Animations (using SWF) inside latest Prezi Classic

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in geek, teaching, tech

The biggest bugbear of using Prezi at the moment is, besides the rubbish Prezi Next which they seem keen to push at the expense of an otherwise excellent Classic is the lack of animated loops. When they dropped the flash player, they dropped support for .swf files and they absolutely refuse, despite repeated user requests from users (and especially me) to implement Animated Gifs. For some users, it’s starting to be a show-stopper and I am losing patience with them.

However, there is a solution, but it’s a) not pretty and b) needs pre-planning, so you can’t just make it up on the fly, you have to work out what you need because there is no going back

It involves creating either a Virtual Machine, or you could just have an old machine to dedicate to the task. I chose the former because my main PC is powerful and I didn’t have a spare.

1. Install VirtualBox

Other Virtual Machine systems are available, but I chose the Free Oracle VirtualBox because… it’s free. You will need a Windows CD or an ISO file of a Windows Install which you obtained from bittorrent or elsewhere. Stay legal is my advice and use what you are licensed to use.

Create a Windows Virtual Machine. I chose Windows 7 because it is fast and stable and I had the appropriate license for it.

2. Install an Old Version of Prezi Desktop inside your Virtual Machine

I managed to find a copy of Prezi 4.4.0 on the web which you can download from here.

This is a very early version, and is straight in the editor, but it works. When you log in, the system will offer to upgrade you to the latest version DO NOT DO THIS EVER.

3. Plan what swfs you want to use

This is the hard part, because once you have created an old Prezi document, it can’t be read back if a newer version has touched it. So… you either need to do it ALL inside the old version and only export it when you are completely finished or you need to plan in advance exactly what you need and load them all in to the system. It doesn’t matter where they go, because you can move them around, frame them, reveal them and manipulate them in the latest version, but ONLY if they have been loaded in by the old editor.

Save the Prezi as a .pez file. Make sure it’s what you need because there is no going back.

4. Edit the Saved Prezi in the Latest Version

You can then edit the Prezi on your non-Virtual Machine to your heart’s content and manipulate them swfs as before. The reason you need another real machine or Virtual Machine is that the old and the new editors will not reside on the same copy of Windows, otherwise this would be very easy!

HOWEVER

If you find that there is an essential swf that you have forgotten, there is another way of getting an animation into a new Prezi: Create a Prezi in the old version, save it and then open it in the new version THEN cut and paste the object from your old-version-Prezi into your new-version-Prezi. So, despite what I said earlier, you can add if you forget something earlier.

What I expect to do, however is to take ALL of the swfs I want to use and put them in one big old-school-Prezi so that I can cut-and-paste them at leisure into my new Prezis.

Still, enjoy!

A Godly-Play Type Story about the Flight to Egypt

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in alt.worship, scripture, teaching, youth

Scripture: Matthew 2: 13-23
Equipment: Sand bag, Two boxes, Holy Family from a Nativity Set, Angel from Nativity Set

Welcome. Are you ready for a story?

(open bag)

Long ago, in a far off land, (spread sand)

God reached down from heaven and became one of us.

Mighty, All-Powerful God could have come in any shape or form he wanted, he could have impressed us with his power, but he loved us so much, he came as… a tiny baby.

(place Jesus in centre of sand)

Born of his Mother, Our Lady Mary… (place Mary)

To be brought up and supported by Joseph… (place Joseph)

God poured his almighty self into this little form, to be with us, alongside us. God-in-a-child.

The King of the Universe was born in poor surroundings and with no comforts that befitted a King. In a Stable, for animals … and all their dirty, smelly mess.

The King of that land, a man called King Herod had heard that somewhere in his land a King had been born, a great King, an all-powerful King… and he was afraid.

King Herod couldn’t bear the thought of being replaced by a King who rightfully should be on his throne, so he sought to catch and kill this threat before it became a problem.

(remove Holy Family, place box at one corner, walk fingers all over the sand)

He sent his guards all across his land to find and kill the new King who might take his place.

(place Holy Family on top of box)

One night, as Mary and Joseph and the baby were asleep, and angel (place Angel on box) appeared to Joseph in a dream.

He warned Joseph that Herod sought to kill the God-in-a-child and that they should run for their lives, to another country.

(place box in opposite corner)

So, Our Lady, and Joseph took God-in-a-child and in the middle of the night, they ran away to be safe in a land called Egypt (meander the Holy Family through the desert). It was a long, scary, dangerous journey until at last they came to the land of Egypt where they could be safe.

They had to live and wait in Egypt until Herod was no longer King and they had to life as refugees for a number of years before Herod died.

(place Holy Family on other box)

Meanwhile, the guards did some horrible things to any child under the age of two, and killed all of the innocent babies just in case they might be the God-in-a-child who threatened Herod’s job. The tears of the Mothers must have fallen on the land like rain

(fingertip pats on the sand)

When Herod died, the Angel appeared to Joseph in a dream once more. (place Angel)

He told them that it was safe to return, and so Mary, and Joseph and God-in-a-child made the long journey back from the land of Egypt to a place called Nazareth, where God-in-a-child grew big and strong and faithful to God and where everyone called him by his name:

Jesus.

From Nazareth. Out of Egypt.

(pause)

I wonder…

I wonder how Herod felt to hear that a real King was born.

I wonder what it felt like to leave in the middle of the night and go to a far-off place…

I wonder how it might have felt in Egypt,

I wonder how people feel today when they have to leave their homelands for fear of their lives.

I wonder what we might do, if Mary and Joseph and God-in-a… and Jesus came to our door needing our help.

(pause)

Amen.

Leading Intercessions in Church

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in parish, teaching

Stock Intercessions for use in Church

Introductions to the prayers

Let us pray for the Church of God in Christ Jesus, and for all
people according to their needs.

Let us pray for the Church and for the world, and let us thank God for his goodness

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ Jesus let us pray to God our heavenly Father.

Let us come before the Lord with our prayers and praises asking him to look with mercy upon all our requests.

When two or three are gathered in my name, there I shall be. Let us therefore bring our prayers to the Father.

Trusting in God’s love and mercy, let us turn to him in prayer and bring him our needs and intercessions.

Responses

The usual ones:

Lord in your mercy… hear our prayer

Lord hear us… Lord, graciously hear us

Theme of Prayers

The Church

Robert, Nick and Sarah – Bishops of this diocese

Justin Welby – Archbishop of Canterbury
John Sentamu – Archbishop of York
Francis – Bishop of Rome (Pope)
Bartholomew – Ecumenical Patriarch (Orthodox)
…and the leaders of the Reformed Churches

The World

Our Community

The Sick

Those known to us
Those listed on the weekly sheet
Those whose cries are heard by God alone

Those who have departed in Faith

Rest eternal, grant unto them O Lord
And let light perpetual shine upon them

May they rest in peace
And rise in glory

We unite our prayers with the angels and the saints,
the prophets and the patriarchs as we join our prayers with those of our blessed lady as we say ‘Hail Mary…’

…in a moment of silence…

Prayer One

Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church,
watch over it Lord and guide it: grant it peace and unity throughout the world. We pray for Pope Francis, Bartholomew the Ecumenical Patriarch,
for Justin and John our Archbishops,
and for Robert, Nick and Sarah our Bishops
and all who hold and teach the faith which comes to us from the Apostles. [Response]

Father, look upon the nations of the world.
Direct the hearts and minds of those who rule and govern
so that men and women everywhere may experience the
peace and justice of the Kingdom.
Father may there be an end to war and strife.
[Response]

Father, pour your grace upon all your people.
Remember all of us gathered here before you.
[Response]

Father, we pray for the health and happiness of those who are dear to us, naming before you those who are suffering in mind, body or Spirit…
[Response]

Remember, Lord, those who have died and have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, especially those for whom we now pray…and those whose year’s minds we commemorate…

May these and all who sleep in Christ, find in your presence, light, happiness and peace.

We ask the prayers of all the Apostles, Martyrs and Saints. In union with the whole Church, we honour Mary the ever Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God as we say, Hail Mary…

In a moment of silence let us bring our own prayers before the throne of grace…

 Prayer Two

Father, we pray for Pope Francis, Bartholomew the Ecumenical Patriarch,
for Justin and John our Archbishops,
and for Robert, Nick and Sarah and all the Bishops, clergy and people of your Church. May we grow in the unity which your Son willed for his Church. [Response]

Father we pray for the needs of the world, for an end to war and famine, for those places suffering unrest and strife at this time. Father grant to them your blessing of peace.
[Response]

Father we pray for the needs of this our community and parish whom you have called together before you. May you bind us together with your love. Lord hear us…..

Father we pray for all those who are in need at this time, and who have asked us for our prayers, for…
May these and all who suffer know the joy of your presence with them. [Response]

Father we pray for those who have died, for those we have known and loved whom we see no longer. For…and for…whose years mind falls at this time.
Rest eternal grant unto them O Lord…
May they rest in peace…

Father, we join our prayers with those of all the saints who rejoice in your nearer presence and ask the prayers of Mary, Queen of Heaven as we say, Hail Mary……

Heavenly Father, in a moment of silence we hold before you our own prayers and praises.

Prayer Three

Heavenly Father, we bring before you your Church on earth and those who guide it. We pray that you will bless all who minister in word or sacrament, that there may be a rich harvest for your kingdom. [Response]

Heavenly Father, look upon the needs of the world, troubled by war, injustice, oppression and famine. Relieve those who suffer and are poor, and bring all your people to live in peace and harmony, [Response]

Heavenly Father, you have called us together as a pilgrim people. Look upon us on our journey of faith and grant us strength to serve you on the way you have set before us. [Response]

Heavenly Father, you are with those who suffer in all their needs, hear us as we pray especially for those who have asked our prayers…May they and all who suffer be comforted by your healing touch. [Response]

Heavenly Father, for you faithful people life is not ended but changed, hear our prayer for those who have inspired and guided us, who now walk with you in light refreshment and peace…and for…whose year’s mind is remembered at this time.

For these and all the departed we pray, rest eternal grant to them O Lord… May they rest in peace…

Heavenly Father, you chose the Virgin Mary to be the Mother of your Son, look with favour on her prayers as we join our voices with hers as we say, Hail Mary…

Heavenly Father, we bring our own needs to you in a moment of silence.

Prayer Four

We pray for the Church throughout the world and especially for this Diocese and for Robert, Nick and Sarah our Bishops. Father, give power to your Church to proclaim the gospel of Christ; and grant that we and all Christian people may be united in truth, live together in love, and reveal your glory in the world. [Response]

We pray for the world (especially for…..); give to all a reverence for the earth as your creation, that they might rightly use its resources in the service of all people and to your honour and glory. [Response]

We pray for all nations and especially for this country; bless Elizabeth our Queen; give wisdom to all in authority; direct this and every nation in the way of justice and peace; so that we may honour one another and seek the common good. [Response]

We pray for our families and friends and all others with special claims upon us. Give grace to all whose lives are linked closely to our own, that we may serve Christ in them and love one another as he. loves us. [Response]

We pray for all who are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness or any other adversity, (especially…); to all who suffer give courage, healing and a steadfast trust in your love.
[Response]

We pray for all those who have died and have gone to their rest, Father grant that they might live with you in light, refreshment and peace. [Response]

We join our prayers with all the saints, especially with those of Mary as we say, Hail Mary…

We keep silence for just a moment and bring to the Father our own prayers.

Conclusion to the prayers

God of love, our refuge and our strength, hear the prayers of your Church, and grant us today what we ask of you in faith. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Father, we come before you with faith and love to praise your goodness and to acknowledge our need. We ask you to hear the prayers we make in the name of Jesus the Lord.

Lord God,
Mary gave birth to your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
in purity and love.
may she bring our prayers before you,
for we make them in the name of Jesus the Lord.

Father, you know the many different needs
your people have in this life.
Hear us and answer the prayers of all who believe in you.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Father, may your people turn again to you
and serve you with all their hearts.
With confidence we have asked your help:
may we now know your mercy and love in our lives.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Father, have mercy on your Church in its need, hear the prayers we offer you with all our hearts, and never abandon the people who share your life. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

All of these will end in

Amen

UA Fanthorpe – Getting it across

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in poetry, scripture, teaching

‘His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now are we sure that thou knowest all things.’

St. John 16:29-30

This is the hard thing.
Not being God, the Son of Man,
—I was born for that part—
But patiently incising on these yokel faces,
Mystified, bored and mortal,
The vital mnemonics they never remember.

There is enough of Man in my God
For me to construe their frowns. I feel
The jaw-cracking yawns they try to hide
When out I come with one of my old
Chestnuts. Christ! Not that bloody
Sower again, they are saying, or God!
Not the Prodigal fucking Son.
Give us a new one, for Messiah’s sake.

They know my unknowable parables as well
As each other’s shaggy dog stories.
I say! I say! I say! There was this Samaritan,
This Philistine and this Roman…or
What did the high priest say
To the belly dancer? All they need
Is the cue for laughs. My sheep and goats,
Virgins, pigs, figtrees, loaves and lepers
Confuse them. Fishing, whether for fish or men,
Has unfitted them for analogy.

Yet these are my mouths. Through them only
Can I speak with Augustine, Aquinas, Martin, Paul
Regius Professors of Divinity,
And you, and you.
How can I cram the sense of Heaven’s kingdom
Into our pidgin-Aramaic quayside jargon?

I envy Moses, who could choose
The diuturnity of stone for waymarks
Between man and Me. He broke the tablets,
Of course. I too know the easy messages
Are the ones not worth transmitting;
But he could at least carve.
The prophets too, however luckless
Their lives and instructions, inscribed on wood,
Papyrus, walls, their jaundiced oracles.

I alone must write on flesh. Not even
The congenial face of my Baptist cousin,
My crooked affinity Judas, who understands,
Men who would give me accurately to the unborn
As if I were something simple, like bread.
But Pete, with his headband stuffed with fishhooks,
His gift for rushing in where angels wouldn’t,
Tom, for whom metaphor is anathema,
And James and John, who want the room at the top—
These numskulls are my medium. I called them.

I am tattooing God on their makeshift lives.
My Keystone Cops of disciples, always,
Running absurdly away, or lying ineptly,
Cutting off ears and falling into the water,
These Sancho Panzas must tread my Quixote life,
Dying ridiculous and undignified,
Flayed and stoned and crucified upside down.
They are the dear, the human, the dense, for whom
My message is. That might, had I not touched them,
Have died decent respectable upright deaths in bed.

30 Pieces of Chocolate

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in scripture, teaching

With a h/t to Mthr Gemma

It was one Saturday night After Eight, and me and my mate Freddo, were being paid a Bounty to guard this tomb. ‘Guard a tomb? You say. Yeah that’s a Whole Nut of an idea, I know.

There was this guy, see. We’d executed him on the Friday, but he had said he would come back to life so we were there to make sure he stayed dead! No really, I’m not Lion! You think that’s mad? Join the Club! Now my mate is a bit of a Smartie, so while we were stood, guarding the dead body, we says, ‘why don’t we have a Picnic?’ And I thought, ‘Well why not? I could do with some Time Out’

So we sat down and ate our sandwiches Crème Egg and cress for me, then Chomping some Fruit and Nuts for one of my five-a-day, all washed down with a cold glass of Dairy Milk.

Anyway, back to the Topic. After our food we were Flaked out and… well… I’m not going to Fudge the facts, we fell asleep. I know we shouldn’t have, but we did. We loosened our Buttons, pulled off our Snickers (sneakers) and lay down under the Milky Way.

Next thing I know there is a Crunchie sound, like when you Rolo way the stone. Sat bolt upright and thought… ‘What a Kinder Surprise is this?’ I said. I couldn’t have been more shocked if a Penguin had arrived on a Double Decker bus!

So what was it, this surprise? Only an angel, clothes all Milky Bar white and hair all Curly Wurly – just sat there, on top of the stone! And the tomb was OPEN! (Open Hollow Egg)

Me and my mate, we were in a complete Twirl – we were so scared we called for our Mars – but just before we fainted, we heard a Ripple of fabric from the tomb. Seems he had come back to life after all!

I heard a Wispa as he stepped out. He winked at me and said ‘Aero!’

Lent 4: Prayer & Senses

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in parish, scripture, teaching

Well, we are nearly four weeks into Lent and I am wondering how it has been for you?

I hope that you have been able to find some time for reflection amidst the busy-ness of daily living. That is always a challenge for me – but very necessary. And I am wondering what has been happening for you in your praying? As we have considered time and place to pray, so today I want to consider Prayer and the senses. As I said at the beginning of this course, my aim was to be more practical than theological, and I hope that this evening I may be able to offer some new insights and things to try as we seek to learn more how to pray.

The Senses. Something integral to being human – and we are bodily people. Most of us, I suspect, take our senses for granted – hearing, sight, touch, taste and smell – unless and until we are deprived of them. A child born without any one of those capacities is, rightly, a source of sadness and pain to those close to them; for suddenly those around anticipate the sense of loss – of deprivation even – a sense of unfairness that a fellow human being should not have the opportunity to experience what we experience and enjoy what we enjoy.

Accident or age can deprive us of one or more of our senses later in life and we are suddenly bereft and left grieving for capacities we once knew and took for granted. Learning to live with such loss is not easy.

And yet there are many who will say that the body’s capacity to adapt is remarkable and where one sense is diminished, another develops extraordinarily to take its place…

The important thing to recognise is that because we are bodily creatures, our senses are very much a part of our praying, whether we recognise it or not. If we think about it, we will probably all agree that hearing and seeing are familiar parts of prayer: when we are together we hear words spoken, either as set prayers or biddings for intercession; and we see words printed on a page, which we read aloud and listen to as we speak them.

But that is only one dimension of hearing; only one dimension of seeing; and there are so many more. So let’s explore each of our senses in turn and stretch our minds, and in doing so, stretch the possibilities for our prayer.

Prayer is clearly about more than just words, but also about the non-words: silence is not just an absence of words, but rather it is a way of being attentive to God and to ourselves which can help us to go deeper than we might in other forms of prayer.

But when we are silent, we are still hearing – and we may well be using other senses as well, as we shall see in a few moments… When you sit in silence you need to hear both the external and the internal ‘noise’ – sounds from round about, but also the sounds from within: a phrase from Scripture; the words of a psalm or hymn that comes into your mind… But what other sounds are there and how might we be active in using our sense of hearing in our prayer?

Let me offer three particular areas you might explore: first, the sounds of nature. Sit in the garden or the local park, or go for a gentle walk on the Moor with your ears open and you will hear the sounds of nature: birds singing; the wind blowing through long grass; the trickle of a stream; the whistling of a buzzard; the scrunch of leaves underfoot; the brushing of a hedgerow against your jacket…. Whilst I’m not one for saying simply ‘You can always find God in the garden’, there is – for many of us – a deep inspiration that comes through hearing the sounds and seeing the sights of our created world. As Gerard Manley-Hopkins reminds us:

The sounds and sights of nature draw us beyond ourselves and can inspire us to praise and wonder at our Creator God. St Francis knew such wonder well and we hear it expressed, of course, in this extract from his Canticle of Brother Son and Sister Moon:

Video:  [youtube=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2AfJm5ZcCc”]

 

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, and the honor, and all blessing,
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no human is worthy to mention Your name.

Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor;
and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather,
through whom You give sustenance to Your creatures.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night,
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us,
and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.

Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation.

Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, shall they be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.

Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.

But what about the sounds of daily living? Perhaps we regard those as distractions? The traffic on the street; the crying child; the noises in the market place; the marital argument; the hoover; the washing machine. Our instinct is to say that this is ‘noise’ and we may try to escape from it. But these are the noises – the sounds – of life. And each, in its own way, can lead us to prayer: for the safety of those who travel; for family life; for all who trade; for relationships in conflict; for those who care for homes; for those with no-one to care whose labour is with hands and with back-breaking work. The sounds of daily living can be just as much part of our prayer as silence.

[vimeo 6017188]

For many people, however, music can play a special part in enabling prayer. It is, of course, so often a matter of taste. But, for each of us, there will be particular pieces of music – or styles or types of music – which help to still or stir us and which can often draw us to God.

Music can sometimes ‘reach the parts that others don’t’ in a way that it is hard to explain.

Music has the power to stir the soul, and is a uniquely personal thing. Whether it’s classical, modern, pop, rap, grunge, Taize or something else, music – with and without words- can lead us into prayer and sometimes even become the vehicle by which we pray. A Tallis chant or a Brian Eno piece, whatever works for you. Modern ways of delivering music: streaming online access to virtually the whole musical catalogues of the world give us unlimited opportunities.

[youtube=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6RgaPTo4hE”]

So much for hearing. What about sight?

Well, I have already spoken of nature and few of us would deny the power of a sunset or a glorious vista to stir us within. What God has made is indeed good. But what about the works of human beings? Art, sculpture, photography, icons….

The long history of association between art and religion has borne fruit since time immemorial and never more so than in the Christian era, in a wealth of carvings, engravings, paintings, frescoes, icons, woodcuts and more both inspired by and inspiring of the God in whose image the artist is made.

If you have never used a work of art to inspire you to pray, then please try it; look at it with eyes of faith and be amazed at what God unfolds for you….

And it’s not just works of art that can help us. We live in a visual technological world and the creative possibilities of the internet, YouTube and computer-generated visuals are enormous. Such materials may not be to your personal taste, but for a new generation they offer huge potential for expressing and communicating the truths of God.

Finally, while we’re thinking about sight, let’s not forget the simple power of the lit candle as an aid to focusing the mind and stilling the soul. Whether in light or darkness, a candle can be a hugely effective way of signalling attentiveness to God and to prayer – a way of marking out both the place and the time….

The sense of touch is one we may not have explored before. The classical use of the rosary, not only in the Christian tradition, but by other faiths as well, illustrates the way in which physical connectedness can both enable concentration and engage the body at a different level to the mind.

Holding crosses have become popular in recent years – a simple, off-centred cross which fits neatly into a person’s hand and which can often act as a great reassurance to those who are troubled or sick and otherwise unable to pray.

But what about holding other things from nature – stones, shells, leaves, grass or flowers – feeling their beauty and complexity as an aid to prayer rather than simply looking at them – beautiful as they may be to the eye. Or there may be the seasonal use of objects such as fruits or vegetables at Harvest-time, or nails in Holy Week. And then there is the whole question of the appropriateness of touch when praying with others – the laying on of hands; the holding of another’s hand when praying for them, or anointing the sick with the Oil of Healing (which is always for healing, and not as popular culture understands it as the last rites)

Jesus healed in a visceral way: spittle, mud, physical contact, and when appropriately given, touch can be an important part of the physicality of faith..

[youtube=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBvf7Voj9i4&t=259s”]

Smell and taste are perhaps a little more diffuse when it comes to thinking about prayer, despite the fact that incense as long been an aid to prayer in the history of the Church; and all four Gospels give an account of the woman who anointed Jesus with fragrant perfume in preparation for his burial. There is the distinct smell of the Oil of Chrism used in Baptism, Confirmation, and Ordination.

But when we read Scripture and begin to imagine some of the smells and tastes that those in the stories may have experienced, it can become an inspiration to our own prayer and can open up the narratives in ways we have never thought of.

  • What might it have smelt like, for example, by the Sea of Galilee?
  • What might it have smelt like in the heart of the city of Jerusalem with sheep and goats roaming the streets and spices being sold, and bread baked, and the sweat of humanity all around?
  • What might it have smelt and tasted like when Jesus and his disciples broke the bread and shared the fish, and turned water into wine, and picked the figs, and plucked the grain….?

This might seem a long way from prayer and the senses, but in fact it is not. For Scripture can be a way in to encountering God with more than just our minds. It is a way of prayer (the examen) encouraged and developed by St Ignatius Loyola in the sixteenth century, and which has enabled countless Christians since to deepen their prayer lives as they have learned to enter in to the biblical narrative using their senses as well as their intellect.

There is much more that could be said. But I hope I have whetted your appetite (and I use the phrase deliberately) to experiment with new ways of praying for you; ways that encourage you to use the whole of who you are and not just your mind.

If you want to talk more about ‘how’ to use your senses, then please ask. And remember – God gave us our senses to use in all sorts of ways – not just so that we don’t burn the toast!

Next week we will finally come to explore Prayer and Words.

 

What is Prayer?

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in mission, parish, teaching

 

There are probably as many different thoughts on prayer as people in the world, and this is the thing that I want to assure everybody with – no-one, but no-one thinks they are any good at it.

The kind of prayer that we may have been taught at our Grandmother’s knee or in Infant School hands together, eyes closed is probably as far from most people’s prayer lives as infant school itself is, but the danger is that we may not have moved on from that ideal, even though our reality is quite different.

There are two types of prayer: the personal, the private and the corporate, the communal either shared with one other person or a whole congregation and they are two very different things. The latter is a corporate thing: you are leading a whole community in prayer and so your prayers should be collective “We pray for…” rather than “I pray for…” because that is the realm of the private prayer. It’s not about what you think, but where the whole community is being led, so I encourage the leading of prayer with others as a corporate act. Don’t over use words like the prophets of Baal:

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xiyljA9qz0]

The personal is just that: to an extent I cannot tell you, but to equip you with thoughts, ideas and maybe a few good prayers as a springboard, but you are, I am afraid, on your own.

When you started praying there must have been an intention to use Prayer like a Christmas List – a series of things reeled off for Santa or God to grant:

“God Bless Mummy and God Bless Daddy and God Bless Auntie Susan and help make me a Good Boy, Amen Oh and can I have a new bicycle for Christmas…”

But that is a one-way diatribe, not a dialogue, a conversation between two intimates. Prayer involves just as much listening as it does saying.

What God says might not be very loud or clear at all. At the times when his voice has been very clear, I have found it to be exhilarating, overwhelming, challenging and simply awesome, but it is not the everyday encounter with God in prayer. Often He is silent, and it may feel like he is not listening.

As I wait on God, often notions occur to me, as I think the matters on my heart through, some solution, strategy, action sometimes comes out. Often not the kind of thing I would usually think of and certainly not what I am willing to do. It is there, as I think things over, that those senses are guided by God.

For me at least, God seldom speaks, but often nudges. You might want to say that I have come to the conclusions myself, but they are so often so different from my own self-perception that I have to conclude they are Other. And if they are Other, then I can only conclude (because the fruits of these actions are always positive) that they are the promptings of God, rather the distractions of the Evil one.

This is why I say that distraction in prayer is not a bad thing, but rather the work of the Holy Spirit, leading you to think of those things done, not done, needing to be done, from the trivial to the critical, from the intimate to the global. If you are thinking of lunch, then so be it.

Prayer with God is not a test, either for Him or you. You are not being asked to reel off the sickest of our community in your mind, or the places of world conflict and tension (hint: the Middle East is a safe bet on that one). God knows this. It doesn’t matter is someone or something gets missed, for if we pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17) the opportunity will come around again. He knows the needs of the world and of you. Prayer is therefore an opportunity for you to recognise these people and places for yourself and to prompt you into action about them.

Prayer therefore becomes a cry for help, on behalf of yourself or on behalf of others and the help which is sought is not merely a passive seeking for the external, supernatural power of God to step into this world and sort it out, but a way for God to use us in these matters – to prompt us to say this, do this, be this, shout aloud for this and to be whatever is needed to sort it out. Prayer therefore becomes a springboard for action.

Prayer cannot do this, unless you are listening. That small voice, that sense that “this is the right thing to do” is God’s response to your prayers.

“But God doesn’t answer my prayers” you may cry, as your lottery ticket fails to deliver yet again. God always answers prayer. In three ways: “Yes”. “No” and “here’s a better idea”. My lack of lottery win is therefore because (and I hate to admit it is true) I would be ruined by untold riches and my worst character traits would destroy me. No is the right answer. There are times when the method of God saying Yes is not what I expected, because he always has a better plan and a wider perspective: I literally cannot see the forest because of the tree right in front of me. So, when I pray for the healing of a person and they die, why children get cancer or run over or lose their parents and are forced to flee alone from their homes I lack the perspective to understand how God works. My own desires, my own selfishness is not God’s purpose, and the seemingly arbitrary cruelty inflicted on innocent, good people is a mystery beyond all understanding. I must recognise that this is not the action of a cruel tyrant, pushing us around  like pieces on a cosmic chessboard, but of one who wishes to show us love and be loved in return and yet loves us enough to allow us the opportunity to fuck mess it all up.

What if God answered all prayers with YES? Bruce Almighty gave us an insight…

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHBQC0XYvYg]

Similarly, the timescales of our lives do not fit the cosmic timescale of God. God is outside of time, it’s creator who transcends the boundaries of time and space. He will therefore answer prayer (however it is) in his own good time. It is wrong to seek to persuade or trick God into something simply because it fits our own selfish desires (one of the key reasons why the answer might be “No”). It is said that God has all of eternity to respond to the split-second prayer of someone throwing out a “help me” prayer as their car crashes. “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” demands that we do not ask the impossible, nor expect any response in our own timeframe: God’s response will be at the appropriate time (Kairos) and not earthly human time (chronos). Wait on the Lord and accept whatever might come, or be stirred into action to bring it about, under God’s guidance.

If the answer to “What is Prayer” is “Whatever you want it to be” then it might be worth providing a toolkit for you to explore some of the different ways of thinking about prayer. The exploration of place and time, silence, senses and words over the next few weeks of Lent will hopefully provide some ways of engaging in prayer: active, responsive, quiet, reflective or aloud; in stillness or bustle, in action and ritual, music, art or words.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vescUPhdT2k]

There is no one way to pray and as you seek out what works for you, be aware that no one thinks they can really do it well, and that’s okay; for God will still hear our prayers…

…and he loves them all.

Quiet Day Lent 2017

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in inclusive, parish, sacraments, scripture, teaching

We are holding a quiet day on Saturday 8th April (the day before Palm Sunday) from 10am to 4pm at the Violet Evelyn Hall  Buckfast Abbey TQ11 0EE

This quiet day is open to all and costs just £5. There is a separate dining area for us, so bring your own lunch. As numbers become clear, we can arrange car-shares etc.

The day will include a couple of talks/reflections, opportunities for quiet prayer in and around the beautiful grounds, a series of creative rituals for Holy Week, culminating in a creative Eucharist


All are welcome – from all parishes, traditions and backgrounds


To express your interest/book a place

Payment can be made via Paypal from here if you wish (a small booking fee applies to cover the costs)

I intend to pay by
Paypal (most preferred)Cash - before the day (to Fr Simon)Cash - on the day

Payment can be made via Paypal from here if you wish (a small booking fee applies to cover the costs)

O Antiphons

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in parish, scripture, teaching

o-virgin-of-virgins

It is especially in the final week of Advent that our attention is fixed on the messianic promises proclaimed by the ancient prophets of Israel.  A distinctive feature of the Liturgy of the Hours in this week preceding the Christmas vigil is the antiphon sung at Vespers (evening prayer) before and after the recitation of the Magnificat.  Originally incorporated into the monastic office in the Middle Ages, these antiphons, often called the “Greater Antiphons” or the “O Antiphons”, are also echoed in the daily lectionary as the verse for the gospel acclamation during this week.  They add a mood of eager expectation to the liturgy that builds throughout these seven days and climaxes at Christmas.

 

The O Antiphons have been described as “a unique work of art and a special ornament of the pre-Christmas liturgy, filled with the Spirit of the Word of God”.  They “create a poetry that fills the liturgy with its splendour”, and their composer shows “a magnificent command of the Bible’s wealth of motifs”.  The antiphons are, in fact, a collage of Old Testament types of Christ.  Their predominant theme is messianic,  stressing the hope of the Saviour’s coming.  Jesus is invoked by various titles, mainly taken from the prophet Isaiah.  The sequence progresses historically, from the beginning, before creation, to the very gates of Bethlehem.

In their structure, each of the seven antiphons follows the same pattern, resembling a traditional liturgical prayer.  Each O Antiphon begins with an invocation of the expected Messiah, followed by praise of him under one of his particular titles.  Each ends with a petition for God’s people, relevant to the title by which he is addressed, and the cry for him to “Come”.

The seven titles attributed to Jesus in the antiphons are

Wisdom (Sapientia in Latin),

o-wisdom

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/?v=8ngcQDQfhlA]

Ruler of the House of Israel (Adonai),

o-lord-adonai

Root of Jesse (Radix),

o-root-of-jesse

Key of David (Clavis),

o-key-of-david

Rising Dawn (Oriens),

o-morning-star

King of the Gentiles (Rex)

o-king

and Emmanuel.

o-emmanuel

In Latin the initials of the titles make an acrostic which, when read backwards. means: “Tomorrow I will be there” (“Ero cras”).  To the medieval mind this was clearly a reference to the approaching Christmas vigil.

Today the O Antiphons are most familiar to us in the hymn “O come, O come Emmanuel”.  Each verse of the hymn parallels one of the antiphons. In addition to their use in the Liturgy of the Hours and the gospel acclamation, they have been popularly incorporated into church devotions and family prayer.  An Advent prayer service for use at home, in school, or in the events of parish life can be built around the singing or recitation of the antiphons, accompanied by the related Scripture readings and prayers.  They can be prayed at family dinner times or with the lighting of the Advent wreath, with a short explanation of their biblical background.   The titles can also be depicted by simple symbols – for example, on banners and posters or in bulletin illustrations – to help us to reflect on these Advent themes.

Sermon: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Ordinary 5, Year C

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Text: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures;”

You probably don’t remember the name Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin nor should you. But during his day, he was a powerful man on this earth. A Russian Communist leader, he took part in the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, was editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda, and was a full member of the Politburo. Although Communism in Russia is long dead and buried, we should not forget how aggressively Communism sought to undermine, even destroy Christianity and replace it with an atheist state.

There’s one particular story about Bukharin. It’s about a journey he took from Moscow to Kiev in 1930 to address a huge assembly on the subject of atheism. Addressing the crowd, he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity hurling insult, argument, and proof against it.

An hour later, when he was finished, he looked out at what seemed to be the smouldering ashes of the people’s faith. “Are there are any questions?” Bukharin demanded. Deafening silence filled the auditorium, but then one older man began his slow but steady pace to the lectern.

Standing shoulder to shoulder to the communist leader, he surveyed the crowd first to the left then to the right. Finally, he mustered all the strength he had inside him and shouted the ancient greeting known well in the Russian Orthodox Church, “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” and en masse, the crowd stood to their feet and the response came crashing like the sound of thunder, “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

My dear friends: the Resurrection: This morning’s epistle outlines the core of our faith, the true Gospel proclaimed by the Church for millennia and as real today as it was in 55AD when Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth.

It is always before us: in our Creed, at the heart of our faith. Paul had to remind the church at Corinth, and we too need to be reminded of the gospel that we have received and on which, we have taken our stand.

This is the Easter message, even though we are not yet even into Lent, our faith is an Easter faith, we are an Easter people, liberated by the Resurrection. I stand here today, in this sacred space, to proclaim this word that…

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Join me in saying, He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

We face interesting times: in our parishes, as we look to our mission and outreach and how we simply faithfully continue to worship; in his deanery as we face the challenges of the future; and in the Church as a whole – a fragmenting Anglican Communion with its divisions and hang-ups about the sexuality; all the while bible-bashing fundamentalists of bigotry and hate at home and abroad, seek to take a Gospel of love and inclusivity and draw a few selective passages of Paul and the Levitical law to condemn in ways that Christ never would.

Lurking behind all of this is the whole issue of how Christians engage with modern society, and explain what the Gospel has to do with them, and how it can transform them.

That Gospel has little to do with heavy-duty theology, or complex philosophy but at the heart of it, and at the heart of all that we do…it’s all about the Resurrection.

Paul said if there’s no Resurrection, then all the preaching is useless.

If there is no Resurrection, our faith has no value.
If there is no Resurrection, we become false witnesses.
If there is no Resurrection, the transformation that takes place within our lives when we know Christ is meaningless.
If there is no Resurrection, then we are to be pitied among humankind.

But Paul was quick to proclaim, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, (he is) the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

In a later verse in the same passage of I Corinthians 15, Paul says the resurrection will change us….

The body sown is perishable, but it will be raised imperishable;
it is sown with dishonour, it will be raised in glory.
it is sown in weakness, it will be raised in power;
it is sown as natural, it will be raised as spiritual” (15:42-43)

This Resurrection is our hope! It is our joy! It is our faith!

The resurrection of Christ from the grave is the cornerstone of Christianity. It is the Magna Carta of our faith. Everything depends on it. Nothing in the Christian faith is worth trusting without it. As a matter of fact, it is not stretching too far to say that all of the New Testament stands firmly on the event we call Easter.

And when we began to doubt, we need to be reminded that no event in history has shaped the world like the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There is no other religion anywhere in the world that offers an empty tomb as its salvation. There is no other religion that has people lined up for hours in Jerusalem or elsewhere, to look at the empty place where their leader is no longer. In short, Christianity is the only religion that celebrates a Resurrection.”

The resurrection of Jesus Christ has stood the test of time because there isn’t anyone who has been able to disprove it. Even in the face of persecution, the apostles and those who followed them willingly underwent Martyrdom proclaiming Christ risen.

If they had made it up, then surely, at the first sight of an axe, a hammer and nails or a gridiron, surely they would have admitted that it was made up. But no, with faith in Christ resurrected, the glorious martyrs held fast to the Gospel. If anything is worth dying for, then it is worth credibility. That is why I believe in the resurrection and the power that it has to change lives: my life, your lives

And because of that Gospel message, hopes have been restored, attitudes have brightened, emotions have been positively influenced, and lives have been changed.

Let me tell you another story…

It was Easter Day 1973 . Uganda groaned under the terror of Idi Amin. Still fresh in the memory of young priest Kefa Sempangi’s memory was a faced burned beyond recognition, the sight of soldiers cruelly beating a man, and the horrible sound of boots crushing bones, all for the crime of being Christian.

But that East of 1973 Sempangi bravely and openly preached on the Risen Lord in his town’s home football stadium to over 7,000 people. After the service, five of Idi Amin’s Secret Police followed Sempangi back to his little church and closed the door behind them. Five rifles pointed at Sempangi’ s face.

“We are going to kill you for disobeying Amin’s orders” said the captain. “If you have something to say, say it now before you die.” Sempangi, thinking of his wife and little girl, began to shake.

But the risen Lord living in his heart gave him the courage to speak. “Do what you must, “ he said, “The Word of God says that in Christ I am already dead, and that my real life is hidden with Him in God. It is not my life that is danger my friends, but yours. I am alive in the risen Lord, but you are still dead in your sins. May He spare you from eternal destruction.”

The leader looked at Sempangi for a long time. Then he lower his gun and the other guns followed, “Will you pray for us?” he asked. Sempangi did, and from that day those five officers, now converted through the witness of Sempangi’s bravery, protected the Anglican Priest with their very lives.”

Nothing has ever shaped the world like the gospel message.

As we are reminded that it’s all about the Resurrection, and that nothing has ever shaped the world like it, I’m also reminded a very simple fact about life itself…Life on this earth, in these bodies, does not go on forever.

There is death. Every one of us must face our own mortality. There is no military victory, no medical cure, no global village that can prepare any individual to answer the ultimate questions in life any better than the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s the hope of the Russian Orthodox standing against the atheism of Communion, It’s the hope of Paul and the Corinthian Church. It’s the hope of people like Sempangi, who in the face of death itself, stood firm and claimed that indeed Christ is risen!

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Amen.