Wednesday, 30 November 2016

So many good things in one day

Yesterday closed with some sadness over the loss of a life and today ends with nothing but joyful stuff to send me to sleep. The key is people and God I guess.

Cherry on the cake is battled for by year one and two children and an assembly on Christmas and people at the other end of the scale in a care home who were engaged and lucid (had a great conversation and went back into recent and distant past with clarity - them, not me!). Sprinkles came in the shape of a patronal service - I get such a buzz from doing the Eucharistic stuff and the opportunity, if it presents itself will never be passed up easily.

Those little godincidence moments in which we get the opportunity to make Jesus, the Christ, known; how amazing are they? To talk and find that the person is speaking Jesus and doesn't realise - sublime. To join the dots and see them see a picture emerging is priceless.

Sad bits came today when I remembered people who have been heroes of the faith and stumbled, revealing what was behind the image I was so inspired by. We all have feet of clay and all fall short of the glory of God, but to wilfully and actively seek that which is contrary to God's best for our lives - and in doing so cause others to fall too - that is just tragic. Musing over the person who came to faith in Christ and then managed to make it something so 'folk' through a lack of basic discipleship and their own, hard to overcome, life attitudes. What was done 'wrongly' when they became Christian and what lessons are to be learnt: It isn't about scalps or compliance, neither is it about filling the Church building. How do we help people to be released into something so much bigger than us and our narrow horizons so that they might flourish and grow in the fruits of the Spirit and the freedom that is in Christ?

But the smiles tonight have to be for the Nativity scene in the heads of small children: Mary, Joseph and Jesus, some angels and three kings and the three Chefs - what a great world it is when you're five and Christmas is coming!

Night Boss - more of the same tomorrow please -  love You.

Morning Prayer - Wednesday 30 November 2016

Andrew the Apostle

Psalm 47
Clap your hands together, all you peoples; O sing to God with shouts of joy. For the Lord Most High is to be feared; he is the great King over all the earth. He subdued the peoples under us and the nations under our feet. He has chosen our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loves.

God has gone up with a merry noise, the Lord with the sound of the trumpet.O sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with all your skill. God reigns over the nations; God has taken his seat upon his holy throne. The nobles of the peoples are gathered together with the people of the God of Abraham. For the powers of the earth belong to God and he is very highly exalted.

Psalm 147.1-12
How good it is to make music for our God, how joyful to honour him with praise.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem and gathers together the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up all their wounds. He counts the number of the stars and calls them all by their names. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His wisdom is beyond all telling. The Lord lifts up the poor, but casts down the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make music to our God upon the lyre; Who covers the heavens with clouds and prepares rain for the earth; Who makes grass to grow upon the mountains and green plants to serve our needs. He gives the beasts their food and the young ravens when they cry. He takes no pleasure in the power of a horse, no delight in human strength; But the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their trust in his steadfast love.

Ezekiel 47.1-12
Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple towards the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me round on the outside to the outer gate that faces towards the east; and the water was coming out on the south side.

Going on eastwards with a cord in his hand, the man measured one thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the waist. Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed. He said to me, ‘Mortal, have you seen this?’

Then he led me back along the bank of the river. As I came back, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees on one side and on the other. He said to me, ‘This water flows towards the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become fresh. Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes. People will stand fishing beside the sea from En-gedi to En-eglaim; it will be a place for the spreading of nets; its fish will be of a great many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.’

John 12.20-32
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’

The Collect
Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Saint Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ and brought his brother with him: call us by your holy word, and give us grace to follow you without delay  and to tell the good news of your kingdom; 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.

You only had to do one job!

It's Wednesday morning and outside it's a balmy three degrees below zero: The world is a cold place indeed and yet where there is an absence of something, however small, where that missing thing is to found, that little being made real makes a difference.

I am increasing finding myself hearing the phrase, "You only had one job . . ."
Which continues by pointing out the missed opportunity to do that 'one job'.
Perhaps it was merely done inefficiently, or it could be that the task before was missed completely.

Depending on who it is using the phrase and the context, this is one of the funniest or most damning comments I know. It can be a response to a messed up attempt to do something and raises a smile in speaker and recipient of the words - it can also bring pain as are reminded of the fact that the one task we had we failed to do! I often struggle with the image of standing before Jesus and having Him use it with regard to His Church, but don't think I am creating harsh and critical Jesus here because that's neither the intention of the reality, but I am sure He will be having a 'bit of a chat' with some of us when the whistle blows :-(

Everywhere I go these days I'm encountering Christian who tell me how kind, loving and affirming Jesus is - and that is so very true - but they then continue and try to take me to a place where Jesus applauds and affirms us all in our inactivity and in the botched, half-hearted, attempts at that 'one job' He has left us to do.

But what is this 'one job'?

When asked what the greatest commandment was (Matt 22 // Mk 12 // Lk10) Jesus responds with the words:
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
 This is the first and greatest commandment.
 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Perhaps this is the 'one job'; but if it is then how are we doing with it and what does it look like to have us loving God with all that we are?
How are we loving our neighbours 'as ourselves?'
What And what would the world look like if we were doing this 'one job' to the best of our abilities?

In conversation recently I discovered that the same person who gave a token gift (because giving is something we have to do) each week as their offering had recently bought themselves a massive gift to support their hobby. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking them; how can I when I am as guilty as the next person when faced with the choice of sticking all my money on the plate or buying something I want. We don't stop and think, "Ooh, I want that but the Church needs the money more!"
Do we?

Consider these questions:
Have you ever seen someone who has a need and chosen to go a different route rather than engage with them and it?
Have you ever avoided bumping in to someone rather than be called upon to offer a helping hand or a lift or something that draws upon your time and effort?

I bet you have because I have have; it is part of our fallen and flawed human condition!
The problem is that we think about where we need to be or what we want to be doing and don't think, "There's a neighbour, what would I want someone to do for me if I was them?"

Do we?

Perhaps the 'one job' is to be found in the 'Great Commission' as found in Matthew 28 (// Lk 16):\\: "Then Jesus came to them and said,
'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
  baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.' ”

What if this is the 'one job'?
How are we, as individuals doing? How as we, collectively, as Church, getting on with this? Are we standing in the authority we have in Christ and making a difference; Are we making disciples or merely looking to boost our Sunday attendance numbers and by so doing increase the money in the plate?

I can only ask these questions and seek to answer them for myself.
I'm not trying to put you on the spot, merely asking you to stand next to me!

Are we seeking to make obedient disciples or merely recruit committed members of a club which affirms all that we do and tells us that all will be well?

Do we speak of giving in the model Jesus, the Christ, gave us (that means sacrificial) or are we happy to leave it at paying our parish share and the other bills?

One last contestant for the position of being that 'one job' comes in the shape of the 'misseo dei'; the 'mission of God'

God has acted to reconcile us to Himself through the coming of Jesus (fully man, fully God) and His death on a cross for us. There He paid the price of our sins that we might be in relationship with God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and, being born again - that is 'made a new creation' - might live new lives here on earth and spend eternity with Him.

What if this 'one job' is to be in step with Jesus and to be out there blessing what He is doing in our cities, towns and villages?

How are we doing this 'one job'?

To do this we need to be praying and using our spiritual eyes to see where God is doing stuff and get in step with Him.

Here we are, the first week of Advent and preparing ourselves for His first Advent whilst looking for His second. What is that 'one job' we need to be doing to ensure that when He returns (and I am convinced that He will, aren't you?) he fist words from His lips won't be, "You only had one job . . .


The day Thou gavest . . .

. . . is drawing to a close and there is so much to be thankful for that I might still be here when tomorrow gets underway. I've managed to be involved in an Ofsted inspection, taught Values and Standards, engaged with senior school pupils on a variety of issues and topics, been out on a community engagement thing, did study on the radio and been to Lichfield for too!

There have been a number of warm and fuzzy moments today - I don't think I missed any of the opportunities that arose and neither did I force the issue either. I've played with technology on the web and done some post-production sound engineering and enjoyed reading the Word and chatting to the Boss.

It's amazing how chilled and positive life can be when you fill it with people and God at every possible opprtunity - I love listening to God and think making connections between Him and the world He made for us is perhaps the greatest privilege and joy open to us.

Conversations with those who are 'far off' is often more Christocentric that those which occur with those who might otherwise consider themselves to be near, how strange is that?

Weirdest conversations today's all related to whether groupings were. hristian or not. We kicked off with the Jehovah's Witnesses (must stop calling them witlesses, sorry Lord) and then another and then another regarding the Morons (I know, I'm trying to change, honest God)! Just got through the Charles Taizé Russell and Joseph Smith and their 'dodgy' bits when up popped a Quaker issue - problem was they assumed that they were all Christians groups, even though they acknowledged that all three surely weren't. There are times when the need to draw lines and the desire to minimise the potential for conflict just become too difficult, I took the easy route and told the truth.

The Most joy from conversations was found in conversations about what is orthodox (right thinking and theology) and what is heresy (wrong thinking and doctrine) and find myself agreed with my logic endorsed. When the darkness appears, turn on the lights and let all see by the light.

Most difficult conversation has to be the person who wanted help but didn't want it to come for free. "If I don't pay, how can you do what I need they asked?" Explaining the Jesus came to bring eternal life for free and how the inability to flash the cash and pay 'your way' was one of the tests of a situation to permit others to step into the gap; and reflect on how we can neither 'outgive' God nor reduce the Lord to a token role, especially at Christmas, was something rather important.

The sad bit came in the death of a nice bloke leaving a family broken at the fragility of life. Seizing the day and living life to the full is essential for we have no idea how long we have. All the days numbered for us were written in the Lamb's book of life before one of them came to be.There is nowhere, and nothing, that can separate us from God's love. So we pray for the family and commend the person who has gone to grace, love, care and mercy of God and be willing, and be ready, to be part of the healing if we can and be caught up in prayer regardless.

So there we go, a busy day mades pleasurable by the people with whom I have engaged - and the greatest of these is, as ever, God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) - and challenging by the person I am. Changes: Good, bad and indifferent are always present. HElp me to take the opportunities for good, shun the opportunities for bad and take the opportunities to change and become more like you. Tomorrow.

Goodnight Lord, let's do this all over again; exactly the same and yet different - counter-cultural, diverse, one.


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Morning Prayer - Tuesday 29 November 2016

Day of Intercession and Thanksgiving for the Missionary Work of the Church

Psalm 80
Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, you that led Joseph like a flock; Shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim, before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your mighty strength and come to our salvation.
Turn us again, O God; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry at your people’s prayer?

You feed them with the bread of tears; you give them abundance of tears to drink.
You have made us the derision of our neighbours and our enemies laugh us to scorn.
Turn us again, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.
You made room around it, and when it had taken root, it filled the land. The hills were covered with its shadow and the cedars of God by its boughs. It stretched out its branches to the Sea and its tendrils to the River. Why then have you broken down its wall,so that all who pass by pluck off its grapes? The wild boar out of the wood tears it off, and all the insects of the field devour it.
Turn again, O God of hosts, look down from heaven and behold;

Cherish this vine which your right hand has planted, and the branch that you made so strong for yourself. Let those who burnt it with fire, who cut it down, perish at the rebuke of your countenance. Let your hand be upon the man at your right hand, the son of man you made so strong for yourself. And so will we not go back from you; give us life, and we shall call upon your name.
Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

Psalm 82
God has taken his stand in the council of heaven; in the midst of the gods he gives judgement:
‘How long will you judge unjustly and show such favour to the wicked?
‘You were to judge the weak and the orphan; defend the right of the humble and needy;
‘Rescue the weak and the poor; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
‘They have no knowledge or wisdom; they walk on still in darkness:
'all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
‘Therefore I say that though you are gods and all of you children of the Most High,
‘Nevertheless, you shall die like mortals and fall like one of their princes.’
Arise, O God and judge the earth, for it is you that shall take all nations for your possession.

Isaiah 43.1-13
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. I give Egypt as your ransomEthiopia and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you, I give people in return for you,nations in exchange for your life.

Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; I will say to the north, ‘Give them up’, and to the south, ‘Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth - everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.’
Bring forth the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears! Let all the nations gather together, and let the peoples assemble.

Who among them declared this, and foretold to us the former things?
Let them bring their witnesses to justify them, and let them hear and say, ‘It is true.’ You are my witnesses, says the Lord and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no saviour. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses, says the Lord.

I am God, and also henceforth I am He; there is no one who can deliver from my hand; I work and who can hinder it?

Revelation 20
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and locked and sealed it over him, so that he would deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be let out for a little while.

Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. Over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

When the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, in order to gather them for battle; they are as numerous as the sands of the sea. They marched up over the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from heaven and consumed them. And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

The Collect
Almighty God, as your kingdom dawns, turn us from the darkness of sin to the light of holiness, that we may be ready to meet you in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Exo Fishoil*

What a weird day today has been as struggling to see by the light of God's amazing light, reside within His love and bask in His Grace and mercy as the day now passed starts to unfold and I find myself in that place where I can thank God for all the things that pass by as I unpack the day, and as I do I ask myself:
Where did I take the opportunity to be a blessing?     Where were the missed opportunities?
Where did I do it wrong?    Did I help people?       Did I wound others?       Did I take or miss opportunities for growth?

Today has been, as ever, a mixed bag. I decided to be a bit robust and draw some lines, something we just don't do in the Christian world, we strive to be nice and yet without the odd moment of friction there can be no fire! The problem is that people often just perceive this as you being grouchy but as I look into the eyes of Jesus I see love and steel, shouldn't that be true of me also?

Was this right? Yes, I think so, because many tell me how unhappy they are with the things around them and yet will never take it to the source of their discontent. I steadfastly refuse to be the tennis ball in the contest between them, but I'm also commanded to approach those who are in error and restore them 'gently' in case I sin myself. I don't think I did, I was honest, open and factual - with the facts I had and went back and made sure I knew what I was doing and what the situation was so I could move on - so not a total win or loss I guess.

Engaged with someone I'd wounded and came to a place of peace, which is a joy, for we can never leave wounds open and differences ignored. Too often we seem to have people looking the other way or refusing to dialogue and call that 'peace' - it's not, it's passive conflict and the maintenance of our own attitudes, arrogance, ignorance and ourself considered to be right. What Would Jesus Do? A naff, overused, much abused question, rarely asked or applied - how often do we ask: "Who is there that condemns you?" Of them and of us.

Blessings found in the small encounters and the small, almost missed, things of the day. The conversation, the unexpected smile, the opportunity to catch something precious in the form of those around me before they fall to the ground. Been a good day, not without pain, the frustrations that comes from no longer being a kid and the distinct feeling that Church, the CofE especially, labels you as 'yesterday's man' as it strives for the young and (sadly) the (un)able in its clamouring to be relevant and halt decline.

Resolving the need of a consumer society by giving them what they want rtaher than what they need (and isn't the answer always Jesus?) by turning our services into things which tickle the ears rather than break the heart - that's my opportunity for tomorrow (which has become already my new today) - opportunities, meetings, stumbling blocks to be avoided - Thank You Lord for the things to come and sorry for the things that have been that shouldn't have and the thinks that you placed before me - let's do it all agin when I awake, eh?

* oh yeah, it's ex officio, there's no fish oil anywhere in it!

Monday, 28 November 2016

Morning Prayer - Monday 28 November 2016

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

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

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

Psalm 54
Save me, O God, by your name and vindicate me by your power. Hear my prayer, O God; give heed to the words of my mouth. For strangers have risen up against me, and the ruthless seek after my life; they have not set God before them.

Behold, God is my helper; it is the Lord who upholds my life. May evil rebound on those who lie in wait for me; destroy them in your faithfulness. An offering of a free heart will I give you and praise your name, O Lord, for it is gracious. For he has delivered me out of all my trouble, and my eye has seen the downfall of my enemies.

Isaiah 42.18-end
Listen, you that are deaf; and you that are blind, look up and see!
Who is blind but my servant,  or deaf like my messenger whom I send?
Who is blind like my dedicated one, or blind like the servant of the Lord?
He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear.The Lord was pleased, for the sake of his righteousness, to magnify his teaching and make it glorious. But this is a people robbed and plundered, all of them are trapped in holes and hidden in prisons; they have become a prey with no one to rescue, a spoil with no one to say, ‘Restore!’

Who among you will give heed to this, who will attend and listen for the time to come?
Who gave up Jacob to the spoiler, and Israel to the robbers?
Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned, in whose ways they would not walk, and whose law they would not obey?
So he poured upon him the heat of his anger and the fury of war; it set him on fire all around, but he did not understand; it burned him, but he did not take it to heart.

Revelation 19
After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying,
Salvation and glory and power to our God, for his judgements are true and just;
'he has judged the great whore who corrupted the earth with her fornication,
'and he has avenged on her the blood of his servants.’

Once more they said,
The smoke goes up from her for ever and ever.’
'And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshipped God
'who is seated on the throne, saying,
‘Amen. Hallelujah!’

And from the throne came a voice saying,
‘Praise our God, all you his servants, and all who fear him, small and great.’

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunder peals, crying out,
'For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
'Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,
'for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready;
'to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure’ —
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me,
‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’

And he said to me,
‘These are true words of God.’

Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me,
‘You must not do that!
I am a fellow-servant with you and your comrades who hold the testimony of Jesus.
Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’

Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’.

Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in mid-heaven, ‘Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of the mighty, the flesh of horses and their riders—flesh of all, both free and slave, both small and great.’ Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against the rider on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed in its presence the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur. And the rest were killed by the sword of the rider on the horse, the sword that came from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.

The Collect
Almighty God, as your kingdom dawns, turn us from the darkness of sin to the light of holiness, that we may be ready to meet you in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Everything was going so well, and then . . .

Being Mr efficient, I purchased the Advent Candles months back and had them all ready and waiting in the church, all that was needed was to to walk in and plonk them in the candle holder. So, an hour and a half before the service I pop into run through the music and do the candles - where's the Advent  wreath thing?

Bottom line is that at 10:25 everything is ready and I've used an alternative candle holder as ours is nowhere to be found! I didn't get to practice the songs and I hate this as it is always good to have a play and get into a bit of personal prayer and reflection before the service and without my getting lost in playing and removing myself from people I feel dragged into the places rather than entering ready to meet with God - and today is Advent Sunday! Aaargh!

So we start and it's a day of missed cues and muddled messages - I'm not down to preach (thank goodness for the 'Can't make it to church'  bit on the blog which allows me write a sermon in my head and post it regardless). Meanwhile the wife is doing a service elsewhere and I pray that she is being a blessing and is blessed (and it seems that she and it were - Thank You Lord).

The joy of having so many people take part in a service (there were eleven people involved in some aspect of the service yesterday (13 if you count the Sunday school) is immense - I go to places where everything is done by the person taking the service and that makes for a contiguous, polished (at times), performance from a one man band - but where are are many, the potential for interesting things is infinitely before us! Still, no one other than me did the absolution, there were missed bits (which we studiously also ignore on the PowerPoint) a final song with at least three different version (but we ended in the right chord and laughed as a family at the mayhem), somehow I ended up doing the intercessions (which was an amazing privilege as always) and by the time the day was done.

I struggle at the art of performance that I encounter in some places. The 'Worship' band (I think they mean 'Music Team' because surely the whole service is 'Worship') which is so polished and needs to be marched through the service as if it were a drill display and woe upon them should a note be wrong or a beat missed (which is odd because both are usually present despite somewhere despite their practising!). I rejoice in the bumps we encounter on the road that is our service; sometimes it's the things that fall off the wagon that remind us of the reason we are in the place as Church.

I'm wondering about the places where the service is a one man band - is this making church a spectator sport: worse still, is this something that supports the increasing sadness that is consumerism in the church? Some things for prayer and reflection (with loads of potential conversations too, which has to be good)?

But back to St Francis' and the encounters, the opportunities for fellowship. And the like. I love us still hanging around for so long after the service - its always, "No!" when people ask, "Don't you,wish they'd go home?" 

Last week a couple of visitors remarked that 'weren't church'. They unpacked it by saying that it was relaxed, there were no masks and there was so much else in the place. That's my persistent prayer; that he church might contain true Church - people who can open themselves to one another in safety and in the knowledge that there would be love - if we have that then it can't be bad, can it?

As much as I like to be collegial and share the ministry, there are times when I wish I was more so. Yesterday was one as I cut and folded 1,000 cards to stick through the letterboxes of a neighbouring church. Problem is that The printing wasn't 'edge to edge' and so needed multiple cuts and a crisp fold. Talk about practical evangelism of a different sort, but as I cut and folded I prayed that each seed would bring forth fruit - so, as ever, there was a silver lining. Next year, if they do it again, there will be a more accurate print run with the prayer  and but one fold and one cut still needed!

So here we are - bed beckons and Advent has arrived - even so Lord Jesus, come soon :-)

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Dear diary: A stunning week closes . . .

Time for a bit of reflection:

Communion celebrated (I preside and we all, as the people of God, celebrate the Eucharist - just saying) in a variety of settings (church, home and care home). A privilege and joy and, not unsurprisingly, one of the areas that has lifted my head, made me buzz, filled me with hope (realised in Jesus, the Christ) and put an added spring in my step.

Funerals conducted in church and Crematorium this week (realised that with 56 on the clock so far this year that it's been a light year and wonder whether that's good or bad?). This week's have seen some me working amazing people who were unsung heroes with so many things to commend them. Interestingly the average age of the four this week was greater than my overall average of 87 - also different from the norm was the fact that the men outlived their wives - usually the other way around!

Started the week with a stunningly joyful, fun-filled and celebratory funeral and the theme continued until the final trip to the crem' on Friday - good to have smiles and laughter as well as tears and solemnity making their appearance.

Engagement with people was, as ever, a mixed bag, and the ability of people to screw things up is always amazing - but the ability to bring clarity and Christ into situations makes the role of pastor and priest a joy - it is no coincidence that I buzz most when engaged with people, don't think I'm ever going to be in love with proecedure and paperwork so I'll leave it to those who enjoy it and thank God for them whilst I head in the opposite direction.

Cherry on the cake this week was someone coming to Christ and beginning their journey into the world of faith. Can there be anything better than seeing someone 'born again' and reconciled to God theory the atoning actions of the Christ? Realised how frustrated I am that I do so little real evangelism and so much of the treadmill. If I were someone who did new year's resolutions (only ever done one - resolved not to do any and kept that one) I'd say 2017 will be a year of winning souls - instead I'll say it more and look to making that happen.

So impressed with Hope - so frustrated with clergy! Why is it that clergy wait for someone to hand them a weapon when they are facing the enemy and merely need to stoop down and pick one up from the ground? When the enemy is before us we take up whatever weapon is to hand and engage them robustly  and with overwhelming fire. But prayer is at a premium rather than commonplace and all around me I find people managing decline and reading from a spreadsheet when they should be populating heaven and reading the Bible!

So blessed to be part of the worshipping communities in Leyfields, Coton Green and Hopwas - Christmas Market, Ladies Craft, Friday Freiends, drop-In, Kid's Club and so much more have been a blessing this week. The school's work is just monster and the opportunities for engagement endless. Amazed I can find time to stop praIsing you Lord.

Sadness of the week has been the person who will never fail because they will never attempt anything  - seems that's the way to be well-regarded by so many - seems to me that this is the reason Church is struggling :-(

Lesson of the week has been the realisation that I as much as I love reading and praying and growing in my knowledge of the word this is something that I have come to regard as something I do when work is done rather than something that's part of the work I do - so another note for 2017 - study, prayer and developing my theological and ministerial skill sets are going to be part of the working week.

Joy of the week are many but topped by Phillip's baptism and the gift that he is to the people of God. To work with people who eagerly desire to know Christ and to celebrate His death and resurrection in the Eucharist is sublime - what a week: Bath and Bread in the spotlight.

So much to thank God for - my paucity, His immensity.


Saturday, 26 November 2016

Morning Prayer - Saturday, 26 November 2016

Psalm 145
I will exalt you, O God my King, and bless your name for ever and ever. Every day will I bless you and praise your name for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord and highly to be praised; his greatness is beyond all searching out. One generation shall praise your works to another and declare your mighty acts. They shall speak of the majesty of your glory, nd I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. They shall speak of the might of your marvellous acts, and I will also tell of your greatness. They shall pour forth the story of your abundant kindness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful, long-suffering and of great goodness.
The Lord is loving to everyone and his mercy is over all his creatures.
All your works praise you, O Lord, and your faithful servants bless you. They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your mighty power, To make known to all peoples your mighty acts and the glorious splendour of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; your dominion endures throughout all ages.

The Lord is sure in all his words and faithful in all his deeds.
The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all those who are bowed down.
The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season. You open wide your hand and fill all things living with plenty.

The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving in all his works.
The Lord is near to those who call upon him, to all who call upon him faithfully.
He fulfils the desire of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.

The Lord watches over those who love him, but all the wicked shall he destroy. My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.

Isaiah 42.10-17
Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth!
Let the sea roar and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants.
Let the desert and its towns lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits;
let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the tops of the mountains.
Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare his praise in the coastlands.
The Lord goes forth like a soldier, like a warrior he stirs up his fury; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes.

For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labour, I will gasp and pant.
I will lay waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbage;
I will turn the rivers into islands, and dry up the pools.
I will lead the blind by a road they do not know, by paths they have not known I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them.
They shall be turned back and utterly put to shame - those who trust in carved images, who say to cast images,  ‘You are our gods.’

Revelation 18
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority; and the earth was made bright with his splendour. He called out with a mighty voice,
‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
 It has become a dwelling-place of demons,
 a haunt of every foul spirit,
 a haunt of every foul bird,
 a haunt of every foul and hateful beast.
 For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication,
 and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her,
 and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxury.’

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,
‘Come out of her, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins,
 and so that you do not share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven,
 and God has remembered her iniquities.
 Render to her as she herself has rendered, and repay her double for her deeds;
 mix a double draught for her in the cup she mixed.
 As she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, so give her a like measure of torment and grief.
 Since in her heart she says,
   “I rule as a queen; I am no widow, and I will never see grief”,
 therefore her plagues will come in a single day—
 pestilence and mourning and famine - and she will be burned with fire;
 for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.’

And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning; they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,
‘Alas, alas, the great city, Babylon, the mighty city!
 For in one hour your judgement has come.’

And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo any more, cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron, and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, olive oil, choice flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, slaves—and human lives.
‘The fruit for which your soul longed has gone from you, and all your dainties and your splendour
 are lost to you, never to be found again!’

The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud,
‘Alas, alas, the great city, clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet,
 adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls!
 For in one hour all this wealth has been laid waste!’

And all shipmasters and seafarers, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning,
‘What city was like the great city?’

And they threw dust on their heads, as they wept and mourned, crying out,
‘Alas, alas, the great city, where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth!
 For in one hour she has been laid waste.’

Rejoice over her, O heaven, you saints and apostles and prophets! For God has given judgement for you against her.

Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying,
‘With such violence Babylon the great city will be thrown down, and will be found no more;
 and the sound of harpists and minstrels and of flautists and trumpeters will be heard in you no more;
 and an artisan of any trade will be found in you no more;
 and the sound of the millstone will be heard in you no more;
 and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more;
 and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more;
 for your merchants were the magnates of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.
 And in you was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slaughtered on earth.’

The Collect
God the Father, help us to hear the call of Christ the King and to follow in his service, whose kingdom has no end; for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, one glory. Amen.

What's the 'best' bit of the job?

It's amazing how many people ask me that question during the week, and when they do there are normally a few assumptions made along with the asking - so how's about we have a quick consideration of what they think might be true concerning me and my ministry:

The most common assumption this time of the year is, with Christmas just around the corner, that I'm coming up to my 'busy' time. In fact this is a smoke and mirrors moment because I always feel that the run up to Christmas is perhaps one of my quietest. Since people assume I'm busy, they leave me alone and so I'm left with the highly visible carol concerts, Christingles, school plays and the like  which in turn confirm my busyness. I'm never any more busy during the Christmas run in and what is before me is always, generally speaking, fun.

The most common assumption all year round is that weddings must be the 'best' bit and funerals (which is where the topic is often raised) must be the worst, or at least saddest, and therefore probably the 'worst' bit! Here, perhaps surprisingly for the many who present me with the, "I bet weddings are the best bit of the job, aren't they?" I have to say that that title would go to the funerals I conduct. This generally results in a bit of a shock and the question, "Really?"

One of the most amazing opportunities I have is that of making the experience of someone about to be in the same physical space with a loved one for the last time as positive and enjoyable (a word people often look shocked at) as it can be. If I can bring the person to life in anecdote and confirm the positives and demonstrate how the negatives we're part of the journey and therefore part of the person (without diminishing the person  making things a curse) and do all this with the opportunity for them to laugh, smile and remember the deceased - and in so doing create a service the deceased would enjoy being at (because they are, aren't they?)- then I've done it right.

Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy weddings, but they are a different animal and the connections made (regardless of how hard you work at them) are not the same as those made at a funeral.

The most common 'funny' assumption is that old chestnut which states hat we clergy only work one day a week, and that's Sunday. Of course, being a bit of a fundamentalist fanatic (a label I won after telling a churchwarden in a place I was visiting that he needed to be modelling Christ for the congaregatiin and the community of which he was a pillar) I have to tell them lthat, because of the fourth commandment, I never work on Sunday! Now that's an invitation to an interesting conversation for sure!

And I don't work on a Sunday - I worship - just as I have done on a Sunday for as long as I have realised my salvation lies in Jesus, the Christ, and called myself a Christian. Oddly, some of those I meet (including clergy) seem to think that being a cleric is a job and that when they have a Sunday off this means they don't have to go to church* - church on Sunday is not a workplace to be set free from, to see it as that is to forget that underneath it all we are all laos (The people of God) and reduce calling to nothing more than yet another job, albeit a job of a very different kind.

Perhaps that's why some of those I meet tell me of how they operate Office hours, answerphones going on outside of them, and how the Vicarage is their home and not a place that people should be visiting coming to engage with them.  Meanwhile I long for the days when the daily routine was walking (or in some other way covering) the patch and engaging with the people of the parish.

Ministry is about relationship and relationships are about people and underpinning, and overarching, that is the reconciled life in God the Father. enabled by the Holy Spirit, won for us by Jesus, the Christ.

So the real answer is all of it, all of the time - yes even at 2:30 in the morning when one of those in the patch who is mentally ill is having a crisis, because we stand with them as Christ stands with us - and who knows, they might just be an angel ;-)

So Lord, Thank You for today, the opportunities, the blessings and the challenges, keep them coming.

* I love holidays amd the opportunity to go worship somewhere different and, best bit for me, be on the  receiving end of a blessing.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Fridays that matter: Black or Good?

Living is a world where people are possessed by their possessions and being a consumer is, by the words some I meet, more important than being a Christian, today is a very black day indeed!

A couple of years back, looking to buy a replacement for a piece of broken kit, I went into a shop to make my purchase only to be advised by the sales assistant to leave it a week if I could as the price would be drastically (around 20%) less thanks to 'Black Friday'; so I went home and waited for a week and saved almost £200!

When I was a child, one of the New Year rituals in my family was the annual trip to Knightsbridge for the sales. My Mum would have a list of things we needed and we'd head for the stores to buy new bed linen and other stuff we needed at much reduced prices. We didn't have much money and the buying of things in this way made the most of what we did have and although not a Christian home I have to say that this was good stewardship indeed!

Today we have two 'Black' and one 'Good' Friday on the calendar - today's 'Black Friday' is a day (now stretched to five by some companies) where spending on stuff, to excess, is billed as the thing to do - the other 'Black Friday' is the Friday before Christmas when people tend to eat and drink to excess and this too is billed by our society as something that 'has' to be done too!

The other Friday on my calendar - the 'Good' one -  is about getting too, but with this one it's not about cheap - it's about free! But there's no such thing as 'free' - someone, somewhere always foots the bill - and with this one, the person paying is Jesus!

Today I'm being encouraged to 'have it all today' and pay for it with a card. Who cares if you can't afford it, you can put off paying for another day. How odd then that so many live their lives as the choose, never looking to the day of reckoning of a different kind!

So here are some thoughts as Black Friday gets going:

Do you really need to buy what others are encouraging you to get today?

Will having something really make you happier, better of more successful?

Why have Christian companies and charities jumped on the Black Friday bandwagon - aren't we supposed to encourage good stewardship in others and work hard to stop our weaker brothers and sisters from stumbling?

Aren't we supposed to be living in a counter-cultural way? So why are we buying in to the 'have this and look cool' mentality - shouldn't we have an image of Jesus and His teachings and look like that?

Me? There's nothing I need today and so will not be spending anything except time on my knees thanking Him who gave me everything.

And a thought

Look at the image above - that's people fighting in a British store a few years back, fighting for flat screen TVs.

A friend of mine who works in refugee camps asked me this:

"If they fight like that for TVs, what will they be like when they have to fight for food from the back of a lorry to feed their kids like those in the camps around the world?"


Morning Prayer - Friday, 25 November 2016

Catherine of Alexandria, Martyr, 4th century
Isaac Watts, Hymn Writer, 1748

Psalm 139
O Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You mark out my journeys and my resting place and are acquainted with all my ways.  For there is not a word on my tongue, but you, O Lord, know it altogether. You encompass me behind and before and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go then from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I climb up to heaven, you are there;
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there your hand shall lead me, your right hand hold me fast.

If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will cover me and the light around me turn to night,’ Even darkness is no darkness with you; the night is as clear as the day; darkness and light to you are both alike. For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I thank you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvellous are your works, my soul knows well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my form, as yet unfinished; already in your book were all my members written, As day by day they were fashioned when as yet there was none of them.

How deep are your counsels to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
If I count them, they are more in number than the sand, and at the end, I am still in your presence.

O that you would slay the wicked, O God, that the bloodthirsty might depart from me!
They speak against you with wicked intent; your enemies take up your name for evil.
Do I not oppose those, O Lord, who oppose you?
Do I not abhor those who rise up against you?
I hate them with a perfect hatred; they have become my own enemies also.

Search me out, O God, and know my heart; try me and examine my thoughts. See if there is any way of wickedness in me and lead me in the way everlasting.

Isaiah 41.21-42.9
Set forth your case, says the Lord; bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob. Let them bring them, and tell us what is to happen. Tell us the former things, what they are, so that we may consider them, and that we may know their outcome; or declare to us the things to come. Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; do good, or do harm, that we may be afraid and terrified. You, indeed, are nothing and your work is nothing at all; whoever chooses you is an abomination.

I stirred up one from the north, and he has come, from the rising of the sun he was summoned by name. He shall trample on rulers as on mortar, as the potter treads clay. Who declared it from the beginning, so that we might know, and beforehand, so that we might say, ‘He is right’? There was no one who declared it, none who proclaimed, none who heard your words. I first have declared it to Zion, and I give to Jerusalem a herald of good tidings. But when I look there is no one; among these there is no counsellor who, when I ask, gives an answer. No, they are all a delusion; their works are nothing; their images are empty wind.

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.

Revelation 17
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgement of the great whore who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the inhabitants of the earth have become drunk.’ So he carried me away in the spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication; and on her forehead was written a name, a mystery: ‘Babylon the great, mother of whores and of earth’s abominations.’ And I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus.

When I saw her, I was greatly amazed. But the angel said to me, ‘Why are you so amazed? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the inhabitants of the earth, whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will be amazed when they see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.

‘This calls for a mind that has wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; also, they are seven kings, of whom five have fallen, one is living, and the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain for only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. These are united in yielding their power and authority to the beast; they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.’

And he said to me, ‘The waters that you saw, where the whore is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the whore; they will make her desolate and naked; they will devour her flesh and burn her up with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by agreeing to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.’

The Collect
God the Father, help us to hear the call of Christ the King and to follow in his service, whose kingdom has no end; for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, one glory. Amen.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Who is building your house today?

I was taken up by the opening words of Psalm 127 and then struck down by them as I reflected upon what they really say. How often have you heard this Psalm used as a bit of prooftexting in a sermon to speak of vision and 'working with/for God'?

But have we really ever stopped to think about the emphasis and impact of the passage as I've scribbled it below:

Unless God is behind it - we labour is in vain.
Unless the Lord defends it - we guard it in vain.
Up early and bed late - working with God or because we don't trust Him?

Unless we are in step with God, we labour in vain. The problem is that we don't seem to do a lot of listening to God when it comes to what He wants, in fact whenever I find myself in a 'vision' setting it seems that the majority of the process is about telling God what we want Him to do! The people around me know what God wants and so never bother to ask Him or listen for an answer and that all-important direction.

Last night I saw a programme where a man was setting out to restore/develop a castle yet had no drawings or plans, everything was in his head and eventually (through a number of factors), the project stalled, stumbled and failed. How many times have I seen this sad reality enacted in the world of Christian endeavour that is mission?

Who is the architect of the building we seek to create?
Who has drawn up the plans?
Who is the project manager for that which we seek to build?

Moving on the next line smacked me around the head (in a nice 'God awareness' sort of way - Thank You Lord!) as I recalled something I have recently read by a man who turns science upside down to make it look like his ideas of what God has done, and wants, are supported. But unless God defends it, any defence we create is defined to fall and, as in the case of this man, damage the reputation of the God we serve.

Isn't God big enough to defend His own Church?

Now I'm not saying walk away and leave the ramparts such that there is no defence, but conflict has always been about taking stock of the situation, gaining intelligence and listening to orders from the chain of command. Too often I find no one is listening to God (or reading the book He so kindly gave us) but instead are setting out to defend what is undefendable in a ways that look like war crimes!

So let us cease fire and gather round the Boss of an orders meeting (which we call 'prayers' in a military setting - ironic that, innit?). We should be fighting intelligently and with an obvious integrity!!!

Then comes a sour, barb, thorn and concern for me. I get up early to do my daily Office (the prayers I promised I'd do when I was ordained) and more often than not hit the sack when tomorrow has become today: what does this line do for me?

Am I trying to prove something or seeking to 'outlive God'?

Are my actions working with God or working hard because I don't think God is up to the task?

'God gives His faithful people rest,' that's what it says in the Psalm. Well I get enough rest (usually) so I can breathe a little easier here I guess. But we do need to make sure that, once again, what we do comes out of listening to God.

How do those three lines at the top work for you?

Are you listening in the same way as I, and others, obviously aren't?

Failure to do so might just render our action to be not just in vain but perhaps vanity.

All yours Lord.

Morning Prayer - Thursday 24 November 2016

Psalm 125
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but stands fast for ever. As the hills stand about Jerusalem, so the Lord stands round about his people, from this time forth for evermore. The sceptre of wickedness shall not hold sway over the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous turn their hands to evil.

Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are true of heart. Those who turn aside to crooked ways the Lord shall take away with the evildoers; but let there be peace upon Israel.

Psalm 126
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then were we like those who dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with songs of joy. Then said they among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has indeed done great things for us, and therefore we rejoiced.

Restore again our fortunes, O Lord, as the river beds of the desert.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed, will come back with shouts of joy, bearing their sheaves with them.

Psalm 127
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the Lord keeps the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.
It is in vain that you hasten to rise up early and go so late to rest, eating the bread of toil, for he gives his beloved sleep.

Children are a heritage from the Lord and the fruit of the womb is his gift. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy are those who have their quiver full of them: they shall not be put to shame when they dispute with their enemies in the gate.

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’ schildren, and may there be peace upon Israel.

Isaiah 41.8-20
But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, ‘You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off ’; do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

Yes, all who are incensed against you shall be ashamed and disgraced; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’

Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you insect Israel!
I will help you, says the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
Now, I will make of you a threshing-sledge, sharp, new, and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff. You shall winnow them and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest shall scatter them. Then you shall rejoice in the Lord; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the Lord will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.
I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive;
I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, so that all may see and know, all may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Revelation 16.12-end
The sixth angel poured his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up in order to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw three foul spirits like frogs coming from the mouth of the dragon, from the mouth of the beast, and from the mouth of the false prophet. These are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (‘See, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and is clothed, not going about naked and exposed to shame.’) And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Harmagedon.

The seventh angel poured his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’ And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a violent earthquake, such as had not occurred since people were upon the earth, so violent was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. God remembered great Babylon and gave her the wine-cup of the fury of his wrath. And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found; and huge hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds, dropped from heaven on people, until they cursed God for the plague of the hail, so fearful was that plague.

The Collect
God the Father, help us to hear the call of Christ the King and to follow in his service, whose kingdom has no end; for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, one glory. Amen.

More reasons to be cheerful

Another day done and I can reflect on more privilege-laden happenings:

The joy of engaging with those who are suffering from the debilitating effects of dementia; an awfulness in which the sea of confusion slowly comes in and leave less of the beach for the person to exist on until they are overwhelmed and lost in the waves. Yet, even when the tide has come in, the enagagement with those who are now all at see in the shape of the Eucharist, the surfacing of the person as the Lord's Prayer is recalled and said from a small reef amidst it all, the lights coming back on - drawing merely upon the past remembered or making connections because of the externally, never to be forgotten?

I know what I think :-)

And then more engagement with someone who mourns the loss of a loved one. The privilege of being asked to make special that last moment when a departed loved one is in the same physical place with them for one last time. Surely one of the most important roles a cleric can have as we seek to make sense of a life now ended and point to a hope made real, and realised, in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ.

An then there was the opportunity to discuss love and duty and to explain how 1 Corinthians speaks of a love that makes a habitation, a shelter, for the focus of that love in the storms of life. To join the dots such that we realise that love calls us to do what is right and that duty is merely the obverse side of thc coin we call love - and reflect on the reality that those who march away to protect strangers, in doing so, exhibit a greater love - one which may call on them to lay down their lives.

Add to this the usual round of conversations with funeral directors and people seeking simple answers to astounding questions; the challenges of seeing sin break lives and those broken merely seeing it as 'bad luck' - how do we explain that playing in the train track is likely to get you hit by a train and knowing the words 'sin, self and selfishness' all need to feature in the cast list at the end of the tragedy before you - and still restore them gently?

And yet, as ever, we manage it because to do it any other way would be to potentially cause us to stumble too!

Just a glimpse at a day where blessing and the Christ have been found in amazing quantities - another day when the privilege of a dogcollar and and ever-present, loving, God make bed a happy place to reflect on and look excitedly for the next day to come.

Lord - I love you!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Morning Prayer - Wednesday 23 November 2016

Clement, Bishop of Rome, Martyr, c.100

Psalm 110
The Lord said to my lord,
‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’

May the Lord stretch forth the sceptre of your power; rule from Zion in the midst of your enemies.
‘Noble are you on this day of your birth; on the holy mountain, from the womb of the dawn the dew of your new birth is upon you.’

The Lord has sworn and will not retract:
‘You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.’

The king at your right hand, O Lord, shall smite down kings in the day of his wrath. In all his majesty, he shall judge among the nations, smiting heads over all the wide earth. He shall drink from the brook beside the way; therefore shall he lift high his head.

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.

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.

Isaiah 40.27-41.7
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’?

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength; let them approach, then let them speak; let us together draw near for judgement.

Who has roused a victor from the east, summoned him to his service?
He delivers up nations to him,  and tramples kings under foot;
he makes them like dust with his sword, like driven stubble with his bow.
He pursues them and passes on safely, scarcely touching the path with his feet.
Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning?
I, the Lord, am first, and will be with the last.  The coastlands have seen and are afraid, the ends of the earth tremble; they have drawn near and come. Each one helps the other, saying to one another, ‘Take courage!’
The artisan encourages the goldsmith, and the one who smooths with the hammer encourages the one who strikes the anvil, saying of the soldering, ‘It is good’; and they fasten it with nails so that it cannot be moved.

Revelation 16.1-11
Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.’

So the first angel went and poured his bowl on the earth, and a foul and painful sore came on those who had the mark of the beast and who worshipped its image.

The second angel poured his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing in the sea died.

The third angel poured his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say,
‘You are just, O Holy One, who are and were, for you have judged these things;
 because they shed the blood of saints and prophets, you have given them blood to drink.
 It is what they deserve!’
And I heard the altar respond
‘Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, your judgements are true and just!’

The fourth angel poured his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire; they were scorched by the fierce heat, but they cursed the name of God, who had authority over these plagues, and they did not repent and give him glory.

The fifth angel poured his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness; people gnawed their tongues in agony, and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and sores, and they did not repent of their deeds.

The Collect
Creator and Father of eternity, whose martyr Clement bore witness with his blood to the love he proclaimed and the gospel that he preached: give us thankful hearts as we celebrate your faithfulness, revealed to us in the lives of your saints, and strengthen us in our pilgrimage as we follow your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The privileges of ministry

It's just after one in the morning and the day has come to a close - and as Wednesday makes its appearance I have to say that I can't express the joy and gratitude I have in my heart for an amazing week thus far.

Sunday rocked - an early communion with a bunch of faithful people saw us celebrate 'Christ the King'

The a change of venue and the amazing privilege of baptising someone and being part of the beginnings of their journey into the Christian faith (doing the START course with them being a joy indeed) and breaking bread with another wonderfully diverse bunch of people.

On to another service elsewhere before gathering in the town centre to do three performances of a  'Living Nativity' as part of the town's Christmas lights being switched on. The rain fell but the people stopped and in the midst of so much secular, Jesus was given space to remind people who the Christmas thing is all about - priceless opportunity or what?

And then another church and the final Communion of the day. 

Monday saw what must be one of the most joyful and complete funeral services I think I have conducted and to find yourself in a Crematorium with a bunch of happy, smiling people, in that setting, as final farewells are made and the word 'celebration' is made real in the light of the realised hope that is Jesus. That's something you cannot fail to smile at  and praise the God with whom I work for!

Today saw one of the most enjoyable, and energetic, school assemblies I have done for ages and as the buzz from that still echoed in my being I found the mood change and had the privilege of standing with one who has been bereaved and looked with them to the love of God and the hope that is made real in Jesus.

And as for today? Bed beckons and tomorrow (now today) will be another day of challenge, meeting new people, taking Communion into care homes and the homes of those who can no longer leave their own four walls, and much more besides I'm sure. There will be divine appointments and the opportunity to minister God's love made real in Jesus, the Christ, and His amazing sacrifice for us.

Ministry: A privilege and a joy - more than a job, it's a gift to those who do it and (I pray), a blessing to those on the receiving end of it.

Hallelujah or what?

Goodnight Lord, and thanks for an amazing day!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Money makes the Church go . . .

To sleep, or perhaps the loo, or even go home?

I hadn't been a Christian for very long before I found myself sitting next to an extremely old (they were probably about fifty and I was twenty!) 'time served' member of the Baptist church I had just come to faith in and become a become a member of. We'd had the notices, the opening prayers, a couple of hymns and had just finished the Bible reading when the Pastor stood up to preach. I can remember it now, the Pastor began with the words, "Jesus is God's gift to us, how can we respond to Him? . . . "

"Oh no," said the person next to me, "We're going to have a sermon on giving again!"  And with that they promptly closed their eyes and nodded for the next twenty minutes! Since then I have sat through endless sermons on the subject of giving and have found people doze off, write shopping lists, slide out of the pew (never to be seen again during that service) and play sermon word bingo (cards available from me on request).

Some of these have gone down the, "You can't outgive God," route - but as this is plainly true, what's the point of trying in the first place, here's a fiver, let's move on!

Others have tried the, "Man the pumps, we're sinking," approach; which causes one to search for. Lifeboat rather than throw money.

Others still have tried the, "Giving is a commandment, do as you're told or Jesus will know you're a naughty Christian, and you know what that means!" Yes indeedy, if all else fails, threaten and scare them with the bogeyman and the grim prospect of hell where there is a wailing and gnashing of teeth and England are always on the TV playing football.

My favourite has always been the approach favoured by former Pastor of Kensington Temple and leader of the Elim Church in the late nineties, Wynne Lewis. His approach was to proclaim that, "The Lord loves a cheerful giver," and pass round the bucket - and I think he might have been more on track than most of the other approaches I've suffered.

The words come from 2 Cor 9.7 and I like the way the Amplified Bible (once a sound engineer, always a sound engineer) puts it:

'each one give [thoughtfully and with purpose] just as they have decided in their heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion,  for God loves a cheerful giver [and delights in the one whose heart is in his gift].'

In the Baptist church in which I came to faith I soon learnt that we would get the 'giving' sermon every time the Treasurer found it difficult to pay a bill; as the need arose the people paid and when the storm abated the level of giving returned to whatever it usually was.

The problem is that we tell people that we have 'a God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills' and yet all too often we live as if we have a god who is either totally unable to support the children he has fathered or has withdrawn his support (financial, spiritual and practical) from the body we call Church.

When I was a pilot I would pay my annual subscription and the bar bills and the additional costs for ground school, flying hours, and whatever else was asked because I wanted to be flying, and flying from that place. Seems that some people don't have the same attitude towards the place they haunt on a Sunday?

When it comes to giving, I am always drawn back to some words (Matt 6.19-2) that struck me as a twenty-year old new believer (and I'll use the Amplified Bible here too for consistencies sake):

'Do not store up for yourselves [material things] treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart [your wishes, your desires; things on which your life centres, the things important to you] will be also.'

Aren't the words of the two passages here enough to help us to get a right perspective and work out how we can, cheerfully, give to God that which is right and proper?

I'd relish your responses, insights, anecdotal stuff and good practice regarding this area as I struggle to find a way that comes out of the people of God rather than is dragged out of them by stewardship schemes and the breaking of arms, hearts and trust.


Help and encouragement to give are always available upon request!

Morning Prayer - Tuesday 22 November 2016

Cecilia, Martyr at Rome, c.230

Psalm 97
The Lord is king: let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of the isles be glad. Clouds and darkness are round about him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him and burns up his enemies on every side. His lightnings lit up the world; the earth saw it and trembled. The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declared his righteousness and all the peoples have seen his glory.

Confounded be all who worship carved images and delight in mere idols. Bow down before him, all you gods. Zion heard and was glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoiced, because of your judgements, O Lord. For you, Lord, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.

The Lord loves those who hate evil; he preserves the lives of his faithful and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light has sprung up for the righteous and joy for the true of heart. Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name.

Psalm 98
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things. His own right hand and his holy arm have won for him the victory. The Lord has made known his salvation; his deliverance has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.  He has remembered his mercy and faithfulness towards the house of Israel, and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Sound praises to the Lord, all the earth; break into singing and make music. Make music to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the voice of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn sound praises before the Lord, the King. Let the sea thunder and all that fills it, the world and all that dwell upon it. Let the rivers clap their hands and let the hills ring out together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. In righteousness shall he judge the world and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 100
O be joyful in the Lord, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness and come before his presence with a song. Know that the Lord is God; it is he that has made us and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and bless his name. For the Lord is gracious; his steadfast love is everlasting, and his faithfulness endures from generation to generation.

Isaiah 40.12-26
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span,enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?

Who has directed the spirit of the Lord, or as his counsellor has instructed him?

Whom did he consult for his enlightenment, and who taught him the path of justice?

Who taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?

Even the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as dust on the scales; see, he takes up the isles like fine dust. Lebanon would not provide fuel enough, nor are its animals enough for a burnt-offering. All the nations are as nothing before him; they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?

An idol? — A workman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold, and casts for it silver chains.

As a gift one chooses mulberry wood — wood that will not rot — then seeks out a skilled artisan to set up an image that will not topple.

Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.

Revelation 14.14-15.end
Then I looked, and there was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like the Son of Man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand! Another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to the one who sat on the cloud, ‘Use your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.’ So the one who sat on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.

Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Then another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over fire, and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, ‘Use your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.’

So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and he threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine press, as high as a horse’s bridle, for a distance of about two hundred miles.
Then I saw another portent in heaven, great and amazing: seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is ended.

And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb:
‘Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty!
 Just and true are your ways, King of the nations!
 Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name?
 For you alone are holy.
 All nations will come and worship before you, for your judgements have been revealed.’

After this I looked, and the temple of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, and out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues, robed in pure bright linen, with golden sashes across their chests. Then one of the four living creatures gave the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever; and the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were ended.

The Collect
God the Father, help us to hear the call of Christ the King and to follow in his service, whose kingdom has no end; for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, one glory. Amen.