This day last year John Stott died. For those who don't know who he was, for over half a century he was the figurehead of mainstream evangelicalism within the UK, personifying a gracious, thoughtful conservatism that made it difficult for even those who disagreed with him to become disagreeable...
During the year subsequent year I came across what was described as John Stott's Daily Prayer. I offer it to you today for your prayerful reflection:
Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more.
Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you.
Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life:
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control
Holy, blessed and glorious trinity, three persons in one God, have mercy upon me.
Almighty God, Creator and sustainer of the universe, I worship you.
Lord Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord of the World, I worship you.
Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of the people of God, I worship you.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever, Amen.
What follows is a short skit that could introduce the bit of Mark Gospel that this week's recommended lectionary reading (Mark 6:30-34, 53-56) misses out, ie the Feeding of the 5000. It was adapted for a Northern Irish context and idiom from the original "Nice Rolls" by Jonathan Mortimer, now Vicar of All Saints Parish in Peckham, in his CPAS booklet, "See What I Mean?"
Young man and an older woman
are standing eating baps/rolls
Man: Nice baps
Woman: I beg your
pardon young man!? (folding arms) How dare you !?
sorry… (holding out bap) I meant
Woman: Sorry… I
thought you were being rude…
Man : No… Not at all… Have you any idea what’s in them, Mrs?
Woman: I’m not sure.
Fish I think...
Man: Do you
know what time it is by any chance?
Woman: (Looks at watch, then holds it to ear
shocked) I don’t believe it.
Woman: It’s nearly
half eight. I should have been home ages ago… My husband will be raging that I
didn’t have his dinner ready…
half eight! Never! That means we’ve been here over eight hours... No wonder I
was ravenous before we got these baps.
Woman: I thought it
was only 4.
too! Mind you! Shows what a good speaker
Man: Well I
mean, there’s not many people I could listen to for 8 hours.
not the man I listen to every sabbath.
really like his stories. What about the one about the shepherd leaving 99 of
his flock to find one lost sheep?
Woman: Or the woman
who turned the house upside down to find one of her dowry coins ?
Man: Or the
farmer sowing seed! Never thought of myself as a bit of soil before. Have you
Woman: Can’t say I
you I wouldn’t believe everything you hear about him...
Woman: Like what?
know, all that stuff about him touching people and making them well, turning
gallons of water into wine... That sort of thing!
Woman: Oh yes! I
had heard that!
even talk he brought a wee girl back to life. Dead as a doornail she was and
everyone weeping and wailing outside, then he talks to her and up she gets.
Ridiculous! A load of rubbish...
Woman: Yeah, ridiculous.
Mind you, these are good baps...
This is the last in the short series which I called "Songs of Experience" (stealing the title from William Blake via Roy Clements) looking at some of the Psalms that speak into the darker side of human emotion, an area that we often avoid talking about as Christians. I should have published this at the end of June, but where I am currently based things don't get quieter in the summer - and I am slowly running out of steam... Anyway, in this last one we look at things on the sunnier side of the street.
When I first prepared the material on this final Psalm in this short series entitled "Songs of Experience" I called it "Count your blessings" taken from the old gospel standard which tells us to:
“Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”
But let me make a
confession… while I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments of that song, I
absolutely detest it… But this modern song with the same title by Karl Broadie is a vast improvement.
It comes at things from the same angle as Psalm 103 but doesn't quite have the same poetic
profundity… The whole Psalm is a self-invocation to praise God, based on the Psalmist's experience of God's goodness and the self-revelation of God.
Key to it is the contrast between the transitory nature of human existence and the immortal faithfulness of God... The Psalmist betrays no assurance of life beyond the grave, but the knowledge that God will continue to watch over his descendants is sufficient for him. So if that is true for the Psalmist, how much more true should it be of Christians in the light of Christ's resurrection.
The Psalm finishes with an
invitation to the angels in heaven to praise God, before in closing, once again instructing
his own soul to praise him… This has echoes of the refrain in Psalm 42 & 43, the first Psalm
with which we started this short series, written against a background of depression, which says
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within
me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.
Psalms 42:5-6 (ANIV)
Like in the Karl Broadie song where he
tells us to count our blessings not our troubles, the Psalmist reminds us that
songs of praise and thanks are not just for when things are going well… but
that if we adopt an “attitude of gratitude” when things are going well it may
help us to ride out the times of trouble. But all too often we take our
Father’s gifts for granted…
Let's seriously think
what we have to be thankful for… and give thanks to the giver...
O my soul, praise the source of all good
his holy name from the centre of your being.
O my soul, praise the source of all good
don’t forget a single solitary blessing.
He erases all error
all illness and infirmity,
He raises you out of the grave
you with love and compassion.
He satisfies your hunger with the finest of
that your strength is restored and you can soar like the eagle.
works makes all things right and just
upholds the oppressed.
He revealed his ways to Moses,
showed his people what he was able to do.
is full of compassion and grace,
not easily angered and he’s overflowing with love.
He doesn’t constantly point the finger,
he nurse his anger for ever.
He doesn’t treat us as our sins truly deserve,
does he pay us back for all our wrongs.
Can you jump up and touch the sky?
how much higher his love is than ours.
Can you reach to the other side of the
how far he has separated our sins from us.
As parents passionately care for their children,
how the Lord feels about those who
He knows us inside out,
that we are dust.
Compared with him men and women live little
longer than grass,
wildflowers in the meadow;
the summer wind blows away their blossom
you would never know they were there.
But God’s love is for ever and ever
sustaining those who fear him,
And making everything right for their
they walk with him and keep his covenant commands.
throne is firmly established in heaven,
kingdom claims dominion over all the earth.
Praise the Lord,
you angels above,
servants of God, quick to hear and spread his word.
A reblogged monologue by Herod Antipas inspired by today's Gospel reading from the Lectionary in Mark 6: 14-29. Wrote it three years ago as per the lectionary cycle, but didn't use it until this morning... If I was being generous to fellow preachers out there I should have re-posted it a few days ago... But I didn't want to spoil the effect for the few members of my own congregation that occasionally stumble onto this blog.
Why!? Why could the damned dipper not keep his nose out of my personal life?
And why could Herodias not simply ignore him? What harm could he do once I’d locked him away?
Yes, he went on and on about the immorality of our relationship, but what did she expect? He’s a religious fanatic… But if he is one of God’s prophets I don’t want his blood on my hands as well as my marital sins…
But she didn’t care… She wanted his head on a plate… Literally. And she knew just how to get it… The same way she got me in the first place…
I’ve always been a sucker for a bit of fine young female flesh… I’d taken her even though she was both my own niece and my brother’s wife… Keep it in the family is my motto…
But she then dangled her own daughter as bait to get what she wanted… Just one dance and I was slavering at the mouth… I offered her half my Kingdom… and I would have given it to her too (the dusty, deserted half that is…) But oh no… she had been well trained by that scheming witch of a mother of hers… All she wanted was to have the Dipper decapitated…
So what could I do? At that moment, my whole Kingdom lay in the balance, not just half of it… Everyone at the party was watching me for the first sign of weakness. So I couldn’t lose face… I couldn’t show fear…
Yet if truth be told, I feared that man more than any other man on earth… with the possible exception of my own father…
His words were not just the words of a religious nutcase… they came with power and authority… An authority that I would give more than half my Kingdom to possess… I wanted to hear more of what he had to say…
But now he’ll never say anything again…
Although some are saying that he has risen from the dead… That he is preaching again up by the sea of Galilee… Preaching and healing people…
But men don’t rise from the dead, do they?
It would be good to start again though, wouldn’t it… That’s what John said he was doing, dipping people in the river… washing away their sins so they could start again… But what river is deep enough to wash away my sins? To wash away the guilt of the dipper’s death… Not the Jordan certainly… Maybe it would take the whole of the Sea of Galilee… Maybe I’ll go and see if the man preaching and healing up there is the dipper come back from the dead… See if he will wash away my sins… Or maybe I won’t… Because if Herodias hears that he’s back, she’ll not give up until he’s dead again…