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  • Interceding when words fail...

    I wrote these intercessions for last Sunday, which is why they carry clear references to God as Trinity (it was Trinity Sunday!).  As events continue to unfold this week, they still seem  relevant... (apologies in advance for typos!)

    Triune God, divinity in community, we have reached the point in our worship together where we respond to your love for us with our prayers for others.  And it’s a hard task, trying to avoid bland, banal generalities on the one hand and praying in our own opinions or desires on the other.  In a week that has once again been full of highly charged news reporting, and at the end of which we are left with more questions than answers, it is difficult to know what, or how, to pray.  On such occasions we gladly remind ourselves of the promises of scripture that Jesus is out great High priest who forever intercedes on our behalf, and that, when words fail, the Spirit intercedes for us with groans to articulate the inexpressible.

     

    This week as those killed during events in Manchester and London are named and laid to rest, and many of those injured begin to be discharged from hospital, we give thanks for the work of the emergency services and NHS staff.  We are also aware that this week alone, there have been similar events in Australia, France, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Nigeria and Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Turkey, most of which have not reached our news media.  Too many to name, too complex to understand… what shall we pray?  For peace.  For healing.  For reconciliation perhaps?  Words fail us, ideas fall short – Jesus, son of God, victim of human violence, please intercede for us, and for all affected by violence and hatred.

     

    This week we have had a general election for the Westminster parliament, we give thanks for the freedoms granted us by the democratic process, and for all those who have worked to count and recount votes.  Whatever our own political views, and however we may feel about the result, we recognise the enormity of the tasks entrusted to these men and women as they take up office.  Scripture reminds us that we should pray for those in authority, something that can be difficult at the best of times, and near impossible when disappointment, confusion or fear fill our hearts.  What then, shall we pray?  For wisdom.  For justice.  For compassion?  Words fail, ideas fall short – Spirit, wisdom of God, hovering over chaos since the dawn of time, please intercede for us, and for all in positions of authority, local, national or international.

     

    This week the complexity and diversity of everyday life has continued.  The mundane daily routines punctuated, perhaps, by moments of intense pleasure or equally intense pain.  For some there will have been sad news or bad news.  For some it will just have been another so-so week.  For some there will have been moments of wonder and delight.  Praying for one another ought, we tell ourselves, to be easy, but soften it is anything but.    To pray for our blessing feels improper.  To pray for the blessing of others is tricky.  What then, do we pray for those we love?  What, then, do we pray for ourselves?  For love.  For hope.  For faith.  Words fail, ideas fall short – Triune God, community perfected, where intercession and response are perfectly expressed, take our muddled hopes and dreams, our frail faith and our battered hope, and weave of them something beautiful.

     

    Today, we stand on the brink of a new week, a story yet untold, a journey that awaits.  As we set out to discover what it will bring, grant that we may be bearers of faith and hope and love into a world where, it may seem, all are in short supply.

     

    We offer our prayers, and ourselves in the name of Christ, Amen.

  • Christians in Politics

    I was - and am - saddened by Tim Farron's decision to step down as leader of the Lib Dems citing incompatibility between his faith and his role.  I admire what I perceive as a gracious, honest and integrity-filled statement of his reasons - which will of course have read by many of other faiths or none. I've read many repsonses on line, ranging from generous to ungenerous, informed to uninformed, kneejerk to considered.  What I'm writing attempts to be generous and honest, if not researched or espically considered.

    I am sad that he feels he cannot continue to lead his party, and that for him the tension between faith and poltics has proved untenable at this level.  I think, in principle, he is wrong to say that being a Christian and leading a political party is not possible, and the evidence of others through the years would support my view (and I don't mean the superficial claims made by some who, it seems, can go to church on Sunday and bash the poor in Monday).  I also repsect that, for him, it is so.  There are huge differences between general principles and personal experiences.

    Many have commented on the unfairness of the repeated questioning on his views of same sex relationships, and, in my view, it was unfair, if by that we mean every other leader should have been asked the same or equivalent questions.  There were questions he wasn't asked that others were; maybe that's unfair too.  As my Dad used to say, no-one ever said life would be fair.  I am saddened that this one question seems to have become the focus, and perhaps the tipping point, when there was so much that was uncontentious and positive... afterall his party increased thier number of MPs so presumably he did suceeded there.

    I am glad and grateful for all people of faith, Christian and otherwise, who enter the world of party politics.  I am grateful for their willingness to try to hold together faith and deeds, to make a difference for the good (imagine any of the parties without the salt and luight of their presence).

    I wish Tim Farron well for the future.  I pray that he finds peace and joy and fulfillment in his next steps.  perosanlly, I wish he hadn't felt the need to step down and had been able to find a way to hold the tension creatively.  If nothing else, his decision has reminded me of the reality of being open about faith in a very visible public role.

  • Not Ein Feste Burg afterall!

    The conference was the best one I've been to in Scotland, and vasty different from my experience back in 2010 when it was not an easy place to be.

    The title was irrelevent - none of the speakers were using it - and actually the overall sense was one of gentleness and relaxation.  Some of the hymnody was not the greatest, but that's alwasy an easy hit.  I had an easy get out of singing one, the lyrics of which included the phrase 'I am a sinful man' - erm, nope.

    The Psalm 27 studies were fine, nothing to set the heather alight and some seriously iffy exegesis in places, but over all, good stuff that was uncontentious.  The two seminars I attended - on 'sabbath' and on 'prayer' likewise were good stuff but nothing new.  That is totally fine, sometimes it's good to be reminded of familiar stuff, and it was certainly all very positive and encouraging.

    It was good to catch up with people I know and cherish, and also to see people I've interviewed at the Board of Ministry (who seem to have no problem remembring me - is that a good thing?!)

    I'm glad I went, and for the first time in eight years have returned home feeling the sense of wellbeing that had previously known at such events.  Patience and waiting were among the virtues alluded to by the various speakers... it's good to see that patiently sticking at it and waiting in the hope of a more affirming experience has finally come good.  Perhpas that is something to keep in mind in other areas too.