Archives November 2010

Liturgy: Advent 1 Year A

Advent Sunday, Year A

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

Grace, mercy and peace from God Our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit be with you all

and also with you

To you, my God, I lift my soul, I trust in you; let me never come to shame. Do not let my enemies laugh at me. No one who waits for you is ever put to shame. (Psalm 24:1-3)

My dear friends in Christ, we gather here this morning at the start of a new church year to offer this holy sacrifice to Almighty God, our heavenly Father, praying for the life, work and witness of this parish.

Today begins the season of Advent: a season of preparation, both practical and spiritual.

Over the next few weeks we will ponder the foretelling words of Isaiah and respond to the still small voice crying in the wilderness.

<Advent Wreath>

This is a season which calls us to repentance and as we come to this holy ground we recognise the sins which separate us from God and neighbour, and we are moved to turn away from our sin…

The Collect

Let us pray

All-powerful God,
increase our strength of will for doing good
that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming
and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven,
where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

All    Amen.

Alleluia

Alleluia, alleluia.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

All    Alleluia.

The Peace

<Peace>

The peace of the Lord be always with you

and also with you


Prayer after Communion

Father,
may our communion teach us to love heaven.
May its promise and hope guide our way on earth.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Notices


Solemn Blessing

The Lord be with you

And also with you

Let us bow our heads and pray for God’s blessing

You believe that the Son of God once came to us;
you look for him to come again.
May his coming bring you the light of his holiness
and his blessing bring you freedom. Amen.

May God make you steadfast in faith,
joyful in hope, and untiring in love
all the days of your life. Amen.

You rejoice that our Redeemer came to live with us as man.
When he comes again in glory,
may he reward you with endless life. Amen.
…and the blessing of God almighty,

the +Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

be among you and remain with you always.

All    Amen.

The mass is ended. Go in the peace of Christ.

All    Thanks be to God.


Stations of the Spirit

4.6.2 Stations of the Spirit
Based on Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law”

The Stations are arranged around the site, perhaps in small tents (a la Tracey Emin) the audio first takes you to the station and then asks you perform the activity described in each, so there are 10 tracks in all. Each tent has laminates indicating the track to be played and quotes, scriptures and reflections to assist each prayer station14.

Required Items:

  • 4 x one person tents
  • 128 Mb MP3 Players
  • Various Direction Signs
  • Signing Out Book
  • Comments and Feedback Book
  • A number Balti Dishes to hold things
  • Bag of Large Palm-sized Stones
  • Sponges / Body Shop Lillies
  • Large water bucket
  • Red Ribbons, Cut into 6-8 inch strips
  • Felt Pens
  • Large Crucifix or similar
  • Quantity of Fake Fur
  • Silk Lilies or even better a daily supply of fresh lilies.
  • Hand Cream
  • Pillows, Duvets

01 – Introduction

Audio: Teardrop – Massive Attack

Come…
Come, walk with us.
Come, step outside your busy lives, step outside everything that’s on your mind, your friends and your exams, your families, your job. Whatever you’re worried about, whatever stresses you out: leave it behind and come on a journey with the one who is always there to walk with you, the one who never gives up on you, no matter how difficult things get.
In one of his letters (to the Galatians; these days you’d find them in modern Turkey) Saint Paul tries to get people to see the difference Jesus can make in our lives. Paul sees that people who spend time with God are changed forever by the experience. Just as a tree needs sunlight and water to go on growing and giving its fruit, we also need the presence of God’s Spirit if we are to live life to the full as God desires. Paul speaks about a person bearing the fruits of the Spirit, and he makes a list of nine of them: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;
So, as we walk this journey of life we pray for God’s gift to us of all these fruits, all these gifts; we think about love and self-control, joy and peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness and goodness. And because travelling is as much a part of the journey as the destination,  each of these four tents-of-meeting-with-God has a reflection for the journey between each tent, as well as words and activities for you to do when you get there.
So savour the experience: let the word of God dwell deeply within you and concentrate on these tracks – for this journey is between you and God.

02 – Love & Self-Control – Destination

Audio: Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana (SPR Edit)

Love is all around.All you need is loveLove is the drug.Endless Love.
Love, it would seem is the major concern of our lives. Music and adverts are full of it. It fills our iPods and clogs up our TVs. We can’t seem to get away from it. But what is this thing called Love?
Eskimos have hundreds of words for snow: they see there’s a difference between the light-flakes that dance in the morning sunshine and the heavy impenetrable drift.
In the same way, there are different ways to think about love. Of course, the songs we hear are mainly about the love between lovers, the “I-love-you-baby-let’s-get-together-and-make-lurve” type of love.
But there’s also the love between a parent and a child, so you’d say, “I love my mum or dad.”
Then there’s the love between friends, or between brothers and sisters; and there’s the selfless love we try to show one another as Christians, that love for our neighbour which Jesus talks about: it doesn’t have a price-tag. 
But It’s all love. It’s not all the same. It expresses the depth and wideness and beauty of all those things we know of as love; and still it fails to capture the love of God poured out for us.
God loves you as a parent loves a child – as one of his ownHe loves you with passion, with intimacy, closer than a loverGod loves and celebrates you as you are – as a friend and a brotherGod loves you, regardless of whether you love him back. God’s love has no strings attached, no conditions.
That’s the most challenging thing about this sort of love, the love which Jesus pours out for us on the cross: it’s not something we asked for, but still God gives it. God wasn’t required to give it, he didn’t have to; but he gives his love anyway, his amazing grace; it flows as freely as running water and all we need to do is jump in and learn to swim in it.

03 – Love and Self Control – Station

Equipment: Stones and sponges. Large Bucket of Water.

Audio: Proost – Inner Journey

Come into this station. Enter and relax.

Love can be as soft as sponges, or feel as hard as stones. It can make us feel warm and enriched. It can frustrate us, especially when love is painful, when love is unreturned, or when the love someone has for us prevents us from following our own selfish desires: the parent who won’t let us out all night is the one who loves us.

Pick up a stone. Cradle it in the palm of your hand. Feel its smoothness and its broken edges.

Examine it closely. It’s been shaped by centuries of waves and weather, damaged by explosion, by digging and building. Yet here it is, in your hand, in this field. In this place. In your possession.

It has been shaped by experience, good and bad; just as we are shaped by our experiences of life, of love.

I will take your heart of stone, the prophet told the words of God to the people, and give you back a heart of flesh.

Our experiences can make our hearts as cold as this stone, as tough as rock. Emotions can bounce off of it and nothing can touch it.

Do we think this makes us strong? Do we think that by putting up a strong shield against people we’ll save ourselves from being hurt?

Do you really want a heart of stone?

I will take your heart of stone, and give you back a heart of flesh.

As you cradle this stone in your hand, pass onto it all those feelings of hardness in your life: those times when you have rejected others, been indifferent to their needs, their suffering. Let your selfishness coat this stone.

Now gently drop it into the water, and let it sink. It takes away with it those feelings, it’s toughness absorbs the tough things in your life, and the stream of living water which Jesus speaks of washes those feelings away.

I will take your heart of stone, and give you back a heart of flesh.

A heart of flesh is a heart which beats to the rhythm of the world, a heart of flesh is one which is open to the needs of those it meets. A vulnerable heart is one that is open to the love of God.

Take up a sponge. It is soft and yielding, it is flexible, pliable, responsive. It moves with you, and it moves with life. It is a heart which is open for God.

I will take your heart of stone, and give you back a heart of flesh.04 – Joy & Peace – Destination

Audio: Sign of the Times – Prince

God has been known to do some dramatic things in the past: to level mountains and part waters, to bring dry bones back to life and to sort out this rabble of humanity by sending his only son down to sort us out.

But we can’t always expect God to do the dramatic thing, put on a show especially for us, to give us proof beyond all doubt that he is indeed, behind it all. It needs a bit of faith from us.

Do not put the Lord your God to the Test 

Jesus told us. We can’t expect a lightshow especially for us, hand reaching out from the clouds pointing us in the way

When Elijah went out to meet with God, he experienced all manner of loud and impressive things: winds, earthquakes, fires raging past him. But, we were told, God was not, was not in any of these signs of raw natural power. After the wind, the earth-shaking, the fire came a still, small voice, a breath like a sigh. And God was in that distant sigh.

As we travel to our next station to experience the joy and the peace of God, think of what gives you joy. Events. Places. People. Activities. What makes you happy?

What do you do to fill others with joy? A visit? A smile? Going out of your way to make a difference to the life of someone?

05 – Love and Peace – Station

Equipment: strips of ribbon and pens. A large crucifix with perhaps a balti dish to place the ribbons in.

Audio: Moonwatcher – Sofa Loafer

We have so much to be thankful for. Our lives, our friends, those whom we love, and the simple reality of being alive itself is enough to be thankful for.

Take one of these ribbons and think of the joys in your lives. Write one or two of them on the ribbon and place it here: a shrine of prayer to God: a place of peace where the joy of God can reach through and touch you through your prayers and thanksgivings.

After you have written these things, hold them up to God in thanksgiving, thought of the good things that God brings about in your life, you may feel a sense of peace.

There isn’t enough peace in the world; there isn’t enough calm.

Sometimes we fill our lives up with chatter, with twitter, with texts and instant messages: so much communication that we lose connection with the one who is always there to listen and be there for us.

In order to plug into God, in order to hear what he is saying to us, in order to make the connection, we need to unplug from the rest of it. There is a rhythm in your life which does not come through your ears. There is a beat which only you can sense. Listen.

<audio cuts out>

It is there. Can you feel your heartbeat? Put your hand on the left side of your chest. Can you feel it. It is the rhythm of your life. Listen. Feel.

God speaks to you, like a still small voice crying out in the distance. He calls you. Listen. Feel.

<audio fades in>

We don’t always get enough time to stop and listen to the dancebeat which is inside of us all the time: a rhythm which moves us through the dance of life. Other things might block out or hide it, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. Take the opportunity to experience that deep peace everyone in a while – give thanks to God and get blessed with that peace.

06 – Patience, Faithfulness & Gentleness – Destination

Audio: Take That – Patience Loop

Good things will come your way.
All you need is the faith to carry on this journey.
There are times when the journey will be hard. There will be distractions, there will be frustrations. There will times you want give up and give in.
The journey of your life is a journey towards God. It is a journey which you do not travel alone, for it is a path which has been trodden for centuries by the wise and the foolish, the rich and the poor, the sorted and the messed-up.
God calls everyone home.
Never lose sight of the destination, and travel there with faith.

07 – Patience, Faithfulness & Gentleness – Station

Equipment: Fur (fake obviously). Silk flowers. Fresh flowers would be even better, but they’d need to be replaced each day.Audio: Nitin Sawney – Spark

We want it, and we want it now. We want it yesterday. We want it in full and we’d rather not pay the full price of it.
Unfortunately, life is not always like eBay. Things take time, things which are truly worth it, are things which are worth taking time over – like a carefully carved statue, a work of art, they all take time, take effort, and require patience.
The Lillies of the Field, he said, don’t get stressed out with work, they don’t break their backs to earn money just to stay in fashion, and yet they look just fine. Take some time to examine these flowers at this station, twirl them in your hands and look at the beauty which is held in each. No supermodel can match this, no fashion writer can encapsulate this fully. No movie star is the equal of this lily, and no surgery, no airbrush, no photoshop is needed.
You, too, are one of God’s creations, you are as lovely as this. You are as unique, and special to God. If he looks after the birds of the air, don’t you know that he will look after you.
Be comforted in that – experience his gentle love. Run your fingers through the fur: don’t worry, it’s not real, but it feels good, doesn’t it?, it can be soothing and comforting and perhaps you might even get a sense of warmth and proximity in it: relax, be comforted, experience luxury, have a sense of security. You are loved and protected by the God who knows every hair on your heads, knew you before you were formed in the womb, knows you by name.
It’s so easy to miss the hand of God in your life: think about those times when things go wrong, and recall how often you blame him for your own bad choices…
Think about those times when things have gone well, and you congratulate yourself for your skill and artistry, and forget God’s hand in it.
Have faith. Be assured. Know God.
Pray, hope and don’t worry.
God cares for you. You more than anything else in all creation. You are special. You are loved.

08 – Kindness & Goodness – Destination

Audio: Bowie – All Saints

We are always being told about how we have to be good.

“You’re a good boy / a good girl”

From our earliest ages, it was our goodness which was always being judged, by parents, maiden aunts and people in the supermarket.

Goodness is a virtue which is therefore quite underestimated. What does it mean to be good?

At School they often talked about “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild” as though he spent his whole time swanning around Judea with his head in the clouds and being nice to the animals.

Was this the same man who caused such scandal with the authorities and those who knew better because he reached out to the poor, to the marginalised, to those different and difficult?

Was this the man who got so outraged at the way they treated God’s house like a supermarket that he kicked them all out with his bare hands?

Was this the man who lived rough, moving from place to place preaching the good news without a home or knowing where the next meal was coming from, but trusting in the Father to meet his needs?

Was this the man who was tough enough to survive beating, whipping and being dragged through the streets before completing his most important, toughest work of all on the cross?

What’s meek and mild about that?

Jesus shows us a goodness which flows out from being filled with the love of God, not from conforming to the expectations of others, a goodness which enables him to live for God, in God’s way, not moulded by the constraints of polite society or authority figures.

This radical goodness might call you to reach out to those that Christ reached out to: the poor, those on the edge of society, the lonely, those in your midst that ‘proper’ society ignores, the sort that others think aren’t worthy of kindness, the ones that Christ met with, and changed.

Be good. Be. Strong. Be prepared to be different.

Be. Like. Christ.

09 – Kindness and Goodness – Station

Equipment: Duvets, Cushions, handcream

Audio: Windows Installation Track

Come in and relax in here. You have made a long journey so far, and you must be weary. Sit down amongst these cushions and make yourself a home. God is here.

It’s a chance to pamper yourself a little. There’s some handcream here. Take a little. Before you rub it in, have a smell. Breathe in deeply. Every kindness in this world is a gift from God. Every kindness you show to others is a Gift of God through you. You are God’s agent in this world, when you follow his lead, do his work, share his love, you are the hands of God.

This bloke was going through a rough part of town. It wasn’t his town, and he didn’t really belong here. You can think of your own local tensions: football teams, chav and grunge, colour of skin, there’s no end of examples. Whatever it was, he was out on his own, in a vulnerable place, in the wrong place.

He got set upon, beaten, robbed and left in a bleeding, bruised pile on the pavement.

As our victim was lying there, he thought he could see someone coming down the street dressed in a dog collar – the local priest – he was saved! But the local priest had so much on his mind, Masses to say and masses to do and he just looked past the man on the ground – a head so far in the clouds that he couldn’t see the need in front of him.

A little while later, our victim lying there with bruised and swollen eyes thought he could see one of his own – the same football shirt, the same dress code, the same hairstyle or cap or whatever we choose to show our individuality with by being just like all our mates… – he was saved! But his brother in fashion didn’t want to get blood on him, didn’t want to get involved, didn’t want to put aside his plans for the day and deal with it – his life was already far too full to bother with this need.

When the victim thought that was it, that the end was near, there came another standing over him. Different. Different colour football shirt, different colour, different style of music coming over the iPod. Different. This means trouble, this means the end.

But the stranger, the man who had no ties to our victim was the one to help him up, to get him to the hospital, to sort out the paperwork and the police, to help the victim get his life back together. He went out of his own way to make a difference to the victim, went the extra mile. Saw out what was right.

Which of these three asked Jesus was like a neighbour?

The one who showed him kindness, they answered. Not the one whom everyone expects to be holy. Not the one who seemed to be from the same family, the same mindset, the same tribe. The one who looked beyond the badges and the labels and saw the need of another human being.

Jesus then gave those to whom he told this story a simple command:

Go then, and do likewise

Goodness does not necessarily mean holiness. You can try and be so religious, so caught up in the ways of doing the church that you miss what the point is. You can be looking so hard for God on the inside that you forget that sometimes God needs you to share that gift with others.

All of these fruits of the spirit make a wonderful different deep in your own life, but if you keep them there they will make no difference in this world. These gifts are gifts to be given out through you to others. All others. All kinds. All ways. All perspectives. All are part of God’s wonderful creation and all are worthy of God’s grace, his kindness and his goodness, through you.

You can make a difference. You are anointed with this scent of heaven, blessed with his riches. You receive God’s goodness and kindness.

And so as he said:

Go then, and do likewise

10 – Return

Audio: Massive Attack – Teardrop (No Vox Edit)

We have travelled and we have explored. We have journeyed and sought out the fruits of the spirit of God.

God gives us these fruits, but not just to keep to ourselves.

They can only be truly fruitful when they are shared with others. As you return from this journey and re-enter the real world, you have the opportunity to share your fruits with others – to share your love, to demonstrate your self-control, to bring joy to all, to make peace where there is disquiet; to show patience, be gentle and be a beacon of faith; to be kind and good and daily demonstrate Christ within you shining out towards others.

By these fruits will they see Jesus in you.St Theresa of Avila told us:

Christ has no body on earth but yours,no hands but yours, no feet but yours.Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out;yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.

Travel back to where we started out together.
Go forth from this place and share those fruits with others.
May you be filled with joy and peace, patience, gentleness, love and kindness, and may the blessing of God Almighty: +Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon you and remain with you, this day and always.
Amen.


Blesséd at the 24 Hours of Worship – Video

From the Diocese of Portsmouth, two excerpts of the Blesséd Mass of Easter at the Portsmouth Cathedral 24 Hours of Worship event. Further videos of other bits can be found here. Ben Mizen’s excellent photos can be found here

The lessons learnt here are

a) Our new Bishop is up for anything as long it is authentic and honest. His contribution and suggestions were insightful and constructive.

b) Blesséd really does work best in the dark. I promise never to do a daylight Blesséd ever again, so help me God.

c) The Blesséd team are a wonderful collection of hard-working, insightful people

d) Technical teams need more than a script, they need handholding if they don’t know Blesséd. If they do, then trust them implicitly.

e) Blesséd needs a higher profile, because what it does is authentic

f) We should do more events like this.

Part 1

Part 2


Anglican Covenant – My appeal to my General Synod Representatives

The debate on the Anglican Covenat is going to hot up from here.

This morning I decided to write to the General Synod Representatives (both lay and clerical) of the Diocese of Portsmouth. They are clearly not fashionable or popular views, but I feel they should be heard; which of course will not be permitted if the Anglican Covenant goes through. I have debated whether I should make known these misgivings about the Covenant, and the threat it poses to the Communion itself. Members of the Parish have supported this position, and so in a spirit of open debate, I make this available.

 

To the Portsmouth Diocese Representatives to General Synod

Dear Lucy, Philip, Sue, Tim, Debbie and Fr. Bob,

I understand that at the November General Synod there will be a motion advocating that the Church of England adopts the Anglican Covenant currently under discussion.

Although I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you to vote according to the will of God, I feel I should represent to you the misgivings of my parish and myself over this process which I believe threatens to undermine all that is good and Godly about the Anglican Communion whilst searching for an uneasy peace between Traditionalists and Progressives which can never be resolved, and certainly will not be resolved by this unwieldy and blunt instrument of hegemony.

The misuse of the word “Covenant” is, I believe, at the heart of this initiative, seeking to establish an improper authority over others which is unbiblical and inappropriate. The Anglican Communion seeks to be a community gathered by a common heritage and a liturgy: it is not a confessional or congregational church: fidelity to the Church has been based upon geography, tried and tested formularies, Creeds and of course Holy Scripture, not by assent to an ever-changing list which is blown about by the winds of modern fashion or fundamentalist pressure. Corinth was not Jerusalem, which was not Phillipi or Antioch: autonomy in ecclesial authority was and remains important.

The only Covenant is that which exists between humankind and God, sealed by the blood of the lamb. This document, however, seeks to cut across the structures of each member of the Anglican Communion in order to impose some kind of supposed Order and Discipline. If the Holy Spirit calls one of the Churches of the Communion to act in one way, who are we to seek to overrule that? The Covenant therefore appears to be an instrument of politics, of home-grown rabble rousing by some who need to be seen to rattle their sabres at overseas churches rather than deal with issues on their own doorstep and break the fundamental purpose of episcopal pastoralia which is to be a focus of unity in their own see and province rather than anyone else’s.

I do not see any sanctions being threatened against the Diocese of Sydney for their promotion of Diaconal-led Eucharist and their use of Baptism by testimony rather than water which is entirely contrary to the spirit and historic formularies of the Church. Although I personally find that as offensive as some find the Inclusion of LGBT people or Women in the life of the Church, it cannot be my prerogative to override their Synod, no matter how contrary to what I personally hold Anglicanism to be.

Although I may have the reputation as an unrepentant liberal with the kind of progressive views (especially on matters of the Proclamation of the Gospel, Sexuality and Inclusion) which the Covenant seeks to fillet out of the Anglican Communion, I hold that the via media of Anglicanism can and should represent a diversity of views, both Traditional and Progressive at the same time: to enter into dialogue, not adversarial combat. The Covenant will put an end to that opportunity to debate.

I pray therefore that these reflections might be of some use to you all as you enter that debate: a lot is at stake, and if we are to continue to productively debate matters of Sexuality, Gender, Soteriology and Ecclesiology in an open manner, then the Church of England needs to challenge the hegemony that is at the heart of this Anglican so-called Covenant.

My prayers are with you.

Fr. Simon Rundell

Vicar, Parish of S. Thomas the Apostle, Elson

Bishop Tom Wright suggests that the Covenant is the “only way of keeping the Anglican Communion together”, but I would counter that if it plasters over debate, difference, diversity and the working of the Holy Spirit, then we should be prepared for a different form of Anglican Communion because if this is the price of a supposed Unity, then I’m not buying it…

The Anglican Communion has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ’s Church from the beginning.

Dr Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1945-1961


Serenity Prayer in Flowchart Form

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr