Holy Monday at Didsbury Cross

Churches Working Together in Didsbury have erected a cross on the land next to Caffe Nero in Didsbury. This week is Holy Week and each day there will be a gathering at the cross at 1pm for a few minutes of prayerful reflection. A few of us met there for the first time today. The photo shows part of the group; I recognise people from four different churches in our area. Further details of this week’s programme can be found on the CWTiD website. If you are in the area and free at 1pm on any day of this week, please join us; you would be very welcome.

When all within is dark

The Bible readings for today are Zephaniah 3.1-2, 9-13; Psalm 34.1-6, 21-22; Matthew 21.28-32.

On Sunday night I learned of the deaths of two of my friends. Neither of them lived near enough for me to have seen them for some while. Both were members of churches I formerly pastored. One was a little older than me and had Alzheimer’s disease for quite a few years. The other was a lot older than me and was underestimated and overlooked in all kinds of ways throughout his life. They were two of the kindest people and truest followers of Jesus I have ever met. Though I couldn’t really have counted on seeing either of them much if ever again, their passing nevertheless makes me sad. I know they are ‘at home with the Lord’. Even so, their death somehow diminishes the world and my own life within it. (John Donne and all that). The world is a poorer place without them.

Well, that news and these verses about turning (back) to God got me to thinking about this beautiful prayer I came across some time ago and rediscovered on Saturday morning. The implied circumstances behind the prayer are different from my own but the references to darkness, to turning, and to the love of God make it irresistible:

When all within is dark,
and former friends misprise;
from them I turn to You,
and find love in Your eyes.
When all within is dark,
and I my soul despise;
from me I turn to You,
and find love in Your eyes.

When all Your face is dark,
and Your just angers rise;
from You I turn to You,
And find love in Your eyes.

Solomon Ibn Gabriol (c. 1021-58); translated by Israel Abrahams in Festival Studies (London: Macmillan, 1906) 100; altrd. and reprinted in Forms of Prayer (Movement for Reform Judaism, 2008), 18.

How to pray?

Today’s Bible readings are: Psalm 40; Isaiah 38.1–8, 21-22; Matthew 16.13–28.

The impulse toward self-preservation is no bad thing. It plays its part in the prayer of Psalm 40 and of King Hezekiah in Isaiah 38. God answers Hezekiah’s pray and, we presume, hears the Psalmist’s too. For Peter, in Matthew 16, however, it is different. He wants the life of his friend and Lord to be  spared, so he cries out in protest at Jesus’ passion prediction, and for this he is rebuked. ‘Get behind me, Satan’ says Jesus. Peter becomes a tempter, a Satan, to Jesus by imploring Jesus to avoid the cross.

Prayer is difficult. Naturally, we pray for the preservation of our loved ones, for the success of our projects and for our own good health. Often these prayers make a difference (Hezekiah’s seems to change God’s mind!) Yet what really matters in prayer is not that we get what we want but that we perceive what God is doing and embrace it. This kind of praying moves beyond mere self-preservation to a kind of participation in the unfolding will of God. This kind of praying moves us beyond ourselves and our own little worlds to the world at large. There we discover a God who cares about poverty, global-warming, ecology and politics. We discover a God who cares about the plight of the planet and its people and we hear God’s call to follow Jesus, be the church, and live so as to make a difference.

Your name be hallowed, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Amen.

International Day of Prayer for Peace

Haiti, 2004. Photo: Paul Jeffrey / ACT

Haiti, 2004. Photo: Paul Jeffrey / ACT

Today (21 September) is the World Council of Churches’ International Day of Prayer for Peace. It coincides with the United Nations’ International Day of Peace.

Yesterday, Didsbury Baptist Church, along with many others, observed Peacemaking Sunday and made use of the resources provided by the Joint Public Issues Team of the Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Churches Working Together.

The following prayer of intercession is taken from the booklet “Imagine peace“, a collection of Bible meditations and other texts on biblical aspects of peace and overcoming violence.

Lord, we pray for
Peace for those who weep in silence
Peace for those who cannot speak
Peace when all hope seems to disappear.

In the midst of rage, of violence and disappointment,
In the midst of wars and destruction of the earth,
Lord, show us your light in the darkness.

Lord, we pray for
Peace for those who raise their voices to demand it,
Peace when there are many who do not wish to hear of it,
Peace as we find the way to justice.

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