Monday, January 23, 2017

prayer diary Monday 23 Jan 2017

Jesus said: 'If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.' 
Mark 3. 24, 25

The Church is full of many divisions. And while we struggle against ourselves, who is fighting to bring the Good News to others?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity address

May my words be in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Good evening. I'd like to begin by thanking your parish priest for his kind invitation to address you all this evening; and for your even kinder attention to my few words. I am here, of course, because this is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This spiritual endeavour is now over 100 years old, having been begun in the time of Pope Pius the Tenth. It might seem strange, looking back now, that this ecumenical prayer movement began on the watch of a man whom history remembers, if his Wikipdedia page is to be believed, as one who vigorously opposed what he termed 'modernism' and instead promoted traditional devotional practices and orthodox theology. But perhaps it may be said with the benefit of hindsight that his vision of better ecumenical relations between Christians of various traditions achieved through prayer was prophetic.

Many in his day realised that secular influences in society were on the increase; but few foresaw how prevalent they would become and how they would serve to undermine Christian values within the Western world – a society, it should be noted, that was founded upon the values of the Christian faith. Perhaps Pope Pius understood the dangers more clearly than most – and understood that the day would come when it was important for Christians to work together to fight the dangers that faced them all.

Certainly much has been achieved over the course of the last century that to bring Christians together. Sadly there still exists parts of the world where one type of Christianity fights against another; but thankfully that has become so rare as to make it remarkable. And this is good, because we live in a time when the external threats to the faith on a world-wide basis have never been greater than at any time since the bad days of the Roman Empire. The persecution of Christians around the world is rampant. And figures from Open Doors, a charity that tracks the persecution of Christians around the world, show the problem is getting worse not better. Another charity, International Christian Concern, lists 100 countries around the world where this is a serious issue. To try and put that number in context, that is more than half of the countries in the world.

There are problems in the West also. For example, whoever would have thought that faith schools in this country, that have generously welcomed through their doors children from all backgrounds for generations, would be condemned in the media for practising unjust discrimination for wishing to make sure that the children from their own faith communities, the communities these schools were founded to serve, were given priority when there were not sufficient places in those schools for all who might want one? Or that the day would arise when the right of faith communities to have denominational schools was publicly called a breach of human rights – arguing that they should be replaced with schools that promote the ethos they themselves advocate, secularism?

These are but a few of the issues that face Christians; and which can be better dealt with if all Christians, whatever their tradition, deal with them in solidarity. Christ, we know, established but one Church – something we affirm every time when we say in the Creeds that we believe in a Church that is One. And Christ, we know from Chapter 17 of St John's Gospel, prayed that his followers would be one, even as he and the Father were One. We may live out what our Lord asked of us in this imperfectly; but even so surely we are less imperfect when we work together on the issues that affect us as brothers and sisters in Christ.

So, as I end, I suggest that we ought be doubly grateful to Pope Pius for introducing this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. First, naturally, because it is the reason that we come together this night in prayer and fellowship. And secondly because it makes is easier for us to work together as Christians to resist those forces that threaten our faith within our society – and perhaps, indeed, our society because they weaken the values upon which it is based. Even so, my prayer, as I finish, is that the day when come when the need for such a week as this has ended, because our prayers have been answered, and we are truly United in Christ. Amen.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 21 Jan 2017

When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ 
Mark 3. 21

Opposition from loved ones 
can be especially painful when it comes to living out the truth of the Gospel. However, it was a difficulty Christ warned us we would face; and one he knew himself from personal experience.

Friday, January 20, 2017

prayer diary Friday 20 Jan 2017 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

He went up the mountain and ... he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message and … then he went home. 
Mark. 13-19

We think of Christ's ministry of 
wandering from town to town. We can forget that he had a place that he called home. We all need a quiet place where we can 'get away from it all' for a while, no matter how brief. Leisure is a gift from God and to be enjoyed – as long as it doesn't become the focus of your life.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 19 Jan 2017

Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, ‘You are the Son of God!’ 
Mark 3.11

Even those in the thrall of the evil one were forced to admit who Christ was. But, as our Lord asked Peter, 'Who do you say that he is?'

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 18 Jan 2017

They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come forward.’ 
Mark 3. 2,3

Those who put their head above the parapet in any way can expect others to look for the chance to criticise and accuse. Christ faced down such as these head on: do ye likewise.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 17 Jan 2017

Jesus said: ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath;so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.’ 
Mark 2. 27,28

From the beginning the Sabbath was a day both for giving thanks to the Lord and for the resting of our bodies. How different is your Sunday from the other six days of the week?