GE2017 – a gift of opportunity

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.

 

a prayer for the UK in turbulent times

May 17th, 2017

We’ve written and published a special prayer – Anchor us Lord – for the UK in the midst of continuing speculations over how Brexit will happen, and particularly with the added uncertainty of the approaching snap election:

Anchor us Lord,
for we can feel our islands drifting
and many are hopeless,
uncertain or afraid.
We are tossed this way and that
looking all around for some help in the waves…
Europe? America? Other nations? Ourselves?
Which party? Which leader?
Who can save us now?

Anchor us Lord,
for we often choose to float
on the dreams of a misremembered,
misleading nostalgia
that celebrates a once ‘great’ past
when we ‘ruled the seas’ at the cost of others;
rather than pursuing an honest, diligent present
that humbly builds a future on the priceless value
of each and every one in seven billion.

Anchor us Lord,
for we can feel the pull of old scars,
competing alliances
and rival identities
straining our connections,
stretching our unity
and causing us to seek to stand
as a divided people
half-way determined on more division still.

Anchor us Lord,
for you alone can hold us fast and true.
Steady our course
and give us the courage our hearts
– and our nation –
so desperately need
to weather the seas of change
and reclaim the memory of our truly ‘great’ times –
times when we were anchored in hope; trusting in you.

anchor-strong hope

May 15th, 2017

We’re thrilled to be sharing this visible, joyful representation of the anchor-strong hope we have – especially in the light of so much uncertainty in our nation surrounding Brexit and the upcoming general election, as well as the personal situations of so many individuals who will come past the Sanctuary’s base over the next few days and weeks.


Inspired by Hebrews 6:19, our under-water writing proclaims a rock solid reality to rely on:

“There is a hope so strong it’s an anchor for our restless souls…

… a constant, life-line connection to eternal, immovable Love.

It’s sure and steadfast – it can’t be broken or weakened, even when the seas get rough and the storms throw their very worst at us.

Still then, this anchor-hope holds firm and true.

His name is Jesus.”

As so often at the Sanctuary, what God reveals to us in prayer to share with others is also vital and life-giving truth to cling onto ourselves.

And right now, as the Sanctuary faces a season of transition where we move towards a new base and new ways of working, we’re glad of this reminder too!

It is Jesus who is our fixed point and home… and it is the inner sanctuary of communion with him that is our best and permanent dwelling place.

Our prayer is that many people will find hope as a result of seeing this art installation – and that all of us in the Sanctuary’s praying community (especially locally) will do the same!

 

a prayer for our churches this Easter

April 12th, 2017

Following the BBC’s recent survey on Christian’s beliefs surrounding Jesus’ resurrection in the UK, we’re sharing our heart for all of our churches this Holy Week to recognise, encounter and witness to the risen Jesus more fully. We’ve voiced it in this written prayer – please join us in using it to lift the church to Christ:

Lord Jesus,
please more fully enter every church
that claims your name,
and take your place as Risen and Reigning King
in each and every single one.
As Christians everywhere
walk through remembering
the incredible events of Holy Week again,
please Lord Jesus, please,
by the power of your Spirit,
may they truly welcome you
as the one who defeated death forever.

In your mercy, re-write the historical,
transformative truth of who you are
and what you have done
onto all of our hearts with robust, resilient faith.
For the sake of all who
do not yet know you
and need to hear your story
faithfully and accurately told,
and for the honour of your living name Lord Jesus
and all you won for us through your resurrection,
please – grave-conquering, life-winning God,
re-awaken your church to truly believe and follow you.
Amen.

magnificat counterpoint – Easter reprise

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

his-story window

April 3rd, 2017

For weeks, an author, an artist, two theological editors, one scientific editor and a total practical whizz have been squirreled away working together on this joy-bringing project. And today, we finally finished bringing it to life! So here it is; our Easter window – turning both panes of our picture window into an open his-story book, featuring the story of everything… with the cross where it belongs, right at the very centre.

We’re so excited about sharing this with thousands of people over the coming few weeks, and about the Easter cards we’re making featuring it for people to help themselves to from the dispenser on our door from later on this week onwards…

If you can’t zoom in on it all, here’s the text:

“In the beginning, there was cosmic sound.

Light, then life, burst out: expanding, multiplying….

The author spoke; God’s voice started his-story. And it was good!

God loves every person he creates. He doesn’t control them. (Love coerced is not love.)

But freedom has consequences. We often reject God’s best ideas for our inter-twining stories.

We try to write our own destinies – to make it our story.

More consequences; self-centred sub-plots always lead to pain, injustice and death for someone… eventually, for everyone.

 

Selfishness was our choice; not God’s.

He chose to save us from ourselves, to restore his-story by writing himself into our broken stories as Jesus.

He used his freedom perfectly – to bring life to everyone.

We killed him for it. But his nail-pierced hands had always planned to carry our selfishness and its consequences. …

No story can hold its own author in a grave…

JESUS IS ALIVE!

His plot is scandalously generous: a new beginning if we only believe and receive God’s gift…

Trade your story for his, and live the freedom you were created for – a life that brings life.

Afterwards? There’s a bigger story waiting; with no more disastrous sub-plots.

That’s why Easter matters.

But the choice remains… his-story or yours?”

Special thanks to Liz Baddaley, Alison Helliwell-Hodson, Kevin Macnish, Fiona Schneider, Jill Andrews, Katherine England and Barbara Macnish for all their help.

the power of powerless worship

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#PrayForLondon

March 23rd, 2017

Be near to everyone in London Lord Jesus.
Comfort those who mourn,
reassure the frightened,
and turn every heart to love and peace.

resources for Easter

March 21st, 2017

Visit our seasonal resources page to find worship songs, prayers, creative ideas and meditative monologues to help you focus upward and outward during Lent and over Easter and beyond.

prayerfully examining your shopping

March 7th, 2017

We’ve just published a new resource, fresh from prayer on Friday. It’s a creative idea to help you prayerfully examine your shopping with God in order to facilitate space for heart-led changes you could make to your consumer choices as part of expressing your love for God and others. We’ve found it really helpful, and sure you will do too…


We developed this resource for a morning prayer session last week, because we wanted to give everyone in our praying community the opportunity to just sit with God and prayerfully consider their shopping with him.

It’s Fairtrade Fortnight and as well as praying about trade, joining in with campaign actions and raising awareness about resources we’ve already created around economic justice, fair-trade, trade justice and global poverty (see our topical resources page to browse these) we have also been engaged in quite a large-scale public act of witness around Fairtrade and the worth of each individual created in God’s image.

Because of this, it’s felt even more important than ever to ensure each of us is re-visiting our own lifestyle and purchasing decisions too, and re-dedicating our choices to God. So we designed this resource to use ourselves – and to share with you – to help us think about being even more prayerfully engaged and accountable around our purchasing choices.

Although we completed this resource in a group session, and shared some of our reflections together afterwards, we each worked through it individually and privately with God; and we’d encourage you to do the same.

It’s an act of worship, of surrender… an important part of our devotion, especially in a culture so consumed with consuming… and so globally  interconnected.

There is plenty of information out there to tell you all the different things you could and should do to be a more ethical consumer – we are hugely thankful for, and reliant, on it (and we’ve included some links to it at the end of the resource).

There are also an increasing number of Bible study resources looking at justice issues and money – these are brilliant.

But this resource aims to be neither; it is not meant to primarily inform or instruct so much as to simply provide a framework to create space for you to sit at God’s feet and listen.

Our prayer is that it will be the Spirit that prompts you about anything you might want to explore doing differently as you shop in order to love God – and each one in seven billion he so loves – even more.

So rather than providing a list of all the things you might want to do differently, this creative prayer resource helps you simply start with where you are at, honestly and naturally, and gives an opportunity for you to see how God might be leading you forward step by step as he convicts your heart of changes you can make together.

Go on, say yes to the invitation to explore your shopping with God… you won’t be sorry you let him into this area of your life…