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Relationships with Faith

Luke 13:10-17 Prayers – Karen Stallard 

Gracious God

We give you thanks for this new day.

We give you thanks for the air that we breathe.

We give you thanks for our bodies and our minds.

We welcome you here, Spirit of life into this space, into this time.

 

As we come before you today we offer ourselves afresh to you.

Where we are stiff, loosen us up

Where we are knotted, untangle us

Where we are constricted, liberate us

Where we are crushed, rebuild us

Where we are broken, mend us

 

Gracious God

We give you thanks for our world.

We give you thanks for the beauty and the life we see around us.

We give you thanks for different cultures, nations, landscapes.

We welcome you here, Spirit of life into this space, into this time.

 

As we come before you today we offer our world to you afresh.

Where our world is inflexible, loosen it up

Where our world is bound by evil, break the chains

Where our world is oppressive, set the oppressed free

Where our world is destroyed, resurrect it.

Where our world is sick, heal it.

Amen

Responsive Prayers: Differing Sounds of Silence - Andrew Gardner, 23 September 2012

Gracious God,

Let us spend a few moments of thought, that as we have the freedom to worship together, we may also commune with You at any time. We pray for those who do not have this freedom, and live in fear of their faith being known, even in their own homes.

Lord, let Your Spirit sustain them.

Let us spend a few moments of thought, that today there are prisoners of conscience in many countries, who have done nothing other than disagree, and said so. It is right for us to question and challenge authority, whether religious or political. In Your creation You blessed us with possession of a conscience, and it is all too easy for us to close our eyes and ears, and minds, to those who have opened their mouths. We pray for those who are tortured in ways I hope nobody in this chapel can imagine. We pray that Your Spirit will be upon them, and help their own spirits not to be broken.

Lord, let Your Spirit sustain them.

Let us spend a few moments of thought for those who are unwell, perhaps through accident, perhaps through age. We pray that accident or illness will not dis-spirit them. Age begets wisdom, but also brings frailty, and we pray for Your blessing upon them at times we cannot be there as You are.

Lord, let Your Spirit sustain them.

Let us offer silent prayers for those most in our minds, and for those who have not been in our minds but should be. We consider the families tormented by the Hillsborough disaster almost a quarter of a century ago, who are only now being given the truth of what happened that day. Silently, in the presence of others of faith, we offer these prayers up to You.

Silent Prayers

Lord, let Your Spirit sustain them.

Readings from the Book of Proverbs this week and last led to thoughts of contemporary song writing by Simon and Garfunkel: "People talking without speaking / People hearing without listening / People writing songs that voices never share / And no one dared / Disturb the sound of silence.” Gracious God, we pray that we do not live in our faith in silence, and should never require silence from other faiths; that we may be open to understand the thoughts and texts of those we do not have to agree with. In a week of protests and violence around the world, we pray for those who devote themselves to encouraging diplomacy and harmony. Let them not be discouraged.

Lord, let Your Spirit sustain them.

Gracious God, may You bless our words with meaning, and help us to understand those of others.

AMEN


Reflection: "A Time to Leave" - Elizabeth Walker, 19 February 2012

Reading: 2 Kings 2 1-12 The Story of Elisha and Elijah, Faith and Relationships

Reflecting on what that might mean to us in our lives today.

Like Elijah, we all face those moments when we must move on. There is a period of transition when we contemplate leaving what is familiar and venture forth into new territory. We may feel reluctant to go, having fears and doubts, or we may want to move on quickly and feel frustration at having to go through tiresome preparations before our departure. We may feel the burden of responsibility for those we leave behind.

Our feelings are important as they are an indication of which tools we need in order to move on. Do we need courage, strength, patience? We might ask in prayer for the tools we need.

But when the time comes to leave, we honour the moment for as the sun sets,

it rises again for a new day. We give thanks.

Elisha – Being Left

Poor Elisha! How hard it is to be left behind, especially when there is such a hard act to follow.

Mostly we are happiest within our comfort zone, with those we love and trust around us. We see into our future and make plans and think we are in perfect control. Then change confronts us and all is in turmoil.

Being human means we are often prone to complicating our lives by thinking too much about all the ‘what ifs’? Am I able?

Elisha knew that Elijah was going to leave and tried to cling on to him, but the moment came, as it does.

Acceptance of what is, is faith. That we are as God made us, strengths and weaknesses and that within us is the ability to cope with what is placed before us.

The advice from Elijah was, ‘Keep your eyes open, be aware and I will pass on all you need to work your magic, but if you close your eyes, you will not get what you ask for.’

The tools we need are there for us but we do need to ask and we do need to keep our eyes open to what life has to offer.

Crossing the Jordon – passing on the mantle

The transition is important here because it shows that each of us, though on our own personal journey, is a part of a wider story involving others.

We cannot exist without impacting somehow on the world around us and with awareness what we leave behind is our legacy. Within our family, our job, our neighbourhood, our church, our presence is felt.

We must remember however that all is transient and it is of the moment.

Enjoy those things which are good and bear the hardships, then let go, for they are just one part of a journey. Whatever the moment, with all its importance, it too will pass.

We are given the mantle and, in time, we pass it on.

 

Responsive Prayer - Andrew Gardner

Gracious God,

We look with awe at the miracles described in scripture.
Moses led his people across the Sea of Reeds;
Elisha crossed the Jordan, not once but twice,
Dry under foot.
Small as we are, and little that we ask,
We find ourselves astonished by Your will.
Lord, let us be mindful of Your will and power.
 
The Israelites prayed for Kings and prophets,
Insecure as they were in their free will.
You provided words, and philosophy, and illustration
Of Your love.
Small as we are, and little that we ask,
We find ourselves astonished by scripture.
Lord, let us be mindful of Your will and mind.
 
Neglectful as today we often are
Of Your love, Your power, Your totality and grace,
Grant that we might share our words and thoughts,
In Your Name.
Small as we are, and little that we ask,
We find ourselves astonished by thoughts of You.
Lord, let us be mindful of Your will and love.
 
Gracious God,
Let Your blessings shine on those who today guide us.
Bless them as we ask for You to shine over them,
As we ask You to bless our wider friendship.
For those who may not be present today.
Bless those who are not present,
For they have not forgotten You,
As You will never forget them.
Lord, let us be mindful of Your will and care.
 
Bless us Lord, every one of us.
Bless our hopes, and guide us through our fears.

AMEN

 

Reflections - Karen Stallard, 25 November 2012

Finite versus infinite

Reading 1: 2 Samuel 23: 5 

Isn’t my royal family right with God?
    Hasn’t he made a covenant with me that will last forever?
    Every part of it was well prepared and made secure.
Won’t he save me completely?
    Won’t he give me everything I long for?

The words in 2 Samuel are written as an account of the last words of King David, whether or not king David actually said these words on his death bed we will never know, but what we do know is that these words would have been very carefully chosen. They reflect the most beloved of three Kings of Israel, King David’s life. It is a short speech but I am struck by verse 5.

Here we have a clear declaration that King David, on his death bed has something more to come, that there is a promise which stretches beyond the death of the King. A finite King has an eternal promise, a promise which brings salvation and fulfils desire.

Perhaps this life is full of unmet desires and longing, perhaps this life is about us never feeling thoroughly complete, or perhaps in order to feel thoroughly complete we need as human beings to have an everlasting hope.

Does the infinite exist? Does an everlasting covenant exist? No one really knows, but clearly our need for the infinite exists, our need for reassurance that we are held in an eternal promise.

The sceptics may sniff at the idea of an eternal God loving eternally, but perhaps us human beings do need to explore this realm of eternity, this idea of an everlasting promise particularly in a broken world which is full of broken promises.

I wonder how many dying words over the centuries have been like those of King David, expressing something of the hope of an everlasting covenant which will fulfil every desire even at the end of this life.

Where does your mind rest today - on the fact that things don't last forever or on the idea that there is an everlasting covenant.

Take a few moments to reflect....

Aloneness versus connectedness

Reading 2: Revelation 1: 8

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” says the Lord God. “I am the One who is, and who was, and who will come. I am the Mighty One.

We like to know where we have come from and who has gone before, we like to know where we are heading and who will follow us on.

We need parents to welcome us into the world and we long for children to leave in this world.

We like to come into a story which has already begun and we like it for the story to continue on after we have left.

The idea of Alpha and Omega gives us a sense of joining in something which has already started, but not only that, it gives us reassurance that there is someone around with us, teaching us of what has gone before and reassuring us that we will not be left alone in the future.

Getting a little older and not having children makes you aware of the fact that one day when I am very old I may be left on my own, and this fills me with fear: I really don’t think we are creatures which can stand isolation (which is why the isolation chambers in prisons are in my mind an abomination and the worst form of torture).

John is an old man when he writes Revelation and talks about God being the first and the last, the alpha and omega. The perfecter of the story, the one who has always been present, the one who has never come to an end. Perhaps when we are facing the end of our lives we too long to imagine one who has always been with us. 

Perhaps we do need to feel connected in this kind of way, perhaps that is why some are drawn to ancient things, to the rock of the earth, and to the eternal universe which stretches beyond our reach.

Where does your mind rest today - on the fact that you may be alone in this world, or on the hope that you are never alone as there has been a presence with you from the beginning, and who will remain with you till the very end?

Take a few moments to reflect....

Forgotten versus being remembered

Reading 3: Daniel 7: 9-10

As I watched,

thrones were set in place.
    The Eternal God took his seat.
His clothes were as white as snow.
    The hair on his head was white like wool.
His throne was blazing with fire.
    And flames were all around its wheels.
A river of fire was flowing.
    It was coming out from in front of God.
Thousands and thousands of angels served him.
    Millions of them stood in front of him.
The court was seated.
    And the books were opened.

Daniel is a book about Exile. It is a book about a people who have been dispersed, with no land, no identity, they are not even allowed to practice their cultural rituals without fear of being persecuted. Their identity is constantly under threat of being eradicated.

Daniel has dreams and visions, he dreams of empires rising up and then falling and he dreams of an Ancient God who has a book and remembers everything.

For many of us we desire to be remembered, some might dream of becoming famous, of having their name on a plaque or in a book, to be remembered for being remarkable in some way. Some just desire to be remembered by the people they love, we might imagine our own funerals and think about how people might remember us in our death.

Remembering and being remembered feels important, being forgotten seems to be a very sad thing. We enjoy stories where forgotten people are found, and we rejoice when we find something which has long been forgotten, dredging up memories which give life.

There is something about us human beings who need to remember, indeed we fear losing our memories and we fear others forgetting us. Alzheimer’s is a terribly cruel disease, it destroys memories of the sufferer and the loved ones are cruelly deprived of being remembered.

Daniel describes God as being Ancient, one who has been around for a very long time and who has a record of everything, it is a picture of knowledge and wisdom. A lost people will be remembered!

Where does your mind rest today? Do you long to be remembered, do you fear that your existence is so insignificant that you will not even leave a mark in the history books or in the minds of others? Or do you experience the joy of knowing you will be thought of, the security of knowing your identity will live on beyond your years in whatever way it can?

Take a few moments to reflect....

This world versus a better world

Reading 4: John 18: 33-39

Then Pilate went back inside the palace. He ordered Jesus to be brought to him. Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Is that your own idea?” Jesus asked. “Or did others talk to you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What have you done?”

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not part of this world. If it were, those who serve me would fight. They would try to keep the Jews from arresting me. My kingdom is from another place.”

“So you are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You are right to say I am a king. In fact, that’s the reason I was born. I came into the world to give witness to the truth. Everyone who is on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” Pilate asked.

Then Pilate went out again to the Jews. He said, “I find no basis for any charge against him. But it is your practice for me to set one prisoner free for you at Passover time. Do you want me to set ‘the king of the Jews’ free?”

Here we have Jesus at his most vulnerable, placed in front of a man who has the power to save him. Facing the injustice of being falsely accused, of being killed for upholding simple principles of love and justice, we listen to Jesus talking about being a king in another world (rather like a child in role play)

There are times in this world when we need another better world to exist, a heavenly realm where all will be well and all manner of things will be well.

The reality of this world is sometimes harsh and very upsetting, engaging with something other in these times seems to be a way in which we human beings can cope with some of the most horrendous things.

Over the centuries people have been comforted by the thought that there is another kingdom, one which is ruled by a God who is fair and just and true. The Narnia books are a wonderful allegorical example of this theological kingdom.

Should we believe in something which is not real, or proven to be real, an atheist may say no; I would like to suggest that we certainly should if that belief gives us life and hope when we most need it. After all, the great philosophers would question what is really real anyway!

I think that we all need that other world to dwell in, the question is which world will you choose, there are so many out there, or you could make up your own. Which one is right, which one is true?

What is truth? The great question which Pilate asks Jesus. Jesus speaks of himself being truth.

So finally, let me ask you?

Do you have another world in which you can imagine yourself, whole, complete and far away from the injustices of this world? Don’t despise this other world, we don’t know whether a world similar to this does exist or not, but what we do know is that sometimes we do need this other world. Jesus spoke of it, others speak of it, perhaps it offers us some sense of hope and freedom.

Where does your mind rest today? With Christ in a kingdom far from this earthly realm, or here in this place struggling with the reality of the brutality of life? Wherever you are truth can be found if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Take a few moments to reflect...

Blessing

And may you know the blessing of God in the midst of a troubling world. May you find the comfort of an everlasting love, the peace in knowing you are not alone, the joy of discovering you will be remembered and the hope that yes another better world does exist. 

Amen