Download and save our Spring term calendar – lots of great prayer dates to put in your diary!
Old, new and social media have been full of it the last few days; looking back on 2016 with dismay, and ahead to 2017 with trepidation. But every new year – and every new morning – is a blank canvas waiting to capture more of God’s hope-filled, grace-charged transformation, especially in the bleakest places and situations. It’s all about where we choose to look… how we choose to see, and the picture we choose to paint for others:
So our resolution for 2017 is simply this:
“I will remember this – because of it I will have: hope whatever comes… God’s loving kindnesses never run out; they are new every morning. He is completely reliable.”
It’s not new wisdom. It’s ancient.
Its words are inspired by the words of Jeremiah (in Lamentations 3:22-23) who was intimately and tragically familiar with the worst this world can do, and broken by the mercy of a God who forgives and re-gives again and again and again.
New every morning. Great is his faithfulness.
Whatever the news brings, whatever is coming, we have this hope – new every morning and fresh every day.
Let’s not forget where we’ve been dwelling over Advent and Christ-with-us as we enter 2017.
Let’s not forget to keep looking expectantly for how he is entering each situation, and to keep celebrating the rememberance that his presence is still with us – always with us.
Though we still walk in great darkness, the light has come. We have seen it, and it has changed our perspective forever.
“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” (Isaiah 9:7)
Sometimes in our every day, it doesn’t look like light is even keeping up – let alone winning. But dig behind the myths and spin and you will find different stories: stories of extraordinary breakthrough and seismic, global change in education, peace, healthcare, poverty reduction, environmental protection and more…
And million about million testimonies of answered prayer and renewed courage.
Do not doubt it. He has accomplished all he set out to do – it is finished…
…and he is accomplishing all he has said he will do.
He holds all time and space in his hands, withholding final redemption only out of the greatest love and wisdom and insight.
And he will return to bring that final beautiful redemption in his perfect timing – and then we will see how every tear has been lovingly shared, and every loose end lovingly remembered and re-purposed.
So until then?
We need fear no uncertainty, no ending and no new beginning or what it might hold.
Christ behind us in 2016; Christ with us in January 2017; Christ before us in every day that is still to come.
What non-sense is this?
God comes to fight all evil’s command
with tiny fists and gurgling cry;
heaven’s glorious standard
veiling himself in dimples,
ready to be held tightly
in vulnerable, poor-girl arms.
What precarious ambush is this?
That dares to conquer darkness
with an obscure birth;
Light’s most piercing hope
right behind enemy lines
under cover of virgin’s womb.
What terrifying odds are these?
To deliver the rescuing deliverer
gift-wrapped in helplessness;
needing so much protection himself
from weak, fragile civilians
desperate to receive
his rescue themselves.
But this child; this plan –
this battle – begun today
will win the war of eternity;
in thirty three short years
and three long days
as, held up once more,
his finishing cry will defeat death’s very self.
So I need fear no evil,
not through power,
nor even peace on earth;
but because Light himself
and loved down
the gates of hell.
sparrow song had their last flight of the season on Saturday – singing Christmas wonder alongside the usual repertoire of hope-filled lyrics and heavenly harmonies. Many shoppers said how thrilled they were with this musical gift of peace… and also by the 100 Christmas tree decoration doves that we made to offer to those who heard it. Here’s a few pictures of them, together with the acrostic message we shared to explain why peace really can be given and received:
D is for please disarm our hearts and
O is for please help us overcome our differences and begin to forgive;V is for the vulnerability we know this bravery takes and brings, and
E is for the everyone peace must be born in to really fly.
S is for just one single, simple, sparrow falling,
Precious enough for God to notice and grieve;
A fraction then, compared to how he loves us, each and every one.
Rest assured then, this Christ-with-us, there is always hope.
Really, truly, this is why Jesus came; to show us that love –
Only simple, sacrificial love – always wins. And that is
Why, and how, there truly can be peace on earth.
So let it be born in each one of us again God, and let it fly!
A big thank you to sparrow song, Stephanie and Jill! Just a few hands (and voices) make light work… and can fly together beautifully to give peace away to hundreds of people!
We’re praying now that each dove that has flown home with someone will make it onto their tree and remind them again and again of our prayers and Jesus’ love and peace – given for them, and for the world he so loves.
My God isn’t just a God who cares about migrants – or a God who calls himself the God of migrants – although he is both of these things of course.
My God is a migrant.
He’s always on the move.
Leaving heavens and holy places and accepted hierarchies to show up in unexpected places – asking strangers and highly inappropriate people to welcome him in, or sit down and eat with him.
Yes, my God is a migrant.
He writes, and stars in, countless, ceaseless, stories of perpetual motion.
He can’t stop still.
It’s been going on since he invented time.
He came and walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the garden’s evening light; he broke the ultimate sound barrier to talk plans and promises with Noah and Abraham and so many more.
He dreamed Joseph and his whole family into Egypt, manifested himself at bush and mountain to meet Moses; then led all his people out of it again in a constant, 40 year long criss-crossing the desert journey, always staying one step ahead of them through alternate pillars of cloud and fire until finally, eventually, they were mature enough to settle.
And then 2000 plus years ago, he out did himself. Upped sticks completely if you like. Half split a third of himself off, and brought this precious part of him out of complete perfection and unity to enter our mess completely. Wholehearted, cosmic re-location.
This ultimate rescue plan was properly risky – dangerously, recklessly, lovingly risky.
He comes in human form.
And what vessel does he choose to board with such precious cargo to bring us?
A virgin’s womb.
So much could have gone wrong. Bethlehem just before AD didn’t have twenty first century, state of the art, Western healthcare. Pregnancy didn’t have great odds. Childbirth the same. And devout Jewish virgins? Well let’s just say there could have been plenty of angry men waiting in the wings ready to throw enough stones to end it all before it had barely begun.
But my God makes it.
He does it.
The virgin accepts – risks it all to carry him with brave “yes to God” worship and he’s nurtured and grown and born.
And then he’s just lying there.
For a while at least, the God of the universe is utterly dependent on his mother’s arms for everything; life, safety and even this thing he so loves – movement.
He’s just there lying on his back unable to crawl, let alone walk – totally at the mercy of the elements, of people’s whims; dependent on the success of harvests and a carpentry business and an open, uneducated but willing heart listening and obeying the counsel of his dreams in order to avoid certain death for his “God-son”.
Yes, that’s the bit of the story we’ve made the parallel to before isn’t it?
Yes, my God was a refugee. He had to flee Bethlehem in the night and seek asylum in Egypt to escape Herod’s anger.
But it’s bigger than that chapter. It’s like a mission statement for his whole life.
Because when he grew up, he chose to do it all again. Perpetual motion that is.
The settled life, the carpenter’s shop, the family connections and expectations of Nazareth… he left those all behind for a life on the road, travelling light, choosing to become dependent on Eastern hospitality and his followers’ generosity, so he himself could give everything for those he met.
He put himself at the mercy of the anyone’s welcome so he could welcome everyone into God’s creative, reconciling plan. He shared the endless, abundant riches of the kingdom – the Father’s limitless resources, seemingly holding on to little or nothing in transit.
And the vulnerability of it all? The unorthodox, counter-cultural, shockingly revolutionary nomadic nature of it all?
Well it earned him a lot of enemies.
It got him into a lot of trouble with the religious establishment.
It didn’t go down with those keen on rules above grace and definitions over welcome.
There was as much rejection as acceptance. Probably much more.
And within three years of living like this, he got himself killed.
But I guess, he never intended to stay put in Israel anyway.
Death was always going to be his gateway to the ultimate in downward mobility; he was always coming to rescue even deeper – fearlessly move towards death himself to conquer it with grave-breaking, life-saving, dawn-dimming love!
Thank God my God is a migrant.
Thank God he didn’t stay separate and far away from us.
Thank God he came and asked for our welcome.
Thank God he gives us endless chances as he moves towards us again and again and again.
Thank God he’s still moving among us now – constantly asking us if we’ll welcome him.
He’s here now, asking us to receive him again…
Will we say yes to his presence? His conviction? His transformation? His technicolour-shalom vision of hope and purpose for each one of our lives? Will we say yes to the revelation and obedience his Word is asking us for…
…and to each migrant face and story his own is reflected in so uniquely?
“Yes I see you. Yes, I value you. Yes I’m ready to listen, to welcome, to somehow find an impossible, gracious, Godly way forward.”
Yes, my God is a migrant.
And I say yes to seeing him in every migrant too.
Oh, that Western hospitality might make you welcome my Lord.
Everywhere you knock, everything you ask, in every area of our hearts and lives, oh that we would answer yes and amen to you.
Please, Jesus, help us to let you depend on us in your vulnerability, test our love and our welcome, and enter in more fully – please be born in us again today.
In your mercy, migrant God, move us all to where we need to be to match and minister your heart – to you, and to all you came, and are coming, and will still come for – and with.
It’s no secret that everything at the Sanctuary is fueled by prayer. All our inspiration, ideas, directions – everything comes from time spent listening to God and sharing his heart during our daily . So what fuels the rhythm?
God is so generous to us with his presence, his Word, his revelation and his other children – we learn and grow through them all.
But there’s one thing that has been uniquely significant to the Sanctuary’s journey… and that’s our list of the characteristics of God.
Every day, we use all the lists in this source document – along with headlines or topical foci – to shape our rhythm.
But the characteristics list is so precious – every day we take one of these treasures and let it frame our praise and renew our minds. So if we could save one resource, one thing we’ve made or gathered from the journey of the last seven years, it would be just this…
Because it’s so rich.
And it keeps on growing…
The more time we spend in worship; the more we see God at work in the world; the more we get to know him – the more words, descriptions and images we need to reflect our ever-deepening discoveries of the wonder of who he is, what he is like and how he works!
So here’s the latest version of our source document – open it up, find the list, use it in your prayer times and join us on an amazing adventure into the heart and reality of God.
As for us, we’re looking forward to starting again with the newly extended ‘As’ on Monday!
Advent has begun, and our Christmas window is up… beckoning people to meet with Jesus through a powerfully gentle message. We’ll let the images – and the words they contain – speak for themselves!
Thank you to the whole team who helped inspire the wonderful, weaving journey God led us towards with this window, and contributed concepts, quotes, practical assistance, focused prayer and/or moral support especially Liz, Jill, Nic, Sandra, Lisa and Stephanie.
Thank you to C.S.Lewis and Pauline Baynes for the original story, words and illustrations, which millions are still being blessed by receiving and sharing today.
And – most of all – thank you to our own amazing artists:
Alison Helliwell-Hodson, who painted our wardrobe door last year, and co-created with God to do something faintly miraculous and servant-heartedly extravagant with half a dozen white glass pens this year…
And Barbara Macnish and Sarah Baxter, whose live art Advent worship of Jesus from three years ago is still serving the One it depicts this Christmas, as thousands of people every day look through Aslan and find Jesus shining through.
We’re praying many will hear his beautiful call as they drive or walk by.
Visit our seasonal resources page to find and download Advent and Christmas songs, prayer resources and dramatic monologues to help you connect with the true meaning of Christ-with-with us.
It’s about ten days since we read this story and two other articles (linked from the bottom of it) from Open Doors about Christians returning to towns in the Nineveh Plains, near Mosul in Iraq. While we continue in broken-hearted intercession for those in or fleeing Mosul as the Iraqi army advances against IS, and mourn all that has been – and is being devastated – we just can’t shake the hopeful echo of the sweetest worship we think we’ve ever heard. So, on Friday, we wrote this prayer:
Were there ever sweeter sounds to you
than this my melody-making King?
Barely not-broken bells ringing in desecrated ruins;
Brave footsteps crunching up paths
or steps to reach stolen steeples
ready to lift the cross high again in simple, wooden glory;
and the courageous, beating-faster heart
of every loving pastor
who goes ahead of his people
to prepare the Nineveh plains for their return.
I never heard more bitter-sweet sounds
my melody-making King,
than that single bell which still echoes in my heart
and the stories calling me to deeper worship
than my songs have yet to find,
and greater courage than my life may ever be called to live.
But, although I hesitate to add anything alongside
these holy fragments of praise,
I say a thousand silent thank yous for their beauty –
and this answered prayer of unspeakably precious worship renewed.
Visit the world peace section of our search by issue page
to browse our peace resources – songs, creative prayer stations, written prayers and more – to help you to pray on and around 11.11.