Category Archives: Reflections

We have now moved into ordinary time – green time – the Sundays after Pentecost/Trinity when we read through one of the gospels (this year it’s Luke) and try to grow in our Christian faith.
I’m proposing to spend time looking at the service of Holy Communion / Eucharist / Mass (yes, that’s not a common Anglican term but it is worth thinking what its root is).
What is in the service, why it’s there, what the pattern, the shape of the service is.

I’m going to start at the beginning – The Gathering (or, in the 1984 service, The Preparation):

Before we even start the formal worship I usually stand at the front and bid you welcome – it is a way of drawing attention to the fact that we are about to begin.

Hopefully you have already been gathering your thoughts: what of your life since your last communion do you want / need to bring before God, what do you need to leave at the door as a distraction from worship?

Gathering / preparation should actually begin before we leave home. As a child I was taught that we come to church with a Bible, a Prayer Book, a penny and a handkerchief! I was also taught that we should come prepared with something to say ‘Thank you’ for, something to say ‘Sorry’ for, and someone to pray for.

So, having prepared, we gather. As we greet each other, we are not just a collection of individuals who happen to have come to this place at this time for our own private reasons, we gather as a community, the body of Christ, members one of another. We gather for communion.

That has two implications:

1) that if we are at odds with someone – and especially if that someone is a church member – we should make every effort to mend the relationship before we get into the church building. Jesus said, “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23,24)

2) our attendance should not depend on individual whim or convenience. When one is missing, the whole is lacking. (But of course, you know that – you are here!)

Of course, it isn’t always possible for people to get here, and some are actually housebound. But they are still part of the body – so it is a joy to me that we are beginning to grow a ministry of Eucharistic Ministers who can do pastoral visits and take home communion.

So, there is all that to think about before we’ve even said a word of the service!

The opening words of the service is the president greeting the people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

That is not just a formula. It is a reminder that the One who welcomes us here is God. He is our host. We are invited to His table.

This year we read through Luke’s gospel and it is Luke who shows us Jesus as a frequent party-goer. One of the great images of the Bible is that of the feast, especially the wedding feast. It’s there in the old Testament, it’s there in the parables, it’s there is the visions of the Book of Revelation.

“One of the most basic, but often overlooked, symbols of the Christian faith is a table. Think of almost any church you have been into and you will find one. Sometimes it is very grand, high and lifted up and bedecked with candles; sometimes it is plain and unadorned. But it is there for a reason. It signifies one of the most fundamental truths of the Christian faith: that we are welcome; that in the words of Jesus on the night before he died, ‘there is a place prepared for us’ (see John 14.2). In Jesus, God has done everything that is needed for us to enjoy eternal life with him. That being welcomed into the life of God is symbolized by the table. It is also a foreshadowing of the banquet of heaven itself.
We gather around God’s table and in God’s presence. We don’t need to invite God to join us. He is already here waiting to welcome us.”   (quoted from the Pilgrim Course Booklet on The Eucharist)

Jesus said: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  So, we will start the prayer of Thanksgiving with the words: The Lord is here!

As God is our Host, we are come into a holy space. We are not alone here, we are in the company of angels and archangels all the company of heaven (as the prayer of thanksgiving reminds us later in the service). We are drawn into the worship of heaven.

Remember that this is called a service because it is a service we give to God. Worship is part of our service, it is not something we do only when we feel like it. “It is our duty and our joy at all times and in places….”

And, we need to enter worship with a good attitude so, after those words of welcome we pray the collect for purity, or one of the newer introductory prayers.

So, those few words at the beginning of the service say so much. They remind us we gather as a Christian community, sharing our joys and sorrows, our failures and success, our sickness and our health. They remind us that it is God who welcomes us. They prepare us for our gathering around Word and Sacrament, for receiving healing, instruction, inspiration, spiritual sustenance, until the service ends and we are sent out to live and work to God’s praise and glory.

Amen.

Morning Prayer for Sunday 4th March 2018

As we have had to cancel services in church this weekend, this form of Morning Prayer is offered so that we can join in ‘common worship’ with and for each other from home.
download as a .pdf

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Introduction
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

O Lord, open our lips; and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
From the rising of the sun unto its setting your glory is proclaimed in all the world.

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your name: through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pause to reflect on what needs to be acknowledged and confessed.

Lord forgive what we have been, order what we shall be, sanctify what we are.
The past we commit to your mercy, the future to your providence, the present to your love. Amen.

The Venite (Psalm 95)
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving
and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God: and a great king above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth:
and the heights of the hills are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands have moulded the dry land.
Come, let us bow down and bend the knee,
and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would hearken to his voice!
Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be for ever. Amen

This Sunday’s Old Testament Reading: Exodus 20:1-17
The giving of the 10 commandments

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work – you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

Canticle
Christ, as a light illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield overshadow me.
Christ under me; Christ over me; Christ beside me on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak; in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light; Christ as a shield; Christ beside me on my left and my right.

New Testament Reading: Mark 12: 28 – 34
Jesus sums up the ten in two great commandments

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?”

Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbour as oneself,’- this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

Prayers (feel free to use these words or words of your own)

For the church
God our Father, we pray for your church throughout the world. We pray for our Bishop, Richard, and for all who are ministering to others in the cold weather.
Help us to live as faithful disciples of Jesus.
This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the world
God of justice, we pray for the world in which we live. Govern the hearts and minds of those in authority, and bring the families of the nations, divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin,
to be subject to your just and gentle rule.
This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the current winter weather
God of compassion, we pray for those whose lives are affected by the cold weather, especially………..
We give thanks for those who are working to keep others safe. Give them strength and protect them from all danger, and comfort and protect the vulnerable.
This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the sick and troubled
God of healing, whose Son, Jesus Christ, understood people’s fear and pain before they spoke of them, we pray for those who are ill or in trouble,
especially………..
Surround the frightened with your tenderness, give strength to those in pain,
hold the weak in your arms of love, and give hope and patience to those who are recovering.
This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the parishes of LlannauGrange
Lord, this benefice, make it a place of peace.
Here be the peace of those who heed your word.
Here be the peace of those who serve each other.
Here be the peace of holy people praying.
Here be the peace of praise by dark and day.
Be this benefice your Holy Place.
We, Lord, your servants, make this prayer.
Be it your care.
Amen.

For ourselves
God our Father, the strength of all who put their trust in you, mercifully accept our prayers;
and because, in our weakness, we can do nothing good without you,
grant us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments
we may please you, both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

As our Saviour Jesus Christ taught us, so we pray: Our Father…

Closing
From where we are to where you need us, Christ be beside us.
From what we are to what you can make of us, Christ be before us.
Though the streets of this world to the gates of heaven, Christ be above us.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen.

Bishop’s Pastoral Letter for Lent 2018

I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws
(Psalm 119 verse 7)

This psalm reminds us that our happiness and fulfilment comes from living good lives grounded in God. In a society which has mixed motives about discipline, it is important to remind ourselves that the Christian way is founded upon selfless behaviour that encourages us to live well in community. Part of the journey of Lent is to remind ourselves where we have failed to live well and therefore diminished our own humanity and constrained others in their journey of faith.

St Benedict, in creating a model of Christian community, encouraged his followers by saying:
And so we  are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord
(Prologue to the Benedictine Rule)
You will note that he did not say a school for personal edification but for the service of the Lord.

So what is this service of the Lord? It is to love God and to love our neighbour as ourself.

In this respect, the centre of our education is to live in the love of God and to share the knowledge of his salvation. The Lenten journey reminds us of our own personal schooling as we follow our heavenly Father who expressed his love by sending his Son to live amongst us, to die upon the cross and bring us to eternal life. Our schooling, or education, therefore requires an acknowledgment that love always carries a cost. The greatest cost is the giving of ourselves that we may receive His love.

The fruit of that love will be to model the Father’s love and build up the values of Christian community as a sign of the Kingdom of God.

The Christian way, therefore, can be seen as counter-cultural because it requires people to give more than to grasp. It requires people to place God at the centre of their lives rather than their ego. It requires us always to see Christ in the other person whom we are called to serve.

I hope that you will be able to use Lent as a time to educate yourself (with others) in developing your understanding of sacrificial love. In a Christian context, this is known as formation, where we conform our character to the will of Christ. This requires both prayer and study. The Gospels provide us with a challenging overview of how we may live but also there many parts of the Epistles which give us practical guidelines on how to live the Christian life abundantly. Therefore, I hope in your personal devotions, or in group work, you will reflect upon practical ways of shaping your own personal conduct and those of your church community into a school of service for the Lord. This is an essential step in our mission.

To return to the Psalm:
I run in the path of your command, for you have broadened my understanding.
(Psalm 119 verse 32)

 We are reminded that by following God’s teachings, we can have a much wider perspective on life and how we are called to serve others. I hope that by reflecting on our personal formation and also contributing to the educational welfare of those children in the Highveld, we can make this Lent a time of practical praise to our heavenly Father who continually guides us and invites us to share in His mission of love.

With every blessing for a fruitful Lent,

Bishop Richard

Highs and lows

Once upon a time I was very suspicious when life seemed to be really good, as if happiness was a dire warning! There seemed to have been so many times when from a high I crashed down into a low. I have learned, of course, that life is always a mix of good and difficult, that often the seeming disaster does have a silver lining, and the assurance of good times can carry me through when things get tough. I have learned to be better at noticing the many blessings of life, so often unrecognised amidst the grumbles. Continue reading