Lay Anglicana, the unofficial voice of the laity throughout the Anglican Communion.
This is the place to share news and views from the pews.

Get involved ...

Westminster Faith Debates, Unity and Diversity: by Erika Baker

wfd

 


 


 

A purely subjective account

 

I had been really looking forward to the Westminster Faith Debate “Diversity – what kind of unity is appropriate nationally and internationally, how can diversity become a strength?”, the penultimate one in this year’s series organised by Professor Linda Woodhead from Lancaster University.

 

The format of the debates is a 5 minute talk by each of the panellists followed by a brief moderated discussion between them, which is really more a question and answer format than a genuine conversation between the speakers. There is then a period for contributions from the floor and slightly longer contributions from the designated provocateurs.

 

I won’t summarise all the contributions here, they can shortly be listened to here, and Colin Coward published a very good summary of them here  .

 

Laura has asked me for a “smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd” contribution… well, the first thing to say is that there was indeed a full crowd, plenty of spontaneous applause (as well as the customary “end of speech” version) and that there were many interesting questions raised by various people in the audience.

 

The first speaker was Bishop Trevor Mwamba from Botswana, now Assistant Bishop in Chelmsford. I must confess, I had not heard of Bishop Trevor before and my initial suspicion was “an African bishop, well, we can guess where this is going”. I was delighted when Bishop Trevor spoke warmly about embracing diversity, and I also felt hugely ashamed of my completely unfounded original prejudice. SUCH a dangerous thing, suspicion and prejudice, and although I try so hard to be genuinely open to everyone, I still catch myself out every now and then.

 

It made me think that much of our debates around women bishops and about lgbt inclusion is characterised by mutual suspicion.

 

That perception was reinforced when the discussion was opened up to the floor and the first question was for a show of hands about whether the audience believed that the vote on women bishops had been a success and that it would provide stability and unity in difference. The vast majority voted “yes”, but I sensed with great hesitation, and if we had known that there would be a third option “we don’t know yet”, many of us would probably have voted for that. Talking to people afterwards, it was clear that traditionalists weren’t sure that the promises given to them would be kept indefinitely, whereas the women were still shocked by the complete lack of joy and celebration in General Synod after the final vote in favour and felt that there was still a very long way to go before the church truly celebrated women’s ministry.

 

One of the key comments for me came from Miranda Threlfall-Holmes who said that when she had first been one of those who came up with the idea of “mutual flourishing” it had been intended to be not a legalistic but a relational concept whereby we are each committed to the flourishing of the other. Since then, the term had morphed to mean “my right” to “my own flourishing”.

It is not clear to me why we can’t have both, why a focus on someone else’s flourishing is seen as threatening my own rights and place. And for me our inability to say not “either/or” but “both” will remain one of the great mysteries of our church debates. But if we could do what Miranda proposes, if we could focus on relationships and on the flourishing of the other, we would be a good deal further on than we are.

 

The actual debate was incredibly polite and measured, to the point that Simon Sarmiento criticised the panellists for being too nice to each other.

 

Someone from the floor commented that people tend to be nice when they meet face to face but that they can be quite vicious online.

 

Yes…. but no. It’s not the tone of the debate that’s the problem but its content. Anger and insults are as counterproductive as this appalling ice cold, dismissive politeness that so often characterises our conversations. Last night’s debate was perfectly polite but also, at some level, perfectly bland. I suspect it’s partly the format of the moderated panel discussion that does not allow a robust debate to develop. All anyone can do is to disagree politely and there is no mechanism and no time for teasing out the root of disagreement and of engaging with that passionately.

 

For me, coming from the lgbt sector, there is the added frustration of this huge imbalance of power, because my views about my own life still count for nothing in the church. We are still not formally included in the next round of discussions, which feels like yet again others talking passionately about us behind closed doors, reserving the right to make decisions on our behalf.

Having heard David Porter speak, I do believe that if anyone can make a go of guiding the conversations in the church, it is him. He has a sense of urgency and an appreciation of the difficulties on all sides. And yet, suspicion remains my overriding emotion.

 

This was encapsulated perfectly by a passionate contribution from the floor from a woman who had the courage to make the debate personal and who started by saying that God clearly had a sense of humour, making her female, gay and evangelical! She asked about the reality of lgtb suffering in the church and at the hand of church. And while there was passionate applause for her and some very heart-felt comments from the panellists, especially from Alan Wilson and Miranda, Andrew Symes from Anglican Mainstream acknowledged that Christian demands weren’t always easy for people and that one had to have compassion, but that one nevertheless had to draw lines…and we were back in the “head space”, the territory of supposedly purely theological and rational debate about us, where people take ownership of their ideas but no responsibility for the impact these ideas have on real people’s lives. And we just have to sit back and trust these people to decide our future in the church… not easy!

 

Fascinating also how we all hear each other’s contributions in our own way, reinforcing our own thoughts.

Miranda spoke very clearly about the problems presented by the bible, about how the historical texts get many things wrong, about the various theologies and the diversity within its many books.

Andrew, in his final summing up, commented that one of the things he had heard that evening was that people had problems with the bible. He stressed that he didn’t have any, his church didn’t have any.

And it was clear that had heard what Miranda had said as a liberal admission of confusion rather than complexity, and of not taking the bible seriously.

We have this inability to truly hear what the other is saying and we only ever seem to reinforce our own stereotype of their views.

 

How can one break through this?

For a possible approach we could turn to the women bishops debate and the almost hopeless situation after the first vote was lost in General Synod. There seemed no way out, everything had been said, people were talking at each other rather than with each other, there was a sense of fatigue, and one could almost believe that it would be impossible to break the deadlock.

Yesterday, David Porter talked about that moment and about the facilitated conversations that followed.

At the start of the subsequent facilitated conversations he asked everyone to take half an hour to think about how the debate so far had impacted on them.

And everyone replied that it had damaged their souls.

With that common experience, that shared admission at the heart of the issue, it became possible to find a new way forward.

Of course, women were eventually an official part of the debate about women bishops in the House of Bishops as well as in the House of Clergy and the House of Laity, whereas lgbt people are still not properly represented in the official process. It matters, because until you can hear everyone’s voices you cannot reach a stable solution. And it matters, because while we are not included, we remain on the outside, firmly and increasingly suspicious.

 

But we are where we are and this is the point from which we must move forward.

So maybe it’s time to do the same in the lgbt debate. It’s time for all of us accept not only our own hurt but that we are all damaged by this discussion, and that we must find a way forward. For our sakes, for the sake of those who oppose us and for the sake of the whole church. And if official church won’t include us in its conversations, we have to continue to shout loudly from the sidelines.

 

The diversity is already there. We don’t need to talk about whether we can have it or not. We need to recognise it honestly and find an honest and open way of living with it.

How could that be possible? Maybe we have discussed the morality of same sex relationships to death. We won’t agree and it’s time to shift the focus. It’s time to recognise that all sides in this debate hold their views with sincerity, integrity and great faith. If we could learn to respect each other and to recognise each other’s integrity, we could follow Alan Wilson’s practical and thoroughly scriptural proposal and recognise that Romans 14 requires us to live with diversity and that it provides a blueprint for how this is possible.

 

Can we do that?

Yesterday’s debate didn’t offer an answer, but it did offer some small measure of hope.


 

 Note by editor:

-Thank-you Erika – you have brilliantly filled the gap that I was feeling. Like many people, I have been avidly listening to the podcasts and reading the Facebook discussions arising from the debates in this series. What I was really missing was the camaraderie, the human exchanges and this piece really transports me and our readers to the debating chamber

-Attempting to find a copyright-free illustration to this post, I have taken a snapshot of the blog page on the Westminster Faith Debates website, which I think and hope does not transgress copyright law. But if anyone objects, I will of course remove it.

 

 

Intercessions for Christ the King Year A: 23 November 2014

The Collect

Eternal Father, whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven that he might rule over all things as Lord and King: keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace, and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet; 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:  Ezekiel 34.11-16,20-24

Thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice. Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.

Psalm 95.1-7a

O come, let us sing to the Lord; * let us heartily rejoice in the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving *  and be glad in him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God * and a great king above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth * and the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it, * and his hands have moulded the dry land.
Come, let us worship and bow down * and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is our God.

Second Reading:  Ephesians 1.15-23

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 25.31-46

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’


The spirituality of this festival must never be forgotten or understated. No one recognised this more than Henri Nouwen in his Sabbatical Journey: ‘on the last Sunday of the liturgical year, Christ is presented to us as the mocked King on the Cross as well as the King [of the] universe. The greatest humiliation and the greatest victory are both shown to us in today’s liturgy. It is important to look at this humiliated and victorious Christ before we start the new liturgical year with the celebration of Advent. All through the year we have to stay close to the humiliation as well as to the victory of Christ, because we are called to live both in our own daily lives.’ Canon Terry Palmer, Church Times, 14 November 2014

Prayers of Intercession

Today we address our prayers to the second person of the Trinity, King of kings and Lord of lords,  as we thank Him for the last year and for the fellowship of our worshipping community here in this benefice [parish]. As we set out towards a new horizon, let us put our hands into His hand in the knowledge that it will be better than light and safer than a known way.

Guide us, O Lord, to a new beginning: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶The Church of Christ

Lord Jesus Christ,  may we grow in faith and knowledge of you.  Help us to be your body on earth. Where we walk too slowly, give us courage and a helping nudge in the right direction. Where we run too fast, give us a stone in the shoe, and wisdom to ponder. If things take time, help us to hold on to hope. If solutions are slow to emerge, may we stay strong in faith. Give us the patience and forbearance to wait for the ripening of the fruit in due season.

Guide us, O Lord, to a new beginning: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

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

All thrones, dominions, principalities and powers are subject to your reign, O Lord. The world is charged with your grandeur, whether flaming out like lightning or wrung from the press like oil. We are daily reminded of the continual renewing power of your creation in the way morning always waits on the other side of dark night. Your grandeur pervades every part of the created universe, if your people will only look at their surroundings and we, too, are part of your creation.

Guide us, O Lord, to a new beginning: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶The local community

Lord and king, help us, your subjects, to be servants to one another,  mindful that in imitating your example we shall meet you in the most unlikely of places. For our hands offering bread to the hungry and drink to the thirsty are yours. And the hands reaching out to receive are yours also.  The sick that we take care of are you and the stranger that we welcome into our midst is you. You taught us by example how to touch the lives of our fellow men. Help us so that our own wounds may bear fruit in love. May the pains of the past create in us compassion. Stir up * in us generosity, graciousness in giving, and lavishness in love.

Guide us, O Lord, to a new beginning: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, son of David, we pray for all who are in need. Heal us and give us the hope that we cannot grasp alone. When we cannot hope because we have forgotten how to dream, kindle a fire in our hearts.  Hear us and help us; hear us and heal us.  Heal us and let us follow; heal us and fill our hearts, our souls and our bodies with your Spirit; heal us and open the gates of heaven.

Guide us, O Lord, to a new beginning: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶The communion of saints

Lord of the dance, we pray for all those whom we love who have departed this life.  As we cross the ocean of eternity, losing the shoreline as we seek new horizons, teach us how to trust.  Let all that is deadly in us die, knowing that all that is godly will be raised. Into light, into freedom, into the Trinity of God where you reign, draw us, our Saviour.

 Guide us, O Lord, to a new beginning: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 


 

* A nod to ‘Stir Up Sunday‘, the old name for this Sunday for which the collect was:

Stir up, O Lord,
the wills of your faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may by you be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Lo! he comes, with clouds descending,
once for our salvation slain;
thousand thousand saints attending
swell the triumph of his train:
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia!
Christ the Lord returns to reign.

Every eye shall now behold him,
robed in dreadful majesty;
those who set at nought and sold him,
pierced, and nailed him to the tree,
deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
shall the true Messiah see.

Those dear tokens of his passion
still his dazzling body bears,
cause of endless exultation
to his ransomed worshipers;
with what rapture, with what rapture, with what rapture
gaze we on those glorious scars!

Now redemption, long expected,
see in solemn pomp appear;
all his saints, by man rejected,
now shall meet him in the air:
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia!
See the day of God appear!

Yea, amen! let all adore thee,
high on thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory;
claim the kingdom for thine own:
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia!
Thou shalt reign, and thou alone.

 


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. Introduction to the Peace (After All Saints’ to 1st of Adv.) © The Archbishops’ Council 2002. Post Communion (Christ the King) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

Intercessions for 2nd Sunday before Advent Year A: 16 November 2014

shutterstock_88010986

The Collect

Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son was revealed to destroy the works of the devil and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life: grant that we, having this hope, may purify ourselves  even as he is pure; that when he shall appear in power and great glory we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he 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: Zephaniah 1.7,12-18

Be silent before the Lord God!  For the day of the Lord is at hand;  the Lord has prepared a sacrifice,  he has consecrated his guests.  At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,  and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs,  those who say in their hearts,  ‘The Lord will not do good,  nor will he do harm.’  Their wealth shall be plundered,  and their houses laid waste.  Though they build houses,  they shall not inhabit them;  though they plant vineyards,  they shall not drink wine from them.  The great day of the Lord is near,  near and hastening fast;  the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter, the warrior cries aloud there.  That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. I will bring such distress upon people that they shall walk like the blind; because they have sinned against the Lord, their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath; in the fire of his passion the whole earth shall be consumed; for a full, a terrible end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

 

Psalm 90.1-8(9-11)12

Lord, you have been our refuge * from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or the earth and the world were formed, * from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn us back to dust and say: * ‘Turn back, O children of earth.’
For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday, * which passes like a watch in the night.
You sweep them away like a dream; * they fade away suddenly like the grass.
In the morning it is green and flourishes; * in the evening it is dried up and withered.
For we consume away in your displeasure; * we are afraid at your wrathful indignation.
You have set our misdeeds before you * and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
When you are angry, all our days are gone; * our years come to an end like a sigh.
The days of our life are three score years and ten, or if our strength endures, even four score; * yet the sum of them is but labour and sorrow, for they soon pass away and we are gone.
Who regards the power of your wrath * and your indignation like those who fear you?
So teach us to number our days * that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

 

Second Reading:  1 Thessalonians 5.1-11

Concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 25.14-30

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘The kingdom of heaven is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”’


 

The Revd Gill Sumner, writing in ‘The Ministry of the Word‘ (p.378), says ‘Those who try to preserve ways of doing theology or worship or ministry unchanged are left with devalued currency. Faith is given to be developed, spiritual understanding to be deepened, sacrificial service to be extended, opportunities for witness to be seized.’

Jane Williams is perceptive and has a different interpretation, which is worth reading in full. (If you go to this page, you can find the passage on pp 128-129 by searching for ‘maverick’):

‘To this man, God is not ‘good news’ because he is too obsessed with his own failure…he has turned his failure into a weapon. …he cannot recognize good news because he doesn’t actually know himself at all. In order to hear good news, you have to have some idea of what would constitute good news for your situation. But this slave is only looking for the downside of everything. He doesn’t want any good news, because he’s sure there will be a drawback in it somewhere’.

Prayers of Intercession

 

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, where do we find you? We make these prayers together once again in the dominant building of our community. But it makes assumptions not borne out by experience, for prayer is made in village [city] streets and gathering places as well as the tranquility of our church, and bruised and broken people live in both spheres.  We acknowledge that you are elusive, not tame. You slip out of the fortress built to keep you safe and available on demand. You wander the streets and search the hedgerows, looking for allies willing to try the steep hill of connection. Teach us, Lord, to keep you company in work and prayer, without prescribing the time and place. *

Lord, amidst the confusions of time, may we hear the heartbeat of your eternity: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

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

Lord of the light, shine on your world. Shine that we may be given the courage to work for justice. Give us a lifeline of spirit, an injection of hope so that we may see the possibilities in the predictable and everyday. Replenish us with your vision and renew us with the power of transformative action. Dawning God, dispel all the thoughts and fears of night, and give us and all your creation refreshment and renewal that we might this day reflect your light into the lives of others.

Lord, amidst the confusions of time, may we hear the heartbeat of your eternity: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The local community

Lord, grant us grace to discern what is right for us and pleasing to you. Draw into your service all in our community that they may become part of the building of your kingdom. Help us to hold fast to that which is good, that which is true, that which is honest, that which is  just, that which is pure and that which is lovely. Then, through your grace we may leave behind all that is unworthy within us and become truly your children of light.

Lord, amidst the confusions of time, may we hear the heartbeat of your eternity: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶Those who suffer

Lord, we pray for all those who suffer, whether from physical pain or because they are struggling with the forces of darkness within. A pain which invades and diminishes us, a pain which makes all else difficult if not humanly impossible. A pain which dissipates prayer and melts our spirit. Help us once again to look upwards and outwards towards the light.

Lord, amidst the confusions of time, may we hear the heartbeat of your eternity: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The communion of saints

Creator of life, of death, in the morning of our lives you shape us from clay, and as we are crumbled to earth you return us to the dust: so did you order our days. God of eternity, God beyond time, you are our refuge and our hope from one generation to another. May your grace be upon us: fill us with the spirit of your love. For in the evening of our days when we come to be judged, we shall be delivered only by love.

Lord, amidst the confusions of time, may we hear the heartbeat of your eternity: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

*Based on ‘No easy place’ by Ann Lewin. More generally, the prayers take inspiration today from Jim Cotter’s reflections on Pslm 90 in ‘Out of the Silence’.

1. Turn back, O man, forswear thy foolish ways.
Old now is earth, and none may count her days.
Yet thou, her child, whose head is crowned with flame,
Still wilt not hear thine inner God proclaim,
Turn back, O man, forswear thy foolish ways.

2. Earth might be fair, and all men glad and wise.
Age after age their tragic empires rise,
Built while they dream, and in that dreaming weep:
Would man but wake from out his haunted sleep,
Earth might be fair and all men glad and wise.

3. Earth shall be fair, and all her people one:
Nor till that hour shall God’s whole will be done.
Now, even now, once more from earth to sky,
Peals forth in joy man’s old undaunted cry—
Earth shall be fair, and all her folk be one!

Source: The Cyber Hymnal #6966


Copyright acknowledgement : Post Communion (2nd before Advent) © 1985 Mowbray, a Cassell Imprint:After Communion compiled by C L Macdonnell 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 (2nd before Advent) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

Intercessions for 3rd Sunday before Advent Year A – 9 November 2014

shutterstock_159826157

The Collect

Almighty Father, whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of all: govern the hearts and minds of those in authority, and bring the families of the nations, divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin, to be subject to his just and gentle rule; 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: Wisdom of Solomon 6.12-16

Wisdom is radiant and unfading, and she is easily discerned by those who love her,  and is found by those who seek her.  She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.  One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty, for she will be found sitting at the gate.  To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding,  and one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care, because she goes about seeking those worthy of her,  and she graciously appears to them in their paths,  and meets them in every thought.

Psalm:  Wisdom of Solomon 6.17-20

The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction, and concern for instruction is love of her, and love of her is the keeping of her laws, and giving heed to her laws is assurance of immortality, and immortality brings one near to God; so the desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom.

Second Reading:  1 Thessalonians 4.13-18

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 25.1-13

Jesus spoke this parable to the disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.’

Prayers of Intercession

{Prayers offered by Visual Liturgy}

We pray for the coming of God’s kingdom.

You sent your Son to bring good news to the poor, sight to the blind, freedom to captives and salvation to your people: anoint us with your Spirit; rouse us to work in his name.
Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Send us to bring help to the poor and freedom to the oppressed.
Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Send us to tell the world the good news of your healing love.
Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Send us to those who mourn, to bring joy and gladness instead of grief.
Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Send us to proclaim that the time is here for you to save your people.
Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Lord of the Church, hear our prayer, and make us one in mind and heart to serve you in Christ our Lord. Amen.


 

For those living in England, these intercessions are unlikely to be used at a public service as today is celebrated as Remembrance Sunday and of course Tuesday 11 November 2014 is the centenary of the armistice.

The RSCM manages to link the two events:

Of those who have died in war, no doubt some were ready to die and some were not. Those who signed up to fight knew what this might entail, but not when the moment would come. Civilians might have recognised a risk, but little suspected that it would befall them. Jesus teaches his followers to be ready for his coming at a time they will not know. Like soldiers signing up for service, he exhorts them to be ready at all times.

But for those who might like to pray privately based on the pre-Advent lectionary, and for those who do not live in a place where the armistice is commemorated today, I offer the following:

Loving God, as the rising sun chases away the night, so you have scattered the power of death in the rising of Jesus Christ, and you bring us all blessings in him.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, we are reminded that before we can prepare to welcome the Christ-child, we need to draw on all that is past in the history of our Church, gather it into the spaciousness of hearts that are converted to your love and service, and use that as the source of energy that drives us towards the future. * We give ourselves to you, that we may work for your praise and glory.

 Lord, help us constantly to renew your Church and our faith so that it may speak to a new generation: in your mercy, hear our prayer

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

Lord, you are our defence and shield, a very present help in our trouble. We are surrounded in this world by conflicts beyond our understanding which threaten our very existence. Help those who wield weapons to attack those they live amongst to find it in their hearts to beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks and to seek peaceful means of achieving their political aims.

 Lord, help us constantly to renew your Church and our faith so that it may speak to a new generation: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The local community

Lord, we pray for our friends and all that we share. Come to our community and heal our divisions. Reveal your love, we pray, as you  increase our faith in you and each other. Strengthen our fellowship through your presence, and guide our actions by the power of your Spirit.

  Lord, help us constantly to renew your Church and our faith so that it may speak to a new generation: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Those who suffer

Lord of ultimate power and unfailing love, comfort all those who mourn today. Be to them a rock of deliverance and a strong tower. Give them hope in their sorrow, even in the midnight of their distress. Give them assurance of new and greater life, and give them new purpose and resolve to continue in the great work you have given us.

 Lord, help us constantly to renew your Church and our faith so that it may speak to a new generation: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The communion of saints

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent, through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy. Grant that we may always be ready for your call and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy

 Lord, help us constantly to renew your Church and our faith so that it may speak to a new generation: 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 Post Communion (3rd before Advent) © CBFCE 1980; Archbishops’ Council 1999 / Church of the Province of Southern Africa Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2002

*Based on a passage from Henri Nouwen’s  ‘All is Grace’, Weavings, December 1992 quoted in Jane Williams’ book on the lectionary for year A.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intercessions for 4th Sunday before Advent Year A: 2 November 2014

aa

The Collect

Almighty and eternal God, you have kindled the flame of love in the hearts of the saints: grant to us the same faith and power of love, that, as we rejoice in their triumphs, we may be sustained by their example and fellowship; 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: Micah 3.5-12

Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who lead my people astray,  who cry ‘Peace’  when they have something to eat,  but declare war against those  who put nothing into their mouths. Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without revelation. The sun shall go down upon the prophets, and the day shall be black over them; the seers shall be disgraced, and the diviners put to shame; they shall all cover their lips, for there is no answer from God. But as for me, I am filled with power, with the spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin. Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob and chiefs of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity, who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong! Its rulers give judgement for a bribe, its priests teach for a price, its prophets give oracles for money; yet they lean upon the Lord and say, ‘Surely the Lord is with us! No harm shall come upon us.’ Therefore because of you Zion shall be ploughed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.

Psalm 43

Give judgement for me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people; * deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.
For you are the God of my refuge; why have you cast me from you, * and why go I so heavily, while the enemy oppresses me?
O send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, * and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling,
That I may go to the altar of God, to the God of my joy and gladness; * and on the lyre I will give thanks to you, O God my God.
Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, * and why are you so disquieted within me?
O put your trust in God; *for I will yet give him thanks, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Come, creator Spirit, light and truth;
bring us to the altar of life
and renew our joy and gladness
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2.9-13

You remember our labour and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was towards you believers. As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 24.1-14

As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. Then he asked them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’ When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, “I am the Messiah!” and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs. Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.’

Prayers of Intercession

{These intercessions are suggested by Visual Liturgy}
We pray for the coming of God’s kingdom.

You sent your Son to bring good news to the poor, sight to the blind, freedom to captives and salvation to your people: anoint us with your Spirit; rouse us to work in his name.
Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Send us to bring help to the poor and freedom to the oppressed.
Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Send us to tell the world the good news of your healing love.
Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Send us to those who mourn, to bring joy and gladness instead of grief.
Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Send us to proclaim that the time is here for you to save your people.
Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Lord of the Church, hear our prayer, and make us one in mind and heart
to serve you in Christ our Lord. Amen.


Let us pray in Christ’s name to God, the ruler of all, the beginning and the end.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, sometimes our life together in the Church feels less like being in an impregnable fortress**than it does like being in a small boat swept along the rapids of a turbulent river. Thrown against jagged obstacles that threaten destruction, in fear of disintegration, just at the point where disaster seems inevitable we are thrown from the turmoil into a quiet pool of equilibrium. When currents swirl again, help us to remember that we are profoundly loved and have no reason to fear.

 Lord, send out your light and your truth to lead us and guide us to your holy hill: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

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

Lord, we thank you for the reminder that there can be no coming of the kingdom without renewal of our present society. And renewal means the breaking down of many of our structures, which have come to serve only as shackles. Your warning applies to the end times, but it also means in the here and now: help us to look hard at our systems and our presumptions and test them against the promptings of your Holy Spirit.

 Lord, send out your light and your truth to lead us and guide us to your holy hill: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The local community

Lord, in our own communities save us from ossification, Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones. Help us to keep supple and flexible, while being robust enough to stand firm through the storms of life. Let us keep the goal constantly before us and resolve once more to love you with all our hearts, our minds and our souls, and our neighbours as ourselves.

 Lord, send out your light and your truth to lead us and guide us to your holy hill: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, sometimes our souls are weighed down with heaviness, and full of rebellion within. All the waves and torrents of this life have washed over us.  At times it seems as though we may drown in a pool of tears of our own making. Nowhere can we see a place to stand firm. Help us to wait patiently for the dawn as we put our trust in you. Renew in us the spirit of hope and the expectancy that, even when every door is apparently closed, you will surprise us with joy. *

 Lord, send out your light and your truth to lead us and guide us to your holy hill: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we bring before you those whom we love but see no longer. Freed from the vicissitudes of this world, we pray that they may dwell in that house where there is neither darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity; world without end

  Lord, send out your light and your truth to lead us and guide us to your holy hill: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 


*Based on Jim Cotter’s mediation on Psalm 43 in ‘Out of the Silence’

** ‘A mighty fortress is our God‘, sang Luther and his followers, ‘a bulwark never failing’.

Copyright acknowledgement : Collect (4th before Advent) © 1980, 1986 Mowbray, a Cassell Imprint: Prayers for the Alternative Services comp. David Silk 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 Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2002

Back to Basics on Rural Ministry?


Ezekiel 37.1-14

We are probably all agreed that the parish model of ministry in rural areas is showing signs of mettle fatigue.  The recent Westminster Faith Debates chaired by Professor Linda Woodhead on the future of the parish system reinforce this view. If you have not already heard the introductory speeches and later comments from the audience, you can listen here:

My head is spinning from the many analyses of the problem, and the many possible solutions – some of which are mutually exclusive.

I propose that we start again – theoretically, not of course literally – from the beginning.

 

What is the point of the Church?

As individual Christians, we are enjoined (a) to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, our souls and our minds and (b) to love our neighbours as ourselves.  Churches provide places where we can do so collectively, worshipping God and attempting to love our neighbours. The word parish (paroichia) is said by Professor Woodhead to mean neighbourhood.*

The Church of England duly divided the land into parishes and provided parish churches, of which there are now about 16,000. What might be called the George Herbert model was the norm for several hundred years, which coincided with the height of the Church’s influence, popularity and hence wealth.

We were not unique in our perception that this was the way to organise collective worship and for religious institutions  to thrive.

 

Jewish law

Observant Jews are required to live within walking distance of their synagogue. (And Islam requires its adherents to live within earshot of the call to prayer from a mosque). The idea behind this (apart from sabbath observance) is community – if you attend synagogue with a group of people who all live in your neighbourhood, you are likely also to send your children to the same schools, shop in the same shops and so on. Jews are also required to live in a place with at least ten adult Jewish men before whom the Kaddish prayer can be recited at the time of a burial, in other words they must not allow themselves to be so scattered in diaspora as not to live in community.

Maybe Judaism has a point? Who understands better how to keep together a religious and a social community in the face of fissiparous pressures? For after all, isn’t that what we are talking about – keeping together a group of people who worship together and serve the community together.

 

Is the Church there to serve the people or the people there to serve the Church?

If you substitute ‘God’ for ‘Church’, it may be reasonable to say that the people are there to serve God, God is not there to serve the people. But somehow, perhaps partly because the priest was an authority figure in his parish, probably one of the few who could read and write, the Church of England seems to have come to believe, whether or not they admitted it, that the people exist in order to serve the Church. Occasionally, with no apparent sense of irony, brocaded bishops will assume postures of humility and servanthood, but these are symbolic, not real. Many of us have encountered bishops who clearly believe that parishes and parishioners are there to serve the diocese, not the reverse. This is an excellent way to begin the process of losing churchgoers.

You may like to see my previous blog post, ‘Who is the Church of England for?

 

The False Oasis of the Minster Model

In  ‘The State of the Church and the Church of the State’, (pp 151-153), Bishop Michael Turnbull and the Revd Donald McFadyen describe the model thus:

…a group of priests, some stipendiary and some self-supporting, and lay people serving one unit which has a number of local churches, where regular worship is maintained but a central set of administrative and teaching facilities catering for different age groups and particular needs…each…would be given the opportunity to develop their own specialist ministry for the benefit of the whole locality…it is the most practical and coherent way of discharging the Church’s mission of pastoral care and evangelism to the nation. The rites of birth, marriage and death…in one of the churches in the ‘parish‘, perhaps with particularly attractive features, could be designated as ‘the wedding church’.

This does seem to give the game away – instead of being able to be baptised, married and buried in one’s own parish church, you would have to go to the Minster or other designated church for anything other than a normal weekly service. There is talk of pastoral work being centrally organised.

 

Involvement by the Laity

I suggest that mega-benefices can work, provided that resident non-stipendiary clergy and lay worship leaders provide a solid background of services in every church every week (but not necessarily communion services). The benefice priest would be peripatetic, but at a less frenetic pace, taking services in each church from time to time, preaching at other services and generally offering  spiritual leadership and galvanising energies for mission.

 

Because of extraordinary circumstances, I have been a parishioner during no less than four inter-regnums during the last 15 years. In each case, church life carried on perfectly smoothly as normal, using the non-stipendiary resident clergy and lay worship leaders. BUT we were heartily relieved on each occasion to welcome the priest when he was finally appointed. Mostly, we had missed someone to set the tone, a sense of overall direction, and an energy.

 

I think that if we are truly prepared to work on the basis that together we all make up the Body of Christ, each with our talents and uses, then together we can work for the Kingdom, while allowing for (and capitalising on) a strong sense of local identity.


*Though if you Google ‘paroichia’ you will find a bewildering variety of meanings, including the statement that at one stage it was interchangeable with the word for diocese.

Intercessions for Last Sunday after Trinity Year A – 26 October 2014

shutterstock_81369847

The Collect

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: help us so to hear them, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word, we may embrace and for ever hold fast the hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our 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: Deuteronomy 34.1-12

Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain – that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees – as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, ‘This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants”; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.’ Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigour had not abated. The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended. Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses. Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unequalled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

Psalm 90.1-6,13-17

Lord, you have been our refuge *from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or the earth and the world were formed, * from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn us back to dust and say: * ‘Turn back, O children of earth.’
For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday, * which passes like a watch in the night.
You sweep them away like a dream; * they fade away suddenly like the grass.
In the morning it is green and flourishes; * in the evening it is dried up and withered.
Turn again, O Lord; how long will you delay? * Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us with your loving-kindness in the morning; * that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Give us gladness for the days you have afflicted us * and for the years in which we have seen adversity.
Show your servants your works * and let your glory be over their children.
May the gracious favour of the Lord our God be upon us; * prosper our handiwork; O prosper the work of our hands.

Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2.1-8

You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 22.34-46

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’”? If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

The RSCM is in lyrical form:

If I have never been loved, I will find loving others a burden, tempted to loathe my neighbour as I loathe myself. Jesus’s teaching springs from the depth of his experience: he knows what it is like to be loved. And because he is loved by the Father, he knows he is loveable. He is able to love himself without arrogance or anxiety. And he is able to love his neighbour as himself. There can be no love of neighbour without love of self, and all human love is founded on the love of God, given and received.

Prayers of Intercession

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, thank-you for today’s reminder that being a Christian is the simplest thing in the world – even if it is not easy. Help us to return to the basic truth that all you require of us is love: to the depth and breadth and height our souls can reach, to infinity itself. And so, through your grace, may we grow in love for you and one another and thus fulfil our role as the Body of Christ to work for the coming of the kingdom in this world.

Lord, fill our hearts with such love for you that it overflows on to all our fellow human beings: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

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

Lord, the glory of the earth is your glory. The splendour of the heavens is your splendour. And the wonder of the galaxies and nebulae is yours, O wonderful creator.  Yet you know to the deepest degree of detail how every atom and molecule were made, each with its own spinning galaxy within. Maker of mountains and microbes, we praise you for the glories of your creation.

Lord, fill our hearts with such love for you that it overflows on to all our fellow human beings: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The local community

Lord, you ask us to love our neighbours as ourselves, but the trouble is we do. And since we find it so difficult always to love ourselves, we find the same difficulty in loving our neighbour. Strange feelings come from depths we cannot control, causing us to react and fail to respond. Help us, we pray, to embrace our dark unknown, to accept and forgive what lies within. For you have promised that it is already done, that  we are profoundly loved, in outpourings without cease, and that your love includes and embraces both us and our neighbour.*

Lord, fill our hearts with such love for you that it overflows on to all our fellow human beings: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, where the ground is so dry that there is no sign of life, only aridity, we ask you to send new springs to bubble up, slaking the earth’s thirst and refreshing it into new growth. Where the walls that form the fabric and structure of our lives are broken down through anger and violence, we ask you to help us rebuild our shelters from the storms of life. And where our lives seem to be ruined, on a darkling plain without light or hope for the future, we ask you to restore them as you may see fitting.

Lord, fill our hearts with such love for you that it overflows on to all our fellow human beings: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The communion of saints

Lord of eternity, Lord beyond time, may your grace be upon us all. For in the evening of our days when we come to be judged, we shall be known only by love, delivered only by love. Amidst the confusion of time, may we hear the heartbeat of eternity.

Lord, fill our hearts with such love for you that it overflows on to all our fellow human beings: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 


 

*Based on the poem ‘Second Commandment’ by Ann Lewin

Copyright acknowledgement: Post Communion (Last after Trinity) © 1985 Anglican Church of Canada: The Book of Alternative Services;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 (Last after Trinity) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

Intercessions for 18th Sunday after Trinity (Proper 24) Year A 19 October 2014

Rolff

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us your gift of faith that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to that which is before, we may run the way of your commandments and win the crown of everlasting joy; 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 33.12-23

Moses said to the Lord, ‘See, you have said to me, “Bring up this people”; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, “I know you by name, and you have also found favour in my sight.” Now if I have found favour in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favour in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.’ He said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ And he said to him, ‘If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favour in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favour in my sight, and I know you by name.’ Moses said, ‘Show me your glory, I pray.’ And he said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, “The Lord”; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.’ And the Lord continued, ‘See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.’

Psalm 99

The Lord is king: let the peoples tremble; * he is enthroned upon the cherubim: let the earth shake.
The Lord is great in Zion * and high above all peoples.
Let them praise your name, which is great and awesome; *the Lord our God is holy.
Mighty king, who loves justice, you have established equity; * you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.
Exalt the Lord our God; * bow down before his footstool, for he is holy.
Moses and Aaron among his priests and Samuel among those who call upon his name, * they called upon the Lord and he answered them.
He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud; * they kept his testimonies and the law that he gave them.
You answered them, O Lord our God; * you were a God who forgave them and pardoned them for their offences.
Exalt the Lord our God and worship him upon his holy hill, *  for the Lord our God is holy.

Second Reading:  1 Thessalonians 1.1-10

Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 22.15-22

When the chief priests and Pharisees had heard the parables, they realized that Jesus was speaking about them. Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

The RSCM comments:
The lightness with which Jesus deals with financial questions is remarkable. No ‘stewardship’, no dogma, no argument. At other times he condemns greed and encourages generosity. But for now his message is simply this: financial responsibilities in civic matters are insignificant compared to the call to love God first, in everything. The emperor’s head on the coin indicated that it belonged to him; so we remind ourselves, ‘All things come from you, and of your own do we give you’.

 

Prayers of Intercession

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, the work of building your Church on earth is not yet finished, not done. It is half-built, half-cooked and half-beautiful. Your people have a heart for the work of building, but become too easily distracted by trivial considerations. Creator God, continue your work, inspire us again to set our hands to the trowel and the plumb-line. Continue us, O Lord, and craft us to completion so that people might again say, ‘look how they love one another!’

Lord, show us your ways that we may find favour in your sight: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

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

Lord, yours is the power that holds all things in being, the power of justice and love. Yours is the holiness that sears us, bringing to light our falsehoods and misdeeds. You showed the prophets, the priests and the wise how to lead your people. Teach us not to be afraid of anything you have created, even if it may seem alien to us. Fill us with your Holy Spirit, that finds its home within us as creatures of flesh and blood and makes of us a holy people able in turn to transform base metal into spiritual gold in your name. *

Lord, show us your ways that we may find favour in your sight: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The local community

Lord, if you will be the needle, we will be your thread. We will follow you as you weave our community into the Body of Christ, warp following weft, woven tightly enough to hold fast, but not so tight as to be rigid and unmanageable. Bend us and shape us until we form ourselves according to your will into a fabric which you can use for your purpose in the world.

Lord, show us your ways that we may find favour in your sight: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, we pray for those that are in pain, whether in body, mind or spirit. Help us all to understand and believe that, no matter how long our story continues, we can never outrun your love. However far we journey, whether we keep to the straight and narrow or wander off the path, whether we walk in sunlit uplands or in the valley of shadows, we can never voyage beyond your loving care.

Lord, show us your ways that we may find favour in your sight: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we praise you for this sacred feast: for here we receive you, here our minds are filled with grace, and here is given a pledge of future glory, when we shall feast at that table where you reign with all your saints for ever.

Lord, show us your ways that we may find favour in your sight: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 


*Based on Jim Cotter’s meditation on psalm 99.


 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):Post Communion (18th after Trinity) © 1973 ICEL: Roman Missal (English Translation)- last part of intercessions is based on this. 1 Thessalonians 1.1-10 © 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. Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000

Music at Midnight: Taylor Carey

There’s a story that the great Anglican poet and priest George Herbert once made himself late for an important rehearsal by stopping to help a poor man in distress. Herbert re-saddled the man’s horse, and helped him on with his pack, making himself filthy in the process. Upon arriving in the midst of proceedings at the Cathedral, Herbert was asked why he had even bothered to waste his time with such a pathetic figure as the poor man on the road. Herbert replied that his deed would ‘prove music’ to him at midnight, ‘for if I be bound to pray for all that be in distress, I am sure that I am bound, so far as it is in my power, to practise what I pray for’. ‘And now,’ he added, ‘let’s tune our instruments’.

Music is a theme to which countless Christians have returned when considering matters of social justice. A striking vision of Christian society, after all, is of a well-balanced orchestra in which each player understands both the unique contribution they bring to the sound, and also the context of dependence upon others in which they operate. St Paul’s understanding of ‘gifts’, expounded in his First Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 12:12), was centred on a vision of diversity and harmony in the Body of Christ, in which each member might exercise their talents as an indispensable part of a greater whole. All the while, as Psalm 69 bids us, we are called to ‘sing a new song’ of praise, ever more closely caught-up in the glory of God. That imperative to perform God’s song afresh often draws seekers of the Kingdom into the wilderness to discover the ‘still small voice’ (1 Kings 19:12) of the One who stands in judgement.

The Swiss theologian Karl Barth firmly believed that no composer could ever be thought to rival the genius of Mozart. In his own words, ‘Mozart has apprehended the cosmos and now, functioning only as a medium, brings it into song’. ‘One marvels again and again,’ he continued, ‘how everything comes to expression in him: heaven and earth, nature and man, comedy and tragedy, passion in all its forms and the most profound inner peace…It is as though in a small segment the whole universe bursts into song’.

The whole universe bursts into song. The point, for Barth, was that Mozart had simply allowed God’s continuous action to take over and shape his art. Mozart’s own emotions and ideas were always responses to, and in the service of, the ‘original music’ which is God’s constant creativity. In the words of Joseph Ratzinger, surely one of the most significant theological aesthetes of our time, ‘the joy that Mozart gives us…is not due to the omission of a part of reality; it is an expression of a higher perception of the whole’. And so, for all that his works present to us the unbearable tragedy of the human condition, and God’s judgement over against us, they also carry over the reality that God’s mercy, forgiveness, and Grace is already forthcoming and overflowing.

How then do we hear God’s ‘music’ in our own lives? One answer is provided by Jesus in an episode recorded by each of the synoptic evangelists. ‘Let the little children come to me,’ says the Lord to his baffled disciples, ‘for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’ (Matt. 19:14). We are to become as children, so that we might inhabit God’s new creation. And, on a practical level, this perhaps means two things above all. Firstly, we are called to a purging of our ‘adultness’, which binds us to our unthinking habits, and continues to perpetuate structural injustice in a broken world. Secondly, by a rediscovery of our imagination (through what Nicholas Lash would call asking ‘childlike’ questions), we are called to an anticipation of the Kingdom. We must live in a world ‘charged’ with the energy of God – ‘It will flame out, like shining from shook foil,’ as Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote – and always alive with the possibilities of the Divine. This must be our continual witness, in thought, word, and deed.

 

So, Herbert was right. The greatest ‘music at midnight’ is the truest resonance of God’s own perfect harmony, echoed through generations of Christians who say the Creed and transform the world. ‘The whole universe bursts into song’. Indeed. And it’s about time we listened.

 

 

 

Intercessions for 17th Sunday after Trinity Year A (Proper 23) 12 October 2014

005

The Collect

Almighty God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you: pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself, and so bring us at last to your heavenly  city where we shall see you face to face; 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 32.1-14

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered round Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold ear-rings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their ear-rings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterwards they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” But Moses sought the favour of the Lord his God. “O Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance for ever.’” Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

Psalm 106.1-6,19-23

Alleluia. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is gracious, *for his faithfulness endures for ever.
Who can express the mighty acts of the Lord * or show forth all his praise?
Blessed are those who observe what is right * and always do what is just.
Remember me, O Lord, in the favour you bear for your people; * visit me in the day of your salvation;
That I may see the prosperity of your chosen and rejoice in the gladness of your people, * and exult with your inheritance.
We have sinned like our forebears; * we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.
They made a calf at Horeb * and worshipped the molten image;
Thus they exchanged their glory * for the image of an ox that feeds on hay.
They forgot God their saviour, * who had done such great things in Egypt,
Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham * and fearful things at the Red Sea.
So he would have destroyed them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, * to turn away his wrath from consuming them.

Second Reading: Philippians 4.1-9

My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 22.1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to the chief priests and Pharisees in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’


The RSCM has:

You have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb. You have your whole life to prepare for it. You know the way. But you do not know the hour or the day. Blessed are those who will be found ready when he comes, dressed in alertness and hope, good deeds and loving kindness, faith and courage: wearing the wedding garment that will be expected of all the guests intending to stay for the feast.

And in his essay, The Wardrobe as Christian Metaphor, Dr Don King writes:

Digory’s Uncle Andrew…is actually called by Aslan so that he might be given the chance to re-focus his life away from…egocentricity and towards righteousnes and selflessness. Unfortunately, Uncle Andrew does not respond because his sensibilities have been deadened. For example, while Aslan sings his song of creation, Uncle Andrew “was not liking the Voice.” Later, all he could hear was “nothing but roaring in Aslan’s song”:…Aslan Himself sums up Uncle Andrew’s problem later in response to Polly’s request that Aslan remove the old man’s fear: “I cannot tell that [the meaning of His song of creation] to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!” (171). Uncle Andrew’s failure to heed Aslan’s call is reminiscent of those in Jesus’ parable who failed to respond properly to a wedding invitation: “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14).

Prayers of Intercession

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, you have promised us that those who search for you will find you, if we seek you with all our hearts. Catch us the foxes, the little foxes, that threaten our blossom and let us not be diverted by false goals. Rather, help us to develop our individual relationship of love with you so that we may be open to all the members of the Body of Christ in an inter-communion of love in which each embraces the other, and all are embraced by God.

Lord, draw us through the narrowest of gates to the wide open spaces of your heaven: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

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

Lord, open our eyes that we may see the harm we have done to your creation. Open our sense of smell that we may breathe in the promise of every new day. Open the fingers of our hands that we may touch something that you have made. Open our ears that we may hear your words of warning and mercy. And open our hearts, that we may feel and share your love.

Lord, draw us through the narrowest of gates to the wide open spaces of your heaven: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The local community

Lord, the tangled roots from which we spring nourish our depths and send out shoots for growth; separate yet entwined with friends, relatives, strangers and people we do not like. Yet we grow together in an intricate relationship, mutually dependent in the up and over, as we dominate and submit to the wheel and turn, the pre-ordained pattern,  of a Celtic knot.

Lord, draw us through the narrowest of gates to the wide open spaces of your heaven: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶Those who suffer

Lord, we ask you for healing for all those who suffer. Help us and them to understand that healing is rarely achieved without some cost and may not mean the end of pain. For healing is not going back to what one was before, it is a growing on to a new stage of being and, through many little deaths and resurrections, being set free. Help us to hold on through the pain, and may our difficulties in time yield nourishment. *

Lord, draw us through the narrowest of gates to the wide open spaces of your heaven: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The communion of saints

Lord, with a love stronger than death, your son opened his arms to us on the cross and death was swallowed up in victory. May we who have shared our lives as strangers and pilgrims here on earth be welcomed with all your saints to the heavenly feast on the day of your kingdom.

Lord, draw us through the narrowest of gates to the wide open spaces of your heaven: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

* Based on two poems by Ann Lewin, Healing and Astringent Sweetness.

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Exodus 32.1-14 © 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 Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Post Communion (17th after Trinity) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

We rely on donations to keep this website running.