Prayers for Creation

20th January 2023

Trust in the Lord and be doing good; dwell in the land and be nourished with truth.
 Let your delight be in the Lord and he will give you your heart’s desire.
Psalm 37:3-4

You Lord are the bread of life;

feed us with your wisdom.

Our meat is to do the Father’s  will;

guide us in all we do

Whenever we eat or drink

Let it be to the glory of God.

A reading from Matthew 25: 34-36 (The Message)

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’” 


A canticle:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; •
he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.

Praise to you O God, for the rich creation of this world 

for which you have created humans to be the gardeners.

From this day all generations will call me blessed; •
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his name.

You have blessed us with fruit bearing trees and plants, 

ensuring food throughout the seasons.

He has mercy on those who fear him, •
from generation to generation.

Your wisdom guides those who, in each generation, 

are honest and humble enough to seek it.

He has shown strength with his arm •
and has scattered the proud in their conceit,

Yet each generation sees the damage 

caused when there are those who disdain your will. 

Casting down the mighty from their thrones •
and lifting up the lowly.

Raise the spirits of those who work at the grassroots, 

give them strength to overcome the deceits of big business.

He has filled the hungry with good things •
and sent the rich away empty.

Bless the work of food banks and charities that feed the hunger, 

and teach those with wealth to be sacrificial in their giving.

He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, •
to remember his promise of mercy,

Help nations and communities to work together

for justice and for peace. 

The promise made to our ancestors, •
to Abraham and his children for ever.

May generations to come reap the harvest,

not of our greed, but of your grace .

Amen.

Trust in the Lord and be doing good; dwell in the land and be nourished with truth.
 Let your delight be in the Lord and he will give you your heart’s desire.
Psalm 37:3-4

Epiphany: Baptism of Jesus

15th January 2023

Reflection (readings below)

The Gospel story today is full of drama. Be amazed! Be in awe! This is an epiphany moment – the breaking of the true nature and identity of Jesus. In this moment earth and heaven are in perfect communion. Jesus is anointed with the Holy Spirit. Jesus is openly declared to be the Chosen One, the very unique and beloved Son of God. 

This is the chosen servant imagined in the words of Isaiah. This Chosen One would be as a covenant to the peoples, through whom salvation will be accomplished. Isaiah and the other prophets were all clear in their messages that salvation required justice. Salvation would be achieved through that justice that brings  healing for sick, sight to the blind, release for  prisoners and those trapped in darkness. 

I think that we and the churches too easily forget the importance of seeking justice – perhaps because  we can’t quite imagine how we can do this. Looking around our world there seems to be so much injustice. We only have to open our newspapers or turn on the television, to know that even in our own relatively affluent country, there are people who cannot afford to both eat and heat their homes; that there are people in employment who have to rely on food banks – and that includes nurses and teaching staff. We might have to read a little further and we would discover people who can either find an NHS dentist nor afford private treatment, farmers who cannot make a profit growing the food we eat, or people locked up 23 hours of the day because the prison system cannot afford sufficient staff.  

How indeed can we bring about justice in these situations? We can – as many churches do – support food banks. We can – as many of us do – donate winter fuel allowances to help run warm hubs. But justice needs more – system change. Change that will build in rather than exclude justice. Change that will equality and fairness the touch stone. Change that will always protect the vulnerable.

No one says that such change is easy to bring about. It can take  time and perseverance – something Isaiah clearly recognised. It will involve the transformation of the many systems that control our economic and social lives. Such change happens when opinions change, when tipping points are reached. The change often begins at the grass root level, and then grows. As Christians and church communities, we can call out and highlight injustice where we see it. We write to our bishops and our MPs and ask for change. We can be fact finders and information spreaders, ensuring that the truth about injustices and the need for justice becomes widespread. We can become campaigners and activists! We can, as St Paul, says be preachers of the Gospel –  empowering the good news of justice that underpins salvation and following the example of Jesus, God’s Chosen One. This is an awesome calling!

Isaiah 42:1-9

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.

He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;

a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.

He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,

who gives breath to the people upon it
and spirit to those who walk in it:

I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;

I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,

to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.

I am the Lord, that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to idols.

See, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;

before they spring forth,
I tell you of them.

Psalm 29

1 Ascribe to the Lord, you gods, *
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his Name; *
worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

3 The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
the God of glory thunders; *
the Lord is upon the mighty waters.

4 The voice of the Lord is a powerful voice; *
the voice of the Lord is a voice of splendour.

5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees; *
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon;

6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, *
and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the Lord splits the flames of fire;
the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; *
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

8 The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe *
and strips the forests bare.

9 And in the temple of the Lord *
all are crying, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sits enthroned above the flood; *
the Lord sits enthroned as King for evermore.

11 The Lord shall give strength to his people; *
the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.

Acts 10:34-43

Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptised by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptised, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Prayer for Creation

Friday 13th January 2023

Trust in the Lord and be doing good; dwell in the land and be nourished with truth.
 Let your delight be in the Lord and he will give you your heart’s desire.
Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him, and he will bring it to pass. Psalm 37:3-5

You Lord are the bread of life;

feed us with your wisdom.

Our meat is to do the Father’s  will.

guide us in all we do

Whenever we eat or drink

Let it be to the glory of God.

Reading Mark 6: 38-44 ( from The Message)

But he was quite serious. “How many loaves of bread do you have? Take an inventory.”

That didn’t take long. “Five,” they said, “plus two fish.”

 Jesus got them all to sit down in groups of fifty or a hundred—they looked like a patchwork quilt of wildflowers spread out on the green grass! He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples, and the disciples in turn gave it to the people. He did the same with the fish. They all ate their fill. The disciples gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. More than five thousand were at the supper.  

Table Piece

Around the table, smallest to largest, 

youngest to oldest – comfortable and companionable.

Bread, first mixed and kneaded, 

shared together at the table.

Wisdom, debated and pondered,

gathered from around the table. 

Gentle chiding, loving acceptance, laughter –

differences reconciled at the table.

Thanks given, prayers said, hands clasped 

a place of worship at the table.

Kith and kin, friends – all welcome: love 

a community built around the table.

Prayers

We give thanks O Lord, for the food we have to eat, 

for the opportunities we have to eat together, 

for the times we gather to share and  learn together, 

and for the joy of worshipping at your table. 

We pray Lord, for all who struggle to get food to eat, 

all who lack the companionship of friends and family, 

all who are exploited and all who are fall prey to disinformation, 

and for all who have yet to feel included at you table. 

Stir us Lord, to respond with generosity and determination 

to feed the hungry, 

to transform the inequalities of society, 

to reach out to those starved of love,

and to nourish all with your word.

Amen. 

Prayers for Creation

16th December 2022 

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;  Christina Rossetti 

You Lord, are the source of all good things: 

We praise you.

You call us to tend and care for your creation: 

May we strive to do your will.

You have made us as brothers and sisters with all that lives: 

May we live together in peace.

A reading from Isaiah 55:10-11

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

And do not return there without watering the earth

And making it bear and sprout,

And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;

It will not return to Me empty,

Without accomplishing what I desire,

And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

Response

Winter, the fallow season, 

prepares the land for spring.

The small seed lies dormant 

lest the cold freeze its vulnerable growth.

But in due time what is small will swell, 

what is vulnerable will gain strength, 

and what is hidden will bloom forth.

Winter, the fallow season 

is when we prepare for spring. 

Waiting,

but gaining strength, 

patiently building networks of support. 

Confident that the Word in us 

will accomplish God’s desire.

In the bleak winter Lord,

We pray for those who feel they have no hope, 

for those who anticipate a Christmas without joy.

We give thanks for all who ease their pain and desolation.

We give thanks for those who offer time and money with generosity.

Open our hearts that we too may be givers. 

In the bleak winter Lord,  

We pray for birds and animals seeking food and warmth,  

for wildlife threatened by human greed and ignorance. 

We give thanks for all who stand up for the rights of creation.

We give thanks for  all who offer time and money with generosity.

Open our hearts that we too may be givers. 

In the bleak winter Lord,

We pray for all affected by systems that fail to deliver, 

systems corrupted by prejudice, selfishness and complacency.

We give thanks for all who stand up for the rights of others, 

who challenge the status quo and seek a better world.

Open our hearts that we too may act for change.

Lord God, unfreeze frozen hearts, 

bring new life to hearts of stone, 

and work in us and all your creation  

the transformative power of you Word.

May your will be done!

Amen. .

Second Sunday of Advent 

4th December 2022

Reflection (the readings follow on below)

One of the themes of today’s readings is justice. What is justice? What do we mean when we talk about justice? Is it me getting what I want? Me being free to do what I want, when I want and how I want? Is it me being free to exercise ‘my rights’?

This is a lot about ‘me’ but what I what I want to do adversely affects someone else? What if my rights block someone else’s rights?

Might justice be concerned with what I have done wrong, where I have impinged in somebody else’s rights? Might justice be about me being penitent and offering restitution? 

The Psalmist tells us that justice goes hand in hand with righteousness. More explicitly, we’re told that to do justice is to defend the needy, to rescue the poor and the oppressed, to restore the fertility of the land and to enable peace to flourish. Nothing there about my rights!

Isaiah tells us that justice comes from the spirit of the Lord, that it encompasses the wisdom and understanding that comes from God – as well as the awe (often translated as fear) of God. The exercise of God’s justice doesn’t just rely on what one sees and hears, but on a deeper understanding of the situation. It is a justice that creates a world of peace, of mutual co-existence, of joy. It creates that renewed world order which in Advent we look forward to. 

And for which we prepare. John the Baptist’s cry that we should repent and prepare the way, is not an ideal call. Nor is it a call only to be heard in the past. It is the rallying call for us today, this year of 2022. 

We are called to look at the world around us with more than just ears and eyes. To look deeper, to seek to understand the deep issues that causes injustice to damage lives of both people and the natural world. We need to be aware of and able to stand up for those who are oppressed, who are poor, marginalised. Those who have inadequate access to the necessities of life, as well as inadequate access to opportunities of life. We need to be aware of the long and short term harm being caused to the natural environment as well as to the built environment in which we live and work. We need to be aware of where we are at fault, where we have been the cause of the injustices and we need to be willing to make reparations. 

We cannot stand back and ignore the plight of the people suffering starvation in East Africa after seasons of drought. We cannot stand back and ignore the plight of Pakistan where a third of its land has been flooded disrupting daily live on a vast scale. We cannot stand back whilst around we cause the 6th mass extinction of life on earth. We cannot stand back and ignore the plight of people in our own country who have insufficient resources to feed their families, to keep warm, to maintain a sense of dignity. 

Equally we cannot stand back and ignore the behaviour of those who oppress the poor with their commercial clout. We cannot ignore the behaviour of those who continue to invest in atmospheric polluting oil industries. We cannot ignore the behaviour of those who do not forgive the debts of the poorest nations. We cannot ignore those who behaviour persecutes people because of their race, colour, faith or gender. 

Rather we need to be active in repentance and justice, ensuring that our words and actions work to create the kingdom of heaven on earth. And we can. With God’s wisdom and understanding we can review what we buy – do our purchases help or hinder justice? We can review our lifestyle choices – do they help or hinder justice? We can review our opinions, the conversations we share with others – do they help or hinder justice? We can write to our local councillors, our MPs, business leaders, our bank and pension fund providers and ask what they are doing on our behalf to ensure justice. We can join ecological and justice organisations, sign petitions, join demonstrations. 

Our prayers and our study of scripture, our engagement with the natural world and with social affairs, will help us to learn and receive God’s wisdom and guidance. This is how we will ‘bear fruit worthy of repentance’.

Isaiah 11:1-10

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;

but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,

the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the
ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;

for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

1 Give the King your justice, O God, *
and your righteousness to the King’s Son;

2 That he may rule your people righteously *
and the poor with justice;

3 That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people, *
and the little hills bring righteousness.

4 He shall defend the needy among the people; *
he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

5 He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure, *
from one generation to another.

6 He shall come down like rain upon the mown field, *
like showers that water the earth.

7 In his time shall the righteous flourish; *
there shall be abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more.

18 Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, *
who alone does wondrous deeds!

19 And blessed be his glorious Name for ever! *
and may all the earth be filled with his glory.
Amen. Amen.

Romans 15:4-13

Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

“Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
and sing praises to your name”;

and again he says,

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”;

and again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples praise him”;

and again Isaiah says,

“The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 3:1-12

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’”

Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptised by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

“I baptise you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Counting on … day 378

14th November 2022

One of the agenda items today at COP27 is the issue of gender discrimination.


There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 

We pray for all the participants,

the decision-makers and the protestors,

the bureaucrats and the prayerful,

influencers and bankers,

for producers and consumers, 

for girls and women, boys and men, 

transgender and non binary, gay and lesbian,

and those who would rather be free of labels.

May we care for and cherish each other,

supporting, enabling and encouraging all 

to cope with the challenges 

and opportunities of climate change.

Loving and patient God,

may your will be done.

All: Amen.

Love and cherish not some of the earth but all; 

Not just your back yard, but mine too;

Not just your local wood but the rainforests too;

Not just your home town but the favelas too.


Love and cherish not some creatures but all;

Not just pandas and tigers, but the vulture and bat too;

Not just bees but wasps and spiders too;

Not just elephants but slugs and snails too.


Love and cherish not some landscapes but all;

Not just meadows but peat bogs too;

Not just ancient woodlands but hedgerows too

Not just national parks but grass verges too.


Love and cherish not some people but all;

Not just city bankers but street cleaners too;

Not just business leaders but refugees too;

Not just home owners but travellers too.


For if we do not, we are all diminished.

If we do not we shall all suffer

from droughts and floods,

rising sea levels and declining water supplies,

from infectious diseases and resistant bacteria. 


We are one world, one family,

one eco system, one interdependent 

and interwoven creation. 

God, our creator, redeemer and sustainer,

Bring us to our senses! 

Now!

Prayers for creation 

14th October 2022

Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and not we are ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3

You Lord, are the source of all good things: 

We praise you.

You call us to tend and care for your creation: 

May we strive to do your will.

You have made us as brothers and sisters with all that lives: 

May we live together in peace.

A reading: Deuteronomy 11: 11-17 

But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end. So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul—  then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil.  I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you. 

We do not presume to walk on this earth,

O merciful Lord,
trusting in our own righteousness,
but in your manifold and great mercies.
We are not worthy so much
as to gather up the leftover grains 

nor glean the fruits fallen from your trees –
But you are the same Lord,
whose property is always to have mercy:
Grant us therefore, gracious Lord,
so to live where you plant us, 

that we may work in harmony with nature 

and  share your rich harvest with all. 

Amen 

Thank you God for trees and fruit, herbs and grasses

Forgive us when through greed and thoughtlessness, 

we have cut down forests and burnt the scrub, 

when we have prioritised monoculture and marginalised diversity, 

when we have drained rivers and aquifers 

favouring cash crops over native plants. 

Remake our hearts and minds

and so restore our way of living.

Thank you God for birds of the air, 

the creatures of the land and the fish of the sea.

Forgive us when through greed and thoughtlessness, 

we have promoted our own livestock and made refugees of  the native wildlife, 

when we enlarged  our own living space and made other creatures homeless.

Remake our hearts and minds

and so restore our way of living.

Thank you God for soil and water and the fresh air we breathe. 

Forgive us when through greed and thoughtlessness 

we take from the soil but do not give back, 

when we pollute the waters with waste we do not want, 

when we fill the air with an excess of greenhouse gases.

Remake our hearts and minds

and so restore our way of living.

Thank you God for our brothers and sisters, our kith and kin

Forgive us when through greed and thoughtlessness 

we rob them of their livelihoods, 

when we divert their wealth into our pockets, 

when we ignore their pleas for help.

Remake our hearts and minds

and so restore our way of living.

Lord God, as you made us in your image, that we might live with you

and, as your Son took on our form that he might live among us, 

you have shown us how to live.

Remake our hearts and minds

and so restore our way of living.

Amen.

Proper 23

9th October 2022

Reflection (readings are below)

Today’s readings seem to have an overall theme of living lives worthy of God wherever and whoever and with whoever you are. 

Previously we have noted that Jeremiah bought a piece of land in Jerusalem to show his confidence that in the long run God’s people would return to that city. But before that would happen, Jeremiah knew the people would end up in exile. The people could just live mournful tragic lives waiting for the time to return to come – but that would be a waste of God’s gift of life. Instead Jeremiah counsels them to make themselves at home in their new place, to live to the full and to do so for the good of that land. By so doing God’s people will be showing in their lives the best that comes from God. They will be showing that whatever the circumstances God’s people are always positive and confident in their faith in God. And always appreciative of the gift of life.

In the Letter to Timothy, the writer is stressing the importance of Jesus Christ as being at the heart of the gospel. Whatever they endure, whatever circumstances they find themselves in, they can be confident that Jesus will stand by them – and even if they fail Jesus will still be there for them. They should always present themselves in the best possible way as faithful servants of Christ, and not wrangling over the how and the why between themselves. 

Whilst in today’s gospel, it is the least likely person who does the right thing, who honours God in the right way. 

And what might this say to us? Whoever and wherever we find ourselves we should seek to live life to the full following the ways of God, in union with – in step with – Jesus Christ. For us today that is in a country in which many people are facing a bleak winter with a real threat of being cold and hungry and unsure of the certainty of a roof over their head. We need to pray and act to care for our communities, being generous with what we have, showing solidarity with those in need, and campaigning to persuade those in positions of leadership to act with greater responsibility and compassion. 

We find ourselves in a country where biodiversity is under renewed threat – we hear of rivers being polluted, of woodlands being lost, of wildlife facing extinction, of soils loosing their ability to produce crops. We need to pray and act to care for our ecosystems , being generous with what we have, showing solidarity with those working to protect them, and campaigning to persuade those in positions of leadership to act with greater responsibility and compassion. 

We find ourselves in a world where many are facing hunger and starvation, homelessness and destitution arising from climate change, trade inequalities and a lack of justice. We need to pray and act to care for the most vulnerable – especially remembering how much of their suffering stems from our previous greed – being generous with what we have, showing solidarity with their demands  and campaigning to persuade those in positions of leadership to act with greater responsibility and compassion. 

Looking back over the last few Sundays, there is the call to promote the gospel, knowing that it stands for the kingdom values of love and mercy, justice and humility. There is the encouragement to trust in God, to hold on to hope – to be confident of the rightness of the values of God’s kingdom. There is the reminder to live joyful and find contentment with what we have. 

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Psalm 66:1-11

1 Be joyful in God, all you lands; *
sing the glory of his Name;
sing the glory of his praise.

2 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! *
because of your great strength your enemies cringe before you.

3 All the earth bows down before you, *
sings to you, sings out your Name.”

4 Come now and see the works of God, *
how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people.

5 He turned the sea into dry land,
so that they went through the water on foot, *
and there we rejoiced in him.

6 In his might he rules for ever;
his eyes keep watch over the nations; *
let no rebel rise up against him.

7 Bless our God, you peoples; *
make the voice of his praise to be heard;

8 Who holds our souls in life, *
and will not allow our feet to slip.

9 For you, O God, have proved us; *
you have tried us just as silver is tried.

10 You brought us into the snare; *
you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.

11 You let enemies ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water; *
but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.

2 Timothy 2:8-15

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David– that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. The saying is sure:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful–
for he cannot deny himself.

Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.

Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Proper 22

2nd October 2022

Reflections (the readings are at the end)

The Book of Lamentations contains a series of laments made in response to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian forces. In today’s exert, the writer mourns over an abandoned Jerusalem. Jerusalem now has no useful purpose: it has lost its identity and its raison d’être. It has been overtaken by events. 

 Not – thankfully – through war, but many towns cities in the UK feel abandoned. The vitality of their shopping centres sapped by empty units and boarded up shop fronts. Their hubs of industry and employment diminished as old manufacturing processes and products have become defunct, the skills of their workforce no longer of use. Derelict and disused sites cast a blighted shadow over the land. With the loss of jobs, goes a loss of self worth and civic pride. As incomes fall, so the reliance on overstretched public services rises. Residents become trapped unable to escape the encroaching poverty – and poverty brings a further deterioration of living standards. Levelling up, re invigorating the economy, re-equipping the people remains an unfulfilled promise. Borrowing from the writings of St Paul, since we are one body, we all suffer when one part suffers – but perhaps not so acutely in the wealthier suburbs. 

Why is Jerusalem in such a sorry plight? Because of its people’s sinfulness. Because the people chose to worship gods other than the one true God. Because the people choose not to live their lives in accordance with God’s ways. Rather they choose to be greedy, self interested and acquisitive. Might the same criticisms be turned towards us in 2022? Both our government and our economic model favours constant growth over sufficiency, personal gain over social good, tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the poor. We are stuck in an economy that is tied to the fossil fuel industry which cannot see beyond the promise of profits, to the threat of the climate crisis; which refuses to listen to the prophets of the age and refuse to shift allegiance to renewable energy.

Today’s offering for a psalm is a further exert from Lamentations. The desperate state of affairs still weighs heavy on the writer but now there is also a sense of hope. ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,’ asserts the writer, and ‘therefore I will hope in Him’.  Last week we heard how Jeremiah expressed his confidence that at some point in the future God’s people would return once to their city and its lands. Have we that hope, that vision, that our towns and cities can be place of happiness and self worth and sufficiency, where all can share in the wealth and vitality of a just society?

The Letter to Timothy is full of inspiring words. Our faith is a gift, a treasure entrusted to us by God! We are to guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit. It is a grace by which God gives a spirit of power and of love and of self discipline. I wonder if we exercise these powers enough? Or are they like muscles we forget we have and therefore forget to use? How should we be using these gifts? In declaring the good news: talking about and living out in our lives the Kingdom values that Jesus has shown. These are the values that our desolated towns need. These are the values that will restore justice, that will level up society, that will enrich lives and restore balance in the natural environment. 

Should we then be surprised by what Jesus says about what faith can achieve? Let us be confident in living by faith, living lives true to Jesus’s kingdom values, and let us share this good news so that  these values will shape the whole world.

Lamentations 1:1-6

How lonely sits the city
that once was full of people!

How like a widow she has become,
she that was great among the nations!

She that was a princess among the provinces
has become a vassal.

She weeps bitterly in the night,
with tears on her cheeks;

among all her lovers
she has no one to comfort her;

all her friends have dealt treacherously with her,
they have become her enemies.

Judah has gone into exile with suffering
and hard servitude;

she lives now among the nations,
and finds no resting place;

her pursuers have all overtaken her
in the midst of her distress.

The roads to Zion mourn,
for no one comes to the festivals;

all her gates are desolate,
her priests groan;

her young girls grieve,
and her lot is bitter.

Her foes have become the masters,
her enemies prosper,

because the Lord has made her suffer
for the multitude of her transgressions;

her children have gone away,
captives before the foe.

From daughter Zion has departed
all her majesty.

Her princes have become like stags
that find no pasture;

they fled without strength
before the pursuer.

Lamentations 3:19-26

The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!

My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.

It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,

To Timothy, my beloved child:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am grateful to God– whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did– when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

Luke 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, `Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, `We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'”

Proper 21

25th September 2022 (readings below)

Reflection 

‘Take hold of the life that really is life’. That is an interesting thought! Are there some forms or maybe approaches to life that are not real? That perhaps are fake? Or shallow or incomplete?

We are often encouraged to live in the moment, to enjoy the now and not worry about the future. Jeremiah takes a different tack. He and his companions are within the besieged city of Jerusalem, the opposing armies are at their gates. Maybe there isn’t anything to enjoy in the present moment. But Jeremiah can envisage a brighter future, one in which their way of life will be restored in Jerusalem- and his certainty about this comes from his trust in, and knowledge of, God. And he demonstrates his certainty by buying a piece of land – a piece of land that is about to be overrun by the invading forces – confident that he (or his descendants) will be able to occupy it in future time of peace. Jeremiah’s actions enact and confirm his faith that his life is lived in God’s hands.

The Psalmist is equally confident that real life is life lived with God. It is a life he lives in the confidence that God will be both a refuge and a protector. It is a life lived in the certainty that we are in relationship with God that is bound together by love. 

The author of the Letter to Timothy offers straight forward advice that we should live lives of godliness and contentment, spurning the temptations of riches, wealth and pointless desires. A good life is one lived with God, pursuing the virtues of godliness – following the path laid out before us by Christ Jesus.  Finding joy and being contented with what we have, is the message of Joy in Enough – a Christian campaign developed by Green Christian that works through churches to advocate for a fair and green economy. Joy in Enough calls for an economy that prioritises wellbeing and the common good, in which all have enough, and that respects the boundaries of nature.’ As well as proving a wealth of resources,  Joy in Enough also has a group study programme called Plenty! For enough can be plenty!

But what if people don’t have enough? Today’s gospel highlights the vast divide that can exist between those who have more than enough and those who do not have anything like enough. The parable illustrates how easily those of with more than enough can be blind to the lack faced by others. Currently charities and NGOs are pressing for the establishment of a Loss and Damage Fund that would pay reparations to communities who suffering loss through the effects of the climate change and with a particular awareness that often those who are suffering most have contributed least to the climate crisis. The call is for the United Nations to set up such a fund that would be financed by donations from wealthy countries, by taxes in fossil fuel companies, by taxes on air travel etc. 

‘Take hold of the life that really is life’. Is the life we live at present really the life God wishes? Is life where there is such poverty faced by people in the Horn of Africa, in Afghanistan and in the Indian subcontinent, really life? Is life where the rich have multiple homes and multiple cars, and can earn more in an hour that the poor do in a year, really life? Is life where the rich can buy influence in politics whilst  protestors are being silenced, really life? 

Should we not be like Jeremiah and living out in the present the future life we know to be real, the future life we know God desires? Do we not as Christians have a vision of a better world where life is real for all? Real life where there is no poverty but a fair sharing of resources and opportunities. Real life where power is not abused. Real life where all have a voice that is heard. Real life where creation is cared for. Real life where God is known by all and all know they are loved. We do not need to be conformed to the ways of the world but rather to the ways of the kingdom of God – that which we pray for every time we say the Lord’s Prayer.

Jeremiah bought a field. What actions could we take to demonstrate our confidence in life that is real? There will be a multiplicity of responses, some will be our one individual responses and others those of the church as a corporate body, whether at the parish or diocesan level. An increasing number of churches are reshaping their lives to become Eco Churches. There are currently 896 Bronze, 294 Silver, and 18 Gold churches and that is just in the Church of England. In view of the acute necessity of drastically reducing carbon emissions some dioceses have sold off all their shares in fossil fuel companies, and many churches have pledged  to avoid any such investments. Faced with accounts of poverty here in the UK and abroad, many churches support food banks and night shelters, promote fair trade goods, and raise funds for Christian Aid etc. At the recent Lambeth Conference the bishops agreed to undertake to plant a Communion Forest with individuals, churches and dioceses being encouraged to plant tree to help safeguard the environment.

The first Christians, according to Acts, sold what they had in order to share their wealth more equitably – “Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home[a] and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47) Others who encountered them were amazed!

I’m not sure we are in a position to be so radical but could we not live closer to that ideal? Can we take joy in enough? Can we be contented with less and thus willing to share more?  Can we do more to campaign for the rights of others – for social justice, for climate justice, for racial justice, for tax justice? 

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him.

Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.

And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, *
abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

2 He shall say to the Lord,
“You are my refuge and my stronghold, *
my God in whom I put my trust.”

3 He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter *
and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He shall cover you with his pinions,
and you shall find refuge under his wings; *
his faithfulness shall be a shield and buckler.

5 You shall not be afraid of any terror by night, *
nor of the arrow that flies by day;

6 Of the plague that stalks in the darkness, *
nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day.

14 Because he is bound to me in love,
therefore will I deliver him; *
I will protect him, because he knows my Name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; *
I am with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and bring him to honour.

16 With long life will I satisfy him, *
and show him my salvation.

1 Timothy 6:6-19

There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will bring about at the right time– he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.

Luke 16:19-31

Jesus said, “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, `Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, `Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house– for I have five brothers– that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, `They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, `No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, `If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”