Friday, May 26, 2017

prayer diary Friday 26 May 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.' 
John 16.20

Reflection
The suffering of the Christian is a pleasure to the persecutor. But those who remain faithful despite the cost are rewarded with the bliss of eternal life. And what then of those who rejoiced? Pray for them that they will repent and be saved.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

the Ascension: 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven?'

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Angels, if our reading from the Acts of the Apostles today is anything to go by, can be quite scathing. The disciples are standing there, still quite stunned by our Lord's Ascending into heaven before their eyes; and before he has even fully gone – 'while he was going' St Luke tells us - two men in white, whom the Church Fathers have always assured us were angels, appear and say to them almost scoldingly : Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.

It is almost as if they are saying to the disciples: 'What are you doing standing around here? You have better things to be doing. Get on with it!' And what are those better things? The first is that they are to go back to Jerusalem and wait there, as we heard the Lord Jesus command them earlier in this passage, and wait for what he calls 'the promise of the Father', when they will be baptised by the Holy Spirit. And after that they have other work to do, work also entrusted to them by Christ just before his Ascension, which was recorded for by St Matthew at the end of his Gospel. He tells his disciples that 'all authority in heaven and on earth' has been given to him; And that therefore they must go 'and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.'

These words of our Lord are, of course, very familiar to us. We even have a special name for them – the Great Commission. And there is much about it, I would suggest, that the modern world would find objectionable. The idea that we must go out and make disciples of all nations gives the impression that the Christian way of life is better than all others; not a popular notion in a world that likes to think all ways are equally good. Teaching them what the Lord has commanded sounds very like indoctrination; something that the modern world frowns upon. And telling people they have to be obedient to those commandments seems like a challenge to personal autonomy; people in our age are entitled to live as they please and make their own choices and all that really matters is whether they are comfortable with those choices – and, it would seem to me, whether those choices are in conformity with secular liberal values.

But the fact that the Christian message is not in lock-step with the world around us is not something that should trouble us. Christianity from the beginning was a challenge to the culture rather than being a cheer-leader for whatever happened to be popular. Our Lord and Saviour Christ was crucified for challenging the accepted norms of his day. And the early Church was persecuted first in Israel and then throughout the Roman Empire for just the same reasons. For a time – a very long time – the values of Church and Society seemed to merge and so perhaps people forgot just how counter-cultural the Church could be. But those values have again diverged; and it is the mission of the Church to stay true to the Lord's commands, rather than trying to fit in with the culture of the day.


We have, we must remember, a commission from the Lord to do so. And a commission, we should note, is when someone in authority gives someone else a duty to perform and delegates to them the authority to carry it out. And there can be, of course, no higher authority than God. So we must take heed of the words the angels spoke on the morning of the Ascension. We must not stand around, looking up at the sky, as if we are confused and don't know what to do, waiting to be told what to do. We know what we must do - fulfil the commission that Christ gave us, baptising all nations, and teaching them to obey his commands. And this is something we, his Church, must continue to do so until the day he comes again as he promised us he would. Amen. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 24 May 2017

'When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.' 
John 16.13

Reflection
Christ taught that the Holy Spirit would guide his disciples into all the truth. The Holy Spirit strengthened the Church in the beginning, guided her path down through the centuries, and still guides the Church today.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 23 May 2017

'Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.' 
John 16.7

Reflection
Christ did not abandon his Church; he promised and sent the Holy Spirit 'to guide it into all truth.' And therefore we, as his followers, can trust his Church and must be faithful to her teachings.

Monday, May 22, 2017

prayer diary Monday 22 May 2017

'an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me.' 
John 16. 2,3

Reflection
The true disciple should not fear suffering for the Lord. Around the world, many die for the faith, with the roll of martyrs growing daily. Pray for those who suffer for the faith, even as you draw courage from their example of faith in the face of adversity.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

'If you love me, you will keep my commandments'

In our Gospel reading today the Lord tells us that if we love him we will keep his commandments. The implications of these words are far reaching; for if it is only those who keep his commandments who love him then the opposite is also true – which is that those who do not keep his commandments do not love him. It is not enough merely to say that we love God; we have to show it in our actions, by living our lives according to his laws. We should be reminded here of the words that Jesus spoke elsewhere in Scripture, in St Matthew's – 'not every one who says to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.' Obedience and Salvation are linked together in a way that can not be separated.

Now, to the modern ear this may seem a terrible imposition. God is interfering with my freedom, they may say; because if I behave contrary to his laws he will hold me to account. But there is a certain lack of logic to such objections. We do not whine and complain about how the laws of man or the laws of nature are some terrible and unfair burden upon us. With regard to the laws of man we see them as being sensible and necessary; and with regard to the laws of nature they are simply a fact of life. 

Now, we may break these laws if we choose to do so; for we have free will. But we do so knowing that there are consequences. A person may choose to drive as fast as they want, whatever the speed limit may happen to be; but they do so knowing that over the course of time they will accumulate fines and penalty points and may well eventually lose their licence altogether. Or a person may chose to defy the laws of gravity and throw themselves off a cliff; but the result will be injury or death. And if disobeying the laws of man or nature has consequences, why should it seem like something so terribly strange or unfair that disobeying the laws of God should also come at a price?

But we should not really be thinking about this in terms of crime and punishment, of lawgiver and criminal, but rather in terms of love. For remember what it was that Christ said in those words we are looking at: 'if you love me you will keep my commandments.' The person who truly loves God will keep his commandments – not because they are afraid of the consequences of not doing so, but because they love God. And the person who does not keep his commandments can not be said to love him. 

Now some may find that conclusion objectionable. I do love God, they may say, but in my own way; and that way does not involve obeying his laws. And that is sad, because it goes against what Christ says not only in these words that we heard read this morning, but also elsewhere in Scripture. It is like the person who habitually drives far too fast objecting to being described as a law-breaker; or the person who proposes throwing themselves off a cliff objecting to being described as someone lacking in common sense. They may well object; but their objections do not make the descriptions any less true. And if God himself tells us that those who do not obey him do not love him, who are we to disagree?

Now, of course, most of us are in the position of wanting to show our love for God by obeying his laws; but being weak human beings, prone to falling prey to temptations, we sometimes go astray. But we are blessed indeed, for ever before we loved God, he loved us first. And in this matter he shows his love to us by the assistance he gives us in obeying him. 

We read of this help in our Gospel today when Christ promises to send the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to those who love him. The Holy Spirit will give his Grace to those who love God to help them obey God more and more so that, by Grace, obedience will increase, and thereby love for God will grow and increase also. That this is so is shown, I think, by some beautiful words from a saint of the Orthodox Church, Nikodemus of the Holy Mountain, who said:

 'The grace of the Holy Spirit which is given mystically to every Christian when he is baptised acts ... in proportion to our obedience to the commandments of the Lord. That is, if a Christian obeys the commandments of the Lord more, grace acts within him more … the more a man acts in accordance with the commandments of Christ, the more … the fire of Divine grace lights in his heart … '


This is, I think, a beautiful way of expressing what our Lord is saying to us this morning in our Gospel reading: God gives us the Grace to love him, that love for him is shown through obedience, and from that obedience flows more grace allowing us to love and obey him more and more, his love for us helping deepen our love for him endlessly. And so I end with the prayer that you will allow his Love to guide you to love him more and more each day until the time when you are with the one who is Love, the God who created you and desires nothing more than you love him in return. Amen. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 25 May 2017 (The Ascension)

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.' When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 
Acts 1. 8,9

Reflection
We are called to be Christ's witnesses throughout the world until he comes again. Remember always that this work is the most loving you can ever perform for your fellow man, because by it you bring before him the way to save his soul unto eternal life.