Hymn of the day

by Richard on May 11, 2014

Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim,
And publish abroad His wonderful Name;
The Name all victorious of Jesus extol,
His kingdom is glorious and rules over all.

God ruleth on high, almighty to save,
And still He is nigh, His presence we have;
The great congregation His triumph shall sing,
Ascribing salvation to Jesus, our King.

‘Salvation to God, who sits on the throne’
Let all cry aloud and honour the Son;
The praises of Jesus the angels proclaim,
Fall down on their faces and worship the Lamb.

Then let us adore and give Him His right,
All glory and power, all wisdom and might;
All honour and blessing with angels above,
And thanks never ceasing and infinite love.

Charles Wesley

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Matthew 5:38-48 (NRA)

by Kim on May 6, 2014

You have heard it said I said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy,” but I say to you I was misquoted, and the guy who misquoted me ought to have his eyes and teeth extracted. No, I say to you: Do not resist an evildoer, invite him home, give him a beer, then get the baseball bat. And if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, take a moment to recover, then break his whole face. And if anyone wants to sue you, tell him he’s a goddam litigious bastard, but if that’s the way he wants it, you’ll see him in court. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, tell him you forgot your keys, he’ll have to take a cab. To everyone who begs from you, tell them, no, sorry, they’ll only use it on drugs; and to anyone who wants to borrow from you, snottily tell him what Polonius said to Hamlet.

You have heard it said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy” — no doubt by a Bible-believing Christian. But I say to you: Love your enemies … Ha, had you there for a moment, didn’t I? No, agreed: loving your enemies is for wimps, women, and the weaponless. Pray for those who persecute you – to go to hell with Bell; and don’t get mad, get even — better still, get both — so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he makes his sun shine on the good, sends rain on the righteous, and contrives extreme weather events for liberals, feminists and homosexuals (some collateral damage, yes; climate change, no). For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? The knowledge that you embrace family values and endorse white skin privilege, that’s what. And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Bupkis. But why should you give a crap? You want to be different? Go to France! USA — love it or leave it! Be perfect, as the Founding Fathers were perfect — especially that kill shot called the Second Amendment.

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The bright side of answered prayer

by Kim on May 6, 2014

A letter of mine published today (6 May) in the UK newspaper the i.

Sir:

Ron Gellért-Binnie is right: if God answered our prayers and healed the sick, there would undoubtedly be job losses (letter, 5 May).

Even more job losses if God answered our prayers and ended all war. But hey, look on the bright side: at least the pharmaceutical companies and arms industry would be well and truly shafted. Inscrutable is the Lord - and wonderfully Pythonesque.

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Hymn of the day

by Richard on May 4, 2014

O Thou who this mysterious bread
didst in Emmaus break,
return, herewith our souls to feed
and to thy followers speak.

Unseal the volume of thy grace,
apply the gospel word;
open our eyes to see thy face,
our hearts to know the Lord.

Of thee communing still, we mourn
till thou the veil remove;
talk with us, and our hearts shall burn
with flames of fervent love.

Enkindle now the heavenly zeal,
and make thy mercy known,
and give our pardoned souls to feel
that God and love are one.

Charles Wesley

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Easter message

by Richard on April 21, 2014

A poem by my friend Howard Ingham

You led me to believe it was all about dying.
You never told me life was involved,
Thanks to the binds you were so set on tying.
You led me to believe it was all about dying -
You were lying. I plan on applying
These principles until the issue is resolved.
You led me to believe it was all about dying;
You never told me life was involved.

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From the far star points of his pinned extremities,
cold inched in — black ice and squid ink–
till the hung flesh was empty. Lonely in that void
even for pain, he missed his splintered feet,
the human stare buried in his face.
He ached for two hands made of meat
he could reach to the end of.
In the corpse’s core, the stone fist of his heart

began to bang on the stiff chest’s door,
and breath spilled back into that battered shape. Now
it’s your limbs he longs to flow into –
from the sunflower center in your chest
outward — as warm water
shatters at birth, rivering every way.

Mary Karr, Sinners Welcome (New York: Harper Perennial, 2006), p. 61.

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“Easter” by Micheal O’Siadhail

by Kim on April 20, 2014

Dizzy with joy, the Easter morning
sun trembles in the heavens;
the tacky buds unclenched, release
the appropriate festschrift of leaves.

Unsuspected, in their microworld
tiny cells teem, crossplay,
rich networks of twisted rings
interlace, relate to the concord

of history rebegun. A starling mimics
Bravura, wood-pigeons whoop it up,
the orchestra purrs, tunes into
a master craftsman. Life da capo,

as riding our whirling earth-ship
we zip around the sun;
umpteen billion miles apart
stars both giant and dwarf

are suns that tug their planets,
constellate, take their partners
to dance the zillionhanded reel,
pinwheel outwards to eternity.

Glimpsing infinities of perfection,
awestruck, half-enlightened man
refracts the marvel, magnifies
an all-inclusive Easter thought.

Micheal O’Siadhail, Hail! Madam Jazz (Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1992), p. 48.

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Hymn of the day

by Richard on April 20, 2014

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

Charles Wesley

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Maybe He looked indeed
much as Rembrandt envisioned Him
in those small heads that seem in fact
portraits of more than a model.
A dark, still young, very intelligent face,
a soul-mirror gaze of deep understanding, unjudging.
That face, in extremis, would have clenched its teeth
in a grimace not shown in even the great crucifixions.
The burden of humanness (I begin to see) exacted from Him
that He taste also the humiliation of dread,
cold sweat of wanting to let the whole thing go,
like any mortal hero out of his depth,
like anyone who has taken a step too far
and wants herself back.
The painters, even the greatest, don’t show how,
in the midnight Garden,
or staggering uphill under the weight of the Cross,
He went through with even the human longing
to simply cease, to not be.
Not torture of body,
not the hideous betrayals humans commit
nor the faithless weakness of friends (not then, in agony’s grip)
was Incarnation’s heaviest weight,
but this sickened desire to renege,
to step back from what He, Who was God,
had promised Himself, and had entered
time and flesh to enact.
Sublime acceptance, to be absolute, had to have welled
up from those depths where purpose
drifted for mortal moments.

Denise Levertov, The Stream & Sapphire (New York: New Directions, 1997), pp. 73-74.

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To be crucified is first to lie down
on a shaved tree, and then to have oafs stretch you out
on a crossbar as if for flight, then thick spikes
fix you into place.

Once the cross pops up and the pole stob
sinks vertically in an earth hole, perhaps
at an awkward list, what then can you blame for hurt
but your own self’s burden?

You’re not the figurehead on a ship. You’re not
flying anywhere, and no one’s coming to hug you.
You hang like that, a sack of flesh with the hard
trinity of nails holding you into place.

Thus hung, your ribcage struggles up
to breathe until you suffocate. If God
permits this, one wonders if some less
than loving watcher

watches us. The man on the cross
under massed thunderheads feels
his soul leak away, then surge. Some wind
sucks him into the light stream

in the rent sky, and he’s snatched back, held close.

Mary Karr, Sinners Welcome (New York: Harper Perennial, 2006), p. 52.

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  • 900,000 needing to use foodbanks “should shock and anger us”
  • Figures “should lead Government to examine why the post-Welfare Reform benefits system allows so many people to go hungry.”

Leaders of the Methodist Church, Baptist Union of Great Britain and United Reformed Church have responded with concern to the latest figures from the Trussell Trust, released today.

“These figures should shock and anger us,” said Methodist President the Revd Ruth Gee. “Hunger should not and need not be a problem in a rich country like the UK – and yet clearly it is. We thank God for foodbanks, which provide a vital lifeline to people who would otherwise be forced to go hungry.

“Wherever I have travelled in my year as president I have asked the same two questions: do you have a foodbank here and have you seen increased need for it?

“Wherever I have travelled the answers to both questions have been ‘yes’ and I am not hearing about small increases in need; I am hearing about huge leaps in demand and foodbanks that are struggling to keep up.”

The Trussell Trust highlights static incomes, rising living costs, low pay, underemployment and problems with welfare, especially sanctioning, as significant drivers of the increased demand. Yesterday, the Department for Work and Pensions published research that shows that a third of families affected by the Benefit Cap have already had to cut spending on essential items such as food, while more than one in ten of these families have needed to borrow money to make ends meet – often from payday lenders.

“Over 900,000 people needing the help of a foodbank should lead the Government to examine why the post-Welfare Reform benefits system allows so many people to go hungry,” added the Revd Stephen Keyworth, Faith and Society Team Leader for the Baptist Union of Great Britain. “Churches and others are doing sterling work reaching out to help folk in need but this isn’t how it should be.

“It is a great a testimony that so many people have given up time and money to meet this need - it is a great tragedy that so many more families find themselves in such need.

“It is not credible to deny there are more people who are hungry – these figures should spur us on to address the important question of why there are more people hungry”.

The Revd Gee has written a blog on her experiences travelling the country and talking to churches that run foodbanks.

Last year the Churches, together with the Church of Scotland, published a report highlighting the myths about poverty in the UK today. One of the most destructive myths - fuelled by “shirker and striver” rhetoric - is that people who live in poverty are lazy and work shy.

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Cameron and Easter

by Kim on April 15, 2014

Here’s a letter I emailed to the British newspaper the i, printed yesterday (14 April):

I’m delighted and encouraged to hear that David Cameron has stressed the importance of explaining to young people the significance of Easter. Presumably that will include emphasising that, fundamentally, the resurrection was God’s vindication of Jesus of Nazareth, the northern radical executed in the southern capital for his relentless attack on the wealth, power, and hypocrisy of the political and religious establishment.

Revd. Kim Fabricius
Swansea

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The Coming

And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look, he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows: a bright
Serpent, a river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.
On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. Many people
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.

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Hymn of the day

by Richard on April 13, 2014

Jesus comes with all his grace,
Comes to save a fallen race,
Object of our glorious hope,
Jesus comes to lift us up!
Alleluia!

Let the living stones cry out!
Let the sons of Abraham shout!
Praise we all our lowly King,
Give him thanks, rejoice, and sing!
Alleluia!

He hath our salvation wrought,
He our captive souls hath bought,
He hath reconciled to God,
He hath washed us in his blood.
Alleluia!

We are now his lawful right,
Walk as children of the light;
We shall soon obtain the grace,
Pure in heart, to see his face.
Alleluia!

We shall gain our calling’s prize;
After God we all shall rise,
Filled with joy, and love, and peace,
Perfected in holiness.
Alleluia!

Charles Wesley

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The folk song of the church

by Richard on April 9, 2014

John Bell on the value of traditional tunes in worship

Performance songs, whether they be from Handel’s Messiah or the latest album of a Christian rock-star were not primarily written for congregational purposes. But hymns have been and should always be intended for corporate use, enabling the people of God to sing their faith and praise their Maker, irrespective of their musical pedigree.

For as long as there have been hymns, there have been sacred texts set to folk tunes. Indeed it is possible that some of the psalms may have been given voice thanks to ancient Jewish folk melodies. Purists who believe that good church music ended when Bach died in 1750 are often oblivious to the fact that some of the Lutheran tunes which he so gloriously harmonised had their origins in city taverns or rural ceilidhs. Such elitists also forget that the glorious English hymn tune Helmsley (Lo! He comes in clouds descending) started life as a sea shanty; and that Vaughan Williams, the most English of composers, delighted in bringing English folk melodies out of near oblivion into the singing of the church.

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Hymn of the day

by Richard on April 6, 2014

Captain of Israel’s host, and Guide
Of all who seek the land above,
Beneath Thy shadow we abide,
The cloud of Thy protecting love;
Our strength, Thy grace; our rule, Thy Word;
Our end, the glory of the Lord.

By Thine unerring Spirit led,
We shall not in the desert stray;
We shall not full direction need
Nor miss our providential way;
As far from danger as from fear,
While Love, almighty Love, is near.

Charles Wesley

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LORD, with what bountie and rare clemencie
Hast thou redeem’d us from the grave!
If thou hadst let us runne,
Gladly had man ador’d the sunne,
And thought his god most brave,
Where now we shall be better gods than he.

Thou hast but two rare cabinets full of treasure,
The Trinitie and Incarnation:
Thou hast unlockt them both,
And made them jewels to betroth
The work of Thy creation
Unto Thyself in everlasting pleasure.

The statelier cabinet is the Trinitie,
Whose sparkling light access denies:
Therefore Thou dost not show
This fully to us till death blow
The dust into our eyes;
For by that powder Thou wilt make us see.

But all Thy sweets are packt up in the other;
Thy mercies thither flock and flow,
That, as the first affrights,
This may allure us with delights;
Because this box we know,
For we have all of us just such another.

But man is close, reserv’d, and dark to Thee;
When Thou demandest but a heart,
He cavils instantly:
In his poore cabinet of bone
Sinnes have their box apart,
Defrauding Thee, Who gavest two for one.

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Proof-texting still has its defenders

by Richard on April 2, 2014

Ministry Matters blog claims They were wrong when they told you not to proof text. Given the date it was posted, my first thought was that this was an April Fool, but it doesn’t read that way

Seminary professors often ridicule proof-texting as arbitrary, implying that it is illogical, uncontrolled, individualistic. But this is false. Christians who “proof-text” are typically putting a verse of Scripture in a wider context than a historical critic ever does: the context of Jesus Christ, true God and true man. “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16-17 NASB). “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (Jn. 1:3 NASB). Jesus Christ, and his saving work, is the widest and deepest possible context in which any verse of Scripture could ever be placed. It is also the best context: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16 NASB).

The person and work of Jesus Christ himself norms good proof-texting, which is how Christians and churches usually proof-text. And they should. Such Christ-normed proof-texting serves a soteriological interest, and every such citation fits within an implicit (if not explicit) systematic theology—the Christian one.

If you’re tempted by this line of reasoning, stop and read that final sentence again. “…every such citation fits within an implicit (if not explicit) systematic theology—the Christian one” THE Christian one? Is there really only one Christian theology?

That’s what I thought.

Meanwhile, Ben Irwin puts the opposing case simply but comprehensively.

…the Twitterized Bible often leads us down the wrong path because it reinforces an artificial structure on the text. (It’s not like the Bible originally came with all those verse numbers.)

But there’s an even more damaging effect. If I’m free to ignore the larger context, then it becomes easier to read the Bible like a narcissist. Suddenly, Jeremiah 29:11 is all about me, not some long dead exiles in Babylon. Philippians 4:13 is about my personal achievements, not the hope that sustained Paul in a dank prison cell.

The thing is, the Bible is not all about me. It wasn’t even written to me. And ironically, if I’m going to get whatever it has for me, I need to start reading it with that in mind.

Two days ago I wouldn’t have thought it necessary. Now I’m not so sure.

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US Scouts Boot Openly Gay Troop Leader

by Richard on April 1, 2014

From NBC News

The Boy Scouts of America on Monday banned an openly gay Scoutmaster from the organization, saying its national policy barred gay adults from membership.

Geoff McGrath, 49, leader of Troop 98 in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood, is believed to be the first gay adult to be booted from the Boy Scouts of America since it held a controversial ballot last May allowing gay youth—but not adults—to participate in one of the country’s most popular youth organizations. The Scouts had severed ties with gay adults in previous years, before the vote to admit gay youth, but McGrath, an Eagle Scout, had been hoping for a different response in this new era of Scouting.

“It’s extremely disappointing to not be fully supported and defended in my membership,” McGrath told NBC News. “They are complaining that the problem [his status as an openly gay man] is a distraction to Scouting and they don’t seem to understand that the distraction is self-inflicted.”

The BSA confirmed that the organization has “revoked” McGrath’s membership.

“Our policy is that we do not ask people about their sexual orientation, and it’s not an issue until they deliberately inject it into Scouting in an inappropriate fashion,” BSA spokesman Deron Smith said in an email. Until NBC’s inquiry, “he [McGrath] hadn’t deliberately injected it into Scouting in an inappropriate fashion,” he wrote.

“We spoke with Mr. McGrath today and based on the information he provided, the National Council has revoked his registration,” Smith added.

Until Monday, McGrath believed himself to be the only openly gay Scoutmaster in the nation, having won approval last fall to run a troop despite the organization’s ban against gay adults. McGrath said he didn’t hide his sexual orientation from Scouting leaders, but Seattle’s top BSA official told NBC News that she never knew he was gay.

The NBC headline opens ‘Extremely Disappointing’, quoting the sacked Scout Leader, but this is surely an understatement. The decision is a disgrace, both to Scouting and to Methodism. Inclusion is in the DNA of both movements and this decision is a no less than a betrayal of that dual heritage. I’m delighted that the UMC is supporting Mr McGrath and hope that a way can be found for him to remain in Scouting, even if that means his troop dissociating from the BSA. Are there any other Scouting bodies in the USA?

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Faith in the dark

by Richard on March 31, 2014

A great reflection on the Creed from Ben Myers

I believe
Not I know. Not I think. Not I feel. Not I understand. But I believe. When I am in darkness, when I do not know the way, when every step is uncertain, I walk. I live not by what I know or feel but by a trust that proves itself only after each new step is safely taken.

In God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth
Not in magic or manipulation. Not in divine powers that I can wield for my own purposes. Not in heavenly voodoo. But in God, source of a light that is still hidden to me, source of a life towards which I grope with death hard at my heels, source of a joy that lies in waiting somewhere beneath or beyond or within this darkness.

And in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord
Not in an idea. Not in a philosophy. Not in a system of knowledge. Not in a doctrine (not even a true doctrine). But in one terrific Someone. In a person who inhabits not the world of books and ideas but the world of raw body and raw fact. Whom human eyes have seen and human hands have handled. Whose human face is the living icon of a Life whose face is hidden and whose mind is oceans deep.

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