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“The Collage Of God” by Mark Oakley

collage of god
Wow! Just wow…
In relation to our conversation about Christianity and the rules, someone from the Wychwood Circle Community  very helpfully linked to this piece in the Huffington Post by Mark Oakley about his book. I have ordered it straight away, but meanwhile, here is the opening of his article. I suggest you visit the page to read the whole piece and perhaps also buy the book and we can discuss it here.

Broadly speaking, Christian people fall into two types: resolvers and deepeners. Resolvers are keen to clarify and solidify doctrinal and ethical matters. They like systems of thought, information, prose, full-stops. They often speak of their conclusions being somehow “revealed,” either through their reading of the Bible or the teaching authority of the Church they belong to.

Deepeners, on the other hand, distrust systems and jigsaws of the mind where everything fits together nicely. They prefer poetry to prose, intimation to information, and feel that full-stops need turning into commas because, with God, everything is as yet unfinished. Deepeners will talk of divine revelation but feel more comfortable with God-talk that takes human experience seriously and which is as unafraid to reason as it is unashamed to adore. For these, the mystery of God should be deepened by our God-thoughts, not resolved, and revelation cannot be monopolised by the interpretations of religion.

A healthy Church will undoubtedly need a good conversation between these two types always on the go. Individual Christians probably have a similar dialogue going on in themselves from time to time. At the end of the day, however, they can usually identify which of these two approaches they feel more drawn to.

My book, “The Collage of God,” is written for deepeners. Ever since my experience working in a hospital chaplaincy as part of my ministerial training, I have had to admit to myself that neat and tidy theologies just don’t add up for me. The only way I can make any sense of faith is to see it not as a system but as a collage. By which I mean it is a life-long collecting of fragments, epiphanies, hints and guesses, lit and shadowed — all slowly pieced together into something that often feels painfully senseless close up but which, taking a step or two back, can appear with some surprise to have an integrity and beauty to it. Faith is therefore a beach-combing enterprise and the shores we walk along include the Scriptures, the Christian tradition, relationships, beauty, justice and imagination. The pieces of the collage are placed with truthfulness, prayer and, where possible, a playful delight in the gifts that are being placed into our hands. The pieces don’t all fit neatly with each other but that’s OK. One of the best collages of faith we have is the Bible, where many images and memories jostle together to stir up our response.

Wikipedia has the following:

His initiative of having a series of sermons which explored plays that were currently showing in London, to which the actors and production team of each play came and took part in conversation, is an example of the way Oakley tries to open a dialogue between people of faith and the work of the artistic community. A lecture given by him in Westminster Abbey and Keble College, Oxford in 2002 argued that the Church in its search to be relevant was ironically becoming too secular for the British public and that it should be the deeper human resonances that the Church seeks to identify, explore and dialogue with.[3] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, wrote in 2004 that Oakley’s thinking and approach is in the tradition of Westcott.[4] A more recent article by Oakley in the Church Times, entitled “An Issue! An Issue! We all Fall Down”[5] argues for the renewal of theological generosity in the Anglican spirit. In 2010, the former Poet Laureate, Sir Andrew Motion, wrote a poem dedicated to Oakley entitled “In Winter” and said of him that: “It’s extremely unusual to meet anyone who isn’t a specialist who has such a subtle feeling for language as he does”. Motion has since added that he believes Oakley to be “the best sermoniser I’ve ever heard. And he’s funny, and he knows a lot, and he’s lived”.

Mark Oakley is also the author of ‘Readings for Weddings‘, an anthology of poetry and prose. And his book, The Splash of Words: Believing in Poetry is being re-published next February by Canterbury Press. 

Meanwhile, here is Canon Oakley talking about ‘The Collage of God’ recently at St Paul’s, where he is Chancellor:

Can You Be An Anarchist Christian?


What does it mean to be a Christian? After sixty-five years of trying to be one, I thought I had got the general idea. In particular, I thought I had got what it meant to be a member of the Church of England. I had thought that the point of Anglicanism is that you don’t need to be a theologian to be one. For those who think like me, Jesus offered an executive summary:

And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

Mark 12.29-31 KJV

For all these years, I had taken it as read that the Church of England encompasses such a wide spectrum of theology and ecclesiology that, whereas all would presumably go along with this ‘rule’, any further detailed prescription would result in schism. After all, we have always teased priests that buttons could be left undone on cassocks to indicate which of the Thirty Nine Articles caused them problems. And it is apparently even possible to be an atheist priest, though I am not advocating this.

And then the diocese in which I happen to live decides to impose a few rules on the rest of us.

Strategic Priorities

Under God, delighting in His grace and rooted in the Diocesan rule of life, we will be a Diocese in which:

  1. We grow authentic disciples, going out as individuals passionately, confidently and courageously sharing their faith, and coming together as creative church communities of prayer and worship that live out Kingdom values.
  2. We re-imagine the Church intentionally connecting and engaging with our local communities in culturally relevant ways. We will rejoice in the richness of the “mixed economy” of all ministry and proactively promote vibrant parochial and breathtaking pioneering ministries amongst ‘missing’ generations, eg children, young people, under 35s.
  3. We are agents of social transformation using our influence as a Diocese to transform public and personal life. We will demonstrate loving faith at work in local communities and across the globe bringing healing, restoration and reconciliation, eg through education, social enterprise, health care, spiritual care teams.
  4. We belong together in Christ, practicing sacrificial living and good stewardship of all that God has entrusted to us. We will combine radical generosity, care and capacity building with a clear focus on directing finance into the mission of Jesus. Sharing and multiplying local good practice, using people, buildings and other resources wisely, we will seek to boldly prune, plant and invest in building for the Kingdom.

All right, it is the spelling and style of the above which offends me as much as anything else. If someone targets advertising at you which is illiterate, do you not simply dismiss it?

But the chilling part of this document – apart from the fact that it has a whole page to itself on the diocesan website – is the expression ‘Diocesan rule of life’. What on earth is this? Not in my name, at least. I gather it is based on the Benedictine Rule, a splendid document. However, I am not a Benedictine. Nor do I aspire to be one. And if I did, it would be my own business, emphatically not that of the diocese. I might choose to be a Franciscan, Ignatian, Augustinian, Thomistic…., by what right does the diocese I happen to live in aspire to dictate the characteristics of my spirituality?

I find it disconcerting, to say the least, that my bishop and I have completely different understandings of what it means to be a member of the Church of England. But a shepherd’s crook is meant to guide the sheep, not to be a set of handcuffs supplemented by a prod. I am pretty sure that the bishop cannot impose his rule of life on me, not in this sceptred isle, this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

So I reassert my life as a pew-sitting Anglican in the parish of my choice, free to classify myself as a liberal catholic if I choose.

And then my friend, and occasional sparring partner, Peter Ould, puts a teasing message on his Facebook page:


Steps to break through a liberal’s theological nonsense.

1) Ask the question “Do you want to live a life that is surrendered to the will of God for you?”
2) Ask the question “Do you think it’s unfair that God would permit you to have a sexual desire you shouldn’t act out on?”
3) Repeat asking questions 1 and 2 until the penny clicks.


I try this for several days. The penny does not click. I think my problem is that Peter assumes that if you are a Christian you will have to answer his first question in the affirmative. Whereas my answer is more like ‘sometimes, yes, sometimes no’.

But for me, this is the wrong question about the nature of my relationship with God. Perhaps because I am a cradle Anglican, even my confirmation was an affirmation of everything that had gone before and a hope for things to come rather than any road to Tarsus.  I know there are ten commandments and thirty-nine articles and many other suggestions for our lives, but I do not wake up in the morning filled with a desire to learn and obey all the rules. It is rather like good manners and etiquette. If you understand that good manners is consideration of other people, you do not need the rules of etiquette, they flow from the understanding of the general principle.

For me, Christianity is like that. It matters not whether you know or care about the finer points of theology – so long as you love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your might, and your neighbour as yourself, all else flows from this. Or, as Jesus put it, ‘On this hang all the law and the prophets’  (Matthew 22.40).

There are many hymns which make the same point. What about ‘Immortal love’?

Immortal love, forever full,
Forever flowing free,
Forever shared, forever whole,
A never ebbing sea!

Our outward lips confess the name
All other names above;
Love only knoweth whence it came,
And comprehendeth love.

Blow, winds of God, awake and blow
The mists of earth away:
Shine out, O Light divine, and show
How wide and far we stray…

But warm, sweet, tender, even yet,
A present help is He;
And faith still has its Olivet,
And love its Galilee.

The healing of His seamless dress
Is by our beds of pain;
We touch Him in life’s throng and press,
And we are whole again.

Through Him the first fond prayers are said
Our lips of childhood frame,
The last low whispers of our dead
Are burdened with His Name.

O Lord and Master of us all,
Whate’er our name or sign,
We own Thy sway, we hear Thy call,
We test our lives by Thine.

The letter fails, the systems fall,
And every symbol wanes;
The Spirit over brooding all,
Eternal Love remains.

Intercessions for Eleventh Sunday after Trinity Year A (Proper 17): 31 August 2014


‘Mercy and Truth are Met Together, Righteousness and Peace Have Kissed Each Other’ William Blake c. 1803

The Collect

O God, you declare your almighty power most chiefly in showing mercy and pity: mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace, that we, running the way of your commandments, may receive your gracious promises, and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure; 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.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Exodus 3.1-15

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’ But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I AM has sent me to you.”’ God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”: This is my name for ever, and this my title for all generations.’

Psalm 105.1-6,23-26,45b

O give thanks to the Lord and call upon his name; * make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises, *and tell of all his marvellous works.
Rejoice in the praise of his holy name; * let the hearts of them rejoice who seek the Lord.
Seek the Lord and his strength; * seek his face continually.
Remember the marvels he has done, * his wonders and the judgements of his mouth,
O seed of Abraham his servant, * O children of Jacob his chosen.
Then Israel came into Egypt; * Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.
And the Lord made his people exceedingly fruitful; * he made them too many for their adversaries,
Whose heart he turned, so that they hated his people * and dealt craftily with his servants.
Then sent he Moses his servant * and Aaron whom he had chosen.
That they might keep his statutes * and faithfully observe his laws. Alleluia.

Second Reading:  Romans 12.9-21

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 16.21-28

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’ Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est. (Where there is charity and love, there is also God).

Prayers of Intercession

Lord immortal, and infinite and beyond all our imagining, we pray to you now, knowing that you are also closer to us than our heads to our hearts.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, you are ruler of the infinite spaces, and yet out of your limitless love you chose to be bound to the earth and all its people within the limits of body and time. But we make your love too narrow with false limits of our own. Help us to look above the pettiness of our vision and focus instead on the cosmic dance that you have promised for those who are members of the Body of Christ. Fill our hearts, we pray, with the desire to fix on whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure and whatsoever things are lovely, through your son, our Saviour.

Lord, help us to live in harmony with one another: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, may your Church help to bring peace and reconciliation in this world. At times such peace seems a distant dream, and we know we cannot be peace makers relying on human strength alone. So many problems in our world seem incapable of resolution, as warring factions circle around each other in a dance they seem condemned to repeat for all eternity. But yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory and, through your strength and mercy, we ask for a measure  of your grace.

Lord, help us to live in harmony with one another: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The local community

Lord, when we feel the desire to withdraw into our own little worlds, set our hearts on fire with love of you so that we may see your face in the eyes of those we live amongst. Help us to be open to sharing our lives, and all the blessings that you have given us, with each other. For such human contact can be a real blessing and may even lead to our being ‘surprised by joy’.

Lord, help us to live in harmony with one another: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Those who suffer

Lord, when we ask you to deliver us from evil, we pray not so much for mercy  in granting us success in our undertakings, as finding the grasp of your hand in our failures. Not so much to be sheltered from all dangers as to be fearless in facing them. Not so much for the removal of all pain as for the hearts to conquer it. And we pray for the peace that comes with acceptance, as we seek a haven under the shadow of your wings.

Lord, help us to live in harmony with one another: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we pray for all those who are now at peace and free from pain and fear as they rest in your kingdom in the company of all your saints.

Lord, help us to live in harmony with one another: in your mercy, hear our prayer


Copyright acknowledgement: Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA. Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Collect (11th after Trinity) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

Intercessions for the Feast of St Bartholomew the Apostle (Year A) 24 August 2014


Saint Bartholomew by Anthony Van Dyck
Saint Bartholomew by Anthony Van Dyck


The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach your word: grant that your Church may love that word which he believed and may faithfully preach and receive the same; 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.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Isaiah 43.8-13

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?

Psalm 145.1-7

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, *and 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.

Second Reading: Acts 5.12-16

Many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.

Gospel Reading: Luke 22.24-30

A dispute also arose among the twelve as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’


Prayers of Intercession

Lord God, we ask you now to show us the places where love, and hope, and faith, are needed, and to use us to bring them there.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, teach us again in your Church how to be your servants today. Teach us to do your will and walk in your way with humility, care, and true joy. In the crowded agenda of the work of the Church, beset on all sides by meetings without number, let us not lose sight of your truth. Give us the lifeline of your Spirit, an injection of hope. Replenish us with your vision. Renew us with hope of transformative action. Renew us with a sense of your purpose.

 Lord, give us grace to be your hands and feet: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

For the greening of the woodland, for the grains of the harvest, for the fruits in their season, we give you thanks. Lord of all good gifts, we thank you for the trustworthiness of so many people in their repeated tasks for the common good. We touch a mystery unsearchable and wonderful, the marvel of the everyday. And you, Lord, are constant and faithful, abundant in steadfast love, passionate and limitless in the giving of yourself to us and all the world, partners as we are in your covenant of creation.

 Lord, give us grace to be your hands and feet: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The local community

Lord, help the older generation to learn from the young, and the younger generation not to be blind to the wisdom of the old. May the young be given the space and love in which to grow and to thrive. May their energy and their enthusiasm bring joy to the old. May the young never lose their curiosity about everything on our planet. May our old be recognised as the taproot of our society, which has had the time to explore deeply the soil from which we spring. May they be enabled to use their accumulated wisdom to encourage and inspire the young.

 Lord, give us grace to be your hands and feet: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶Those who suffer

Lord fill us, we pray, with the love that heals, the love that forgives, the love that longs to be given away. Give us the love that grows, that we may in turn grow in love. And give us the understanding and the love truly to feel the suffering of others.   Breath of God, be our life this day; be our compassion. Breath of God, flow where there is hurt and hatred. Breath of God, flow into all places of distress and darkness, of despair and desolation. Breath of God, flow where life is coming to an end; flow into the kingdom of death. Breath of God, flow into us, through us, as grace, as love, as Spirit, as life.

 Lord, give us grace to be your hands and feet: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The communion of saints

For some of your children, Lord, the day you gave on earth is ended. We pray for those that have gone before us, that they may rest in peace and rise to greet a new dawn in which they are united with you.

 Lord, while we are on earth give us grace to be your hands and your feet: in your mercy, hear our prayer.


Church House Intercessions

Encouraged by our fellowship with all the saints,   let us make our prayers to the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, your Son called men and women to leave the past behind them and to follow him as his disciples in the way of the cross. Look with mercy upon those whom he calls today, marks with the cross  and makes his disciples within the Church …
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Your Son told his disciples not to be afraid and at Easter breathed on them his gift of peace. Look with mercy upon the world into which he sent them out, and give it that peace for which it longs …
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Your Son formed around him a company who were no longer servants but friends, and he called all those who obeyed him his brother and sister and mother. Look with mercy upon our families and our friends and upon the communities in which we share …
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Your Son sent out disciples to preach and heal the sick. Look with mercy on all those who yearn to hear the good news of salvation, and renew among your people the gifts of healing …
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Your Son promised to those who followed him that they would sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel and would share the banquet of the kingdom. According to your promise, look with mercy on those who have walked with Christ in this life and now have passed through death …
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Luke 22.24-30 © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA. Intercessions (Apostles & Evangelists 1) © Michael Perham. Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000. Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council Collect (Bartholomew) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

Today is also  the Tenth Sunday after Trinity and Proper 16, but Visual Liturgy says that the Feast of St Bartholomew is not normally displaced. As you see above, you also have the choice of Church House’s intercessions or the ones I have suggested…

Intercessions for Ninth Sunday after Trinity Year A (Proper 15 ) 17 August 2014

The Spirit of Christianity by George Frederic Watts

The Spirit of Christianity
by George Frederic Watts

The Collect

Almighty God, who sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your Church:  open our hearts to the riches of your grace, that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in love and joy and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Genesis 45.1-15

Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, ‘Send everyone away from me.’ So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?’ But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come closer to me.’ And they came closer. He said, ‘I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither ploughing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there – since there are five more years of famine to come – so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.” And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honoured in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.’ Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Psalm 133

Refrain: Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Behold how good and pleasant it is * to dwell together in unity.
It is like the precious oil upon the head, * running down upon the beard,
Even on Aaron’s beard, * running down upon the collar of his clothing.
It is like the dew of Hermon * running down upon the hills of Zion.
For there the Lord has promised his blessing: * even life for evermore.
Refrain: Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Second Reading: Romans 11.1-2a,29-32

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 15.(10-20)21-28

Then Jesus called the crowd to him and said to them, ‘Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.’ Then the disciples approached and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees took offence when they heard what you said?’ He answered, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘Explain this parable to us.’ Then he said, ‘Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.’ Jesus went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.‘ And her daughter was healed instantly.

This is one of the most difficult set of lectionary readings in the three-year cycle, at least I find it so. I, for one, am quite relieved on this occasion not to be allowed, as a lay person, to preach on it. But even choosing suitable prayers is not without its pitfalls. On the Gospel text, Jeffrey John gives an illuminating explanation on pp 111-118 of The Meaning in the Miracles. (searching ‘crumbs’ will take you to p.111). It is a strange week to be reminded that the Gentiles are dogs in comparison to the Children of Israel, who are supposed to suffer for the sake of the world – let’s not go there. There is a strong nudge for the Church of England’s ‘facilitated conversations’ in the message that it is what comes from the heart that is unclean, not neglect of the rules in Leviticus. So, before you start, I recommend listening to this Ambrosian Chant version of the psalm, Ecce quam bonum et jocundum, which is the great treat from today’s readings. 

Prayers of Intercession

Lord, as we come before you to pray for the needs of others, we ask you in turn to tell us what you would have from us.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, we long to dwell together in unity, and we know that nothing would gladden your heart more. Yet we seem unable to achieve this. As each one of us continues on our pilgrim way, let us at least rest together, sharing the stories and meals that refresh us. Let us share our griefs, our fears and our anger. But let us share also our joys and our laughter. And if our paths should diverge again, let us each bring to our next encounter the experience of the road we have chosen to travel . Then, endeavouring to be faithful and true servants, may we delight in your blessing.

Lord, open our hearts to the riches of your grace: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, these are the times that try men’s souls. We, your children, are bewildered by the human cruelty we see in the world. But we are also overwhelmed by the generosity of those who seek to mitigate the damage that is being done. We cry out to you in the trouble of our whole planet, for we have exhausted our imaginations in seeking a peaceful resolution of the conflicts. We ask you to confront the forces of chaos and to bring us out from our distress.

Lord, open our hearts to the riches of your grace: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The local community

Lord, as relations between those we live amongst become occasionally fractious, let us not hurl insults at each other.  We know only too well that to be human is to be flawed. We know that we are born bruised, limping a little along the path of life. But we know also that redemption does not mean starting again from pristine perfection. Redemption enfolds us complete with the scars of life. Redemption enables us to enfold each other, through your love.

Lord, open our hearts to the riches of your grace: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶Those who suffer

Lord, where the ground is arid, cause new springs of living water to arise. Where no bird sings and no blade of grass can grow, breathe new creation into that world. Where the only sound is the cacophony of distant thunder, may the tumult fall silent and the sound of the turtledove be heard in that land. Where walls are broken down, build them anew. Where lives are in ruins, make them whole once more.

Lord, open our hearts to the riches of your grace: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The communion of saints

We pray for all those who are now beyond the conflicts of this world. May they rest in peace and rise in glory, in your presence for ever and ever.

Lord, open our hearts to the riches of your grace: in your mercy, hear our prayer.


Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000

Intercessions for Eighth Sunday after Trinity Year A (Proper 14) 10 August 2014


Gustave Courbet ‘The Stormy Sea’ via Wikimedia

The Collect

Almighty Lord and everlasting God, we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern both our hearts and bodies in the ways of your laws and the works of your commandments; that through your most  mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved in body and soul; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word


First Reading: Genesis 37.1-4,12-28

Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.’ He answered, ‘Here I am.’ So he said to him, ‘Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.’ So he sent him from the valley of Hebron. He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, ‘What are you seeking?’ ‘I am seeking my brothers,’ he said; ‘tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.’ The man said, ‘They have gone away, for I heard them say, “Let us go to Dothan.“’ So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, ‘Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.’ But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, ‘Let us not take his life.’ Reuben said to them, ‘Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him’ – that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, ‘What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.’ And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.


Psalm 105.1-6,16-22,45b

O give thanks to the Lord and call upon his name; *make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises, *and tell of all his marvellous works.
Rejoice in the praise of his holy name; *let the hearts of them rejoice who seek the Lord.
Seek the Lord and his strength; *seek his face continually.
Remember the marvels he has done, *his wonders and the judgements of his mouth,
O seed of Abraham his servant, *O children of Jacob his chosen.
Then he called down famine over the land *and broke every staff of bread.
But he had sent a man before them, *Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
They shackled his feet with fetters; *his neck was ringed with iron.
Until all he foretold came to pass, *the word of the Lord tested him.
The king sent and released him; *the ruler of peoples set him free.
He appointed him lord of his household *and ruler of all he possessed,
To instruct his princes as he willed *and to teach his counsellors wisdom.
That they might keep his statutes *and faithfully observe his laws. Alleluia.

Second Reading: Romans 10.5-15

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them.’ But the righteousness that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”’ (that is, to bring Christ down) ‘or “Who will descend into the abyss?”’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you,
on your lips and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’


Gospel Reading: Matthew 14.22-33

Immediately after feeding the crowd with the five loaves and two fish, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

You must think I have a financial share in the sales of Jane Williams’ books, or that she is a particular friend of mine. Neither is the truth (I have never met or been in touch with her) but time and again I find she is the best of all the commentaries that I read. And this week I have looked at five interpretations, including the one written by those who put the lectionary together – they amplify but, for me, do not replace pp 98-99 of Lectionary Reflections.  (searching ‘taskmaster’ will take you to page 98). Here is part of her conclusion:

Christianity is not a system, which some people can use easily and some can’t…Christianity is a relationship, offered by God…in which we are constantly tutored and encouraged by the Holy Spirit. No one is ‘good’ at it, but that’s all right, because entrance is not by exam…The temptation is to go off looking for challenges to prove your worth to God, or seeking him in the terrifying power of the wind, the earthquake and the fire, because surely silence and the rhythm of your own heart are too small and mundane for God? Elijah, the disciples and Paul…all learn to be much more awed by God’s offer of intimacy than by any other kind of demonstration. In the end, what more could we want?


Prayers of Intercession

That the power of Christ may uphold us in peril and in our weakness, we pray in his name.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, your Church finds itself in the midst of a tempest, as did that boat on the Sea of Galilee. The pounding waves that we hear are in part attempts by the world to understand and live harmoniously with the Church, and in part attempts at submerging the Church once and for all by those who have lost patience with what seems like hypocrisy and intransigence. The Church itself, for its part, causes turbulence in its dealings with the world in which we all live and move and have our being by seeming to seek only to condemn.  Oh God, we ask you to help us raise our gaze once more heavenwards.

Lord, we beseech you to still first the waves and then our souls: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, when we see conflict between nations on every side, we feel powerless to help and fear to intervene lest we only exacerbate the situation. If there is a way to build understanding and to reduce fear, please show us how we might help to do this. Calm the storms, we pray, that trouble the world and deliver us from fear so that we may see love and faithfulness coming together, and justice and mercy embracing. Then may the world  live in peace with each other, based on your love, truth and light.

Lord, we beseech you to still first the waves and then our souls: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The local community

Lord, give us the wisdom to know that so many of our difficulties are beyond our abilities to resolve unaided.  In the storms of life, bid us come to you so that we, who are aware of our weakness, may be made strong in you. Give our community the confidence to believe that you will guide the future as you have the past. When we set out in faith to join you in the storms of life, let us not hesitate, lest we begin to sink, and need a miracle to survive.

Lord, we beseech you to still first the waves and then our souls: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Those who suffer

Lord, buoy up all those who feel themselves sinking beneath the waves of pain and sorrow. When we are in danger of being overwhelmed, increase our faith, and through every storm of life help us  to keep our gaze fixed on you. If we should falter, or look down at the perils below us, we ask you to stretch out your hand to raise us up once more. So may we learn to hold fast to you, through good or ill, until we have passed through the valley of the shadows.

Lord, we beseech you to still first the waves and then our souls: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we bring before you all those who have travelled over the tempestuous sea of this mortal life to reach the heavenly harbour of peace and felicity. May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

Lord, we beseech you to still first the waves and then our souls: in your mercy, hear our prayer


Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):  Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Collect (8th after Trinity) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

‘Musings on Mystery’: Andrew’s New Blog


I want to recommend to you the hoped-for outpourings of a new Christian, whom I have come to know through Facebook. He says this about himself:

Hello! I’m Andrew. History teacher, Christian, identical twin, London-dweller and countryside-lover (among other things). This blog is my attempt to share my experience of the mystery of God, and to create a space for generous conversations.

I do not think any potential followers will be disappointed.


Against all my better instincts, however, I have decided to start a blog. Why?

Longstanding friends of mine will know that, over the last three years of my life, I have changed in one particularly obvious and atypical way: after a pretty secular upbringing (which fared me well for 19 years), at university I came to embrace the Christian faith and started attending church. This process was sudden and intense, like an all-consuming love affair. My parents were alarmed, mystified and embarrassed at my sudden desire to devour theological books in my spare time and throw myself enthusiastically into as many church-related activities as my university life allowed. Although willing to tolerate occasional, discrete Sunday morning churchgoing, they admitted to being baffled by my new-found piety. After realising that it wasn’t “just a phase”, they openly enquired as to whether I was going through an emotional crisis, in which religion was adopted as a ‘crutch’ to aid my self-delusion. Amongst my existing friends meanwhile, my apparently-intense conversion aroused either brief, polite curiosity or embarrassed silence and indifference.

In many respects, these reactions are perfectly understandable. As one fantastic book which I recently read underlined starkly, the gulf between faith and unbelief in modern British society is wider than ever before, particularly in my generation. Only 5% of British people in my age bracket (16-25), for instance, identify as Anglican. In less than 50 years, British culture has rapidly lost its familiarity with Christian language and rituals; faith and unbelief have become mutually unintelligible, and responses to Christianity generally range from ignorance and indifference to scorn and vocal hostility (much of which, incidentally, I consider to be fully understandable). This gulf is one which I feel particularly sharply: I often feel as though my life is torn between two separate cultures (church and non-church), with separate languages and sharply deviating priorities.

So why have I started blogging? At heart, my motivation is pretty selfish: I am dissatisfied with being torn in two! In my blog, I am seeking to generate constructive and honest dialogue between faith and unbelief, in part so that my friends and family can understand me better. With as much honesty, humility and humour as I can muster, I hope to invite engagement with the mystery of Christian faith as I have received it, by sharing my own experiences and inviting critical comment. Although now a Christian, I empathise hugely with my agnostic/atheist friends and family; whilst my blog posts might not change anyone’s views, they might in some small way help us to understand each other better.

Over the next few weeks, my plan is to write around six or seven short blog posts exploring my experiences. They will cover themes such as ‘what on earth is Christian “faith” and what is it grounded in?’, ‘what is Christian morality?’ and ‘what is the point of going to church?’. These are all designed to engage with common assumptions held by friends and family. Before I start though, I want to make some things really clear, to avoid misconceptions:

  • This is not an attempt to persuade or ‘convert’ people to Christianity. There is no ulterior motive here. I sincerely believe that I have undergone an experience which is in some small way interesting, and I would like to share it in order to generate interesting dialogue. I hope that the comments/responses will be at least as interesting (and probably more so!) than the blog posts themselves.
  • I do not consider myself or my experiences to be ‘special’ or necessarily typical. I am not writing on behalf of anyone beyond myself. I do not presume any inherent right to be listened to. I am entirely dependent on your generosity as readers! There is a risk that no one will read it – a risk which I’ll just have to accept!
  • I will attempt to avoid theological language as much as possible, in order to be accessible to all. I do not have a degree in theology, and count myself as an ‘amateur theologian’ at best. I will only quote from the Bible occasionally and if absolutely necessary. I do hope however to say nothing heretical…!



You can read the whole post here. Do visit the blog and offer Andrew some encouragement on his first post.

Intercessions for Seventh Sunday after Trinity Year A (Proper 13): 3 August 2014


The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes. Basilica di Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo. Ravenna 6th c

The Collect

Lord of all power and might,the author and giver of all good things:graft in our hearts the love of your name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of your great mercy keep us in the same; 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.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading:Genesis 32.22-31

Jacob got up, took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Psalm 17.1-7,16

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

Second Reading:Romans 9.1-5

I am speaking the truth in Christ – I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit – I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

Gospel Reading:Matthew 14.13-21

When Jesus heard that Herod had beheaded John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Jeffrey John writes about the two ways of looking at parables (unthinking acceptance or debunking) in general here. One of the reasons it feels as if we keep coming across the story of the loaves and the fishes is that we do! The feeding of the 5,000 is covered here in Matthew,  Mark 6.30-44 (Year B Proper 11) and Luke 9.12-17. And then there is the feeding of the 4,000 which is in Matthew 15.32-38 and Mark 8.1-9. So it seems an important parable. In The Meaning of the Miracles Jeffrey John comments on pages 62-70 (which you can find here by searching ‘superabundance’). To paraphrase, Jesus is the new Moses, and the new Elisha, fulfilling the Law and the Prophets. He is feeding the Jews and the Gentiles with the Word of God. And symbolically, the loaves and fishes of course represent the Eucharist.


Prayers of Intercession

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, to praise you is to breathe. To give you thanks is to know we are alive. As a leaf responds to the sun, so our song rises to you. As you feed us with bread and wine, you refine the dross in us and renew the good. Show us, O God,  the bridges between our world and yours, and may your peaceable kingdom be a land we learn how to enter often and know well. Lord of rescue and refuge, of shelter and of strength, when all is turning upside down may we turn to you, our still centre.

Lord of all power and might, in your mercy hear our prayer.

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, where the oppressed hunger for hope let justice roll like a river. Where the orphaned battle bitterness and long for love, let your healing be shed upon them.  If hope at times is hard to hold, you are still our God. Though wild winds may rattle our walls, and storms may shake us, you are our sure foundation and your hold on us is our hope. You hide the path you want for us under the path we already walk. You bury wisdom in the places we already pass. Give us, we pray, the determination to dig. 1

Lord of all power and might, in your mercy hear our prayer.

¶The local community

Lord, you promised that if we set out to give freely and widely of your love, our store will never run dry but be constantly replenished.  May the needs of our neighbours speak loud to us today, and may we find that in giving, we grow closer to you. And then, link by link and chain by chain, may we so encircle the globe with your love that all violent conflict will cease,  as humans  beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.

Lord of all power and might, in your mercy hear our prayer.

¶Those who suffer

Lord, be with all those who mourn today. Those who weep for their own sufferings, and those who weep for the wanton destruction of human life in the Middle East and Ukraine. Let us recall that tomorrow is the centenary of the beginning of the First World War, and in remembering that terrible series of events, we ask you, O God,  once more to strengthen our resolve to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.

Lord of all power and might, in your mercy hear our prayer.

¶The communion of saints

Lord, grant refreshment, light and peace to all those who no longer have need of the bread of this world for they are in communion with you. May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

Lord of all power and might, in your mercy hear our prayer.

1 This passage is based on ideas in ‘Twitturgies’ by Gerald Kelly. I normally do not base these intercessions on political events, because I leave you to include these from your local perspective. However, the international situation has been so agonising to watch for the last several weeks that I am breaking my own rule.

Copyright acknowledgement: Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA. Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000. Collect (7th after Trinity) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

Intercessions for Sixth Sunday after Trinity Year A (Proper 12): 27 July 2014


The Collect

Merciful God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as pass our understanding: pour into our hearts such love toward you that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain our promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Genesis 29.15-28

Laban said to Jacob, ‘Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?’ Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.’ Laban said, ‘It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.’ So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.’ So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?’ Laban said, ‘This is not done in our country giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.’ Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

Psalm 105.1-11,45b

O give thanks to the Lord and call upon his name; *make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises, *and tell of all his marvellous works.
Rejoice in the praise of his holy name; *let the hearts of them rejoice who seek the Lord.
Seek the Lord and his strength; * seek his face continually.
Remember the marvels he has done, *his wonders and the judgements of his mouth,
O seed of Abraham his servant, *O children of Jacob his chosen.
He is the Lord our God; *his judgements are in all the earth.
He has always been mindful of his covenant, *the promise that he made for a thousand generations:
The covenant he made with Abraham, *the oath that he swore to Isaac,
Which he established as a statute for Jacob, *an everlasting covenant for Israel,
Saying, ‘To you will I give the land of Canaan *to be the portion of your inheritance.’
That they might keep his statutes *and faithfully observe his laws. Alleluia.

Second Reading: Romans 8.26-39

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than  conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 13.31-33,44-52

Jesus put before the crowd another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’ He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened. The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’

The gospel this week is so packed with parables that it is like being spun round several times on the spot and left to find our way, rather groggily, to the nearest place we can sit down and take it all in. I cannot quote the whole of Jane Williams on the subject, but I do recommend you read her, which you can do here (pp 94-95 – searching for ‘scribe’ will take you to page 95). Perhaps the most evocative commentary of all is R S Thomas’s ‘The Bright Field’, which he reads here; the text is here.

Prayers of Intercession

Let us pray to the God of compassion for the light to know his will, and the grace to obey it.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, again and again you renew your promise, putting a new heart and spirit within us. You demand no unthinking obedience, no loyalty blind and correct. You do not try to control us, but instead seek the pledge of our wills and our hearts, freely given in love for you. You have bound yourself to us, and we belong inextricably to you and to each other. Keep us giving and receiving your presence among us, protecting those who are weak and in need, our trust deepening through sacraments of love.

Lord, give us grace to work for the coming of your kingdom: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, we have rejoiced at the sight of the sun breaking through the clouds for an instant to illuminate a small field. We have gazed in wonder at the ocean. And in those moments, we have glimpsed a sight of your face. And then the mundane concerns of the every day world resurface and we forget the glories of these treasures. Help us to live in the moment. Help us never to forget these times when we are filled with awe at the marvels of your creation, and lost in wonder, love and praise.

Lord, give us grace to work for the coming of your kingdom: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The local community

Lord, give us the insight to see the miraculous in the everyday things that surround us. Give us the insight to see the face of your Son in everyone with whom we come into contact. Let us embrace one another, choosing in friendship to share our being and becoming. Let us learn from the farmers of the East, who use two people to accomplish every task, one to push and one to pull, so that everyone may be employed in the vineyard of the Lord as  we offer you our hands and feet to do your work.

Lord, give us grace to work for the coming of your kingdom: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Those who suffer

Lord, give us, and all who are in pain, courage today. Courage that we may think about something other than the distress that we feel. Courage that we may not dwell on a future which we fear may be bleak. Courage to put ourselves in the place of those around us and spare them the misery of watching the suffering of those whom they love. Give all who suffer the strength to look outwards, rather than inwards. May your eternal spirit flood our souls and bodies, filling every corner with light and grace; so that we may be diffusers of life, meeting all ills with gallant and high-hearted happiness, giving you thanks always for all things.

Lord, give us grace to work for the coming of your kingdom: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we thank you for all the saints who went before us, who have spoken to our hearts and touched us with your fire. Lord, we thank you for all the saints who live beyond us, who challenge us to change the world with them. And we thank you for your promise that death shall have no more dominion.

Lord, give us grace to work for the coming of your kingdom: in your mercy, hear our prayer


Copyright acknowledgement : Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA. Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000. Collect (6th after Trinity, Short) © The Archbishops’ Council 2005

‘House of Bishops’ Declaration and the Five Guiding Principles’: Tim Hind

Statue of Saint Peter by Giuseppe de Fabris

Part of the legislative package that the General Synod passed at their meeting in York in July 2014 is a Declaration by the House of Bishops regarding the way in which they will operate should the legislation come into law in due course. It is predicated on five principles which have gained universal acceptance by all sides of the debate.

In November 2012, the General Synod seemed to implode as it came to terms with what some had been predicting for some time, namely that the vote for the current legislation would be lost because it would fail to get the requisite majority (66.7%) in all three Houses – and particularly in the House of Laity. There were many dire consequences predicted but we need to keep in focus that, should it have been passed, the Code of Practice had yet to be debated – it was only in draft form – and that even with a fair wind and using our pedestrian procedures we would be heading for finalisation in 2015!  In fact we would be likely to be still arguing over the nitty gritty of the Code of Practice. Frightening!

As a result of a bit of creative use of procedures, coupled with the application of the reconciliation ministry from Coventry in the form of facilitated conversations, there has been a dramatic turn around and a successful conclusion to this chapter in the history of the Church of England.

So what is so special about the 5 principles?

The principles can be paraphrased as follows but it is vital that the Declaration & its Annex must be examined in full!

1 The Church of England treats all ordained people, regardless of gender, the same and expects others to do the same

2 All Church of England ministers must accept that this decision has been made clearly

3 the Church of England recognises that this must be set against a backdrop of differing opinions within the Anglican Communion & Ecumenical Partnerships

4 Within the Church of England, the Church is committed to enabling all to flourish within its life and structures

5 There will be no time limit imposed on any pastoral or sacramental provision made to satisfy the 4th principle.

Now it is possible be either sceptical or cynical about these principles. However, those who have a positive outlook will be at worst sceptical – the proof of the pudding argument.

Just after the train crash of 2012, one suffragan standing in during a vacant see said “The mistrust of the bishops in Synod is palpable”. It is clear to almost everyone that there has been a seed change in the House of Bishops since then. If nothing else the introduction of 8 regional women observers has occurred and that in itself has further changed the dynamics within meetings of that House.

So, for me, the idea that a positive declaration from the House of Bishops that they are going to commit to a way of acting out the 5 principles is now believable.

We have a new legislative package, a new commitment that people will be treated fairly, a set if 5 principles that impose duties on all sides of the argument.

We can now be confident, as John Spence said in the final speech from the floor of Synod, that Christ can be restored to his rightful place.

tim hind

Tim Hind

Vice Chair House of Laity General Synod but writing in a personal capacity.

I am very grateful to Tim Hind for agreeing to help us ‘unpack’ the fine print in the agreement to raise women to the episcopate. Whichever wing of the Church you are from, there are principles that make you want to cheer, as well as others that may make you nervous as to how they will work out in practice. But Tim is the best possible guide to this, as he has a ‘feel’ second to none for the workings of the Church of England.

He does not volunteer the information, so I will on his behalf, that he is a member of the Archbishops Council:

“The Archbishops’ Council provides within the Church of England a focus for leadership and executive responsibility and a forum for strategic thinking and planning. Within an overall vision for the Church set by the House of Bishops, the Council proposes an ordering of priorities in consultation with the House of Bishops and the General Synod and takes an overview of the Church’s financial needs and resources.”

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