Saturday, January 31, 2015

Prayer diary Saturday 31 January 2015

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ 
 Mark 4.39,40

We face many dangers and worries in this life. We must not let them overwhelm us. Instead, we must bring them to Christ. If we have faith in him, there is nothing we need fear.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Prayer diary Friday 30 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'The kingdom of God, … is like a mustard seed ... the smallest of all the seeds ... yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs.' 
Mark 4. 30-32

Christ knew that the Church he founded would grow from its small beginnings to encompass the whole world. This wondrous growth also takes place in each individual; God will make great the seed of faith in the humble soul that meekly welcomes him in.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Prayer diary Thursday 29 January 2015

‘Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’ 
Mark 4.24, 25

Christ calls his followers to be attentive to his teaching and active in living them out. Great are the rewards to those who heed his words: spiritual blessings in this life to help you persevere; and in the next the joy of being in God's presence forever.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Prayer diary Wednesday 28 January 2015

'Others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word.' 
Mark 4. 18,19

The things of this world can be temptations that lure us away from salvation. We need many of them (but not all) in order that we may live; but when they become the reason for our life then we run the risk of forfeiting eternal life for the sake of such as does not last.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How, then, shall we repay the Lord?

'How, then, shall we repay the Lord for all his goodness to us? He is so good that he asks no recompense except our love: that is the only payment he desires. To confess my personal feelings, when I reflect on all these blessings I am overcome by a kind of dread and numbness at the very possibility of ceasing to love God and of bringing shame upon Christ because of my lack of recollection and my preoccupation with trivialities.'

St Basil the Great

Prayer diary Tuesday 27 January 2015

Looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’ 
Mark 3.34,35

Christ does not denigrate his mother in any way by these words; for we know from her 'thy will be done,' recorded in Luke, that she is the most obedient of all creatures to God's will. Rather he spoke that we might know the wonders that await those who faithfully follow Him.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Prayer diary Monday 26 January 2015

The scribes … said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’And he called them to him ...‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.'
Mark 3.22-24

Reflection Jesus' words reminds of the reality of the demonic and his power over that realm. And we are also reminded that there are always among us those who feel threatened or challenged by Christ's Gospel and will attempt to portray it as evil.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Examin Sunday 25 Jan 2015

Some take our Lord's declaration that the Sabbath was made for man too far, to the point where the Lord's day becomes all but indistinguishable from any other day of the week. Jesus spoke to protect people from the kind of legalism that acted to prevent people from looking after their basic human needs or showing compassion to others in the name of keeping the Sabbath. He was using his authority as the Son of God to ensure the correct interpretation of the law, not, as he said elsewhere, to abolish it. There was no suggestion in his words that the Lord's day should cease to be a day of rest or a day of worship. Those who use his words as an excuse to treat the Sabbath as if it were any other day risk falling into the same kind of legalism Christ strove to set aside.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

prayer diary Saturday 24 Jan 2015

Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 
Mark 3.19,20

We often think of the sacrifices that Christ made at the end of his life; but how often do we think of those he made during his ministry? He endured much hardship from travelling in all weathers, being away from his home, as well as hunger and thirst. And all for the sake of proclaiming the Gospel. We also must be ready to give of ourselves for the sake of sharing his message.

Friday, January 23, 2015


a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Christian Solidarity Worldwide today condemned the rape and murder of two Kachin women in their church compound on the night of 19 January, and called on the government of Burma to immediately stop its military offensives in ethnic areas and bring the perpetrators of sexual violence to justice.

The two women, Maran Lu Ra, aged 20 and Tangbau Hkawn Nan Tsin, 21, were teachers from Myitkyina, working with the Kachin Baptist Convention. They were attacked during the night of 19 January and early hours of 20 January by Burma Army soldiers in Kawng Hka Shabuk village, Muse District, northern Shan State, gang-raped and murdered.

According to CSW's sources, 'Burma Army troops came into the church ground where the girls were sleeping and raped and then beat them to death. Villagers nearby heard the girls screaming and when they went to check they saw Burma Army boot prints and the raped and bloodied bodies of the dead girls. The church members went to the Burma police in this area, but the police have taken no action.'

The Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT) has documented over 70 cases of gang-rape, rape and attempted sexual violence by Burma Army troops in Kachin and northern Shan states since the Burma Army broke a 17-year ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in June 2011. The Women's League of Burma published a new report last year, titled If they had hope, they would speak, which documents 118 cases of sexual violence by the Burma Army since 2010.

CSW calls on the British Government to implement provisions in its Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative and dispatch a team of experts to Burma to investigate this case. The government of Burma signed the Declaration to End Sexual Violence in Conflict last year, but has failed to implement its provisions.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW, said: 'This tragic rape and murder of two young Christian Kachin teachers is yet another example of the continuing severe violations of human rights in Burma, the prevailing culture of impunity for the military, and the persistent and widespread use of rape and sexual violence by the Burma Army. We urge the international community to act to uphold the provisions of the Declaration to End Sexual Violence in Conflict and the UK's own Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, and we call on the government of Burma to end the war against the Kachin people and engage in a genuine political dialogue and peace process.'

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 or visit

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

prayer diary Friday 23 Jan 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message,and to have authority to cast out demons. 
Mark 3. 14

The authority Jesus gave the apostles they passed on to their successors, as we see by the appointment of Matthias to replace Judas in Acts. This is why we can believe, as it says in the Creeds, that the Church is 'Apostolic;' and trust in the truth she proclaims on behalf of the one who established her, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

a touching moment

It was the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. I was doing a 'pulpit exchange' in one of the local Catholic churches. I began by talking about how much better relations were between the churches and went on to suggest that part of unity was showing solidarity with our persecuted brethren in other countries. The Mass continued. I sat quietly in the sanctuary during the consecration and administration of the Sacrament. As the Mass was nearing its close, the elderly priest who was my host stood behind the altar for the blessing. He paused.

'The Reverend Patrick spoke about how much progress has been made. And he's right. But more needs to be done. I just want to say how much real pain it causes me that he could not receive the Body and Blood of our Lord with me here at the altar today; and that when I go to visit his church to preach later this week, I also will not be able to partake. And I'm sure it causes him pain also; as it does all here and all in our two communities.' 

He continued with the blessing. When he had finished, he paused again. 

'I should have asked the Reverend Patrick to join me.' He gestured me forward. 'We'll do it again.' I rose and stood with him behind the altar. 'I'm sorry about that,' he whispered. I shook my head and placed my hand on his shoulder. He put his arm around me and we embraced. We then pronounced the blessing. The congregation applauded.

It was all very natural and spontaneous. And what both priests said is true. As I said, much progress has been made. And as he said, we have so much farther to go.

prayer diary Thursday 22 Jan 2015

Hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. 
Mark 3.8

During his public ministry people flocked to Jesus. We too must seek him out: through prayer; the reading of Sacred Scripture; in our worship; and by means of the Sacraments

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 21 Jan 2015

Then he said to them, ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?' 
Mark 3.4

Jesus reminds us that compassion is not suspended on the basis of it being the Lord's day. Such legalisms are not part of Christ's way. But we must remember that doing good is also to be found in keeping the Lord's day holy by worshipping him.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 20 Jan 2015

Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.' 
Mark 2. 27

The Lord's day was given to us as a time to rest and give glory to God. Our basic human needs are not to be neglected on that day; but neither should they be used as an excuse to neglect fulfilling our duties to the One who made us.

an execution in Oklahoma

Richard Glossip was sentenced to death by the State of Oklahoma for the murder of Barry Van Treese and is scheduled for execution on January 29th. It would seem, on the basis of the facts available in the public domain, that this man is very likely innocent; at the very least the evidence against him is so weak that this should never have been a death penalty case.

There is no physical evidence linking him with the crime; his conviction is based solely on the statement of Justin Sneed, the man who admits the killing, that he was paid to do so by Richard. Sneed initially insisted to police he had acted alone and only later implicated Richard in exchange for a plea bargain that spared him the death penalty. Richard has always maintained his innocence - in fact, he refused a plea deal that would have spared his life because it would have required him to admit the crime - and his claim is supported by the Sneed's daughter who says her father confessed to her that he implicated Richard so that he could make a deal and save himself and that Richard had no involvement in the crime.

I believe the death penalty is wrong; but it is particularly heinous in a case like this where the evidence is so questionable. Sister Helen Prejean (famously portrayed by Susan Sarandon in the film 'Dead Man Walking') has joined to fight to save Richard's life and has also become his spiritual adviser. Others who would like to help can do so by signing the on-line petition here pleading with Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin to spare Richard's life.

Monday, January 19, 2015

prayer diary Monday 19 Jan 2015

Jesus said: 'The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.' 
Mark 2.20

This is Jesus' first reference his passion. So close to Christmas, it reminds us of why the Word was made flesh ... and that the wood of the Cross is foreshadowed by that of the manger.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Examin Sunday 18 Jan 2015

Christ worked tirelessly during his years of ministry to make God manifest to man. After his Death, Resurrection, and Ascension he tasked the Church he founded with continuing that work. We who have been baptised into new life with Christ are part of that Church and thus it is the mission of us all to make God manifest before the world in he way we lead our lives. Consider the past hour, the past day, the past week, the past year of your life. How have you lived out that mission?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

prayer diary Saturday 17 Jan 2015

The Pharisees … said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’... Jesus said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’ 
Mark 2.16,17

There is much irony in what Jesus says here: he tells his detractors he has come to call sinners; but we know, as St Paul reminds us, that 'all are sinners and have fallen short.' We must always be wary of thinking the sinner is the other man in need of God's help. Indeed he is; but so also are we.

Friday, January 16, 2015

prayer diary Friday 16 Jan 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ 
Mark 2. 5

Christ helps the paralysed man because of the faith of those who bring him. So too may much good be done for others by our faith and prayers.  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 15 Jan 2015

A leper came to him begging him ... ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ 
Mark 1. 40.41

Dread diseases were as nothing to Christ's healing power. How much more will our spiritual ailments yield to him, if only we ask him to make us clean?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 14 Jan 2015

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 
Mark 1.35

Many were the demands on our Lord's time. People pressed in upon him, longing to hear him speak or be healed at his touch. And yet he always made time for prayer. If Christ saw this as a necessary part of his life, how much more do we need to do so, frequently and regularly, weak creatures that we are?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

funeral address: Reg Scanlon, RIP

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

There is very little that I can say this afternoon. By the time I arrived in the parish Reg was already resident in Thomastown Hospital, deep in the grip of the Alzheimer's that affected his latter years. So while I can say that I met him, I can not claim that I in any way got to know him. In any case, it is doubtful that anything that I could have said about Reg would have been as touching or as intimate or as true to the spirit of whom Reg was as the few words his son Kevin spoke earlier on behalf of the family.

I was particularly struck by the choice of the poem 'Death is nothing at all' by Canon Henry Scott Holland as part of the family's tribute to Reg. The poem was originally part of a sermon preached by the Canon as King Edward the Seventh lay in state in 1910. The words were written to help comfort a grieving nation at the death of their sovereign; and they struck such a chord that they were removed from the text that surrounded them, reformatted into a poem, and continue to be repeated to this day, particularly on occasions such as this, at the time of the loss of a loved one, when those who loved that person most are seeking comfort and reassurance.

And I think there is much comfort to be found in what the poem says, in the words that death is nothing at all, that the person we love has only slipped into another room, that there is no reason why we should not continue to think of them, pray for them, speak of them, indeed speak to them; that there is no need for them to be out of mind just because they are out of sight; that the period of time for which we will not see them is only an interval, a temporary thing, that they are waiting for us very near, around the corner almost, and that they love us still just as we love them.

The thought that Canon Holland expressed in his sermon, while beautifully and strikingly expressed, was not, of course, particularly original. It has, for example, much in common with something that St Augustine of Hippo said in the 4th century. He wrote in a letter, also intended to comfort someone on the occasion of a bereavement, in this case a sister that of her brother, that the love that they had for each other is still there, much like gold when it is put away in some locker for safe-keeping, is still there and remains yours. And Canon Holland's sentiments are especially reminiscent of the words that we heard Jesus speak in one of our readings today: that in his Father's house are many mansions, and that he went to prepare a place for us there. In more modern versions of the Bible, those words are translated as: in my father's house are many rooms.

So the idea that the person we loved has slipped away into another room and is waiting for us there is not just some fanciful bit of wishful thinking to be trotted out when things get tough: it is something that Christ himself assured us of and promised to all who would take up their cross and follow him. Therefore, it is very much part of our Christian hope that that is where Reg is now: he has not gone; he is still Reg, even as we all here today continue to be who we are; that the love he had for all those he loved is still there, unchanged, and there is no need for us to love him any less or any differently now. Reg has merely stepped into the next room. He is meeting now with those who went before him: his parents and grand-parents and siblings; his friends, colleagues, and neighbours; and all the others of the great crowd of people he came to know over the course of the many careers of his long life. And he waits there now with them for those of us who remain in this room rather than in the next.

Mourning is natural; grief is something to be expected; but it is not something that need consume us, as long as we remember our sorrow is because the one we love is only out of sight, and that they are not gone. For – and I shall end here with some final words from Canon Holland - All is well. Nothing is past; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before, only better; infinitely happier; and forever we will all be one together with Christ. Amen

A little reminder ...

A reminder not to let the abhorrent behaviour of extremists decide how we think about people in general ... 

prayer diary Tuesday 13 Jan 2015

They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ 
Mark 1. 27

Jesus' authority was displayed in his words and in his actions. So too, if we are to be his followers, must our faith be shown not only by what we say, but also in how we act.

Monday, January 12, 2015

prayer diary Monday 12 Jan 2015

Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ 
Mark 1. 14,15

Jesus began his ministry by saying 'repent, and believe in the good news.' Might that not suggest that first comes repentance and then belief in Christ's good news? A worrying thought in an age where so many have little or no concept of sin.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

the baptism of our Lord

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

The Sunday after the Epiphany is one where we remember the Baptism of our Lord in the Jordan by St John. It might seem a little odd at first that we do so today: we are only a few weeks past Christmas; the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem to pay homage to the Christ-child, bearing their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh is still fresh in our minds. In a few weeks time, on February 2nd we will celebrate the presentation of Christ in the temple. So why go off on what appears to be a tangent by jumping to the beginning of the ministry of the adult Jesus?

To understand why, we have to understand what the word Epiphany means. The Greek word  ἐπιφάνεια comes from a root which means to appear or to manifest – hence the reason you will hear the feast of the Epiphany often referred to as the Epiphany of Christ to the gentiles. The most common use of the word in classical Greek was to describe the manifestation of a deity to a worshipper – something we would more commonly call a theophany. And while Christ was indeed manifested to the gentiles when the Magi came to kneel before him, he was also made manifest to the world the day of his baptism by John, when not only did he allow himself to be baptised, but the Holy Spirit hovered over him in the form of a dove, and the voice of God the Father was heard declaring that this was his beloved Son. Very much a scene where God is made manifest, as I'm sure you can see; in other words, very much an epiphany also.

But why, you may ask as many do, was Jesus baptised at all? Baptism, after all, washes away sins; it is dying to the old life of sin in the waters of baptism and rising to new life; and Christ, being without sin, naturally had no need of it. There are many good and sound theological explanations as to why our Lord felt that this was something he should do 'to fulfil all righteousness' as St Matthew's gospel puts it. But this morning I would like to draw your attention to the many ways in which the scene by the Jordan that morning echoes the opening verses of Genesis. In Genesis we have God the Father, creator of heaven and earth; we have God the Son, in the form of his creative word by which all things were created; and we have God the Holy Spirit, hovering over the waters of the deep. By the Jordan we God the Father as he speaks and identifies Christ as his beloved Son; we have the Son, the Word of God now made flesh; and we have the Holy Spirit, hovering over Jesus and the water in which he was baptised in the form of a dove.

So just as in Genesis we have 'in the beginning' we have at the baptism of Christ a scene of New Beginnings – a new beginning in Christ. Note well how St Mark begins his Gospel: it is with the words - The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God. God has been made man and now manifests himself to the world so that all men might be saved through him. It is as if God says to mankind: Let us start again. Before you were rebellious and chose sin over obedience; put that behind you now. I have sent you my Son, my only beloved Son; listen to him. And what are the first words that Christ speaks in this Gospel? They are The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ 

It is as St Paul says in 2nd Corinthians: if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.

Remembering the Baptism of Christ at this time reminds us of the reason why Christ came into the world in the first place: for the salvation of us all, so that the light of the world might bring light into our lives, so that we might live in the hope we have in knowing that God loves us and wants us to be with him in heaven so much that he sent his only, and beloved Son in order to make that possible. And for those, like us, who have been re-born through baptism, all that remains is to accept God's love and grace, to listen to his Son and obey; something I pray that all will Amen.  

Examin Saturday 10 Jan 2015

The New Year is a time of fresh beginnings and resolutions to do better. Take time and examine your spiritual life over the last year. Where have you fallen short? Do not excuse yourself by saying that all fall short. That is true. But ask yourself rather where have you fallen short where you know good and well you could have done far better. Was it in your prayer life? Your Sunday attendance at Divine Services? Your charity towards others, whether in how you dealt with them one on one or in generous giving? Some other area? Accept that you have failed and did so wilfully; repent of this behaviour and ask God's pardon; and resolve firmly to do better, with God's help, day by day.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

prayer diary Saturday 10 Jan 2015

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. 
Luke 4.16

Christ himself, the Son of God, did not feel free to neglect joining with his fellow man to worship God and keep holy the Lord's Day. It is Jesus himself, therefore, who teaches us that we have no excuse not to spend time with our brother and sisters in the Lord's House that day, unless the gravest of reasons prevents us from doing so.

Friday, January 9, 2015

prayer diary Friday 9 Jan 2015 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

When they saw him walking on the lake, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ 
Mark 6. 49,50

There is much in this life that may terrify, amaze, bewilder the mortal soul. Remember that nothing that we fear can ultimately harm us. Therefore listen to what Christ himself says and do not be afraid.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 8 Jan 2015

As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 
Mark 6.34

Jesus healed the sick, cared for the poor, fed the hungry. A good shepherd feeds his sheep. But the sheep he cared for had souls as well as bodies; and he knew that these need to be fed and cared for also.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 7 Jan 2015

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee ... From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 
Matthew 4. 12,17

Jesus began his ministry by calling people to repent. If we are to answer his call and follow him, then we must begin with repentance.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

a reflection on the Epiphany

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

Who were the wise men whose visit to the Christ-child we celebrate today? Other than that they were wise and they were men we can say very little. True, to that we can add they came from the East, but east of Bethlehem covers a lot of territory. Also, we can say that they knew about the prophecy that a great king was to be born in Israel; but as scholars of today agree that this was something that scholars of that day would have been likely to know about, that doesn't add much. It does narrow the possibilities down to those parts of the world most likely to have heard of these ancient Jewish prophesies: so perhaps they were from Arabia; or maybe Persia.

Well, at least we know there were three of them; after all, this is what every crib in every church and every Christian home shows. Except we don't even really know that. All Matthew's Gospel says is that there were wise men. Plural, more than one, but other than that he doesn't specify. It might only have been two; it could have been ten or more. We get the idea of there being three from the number of gifts that they bring: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But three gifts does not prove three men.

That they bring valuable gifts, coupled with the fact that they have the resources to make a long and fairly open ended journey – remember, when they set off, they don't know exactly where this star is going to lead them and how long they will be gone – suggests that they are wealthy men. Not, perhaps, necessarily the kings of later tradition; but neither can we rule it out absolutely either. The fact that they are readily received at the court of King Herod gives a certain credibility to the idea that they might have been, like him, at least minor kings; kings in name, but with little power and influence outside of their own little kingdoms in those days of the ever increasing might of Roman Empire.

But we do know with certainty that these are Magi – wise men, scholars; men well versed in prophetic writings and in recognising when the prophesies which they have studied are in the process of being fulfilled. And we also know they are in some way holy men, men who are in touch with the Divine – by which I do not mean idols or other false gods – demons, St Paul calls these - but the one true God as he was known to the Hebrews. Remember that they will be warned in a dream not to trust the empty promises of Herod and to return home by another way. This seems extremely reminiscent of the way in which St Joseph is visited by an angel and told not to be afraid to marry the Virgin who is with child, to flee from Herod's murderous wrath, and that it is at last safe to return from Egypt. St Matthew does not mention an angel being part of their dream warning, but it is clear that God himself has spoken to them in some way in this dream. And they obey this divine command. And is not being obedient to God's will an essential part of being holy?

Their wisdom and holiness adds greater significance to the gifts they bring. These gifts are not merely symbols of their own wealth and power; each has a deeper meaning. Gold signifies kingship; and we know from what these men say in Jerusalem to Herod and his courtiers that they know that the one that they seek is a king. Frankincense, a precious incense, is what is offered in the temple to almighty God; these wise men, at some level, recognise the divinity of the one to whom they have come to pay homage, that he, like God is one worthy of worship, one who like God is worthy of an offering of incense. And the final gift, myrrh, is prophetic in nature; for myrrh is what is used to anoint the bodies of the dead for burial. These wise men recognise in some way that this divine king is marked for death from the beginning. And yet, even though they know he is to die, they travel a long, hard road, bearing rich gifts, to pay homage to one they know is to die.

Do they see beyond his death? Do they understand what it means for someone who is man, and king, and God to die? We do not know; we know only that they were wise men who followed a star to kneel at the feet of a child and to worship him. And we also know that if we are wise like them we will do likewise, we will make of our lives an endless journey whose purpose is solely to kneel at the feet of the one who is our Lord, and king, and God. Amen.  

prayer diary Tuesday 6 Jan 2015 Epiphany

Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.' 
Matthew 2. 1,2

Sages everywhere knew of the prophecy that a king for the world would be born in Judea. The wise men of that day knew it had come true in Jesus. We may share in that wisdom if we, like they, kneel before him and pay him homage.

Monday, January 5, 2015

prayer diary Monday 5 Jan 2015

Jesus said to her: 'The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’
John 4. 14

To take the living Word into your heart leads to eternal life. And we can trust what Jesus says is true, for he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

and the Word was made flesh

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

Our Gospel reading today, the first 18 verses from St John's Gospel, is like entering into a time machine, one that takes us from the past to the present and on into the future. We are taken into the past by the very first verse: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This, of course, takes not only into the past but to the very beginning of time itself, the moment when God created the universe. St John is deliberately echoing the opening words of Genesis, which says 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. ' 

It is a very Trinitarian moment: in it we see God the Father, creator of heaven and earth; we have his Son, in his creative word by which he will not only bring light into being, but everything else (often portrayed as the Wisdom of God elsewhere in the Old Testament); and we have his Holy Spirit, moving upon the face of the waters, in the Hebrew hovering over the waters, in much the same way that the Holy Spirit will hover in the form of a dove over Jesus when he is being baptised in the Jordan by John.

We are taken into the present – the present of the time when the Evangelist is writing – when he tells us that the Word was made flesh and lived among us. And St John wants us to have no doubt that the Word of which he speaks is the same Word by which God created all things, the Word that was with God in the beginning, and that this Word is himself God. So that when he tells us that the Word was made flesh he is telling us that God was made flesh, that God became a human being, and lived on earth with all the other human beings who were alive at that time. 

Pause and consider the wonder and the mystery of that: the same God who created the universe out of nothing chose to become part of it as a living, breathing person. No pretending; no flitting in for a brief visit in some kind of human mask or costume, spending a little quality time enjoying some of the pleasures of this earth, and skipping back off to heaven. No. He became flesh - a real human being who would get hungry, thirsty, nipped by mosquitoes, burned by the sun, chilled by the wind and rain; a real person who could feel pain, sorrow, anger, loss; someone who could be bruised, cut, hurt, bleed, suffer, and die.

And why he did it takes us to the future of our short period of time travelling this morning. He did it so that 'all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.' The Word became flesh so that you and I and everyone else could become children of God; God became man so that man might be with God in heaven. He did it for the salvation of all humanity, so that all the world might be saved. 

He did it because, as John puts it later in his Gospel, God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.' He did it so that all the people of St John's time, all the people that would follow after his time right down to the present moment, including us here this morning, and all those who will come after us until the end of the world and until the end of time itself would have eternal life with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit for all eternity in heaven. 

And as I end, I will remind you of one thing: note well that St John says this gift is for those who receive this Word made flesh, this eternal life is for those who believe in him. God offers his salvation to all who open their hearts to his eternal Word in love and in obedience. And I pray that all here will do so in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, three persons in one God: Amen.  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

prayer diary Saturday 3 January 2014

When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them 'What are you looking for?' 
John 1. 37

What are you seeking as you follow Christ? Think what the disciples who followed him that day found: a hard road, the challenge to spread the Gospel to all the world, and a martyr's death for many. God calls you to such a life also – and in return offers life everlasting.

Friday, January 2, 2015

prayer diary Friday 2 January 2014

John said: Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.' 
John 1. 29

Christ was made flesh, suffered, and died to save you from your sins. Knowing that, you must now play your part in bringing that Good News to all people, so that they also may behold the Lamb of God.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 1 January 2014

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 
Luke 2.21

Again we see the obedience of the Holy Family to God's law, for as the Son of God he had no need for the mark of the covenant to be placed upon his flesh; yet as the Son of Mary he did so, so that all righteousness might be fulfilled. Remember the obedience of Christ when next you think you have no need to obey anything that God asks of his children.