Lord, behold a wretched sinner

Below is a wonderful hymn by Kim Fabricius.  
I can't sing very well, so if you'll join me in praying it I'll be delighted!

Lord, behold a wretched sinner

(Tune: Quem pastores laudavere)

 

Lord, behold a wretched sinner,

from the outer to the inner;

at repentance, rank beginner:

day and night my conscience cries.

 

Where begin?  My faults keep mounting;

when I start I can’t stop counting;

huge the sum, but Christ’s accounting

crosses out and nullifies.

 

Good I would but can’t achieve it,

bad I hate but can’t relieve it.

God for us?  I can’t believe it:

me the apple of his eye!

 

God forgives before petition;

grace alone shows our condition;

truth demands our self-suspicion:

like a snake the heart is sly.

 

While accusing scribes are hissing,

Christ portrays the Father kissing

cheek of child that he’s been missing:

Love forgives and sanctifies!

 

by Kim Fabricius found here.

Sideways CrossI took this photo outside All Saints Church in Torquay.

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If We…

If We…
If we were on the Air France plane that crashed into the Alps, we would be dead.
If we were born just one caste above the pathetic Untouchables of India, we would despise them.
If we were carried on Empires wings to far flung places, we would have had black ‘servants’.
If we were a migrant from a poor nation, we would be on those Mediterranean boats.
If we were Germans in the 1930’s, chances are we’d be Nazi’s.
If we were a child in Gaza today, we would be traumatised for life.
If we were caught in the IS net, we would be Jihadis.
If we were born in Saudi Arabia, we would be Muslim.
If we were Syrian and couldn’t escape, we’d be reduced to factional fighting along tribal lines.
If we lived during post-war East Germany, we would be Communist.
If we lived near the Japanese nuclear reactor, we would likely die younger than planned.
If we were an uneducated female from rural Thailand, we would be lured to the sex-trafficking industry.
If we were born to the Christian poor in Egypt, we would live on the city’s rubbish dump.
If we were not British, we would not have access to the NHS.
If we were not Western, access to credit for loans and mortgages would not be possible
If we were not filled with food, we would become a different person.
If we had a twin in the Third World, we would give them our old phones and computers.
If we didn’t live in a democracy, we would live in a dictatorship.
If we weren’t British, the elderly wouldn’t get a fuel allowance.
Most people on the planet do not know what a pension is;
Or a weekly bin service; or a liveable wage; or dignity; or compassion; or ….mere humanity.
In other words, if we were not us, here, now, humanised, we’d mostly likely be someone else, somewhere else, living an existence – dehumanised.
For God so loved the world? He desires all to be saved, not wishing that any should perish?
Yes! For God so loved the world. He desires all to be saved, not wishing that any should perish.
We are here, by God’s grace, yes! By divine design, for sure! But why us and not someone else?

Does this qwerk of “chance” or providence change who God is? No.
Does it change how we as God’s people respond to those not like us? Yes. Of course.
It’s easy now to imagine ourselves as Christian – here and now, in this context, this powerful context of white Western power, economically strong, and militarily mighty.

Under these conditions the Gospel is so good. God is so merciful.
But God is still God to the 9 year old frontline IS warrior. Kid soldiers with men’s guns.
And God is still God when we do not get the parking space we prayed for, or the phone we wanted, or the illness which we just don’t have time for.
Our environment determines far more than we realise.
God does not change. But we do. Our lives, cultures, circumstances change almost constantly.
The Gospel makes us realise not only our own time and space, but then we are told by Jesus:
To cast the Gospel net further afield.
To scatter the Gospel seed onto every path.
To preach the Gospel Word in and out of season.
To proclaim Gospel peace and the year of the Lord’s favour.
To give away all but one of our coats.
To feed the hungry: “You give them something to eat.”
To bind up the broken hearted.
To go. Where?
Into all the world. Preach this Gospel to every creature under heaven.
And if we go into all the world, we would find God already there, in extraordinary ways, preparing the way.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition make your requests known to God.”

 

Be the Light

I was walking the dogs recently and came across this lamp-post, an unusual vision that stopped me in my tracks. It is clearly an older light, probably not even working, neglected and almost over-run with, what my kids used to call “nature”!

20150124_094002-1-1

It reminded me of two possibilities for a believer in Christ:

First, positively, that it doesn’t matter what happens throughout your life, where you are placed, the one thing a Christian does is shine!  The weeds of nature may wrap around you with their lies and choking restrictions, but the Christian just keeps shining.

Jesus called His followers the “light of the world” in Matthew 5:14.  Paul urges the Christians at Philippi to “shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).  And John encourages an “abiding in the light” as he writes “the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8).

20150124_094002-1-3Second, negatively!  The street light had succumbed to the cares of the world.  The light wasn’t shining (admittedly is was day time – you shrewd reader)!  It looked tired and weary amidst a crooked and perverse generation, to use Paul’s words from Philippians.

Sometimes as Christians we can succumb.  The choking lies of Satan become too much, even when the vile serpent quotes Scripture at us as he did to Jesus in the wilderness, we know that in doing so he, the father of lies, knows the Bible better than we do.  And so we believe his lies, and the weeds choke, and our guilt condemns.

Maybe our light flickers, with degrees of brightness.  That’s surely a more realistic picture of the Christian life, not quite “dimmer-switch Christianity”, but not far off.  Our mood or whatever transient event that shapes our mood is the controller on the dimmer-switch of our life and determines our level of faith, our ability to shine, our sheer pressing in to Christ despite the garbage that grows around and on us.

Jesus called His followers the light of the world because He is the Light of the world.  Light just is, and darkness doesn’t stand a chance in the presense of light.

Just as a light on a hill cannot be hidden, the Light of the world on the hill of Calvary cannot be hidden.  Even in death and buried in a tomb, the Light is working to bring about a resurrection that will transform everything.

I guess for me, the challenge of this old lamp was a reminder that the Gospel will always have enemies and opponents.  Light exposes darkness no matter how lovingly we do it.  I am called to shine!

In one sense, it simply doesn’t matter what grows all over it, just don’t let it be because your light has gone out.  “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Jesus is the Light of the world.

You are the light of the world.

So shine!

Ironies of the Nativity

A short reflection used throughout a candlit carol service at church. 

Ironies of the Nativity in Matthew 2
2:1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea…”
Bethlehem. The ancestral birth place of the Great King David, through whose line the promised Messiah would come. So Jesus was born of a royal human line in fulfillment of Scripture and the hope of the word. Born in a place which means “House of Bread” – a clue to His own identity as the Bread of Heaven, the bread which fed the Israelites in their wandering wilderness, and ultimately, his claim to be the Bread of Life. “No one lives by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus is the Word of God that comes from the mouth of God. It is on Him we feed and find true sustenance.

2:1 “…in the days of Herod the King…”
In the days of one king, is born another. In the days of a false king, an example of human pomp and arrogance, is born the true King, in humility and weakness. A King born into this world, whose kingdom is not of this world. A heavenly fulfillment of an earthly promise: He shall reign forever, King of Kings and Lord of lords.

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St Athanasius said…

I have recently discovered a real treat from Athanasius (of Alexandria), from the Troparion of the Feast of the Annunciation within the Orthodox Liturgy.  There are more ‘daily devotions’ here enough for a lifetime. Enjoy…

“Today is the beginning of our salvation,

And the revelation of the eternal mystery!

The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin

As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.

Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:

Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!”

Meadow

 

 

“Lord, I just wanna….”

just-do-itSo I came home at the end of just another extraordinary day, and locked the front door, shouting “Hi” to anyone in the house.

My wife shouted back “Just a minute,” and something about bathing the baby, so I just put the kettle on and went and found my teenage lad.  “Hi son*, I just wanna ask you how your day was and what you’re up to now!”

“Just fine,” he said, “and I’m just doing some homework right now.  I’ve just need another few minutes then I’m done.  Can I just have an hour on the X-Box when I’ve finished?”

“That’s just fine son, just make sure you only have an hour and no more.  I just don’t want mum breathing down my neck on this one right?  We boys have just gotta stick together.”

Then my wife calls from upstairs.  “I’ll just be down in a minute!”  “Don’t worry babes” (my totally original name for her) I shout back, “I’ll just come up and help out after I’ve just made a cup of tea.  Do you want a cuppa?”

“Yes please, just a small cup, I’ve had quite a lot today!”

So I make the tea, we have dinner, the baby goes to bed . . . . eventually, my teenage lad has sixty one minutes on the computer (just to show me who’s boss), and I just take the dogs out for a thirty minute stroll!  Then I spend thirty minutes checking emails for earth shattering news and scanning the latest cliches on Facebook, and then I just begin to pray:

“Lord, I just wanna thank you for just who You are.  I’m just so grateful for my family, what a gift they are to me.  And Lord, I just pray your richest blessings in Christ that one day, we will just know our Bibles so well and have a proper biblically informed vocabulary, that we just no longer need to use the word ‘just’ every time we speak to each other, or even when we just pray to You.  Lord, the word ‘just’ is only a minute degree better than the word ‘nice’.  Please deliver us.  In Jesus’ Just Name.  Amen”

* not his real name.

JUST