Friday, February 28, 2014

prayer diary Friday 28 February 2014 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

“a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ 
Mark 10.7-9

Reflection
Christian marriage is more than a mere civil contract. Through it the couple witness to the world their faith in God through their adherence to his law.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

prayer diary Friday 7 March 2014 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

And Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding-guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.'. 
Matthew 9. 15

Reflection
Giving things up for Lent can sometimes seem old fashioned. But Christ envisaged that his disciples would fast, and there is never anything that he calls us to do that is out of fashion, for his message is the same yesterday, today, and always.

prayer diary Thursday 27 February 2014

'If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.' 
Mark 9.42

Reflection
Leading or provoking others to sin is gravely offensive to God, particularly when they are the young or vulnerable whom compassion dictates you should take especial care that they are not lead astray.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

prayer diary Wednesday 26 February 2014

'For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.' 
Mark 9.41

Reflection
Small actions done with loving care matter much in God's eyes, especially when done for those whose need is great.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

prayer diary Tuesday 25 February 2014

‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’ 
Mark 9.37

Reflection
We must treat the weak and vulnerable of this world as if they were our Lord himself if we wish to have God in our lives.

Monday, February 24, 2014

prayer diary Monday 24 February 2014

His disciples asked him privately, ‘Why could we not cast the unclean spirit out?’ He said to them, ‘This kind can come out only through prayer.’ 
Mark 9. 28,29

Reflection
We face many dangers and temptations in this life that we can not conquer on our own. It is only by calling on God's help through prayer that we may prevail and be saved.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

How many masters have you?

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.' Matthew 6.24

The core message of that text it pretty simple: you can't be the faithful servant of two opposing masters. We, as God's creatures, were created by him to be in relationship with him, and at the end of this life be with him for all eternity. And we cannot serve him and the interests of this world at the same time … we cannot serve God if wealth, greed, money, material success, fame, glory, or the like are the focus of our life. You can only have one ultimate goal: it can either be heaven in the next life or the material comforts of this one, but it can not be both.

And that creates a problem, does it not? Because we have to live in this world. We need to work to earn money to buy food, clothes, keep a roof over our heads, to meet our responsibilities as parents, spouses, or others we have to look after and care for. We can not all leave the work we do, whether it is a job or in the home, and go off and join a religious order or live on our knees in the church in constant prayer, acting as if there were no life outside God's house, or even settle ourselves in the armchair beside the fire in our own homes, with the Bible or a Prayer Book or some spiritual work upon our lap, determined that we will do nothing else all our days other than pray and praise God.

And so we must both work and pray – be Godly and be worldly … yet neither can we compartmentalise our lives … being holy only when we pray and totally worldly the rest of the time … there is a marvellously funny poem on the topic by the Irish poet Oliver Goldsmith that I remember from my schools days called 'An elegy on the death of a mad dog', the second stanza of which sums this point up rather neatly: In Islington there was a man, Of whom the world might say That still a godly race he ran, Whene'er he went to pray. If you lead a holy life only when you pray then you do not lead a holy life at all.

In fact, we are told in St Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians that Christians are to pray without ceasing … which might seems a rather difficult thing to do if you are also to work, meet family commitments, and do other things as well. Monks of the Orthodox Tradition train themselves to the point where they can pray at all times, whether at work, at table, and even in their sleep, using the prayer of the heart … but they are monks – how can we, who live in the world, follow such a heroic example of truly integrating life and prayer, of serving only God while still coping with the mundane realities of the world without letting them interfere with the higher goal?

Well, I came across an interesting quotation while I was preparing this sermon. It is from St Frances of Rome, a woman who lived in the 15th Century, who was not only a saint, but also a mystic, a wife, a mother, and the founder of a religious community. And what she said was this: "A married woman must often leave God at the altar to find Him in her household care." If we leave aside the change in social circumstances from the time in which she spoke and adopt it to our own times what we might come up with is something like this: "A Christian must often leave God at the altar to find Him in their work and other cares." If we are to serve God as we live in this world we must make every word, thought, and deed a prayer to God, all done for his greater glory in the world.

How may we do this? Well, one way would be to begin each day with prayer, and as part of that to dedicate all you will do that day to the Lord; as the day continues, be mindful at all times that every action of your hand, every word that passes your lips, and every thought that goes through your head is in accordance with your vocation as a Christian who serves the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Stop now and again, for a few minutes before each meal for example, to pray again more formally and remind yourself of the dedication you made that morning that you would serve God and him alone. And then, just before bed, consider your day. Honestly appraise it to see where things went wrong … were there times when you acted more out of pride, anger, or greed than love of God? Ask his forgiveness and for the strength to do better.


And then the next day repeat; and the next; and the next; and so on until that final day when you stand before him. And having faithfully served him in this life, then you have every reason to hope you will hear him say: 'well done, good and faithful servant.' It is my prayer that you will. Amen. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Examin Saturday 22 February 2014

Lent, a time of fasting, prayer, and alms-giving in the Christian tradition, is almost upon us. It is time to plan how you will use this Holy Season to draw closer to God. As you prepare for it, think on those areas of the Christian life in which you struggle. Perhaps this year you can 'fast' from those areas of your life which lead you astray and pray for the strength to avoid what tempts you? From your regular examination of conscience you should know what those areas are. If avoiding these temptations saves you money, perhaps you might also give what you save to those less fortunate? And even if it does not, consider giving extra to the poor as a way of giving thanks to God for the opportunity this Holy Season provides you for turning away from sin and turning afresh towards towards Him.

prayer diary Saturday 22 February 2014

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ 
Mark 9.7

Reflection
God the Father calls on us to listen to the Son. Implicit in that is not just to listen but to obey, for what is the point of listening to his commands if you do not do as he asks you to do. Remember this as you read the Gospels – you are called not only to listen to what you find there but 
to obey also.

Friday, February 21, 2014

prayer diary Friday 21 February 2014 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them 'If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 
Mark 8.34

Reflection
The Christian life can not be treated as a temporary enthusiasm; nor can it be taken up in fits and starts, with the person being a saint one day and pagan the next. Christ calls on those who would follow him to deny themselves and take up their cross. And as Christ himself showed us, a cross is something that once it is taken up can only be put down at the end.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

prayer diary Thursday 20 February 2014

He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ 
Mark 8.29

Reflection
This question of Christ is for all. St Peter answered rightly. How do you answer?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

prayer diary Wednesday 19 February 2014

Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 
Mark 8.25

Reflection
We should be encouraged that Jesus laid his hands on this man more than once for it shows us that God does give up on us. And it is only when Christ has opened our eyes in the spiritual sense that we see all things clearly.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

NIGERIA: AT LEAST 200 KILLED IN A WEEK OF TERRORIST VIOLENCE

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release
Last week at least 200 people were killed in Borno and Adamawa States in the north east of Nigeria in a series of terrorist attacks on rural areas.

At least 121 people are now known to have died and several others were injured when Boko Haram gunmen attacked Izghe Village in the Gwoza Local government Area (LGA) of Borno State on 15 February.

According to survivors, gunmen dressed in military fatigues and chanting Allahu Akbar (God is great) arrived at the largely Christian community at night in seven pick-up trucks and on motorcycles. They ordered villagers to gather together and then opened fire, chasing and killing any who attempted to escape and slitting the throats of several victims. The gunmen subsequently set fire to houses, looted food stores and stole approximately ten vehicles.

According to local reports, Boko Haram gunmen carried out attacks on other villages in both Borno and Adamawa States on the same day, including Kirchang, Kwambula, Shuwa, Dagu, Yinagu, Bitiku, and Yazza. While casualty figures from other villages are unknown, a survivor from Yazza informed local media that he counted 25 corpses before he escaped.

The assault on Izghe is the latest in a series of terrorist attacks on villages since January, and came three days after the Nigerian Air Force began daily aerial bombardments to flush the sect out of its hideouts in the nearby Sambisa Forest on the Cameroonian border. At least nine soldiers and an unknown number of militants died in a fierce and prolonged gun battle that followed the bombardment on 12 February.

On the evening of Tuesday 11 February, Boko Haram gunmen launched a four-hour attack on Konduga in Borno State, destroying around 70% of the town, including homes, schools, clinics and the central mosque, and reportedly taking hostage 20 young women from a local college. The death toll in the Konduga attack rose to 62 after four people died in hospital and five bodies were found in the bush. On 13 February, the gunmen reportedly attacked Konduga again, hours after a condolence visit by the Shehu of Borno, but were repelled by a combined force of soldiers and members of the youth vigilante group, the Civilian Joint Task Force (Civilian-JTF). Prior to this, the sect had attacked Mailari Village, situated around 10km from Konduga, where they burnt homes and shops. Boko Haram gunmen also launched an attack on Wajirko Village, also in Borno State, killing four people, injuring an estimated six people, and destroying up to 50 homes.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, 'We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed in these senseless attacks. While the efforts of the Nigerian military to tackle Boko Haram's presence in the border areas with Cameroon are to be welcomed, we echo local calls for a surge in numbers in order to stem the sect's violent campaign in rural areas, which remain soft targets. Nigeria is a strategic nation, thus it is vital that members of international community render every possible assistance to enable the country to counter this growing threat to peace and security in the region. It is also important for neighbouring states to assist by reinforcing security on their borders and denying Boko Haram a hiding place as a matter of urgency.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

a firewood sonnet

Driving, I slow-rolled past the place
where a storm-felled tree had crushed 
a low stone wall and blocked the road
until they brought the chainsaws.

By the time of my sedate passage 
there was only sawdust in the ditch
and the stump, roots unclad,
half-framed in the shattered wall;

it was three feet at the cross-section, 
the red of the once secret heart wood
making the rain on it like seeping blood, 
and too many rings to count as I passed.

I drove on, remembering branches that had 
brushed the heavens which I had not seen.

prayer diary Tuesday 18 February 2014

And he cautioned them, saying, ‘Watch out; beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’ 
Mark 8.15

Reflection
It is all too easy to be poisoned by the various evils of the world. Do not think you can flirt with them and remain unaffected.

Monday, February 17, 2014

prayer diary Monday 17 February 2014

And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.’ 
Mark 8. 12

Reflection
In the face of miracles the doubters asked for signs. Small wonder Jesus was troubled deeply by their attitude. It is the same for us. If there are not enough miracles for you in the Gospels, then nothing will convince you.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

'But I say to you': Christ's call to holy living

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

There are three important points that I'd like to tease out of our Gospel reading today. The first is notice how Jesus presents each of the various nuggets of teaching he is giving to his disciples: he begins each by saying 'you have heard it said' in front of well known teaching from the Old Testament, followed by 'but I say to you' and then he expands and deepens that teaching. And the way he presents his deepening is important. Think about how the Old Testament prophets presented their teaching. They never said 'but I say unto you;' they always said something like 'Thus says the Lord.' They wanted to make it absolutely clear that they weren't speaking on their own authority. Sometimes so much so that they would say 'thus says the Lord' many times in a passage, sometimes even repeating it several times in a single sentence. They do that so often that I am sometimes tempted to say as I'm reading 'OK, OK, I get it; you are only saying what the Lord has given you; you are not speaking by your own authority. This is not your teaching but the Lord's.' But that is not what Jesus does. He says 'But I say unto you …' He's making it clear that he is speaking by his own authority. And the Jews of the days got it; remember the passages where they are amazed and say things like 'what is this? A new teaching – and with authority?' They recognised what Jesus was doing. And they also recognised the implications of it. Jesus is putting his teaching on the same level as that received by the prophets; and he claims no other authority for doing so than his own; he is taking for himself divine authority.

The next point is that consider very carefully what he is doing with those Old Testament texts – he is deepening and expanding them, but he is not denying them. Sometimes I hear people talking about the Old Testament as if it were old fashioned or somehow not very important. We have the New Testament and Jesus, they say – what do we need with all that stuff going on in the Old Testament? But Jesus, by his authoritative interpretation of these texts is validating them – and of course he is, for what did we hear him say in the passage that comes before the one we read today, the one we read last week? He says he has not come to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill them. And he goes on to say that whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Christ places his own divine authority four-square behind the Old Testament; for how can any deny that it is the word of God when the Word made flesh himself has declared it to be the revealed word of God according to which we must live our lives?

And the third point is this: you will sometimes hear people try to say that God in the Old Testament is harsh and judgmental, but God in New is gentle and loving. Yet from the passage we read today we see that the law that Christ lays down in the New is even stricter than that of the Old. Thou shalt not kill, says the Old Testament; and indeed you shall not. But anger is violence too, and if you allow yourself to fall into that temptation, then judgment awaits you for it. Thou shalt not commit adultery; and indeed you shall not. But allowing yourself impure thoughts is no better; and if you do not fight that temptation also then you will tremble before your God on the last day. And this is not an isolated passage; consider these verses from the Gospel reading for Holy Communion last Wednesday: For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’  (Mark 7.21-23)

Pretty strong words from our Lord – all this and more is evil and it defiles you and a look or a thought can do it as easily as a deed. Far from being 'softer' on sin than the Old Testament, Christ calls his followers to a very high standard of personal holiness indeed.


All of which adds up to making living the Christian life a seemingly daunting affair. But the same Lord who by his divine authority reminds us of the necessity of living our lives according to God's laws also is there to help us. He was made man to teach us, lead us by example, and to the pay the price for our past sins; and he will help us overcome all the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, if we want him to and let him. Rather than being daunted we should be joyful – God has not abandoned us to the evil that defiles us and separates us from him, but instead he reaches out to us to help us overcome it so that we might be with him for all eternity. And the same Christ who warned us of the evils of this world with divine authority also, by that same authority, taught that there was a place for us in heaven; and that the way to attaining it was through him, for he was the way, the truth, and the life … through him we can overcome evil and attain heaven … and I pray that all here and elsewhere will. Amen.

haiku: After the storm

After the storm
   ~gaps in the tree-line
    sawdust on the road

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Examin Saturday 15 February 2014

It is has never been easy to be a Christian. Today there is the added pressure of demands that people should keep their faith as a private thing. This brings with it the temptation to blend in, to not do or say anything that will let those around you know you disagree with the 'wisdom' of the day. The danger is that it is hard to behave one way and believe another. Sooner or later your heart must follow your actions. So stand firm. If you lose the respect of others for being true to what you believe then their respect was never worth having. As Christ says many times in the Gospels 'Do not be afraid.'

prayer diary Saturday 15 February 2014

His disciples replied, ‘How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?' He asked them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ 
Mark 8.4,5

Reflection
When you feel that living up to the demands of Christian life are impossible, especially our calling to make disciples of all people, remember these verses. It is not what you bring that matters, it is what the Lord does with them.

Friday, February 14, 2014

haiku: light snow

light snow on the hill
      -trails of green
       as sheep eat through

prayer diary Friday 14 February 2014 (St Valentine's Day; Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’ 
Mark. 7.27

Reflection
People were quick to wonder at the miracles, but far slower to heed his call to repentance. So we must not be surprised when many today are all too willing to enlist the Church's aid in various kinds of social programmes, even as they mock, undermine, or condemn Church teaching. 
That doesn't mean we should not still help.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

prayer diary Thursday 13 February 2014

But she answered him, ‘Sir,even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.' 
Mark 7. 28

Reflection
There is no one who is unworthy of God's love or of hearing his word. Do your best to ensure all know that they are beloved of the Lord - and do not neglect to help them know that love by sharing his good news with them.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

prayer diary Wednesday 12 February 2014

Jesus said: ‘It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come.' 
Mark 7. 20,21

Reflection
Do not blame the world around you for the wrong that you do. It may make doing good that much harder, but in the end you remain responsible for your own actions.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

CSW TO TESTIFY BEFORE US HOUSE COMMITTEE ON PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS WORLDWIDE

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) will give evidence before the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations on the persecution of Christians in East Asia and Africa today.

Dr Khataza Gondwe, Team Leader for African and the Middle East, and Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader, will join Mr Jorge Lee Galindo, Director of Impulso 18, a non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting and defending freedom of religion and belief in Mexico and one of CSW's partner organizations, to give evidence at the open hearing, titled 'The Persecution of Christians as a Worldwide Phenomenon.'

Mr Jorge Lee Galindo will focus on religious freedom violations in Latin America, in particular Mexico, Cuba and Colombia. In both Mexico and Colombia, a parallel legal system for indigenous communities, which allows for the promotion of collective cultural rights over individual rights, has led to severe violations of religious freedom. In addition, criminal networks often threaten or kidnap priests who refuse to co-operate with criminal activities.

Benedict Rogers said, 'This is a very valuable opportunity to highlight rising religious intolerance, the closure of churches and increasing harassment and violence against Christians in Indonesia, ahead of the launch of CSW's major new report, 'Indonesia: Pluralism in Peril' later this month. It is also an opportunity to draw attention to violations of freedom of religion or belief in Burma, particularly affecting Christians in Chin and Kachin ethnic states. I also intend to highlight continuing abuses in Vietnam.'

Dr Khataza Gondwe's testimony will focus on the trends of hostility, harassment, repression, restrictions or violence experienced by Christians on account of their faith in sub-Saharan Africa, with reference to a range of countries, including Eritrea and Tanzania. She will identify two main reasons for this: militant Islamist ideology and insurgencies that have taken advantage of pre-existing local issues, weak application of the rule of law, or power vacuums caused by the chronic failure of state structures; and the authoritarian regimes whose governing political ideologies or religious dogma include an inherent hostility to pluralism in any form.

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.


prayer diary Tuesday 11 February 2014

He said to them, ‘Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites; as it is written, “This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."' 
Mark 7.6

Reflection
Humility is the hardest virtue of all. It is humility that allows us to recognise the times when we substitute our own will for that of God's – even as we call it his.

Monday, February 10, 2014

haiku: under the hedge

under the hedge
      - a circle of feathers
        where pigeon met cat

prayer diary Monday 10 February 2014

And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. 
Mark 6.56

Reflection
It was others, the able-bodied, who brought the sick to Jesus for healing. We also must do what we can bring others closer to Jesus.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

five things about salt and you

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.' Matthew 5.13

It is sometimes jokingly remarked that the Bible is full of cliches … the joke being that the so-called 'cliches' originated in Scripture, then became so widely used that many often forget where they came from and are surprised when they come across them in their original context. We have just such a 'cliche' in our Gospel today; we will often describe someone as being a 'salt of the earth' type, usually meaning that they are down to earth and not too 'full of themselves.' But that is not, I think, what Jesus meant when he told his followers that they were the salt of the earth. To understand what he was trying to convey, we need to know a little bit more about the place of salt in the Ancient world in general and in Israel in particular. So here are five pieces of information for you, some of which will be familiar, and others perhaps less so.

The first is that salt at the time of Christ was an important preservative. It is still used for that today. I well remember the wooden barrel of salt pork that stood in the corner of my grandparents kitchen. But in Jesus' day, salt's ability to stop food from rotting had a far greater importance than it does today. There were no fridge's or freezers back then.

Next, also connected with food, was its use as a condiment. Again, that’s fairly obvious, we still use it to flavour food today. I don't know about you, but for me a bag of chips just wouldn't be the same without a good lashing of salt along with the vinegar.

Thirdly, it was a valuable item in and of itself. For example, it wasn't uncommon for soldiers to receive part of their pay in salt. In fact, the word salary has its roots in the Latin word for salt, salus. It's where the term 'being worth your salt', another salt-connected cliche, comes from.

Less well known, probably, is that there was a sacred dimension to the understanding of salt in Jewish society, because salt had to be added to every sacrifice offered at the temple. The reason for this, other than being a requirement of the law is unclear; but the fact remains that in order for an offering to be considered worthy of being offered to the Lord it first had to be well salted.

And finally, salt was seen as having immense power to change or destroy. I'm sure you've heard of 'sowing the earth with salt' – a practice which literally meant ploughing salt into the land of a conquered enemy in order to sterilise the land and make it infertile and hence uninhabitable. Quite an extreme thing to do, not to mention expensive considering the value of salt. But it is something that the Jews of Jesus time would have been familiar with as it is mentioned in Scripture: once in Deuteronomy when Moses warns the people that this is how God will treat their land if they don't behave themselves, during which warning he also references the destruction of Sodom and Gommorah; and it is what Abimalech does to the city of Shechem in Judges.

From these five different pieces of information about salt we deepen our understanding of the meaning the metaphor would have conveyed to Jesus'  disciples when he told them they were the salt of the earth. Going through each: just as salt adds to the flavour of food, so the Gospel message adds the savour of truth to men's lives - as St Jerome puts it we are called to season the lives of those who hear us.  And as St Hilary tells us,  even as salt acts to preserve food from decay, so the teaching of Christ's Church preserves the lives of mortal men for eternity. Salt was a precious commodity: so too is the Gospel message with which we salt the earth. Salt was a holy thing – do I really need to say more? God's people are called to be holy before all the earth, 'salting' the earth by both word and example. And finally salt has the power to destroy or change – Christ's followers are called to drive out the evils of the world, the flesh, and the devil thus rendering the earth a place where they can no longer take root.

So by our 'saltiness' those who follow Christ are called to 'salt the earth: by bringing it the savour of truth, preserving otherwise perishable lives for immortality, sharing the good news, leading by example, and changing the world.


And if we lose that 'saltiness' we become worthless. Salt, as I'm sure you know is an extremely stable chemical compound. It does not lose it's flavour. But Christ was not giving a chemistry lesson; he was making a comparison – he was using salt as a metaphor and comparing its attributes to those he expected of its followers. So while salt cannot lose it's saltiness, we can. We can cease to be the salt of the earth if we fail to salt the earth with the life-changing and life saving treasure of the Gospel both in our words and in our deeds. And just as if salt were to no longer be salty it would be worthless and fit only for being thrown away, that is what Christ says that faithless followers of his are like – something that he judges as no longer being good for anything, but fit only for being thrown out and trampled underfoot. 

And so I end with the prayer that neither you nor I nor any of those we love will be so judged by our Saviour, but will instead remain as the salt of the earth all of our days. Amen.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Examin Saturday 8 February 2014

God calls all his children to serve him with obedience. Our faith in him challenges us to change ourselves, or rather allow ourselves to be changed by him working in us and through us. It does not mean acting as if the teachings of his Church are in accordance with our own whims and desires or are the same as the values of the world with some kind of holy gloss upon them. Christ's call to repentance is a call to resist the passions of the world as they try to control us; not to try to temper his teachings so that we may live in the same manner as if we had never heard his teachings at all.

prayer diary Saturday 8 February 2014

As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and Jesus had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 
Mark 6. 34

Reflection
Compassion takes many forms. When we think of people's needs, our thoughts often begin and end with the material things of this world. But Christ saw deeper. True compassion does not neglect spiritual needs; indeed, it places them above all things.

Friday, February 7, 2014

prayer diary Friday 7 February 2014 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised’ … For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ 
Mark. 6. 16-18

Reflection
There are risks in preaching God's word. Sometimes social discomfort, sometimes physical danger. But we must not shy away from it, for the sake of the world and the salvation of our own souls.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

prayer diary Thursday 6 February 2014

He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two … so they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 
Mark 6. 7-12

Reflection
Jesus began his ministry by calling people to repent; he sent his followers out to do the same. So too must we call both ourselves and others to repentance.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

prayer diary Wednesday 5 February 2014

Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ 
Mark 6.4

Reflection
Bringing the word of God to those who know you well can often be difficult. It can seem 'awkward.' And yet, would you for the sake of avoiding embarrassment risk allowing friends, neighbours, and loved ones losing out on eternal life?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

prayer diary Tuesday 4 February 2014

Jesus said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. 
Mark 5. 39,40

Reflection
The world may often laugh at our faith, especially faith in the face of adversity. But if you hold fast to it, it will bring you safe through any storm.

Monday, February 3, 2014

prayer diary Monday 3 February 2014

The man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus … said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.’ 
Mark 5. 18,19

Reflection
Often when we seek to follow the Lord, we think it is for us to decide how it is that we will serve him. But his plans for us may be quite different. And if we are truly followers of his, then we will be obedient to his will.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

leading by example

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Over the last few weeks our Church Calendar has covered several important events in the life of our Lord: his circumcision, his baptism, and his Presentation in the Temple. An interesting fact connects all three, which is that, strictly speaking, none of them were necessary, in the sense of being something that he was obliged to do. Circumcision marked a person as being obedient to the covenant between God and the people of Israel; Christ as the Son of God and the Second person of the Blessed Trinity had no need to enter into a Covenant with himself. Baptism was for the cleansing of sins; Christ being fully human was like us in all things, save one, as Scripture tells us – he was without sin. 

Compressed into the story of the Presentation in the temple is both the requirement for sacrifice to be offered at the Temple after the birth of a first born son for the redeeming of the child, as under the law the first born belonged to the Lord unless redeemed by this sacrifice; and also the 'purification' of the mother, forty days after childbirth, as set out in the Law, as a woman was considered to be ritually 'unclean' after childbirth. But in the case of Mary and her virgin birth, the necessity for purification did not apply, as for example the Church Fathers St Theophlyus and St Ambrose assure us; and Christ, as the Son of God, had no need for this redeeming sacrifice to be made. And yet they were done – why? Well the usual explanation is that Christ and his parents were being obedient to the law.

Now, what purpose is served by being obedient to a law to which one is not subject to or indeed doing something that, while worthy in itself, one has no need to do? Well, by way of illustration, let me tell you a story about two women I knew as a boy. The two lived near each other; one was lean and fit, the other was not. The one who was not was constantly complaining about her weight and being out of breath all the time, so the other, as a friendly gesture, offered to join her in a regime of diet and exercise. 

So they formed a pact, a rule of life, a law of their own if you will, as to how to live. Every day they would meet for a long walk, followed by a session of stretches and exercises; and together they planned out a diet sheet, which both would stick to. And every week they would have a weigh-in session. Now of course, the first woman had no need of all this; she was doing it to encourage her friend, and lead her by example into the healthier life-style that she longed for.

I would love to give this little story a happy ending and tell you that as a result of her friend's support and encouragement the other woman was soon fit and healthy … but alas, it was not to be. The woman who was already fit and slender simply grew more so; while her friend as time went by engaged less and less with the programme and finally gave it up altogether. But that is real life, is it not? You can do all you can to encourage and support someone in living a way that is better for them, but you cannot force them to do so, and you can not prevent them from falling away after they have begun.

Is it not also the same with Christ? He leads us by example, encourages us to lead the Christian life, but does not force us. In the instances I mentioned earlier, his circumcision, presentation, and baptism, his example was intended primarily to encourage us to be obedient to God's will. Obedience to God's will is a powerful theme in the Bible. The importance of it is stressed too many times to list here. But if we look at the beginning of the Bible, Genesis, and the story of the Fall, we can see all too well how vital it is that we are obedient to his will. And we can also see in the Gospels how important it was to Christ that he be obedient to the will of the Father. As he said in Gethsemene, in his Agony before the passion 'not my will, but thine be done.'


And in the battle each of us has to be obedient to God's will, we can do no better than to follow the example that Christ set us in Getsemene and elsewhere, that of prayer. Those who pray faithfully, day by day, wrapping themselves in the garment of conversation with their maker, both speaking to him and listening to what he has to say, can not long remain disobedient to his will … his grace will strengthen those who humbly ask for it … and so my prayer as I end this morning is that through prayer you will find obedience to God in all things in your life … and through that obedience find at the last eternal life. Amen.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

CUBA: PASTOR LLEONART BARROSO UNDER HOUSE ARREST FOLLOWING DETENTION

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release
 
Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, a Baptist pastor, was arrested and detained by political police and state security agents in central Cuba on 25 January. He was returned to his home later that night and put under house arrest.

Political police surrounded the home of Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Taguayabon, in the early hours of 25 January
. His wife, Yoaxis Marcheco Suarez, was forcibly stopped by security services when she attempted to leave the house with their two young daughters to warn Reverend Lleonart Barroso, who was not home at the time. He was arrested in front of his family in the street as he returned home.
 
Reverend Lleonart Barroso was held incommunicado for most of the day. He was returned home late in the evening and put under house arrest. During his detention, prints were taken of his fingers and toes, a scent sample was taken and the pastor was forced to give DNA samples from his nails and teeth. State security agents also attempted to intimidate him into signing an Official Warning or 'Advertencia Oficial', which is frequently used in the Cuban court system as evidence in future arrests. Reverend Lleonart Barroso refused to do so.
 
Since his return home, two armed political police officers are standing guard outside the family house which is adjacent to the church. According to the pastor's sister, Mirka Pena, the arrest of Reverend Lleonart Barroso is part of a larger crackdown on political dissidents across the country, including well known activists such as Dr Oscar Elias Biscet and Sakharov prize winner Guillermo Farias, in anticipation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit, due to take place this week in Cuba. 
 
Reverend Lleonart Barroso and his wife received a visit from the political police a few days before his arrest, who warned them to 'be calm' during the CELAC summit, which will bring together heads of state from across Latin America and the Caribbean. Government officials informed Reverend Lleonart Barroso that if he leaves his house he will be put in prison. 
 
The arrest of Reverend Lleonart Barroso follows the temporary detention of another pastor, Yordani Santia, who was summoned to the police station on 16 January and interrogated for several hours. State security agents threatened and warned Pastor Santia to stop associating with Reverend Lleonart Barroso or face serious consequences. 
 
CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, 'We condemn the detention and arrest of Reverend Lleonart Barroso and are particularly concerned at the intrusion of Cuban state security in taking DNA, biometric and scent samples from a peaceful church leader. We call on the Cuban government to release the pastor from house arrest with immediate effect, and to remove state security agents stationed around his home and church. The arrest and harassment of Cubans across the island that the government considers to be political dissidents, even as Latin American leaders prepare to gather in Havana, is an affront to democratic principles and respect for human rights all over the world. We urge the Latin American leaders who will be present in Cuba in the coming days to raise the situation of human rights there and to meet with some of those who have suffered this harassment.'


For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.
 
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

Examin Saturday 1 February 2014

As Christians we are called to shine in the world, not for our own glory but for the glory of God, to do his work in the world, and win other souls for his kingdom. We are, as we hear Christ command in Matthew's Gospel, to make disciples of all nations and baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. To neglect the salvation of others is to neglect your own salvation. Consider well how it is that your every thought, word, and deed contributes to that work, either in the way it actively evangelises others, or in how it helps prepare you to engage in the work of evangelisation.

prayer diary Saturday 1 February 2014 (St |Brigid’s Day)

'I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep ' 
John 10. 14,15

Reflection 
True intimacy is to be found in relationship with Christ; to be known by him is to be truly known. And it is a relationship that cannot disappoint, because it is one that Christ was willing to die for to sustain.