Tag Archive: Common Worship Additional collect

Palm Sunday, 2014

We cannot escape the cross. There is no Christianity without it. There is no Christianity without self-denial, and self-denial hurts. (D. W. Cleverley Ford)

A Prayer from “Common Worship”

Lord Jesus Christ, you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant, and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation. Give us the mind to follow you and to proclaim you as Lord and King, to the glory of God the Father. Amen. (Palm Sunday, post communion prayer)

Psalm 143

“My heart within me is desolate” (verse 4) (other translations use ‘appalled’ or ‘dismayed’)

There is something that I wish I had been told when I was a relatively new and young Christian. I understood about Jesus being the Son of God, I knew about the cross and resurrection and believed that God’s Spirit was present in/with me as a Christian, a follower/brother of Jesus etc etc. Somewhere, though, I had got the idea that if you are a Christian, if you have faith, then everything will always be OK – or at least that you will always feel OK. It followed that if I felt low, sad, depressed, upset etc, then I was not a proper Christian or perhaps not really a Christian at all. Now, that is nonsense, of course. People of God do get upset, sad or lonely from time to time. When Lazarus died, Jesus wept; in Gethsemane his heart was breaking. Even when Jesus was in the boat with them, his disciples were afraid when a storm blew up. A few minutes with the Old Testament with the likes of Job or some of the Psalms of lamentation should quickly show the same thing.

I have learned that desolation, feeling upset, sad, dismayed or the like, is part of the Christian walk with God. If your heart is set to follow what is right and good, you want God’s just and merciful kingdom to come, it is your intention to do his will; then, when something goes against that, it hurts. If you do something you believe to be wrong, your conscience will hurt; if you see an injustice, it will move you; if someone you love dies you may weep like Jesus did. Mind you, if your heart is not with God, you can feel desolate just because you are not getting your own way.

Then there is the opposite: consolation. That is the sense that every thing is right, in proper order, going well, at peace. If your heart is set on God’s will and his kingdom it will be when your life is in harmony with his will. Those moments are precious and a gift from God to be enjoyed – they are not a right to be demanded of him.

In psalm 143 I think the Psalmist shows that they understand this. They feel like they are in darkness and their spirits are low – but they remember what God has done in the past and therefore have confidence to tell him like it is and to pray for help.

The joy of the Lord is indeed our strength, but that does not mean we shall always feel happy. It might mean that we feel secure because we can trust God to walk with us in both the good and in the bad times. And because he loves all his children, we can be sure that he is with us whether it feels like it or not.

A prayer from “Common Worship”

Gracious Father, you gave up your Son out of love for the world. Lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion, that we may know eternal peace through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Additional Collect, Lent 5)

2nd April

Psalm 29

I wonder what God sounds like? I suppose he sounds like Jesus – if we are thinking of a human voice that is. Elijah heard God in a still small voice, and Moses heard him when he saw the bush that was burning but not burning up. Jesus reminds us that God is Spirit – what does that sound like? Maybe the question implies that God is a big bloke sitting on a cloud with thunderbolts in one hand and rainbows in the other – totally wrong, of course, and anyone who has flown in an aeroplane will have had a chance to inspect the clouds in any case.

In Psalm 29, David has an idea of God’s voice from the sounds you can find in nature. There is a thundering waterfall, lightning, earthquakes and whirlwinds (tornadoes even). The point being that God’s voice is more powerful than anything in nature. Whatever it is, God’s voice is not timid. It is worth pausing sometimes and reminding ourselves what we are in comparison with the world around us – pretty small. Yet not matter how big, great or powerful Nature is, or how beautiful and energetic the Universe is, God is so much more so.

That is the heavenly Father we pray to, whether we are asking for strength or praying for peace.

A prayer from “Common Worship”

God of love, you are passionate and strong, tender and careful. Watch over us and hold us all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Additional Collect, Mothering Sunday)

26th March, Biggles!

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and our strength

I’m sorry, but when I hear or read those words my immediate thought is the name “Biggles” which, as well as being unhelpful, is also culturally very specific. Let me explain.

There is a hymn, a versified version of this psalm, 46, which is well-written and a good sing. The sentiments of this psalm are faithfully represented. The tune given for it is quite catchy and, I think, fairly easy to pick up. So far, so good. Unfortunately, that hymn tune is closely based on the theme tune to a World War II film from the 1950’s. If I were to say, “The Dambusters March”, would you understand? The film is about an RAF raid intended to blow up several dams in the Ruhr valley. It emphasises the derring-do of the air crew rather more than the casualties on the ground. What you may not know is that there is a series of books, fiction for boys if you like, from the same era as the film. In it “Biggles”, the hero, is a pilot in the RAF. The books are of their time and even when I was a young reader they felt a bit dated. However, the picture of a pilot with helmet and flying goggles has stuck in the mind; and that is what I see when I hear psalm 46 to that tune.

Having said that; while I think war is wrong and that we all too easily forget the pain, death and suffering that it brings; I do believe that during World War II many, if not most, of the Allies acted in good faith: they fought in order, somehow, “to make the world a better place”.

That said, I note what the psalmist hears God say: “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” Or, as another translation puts it: “Stop fighting, and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme over the world.”

A prayer from “Common Worship”

Eternal God, give us insight to discern your will for us, to give up what harms us, and to seek the perfection we are promised in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Additional Collect, Lent 3)

19th March, Idol Curiosity

Psalm 135

“Mouths that don’t speak and eyes that do not see; ears that don’t hear and mouths that have no breath.” I realise that the psalmist is talking about praying to idols, statues and the like, but whenever I read these verses, I can’t help thinking about the various gadgets that we use. Whether that is TVs, cameras, phones, sound systems, computers etc. Yes they do produce pictures for us to see and sounds for us to hear – and they are very handy tools: I am typing this on a PC, after all. But these gadgets are not conscious, they do not see the pictures they transmit or hear the sounds they broadcast. They are not alive: which is what the “breath” in the psalm refers to.

What would we do without these gadgets? Some people take a “Facebook-” or “Twitter-” fast during Lent. Maybe they find that discipline useful and that exercising that extra bit of self-control is a gift they may dedicate to God. What are they doing instead? In the time that is released do they have more face-to-face meetings? Or perhaps they spend the time in prayer or study? Perhaps they have some manual labour to attend to such as spring cleaning the garage or mending the fence damaged in that last storm? Or will some other gadget take their time instead: more Candy Crush Saga?

I suggest that this psalm invites us to consider whether there are any idols in our lives. I doubt any one gets on their knees and prays to their smart phone. But I wonder, is the technology our servant or our master; a useful tool but nothing more? Try this: do you always answer your phone no matter how important the face-to-face conversation you are having? If you had a gadget-free day, how would you cope – and I don’t just mean the inconvenience, but would you miss your tablet like you miss a friend? What about a gadget-free Lent? Now there’s a thought.

A prayer from “Common Worship”

Almighty God, by the prayer and discipline of Lent, may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings, and by following in his Way come to share in his glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Additional Collect, Lent 2)

Psalm 13

How long, O Lord, will you forget me for ever? (verse 1)

It strikes me that if you have faith, why would you have a good moan at God? Yet, this is precisely what the writer of this psalm is doing here. And they are not the only one: Elijah, the prophet falls into despair (see 1 Kings chapter 19 where he wants to give up); and Jesus’ own disciples don’t seem to “get it” all the time (e.g. Matthew chapter 18 where the disciples think Jesus is a ghost!).

The fact is, life for any believer is not a bed of roses – or if it is, there are some thorns to deal with. So, when things are not going according to plan, when things go wrong or someone or something upsets us, what are we to do? The answer, I believe, is to be honest with God. If it feels like God has forgotten you or is ignoring you, then say so. If it looks like the danger you face is going to defeat you: tell God about it. Then, when it is all over, do what the psalmist did in this psalm: look back over your experience. I have often found that it is often only after an event or a period of time that I can see how or where God was present and/or at work in a situation: at the time it may not have felt as if he had been there. I don’t know what it felt like for Jesus to spend that time in the desert being tested and tempted by Satan. I doubt that it felt at all comfortable but rather challenging and even painful at the time. Looking back we can see that as he resisted the devil in the desert, Jesus had already begun to defeat him.

As for us, I would suggest that, when God seems slow to help, this Psalm offers us a message along these lines: “Hang in there. One day you will be able to look back on all this and make sense of it all.”

A prayer from “Common Worship”

Heavenly Father, your Son battled with the powers of darkness, and grew closer to you in the desert. Help us to use these days to grow in wisdom and prayer that we may witness to your saving love in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Additional Collect, Lent 1)

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