Political · faith · World Affairs · Poetry · music · community · Following Jesus · Creativity, · Truth

Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers,

So – we’ve had a series on church on the different aspects of service that people might be called to. See above.

I was with a group yesterday and we were talking about what an evangelist is. Essentially someone who shares their faith with others. But what struck me as we were talking was the importance of listening to each of these ways of serving.

Apostles are the people who are out in front of a new venture. I was talking to Emma and her husband Andy on Sunday – Emma runs something called the Long Table in Matson (Gloucester), and they were telling me that they spent a long time listening to the community in Matson before setting up the Long Table project.

Prophets are the ones who speak truth to power. Often but not exclusively people involved in the arts – musicians, poets, artists and so on. They are listening carefully to be attuned to what’s going on around them in the world. Movements in the political and cultural sphere; aspects of church that are in danger of, or already have gone off track.

Evangelists sometimes get it wrong by just speaking louder ! To share faith with another human being requires respect and careful listening. Talking with, not talking at.

Pastors are those who have a deep concern for the well being of others. What they offer needs to be connected to the need of the other, not the need of the one offering support. Listening is crucial.

Teachers also sometimes get it wrong – maybe they pitch what they’re trying to communicate at the wrong level, or are just out of sync with those who are learning. Perhaps we should think of this as creating a space for learning. Again, listening to the ones who are learning will help to get this right.

This all might seem glaringly obvious, but it struck me how central listening is to any kind of activity within a community, be that a family, a business, a church, or whatever …

The other thing that I’ve noticed as we’ve been working through this at church is that although some people have a particular ‘gift’ for working in a specific area, all of these ways of serving are open to any of us. So ….

Get your creative juices going and try something new
Try to be informed about what’s going on in the world – but it can be tricky to know who’s truth telling …
Think about your passions and who might be interested in sharing that passion
Think about the people in your networks, and how you can be a caring presence
We all have wisdom, knowledge and experience to share with others … how’s that going ?

But don’t burn out ! Maybe at some point you’ll notice an area where you shine, and you can give the major part of your energy to that.

Grace and peace.

Activism · Political · Prayer · Truth · World Affairs

In Search of The Truth Part 1

In our church yeserday, we had these prayers that I found compelling, and thought worth sharing. Simple, yet full. Offering space to enter into the prayer in our own way.

Prayers
God of love
hear the cry of those who yearn for love;
fractured families, broken homes
neglected, unwanted, alone.
God of love
Hear our prayer

God of justice
hear the cry of those who yearn for justice;
persecuted and oppressed,
exploited, ill-treated, broken.
God of justice
Hear our prayer

God of peace
hear the cry of those who yearn for peace;
in battle zones and broken states,
frightened, fearful, anxious
God of peace
Hear our prayer

God of healing
hear the cry of those who yearn for healing;
physical and spiritual
hurting, weakened, depressed
God of healing
Hear our prayer

God of mercy
Hear the cry of those who yearn for mercy;
convicted, in need of your Grace,
contrite, humble, bowed down,
God of mercy
Hear our prayer

God of Truth *
Hear the cry of those who yearn for truth;
the truth of our hearts, and the truth of what we see around us.
Confused, questioning, searching
God of truth
Hear our prayer

Dear God, help us to know
your peace , your love, your justice,
your healing, mercy and truth
this day and all days
Amen

I added this last section to the prayers we had in church. The prayers had reminded me of a verse in Psalm 85 verse 11:
Grace and truth have met together; justice and peace have kissed each other.
(Complete Jewish Bible translation).

The reasons for adding the section about truth, was confirmed for me by a quote from Hannah Arendt,
“Under conditions of tyranny it is far easier to act than to think.”

When we see something happening like the invasion of Ukraine, we want to do something. And It is fantastic to see the humanitarian aid that is coming to Ukraine, and the way that other nations have stepped up.

But in the end …
The antidote to evil is not goodness but reflection and responsibility. Evil grows when people “cease to think, reflect, and choose between good and evil, between taking part or resisting.” Hannah Arendt.

Part of that thinking and reflecting is a search for truth, as best we can, however elusive that might be.

faith · Grace · LIterature · Songwriting · Storytelling · Truth

Pulling A Song To Pieces

I’m nearly finished with this song. Was this a worthwhile exercise …. I guess we learn from everything.

A Life of Love

Hear the story of a life of love, written clear on every line.
Drawing strength from up above, to see her through hard times.
She was born in a shotgun house, three rooms in a dead straight line.
Built on just a half a city lot – they’re doing just fine

I’ve got a feeling there’s a lot more grace to come,
Whatever’s gone before doesn’t count at all
.

See the children in their Sunday best, smiling, standing all in a line.
She’s at the front in her new blue dress with her sister just behind.
Sixteen and she knows it all, finds it hard to toe the line.
Got ambition to be top girl – she’s going to shine.

I’ve got a feeling there’s a lot more grace to come,
There’s enough to cover everyone
.

She’s listening to her baby cry, hoping he’s the last in line.
Patience is in short supply looking after number nine.
Now her children, they’re all grown, there will be grandkids down the line.
She spends her time on the telephone, they’re always on her mind.

I’ve got a feeling that there’s more grace still to come,
Whatever’s gone before doesn’t count at all
.

The Doctors listened to her heart, they summed her up in a few short lines.
Quickly scribbled on a patient chart, she never saw the signs.

Instrumental verse

You’ll find them at the edge of town, standing there in a dead straight line.
Waiting in the summer sun with roses all around.

But I’ve a feeling that there’s more grace still to come
Whatever’s gone before doesn’t count at all.
I’ve got a feeling that there’s more grace still to come
More than enough to cover everyone
.

————————————————-

I want to credit the source of some of the verses.

First, the shotgun house in the first verse, comes from the story “The making of a Minister” – in Ragman, stories by Walter Wangerin.
Arthur lived in a shotgun house, so called because it was three rooms in a dead straight line, built narrowly on half a city lot.

————————————————-

The second verse comes from a picture – of my mum and her eight siblings all standing, one behind the other, from shortest at the front to tallest at the back.

————————————————-

The chorus was triggered by a passage from ‘Lila’ by Marilynne Robinson.
Lila speaking:
“On Sundays you talk about the Good Lord. how he does one thing and another.”
“Yes I do.” And he blushed. It was as if he expected that question too, and was surprised again that the thing he expected for no reason was actually happening. He said. “I know that I am not – adequate to the subject. You have to forgive me.”
She nodded. “That’s all you’re going to say.”
“No. No, it isn’t. I think you’re asking me these questions because of some of the hard things that have happened, the things you won’t talk about. If you did tell me about them, I could probably not say more than that life is a very deep mystery, and that finally the grace of God is all that can resolve it. And the grace of God is also a very deep mystery.” He said, “You can probably tell I’ve said the same word too many times. But they’re true, I believe.” He shrugged and watched his finger trace the scar on the table.

————————————————-

The verse that begins: The Doctor’s listened to her heart, is from Ragman again –
Arthur Fort with his jaundiced view of hospital. “$20 a strolling visit when they come to a patient’s room,” he said. “For what? Two minutes time is what, and no particular news to the patient. A squeeze, a punch, a scribble on their charts, and they leave that sucker feeling low and worthless.”

————————————————-

And the final verse is inspired by words once more from Lila by Marilynne Robinson.
So when she was done at Mrs Graham‘s house, she took the bag of clothes and walked up to the cemetery. There was the grave of the John Ames who died as a boy, with a sister Martha on one side and sister Margaret on the other. She had never really thought about the way the dead would gather at the edge of a town, all their names spelled out so you would know whose they were for as long as that family lived in that place …. Someday the old man would lie down beside his wife. And there she would be after so many years, waiting in sunlight all covered in roses.

————————————————-

A Prayer For This Day · Activism · Bible · Political · Prayer · suffering · Truth · World Affairs

Praying For The Ukrainian People

Today I read these words from the Prophet Jeremiah chapter 11:

God told me what was going on. That’s how I knew. You, God, opened my eyes to their evil scheming.
I had no idea what was going on—naive as a lamb being led to slaughter!
I didn’t know they had it in for me, didn’t know of their behind-the-scenes plots:
“Let’s get rid of the preacher. That will stop the sermons!
Let’s get rid of him for good. He won’t be remembered for long.”

Then I said, “God-of-the-Angel-Armies, you’re a fair judge.
You examine and cross-examine human actions and motives.
I want to see these people shown up and put down!  I’m an open book before you. Clear my name.”

The people of Anathoth, the home town of the prophet Jeremiah, want to silence him.
Jeremiah is unaware of this until God shows him the truth.
Then he realises their plan to get rid of him.
He appeals to God and God’s justice.

We were not unaware of Putin’s plan, but we did not want to think it would happen. Now it has.
This is my prayer, as we also appeal to God for justice.

The name Putin is derived from put – путь, the Russian word for ‘way.’
Pravda
Правда is Russian for truth
ZhiznЖизнь is Russian for life

We pray to the LORD of hosts
The LORD-of-the angel-armies
Not to come against might with more might
But to raise up the people of Russia in resistance.
To reveal the bare pravda
To see false, fake rulers standing naked
Hands tied behind their backs
Their power and glory stripped.

We pray to the LORD of hosts
The LORD-of-the angel-armies
To raise up the people of the earth in solidarity
To reveal the Pravda and the true Put
To see the people of Ukraine delivered from evil
Once more able to live Zhizn openly and spontaneously
Not cautiously and warily.

Pray for the peace of Ukraine
Prosperity to all you Ukraine lovers
Friendly insiders, get along!
Hostile outsiders, keep your distance!
For the sake of my family and friends,
I say it again: live in peace!

(The last section is From The Message translation of Psalm 122 in the Jewish Scriptures)


faith · Grace · Poetry · Storytelling · suffering · Truth

Full Of Wonder And Mystery

I’ve just started reading Marilynne Robinson’s book – ‘Lila.’ Set in the town of Gilead in Iowa, it has the feel of other novels I’ve read recently. (The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, and Devisadero by Michael Ondaatje). All of the books are written with the skill of a story teller and the language of a poet.

As someone who believes in the grace of God that surrounds and covers us, I was struck by these words, spoken by her pastor husband.

…. No. No, it isn’t. I think you are asking me these questions because of some hard things that have happened, the things you won’t talk about. If you did tell me about them, I could probably not say more than that life is a very deep mystery, and that finally the grace of God is all that can resolve it. And the grace of God is also a very deep mystery.” He said, “You can probably tell I’ve said these same words too many times. But they’re true, I believe.” He shrugged, and watched his finger trace the scar on the table.

Grace and peace.

Bible · faith · Political · Truth

You Show Me Your Truth

This morning, I read these words from Jeremiah chapter 5: (The speaker is Yahweh, Israel’s God).

”An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land:
the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own authority; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?”

Truth has been front and centre in the news for a while now. The Trump era brought us face to face with the damage that lies cause in the public sphere. We’re surrounded by conspiracy theorists, and one in particular in the last week.

Musician Neil Young decided to take his music down from Spotify in response to vaccine misinformation on the Joe Rogan podcast. “It’s either me or Joe Rogan.” In the end Spotify seem to be sticking with Joe Rogan, and Neil Young kept his promise and his music is being taken down. (He’s just been followed by Joni Mitchell)

I’m disappointed that Spotify are allowing, and implicitly encouraging this kind of content, and we’ve just cancelled our Spotify account in solidarity.

I know that these are not simply black and white issues, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

Once more, it is the importance of truth that is under discussion, with not only podcasters but politicians very much under the microscope.

It seems that many people love a conspiracy theory. Maybe it’s something to do with the way that the usual authority figures have often let us down and are viewed as no longer trustworthy. I wonder where it will end ?

Maybe the words of the prophet Jeremiah, (slightly amended) from 2500 years ago ring true:
An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: politicians, podcasters and others have spoken falsely with their misinformation and outright lies; one consequence of this is that even some of our leaders think they can do what they like, and lie to cover up their mistakes as they rule by their own authority. Sadly, many people are attracted by lies and love to have it so. I wonder what will happen next ?