Thursday, October 31, 2013

IRAN: CHRISTIANS WHIPPED WITH EXTREME VIOLENCE AS LASHING SENTENCES CARRIED OUT

Two of the four members of the Church of Iran denomination sentenced to 80 lashes for taking wine during a communion service were lashed yesterday.

Behzad Taalipasand and Mehdi Dadkhah (Danial) received 80 lashes on 30 October. According to CSW's sources, Behzad Taalipasand was whipped with extreme violence. While reports suggest that Mehdi Reza Omidi's (Youhan) sentence will be carried out on 2 November, it is not yet known when or if Amir Hatemi (Youhanna) will be punished.

The group was charged with drinking alcohol and possession of a receiver and satellite antenna, and were given ten days in which to appeal. However, they received the written verdict on 20 October, although it was dated 6 October, and it remains unclear whether their appeals were rejected, or whether the delay in receiving the verdict meant they ran out of time.

Behzad Taalipasand and Mehdi Reza Omidi (Youhan) were detained on 31 December 2012 during a crackdown on house churches by the Iranian government.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said 'CSW condemns these sentences in the strongest terms. These men are being punished for simply partaking in a sacrament practiced for centuries by Christian the world over. This appalling and unjust infringement on the right to manifest one's faith in practice, worship and observance has occurred despite Iran's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to uphold freedom of religion or belief for all of its religious communities. Moreover, the punishment meted out to these men for partaking in a legitimate act of worship amounts to a contravention of article 5 of the ICCPR, which prohibits inhuman or degrading punishment. We urge the Iranian government to bring the nation's legal practices and procedures in line with its international undertakings and to release these men without delay or further punishment.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

Prayer diary Thursday 31 Oct 2013 (The Eve of All Saints)

Today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside Jerusalem. 
Luke 13. 33

Reflection 
Christ knew his ministry would end in his death, yet he taught boldly. Can not we, who face far lesser sanctions, at least not attempt to do our poor best to be true to his word and to pass on his teaching faithfully?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

haiku: cold church

cold church
~my seen breath
   as incense rising

Prayer diary Wednesday 30 Oct 2013

Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many will try to enter, I tell you, and will not be able. 
Luke 13. 24

Reflection 
There is more to attaining eternal life than mere desire. You must strive for it. Therefore, purify yourself of all that does not reflect the Gospel life; what you leave behind is as nothing to what you will gain at the last.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Prayer diary Tuesday 29 Oct 2013

The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed … that someone took and sowed … it grew & became a tree & the birds of the air made nests in its branches. 
Luke 13.18-19

Reflection 
Have faith; the generation that sows the seed may not be the one that sees the tree, but the grow it will. Do not think that there is no point to the labour you do in the vineyard because you do not see growth. Simply labour faithfully. And trust that the kingdom of God is near.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Prayer diary Monday 28 Oct 2013 (St Simon & St Jude)

If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. 
John 16.18

Reflection 
Christ's truth is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And we as his followers must accept with the joy the pain that sometimes comes with proclaiming his truth.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lou Reed RIP


A tribute post to one of the truly iconic (& I don't use the word lightly) musical artists from my youth. Listen to the song with a 'theological ear' ... there are nuances there ... possibly unintended ... possibly not. A poet with a great voice who could craft a haunting tune. May he rest in peace.

Humility: the root of all virtue

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

I'm going to begin by saying something that will probably make your head hurt … I say this because it makes my head ache a little and I'm the one who wrote it! And it is this: most of us read the parable from today's Gospel reading, the Pharisee and the Tax-collector, and think of themselves as being more like the Tax-collector than the Pharisee; but we do so in a way that in fact makes us more like the Pharisee than the Tax-collector.

I'd say it again, but I don't think it would make it any easier. Instead, let me tease it out for you a little. First, we need to be sure we understand what is going on in the parable. And one of the things we need to realise first is how shocking the comparison that Jesus makes would have seemed to those listening to him. Christians now have an almost 2000 year old history of reading the new Testament and thinking of Pharisees as the 'bad guys.' But that's not how Jesus' audience would have seen them. They were learned and pious men. And what the Pharisee in the parable says about himself is the absolute truth – he is a man who is faithful to Jewish law completely and utterly.

The tax-collector, on the other hand, is a man they would have despised … and with good reason. And we must remember what it is what we are talking about when we use the word 'tax-collector' in this context. He was not a civil servant in the employee of the ancient world's equivalent of the Revenue Commissioners. The word we are translating as 'tax-collector', tel-own-ayes, actually means 'tax-farmer' … he was a person who essentially put in a bid to raise a certain amount of taxes for the authorities … and what he raised above that he got to keep for himself … worse, he was a Jew who not only associated with foreigners, he was collaborating with the Romans, the foreign occupying power, to squeeze money out of his fellow Jews. There's a reason why again and again in the Gospels we hear the phrase 'tax-collectors and sinner' … and note which comes first on that short list … to be a tax-collector was worse than any other sin … the closest comparison I can think of from the modern era is the Nazis … they were that hated … and perhaps that deserving of the opprobrium they received.

And that's what would have made the comparison so shocking … because the one who should have been the 'the good guy' is condemned and the one who should have been the 'bad guy' is praised … why? Well, Jesus tells us why: 'for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’ At the heart of the parable is the issue of humility. The pious, lay-abiding Jew is not the bad-guy simply because he is a Pharisee; any more than the traitorous exploiter of his country-men is the good guy for being a Tax-collector. The sin of the Pharisee is a lack of humility, in pride in how virtuous he thinks he is, in judging, despising, and condemning others; and the virtue of the tax-collector is to stand before God and admit and accept that he is a sinner in need of God's mercy. And that is what humility is: understanding that compared to God we are as nothing; that in fact all our gifts and talents come from him & we can take no credit for them; that it is not for us put ourselves in God's place and judge others; that it is especially not for us to make ourselves look better by thinking less of others … humility is the root of all virtue … because to be humble is simply to acknowledge the truth of how things are … and without that truth, no other virtues are possible.

And so back to my head-hurting opening statement, that most of us read probably read this parable in such a way that even as we condemn the Pharisee, we do so in a way that makes us more like him than the Tax-collector. By which I mean this: how many, when they hear this, automatically react to the Pharisee in the same way that he reacted to the Tax-collector, by swelling with a little pride in their hearts and thinking: God, I thank you that I am not like that Pharisee or other sinners; I am not arrogant, and full of pride; and instead of truly admitting themselves to be sinners, rather list off the good things they do, like the Pharisee ... all the money they give to charity, the work they do for the Church, the kind things they do for others? How many smugly think of others they know who do less or nothing at all and commend themselves to God?

If you do not, then you have my admiration … you have achieved a level of sanctity that is truly heroic … a humility that is to be admired and emulated by all … you have learned how to stand before God and ask him, and truly mean it, to have mercy on you, a humble sinner. It is something that I pray all here will be able to do – even as I ask that you pray it for me. Amen.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

haiku:autumn rain

autumn rain
~ darkness
   at midday 

Examin Saturday 26 October 2013

keep Holy the Sabbath day
Some declare themselves 'spiritual but not religious' & see no need for the Church. Others adopt an attitude of dipping in occasionally as the mood strikes them. Still others adopt a causal attitude to attendance, going but feeling free not to for every trivial reason or none at all. None of these attitudes find warrant in Scripture or Tradition, where faithful Sunday by Sunday attendance is mandated. Reason also dictates the necessity of this; the sacraments are available only through the Church, and they are a vital channel of God's grace. And as social beings we need the support of others on our journey; and they, whom we are commanded to love, need our support and encouragement also.

prayer diary Saturday 26 Oct 2013

'If it bears fruit next year, well & good; but if not, you can cut it down.' 
Luke 13.9

Reflection 
The time you have now is all the time there is to bear fruit. There is no guarantee of next year, next week, or even tomorrow. The Lord of the Harvest has done all that is needed for you to be fruitful; it is up to you to respond.

Friday, October 25, 2013

prayer diary Friday 25 Oct 2013 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'you know how to interpret the appearance of sea & sky; but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?' 
Luke 12. 56

Reflection 
When Christ spoke these words, it was to wonder at those who failed to understand who he was and what it meant for the world. If he were here today, would he have any reason to speak any differently of us?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

prayer diary Thursday 24 Oct 2013

'I came to bring fire to the earth & how I wish it were already kindled.' 
Luke 12. 49

Reflection 
There is more to being a Christian than being 'nice.' We are called not only to challenge ourselves but those around us also. Not from a desire to control or interfere, but from a sense of true Christian love, which means you are willing to risk offending someone for the sake of winning their soul for heaven. Something that is more important that being thought 'nice.'

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

prayer diary Wednesday 23 Oct 2013 (Feast of St James, the Brother of our Lord, Martyr)

'Whoever does the will of God is my brother & sister & mother.' 
Mark 3.35

Reflection  
The Way that Christ calls us to is always arduous. How can it not be? His challenge was to deny ourselves, take up our cross, & follow him. But difficult though that sometimes seems, the rewards are infinitely greater. And he is with us to support us always.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

the necessity of constant vigilence

‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.'
Luke 12. 35-38

As I was reflecting on the above text (today's Gospel for Holy Communion) I was reminded of surprise inspections during my days in the military. Weeks or months of training could go for naught simply because, due to some lapse or other, all was not as it should be when the inspector called. And getting a poor report or a chewing out was bitter indeed when you knew it was all down to a momentary lack of focus. Still, it was very real world: the enemy wasn't going to send advance notice of an attack so you could have all in readiness. The only answer was constant vigilance. Being ready 99 percent of the time was no good, if the surprise visit or attack came during the fatal one percent moment.

And for some reason, the text also makes me think of the Fall of our first parents:

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me, and I ate.’
Genesis 3. 8-13

A surprise inspection following hard on the heels of an enemy attack, neither of which they were prepared for. Which is why we need to be constantly vigilant. We never know when temptation will come and if it catches us unprepared the suddenness of its onslaught may cause us to yield. And as for the surprise inspection, well our Lord constantly warned us that we know not the day nor the hour. It might not be for decades. It might be our very next heartbeat. But eventually it comes to us all. And we must be ready. And the only way to be ready is by constant vigilance. Pray that when your moment comes you will be found to be a watchful slave.

prayer diary Tuesday 22 Oct 2013

'Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes.' 
Luke 12. 37

Reflection 
Constant vigilance is demanded of the Christian. How many have lived good lives for many years, but stray thinking 'I will repent later and return to the path' only to discover that sin has seduced them so deeply they can not turn back from it; or that the chance to repent never comes?

Monday, October 21, 2013

FOUR KILLED IN ATTACK ON WEDDING IN GIZA

a press release from  Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Four people, including an eight-year old girl, died after masked gunmen opened fire on a wedding in Giza on the evening of 20 October.

As wedding guests were leaving the Coptic Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary in Warraq al-Hadar, Giza, a car and a motorcycle pulled up, and a masked gunman on the motorcycle opened fire with an automatic weapon. At least 15 bullets were fired indiscriminately before the attackers drove away.

Two guests were killed during the attack, with two more dying later from gunshot wounds. The deceased are eight year-old Mariam Ashraf, twelve year-old Miriam Nabil, 45 year-old Samir Fahmy and 56 year-old Camilia Attiya, the mother of the groom. CSW's sources confirm that 18 others were injured and that all of the deceased were Christians. According to Father Thomas Daoud Ibrahim, priest of the Warraq church, three wedding services had been taking place at the time of the attack.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack; however, it comes after a wave of violence by Muslim Brotherhood supporters targeting the Coptic community, which they claim played a primary role in the removal of former President Morsi.

Groups from across the political and religious spectrum have condemned the Warraq attack, with Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi calling it a cowardly, criminal act, and urging Egyptians not to allow such attacks to sow hatred between communities. Al-Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb expressed his personal condolences to the families of the victims, denouncing the shootings as “a criminal attack against religion and morals”. However, the Maspero Youth Union, a Coptic rights group, faulted the interim government and security forces for failing to protect the Coptic community, which has been targeted since the crackdown on two pro-Morsi sit-ins on 14 August.

Islamist groups, including Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, the Salafi Nour Party and the Muslim Brotherhood, have also condemned the attack and denied involvement. However, senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood have called for retributive attacks against the Coptic community for their perceived role in the overthrow of the former president.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said, 'Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families of those killed in this brutal attack, and we pray for speedy recoveries for those who were injured. While the expressions of condolences from all sectors of Egyptian society are encouraging, we continue to urge adequate and timely protection for the Coptic community and Coptic gatherings in order to prevent such tragedies from occurring. Moreover, the culture of hate speech and impunity in which such attacks occur must also be addressed in order to ensure the emergence of a society in which all Egyptians can flourish, regardless of their religion or political affiliation.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

prayer diary Monday 21 Oct 2013

'You fool; this night your life is being demanded of you.' 
Luke 12. 20
Reflection We truly do not now the day nor the hour. The time to repent and lead the life Christ calls you to is now. Do not delay, thinking you will do it at some vague time in the future; because slender is the thread that separates us from this life and the next.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Examin - Saturday 19 October 2013

thou shall not kill
We do violence to others in many ways. Our words can strike harder than a fist or cut deeper than a knife. A look can wound more painfully than a blow. Even our silence can be be used as a weapon: you can injure another by ignoring them, leaving them out, or never calling or visiting. Guard your tongue, guard your eyes, consider your actions; and then show love to all in every way it is possible to show love.

prayer diary Saturday 19 Oct 2013

'Whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.' 
Luke 12.9

Reflection 
Our actions in this life have consequences in the next. If by your words or deeds you deny Christ on earth, then by his own words you have been warned what you may expect when you stand before him in heaven.

Friday, October 18, 2013

slavery

Slavery is alive and well and living in Ireland. So says the global slavery index. The Irish Times crunched the numbers and we're not as bad as other places (see here) - there are only about 300 people who are effectively slaves here ... so let's all give ourselves a big pat on the back that only a few hundred folk, most of them trafficked women for forced prostitution (in other words rape), are enslaved in our green land ...

The truly amazing figure from the report is that there are about 30 million people around the world living in some kind of bonded servitude ... stunning, when one considers that most of us in the West think of it as something that ended in the 19th century.

This is a real issue affecting real lives. Where's the Church's/Churches' voice on this? It is surely deserves at least a fraction of the energy that goes on the many of the inward looking navel gazing issues that we spend so much time on ...

prayer diary Friday 18 Oct 2013 (Feast of St Luke)

'and say to them: the kingdom of God has come near to you.' 
Luke 10. 9

Reflection 
Let us give thanks this day for the work of the evangelist St Luke. Through his inspired words we walk with Christ, hear his words, and are witnesses of his life, death, and resurrection.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

prayer diary Thursday 17 Oct 2013

'the Wisdom of God said 'I will send them apostles and prophets, some of they will kill and persecute' so that this generation may be charged with the blood of the prophets shed since the foundation of the world.' 
Luke 11. 49

Reflection  
Those who refuse to sway from passing on the sound doctrine of God's Church will find many enemies in this world. But they may take comfort in knowing that they are part of a long line of those who have suffered for their perseverance. And that God is faithful to all who are faithful to him.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

prayer diary Wednesday 16 Oct 2013

'You tithe mint & rue & herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others.' 
Luke 11. 42

Reflection 
We must not neglect the rituals and observances of God's Church; but they mean nothing unless we love God and neighbour first.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Enough

I hear two mothers cry,
one for the child just dead,
one for the one first held.
And wonder if God is enough.

I walk along the shore.
There is the fresh salt air
with the tang of weed's decay.
And ask that God be enough.

I gaze at the midnight sky
which wears the belt of Orion
across the unending dark.
And plead that God be enough.

I touch the blood red rose,
marvel at the velvet petals,
wince at the dagger thorn.
And hope that God is enough.

I bite into a peach;
with the sweet juice I taste
despair in the hand that picked.
And pray that God is enough.

I reach into my heart
where I think I am alone
but find that I am not.
And know he is enough.

                                      -for Paul Draper

prayer diary Tuesday 15 Oct 2013

'Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup; but inside, you are full of greed and wickedness.' 
Luke 11. 39

Reflection 
God can see into the hearts of men. The external appearance of virtue will avail you nothing if it is not matched by an equal virtue of heart, mind, & soul.

Monday, October 14, 2013

prayer diary Monday 14 Oct 2013

'This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.' 
Luke 11. 29

Reflection 
God's word alone was enough to call the people of Ninevah to repentance. And it must be enough for us also. To continue in sin in flagrant disregard of the warnings we have from Sacred Scripture is to court ultimate disaster.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

the parable of the cleansing of the lepers

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

You have no doubt heard it said many a time that the miracle stories in the Gospels are parables in action. I certainly have. So I thought I'd try and find out who it was that first said it. Alas, I could find many examples of the phrase being used going back at least to the mid-19th century, but as for who first made the observation, and how long ago that was, I could find no reference. The only thing I can think is that such a common-place idea and of such ancient origin that none of the authors I found using it thought it necessary to give any attribution.

Which is a pity, really. Because it really is such an insightful observation that its originator truly does deserve to be given proper credit for it. It is one of those ideas that seem blindingly obvious when one thinks about it. We know that Jesus said and did far more than the Gospels record – St John famously says that if one were to try to write it all down there wouldn't be enough books in the world to contain them – and if you read the Gospels carefully, they attest again and again how Jesus went to endless places where he performed great numbers of miracles of healing and exorcism without any of the details being given. In fact, the Gospels record the details of relatively few of Jesus' miracles – for example, it may come as a surprise that St Mark gives the actual stories of only 16 miracles in total. This means that the evangelists chose each of the ones they included with great care … and it is not surprising that they would use ones that went beyond demonstrating Christ's power, but also served as opportunities to further emphasise his teaching … and so just as the parables are stories intended to teach us something, so too are the stories of the miracles intended to teach …

So what of our miracle from today's Gospel, the healing of the 10 lepers … what do we learn if we look at it as a parable?

It should be noted that the leprosy spoken of in the bible is not what we mean by leprosy; it covered a wide range of skin diseases, but what we call leprosy, or Hansen's disease, was unknown in Israel at the time of Christ. But the Jews regarded those they called lepers with a particular horror … not only did they have what was considered to be a loathsome disease, but they were also social outcasts … cut off not just from their fellow human beings, but, as they were ritually unclean, cut off from the practice of their faith … they were diseased, disfigured, and all but cut off from the rest of society … so Jesus actions do more than simply heal them … he literally gives them a life … he restores them to the community …

And in response to Jesus' restoration of all they had lost, what do they do? For all but one the response is a staggering ingratitude that Jesus remarks upon quite bluntly … the comment 'and he a Samaritan' would have rung quite harshly on the ears of his hearers ... and if we're looking at this as a parable and seeking to draw the lesson that it teaches, it is hard not to see all humanity as the lepers … we are the ones who receive immense gifts from God … the gift of life, of fellowship with others, of the relationship with him … and most respond with incredible ingratitude … few, very few, respond as the tenth leper, who returns, loudly praising God, to prostrate himself before Jesus … the majority simply take … while only the few give thanks, praise, gratitude, and glory …

And the story ends on a curious note … Jesus tells the leper to get up and go on his way, saying his faith has made him well … but he was already healed … he had been healed earlier, along with the ungrateful nine … so what does Jesus mean? Does he mean that God doesn't care whether we are grateful or ungrateful for all he gives us? That would seem to go against Jesus' amazement that the nine can't be bothered to express gratitude. Does it rather mean that his faith has made him well at a deeper level, a spiritual level? Perhaps. The Greek word used here, soz-ook-en, means not only to make well or heal, but to make whole, to save … is what Jesus saying to the man that your faith has saved you? You alone have had the proper response to what all that God has done for you; all of you have been healed; but only you have been made whole; only you, because of your faith, have been saved?

To view it thus is to turn it into a stark warning against taking what God does for us for granted … of thinking because he has given us the good things of this life, he is somehow obliged to give us the good things of the next … and like all parables we must wonder where do we fit into the story … of the ten, who would we be? Among the nine who are healed only … or the one who is both healed and saved … something to ponder … something to pray about … Amen.

haiku: gold-leaved rookery

gold-leaved rookery
~ the path below
   spattered white

Saturday, October 12, 2013

haiku: starlit sky

starlit sky
~ cars sparkle;
  autumn's first frost

Examin: Saturday 12 Oct 2013

thou shalt not kill
Christ made it clear that this commandment covers far more than killing alone. All violence, both physical and emotional, are included. Self-harm is also wrong – and we harm ourselves in more ways than just the obvious. Do you fail to look after yourself properly by failing to take some exercise or eat a healthy diet? Do you smoke or drink too much? What of drug use – and not just illegal, but also prescription and over the counter medications? Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and a gift to us from our Father in Heaven. Keep that in mind and treat it accordingly.

prayer diary Saturday 12 Thursday 10 Oct 2013

'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.' 
Luke 11. 28

Reflection 
Again Christ reminds us that it is not enough merely to listen to God's word; obedience to it must follow. It is only thus that we may be truly blessed – with the reward of eternal life.

a message from THE MISSION to SEAFARERS IRELAND

As a former sailor (amongst many other former things) I have a great regard and respect for those who go down to the sea and earn their crust by the sweat of the their brow on the salt of the sea. The below message 'dropped' into my inbox today. It is aimed at parishes, but no harm, I think, to give it a wider airing. May I commend it to your attention? And whether you are not in a position to offer financial support or not, please support both the Mission to Seafarers and seafarers themselves in your prayers.


THE MISSION to SEAFARERS IRELAND

St Ann’s Church, Dawson Street, Dublin 2
11th October 2013

Dear Rector/Hon. Treasurer
I would greatly appreciate if you would invite the members of your select vestry to consider making a donation to the ongoing work of the Mission to Seafarers Ireland, which provides pastoral care to seafarers in ports throughout the Republic.
In the past year we have visited 700 ships in the port of Dublin, and received 2000 seafarers in The Flying Angel Centre, which represents an increase in spite of the recession.
I need hardly say that our presence in the ports is enormously appreciated by seafarers from all over the world. We assist them in practical ways, and above all by keeping them in touch with their families by providing affordable telephone facilities and free WiFi and internet services. Seafarers are like anyone else: they get sick, they suffer often very severe injuries, they endure danger in many forms, and they are all thinking about the families they have left behind. They are different, however, in one respect: when they are far from home, they have no family, friends or neighbours to help them through difficulties and loneliness.
Seafarers are hugely appreciative of the care and concern of the church as expressed by the Mission to Seafarers. A chaplain boarding a ship can be assured of a warm welcome, because he or she is the only person who is there purely and simply for them as individuals created in the image of God.
We understand that parishioners are experiencing all the pressures that the current financial climate has inflicted on our society, but when possible cheques in support of our witness as a church may be sent to the Hon. Treasurer, Mr James Bird, whose address appears at the foot of this letter.
Sincerely
Revd Brian O’Rourke
Hon. Secretary, Mission to Seafarers Ireland
Hon. Secretary: Revd Brian O’Rourke, 
The Parish Office for St Anne-Shandon, 3 Exchange St. Cork. 
021-4552605. E-mail: stanneoffice@gmail.com
Hon. Treasurer: Mr James Bird, 21 Coolamber Park, Knocklyon Road, Dublin 16. 
Tel. 01-4942049. E-mail: jamesbird@live.ie

Friday, October 11, 2013

Loss

It was not many months ago
as I panted, carrying him
up to bed, that he said:
'I wish I was strong like you;'

only weeks since, watching me
clumsily batter a nail into wood,
he asked with wonder:
'How can you do that?'

But now he is six. Today
he looks at where my crown
slightly thins and coolly observes:
'You're losing your hair.'

He sees my mortality;
his blinkers are lost.

haiku: bright stars

bright stars
~ crossing stone bridge
    a biting wind

prayer diary Friday 11 Thursday 10 Oct 2013 (Feast of St Philip the Deacon; day of discipline and self-denial)

'Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.' 
Luke 10.11

Reflection 
In Christ heaven came down to earth. And Christ is with us always, even until the end of the age. We must live, therefore, as those who know ourselves to be citizens of heaven during all our days on this earth.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

haiku: before the dawn

before the dawn
~ in dark woods
  ash boughs shine

prayer diary Thursday 10 Oct 2013

'Ask and it will be given to you; search and you will find.' 
Luke 11.9

Reflection 
Those who faithfully seek to lead a godly life will never be disappointed, despite the seeming trials of this life.

haiku: black beads

black beads on pale fingers
~lips moving 
   in prayer

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

prayer diary Wednesday 9 Oct 2013

'Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.' 
Luke 11.2

Reflection 
Jesus, teaching his followers to pray, began by reminding them of the holiness of God's name, and the longing that all must have for the coming of God's kingdom. When we pray the Lord's prayer we must not only say these words – we must mean them also.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

haiku: before the light

before the light
~ crows' voices
    shatter the remains of night

prayer diary Tuesday. 8 Oct 2013

'Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need only of one thing. Mary has chosen the better part ....' 
Luke 10. 41,42

Reflection 
The practical, mundane things must be done. But Christ must be at the heart of all we do.

Monday, October 7, 2013

poem: Teach us our duty, Father-God



(the poem below is based on the theme of my sermon yesterday.
It may be sung to Dominus regit me by John Bacchus Dykes (1823-76),
the tune used for hymn 20  in the CofI Church Hymnal.
the King of love my shepherd is)

Teach us our duty, Father-God,
to love you ever dearer;
to grow in holiness each day
and thus to you grow nearer.


Give us the honesty to face
the flaws that keep us from you;
and prayerfully to seek the way
that helps us to approach you.

Grant us the strength to stay the course,
unswerving left or right;
the iron discipline we need
to fight this endless fight.

Defend the weakness of our will
from snares that try to take us;
the tempter's charms, false though they are, 
that from our faith may shake us;

so when we reach our end of days,
and stand before you, Lord;
our weak poor faith will be enough
to gain the blest reward.



haiku: her woodland walk

her woodland walk
~ insulated
   by ipod

prayer diary Monday 7 Oct 2013

'But a Samaritan, while travelling, came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.' 
Luke 10. 33

Reflection 
Our love of God is shown in how we love others. Christ makes it clear that our claim to love God is false if we fail to show our love for others in practical ways.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

five D's for greater faith

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

In our Gospel today, Jesus tells his disciples that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed, they could move mountains. That presents us with quite a challenge … which of us could claim to have faith that strong? Which means that we have to work not just daily, but every day of our lives, to increase our faith, to grow in holiness.

Because of that, I thought I'd talk to you today about some practical ways of doing so … and as I was reflecting on how I might do so, it occurred to me that five words or phrases beginning with letter 'd' might be of help: and those are – duty; discernment; discipline; determination; and divine grace and mercy.

The first, duty, is suggested by our readings. We have a duty to work at our faith. Faith is a gift from God, but like all gifts it must be accepted and put to use. If we are going to call ourselves Christians we have a duty to work at our relationship with God, to understand what it is that our faith entails, and to try to put that faith into practice in our lives. And that sense of duty is important – without it, there is a danger we will simply take our faith, and what God offers it through it, for granted and simply drift along or away.

Impelled by our duty to strengthen our faith, we then must enter into discernment – what is it that we must do to improve our relationship with God. That prayerful discernment will produce different answers for different people – your state of life will dictate not only what it is that you must do but what you can do: the busy working mother of several children will simply not have much time from the obligations of her life as will a young, single man living on his own. But neither must we allow our state of life to be an excuse to do nothing.

Also, this discernment must be brutally honest – you must be totally open and honest with yourself … there is no point in being otherwise … because even if you fool yourself, you can not fool God. You must determine where it is that you are failing in your Christian life – is it your life of prayer? Your support of God's Church? Your obedience to God's law – or to put it another way, have you allowed sin to creep into your life and have you become comfortable with it? And having admitted where it is that you are failing, you must determine a programme of corrective action, of carving out time for prayer, of seeking out God's help to bring your relationship with him back on track.

Having discerned what it is that you need to do, the next thing needed is discipline. If it has become clear to you that what you need is to study the bible more, then pick a time, and stick to that time faithfully each day; if it is to pray more, then chose a time, the morning perhaps before the day gets busy, and pray then and let nothing get in your way. If you don't stick to whatever programme you have discerned with a degree of discipline then it will soon fall by the way side. I'm too tired this morning, I'll stay in bed a little longer and do it later – maybe during lunch; or I'm too busy today, I'll do double tomorrow, just won't cut it, and you know it. If you have truly prayerfully discerned that this is what you need for your spiritual well-being, then you must stick to it with iron discipline or before you know it all your good intentions will have faded as quickly as your new year's resolutions.

As well as discipline, you will need determination. The determination to resist the distractions while you pray, read scripture, study, worship, or whatever it is that you discerned. And determination to resist all the temptations that the world, the flesh, and devil will throw at you to abandon your programme … you work hard, you need your rest … what do you mean, you can't come out tonight? Don't be such a wet blanket … oh come, on; you're not really such a bad person – what do you need all this praying for? The temptations to slack off will come – and it will take all your will-power to resist them at times. But if you are determined to succeed, then you will.

Why? Well, that brings us to our final 'd' – divine grace and mercy. We need God's help in all we do … we are weak and frail … alone we will fail … our Father in heaven knows this … that is why he sent us his Son … to show us the way to the Father … to teach us, to die for us, and to rise from the dead to assure us that he had conquered death and eternal life was available to all who put their faith in him … and to all who their faith truly in him, he will, in his grace and mercy, guide and strengthen to succeed in such a task prayerfully begun and continued.

And so there it is: a five-step programme to increase your faith and stay strong in it: accepting that it is our duty to do so; prayerfully discerning what it is we must do; entering into what God calls to us in a disciplined fashion; continuing on that path with determination; and taking comfort in the knowledge that divine mercy and grace is always there to help you on your way.

I do not promise that you will end your days with the faith to move mountains … I do not even suggest that you will end with faith enough that you could move even a mustard seed … but you may very well end with faith enough to attain unto everlasting life … and that is faith enough … it is something that I pray for you all … and ask that you pray for me. Amen.

haiku: after the rain

after the rain
~ the weir
   buried by river

Saturday, October 5, 2013

haiku: heavy rain

heavy rain
~ a bend in the road
   a heron takes flight

Examin Saturday 5 Sep 2013

On the worthy reception of Holy Communion
(that holy Sacrament), being so divine and comfortable a thing to them who receive it worthily and so dangerous to those that will presume to receive it unworthily; my duty is to exhort you … to consider the dignity of that holy mystery … and so to search and examine your own consciences (and that not lightly …) so that ye may come holy and clean to such a heavenly Feast … if there be any who … requireth further counsel or comfort, let him come to me, or some other discreet and learned Minister of God's Word, and open his grief; that by the ministry of God's holy Word, he receive the benefit of absolution, together with spiritual counsel and advice, to the quieting of his conscience, and avoiding all scruple and doubtfulness.
~from Exhortation One, the Book of Common Prayer 2004, ps 197, 198

prayer diary Saturday 5 October 2013

'I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.' 
Luke 10. 21

Reflection 
The way to heaven is not barred to the intellectually gifted, nor open automatically to those who are less clever. Christ calls us all to hear his word with a trusting, child-like simplicity of heart, whether the world thinks us wise or not.

Friday, October 4, 2013

haiku: thick rain

thick rain
~ stone bridge
   above, a heron
    

prayer diary Friday 4 October 2013 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'Whoever listens to you listens to me and whoever rejects you rejects me and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.' 
Luke 10. 16

Reflection 
Christ gave his Church authority on this earth. To refuse to listen to its teaching is not the same as having a difference of opinion with a friend or neighbour. It is to refuse to listen to the voice of Christ and reject the salvation he offers to all.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

haiku: my mother's grave

my mother's grave
~ on the turned earth
   new blades of grass

prayer request

The 13 year old son of my sister's best friend is seriously ill in hospital. The chances of his recovery are growing slimmer. Please pray for him and his family at this time.

prayer diary Thursday 3 October 2013

'The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few.' 
Luke 10. 2

Reflection 
All who are part of the body of Christ have a part to play; what labour do you do to serve the Lord of the Harvest? When the labourers are few, each is precious; which make the offence of those who neglect to do their share even greater.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

prayer diary Wednesday 2 October 2013

No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.' 
Luke 9. 62

Reflection 
A hard saying, especially as none through their own merits are worthy of salvation. But it is worth noting the danger of allowing yourself to backslide or grow lukewarm, telling yourself that you will repent later. What if you never get the chance to repent? You will have taken your hand from the plough and thereby lost the chance of eternal life.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

prayer diary Tuesday 1 October 2013

'Whoever welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me.' 
Luke 9.48

Reflection 
Christ, the second person of the blessed Trinity, was sent to earth by the Father, Lord of heaven and earth. To welcome him into your life is to open your heart to God and his offer of salvation.