Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

GE2017 – a gift of opportunity

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Those of us who gather to pray together at the Sanctuary come from widely different backgrounds. But there are some characteristics present in us all. Top of that list is having been so captivated by God’s love for us and every one in seven billion, we are now heaven-bent on embodying that love, as well as making it known.

In other words we’re constantly engaged with making a difference to the world – we’re daily praying and acting in response to headlines, issues of injustice and  community events. So when several of our pray-ers responded to a call to pray about the election with what can only be described as a kind of spiritual exhaustion, it was indicative of the wider atmosphere in our nation…

When the forthcoming snap election was announced last month, the news reports contained interviews with a number of people who expressed a sense of being ‘sick’ of politics… one woman was quoted again and again as saying there was ‘too much politics’.

Media, commentators and comedians have carried on this tone. It’s not so much election fever as election malaise. We know we have to engage with this election – we know how important it is; how crucial for determining not just the course of action ahead of our nation with respect to Brexit and other key issues, but perhaps for even defining what kind of nation we want to be.

We know.

And yet…

There is a palpable weariness.

Even among many of the most engaged.

But it’s vital we turn apathy to opportunity.

Everyone in our nation needs prayer to rise above the sense of heaviness, and to be told that there is hope – resilient, abiding, certain hope.

People standing for election need prayer for protection and need to be told that they are loved and appreciated for who they are in the face of an often gruelling ordeal which, for most of them – whether you agree with their policies and ideology or not – comes out of a desire to stand up for something they believe to be for the common good.

And candidates and parties need to be given help in shaping vision – not just lobbied on pet policies – of the kind of country we could be.

There are many ways to do the above. You will be praying and acting into them already.

But, in case it’s helpful for stimulating further prayer, ideas and actions, having wrestled passed that tiredness, and listened for what God was laying on our hearts, here’s how we’re seeking to respond to the opportunity GE2017 presents us to share God’s love and courageously stand for his priorities.

  1. First of all we’re seeking to share hope with everyone we engage in – not vague or politically based hope, but sure and certain Jesus hope. We’re doing this through prayer, in the tone of our conversations and resources and through sharing an art installation in the window of our current premises.
  2. Secondly, we’re praying for our nation and urging everyone in our national and global prayer network to continue to do the same at this crucial time. So we’re investing our time in writing communications like this one, and in creating prayers like Anchor us Lord so that we all remain focused on God’s heart throughout this process.
  3. Thirdly, we’re creating a special card for each of the six local candidates standing in our area and sending them a message of love, appreciation of the costs of standing for public office, and assurance of our prayers. At a time when most of what comes at them is demands, comparisons, polling pressure and criticism, we want to speak en-courage-ment and grace – no matter what their political stance is, or whether any of our pray-ers are likely to vote for them or not.
  4. And lastly, after much wrestling prayer and discussion, despite us feeling that item three is a huge priority for us – to proactive love those who many in our community will not at this time – we’re including a folded up letter in their cards which also speaks up for others we love; most especially the poor and vulnerable.

We’re going to be honest with them, sharing that we agonised about whether to include this because we want the main message they receive from us to be about them, but that we felt this election was too crucial not to speak up for who and what we believe Jesus is leading us to champion.

Because – as we said above – this election is about who we want to be as a nation as we enter Brexit negotiations, redefine law and much more. It is about choosing a character as well as a course.

We’d love you to join us in seeking to speak and embody hope – especially Jesus-rooted hope – at this time where there is such a pervasive sense of drifting and uncertainty.

We’d love you to keep praying with us for the nation at this vital time.

But can we also go one further, and ask you to think about joining us in finding a way to express honest words of appreciation and love to all your candidates? And to consider enclosing something alongside this that speaks up for the voiceless to them with love and respect – something that voices a larger, kingdom-inspired vision for who our nation could be.

You will have your own list of policies you feel are vital, but we are choosing to highlight serving the global poor, protecting vulnerable groups within our own nation and caring for the environment well – and doing this by referring to the specific recommendations made by the following, trusted expert organisations in reference to this election.

  1. Christian Aid
  2. Tearfund
  3. Traidcraft
  4. Age UK
  5. Shelter
  6. The Children’s Society
  7. The Wildlife Trusts
  8. Friends of the Earth

Next week, once we’ve put our own communications to our own candidates together, we’ll share a bit more of the visuals for their card, the tone of the message we write, and the text we’re developing in case you want to use that more directly.

But whatever you do, we’re praying for you – and us –  to keep receiving God’s hope, love, vision and courage to see GE2017 as an opportunity – an opportunity to share his hope, love, vision and courage even wider.

For his sake, his kingdom’s sake, the UK’s sake and the sake of every one in seven billion he so loves. Amen.

 

magnificat counterpoint – Easter reprise

Monday, April 10th, 2017

We’ve uploaded a brand new meditation/monolgue to the Easter section on our seasonal resources page – this one imagines Mary at the end of her life, looking back at the whole of her time with Jesus, and after him; how her song – and all God’s other words to and through her have come true; and just what her life of praise and obedience has helped to enable…

What a life God has given me! What a life…

Part of me is still just that young peasant girl from Nazareth. But I…

I… I?

I have also been God’s son’s… mother!

How can I explain the unexplainable?

You see, everything the angel and the prophets said became techni-colour truth.

No word from God ever fails. Not a single sentence can ever come back empty of course.

But I actually watched it happen, everything heard and sung about… I watched it become flesh and deed and fact.

My life has been part of the greatest story ever imagined, lived or told…

************

I did find favour with God.

I did conceive and give birth to a son.

I did call him Jesus.

The Holy Spirit really did overshadow me and the one who was born in, and through and from me was his son – the Son of God himself.

My beautiful, broken-hearted barren cousin did have a child in her old age who changed everything for her. And who – even in the womb – recognised the Lord beginning to grow in me.

Beautiful, 24-7 worshipping old Anna the prophetess did see and speak the truth, when her soft wrinkled smile shone on him knowingly. How could her God-perceiving heart not see with crystal clarity? The One only to be accessed one day a year by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies was being carried into the outer courts in baby-crinkled skin!

Messiah was here – with us! He did come. For us – to redeem Jerusalem; to redeem the whole world.
Simeon did see God’s salvation. He held it in his very arms, gathering it close to him as his over-flowing heart burst out praise there and then in the temple courts. Like me, he cradled the one who had been clothed in the cosmos … the light of the world – revelation for the gentiles of every nation, the cornerstone and crowning glory of the people of Israel!

And as he grew up? Well, Simeon was right. Many in Israel did rise and fall because of Jesus; many hearts did reveal their true thoughts by speaking against God’s living sign.

And a sword did pierce my heart.

************

It was when we were running away from Bethlehem that I first thought those words were coming true. Because Joseph’s dream was right; we did need to flee Herod’s anger and violence. And the terrible thought of what might happen to the little one who was my everything – God’s everything.

But that wasn’t it.

Then later, on a long road home from Jerusalem when I realised my twelve year old boy was missing, a freezing fear of separation sliced through my core again. But that wasn’t it either. Not even a foreshadowing of it.

I thought again I was tasting it when his ministry was in full swing and he was away saying things I didn’t understand, making enemies out of powerful people and putting friends, strangers and outcasts ahead of his own family… right from that first public miracle in Cana when he said his time had not come to the day he would not come out to see me and his brothers away.

But even all of this was not it.

************

I knew that when his time really came.

Oh yes, then I knew. It is coming now… the sword is falling and I do not know if I will bear its devastation…

When he didn’t use his powers at all but surrendered himself to slander, betrayal and capture.

When they chose to free Barabbas – Barabbas? – instead of him.

When Pilate washed his hands.

I could see it starting to fall as if in slow motion, with a kind of dehabiliitating, disbelieving clarity.

When they took my son – God’s son – who had done nothing wrong and everything right … who had loved people and preached truth and justice and healed, rescued and poured out compassion on the outsider, lived perfect righteousness and exposed hypocrisy and exploitation and hard hearts towards God and man.

When they took him and beat him, and hung him on a cross to die a cursed death between two criminals with a crown of thorns rammed on his head and a mocking sign inadvertently proclaiming the truth – “Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum; Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews”.

When he handed me into John’s care.

When the life I had once surrendered my whole imagined life for was taken and brutally killed in front of me.

When I realised that it was not just the angel’s words, or Simeon’s or Anna’s that were coming true, but Isaiah’s too…

For like a sheep he was led to the slaughter – he didn’t even open his mouth to protest. I watched him become a man of sorrows, familiar with everyone’s grief. I witnessed him be despised and rejected – betrayed by one of the very people he had put even above family… cheered on into death by the very people who had cheered him into the city a few days earlier, by people he had healed and delivered.

And the punishment that should have been theirs; the punishment that should have been ours – oh God, even mine – was all put on his one set of shoulders. Oh God, how could my son’s back be broad enough to bear the weight of the whole world’s sin? How could his nail-pierced hands hold the agony of carrying it all? How could the purest Son of God carry every foul thing that separates us from his Father?

And then…

… it fell.

************

The pain of that blade sunk deep, white-hot deep, into my core.

Despair.

Excruciating. Total. Despair.

Separation.

Black-can’t-breathe-horror.

Son severed from mother.

Son severed from Father God.

God severed from his very own self.

Earth breaking.

Created order quaking.

Balance crumbling and spirit shaking.

Dark in day and splitting stone and the sacred temple veil severed in two. Because there was an even deeper, cosmic severing happening that none of us foresaw too.

But I didn’t know that on that black, black afternoon.

Then, I knew only the sword. Only the searing pain. Only the darkness and the tears and the indescribable wrenching, anguished loss of the loveliest life ever lived.

************

Thank God for that first, glorious, Resurrection Sunday!

Praise his mighty name for the restoration of all that is good and holy!

Exalt the Lord our God because the Son rose again with the sunrise!

And he has conquered death and fear and shame!

Thank God Jesus’ death was not his end – that it was not my end – but everyone’s new beginning!

“Oh my soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.”

For I have seen the humblest of all lifted high… on a cross, out of death, and into the heavens!

I have seen the hungry filled with good things… on hillsides and in their hearts and spirits…

I have seen his arm perform mighty deeds and then the most mighty of all – giving his life as a ransom for many.

And I have seen a great mercy extending to every generation in Israel’s lineage and outside of it.

Oh Jesus, son of my heart and Son of the living God. All praise to you my risen and reigning Lord! You lived our life, washed our feet, died our death, paid our dues, stormed our hell to win our freedom, and ascended to glory to make a way for us there again. For all of eternity!

So oh yes, I’m still praising you God that I said yes to you when Gabriel asked me to give up my life for yours.

Because what a life – what life – you have given us all in exchange! Resurrection, eternal, rich and joyful life.

Love for Jew and Gentile, love to least and most
love to distant islands and love to far off coasts.
Love for every generation, stretching out to kingdom come
Love that freely offers redemption to every mother’s son.
***********
And so my hand rests here, remembering the first signs of your miracle growth – and knowing you live in me again now!

And I listen. And I obey. And I pray and I praise. And I gladly, daily, still risk my everything for your costly grace.

For your life means life. Forever.

Yes your life brings life. For everyone.

And despite that sword, people will still always call me blessed.

Because the one who reigns over us all –

chose to need my heartfelt YES!

If you found this resource helpful, you can download it – and similar monologues (for Easter and Christmas) from our seasonal resources page

the power of powerless worship

Friday, March 24th, 2017

Inspired by Earth Hour, we chose to go off the grid a little early, and pledged to fast from electricity in preparing for – and during – morning worship yesterday. The results of switching off were incredibly powerful, so we wanted to share some of the experience with you… and recommend you doing something similar yourself at a church service or in a small group session.


But before we explain why it was so powerful, we need to tell you something first.

We failed.

Partly because, following the heart-breaking attack in Westminster the previous afternoon, we decided it was important to read the headlines that morning, as we wanted to incorporate prayer for London into our time together. (Our morning routine usually relies on online news sources, and we didn’t even think of making extra time to buy a newspaper instead.)

But mostly because, although we used no lights, heating, sound equipment, projector, keyboard, laptop or internet based media or print-outs, it was impossible not to benefit from previous uses of electricity.

As we listed the things we normally use at the Sanctuary without thinking to prepare, lead or participate in our prayer rhythm, we realised how few hadn’t at some stage been ‘produced’.

Even the things that felt ‘natural’ such as pens and paper, printed Bibles, candles and matches are with us because of layer after layer of energy use.

As the list of our usual electrical – and hidden electrical – use at the Sanctuary grew and grew, something was also happening in our hearts.

That was – of course – the point… the whole aim of the fast. It did its job!

After it, we are feeling much more thankful

Colossians 16:1 reminds us of something we often forget when we celebrate the wonder of God’s creation – he created all things invisible as well as all things visible: Spiritual powers yes, but also imagination, inspiration, ideas… and gravity, magnetism, and electricity.

But we tend to sing a lot more about the mountains, moors and lakes we can see than we do about these things.

And whenever we aren’t actively practising gratitude for any of God’s gifts, we tend to become less present to it being a gift, and less careful with both our praise and our stewardship as a result.

We often take time to remember just how much our encounters with God – and our lives as a whole – are served and enriched by the natural world, and all the wonders God has filled it with…

But today we were truly blown away by how rich we are in our encounters with God – and our lives as a whole – because of electricity, and the other gifts it serves and enables in turn.

Songs are recorded and shared widely, and their sheet music, chord charts and lyrics are instantly downloadable for people to play and project to a group of people.

A wide range of art, graphics and films to bring concepts to life are available by typing key words into a search bar.

That ‘somewhere in the Bible’ verse can be instantly at your finger tips, then studied further by flipping to another translation or clicking on a wealth of commentary.

The news is on tap; information and statistics are immediately available to us.

All God shows us in worship times can be shared through resources on our website which people all over the world can access within hours of it being revealed to us in prayer.

And if we want to share a gospel message in the window we can very quickly get specialised art materials (such as glass pens in every colour of the rainbow) delivered to our door to create one… tomorrow!

Transport, printing, heating, lighting, labour saving appliances, devices and gadgets… hot water, hot drinks, stationary manufacture… the list just goes on and on…

Our powerless worship exercise has made us even more aware of the huge amount of energy we’re actually using, and just how much of the time.

Even the best online carbon calculator doesn’t have room to ask you questions about all of these things, or the ability to make a true calcualtion of your complex use of resources.

And as we prayerfully seek to move forward in living lighter, it’s helpful to be more mindful of just how much energy use comes into our worship and day to day life.

By becoming more aware of – and more thankful for – all these half-overlooked gifts, we are much more likely to be more care-full.

By being more present to our usage, we’ll be more mindful of it and, surely therefore, more intentional. Hopefully, we’ll be more cautious and just kinder – to God, planet and people – in our choices over how we use the earth’s resources.

We need to be – in the whole of our lives’ worship. But even more so in our devotion… there’s another level of echo here of passages Amos 5:21-24 that we talk about so often in response to worship that undoes itself through injustice.

Because doing this exercise has also reminded us just how much powerlessness in energy terms equates with poverty and powerlessness in other senses.

An estimated 1.2 billion people in the world today don’t have access to electricity. Most of these people live in Sub-Saharan African countries and rural areas of India.

The poorest people in the world are the most powerless in every sense – and their lack of access to energy cuts them off from so many joys, advantages and riches.

They are also some of the people most adversely affected by the consequences of our power consumption…

We need to consume less, use more renewable energy, and ensure they are given the choice and opportunity to come on grid if they want to…

But our prayer is that they don’t try to emulate our way of life, which has so many flaws…

Because please God, help us remember what we’ve also newly seen again… sometimes when we gain everything, we lose much of what is most important.

So many things can be done and communicated quicker and more conveniently, so we do more and more and more things… and our pace can become exhausting.

So much content and information and variety is wonderful, but sometimes we just pack it all in, and forget to just go deep with one thing, or simply to be.

So little of our time is spent in and with the real, un-manufactured and unprocessed… and so much of our life is detached from the real business of living it… and simply being.

Don’t get us wrong… we’re not planning to retire the keyboard, sound system and projector in order to have ‘earth hour’ worship every day.

The lights are back on, the music’s playing through the ipod dock, the kettle’s resumed it’s constant service, we’re all at our laptops again, typing, searching and linking away… and we’re loving all these gifts.

But we are more grateful to God for them, more aware of the cost of them and – perhaps, please God, perhaps – a little less dependent on them, and another step towards a lot more dependent on him.

To find worship and prayer resources related to environmental justice, creation care and climate change, visit our search by issue page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

celebrating fairtrade with Mervis

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Over the last few weeks, our team, including artist Barbara Macnish, have been pouring hours into preparing what we think may even be the world’s first piece of art painted on tea-bags! It was all done for love; we wanted to help thousands of people think about the people who really bring them their tea, and to consider choosing Fairtrade as a result…

This creative act – and the time lavished on preparing it and its setting – has been a celebration of God’s image in Mervis Kejinga, the tea-picker from Satemwa, Malawi who features in it. And just a small reflection of his love for her and his desire for her voice, and story, to be heard.

As Barbara herself said, she could never create something as beautiful as God did when he designed and made the real Mervis!


We are all connected. And every product we buy is brought to us because of people. It has  real people with real lives hidden behind it. And if we saw them face to face, knew their names and understood just how much their struggles and triumphs are connected to our lives, we might well choose to use our purchasing power differently:


If you want to find out more about how this incredible piece of art was created, scroll further on in the blog…

Because for now, we want to share the story we’re trying to tell with Mervis’ help with you…

Who brings you your tea? Hopefully it’s someone like Mervis…

Because Mervis works on the Satemwa tea estate in Malawi, which has been Fairtrade certified since 2007.

So much has changed here in just 10 years, that there’s not room on these tea-bags to tell you all the good news. But here are some of the  highlights…

Fair pay for picking tea means the children here now go to school and parents can buy nutritious food, proper shelter and basic furniture; some families have started a small business or bought a radio, mobile, goat or bicycle!

And together, the community have funded amazing things like a maternity wing, a fresh water supply for 4,500 people, new classrooms, safe roads, solar powered electricity for 1,100 houses, mosquito nets, malaria drugs …

Ordinary things you’d expect hard working people like Mervis to be able to afford – but which they actually  couldn’t if people like you weren’t buying Fairtrade tea.

Currently, buying certified tea is the ONLY way to ensure the people picking your tea are paid enough to live on…and in some places – such as Assam in India, it is the ONLY way you can help protect desperate tea-pickers from saying yes to people traffickers who promise to give their daughters a better future.

So, please remember Mervis when you shop, and look for the Fairtrade symbol on the tea and other products you buy:

So how did we end up painting Mervis onto tea-bags? And how was it possible?

During times of prayer at the Sanctuary, around both trade and trafficking issues, there had been a sense that we wanted to create an art installation that spoke up for the people behind some of the products we buy, and to connect people passing our current premises with these real individuals, and the risks and challenges they can often face.

Again in prayer, the idea came to one of our co-founders, Liz Baddaley, to focus on tea, trade and trafficking… and to create a canvas out of tea-bags on which a tea-picker could be lovingly painted.

So she asked one of our artists – Barbara Macnish – if this would be possible, and if she would be willing to generously give her time, love and skill, to serve the people behind our products in this way.

Barabara said yes… and so Liz made her first visit to a timber yard(!),  acquired a 1m x 1.2m piece of mdf board, and then stapled more than 300 Fairtrade Clipper tea bags on to it in preparation for Barabara to begin painting…

Then, Barbara built up layers of tissue paper into a kind of papier-mache sculpted surface on top of the tea-bags, ready to paint Mervis on to this. If you look closely you’ll also see that some of the braiding in Mervis’ hair was then ‘painted’ with tea itself. Mixed media art at its finest – wow!

We then had further fun as a team, designing and crafting original bunting and information posters using a photo of a clipper tea-bag as our base design… and hanging just a bit of crockery to add the finishing touches!

Thank you so much Barbara Macnish for all your hard and loving work, Mervis Kejinga for being willing to share your image, name and story with the Fairtrade Foundation and Martine Parry and everyone else at the Foundation for their help and permissions…

Thank you also – as always – to God, for the ideas and inspiration to share his love in new ways as we intercede with him… and to Liz for having the guts to say yes and run with overseeing yet another slightly crazy project all for love.

Our prayer is that everyone who sees this window, and the artwork from it in the media and social media, and in further exhibition spaces in the future, will be connected to the infinite value of the people behind the products they buy…


If you’d like to join us in prayer for economic justice and fair trade, please visit the search by issue index page of our online worship resources library to find songs, written prayers and creative ideas to help you.

a gift to 2017, with love from psalm 72

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

It’s a wrestle to pray for world leaders at the moment isn’t it? You can feel the tension without even taking in the day’s headlines, or looking at your social media feed to see what latest month’s worth of news has happened in just 24 hours, and who is – often understandably – incensed by it…


Post Brexit and post ‘Trump’, there is a deluge of information, rhetoric and reaction and – among many – a sense of confusion, bewilderment and even hopelessness.

But this is not the first time leaders have done things that many of their people struggle with. And it is also is not the first time Jesus’ followers have found themselves at odds with those who exclude and exploit… or those who dehumanise the excluders and exploiters.

And so, not only is there always hope; there is also always practical help with how to pray too.

For us, as so often in times of struggle, some of the most pertinent help has come from the book of Psalms; a precious collection of raw-voiced responses to every imaginable context in which the people of God might want – or need- to fall on their knees and pray…

This time, the re-orientating rescue came when our cycle reached Psalm 72 a few days ago…

Take a few minutes to read it now.

It’s an interesting one – a prayer for the King to lead well and a blessing on him to live long as defender of the needy… blessing all nations through his righteousness.

The psalm is attributed to Solomon, but its last lines voice it as the final prayer of King David.

Commentators always enjoy debating this kind of thing, but most of them form the likely conclusion that Solomon crafted the song after a prayer David spoke, perhaps on his death bed, and the fact it makes references to both the King and the king’s son underlines this…

So why is a thousands of years old poem written to speak blessing on the kings of the historic kingdom of Israel a gift to us and our intercession in the troubled opening months of this year?

Because it brings us back to three important truths:

1. When we pray for leaders, it must be with respect for both the image of God they bear and the authority they have been given – yes, very uncomfortable sometimes, but given, even if the purpose of why is unclear. (See 1 Timothy 2:1-2 and Romans 13:1)

2. When our minds are confused, and our emotions are high and our hearts are genuinely broken at the rhetoric and actions being taken in the name of our nation, or our faith, it’s hard to pray for those responsible in love. Instead of remembering who our battle is against (see 2 Corinthians 10:1-5) we turn our prayers against those who oppose what we believe to be righteous.

But Psalm 72 brings us back to what the vision of a truly godly leader is… and leads us in the example of praying for the leader in question to step up and into a demonstration of these things, through a transformation of their heart.

Instead of leading us further into the swirl of reactionary speculation, judgement and fear which voicing our own prayers simply out of what we are thinking might well do, its first seven verses ground us in proactive, watchful, blessing prayer.

3. This psalm also has its own particular context in another specific, and flawed period of history, which helps us remember the liberating truth that no earthly leader is perfect or exemplary. And whilst we need some of the psalm’s words to help us pray for our earthly leaders, we can also use them all to pray for a speeding of God’s perfect kingship to be fully restored in the earth.

For there is only one king all other kings should bow down and – as the psalm says – it is the Lord God alone who does marvellous deeds worthy of our praise. It is in him we must trust; whether the leaders we follow gain our disapproval, or our devotion – perhaps especially when they gain our devotion…

Psalm 72 is a welcome gift as it is. It needs no modern re-writing or re-purposing to be applied, razor sharp, and loving-hearted, right into the midst of current political upheavals and crises.

So like we have, can we invite you to receive it as if for the first time today, and to try to read it as a worked example? We’re sure you’ll find it really helpful if you can remember its key first seven verses phrases and approaches to pray over our prime ministers, presidents, monarchs and chancellors… and at a local level too over our MPs, councillors and even church leaders… especially when your thoughts or emotions whirl and wrestle, and you can feel anger or judgement rising…

Why not start praying with it now?

Pray that [insert name] would be endowed with justice and judge the people with righteousness, ensuring particular attention and proactive justice for those who are afflicted or weak.

Ask God to use the resources of [insert nation, area or group] that he has given to all of the people under this leader’s jurisdiction to be released and well used in order to bring everyone stability and plenty.

Spend time praying for [insert name] to have a softened heart in order that those who suffer or are vulnerable – and especially the children of these individuals and groups within society – are cared for and safe.

And ask God to give [insert name] a revelation of who the true enemy is, when they are tempted to live out of fear rather than love, and to defend themselves from those who need as much defending as their people, rather than recognising the devil’s schemes to turn people against each other.

There is an oppressor to crush – the father of lies – so pray for [insert name] to see the truth and oppose all lies, fear and oppression.

This kind of leader – the one you have been praying for to emerge, and blessing the image of God in – this one, you will find you can pray for to have long-lasting authority…. because who doesn’t want a leader who is like rain falling on a mown field?

Timely, serving, safe, refreshing and life-bringing…

… a leader under which the righteous could, and would, truly flourish.

And remember, anything is possible with God. So turn your gaze back to Jesus as the psalm’s closing verses remind us to, and declare:

“Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel,
    who alone does marvelous deeds.
Praise be to his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen.”

If you found this blog helpful, you might also want to take a look at this article and written prayer from last week – how does love take hostile ground? The prayer from that blog is also available with the prayer guide from this blog here, in a collection of written prayers: for challenging leaders, and us as we challenge them

how does love take hostile ground?

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

14 February is the Sanctuary’s birthday – and we love celebrating it by sharing the greatest love we’ve ever known… the reason why we do everything we do. And we’ve seen our simple celebrations change the atmosphere year on year. But this year, there’s been something else on our hearts in the lead up to this date too; and that’s just how much more than ever we need love to be at the centre of all our responses…

We need to love as we are loved.

We need to love like never before.

We need to love whatever comes.

On our knees; with our words; with our whole lives.

We need to watch our hearts.

Yes, us… the ones who get it…

The ones who’ve been captivated by Jesus’ love.

The ones who are trying to spend our lives demonstrating it.

Us… yes us… the ones who get that the last come first in God’s kingdom and that he champions the poor, the broken and the weak.

Us who have absorbed that God hasn’t changed his mind about charging us to welcome the stranger.

Us who are outraged that people could put his name next to any other plan than sharing what we have with whoever is in need. Whoever.

Yes us.

Because our righteous anger and Proverbs 31:8-9 commitment can so quickly become charged with something else.

Love can’t take hostile ground with any hostility present in it.

That isn’t love. That’s a house divided against itself that will surely fall.

If our prayers for changed hearts lead us away from loving those denying others love… then love has not won.

If our words to change minds begin to forget God’s image in those who are dehumanising others… love has not won.

If our actions to transform policies, practices and provision – or our horror at who has power and how they are abusing it – start to categorise someone as irredeemable… love has not won in us.

Instead, love might just be losing the ground it once had in us…

Keep speaking up lovers of justice.

Keep challenging all that exploits the poor and broken and everything that excludes the refugee.

Keep praying for deliverance.

More than ever.

Keep signing petitions, going on marches, tweeting the truth and filling your conversations with stubborn hope and persistent, dogged welcome.

But seek, with Christ’s help to take every thought captive, to not let anyone – anyone at all – be thought about, prayed for, or spoken of without a trace of love… however unloving they seem to be, and however hard it is to love them.

Try always to resist reducing individuals to their surnames or their roles or their political positions and opinions on anything.

Remember who we’re really fighting.

Ask for Jesus’ help constantly.

And, with the power of his Spirit,  together, let’s love all hostile ground into submission until its taken and softened and loving again. Even if we don’t see that day ourselves. Even if in some instances it never comes and always says no to Jesus’ better way.

Please.

Please.

Can we love more recklessly than we can ask or imagine is even possible right now.

Because Love has already won the war. And the best way we can win each battle is by fighting it in love.

Let’s pray…

Lord Jesus –
Love made known to a hostile world –
you stared hatred in the face
while you hung on the cross,
and loved all who destroyed you,
themselves and each other
with reckless, resilient love.

Lord Jesus,
Show us how to still turn over tables –
with passionate, intolerant commotion
about injustice, exploitation and profiteering religion –
but without somehow flipping our hearts
half over and wholly out of love
in the process.

Lord Jesus,
we need daily help
to tell the truth in love
in our conversations,
social media feeds,
campaign actions
and most of all, in our prayers.

Lord Jesus,
fill us with your love
for those who do not love
the valuable and vulnerable.
And this way, let’s take the hostile ground
remaining in their precious, fearful hearts
by challenging them always and only in love.

Ed. If you found this blog helpful, you might also want to take a look at this article and prayer guide – a gift t0 2017, with love from psalm 72 The prayer guide from that blog is also available with the prayer from this blog here, in a collection of written prayers: for challenging leaders, and us as we challenge them

 

 

walking with the homeless

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

Fresh from our prayer time this morning, we’ve uploaded a brand new resource: Outside prayer stations – Walking with the homeless will help you connect to God’s heart – and yours – for homeless people, the way they are seen and the help they need. It’s a powerful way to stimulate prayer individually, in small groups with the whole church sent out…

We had the idea to try this out when praying through the term a couple of weeks back with the knowledge Homelessness Sunday was on 22 January…

But even after thinking of it, planning it and writing it to use during morning worship today, it had a big impact on us… especially as it’s our first day back after an un-planned few days off with flu, when shelter, warmth and enough money for medicine have all been vital.

We’d really recommend using this resource to you – even after years of working with homelessness organisations, doing street outreach, writing resources and leading prayer in response to the complex stories of people who have experienced losing their home at some stage, there were new insights and challenges here…

So much so that we even added some extra thoughts in after our own prayer time with the resource, to reflect what had struck us to a new degree.

This is a really helpful and powerful stimulus – it charges and changes your heart. And the people who are facing homelessness today need that desperately:

They need more champions, more people who understand, more people who see them with dignity, more people who will pray and help and change others’ hearts too…

giving peace away

Monday, December 12th, 2016

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:

giving-peace-away-baskets-full

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!

giving-peace-away-gift

giving-peace-away-gift-reverse

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.

giving-peace-away-making

my God is a migrant (a Christmas reflection)

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Our Christmas reflection for 2016 is best left to speak – and pray – for itself. (You can download it as a resource here from our seasonal resources page.)

welcome low res

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.

a prayer for frustrated missionaries

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

At the start of October, Gillian Wright came to spend a week at the Sanctuary, to experience our full prayer rhythm. She led some prayer for the creative arts, and also tried her hand at some creating of her own.

praying for peace... in humility

We particularly loved this simple prayer she wrote during her time here, and what it voices about God’s grace to use us just as we are; every context being a mission-field; and the importance of a prayer-led approach to mission. So we decided to share it with you all too:

A prayer for frustrated missionaries

Start where you’re at.
Don’t go looking further,
God is great enough.

Start where you’re at.
On your knees praying to the Father;
eyes shut, thoughts gathering.

Start where you’re at.
Out of your experience,
from who you are –
faults and failings too.

Start where you’re at.