Tag Archives: Christ

A prayer in the face of persecution


Lord, your early followers, suffered for their faith.
And there are many around the world today persecuted for their beliefs.
For them, faith is a daily encounter,
A step-by-step acknowledgement of your presence and provision.
But here we gather in safety and in peace,
And we take our freedom and our provisions for granted.
We sing and celebrate with laughter and delight;
Disconnected from the pain of the world around us.

Lord, it’s not always intentional;
But our constant smiles, our positive thinking and our happy talk
Often act as barriers to honest sharing.
Our faith seems like a series of placards condemning others to silence:
“No frowning”, we seem to say.
“No doubting”, “No sadness here”, “No pain allowed”.
And the suffering is hidden, and the pain is carried alone.

Lord, open our hearts to the burdens people carry.
We pray especially for those who grieve.
Some grieve the loss of a loved one,
While others grieve the loss of love;
Some have lost their health and independence,
Others, the opportunity to work and their sense of dignity.

Few of us are abused for our faith, Lord,
But there are many who experience violence every day.
Theirs is a silent and lonely path—
Forced to hide the abuse they dare not share;
Love broken, twisted and bitter.
Lord, open our eyes to each other’s pain;
Make us welcoming to the hurting world around us.

Transform our faith and our fellowship, Lord,
That our joy and delight becomes not a barrier but a sign of welcome.
That our gathering is not behind closed doors and unwelcoming placards,
But offers friendship and open arms, inviting and welcoming
The hurt, the helpless and the homeless.

Transform us, Lord, as you transformed the woman at the well.
Transform us from unthinking, lifeless worshipers
Into vital evidence of your grace for our community.

Transform us, as you transformed Nicodemus,
From an intellectual understanding of faith,
Into a practical caring for the body of Christ
In its pain and suffering and death.

For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
AMEN

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Joy to the world


O Christ, you came to a fouled stable,
And declared that no place was too coarse or too vulgar.

O Christ, you came as a baby,
And declared that no one was too insignificant.

You received shepherds, straight from the fields,
And you declared that all were welcome—there are no outcasts.

You received kings, the ones who came humbly, seeking,
But ignored the proud and the self important.

All heaven declared your glory, but not many noticed.
You don’t force our faith; you work quietly, one heart at a time.

We come to celebrate your birth into our dark world today.
We are vulgar, insignificant, outcast;
We bring our pain, and lay aside our self importance;
We join with the angels and celebrate the baby, who is Christ the Lord.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing.

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Reclaiming Christmas with Grace


Tinsel town?“Mine! Mine! Mine!” squawked the gulls in Finding Nemo.

“Mine! Mine! Mine!” I hear Christians cry as a marketing frenzy warps the Christmas message; as the god of our consumer society replaces the mystery of the Christ child with the clamour of the cash register, the jangle of canned carols and the lure of the sale.

“Christmas is mine,” we say as we seek to reclaim Christmas and redirect the celebrations from the Santa of the shopping malls to the child of Bethlehem.

The “spirit of Christmas” is spread liberally around, but the mystery of Christmas is lost in the clamour. I can understand the frustration of Christians who denounce it all, give up the fight and choose not to celebrate Christmas at all.

But is that really an option? Can we opt out of the celebration, of this time of remembering? Can we pretend it didn’t happen, as some do? They say 25 December was a pagan celebration anyway, so it’s not Christian to celebrate. But, whatever date we choose, sometime during the year we have to stop and recognise the incredible gift of our incarnate Immanuel–God with us.

All rushed outOthers just want peace and quiet, to be able to celebrate the coming of Jesus in meditation and prayer, without the requisite gift-buying frenzy. Ah, what bliss that would be.

But would we? Would we remember at all, if the rest of the world wasn’t involved? Unless we worship in a church that uses lectionary readings, the great festivals of the church generally pass us by. How many of us celebrate Epiphany, or even the Ascension? And Pentecost? My guess is that we only celebrate Pentecost because it falls on a Sunday.

I know it’s a mad rush, I know the world’s involvement raises expectations and anticipation of an entirely materialistic nature. I know that we are so rushed by the commercialisation of the season, that we have little time to think of the meaning. But on this day, shared with pagans, perhaps, but on this wonderful day, we invite the world to stop, to reflect, to notice Jesus amidst all the tinsel and the jangling and the food. On this day, we say to the world, it is all because of Jesus, because of the most wonderful gift of all. Most of the world won’t hear us, will ignore us, will miss the point. But did rejection ever stop Christians from pointing the way, or from celebrating the life and death and resurrection of Jesus? Did rejection and misunderstanding stop Jesus?

As someone put it:
“Nations have their red-letter days, their carnivals and festivals, but once in the year and only once, the whole world stands still to celebrate the advent of a life. Only Jesus of Nazareth claims this world-wide, undying remembrance. You cannot cut Christmas out of the Calendar, nor out of the heart of the world.” Anonymous(from CrossQuotes.org)

Accepting the full meaning of Christmas, beyond the tinsel and the carols, would mean a commitment that even we find difficult to give. Can we wonder that the world would rather trivialise this event than celebrate it.

Christmas CarolsSo let’s sing our Christmas carols, and let the world join in. Let’s worship together with those who never come to church at any other time. Let them have our seats and get the words wrong, and eat our mince pies, and even go away unchanged. Because grace is the gift that was given at Christmas, not “peace on earth.” The peace the angels sang about will come when we learn to share the grace we have received.

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Easter Sunday: Is “Amen” the end, or just the beginning?


“Amen”

Amen; the very last word of Handel’s Messiah, sung about 49 times for emphasis.

But what does it mean?  The end?  Does it mean, “That’s done and dusted, you can all go home now”?  Well, that might be true at a performance of Handel’s Messiah.  And in our prayers “Amen” often just means, “That’s the end of the prayer; we can move on now.”  But forty-nine Amens suggest that Handel wanted to convey something more.  

Amen is a Hebrew word.  Used in response to someone else’s words it means, “That’s true,” or “Let it be true; so be it.”  Jesus used it uniquely at the beginning of some of his own sayings—usually translated “Verily” or “Truly”, as in John 3:3  “I am telling you the truth: no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again” (GNB).  The Message translates it, “Listen very carefully”.   It suggests that this isn’t something to say a casual “Amen” to and then carry on as before.  This is going to change your life, so listen up.

The Interpreter’s Dictionary describes Amen as “an exclamation by which listeners join in what they have heard, and affirm their readiness to bear the consequences of this acknowledge­ment.”

On this great day, we declare, “The Lord is risen; he is risen indeed.”

What now?  Jesus, who died for you and for me, and for our neighbours, and for our enemies and friends, is risen, and we say, “Amen!”  But does it mean that is the end, and now we get on with our lives?  Or does it mean that we affirm our readiness to bear the consequences of our acknowledgement, to allow the risen Christ to reign in our lives, and to follow him in the world?

The Lord is risen.  Will you let that change your life today, forever?

Prayer
Risen Lord Jesus, you said “Amen” to your Father’s plans, and laid down your life for me.  Let my “Amen” today affirm my commitment to bring your life into my world, and the world of my friends and enemies alike, today and every day. Amen

This was my contribution for Easter Sunday to “The Lent Diary”, a devotional project of Prestbury Methodist Church to which some 40 different people contribute each year.  This year the meditations were based on the readings used in Handel’s Messiah (My mother edits the Diary; maybe that’s why my contributions get published each year?)

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Lent Diary 2012: Easter Saturday and Handel’s Messiah


“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.” (Based on Revelation 5: 12-13)

If you could take one human-made thing to heaven, what would it be? But what if, in all of heaven, there was to be only one thing that had been made on earth.  How do we choose something precious and meaningful for everyone: for kings and rulers; for sporting legends and movie stars; for shopaholics and the poorest of the poor; for empire builders and environmentalists?

Someone has suggested that there is one set of human-made items in heaven.  They are objects of intense worship. They bring the wearer power, riches, wisdom, strength, honour, glory and blessing.  None of us would have chosen to bring them to heaven; none of us is proud to find them there. But it wasn’t our choice; it was God’s.  The only human-made things in heaven are the wounds of the nails in the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.

It is significant that the glory of the Christ is not in his majestic position or his power, but in his wounds.  He may well be the Lion of Judah but in heaven he is glorified as the Lamb of God, who was slain.

Here on earth, this Easter Saturday, as we ponder the events of Good Friday, we can only kneel in shame and recognition that our sins (yours and mine) caused those wounds.  But it was no accident.  “The Lamb was slain from the creation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8)  Our sin and the only solution were known to God from the beginning; his love made it inevitable. His wounds are not marks of shame but evidence of God’s extravagant love.  That is why, in heaven, they are worshiped, and why, even on Easter Saturday, we can join in the heavenly chorus, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!”

Prayer
Lamb of God, our sin led you to the cross, but your cross frees us from our sin.  Thank you for taking on our shame so that we can share in your glory.

This was my contribution for Easter Saturday to “The Lent Diary”, a devotional project of Prestbury Methodist Church to which some 40 different people contribute each year.  This year the meditations were based on the readings used in Handel’s Messiah

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A Child is Born


Isaiah 9:2-7 (The Message)

(2)  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows– light! sunbursts of light!

(3)  You repopulated the nation, you expanded its joy. Oh, they’re so glad in your presence! Festival joy! The joy of a great celebration, sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.

(4)  The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants– all their whips and cudgels and curses– Is gone, done away with, a deliverance as surprising and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian.

(5)  The boots of all those invading troops, along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood, Will be piled in a heap and burned, a fire that will burn for days!

(6)  For a child has been born–for us! the gift of a son–for us! He’ll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness.

(7)  His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings. He’ll rule from the historic David throne over that promised kingdom. He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing and keep it going With fair dealing and right living, beginning now and lasting always. The zeal of GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies will do all this.

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