Friday, November 30, 2018

prayer diary Friday 30 November 2018 (Saint Andrew)

He saw two brothers, Simon ... and Andrew his brother,... and he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.' 
Matthew 4. 18,19

We are all called to call others to Christ. Some must do so by preaching the word; all must do it by the holiness of their lives.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 29 November 2018

'Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.' 
Luke 21.33

God's word is eternal. It's truth is for all people in all places; it does not alter for the fashions of the age.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 28 November 2018

'They will arrest you and persecute you … will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify.' 
Luke 21.13,14

The world has always been hostile to the message of Christ. Do not fear to preach it boldly, nonetheless, for this is your chance to be a witness to the faith.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 27 November 2018

‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.' 
Luke 21.8

Christ warned us against false teachers. Be wary, therefore, of those who preach that which has not 'been believed everywhere, always, by all' (St Vincent of Lerins).

Monday, November 26, 2018

prayer diary Monday 26 November 2018

‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.' 
Luke 21.3

Love of God and neighbour is not expressed through giving what you can easily spare out of your abundance. Rather it is when you must make real sacrifices to give.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

eat, drink, and be merry!

Almighty, eternal, and merciful God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: we pray that as we meditate upon your Word you will lead us deeper into all truth that we may better know and do your will and grow in holiness day by day. Amen.

Today is the Sunday before Advent, the Sunday when we celebrate the Kingship of Christ. What that kingship entailed in his first coming is laid out for us in our Gospel reading this morning: the word made flesh, suffering and dying for our sins. What it will comprise of in his second coming is laid out in our reading from the Revelation to St John the Divine: 'Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.' The wailing that is foretold is because when he comes again Christ will 'judge the living and the dead,' as we pray each Sunday and on every other occasion when we recite the Creed And we know, for Christ himself told us in the parable/prophesy of the Sheep and the Goats, that at that judgement many will be found wanting.

And for those found wanting his judgement will be severe: Christ often speaks of such as they being cast into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth or into the fires of hell; and his parable of the ten minas, where the ruler returns to reward those who have used his gifts to them well, punish those who have not, and utterly destroy those who have fought against him in his absence, is a sobering vision indeed of the day of his return.

But this is not to say that Christians are to live their lives in fear and trembling, afraid to enjoy themselves in any way in this life in case they are punished for it in all eternity in the next. That kind of thinking would be to adopt the type of false view of our faith put about by those who hate religion. God gave us the good things of this earth and intends us to enjoy them. For evidence of this, we may look to Genesis. All that he created God called good. And then he set the man and woman he had made in the beautiful garden of Eden and told them they might enjoy everything there – as long as they kept within the limits he had set. They did not, as we all know; and that was the sin of our first parents, the sin which brought about the Fall.

Those instructions essentially hold true today. We may enjoy all God has given us in the world, but within limits. And those limits are that we should use what God has given us according to his will.

Therefore, for example, there is nothing wrong with a good dinner, whether at home or even occasionally in a fine restaurant. But we are not eat and eat and eat to the point of gluttony; and if we stuff ourselves endlessly while others go hungry, then we offend against charity. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with a glass or two of wine, or whatever you're having yourself, but we are not to be drunkards. When it comes to money, there is nothing wrong with working hard in order to provide a comfortable home for yourself and your family and have a decent standard of living; but avarice, or greed for money, is to be avoided … and from your plenty, you must share with those who do not have enough.

And the marital embrace, to phrase things delicately, is a good and wholesome thing, where the couple, to paraphrase from the Prayer Book, with tenderness and delight may know each other in love and through the joy of their bodily union they may strengthen the union of their hearts and lives. But that bodily union was ordained by God to take place within the bonds of holy matrimony, and there only.

We could go through all areas of life, but if I did we'd be here a very long time indeed! And I think the examples given are sufficient. Christians may indeed eat, drink and be merry – but not to excess and not as if that was all there was to life and not in ways that do not conform with God's law. But otherwise, by all means enjoy yourselves! Good news, I think, as we draw near to Christmas, and all that comes with it.

The reason, of course, why we celebrate the feast of Christ the King this Sunday is because it is also the last Sunday before Advent. And Advent is the season when we remember both the time when Christ came first; and that he will come again in order to help prepare ourselves for that day. St Augustine of Hippo had something very appropriate to say concerning our Lord's first and second coming: and that was that we should not resist the first in order that we may not dread the next. To put it another way: if we embrace his first coming by doing all we can to live good Christian lives we have nothing at all to fear on the day when he shall come again. 

But why should we resist? For he came to suffer and die that we might be saved. And why should we dread? For it has been his hope out of all eternity that we would be saved. And therefore my prayer for you this morning is to say again those words of St Augustine: that you may not resist the first coming so that you never never dread the next.

To the Almighty and Eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to him be all honour and glory, now and unto the ages of ages: Amen.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Prayer diary Saturday 24 November 2018

Jesus said 'Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’ 
Luke 20. 38

Christ gives us a firm promise of the hope we have of eternal life. With such an assurance, how might anyone not do all within their power to achieve it?

Friday, November 23, 2018

Prayer diary Friday 23 November 2018

Jesus said, ‘It is written, “My house shall be a house of prayer”; but you have made it a den of robbers.' 
Luke 19. 46

Do you always treat the Lord's House with total reverence? Indeed, is your lack of attention during Divine Services such that it might be said that for you it has ceased to be a house of prayer?

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Prayer diary Thursday 22 November 2018

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it. 
Luke 19.41

Even when we are at our worst God weeps for our sins. He will not deny his mercy to those who seek it; but he will not force it upon those who do not wish it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

They Shall Not Grow Old

On the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War One, my wife and I went to see the documentary They Shall Not Grow Old. It was directed by Peter Jackson, whose previous work includes the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. After the film, they showed a short question and answer session with the director, where he said that, of all his works, it's this one that he's proudest of. And when one considers that the others have won multiple Oscars and earned billions at the box-office, that is really saying something.

He is right to be proud of it. The film is a technological marvel. He took the scratchy old footage filmed during the war and ran it through computers to change it to the right speed, cleaned up all the graininess, enhanced it so that every minute detail could be seen, and removed all the blotches and scratches. Then he ran it through more computers to take it from black and white to full living colour. He did that so perfectly that my wife thought he must surely have recreated the scenes using modern actors on film sets. But no, the men the movie showed marching, digging trenches, and lying wounded in field hospitals and dead in no-man's land were the real deal. So marvellous a job had he done on it that one could almost say that he's brought the dead back to life.

The war took place in the days of silent film. So we couldn't hear the voices of these men from long ago. Yet Peter Jackson overcame this difficulty ingenuously. The documentary is narrated, not by actors, but by the actual voices of men who fought in the war, who memories of the conflict were recorded by oral historians many years ago. There are only a few times when actors voices are heard; that's when the long dead men on camera are speaking and Jackson had people who could lip-read work out what they were saying and had actors duplicate what those men had said on the field of battle all those years ago.

Several things shine through about these men from our past. One is their bravery. Another is how little ill-will they bore towards those they fought; they knew they suffered just as much as they did, and if anything felt sorry for them. And finally, despite all their sacrifice, they never really knew what they were fighting for.

What was the war all about? My own thought is that it was pride. The 'powers that be', having got themselves into a pointless, brutal conflict couldn't admit that they had got things badly wrong; instead they kept going to the bitter end. And their pride cost millions their lives.

Pride in a worthy achievement, like Jackon has in this film, is good. The stiff-necked pride that ignores all common sense, whatever the cost, is not. If those men died for anything, let us hope that it was so that future generations might understand the difference. 

this article appears in this week's issue of the Kilkenny Reporter

Prayer diary Wednesday 21 November 2018

'Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.' 
Luke 19.23

Our life on earth is the time we must put to good use the talents God has given us. On the day of judgement he will not be held guiltless who has wilfully wasted those gifts.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Prayer diary Tuesday 20 November 2018

All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ 
Luke 19.7

How foolish it is to condemn others, for all are sinners and have fallen short. To do so risks not only your own soul but that of those you would keep from seeking out God's mercy

Monday, November 19, 2018

Prayer diary Monday 19 November 2018

Then he shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet. 
Luke 18.38, 39

We are all sinners in need of God's mercy. We must never heed those who would try to prevent us seeking out the life-giving mercy he offers.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Beware that no one leads you astray

Almighty, eternal, and merciful God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: we pray that as we meditate upon your Word you will lead us deeper into all truth that we may better know and do your will and grow in holiness day by day. Amen.

We may wonder today why when Jesus' disciples ask him when the destruction of the temple which he has just foretold will take place, he answers them by speaking on a different topic altogether – things to do with the end of days, his second coming, and the false teachers which may appear before those events take place. Why does he do so?

Perhaps it because there is a link between his own death and downfall of the temple; with his death and resurrection the temple becomes superfluous in God's economy of salvation. Also, we may remember his words elsewhere in scripture where he says 'destroy this temple and I will raise it up again in three days' – and those listening thought he meant the temple made of stone, whereas in fact he spoke of the temple of his own body. Perhaps it is that when his disciples begin to question him about future events he takes the opportunity of their interest to speak about future events of greater important than when a building may be destroyed – their salvation and the salvation of generations to come. Time for him was all too short, as he was well aware; he is Jerusalem only days before his passion begins - and the fact that he uses what was effectively his last opportunity for teaching on this topic can only act to emphasise importance of what he teaches here.

It is a lengthy passage, consisting of most of the 13th Chapter of St Mark's Gospel, which makes it more than we can possibly consider in detail today. So let us perhaps look at just one point, the one that Christ begins with, one intended to help us avoid one of the great temptations of this world – false teachers who claim to teach not just with authority, but with Christ's own authority: ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!”  and they will lead many astray'

What does our Lord mean precisely by this? Scholars are uncertain. He might mean that after he is gone others will come claiming to be the Christ come again, and lead people off the one true path; he might mean that false teachers will arise, claiming to speak with the authority of Jesus, or the authority of the Church and that their false teachings will put at risk the salvation of those who listen to them; perhaps it is something else. In our own era it would be tempting to think his warning points to those in the secular world who, despite their avowed or practical atheism, drape their philosophy with an almost divine authority and use it to pronounce judgement on the teachings of the Church and where it does not agree with theirs call it evil; and, bizarrely, even at times declare the teachings of Christ 'unchristian!'

Whatever the precise meaning, our Lord's words certainly serve as both a warning as a blessing. A warning, because they tell us to be on our guard against such teaching – teaching that will not build us up but instead will serve to tear us down because it is false. We may distinguish false teaching from true by applying the simple test of considering whether it is in agreement with what it says in the Sacred Scriptures or that which has been taught by the Church from the beginning. If it does not, then we may usefully keep in mind the words of St Paul on the subject, as written in his letter to the Galatians: 'even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!

And it is also a blessing, not only because all the words of our Saviour are a blessing, but because all warnings which are spoken truly are a blessing, as they serve to keep us from harm if we heed them; and as we know that Christ is The Truth, then we know his warnings are true; and we are truly blessed to receive them. I pray that you all will indeed heed them with great joy; and thereby be kept safe from all the false teachings and teachers of the world that would seek to deny you the eternal life that Christ suffered and died to place within your reach.

To the Almighty and Eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to him be all honour and glory, now and unto the ages of ages: Amen.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 17 November 2018

The Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?' 
Luke 18. 6,7

Be persistent in your prayers; God will heed you. Pray most of all to know what it is that is his will for you ... and that you will show your love for him by listening to his word and obeying.

Friday, November 16, 2018

prayer diary Friday 16 November 2018

'The day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed all of them — it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.' 
Luke 17.29,30

When Jesus returns it will be without warning and swift will be his judgement. Therefore we must live as if it might be within the next moment; for thus we may keep alert and avoid falling prey to the temptations that will bring his judgement upon us.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 15 November 2018

'But first the Son of Man must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation.' 
 Luke 17. 25

The generation of which Christ speaks was not only those of his day but all people until he comes again. Therefore do not be amazed by the lack of faith you see in the world.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 14 November 2018

Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? ' 
Luke 17. 17

All receive blessings from God, but not all give thanks in return. Do not behave thus; for your humble gratitude is pleasing to the Almighty.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 13 November 2018

'So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!” ’ 
Luke 17.10

Many expect the praise of men for their obedience to God. There is but one reward to be hoped for: eternal life on the last day.

Monday, November 12, 2018

prayer diary Monday 12 November 2018

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come!' 
Luke 17.1

We will be held accountable if we lead others astray. Therefore the example of your life must be good and the doctrine you share must be sound, because you will not be found guiltless if you cause another to stumble.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 10 November 2018

‘Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.' 
Luke 16. 10

It is easy to excuse what we see as our small failings, thinking they do not matter much. But it is the small that hardens our heart to ever greater evils, until the time comes when we have fallen into grave sin and, sadly, do not even know it.

Friday, November 9, 2018

prayer diary Friday 9 November 2018

His master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. 
Luke 16.8

While he still had time the manager used the resources at his command to secure his future. So also must we use our temporal goods wisely, showing charity to those in need and using them to advance the Kingdom, so as ensure our Eternal destiny.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 8 November 2018

And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ 
Luke 15.2

How foolish were the Pharisees and how silly the scribes in their grumbling for did the Scriptures not teach them that all men are sinners? So too must we never forget that we are sinners in need of God's mercy.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 7 November 2018

'Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.' 
Luke 14.27

The Lord makes it clear that to be his follower is to take up the cross. Therefore if you will not take it up you can not be his follower.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 6 November 2018

'He sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” But they all alike began to make excuses.' 
Luke 14. 17,18

All are invited by the Lord to his table each Sunday for a foretaste of his heavenly banquet. And yet many do not come, making excuse after excuse for their absence.

Monday, November 5, 2018

prayer diary Monday 5 November 2018

'Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’ 
Luke 14, 13,14

Do your good deeds without expectation of reward, whether in kind or by the praise of men. By doing so you lay up treasure for yourself in heaven.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

the death of Lazarus and the faith of Martha

Almighty, eternal, and merciful God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: we pray that as we meditate upon your Word you will lead us deeper into all truth that we may better know and do your will and grow in holiness day by day. Amen.

I wonder if any of you have ever noticed how much space St John the Evangelist devotes to the story of Lazarus? The entirety of chapter 11 of his Gospel is spent outlining not only the raising of this man from the dead by Jesus, but also the build-up to the miracle and the aftermath of the event. That's fifty-seven verses of Sacred Scripture; by contrast, the other evangelists spend only a handful of verses in the accounts they give us of our Lord raising someone from dead. This means that St John believes that these details are of immense importance; and more, that the Holy Spirit, as he inspired the Beloved Disciple in his writing, knew that the details were essential for us to know for the sake of our own salvation. So it would well behove us to ponder these details very deeply indeed.

Therefore this morning I would like to consider not so much the raising from the dead itself, but the behaviour of his sister Martha in the lead-up to that miracle. For I think that her reaction to the death of her brother has much to teach us as to how we should act ourselves when faced with adversity and when God, seemingly, has not answered our prayers – or, to put it more accurately, has answered them, but not in the way that we would have preferred.

Now, we have met Martha before in the Gospels. St Luke introduces us to her in Chapter 10 of his account. Let us remind ourselves of what he says:

'Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’

It is not very flattering to Martha, is it? Her busy-ness is rejected in favour of her sister Mary's more contemplative approach, echoing in a way God's rejection in Genesis of the sacrifice of Cain in favour of that of Abel. But Martha is no Cain, as we discover as St John tells us more about the woman who at another time worried about many things. And look at the reaction of this practical woman when Jesus arrives on this occasion.

She asked Jesus to come and heal Lazarus, but he did not come.
Indeed, perhaps she even knew his decision not to come was deliberate, for most likely those she had sent to ask him to come had returned to her and said that Jesus had refused to come with them. And so her brother is dead and four days in the grave when the Lord arrives. Indeed, not only did he not come in time, the one that can cure at a distance as we learn from the healing of the Centurion’s Slave, did not do so for a man whom the evangelist said he loved.

But despite all this, Martha has not lost faith in Christ. Consider how absolute her faith is from her words to Jesus only moments after he arrives ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’ And remember that she says this after her brother has died but before he raises him to life again or even says that he will; she says this while her brother lies in the grave where he will, for all she knows, remain until the end of days.

This is what it is to have faith; and why it is that I believe that Martha's faith is an example to us all. For real faith accepts God's will whatever it happens to be. Real faith accepts that sometimes God's answer to our prayers is 'no' or 'not yet' or even that his answer may be something completely different to what we expected or hoped for. Real faith accepts that God in his wisdom knows best, even if we cannot understand what that better thing is, and that lack of understanding causes us pain in the here and now.

This is what happened in the case of Martha's prayers. God said no to the healing of her brother; but only for the sake of the greater miracle that would help bring many to faith in Christ. But Martha did not know that when Jesus arrived. And yet her faith in Jesus, her faith in God was not shaken. I pray that we will all learn from Martha's example. Was it not for that reason that the evangelist told us of her faith, that we could learn from it? And was this not also the reason that the Holy Spirit inspired him to write of it? So that we might learn, like Martha not to doubt or lose hope, even when things seem at their worst.

To the Almighty and Eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to him be all honour and glory, now and unto the ages of ages: Amen.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 3 Nov 2018

'For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’ 
Luke 14.11

The proud of heart will be humbled, for their false pride is a rejection of God. Yet the humble will be exalted, for in their humility they seek God's mercy and he is faithful to all who call upon him sincerely.

Friday, November 2, 2018

prayer diary Friday 2 Nov 2018

'And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, ‘Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?’ But they were silent.' 
Luke 14. 3

They were silent because they sought a reason to accuse Jesus. Wicked indeed is the one who hates another so much that he will use any means to attack another, even his good deeds.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 1 Nov 2018 (All Saints')

'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God'. 
Matthew 5. 8

A saint is not some plaster figure, divorced from reality and untouched by the troubles and temptations of the world. A saint is one who has struggled with the messy reality of human life and managed to remain faithful to the end.