Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s circumstance, maybe it’s God, I don’t know, but I seem to be becoming more and more aware of the ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor in this country. Look, don’t get me wrong it’s not that I’ve had my head stuck in the sand for 42 years, it’s just that recently, certainly in the last 5 years or so it seems to me to be getting worse.
Jesus said, the poor are always with you, you can help them any time you like (Mark 14:7) and his point was that actually they needed to focus on him at that moment in time. But was that remark saying something more? I mean will the poor always be with us? Reports seem to suggest that actually we have all we need in the world for us to live reasonably well, for people to eat, have somewhere to live, for people everywhere not to live in poverty. Yes, some people will probably always have more and some people will probably always have less, but does there have to be such vast extremes?
Apparently more than half the worlds ‘wealth’ is now owned by just 1% of the global population. Perhaps I’m just late to the agenda but WTF? How can 1% of people on the planet own that much? How does that make sense? I mean it just doesn’t make sense to me at all. Surely that is not what God has planned? Even if Jesus did say the poor will always be with you, I’m sure this is not the divine plan, right?
Last week we went to Les Mis at the theatre – I had a chat with a homeless guy on the way home, who jokingly said to me ‘oh how la-de-dah’ – well, indeed. But it was fabulous and I literally cried all the way through. Not because it was brilliant, which it was, but because in every scene God was speaking to me about inequality, poverty and love.
How was it that a man who stole a loaf of bread to feed a starving child could be sentenced so harshly? How could such inequality and lack of compassion exist? How could it be that a Mother just trying to provide for her daughter had to resort to prostitution just to feed her? And the thing is it doesn’t seem to be much different now does it? Ok so you might not face 12 years in prison for stealing some bread but the principle is the same, the inequality between those in need and those who have. And so often it’s about misunderstanding and judgement. We make snap decisions about people or judge them on our terms from one thing we see, or one thing they did. A person is more than one action or one decision.
The irony of sitting in a theatre in London’s West End whilst pouring my heart out for the poor was not lost on me of course, that’s partly why I was crying. So often it’s just one decision in someone’s life that leads to poverty, to brokenness, to a destructive path. It doesn’t take you there immediately of course, but it starts that journey. More and more I see in my work how people who want to help themselves just can’t because the system is stacked against them. How can that be? It’s like we want to keep people trapped in poverty and brokenness rather than helping them to step out of it.
What makes me mad too, is that once upon a time we helped each other out, it was not the state’s responsibility to support those in need, it was ours to look out for each other. Communities pulled together, people rallied, not because we had too but because we just did. Because people had a sense of compassion, or maybe duty, or understanding. How have we become so selfish?
As I chatted to ‘Steve’ he didn’t want to talk about how he ended up on the streets, but he did tell me he has a son who he doesn’t see, he once had a job, a family, and now he has resorted to begging in the underground. How did that happen? More and more I look at politicians and people in power and wonder what on earth they are thinking. Not just about welfare and support, but they seem to just be so lost in a bubble of their own. I mean PMQ’s? It’s a farce, they make jokes at each other expense when they are supposed to be running the country. It’s not some school playground for goodness sake, they are making decisions about people’s lives. I’ve never wanted to go into politics so I’ve no idea what it’s like to be an MP but someone please tell me that sometimes they do actually think about the people, right?
Again and again I’m drawn back to people. We can run programmes, organise stuff and work hard but at the end of the day what’s it all for? Surely it has to come back to people? Jesus told us to love our neighbour as ourselves – he said it was the second greatest commandment after loving God. Yup, a COMMANDMENT. Not a choice, we should be doing it, no excuses or arguments. And are we?
If you read my blog regularly you’ll know I’ve been wrestling for a while with what love means and what it looks like to love people and I’m afraid this rambling ranty post is just another element of that. I’ve been writing an ethics essay recently about what it means to love your neighbour too and more and more I just feel like we can say what we like, we can try and explain things away or find reasons but there are no two ways about it we just need to love people…
This is the first in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy, my word for the year. I am delighted to have James Prescott guesting today. You can check out his blog here.
Joy is such a loaded word. It’s one of those words which we say endless times, but often don’t fully understand. We often mistake happiness for joy – when they are, in fact, two very different concepts. Happiness comes from the word happen-stance, which is linked to circumstance. Happiness is about the present. Being happy is about a feeling about something which is happening.
Joy, however is something different. It’s not an emotion. It goes far deeper than that.
When my Mum died in 2000, it was the worst day, the most painful experience of my life. And as anyone who has experienced grief knows, you feel a tidal wave of conflicting emotions. Anger at the person leaving you. I had that for a short time. Then there’s the pain of knowing they aren’t coming back, that there is suddenly a space in your life which nothing else can fill. Eventually you have to come to an acceptance the person is gone, and move forward with your life.
This process took years for me. And all the while, I was feeling nothing good could ever come of losing my mum. What possible good could come from losing someone I was so close to, who loved me so much?
As time went on however, I noticed something. The anger, the hurt and the bitterness began to subside. As I received counselling and prayer, and time passed, I began to reflect on the good things my mum had brought to my life. How she had shaped who I was. The intimate experiences we had as mother and son. Her fun, her free spirit and her immense love and compassion.
Then I began to look at who I was, and the shape of my life. I’d become more independent. And because I’d been left a two bed maisonette, I’d been able to host a church acquaintance when they got back too late from football matches, have deep conversations with him, and ultimately become best friends. And he had introduced me to the church which changed my life and I’ve been part of for 11 years. Losing mum had caused me to question my faith and ultimately deepen it, discover a bigger, wider and more intimate view of God.
And the truth is, none of this would have occurred if my Mum had lived.
As I realised this, I felt a deep sense of what I can only call joy. I wasn’t happy – my Mum was still dead, still gone from my life, and I still miss her. The pain is still there. But there was this sense that God had redeemed this. That it wasn’t for nothing. And also a sense of gratitude for all my Mum was, that I’d had her for 23 years, which is longer than many do. And a joy that even in her death, she had shaped my life in ways I could never have imagined.
And that is joy for me. It’s acknowledging the reality of our lives, acknowledging all our experiences, and somehow trusting, or even knowing on a very deep level, that there is good even in that. Knowing that God will take care of us. That He’s been with us all the way through even the darkest times. And remembering and celebrating the good, even in the midst of our pain.
Kay Warren’s definition of joy sums this up perfectly:
“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”
Joy is laughing with tears in our eyes. Celebrating, but weeping. Trusting and worshipping when there seems no reason to. Seeing the thin grain of light in the darkness.
And joy is when walking the valley, seeing the sunlight piercing the mountains.
James Prescott is a writer, author, coach & editor from Sutton, near London. He’s author of the e-book ‘Unlocking Creativity’ & editor of ‘Christian Writer’ the magazine of the Association of Christian Writers. James is passionate about creativity, identity & spirituality, and blogs regularly at jamesprescott.co.uk & has a weekly podcast, ‘James Talks’ which you can follow on iTunes. James is a big movie buff & has a not-so-secret love of lip sync battles.
A few weeks ago I was invited to my very first bloggers event. I can’t tell you how excited I was about this, a chance to hang out and chat with other christian bloggers = great, plus with free breakfast thrown in, and all at the lovely Southwark Cathedral (which just happens to be the place I go to study each week so was very nice to be there on other matters!). Which all just about made up for the ridiculously early start to be in London for breakfast!
‘Spires’ at Dawn
So why was I there? For Christian Aid’s new ‘Big Brekkie’ campaign, which is all part of this year’s Christian Aid week (15-21 May 2016), and frankly what’s not to love about a campaign with the strapline:
“Fight Poverty with Porridge” !
So, 30 or so bloggers, Tweeters and movie makers came together to share breakfast and hear about Christian Aid’s work and I can’t tell you how inspiring it was.
I’ve been a supporter of Christian Aid over the years but to hear first-hand about their work was great. Challenging too, as I realised the scale of disasters, war zones and crisies they are responding to. We heard about just one of those places with the story of Morsheeda (story here) whose family are battling with the devastating floods in Bangladesh. We saw her in her home, a foot deep in water, trying to look after her family, her children, and it broke my heart. We have moaned here in the UK about the floods that have hit here, and I am in no way dismissing peoples pain and loss in the UK, but there in Bangladesh, there is no one to pay insurance pay outs, no one to help clear up and it’s not like the water subsides after a few days either.But, Christian Aid is there, helping to pick up the pieces and aiming to build flood proof houses that mean people can rebuild their lives, and safeguard their families.
What is £250? For me that’s 2 weeks of food shopping or a few new outfits, and yet for Morsheeda it means life, it means safety, it means a future. £250 could buy: flood-proofing, a goat, seeds and a wormery – which will give her a long term income and a foundation for her future.
So where does the breakfast come in? Well for Christian Aid week this year, the charity is encouraging everyone to host their own ‘Big Brekkie’ breakfast to raise funds and awareness of their work. How easy is that? and if you’ve ever ploughed the streets delivering and picking up envelopes with 48 1/2p in them, then hosting a breakfast seems so much more attractive right?! (Not that there is anything wrong with the envelope thing, I’ve done it, counted pennies and loved it, it’s all part of serving Jesus. But this seems a whole lot more fun, yes?!)
Every community shares food to some extent, whether at a gathered family meal, wedding party, evening meal, or maybe by sharing bread and wine. When Jesus ate with people things happened. So how about modelling that ourselves?
So, do you want to know more? Why not sign up to host a breakfast here and get your free sign up pack (above) with all kinds of goodies to help you host your breakfast. As they told us:
“Where 2 or 3 are gathered… You can have a big brekkie”
some of the lovely bloggers chatting over coffee in Borough market
You know what I think our society needs? A movement of love.
Over the last year or so the thing I have felt God talking to me about the most is, all about loving each other, loving people. Our culture now seems to be largely formed upon what is best for ‘the self’ and yet God’s word tells us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. We seem to be doing ok with the loving ourselves bit, but what about our neighbour?
Individualism is the thing that rules us. We want what we want, and we want it now, often at the expense of others. And well, maybe you could say that’s a good thing, we won’t be lorded over by dictators or tyrants. We have freedom to act and live as we want, there is greater safety and support for the marginalised, we might say we are free to become who we were always meant to be.
I feel that the more we do that the more we are isolating ourselves from each other. We have no responsibility for any other, no concern for our community or clan, no regard for our country, and yet we can feel free to tear down and criticise those who do.
Years ago people generally lived within an area, extended family were nearby, locals knew each other and looked out for each other. Now, how many of us even know who our neighbours are? I live in a tiny little rural village and here, if you are connected in, maybe through the school then you do live a bit like it once was. You walk to school and see people in the village, you get to know local characters, you chat to parents at the school gate, you have probably met the local Vicar, even if you are not a church goer. When I was injured people rallied to cook for us. When a local man dies, people gather. There is something here about respect for each other.
And yet, I know for many, they don’t know their neighbour, they don’t feel connected to their community, they don’t know what is going on locally. They just happen to live there, going in and out daily.
I wrote a while back about us living in bubbles and that’s what has happened, we live in our own individual bubbles, often unaware of the wider world, and when we do take an interest it is largely only because it might affect us.
and we love this right? we love that we get to do what we want and when we want to don’t we?
There are thousands of people living and struggling every day with loneliness. Whether the elderly, isolated and perhaps less capable, stuck at home, no friends to talk to. There are thousands living daily with depression and mental illness, isolated and suffering, often alone. There are refugees in corners of the world who have lost everything and struggle daily just to live, just to feed their children. What happens to them? well now we have organisations and groups and governments to handle them right? We just palm off any sense of responsibility, or dare I say compassion, on to someone else, onto something else.
We need a movement of love.
These are our fellow human beings. In our communities, in our towns, in our villages, in our world. Because of course community means something else these days – we talk of the global community, the online community, and we need that, people need that, the lonely, isolated and suffering need that.
But how can it be that an elderly man can live in squalor and ask for help and after months is still waiting for it? How can it be that a sick woman, once with a life filled with friends and fun, is alone and isolated when she needs love the most? How can it be that a couple struggling, but desperately trying, to find work are treated as pariahs and penalised rather than supported? How can it be that troubled young people are looked upon with disdain and disrespect when they just need someone to love them.
We need a movement of love.
Of course we need organisations and bodies and support groups but above all:
we. just. need. to. love. people.
My Nan was in care home for about 5 years before she died. For the last year of her life I visited her once a week for about an hour. 1 hour a week – not much is it? Sometimes it was a chore, sometimes (often) she was very grumpy but I know she loved me visiting, just being there. In an average week she had 2 visitors – that’s 2 hours a week of just being with other people. How would you find that?
When I was out with my back injury, how many people came to see me? in 3 months – a handful.
This week I made a promise to God that if I passed any homeless people on the way to uni I would stop. I bought coffee and food for two men. And I just stopped to say Hi, ask them their names and bless them. One of them, Simon, was feeling unwell and so I offered to pray for him. When I left he gave me a smile that was full of love. Who is this man? why is he here on the street, begging, in freezing temperatures? He was once a baby, a child, how did he end up here? My heart breaks…
For goodness sake, where is our sense of community? Is it just a word we use for groups and programmes and technology? We need a movement of love that brings love and compassion back to the heart of our communities…
Ask yourself, do you know who your neighbour is? Do you know what their life is like? are there people you know who are sick and just need some human company? Do you have a relative in a care home? how often do you visit them? Do you know someone who has just had a new baby? Why not take them a meal, do some housework for them? Or just stop and talk to people. The homeless guy on the street? buy him a cuppa and ask him his name, he has a story. Make time to meet up with people for a chat, it’s so easy to overlook, we are all so busy but so vital that we do.
It’s Valentines day, so how about we start a movement of love?
and, yes ladies and gents, the day is nearly here.
Yes, it’s the ‘O’ word – no not that one – I mean ORDINATION. Yes it may be a few months away but suddenly it’s all a bit real. After a visit to the Bishop’s Palace a few weeks ago I now know all that I need to know and boy is it scary.
My brain has been in overdrive: what do I wear? what do I say? who can come to the service? what happens if I faint? Will it matter if I cross my fingers? (jokes. well, slightly) Where is it? When is it? Am I going to lose it? will it matter if I have snot pouring down my face when the Bishop does his stuff? arghhhhhhh…
Ok, I may have slightly begun to lose it. I think the truth is, it’s the sudden reality that I am actually getting ordained. As much as I may have prayed for God to shut the door he hasn’t. In fact I think he’s probably standing there holding it wide open smirking at me smugly.
This is the culmination of years of prep and planning and of course an absolute mountain of prayer but talking of the thing itself makes me come out in a cold sweat. All those old thoughts: Am I worthy enough (no of course not), Does everyone think that? (probably but if not they should do) Can I do this? (doubt it – only with God’s help), what on earth was God thinking? (well you could ask him), and so on…
I know the service itself is really just a point on the horizon, end of training but beginning of doing it for real, although as I already work for the church it’s more like a job change. As a family we kind of had this ‘thing’ of not really thinking about it all until ‘after Christmas’ (probably just a neat way of sticking our heads in the sand) but the thing is, now it is ‘after Christmas’ and there’s no more putting it off. We have to plan. We need to rent our house out, think about moving to a new one (if they ever find us one…), plan for new school runs (although thankfully the younger two are staying at the same school so that’s one less worry), plan for leaving my job, planning handover, saying goodbyes. Oh yes it is real and time is flying by.
Suddenly there’s stacks of forms to fill in, yet another DBS check to do (seriously I have about 4 already), certificates to find (yup. any qualification needs to be prove, cue one trip to the back of the loft cupboard for the husband), and meetings to be had. Not to mention the 5 essays I still need to hand in.
Then there’s the whole service, to which we get given a grand total of 20 tickets. Yes just 20, in a cathedral that must seat about 1000. This means we basically have to rank our friends in some form to decide who gets the tickets. As for the other questions, I guess we will find out on the day whether it matters if I totally lose it or faint (but please pray that I don’t!).
So perhaps by worrying about the service itself I am still sticking my head in the sand, but that’s my current focus and I shall enjoy it thank you very much.
But I do now know exactly what I need to wear – which for a charismatic like me was an interesting discussion, I can tell you – but I can now name the items I need to wear. Why thank you, yes I do deserve a medal. I mean really, what is an alb when it’s at home? and why is it such a random word? and whilst we are on this (and I defo don’t need one of these obvs) but biretta? I mean surely that is some kind of Italian mobsters pistol no? and oh my word but have you seen some of the clerical wear out there?
er, just no.
ok so let’s not comment on which environment this shirt might be better suited to…
And, I rest my case…
Anyway thankfully I shall not be wearing it all that much and I’ve gone for simple and minimal. And I really do thank God for that because DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH IT ALL COSTS? well, a flippin’ lot basically. I mean this is probably one of the worst paid jobs ever (which is not something that I am bothered about I’m just making a point, just so you know) and yet the ‘uniform’ costs a small mortgage. There is, I am glad to say, a grant to get you started with this, but I tell you I will be wearing my clerical shirts until they are thread bare (funny I just managed to correct an awful but very funny typo in that sentence before going live…).
So if you see me in the next few months and I seem, well, a little distracted or I start twitching inanely then perhaps you will understand why…
Preach from The Point Church 7/2/16 on David & Honour, from the series ‘King David: A Man After God’s Heart‘. You can listen using the link above or watch below (although the sound quality on the video is not great, sorry!)
Below are my planning notes which I used to structure the talk. Feel free to reuse.
Intro – series on King David, through 1 Samuel. David we have heard was ‘ a man after God’s heart’ – a faithful man, sold out for God, guided by him in all things. A great role model!
Amazing story – like Hollywood Blockbuster.
Haven’t got time to go through it all again but there is a lot in there. I actually think God has something for us here something prophetic for our church in all this and it’s about honour, lack of honour, dishonour
And then of course finally here in the this passage we see David acting with honour and respecting Saul as the anointed one of God, even though he is pretty much delivered into his hands to kill.
But what even is honour?
WHAT IS HONOUR //
Quality of worthiness, respectability
Honesty, fairness, integrity
You know what I notice about those words? Honour is not a thing is it, not tangible, you can’ touch it, or see it alone. So when or how do we find honour? When do we see it? Well I think honour only becomes apparent in relationships, when people come together, through us and our actions.
I saw this this week, from Bill Johnson – he said that:
‘Giving honour actually releases the life of God into a situation.’
So then, if honour only becomes apparent when we interact with each other, when we do that we are actually allowing the presence and power of God into whatever situation we are in. Isn’t that what we see here with David and Saul, David gives honour, even where we might think it undeserved and it’s like Saul’s eyes are opened, God is released into the situation…
And how do we act with Honour?
Well I want to look at David specifically here, after all he is the focus of this series…
3 things I think are key here.
: David honours God. He is amazingly faithful, he seeks God for his guidance, he is focussed on what is God’s will. He is a servant of the Lord.
: He honours Saul – served Saul well despite being badly treated, having spears hurled at him for no reason! He dealt with Sauls’ jealousy and rage, his unreasonableness with patience and peace. (bible ref) pretty amazing right.
: He honours himself – he knows who God has made him to be. Firstly in the earlier story where he fights Goliath, despite ridicule from his brothers and poss others in the camp, he knows who he is, he knows he can beat this ‘giant’ and confidently does it. But he also recognises where God has put him. He is humble – He was not up himself, he didn’t even think he was good enough to marry the kings daughter (to become his son in law) he was humble, ‘I am only a poor man and little known’ he says. Bit not falsely humble either…
So honour God, honour each other and honour ourselves…
And I think we can simplify this further – this is all about identity – knowing who we are in Christ – who God has made us to be. David knows who God is, he knows who he is and who God has made him to be but he also recognises who God has made Saul to be.
So let’s look at that a bit more. And I want to focus on what happened there in that cave
Saul was anointed by God (through Samuel) to be king. Now Saul was foolish we know and selfish and made wrong decisions. He knows the Lord but I don’t think he truly understands who God has made him to be. Because he tries to take things into his own hands, he rushes ahead and goes against what God has said. He doesn’t truly honour God or himself.
And yet David, David knows and honours God. Saul puts a hit out on him and he does not fight back. And finally after being chased into the desert and running for his life, here we see Saul ‘delivered into his hands’ as David’s men say, they believe God has delivered Saul to him so he can take his life.
But no. David says no ‘ I will not lift my hand against my master because he is the Lord’s anointed’
And there is something quite comical about this moment isn’t there, I can’t not talk about it. Saul has gone into the cave to take a pee basically (or worse). The very cave in the middle of this vast mountainous desert that David and his men are hiding in. not only that but he decides to take a leak. Now let’s not get into too much detail but we could probably say that for a man this could be his weakest moment. Right? He’s not going to have a hand on his sword, he’s not going to be focussing on what is around him and he’s exposed. Not only that but he does so in the cave where David is hiding.
This is the man who has hurled spears at his head, been unfairly hunting him down and David’s men say to him, look it’s the time, God is delivering him into your hands like he said he would. David creeps out, unseen and what does he do? He just cuts off a corner of his robe. You can imagine the men behind him face palming, what is he doing, this was it, the one moment and he’s fluffed it.
But David is grief stricken, what have I done, v6: the Lord forbid I should so such a thing…
The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord’
He honours the anointing of God on Saul, because he knows who God is, he knows who he is and who knows who Saul is in God’s eyes.
Now there’s something else here. Much of this whole story is prophetic.
So he cuts the corner of his robe, what is that reminiscent of?
In Ch 15: 27 Samuel rebukes Saul, telling him he has rejected the Lord and so the Lord has rejected him, then as he turns to leave Saul grabs his robe and it tore.
7 ‘As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. 28 Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you.’
An action that is prophetic, that Saul, Saul is the one who has gone against God’s commands. He is the one who has defied him, and here he rips the robe from God’s prophet Samuel and in doing so, rips the kingdom of Israel from his own hands. Does that make sense?
So now, we see David cutting the corner of Saul’s robe, he has cut the kingdom from Saul into his own hands.
Robes were very important in OT times. They denote something of a person’s identity. So Saul’s robe would have showed he was the king, a royal robe, being cut away from him. Not just physically but prophetically too.
So. David cuts the corner from Sauls cloak and is grief stricken he heads out of the cave and prostates himself he lays flat on the floor before Saul, makes himself even more vulnerable that Saul was in that cave and he calls out to him, he lays down the truth but in total humility and honour.
David is acting from a culture of honour. A way he lives his life in which he honours his relationship with God, he honours the people around him and he honours who he knows God has made him to be. And what happens? Things change. The presence and power of God is released into the situation.
‘May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.’
So because David acted from a position of honour, he release the power of God and that culture of honour onto Saul, who is changed as a result from a position of dishonouring himself, his relationship with God and with David, to the opposite.
As David recognises the robe Saul is wearing, so Saul recognises David’s.
Danny Silk – ‘Culture of Honour’. He describes how we can try and live in an environment of honouring God, ourselves and each other and it is fab, definitely recommend it. Will give you a totally different view of situations and how you can handle them.
So then I said earlier I think God really has something for us as a church in this
It’s all about knowing who we truly are. Who God has made us to be. But not just that, for us to see who each other us.
I think God is challenging us, each of us, to see ourselves and each other in the robes that he has put upon us.
Can you see the robe you are wearing? Not just robes of righteousness
We did some teaching a while back about giftings and being part of the body of Christ but this is more than that, This I think is prophetic, it’s going to release us as a church into greater things, if we begin to act with more of a culture of honour – as we honour who we are, and who each other is, we will enable more of a release of who God is.
So I mentioned the role of a prophet earlier on. In OT times, prophets were the ones who could hear from God, who God gave visions and dreams and words and instructions too, to share with the people. They were the mouthpiece of God on earth.
Nowadays we can all hear from God, because of Jesus, he came so each and every one of us could have a relationship with God. For every one of us. So we all have the capability to hear from God. But there are still modern day prophets who God still uses today. And one thing I have noticed about modern day prophets or those with the gift of prophecy, is that often their words for people are about enabling them to see themselves how God sees them.
Mention Shawn Bolz (book) – amazing accuracy – talks of love, so on it. Really sowing into people. And you know the result of a word like that is that it can truly release people
Into what God has for them. So someone might hear a prophetic words that speaks into their life, or a situation they are in and they recognise it, it encourages them, they act upon it and they are released into what God has for them, to see the robe he has given them!
Happened to me – being called, someone spoke into my life, when no one else knew the situation – stepped forward… now look! I was released to see the robe God had put on me.
And it took other people seeing that robe and calling it out in me for me to see it. Then all of a sudden it became clear exactly what robe I was really wearing. You see other people honoured what they could see of that robe in me. And they had a vital role in helping me to see it.
Repeat? Do you understand this, so important??
If we want to build a culture that is honouring, we need to enable others to see their own robes too. We need to try and release the presence and power of God into the people around us.
I think God wants to release into us today as a church something more of his kingdom of who he is, but he is going to do that through each of us.
So here’s a question for us all – how do we actually deal with other people’s robes?
Sometimes we don’t act with honour towards each other in this respect do we?
For many reasons.
Do we get jealous, angry, try and rip them away, cut pieces off? All the while ignoring our own?
Or do we even pull away our own? Try to remove it, desiring another one?
How about, have we put on someone else’s armour? Like David facing Goliath – but he recognised it was not right for him. Sometimes we are inspired by someone, or have an attachment to someone for whatever reason and we try to imitate them, their way of doing things, we are not looking at the robe we have but trying to put theirs on!
And sometimes there might be things that stop us from recognising the one we wear. Perhaps we have negative words spoken over us, we think we can’t do things, or it’s not for us. We even speak over ourselves. I’m not good at that…
But when we do that we are ignoring, rejecting, the gift God has given just to us like saul…. And not only that but how hard does it become then for others to see it too?
Do you see, if we recognise the role, anointing, robe, mantle on someone else and we honour that, then we allow something to be released. It’s like the true nature of that person has to be called out of them, in naming it, seeing it, it can be.
I’ve been wrestling with this this week and trying to find a way to put into words what I think God is saying to us here.
We are a gathered church of individuals but we are all honoured/special
From Culture of Honour:
‘Life flows through honor. The clear fruit of establishing a culture of honor is that the resurrection life of God begins to flow into people’s lives, homes, and communities, bringing healing, restoration, blessing, joy, hope, and wholeness. If we are not seeing this fruit, then we must ask ourselves whether we are truly honouring those around us as we ought.’
So thanks to the lovely peeps at SPCK I’m taking a look at the new ‘Prayers on the Move‘ app which officially launches next week but is out now. If you’ve not come across it yet it’s a free app, available on Android and the App store, helping people to get started praying each day.
The blurb says this:
‘SPCK’s Prayers on the Move app is designed to enable you to get into the habit of praying. Habits are formed by repetition, and it has been said that it takes 30 days to build a new one’.
Which is perfect as there’s prayer for each day of the month!
The press is full of depressing stats about the church dying but if you take a different tack and ask people about spirituality or prayer their answers are very different. For example in a recent YouGov poll 42% of people answered ‘yes’ to the question: ‘do you ever pray?’. That’s quite staggering really and as an evangelist I think we need to build on these kind of results. ‘Church’ ‘Christianity’ ‘Religion’ are all terms that people tend to roll their eyes at but yet ‘prayer’ and ‘spirituality’ seems to provide us with an opportunity, an opening to reach out to people. Clearly this app is Christian in focus but actually a lot of the prayers are open enough to encourage those who might be put off with an overly religious or specifically Christian message.
The app has a decent intro, with info on prayer itself, a section on why pray? and how to begin to pray – another fab feature for those who might be new to anything of faith. And it’s so simple to use. Each day of the month just has a very simply quote or prayer to pray, like these which you can either listen to or read.
Their suggestion is, why not give just 1 minute a day to prayer. So, it’s not exactly aimed at your seasoned prayer warrior, but it’s perfect for a friend who expresses an interest in prayer, or an attendee at your Alpha course or just to suggest to people via your Facebook page maybe. As the app says:
‘praying may help you to develop your spirituality and to connect with something bigger than yourself’
There’s also an intro video (below) from the rather fab Justin Welby who notes that if we encourage people to open themselves to God, who knows what might happen… So often I think when we want to share our faith we worry about things like what people might think, or ‘when to Jesus‘, or whether we are going into full on bible bashing mode, but this is actually a great tool to share with people that is non-threatening, relevant and might just start people on a journey that you can help them with.
Although all that said, I’m actually loving some of the prayers like the one pictured above from Lord Astley:
‘O Lord, you know how busy I must be this day; If I forget you, do not forget me’
To be honest I should be praying this every day! and actually if you are a well-worn pray-er then maybe you could use the app to just kick start your prayer each morning, or to give you a prompt, there’s some really beautiful stuff in there. So first off, give it a go, then why not share it with people around you, as the good Archbishop says, you never know what might happen…
So, during February the CofE is having a real focus on vocation in the church which is fab! This is what they say:
Today and throughout February the Church of England is making a new call to all its members to consider their Vocation. We all have a Vocation to discover and pursue, whether in the Church and in the World and we each have a story of our own Vocation, and our journey so far. We’ll be sharing individual stories of Vocation throughout the month from all parts of the Church.
So if you haven’t come across it yet do keep an eye on their blog which is featuring stories of people finding their calling or vocation in the church and on Twitter check out the Hashtag : #CofECalling
As you may know if you read this blog regularly, I am a big fan of encouraging vocation in the CofE and last year finished my guide to the ‘discernment process in the CofE’ which you can read for free here (or download as a PDF).
So in light of this focus I have had a look back at some of things I wrote when discerning my own vocation, which has been rather comical. All that pain, frustration, denial, and burying my head in the sand! So funny to think now that I am on the verge of getting ordained, how did that even happen?!
I’ve written about my calling in various places across the blog but this one here was the first thing I publicly wrote in admitting I might actually be called to ministry. If you are just starting to think about it all, do give it a read…
I think the key thing is, if you are feeling called to something, don’t ignore it. If it is really God calling you, it won’t just go away so you might as well give in and look at it (saves time and heartache in the long run!). Doesn’t have to be a big song and dance, you might want to start by just asking a few key friends to pray about it or with you. If you still feel something then start to think about approaching your Vicar or DDO.
Whatever you do, it is not an easy process, as you can read about in the discernment guide but it is totally worthwhile and rewarding. I still feel terrified about getting ordained and totally unworthy but I also know it is exactly what I should be doing.
H/T to Samantha Martell whose Facebook page I saw this on!
Ok listen I don’t like labels, said it before and I’ll say it again, but if you didn’t know me and you met me or saw me at church you’d say I’m a charismatic. Ok so yes perhaps that is one term you could use to describe me. Let’s get that out of that way so I can’t be accused of hidden bias. Also I’m not having a rant or a sense of humour failure, as actually I’ve been researching liturgy, as part of my church placement recently…
So, I was brought up in a pretty middle of the road Anglican church so I have some experience of more formal liturgy even though I now worship at and work for a Fresh Expression church. And so having done a placement in a more formal church I’ve been thinking about it more. I suspect there may be more posts on the subject but for the meantime here’s some thoughts on repetition…
So, something that comes up from time to time to do with charismatic worship is repetition. So yes modern worship songs are repetitious. Heard it before, yawn yawn. But you know over the years in conversation on liturgy, one thing that people always say (yes always) about the merits of formal liturgy are that the repetition of words and phrases week in and week out, is vital. It’s formational even.
Much of the way formal liturgy is structured is around scripture. Scripture forms the backbone of it from the obvious readings and Psalms, to huge chunks phrased as canticles and prayers. Then many of the regularly repeated prayers are based on passages from the bible too. This is all worked out by teams of people from The Liturgical Commission, who put it all together and write the prayers and words that are said each week.
Much thought and prayer I am sure goes into these words. I am not denying that. Thousands of people say those words each week, and encounter God through them. Thousands of people pray liturgical words each day even, let alone each week. There are some truly wonderful prayers and passages of liturgy in our worship books. Even I as a raving charismatic can appreciate them, words like these from Compline:
Before the ending of the day, Creator of the world, we pray That you, with steadfast love, would keep Your watch around us while we sleep.
From evil dreams defend our sight, From fears and terrors of the night; Tread underfoot our deadly foe That we no sinful thought may know.
O Father, that we ask be done Through Jesus Christ, your only Son; And Holy Spirit, by whose breath Our souls are raised to life from death.
or, from Morning Prayer:
As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of your presence, O God, set our hearts on fire with love for you; now and for ever. Amen.
But repetition. A number of people have said to me in conversation, including two Bishops, that the repetition of words and phrases is so important for Christians, that these words become part of us, as we remember them, they become embedded in us, they stay with us and sustain us. At times of great need one might recall a prayer from church, or at a moment when a friend suddenly needs help, what can we say but recite a well known prayer that has stuck in our minds from years of saying it.
So then why is it then that the common gripe about modern worship songs is that they are repetitive? I personally find that it is often music I turn to in times of prayer or need, the words of a song come to my mind, I sing, even if it is just one line. Are these words, often repeated any less of a prayer? Any less formational because they are repeated in song? In fact these days there are some modern songs based on liturgy, ‘I Believe (The Creed)’ by Hillsong is based on the Apostles Creed, Matt Redman’s ‘Benediction’ is based on a liturgical blessing too and there are of course others.
I’ve spent the course of my latest essay discussing how charismatic worship can fulfil the role of liturgy and do you know what it can and does. Not in the same way of course but repetition is certainly a part of it. You can’t have it both ways, either repetition of words helps to form us or it doesn’t, but you can’t claim it does in one form and not another… and if nothing else I would refer you to Revelation 4:8.