Thursday, 31 December 2015

Behind every piece of music ...

... there is often a memory and a meaning to be found lurking somewhere near.

This morning, which engaged in the delightful task of administration (yes, I do admin' thank you very much) I clicked on something and found the room filled with the sound of Mendelssohn's Violin concerto (E minor - Op.64).

Immediately I was taken back to the 15 year old me and my embryonic record collection - for this was the one of the first two pieces of 'classical' music I purchased. The  other being Myra Hess playing Jesu joy of man's desiring (BWV 147).

They say that the olfactory sense is our greatest organ of remembering, and this is perhaps true for recently I met a woman who wore Je Revien and was reminded of my mother; the smell of certain tobaccos reminds me of a grandfather who has been departed this life for over half a century.

We lay up for ourselves many memories. We treasure the good and are sometimes misshapen by the the bad but memory is a important thing indeed. We hope that people will forget those things which show us in a poor light, and it seems that all of us have some of these, and that our good bits shine through the dross that might be found. In this I find the words of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) Communion service  always hits home, for I am never untouched by the words:

'And although we be unworthy, through our manifold sins, to offer unto thee any sacrifice,
yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service;
not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offences,'

So here we are at the close of another year and I wonder what highs and lows spring to mind for each of us?

Too often I find myself surrounded by wish-filled people. You probably know some yourself - folk who wish they had done something (but never have); people who wish they hadn't done something (but usually have). The sadness is that some will never make that step to do, or stop doing, and will live lives limited by their sins of omission and commission: The 'what we have done and what we have failed to do' things.

As the year draws to an end, rather than make hollow promises and rarely kept resolutions, why don't you just decide to start making the right choices more often and leave the wrong choices to others?

Take the time to think of the things that have blessed you, others and (most importantly) God and just decide that you are going to do the,.

Think some more and consider the things that have been wrong (to God, neighbour and self) and just decide that they are going to be set aside during the next year.

Perhaps you are one of those who takes the path of least resistance and gushes forth with nice words rather than the words people need to hear -if you are 'STOP IT'. Now this isn't permission to be cruel or hard of heartless, that is never right, but it is permission to be honest and to speak what needs to be spoken. I'm going to be giving that a try next year, be warned) to enable others to live and serve as they should (and for those who dislike such 'directive' terminology, can I say now that that is just tough, because I'm not playing your Bible denying doublespeak - I will be speaking the truth in love, but the truth will be heard.

Time to sing up and get in to make the kingdom of God know where you are and in those around you. When we see people caught in sin we must act to restore them GENTLY, but we must act, or else those around us will fall and we will be complicit in their downfall. Time to be fully inclusive and yet never permissive. Time to stop the politics of power (which other than the power of God have no place in our sermons anyway) and star preaching a message of reconciliation to God and to right living (and that means living by God's word in case people are wondering). Sin is a right and proper term to be using (even though some who consider themselves to be Church don't like it).

We don't change the word of God to be popular in the world, we change the world by being faithful to it.

Now, do I need to make things any clearer?

Hopefully not - so now there's no excuse.

Have a blessed and enjoyable New Year's Eve and a godly and enabling 2016.

Morning Prayer - 31 December 2015

John Wyclif, Reformer, 1384

Psalm 102
O Lord, hear my prayer and let my crying come before you. Hide not your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; when I call, make haste to answer me, for my days are consumed in smoke and my bones burn away as in a furnace. My heart is smitten down and withered like grass so that I forget to eat my bread.

From the sound of my groaning my bones cleave fast to my skin. I am become like a vulture in the wilderness, like an owl that haunts the ruins. I keep watch and am become like a sparrow solitary upon the housetop. My enemies revile me all the day long, and those who rage at me have sworn together against me. I have eaten ashes for bread and mingled my drink with weeping, because of your indignation and wrath, for you have taken me up and cast me down. My days fade away like a shadow, and I am withered like grass. But you, O Lord, shall endure for ever and your name through all generations.

You will arise and have pity on Zion; it is time to have mercy upon her; surely the time has come. For your servants love her very stones and feel compassion for her dust. Then shall the nations fear your name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth your glory, when the Lord has built up Zion and shown himself in glory; when he has turned to the prayer of the destitute and has not despised their plea.

This shall be written for those that come after, and a people yet unborn shall praise the Lord. For he has looked down from his holy height; from the heavens he beheld the earth, that he might hear the sighings of the prisoner and set free those condemned to die; that the name of the Lord may be proclaimed in Zion and his praises in Jerusalem, when peoples are gathered together and kingdoms also, to serve the Lord.

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

Jonah 3-4
The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, ‘Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.’ So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.’

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’ Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’
But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?’ And he said, ‘Yes, angry enough to die.’ Then the Lord said, ‘You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labour and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?’

Colossians 1.24-2.7
I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.

For I want you to know how much I am struggling for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me face to face. I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I rejoice to see your morale and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

The Collect
God in Trinity, eternal unity of perfect love: gather the nations to be one family, and draw us into your holy life through the birth of Emmanuel, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Morning Prayer - 30 December 2015

Psalm 111
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the faithful and in the congregation.

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

The works of his hands are truth and justice; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever; they are done in truth and equity. He sent redemption to his people; he commanded his covenant for ever; holy and awesome is his name.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have those who live by it; his praise endures for ever.

Psalm 112
Blessed are those who fear the Lord and have great delight in his commandments. Their descendants will be mighty in the land, a generation of the faithful that will be blest. Wealth and riches will be in their house, and their righteousness endures for ever.0

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

The wicked shall see it and be angry; they shall gnash their teeth in despair; the desire of the wicked shall perish.

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

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

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

Jonah 2
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying,
‘I called to the Lord out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me.

Then I said, “I am driven away from your sight; how shall I look again upon your holy temple?”
The waters closed in over me; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped around my head  at the roots of the mountains.  I  went down to the land whose bars closed upon me for ever; yet you brought up my life from the Pit, O Lord my God.

As my life was ebbing away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Those who worship vain idols forsake their true loyalty.  But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the Lord!’

Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land.

Colossians 1.15-23
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him—provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

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

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Morning Prayer - 29 December 2015

Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Martyr, 1170

Psalm 19
The heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. One day pours out its song to another and one night unfolds knowledge to another. They have neither speech nor language and their voices are not heard, yet their sound has gone out into all lands and their words to the ends of the world.

In them has he set a tabernacle for the sun, that comes forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber and rejoices as a champion to run his course. It goes forth from the end of the heavens and runs to the very end again, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to the simple.

The statutes of the Lord are right and rejoice the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is clean and endures for ever; the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

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

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

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

Psalm 20
May the Lord hear you in the day of trouble, the name of the God of Jacob defend you; send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you out of Zion; remember all your offerings and accept your burnt sacrifice; grant you your heart’s desire and fulfil all your mind.
May we rejoice in your salvation and triumph in the name of our God; may the Lord perform all your petitions.

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

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

Jonah 1
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, ‘Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.

But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god. They threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them. Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep. The captain came and said to him, ‘What are you doing sound asleep? Get up, call on your god! Perhaps the god will spare us a thought so that we do not perish.’

The sailors said to one another, ‘Come, let us cast lots, so that we may know on whose account this calamity has come upon us.’ So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, ‘Tell us why this calamity has come upon us. What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?’ ‘I am a Hebrew,’ he replied. ‘I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’ Then the men were even more afraid, and said to him, ‘What is this that you have done!’ For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them so.

Then they said to him, ‘What shall we do to you, that the sea may quieten down for us?’ For the sea was growing more and more tempestuous. He said to them, ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quieten down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you.’ Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more stormy against them. Then they cried out to the Lord, ‘Please, O Lord, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.’ So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.

But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.

Colossians 1.1-14

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow-servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The Collect
Lord God, who gave grace to your servant Thomas Becket to put aside all earthly fear and be faithful even to death: grant that we, disregarding worldly esteem, may fight all wrong, uphold your rule, and serve you to our life’s end; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Morning Prayer - 28 December 2015

The Holy Innocents

Psalm 36
Sin whispers to the wicked, in the depths of their heart; there is no fear of God before their eyes. They flatter themselves in their own eyes that their abominable sin will not be found out.  The words of their mouth are unrighteous and full of deceit; they have ceased to act wisely and to do good. They think out mischief upon their beds and have set themselves in no good way; nor do they abhor that which is evil.

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens and your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness stands like the strong mountains, your justice like the great deep; you, Lord, shall save both man and beast. How precious is your loving mercy, O God! All mortal flesh shall take refuge under the shadow of your wings. They shall be satisfied with the abundance of your house; they shall drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the well of life and in your light shall we see light. O continue your loving-kindness to those who know you and your righteousness to those who are true of heart.

Let not the foot of pride come against me, nor the hand of the ungodly thrust me away. There are they fallen, all who work wickedness. They are cast down and shall not be able to stand.

Psalm 146
Praise the Lord, O my soul: while I live will I praise the Lord; as long as I have any being, I will sing praises to my God. Put not your trust in princes, nor in any human power, for there is no help in them. When their breath goes forth, they return to the earth; on that day all their thoughts perish.

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

The Lord looses those that are bound; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous; The Lord watches over the stranger in the land; he upholds the orphan and widow; but the way of the wicked he turns upside down.

 The Lord shall reign for ever, your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

Genesis 37.13-20
And Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.’ He answered, ‘Here I am.’ So he said to him, ‘Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.’ So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, ‘What are you seeking?’ ‘I am seeking my brothers,’ he said; ‘tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.’ The man said, ‘They have gone away, for I heard them say, “Let us go to Dothan.” ’ So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, ‘Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.’

Matthew 18.1-10
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling-blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling-block comes!

‘If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire.

‘Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.

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

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Caption Contest: Football management - all at sea?

I'm intrigued by what people will make of this image:

And after last night's game perhaps he and Wenger could row the boat together?

So, over to you - captions please . . .

Can’t make it to church? 27 December 2015

We've celebrated the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and for many people that's Christmas done and dusted and it's time to take the lights down and move on; well that seems to be the case where I am. The reality is that we are just getting into Christmas, the twelve days beginning with Christmas Day, not ending. The end comes on the day before Epiphany – the day we celebrate the Wise Men visiting Jesus – which is the fifth of January.

So what do we have before us today?
In the Old testament we begin with a family making their annual visit to the temple to visit their  son, Samuel, In the Gospel we have another family, also making their annual visit to the temple and losing their son.

Two gifts in the Temple: Both given - one from and one to God

Two men with God in the forefront. Two men, both gifts one (Samuel) to God and the other (Jesus) from God. The first was desperately wanted and yet, when he came, was given to God by his mother Elizabeth. The other, well she was young and unmarried, probably wasn’t what Mary wanted, but obediently she bore the child and bore Jesus, God’s gift to the world.

Both were given to serve God – Samuel in the temple, Jesus, in the world – Samuel the man of God and Jesus the God made man. What a great contrast to start the conversation off with. Two gifts – two women of grace obediently serving their God. I’m not sure which is more difficult, wanting a child and when eventually one comes along, giving him up or being called upon to have a child as Mary was. Two great heroes of the faith – two obedient and blessed women acting as examples to us all.

Stop for a moment to think about these two men, their mothers and the ministries they exercised. Think about giving up a child and then think about what it was for Mary to be given one.

Now of course, everyone focusses on the fact that just like the Prime Minister a few years back, the family arrived and found that one of the kids were left behind. This is what happened to Mary and Joseph, for they too assumed the boy (Jesus) was with one of the family. This is the first account we have of Jesus getting out their and ‘doing His Father’s business’ – listening to, and questioning the teachers in the temple (and in doing so, stunned them). Two men learning their craft and preparing for quite amazing ministries in the service of God and man. A real challenge to us as we wonder (we do wonder don’t we) about how we too might serve god and man.

The New testament reading is a tough call, for referring to us as ‘God’s chosen ones’ we are called to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Now I don’t know about you but that makes me feel like packing up before I start. What a list! I can do some of them, but to do them all, who does God think I am. To make it even harder I have to be those things with people who are a pain in the behind! But these traits are essential if we are to forgive people.

Some time back I found myself in a position where someone was portraying things as they really weren’t and the desire to lash out and ‘tell it as it is’ was great; perhaps you’ve been there too?
It isn’t easy to smile and be gentle and kind when people are lying through their back teeth to make them look like the offended party and you the bad guy – but despite our feelings, we need to exercise love and not loathing and to forgive as God has given us forgiveness. A timely passage as we bring this year to its conclusion. Are there people you have spoken wrongly of, or been wrongly spoken of by? Now is the time to seek forgiveness, or to forgive, and bring peace and the love of God into being as we look to a new year. Stop and think about the people you need to seek out.

The second part of this passage comes in for some real stick in these wonderfully liberated times. What? ‘Wives, be subject to your husbands,’ now that is an invitation to a punch-up with some of the people I know; and yet looking past the offended, arms-folded, response – without the second clause, the answer is a misinterpretation and misunderstanding!

The second clause, ‘Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly,’ adds something to the party, but you need to put the two together to make sense, for what they mean is this:

‘Wives, love your husband and follow him – husbands, love your wife so much that you’d be willing to die for her’

In our household we work on the principle that I have the casting vote, but I know that should I ever have to use it then I have lost the plot! These two passages are about running a happy home not about who is superior, and this is the problem with sexual politics. They are all about power and not about submission and partnership. ‘Let me be number one,’ is the underlying text from both sides. But life should be about good relationships and not power, about how we serve one another rather than how others can serve us.

The cherry on the relationship cake is added when we place this: ‘Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart.’

Two more relationship which I see wrongly enacted on a daily basis. If this was done right perhaps we’d see a different society around us – sadly this is yet another benefit of the post Christian society in which we live. Food for thought there methinks.

So time to reflect and pray:
Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son shared at Nazareth the life of an earthly home:
help your Church to live as one family, united in love and obedience, and bring us all at last to our home in heaven; through Jesus Christ our the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
And because it's Christmas, let's do some carols:

1 Samuel 2:18-20
But the boy Samuel served the Lord. He wore a sacred linen apron. Each year his mother made him a little robe. She took it to him when she went up to Shiloh with her husband. She did it when her husband went to offer the yearly sacrifice. Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife. He would say, “May the Lord give you children by this woman. May they take the place of the boy she prayed for and gave to the Lord.” Then they would go home.

Colossians 3.12-21
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart.

Luke 2.41-52
Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour.

Post Communion Prayer
God in Trinity, eternal unity of perfect love: gather the nations to be one family, and draw us into your holy life through the birth of Emmanuel, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Church: Bad Shepherds

As we head toward the close of yet another year I have been thinking and praying over the issues in the churches I am engaged in at home and a little further afield. To do that I often take up a 'black box' method of considering them so that I might work to understand what Church (universal) and church (the local entity) are doing what they, and I, are doing. To do this I try to stop, step back and ask the question:

Is there a difference between what we have and what is required?

This immediately causes panic in some as the word 'required' brings the problem of defining what that word means; for it always seems to differ from person to person and congregation to congregation.

Speaking to some of my clergy colleagues, it is obvious that many of them struggle with the word 'sin'., especially when the issue of correcting it in those around us arises. When I ask people how their prayer life is, I am berated by some colleagues for being too direct and for introducing something that might cause embarrassment and disaffection with the whole Christian thing. To quote a bright young cleric recently, "If you challenge people like that they won't stay in your church for long. You have to embrace them and look past what you see as not living as you think is required to see that they need to be made welcome and accepted not abused." I have to say that being labelled an abuser because I ask people how they are living out their life as a Christian is not abuse but the whole point of the pastoral role managed to wind me up - but the other person left the conversation unharmed (see I am growing up Lord!).

The problem is that I believe I am called to welcome and accept people  for who they are (hopefully I do) BUT I am also called to talk to people about how they are living and growing in their faith.  To not do so is to be a bad shepherd of the flock God has entrusted to me - have a read of Ezekiel 34 and see if you recognise the description of what a bad shepherd does - here's a taster from that book:

'The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.'

Now, I was a bit niggled at being told that I mustn't challenge people over their lifestyles or their prayer life or Bible reading and the like, for I have to say that what I heard was a soft-touch, hands off, 'I just want to be their friend' approach to Church; and this is wrong! It is like a parent who wants to be their kid's friend rather than their parent. The kids are allowed to do whatever it is that makes the parents popular with the result that they are a blessed pain in the proverbials. I'm sure you know weak and indulgent parents and the nightmare that their kids are.

Those of us who are called to be shepherds of the flock that is church are called to protect, to provide for and to lead. These are fixed 'essential' roles, there is no way we can excuse ourselves from them. We are called to stand between them and things that might bring them harm (physically, morally, spiritually, mentally and emotionally) - and this means that we have no choice but to act when we perceive there is a clear and present danger.  But this is not always popular - as I have found to my cost. but as we find in 2 Peter 2: tells us, “There will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies.”  and that is what I am seeing in some around me. I find so many preaching a weakened Gospel as they seek popularity over rectitude.

I pray for those under my charge and/or known by me. This isn't part of a 'look how good I am' but a look at the things I 'must' do as part of my job activity - I do enjoy doing it, but even if I didn't, that would be tough as it's part of the role.

To provide for the sheep we are called to read and master the word of God so that we can feel the flock from it. The problem is that many of us are feeding our sheep dried up and reheated stuff or stuff that has little nutritional value. After all, once we've got past the conversations regarding feeding the congregation milk because there are spiritual babies present the issue of feeding them meat is often forgotten and set aside as we provide great worship (meaning singing the latest stuff and being lost in the moment) - which, when the wolf comes a knocking ain't gonna be of much help!

We do not come with persuasive words. We do not come with expensive suits and TV shows, books and merchandise. No, we come but preaching Christ - foe we, like the Apostle Paul have nothing but Him, and Him crucified ... and this is a hard message which calls us to pout off the former things and live as we should (which means according to the Bible).

In Acts 20, we find Paul telling those before him,
“I did not shrink form declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in Christ.”

This is what we, as shepherds are called to do. It might not be popular, but it right if we are to discharge our duties as shepherds properly.

Those in leadership are called to lead! Now, it doesn't get any simpler than that, does it?

The Western model of the shepherd is a bloke who walks behind the sheep and kicks them up the rear end to keep them moving - this is, I suspect, what the bright young things who complain about being directive and having closed questions are revolting against.

The Eastern model of the shepherd if someone the sheep follow because they trust the person for lead them into green pastures and to protect them from those things that would harm or devour them. The follow the shepherd because they are the source of food, protection and care.

This is what a shepherd truly is, that way I prefer to think of myself as a 'Pastor' as that is what I seek to be for those under my charge. And this means that I do lead them and act to protect them from the wolves in sheep clothing we encounter from time to time.

So, as I start to reflect upon the year gone and the highs and lows - I wonder what sort of a shepherd I have been - and what I need to do to make me a better one in the year ahead?

Morning Prayer - 26 December 2015

Stephen, Deacon, First Martyr

Psalm 13
How long will you forget me, O Lord; for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long shall I have anguish in my soul and grief in my heart, day after day? •
How long shall my enemy triumph over me?
Look upon me and answer, O Lord my God; lighten my eyes, lest I sleep in death; Lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him,’ and my foes rejoice that I have fallen. But I put my trust in your steadfast love; my heart will rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has dealt so bountifully with me.

Psalm 31.1-8
In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Incline your ear to me; make haste to deliver me. Be my strong rock, a fortress to save me, for you are my rock and my stronghold; guide me, and lead me for your name’s sake. Take me out of the net that they have laid secretly for me, for you are my strength. Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.

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

Psalm 150
O praise God in his holiness; praise him in the firmament of his power.
Praise him for his mighty acts; praise him according to his excellent greatness. 
Praise him with the blast of the trumpet; praise him upon the harp and lyre.
Praise him with timbrel and dances; praise him upon the strings and pipe.
Praise him with ringing cymbals; praise him upon the clashing cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 25 December 2015

A Christmas Thought

A very merry Christmas and a peaceful, and prosperous, New Year to you all.

Don't we all Boss?

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Pantomime Season hits Tamworth

One of the many special things that happen around Christmas is the traditional pantomime. This wonderful example of amazing costume, awful puns and sometimes just past the knuckle humour, when combined with love interests, villains to boo and heroes and heroines to cheer - this is one of the greatest introductions to theatre that young children can ever encounter. Truly it is fun for all the family.

This year, Tamworth's amazingly able and energetic pantomime company have taken up the challenge that is Aladdin with great sets and song those around me knew and sang along to (just quietly enough not to be heard further than a couple of seats away). Children waved their fibre optic flashing lights things and the time whizzed by at a rate of knots that theological lectures rarely did!

So a heartfelt plea to all who read this: If you're near enough to Tamworth to get to see the show, get yourself a ticket. Mind you, the night I went there wasn't an empty seat in the house, so you'll probably need to be quick - to book seats, click on HERE

Morning Prayer - 24 December 2015

Christmas Eve

Psalm 45
My heart is astir with gracious words; as I make my song for the king, my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

You are the fairest of men; full of grace are your lips, for God has blest you for ever. Gird your sword upon your thigh, O mighty one; gird on your majesty and glory. Ride on and prosper in the cause of truth and for the sake of humility and righteousness. Your right hand will teach you terrible things; your arrows will be sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies, so that peoples fall beneath you. Your throne is God’s throne, for ever; the sceptre of your kingdom is the sceptre of righteousness. You love righteousness and hate iniquity; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows. All your garments are fragrant with myrrh, aloes and cassia; from ivory palaces the music of strings makes you glad. Kings’ daughters are among your honourable women, at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir. Hear, O daughter; consider and incline your ear; forget your own people and your father’s house. So shall the king have pleasure in your beauty; he is your lord, so do him honour. 

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

Psalm 113
Give praise, you servants of the Lord, O praise the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord, from this time forth and for evermore.

From the rising of the sun to its setting let the name of the Lord be praised. The Lord is high above all nations and his glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, that has his throne so high, yet humbles himself to behold the things of heaven and earth?

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

Malachi 3.13-4.end
You have spoken harsh words against me, says the Lord. Yet you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What do we profit by keeping his command or by going about as mourners before the Lord of hosts? Now we count the arrogant happy; evildoers not only prosper, but when they put God to the test they escape.’

Then those who revered the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord took note and listened, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who revered the Lord and thought on his name. They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve them. Then once more you shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.

Remember the teaching of my servant Moses, the statutes and ordinances that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.

Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.

Matthew 23.1-12
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

The Collect
Almighty God,
as we prepare with joy to celebrate the gift of the Christ-child,
embrace the earth with your glory and be for us a living hope in Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Morning Prayer - 23 December 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O Israel, trust in the Lord, from this time forth for evermore.

Malachi 2.17-3.12
You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you say, ‘How have we wearied him?’ By saying, ‘All who do evil are good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.’ Or by asking, ‘Where is the God of justice?’
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

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

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

For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, have not perished. Ever since the days of your ancestors you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’
Will anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In your tithes and offerings! You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me—the whole nation of you! Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. I will rebuke the locust for you, so that it will not destroy the produce of your soil; and your vine in the field shall not be barren, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will count you happy, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.

Matthew 19.16-end
Then someone came to him and said, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’ And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said to him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honour your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these; what do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.’

Then Peter said in reply, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.

The Collect
Eternal God,
as Mary waited for the birth of your Son, so we wait for his coming in glory;
bring us through the birth pangs of this present age to see, with her, our great salvation
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Tamworth 'Sings Christmas'

Last night Tamworth's Snowdome hosted 'Sing Christmas'. 

An event hosted by Tamworth Snowdome, to whom thanks are due for such great hospitality and amazingly efficient event hosting - and they did it all for free!

No need for any further words from me: Click on this link to see it on Vimeo or watch the (reduced quality) clip below:

One of the greatest joys we can have as Christians is to celebrate unity with members of other churches and groupings: This is one of the hallmarks of true Christianity and something I have always treasured.

Happy Advent - be of Good Cheer, Christmas is almost here.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Caption Contest: Christmas Lunch sorted?

I did a funeral earlier this year and the family thought I was a bit naive when I said what an odd name 'cooking fat' was for their cat. But who has the last laugh now?

Looking forward to examples of your wit and ingenuity as Christmas starts to look like it's going to happen again:

What is recent is easy to correct

These words, from the Tao Te Ching (verse 64), hit me like a house brick during the recently 'Church: It's all about sound management skills!' blog entry.

What struck me in those seven little words was the truth that they so simply conveyed. Spot someone making a mistake early into its life and it is a fairly simple thing to stop the person and resolve the situation.  This is true when the person under scrutiny is 'Church' - that living body of believers!

I'd like to use the wonderful world of IT to explain my thinking and so will us people coding software workarounds to overcome earlier mistakes caused by others. Perhaps some of those reading will remember Y2K Bug where some software had the potential to do strange things because the person hacking* the original code had used 'nn' to represent the year rather than 'nnnn'  - a simple error many of us have made when writing stuff in a time when years were in 19nn range.

One system I know of calculated a final figure based on the amount to be charged and the VAT in use at the time. To calculate the final figure the programmer had used the VAT rate as a constant rather than a variable (.08 if this was VAT in 1974). The problem was that in 1979 the rate rose to 15% so another programmer, realising that somewhere in the code there was this constant embedded, simply went to a suitable place and multiplied the end number by a new constant (1.875) and that solved the problem.

But then the rate changed to 17.5% and so the end numbers were wrong because of the VAT change. So another coder was given the job of sorting it out and simply added another multiplier (1.1667) somewhere in the lines of code to make it right - and all was once again well with the world. Well it was until (in 2008) VAT dropped to 15% and rather than repeat the errors of the past, they simply binned the programme and created something with variables which was much more effective and more importantly, elegant!

Hopefully it is obvious that the real fix would have been to find the place where the '0.08' constant lived in the code and simply change it to a variable! This would have taken some work (I can only assume laziness or incompetence was the reason) but the fix would had been a 'once and for all' fix.

Now, I hope you followed my (what I think is a) rather neat example.

The immediate can be dealt with but the reality is that it is the legacy issues that make things crash.  This is true whether it is an IT system, a production line in manufacturing, in the office and wherever Church is found together.

I meet people whose churches are on a par with the person who has a Ford Fiesta with knackered mechanics and flash body styling, paint jobs and very LOUD sound systems. I encounter examples in a Church setting where some of the biggest issues are merely due to earlier errors having not been adequately dealt ; congregations and their actions and mindsets run with issues that ingrained and habitual.  

After Christmas I'm going to pick this up, but thought this might serve as an interesting diversion for some and a good place marker for me to leave.

Darth knew but one way to fix problems - But would it work as well with congregations?
* When I began to code we were called 'hackers' because we 'hacked code' - not the breaking into systems types like what we have today :-)

Morning Prayer - 21 December 2015

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not suffer your foot to stumble; he who watches over you will not sleep. Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord himself watches over you; the Lord is your shade at your right hand, So that the sun shall not strike you by day, neither the moon by night. The Lord shall keep you from all evil; it is he who shall keep your soul. The Lord shall keep watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time forth for evermore.

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

O pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls and tranquillity within your palaces.’ For my kindred and companions’ sake, I will pray that peace be with you. For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek to do you good.

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

Malachi 1.1, 6-end
An oracle. The word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. 

A son honours his father, and servants their master. If then I am a father, where is the honour due to me? And if I am a master, where is the respect due to me? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name.  You say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ 

By offering polluted food on my altar.  And you say, ‘How have we polluted it?’  By thinking that the Lord’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not wrong? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not wrong? Try presenting that to your governor; will he be pleased with you or show you favour? says the Lord of hosts. And now implore the favour of God, that he may be gracious to us. The fault is yours. Will he show favour to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. O that someone among you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hands. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and the food for it may be despised. ‘What a weariness this is’, you say, and you sniff at me, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in the flock and vows to give it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished; for I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name is reverenced among the nations.

Matthew 19.1-12
When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he cured them there.

Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?’ He said to them, ‘It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but at the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.’

His disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’

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