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  • On Intercession

    Today I'm reading around my topic for Sunday, the last in our parables series, 'stories Jesus told about prayer.'  I saw these and they seemed worth sharing:

    Intercession is work for others.  It is an act of faith in God, his caring, his goodness.  It is involved in the mystery of God and the freedom of man (sic).  We intercede for others because of what we believe about God as loving Father, who works directly, but also through men and women, using their cooperation.  Intercession depends on th elife of faith, not on words.  We intercede with out whol being, opening a door for God, becomign channels, bringing people to God as Aaron did (Ex. 28.29).  We can do this by name in a list, on request, because we aware of need.  We can cover all persons and subjects.  Results are only sometimes known, and all intercessions implies: 'Not my will, but thine, be done.'

    Michael Hollings

    And on the difference between intercession (prayer for others) and petition (prayer for self)

    The distinction between petition and intercession - which is petition for others - is not always easy to draw.  But the two should be kept separate.  Petition concerns our straight course to God; intercession our placing of oursleves between him and the world.

    George Appleton

    Both from SCM A Dictionary of Christian Spirituality

    Taking the two together, then, intercession has a pontifical (bridge) or priestly function, which sits well with understandings of the 'priesthood of all believers' which is why it is so important in public worship.

  • Christian, Love Me More Than These

    There's an old hymn, technically I think a Sunday school hymn, which as been quietly excised from most contemporary hymnbooks:

    Jesus calls above the tumult
    of our life's wild, restless sea;
    day by day his voice re-echoes,
    saying, 'Christian, follow me!'

    As of old, apostles heard it
    by the Galilean lake,
    turned from home and toil and kindred,
    leaving all for his dear sake.

    Jesus calls us from the worship
    of the vain world's golden store,
    from each rival that would claim us,
    saying, 'Christian, love me more!'

    In our joys and in our sorrows,
    days of toil and hours of ease,
    still he calls, in cares and pleasures,
    'Christian, love me more than these!'

    Jesus calls us! By your mercies,
    Saviour, make us hear your call,
    give to you our heart's obedience,
    serve and love you best of all.

    Cecil F Alexander (1818-1895)

    I suspect this lovely hymn, with its clear echoes of John 21, is a bit too discomfiting for the average middle class western Christian who steadily acquires more and more material wealth.

    When I was leaving college, and preaching with a view for the second time (out of three before a church was kind/mad enough to call me) it was on John 21.  I recall lingering on the words of Jesus to Peter, 'do you love me more than these...?'  The Greek is neatly ambiguous, and most often is interpreted/heard as 'out these eleven men are you the one who loves me the most?'  But an equally valid, and I think more likely interpretation is 'do you love me more than these things... you boat, your home, your livelihood, your wealth, your family and friends...?'  It is a question that should leave us going 'ulp!'

    At this time of year new students are setting off to begin training as for pastoral ministry and for overseas mission.  Many of them have left well-paid careers, some have sold the homes (others are trapped by negative equity or a dead market), some move far away from family and friends and so on.  If they are Baptist ministerial students (or student ministers or whatever they call them these days) they go to college knowing there is no promise of a church at the end... following the call could, technically, leave them destitute.

    Following my call into ordained ministry has definitely been a voyage on a wild, restless, sea, but I have no doubt at all it was the right thing to have done.  Today, as others prepare to step into that boat, to embark on their own stormy journeys, my prayer is that they will know that Jesus is there with them - even if sometimes he's so busy sleeping on a cushion they need to give him a good shake!

  • Contrasts - Minister as Chameleon

    Yesterday I wore jeans and a teeshirt to lead worship, we made bread, we were very informal, and it was fun.

    Today I wore a black suit and a clerical shirt for a funeral, we sang lovely old hymns, we remembered and it was sobre.

    Each is part of the ministerial task and each is a privilege and, in its own way, a pleasure.

    I am sure I drive people nuts with the amount of faffing I do to make sure the place looks its best for a funeral, but I like it to be 'just so'

    I know some people really don't like the fact that a minister might lead worship in jeans and a teeshirt (though most are very generous about it on the rare occasioans when I do)

    Being a chameleon, blending with the surroundings, being part of what makes the experience safe and effective, this is an important part of ministry.  Perhaps the contrast is most stark when it is beween scruffs and a smart black suit, but it feels right to be able to do these things.  Can't help feeling the Apostle Paul might agree.

  • Yes But...

    Today's 6 a.m. news included this about the benefits of exercise in reducing the risk of recurrence of cancer.  It's very good and very fine but...

    • People who've had cancer treatment may not be able to slot into 'normal' exercise programme
    • People who've had lymph node clearance (for example) shouldn't be doing certain repetitive exercises
    • Lots of people aren't fortunate enough to be fit and well to start with, so it's a big thing

    I'm lucky, there are two pilot schemes running in Glasgow, and I am in one of them.  We have specially trained instructors who know about the impact of chemo, surgery and radiation on our ability to exercise, who can adapt things to meet our abilities and needs... and who make us work til we sweat!  But the funding for the courses is very precarious - currently the programme I'm with has had a six month extension to its funding, which means, in practice, until the end of Decemebr 2011.  Then what?

    There are ways forward - it could be NHS endorsed, but would then become a rehab programme with a strict 6/12 week attendance and then you'd be 'on your own'.  It could be one that you pay for - it is free at the moment, and I'd certainly be happy to pay just for the reassurance that my instructor knows my limitations and can adapt things for me.  I am pretty fit, I get plenty of walking exercise blah di blah.  Not everyone starts at that place, not everyone feels confident to go to a class when they worry their wig/scarf might fall off, their 'fake boob' shift or fall out or their reconstruction twitch or jump.  Not everyone can afford to pay, and not everyone lives near a sports centre or hospital (my class is run at the former, the other scheme runs in a hospital physio gym).

    Breast Cancer Care and the Prostate Cancer Charity are now doing some stuff together on this aspect of their work - but of course funding exercise classes is always going to be a pretty low priority.

    PS If anyone wonders, to my knowledge there are NHS rehab exercise programmes for cardiac patients and some for people with mobility or balance issues, all of which are run by specialist instructors such as the 'girl' who runs my class.

  • Let Us Bake Bread Together...

    DSC03451.JPGJust a very quick report on this morning's service - the bread was made, and baked and shared in communion.  It worked (phew) and I think it was meaningful for most people.

    Definitely worth trying if you have a very small congregation and access to a kitchen, as you wouldn't need to cheat and prepare a few earlier.  Entirely feasible with a medium sized congregation (we were about 50) with a bit of careful planning, or a even large one if you have enough people 'in the know' able to do some advance preparation.  Go on, give it a go, you know you want to...

     (Photo (c) Sam Olowu)