Thursday, 30 April 2015

Tamworth Hustings Today's the Day!

In case you haven't noticed, there is a Hustings event taking place at St Editha's Church, Tamworth a7 7:30pm

Here's the poster (for one last time - honest):

And here's the equipment that will make it all heard:

Just like the old days - the car is full of PA kit
(Now where's the Gaffer Tape?)

And here's the venue all set up and waiting for you (you are coming, aren't you?):

See you tonight - bring your questions and make a difference to Tamworth by voting, 
and voting intelligently!


Morning Prayer - 30 April 15

Pandita Mary Ramabai, Translator of the Scriptures, 1922

Psalm 118
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his mercy endures for ever. 

Let Israel now proclaim, ‘His mercy endures for ever.’
Let the house of Aaron now proclaim, ‘His mercy endures for ever.’
Let those who fear the Lord proclaim, ‘His mercy endures for ever.’

In my constraint I called to the Lord; the Lord answered and set me free. The Lord is at my side; I will not fear; what can flesh do to me?

With the Lord at my side as my saviour, I shall see the downfall of my enemies.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put any confidence in flesh.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put any confidence in princes.

All the nations encompassed me, but by the name of the Lord I drove them back. They hemmed me in, they hemmed me in on every side, but by the name of the Lord I drove them back. They swarmed about me like bees; they blazed like fire among thorns, but by the name of the Lord I drove them back. Surely, I was thrust to the brink, but the Lord came to my help.

The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. Joyful shouts of salvation sound from the tents of the righteous:
‘The right hand of the Lord does mighty deeds; the right hand of the Lord raises up; the right hand of the Lord does mighty deeds.’

I shall not die, but live and declare the works of the Lord.
The Lord has punished me sorely, but he has not given me over to death.  Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.

I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Come, O Lord, and save us we pray. Come, Lord, send us now prosperity.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God; he has given us light; link the pilgrims with cords right to the horns of the altar. 

You are my God and I will thank you; you are my God and I will exalt you.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his mercy endures for ever.

Deuteronomy 11.8-end
Keep, then, this entire commandment that I am commanding you today, so that you may have strength to go in and occupy the land that you are crossing over to occupy, and so that you may live long in the land that the Lord swore to your ancestors to give to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey. For the land that you are about to enter to occupy is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sow your seed and irrigate by foot like a vegetable garden. But the land that you are crossing over to occupy is a land of hills and valleys, watered by rain from the sky, a land that the Lord your God looks after. The eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.

If you will only heed his every commandment that I am commanding you today—loving the Lord your God, and serving him with all your heart and with all your soul—then he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, and you will gather in your grain, your wine, and your oil; and he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you will eat your fill. Take care, or you will be seduced into turning away, serving other gods and worshipping them, for then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain and the land will yield no fruit; then you will perish quickly from the good land that the Lord is giving you.

You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your ancestors to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.

If you will diligently observe this entire commandment that I am commanding you, loving the Lord your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him, then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and mightier than yourselves. Every place on which you set foot shall be yours; your territory shall extend from the wilderness to the Lebanon and from the River, the river Euphrates, to the Western Sea. No one will be able to stand against you; the Lord your God will put the fear and dread of you on all the land on which you set foot, as he promised you.

See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn from the way that I am commanding you today, to follow other gods that you have not known.

When the Lord your God has brought you into the land that you are entering to occupy, you shall set the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. As you know, they are beyond the Jordan, some distance to the west, in the land of the Canaanites who live in the Arabah, opposite Gilgal, beside the oak of Moreh.

When you cross the Jordan to go in to occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and when you occupy it and live in it, you must diligently observe all the statutes and ordinances that I am setting before you today.

Ephesians 5.15-end
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Saviour. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendour, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.

The Collect
Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:raise us, who trust in him, from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, that we may seek those things which are above, where he reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Tamworth Hustings - ONE day to go

It's all quite steady state politics as far as the polls are concerned:

Conservatives 34%

Labour             33%

UKIP                13%

Lib Dems          9%

Green Party      5%

One of the pundits on the BBC was saying that the six week election period was making the whole thing the most boring election on record and pointed out that viewing figures for the debates were lower than five years ago. Another was saying that there were perhaps more undecided voters than ever and more were saying that they were willing to change their vote should they hear something that persuaded them it would be the best thing to do (best for them or their party or what I wondered: Lots of naughty encouragement to vote tactically to undermine others in this election)!

Where I am, some of the Christians I have encountered are telling me that they have no idea as to who they should vote for, some looking to maintain their traditional allegiances whilst others are looking for 'Christian' stuff and others still are looking to see stuff that isn't 'Christian' so they can vote for the last man (or of course woman) standing.

Many of the older folk I chat to are telling me that it's time to 'do something' positive, but what that thing is, and what area it is to be found in, they aren't sure: Just something different please.

The first time voters are apparently being wowed by their big issues and the bold promises of some to address them. Interestingly some are digging deep and challenging the ability of people to keep their promises should they be elected: Others are reading the headlines and, ignorant of substance, telling me that they vote for them because it sounds good.

So it is still all to play for - are you decided?

Do you have a concern you'd like an answer for with regard to the way it might be handled by the next government or your MP should they be in opposition?

Get to st Editha's tomorrow and get stuck in

Morning Prayer - 29 April 15

Catherine of Siena, Teacher of the Faith, 1380

Psalm 135
Praise the name of the Lord; give praise, you servants of the Lord, You that stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God.

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; make music to his name, for it is lovely. For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself and Israel for his own possession.

For I know that the Lord is great and that our Lord is above all gods. The Lord does whatever he pleases in heaven and on earth, in the seas and in all the deeps.
He brings up the clouds from the ends of the earth; he makes lightning with the rain and brings the winds out of his treasuries.
He smote the firstborn of Egypt, the firstborn of man and beast.
He sent signs and wonders into your midst, O Egypt, upon Pharaoh and all his servants.
He smote many nations and slew mighty kings: Sihon, king of the Amorites,
and Og, the king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan.
He gave their land as a heritage, a heritage for Israel his people.

Your name, O Lord, endures for ever and shall be remembered through all generations. For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.

The idols of the nations are but 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; neither is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them shall become like them, and so will all who put their trust in them. Bless the Lord, O house of Israel; O house of Aaron, bless The Lord
Bless the Lord, O house of Levi; you who fear the Lord, bless the Lord.
Blessed be the Lord from Zion, who dwells in Jerusalem.

Deuteronomy 10.12-end
So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being. Although heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, the earth with all that is in it, yet the Lord set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you, their descendants after them, out of all the peoples, as it is today. Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen. Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy persons; and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in heaven.

Ephesians 5.1-14
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be associated with them. For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
‘Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’

The Collect
God of compassion, who gave your servant Catherine of Siena a wondrous love of the passion of Christ: grant that your people may be united to him in his majesty and rejoice for ever in the revelation of his glory; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Tamworth Hustings - 2 days to go

As usual, let's look at the polls:

Conservatives 34%

Labour             33%

UKIP                13%

Lib Dems          9%

Green Party      5%

A little fluctuation but generally we have a rather static picture before us - all the more reason to come and ask questions and get out and vote.

Lots of questions on HS2, Overseas Aid, freedom of speech and religious tolerance colliding with those who want to shut the door on immigration, cut the money our nation gives and those who want, and don't want, to see euthanasia made legal.

Just a foretaste of what is to come on Thursday night - so put your TV onto record and drag yourself down to town (and there's always the King's Ditch micro pub afterwards for a post mortem drink).

Come and make politics something enjoyable and be the difference in our town.

Misplaced Charity - What's the right way to give?

This morning I woke to find some conversations on the internet regarding aid and Nepal in particular. There was also this:

on my Facebook page - something that was mirrored by many other well meaning organisations and charities. There were also people saying that aid is not necessary and talked about how, with 'charity beginning at home' or India and space probes, nuclear power and the like we should, 'Leave them to it!"

Now this is tosh but there's so much of it I thought I'd try to help see the wood from the trees so to speak, so here goes:

So, what's the first rule?
The first rule is simple, in fact it's so simple it isn't even the first rule!

Check the credentials and the experience of the organisation your money, if you choose to send money, will be going to. 

Christian Aid - is an organisation I know and trust - click the link to see their disaster 
                        response for Nepal - but to be honest, I think the better port of call  is:

DEC - Thirteen well known names under one label* (Including Christian Aid). This is your 
           'one stop shop' when problems occur. Click on the link and you will see that with their 
            appeals they are truly ubiquitous.

And the second rule?
Sill simple (but I'm going to shout) - DO NOT start collecting loads of blankets, woollens and other used stuff to send over to the 'poor cold and starving' masses. There are many reasons for this, a few being:

i. The cost of getting it there burns up more cash than buying the stuff new from local sources (like India or China) - better to donate money and leave the actual needs to be met and directed by people on the ground who know what is needed where and can get it done more efficiently and get 'more bang for your bucks!'

ii. Having got all the old stuff out to the place where the need is it becomes a pain because it needs to be sorted, sifted and (if my experience of this is common) then binned there as unusable - and the stuff has taken up manpower, storage and been a distraction away from the real work (so that would make it a well-meaning curse then I guess?).

iii. BUT, if you do suddenly find yourself inundated with cuddly toys (never understand this), pollens and other stuff - have a sale (getting the people to bring their good stuff that others might like - not their garage clearance rubbish) and send the money to the aid organisation you have decided on. Stuff that's left can go to charity shops (but be careful - many refuse the remnants of a church finely crafted antique (i.e. Junk) sale) or to ragging or used clothes buyers. The rest will yours (so act wisely at the start - be selective).

And the final rule (being a trinitarian):

Rule the third
I have found a few places looking for like minded and caring sorts to 'get out there' and lend a hand. The simple answer is 'STAY PUT' unless you are part of the rescue services (in which case there are 'chain of command' opportunities for you to volunteer) or are a trained medical type (in which case contact the charities before you do anything like booking a ticket or visiting Blacks for your ice pick!).

The past few disasters have been hindered more than helped by the growing population of 'disaster sightseers'  who turn up and generally get in the way. I met one last year, had a jacket with the disasters he'd done - Haiti (tick), Japan (tick) - but got turned down when he arrived in India. Was allowed in but told to keep away from the sharp end!

Please don't sponsor anyone to go out to help unless you have confirmation that they are part of a bona fide charity (and contact the charity - I've been conned like that before).

I hope this is of some help in the morass of information out there at the moment.

* The Disasters Emergency Committee draws together thirteen British charities to meet need in times of international crisis. The charities they represent are:  Action Aid - Age International - the (British) Red Cross - CAFOD - Care International - Christian Aid - Concern Worldwide, Islamic Relief, OXFAM, Plan UK, Sve the Children, Tearfund - World Vision

Monday, 27 April 2015

Bread and Wine: Why do we do it so poorly at times?

When it comes to the Eucharist I have to say that, aside from the old joke which asks who in their right mind would go out to a place that takes over thirty minutes to stick bread and wine on the table, it seems when it comes to the Eucharist there is often little to laugh about. The reason for this is that a fair number of the churches I have visited over the years appear to have failed when it comes to taking the issue of the elements seriously and this is not right. After all, if we really think this is something important then surely we would do our best to make sure it is done both properly and well.

Let me explain:

The Bread
One of the things I like to do is break the bread, if wafers are in use, as I use the words, 'The body of Christ broken for you...' the emphasis being on the 'broken' BUT I have visited a number of churches where the wafer is something soggy which curls as you try to break it. Disaster: 'The body of Christ curled up and rolled into a tube for you,' just doesn't do it for me!!!

It gets worse when the 'priest's' wafer is soggy because with that resounding 'snap' missing as 'we break this bread to share in the body' I'm left trying to tear the wretched elasticised circular abomination whilst still trying to look like it's not a three ring circus.

Then there's the wonderful wafers that have been dried to the extent that when you break them they go off like a gunshot and fragment. I nearly took someone's eye out a few weeks back with one of these as they knelt at the rail (I kid you not)! 

But as if that wasn't bad enough, the blessed soggy things, when consumed, stick to the roof of your mouth and needed copious amounts of wine (honestly officer - I've just been doing a service (hic)! ) to shift the thing so you could do the post communion prayer. Meanwhile the rest of the congregation, who weren't so fortunate,  struggled on (I watched a couple of the old loves present remove their top set of dentures) to try and remedy the problem!!

Mind you, it's not all about wafers this bread problem. A recent service was going swimmingly and as I picked up the bread roll (or 'bun' as they call them here) I was getting into my stride. 'Take, eat, this is my body broken for you...' (bread is now broken to reveal lumps of chocolate) - yes, really!

It's good idea to ensure that the bread you use is of the finest flour and the best you can get, but the communion I did with sunflower seeds in the bread saw more dentures under attack than that seen in the making of 'The `Revenge of the Curly Communion Wafer'! 

The Wine
Personally I like to use a good tawny regimental port (19% proof) because it tastes good and it doesn't stain the linen. When we add water to it (which we do because we're not out to get drunk, it's nothing to do with blood and water and Jesus' side) it still retains its taste and continues to have an antiseptic property (and remember, the using the purificator is a relatively modern practice - but it does apparently remove up to 90% of germs). 

The problem is that somewhere I went to recently used a cheap and nasty pale sherry which once watered down looked like cat's pee and tasted like (and I'm no expert here) something worse still. When asked there response was that it, 'Saved money!' Bah, humbug is what I say!! I'm all for being a good steward but this isn't the place to be skimping, If you want to 'save money' then cut down on all the wasteful printing and buy cost effective candles and stuff like that but make the Eucharist something special.

Next we have the problem of:

Try drinking the remnants of a highly dyed and nasty port that's been left in a bottle for a week with the top off and served from a silver container which someone joyfully attacks with some sort of silver polish each week to add that little extra flavour - it isn't a joyful or pleasurable experience at all!

One church I visited last year had the practice of leaving whatever hadn't been consecrated in their lovely silver flagon and that was why the thing leaked around the seams - the acid was eating the treasure away!

So here's a little plea:

Use the best bread you can and if you are a church that uses wafers, keep them dry (you can buy biscuit tins with some sort of hydroscopic cell in them to take away the moisture and keep them fresh) and if they become soggy - BIN THEM!  Do not inflict them on the communicants (or the clergy either - because more often than not the 'priest's wafers are the ones to really suffer) because it distracts from, and diminishes, somethingquite spectacularly important/    

If you use bread rather than wafers - either get a member of the congregation to bake the loaf or roll to ensure it's the right stuff and if that can't be done and it's shop bought - READ THE LABEL!

I really enjoyed Jesus with added chocolate but it wasn't in the right place  and was not how (or what) we should have been doing! The sunflower and sesame seed Jesus I encountered whilst covering an interregnum was nice, but it would have been improved by toasting the bread (or the person who brought it if that was not acceptable) and the addition of just a little butter.

The Eucharist is an important - no, it is THE MOST important - of the things we do together in Church - make it look and feel like that by taking the elements seriously when buying them, storing them and sharing them - Is this too much to ask I wonder?

Soap box away - it's safe to come out from your hiding places now!!

This could be going just a little too far perhaps!
And as the bags not one of resealable types...

Tamworth Hustings: THREE days to go and we have a signer!

That's right - a signer (not a singer like the predictive text wants me to book apparently)!

One of the important things in life is to be inclusive and this means that as we come to This Thursday's Hustings we are not only wheelchair accessible (or 'easy access/access-friendly' as a sign I saw recently had it) but we are going to be catering for those who are deaf too!

But first, how's the polls looking? Let's take a look see:

Conservatives 34%

Labour             34%

UKIP                14%

Lib Dems          8%

Green Party      5%

Seems like the UKIP have upped their share by 1% to the detriment of the Lib Dems and the top two are neck and neck for the photo finish.

The questions for the first half of the evening are in and we are now looking for cautions for the second session (which you can bring with you on the night and ask for yourself if you wish).

The evening will be broadcast and it's looking like a great evening in prospect - so get their early!

There will be tea, coffee and biscuits (all fairly traded good) and the bookshop will also be open - so there's loads to encourage you to come (as if the political aspects weren't enough.

See you there I hope!

Morning Prayer- 27 April 15

Christina Rossetti, Poet, 1894

Psalm 103
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits;

Who forgives all your sins and heals all your infirmities;
Who redeems your life from the Pit and crowns you with faithful love and compassion;
Who satisfies you with good things, so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s. 

The Lord executes righteousness and judgement for all who are oppressed. He made his ways known to Moses and his works to the children of Israel. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger and of great kindness. He will not always accuse us, neither will he keep his anger for ever.cHe has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his mercy upon those who fear him.nAs far as the east is from the west, so far has he set our sins from us.

As a father has compassion on his children, so is the Lord merciful towards those who fear him. For he knows of what we are made; he remembers that we are but dust. Our days are but as grass; we flourish as a flower of the field; For as soon as the wind goes over it, it is gone, and its place shall know it no more. But the merciful goodness of the Lord is from of old and endures for ever on those who fear him, and his righteousness on children’s children; On those who keep his covenant and remember his commandments to do them.

The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom has dominion over all. Bless the Lord, you angels of his, you mighty ones who do his bidding and hearken to the voice of his word.

Bless the Lord, all you his hosts, you ministers of his who do his will.
Bless the Lord, all you works of his, in all places of his dominion; bless the Lord, O my soul.

Deuteronomy 9.1-21
Hear, O Israel! You are about to cross the Jordan today, to go in and dispossess nations larger and mightier than you, great cities, fortified to the heavens, a strong and tall people, the offspring of the Anakim, whom you know. You have heard it said of them, ‘Who can stand up to the Anakim?’ Know then today that the Lord your God is the one who crosses over before you as a devouring fire; he will defeat them and subdue them before you, so that you may dispossess and destroy them quickly, as the Lord has promised you.

When the Lord your God thrusts them out before you, do not say to yourself, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to occupy this land’; it is rather because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you. It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you are going in to occupy their land; but because of the wickedness of those nations that the Lord your God is dispossessing them before you, in order to fulfil the promise that the Lord made on oath to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Know, then, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness; you have been rebellious against the Lord from the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place.

Even at Horeb you provoked the Lord to wrath, and the Lord was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you. When I went up the mountain to receive the stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant that the Lord made with you, I remained on the mountain for forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water. And the Lord gave me the two stone tablets written with the finger of God; on them were all the words that the Lord had spoken to you at the mountain out of the fire on the day of the assembly. At the end of forty days and forty nights the Lord gave me the two stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant. Then the Lord said to me, ‘Get up, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you have brought from Egypt have acted corruptly. They have been quick to turn from the way that I commanded them; they have cast an image for themselves.’ Furthermore, the Lord said to me, ‘I have seen that this people is indeed a stubborn people. Let me alone that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make of you a nation mightier and more numerous than they.’

So I turned and went down from the mountain, while the mountain was ablaze; the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands. Then I saw that you had indeed sinned against the Lord your God, by casting for yourselves an image of a calf; you had been quick to turn from the way that the Lord had commanded you. So I took hold of the two tablets and flung them from my two hands, smashing them before your eyes. Then I lay prostrate before the Lord as before, for forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin you had committed, provoking the Lord by doing what was evil in his sight. For I was afraid that the anger that the Lord bore against you was so fierce that he would destroy you. But the Lord listened to me that time also. The Lord was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him, but I interceded also on behalf of Aaron at that same time. Then I took the sinful thing you had made, the calf, and burned it with fire and crushed it, grinding it thoroughly, until it was reduced to dust; and I threw the dust of it into the stream that runs down the mountain.

Ephesians 4.1-16
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,
‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.’ 

(When it says, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

The Collect<\b>
Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life: raise us, who trust in him, from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, that we may seek those things which are above, where he reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Can't make it to church? 26th April 15

As we come to the fourth Sunday of Easter we find ourselves with probably the most familiar Psalm there is, Psalm 23 (The Lord's my Shepherd) - thanks to the fact that it features in most funeral services. This is rather fitting as we lost a great servant to our parish this week: the Revd Mick Pacey (may he rest in peace).

But there is also a lovely continuous theme running throughout today's readings for in the Gospel we hear about the 'Good' shepherd - one who lays down his life for his sheep - and the hired help who runs away when danger threatens. Jesus is the Good shepherd and the wolf is that which stands opposed to what is right and sees to bring us down into a place where our lives are forfeit. 

The two voices of right and wrong are generally always discernible and Jesus tells us that we know His voice. This something I learned many years ago when some of those I was with were calling to she sheep around us as we made our way across Salisbury Plain, but they totally ignored - but when the shepherd appeared and called out, the sheep all turned and made their way to him. When you hear the authentic voice of jesus, which way do you go I wonder for true safety

Safety is found in Jesus and He is the one who (like the "good' shepherd) lays down His life for us as remission in the 1 John passage (and is the same shepherd who is spoken of in the Psalm of course). Then comes a little sting in the tail because we are also told that we need to be there for others in the same way Jesus is for us.

How can you be a Christian and pass by those brothers or sisters who are in need? This is a recurring theme because we are also told elsewhere that the person in front of you is the image of the invisible God made visible. If we love God who we can't see then how can we not love the image of that God made flesh in front of us?

Lots of thinking to be done here about incarnacy (being human) and caring for those around us and the like - all of which brings us into a place where as we get stuck in we too find ourselves being challenged with, "By what power, or in whose name, do you do this?'.

How I wish more Christians were challenged like that fir the right reasons. There are times when I find the people being subjected to this sort of challenge are those who exhibit their own self-righteous take on things, but this ia about being seen to exhibit a spiritually sound and bible-based ministry. Which is what orthodoxy (right thinking that stays in line with what the Bible teaches without clever manipulation to make wrong look right) is all about.

The passages today holds up Jesus as the shepherd and call us to mirror that by shepherding and ministering to those around us like He did: It's called being a disciple - and even if we are rejected, great stuff, after all Jesus too was despised and rejected but now is the 'topmost cornerstone' or the 'capstone' for He causes everything to hold up, even under the most intense pressure.

So discipleship - Fancy it? 

All you have to do is live like Christ!

The Collect
Risen Christ, faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep: teach us to hear your voice and to follow your command, that all your people may be gathered into one flock, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Acts 4.5-12
The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders,if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is

“the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.”

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.’

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; therefore can I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. He shall refresh my soul and guide me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; you have anointed my head with oil and my cup shall be full. Surely goodness and loving mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,  and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

1 John 3.16-24
We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us - and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

 John 10.11-18
‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’

Post Communion Prayer
Merciful Father,
you gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the good shepherd,
and in his love for us to lay down his life and rise again:
keep us always under his protection,
and give us grace to follow in his steps;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Gallipoli - one hundred years on

Today I am privileged to be taking part in an act of remembrance which commemorates the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli - a battle which took some 131,000 lives. It is not a celebration  (strange how people use that word in the context of conflict) but an act of remembrance, of paying our respects to those who have gone before; those who have left the familiar and the loved - in people and places - to take up arms to engage those against whom we might contend.

And the glorious dead? A term that refers to those who are 'in glory' (meaning dead) rather that conferring upon war the label 'glorious' - for war is rarely ever glorious and none but a fool would consider it to be so, or assume that this is what is meant by the term.

After the service: The Gallipoli memorial today

Today, at the National Memorial Arboretum, we will honour two young nations who 'came of age' and in the carnage and the catastrophe that was Gallipoli stood tall and side by side and became equals with the colonial powers that once ruled over them; and beside them the French (who have been at times our natural allies).

And of the 86,000 Turks who died, for although it was a hopeless task, battle was not unanswered by our troops, they who share a common ground with the 45,000 Allied troops (25,000 British, 10,000 Fench, 10,000 Australian and New Zealanders)? Perhaps the words of Ataturk, as found in the memorial at Anzac Cove, answer that more eloquently:

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace, after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
We will remember them

Tamworth Hustings 5 days to go

Everyone is telling me that this is destined to be one of the most closely fought elections there has ever been - and it is definitely the most closely fought election since the last one! -  they are also telling me that there is a real difference in financial policies and there is a real difference in housing and in health and the welfare state and immigration and the like: but when I ask, not a single should can tell me anything: They all point to personalities!

Then they either applaud or engage in as hominem or vitriol or historic dislike of a particular party or (often now dead) significant figure. 

Now I am silly enough to believe that voting should be done on policies of the parties and the candidate before you. There will be times when the party line has to be toed (oh that this was the case with the Church) but there are times when the viewpoint and personal values of the MP are in display - and when that happens, what do you expect them to be standing for - if you don't ask, you won't know will you?

Polls appear static today - but there's a long journey before the ballot box is engaged - remember popularity can go down as well as up!

Conservatives 34%

Labour             33%

UKIP                13%

Lib Dems          9%

Green Party      5%

Morning Prayer - 25 April 15

Mark the Evangelist

Psalm 37.23-41
When your steps are guided by the Lord and you delight in his way, Though you stumble, you shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds you fast by the hand.

I have been young and now am old, yet never have I seen the righteous forsaken, or their children begging their bread. All the day long they are generous in lending, and their children also shall be blest. Depart from evil and do good and you shall abide for ever.

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

Wait upon the Lord and keep his way; he will raise you up to possess the land, and when the wicked are uprooted, you shall see it. I myself have seen the wicked in great power and flourishing like a tree in full leaf. I went by and lo, they were gone; I sought them, but they could nowhere be found.

Keep innocence and heed the thing that is right, for that will bring you peace at the last. But the sinners shall perish together, and the posterity of the wicked shall be rooted out. The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. The Lord shall stand by them and deliver them; he shall deliver them from the wicked and shall save them, because they have put their trust in him.

Psalm 148
Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all you his angels; praise him, all his host.
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you stars of light.
Praise him, heaven of heavens, and you waters above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of the Lord; for he commanded and they were created. He made them fast for ever and ever; he gave them a law which shall not pass away.

Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps; Fire and hail, snow and mist, tempestuous wind, fulfilling his word; Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars; Wild beasts and all cattle, creeping things and birds on the wing; Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the world; Young men and women, old and young together; let them praise the name of the Lord. For his name only is exalted, his splendour above earth and heaven. He has raised up the horn of his people and praise for all his faithful servants, the children of Israel, a people who are near him.

Isaiah 62.6-10
Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have posted sentinels; all day and all night they shall never be silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it renowned throughout the earth.

The Lord has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies, and foreigners shall not drink the wine for which you have laboured; but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the Lord, and those who gather it shall drink it in my holy courts.

Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway, clear it of stones, lift up an ensign over the peoples..

Acts 12.25 - 13.13
Then after completing their mission Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem and brought with them John, whose other name was Mark.

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. But the magician Elymas (for that is the translation of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, ‘You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now listen—the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun.’ Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.

Then Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and returned to Jerusalem;

The Collect
Almighty God, who enlightened your holy Church through the inspired witness of your evangelist Saint Mark: grant that we, being firmly grounded in the truth of the gospel, may be faithful to its teaching both in word and deed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Tamworth Hustings - 6 days to go: Where's the questions?

Well the Lib Dems have apparently seen a rise of one point as their popularity rises and the leaders remain static. But will that be the way our constituency votes?

Conservatives 34%

Labour             33%

UKIP                13%

Lib Dems          9%

Green Party      5%

Are you happy with the election thus far?

Do you know what the parties stand for and what they promise to do and (sometimes more importantly) what they promise not to do?

Do you have questions over what you have read or heard?

There's so much information and disinformation on offer and there are so many people who portray things regarding the parties and the candidates that are mistaken and sometimes just downright lies.

Want to to know the truth? The send in your questions - or bring them in with you on the Hustings at St Editha's on the 30th and help yourself vote intelligently. You are coming aren't you?

You can also post questions here if you like - just send me questions.

Should you be doing this Vicar?
This is a question I was asked recently on Facebook. The conversation went (exactly) like this:

  • A Friend My feelings are that the Church shouldn't get involved in politics.
  • Vic Van Den Bergh But the Church is people and people need to vote intelligently - we're not being political we're being responsible citizens.
  • A Friend Unbiased then.
  • Vic Van Den Bergh I have to be for a number of reasons, but yes - totally unbiased. My job is to provide a level playing field for others to get questions asked and make up their own mind.

    For a Cleric to use their position to engage in bias would be an abuse of the role.
  • A Friend Yes I agree, mine too.
  • Vic Van Den Bergh I'm only doing the hustings because people keep telling me that they don't know who to vote for because they don't know what they stand for - church is about providing solutions of all kinds.

  • One of the things Church must never do is find itself unwilling (or unable) to give answers for its actions.