Kyrie Prayers and the importance of memory

In churches like the one I go to, there’s always a prayer of confession – expressing regret and sorrow for our failings, both individually and corporately.  I’ve commented on this quite recently.

Usually there is a prayer that we say together, but sometimes we have what are called ‘Kyrie Confessions,’ where the congregation respond with the word ‘Lord have mercy’ to a sentence said by the leader.

I like to think of this form of prayer not so much as a confession of our wayward nature, but of God’s unfailing love.  So in my daily prayer, I often compose a Kyrie prayer based on my scripture readings for the day.

Today I was reading a part of psalm 90:

13Turn, O Lord! How long?
    Have compassion on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be manifest to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and prosper for us the work of our hands—
    O prosper the work of our hands!

So from that I arrived at this prayer:

Lord, have compassion on us
Lord, have mercy
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love
Christ, have mercy
Let your favour, O Lord our God, be upon us
Lord. have mercy.

Writing a prayer is a good way for me of allowing the words of holy scripture percolate into my whole being.  As I build up a personal library of prayers from different sources, and ones that I am writing myself, I am discovering how they can be drawn from memory the more I use them.

This works in church as well.  My habit with our regular Sunday morning worship is not to take a service booklet, because by now I know the words by heart.  That helps me to be able to close my eyes if I want to, or to open them and look at our stained glass window, and just be more aware of what’s going on.


Prisoner of Hope

I was struck by a phrase in one of the readings from the Bible in our church service today.

Zechariah chapter 9 verse 12 addresses God’s people as ‘prisoners of hope’

What a strange phrase.  Captive to hope.

What the world needs now is …. well yes, love sweet love … but sometimes more than that, we need hope. But often, hope is in short supply.  We don’t have the resources within ourselves to hope. 

For the person of faith in God, being a captive to hope means, I think, that we are bound to hope, whatever is happening.  It’s a precondition of our faith that somehow hope cannot be torn loose from whatever is being faced.  Somehow, faith hope and love are so tied together that like it or not, even believe it or not, we have got to have hope.

It’s what drives people to bring about change even when the odds are stacked against them.  It’s what made Martin Luther King Jr. able to say “So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”

Today, whatever you are facing, may you have hope in a change to come
And today, as a world in need of hope, may we see clearly and with joy that we are prisoners of hope.


Song for Today #17

Very moved watching this video of the man himself – my musical hero.

A fragile and flawed, sometimes broken, but so often beautiful human being who knows the meaning of love and mercy.

My three readings from Holy Scripture today – from the Psalms, First Kings and Matthew’s Gospel were all in some way about our prayers for Love and Mercy. (Or in the words that came to me today in my readings – Grace and Pardon, very much the same idea).

Our prayers also include Adoration, Praise and Thanksgiving to God, but much of the time we’re simply praying for Grace/Love and Pardon/Mercy.

Love/Grace is to do with all of God’s gifts, freely given to us.
Mercy/Pardon is to do with God’s covenant love that continues to be offered even when we turn from God.

I was sittin’ in a crummy movie
With my hands on my chin
All the violence that occurs
Seems like we never win

Love and mercy, that’s what you need tonight
So love and mercy to you and your friends tonight

I was lying in my room
And the news came on TV
A lotta people out there hurtin’
And it really scares me

Love and mercy, that’s what you need tonight
Love and mercy to you and your friends tonight

I was standing in a bar
And watching all the people there
Oh, the loneliness in this world
Well it’s just not fair

Hey, love and mercy, that’s what we need tonight
So love and mercy to you and your friends tonight
Love and mercy, that’s what you need tonight
Love and mercy tonight
Love and mercy tonight


Is This What God Wanted ?

I’m reading through the First book of Kings in the Old Testament.

Today, reading about the completion of Solomon’s temple.

The temple wasn’t Yahweh’s idea actually.  King David felt bad about lavishing so much on his own house while Yahweh didn’t have a house – just a box with some stone tablets.  So he proposed to Yahweh that he (David) build Yahweh a house.

Yahweh’s response was a cool one. He said “Thanks, but no thanks. But I’ll tell you what – I promise that your house (as in your family) will continue ruling Israel for as long as you walk in my ways.”

For God, it’s not about buildings, but people.  God doesn’t promise to be in a building, he promises to be with his people. (Exodus 3 verse 12 for starters).

Yahweh relented and allowed that David’s son, Solomon would build a house for Yahweh.

So God didn’t choose to build a temple, David did.
And God didn’t choose the location, David did.

And now it’s finished. And Solomon is praying a kind of prayer of dedication.  He makes sure to note that Yahweh is the God of heaven and earth, and not contained in a building, and yet the building’s magnificence seems to speak a different message.

When we think now about our churches, it’s actually not God’s house that we’re talking about, let’s be clear about that. The most we can say about a church building is that it is the ‘House of the People of God.’ (a vicar and writer called Richard Giles said that)

a Church building is not something we should be especially attached to, after all God isn’t – he’s attached to us, and wants us to be attached to him and to others.

Maybe we in the Northern hemisphere have a particular problem.  It’s cold a lot of the time, and we like being warm and cosy in our homes, shut off from the rest of the world.  So maybe that leaches into our church life and we prefer the comfort of a church building to being out in the world.

This is especially relevant at the moment as we are SO keen apparently to get back into our buildings.  It almost seems like that’s more important than getting to see each other in the same physical space ?

Maybe we could keep all our buildings closed until we no longer hanker after being back inside, and until we find ways of being with each other that transcend the holy hour on a Sunday.


Song for Today #16

The Lord’s Prayer

Years ago, my good friend Adrian gave me the sheet music for a sung setting of the Lord’s Prayer that was used in the worship at Cranmer Hall (Durham, England) when he was training for ordination.

It’s a beautiful arrangement, and there are many versions in Russian.

Here’s one, probably the source for the English version I have.

Sheet Music for the English version, pretty close to the above.


Planning for Failure

This post is really about planning for growth, but in reality we don’t know much about that – we’re much better at planning for failure.

“Our current system is perfectly designed to see the results we are currently achieving” (Alan Hirsch)

So if we want to see the church continue its steady decline into oblivion, we’re on the right track.

This blog post is interesting, saying similar things to what I’ve been posting about in the last couple of months:

What might church growth look like post-Christendom?

Three things at least are clear to me –

1.   For the church to groow, as I have already written several times, we must change our order of priorities from:

    Worship – Fellowship – Mission
    Mission – Community – Worship

2.   For the church to grow, the primary role of clergy (in my Anglican context) must be to empower lay leadership.

3.   For the church to grow, we must put discipleship at the heart of church life.

The discipleship model that I have been most influenced by is here

and here

And most recently, seeing this as a great resource for exploring Jesus’ teaching in a very non-religious way

Grace and Peace


When the Bridegroom Comes

One of my favourite albums is Heart Food by Judee Sill.

This song is based on the parable that Jesus told in Matthew 22.

The album version on Youtube, but sadly no live version of Judee Sill herself.

See the bride and the spirit are one

Then won’t you who are thirsty invite Him to come?
With your door opened wide
Won’t you listen in the dark for the midnight cry?
And see when your light is on that the bridegroom comes

Into cold outer darkness are gone
Guests who would not their own wedding garment put on
Though the chosen are few, won’t you tarry by your lamp till He calls for you?
And pray that your love endure ’til the bridegroom comes

When the halt and the lame meet the son
And He sees for the blind, and He speaks for the dumb
Let their poor heart’s complaint
Like the leper turned around who has kissed the saint
Lift like a trumpet shout, and the bridegroom come

See the builders despising the stone
See the pearl of great price and the dry desert bones
By the Pharisees cursed
Be exultant with the rose when the last are first
And see how his mercy shines, as the bridegroom comes

Hear the bride and the spirit say come
Then won’t you who are weary invite in the Son?
When your heart’s love is high
Won’t you hasten to the place where the hour is nigh?
And see that your light is on, for the bridegroom comes


What Do You want Most ?

This was the question that God spoke to Solomon in a dream.  (1 Kings 3).  It was early in Solomon’s reign, and he answered well. Wisdom.  The wisdom to listen, and to know who to listen to. (Unlike Eve in the Garden of Eden, who listened to the serpent, and then Adam who listened to Eve)

When Jesus asks Blind Bartimaeus the same question in the Gospel, Bartimaeus could have asked for some loose change, that would have been a good answer.  But he didn’t. He asked for his sight.  He was healed.

I remember back in 1984, I had a job interview.  I was a secondary school maths teacher, and having taught for 7 years, was looking for promotion.  The job was 200 miles away from where we lived in Kent, in North Yorkshire.  A different world. 

At the interview I was asked what quality I felt that I needed more than anything else for the post – second in the maths department.

My answer was ‘wisdom.’  I hadn’t thought about it, and it wasn’t a question I was expecting.  But that was the answer that came out of my mouth.  When I thought about afterwards, it did seem like an unusual answer.  I could have given so many other ‘good’ answers, but ‘wisdom’ was the answer I gave.  I got the job.

It’s a good question to ask oneself from time to time.  What do I want most ?  The answer will likely vary, depending on what’s going on at the time.

Acknowledgment for this post: 1 & 2 Kings for everyone, by John Goldingay in the ‘Old Testament for everyone’ series.


Open Churches again ?

There’a a verse in the psalms that says this … “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

It’s a verse that is quoted several times in the New Testament – for example by Jesus in Matthew 21. 

Jesus has just told a parable – a story that shows the way that religious leaders often miss what God is doing.  Jesus himself is the cornerstone, yet he is being rejected.  The very people who should be  most attentive to God don’t see it.  In Jesus’ case of course, this led to his death. 

If human nature is the same now as it was then, my guess is that religious leaders are still in danger of not seeing the big picture.

As churches, we are now in danger of being obsessed by the return to our church buildings.  It is starting to consume much of our thinking and energy.

One of the main things that the gospels show us is that God is not limited to buildings.  The Jews thought that the temple was THE place to meet with God.  Jesus showed them that God is out and about in the world, as he went around teaching and healing in homes and on hillsides.

This current situation is one to be treasured for giving us the opportunity to be a people that are not bound by buildings.  Let’s focus on ways to find God in everyday life.  To listen to what the wind of the Holy Spirit is saying to the church.

Grace and peace.

Tell it Like it is

I’m reading the first book of Kings in the Old Testament.

John Goldingay, my Old Testament teacher years ago, has written a little book to help us understand the Old Testament.  He prefers to call it the First Testament, because calling it old seems to relegate to the discard pile.

I read some words in the introduction that made me think of the current debate about statues of those who were involved in the salve trade.

John Goldingay writes this: “First and Secong Kings tell the story of Israel’s life from Solomon to the exile in such a fashion as to acknowledge the ways in which both nations (Israel and Judah) failed to follow after Yahweh, their God.  They invite the people who read the story to acknowledge that the story is true – not merely in the sense that the historical facts are correct, but in the sense that they accept responsibility for their wrongdoing over the generations. In effect the story is a kind of confession; it says, ‘Yes, this is the way we have lived as a people.’  The only possibility for a future for them is thus to face facts and to acknowledge these facts to God.  There is no way that they can undo those facts, or compel God to forgive them and give them a new start.  All they can do is to cast themselves on God’s mercy.”

The statues that are under debate were originally there to celebrate the lives of men (mostly men …) who had done great things.

We now see how those men were flawed, and the systems that they served were the cause of great injustices.  So, in a sense we have to rewrite history, or at least to retell those events of the past in the light of what we now hold dear.

And, now, in the present, for myself as a privileged white man, to confess to my shortcomings in not doing more to address racism.  We need to confess the things we have not done and said – our inaction, as well as explicitly racist words and actions.

Somehow, through all the tools that are available to us, we must do what the writers of those Old Testament books did – to say ‘Yes, this is the way we have lived as a people.’  There is no way that we can undo those facts, or compel black people to forgive us and give us a new start. All we can do is to cast ourselves on their mercy.”

Back in 2009, I wrote about an inititiative in the USA – ‘Come to the Table’  a project where the descendants of slave owners and the descendents of slaves come to the table and talk and listen about their past. 

The reaction of some people to history is to say ‘Get over it’.  But it is not as simple as that.  Even if the events are way in the past, there may still be unmet needs that, if not addressed, will prevent us all from moving on.