Category Archives: Prayer

Prayer Blog – July 2016, 01

Abstract japanese newspaper's lettersWords and language is a fascinating subject. According to author Bill Bryson, the most complicated languages, using far more words and made up of many more characters than western language, are Chinese and Japanese. Due to the way that our languages evolved, differently, Chinese script possesses 50,000 characters making Chinese typewriters enormous and they can only manage a fraction of the characters available. ‘If a standard Western typewriter keyboard were expanded to take in every Chinese ideograph it would be about fifteen feet long and five feet wide – about the size of two ping-pong tables pushed together’. So, much reason to be thankful for plain English![1]

But despite the fact that we humans have this God given gift of communication, through words and language, we don’t always use it to full potential. How often do we hear words used to divide, to incite violence, to do harm and so on, rather than to build up, encourage and unite.

In the Epistle of James we read how the tongue can be so dangerous. How it can use a few little words, like a spark, to fan a great forest fire. And James also says,Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.’ And yet, it happens. The old adage says ‘sticks and stones can break your  bones but names will never harm you’. Our parents taught us this to encourage us to toughen up and not overly react to name calling. Indeed it is more dangerous if someone physically assaults us but it usually starts with words. So, it is important that we heed James’s warnings and be careful in our choice of words, particularly when we are angry.

During the time that I have been a minister I have resided over a number of funerals. It is always a privilege to do this as people are in a place where they need someone to help them through the funeral service and in the days after. To stand with them. To choose soothing and comforting words is an important element of any funeral service, as it is to find words which best express, in thankfulness, the life of the person who is being mourned.

Yet, sometimes this is made difficult by the fact that families can be divided. Uncle Jimmy never spoke to so and so. I cannot sit on the same row as my sister, brother, parent etc. because of something which happened in life. Of course there are always two sides to a story. Or, as someone once said, there can be two sides to a story and then there is the truth. Well, the truth is that; once a person has died opportunities for reconciliation, showing forgiveness, apology etc. has died with them. And that is sad.

Perhaps then the words that are most dangerous, in this respect, are the words that are never spoken. Such as, I am sorry, please forgive me, let’s forget it or I love you etc. They don’t have to be these exact words and we may not have as many words as the Chinese at our disposal. However, in a world in much need of comfort and encouragement at this time; there are plenty to choose from. So let’s choose them wisely!
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Song of Solomon 2:8-12

The voice of my beloved!
Look, he comes,
Leaping upon the mountains,
Bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Look, there he stands
Behind our wall, gazing in at our windows,
looking through the lattice.

My beloved speaks and says to me:
Arise, my love, my fair one,
And come away;
for now the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.

A Reflection (From Celtic Daily Prayer)

A certain brother went to Abbot Moses in Scete, and asked him for a good word. And the elder said to him:

Go, and sit in your cell
and your cell will teach you everything.[2]
_
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[1] Bill Bryson, Mother Tongue: The English Language (London: Penguin Books, 1990) , 108-110

[2] Celtic Daily Prayers: Inspirational Prayers and Readings from the Northumbria Community (London: Harper Collins, 2005)

Prayer Blog – June 2016 – 01

image

God is in the Restoration Business

It may come as a surprise but I do not intend to say much about the EU Referendum result in this blog. I figured you will have heard quite enough this week, and I will say something in tomorrow’s sermon, so I have been reflecting on how we feeble humans appear in the big scheme of thing, of which our big issues are actually quite small. After all, if it were not for God none of us would be here at all. I think that is often forgotten amidst all that we say and do, important as our political decisions are.

This past week I have been away in Stirling attending a series of ministerial workshops. The workshops were very good but I gave my brain a rest and took a trip through to Glasgow on Wednesday afternoon and evening, partly to visit some people and partly to spend time in the West End of Glasgow where I stayed during my first year of study at the Scottish Baptist College.

I like this part of Glasgow so I visited some old haunts including Otago Lane, off Great Western Road. Last time I was there, a couple of years ago, there was a campaign going to ‘Save Otago Lane’. No sign of that this time so I am assuming it must have been ‘saved’. Actually, I am glad of that because it has a second hand bookshop with a great theology section. Now don’t get me wrong. This bookshop, as with the rest of the lane, would not win prizes for architecture, tidiness or anything else for that matter but what I like is the fact that you can find some amazing books, which someone else has finished with, for very reasonable prices and bring them back into circulation again. In terms of their appearance they may not be as good as new but they are restored to usefulness. The same can be said of the second hand record shop and other outlets in that lane. It may be in need of restoration itself but Otago Lane is doing a great job at restoring otherwise useless items to usefulness.

It kind of reminds me of how God works with us. One of the workshops I attended was to raise awareness of people’s mental health and the effects of mental illness. Such people are often written off by society and particularly by their work places, at times. Yet they, as we all can, be restored to usefulness with the right help. That is often the work of medical people but God helps us too. In fact I would say that he never writes us off. Like the dusty old books we may become a bit tattered and worn out but he can always use us. We are never useless in his eyes.

I am reminded of the words of an old song and particularly the first verse which says:

Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven;
To His feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Who like me His praise should sing

Praise him! Praise him!
Praise the everlasting King.

We normally think of salvation when we sing these words and that is appropriate. However, whenever in life we find ourselves worn out, we can find healing, restoration and forgiveness in the King of Heaven. A short visit to Otago lane and my wallet is £20 lighter and my bag is 14 books heavier. But the books will be useful and are appreciated for their inner content over their outward appearance. In God’s eyes, so are you!

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Praise my Soul the King of Heaven
(By Henry Francis Lyte, based on Psalm 103)

Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven;
To His feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Who like me His praise should sing
Praise him ! Praise him!
Praise the everlasting King.

Praise Him for His grace and favour
To our fathers in distress.
Praise Him still the same for ever,
Slow to chide, and swift to bless
Praise him ! Praise him!
Glorious in His faithfulness.

Father-like He tends and spares us;
Well our feeble frame He knows.
In His hands He gently bears us,
Rescues us from all our foes.
Praise him ! Praise him !
Widely as His mercy flows

Angels, help us to adore him
Ye behold Him face to face;
Sun and moon, bow down before Him,
Dwellers all in time and space
Praise him ! Praise him !
Praise with us the God of grace.

There is a fifth stanza to the poem, not often seen, inserted between the third and fourth stanzas above:

Frail as summer’s flower we flourish,
Blows the wind and it is gone;
But while mortals rise and perish
God endures unchanging on,
Praise Him, praise Him,
Praise Him, praise Him,
Praise the High Eternal One!

 

Prayer Blog – May 03

woodpecker 02 cropped

Seeing God

I had heard him, I had seen him at a distance until finally, I saw him close enough to get a picture. That is the woodpecker which I posted a picture of on Facebook the other day.

When we first moved into our house at the edge of the woods in Dingwall we would hear the drumming sound of the woodpeckers high up in the trees. I believe they make this noise as they hammer at the trees to release insects from them for food. Very clever and very well designed for the task being equipped with a skull hard enough to absorb the blows, equivalent of a pile driver. Then one day we saw a pair of them, again high in the trees, but the glimpse was enough to see their beauty and to create a desire to see them a bit closer. Until, finally, one landed on a feeder in our garden and now returns daily for a share of the peanuts.

I don’t know what it is but, when things like this happen, some of us are determined to get a picture of the bird or animal for ourselves. Of course there are plenty of pictures of woodpeckers in books or on the internet. Most are far better than mine due to the superior camera equipment which more professional photographers tend to invest in. But this is my picture. I am pleased with it because I took it and it gives me some personal satisfaction.

I wonder how we picture God? Perhaps, we heard of him first. We knew plenty of people who had experienced this God. Who made much talk of him and even went to church and worshipped him for themselves. They would say that they had heard God. Maybe then we want to get a closer glimpse. Just enough to satisfy our curiosity. But having done that the beauty of God seems to compel us to want more. To have our own picture, our experience, of what he is like in all of his splendour and glory!

But, some may ask, how can you see God? Are you not just projecting something of your imagination onto that which you believe is God? A valid point but, for many people; God is the one who, having revealed something of his nature, draws them to him.

According to Kenneth Boa, there are several ways that we can say that we see God, including:

God’s World, His Word, His Works, and His Ways[1]

In his world he is revealed in the beauty of creation. In his Word he speaks of his laws and enlightens us of his being, in His Works he redeems, protects and provides. And His Ways are loving and compassionate desiring that none should perish but that all should come to him. (John3:16-17)

Boa goes on to say that our capacity to love God is related to our image of God. So, someone else’s picture may reveal just enough for us to want our own image of God. An image which is true and focussed on his world, his word, his works and his ways will reveal his beauty and we may gaze on it always for it has been revealed to us, personally, by his love as revealed in Jesus Christ.

 

God’s Worthship (William Temple)

Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by his holiness; the nourishment of mind with his truth; the purifying of the imagination by his beauty; the opening of the heart to his love; the surrender of will to his purpose – and of all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy of that self-centerdness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.

 

Psalm 19

(For the director of music. A psalm of David.)

Ps 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Ps 19:2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.

Ps 19:3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Ps 19:4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, Ps 19:5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. Ps 19:6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.

Ps 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

Ps 19:8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

Ps 19:9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. Ps 19:10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. Ps 19:11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Ps 19:12 Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.

Ps 19:13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

Ps 19:14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
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[1] Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image: Biblical an Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation (Michigan: Zondervan, 2001), 154-163

Prayer Blog – May 02

photo20of20incenseA Fragrant Offering

How do you smell? I don’t mean by which means do you smell, i.e. through your nose but what do you smell like?

Spring is a time of year when our nostrils can be filled with fresh new aromas. I love the smell of the yellow gorse. Not only does the bright yellow colour brighten up our landscape but the smell is very pleasing. Somehow it reminds me of coconuts and you could easily be transported, by your imagination, to a warmer climate by the aroma it makes. Just this morning I was out walking and I got my first whiff of wild garlic. Not something you expect in Scotland but again it can provoke the imagination into more exotic places. The list could be endless; roses, honeysuckle, plants and flowers of all sorts have their own particular scent and we all have our own particular favourites.

However, not all smells are good, and again the list could be endless, but perhaps the worst of bad smells are made by humans. I recall my first job, in a glass factory, which was very hot, and body odours became a real problem. We had nick names for one or two people who were shy of soap and deodorant sprays and on one occasion a culprit was even posted a bar of soap on his birthday but he did not take the hint. He did not get it! (Although everyone else did)

So, how we smell, in a physical way, is important to us. We live in a culture which expects us to at least not smell bad and at best smell good. Usually this is encouraged by advertising some perfume or fragrant spray.

But Paul, in Ephesians 5:1-2 encourages us to be fragrant in a different way. He encourages us to be imitators of God…to live in love…as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

The way that Jesus lived, even in the way that he died, sacrifially, is so pleasing to God that we are urged to follow that example. To imitate God in this way is to live our lives as a fragrant offering in a world that is often infused with bad odours. We are given examples of them, and how to respond, in the preceding verses of Ephesians chapter 4; speak truth to your neighbours (not lies)…be angry but do not sin…give up stealing…be honest and work hard…let no evil talk come from your mouths…put away bitterness, wrath and anger…be tenderhearted and forgive one another…(Ephesians 4:25-32) Being imitators of God means living lives that are spiritually fragrant, Christ like. We can become more like him by spending time in his presence.

Of course this can be difficult when, at times, bad odours pervade life. The protestant reformer, Martin Luther, was well aware of the tensions of living between two kingdoms, which overlap, and the Christian is caught up in the tension of living in one while trying to be obedient to the other. Anfechtung, is a German word which means temptation but with an emphasis on struggle. For Luther, prayer was understood as ‘struggle with God’[1] that the fragrance of his presence would overpower us.

We constantly live in a world where bad odours can overpower the fragrance of a life lived in imitation of God. Therefore, we constantly need to be in communion with the one who is a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. That we may overcome the temptation to be anything other than, like him. So then; how do you smell? Does our fragrance remind others of a different place, the kingdom of God? And so, may we be infused afresh with his fragrance each new day.

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Psalm 116:12-19

 

How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.

I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

O LORD, truly I am your servant; I am your servant,

the son of your maidservant; you have freed me from my chains.

I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD.

I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,

in the courts of the house of the LORD— in your midst, O Jerusalem.

Praise the LORD.

Ephesians 5:1-2

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children

and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself

 up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

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[1] Alister McGrath, Christian Spirituality (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1999), 23

Prayer Blog – May 01

13124459_1311816668832706_27617342588782917_nThe Parousia

The other day I was walking through the woods, in front of our house in Dingwall, and I heard an unusual sound. The trees are beginning to fill out now, with fresh new foliage, blocking the view of the other side of the wood. However, I knew that the noise was vaguely familiar. It sounded like something else that could be heard regularly around here but was a bit different. Although I could not see it I could tell that the noise was coming from the direction of the railway line and it sounded like a train, with a difference. The Choo Choo sound was not that of a diesel engine but of an old fashioned steam train. In fact a picture came into my mind, which helped the penny drop, because a friend had posted a picture of this train on social media, on its Highland tour, when they came across it earlier in the week.

Our wonderful God given sensory system works together to help us understand that which we hear and see. In this instance the picture came to mind, from memory, with the help of the sound. The sound of a steam train is a magical sound. Nostalgia, power and elegance were all conjured up by the sound of the puffing steam.

The writers of scripture used pictorial language to similar effect. In the New Testament pictorial language, sometimes referred to as apocalyptic, is used to help us understand what will happen when Christ returns. Peter talks of the day of the Lord coming like a thief. The elements will be dissolved with fire but we wait for a new heavens and a new earth where righteousness is at home. (2 Peter 3:1013, NRSV, my paraphrase) This is just one example of many passages of scripture which talks of roaring fires and rushing winds etc. to describe Christ’s return and the sudden breaking in of the new heavens and new earth. (The Greek word Parousia refers to this)

Meanwhile, we are to be waiting, expectant, holy and merciful people. (Jude 17-22) And when we hear that sound, familiar because it sounds like that which the prophets and apostles described for us, yet different from what we really expected; we will clearly recognise his return.

I recently read from a commentary, on the book of Daniel, that much of the apocalyptic writing there should be read like this: the writer describes what the Messiah would look like, the people waited around 400 years in expectation and then, when Jesus appeared, they were able to say, aha; so that is what Daniel was describing. It was to help them to see and recognise the real thing when it appeared.

This is so unlike the modern day tendency to try to work out where we are regards the end of time by linking everyday world events to bible passages. He will return and every word which has been written to describe that great event, the Parousia, will be fulfilled but perhaps not as we imagined. When he comes then we will know that this is what was written about.

The important thing for us is that when we hear of his coming, as e.g. what we read in the scriptures, that we live lives expectant and in anticipation of his coming; be holy, be merciful and keep praying, as Jude, Peter and even Jesus himself reminds us to.
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Praying and Hearing

I can hear the thunder in the distance

Like a train on the edge of the town;

I can feel the brooding of Your Spirit:

‘Lay your burdens down,

Lay your burdens down.’[1]

 

Seeking God’s Presence

God be in my head, and in my understanding;

God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;

God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;

God be in my heart, and in my thinking;

God be at mine end, and at my departing.[2]
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[1] Song by Robin Mark, As Sure as gold is precious and the honey sweet, (Chorus) Mission Praise, 1027
[2] Source unknown (found in Pynson’s Horae, 1515) SPCK Book of Christian Prayer (London: SPCK, 1995), 3

Prayer Blog April 2016 – 02

The Colour Purple
   k1625577Over this past week three events, with unlikely connections, have occurred which have resonated with the themes of life and death. On       Wednesday we learned of the death of Victoria Wood, a popular actress and comedienne, who could be described as cheerful and colourful in many ways. Then on Thursday the nation celebrated the Queen’s ninetieth birthday with much splendour and colour; such as was on show through the guards on horseback and the other regal displays fitting for such an occasion. Sadly, again on Thursday, there was news of the passing of another well-known celebrity known as Prince.

The connection to be made between Prince and Queen are a bit obvious, although one was in name only the other has the rightful claim to rule, through her title. However, perhaps a less obvious connection is the colour purple.

The title of one of Prince’s songs was of course, ‘Purple Rain’. Apparently it was one of his favourites and he sang it on practically every tour. “Purple Rain” opens with acoustics and three verses are followed by a chorus, with a building up of emotional delivery. In the film of the same name, each verse ties into a different strained relationship Prince’s character has and his desire to reconcile. The first verse is dedicated to his father, then his ex-girlfriend (Apollonia), and then his band mates.

crown_jewels_poland_10   The colour purple has long been associated with royalty; it was the colour worn by Roman magistrates; it became the imperial colour worn by the rulers of the Byzantine Empire and the Holy Roman Empire, and later by Roman Catholic bishops. Similarly in Japan, the colour is traditionally associated with Emperor and aristocracy. It is still often the colour donned by Kings and Queens today.

In Matthew 27:28 we read how Jesus was stripped and mocked by Roman soldiers before they put a ‘scarlet robe’ on him. The point of this (As indicated in the footnotes of the NRSV Study Bible) was that they probably used an officer’s cape to mimic a purple Royal Robe. Followed by which they led him away to be crucified.

Life is meant to be enjoyed in full colour, not monochrome, I believe. Whether it is the pageantry of royalty, the humour of comedy or the vibrancy of rock music. Life is God given and full of colour. Colour kind of helps joins up the dots for us in an otherwise dark world.

And even the dark colour of death is part of life’s rich tapestry. I recall the words of an old song which says: the dark threads are just as needful…as the treads of silver and gold…

None of us enjoy the darker places where life can take us; especially when connected to death. But we can trust the one who has overcome death. The one who, as revealed in Revelation, is donned in the most radiant white and surrounded by rainbow thrones, precious gems and flashing colour; His Reign is without end. And we can trust him today, wherever we are on life’s tapestry.

 

Psalm 20 – New Living Translation (NLT)

Psalm 20

A Royal Psalm: A psalm of David.

In times of trouble, may the Lord answer your cry.
May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm.
May he send you help from his sanctuary
and strengthen you from Jerusalem.[a]
May he remember all your gifts
and look favorably on your burnt offerings. Interlude

May he grant your heart’s desires
and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory
and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.
May the Lord answer all your prayers.

Now I know that the Lord rescues his anointed king.
He will answer him from his holy heaven
and rescue him by his great power.
Some nations boast of their chariots and horses,
but we boast in the name of the Lord our God.
Those nations will fall down and collapse,
but we will rise up and stand firm.

Give victory to our king, O Lord!
Answer our cry for help.

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer Blog March 2016 – 03

1053

On two occasions this week I found myself either praying, or being prayed for, in public places. On Wednesday a colleague and I, who is also a minister, were walking in a park in Inverness. We met a friend of my colleagues and, as we were talking, another gentleman, known to both my friends and is involved in church leadership, arrived on the scene. Before we parted my colleague’s friend asked to pray for our respective ministries. Heads bowed we prayed under the watchful eye of some local dog walkers. When we opened our eyes a young woman, passing with her dog, said; I see you are praying, I am a Christian too! We all felt encouraged by the experience.

On Thursday, I went into Tesco’s Café so that I could think about, and write up, my shopping list over a cup of coffee. As good an excuse for a coffee as any, I think. I had not long settled down when a friend from church arrived whom I invited to join me. She did, but was anxious to draw my attention to the couple at the table next to me as the woman had been crying. My friend had noticed this and went over and offered her some words of comfort and a copy of the booklet, Try Praying. Both were gratefully received as was the offer to pray with them there and then.

However, the couple’s story, and the reason for the tears, is very moving. Under normal circumstances I would never disclose names on this blog but Kathryn and Gregg Brain, along with their son Lachlan, are desperate to get their story out there in the public domain. They have been living in this country for almost 5 years but have been told that, despite both having good jobs and not in any way living of the state, they have to leave the country within 28 days. Their case has been recorded in the local press and if you want to support them you will find information on how to do so here:-

https://www.facebook.com/BrainDeportation/?fref=nf&pnref=story 

Of course, and we can sometimes say this lightly, the most important thing that we can do is to pray for them. Why? Because prayer appeals to the highest court that we can reach. That is God’s throne. We can appeal to him to intervene in all sorts of affairs that we consider unjust in the knowledge that he is the one who always acts justly and is perfect in his judgement. As the well-known prayer says: your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. We can also pray for the Brains, and other displaced people, in appeal to God that they would know the fulfilment of his promises, e.g. Jesus said that he would send us the comforter. So let us fervently pray for them.

In this week that we call Holy Week Jesus encounter with life reminds us that, as God incarnate, he is able to identify with all that we might have to go through. He experienced disappointment, betrayal, abandonment, extreme mental and physical torture but, perhaps worst of all, the indignity of the Cross that caused him to cry out to His Father, ‘why have you abandoned me’?

And yet, we know that from that darkest hour, when all seemed lost, on the third day, God acted: ‘See What a Morning, Gloriously Bright’, as one hymn writer puts it. Darkness is dispelled. Hope is restored and love is the victor. Words fail us!

All of Jesus trial and execution was acted out in the public domain and there were many witnesses to the resurrected Christ. Try Praying is not just a quirky evangelical trick. It is our opportunity to publicly witness to all of this wonder, whether people accept prayer or not. People may not always want us to pray for them in public places. But the invitation should be there as in that invitation we offer Jesus. So Try it, because you can!
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Easter Prayers[1]

Halleluia!
Jesus is risen!
He is risen indeed!

May this declaration
resound not only in these walls
but touch the lives
of all we meet
and forever be
the truth of which we speak.
Your love,
once sown within a garden,
tended for your own people,
neglected and rejected,
now spreads its sweet perfume
in this place
and wherever it is shown.

Halleluia!
Jesus is risen!
He is risen indeed!

How blessed is this day, when earth and heaven are joined and humankind is reconciled to God!
May the light of Jesus shine continually to drive away all darkness. May Christ, the Morning Star who knows no setting, find his light ever burning in our hearts—he who gives his light to all creation, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen. [2]

O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
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[1] http://www.faithandworship.com/prayers_Easter.htm#ixzz43whprMGa
[2] adapted from the Book of Common Prayer -1979, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

 

Prayer Blog – March (02)

kilbennan_st-_benins_church_window_st-_patrick_detail_2010_09_16

Vision and Freedom

I know that we protestants don’t go fully into the Saints tradition but we can always learn something from the lives of Godly people, who have walked the earth before us, and have been revered, even if overly so sometimes, because of the good witness they bore as followers of Jesus. Apart from St Andrew’s day St Patrick’s Day is easy for me to remember as it coincides with the birthday of one of our granddaughters.

So who was he? Well legends abound but a fair attempt at some accuracy may sound a bit like this:

St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain. Calpurnius, his father, was a Decurion and deacon, and his grandfather Potitus a priest. Patrick, however, was not an active believer. According to the Confession of St. Patrick, at the age of just sixteen Patrick was captured by a group of Irish pirates. They brought him to Ireland where he was enslaved and held captive for six years. Patrick writes in The Confession that the time he spent in captivity was critical to his spiritual development. He explains that the Lord had mercy on his youth and ignorance, and afforded him the opportunity to be forgiven of his sins and converted to Christianity. While in captivity, Saint Patrick worked as a shepherd and strengthened his relationship with God through prayer eventually leading him to convert to Christianity.

After six years of captivity he heard a voice telling him that he would soon go home, and that his ship was ready. After various adventures, he returned home to his family, now in his early twenties. After returning home to Britain, Saint Patrick continued to study Christianity.

Patrick recounts that he had a vision a few years after returning home:

I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: “The Voice of the Irish”. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.” 

Acting on the vision, Patrick returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary. Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461.[1]

Setting theological differences aside at least we can learn that St Patrick was a man of vision and according to the old K.J. version of Proverbs 29:18, Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. I am also impressed by the reaction of Patrick to his imprisonment which was, without doubt, an injustice. He converted to Christianity, developed a deep spirituality while living a life of servitude. Once released he did not squander his freedom but gave all of his life to God, for his glory and for the good of others.

All of that seems worthy of celebrating but do those who celebrate his feast day today do so for the right reasons? How do we celebrate our freedom, given to us from Christ? Where is our vision? Do we live solely for our own interests or for Jesus, the shepherd, and his flock? The life of St Patrick certainly raises many questions of us today.

Like the life of St. Patrick, the words of an old Irish song, ‘Be Thou My Vision’ reminds us of, and helps keep us in right living with the one who keeps us from perishing. As does St Patricks’ well known Breast Plate Prayer:-
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Be Thou My Vision

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;

Naught be all else to me, save that thou art;

Thou my best thought, by day or by night,

Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

Be thou my Wisdom, and thou my true Word;

I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord;

Thou my great Father, and I thy true son,

Thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;

Thou mine inheritance, now and always;

Thou and thou only, first in my heart,

High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,

May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s Sun!

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,

Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

St Patrick’s Breast Plate

I arise today through

God’s strength to pilot me, God’s might to uphold me,

God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to see before me,

God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me,

God’s hand to guard me, God’s way to lie before me,

God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to secure me –

against snares of devils,

against temptations and vices,

against inclinations of nature,

against everyone who shall wish me

ill, afar and anear,

alone and in a crowd…

Christ, be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit,

Christ where I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

Salvation is of the Lord.

Salvation is of the Lord.

Salvation is of the Christ.

May your salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.
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[1] http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=89

Prayer Blog – March 2016 – 01

2f3ccdee158bbce0edfefe71e1fc37e6Is God Bothered?

Is God Bothered? Is he bothered at all about the things that we humans get up to? Does he really care if we stay in the E.U. or ‘Brexit’, as the saying goes these days? Is God really bothered about who wins the Scottish League Cup this Sunday? There are a lot of people here in Ross-shire who would love to believe that he is and that he wants Ross County to win. But is he really bothered? Well those questions are valid if you have been following the news, national and local, recently.

First of all this business of the E.U. referendum. Throughout the past week the press have implied that various people have attempted to put their mark on what way we should vote. A couple of days ago the Sun newspaper carried the headline that the Queen supported a Brexit, something that the Palace was very quick to come out and deny. Just prior to that there were allegations that the Governor of the Bank of England was scaremongering over a Brexit but again this has been denied. However, to cap it all, the Archbishop of Canterbury got in on the act as he posed the question; is God really bothered? Again, his mention of ‘fear as a valid response’ caused an outcry of pro-European support. Wink, wink!

It’s all good for selling newspapers and keeping us entertained but there is a serious side to all of this. Perhaps fear really is a valid response whatever the outcome. Of course there will always be fears regards the unknown when it comes to the national and the global economy. However, much of Justin Welby’s comments went un-noticed as he addressed the current migration of people from places like Syria into Western Europe. On that subject he said:

“This is one of the greatest movements of people in human history. Just enormous. And to be anxious about that is very reasonable.”[1]

He then went on to comment how Britain had pledged to take in 20,000 refugees, over several years, yet; he had recently been in Berlin and seen first-hand how Germany had taken in 1.1 million just last year. And the way that people were being treated was far superior to the treatment given by other nations, Britain included. So, is God bothered?

I believe that God really is bothered about people. In fact, I think that he is very bothered about people. Not about which political party we support or maybe even if we are in or out of Europe. But if we ignore, or turn our backs on, millions of genuine refugees and say that we are not bothered then I think God will be bothered. He will be bothered that we are not bothered. After all God sent his people into exile precisely for not being bothered about the poor of the land. The prophet Amos said that God was unimpressed by fancy ritual and shallow worship, rather:

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! (Amos 5:24)

I think Justin Welby was right when he said “I don’t think there is one correct Christian view, one way or the other. You can’t say ‘God says you must vote this way or that way’.” But that is not to say that we should not be bothered. Bothered about those who are affected by our vote or that we should vote with self-preservation in mind. So God will be bothered – if we are not bothered.

So what about the football then? Is God bothered about that? Surely, he must be a County fan? Sunday will tell!
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Prayers for Justice – Because God Cares for Justice

God of compassion
whose own son experienced life as a refugee
we remember those fleeing from danger,
hungry and afraid, with nowehere to call home.
God, we ask for them warmth, security, food and peace.

God of hope,
we thank you for those who are working to bring relief and
comfort to those displaced,
showing glimpses of grace in the darkness of despair.
God, give them strength.

God of justice,
guide the nations and the leaders of the world towards peace
stir hearts to be generous and compassionate.
God, help us to play our part in bringing about the change
that we want to see.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.[2]
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[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35781613

[2]From the Diocese of Exeter: http://www.exeter.anglican.org/prayer-refugees/