Monday, 27 February 2012

A Litany of the compassionate love of God

 Thank you precious Lord Jesus that you are the Word who became flesh and lived among us, and that we have seen your glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Triune God we thank you. Thank you that you journey with us.
Thank you our Shepherd Lord that you lead us into green pastures, beside still waters, restoring our souls. Thank you that you lead us in right paths for your name's sake.
Triune God we thank you. Thank you that you journey with us.
Thank you Lord that even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil; for you are with us; your rod and your staff, they comfort us. Thank you that goodness and mercy shall surely follow us all the days of our lives
Triune God we thank you. Thank you that you journey with us.
 Father, we thank you that you have given us an Advocate, the Spirit of truth, who abides with us and is in us. Thank you that we have not been left orphaned, for you have come to us.
 Triune God we thank you. Thank you that you journey with us.
Let's say together the words of the psalmist:
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night’,
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Triune God we thank you. Thank you that you journey with us.
Lord we thank you for each other, that you call us to  provoke one another to love and good deeds, and to encourage one another. And thank you for the faithful saints who have gone before us,  so great a cloud of witnesses, and so let us also lay aside every weight and sin  and run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus so that we may not grow weary or lose heart.
Thank you triune God; thank you that you journey with us.
We have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
We are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone;  a holy temple in the Lord; a dwelling place for God.
 Thank you triune God; thank you that you journey with us. Amen
(Praying Scripture from John 1, 14, 15; Psalms 23, 139; Hebrews 10-12; Ephesians 2 - This Litany was prepared by Ruth Norris, intern with the Simeon Centre, for the Lenten Quiet Day on 25th February 2012 and is reproduced with deep thanks.)

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Ringing in the Lenten changes

For those of us who live by school or university terms, Lent arrives at the worst possible time, in the coldest month, when the dark is grindingly awful and we're tired and behind in our work. I don't want to make it sound worse than it is, but Ash Wednesday creeps up on me unawares like it never did in the Caribbean. There, the excesses and explosive beauty (and sin) of Carnival pointed strongly towards the season of repentance. 

So I've caught myself just in time wondering what I might usefully do in refreshing my Kingdom discipline. What follows is not what I've decided to do (yet!), but some of the musings about a creative approach to the season, a series of prompts that might encourage you to do the same.

  1.  The tyranny of the internet - this comes in so many shapes and sizes, that it's difficult to know where to begin, but there are several possible starting points:
    • for those who struggle with internet porn, perhaps it's time to find an accountability partner. Visit Covenant Eyes.  
    • if you are held prisoner to the need to answer instantly, or to check (yet again, on your mobile phone) in case that really, really important email has come in, a fast from email looking might be appropriate. Put in place a cut-off hour of the night beyond which you won't look, and maybe a period during the day too.
    •  inboxes can become millstones. If you have 12,364 emails in your inbox, set aside an hour a week for the discipline of clearing out and tidying up.
  1. The agitation of hurry - like you, I know that in an ideal world I would be more measured about the way I live, but I haven't got there yet, and am not sure that I can take on the world of church or academic busyness single-handed. However,
    • for me, it's becoming increasingly important to build in five minute (or even two minute) pauses several times a day when I do nothing but sit, catch my breath, listen to the world, recollect myself for the next race, and pray. I think this is one of the key issues that I must address to punctuate a busy schedule with sabbath space.
    • alternatively, you might consider a fasting walk once a week at lunch time. There's nothing worse than sitting down wishing your stomach would shut up. The virtue of walking is that you can no longer hear, or feel, the insistence of the gut!
  1. The allure of fulfilment – I remember a speaker on the subject of happiness saying some years ago that we are biologically wired for desire, but not for fulfilment. At the time it felt true, if overstated. Certainly, the ‘instant gratification’ of our consumerism in all its aspects leads to dullness or increased desire. Whether abstaining from chocolate or alcohol is a good thing for you, only you can judge. Don’t use fasting as an excuse for dieting: if you need to diet, just diet. But fasting is a discipline primarily intended to help us remember that the Kingdom of God is both now and not yet; that the battle against sin, the flesh and the devil is won on the cross, but the war is not over. So fast:
    •  from something where you need to separate want from need;
    •  from an innocent activity which is too dominant in your life;
    •  by giving something to someone else that you would really like to hold on to.
  1. The seduction of the ugly – having just finished reading Umberto Eco’s book On Ugliness, I am struck by the difficulty of defining beauty and ugliness, and have come to wonder whether they are opposites or part of a bigger picture. However, he’s made me more aware of beauty that corrupts and ugliness that tells the truth. In Philippians 4, the apostle Paul encourages us to learn to think and look in a new way: at the honourable, just, pure, pleasing and commendable or excellent elements of life. Perhaps there’s a final, ‘add-on’ discipline which I need to pursue:
    • by committing myself to a weekly act of creativity or appreciation (which could even be a Lenten trip to a museum!);
    • by indulging myself in my latest exploration of praying through the lens of a camera and recording it on the 365 Photo Project;
    • by reflecting on and attempting to practise Paul’s stricture in 1 Thessalonians 5.22, using the language of the KJV: Abstain from all appearance of evil.
Finally, if you have any other bright ideas about encouraging us all in the discipline of Lent, do comment below on the blog or send me your ideas to be added at my email address..

With every blessing for a godly and holy Lent

Adrian Chatfield

Saturday, 11 February 2012

When ministry is rocky and stormy

Psalm 37
Do not fret
But I do fret Lord
I spend too much time and energy fretting
and allowing difficult people to turn into giants
and fill my view
till I can hardly see you.

because of those who are evil 
or be envious of those who do wrong; 
for like the grass they will soon wither, 
like green plants they will soon die away. 

Help me to get them in proportion
with your greatness Lord and your constancy.

Trust in the LORD 

So simple. So obvious.
So why so hard?
The opposite of fretting.
Why – oh why – don’t I do it more?
And how?

Frustrated with my feeble faith.

and do good; 

My call.
Whatever situation
What does it mean to do good here?
Sounds delightfully uncomplicated.

dwell in the land

But so often I want to flee.
And this seems to be at the heart of rural ministry.
Struggling – and feeling I am failing.
In this place which most people think is paradise.
Fearful... fretting.... flight.
Answer? Trust in the Lord. I tell myself.

and enjoy safe pasture. 

And this is the rub
I don’t feel safe
most of the time.
Such pressure.
Such expectation.
Impossible expectations – for one human being.
And so exposed.
So exposed.

And so surprised at this
 As an extravert – open – beyond my own good...
Who loves the countryside (though this is really something else...)
And being part of a community (though this is such an alien community)
(What would it be like to live here and not be the vicar?)

And it’s such a small world.
Their world.
Most of them know no other.
And want to know no other.

Hard to just dwell here
when you’ve spent the last few years being expanded...

Do I have to shrink again?

Take delight in the LORD,
Fill my view again Lord.
How has this happened?
And satisfy me...

and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Really? Dare I hope to be happy?
Dare I even venture into the arena of my desires?
 For family... and friends... and fun... and creativity...and

Commit your way to the LORD; 
trust in him and he will do this: 
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, 
your vindication like the noonday sun. 
Be still before the LORD 
and wait patiently for him;

Home territory – but hard here
Never felt so pressured to be active
To have to explain (feeling I am making excuses for my weakness)
My need for prayer and stillness.

And why do I feel I have to explain anyway???

do not fret
There it is again.

when people succeed in their ways, 
when they carry out their wicked schemes. 
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; 
There’s been some anger.
Not sure with what or who...
All over the place, I suppose...

do not fret 
There it is again.

it leads only to evil.
Ok. So how?