Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Morning Prayer - Tuesday 31 January 2017

Epiphany Season 
John Bosco, Priest, Founder of the Salesian Teaching Order, 1888

Psalm 93
The Lord is king and has put on glorious apparel; the Lord has put on his glory and girded himself with strength. He has made the whole world so sure that it cannot be moved. Your throne has been established from of old; you are from everlasting.

The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of many waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea, the Lord on high is mightier. Your testimonies are very sure; holiness adorns your house, O Lord, for ever.

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.

Hosea 10
Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased the more altars he built; as his country improved, he improved his pillars. Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt. The Lord will break down their altars, and destroy their pillars.

For now they will say:
‘We have no king, for we do not fear the Lord, and a king—what could he do for us?’

They utter mere words; with empty oaths they make covenants; so litigation springs up like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field. The inhabitants of Samaria tremble for the calf of Beth-aven. Its people shall mourn for it, and its idolatrous priests shall wail over it, over its glory that has departed from it. The thing itself shall be carried to Assyria as tribute to the great king. Ephraim shall be put to shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his idol.

Samaria’s king shall perish like a splinter on the face of the waters.  The high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed. Thorn and thistle shall grow up on their altars. They shall say to the mountains, Cover us, and to the hills, Fall on us.

Since the days of Gibeah you have sinned, O Israel; there they have continued. Shall not war overtake them in Gibeah? I will come against the wayward people to punish them; and nations shall be gathered against them when they are punished for their double iniquity.

Ephraim was a trained heifer that loved to thresh, and I spared her fair neck; but I will make Ephraim break the ground; Judah must plough; Jacob must harrow for himself. Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

You have ploughed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your power and in the multitude of your warriors, therefore the tumult of war shall rise against your people, and all your fortresses shall be destroyed, as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle when mothers were dashed in pieces with their children. Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel, because of your great wickedness. At dawn the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off.

1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

The Collect
God of heaven, you send the gospel to the ends of the earth and your messengers to every nation: send your Holy Spirit to transform us by the good news of everlasting life in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Journal: Four walls make many things

to an inmate in a prison recently speaking of the four walls that was their cell,
to a homeless person who spoke of their need of four walls to escape the cold,
to someone for whom, by circumstance, the four walls of their home had become a lonely place.

Reflecting on them, the words of Lovelace's poem 'To Althea, from prison' echo in the recesses of my mind:
"Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage;
 Minds innocent and quiet take that for an hermitage;
 If I have freedom in my love and in my soul am free,
 Angels alone, that soar above, enjoy such liberty."

Our setting becomes what we allow it to be an although four walls may contain, constrain, and even condemn us to separation - there is no place where the light and love of God cannot shine through and set our souls soaring free from the 'surly bonds of earth' to soar with the angels.

Today I have been privileged to soar with those contained and constrained by health, circumstance and situation, and in the presence of simple bread and wine, proclaimed Jesus, the Christ, Risen Indeed and basked in the Sonlight!

Today I have been saddened to to encounter those in cells of their own making, their bitterness and rancour creating 'ex nihilo' a cell upon whose wall hang paintings that speak of division and through whose windows hell is to be seen!

Today I have prayed for those climbing the steps of the slide - that one way journey that we will all take in the amusement park of life - that each step will be made easy and the final event good; for what is the role of a cleric such as me if not to help people descend the slide as best they can? What better or more honest role can I have other than to help people dIe well?

Today has not stopped - from the first visit to the closing business meeting - from bread and wine to 'bred to whine'. We all create our surroundings, making them what they are to us and living in that illusion thus made condemned or blessed by its perceived nature.

Lord, bring those at the close of life to a peaceful and solid end. Remove from them the pain of the ascent and may the downward journey on the slide be one swift and blessed act.

For those contained by walls of their own making remove the scales from eyes that refuse to see life in all but drab and darkened hues and others in light that casts them as the villain and sees them consumed by the bike that they themselves have made.

Those who live lives fulfilled and crowned by love, yet tinged by loneliness of loved ones passed, 'waiting for God', the television and the the radio for company, the routine and the daily round for curse. Open the door and bring to them Your Church through visits and telephone calls and as they revel in Your image made real in the one before them - help us, Your Church, to set them free.

And for those in prisons real and made of lies and life and others acts - set the captives free and set their souls soaring - for you are our life, our hope, our love and our persistent friend, source of salvation and our external a: unending friend.

Come Holy Spirit, set our hearts on fire and in the darkness of the walls we have, our lives inspire.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Lazy and cowardly politics

This morning, as I gaze upon the world's political scene, I find myself drawn to a number of passages, quotes and thoughts.

The first comes from the poem 'New Colossus' by Emma Lazarus - a passage found on Ellis Island on a statue that once signified a proud nation and the hope of a new life for many:
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

The second comes from Edmund Burke; it is a passage that so often I find myself repeating on Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January) as I talk to children about the penalties of letting self and selfishness rule our hearts, actions and nations:
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Moving on, in the silence around me I find the words of Leviticus 19 echoing in my ears:
"When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God."

As I pray I find the words of Micah adding weight to my thinking and they lead me to a place where I have no wiggle room; a place in which the moral high ground is obvious and assured:
"And what does the Lord require of you?
  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

On the 27th January 2017 - Holocaust Memorial Day - the United States, through an Executive Order  made by the President, effectively negated those words on the Statue of Liberty and the question has to be: "What will the good people of the United States do?"

The only 'true' American is the Native American - and I think history shows how they have fared in their own land at the hands of invading foreigners - for this land of imported people appears to be  populated by jingoistic immigrants led by a man who appears to stand for everything that America used to claim it didn't.

The 'Land of the free' has always been a bit of a misnomer as in fact it has always been a land where money talks and the thin veneer of civilisation is almost nonexistent in places. Another (mis)quote, this time from the pen of George Orwell (and the lips of Napoleon - the eventual leader of the world that the animals create):
"All men are born equal, but some are more equal than others!"

This observation is made as a reflection on the failure of the ideals of social justice, equality, and cooperation that is Communism and yet, are these not these words perhaps the epitaph for America as it formally puts aside the 'land of the free' label and instead takes up the always been there reality of the land of the self-serving, self-interest, and self-absorbed?

On Holocaust Memorial Day 2017, the signing of an Executive Order on immigration finds resonance with the Germany of 1933! Now don't get me wrong, every nation has the right, No - the responsibility, to protect its mationals from terrorism and attack, but this should be done by use of intelligence (a word that doesn't always sit well alongside 'American') and compassion married together.

The problem is that this costs money and takes commitment and Trump, in his 'making America great again' is looking to do it on the cheap whilst creating something jingoistic and worthy of a tin pot nation. Being great at the expense of those around you, building walls of brick and rhetoric, seeking to create 'third world' conditions in other nations; ignoring the plight of the oppressed, the poor, the marginalised - well that's the legacy Trump has (subliminally rather than explicitly stated) inherited and seeks to formalise.

And will our government kowtow to the bully like school kids trying to befriend the big kid in the classroom?

You know, I think it will. I really fear that our Prime Minister and her supporters in Westminster would rather have  'friendship' at any price than integrity at the cost of a 'special relationship' that ain't that special or real anyway.

For a nation that can so easily (apparently) walk away from the strength of a united Europe and look to being 'great' again, it seems there might be little to separate us from the US on many more levels that is comfortable or right; and the belief that we are a nation who stands for what is right might just about to to be shown up for the lie that some fear it might always have been.

I'll leave the last word to Larry Norman and some of his lyrics as he reflected upon the United States he saw:

I was born and raised an orphan in a land that once was free 
In a land that poured its love out on the moon; 
And I grew up in the shadows of your silos filled with grain, 
But you never helped to fill my empty spoon. 

And when I was ten you murdered law with courtroom politics, 
And you learned to make a lie sound just like truth; 
But I know you better now and I don't fall for all your tricks, 
And you've lost the one advantage of my youth. 

You kill a black man at midnight just for talking to your daughter, 
Then you make his wife your mistress and you leave her without water; 
And the sheet you wear upon your face is the sheet your children sleep on, 
At every meal you say a prayer; you don't believe but still you keep on. 

And your money says in God we trust, 
But it's against the law to pray in school; 
You say we beat the Russians to the moon, 
And I say you starved your children to do it. 
You say all men are equal, all men are brothers, 
Then why are the rich more equal than others? 

Father, forgive us, for we know exactly what we do

 Interestingly, someone else has pointed to another Larry Norman song, which seems als to (sadly - as the 'Doomsday Clock' has its countdown deceased) fit the situation before us:

Life was filled with guns and war and everyone got trampled on the floor 
I wish we'd all been ready
Children died the days grew cold, a piece of bread could buy a bag of gold 
I wish we'd all been ready 

There's no time to change your mind - The Son has come and you've been left behind 

A man and wife asleep in bed, she hears a noise and turns her head he's gone 
I wish we'd all been ready 
Two men walking up a hill - one disappears and one's left standing still 
I wish we'd all been ready 
There's no time to change your mind - The Son has come and you've been left behind 

Children died the days grew cold, a piece of bread could buy a bag of gold 
I wish we'd all been ready 
There's no time to change your mind - The Son has come and you've been left behind

The Father spoke the demons died, how could you have been so blind ?
There's no time to change your mind - The Son has come and you've been left behind

Morning Prayer - Monday 30 January 2017

Epiphany Season
Charles, King and Martyr, 1649

Psalm 57
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for my soul takes refuge in you; In the shadow of your wings will I take refuge until the storm of destruction has passed by.

I will call upon the Most High God, the God who fulfils his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me and rebuke those that would trample upon me; God will send forth his love and his faithfulness.

I lie in the midst of lions, people whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and your glory over all the earth.

They have laid a net for my feet; my soul is pressed down; they have dug a pit before me and will fall into it themselves My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready; I will sing and give you praise. Awake, my soul; awake, harp and lyre, that I may awaken the dawn. I will give you thanks, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praise to you among the nations. For your loving-kindness is as high as the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and your glory over all the earth.

Psalm 96
Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord and bless his name; tell out his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations and his wonders among all peoples.

For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; he is more to be feared than all gods. For all the gods of the nations are but idols; it is the Lord who made the heavens. Honour and majesty are before him; power and splendour are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples; ascribe to the Lord honour and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the honour due to his name; bring offerings and come into his courts. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth tremble before him. Tell it out among the nations that the Lord is king. He has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.

Let the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad; let the sea thunder and all that is in it; Let the fields be joyful and all that is in them; let all the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord. For he comes, he comes to judge the earth; with righteousness he will judge the world and the peoples with his truth.

Hosea 9
Do not rejoice, O Israel! Do not exult as other nations do; for you have played the whore, departing from your God. You have loved a prostitute’s pay on all threshing-floors. Threshing-floor and wine vat shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail them. They shall not remain in the land of the Lord; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and in Assyria they shall eat unclean food.

They shall not pour drink-offerings of wine to the Lord, and their sacrifices shall not please him. Such sacrifices shall be like mourners’ bread; all who eat of it shall be defiled; for their bread shall be for their hunger only; it shall not come to the house of the Lord.

What will you do on the day of appointed festival, and on the day of the festival of the Lord? For even if they escape destruction, Egypt shall gather them, Memphis shall bury them. Nettles shall possess their precious things of silver; thorns shall be in their tents.

The days of punishment have come, the days of recompense have come; Israel cries, ‘The prophet is a fool, the man of the spirit is mad!’ Because of your great iniquity, your hostility is great. The prophet is a sentinel for my God over Ephraim, yet a fowler’s snare is on all his ways, and hostility in the house of his God. They have deeply corrupted themselves  as in the days of Gibeah; he will remember their iniquity, he will punish their sins.

Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on the fig tree, in its first season, I saw your ancestors. But they came to Baal-peor, and consecrated themselves to a thing of shame, and became detestable like the thing they loved. Ephraim’s glory shall fly away like a bird—no birth, no pregnancy, no conception! Even if they bring up children, I will bereave them until no one is left.
Woe to them indeed when I depart from them! Once I saw Ephraim as a young palm planted in a lovely meadow, but now Ephraim must lead out his children for slaughter. Give them, O Lord— what will you give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.

Every evil of theirs began at Gilgal; there I came to hate them. Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of my house. I will love them no more; all their officials are rebels.

Ephraim is stricken, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit. Even though they give birth, I will kill the cherished offspring of their womb. Because they have not listened to him, my God will reject them; they shall become wanderers among the nations.

1 Corinthians 12.12-end
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’

On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

The Collect
King of kings and Lord of lords, whose faithful servant Charles prayed for those who persecuted him and died in the living hope of your eternal kingdom: grant us by your grace so to follow his example that we may love and bless our enemies, through the intercession of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Journal: visiting a new old place

This morning started with heavy frost and the sort of beautiful blue skies that Winter often provides as I climbed out of bed and made my way to a new place of worship for an 'early' Book of Common Prayer (BCP) Communion. The morning may have been cold but the welcome, and the building, were warm - and that's always a blessing!

Today's service was a straightforward BCP service in which we reflected upon The Presentation and Jesus coming into contact with Simeon and Anna. The people alongside me were keen to make sure I had what I needed to get through the service and as I was about to leave the altar rail a hand grabbed me to let me know that we stayed where we were until everyone was communicated.

When the service was done I had a quick look around the building (and having been pointed to 'something of interest' I paid an interesting tomb a bit of a visit before mooching for a few minutes before heading for the door, only to find myself engaged with by one of the people who'd been at the service and offered tea and toast!

What made this nice was that I got to chat to people, and the local dogcollar too, and learnt much about the building and the changes, glimpses of the ministry and the 'messy church' like children's work to be engaged with the following week (please pray for those running it and those who might come to St Hilda's). The pews in the place had gone and they'd installed effective heating and the warmth of the place bore testimony to that - But the sacred space that this building is and the rubbing shoulders with saints past was made special by rubbing shoulders with those present.

I can honestly say that this has to be one of the best church visits I have made for ages.
The building was welcoming and obviously cared for,
The liturgy was straightforward and thoughtfully presented without deviating or distracting us from the particular form that is BCP.
The Church made real in the living stones alongside me was engaged and welcoming - the offer of tea and toast was earnest and hard to pass up as the person asking me, having ascertained that I was merely passing though, didn't walk away as they realised I was a scalp but persevered as if they valued the fact that I was family.

So I stayed for tea and toast and engaged in making koinonia a reality - and am sure that the next time I'm in that place I'll be visiting again. And until I do thee will be prayers offered up for the work of the Church in that building that doors would be opened and lives changed by its ministry, history and the work of the people there. A real bleeding and great start to my day.

And the day continued to be just as good - a new addition to the family engaged with, and the in-laws looking good, and the new family unit being everything one could pray for - Lord, bless them and surround them with your love and your presence. Sadly though time was such that before it got going the road to Tamworth beckoned and we had to depart.

Lord for our families, for new life (and for old life too) I can but thank you. Keep us united and help us to see the strength and value that each one of us bring to, and the importance that thee is in, family.

Thank you for the places of worship, and the welcome, warmth, and family that is to be found within their walls - bless the family of St Hilda's and strengthen their arms that the battle might be won in that place.

Thank you for my own places of worship - help us to look to You and stay authentic, tolerant, selfless and open-handed. Help us to not see the fault in others but to see the feet of clay that impede us in our journey through this life, and thus enlightened, bless those who might otherwise be cursed by our own folly.

I pray for the day ahead and the opportunities a new week will bring - help us to do nothing in our own strength and to pray, consider, and obediently go forward - in Your name and for Your namesake.

Bless our families, biological, ecclesial, and gathered by means odd and otherwise and make us a blessing in them also.

For the bread today, the forgiveness and the presence of you love I give you thanks and looking expectantly to another day, bless you for all You are to me, and in me.

Jesus, I thank You for the cross and the ability to proclaim that You are risen indeed!

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Journal: Saturday night and Sunday morning

Today was almost a full on day off - there were a few pastoral encounters at the start but the majority of it was family - and I have to say that I needed it!

That said, daily Office and time with the Boss set the day up well and the journey was uneventful as we returned No.1 child to university (again) and headed to the visit the family 'up North' to meet the newest addition - an amazing beautiful babe. Funny but looking at the parents I could not but feel proud that they're part of my 'married into' family - even with some dodgy football supporting choices :-)

So what started a bit strangely with an early ringing of the doorbell has ended well, early, and relaxed - looking forward to tomorrow and more chilled time.

Father thank you that for the community around us we are considered to not only be of use but safe to approach. For the family who, bereaved and broken, came to our door I pray that you will bind up their wounds and strengthen them with your presence.

I pray for our church families and the services and the people who come - for the needs, the needy and the potential that is Sunday to be found in them by the power of your Spirit and the work of the people.

Lord, be with us in the strange and bless us in the familiar.

Morning Prayer - Saturday 28 January 2017

Epiphany Season 
Thomas Aquinas, Priest, Philosopher, Teacher of the Faith, 1274

Psalm 68
Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered; let those that hate him flee before him. As the smoke vanishes, so may they vanish away; as wax melts at the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God. But let the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; let them make merry with gladness. Sing to God, sing praises to his name; exalt him who rides on the clouds. The Lord is his name; rejoice before him.

Father of the fatherless, defender of widows, God in his holy habitation! God gives the solitary a home and brings forth prisoners to songs of welcome, but the rebellious inhabit a burning desert.

O God, when you went forth before your people, when you marched through the wilderness, The shook and the heavens dropped down rain, at the presence of God, the Lord of Sinai, at the presence of God, the God of Israel You sent down a gracious rain, O God; you refreshed your inheritance when it was weary. Your people came to dwell there; in your goodness, O God, you provide for the poor.

The Lord gave the word; great was the company of women who bore the tidings: ‘Kings and their armies they flee, they flee!’and women at home are dividing the spoil. Though you stayed among the sheepfolds, see now a dove’s wings covered with silver and its feathers with green gold. When the Almighty scattered the kings, it was like snowflakes falling on Zalmon.

You mighty mountain, great mountain of Bashan!
You towering mountain, great mountain of Bashan!
Why look with envy, you towering mountains, at the mount which God has desired for his dwelling, the place where the Lord will dwell for ever?

The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, even thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them, the Lord of Sinai in holy power. You have gone up on high and led captivity captive; you have received tribute, even from those who rebelled, that you may reign as Lord and God.

Blessed be the Lord who bears our burdens day by day, for God is our salvation. God is for us the God of our salvation; God is the Lord who can deliver from death. God will smite the head of his enemies, the hairy scalp of those who walk in wickedness. The Lord has said, ‘From the heights of Bashan, from the depths of the sea will I bring them back, ‘Till you dip your foot in blood and the tongue of your dogs has a taste of your enemies.’

We see your solemn processions, O God, your processions into the sanctuary, my God and my King. The singers go before, the musicians follow after, in the midst of maidens playing on timbrels. In your companies, bless your God; bless the Lord, you that are of the fount of Israel. At the head there is Benjamin, least of the tribes, the princes of Judah in joyful company, the princes of Zebulun and Naphtali.

Send forth your strength, O God; establish, O God, what you have wrought in us. For your temple’s sake in Jerusalem kings shall bring their gifts to you. Drive back with your word the wild beast of the reeds, the herd of the bull-like, the brutish hordes. Trample down those who lust after silver; scatter the peoples that delight in war. Vessels of bronze shall be brought from Egypt; Ethiopia will stretch out her hands to God.

Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth; make music in praise of the Lord; He rides on the ancient heaven of heavens and sends forth his voice, a mighty voice. Ascribe power to God, whose splendour is over Israel, whose power is above the clouds. How terrible is God in his holy sanctuary, the God of Israel, who gives power and strength to his people!
Blessed be God.

Hosea 8
Set the trumpet to your lips!
One like a vulture is over the house of the Lord, because they have broken my covenant, and transgressed my law. Israel cries to me, ‘My God, we—Israel—know you!’ Israel has spurned the good; the enemy shall pursue him.

They made kings, but not through me; they set up princes, but without my knowledge. With their silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction. Your calf is rejected, O Samaria. My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of innocence?  For it is from Israel, an artisan made it; it is not God. The calf of Samaria shall be broken to pieces.

For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads, it shall yield no meal; if it were to yield, foreigners would devour it. Israel is swallowed up; now they are among the nations as a useless vessel. For they have gone up to Assyria, a wild ass wandering alone; Ephraim has bargained for lovers. Though they bargain with the nations, I will now gather them up. They shall soon writhe under the burden of kings and princes.

When Ephraim multiplied altars to expiate sin, they became to him altars for sinning. Though I write for him the multitude of my instructions, they are regarded as a strange thing. Though they offer choice sacrifices, though they eat flesh, the Lord does not accept them. Now he will remember their iniquity, and punish their sins; they shall return to Egypt. Israel has forgotten his Maker, and built palaces; and Judah has multiplied fortified cities; but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour his strongholds.

1 Corinthians 12.1-11
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

The Collect
Eternal God, who enriched your Church with the learning and holiness of your servant Thomas Aquinas: give to all who seek you a humble mind and a pure heart that they may know your Son Jesus Christ as the way, the truth and the life; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Journal: Not a laughing matter

The end of the week has arrived and to be honest, insofar as having had a holiday goes, it's not gone well. One of the problems of 'living over the shop' is the fact that unless you go away, you're a captive audience. This week saw three days lost to various issues and a fourth taken up by Holocaust Memorial Day - so I'll admit it, as a week off it sort of failed.

BUT (and there's always a but isn't there?) I have managed to sleep and have realised what a normal week for many of my colleagues looks like and now I know, I'll try to make one like this again next week.

But this has been a very positive week overall and there are so many things to thank God for in the opportunities to stand with others and to make a difference. I've also realised that I have a different way of praying emerging from my daily office and the journaling (which writing makes more formal in some strange way A just like posting my morning office) - and that has to be good, doesn't it?

This week has also made me very aware of the ways the Church in it's local arrangements and organisations can turn people away through the petty squabbles and Machiavellian activities. Praying about it the daily Office came rushing to my rescue with some words from St Paul:

"I hear you have divisions; and I believe it. They make clear those who among you are genuine."

Tough words, but then again perhaps being tough is not something Church does well anymore and needs to be doing more of. Looking at the trail of carnage left in the wake of some people I realise that they are very much like twisters, those devastating, swirling, winds that create so much havoc in the US, and to be feared. But just as nature causes the twisters, so too does human nature cause those who twist words and create havoc in the Church and in the world.

I am at a loss for words at times (yeah really, me for whom words are some of my very bestest friends) and all I can do is drag the dying embers of what was recently a healthy blaze to the foot of the cross and pray that God's breath - His ruach- would rekindle what is before Him.

And looking to HMD - help me to teach the children that genocide and intolerance are never a laughing matter.

Over to You God!

Friday, 27 January 2017

Morning Prayer - 27 January 2017

Epiphany Season 

Psalm 61
Hear my crying, O God, and listen to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to you with fainting heart; O set me on the rock that is higher than I. For you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in your tent for ever and take refuge under the cover of your wings.

For you, O God, will hear my vows; you will grant the request of those who fear your name. You will add length of days to the life of the king, that his years may endure throughout all generations. May he sit enthroned before God for ever; may steadfast love and truth watch over him. So will I always sing praise to your name, and day by day fulfil my vows.

Psalm 65
Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; to you that answer prayer shall vows be paid. To you shall all flesh come to confess their sins; when our misdeeds prevail against us, you will purge them away.

Happy are they whom you choose and draw to your courts to dwell there. We shall be satisfied with the blessings of your house,
even of your holy temple. With wonders you will answer us in your righteousness, O God of our salvation, O hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. In your strength you set fast the mountains and are girded about with might.

You still the raging of the seas, the roaring of their waves and the clamour of the peoples. Those who dwell at the ends of the earth tremble at your marvels; the gates of the morning and evening sing your praise.
You visit the earth and water it; you make it very plenteous. The river of God is full of water; you prepare grain for your people, for so you provide for the earth.
You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges; you soften the ground with showers and bless its increase.
You crown the year with your goodness, and your paths overflow with plenty.

May the pastures of the wilderness flow with goodness and the hills be girded with joy.
May the meadows be clothed with flocks of sheep and the valleys stand so thick with corn that they shall laugh and sing.

Hosea 6.7-7.2
But at Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.
Gilead is a city of evildoers, tracked with blood. As robbers lie in wait for someone, so the priests are banded together;
they murder on the road to Shechem, they commit a monstrous crime.

In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing; Ephraim’s whoredom is there, Israel is defiled.

For you also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed.

When I would restore the fortunes of my people, when I would heal Israel, the corruption of Ephraim is revealed, and the wicked deeds of Samaria; for they deal falsely, the thief breaks in, and the bandits raid outside. But they do not consider that I remember all their wickedness. Now their deeds surround them, they are before my face.

1 Corinthians 11.17-end
Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine. When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you!

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgement against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If you are hungry, eat at home, so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation. About the other things I will give instructions when I come.

The Collect
Almighty God, whose Son revealed in signs and miracles the wonder of your saving presence: renew your people with your heavenly grace, and in all our weakness sustain us by your mighty power; 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.

Journal: A pressing day

The expression, "It would have been a great party if it wasn't for the people!" Is one I'm often heard to mutter as I leave various gatherings and events: after all, life is full of people full of themselves, isn't it?

The problem with life is the way some people live it. Sometimes it's us and often it's them. Sometimes it frustrates us and causes us tension, pain and (all too often) work - but it would be a boring life without them and we'd have no one to talk about would we?

Jesus came into the world to be the doctor - a very necessary doctor for the world and those upon this little ball of ours, exhibit some very sad symptoms at times and a cure is often required. But the medicine is not always palatable  and often hard to swallow- it can be a bitter pill for the sufferer and those suffering the sufferer too. Especially when the illness carries the label 'totum in me est' (it all depends on me). But of course it doesn't - step back and perhaps there will be some things that won't get done, until they get done differently, and then things will continue exactly the same and yet not (if you get my drift).

One of my mantras is each should carry their own load - but have friends who can help when the journey gets hard. The problem is that some of us, and I am guilty here at times, would struggle on rather than seek help (but I'm happy to have it should it come of it's own volition). I love to be collegial and when we arrived where we are now I started things in the mistaken view (damn you Field of Dreams) that 'if you build it, they will come'. But if they do, it transpired, the come to watch (yeah, just like the film - should have stayed to the end after all!!!).

Lord, I'm laying the Church before You with all those seeking to make their names and build their careers. Clergy do not have careers - pity some in positions of authority don't pass that on, but perhaps that's why they are in authority - neither do the laity, per se, own the roles and positions they occupy: We work in concert to make things happen and to serve God in the ways, and with the means, before us.

Father tonight I pray for the living stones that make up the Church. I pray for those who lead, those who are happy to be led and especially for those who seek power and play games that not even the workplace deserves.

I pray for those who will make mistakes along the road and assume that they have the strength, with or stamina to complete the task before them that they will ask for help and not see this as a sign of weakness. I pray for those who will undertake things and immediately, before the first hill is met, pass the load over to others and, job done, see this as a sign of strength.

Lord I ask that you touch the hearts of those who make Church a place of politics and unhappiness through their factions and controlling natures. Help them to see that being in the team photos is all that matters, especially when they realise that you're the Captain of our local and national (for we are a royal and holy nation) team.

I lay before you those who need healing to help them fulfil their desire to get in the game - help us to encourage them to move at whatever speed they can and to join in such that the game is won.

And at the end may each find ourselves with the victor's crown and your arms of love outstretched and welcoming us into eternity with you assured that we have played the game to the best of our abilities and harmed none.

Lord may we tear a fragment from Hippocrates hand as we look for a team motto:

first, do no harm!

And may we, with this a forethought take the Good News of the kingdom to all people in all places in every season.


Thursday, 26 January 2017

Morning Prayer - 26 January 2017

Epiphany Season
Timothy and Titus, Companions of Paul

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 48
Great is the Lord and highly to be praised, in the city of our God. His holy mountain is fair and lifted high, the joy of all the earth. On Mount Zion, the divine dwelling place, stands the city of the great king. In her palaces God has shown himself to be a sure refuge.

For behold, the kings of the earth assembled and swept forward together. They saw, and were dumbfounded; dismayed, they fled in terror. Trembling seized them there; they writhed like a woman in labour, as when the east wind shatters the ships of Tarshish. As we had heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, the city of our God: God has established her for ever.

We have waited on your loving-kindness, O God, in the midst of your temple. As with your name, O God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is full of justice. Let Mount Zion rejoice and the daughters of Judah be glad, because of your judgements, O Lord. Walk about Zion and go round about her; count all her towers; consider well her bulwarks; pass through her citadels, That you may tell those who come after that such is our God for ever and ever. It is he that shall be our guide for evermore.

Hosea 5.8-6.6
Blow the horn in Gibeah, the trumpet in Ramah.Sound the alarm at Beth-aven; look behind you, Benjamin!

Ephraim shall become a desolation on the day of punishment; among the tribes of Israel I declare what is sure. The princes of Judah have become like those who remove the landmark; on them I will pour out my wrath like water. Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgement, because he was determined to go after vanity. Therefore I am like maggots to Ephraim, and like rottenness to the house of Judah. When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria, and sent to the great king. But he is not able to cure you or heal your wound.

For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I myself will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue. I will return again to my place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face. In their distress they will beg my favour:
‘Come, let us return to the Lord; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us; he has struck down, and he will bind us up.
‘After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.
‘Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; his appearing is as sure as the dawn;
‘he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth.’

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes away early. Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have killed them by the words of my mouth, and my judgement goes forth as the light. For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings.

1 Corinthians 11.2-16
I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you. But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ.

Any man who prays or prophesies with something on his head disgraces his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head—it is one and the same thing as having her head shaved. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil. For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection of God; but woman is the reflection of man. Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man.

Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man. For this reason a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled?

Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. But if anyone is disposed to be contentious—we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

The Collect
Heavenly Father, who sent your apostle Paul to preach the gospel,and gave him Timothy and Titus to be his companions in faith: grant that our fellowship in the Holy Spirit may bear witness to the name of Jesus, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Journal: getting results

That's what it's all about, making the right things happen and the bad things go away, isn't it?

Today has been excellent with God-given opportunities, answered prayer and weird happenings with the Internet - who could ask for anything more?

I feel like this week has been one of corners turned and opportunities emerging where before there was only dark clouds in the horizon; and the reason? Prayer.

How many of us live in the land of 'I wish' when we should be in the land of 'He is able and so therefore am I'. Too many times I hear of the failings of someone else when people speak of their failures and missed opportunities, but the reality is that we are often so taken up with the people we can blame that we forget the God who is able - and that is a major sadness for the Church and the world it is supposed to be serving.

But this week, some people have moved forward and for my part in it I thank God!

Today I am thankful for the encounters He has provided for me and still sorry for the person I might have been and yet was not.

I thank God for the sinner who repented today and the 'far off' who came near.

Lord, as I turn in I thank you for my daily bread, my sins forgiven and Your love and life made real in me. Bring on tomorrow Lord and let us conspire together to show your love made fresh in the new day to come.

Lord, I love You,

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Morning Prayer - 25 January 2017

The Conversion of Paul
Last Day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Psalm 66
Be joyful in God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; sing the glory of his praise. Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! Because of your great strength your enemies shall bow before you. ‘All the earth shall worship you, sing to you, sing praise to your name.’

Come now and behold the works of God, how wonderful he is in his dealings with humankind. He turned the sea into dry land; the river they passed through on foot; there we rejoiced in him. In his might he rules for ever; his eyes keep watch over the nations; let no rebel rise up against him.

Bless our God, O you peoples; make the voice of his praise to be heard, Who holds our souls in life and suffers not our feet to slip. For you, O God, have proved us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the snare; you laid heavy burdens upon our backs. You let enemies ride over our heads; we went through fire and water; but you brought us out into a place of liberty.

I will come into your house with burnt offerings and will pay you my vows, which my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble. I will offer you fat burnt sacrifices with the smoke of rams; I will sacrifice oxen and goats.

Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for my soul. I called out to him with my mouth and his praise was on my tongue. If I had nursed evil in my heart, the Lord would not have heard me, But in truth God has heard me; he has heeded the voice of my prayer.

Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer, nor withheld his loving mercy from me.

Psalm 147.13-21
Sing praise to the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion; For he has strengthened the bars of your gates and has blest your children within you. He has established peace in your borders and satisfies you with the finest wheat.

He sends forth his command to the earth and his word runs very swiftly.
He gives snow like wool and scatters the hoarfrost like ashes.
He casts down his hailstones like morsels of bread; who can endure his frost?
He sends forth his word and melts them; he blows with his wind and the waters flow.
He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and judgements to Israel.
He has not dealt so with any other nation; they do not know his laws.

Ezekiel 3.22-27
Then the hand of the Lord was upon me there; and he said to me, Rise up, go out into the valley, and there I will speak with you. So I rose up and went out into the valley; and the glory of the Lord stood there, like the glory that I had seen by the river Chebar; and I fell on my face. The spirit entered into me, and set me on my feet; and he spoke with me and said to me: Go, shut yourself inside your house. As for you, mortal, cords shall be placed on you, and you shall be bound with them, so that you cannot go out among the people; and I will make your tongue cling to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be speechless and unable to reprove them; for they are a rebellious house. But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God’; let those who will hear, hear; and let those who refuse to hear, refuse; for they are a rebellious house.

Philippians 3.1-14
Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.

To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a safeguard.

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh—even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

The Collect
Almighty God, who caused the light of the gospel to shine throughout the world through the preaching of your servant Saint Paul: grant that we who celebrate his wonderful conversion may follow him in bearing witness to your truth; 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.

Journal: don't answer it!

Of That was the command given for tomorrow - no matter who it is, I'm not to answer the telephone!

How that will go I have no idea - but let's let tomorrow take care of itself, eh?

Today has been a day of order, started later than usual as I stayed in bed later than usual and had a gentle start sorting out paperwork and receipts to get the last of the tax sorted. There have been plenty of pastoral things to cope with and I had a couple of visits (to me) and a couple of trips out too. BUT I managed to get a couple films in and finished another book too.

Readings and listening to lectures, sermons, talks, and almost anything is one of my great loves - along with music and writing and playing and singing and ... Let's try that again: Amongst my many loves you'll find reading and listening to the spoken word! Having found a free source of ebooks I have embarked upon a journey which sees me reading around a book every couple of days. I do this in the 'down time' when others around me are sleeping.

The latest has been the reminiscences of an American Baptist pastor and because they are reminiscences, of course, each tale ends with the focus of the story dying - and that gets a little ????

I recall a detention because of my, as usual, cheeky response regarding the monarchs. All I said was, "They were born, they lived, they died; end of story - nothing to see here, let's move on!" But to the history teacher this was akin to treason and so a week of staying behind writing the names of the kings and queens of England was gifted to me.

Today, when I needed the the passages of scripture were close at hand, unlike the monarch's names, and this reminded me, as I reflected, upon the power of words to confer love, life and something more - eternal life. For the written and the living word are more than the name implies - they each have the ability to reach in past the obvious and 'out of nothing' (ex nihilo) make something special happen.

Francis of Assisi never said, "Go and evangelise, use words if you have to," or any other variant of that - it would have been nice if he had but actually mime isn't that strong a medium! I'm sure that those who use the phrase are pointing to acts and works of kindness, but even the image of the cross, without the words, "All this, for you!" and without the understanding of the what and why and who at least make only for an image of torture and death.

It is only by using words that we can qualify or explain - it is only by being with people (why else does God do the 'incarnate' thing?) that other things also take on flesh - and under all this we have prayer (words, whether spine or thought, still worlds).

Words give form and shape and substance - the living word does this no less than the spoken.

But unless we make Him known, how will they hear?

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Morning prayer - 24 January 2017

Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva, Teacher of the Faith, 1622
Seventh Day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Psalm 34
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall ever be in my mouth. My soul shall glory in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Look upon him and be radiant and your faces shall not be ashamed.

This poor soul cried, and the Lord heard me and saved me from all my troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them. O taste and see that the Lord is gracious; blessed is the one who trusts in him. Fear the Lord, all you his holy ones, for those who fear him lack nothing. Lions may lack and suffer hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.

Come, my children, and listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Who is there who delights in life and longs for days to enjoy good things? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from lying words. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to root out the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry and the Lord hears them and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and will save those who are crushed in spirit.

Many are the troubles of the righteous; from them all will the Lord deliver them. He keeps all their bones, so that not one of them is broken. But evil shall slay the wicked and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord ransoms the life of his servants and will condemn none who seek refuge in him.

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

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

O continue your loving-kindness to those who know you and your righteousness to those who are true of heart. Let not the foot of pride come against me, nor the hand of the ungodly thrust me away. There are they fallen, all who work wickedness. They are cast down and shall not be able to stand.

Hosea 4.1-16
Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel; for the Lord has an indictment against the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or loyalty, and no knowledge of God in the land. Swearing, lying, and murder, and stealing and adultery break out; bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and all who live in it languish; together with the wild animals and the birds of the air, even the fish of the sea are perishing.

Yet let no one contend, and let none accuse, for with you is my contention, O priest. You shall stumble by day; the prophet also shall stumble with you by night, and I will destroy your mother. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

The more they increased, the more they sinned against me; they changed their glory into shame. They feed on the sin of my people; they are greedy for their iniquity. And it shall be like people, like priest; I will punish them for their ways, and repay them for their deeds. They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the whore, but not multiply; because they have forsaken the Lord to devote themselves to whoredom.

Wine and new wine take away the understanding. My people consult a piece of wood, and their divining-rod gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have played the whore, forsaking their God. They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains, and make offerings upon the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade is good.

Therefore your daughters play the whore, and your daughters-in-law commit adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery; for the men themselves go aside with whores, and sacrifice with temple prostitutes; thus a people without understanding comes to ruin.

Though you play the whore, O Israel, do not let Judah become guilty. Do not enter into Gilgal, or go up to Beth-aven, and do not swear, ‘As the Lord lives.’ Like a stubborn heifer, Israel is stubborn; can the Lord now feed them like a lamb in a broad pasture?

1 Corinthians 10.1-13
I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.

Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.’ We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

The Collect
Holy God, who called your bishop Francis de Sales to bring many to Christ through his devout life and to renew your Church with patience and understanding: grant that we may, by word and example, reflect your gentleness and love to all we meet; through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,  one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Journal: Week Off - day one

Well it wasn't the seaside!

The cherry on today's cake goes to the person who asked whether I was enjoying my holiday and, "Was I at the seaside?" Today has been, according to a colleague, "Like his normal day!" and ironically perhaps I found that to be rather helpful and perhaps it can help me to set my high water mark for the rest of the year.

"Living over the shop means that the only way you can take time off is to go away," said another person (who lives almost two miles from their church); and they were probably right as I found myself engaged in pastoral matters which could neither be put off or done by anyone else (and I mean that - I'm not clinging to stuff or being a martyr). But the results and the conversations on the way made it a great day indeed.

So what have I learned today?

Sometimes you need to act boldly, stand in the gap, pray your socks off, and take a bit of control to see a solution take shape. Much like the 'God's garden' comment - you should have seen it before I got working in it! Poor old God, gets all the blame for outcomes where we have been inactive, doesn't He?

Paperwork will, like the poor, always be with us.

People will always expect you to do things, regardless of the label you've given the day!

God will always shine through.

So it wasn't a day off - but I can move that to next week - but it was a day to be thankful for and to celebrate encounters, successes and blessings. Feeling chilled and looking forward to a final day of paperwork.


Monday, 23 January 2017

Morning Prayer - 23 January 2017

Psalm 40
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.He brought me out of the roaring pit, out of the mire and clay; he set my feet upon a rock and made my footing sure. He has put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many shall see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not turn to the proud that follow a lie.

Great are the wonders you have done, O Lord my God. How great your designs for us!
There is none that can be compared with you.

If I were to proclaim them and tell of them they would be more than I am able to express. Sacrifice and offering you do not desire but my ears you have opened; Burnt offering and sacrifice for sin you have not required; then said I:
‘Lo, I come. In the scroll of the book it is written of me that I should do your will, O my God;
‘I delight to do it: your law is within my heart.’

I have declared your righteousness in the great congregation; behold, I did not restrain my lips, and that, O Lord, you know. Your righteousness I have not hidden in my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your loving-kindness and truth from the great congregation.

Do not withhold your compassion from me, O Lord; let your love and your faithfulness always preserve me, For innumerable troubles have come about me; my sins have overtaken me so that I cannot look up; they are more in number than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails me. Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me. Let them be ashamed and altogether dismayed
who seek after my life to destroy it; let them be driven back and put to shame who wish me evil. Let those who heap insults upon me be desolate because of their shame.

Let all who seek you rejoice in you and be glad; let those who love your salvation say always, ‘The Lord is great.’
Though I am poor and needy, the Lord cares for me. You are my helper and my deliverer; O my God, make no delay.

Psalm 108
My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready; I will sing and give you praise. Awake, my soul; awake, harp and lyre, that I may awaken the dawn. I will give you thanks, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praise to you among the nations. For your loving-kindness is as high as the heavens and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens and your glory over all the earth. That your beloved may be delivered, save us by your right hand and answer me.

God has spoken in his holiness:
‘I will triumph and divide Shechem and share out the valley of Succoth.
‘Gilead is mine and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet and Judah my sceptre.
‘Moab shall be my washpot, over Edom will I cast my sandal, across Philistia will I shout in triumph.’

Who will lead me into the strong city?
Who will bring me into Edom?
Have you not cast us off, O God?
Will you no longer go forth with our troops?

O grant us your help against the enemy, for earthly help is in vain. Through God will we do great acts, for it is he that shall tread down our enemies.

Hosea 2.18-3.end
I will make for you a covenant on that day with the wild animals, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will take you for my wife for ever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord.

On that day I will answer, says the Lord, I will answer the heavens and they shall answer the earth; and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel; and I will sow him for myself in the land. And I will have pity on Lo-ruhamah, and I will say to Lo-ammi, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’

The Lord said to me again, ‘Go, love a woman who has a lover and is an adulteress, just as the Lord loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.’ So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer of barley and a measure of wine. And I said to her, ‘You must remain as mine for many days; you shall not play the whore, you shall not have intercourse with a man, nor I with you.’ For the Israelites shall remain many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterwards the Israelites shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; they shall come in awe to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.

1 Corinthians 9.15-end
But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing this so that they may be applied in my case. Indeed, I would rather die than that—no one will deprive me of my ground for boasting! If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe betide me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I might by any means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable garland, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

The Collect
Almighty God, whose Son revealed in signs and miracles the wonder of your saving presence: renew your people with your heavenly grace, and in all our weakness sustain us by your mighty power; 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.

Journal: Old friends - Good God - Love my church

Sunday was a good day for a number of reasons - the majority down to Church (universal) and church (the local expression). Somehow it worked out that I only took one service today, and that was a late one, and was a member of a congregation in an evening joint service - felt strange and a little off to do so little, but hey ho; 'twas fun!'

The week ahead is a 'week off' with the final tax bits and Holocaust Memorial Day all within it - so today was a great unwinding day as I found myself back in our church family playing and preaching and communicating. As much as I enjoy the theology there is something so very relight for me about the pastoral and I rarely reflect negatively upon the decision to take the fork in the road marked 'pastoral' over that marked 'academy' - but grass and it's greenness is always something that appears as an issue in our lives, isn't it?

But at the end of the day our people and the needs of the community and the desire to make Christ known in the streets, in the homes and in the hearts of those who reside there - isn't this the call I follow? The call we should all listen for?

There were many pastoral engagements today - all light and gentle and mutually affirming.

There were many people with needs today and yet the gentle voice of the Spirit poured forth its balm.

The word of God was opened and the three passages before us shown to be a unity - direction was given, correction was offered, and salvation proclaimed - how cool is that?

Then the Christians of the town gathered and we ended our truncated week of Prayer for Christian Unity with a joint service. Met some old friends, promoted Street Angels and had a nice time.

Lord for a day done, I thank You.
For the day to come, I wait expectantly for Your challenges and blessings ahead.
Bless the Lord my souls, bless Him.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Morning Prayer - 21 January 2017

Epiphany Season
Agnes, Child Martyr at Rome, 304
Fourth Day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

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

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

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

May you see your children’s children, and may there be peace upon Israel.

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

Hosea 2.2-17
Plead with your mother, plead—for she is not my wife,  and I am not her husband—that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts,  or I will strip her naked and expose her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and turn her into a parched land, and kill her with thirst.

Upon her children also I will have no pity, because they are children of whoredom. For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers; they give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’

Therefore I will hedge her way with thorns; and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. She shall pursue her lovers, but not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better with me then than now.’

She did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished upon her silver and gold that they used for Baal. Therefore I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season; and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness.

Now I will uncover her shame in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall rescue her out of my hand. I will put an end to all her mirth, her festivals, her new moons, her sabbaths, and all her appointed festivals.  I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees, of which she said, ‘These are my pay, which my lovers have given me.’

I will make them a forest, and the wild animals shall devour them. I will punish her for the festival days of the Baals, when she offered incense to them and decked herself with her ring and jewellery, and went after her lovers, and forgot me, says the Lord.

Therefore, I will now persuade her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. From there I will give her her vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she shallrespond as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

On that day, says the Lord, you will call me, ‘My husband’, and no longer will you call me, ‘My Baal’. For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more.

1 Corinthians 9.1-14
Am I not free?
Am I not an apostle?
Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?
Are you not my work in the Lord?

If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. This is my defence to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to our food and drink? Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who at any time pays the expenses for doing military service? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not get any of its milk?

Do I say this on human authority? Does not the law also say the same? For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.’ Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Or does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was indeed written for our sake, for whoever ploughs should plough in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop. If we have sown spiritual good among you, is it too much if we reap your material benefits? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we still more?

Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is sacrificed on the altar? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

The Collect
Eternal God, shepherd of your sheep, whose child Agnes was strengthened to bear witness in her living and her dying to the true love of her redeemer: grant us the power to understand, with all your saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love that surpasses knowledge, even 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.

Journal: And then it was Friday

All becomes a bit of a shock to find Friday arrive, and pass, as quickly as it has. So many things I planned to get done but find that they weren't done as they gave way to more demanding matters and more pressing needs; yet this is what life in the ministry is all about I guess.

The day now past saw things cancelled through illness as it seems that many of our older people are struggling with colds and other ailments at the moment. Today saw a new thing for me as I start to back away from 'doing' all the time and seek some refreshment and inspiration in reading, reflecting and praying. Well it wasn't 'new' but it was a welcome return for such an encounter - it has always been on the diary but of late it has made way for other stuff.

Today was a day of pastoral and preparation too - holocaust Memorial Day is a week off and there are a few finishing touches to be made to ensure that it does what it should.

Today I ate a sandwich in the sun and celebrated God's provision in my own life too.

So what can I reflect on with regard to today and the five days of the week now past?

There are many cruel, wicked and terrible people out there and yet, that point recognised, the joy is that the good people outnumber them.

There are so many walking under the shadow of death and yet within it that life, love and joy are still to be found and the human, irrepressible and indomitable sprint still makes itself apparent like water leaking from a broken pipe in a wall!

There are too many children who flinch and look scared in this world of ours; too many parents for whom drink is not a relaxation but rather a curse; too many lonely people (of all ages) who find their only companion to be the radio or the TV; too many people who are trapped, or help captive, by the working (or perhaps not working) of their minds.

God is love and those who live in God live in love and God in them - this has been the wall behind which I have crouched this week as the rounds have come in - He is my strength and my shield: mu provider and my protection. This week the stress levels have been perhaps the highest for some very long time as the things before me took their toll and challenges my spiritual, pastoral and intellectual skills. This week I have had cause to weep over those the Christ came to save as the enemy crept forward and engaged us. This week I found myself reflecting upon the 'years the locusts had eaten' (Joel 2) and found myself praying that, for the people before me, they truly would be restored for them.

I don't believe that anyone is born unlucky but I am convinced that some people are definitely 'bullet magnets'! Often they find themselves in a wrong place or a wrong relationship and this pushes them out of the cover of love and security into clear view where they become easy pickings for those who would wish them harm ... and when this happens, who you gonna call?

Lord I lay before you all the encounters of this day, and this week, and I pray for those with whom I have been in contact. May your light have come into their darkest places and the chains that bound them have fallen off and given them sight.

I pray for those whose troubles I know of and the situations that surround me that I might, through Prayer and action, be part of Your solution and never the problem. As you deal with them, deal also with the weaknesses in me. As you heal and inspire them, touch me also.

I give thanks for your provision in the things around me and your forgiveness, grace and mercy as made real by Your love and the ministry of Jesus and the indwelling of Your Holy Spirit. My daily bread and the fogibenesss (given and received) shine before me and reach into the deepest and darkest needs.

Lord, make me a true and faithful workman; one tried, tested and approved.