Friday, July 31, 2015

prayer diary Friday 31 July 2015 (day of discipline and self-denial)

If anyone wants to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 
Matthew 16. 24

Reflection
The cross is at the centre of everything. We must lead lives that proclaim that truth to the world, especially by the way in which we carry our own cross.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 30 July 2015

He said to them: 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered: 'You are the Messiah; the Son of the Living God.' 
Matthew 16.15,16

Reflection
Peter confession is one that we must make for ourselves each day – and then lead our lives accordingly.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 29 July 2015

Then Jesus answered her: 'Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.' 
Matthew 15. 28

Reflection:
If we have faith in God, we know that all things happen according to his will, even if we do not understand ourselves why things happen the way that they do.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 28 July 2015

And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 
Luke 9. 29

Reflection
Jesus' companions were privileged to witness with their human eyes Christ's self-revelation. We share in that privilege using the eyes of faith.

Monday, July 27, 2015

prayer diary Monday 27 July 2015

Jesus said to them: 'They need not go away; you give them something to eat.' 
Matthew 14. 16

Reflection
Christ knew that he would feed the multitude; but we, his followers, must never forget our duty to share what we have with those in need.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

explaining away the miracles

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

Today's Gospel reading concerns that of the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, also called the miracle of the loaves and fishes. It is one of the best known of our Lord's nature miracles, which is hardly surprising as it is the only one of his miracles that is related in all four Gospels. It is also one of the best loved, which is again hardly surprising as it shows the homely and touching compassion of Jesus was the practical needs of those who followed him. Hungry people out in the wildness, far from their own homes or a market where they may buy food need feeding. And Jesus' actions here shows that knows and understands people's real life problems.

Now, we live in an era that can be somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of miracles and I am sure that all here have heard at some time or another someone attempt to provide what they call a natural explanation for what happened here. One very popular attempt is what might be described as the miracle of the sharing. Some of those who followed Jesus into the wilderness that day had food; some did not. Inspired by our Lord's teaching those with food shared with those who did not and so all had enough.

Let me begin by saying that I see no basis for such 'novel' explanations. To accept them means that we must first accept that those who were there on the day got it wrong, when the evidence of their own eyes told them that our Lord took a small amount of food and miraculously made it enough to feed thousands. Next we must accept that all Christians from the earliest days until about five minutes ago got it wrong also – great saints and scholars such as St Basil the Great, St Augustine of Hippo, St Benedict of Nursa, St Francis of Assisi, St Thomas Aquinas, and a great many more – were too stupid, foolish, ignorant, uneducated, naïve, or misguided to see the true meaning here; and that it is only those of our generation are wise enough, clear headed enough, and perceptive enough to really understand what all others between that day and now were not. There is a certain arrogance in putting forward such an explanation – and Christians are not called to arrogance but humility. We accept the faith as it has been passed down, as it has been understood by all people in all places at all times; we do not make it up for ourselves or re-invent it to suit the intellectual fashions of the age.

In rejecting the novel interpretation of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes as the miracle of man's generous sharing of what he has to spare with others, I think it important to understand the premise that lies beneath it. For the idea that our Lord did not feed 5000 men, plus all the women and children who were there as well, does not come from a close reading of the texts; there is no hint or evidence in any of the four Gospels that we are to see this as anything other than a miraculous display of divine power, a Sign, as St John terms it, that Jesus is exactly who he says he is, the Messiah, the Son of God. The starting point for such a theory is, essentially, that 'such things can not happen; miracles can not take place and therefore a few loaves can not be made into enough to feed many thousands; therefore we must rack our brains and see what we can come up some natural explanation with which to explain what took place.'

So you can see, I think, that to reject the novel interpretation is not to be anti-intellectual in any way but to be rigourously intellectual; for before one can even begin to propose the 'sharing' idea one must first set to the side the actual evidence, the Gospel accounts, and then enter the arena of pure speculation, unsupported by the facts as we have them, and based instead on the pre-conceived opinion that the facts simply must be wrong. The traditional view of events, on the other hand, takes the evidence we have and deals with it as it is.

We must also compare the effect of such interpretations with the purpose our Lord had in performing such miracles. The effect is to undermine faith in the power and divinity of Christ, for if he did not perform miracles then how are we to believe that he is the Son of God, with an equal power over the natural forces of the world as the Father? For that is the purpose of the miracles, to show he was who he said he was, to give proof and build up faith in him. For as he himself said when he healed the paralysed man who had to be carried to him by his friends 'so that you may know that the Son of Man has the authority to forgive sins, I say to you take up your mat and walk.' To argue against the miraculous is therefore to argue against Christ's purpose for performing miracles.

And so I end this morning with the prayer that just as those that day long ago were fed not just in body by Jesus' miraculous actions on that day but in spirit, their faith being built up by this display of divine power, so too also may your faith be built up and fed as you hear and read the faithful accounts given of our Lord's works and teachings by the evangelists in the Gospel. Amen

Examin Sunday June 26 July 2015

Through our baptism we are children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ. That alone is glory enough for all eternity; how much more then is it glory enough for the short span of a human life?

 And this great gift was given to us by God; it was not earned. There is, therefore, no place in the Christian life for pride. How could there be? All that we are and have is His gift; and all that we do is done in His strength. Be humble then in all you say, think, or do, seeking to bring glory only to God. 

For you have need of no further glory than what he has already given you; and it is his glory alone that will bring you to eternal life.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

prayer diary Saturday June 25 July 2015 (St James the Apostle)

'Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.' 
Matthew 20.26,27

Reflection:
Humility is first among the Christian virtues. Just as Christ, God himself, was meek and lowly in his birth, life, and death, so too must we be.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

prayer diary Friday 23 July 2015 (day of discipline & self-denial)

'What was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.' 
Matthew 13.23

Reflection:
In another context Christ said 'by their fruits you shall know them.' What fruits do you bear and are known by?

prayer diary Thursday 23 July 2015

'Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.' 
Matthew 13,17

Reflection:
We, as followers of Christ, have been privileged to see and hear things that many great patriarchs and prophets, holy men and women, did not. Do not ever take such great gifts from God for granted.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 22 July 2015 (St Mary Magdalene)

Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, 'Go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”' 
 John 20. 17

Reflection:
Christ addresses those who abandoned him as 'brothers.' He forgives their desertion because he knows that ultimately they will return to him. Thus will he also forgive those who were lost and yet repent and turn back to him.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 21 July 2015

'For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’ 
Matthew 12.50

Reflection:
Christ offers many graces to those who obediently follow him. Is it not worth many sacrifices in this world to come so close to God himself?

Monday, July 20, 2015

prayer diary Monday 20 July 2015

But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.' 
Matthew 12.39

Reflection
Here Jesus speaks of his death and resurrection after three days. No greater sign can be given; and no other will be given to those who refuse to accept it.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

come away and rest a while

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

Jesus said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

I remember once some years ago standing in a queue in a credit-union in Cork. The line was long and moving slowly and the two elderly ladies in front of me struck up a conversation. And standing behind them as I was it was, of course, impossible for me not to overhear what they were saying.
'Ah, that plane crash yesterday was terrible, girl' said the first.
'Oh, it was,' said the second.
'All those poor people, going off on their holidays.'
'Shocking awful, girl.'
'Still, they had to be going off, gallivanting around the world on their foreign holidays. Back in my day, we happy enough to get on the bus on go down to Crosshaven for the day. And bring our sandwiches with us. No airplanes for us, flying here there and everywhere, and we were happy out, like.'
'Oh, we were indeed, girl.'

Now, while there is nothing wrong with spending the day in Crosshaven – I have spent many a happy afternoon there, a truly charming place, particularly in the summer when the weather is fine, there is a gentle sea breeze, and the merries are open for the children to enjoy a ride on the carousel or the bumper-cars - I can't help but think that the two ladies were being a little hard on the doomed holiday makers. For a holiday is a holiday, whether it is a day by the seaside or a fortnight abroad, and the difference between the two is only a matter of degree; and, of course, not only is air transport very safe, but a bus may crash perhaps even more easily than a plane.

And the truth is not only do we need a break now and again, it is actually part of God's plan that we should. He teaches us this by the example of his own actions when in Genesis he rests on the seventh day after the work of creation on the preceding six; and later in Exodus he makes it part of his Divine Law that man should keep holy the Sabbath day and refrain from work.

Our Lord in our Gospel reading today recognises his disciples need for a break. They have just returned from the mission he sent them on, out preaching and teaching and calling people to repentance. We don't know exactly how long they have been gone, but these are the instructions that he gave them before they went out:

He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

We can presume from all this that they were gone more than a few days – weeks, perhaps even months. A good long time certainly, walking on dusty roads wherever they went in the hot, dry climate of Israel. They have been working hard, these fishers of men. And so Jesus wants to take them away from it all for a while. But the break he is suggesting is not the ancient world's equivalent of a 'mini-break' at some sort of spa-hotel.

'Come away to a deserted place' he says. And the word that is translated here as 'deserted' in used elsewhere in Mark's gospel, in the first chapter, where it is more usually translated as 'wilderness.' And there it refers to the wilderness where John the Baptist preached and the wilderness into which our Lord was driven by the Holy Spirit after his baptism. So already we should be realising that there are spiritual dimensions to this 'time away from it all' that Jesus wants his disciples to take.

And our Lord, of course, does not send them to this 'wilderness place' alone – he goes with them. They are going to a quiet place to spend time with Jesus. After their long, hard weeks of pounding the roads and working hard what the Son of God thinks his followers need is not some time in the local tavern, filling themselves with food and wine; neither is it to lounge on the shores of Galilee, relaxing on the beach in the sun and splashing in the cool water; nor is it to go off to some place they have never seen before and see the sights and learn interesting details about the local culture. It is to go to a desert place and spend time with the Lord.


Something for us to consider, perhaps, at the end of our own working day, or after a long, hard week, or even after many weeks of particularly arduous labour. Is there more to refreshing ourselves than an hour in front of the telly, or a shopping trip in a nearby town, or yet another holiday of sun, sea, and sand? Perhaps true refreshment lies in making a quiet space in our lives to spend time with the Lord. It was what he wanted for his disciples; and as we are his followers also, I can not but think that it is what he wants for us also. Amen

Examin Sunday June 19 July 2015

The summer is the time when many like to plan their holidays, taking a break from work and home. Most put a quite an amount of planning into it, deciding on the right destination, how they will travel there, where to stay, and what to do and see while there. 

What of planning as to where they will worship on the Sundays they are away? 

Do they take advantage of the internet to check out in advance what churches are nearby and the times worship will take place? Do they assume that someone in the hotel or resort or some local person living nearby will be able to tell them? Or do they give it no thought at all, treating their vacation as a holiday from God as well as all the mundane things of their lives? 

There is, of course, no such thing as a holiday from God. If there happens to be no church within a reasonable distance of where you are holidaying, then so be it – keep the day holy in some other way. But if there is, then make it your business to go, giving especial thanks to God for this time he has granted you of rest and relaxation.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

prayer diary Saturday June 18 July 2015

The Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. 
Matthew 12.14

Reflection
This is something for all Christians to consider, for if the master was hated, why should the servants be surprised if they too face hatred? For the servant is not greater than the master and can expect no better treatment than he.

Friday, July 17, 2015

prayer diary Friday 17 July 2015 (day of discipline & self-denial)

'For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.’ 
Matthew 12.8

Reflection:
The Lord's Day is for rest and worship. Necessity can make this difficult for some; but the necessity of the few does not grant license to the many. Consider this in relation to how you spend your own Sunday's.

NIGERIA: ATTACKS AVERTED IN PLATEAU STATE BUT CONTINUE IN BORNO

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Three suspected members of Islamist terror group Boko Haram were arrested in Nigeria's Plateau State on 14 July, after their behaviour aroused the suspicion of local traders.

According to local reports, traders in the Terminus area of Jos seized the three men, who were reportedly moving around the market area in a suspicious manner. When the suspects were confronted and searched, one was found to be in possession of five mobile phone SIM cards, while another had four. The men, who had arrived at the market in the same vehicle, are also reported to have given contradictory statements to the police.

The arrests are the latest indication of heightened activity by the Boko Haram sect in Plateau State. On Sunday 12 July a bomb attack on Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Gospel 1 building in Tudun Wada, Jos was averted when explosives were discovered in the church toilet prior to the Sunday service. Four explosives were detonated before security officials arrived; one exploded after it was thrown over a fence and another was discovered and successfully defused by the bomb squad of the Nigeria Police Force.

On 7 July, the President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Dr Felix Omobude, stated that so far around 850 churches had been destroyed by Boko Haram in the north of Nigeria. On 10 July, Boko Haram released its latest video in which a Nigerian soldier was beheaded and threats were issued of renewed attacks on Christians, Jews and the security forces. Meanwhile, Boko Haram has continued a violent campaign that has claimed at least 700 lives in northern Nigeria alone since 29 May.

On 14 July, at least 30 people died when the sect mounted a four-hour attack on Mainok village on the outskirts of the Borno State capital Maiduguri. Boko Haram militants also raided Damasak Town in the north of Borno State, killing at least 12 people. They murdered over 20 commuters on the Maiduguri-Damaturu Highway and killed eight others following an ambush on a lorry in Garin Giwa near Baga. On 15 July, hundreds of civilians were reported to be fleeing Benisheikh, Ngamdu and Kukareta villages in the north of Borno State following renewed Boko Haram attacks on their communities. Nigeria is now reported to have the third largest population of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the world, after Syria and Iraq.

The sect has also claimed lives in neighbouring Niger Republic, where four people died in an attack on a prison in the southern town of Diffa on 11 July; Cameroon, where at least 11 were killed in suicide bombings by two women near an army camp on 12 July; and Chad, where on 11 July a suicide attack on a market by a man dressed in a niqab claimed at least 15 lives in the capital N'Djamena. On 14 July, militants in a motorboat murdered several young Quranic students on an island in Lake Chad.

On 13 July, Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari appointed new service chiefs and a National Security Adviser (NSA), having sacked their predecessors. According to the Borno State Governor Kasim Shettima, family members of the new NSA, Retired Major-General Babagana Monguno, are currently held captive by Boko Haram.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, 'Our thoughts, prayers and deepest condolences go out to those who have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods in these attacks, and particularly to the family of the Nigerian soldier whose life was taken in such a barbaric manner. Even as we commend the Plateau State traders and the staff of ECWA Gospel 1 Tudun Wada, whose vigilance and bravery averted further loss of life, we are struck once again by the senseless violence of an international terrorist group that appears once again to be able to strike at will, murdering civilians in four nations in a cruel and unrelenting manner. Despite its pseudo-religious pronouncements, with every atrocity Boko Haram illustrates it is no more than a death cult that indoctrinates members to kill without conscience, regardless of the creed espoused by its victims.'

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.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

SUDAN: TWO CHRISTIAN WOMEN CONVICTED OF PUBLIC INDECENCY

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Two Christian women, Ferdoos Eltoum and Rehab Omer Kakoum, have been found guilty of indecent or immoral dress under Article 152 of the Sudanese Criminal Code and fined. The cases seem to be part of an increase in criminal cases being brought against individual Christians as part of an ongoing campaign of repression against ethnic and religious minorities in the country.

The women were part of a group of Christian women from the Nuba Mountains who were arrested on 25 June, after leaving a celebration service at the El Izba Baptist Church in Khartoum, Sudan. They were tried separately by the Public Order Court and found guilty.

Ms Eltoum's initial trial hearing was held on 6 July. Her legal team presented two witnesses; a church minister, who testified that her dress code did not violate Christian dress codes, and a Sudanese woman, who testified that Ms Eltoum's dress code did not violate Sudanese culture. The judge did not make a ruling on the initial charge, but proceeded to charge Ms Eltoum under Article 152 based on what she had worn to court and handed down a fine of 500 Sudanese Pounds (SDP, or £54). 

When Ms Eltoum appeared in court on 13 July for a ruling on her original charge, the judge refused to allow her lawyer, Mohaned Mustafa, to remain in court to defend her. After Mr Mustafa left the court room and another lawyer stepped in to defend Ms Eltoum, the judge found her guilty under Article 152 for what she was wearing on the evening of 25 June, but gave no sentence, despite a legal requirement to do so.

Ms Rahab Omer Kakoum's hearing was on 14 July. She was also found guilty under Article 152 and sentenced to a fine of 500 SDP or two months imprisonment if she does not pay the fine. In a direct violation of Sudanese criminal procedure, prior to his ruling, the judge allowed the prosecution to present its case and prevented the defense from presenting witnesses or any arguments.

In a separate development, three Christian minors were arrested on 7 July and charged with the theft of a ring and bracelet from a home where one of their mothers works as a housekeeper. Despite a lack of evidence, Monica Idress Kodey (aged 15); Samra Haroun Mustafa (16) and Reem Abd Alla (17) were charged and detained for three days in an adult prison before being released on bail. A bond of 2,700 SDP (approximately £300) was levied as a condition of their release.

The increase in criminal cases being brought against individual Christians appears to be part of an ongoing campaign of repression against ethnic and religious minorities in the country and a longstanding official policy of Islamisation and Arabisation.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, 'We are deeply concerned by the increased use of criminal procedures to target young Christian women in Sudan. These cases highlight wider concerns regarding the mistreatment of religious and ethnic minorities in Sudan, especially those from Nuba Mountains, in violation of Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), guaranteeing freedom of religion or belief, and Article 2 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which places a burden on the state not to discriminate against different races or ethnic groups. 

'The detention of three minors in an adult facility and the lack of due process in Ms Eltoum's and Ms Kakoum's cases are breaches of Sudanese criminal procedures and international law. Even more concerning is the broad interpretation of Article 152, which is used to harass women in Sudan. We call upon the Sudanese government to repeal or amend Article 152 and to uphold its obligations under international law by acquitting Ferdoos Eltoum and Rehab Omer Kakoum and dropping the charges against the other young women in their group. We also call for the cancellation of charges against the three girls falsely accused of theft. The international community must hold Sudan to account for these flagrant violations of international and domestic law.'

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 16 July 2015

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.' 
Matthew 22. 28

Reflection:
This world is no easy place. But Christ calls us all to him; and those who take up his yoke find peace, for the things of this world can trouble them no more.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 15 July 2015

‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants.'Matthew 11.25

Reflection:
Those who think themselves great can often miss that which is obvious to the humble of heart. And their self-importance, if not repented of, carries within it the seeds of destruction. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 14 July 2015

'Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. … 'I tell you that on the day of judgement it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.’ 
Matthew 11.20-24

Reflection:
The more gifts God grants you, the more he expects from you. And those who think they can take and take and yet reject him without consequence are wrong.

Monday, July 13, 2015

prayer diary Monday 13 July 2015

‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.'
Matthew 11. 34

Reflection
The Prince of Peace sends his followers forth to challenge the consensus of the world. Difficulties should be no surprise; they are what we are called to face.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

the death of St John the Baptist

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

There is much that is unsavoury in the details of the events surrounding the death of St John the Baptist, which we hear of in our Gospel reading today. The tale begins outside of the Gospel accounts with the divorce of Herodias from King Philip, the brother of another of these local Jewish kings, Herod Antipas. We do not know what brought about this divorce, but we are told by the historian Josephus that it was Herodias that divorced Philip, something of a scandal in those days. It appears that she did so for the sole purpose of marrying her brother-in-law, Herod Antipas, and that marriage took place soon after – and at no little cost to king Herod, as he had to first divorce his wife, Phasaelis, the daughter of King Aretas IV of Nabatea, powerful ruler of a neighbouring kingdom who was far from pleased that his child, and therefore also himself, should be treated in such a disrespectful way.

This marriage was, of course, unlawful for those of the Jewish faith. This was no great difficulty personally for either Herodias or Herod – the royal families of the Jewish kingdoms were really only nominally Jewish both in breeding and religion – and as these petty kings were essentially Roman functionaries, backed by the power of the Empire, there was little likelihood of any political repercussions within his kingdom – a king, who has not only his own army, but also has the Roman legions at his beck and call is not to be trifled with – and the Sadducees and the Pharisees, so quick to scrutinise the activities of our Lord, seem to have thought it the wiser part of valour to ignore the shenanigans of the royal family.

But St John felt under no compulsion to behave with a similar discretion. These people were flouting God's law in a very public and unapologetic way. Their behaviour not only put their own souls in danger, but by their example they might lead others astray; for if the king may behave thus without anyone speaking out, then others may be led to believe that perhaps it is not so very wrong to do so. And if this law may be broken with impunity, then why not others? And so St John is the one to speak out, the only one brave enough and holy enough, the only one who loves God enough to break the silence of tacit acceptance of this transgression of his law.

Prison, of course, swiftly follows. King's do not like being criticised, particularly when that criticism might lead to popular unrest. Herodias wants the holy man dead – of course she does, for if Herod were to do as St John says, he would have to end their marriage, and where would a woman who had set aside one king for another only to be set aside herself in her turn ever find another king to marry? So the saint was a very dangerous man indeed to her.

But Herod refuses to have him killed. The surface excuse is that he fears that his execution might lead to an uprising of John's followers. But the deeper reason seems to be that he shrinks from so terrible an act as executing a holy man for speaking the truth. That would be more than murder – that would be a sacrilege approaching blasphemy.

So instead he puts him in prison. And, to what must surely have been to Herodias' horror, he goes and listens to him there. For who can doubt what St John had to say to the king, even as he sits in chains? Surely he would have continued to urge the king that there was still time to repent of the evil that he had done and spare himself from the wrath to come, to step away from this unholy marriage and return to living his life according to the laws of God. This must have been worrying time for Herodias.

But she need not have feared. Like a great many kings in history, Herod seems to have felt that keeping a holy man close, and protecting him from harm, in some way gave him licence to lead a life that was far from holy himself. He did not repent; he did not set his brother's wife aside. Instead he threw a huge birthday banquet for himself. And, if further proof were needed that Herod remained a man who was far from God's law, he called his own niece, now his step-daughter, Salome, to come and dance at this drunken celebration.

Being a dancing girl in the ancient world, for those who are not aware, was far from being a respectable occupation; they were generally slaves, rented out for the public and private entertainment of those who could afford them. That he would ask the girl who was legally now his own daughter to come forward for the leering entertainment of his guests speaks volumes about the depravity to which Herod had sunk; as does the manner in which he allowed his passions to become so inflamed by her dancing that he would promise her anything she wished for as a reward.

Herodias sees her chance and seizes it; and Herod is too weak and prideful to resist. And so he gives her what is not his to give, something that is never in anyone's gift, whether they be a great king or the most lowly and ordinary person alive – another man's life.

How happy Herodias must have been that day. The person who was the greatest threat to her had been eliminated. More, by forcing the king to execute John, she ensured that Herod could never now leave her; they were bound together by his blood, for Herod could not now or ever repudiate the marriage without admitting he had murdered an innocent man for no other crime than speaking the truth.

Her happiness was short lived. Ironically, this marriage was to prove Herod's downfall. His former father-in-law, King Aretas did not forgive the slight done to himself and his daughter, and within a few years he and Herod were engaged in a war that proved disastrous for the Jewish king. His weakened position after the conflict was exploited by his enemies, and Rome handed his kingdom to his nephew, Agrippa. Herod and Herodias were sent into exile and obscurity, vanishing so completely from the pages of history that neither the date nor the manner of their death is recorded.

It would be tempting to see the hand of divine providence in the downfall of Herod and Herodias, wicked people punished in this life as a result of their own wickedness; but that would be to make them the focus of the story, and they are not. I have not told you about them in order to impress upon you the idea that God will strike down the wicked in this life. For this is not so – Jesus himself taught us this in the parable of the wheat and the tares, explaining that God's judgement is in the next life, not this; and we all know from personal experience that good people may suffer in this vale of tears, even as we know that those who seem to us to lead lives of unmitigated evil seem to prosper.


No, I told you about Herod and Herodias so that you might better understand what it was that St John faced up to in challenging them, for it is he that is our focus. And John by his life and death teaches us that our life and liberty are not to be achieved at any price – the truth must be spoken whatever the cost. It does not matter how powerful and unscrupulous the enemies of God's Word may be or what dire penalties they threaten to inflict on his children for preaching his truth, particularly as it applies to the evil they do. We, like John, are called to preach that truth, in season and out of season. And we live in a world, I think, where the time is very much out of season, just as it was for St John. And so I conclude with the prayer that all here will be granted by God an equal measure of strength and courage to follow the example of St John this day and always. Amen

Examin Saturday 11 July 2015

We are told again and again in Sacred Scripture that our salvation is dependent upon our obedience to God's will. He will, we know, forgive us when we fail and fall into sin. But that forgiveness is contingent on repentance, on our being sorrowful for offending against God's holy law and being determined to turn our back on sin in the future. If you refuse to accept what you have done is sinful, how can you be sorrowful? And if you refuse to turn from that sin, how can you repent and be forgiven? So if you would be saved you must do as Christ proclaimed: repent and believe in his Good News.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

prayer diary Saturday 11 July 2015

'Who ever divorces a woman causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.' 
Matthew 5.32

Reflection:
Our Lord's teaching that marriage is a lifelong commitment was a hard one to hear in his own day. It is no easier today. And yet it is a teaching that Christ himself has given us. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

prayer diary Friday 10 July 2015 (day of discipline & self-denial)

'It was said 'you shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.' 
Matthew 5.27-28

Reflection:
Look into your hearts; if you long to do what is wrong, then you sin, even if the deed itself goes undone. Not having the means or opportunity to do the evil you desire to do will be no defense on the day of judgement.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 9 July 2015

'It was said to those of ancient times 'thou shalt not murder;' … but I say to you that if you are angry with your brother you will be liable to judgement.' 
Matthew 5. 21,22

Reflection:
How narrow is the way that Christ offers us. See how he not only condemns sin but is 
stricter even in his interpretation of the moral law than the Old Testament prophets. Yet how can we not follow the path he lays before us? For his are the words of eternal life.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 8 July 2015

'Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish but to fulfil.' 
Matthew 5.17

Reflection
In the early years of the Church there were heretics who tried to claim that the Old Testament was no longer of relevance. Their false teaching was rejected as being clearly at odds with the words of Christ. Do not therefore fall into their error by ignoring what it is that God speaks to us through the Old Testament.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 7 July 2015

'You are my friends if you do what I command you.' 
John 15.14

Reflection
There are many who cry 'Lord, Lord' who refuse to live as God commands. And they want others to do likewise. Do not be led astray by them. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

prayer diary Monday 6 July 2015

'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.'
Matthew 5. 6

Reflection
And what is righteousness other than to hear and obey completely and willingly all that God asks of us?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Just a thought ...

Just a thought today on the Gospel (printed below), as I'm on holidays and not preaching. Our Lord's reaction to his rejection in his home town is, I think, instructive. Is he disappointed by their reaction? Yes; in fact he is amazed at their unbelief. Does he let this interfere with his mission? Not at all. He continues teaching, travelling from village to village. He sends out his Apostles two by two to call people to repentance, giving them authority over unclean spirits. 

Jesus doesn't let his poor reception in Nazareth get in the way of proclaiming the Good News. In fact, he never lets anything get in the way of that.

Something for us all to keep in mind when we are feeling discouraged, when we think no one wants to listen, when we are mocked for trying to share the Gospel. Like us he faced difficulties in bringing the Word to others. His perseverance in the face of those difficulties should encourage us, who are called to be Christ-like in all our ways, to continue whatever we face.

Mark 6: 1-13
He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence  at him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. 

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Examin Sunday June 5 July 2015

What is real love? Is it some emotional state, the feeling of being in love? No, for this kind of love will pass when the moment passes, some difficulty arises, or the charms and beauty of the beloved fades. 

True love is to will the good of the other. The greatest good you can do for another is, of course, to aid them in all ways that you can to enter into eternal life. Therefore, you will do nothing to tempt or encourage them to sin. You will certainly never do anything with them that is sinful. And if you see them sinning, you will gently remind them of what Christ teaches. 

You do this not because you judge them; not because you wish to 'spoil' their fun. You do this because you love them and and that love causes you to desire with every fibre of you being the greatest good for them.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

haiku: evening in Snowdonia

evening in Snowdonia
   ~glare of setting sun
         veiling the valleys

prayer diary Saturday June 4 July 2015

Jesus said 'Truly I tell you that this widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.' 
Mark 12.43

Reflection
Of your weekly 'budget' of time and money, how much goes to the Lord? Is it only from what is 'left over' that you wouldn't miss? Or is it more; do you, like the widow, offer everything that you have to live on?

Friday, July 3, 2015

prayer diary Friday 3 July 2015 (day of discipline & self-denial) St Thomas

Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" 
John 20.28

Reflection:
St Thomas was the first to stand before Jesus and acknowledge that he was the Living God made man. Blessed are you who, like he, will do the same.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 2 July 2015

(After the scribe had spoken publicly in support of Jesus' teaching) he said to him: 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.' 
Mark 12.34

Reflection:
The more closely you align your heart and mind and soul to the will of God, the more nearly you draw to him. This brings true happiness in this life; and in the next, eternal life.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 1 July 2015

Jesus said: 'He is not God of the dead but of the living.' 
Mark 12.27

Reflection:
Eternal life is ours in Christ and he is our Lord in this life and the next. Do not, therefore, live this life as if you had no care for what happens what happens when it ends.