Listen to it all and you can read more about it, including finding the lyrics, at Lent and Beyond.
Monthly Archives: March 2016
In this tomb, also, you may see, A pledge to us…Yes, verily, it is a pledge,
Of Christ’s power to raise us to a spiritual life ”” The resurrection of Christ is set forth in the Scriptures as a pattern of that which is to be accomplished in all his followers; and by the very same power too, that effected that. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul draws the parallel with a minuteness and accuracy that are truly astonishing. He prays for them, that they may know what is the exceeding greatness of God’s power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” And then he says, concerning them, “God, who is rich in mercy, of his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us usi together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus^” Here, I say, you see Christ dead, quickened, raised, and seated in glory; and his believing people quickened from their death in sins, and raised with him, and seated too with him in the highest heavens. The same thing is stated also, and the same parallel is drawn in the Epistle to the Romans ; where it is said, “We are buried with Christ by baptism into death; that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” But can this be effected in us ? I answer, Behold the tomb ! Who raised the Lord Jesus? He himself said, ” I have power to lay down my life, and power to take it up again….”
–Horae homileticae, Sermon 1414
…what about some of the bigger religious questions that are being posed in the world right now? We are speaking the day after the Brussels attacks, at a time of heightened hostility towards Muslims. #StopIslam was trending on Twitter as we spoke. Is this our problem? Yes. Welby thinks we have a responsibility to “demonstrate hospitality for mainstream Muslim leaders who themselves have taken huge risks and are suffering very significant threats when they stand up against attacks like Brussels.
“Secondly, I think we have a responsibility to be part of the process of developing a narrative that is more attractive within our society than the perverted, cruel and savage narrative which takes young men in particular, but women as well, into extremist action.
“Hostility to all Muslims because they’re Muslims ”“ although we disagree as Christians with their theology ”“ is a deeply unChristian and wrong way of behaving.”
Despite past history the GAFCON Primates decided to attend the January meeting. They demonstrated a love for the unity of the Communion but on a basis of common faith. They have not yet given up on the Communion. But ACC’s actions so far confirm their suspicions that they are being misled and manipulated and even an orthodox Archbishop of Canterbury cannot stop it.
How can ACC not accept the Primates’ decision? Why is it arrogating such roles to itself? Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda are right in drawing a firm line on the sand. Their approach is principled, not managerial or political.
Politically, TEC holds powerful cards ”“ money, power, access, communication, control of the media and leverage. But did TEC accept the Primates decision in January in the light of what they look on as a replay in Lusaka?
In parallel, I got to know Kit’s parishioners who worship at St James’, as well as the group of people who support Kit – all full of faith, kindness, generosity of spirit, care and consideration for each other (and a knowledge of the Bible that puts me to shame!). I saw and experienced, first hand, the positive differences that the church can make in a local community, and the value of community that the church can offer to those that seek it.
And I found myself being steadily drawn back to God and my faith. There wasn’t any ”˜sudden moment’, just a growing recognition that I wanted this to be part of my life again. I now attend Kit’s church every Sunday when I remind myself to be considerate, loving and helpful to others; to be kind; to be generous”¦and I find this weekly reminder a very helpful ”˜pause’ in my busy life. And I have also experienced, first hand, the value and power of prayer.
I have enjoyed immersing myself in supporting Kit’s church, seeking to bring my business experience to bear to the PCC and our Finance and Buildings committees. We are currently wrestling with the usual realities of a roof that needs a major overhaul, and a need for funding!
Read it all and do not miss the photo and the further link for more.
Like that checkout assistant, many of us remain unconvinced by Chancellor George Osborne packaging up what is essentially an increase on the National Minimum Wage for over 25s and rebranding it the “National Living Wage”. Of course it is to be welcomed that Mr Osborne is increasing wages at the bottom level for over 25s. But let’s call it what it is: a new legal minimum wage for over 25s. It is not a living wage in any real sense; it is not paying workers what they deserve and it is not paying workers what they need in order to achieve a decent standard of living in the UK.
The real Living Wage is set according to what experts and the public believe is needed to achieve an above-poverty standard of living. Not earning this can mean having to rely on a food bank even if you are in work. Let’s think about that for a second. Working people should not have to rely on food banks to feed their families.
The new minimum wage also risks setting young against old. There are two million under 25’s who will not benefit from the increased minimum wage. The realLiving Wage (as set by the Living Wage Foundation) makes no distinction for how old someone has to be to expect to be paid fairly for a day’s work.
When all is done, the hell of hells, the torment of torments, is the everlasting absence of God, and the everlasting impossibility of returning to his presence…to fall out of the hands of the living God, is a horror beyond our expression, beyond our imagination…. What Tophet is not Paradise, what Brimstone is not Amber, what gnashing is not a comfort, what gnawing of the worme is not a tickling, what torment is not a marriage bed to this damnation, to be secluded eternally, eternally, eternally from the sight of God?
–From a sermon to the Earl of Carlisle in 1622
— St Paul's Cathedral (@StPaulsLondon) March 31, 2016
I can bring it so neare; but onely the worthy hearer, and the worthy receiver, can call this Lord this Jesus, this Christ, Immanuel God with us; onely that virgin soule, devirginated in the blood of Adam but restored in the blood of the Lambe hath this Ecce, this testimony, this assurance, that God is with him; they that have this Ecce, this testimony, in a rectified conscience, are Godfathers to this child Jesus and may call him Immanuel God with us for as no man can deceive God, so God can deceive no man; God cannot live in the darke himself neither can he leave those who are his in the darke: If he be with thee he will make thee see that he is with thee and never goe out of thy sight, till he have brought thee, where thou canst never goe out of his.
–John Donne (1572-1631), Preached at St. Pauls, upon Christmas Day, in the Evening, 1624
Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to’another due,
Labor to’admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly’I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me,’untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you’enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
–Holy Sonnet XIV
Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being: Open our eyes to see, with thy servant John Donne, that whatsoever hath any being is a mirror in which we may behold thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
— London Town Tours (@TownTours) March 31, 2016
We give thee thanks, O heavenly Father, who hast delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of thy Son; grant, we pray thee, that as by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his presence abiding in us he may raise us to joys eternal; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.
Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have being. Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help.
…the real target is not Christianity but freedom. Nor is this a war. Wars are fought between nations, by armies, and the intended victims are combatants. Terrorists wear no uniforms, and their intended victims are innocent civilians. I for one will never forget the episode two weeks ago on the Ivory Coast where terrorists gunned down a five-year-old child begging for his life.
There have been ages of terror before, but never on this scale, and never with the kind of technology that has given the jihadists the ability to radicalise individuals throughout the world, some acting as lone wolves, others, like the attackers in Paris and Brussels, working in small groups, often involving family members.
The aim of Isil is political: to re-establish the Caliphate and make Islam once more an imperial power. But there is another aim shared by many jihadist groups: to silence anyone and anything that threatens to express a different truth, another faith, a different approach to religious difference. That is what lay behind the attacks on the Danish cartoons; on Catholics after a speech by Pope Benedict XVI; the murder of Theo van Gogh; and the attacks on Charlie Hebdo. The calculation of the terrorists is that, in the long run, the West will prove too tired to defend its own freedoms. They are prepared to keep committing atrocities for as long as it takes, decades if need be.
A recent San Diego State University poll led by psychology professor Jean Twenge shows that Americans are five times less likely to pray as compared to the early 1980’s, and twice as many said they do not believe in God. The biggest decline is among 18-29 year olds, the so-called millennials. The study also shows that despite the decline in religious affiliation or practice, belief in the afterlife has increased. How does Professor Twenge explain this?
“It was interesting that fewer people participated in religion or prayed but more believed in an afterlife,” Twenge said. “It might be part of a growing entitlement mentality ”“ thinking you can get something for nothing.”
Many atheist, agnostic, and non-religious kids and parents credit social media with helping them realize there are others like them. In nearly every place in the U.S. where there are homeschoolers, there are organized “park days” where kids get together weekly to play with other kids, go on field trips, or participate in sports. The California Homeschool Network, an extensive but incomplete compendium of resources in the state, lists 47 Christian homeschool-support and park-day groups, and seven that are secular. But across the state and country, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of secular homeschool Facebook groups where moms and dads post photos, hatch ideas for social gatherings, and discuss their struggles and successes with state laws.
In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Lara Corbell has homeschooled her daughters, a seventh grader and a fifth grader, for two years. She left her job as a merchandiser for Hallmark to teach her kids because her younger daughter was performing poorly in public school. The family doesn’t attend church, although they celebrate a secular version of Christmas and Easter. The kids like the gifts and Easter baskets, Corbell said, but “we had issues with lying about Santa.” Corbell stopped attending church when she was five after she told her dad she “didn’t like it,” and services are largely foreign to her girls.
“I was thinking I’d just plug these words into Google and get some resources but every single thing I would delve into would have some religion in it. It was so frustrating,” Corbell, 45, said of her first foray into homeschooling. “It’s not about being anti-religion. It’s just that you want to teach kids your own belief system. I just wanted unbiased resources.”
Bishop Michael: There has been a pattern of for example, mob violence against Christian communities, churches and sometimes even individuals, but this really is plumbing the depths of evil, because this time the target has been children and mothers playing at the swings. I don’t know of a softer target than that. So yes, things seem very bad here, from that point of view.
Interviewer: So it’s part of a series of attacks of this sort – attacks on churches, on Christian villages, that kind of thing, but also in a broader context in Pakistan – Christians facing violence; blasphemy laws have been targeting Christians in change recently.
Bishop Michael: Yes, there are layers of persecution, so there is legal discrimination against Christians, I mean that is embedded in the law now, and that was brought about 25/30 years ago. Then there is social discrimination in employment, in housing opportunities and schooling. Then as you say, there has been this mob violence. That has been very serious, lots of people have been killed, institutions destroyed. And now more recently there has been this terrorist attack, again part of a series of attacks – you may remember some churches were attacked last year.
How this has come about, because I remember a time, I was a bishop here before I was a bishop in England, and Christians and Muslims and others lived together amicably, neighbors went to the same schools, and ate in the same restaurants.
This has been brought about by this process of radicalisation based on an ideology that is regarded as based on religion. And it is not for me to say how authentic that is, but that is for other people to say how distorted it is or how authentic, but that is what is causing these problems.
Interviewer: And Michael, if that is your analysis on why this is happening, what do you think could change things in terms of stopping the persecution of Christians in Pakistan?
Bishop Michael: Yes, I think that is a very good question. I think there are a number of things. I think we need to address the teaching of hatred that children are absorbing from schooldays in their textbooks, in religious schools, even by religious teachers sometimes in public gatherings. That has to be addressed urgently.
The other is that we need changes in the law so that equality under the law is guaranteed for all. One law for all must be a principle that is recognised. Fundamental freedoms, particularly freedom of expression, need to be safeguarded. And then of course there is the rampant misuse of the blasphemy laws. I have suggested again and again to successive governments how to deal with this, and I’ve had verbal agreement, ‘yes you know, it sounds a good idea we will do it,’ but in fact very little has been done. All those things which certainly improve the situation are of course the army and the security services are engaged, from their angle in curbing terrorist activity, and that is good, but I think these underlying causes also need to be addressed.
Listen to it all [Unofficial transcript by The Elves]
it’s not all doom and gloom. Britain has gone through periods of near-faithlessness before ”“ and come out of them thanks to waves of mini-awakenings fired by popular zeal. In the mid-19th century, Anglo-Catholicism and non-conformism revived the spirit in urban centres. They also injected themselves into politics by fighting child labour and poverty. The idea that some separation of church and state exists in England is a recent, fatuous import from America: we still have an established church and policy has always been framed by religious viewpoints. The Labour Party was a movement dominated by Methodists and Catholics. The Anglicans were once called ”˜the Tory Party at prayer’. In the arts, too, Christians need to be as visible as CS Lewis, GK Chesterton or Malcolm Muggeridge. Speak up, speak out. Let people know that you’re a believer.
Christians ought to illustrate the ways in which their faith has informed so much that is lazily associated with secular liberalism. Humanism, they should remind the public, began in the Catholic renaissance. Tolerance evolved from the notion that conversion should be entirely a matter of free will. Even Britain’s constant guilt over its past treatment of religious minorities is, ironically, a Christian thing: there’s no such culture of self-abasement in Turkey, even if it did previously rule millions with an iron fist during the Ottoman period.
Doubt and criticism of one’s motives are essential to the Christian ethic.
Carl Nielsen – Overture Helios – Danish National Symphony Orchestra
In the earliest days of Christianity an ”˜apostle’ was first and foremost a man who claimed to be an eyewitness of the Resurrection. Only a few days after the Crucifixion when two candidates were nominated for the vacancy created by the treachery of Judas, their qualification was that they had known Jesus personally both before and after His death and could offer first-hand evidence of the Resurrection in addressing the outer world (Acts 1:22). A few days later St Peter, preaching the first Christian sermon, makes the same claim”””˜God raised Jesus, of which we all (we Christians) are witnesses’ (Acts 2:32). In the first Letter to the Corinthians, St Paul bases his claim to apostleship on the same ground”””˜Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen the Lord Jesus?’ (1:9).
As this qualification suggests, to preach Christianity meant primarily to preach the Resurrection. . . . . The Resurrection is the central theme in every Christian sermon reported in the Acts. The Resurrection, and its consequences, were the ”˜gospel’ or good news which the Christians brought: what we call the ”˜gospels’, the narratives of Our Lord’s life and death, were composed later for the benefit of those who had already accepted the gospel. They were in no sense the basis of Christianity: they were written for those already converted. The miracle of the Resurrection, and the theology of that miracle, comes first: the biography comes later as a comment on it. . . . . The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number of people who say they have seen the Resurrection. If they had died without making anyone else believe this ”˜gospel’ no gospels would ever have been written.
–C.S. Lewis, Miracles, Chapter 15, Miracles of the New Creation
And this is where the oddity of today’s celebration touches our lives in challenging ways. If I may speak personally, I find it increasingly difficult to resist the onslaught of information that is directed at me or required from me. My life feels as though it is regulated to the point of near extinction, by Government, by economic responsibility, by social and cultural suspicion, by commercial bureaucracy. And this is before I start on the day job! My space as a human being sometimes feels so thoroughly invaded and occupied that I just want to switch off, cut the wifi, abandon the mobile, stop the emails, and regain some quality of human and spiritual equilibrium.
It is no wonder that so high a percentage of young people in Britain today register anxiety as a dominant emotion. The tank of our potential for human flourishing is cluttered up with too much stuff. It’s as though we’ve filled the empty tomb so full with an unhappy blend of debt, regulation, kitsch memorabilia, and a craving for novelty, that there is no longer any expectation of room for glory, space for mystery, allowance for the confounding of limited expectation.
This is a situation that was recently described by Jonathan Sacks, in his masterly book, Not in God’s name, where he observes that we have attained “unprecedented achievements in knowledge, freedom, life expectancy and affluence”¦.[and] the result is that the twenty-first century has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning”.
Which is why the symbol of the empty tomb is so powerful and haunting. Here is the sign of our mortality and death. One day the frame of this body will come to resemble that tomb, when the breath stops and the agency of control and demand is lifted from us. Then, as now when we celebrate the dawn of Easter glory and the glory of life, the very breath of God will be able to fill the space within us, to satisfy our deepest longing, to give freedom to our best and greatest loves, to perfect our every thought and deed that has already expanded the meaning of goodness, truth and justice.
As Easter celebrations begin, those of you who gave up alcohol, sweets, cakes and biscuits, can look forward to your Easter gin and tonic, the glass of remarkable claret, and unbridled pleasure as you accept the offer of a chocolate after lunch. This is your enactment of the reception of divine love in the glory of resurrection; you have made an empty space in your appetites and desires, in order to rehearse what it will be like to receive, all over again, a perfect and eternal gift in the new creation that evokes something you have already known so well. The full to overflowing font is the symbol of that perfect gift and what resurrection means. It is the recovery of our total capacity to expand into the divine life of God, as in baptism we are united with Jesus Christ: “In him the whole fullness of divinity dwells in bodily form, and you have come to fullness in him” ”“ is how St Paul describes it (Col. 2.9) So, happy Easter. Savour the gin, raise a toast to the CofE with the claret, enjoy the chocolate, and expand into the freedom of a bank holiday. But more than these transient celebrations, attend to the eternal fulfilment they betoken. Don’t run away from the empty tomb; it is your destiny. Let its haunting beauty inspire you. Make space for the glory of God to begin its transformative effect in your life now.
Read it all (emphasis mine).
Thomas the Twin became Thomas the Witness, and that required an integrated intelligence of what had happened, seeing and touching and hearing to establish faith. But Thomas the Witness became Thomas the Apostle and Martyr, and no one can be an apostle and martyr without venturing beyond what is understood through sight and touch and hearing. And so the blessing Jesus pronounces on those who believe without seeing, will apply later on to Thomas, too.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” What we are to do, what we are to suffer, is not shown to us in advance when we are sent out on our mission. If it were, it would not be a mission. There is none of us, however assured and convinced of the truth of the resurrection faith, who will not at some point have to live without knowing.
The blessing is for all of us, for we are all sent to engage with a world of which we have no foreknowledge. Neither the risks nor the possible achievements have been explained to us in advance.
Faith may look for a well-grounded confidence, but when it has won its confidence, it ventures upon it. That is why faith is active and potent, a force for the condemnation of sin and the liberation of bound souls. It is for that that the Holy Spirit is given.
The majority of humans in developed countries will stop having sex to procreate within decades, a leading academic has predicted.
Professor Henry Greely believes that in as little as 20 years, most children will be conceived in a laboratory, rather than through sexual intercourse.
He even suggests the natural process of conception could become stigmatised.
The change would mark an evolutionary break with all other human beings, and indeed animals, throughout history.
O risen and victorious Christ, whose power and love destroyed the darkness and death of sin; Ascend, we pray thee, the throne of our hearts, and so rule our wills by the might of that immortality wherewith thou hast set us free, that we may evermore be alive unto God, through the power of thy glorious resurrection; world without end.
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. Lo, I have told you.”
Cigarette breaks between hymns, candlelit services in pubs and parties serving halal food to welcome Muslim neighbours are among unlikely new ideas helping revive the fortunes of once run-down inner city churches, highlighted in a new report.
The breach with traditional ecclesiastical style is singled out in the study into an at-times controversial plan by the Church of England to “plant” new congregations into historic parishes where numbers in the pews have dwindled for decades.
The policy, backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other senior clerics, involves asking a group of often young, enthusiastic members of successful, growing congregations to move to another church as “planters” to inject new energy and ideas.
I want to commend the statement issued by Archbishop Mouneer Anis, Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East, “Does the Primates meeting have any authority?”. Archbishop Mouneer issues a robust defense of the authority of the Primates’ meeting to oversee the relationships between Anglican provinces with regards to doctrinal, moral and pastoral issues.
The Communion’s Primates are NOT impotent when the Archbishop of Canterbury fails to respond publicly to the Anglican Consultative Council’s public repudiation of Primatial authority. What do the Primates do when the Archbishop of Canterbury remains silent in the face of such a public repudiation of their “enhanced responsibility”? Do they simply wring their hands? Must they remain silent until he speaks””IF he ever decides to speak? Of course not. That is why the Primates of the three largest Churches in the Anglican Communion”“Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda””have spoken so clearly. They understand that their Primatial authority or “enhanced responsibility” to guard the faith and order of the Churches of the Anglican Communion derives from their office as “Principal Bishops” of their Churches, and not from Canterbury. Primates can and do act whether the Archbishop of Canterbury calls them together or not, whether he speaks up for them and their collegial mind and decision making””or not, as Archbishop Welby has chosen to do.
The enhanced responsibility of the Primates to guard the faith and order of the Churches of the Anglican Communion is more than moral and persuasive. It is an ancient principle in Church law..
What is your vision for the global 21st-century church?
That we would be hungry for the presence of God in our midst and that we would be more united. When the Word says that when we’re united, there’s a blessing. There is a dying to self that happens when you want unity. A lot of people feel that that is too hard, so I would pray that we become better at that. I would pray that there is another great awakening and revival, and that we get passionate about people getting saved. It’s only Jesus that can do that.
As his representatives, I hope we have a great revelation of who we are in Christ. You don’t need a platform, and you don’t need a microphone. You just need to go and preach Jesus wherever you find yourself.
.. today, according to some estimates, there are more Christians in China than Communist Party members. Up to 100 million will be celebrating across China this Easter weekend.
But what it failed to destroy, the Party still wants to control. So, an officially atheist government effectively runs its own churches and controls the appointment of its own priests.
Like Pastor Wu Weiqing from Beijing’s Haidian Church.
“We have to remember first of all we are a citizen of this country,” he says. “And we are a citizen of the Kingdom of God. That comes second.”
by ‘Our Correspondent’
..Pakistan is widely perceived in the West as being a den of fanaticism, yet this is a rank oversimplification. The overwhelming majority of Pakistanis are fundamentally decent, hospitable, and kind. Myopic Western narratives obscure any number of inconvenient facts: that far more Muslims are killed by terrorists than Christians; that the blasphemy laws are more often used as an excuse to seize valuable land than to score religious points; that there is a growing sense of outrage among Pakistanis at the brutalities committed in their country.
When terrorists attacked a church in Peshawar in 2013 a Muslim aid agency sent ambulances to help them, saving many lives. Even now SMS appeals for blood donations are doing the rounds; a taxi company in Lahore is offering free travel to hospitals for anyone who wants to donate blood. A friend of mine came across two men looting a bus station in Islamabad, chased them off, retrieved their loot, and promptly returned it to the authorities.
And yet the fact remains that there are organisations in Pakistan who consider it meritorious to park a car bomb next to a playground and blast dozens of giggling children to smithereens; who acclaim as a hero a man who machine-gunned a civil rights campaigner to death in an upmarket shopping area. The broad swathe of Pakistani decency and kindness is hedged in by a lunatic fringe of murderous zealots..