The resurrection renews the world. It opens it and keeps it open and it makes it new so that it is a new world. The resurrection has transformed the world in which we live. Of course it is not until we are baptised that we begin to learn this, and through years of discipleship begin to grasp the dimensions of this transformation. The pagans – that is, anyone untouched by the gospel – live in a closed world, in which every man must fear that a gain for his neighbour is a loss for himself. They are locked in and set one against another in unending conflict. This was the world of our ancestors, until the gospel arrived. The gospel told them that God has broken through into this world, has made himself at home in it, and comes and goes in and out of our sight, beyond our control and beyond our ability to summons him or deny him. He is Lord of time and space. Every barrier and confinement we meet opens before him to let him enter. Though solid to us all, creation is porous to him. The master comes goes as he please. The elements of the world divide to his right and left and bow before him as he passes. No time or place confines or contains him. All places and times are the places that he creates and opens to us, so that we may meet and encounter one another and live together there. All places are his hospitality to us. As this realisation sunk into our pagan forebears they learned a much more benign and tolerant attitude to one another, the mighty to the weak, and they ceased to fear one another, learned to trust those with whom they had no ties of blood, and so learned to live together in much greater units. They gave up living in tribes that were committed to aggrandisement through war, and became a nation, a community of people under one law.
‘Behold the wood of the cross,’ we say on Good Friday. ‘Touch wood,’ we say on any day of the year, reaching out for the nearest piece of wood as an extension of the wood of the cross. When we cross our fingers it is a sign of the cross we are making.
The cross is a tree. This tree represents the union of God and man in Christ, and the history that creates this union, and the gospel that reveals this history.
The cross is a representation of the figure of a man with his arms extended upwards. Moses held up his arms until the battle against the Amalekites was won and Israel was saved (Exodus 17.11.-12) in battle. ‘He opened wide his arms for us on the cross.’ His arms are up in welcome and to give us his protection. The Lord extends his arms out in order to save us and give us his shelter. He extends his covenant to include us, so we are covered and protected. He holds out his arms as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and as the Holy Spirit gives us his protection, portrayed in our West window as the dove with outstretched wings.
The Lord opens wide his arms for us also on occasions when his arms are not mentioned. In the Transfiguration on the mountain the disciples see the Lord radiant with glory, with Elijah on one side and Moses on the other. Peter wants to recognise their dignity by setting up awnings to give them some shade. By his reply the Lord indicates that it is he who gives Peter and the Disciples shelter. The Lord is our covering (kippur), the covenant and the atonement that keep us safe. He raises his arms so that we can all come in under his coat. Moses and Elijah, the prophets and the law, are two wings of this shelter. Elijah stands on one side of Jesus, Moses on the other, so that the three of them form a triptych, in which Elijah and Moses reflect different aspects of Christ, so that we can see better who Christ is because we can see these two aspects of his identity in these two other figures. The elements are no threat to the Lord, for they are simply his obedient servants. But the Lord gives us our shelter not so much from the elements, but from some of the worst consequences of the disorder in creation that result from our failure to rule it well. The Lord gives us shelter. He gives us a place to be. That place is with him. He is that place. Continue reading “Good Friday – The Tree of the Cross”
Prayers for Here and Now Morning Prayer, Midday Prayer and Evensong in two minutes
Here are short versions of the daily prayers said in this church. You can read them and pray them out loud here and now. When you do this you will be keeping company with all the Christians and saints who have said these same prayers here for many centuries. When you pray here, you pray with them and become part of their good company. When you pray you are also speaking for all your contemporaries, saying for them those things which they are not able to say for themselves.
If there are two or more of you, one of you can read the first line (in plain type) and the other reads the second line (in italic) and then read alternate lines. A prayer in italics can be read by both (or all) of you together.
Morning Prayer can be read anytime in the morning. Midday Prayer can be read any time between 11am and 3pm. Evensong can be read any time after 3pm.
Each set starts with two psalms and a canticle, which are followed by prayers. You can add your own prayers, in silence if you like, or you could say any of prayers set for the days of the week (Intercessions for Here and Now).
Read slowly. Each sentence, and each full stop, has its own moment. Imagine you are walking along with a small child in one hand and someone much older than yourself in the other. Read at their pace so they can take in what they are hearing.
Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them
I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth (Psalm 34.1).
I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee (Psalm 22.22).
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God Col 3.16)
Lord, by your mercy reveal to us your gospel. Save us from the power of all untruths and release us from all that separates us from you.
O Lord let thy mercy lighten upon us
And grant us thy salvation
1. Lord, give us the grace you gave to all other generations of Christians. Let us proclaim your gospel with them and join our voices to theirs in your worship.
We tell you the good news
God has made Jesus, whom we crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2.36)
What God promised to our fathers
He has fulfilled for us by raising up Jesus (Acts 13.32-33)
We crucified him
But God raised from the dead (Acts 4.10)
We were buried with him through baptism
So that just as Christ was raised from the dead we will be raised too (Romans 6.4)
The Christ who descended
Is the same Christ who ascended above all heavens to fill the entire universe (Eph 4.10)
There is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved
Thou only, O Christ, art most high in the glory of God the Father
2018 is Year B in the Revised Common Lectionary. Year B is the year of the Gospel of Mark, interrupted and supplemented by the Gospel of John. Although the Church of England introduces its own idiosyncratic variations and so does not always follow the RCL, this is the Lectionary of the Church of England. Here are some notes on themes that arise from the four sets of readings for each month. I have missed Advent, so I’ll start with January and Epiphany.
Epiphany of the Lord January 6, 2018
Isaiah 60:1-6 Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 Ephesians 3:1-12 Matthew 2:1-12
When they saw that the star had stopped they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother and they knelt down and paid him homage.
Baptism of the Lord January 7, 2018 First Sunday after the Epiphany
Genesis 1:1-5 Psalm 29 Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11 When Jesus had been baptised he came up from the water. Suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God (and thus the army of the Lord, moving up and down the road) descending like a dove. ‘This is my Son, the beloved’. The first reading is Genesis 1 – the Spirit of God hovered over the waters. (The RCL gives us ‘a wind from God swept over the face of the waters’). The psalm is psalm 29 – ‘The Lord sits enthroned above the flood… The voice of the Lord is upon the waters’. The waters are those forces of creation that sometimes become unruly. When they surge up wildly and threaten us, a word from the Lord subdues them and they become peaceful again. The promise of the Lord is that they will never again threaten creation. Yet the unruliness of man, and hid failure to act as good lieutenant does result in creation becoming violent and chaotic.
Second Sunday after the Epiphany January 14, 2018
1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20) Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51 You will see greater things you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man
Third Sunday after the Epiphany January 21, 2018
Jonah 3:1-5, 10 Psalm 62:5-12 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 (RCL) Mark 1:14-20)
John 2.1-11 Wedding at Cana
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany January 28, 2018
Deuteronomy 18:15-20 Psalm 111 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Mark 1:21-28 In the synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. What have you to so with us, have you come to destroy us? It threw him into convulsions and crying with loud voice, came out of him… Who is this who commands even unclean spirits?
Candlemas – Presentation of the Lord in the Temple February 2, 2018
Malachi 3:1-4 Psalm 84 or Psalm 24:7-10 Hebrews 2:14-18
Luke 2:22-40 Simeon and Anna
Epiphany means ‘revelation’. The revelation of the Lord goes on through the year. It starts at Advent at the beginning of the Church year, and then when the Lord appears at his nativity, in the manger in the stable. But first Epiphany is the moment when the Wise Men come to do him homage and so reveal his royal identity to us. This child is our King. The Epiphany continues in his presentation in the temple at Candlemas (2 Feb), and again when (in Luke 2) when the twelve year old boy is taken up to the temple for Passover, and is found among the teachers of the law are gathered around while the young Jesus is sitting in the middle.
The Lord is recognised, brought to the front and lifted up with his parents, by those waiting for him in the temple. Every Christian service is a presentation of our work before the Lord and before the world. There the Lord, and everyone else, will see it for what it is. There is a presentation in the temple, and it us who are being presented. Christ presents us to his Father, and the Father receives us from him. And we also lift each other up and present one another to the Lord. This is part of the process of our sanctification, and will be its climax too.
The Revelation – epiphany – of the Lord continues every Sunday when the Gospel is read. The Lord reveals himself, instalment by instalment. From Pentecost the Lord prepares and reveals his Body through the ministry of the Apostles and on through all subsequent generations of the Church, down to us. The Epiphany continues through the ministry and increasingly through the passion of the Lord which we follow in Lent. It makes itself bright for a moment in the Transfiguration which we read in Lent and again in the summer. All these scenes appear because people cluster round the Lord, so we see the Lord at the centre and all the others, the Marys, the disciples, the sick, the teachers of the law, around him. As they look at him, they frame him for us, so we can identify him. Some of these scenes are displayed in the images in our church windows. We see the Lord at the centre in the last supper and the disciples around him. All these are epiphanies. All these people, though they did not intend to, reveal the identity of the Lord – even Judas and Herod and Pilate, even the two thieves on crosses on either side, and the guards on duty outside the tomb. When the stone is rolled back, and Jesus is gone, yet there are two angels sitting at either end of the tomb, framing the place that could not contain him.
Where we see the Lord, we usually see three figures. We see the Lord and we see a figure on his right and on his left, looking inwards towards him. Their job is to frame the Lord, so we can see who he is. They are there for our benefit. There may be groups of witnesses framing him: the nativity scene fills up with Mary and Joseph, animals, shepherds, angels and kings, all looking in towards the Lord, leading our eyes inwards so that our gaze comes at last to him. They do this for us. And we do this for others. We stand on one side or the other, gazing and adoring, so that our orientation draws other people in to see Jesus and to realise who he is. We are witnesses because we frame the view with our bodies, and draw people toward him with our voices and songs. We do this whenever we worship together in church. But this becomes obvious, when we take that worship out with us into our public spaces, and stand before the Lord, by our bodies drawing the gaze of the world. We draw their gaze away from the grotesque spectacles displayed on screens and in shops, and towards the true spectacle, the true scene, the epiphany of the Lord with his people.
We are the body of Christ, and as Christ’s body, we are the present form of the revelation of the Lord. He shows us to them, in the hope that they will join us and become members of this body, and so become the Lord’s epiphany to the world. We are the body of Christ. We are the first instalment, the dark, still dirty, body but nonetheless the body that will be glorious, and is now being made glorified through all these confrontations and suffering.
The Epiphany we see before us
Anyone who comes into a church should be able to see the cross straightaway. The cross should always be in front of us when we worship the Lord, because it is the basic identifier of which lord it is that we are worshipping. We worship the Lord who was crucified. With this sign we indicate that we worship this Lord because, though he allowed us to do our utmost against him, we have not been able to break his commitment to us. We see the altar or table on which the bread and cup are set at Eucharist, and which have candles on either side of them. We should see may only see the screen on which the words of our worship songs are displayed. But at various times of the year we see a prepared scene. At Christmas we see the nativity scene of the stable, with the figures of the status, working in from the outside, we see, angels, ox and ass, and shepherds and a lamb, Joseph and Mary and at the centre the infant Jesus. But at various points of the year we also take these scenes outside with us so they become visible to our fellow townspeople. We take the nativity scene of stable and manger out into our town centre in the days running up to Christmas, and then take out the Wise men so it becomes the Epiphany scene. In the same way in Holy Week we will follow the stations of the cross, in church or in some public space, and so we follow the steps of the Lord’s passion publicly, so anyone in our town can see and follow too. At Easter itself we may set up some form of Easter garden, which will frame the cross and the tomb before which the action takes place. This passion and crucifixion are all signs and demonstrations that he is a king, and is our King, and they are demonstrations that we cannot break his power, that he will exercise his power for us, for our salvation, in order to make us his, so that we may be the people of his kingdom.
O Lord open thou our lips – And our mouths shall shew forth thy praise
O God make speed to save us – O Lord make haste to help us
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end amen
Praise Ye the Lord – The Lord’s name be praised.
For many centuries, Christians have prayed in this place, for themselves, for their neighbours and for the world, and they have stood here as a witness to this city and to the whole nation. As long as Christians have done this, the country has prospered and been at peace. So we meet here under the eyes of the saints of this cathedral and hope to pass on the whole blessing of the gospel to our nation. As long as we remain faithful, this country will continue to prosper and be at peace.
At this time of year, at Lent, we prepare to follow the passion of our Lord. During this fast we take up the discipline of prayer and penitence. We intercede and we repent. With the words of God we speak to the world, and with the prayers of the world we speak to God. We say whatever should have been said, but has not been, and we repent on behalf of all those so caught in sin that they are not yet able to repent for themselves. We speak for them as well as for ourselves.
We pray in particular for our public servants. We pray that God would give them confidence in their office and in the authority given to them to carry it out. We pray that they would uphold the law, and protect the nation from all attempts to impose other laws and ideologies. We pray that they will uphold the law and perform their office with a respect and affection for the whole people of this country, not despising any, but working truly for the common good.
In the Eucharist we come into the presence of the Lord and all his redeemed creatures.
In the Eucharist God comes to us, to mankind. Heaven comes down to earth, and the two are joined. This reveals us that the world is God’s good place for us and that is it is being redeemed, and that it is not a mistake and will not be abandoned. The limits of our material world now open to reveal the beginning of a creation, in which earth is in permanent relationship with heaven, and always being renewed from it. Our prayers rise up to reach heaven, and the servants of God come down to us, bringing all the good gifts of the Spirit to make us holy.
In Christ’s presence we are free. Our confinement is over and there is no one telling us to be quiet. We can be thankful and joyful and we can sing, and do so with people who share the same joy and who sing with us, ‘with one accord’. We sing ‘Thou only, O Christ, art most high in the glory of God the Father…’ In other words, there is only one Lord. Though there are many masters and authorities, they are all pretenders. In worshipping Christ we reject the claims of all the power-mongers and ‘gods’ of the present. This worship tells the truth, liberates us from falsehood, and this is a huge relief. Continue reading “Eucharist – What does taking part in the Eucharist mean to me?”
The task of the Church of England is to proclaim the Gospel, now and always.
Christians are blessed. We have been made happy, and we are glad to share this happiness. It would be strange if we did not do so. We simply pass on what we ourselves have received, from the Lord. We have been searched for, found, rescued and forgiven; now we may also go searching for, and offer forgiveness to, anyone we encounter. The Lord has commanded us to do so.
God loves us. We are loved and empowered to love and to enable one another to flourish in God’s love. The Christian community is the communion of love, sourced and refreshed by God’s love for us. This love enables all our relationships with friends and opponents, and enables our love to endure through all difficulties. Continue reading “Mission – What is the mission task facing the Church of England?”
Let us start with ‘vocation’. Who calls, and who is called? The Lord calls. He calls us. Along with all creation, he calls us into existence, and we have our existence just because God calls us. The Lord calls man, and in calling him, gives him his life. He calls each of us, and calls us to life with him and in communion with all others. The Lord continues to call until, at last, we hear and respond. As we hear and reply, we discover how to live well, and live well together. Not to hear the call of God, to confuse it with the voices of other powers with their political demands, is to live against the grain of creation and so to create difficulties not otherwise there. But we may reply to God’s call, and do so with thankfulness, with curiosity, and with our own demands. Having heard him, we may respond to him and make our requests and the Lord hears our call and receives our prayers and thanksgiving. The Son has heard the call of the Father, and made our reply to him, and so in Christ the conversation between God and man is underway. Continue reading “Vocation – What is the calling of a priest in the Church of England today?”
The Church follows the Lord on a public year-long pilgrimage through the fasts and feasts of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost and Trinity.
The Church is the body of Christ passing through the world. When people see us processing through our town centres they are able to acknowledge that it is our Christian witness that we are bringing them. Christian worship is a public demonstration that God brings all contraries together, and puts them face-to-face in reconciliation, and side-by-side in fellowship. The world that looks on can see this meeting and, if it wishes, recognise this reconciliation and decide that it wants to become part of it.
In some seasons the church is a large and noisy demonstration passing through a crowded town centre. During the feasts of the Church year we are celebrating and on carnival. The world will part on each side to let us through and some will join us as we go. We bless the world by greeting everyone as Christ’s future people. We greet them as examples of Christ’s body rejected, lost and forlorn, and we greet them as future members of his body redeemed, restored and made joyful.
At other times, during the fasts, we are on a demonstration of our public repentance and remorse. We are going out into neighbourhood and nation to bring them comfort and to repent for not having brought that comfort to them sooner. In our public processions we sing and bless. We sing psalms and hymns in alternation. We pray and intercede, kneeling together and keeping silence for long moments. So the form of our progress is simultaneously the way of the resurrection and glory, and the way of the cross and shame. As we go, the cross alternates with the glory, so at any one moment we are either repentant or joyful. Continue reading “Intro to The Christian Year – Around the year, through the Lectionary”