Thursday 31 July 2014

The darkness becomes more obvious

The words of John 1.5:

The light shines in the darkness - and the darkness . . .

are probably some of the best known words from the Bible; everyone appearing to know it.

This and, 'It's always darkest before the dawn,' are definitely two of the top trite phrases of 2014 thus far. Used by well-meaning folk who are seeking to bring some cheer and hope in what appears to be a cheerless and rather hopeless world.

We need only to open our newspapers or turn on the TV or radio to realise that we live in a world where the darkness is becoming more obvious and the light, which my scientific training and empirically derived knowledge of the properties of darkness and light tells me the light is destined to win, is appearing to be overcome!

Experience, from working a hundred feet or more underneath London, tells me that even the smallest light (literally at the end of the tunnel) can dispel the blue-black that swamps you once your Tilley lamp (a pressurised paraffin lamp) goes out. As the light vanishes the darkness greedily washes over you and your senses, swamped and confused by the loss of light, renders you totally lost. Hearing is affected too - and standing between the two tracks - you begin to feel the panic rise, just a little, in the pit of your stomach and that little space at the back of your brain.

Apart from the bizarre knowledge that being a smoker would mean you had a lighter to see momentarily with (and destroy for longer any chance of seeing in the longer term) you stand still and, collecting whatever composure you might be able to muster, reach out to the side of the tunnel. Your hands seeking two copper wires which, should you have the field telephone to hand, would enable you to communicate with people who, oblivious to that which you're experiencing, are living in the light!

These two wires also tell you which you're going - East or West - something that offered you a little control in an otherwise potentially out of control situation. Feeling them on the right of the tunnel meant you were facing East. This knowledge allowed you to start the journey to the nearest station and safety.

Having read the news, seen the dawn break and experienced the relative darkness that is night be dispelled it seems to me that the spiritual darkness is slowly, like fog on the Thames, creeping in and gaining the upper hand. It's removing clear vision and touching the emotions and muddling the senses. Our clear sense of direction, whilst intellectually maintained, is replaced by something more akin to panic!

So how do we proceed in a world:

Where war crimes abound in Syria, Iraq, Israel and Gaza?

Where innocent lives are taken by lunatics armed with weapons provided by more powerful lunatics?

Where ordinary people in an affluent Western world find themselves relying on Food Banks to survive?

Where 'drug resistant' Malaria and untouchable Ebola virus are tightening their deadly grip*?

Well, of course I would say this, the answer is simple.

We pray - we keep calm - we act like Jesus tells us to act - we give our money - we give our time - we tell it as it should be told (excuse me Israel, you're not acting like God's people, you're acting like very naughty unbelievers - love The Lord your God and your neighbour as yourself, humility, justice and mercy - and that sort of thing) - we tell our politicians what we feel they should be doing to make things right - we teach our children right from wrong - and (you know what the 'and' is don't you?)"

It's not really dark at all - try removing you head from under the covers and you'll not only see the light dispel the darkness but you'll also see it's probably later than you think too!

This is your 'Happy Friday' wake-up call ;-)

* I got pinned in a corner at a party by a medical researcher some years back. A nice chap who told me how if we spent just 2% of the money the world spends on weapons and armament, how we would eradicate malaria, polio, diabetes and the other 'popular' diseases in the world - doubt this scenario has changed much!

Morning Prayer - July 31

Ignatius of Loyola,
Founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits)

Psalm 143
Hear my prayer, O Lord,cand in your faithfulness give ear to my supplications; answer me in your righteousness.
Enter not into judgement with your servant, for in your sight shall no one living be justified. For the enemy has pursued me, crushing my life to the ground, making me sit in darkness like those long dead.

My spirit faints within me; my heart within me is desolate. I remember the time past; I muse upon all your deeds; I consider the works of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul gasps for you like a thirsty land.

O Lord, make haste to answer me; my spirit fails me; hide not your face from me lest I be like those who go down to the Pit. Let me hear of your loving-kindness in the morning, for in you I put my trust; show me the way I should walk in, for I lift up my soul to you. Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies, for I flee to you for refuge.

Teach me to do what pleases you, for you are my God; let your kindly spirit lead me on a level path.
Revive me, O Lord, for your name’s sake; for your righteousness’ sake, bring me out of trouble.
In your faithfulness, slay my enemies, and destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for truly I am your servant.

Psalm 146
Praise the Lord, O my soul: while I live will I praise the Lord; as long as I have any being, I will sing praises to my God.

Put not your trust in princes, nor in any human power, for there is no help in them. When their breath goes forth, they return to the earth; on that day all their thoughts perish.

Happy are those who have the God of Jacob for their help, whose hope is in the Lord their God. Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; who keeps his promise for ever; Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong and bread to those who hunger.

The Lord looses those that are bound; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous;
The Lord watches over the stranger in the land; he upholds the orphan and widow; but the way of the wicked he turns upside down.
The Lord shall reign for ever, your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

1 Samuel 8
When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beer-sheba. Yet his sons did not follow in his ways, but turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, ‘You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.’ But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to govern us.’ Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.’

So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, ‘These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plough his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.’

But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, ‘No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.’ When Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to their voice and set a king over them.’ Samuel then said to the people of Israel, ‘Each of you return home.’

Luke 21.29-end
Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’

Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called. And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple.

The Collect
Merciful God,
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding:
pour into our hearts such love toward you
that we, loving you in all things and above all things,
may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;
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.

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Made me Laugh: Tick Warning

Speaks for itself - but it's fun:

Morning Prayer - July 30

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

Psalm 119.153-end
O consider my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law.
Plead my cause and redeem me; according to your promise, give me life.
Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes.
Great is your compassion, O Lord; give me life, according to your judgements.
Many there are that persecute and oppress me, yet do I not swerve from your testimonies.
It grieves me when I see the treacherous, for they do not keep your word.
Consider, O Lord, how I love your commandments; give me life according to your loving-kindness.
The sum of your word is truth, and all your righteous judgements endure for evermore.
Princes have persecuted me without a cause, but my heart stands in awe of your word.
I am as glad of your word as one who finds great spoils.
As for lies, I hate and abhor them, but your law do I love.
Seven times a day do I praise you, because of your righteous judgements.
Great peace have they who love your law; nothing shall make them stumble.

Lord, I have looked for your salvation and I have fulfilled your commandments.
My soul has kept your testimonies and greatly have I loved them.
I have kept your commandments and testimonies, for all my ways are before you.
Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding, according to your word. Let my supplication come before you; deliver me, according to your promise.

My lips shall pour forth your praise, when you have taught me your statutes. My tongue shall sing of your word, for all your commandments are righteous. Let your hand reach out to help me, for I have chosen your commandments. I have longed for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight.

Let my soul live and it shall praise you, and let your judgements be my help.

I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost; O seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.

1 Samuel 7
And the people of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord, and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. They consecrated his son, Eleazar, to have charge of the ark of the Lord.

From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.
Then Samuel said to all the house of Israel, ‘If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Astartes from among you. Direct your heart to the Lord, and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.’ So Israel put away the Baals and the Astartes, and they served the Lord only.

Then Samuel said, ‘Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.’ So they gathered at Mizpah, and drew water and poured it out before the Lord. They fasted that day, and said, ‘We have sinned against the Lord.’ And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah.

When the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it they were afraid of the Philistines. The people of Israel said to Samuel, ‘Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, and pray that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.’ So Samuel took a sucking lamb and offered it as a whole burnt-offering to the Lord; Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. As Samuel was offering up the burnt-offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel; but the Lord thundered with a mighty voice that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion; and they were routed before Israel. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as beyond Beth-car.

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’ So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel; the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. The towns that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath; and Israel recovered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.

Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. He went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah; and he judged Israel in all these places. Then he would come back to Ramah, for his home was there; he administered justice there to Israel, and built there an altar to the Lord.

Luke 21.20-28
‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfilment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

The Collect
God our deliverer,
who sent your Son Jesus Christ to set your people free from the slavery of sin:
grant that, as your servant William Wilberforce toiled against the sin of slavery,
so we may bring compassion to all and work for the freedom of all the children of God;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Give it up

This is Anam Caras' rendition of  'Hand it Over'

Billed as the anthem for for those suffering from middle-aged angst it points us in the right direction: Hand it over - give it the Lord'

You know that's the only way :-)

Got five minutes? Then please pray

Here are just four of the things that need our prayer - if you have five minutes to spare - please read and pray (and discuss these issues with others) - Thank You:

Iraq and Syria
In Iraq those who oppose the ISIS forces, or are from different sects within Islam or different faiths, are being put to the sword or fleeing for their lives.
Churches are desecrated and bear the writing shown below - proclaiming that they are now the property of the state.
In Syria, in the northern province of Raqa, ISIS militants have killed at least 85 soldiers - more than 50 being summarily executed (which is murder and a war crime) - UN spokesman says:
'Some of the executed troops were beheaded, and their bodies and severed heads put on display in Raqa city.'
This is as much of a humanitarian tragedy as the Israel conflict - and yet is now generally unreported - please pray that people will understand what is going on and will call upon their governments to act.
'Property of the Islamic State' - on the wall of a former Christian Church

It is right to pray for the peace of Jerusalem - and for that of the Palestinian territory.
To pray that those who fire rockets into Israel would stop and choose a path of dialogue and peace.
To pray that the nation of Israel would remember that the law calls on them to act with proportionality and to avoid retaliation that endangers those who under the law have protected status.
It is right to pray that the US, rather than vote 'No' and turn its eyes away from the humanitarian tragedy that is this conflict makes a stand for that which is right, moral and courageous.
That those nations who fuel this conflict through arms, political means and self-interest seek instead justice, mercy and peace.

Why can't we be friends?

Please pray for those who sift through the wreckage: For their protection and their sanity as the engage with such a scene of loss and devastation.
Pray for the relative and friends of those who were lost and for their protection and support as they come to terms and live life without loved ones.
Please pray for the political situation and for peace and commonsense to come to the fore.
Please pray for those who seek power everywhere that they would understand the results of their actions and, even if they will not repent, step back.
The greed of men is paid out with the lives of the innocents
Please pray for the education of our children in this country of ours as Academies fail to deliver, reforms of the student loan system look likely to increase the fees Universities can charge and schools are seeing more and more teachers leave, or crumple, because of the pressures on them
Pray that education is seen as means of delivering a well-rounded and fulfilled population - it's about living to our potential, not maximising our earning (isn't it?)

Money and Education: when did it become such big business?

Morning Prayer - July 29

Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Companions of our Lord

Psalm 132
Lord, remember for David    all the hardships he endured; How he swore an oath to the Lord and vowed a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:
‘I will not come within the shelter of my house, nor climb up into my bed;
‘I will not allow my eyes to sleep, nor let my eyelids slumber,
‘Until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.’
Now, we heard of the ark in Ephrathah and found it in the fields of Ja-ar. Let us enter his dwelling place and fall low before his footstool.

Arise, O Lord, into your resting place, you and the ark of your strength. Let your priests be clothed with righteousness and your faithful ones sing with joy. For your servant David’s sake, turn not away the face of your anointed.

The Lord has sworn an oath to David, a promise from which he will not shrink:
‘Of the fruit of your body shall I set upon your throne.
‘If your children keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them,  their children also shall sit upon your throne for evermore.’ For the Lord has chosen Zion for himself; he has desired her for his habitation:
‘This shall be my resting place for ever; here will I dwell, for I have longed for her.
‘I will abundantly bless her provision; her poor will I satisfy with bread.
‘I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her faithful ones shall rejoice and sing.
‘There will I make a horn to spring up for David; I will keep a lantern burning for my anointed.
‘As for his enemies, I will clothe them with shame; but on him shall his crown be bright.’

Psalm 133
Behold how good and pleasant it is to dwell together in unity.
It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, Even on Aaron’s beard, running down upon the collar of his clothing.
It is like the dew of Hermon running down upon the hills of Zion. For there the Lord has promised his blessing: even life for evermore.

1 Samuel 6.1-16
The ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines for seven months. Then the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said,
‘What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us what we should send with it to its place.’

They said, ‘If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty, but by all means return him a guilt-offering. Then you will be healed and will be ransomed; will not his hand then turn from you?’
And they said, ‘What is the guilt-offering that we should return to him?’
They answered, ‘Five gold tumours and five gold mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines; for the same plague was upon all of you and upon your lords. So you must make images of your tumours and images of your mice that ravage the land, and give glory to the God of Israel; perhaps he will lighten his hand on you and your gods and your land. Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had made fools of them, did they not let the people go, and they departed? Now then, get ready a new cart and two milch-cows that have never borne a yoke, and yoke the cows to the cart, but take their calves home, away from them. Take the ark of the Lord and place it on the cart, and put in a box at its side the figures of gold, which you are returning to him as a guilt-offering. Then send it off, and let it go on its way. And watch; if it goes up on the way to its own land, to Beth-shemesh, then it is he who has done us this great harm; but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that struck us; it happened to us by chance.’

The men did so; they took two milch-cows and yoked them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. They put the ark of the Lord on the cart, and the box with the gold mice and the images of their tumours. The cows went straight in the direction of Beth-shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went; they turned neither to the right nor to the left, and the lords of the Philistines went after them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh.

Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. When they looked up and saw the ark, they went with rejoicing to meet it. The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh, and stopped there. A large stone was there; so they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt-offering to the Lord. The Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the box that was beside it, in which were the gold objects, and set them upon the large stone. Then the people of Beth-shemesh offered burnt-offerings and presented sacrifices on that day to the Lord. When the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned that day to Ekron.

Luke 21.5-19
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said,
‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’
They asked him,
‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’
And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.

‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’
Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

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

Lost with translations?

Sunday's Old Testament reading caused some interesting discussions regarding Leah (Laban's daughter) and her eyes (Genesis 29.17) because the NRSV - which is used by many churches as the standard volume of the Bible told those gathered that her eyes were 'lovely' BUT those who use other versions were left with the impression that she was in possession of dodgy eyesight!

As requested - I have compiled a list of thirty-eight Bible versions - six of which go with 'lovely, nice or attractive' whilst the rest all point to something else and point to the challenge of different translations and their take on things.

Many of the translations look back to the King James Version as their starting point - seeking to move forward from this start point and put the Bible into contemporary language and, using 'modern' linguistic tools,  change words translated incorrectly.

There are (as I recall) three main types of translation available to us: At one end of the spectrum we have the free translations (like the most excellent Message) whilst at the other we have the literal translations (English Standard Version, New American Standard Version to name but two) with the dynamic version (one of which is the New International Version) acting as the fulcrum.

  1. Literal translation. Seeks to maintain exact words and phrases of original using modern style and grammar (including the King James - which fits the bill for time it was written!).
    Not always the easiest but most accurate of the translations.
  2. Dynamic equivalent translation. Seeks to keep timelines and facts with modern writing style and grammar. Trade off between accuracy and readability.
  3. Free translation or Paraphrase). Keeps the stories but modifies way they're told to give gist rather than 'word for word' or 'close enough' realities of the other two.
    Eminently readable, but rather loose - but you get the idea of what story/history/stuff is about.
Each translation has its strengths and weaknesses - Reading level is a good consideration, so here's some of the translations grouped by type and reading levels to help you compare (and perhaps select for yourself):

The Message (MSG): Leah had nice eyes
The Living Bible (TLB): Leah had lovely eyes

Contemporary English Bible (CEB)Leah had delicate eyes
Good News Bible (GNB): And Leah was tender eyed
New Living Translation (NLT): There was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes
New Jerusalem Bible (NJB): Leah had lovely eyes
Revised English Bible (REB):Leah's eyes were weak
New International Version (NIV): Leah had weak eyes
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB): Leah had ordinary eyes
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV): Leah’s eyes were lovely

New American Bible (NAB): Leah had lovely eyes
English Standard Version (ESV): Leah's eyes were weak
Revised Standard Version (RSV):  Leah’s eyes were weak
New King James Version (NKJV): Leah’s eyes were delicate
Amplified Bible (AMP): Leah’s eyes were weak and dull looking
New American Standard Bible (NASB): And Leah’s eyes were weak
King James Version (KJV): Leah was tender eyed

So it's simple: Don't rely on just one translation of the Bible!

I try to take one of the free and one or two from the other types of translation when I consider the passage before me to ensure that I have a good grasp of what's on offer and the accuracy and tenor of the words before me.

I hope this is of some help


And if you're having fun - here's some more to consider:
ASV:And Leah's eyes were tender.
CJB: Le’ah’s eyes were weak
CEV: Leah was older than Rachel, but her eyes didn’t sparkle
DARBY: And the eyes of Leah were tender
DRA: But Lia was blear eyed
ERV: Leah’s eyes were gentle
ESVUK: Leah's eyes were weak
EXB: Leah had ·weak eyes [frail/tender eyes;  likely means unattractive]
GW: Leah had attractive eyes
GNT: Leah had lovely eyes
HCSB: Leah had ordinary eyes
JUB: Leah was tender eyed
KJ21:Leah was tender eyed
AKJV: Leah was tender eyed
LEB: Now the eyes of Leah were dull
NOG: Leah had attractive eyes
NABRE: Leah had dull eyes
NCV: Leah had weak eyes,
NET: Leah’s eyes were tender
NIRV: Leah had weak eyes
NLV: Leah’s eyes were weak
OJB: Leah had weak eyes
VOICE: There was no brightness to Leah’s eyes
WEB: Leah’s eyes were weak
WYC: but Leah was bleary-eyed,

Monday 28 July 2014

Mosul - An issue of ethic cleansing?

I've been asked whether the title to this blog should have the word 'ethnic' rather than 'ethic' and I have to respond that the use of the word 'ethic' is both right and fitting.

The noise generated by Israel and the Palestinian conflict and the downing of MH17 in Ukraine have conspired to assist the governments of the world, and us the punters, to put aside what should have been a measure of outrage at this obvious breach of human rights.

I would have expected people to engage in thinking ethically and defending what is right stand up and denounce that which is clearly wrong - and yet what do I see?

 Not a lot!

Ethic cleansing at its very best :-(

Take a look at this piece from the Assyrian International News Agency and tell me whether you're still sitting comfortably after it:

The last Christian reportedly left Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul at 12:00pm on Saturday, ending over 6,000 years of Assyrian history in the city.

Assyrians have lived in Mosul for over 6,000 years, converting to Christianity over 2,000 years ago. This all came to an end on Saturday, when the last Assyrian Christian left the city. On Thursday, July 17th, the Islamic State (IS) – formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) – released a statement demanding the Christians in Mosul either to convert to Islam, paying the jizya (tax on non-Muslims), leave the city, or be killed.

The threat was to be implemented on Saturday. It is being reported locally that by noon yesterday, every Christian had chosen to leave.

 Here in Erbil, about an hour an half [sic] away from Mosul by car, I have spoken with families who were forced to flee. They describe how ISIS invaded their homes, taking whatever they wanted, and threatening to kill them.

The estimates are that over 500,000 refugees have fled Mosul after Islamists took control on June 10th, and the few remaining Christians left yesterday.

Everyone I have spoken with has expressed their frustration with the international community’s lack of response to the crisis facing the people of Iraq (I'd call this a failure in ethics - wouldn't you?)

They blamed the United States for creating the current situation and for leaving the country so quickly and so creating the vacuum for IS to exploit. 

Many also think that it was a serious mistake for the U.S. to “give Iraq to Iran,” allowing Tehran to have a major influence in the Iraqi Parliament.

Another local told me he thought it was strange and nonsensical that the U.S. and European countries were opposed to IS in Iraq, but supporting IS groups in Syria and other violent groups against local governments. They warned of the danger such groups pose to the West. “These jihadists will eventually go home to their countries, to Canada, England and the U.S.” said one.

Please pass this information on and contact the press, the politicians and as many church members (and leaders) as you can. This needs to be noted, prayed about and acted upon politically too!

Emphasis in bold is mine


Morning Prayer - July 28

Psalm 123
To you I lift up my eyes, to you that are enthroned in the heavens. As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, or the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until he have mercy upon us.
Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of the arrogant, and of the contempt of the proud.

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.

1 Samuel 5
When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod; then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and placed it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off upon the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not step on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.

The hand of the Lord was heavy upon the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and struck them with tumours, both in Ashdod and in its territory. And when the inhabitants of Ashdod saw how things were, they said, ‘The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us; for his hand is heavy on us and on our god Dagon.’ So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, ‘What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?’ The inhabitants of Gath replied, ‘Let the ark of God be moved on to us.’ So they moved the ark of the God of Israel to Gath. But after they had brought it to Gath, the hand of the Lord was against the city, causing a very great panic; he struck the inhabitants of the city, both young and old, so that tumours broke out on them. So they sent the ark of the God of Israel to Ekron. But when the ark of God came to Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, ‘Why have they brought across to us the ark of the God of Israel to kill us and our people?’ They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, ‘Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people.’ For there was a deathly panic throughout the whole city. The hand of God was very heavy there; those who did not die were stricken with tumours, and the cry of the city went up to heaven.

Luke 20.41-21.4
Then he said to them,
‘How can they say that the Messiah is David’s son? For David himself says in the book of Psalms,
“The Lord said to my Lord,‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ ”

David thus calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?’
In the hearing of all the people he said to the disciples,
‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’

He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said,
‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’

The Collect
Merciful God,
you have prepared for those who love you such good things as pass our understanding:
pour into our hearts such love toward you that we, loving you in all things and above all things,
may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire;
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 27 July 2014

Can't make it to church (July 27)

This Sunday's readings give us plenty of food for thought as we look at Jacob working seven year for the prize that was Rachel's hand in marriage only to find himself ending up with Leah and so he works for another seven years for Rachel to become his wife also. How do we look at this?

Do we see a dodgy father offloading the eldest daughter (with dodgy eyes) onto the unsuspecting Jacob (who's done seven years of unpaid work for the privilege) and then getting another seven off him for Rachel?

Do we see a bloke who is so committed to the woman he's fallen for that he does fourteen years work for her?

Later in Genesis 45.5) there's a great passage which I think probably applies here:

'That which intended to use to harm me God meant (and has used) for good.'

And this thought is echoed in the Romans reading where we read:

'We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.'

This is something in which we can take comfort. No matter what the intention of others towards us and regardless of what we face; whether it be the work of others, life being life or stuff that comes from our own folly. God can use it to bring about something good. Who, or what, can get between us and the love of God: Absolutely nothing!

Now that's something to put a spring in our step this morning, isn't it?

And, looking past the dodginess  of Laban lets look at three further elements that can be taken from this story in Jacob's submission to dodgy old Laban and the respect (honour) the rights of the eldest (remember when the children were named in order of age?) and lastly there was the exercise of patience (and the multiple wives we will cough and say 'that was then' and swiftly move on).

Three things we need to perhaps learn in our own life: Submission, respect for age and patience - three things I know I might not always be good at - how about you?
Genesis 29.15-28
Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?’

Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were weak, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.’ Laban said, ‘It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.’ So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.’ So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?’ Laban said, ‘This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me for another seven years.’ Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

Romans 8.26-39
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

For as it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Gospel is a bunch of parables which invite us to look at stuff we already know and find fresh eyes to add to our understanding. Mustard is a weed rather than a crop and yet from the lowest of the garden plants comes something that can stand tall and sturdy. The least of the plant kingdom can be a thing that dominates and provides shade and homes for the birds - things aren't always what eyes and custom say they are.

The leaven (yeast) usually represents something negative (sinful) and other translations speak of the woman mixing it in with the good (flour) until all the good stuff was ruined. Like throwing good money after bad this woman tainted what she had with her actions (lifestyle, gossip, attitudes - which leaven is yours?).

The treasure is simple in that if you find something that you value you go off and do whatever you need to do (like work fourteen years?) to make it yours. Rather than take it wrongly - you do whatever it is to make it yours in the right (God-honouring) way! Now there's a lesson many in Church need to learn!!

Again with the pearl story - if you find something you value then everything else fades away and becomes something less. Ambition, possessions and the like mean nothing compared to this and the giving of all you have to make it yours is simple because alongside it, it has little value. This is what has driven many Christians (even to become martyrs) over the years.

The net of fish is quite disturbing because those who heard the story would have taken the sifting of the day's catch for granted - but change this for the situation that will become reality at the end of it all. When God church the fish into two piles - 'In' or 'Out' - now that's not a popular transposition is it? So best be a good little fish then I guess ;-)

Look - it's simple!
A great bunch of parables - things that looks like everyday life and yet speak of things that influence out eternal life mirroring the task before those who take up the preacher's call. That need to take old and familiar words and situations and make them fresh and challenging every day and every time they are heard.

Father God, help us walk faithfully with you seeing the physical things with fresh eyes.
Help us to see others and not judge;
To see needs and not walk away;
To pray for those who need a touch from you;
And provide for those who have little.
Thank you for those who do all this in your name, and

For those who do it to us because of your great love.
We thank you that you can, and do, make sense of the place we are in this, and every day
through Jesus, the Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Matthew 13.31-33,44-52
He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’

He told them another parable:
‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’

‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’
And he said to them,
‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’

The Collect
Creator God, you made us all in your image:
may we discern you in all that we see,
and serve you in all that we do;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Psalm 105.1-11,45b

O give thanks to the Lord and call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises and tell of all his marvellous works.
Rejoice in the praise of his holy name; let the hearts of them rejoice who seek the Lord.
Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face continually. Remember the marvels he has done, his wonders and the judgements of his mouth, O seed of Abraham his servant, O children of Jacob his chosen.
He is the Lord our God; his judgements are in all the earth.
He has always been mindful of his covenant, the promise that he made for a thousand generations: The covenant he made with Abraham,   the oath that he swore to Isaac, Which he established as a statute for Jacob, an everlasting covenant for Israel, Saying, ‘To you will I give the land of Canaan to be the portion of your inheritance.’ That they might keep his statutes and faithfully observe his laws. Alleluia.

Post Communion Prayer
God of our pilgrimage,
you have led us to the living water:
refresh and sustain us
as we go forward on our journey,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Regarding Leah's eyes. Depending on the translation they range from weak to lovely, the majority going for weak (or a variant of it):

ESV: Leah's eyes were weak
NRSV: Leah’s eyes were lovely
NIV: Leah had weak eyes
NASB: And Leah’s eyes were weak
NLT: There was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes
NKJV: Leah’s eyes were delicate (now that's tactfully put!)
MSG: Leah had nice eyes
AMP: Leah’s eyes were weak and dull looking

Saturday 26 July 2014

'The lamps are going out . . .

. . . all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.'

It is these words, attributed to Sir Edward Grey*, on the eve of the first world war that will be remembered as our nation commemorates the beginning of that war and some 244 weeks of remembrance, reflection and homage.

Please make the time and take the opportunity to visit one of the many 'Lights Out' services that will be happening across this nation of ours on the 4th August 2014.

For those in Tamworth there will be such a service from 10 - 11 pm at St Editha's church in the centre of town.

There is also a service at the National Memorial Arboretum which will run from 8 - 9pm - the climax coming as all lights having been extinguished and the sun sets (20:54) the service ends with the playing of the Last Post.

Please check to see where your 'Lights Out' service will be taking place (and for those who know - post details here as comments.

Thank You

* whose father was the 1st Earl Grey

and yes I will do you one of these with your badge on Nick :-)

Jesus is all you need

Following on with the theme of 'measured and balanced responses' I'd like to touch on an issue that is beginning to trouble me as increasingly I hear people preach a theology that says, 'Jesus is all you need.' The problem is that I totally agree with the words and yet the reality that is seeks to deliver causes me problems - and that's where the problems begin.

I believe that Jesus is 'all we need' but when people preach that when we speak of  then 'Word of God' we means Jesus and Jesus is all we need so the Bible is secondary to our faith. Extend this further and consider some of the sermons I have heard where the words, 'Jesus is all we need and He tells us to love everyone regardless of who, what or how they live! We don't need the old laws and traditions, we just need to love and accept everyone.'

One of the problems with this sort of error is that it takes words or concepts and deviates, corrupts, adds or diminishes that which is solid and secure so that to disagree is to end up saying, 'I don't believe Jesus is all-sufficient!' Now that's something to leave you labelled as someone who is not quite right and this is their intention, because then that which is wrong appears right and those who are right appear wrong. Now whose works does this sound like I wonder?

Discussing this with a colleague (and friend) their response was that this was a response to the Bibliolatry that is found these days. Indeed it appears to be a reactionary move to move away from the reliance on, and pointing to, the Bible on a number of issues. The many people who engage in the terrible art of prooftexting and those who seek to do more than point to the truth contained within in it (or decide to ignore it) all leave the word of God impotent and abused.

Jesus IS the Word of God (Logos) and the Bible is the word of God (logos) and we need the latter to illuminate the former (Jesus) as fully man, God, Christ and Messiah and to proclaim His message of love and His reconciling and atoning act that is the cross, His ascension and the coming of His Holy Spirit. I don't believe you can fully look to Jesus as being all-sufficient and not want to find out more about Him and God's dealings with people as found in the written word and without the written word cannot understand or follow the true Jesus but end up with a Jesus made in your own image (or worse still, in the image of someone who, puppet like, gives approval to that which it is obvious Jesus never approved of).

Jesus came to fulfil all the law and the prophets - this doesn't mean that having come these can now be binned in a 'job done' sort of way. It means that Jesus kept the laws and upheld the moral values and teaching of the Old Testament and to distance Him from the Bible is to create error.

It's as foolish as those who tell us that we can never 'outgrace' God so why try to live by foolish teachings and philosophies (from the Apostle Paul and others) when instead you can live under Grace and 'live life to the full'

I am reminded of the words from Godspell:

'After you've got your converts you make them. Twice as fit for hell! As you are yourselves!'

Beware the Blind guides and the blind fools!

Morning Prayer - July 26

Anne and Joachim, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Psalm 120
When I was in trouble I called to the Lord; I called to the Lord and he answered me.

Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue.
What shall be given to you?
What more shall be done to you, deceitful tongue?
The sharp arrows of a warrior, tempered in burning coals!

Woe is me, that I must lodge in Meshech and dwell among the tents of Kedar. My soul has dwelt too long with enemies of peace. I am for making peace, but when I speak of it, they make ready for war.

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not suffer your foot to stumble; he who watches over you will not sleep. Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord himself watches over you; the Lord is your shade at your right hand, so that the sun shall not strike you by day, neither the moon by night.
The Lord shall keep you from all evil; it is he who shall keep your soul.
The Lord shall keep watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time forth for evermore.

Psalm 122
I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’
And now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem; Jerusalem, built as a city that is at unity in itself. Thither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as is decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord. For there are set the thrones of judgement, the thrones of the house of David.

O pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you.
‘Peace be within your walls and tranquillity within your palaces.’

For my kindred and companions’ sake, I will pray that peace be with you. For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek to do you good.

1 Samuel 4.1b-end
And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.
In those days the Philistines mustered for war against Israel, and Israel went out to battle against them; they encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek. The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle was joined, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. When the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, ‘Why has the Lord put us to rout today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, so that he may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.’ So the people sent to Shiloh, and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

When the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. When the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, ‘What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?’ When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid; for they said, ‘Gods have come into the camp.’ They also said, ‘Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, in order not to become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.’

So the Philistines fought; Israel was defeated, and they fled, everyone to his home. There was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot-soldiers. The ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
A man of Benjamin ran from the battle line, and came to Shiloh the same day, with his clothes torn and with earth upon his head. When he arrived, Eli was sitting upon his seat by the road watching, for his heart trembled for the ark of God. When the man came into the city and told the news, all the city cried out. When Eli heard the sound of the outcry, he said, ‘What is this uproar?’ Then the man came quickly and told Eli. Now Eli was ninety-eight years old and his eyes were set, so that he could not see. The man said to Eli, ‘I have just come from the battle; I fled from the battle today.’ He said, ‘How did it go, my son?’ The messenger replied, ‘Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has also been a great slaughter among the troops; your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.’ When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backwards from his seat by the side of the gate; and his neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and heavy. He had judged Israel for forty years.

Now his daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant, about to give birth. When she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed and gave birth; for her labour pains overwhelmed her. As she was about to die, the women attending her said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, for you have borne a son.’ But she did not answer or give heed. She named the child Ichabod, meaning, ‘The glory has departed from Israel’, because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. She said, ‘The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.’

Luke 20.27-40
Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.’

Jesus said to them, ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’ Then some of the scribes answered, ‘Teacher, you have spoken well.’ For they no longer dared to ask him another question.

The Collect
Lord God of Israel,
who bestowed such grace on Anne and Joachim that their daughter Mary grew up obedient to your word and made ready to be the mother of your Son:
help us to commit ourselves in all things to your keeping and grant us the salvation you promised to your people;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday 25 July 2014

Prayers for the people of Mosul

To highlight the worsening situation in Iraq where where Christians and Muslims are being killed by ISIS forces and to draw especially attention to the plight of Christians in Mosul, Iraq's second biggest city, where families have been forced to flee and faced execution by Salaafi militants, the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu has issued these three prayers:

in this city where Christians and Muslims have lived together for over 1400 years,
we pray for healing, peace and restoration. 
Bring light out of this present darkness and hope from despair that guided by your Holy Spirit,
 all your children may find a new way forward together based on your love for us all. Amen.

Holy God,
your Holy family was driven into exile and many holy innocent boys were massacred, 
we hold before you today the suffering people of Mosul. Amen.

Hold in your loving arms, all those who have been caught up in this conflict.
We pray for those forced to flee their homes,
all who have lost friends, family and possessions and who now face an uncertain future. 
Bless our Christian brothers and sisters 
who have seen the destruction of their churches and communities 
and for our Muslim neighbours 
who have also experienced destruction and suffering. Amen.

ISIS militants are marking Christian homes with the letter N, in Arabic ن which means “Nazarean”, so they pay punitive taxes and, like the Nazi 'jude' label mark them out for attack and potential death. Please adopt this image and use it wherever you can to raise awareness of the plight of our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq.

Measured and balanced responses

It seems to me, albeit hampered by my limited wit, that one of the perennial issues is that of responding to stuff we consider to be wrong with Church stuff and letting ourselves loose on a path that will:

a. take us back to the time when Jesus walked the earth, or

b. take us back to be what the New Testament Church was before the patristic errors, politics and power corrupted it, or

c. take us forward to something orthodox and enabling that speaks into today's realities, and

d. scrub everything and just live out what the New Testament tells us as if we were living in the days when we had only the Eucharist and the fellowship of other believers.

The problem for me is that I have proclaimed some of the above and sought the others from the pulpit, from my knees and in the sacred space that is both prayer and praise.

Many years back I can recall being in the company of a group of Christians who decided that they had no need of theology. All that was necessary to be a 'good Christian' was to read the Bible and live it - the input of those who might write on its contents being nothing other than a call to error and putting their own spin onto what was obvious without it.

Being someone who had just started studying at Bible College I sat back (quietly) and watched at whatever was about to happen in this group. It sounded good and yet, as time progressed, the reality looked awful! As they read, interpreted and applied the words of the Bible taken from one place they denied the words that resided elsewhere. Not only that but the core values that are:

i. The ten commandments (Exodus 20)

ii. The call of the shema* (Deuteronomy 6.4) to,  'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might', and

c. The words of Leviticus 19.18 which explicitly says, 'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord!'

Sad to say that the last time I heard of any of those in the original group they had all binned Christianity as 'something that didn't work' and were doing their own stuff and living quite joyless, but self-serving lives. This brings me to consider many things in terms of lifestyle, attitudes, fruit and joy because I'd like to think that getting it right with God ticks all the positive boxes - but does it I wonder?

And I'm open to those who find freedom away from Christ - but would add that it might be freed from Christians rather than the Boss Himself (surely not, Christians are all lovely, aren't they?)

So I'm about to embark upon some thinking about the patristic errors, the desire to go back and the ways that some have gone into new territory (they haven't really by the way - they just think they have but indeed there is 'nothing new under the sun!

So come along with me and put your views, correct me, shout me down, lift me up and take us forward and let's have a look at Christianity in the now as something that doesn't deny the 'then' or corrupt it for the approbation of those outside the Church.

Let's get it on!

* shema (Shem aah) - the Hebrew word for 'Hear' - taken from 'hear, o Israel, the LORD . . '

Morning Prayer - July 25

James the Apostle

Psalm 7
O Lord my God, in you I take refuge; save me from all who pursue me, and deliver me, lest they rend me like a lion and tear me in pieces while there is no one to help me.

O Lord my God, if I have done these things: if there is any wickedness in my hands, if I have repaid my friend with evil, or plundered my enemy without a cause, then let my enemy pursue me and overtake me, trample my life to the ground, and lay my honour in the dust.

Rise up, O Lord, in your wrath; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies. Awaken, my God, the judgement that you have commanded. Let the assembly of the peoples gather round you; be seated high above them: O Lord, judge the nations. Give judgement for me according to my righteousness, O Lord, and according to the innocence that is in me. Let the malice of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; for you test the mind and heart, O righteous God.

God is my shield that is over me; he saves the true of heart.
God is a righteous judge; he is provoked all day long.

If they will not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent his bow and made it ready. He has prepared the weapons of death; he makes his arrows shafts of fire.
Behold those who are in labour with wickedness, who conceive evil and give birth to lies. They dig a pit and make it deep and fall into the hole that they have made for others. Their mischief rebounds on their own head; their violence falls on their own scalp.

I will give thanks to the Lord for his righteousness, and I will make music to the name of the Lord Most High.

Psalm 29
Ascribe to the Lord, you powers of heaven, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the honour due to his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders; the Lord is upon the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is mighty in operation; the voice of the Lord is a glorious voice.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon; he makes Lebanon skip like a calf and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord splits the flash of lightning;the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe and strips the forests bare; in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’

The Lord sits enthroned above the water flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king for evermore.
The Lord shall give strength to his people; the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.

Psalm 117
O praise the Lord, all you nations; praise him, all you peoples. For great is his steadfast love towards us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures for ever.

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

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

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

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

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

The Collect
Merciful God,
whose holy apostle Saint James, leaving his father and all that he had,
was obedient to the calling of your Son Jesus Christ and followed him even to death:
help us, forsaking the false attractions of the world,
to be ready at all times to answer your call without delay;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday 24 July 2014

Israel - Palestine: Proportionate and Legal?

Once again the naughty UN have put themselves into the firing line after a shell has hit a UN-run school (being used as a shelter) in Gaza - killing some 15 people and wounded something in excess of 200 injured. The Israelis are suggesting that it could have been caused by a failed Hamas rocket whilst others are suggesting that the MO points to Israel.

Foolishly thinking that they might be somewhere safe there were 'hundreds of Palestinians' taking refuge from the fighting in the school in Beit Hanoun (a place that made the news in 2006 when the Israelis shelled it).

Regardless of whose shell it turns out to be, things are looking bad with the Israeli's managing to kill one child per hour for the past couple of days. Add to this the fact that the death toll is looking rather unbalanced (Palestinians 750  - Israel's 33) and you'll see that the situation has gone past grim and is now something much worse!!!

Ban Ki-moon said in a statement regarding this:
'Many have been killed - including women and children, as well as U.N. staff'

Please pray for peace and comon sense to prevail

A most amazing image!

One of those fantastic images that catch the eye and capture the imagination:

Can't find out where it originated but my compliments and respect are surely theirs.

UKIP and Immigration: A conversation

I happened across an image of the UK with the words I have added to my version below from UKIP which was accompanied by the words in the caption:

NHS, schools overcrowded, 2.2million jobless, 
wages depressed, houses unaffordable 


My response to this was:

Immigration: Something we ought to have though when we ruled the waves - poor show to waive the rules now!

Enough is enough, at the point of being overwhelmed, there now ceases to be a host community to integrate into.

Guess you're not a Londoner! 
I'm not happy with economic migration but where place of safety is required then we've a moral duty and since we've joined EU, until we leave, transfer of workers is part of package And so I guess the cultures that make our society what it is will have to remain to come, and remain, too!
But what do I know, I'm only fourth generation Cockney :-)Pax

The following questions were asked, but time, space and other factors meant that I copied them and will try to address them here:

Why do Muslims seek "a place of safety" in UK EU US and then seek to change these societies fundamentally?
Throughout the history of our nation we have become home to a number of nations ranging from Jews during the European diaspora past Wirurush and passing the  Bengalis of the 70's  and the Eastern Europeans of today. Each brings their own culture and each gathers into small enclave of national identity at times - and then they integrate into the society and dilute the concentration.

I can understand the concern you have with the issue of Islamic migrants because of those who despite being born here see themselves as something other than British and the discomfort felt when those who reside here speak of conquest and islamification of our land. 

The actions of ISIS militants against Christians and other 'infidel' in Iraq and the radicalisation of those who come to this land from the islamic faith are indeed issues for concern but they need to be addressed in a rational, measured and  open-handed manner - avoiding the developing of racist and antagonistic mindsets that mirror closely the fascist approaches of the thirties (and we know where that led don't we?).

Immigration is a reason for supporting @UKIP every nation has the moral duty of putting the welfare of its own people
Totally right. Every nation has a duty of care towards its citizens - it also has a duty to provide places of safety for those who need them and to welcome workforces from places who will come and work, pay taxes and contribute to the well-being of the nation in which they reside. Those who come and add to the burden that welfare and health care presents with nothing but the view of gaining benefits and healthcare and abusing the system should be dealt with accordingly. But again, the issue of balance and reason have to come to the fore and be presented in ways that do not encourage xenophobic attitudes.

Immigration is a mistake to believe we are in a condition of equilibrium as far as immigration we ain't seen nothing yet?
Now this is one I struggled with as 'equilibrium' in this setting means (I reckon) that we have similar numbers entering and leaving and so the population is run with some status quo situation. I'm assuming you think we will be seeing many more coming in than leave (regardless of nationalities) and  are in danger of being swamped. I can but agree that we do need to rationalise this situation - so how do we put barriers up so that, car park like, every time someone exits the bar is raised to admit another?

Immigration is a real question of justice to the host communities worldwide people do not have a human right to trespass
Again I agree - the right to migrate to another nation is an issue of balance and mutuality and to assume that you have the right to set up home where you like is something that will leave you rather disappointed (I know, I've been looking at how picky some nations are when it comes to letting people settle in their country). The issue of justice is one of great concern to all and not one to be taken lightly.

And there it is, my responses to the immigration issue as it hit me yesterday.

It's a kneejerk response rather than something read about and developed (which I will now do) and is something I think ALL Christians need to have a view on. Here begins my journey.


Dogcollars - the saga ends

Yes indeedy - after a journey of many months I have the last two bits of plastic safely in my possessions (well I assume I do, I haven't opened the envelope yet!).

But here's the proof:

The edges have both been taped and so, regardless of whatever the Post Office's automated mail sort equipment can throw at the envelope - the contents are all (I assume) present and correct.

Well done to H R Denne, the manufacturer/supplier for their commitment to service (I'd have been happy with four and calling it a day) and to D M Hay for being such fun during this whole saga.

I might just frame the three envelops and hang it in the church building as a testimony to persistent faith :-)

ps. have opened the envelope and the order has indeed been filled - PTL or what?

Morning Prayer - July 24

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.

Psalm 115
Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory, for the sake of your loving mercy and truth. Why should the nations say,
‘Where is now their God?’
As for our God, he is in heaven; he does whatever he pleases.

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak; eyes have they, but cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear; noses have they, but cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel; feet have they, but cannot walk; not a whisper do they make from their throats.

Those who make them shall become like them and so will all who put their trust in them. But you, Israel, put your trust in the Lord; he is their help and their shield.
House of Aaron, trust in the Lord; he is their help and their shield.
You that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; he is their help and their shield.

The Lord has been mindful of us and he will bless us;
may he bless the house of Israel;
may he bless the house of Aaron;
May he bless those who fear the Lord, both small and great together.
May the Lord increase you more and more, you and your children after you.
May you be blest by the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

1 Samuel 2.27-end
A man of God came to Eli and said to him, ‘Thus the Lord has said, “I revealed myself to the family of your ancestor in Egypt when they were slaves to the house of Pharaoh. I chose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to offer incense, to wear an ephod before me; and I gave to the family of your ancestor all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel. Why then look with greedy eye at my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded, and honour your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?” Therefore the Lord the God of Israel declares: “I promised that your family and the family of your ancestor should go in and out before me for ever”; but now the Lord declares: “Far be it from me; for those who honour me I will honour, and those who despise me shall be treated with contempt. See, a time is coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your ancestor’s family, so that no one in your family will live to old age. Then in distress you will look with greedy eye on all the prosperity that shall be bestowed upon Israel; and no one in your family shall ever live to old age. The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep out his eyes and grieve his heart; all the members of your household shall die by the sword. The fate of your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you—both of them shall die on the same day. I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed one for ever. Everyone who is left in your family shall come to implore him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread, and shall say, Please put me in one of the priest’s places, that I may eat a morsel of bread.” ’

Luke 20.9-19
He began to tell the people this parable: ‘A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants in order that they might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third; this one also they wounded and threw out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.” But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, “This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.” So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.’ When they heard this, they said, ‘Heaven forbid!’ But he looked at them and said, ‘What then does this text mean:
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”?

 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’ When the scribes and chief priests realised that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.

The Collect
Almighty and everlasting God,
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified:
hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,
that in their vocation and ministry they may serve you in holiness and truth to the glory of your name;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.