Saturday, 28 February 2015


“Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” Deuteronomy 15:10
While on patrol with a small four-man team from my SAS squadron, out in the deserts of North Africa, we were waiting for a delayed helicopter pickup. A delay like that, when you’re nearly out of water and in the roasting heat of the desert, can be life-threatening. We were all severely dehydrated and getting weaker fast.
Every hour we would sip another small capful from the one remaining water bottle we each carried, carefully and methodically rationing the little we had left. To make matters worse, I was sick.
The call came in; our extraction would come at dawn, some 20 miles away. We loaded up and began our slow and tortuous shuffle across the mountains, weighed down by kit and fatigue. I was soon struggling, with each footstep a monumental effort of will.
My sergeant, Chris Carter, could see this. He stopped the patrol, came to me, and insisted I drink the last remaining capful from his own bottle. No fuss, no show, he just made me drink it.
It was his kindness, that extreme of practical generosity that gave me the strength to keep going when I had nothing left inside me. No ego. No bravado or show.
Simple goodness.
The kind of goodness that Jesus talked about when he told us to love each other like ourselves; putting others needs above our own.
Mother Teresa said: ‘Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.’ Carry that with you today and don’t underestimate the power you have to change lives, to show others a little glimpse of Jesus, as you give in practical and powerful ways.
Bear Grylls
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Morning Prayer - 28 February 15

Psalm 59
Rescue me from my enemies, O my God; set me high above those that rise up against me. Save me from the evildoers and from murderous foes deliver me. For see how they lie in wait for my soul and the mighty stir up trouble against me. Not for any fault or sin of mine, O Lord; for no offence, they run and prepare themselves for war.

Rouse yourself, come to my aid and see; for you are the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel. Awake, and judge all the nations; •show no mercy to the evil traitors.

They return at nightfall and snarl like dogs and prowl about the city. They pour out evil words with their mouths; swords are on their lips;
‘For who’, they say, ‘can hear us?’
But you laugh at them, O Lord; you hold all the nations in derision. For you, O my strength, will I watch; you, O God, are my strong tower. My God in his steadfast love will come to me; he will let me behold the downfall of my enemies.

Slay them not, lest my people forget; send them Psalm 63 by your might and bring them down, O Lord our shield. For the sins of their mouth, for the words of their lips, let them be taken in their pride. For the cursing and falsehood they have uttered, consume them in wrath, consume them till they are no more. And they shall know that God rules in Jacob, and to the ends of the earth.

And still they return at nightfall and snarl like dogs and prowl about the city. Though they forage for something to devour, and howl if they are not filled, Yet will I sing of your strength and every morning praise your steadfast love; For you have been my stronghold, my refuge in the day of my trouble.

To you, O my strength, will I sing; for you, O God, are my refuge, my God of steadfast love.

Psalm 63
O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul is athirst for you. My flesh also faints for you, as in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So would I gaze upon you in your holy place, that I might behold your power and your glory.

Your loving-kindness is better than life itself and so my lips shall praise you. I will bless you as long as I live and lift up my hands in your name. My soul shall be satisfied, as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise you with joyful lips, When I remember you upon my bed and meditate on you in the watches of the night. For you have been my helper and under the shadow of your wings will I rejoice.

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

Jeremiah 7.1-20
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’

For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors for ever and ever.Psalm 63

Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are safe!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the Lord. Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, because you have done all these things, says the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently, you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your ancestors, just what I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, just as I cast out all your kinsfolk, all the offspring of Ephraim.
As for you, do not pray for this people, do not raise a cry or prayer on their behalf, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink-offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. Is it I whom they provoke? says the Lord. Is it not themselves, to their own hurt? Therefore thus says the Lord God: My anger and my wrath shall be poured out on this place, on human beings and animals, on the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched.

John 6.27-40
Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” ’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen mye and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’

The Collect
 Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness, and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit; and, as you know our weakness, so may we know your power to save; 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, 27 February 2015

Morning Prayer - 27 February 15

George Herbert, Priest, Poet, 1633

Psalm 22
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me, and are so far from my salvation, from the words of my distress?

O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer; and by night also, but I find no rest. Yet you are the Holy One, enthroned upon the praises of Israel. Our forebears trusted in you; they trusted, and you delivered them. They cried out to you and were delivered; they put their trust in you and were not confounded. But as for me, I am a worm and no man, scorned by all and despised by the people. All who see me laugh me to scorn; they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,
‘He trusted in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him deliver him, if he delights in him.’
But it is you that took me out of the womb and laid me safe upon my mother’s breast. On you was I cast ever since I was born; you are my God even from my mother’s womb.

Be not far from me, for trouble is near at hand and there is none to help. Mighty oxen come around me; fat bulls of Bashan close me in on every side. They gape upon me with their mouths, as it were a ramping and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint; my heart has become like wax melting in the depths of my body. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd; my tongue cleaves to my gums; you have laid me in the dust of death. For the hounds are all about me; the pack of evildoers close in on me; they pierce my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; they stand staring and looking upon me. They divide my garments among them; they cast lots for my clothing.

Be not far from me, O Lord; you are my strength; hasten to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword, my poor life from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth, from the horns of wild oxen.
You have answered me!

I will tell of your name to my people; in the midst of the congregation will I praise you. Praise the Lord, you that fear him; O seed of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, O seed of Israel. For he has not despised nor abhorred the suffering of the poor; neither has he hidden his face from them; but when they cried to him he heard them. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; I will perform my vows in the presence of those that fear you. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord shall praise him; their hearts shall live for ever. All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall bow before him. For the kingdom is the Lord’s and he rules over the nations.

How can those who sleep in the earth bow down in worship, or those who go down to the dust kneel before him?
He has saved my life for himself; my descendants shall serve him; this shall be told of the Lord for generations to come. They shall come and make known his salvation, to a people yet unborn, declaring that he, the Lord, has done it.

Jeremiah 6.22-end
Thus says the Lord:
See, a people is coming from the land of the north, a great nation is stirring from the farthest parts of the earth. They grasp the bow and the javelin, they are cruel and have no mercy, their sound is like the roaring sea; they ride on horses, equipped like a warrior for battle, against you, O daughter Zion!

‘We have heard news of them, our hands fall helpless; anguish has taken hold of us, pain as of a woman in labour. Do not go out into the field, or walk on the road; for the enemy has a sword, terror is on every side.’ 

O my poor people, put on sackcloth, and roll in ashes; make mourning as for an only child, most bitter lamentation: for suddenly the destroyer will come upon us.

I have made you a tester and a refiner among my people so that you may know and test their ways.
They are all stubbornly rebellious, going about with slanders; they are bronze and iron, all of them act corruptly. The bellows blow fiercely, the lead is consumed by the fire; in vain the refining goes on, for the wicked are not removed. They are called ‘rejected silver’, for the Lord has rejected them.

John 6.16-27
When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going.
The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the lake saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’

The Collect
King of glory, king of peace, who called your servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honours to be a priest in the temple of his God and king: grant us also the grace to offer ourselves with singleness of heart in humble obedience to your service; 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.

Acts 40 - MIX IT UP


"After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands." Revelation 7:9 (NIV)
Newham, the East London borough where I live, is possibly the most diverse borough in the country – more than 160 languages are spoken by the children in our many schools and our list of 600+ worship buildings and groups includes everything from Anglo-Catholicism to Zoroastrianism.
There is, thank God, very little inter-faith strife and lots of inter-faith conversation in Newham and I believe it’s such a blessing to us. Here, you don’t need to be shy about your faith – you are positively expected to have a faith and to practise it; most faith groups do not proselytise but are very glad to welcome visitors and proud to talk about their traditions, especially when they’re having a festival.
We are often surprised by the things we have in common – we all want a safe, clean and happy environment for our children and elders; decent, affordable homes and satisfying jobs; respect and freedom, peace and health, physical as well as spiritual – and it’s fascinating to share our hopes and ways of achieving those aims.
We Christians have been amazed to learn that you can go into a Sikh Gudwara at any time and there will be food and drink to welcome you; the tranquillity of our Quaker meeting house is a lesson for those of us who think that faith has got to be about words; and many of our public buildings now have a prayer room, thanks to our Muslim neighbours who pray five times a day, every day. We have had to consider carefully what the Christian church has to offer and are learning to be more open about our Bible and our history.
The Revelation to John is very clear that the New Heaven and the New Earth are like a city, full of people – ’an enormous crowd that no one could count’ – and I believe that life in Britain these days can be a foretaste of that Heaven.
Canon Ann Easter

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Thursday, 26 February 2015

40 Acts - TICK TOCK

"Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves." Romans 12:10 (NIV)

I was ‘that girl’ in a restaurant recently. There I sat, alone, trying desperately not to look alone, at a table for 15. For half an hour. As people kept asking if they could borrow seats.
In a moment of insanity I had forgotten that my friends are always, always late – and I should have added a good 30 minutes onto our scheduled arrival time. True to form, the other 14 arrived en masse half an hour later, and we began our lovely evening.
Don’t think that I am a saint – more often than not I’m on the other side of the time-keeping spectrum. I’m the one who wanders into work 30 seconds past my start time (on a good day), who texts ahead to say that my journey has been ‘disrupted’ by an unnameable disaster, and who can never, ever be on time for church – no matter when it starts.
In those rare moments when I am on time and others are not, I’m reminded how little we value punctuality in our culture, and how much technology is a crutch for our lack of care.
I know I should be on time. I want to be on time. But why is it so important that we are, as Christians?
1. Jesus said we should prefer others to ourselves. Leaving someone hanging around and waiting for you so that you can check Facebook just one last time reveals that you care more about yourself than the other person. Being on time is a simple way to put others first.
2. It reveals your integrity. If we agree to arrive somewhere at midday and turn up half an hour later, we have not been true to our word. Integrity means doing what we say we will do, and excuses don’t help!
Phoebe Thompson
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Where are we on the time-keeping spectrum? Maybe it’s high time we were on time.

Morning Prayer - 26 February 15

Psalm 42
As the deer longs for the water brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God.

My soul is athirst for God, even for the living God; when shall I come before the presence of God?
My tears have been my bread day and night, while all day long they say to me, ‘Where is now your God?’

Now when I think on these things, I pour out my soul: how I went with the multitude and led the procession to the house of God, With the voice of praise and thanksgiving, among those who kept holy day.

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, and why are you so disquieted within me? O put your trust in God; for I will yet give him thanks, who is the help of my countenance, and my God. My soul is heavy within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of Jordan, and from Hermon and the hill of Mizar.

Deep calls to deep in the thunder of your waterfalls; all your breakers and waves have gone over me. The Lord will grant his loving-kindness in the daytime; through the night his song will be with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God my rock,
‘Why have you forgotten me, and why go I so heavily, while the enemy oppresses me?’
As they crush my bones, my enemies mock me; while all day long they say to me, ‘Where is now your God?’

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? and why are you so disquieted within me? O put your trust in God; for I will yet give him thanks, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Psalm 43
Give judgement for me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people; deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked. For you are the God of my refuge; why have you cast me from you, and why go I so heavily, while the enemy oppresses me?

O send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling, That I may go to the altar of God, to the God of my joy and gladness; and on the lyre I will give thanks to you, O God my God.

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, and why are you so disquieted within me?
O put your trust in God; for I will yet give him thanks, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Jeremiah 6.9-21
Thus says the Lord of hosts: Glean thoroughly as a vine the remnant of Israel; like a grape-gatherer, pass your hand again over its branches.

To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear?
See, their ears are closed, they cannot listen.
The word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.
But I am full of the wrath of the Lord; I am weary of holding it in.

Pour it out on the children in the street, and on the gatherings of young men as well; both husband and wife shall be taken, the old folk and the very aged. Their houses shall be turned over to others, their fields and wives together; for I will stretch out my hand against the inhabitants of the land,

says the Lord.

For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace’, when there is no peace. They acted shamefully, they committed abomination; yet they were not ashamed, they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,

says the Lord.

Thus says the Lord: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Also I raised up sentinels for you: ‘Give heed to the sound of the trumpet!’
But they said, ‘We will not give heed.’
Therefore hear, O nations, and know, O congregation, what will happen to them. Hear, O earth; I am going to bring disaster on this people, the fruit of their schemes, because they have not given heed to my words; and as for my teaching, they have rejected it.
Of what use to me is frankincense that comes from Sheba, or sweet cane from a distant land?
Your burnt-offerings are not acceptable, nor are your sacrifices pleasing to me.
Therefore thus says the Lord:
See, I am laying before this people stumbling-blocks against which they shall stumble; parents and children together, neighbour and friend shall perish.

John 6.1-15
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.  A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’

When Jesus realised that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

The Collect
Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness, and was tempted as we are, yet without sin: give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit; and, as you know our weakness, so may we know your power to save; 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 February 2015

40 Acts - Don't let possessions possess you: HOLD IT LIGHTLY

"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:20-21 (NIV)
A few years ago, a friend of mine was getting new living room furniture. Honestly, his old furniture was in pretty good shape. I figured he could sell it for around $500. Then he did something I couldn’t wrap my mind around at the time. He gave it away!
You see, back then I held my hands tightly around my treasure ... you know, my money and my stuff. But that day God started a work in my heart by prying open my fist one finger at a time.
Fast forward a few years. My ten-year-old son Sutton and I were having dinner at our favourite restaurant when we overheard a man tell his server that he wasn’t having a good day. We both felt God calling us to buy his dinner to help lift his spirits.
Sutton tells the story in his own words:
After my dad paid for the man’s dinner and we left, it felt so great to bless someone like that! It turned out that the man was really sad because his wife had died from cancer. Our waitress told us that he comes in a lot and usually HE’S the one who buys dinner for other people! Wow!!
We wished we’d left a note or something, because blessings like that are a great way to tell people about Jesus. Then, we came up with a Generosity Now card that people could leave when they do an act of generosity. We call it ’carding’ someone.
If I had to choose my favourite, it would be the time we left a really big tip for our waitress and then watched through the window, while we got soaked in the rain! She saw the money and looked surprised and then read the Generosity Now card. We saw her face light up in a big smile and watched her run back into the kitchen to tell everyone about it. It was awesome!
We’ve learned that a tight fist keeps your treasure securely locked inside, but it also leaves no room for God’s abundance to squeeze through your fingers. We’ve realised that the ‘stuff’ we held dear as our treasure breaks or wears out, but the impact of smiles and tears of joy is infinitely more valuable.
Christ and Sutton Coffman

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Morning Prayer - 25 February 2015

Psalm 6
O Lord, rebuke me not in your wrath; neither chasten me in your fierce anger. Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am weak; Lord, heal me, for my bones are racked. My soul also shakes with terror; how long, O Lord, how long?

Turn again, O Lord, and deliver my soul; save me for your loving mercy’s sake. For in death no one remembers you; and who can give you thanks in the grave?

I am weary with my groaning; every night I drench my pillow and flood my bed with my tears. My eyes are wasted with grief and worn away because of all my enemies. Depart from me, all you that do evil, for the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer. All my enemies shall be put to shame and confusion; they shall suddenly turn back in their shame.

Psalm 17
Hear my just cause, O Lord; consider my complaint; listen to my prayer, which comes not from lying lips. Let my vindication come forth from your presence; let your eyes behold what is right. Weigh my heart, examine me by night, refine me, and you will find no impurity in me.
My mouth does not trespass for earthly rewards; I have heeded the words of your lips.
My footsteps hold fast in the ways of your commandments; my feet have not stumbled in your paths.
I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me; incline your ear to me, and listen to my words. Show me your marvellous loving-kindness, O Saviour of those who take refuge at your right hand from those who rise up against them.

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings, From the wicked who assault me, from my enemies who surround me to take away my life.

They have closed their heart to pity and their mouth speaks proud things. They press me hard, they surround me on every side, watching how they may cast me to the ground, Like a lion that is greedy for its prey, like a young lion lurking in secret places.

Arise, Lord; confront them and cast them down; deliver me from the wicked by your sword. Deliver me, O Lord, by your hand from those whose portion in life is unending, Whose bellies you fill with your treasure, who are well supplied with children and leave their wealth to their little ones.

As for me, I shall see your face in righteousness; when I awake and behold your likeness, I shall be satisfied.

Jeremiah 5.20-end
Declare this in the house of Jacob, proclaim it in Judah: Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but do not see, who have ears, but do not hear.

Do you not fear me? says the Lord;
Do you not tremble before me?
I placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail, though they roar, they cannot pass over it. But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear the Lord our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.’
Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have deprived you of good. For scoundrels are found among my people; they take over the goods of others. Like fowlers they set a trap; they catch human beings. Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of treachery; therefore they have become great and rich, they have grown fat and sleek. They know no limits in deeds of wickedness; they do not judge with justice the cause of the orphan, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. Shall I not punish them for these things?
says the Lord,
and shall I not bring retribution on a nation such as this?

An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land:
the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule as the prophets direct; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?

John 5.30-end
‘I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgement is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

‘If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.

‘You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?’

The Collect

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
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 February 2015

Morning Prayer - 24 February 2015

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.

Jeremiah 5.1-19
Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look around and take note!
Search its squares and see if you can find one person who acts justly and seeks truth - so that I may pardon Jerusalem.  Although they say, ‘As the Lord lives’, yet they swear falsely.
O Lord, do your eyes not look for truth?
You have struck them, but they felt no anguish; you have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to turn back.

Then I said, ‘These are only the poor, they have no sense; for they do not know the way of the Lord, the law of their God. Let me go to the rich and speak to them; surely they know the way of the Lord,    the law of their God.’ But they all alike had broken the yoke, they had burst the bonds.

Therefore a lion from the forest shall kill them, a wolf from the desert shall destroy them. A leopard is watching against their cities; everyone who goes out of them shall be torn in pieces - because their transgressions are many, their apostasies are great.

How can I pardon you? Your children have forsaken me, and have sworn by those who are no gods. When I fed them to the full, they committed adultery and trooped to the houses of prostitutes. They were well-fed lusty stallions, each neighing for his neighbour’s wife. hall I not punish them for these things?
says the Lord;
and shall I not bring retribution on a nation such as this?

Go up through her vine-rows and destroy, but do not make a full end; strip away her branches, for they are not the Lord’s. For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have been utterly faithless to me,
says the Lord.
They have spoken falsely of the Lord, and have said, ‘He will do nothing. No evil will come upon us,    and we shall not see sword or famine.’ The prophets are nothing but wind, for the word is not in them. Thus shall it be done to them!

Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts: Because they have spoken this word, I am now making my words in your mouth a fire, and this people wood, and the fire shall devour them.
I am going to bring upon you a nation from far away, O house of Israel,
says the Lord
It is an enduring nation, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language you do not know, nor can you understand what they say. Their quiver is like an open tomb; all of them are mighty warriors.
They shall eat up your harvest and your food; they shall eat up your sons and your daughters; they shall eat up your flocks and your herds; they shall eat up your vines and your fig trees; they shall destroy with the sword your fortified cities in which you trust.

But even in those days, says the Lord, I will not make a full end of you. And when your people say, ‘Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?’ you shall say to them, ‘As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve strangers in a land that is not yours.’

John 5.19-29
Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomsoever he wishes. The Father judges no one but has given all judgement to the Son, so that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Anyone who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him. Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life.

‘Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

The Collect
Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness, and was tempted as we are, yet without sin: give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit; and, as you know our weakness, so may we know your power to save;
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.

40 Acts - THANK YOU

"Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:19b-20 (NIV)
Who would have thought that two little words could have so much influence for change, hope and transformation! ‘Thank you’ are two of the most powerful words I know because I see them unlock hope and positivity even in the most tricky situations, two things our world very desperately needs.
For two years I tweeted everyday #thankyoutoday for something that day. I started doing it because life had become a bit tough and I was finding it harder to keep a generous spirit. I expected it to help me connect with God and be thankful even on difficult or mundane days. What I found was a habit of thankfulness that led to thinking of others more, being generous with my words and encouragement of others' creativity to see glimpses of hope every day.
We live in a world where it is all too easy to be overwhelmed by difficulties, our personal challenges or the news of a world that is broken and crying out for help. Thankfulness instils in us a gratitude for what we do have. The more we practise an attitude of gratitude, the more I think God inspires us to be generous and live for hope, choosing to defy the odds and believe that a better tomorrow is possible.
Today is not just another day; today is an opportunity to invest in thankfulness and be seekers of hope and positivity. With this in mind, let’s join together and…
Write an update on your social media saying #thankyoutoday for something. If you’re not on social media, why not write it on a post-it and stick it to your bathroom mirror?
If you want more of a challenge, why not also write to someone in authority in your local area and thank them for their hard work? You could write to your MP, local councillors, church leader. Even if you don’t like everything they do, let’s be generous with our thankfulness.
Dot Tyler

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Monday, 23 February 2015

Morning Prayer - 23 February 15

Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, Martyr, c.155

Psalm 10
Why stand so far off, O Lord?
Why hide yourself in time of trouble?

The wicked in their pride persecute the poor; let them be caught in the schemes they have devised.
The wicked boast of their heart’s desire; the covetous curse and revile the Lord.
The wicked in their arrogance say, ‘God will not avenge it’; in all their scheming God counts for nothing.
They are stubborn in all their ways, for your judgements are far above out of their sight; they scoff at all their adversaries.
They say in their heart,
‘I shall not be shaken; no harm shall ever happen to me.’
Their mouth is full of cursing, deceit and fraud; under their tongue lie mischief and wrong.
They lurk in the outskirts and in dark alleys they murder the innocent; their eyes are ever watching for the helpless.
They lie in wait, like a lion in his den;
they lie in wait to seize the poor;
they seize the poor when they get them into their net. The innocent are broken and humbled before them; the helpless fall before their power.

They say in their heart,
‘God has forgotten; he hides his face away; he will never see it.’

Arise, O Lord God, and lift up your hand; forget not the poor.
Why should the wicked be scornful of God?
Why should they say in their hearts, ‘You will not avenge it’?

Surely, you behold trouble and misery; you see it and take it into your own hand. The helpless commit themselves to you, for you are the helper of the orphan. Break the power of the wicked and malicious; search out their wickedness until you find none. The Lord shall reign for ever and ever; the nations shall perish from his land.

Lord, you will hear the desire of the poor; you will incline your ear to the fullness of their heart, To give justice to the orphan and oppressed, so that people are no longer driven in terror from the land.

Psalm 11
In the Lord have I taken refuge; how then can you say to me,
‘Flee like a bird to the hills, For see how the wicked bend the bow and fit their arrows to the string, to shoot from the shadows at the true of heart. When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?’

The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven. His eyes behold, his eyelids try every mortal being. The Lord tries the righteous as well as the wicked, but those who delight in violence his soul abhors. Upon the wicked he shall rain coals of fire and burning sulphur; scorching wind shall be their portion to drink, For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds, and those who are upright shall behold his face.

Jeremiah 4.19-end
My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
Oh, the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent; for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. Disaster overtakes disaster, the whole land is laid waste. Suddenly my tents are destroyed, my curtains in a moment.

How long must I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet?
‘For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.’

I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light.
I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro.
I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled.
I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger.

For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. Because of this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above grow black; for I have spoken, I have purposed; I have not relented nor will I turn back.

At the noise of horseman and archer every town takes to flight; they enter thickets; they climb among rocks; all the towns are forsaken, and no one lives in them. And you, O desolate one, what do you mean that you dress in crimson, that you deck yourself with ornaments of gold, that you enlarge your eyes with paint?

In vain you beautify yourself.
Your lovers despise you; they seek your life.
For I heard a cry as of a woman in labour, anguish as of one bringing forth her first child, the cry of daughter Zion gasping for breath, stretching out her hands, ‘Woe is me! I am fainting before killers!’

John 5.1-18
After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’ At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.

Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.’ But he answered them, ‘The man who made me well said to me, “Take up your mat and walk.” ’ They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Take it up and walk”?’ Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.’ The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is still working, and I also am working.’ For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.

The Collect
Almighty God, who gave to your servant Polycarp boldness to confess the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world and courage to die for his faith: grant that we also may be ready to give an answer for the faith that is in us and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

40 Acts - FAIR TRADE

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8 (NIV)
It’s easy to think that Fairtrade is just a nice way to shop – a way to tick boxes and feel good. But for Christians it is about acting justly because for many farmers and artisans fair trade represents their only viable route out of poverty.
Having grown up in Kenya and visited India extensively, I’m no stranger to poverty. In fact, I’ve seen the effect it has on people all my life. It was after visiting the slums of Bombay in 1988 that I knew I had to do something to help and so I co-founded the Christmas Cracker project, which raised a lot of money for people with real needs.
From that time on, I’ve always been interested and active in the fight against poverty, and that continues today. I’m proud to be Chair of the Board at Traidcraft and it really has been an eye-opening experience.
Crucial to this is the fact that Fairtrade empowers people. It gives them access to a better wage so that all their hard work can finally start to pay off. On top of that, farmers receive a Fairtrade premium which they invest into community projects like building schools, accessing clean water and improving food security.
I’ve seen the difference that fair trade can make to families and communities in the developing world – it truly has the power to transform lives.
That’s why I urge you to choose Fairtrade today and fight poverty when you buy your clothes, your food or even your cleaning products and rubber gloves.
Ram Gidomal
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Sunday, 22 February 2015

Can't make it to church? 22 February 2015

Here we are at the First Sunday of Lent - and oddly, for those who don't know it, Sundays are not actually part of Lent because Sunday is a 'mini Easter' and so it is always a celebration. So the ashes and the taking up of things (and the subsequent laying down also) are put to one side for 24 hrs - but of course the cross we carry isn't!

And what of our readings? 

All too often we forget that part of our daily worship is to be found in the Psalms and so why not have us start there as we are reminded of Him in whom we put our trust and the cry to be taught the paths of righteousness, that way of the cross, is clear for us, and for those with whom we deal; for surely we deal in the same way with others as God deals with us (don't we?). For, 'All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth.'

Psalm 25.1-9
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies triumph over me. Let none who look to you be put to shame, but let the treacherous be shamed and frustrated. Make me to know your ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you have I hoped all the day long. Remember, Lord, your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions, but think on me in your goodness, O Lord, according to your steadfast love. Gracious and upright is the Lord; therefore shall he teach sinners in the way. He will guide the humble in doing right and teach his way to the lowly. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

So here we are, stepping out on this first Sunday in Lent looking to walk in mercy and truth and what do we find from the readings? Will they offer us more of the same or will they, as sometimes is the case, cause us to wonder where the link is?

Well we have Noah as the focus of our Old Testament reading - the looking back at God having taken things into His own hands and the promise that He will never take direct, hands on, action against the wicked. That's what the rainbow says, "It's hands off from me, I'll send you signposts, and prophecies and people who will stand with you, but you have control of it all!'

And herein lies the answer to the question, 'Why does a God of love let bad things happen?' and the reason for for asking the question, 'Why do you people keep doing bad things?'

Genesis 9.8-17
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.

And the two passages below. The Gospel talking of the start of Jesus' ministry and God's affirmation of Him as He sets out on the road to the Cross - that most active and engaged path of truth, love and mercy  - and the succinct summing up of it from words of 1 Peter 3:

'For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, 
the righteous for the unrighteous, 
in order to bring you to God.'

Add to this the words:
'And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you
not as a removal of dirt from the body, 
but as an appeal to God for a good conscience,
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ'

And 'Bingo!' it all becomes clear and the jigsaw coming together gives us a picture of a God who seeks us to be a people who will not need Him to intervene (because He can't - He's made that promise in Genesis 9 that He won't and He ALWAYS keeps His promises. 

That picture of a people who will not ask why God isn't acting because they are!

A picture that see us making a stand and ensuring that the wrong are stopped in their tracks.

So are we going to be people who complain that God never acts or are we going to be His hands and feet; His arm of love that embrace; His voice that speaks healing and forgiveness into the world and more specifically those around us? Are we willing to take up our own cross and start down the paths of truth, love, reconciliation and denial of self? (Let's pray):

The Collect
Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness, so may we know your power to save;
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.

1 Peter 3.18-22
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight people, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you - not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Mark 1.9-15
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ 

Post Communion Prayer
Lord God, you have renewed us with the living bread from heaven;
by it you nourish our faith, increase our hope, and strengthen our love:
teach us always to hunger for him who is the true and living bread,
and enable us to live by every word that proceeds from out of your mouth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

40 Acts: Day Four Devise a SURPRISE

"Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength." 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 (NIV)
A friend’s spontaneous laughter or tears of joy can be so infectious and cathartic (isn’t it intriguing how fine the line between the two is?), the only surprise is that we don’t do more to provoke them.
When was the last time you found yourself so overwhelmed by a shared moment that neither of you could hold yourself back? Was it a joke perhaps? – I often find the more absurd the gag, the funnier and more cathartic it becomes (for me that’s the appeal of Monty Python). Or shared relief (as when the RAC man finally arrives after the car breaks down)? Or the realisation you have more in common than you dreamed possible? Such moments can brighten a day; but they might actually revolutionise a life.
You see, deliberately trying to surprise someone can actually be an act of great generosity. I’m not talking about sneaking up to make them jump out of their skin. I mean an act of grace. Grace is always unexpected, unearned, undeserved, unconditional, unquestioning, uninhibited. In short, it is always a surprise.
Which is why the Christian gospel is the world’s most monumental surprise. After all, who could possibly have predicted that God’s global salvage-plan would be achieved by a first-century northern carpenter wandering around Judaea in poverty, only to get executed as a Roman criminal? God is seriously in the surprise business. And no one gets close to him on that front. But for those who get it, God’s surprise results in shouts, laughter and tears of spontaneous joy. Any other grace-surprises are but a pale reflection.
So you want to become like God this Lent? Why not start by doing or saying something unexpected, unearned, undeserved, unconditional, unquestioning, uninhibited, for someone else?
Today. And every day.
Mark Meynell
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