblical
2. Because it upholds Biblical standards (if it's not to be found explicitly)
3. Because it's the right thing to do (includes 1 and 2)
4. Because it blesses, edifies and builds (and fits with 1to 3)
5. Because it makes us live, look and think like Jesus (fits 1 to 4)
6. Because I want to help others understand and grow and have 1-5
6. Because I want to do it because of points 1 to 6

Where I have struggled is that place where I find myself with people who claim to be Christians who manage to miss some, or even all, of the points above. Of course this simplifies the answer to the 'Who am I doing it for?' question because the answer is obvious - they're doing it for themselves!
Mind you, the reality is that often they don't have the honesty, integrity or courage to give that answer. Stop for a moment and ask yourself who you, if you are Christian*, do things for. The answer might be multipart for often the first answer is different to the reality. The options I've recently encountered (which might mean stated or concealed) have been:

1. I'm doing it for God but Family/work/hobby make me do something else!
(AKA the 'Someone else excuse')
2. I'm doing it for God but don't have the time to give what I would like to
3. I'm doing it for God - is there anything else I can do to help?
4. I'm doing it for God and noticed this needed doing!
5. I'm doing it for God and noticed that there's more you could be doing (combine with 2)
6. I'm doing it for God and know exactly how church should be done
(just don't expect me to be there or do it - I'll merely point stuff out and criticise!)
7. I'm doing it for me - it's all about me, me, myself! (can be accompanied by maniacal laugh)

In case you think I'm wrong (and of course I could be +) here are a few examples from real life (across a variety of church groupings and denominations) so you can make up your own mind:

A. The people who have wanted to preach or lead but were annoyed that God got the applause not them - after all it's all about them being 'leaders' and up front

B. The people who have changed the way services were done because they didn't like the theology or the format or the music or the .... (add your own bit) - because it's about me being happy not about the people who have come for years and the place they're in (innit?).

C. The people who were always ready to complain about the things they didn't like, demanding change, but were never willing to actually offer to do anything themselves - because 'church' has to meet their needs (often they didn't know what they were, but they wanted it to satisfy them).

D. The people who come infrequently and complain that they don't feel at home (no surprise there) and they don't like the changes the new people have brought (because we have to keep it ready to please them whenever they decide to visit) and wish the children would be 'kept under control' and long for the days when 'church was done properly'.

E. The people who come when there's nothing on the box and Dobbie's (a garden centre) aren't doing a cheap tea and scone and discount day on a Sunday - because after all, it's about picking the best entertainment available to them.

F. The person who comes and prays and stays to help and comes back again to help with the Kid's Club and comes again and does it stuff the next day and the next and the next and the next - Yeah that's a '3 & 4' from the second list!!!

G. The people who comes almost every Sunday and ensures that even when holidays arrive the minimum of Sundays are missed because they want to be there - church is an important part of their life and they live in ways that make that obvious.

So there we are - take a look at the person in the mirror and see how the two questions are answered by them and then play the game with others and see where they sit on the scale. I was amazed when I tried this with a bunch of people who thought themselves to be the movers and shakers - the power base of their local church - and yet by the time I finished realised that they were not and this perhaps explained the difficulties the church in question was having.

All of them were out for whatever it was that made church what they wanted - and yet oddly, although some were great at loading guns and pointing them - few had the courage (or application) to get out and do what was needed to make the church fly!

A challenge indeed :-)

(or as one colleague said when discussing this - 'Too provocative - better to just get on and do it yourself - less stress and hassle!')


* 'Christian' is a variable rather than constant for many I meet who claim this label appear to be anything but for a myriad number of reasons!

+ But I have to add that I'm not (wrong that is!!!) ;-)

Morning Prayer - June 25

Psalm 34
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall ever be in my mouth.
My soul shall glory in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.

O magnify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Look upon him and be radiant and your faces shall not be ashamed. This poor soul cried, and the Lord heard me and saved me from all my troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them.

O taste and see that the Lord is gracious; blessed is the one who trusts in him. Fear the Lord, all you his holy ones, for those who fear him lack nothing. Lions may lack and suffer hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good. Come, my children, and listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Who is there who delights in life and longs for days to enjoy good things?

Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from lying words. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.
The righteous cry and the Lord hears them and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and will save those who are crushed in spirit.

Many are the troubles of the righteous; from them all will the Lord deliver them. He keeps all their bones, so that not one of them is broken. But evil shall slay the wicked and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

The Lord ransoms the life of his servants and will condemn none who seek refuge in him.

Joshua 22.9-end
So the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned home, parting from the Israelites at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go to the land of Gilead, their own land of which they had taken possession by command of the Lord through Moses.
When they came to the region near the Jordan that lies in the land of Canaan, the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by the Jordan, an altar of great size. The Israelites heard that the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh had built an altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region near the Jordan, on the side that belongs to the Israelites. And when the people of Israel heard of it, the whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh, to make war against them.

Then the Israelites sent the priest Phinehas son of Eleazar to the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Gilead, and with him ten chiefs, one from each of the tribal families of Israel, every one of them the head of a family among the clans of Israel. They came to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh in the land of Gilead, and they said to them, ‘Thus says the whole congregation of the Lord, “What is this treachery that you have committed against the God of Israel in turning away today from following the Lord, by building yourselves an altar today in rebellion against the Lord? Have we not had enough of the sin at Peor from which even yet we have not cleansed ourselves, and for which a plague came upon the congregation of the Lord, that you must turn away today from following the Lord! If you rebel against the Lord today, he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel tomorrow. But now, if your land is unclean, cross over into the Lord’s land where the Lord’s tabernacle now stands, and take for yourselves a possession among us; only do not rebel against the Lord, or rebel against us by building yourselves an altar other than the altar of the Lord our God. Did not Achan son of Zerah break faith in the matter of the devoted things, and wrath fell upon all the congregation of Israel? And he did not perish alone for his iniquity!” ’

Then the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh said in answer to the heads of the families of Israel, ‘The Lord, God of gods! The Lord, God of gods! He knows; and let Israel itself know! If it was in rebellion or in breach of faith towards the Lord, do not spare us today for building an altar to turn away from following the Lord; or if we did so to offer burnt-offerings or grain-offerings or offerings of well-being on it, may the Lord himself take vengeance. No! We did it from fear that in time to come your children might say to our children, “What have you to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? For the Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you, you Reubenites and Gadites; you have no portion in the Lord.” So your children might make our children cease to worship the Lord. Therefore we said, “Let us now build an altar, not for burnt-offering, nor for sacrifice, but to be a witness between us and you, and between the generations after us, that we do perform the service of the Lord in his presence with our burnt-offerings and sacrifices and offerings of well-being; so that your children may never say to our children in time to come, ‘You have no portion in the Lord.’ ” And we thought, If this should be said to us or to our descendants in time to come, we could say, “Look at this copy of the altar of the Lord, which our ancestors made, not for burnt-offerings, nor for sacrifice, but to be a witness between us and you.” Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord, and turn away this day from following the Lord by building an altar for burnt-offering, grain-offering, or sacrifice, other than the altar of the Lord our God that stands before his tabernacle!’

When the priest Phinehas and the chiefs of the congregation, the heads of the families of Israel who were with him, heard the words that the Reubenites and the Gadites and the Manassites spoke, they were satisfied. The priest Phinehas son of Eleazar said to the Reubenites and the Gadites and the Manassites, ‘Today we know that the Lord is among us, because you have not committed this treachery against the Lord; now you have saved the Israelites from the hand of the Lord.’

Then the priest Phinehas son of Eleazar and the chiefs returned from the Reubenites and the Gadites in the land of Gilead to the land of Canaan, to the Israelites, and brought back word to them. The report pleased the Israelites; and the Israelites blessed God and spoke no more of making war against them, to destroy the land where the Reubenites and the Gadites were settled. The Reubenites and the Gadites called the altar Witness; ‘For’, said they, ‘it is a witness between us that the Lord is God.’

Luke 12.22-31
He said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

The Collect
O God,
the strength of all those who put their trust in you,
mercifully accept our prayers and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without you,
grant us the help of your grace, that in the keeping of your commandments we may please you both in will and deed;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

One for animal lovers and aviation freaks

This is one of those predictable with hindsight and yet still able to make you smile clips:

I am advised that some aviation experts are claiming this is not real footage.

Others are saying that if true then you'd never get them up in one as the lack of navigation lights, etc. make it a potentially hazardous ride ;-)

Eternity - Where will you spend it?

Here's a little discussion starter (number one in a series of three):

This is, for most people, the pivotal question  - yet sadly it is a question that I find is increasing asked less and less by those who consider themselves to be 'Church'. The reason for this is often because we ('Church') fear that we might be regarded as judgemental should we challenge the attitudes, lifestyles and behaviour of others.

I am increasingly being told that we ('Church') don't have the right to challenge others - and not all of those doing the telling are to be found outside of the Church or the walls of the buildings that house them. And you know what? Those who tell me that I 'don't have the right ' to challenge are absolutely correct, for we ('Church') don't - we have the duty and that's more compelling.

But the problem is that we want to be popular - you remember 'popular'? This is the mechanism by which we refrain from admonishing behaviour that stands opposed to that which God tells us is the best option for us. We applaud 'choice' even when we can see that the logical outcome of that choice is something less than the best for them that take it. We retreat into an impotent faith that meekly proclaims that, 'God wants everyone to be happy' (regardless of the path taken or the place that it leads) and avoids passing any opinion that might be unpopular.

If confronted, this Christianity merely smiles, changes the subject or nods and says nothing at all! It works on the premise, 'If you can't say nothing popular then don't say nothing at all*!'

After all, as another minister recently told me, 'Saying nothing condemns no one.'

The problem is that my colleague (not an Anglican) and their words are wrong because in fact they and the person they failed to warn both stand condemned. Let's put it another way:

If a car mechanic knows that the brakes are potentially dangerous and send the car out with your family in it and the fail, killing them all, would you consider the mechanic responsible for the deaths?

If you considered the mechanic to be guilty would you consider them to be even worse because they knew of the potential for loss of life and did nothing about it, allowing the passengers in the car to continue on their way with the potential for death hanging over them and yet doing nothing to even warn them?

If you answered 'Yes' to either (or both) of those questions then you know how God views us when we sit and smile or nor and say nothing. He will view us in the same way you've just regarded our fictitious mechanic!

And taking it a step further: If the mechanic told you (in their defence) that they didn't warn them of the potential for something fatal because they didn't want to upset the passengers, would you consider this to be a viable defence or merely something that condemned them further?

When we see people with the potential (or even the reality) for death, perhaps not immediate but at some stage, yet we do nothing about it - and when they end up dead (because of the situation we did nothing to warn them about, that's how God will regard us too!

* a corruption of the words of St Thumper of Bambi - it's not just the Bible that gets rewritten I'm afraid!

Morning Prayer - June 24

The Birth of John the Baptist

Psalm 50
The Lord, the most mighty God, has spoken and called the world from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth; our God comes and will not keep silence. Consuming fire goes out before him and a mighty tempest stirs about him. He calls the heaven above, and the earth, that he may judge his people: ‘Gather to me my faithful, who have sealed my covenant with sacrifice.’

Let the heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge. Hear, O my people, and I will speak:
‘I will testify against you, O Israel; for I am God, your God.
‘I will not reprove you for your sacrifices, for your burnt offerings are always before me.
‘I will take no bull out of your house, nor he-goat out of your folds,
‘For all the beasts of the forest are mine, the cattle upon a thousand hills.
‘I know every bird of the mountains and the insect of the field is mine.
‘If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the whole world is mine and all that fills it.
‘Do you think I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?
‘Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and fulfil your vows to God Most High.
‘Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall honour me.’ R

But to the wicked, says God:
‘Why do you recite my statutes and take my covenant upon your lips,
‘Since you refuse to be disciplined and have cast my words behind you?
‘When you saw a thief, you made friends with him and you threw in your lot with adulterers.
‘You have loosed your lips for evil and harnessed your tongue to deceit.
‘You sit and speak evil of your brother; you slander your own mother’s son.
‘These things have you done, and should I keep silence? Did you think that I am even such a one as yourself?
‘But no, I must reprove you, and set before your eyes the things that you have done.
‘You that forget God, consider this well, lest I tear you apart and there is none to deliver you.
‘Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honours me and to those who keep my way will I show the salvation of God.’

Psalm 149
O sing to the Lord a new song; sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.
Let Israel rejoice in their maker; let the children of Zion be joyful in their king.
Let them praise his name in the dance; let them sing praise to him with timbrel and lyre.
For the Lord has pleasure in his people and adorns the poor with salvation.
Let the faithful be joyful in glory; let them rejoice in their ranks,
With the praises of God in their mouths and a two-edged sword in their hands;
To execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples;
To bind their kings in chains and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute on them the judgement decreed: such honour have all his faithful servants.

Malachi 3.1-6
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Then I will draw near to you for judgement; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow, and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, have not perished.

Luke 3.1-17
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,mmake his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’

And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax-collectors came to be baptised, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptise you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

The Collect
Almighty God,
by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born,
and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Saviour by the preaching of repentance:
lead us to repent according to his preaching and, after his example,
constantly to speak the truth, boldly to rebuke vice,
and patiently to suffer for the truth's sake;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Morning Prayer - June 23

Etheldreda, Abbess of Ely, c.678

Psalm 27
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?
When the wicked, even my enemies and my foes,came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not be afraid, and though there rise up war against me, yet will I put my trust in him.

One thing have I asked of the Lord and that alone I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the fair beauty of the Lord and to seek his will in his temple. For in the day of trouble he shall hide me in his shelter; in the secret place of his dwelling shall he hide me and set me high upon a rock. And now shall he lift up my head above my enemies round about me; therefore will I offer in his dwelling an oblation with great gladness; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Hear my voice, O Lord, when I call; have mercy upon me and answer me. My heart tells of your word, ‘Seek my face.’ Your face, Lord, will I seek. Hide not your face from me, nor cast your servant away in displeasure.

You have been my helper; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. Though my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up. Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me on a level path, because of those who lie in wait for me. Deliver me not into the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen up against me, and those who breathe out violence. I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and he shall comfort your heart; wait patiently for the Lord.

Psalm 30
I will exalt you, O Lord, because you have raised me up and have not let my foes triumph over me.
O Lord my God, I cried out to you and you have healed me. You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead; you restored me to life from among those that go down to the Pit. Sing to the Lord, you servants of his; give thanks to his holy name. For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, his favour for a lifetime. Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. In my prosperity I said,
‘I shall never be moved. You, Lord, of your goodness, have made my hill so strong.’

Then you hid your face from me and I was utterly dismayed.

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

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

Joshua 14
These are the inheritances that the Israelites received in the land of Canaan, which the priest Eleazar, and Joshua son of Nun, and the heads of the families of the tribes of the Israelites distributed to them. Their inheritance was by lot, as the Lord had commanded Moses for the nine and a half tribes. For Moses had given an inheritance to the two and a half tribes beyond the Jordan; but to the Levites he gave no inheritance among them. For the people of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim; and no portion was given to the Levites in the land, but only towns to live in, with their pasture lands for their flocks and herds. The Israelites did as the Lord commanded Moses; they allotted the land.
Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal; and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, ‘You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land; and I brought him an honest report. But my companions who went up with me made the heart of the people fail; yet I wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God. And Moses swore on that day, saying, “Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children for ever, because you have wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God.” And now, as you see, the Lord has kept me alive, as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel was journeying through the wilderness; and here I am today, eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was on the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war, and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day; for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; it may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out, as the Lord said.’

Then Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. So Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholeheartedly followed the Lord, the God of Israel. Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba; this Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim. And the land had rest from war.

Luke 12.1-12
Meanwhile, when the crowd gathered in thousands, so that they trampled on one another, he began to speak first to his disciples, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.
‘I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

‘And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.’

The Collect
Eternal God,
who bestowed such grace upon your servant Etheldreda that she gave herself wholly to the life of prayer and to the service of your true religion:
grant that we, like her,
may so live our lives on earth seeking your kingdom
that by your guiding
we may be joined to the glorious fellowship of your saints;
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, 22 June 2014

Thinking about that OMG expression

This morning I was privileged enough to find myself in conversation with Michelle Dawes on the subject of Sian Williams position on OMG, CAlmighty and the like.

Have a listen to it here:

Can't make it to church - June 22

Today, as the Church begins to settle in to the green period that is 'ordinary time' we are challenged to engage in being 'extraordinary' for the sake of Jesus and His Gospel of love and (eternal) life!

The Collect for today sums this up admirably for us:
God of truth, 
help us to keep your law of love and to walk in ways of wisdom,
that we may find true life in Jesus Christ your Son. Amen.

Today is also Poverty Sunday - a day to think of those who cannot afford the very basics of life and an opportunity to celebrate, and commit to, the work of the Church Urban Fund.

This week I was challenged by a woman who, speaking about poverty, applauded the benefits we offered and berated 'the poor' for making it look like they needed food banks and 'other handouts' protesting that what they needed was to learn to budget and to spend what they had on the basics rather than the luxuries that came first! I was challenged because I wanted to throw the radio across the room and shout at the foolish words being spoken!

Today's Bible readings begin with Hagar's expulsion from Sarah's presence - the beginning of the Arab nation as Ishmael receives God's protection and provision in the wilderness. Regardless of who we are or how we came into this world - God's hand and provision is before us (sometimes it's called food bank!).

We are also told that we are dead to sin - the power of it is broken by Jesus' resurrection - and we, being dead, having been crucified with Him as heirs of His gift of life, are no longer subject to it. So why do we trouble so much with sin when we are called to focus on living like the Christ? We should whistle and stick our fingers into our ears when sin comes with its persuasive works, concentrating on living in God commandments and honouring Jesus by emulating Him.

But of Course that's not an easy option because it ticks off friends and family!

If I had a pound for every person for whom becoming Christian has caused tensions and even separation as they have acknowledged Jesus and sought to 'put off sin' and instead 'clothe themselves with righteousness'. And that's what our Gospel says will happen - our love will challenge and bring conflict and rejection and ridicule and all that stuff that makes us wonder whether we should give it up to please others. But the person who is ultimately pleased by this is not the family member nor the friend nor the people around us but the accuser, satan, who although we try to ignore these days because of the fear it makes us sound weird really does exist!

We live to please God and to serve others as Jesus, the Christ, came to be a servant of all. We bless ALL people and we seek to rescue the poor, heal the sick, setting free those who are captive (not just prison but addiction, debt, unemployment and all the other ills before us) - bringing them life and an introduction to God and His love through us, His people.

So today:

We ask ourselves who we need to be praying for.

We ask ourselves who it is that we need to be writing to or telephoning just so they know they're thought of.

We ask who we should be visiting, or inviting to our homes, to embrace them as God, through Jesus, embraced us.

We pray that others might think the same and find us to be the focus of their thinking and prayer.

Please pray for those who live in poverty (financial, spiritual, physical and mental) and give thanks for the work of the food banks, the Church Urban Fund, Christians Against Poverty and all the agencies that seek to set people free from poverty, oppression and fear.


Genesis 21.8-21
The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.’ The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, ‘Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named after you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, ‘Do not let me look on the death of the child.’ And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.’ Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

Romans 6.1b-11
What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?
By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

 Matthew 10.24-39
‘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.
‘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.

Post Communion
Eternal Father,
we thank you for nourishing us with these heavenly gifts:
may our communion strengthen us in faith,
build us up in hope, and make us grow in love;
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Morning Prayer - June 21

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 salvationand triumph in the name of our God; may the Lord perform all your petitions.

Now I know that the Lord will save his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven, with the mighty strength of his right hand.
Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will call only on the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought down and fallen, but we are risen and stand upright.

O Lord, save the king and answer us when we call upon you.

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

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

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

Because they intend evil against you and devise wicked schemes which they cannot perform, You will put them to flight when you aim your bow at their faces.

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

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; therefore can I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters.
He shall refresh my soul and guide me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; you have anointed my head with oil and my cup shall be full.

Surely goodness and loving mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Joshua 10.1-15
When King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, he became greatly frightened, because Gibeon was a large city, like one of the royal cities, and was larger than Ai, and all its men were warriors. So King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem sent a message to King Hoham of Hebron, to King Piram of Jarmuth, to King Japhia of Lachish, and to King Debir of Eglon, saying, ‘Come up and help me, and let us attack Gibeon; for it has made peace with Joshua and with the Israelites.’ Then the five kings of the Amorites—the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon—gathered their forces, and went up with all their armies and encamped against Gibeon, and made war against it.

And the Gibeonites sent to Joshua at the camp in Gilgal, saying, ‘Do not abandon your servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us; for all the kings of the Amorites who live in the hill country are gathered against us.’ So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the fighting force with him, all the mighty warriors. The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not fear them, for I have handed them over to you; not one of them shall stand before you.’ So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal. And the Lord threw them into a panic before Israel, who inflicted a great slaughter on them at Gibeon, chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon, and struck them down as far as Azekah and Makkedah. As they fled before Israel, while they were going down the slope of Beth-horon, the Lord threw down huge stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died; there were more who died because of the hailstones than the Israelites killed with the sword.

On the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to the Lord; and he said in the sight of Israel,
‘Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.’
And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.

Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in mid-heaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded a human voice; for the Lord fought for Israel.

Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal.

Luke 11.37-end
While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.

‘But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practised, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honour in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the market-places. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realising it.’

One of the lawyers answered him, ‘Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.’ And he said, ‘Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute”, so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.’

When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile towards him and to cross-examine him about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

The Collect
Almighty and everlasting God,
you have given us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity:
keep us steadfast in this faith, that we may evermore be defended from all adversities;
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.