Wednesday, 24 May 2017

We have hope

18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; 23 and not only the creation but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. 27 And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8:18-27

It is difficult not to read Paul's words (verse 18) without thinking of what happened in Manchester recently with the senseless killing of 22 people - many of them children - by a 22-year-old who blew himself up in the process. Here Paul reminds us that as beautiful and wonderful as life can be, there is darkness mixed in with the light. There is always the presence of suffering in one form or another, whether that is the suffering caused by war or terror, or the suffering of illness or old age.

But, as Christians, we live in hope:
First, that what we are seeing now, is not all that it is meant to be; what God intended. And so Paul talks about the present creation "waiting in eager longing" for the new creation God is going to bring about, and which one day will be revealed in all its glory. At the moment we are all subject to a "bondage to decay" (verse 21) which leads to death. But creation is looking forward in hope, and as it does it "groans inwardly" - or as one translation puts it - "in travail".

The picture is one of a woman in labour, struggling with the pain and effort of bringing a new baby into the world. For now, there is struggle and agony, but it is not in vain, for what will come will be qa joyful and glorious new life.  There will be a death, but there will also be a resurrection.

Second, we live in hope because we as Christians were saved in hope. In other words, we know that although the "wages of sin is death" (Romans 3:23) - which is the consequence of living in a world affected by sin and decay - yet by faith we can receive the "free gift of God" which is life in Christ Jesus. And it is "In this hope", writes Paul, that "we were saved" (verse 24).

Because of Jesus we know that death is not the end, that evil will not have the last word, and God will raise up his people, and his creation, to new life.

That is the glorious vision John the Apostle has in Revelation 21:1-6:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.......And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Lastly, we as Christians, by our faith and our lives, are meant to be signs of this coming new creation. We are, says Paul "the first fruits of the Spirit" (verse 23). We are light bearers and hope bringers. We know the power of the Spirit in our own lives for "the Spirit helps us in our weakness" (verse 26). He 'intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words" (verse 26b), when we have no words to say. And through our interaction with the Spirit, we come to know with assurance the mind and the will of God for us and for all (verse 27).

Listening to the news over the past few days, the word that kept cropping up in the comments, messages, poems, speeches and songs in response to what happened, was the word 'love'. And that is true as we saw wonderful examples of people helping others. But another important word is 'hope'. We need hope, the hope that one day evil will be judged and eradicated, and the love of God will ultimately triumph over death, suffering and the evil we saw in actions of that one individual and the ideology that persuaded him that wat he did was somehow pleasing to God.
(Talk given at midweek service in St. James, Uplands 24th May 2017)

Friday, 19 May 2017

Thy Kingdom Come Prayer Campaign


Hundreds of thousands of Christians of all denominations are preparing to take part in the international prayer initiative “Thy Kingdom Come” which starts next week.  What began as an invitation from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Church of England last year has quickly grown into an international and ecumenical call to prayer.

Between 25th May and 4th June, communities and churches around the world are gathering together to pray that their friends, families and neighbours come to know Jesus Christ. Prayer events of all shapes and sizes will take place across the 10 days, including 24-7 prayer rooms, prayer days, prayer walks and half nights of prayer. Cathedrals, churches and other venues will host Beacon Events, gathering people across towns and cities to worship and to pray for the empowering of the Holy Spirit for effective witness.  The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a global challenge to Christian people to take the #Pledge2Pray for #ThyKingdomCome, an online prayer initiative. 

Archbishop Justin said:
Jesus prayed at the Last Supper that we, those who follow him, might ‘be one that the world might believe.’ We are invited to make a lasting difference in our nations and in our world, by responding to his call to find a deep unity of purpose in prayer. It’s not a Church of England thing, it’s not an Anglican thing, it’s a Christian thing.”

The Revd Canon Chris Russell, Adviser for Evangelism & Witness at Lambeth Palace, said:
“Thy Kingdom Come is a wonderful opportunity to join with Christians around the world in praying that most ancient of prayers ‘Come, Holy Spirit,’ so we might rediscover our vocation to all be witnesses to Jesus Christ. “While there are ideas and resources and prayers and activities available for all, it is at the core about God's people praying for the empowering of the Spirit. And we can all do that.”

Archbishop John Sentamu said:
“It is my prayer that we shall continue growing in confidence to share Christ; that we shall see the Holy Spirit bringing joy, healing, reconciliation, and hope to many, and bringing new life both to Church and community, to the glory of God the Father. Remember, whilst the big events are fantastic, Thy Kingdom Come is really about being part of a movement of prayer – so small is beautiful, for Jesus says ‘where two or three gather together in my name…’  ”

Emma Buchan, project leader for the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Evangelism Taskforce, who heads up Thy Kingdom Come, said:
“The global response to the campaign this year has been overwhelming. We’ve heard from churches across the world, including different denominations and traditions, who have all pledged to get involved from South Africa to Canada and from Brazil to Hong Kong. Each place is organising the time in their own way, for example in Hong Kong they are planning big celebrations in the cathedrals and establishing a network of ‘prayer warriors’. That’s the beauty of Thy Kingdom Come,” she said.

“Last year Thy Kingdom Come gave people time and space outside their normal worshipping patterns to come closer to God and we heard many stories of the deep impact it had on people’s lives. This year we have developed a wide range of resources for everyone which includes ideas on prayer stations, prayer walks, finding fun and creative ways of praying together as a family. We also have Novena prayer booklets and liturgy for a range of traditions.”

To take part simply register online. The resources and blog section of the website provides many ideas for prayer, including downloadable orders of service, liturgies and Novenas. Participants will receive a daily reflection email which will be sent to inboxes each morning during the eleven days. With a different daily prayer theme the email will include a video reflection from one of the international Christian leaders. It will also feature a bite-sized and youth-friendly film. People will be encouraged to “Pray It – Picture It – Post It” to the Thy Kingdom Come website prayer walls. These will draw together the daily prayer theme prayers of each day, such as #ToJesus, which will feature the Most Revd Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

The complete list of the 11 Prayers and the participating church leaders:

25 May  #ToJesus:  The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate,  the Episcopal Church in the United States of America

26 May  #Praise:  His Eminence Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, Archbishop of Vienna

27 May  #Thanks:  The Most Rev Paul Kwong, Archbishop of Hong Kong

28 May  #Sorry:  The Venerable Liz Adekunle, Archdeacon of Hackney, London

29 May  #Offer:  The Rt. Rev. Griselda Delgado del Carpio, Bishop of Cuba

30 May  #PrayFor:   The Most. Rev. Fred Hiltz, Archbishop and Primate, the Anglican Church of Canada

31 May  #Help:   The Most Rev John Sentamu, Archbishop of York and Primate of England

1 June  #Adore:  The Rev. Roger Walton, President, British Methodist Conference

2 June  #Celebrate:  His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop, the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom

3 June  #Silence:  Br. Keith Nelson, SSJE, the Society of St. John the Evangelist

4 June  #ThyKingdomCome:   The Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England

Churches around the Communion requiring further information are invited to contact The Very Revd Robert Key: Email : bob.key@lambethpalace.org.uk

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Secret Power

A living saint

As I am - we remember

In it to win it

A few years ago now I once complained to a friend (and mentor) of mine, the Rev Stuart Bell about the Church in Wales and whether it was not just better off leaving it and going to England given the problems it was having with falling attendances etc. I then asked him why he hadn't considered the idea. I will never forget his reply. he said he was committed to the Church in Wales and wanted to work, with God for its renewal. He said: "I'm in it, to win it." That was his calling and after years of struggles, questions, frustrations and disappointments, I have decided that I agree. I too, am in it to win it.

I say this now after ten years of wrestling with the question. I have looked at other denominations like the Baptist, or the Orthodox Church and even the Roman Catholic Church, all of whom I have great admiration for. I even toyed, briefly, with the possibility of moving to Bristol where my eldest daughter and grandchildren live. I say briefly because as a Swansea City supporter and season ticket holder I would not want to travel an hour and a half every Saturday or evening home game to go and watch them.

Things became hairier when the whole question of the ordination and marriage of practising homosexuals reared its head. How could I remain a member of a Church which accepted such things? Looking more closely at the Roman Catholicism I admired their no-nonsense approach to such things and felt maybe that would be a safe place to run to? However there were too many things that I could not agree with and that idea never really materialised.

However, over the past four months of enforced rest from work, I have had much time to ponder and think and have come back again to Stuart's attitude that leaving would be unhelpful and unfulfilling and contradict the whole basis of my own calling by God which was to serve Him in the Anglican Church, come what may.

This was further reinforced by an article from Christian News Today which was written in the face of the news that one evangelical church in the Church of England has sought alternative episcopal oversight through the appointment of a 'rogue' bishop. In response, a spokesperson from a leading traditional evangelical organisation, the Church Society reiterated that as far as they were concerned "there will be no mass exodus of evangelicals from the Church of England"

Lee Gatiss, director of the Church Society, wrote in his latest 'Topical Tuesday' column that many evangelicals view the current climate in the Church of England, and the battle over how far to go in accepting LGBT people, as comparable to Brexit.

He said they are asking: 'Where shall I go to church? Where shall I offer myself to serve in ministry? Is it time to leave the CofE?'

But it is not a straightforward question, binary question as Brexit was.

'Evangelicals will not en masse leave the CofE. There is no fabled blueprint or master plan for doing that. And there never has been,' he says, going on to criticise those calling most stridently for division", he wrote. 

He went on to write:

'Interestingly, those who often seem to talk "toughest" on all this, cannot bring themselves to actually do it themselves. They are happy to urge others to leave but I've noticed some of the most strident advocates for leaving, on social media and elsewhere, are all still in Church of England parishes and vicarages and pension schemes.

'Though they try to push others into much more precarious family and financial and fellowship situations than they themselves happen to enjoy.' 

He said Credible Bishops, a discussion document (revealed exclusively by Christian Today) was a useful discussion paper by two individuals on an important subject which must be discussed. There was no vote on it at the conference. But he insisted it was not a widely accepted plan.

'Anglican evangelicals do not all agree on tactics or that the victory of the liberal agenda in the Church is inevitable and imminent as some say,' he added.

But doing the wrong thing can be worse than doing nothing. 'What we must try to do is the right thing.'

He noted that in 17th century many who left the Church of England ended up as Unitarians, especially those who were decidedly against systematic theology and wanted to only talk about and study the Bible.

In the 18th century, the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion was detached.

In the 19th century the Free Church of England people began to leave.

In the 20th century the C of E (Continuing) was formed.

As for where they are all now, about 1,000 people meet each week in the Countess of Huntingdon's churches.

'Of those who left in the 19th century, the Free Church of England is still small.

'The Church of England (Continuing) may not continue for very much longer. It has four congregations (and two bishops) soldiering on with the King James Version and the 1662 Prayer Book alone.'

Secession is never easy, and such things need to be much more carefully thought through, he said.

'The vast majority of conservative evangelicals in the Church of England are not about to go anywhere or do anything wild. They are united around the agenda of staying in and fighting on, for the glory of God and the good of England.'

He dismissed the Newcastle consecration as the work of a 'perplexingly idiosyncratic church' which has 'gone a bit rogue'.

He continued:

'... today, we in Church Society reaffirm our commitment to working within the structures of the Church of England, for reform and renewal, and the re-evangelisation of our spiritually needy land,' he said.

'So either way, let's fight for Jesus in ways Jesus would approve. And Jesus's people will, we pray, see something attractive and worth being part of – for the glory of God and the good of his world.'

I am an evangelical (in the best sense of the word which means I am NOT right-wing, pro-Israel, or a supporter of Donal Trump) am not, nor would consider, becoming a member of the Church Society, but I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Gatiss' reasoning and conclusion. I am determined to stay and proclaim the Gospel as an Anglican until the end, praying and working for renewal and supporting those of my fellow clergy who wish to do the same.  

Friday, 5 May 2017

Try Praying

Try Praying is a website that encourages you to pray. It is surprising, in this secular age we live in, how many people actually pray. Even more surprising - at least to some - is how much God answers prayer.

The Try Praying website can be found by clicking here . On it, you will find some very inspiring videos of people who have discovered the power of prayer in their lives.

It is a good website to visit as it helps prepare you for the coming nine days of prayer which many churches up and down the land will be setting aside to encourage prayer for the nation. It is called: "Thy Kingdom Come" and it was started by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, last year on the days between Ascension and Pentecost. You can check out the website by clicking here and find lots of videos from people who have been blessed by it.

Thanks, but no thanks!

We had a wonderful day yesterday starting with the awards ceremony where Ruth, our youngest child, received her degree - a 2:1- after thre...