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Intercessions for the Feast of St Matthew 21 September 2014

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‘The evangelist Matthew inspired by an angel’ by Rembrandt c 1661

The Collect

O almighty God, whose blessed Son called Matthew the tax-collector to be an apostle and evangelist: give us grace to forsake the selfish pursuit of gain and the possessive love of riches that we may follow in the way of your Son 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: Proverbs 3.13-18

Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding,  for her income is better than silver,  and her revenue better than gold.  She is more precious than jewels,  and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness,  and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;  those who hold her fast are called happy.

Psalm 119.65-72 9 Teth

You have dealt graciously with your servant, *according to your word, O Lord.
O teach me true understanding and knowledge, * for I have trusted in your commandments.
Before I was afflicted I went astray, * but now I keep your word.
You are gracious and do good; * O Lord, teach me your statutes. R
The proud have smeared me with lies, * but I will keep your commandments with my whole heart.
Their heart has become gross with fat, * but my delight is in your law.
It is good for me that I have been afflicted, * that I may learn your statutes.
The law of your mouth is dearer to me * than a hoard of gold and silver. R

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 4.1-6

Since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practise cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 9.9-13

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’

Prayers of Intercession

The RSCM comments on today’s readings: ‘What a surprise! The last person you would expect to find in Jesus’ company, Matthew the tax-collector. Everyone knew that tax collectors were thieves and liars, sinners of the first order. Jesus was not only eating with one, he had invited Matthew to be one of his closest friends. ‘

 

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, we thank you that, in making the tax collector Matthew one of your apostles, you showed that you believed even someone  such as he was worthy to be called into life with you. We are like empty seashells on a sandy shore and, for us, you are the sea. The sweeping wave rides up the shore, and overflows each shell with crystalline water. There is no glory to the shell, we give the glory to the glorious sea.  Sweep over us, your shells, we pray; we yield to the purpose of your  will. Sweep up, O conquering waves, and purify, and with your fullness fill.

Lord, give us true understanding for we have put our faith in your word: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

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

Lord, at times we can feel overwhelmed by the sheer scale of human need and the constant demands on our compassion in the global village which our world has become. At times we feel we cannot achieve much, and it is true that we cannot touch every area of need. But let us not fail altogether because we cannot solve all the ills of mankind. We can take time and trouble to find out what other Christians are doing in our world, and be ready to respond. Then we can light a candle by our concern, our prayers and by giving what we can of our time and our talents for the healing of your world.

Lord, give us true understanding for we have put our faith in your word: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The local community

Lord, we journey on, fortified by you and one another. Knowing that we are accepted as we are, we can the more readily accept and forgive others. We have received your gracious and truthful presence, far more enriching than all the wealth of the world. May it bind us together with our companions, putting misunderstandings right, restoring love between us so that, whatever our differences of outlook or temperament we grow steadily closer on our pilgrimage together.

Lord, give us true understanding for we have put our faith in your word: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶Those who suffer

Lord, give us to know in our hearts that all things intermingle for good to those that love you.* Though the pain and the suffering and the darkness all remain distinct, and the good may seem powerless against that reality, when they all intermingle they form a pattern. The darkness doesn’t become less dark, but the pattern which the light makes upon it contains the meaning which makes the darkness endurable. **

Lord, give us true understanding for we have put our faith in your word: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we bring before you all those whom we love and who are no longer at the mercy of time or decay. Free of the limitations of this life, they are now in your presence for ever.

Lord, give us true understanding for we have put our faith in your word: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

*Romans 8.28

**’Absolute Truths’ by Susan Howatch, quoted by Mary Batchelor in ‘Journey of the Spirit’ , p.128.


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. Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council Collect (Matthew) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

Intercessions for Holy Cross Day 14 September 2014

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The Collect

Almighty God, who in the passion of your blessed Son made an instrument of painful death to be for us the means of life and peace: grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer for his sake; 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: Numbers 21.4-9

The Israelites set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.’ Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.’ So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

Psalm 22.23-28

Praise the Lord, you that fear him; *O seed of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, O seed of Israel.
For he has not despised nor abhorred the suffering of the poor; neither has he hidden his face from them; *but when they cried to him he heard them.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation; *I will perform my vows in the presence of those that fear you.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied; * those who seek the Lord shall praise him; their hearts shall live for ever.
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, * and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.
For the kingdom is the Lord’s * and he rules over the nations.

Second Reading:  Philippians 2.6-11

Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Gospel Reading: John 3.13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus: ‘No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’


 

Unfortunately, the link to the online ‘look here’ version of A Handbook for Preachers on the Common Worship Lectionary seems to have disappeared, and it is too long to reproduce in full here. If you have your own copy, I recommend you to read pages 424-425, which expound on the readings. On the first reading, from the Book of Numbers, they say:

This strange story is taken up in John 3 as a sort of blueprint, an early sketch of the cross of Christ. The obvious point of comparison is that both the bronze serpent and the crucified Christ were raised up on a stake…Perhaps there is a deeper likeness… the antidote against the snakes’ venom is actually a copy of the source of the trouble. The serpent was an unclean creature for the Jews, and in the creation story it represents the evil and deceit at large in the world. So Moses’ bronze serpent is a picture of eveil, identified with the cause of the very suffering it heals. This corresponds to the biblical description of Jesus, as sent ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin’. Degraded by the humiliation and misery of the cross…he draws the poison of sin and death. Lifted up to die, he lifts his people to into eternal life.

Prayers of Intercession

 Visual Liturgy offers the following by Bishop Michael Perham.

Let us pray to the Father through his Son,
who suffered on the cross for the world’s redemption.
Fill with your Spirit Christ’s broken body, the Church …
Give to Christian people everywhere a deep longing
to take up the cross and to understand its mysterious glory.
By the Saviour’s cross and passion,
Lord, save us and help us.

Bless those who lead the Church’s worship …
In the preaching of the word
and the celebration of the sacraments,
draw your people close to you.
By the Saviour’s cross and passion,
Lord, save us and help us.

Give your grace to those who preach your word to the nations …
Help us to witness to the faith we have received
by our words and in our deeds,
and daily conform us more and more to Christ,
that we may glory in his cross.
By the Saviour’s cross and passion,
Lord, save us and help us.

Look in your mercy upon the world you loved so much
that you sent your Son to suffer and to die …
Strengthen those who work to share
the reconciliation won at such a cost upon the cross.
By the Saviour’s cross and passion,
Lord, save us and help us.

Bring healing by the wounds of Christ
to all who are weighed down by pain and injustice …
Help the lonely and the betrayed, the suffering and the dying,
to find strength in the companionship of Jesus,
and in his passion to know their salvation.
By the Saviour’s cross and passion,
Lord, save us and help us.

Welcome into paradise all who have left this world in
your friendship …
According to your promises,
bring them with all your saints
to share in the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection.
By the Saviour’s cross and passion,
Lord, save us and help us.


Alleluia, alleluia.
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

 

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, you raised up your Son on and through the Cross. Help us to understand the Cross also as a metaphor for your Church: from the four corners of the earth, it draws us all to meet you at the centre. Though each part of it may be different, yet it forms a unified whole. And you have shown us how the gallows on which your son died can become for us the tree of life. Lord, for our sake you took the form of a slave: may we too pour out our love with extravagance, that our lives may be fragrant with you.

Lord, give us the strength to take up our own crosses to follow you: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

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

Lord, in winter your trees provide bare tracery against a flawless sky; then promise of Spring, bursting into leaf; fullness of flower at summer’s height; flowers, fruit and then fulfilment in the autumn fire. Symbol of life and death and resurrection, endlessly repeated, growing to completion. Standing deep-rooted, moving with the wind, offering shelter and strength to all who come, embodying ageless wisdom. Here let us rest and let the silence give us timeless space to grow and to be. 1

Lord, give us the strength to take up our own crosses to follow you: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The local community

O God of the cross, let not our hearts be hardened against the concerns of others. Keep us passionate through our wrestling with your ways so that we are able to pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship or support any friend in order to share the mystery of your great love, known to us through the face of your son.

Lord, give us the strength to take up our own crosses to follow you: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶Those who suffer

Lord, your son was called ‘a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’. You raised him up,  on and through the Cross, that many might find healing and wholeness through him.  We pray for the understanding and confidence to place our suffering unreservedly in your hands and the faith to believe that love and light can be shed on the darkness in our world when it is transfigured by your skilled and loving touch.

Lord, give us the strength to take up our own crosses to follow you: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The communion of saints

Lord, you raised up your Son on and through the Cross that we your people might be lifted into eternal life with you . We commend to you all those whom we love and who are now with you in communion with all your saints. May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

Lord, give us the strength to take up our own crosses to follow you: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

1 Inspired by ‘Trees’ by Ann Lewin, from ‘Watching for the Kingfisher
Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA. Intercessions (Holy Cross Day) © 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 2002

Intercessions for Twelfth Sunday after Trinity Year A (Proper 18): 7 September 2014

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The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray and to give more than either we desire or deserve: pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask but through the merits and mediation of 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 12.1-14

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbour in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgements: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

Psalm 149

Refrain: Sound praises to the Lord, all the earth.

Alleluia.
O sing to the Lord a new song; * sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.
Let Israel rejoice in their maker; * let the children of Zion be joyful in their king.
Let them praise his name in the dance; *  let them sing praise to him with timbrel and lyre.
For the Lord has pleasure in his people * and adorns the poor with salvation. R
Let the faithful be joyful in glory; * let them rejoice in their ranks,
With the praises of God in their mouths * and a two-edged sword in their hands;
To execute vengeance on the nations * and punishment on the peoples;
To bind their kings in chains * and their nobles with fetters of iron;
To execute on them the judgement decreed; * such honour have all his faithful servants.
Alleluia.

Refrain: Sound praises to the Lord, all the earth.

 

Second Reading: Romans 13.8-14

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 18.15-20

Jesus spoke to his disciples. ‘If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’


 

The RSCM has this comment on the gospel:

What do we do with problems? Ignore them? Pretend they haven’t happened? Or maybe get it out of all proportion, distorting everything?Jesus here gives clear guidelines for dealing with serious disruption and sin in our communities. It mustn’t be ignored, but neither is it to be allowed to grow and destory everything. We are to address it carefully, personally, and appropriately, and without fear, able to call on others within the church if necessary. Like any good functional family, the church needs to have clear boundaries.

Prayers of Intercession

Lord, we thank-you for this [ancient] place of prayer, for the faith that has blossomed here, and the worship offered in all seasons. We thank you for enabling us to be part of this worshipping community. And we rejoice in being part of the Christian world, where the sun never sets on prayers ascending, as day succeeds night and night succeeds day, even unto the end of the age. Amen.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, when we see fissures appearing in the very structure of our Church, help us to draw on the shared history and collective memory of worship together over two millennia. May these memories revitalise our life together, encouraging us to add our own perceptions as we shape our liturgy for the future. Together let us climb the Hill of Difficulty, sure in the promise that the Celestial City awaits us at the peak, even though it may remain hidden in mist from below: the journey itself sharpens our longing for you.

Glorious and redeeming God, give us hearts to praise you all our days: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

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

Lord, bless those who resist the temptations of power; bless those who cause no harm. Bless those who seek to reconcile; bless those who themselves form a bridge for unlikely meetings. Bless those who repent their oppression; bless those who have been harmed, but show their oppressors mercy. In the reconciliation that is based on repentance and mercy, in the healing that has held and enfolded the pain, Lord, we add our voices to your music: Alleluia! Alleluia!

Glorious and redeeming God, give us hearts to praise you all our days: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The local community

Lord, you are immortal, invisible, utterly beyond our imagining. But you are also imprinted within us, moving amongst us and constantly opening our eyes and ears to the wonders that lie all around us. Such a wonder is human friendship, encounters with others which both make us aware of our own solitude and help us escape from it. Others with whom we can fall silent without feeling uncomfortable, and to whom we can unburden ourselves without embarrassment.

Glorious and redeeming God, give us hearts to praise you all our days: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶Those who suffer

Lord, when we suffer physical or mental pain, we know that we cannot always ask you to remove the pain. We do not understand the reason for pain in this world, and the knowledge of the existence of suffering is itself painful. But throughout our sojourn in the vale of tears, help us to help you, and to defend your dwelling place inside us to the last.

Glorious and redeeming God, give us hearts to praise you all our days: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we thank you for the saints of all ages, for those who, in times of darkness, kept burning the lamp of faith; for the great souls who saw visions of larger truth and dared to declare it; and for those we knew and loved, who have passed from this earthly fellolwship into the fuller light of life with you.

Glorious and redeeming God, give us hearts to praise you all our days: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

The intercessions this week are inspired by the reading of ‘The Collage of God‘ by Mark Oakley, which I have much enjoyed.


 

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 (12th after Trinity) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

“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?

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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,_object_1_(Butlin_463)

‘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

1280px-Gustave_Courbet-Boats

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

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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.

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