A reflection on Psalm 146

Psalm 146

1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2 I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
4 When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
5 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith for ever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10 The Lord will reign for ever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!

After focusing people’s minds on God, the psalmist proceeds to tell his listeners of the foolishness of putting our faith in humanity alone, because humanity ultimately perishes, fades away, and our hopes and plans with them. If we only trust in humanity, then all our plans will come to nothing. Rather we need to trust in the one who will never fail, who will never fade away.

‘5 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith for ever;’

It is in God only whom we should trust. The creator of all, who is faithful forever. Only the plans entrusted to God will last and be fruitful. The God who created us, who cares for us, the God

‘7 who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,’

In the age of celebrity this is an important message. This psalm tells us of the fallacy of seeking after the rich and popular. We stand on rocky ground if its our celebrities we put our trust and admiration. Yes they are entertaining to watch, and many wish to follow their ways, the way the dress and eat, the things they buy, but they will one day die and those things we have built up will fall and fade with them. And then what is left?

‘3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.’

No help, no life, no joy, no strength. All will tumble down to nothing.

Those things, those people that the Lord cares about may not seem as glamorous or exciting. There is little money or fame in caring for those oppressed, sick or hungry, but they are the things that matter. The Lord does not ask us to build up wealth and acquire possessions. He does not ask us to seek fame and recognition. He wants us to join him in caring for others. As it says in Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,”

Let this be our prayer, Praise the Lord!

How many Christians does it take to change a lightbulb?

Found this in my archives from a few years ago. I don’t know where it originated from, but it made me giggle, so I thought I would share it with you.

 

How many Christians does it take to change a lightbulb?

Charismatic: Only one. Hands already in the air.

Pentecostals: Ten. One to change the bulb and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

Presbyterians: None. Lights will go off and on at predestined times.

Roman Catholic: None. Candles only.

Baptists: At least 15. One to change the light bulb and three committees to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad.

Anglicans: Three. One to call the electrician, one to mix the drinks and one to talk about how much better the old bulb was.

Mormons: Five. One man to change the bulb and four wives to tell him how to do it.

Unitarians: We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey you have found that light bulbs work for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your light bulb for the next Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.

Methodists: Undetermined. Whether your light bulb is bright, dull, or completely out, you are loved. You can be a light bulb, turnip bulb or tulip bulb. A church-wide lighting service is planned for Sunday. Bring a bulb of your choice and a covered dish.

Lutherans: None. Lutherans don’t believe in change.

Amish: What’s a light bulb?

A Pastoral Homily from the Bishops of the Church in Wales for Ministry and Calling Sunday

Picture from Derry Diocese
Picture from Derry Diocese

This is what I will be preaching on Sunday, a message on vocations from our Bishops within this province, but with a few small adjustments. When thinking about the gifts that we have been given by God, we need consider how we best use them. These may well be in the role of priest, or deacon, or lay reader, but they my also be in reading the lessons, praying, visiting the sick, or housebound,  administration, music, working with children, IT and computer skills, worship leading………….

WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST, we are his hands and his feet, his eyes and ears, and we need to own that, as disciples, as followers of him who leads us. Make some time over this next week to think and pray about what you are good at, what you can be good at, and what you want to be good at. Take stock of what is around you, what your community is like, what difference an individual/ community/ church could make to the situations you see. Take time to dream about what you would like your church to look like, take that vision to the furthest points your imagination can stretch it, and then think about how it might happen in reality. Talk to those around you, give praise when you see people using their gifts and encourage others to use theirs. Give and/or create opportunities where people might be able to explore their own gifts.

Pray for a future that is as bold as the gospel we have received.

A Pastoral Homily from the Bishops of the Church in Wales for Ministry and Calling Sunday

The Sunday after Ascension, 12th May 2013

To all those who are disciples of Jesus Christ and members of the Church in Wales:

 

Jesus prayed “I made your name known to them, and will make it known”

 

Last Thursday, the Church celebrated the occasion when Jesus took his leave of the disciples, and commanded them to wait for the gift of power from on high.  Next Sunday, we celebrate God’s sending of the Holy Spirit.  As they waited, the disciples must have had a sense that they were on the brink of something new.  They had given their lives to become wanderers with the Lord.  They had become living witnesses of Jesus’ betrayal and execution, of his Resurrection and of God’s vindication of his Son, yet they could not have guessed where they might be led, or how God would support them in their witness.

In our gospel reading today, Jesus prays for all his disciples, down from that first fellowship, that his followers may become bearers of “glory”, in the same way that he had revealed the glory of God to the world.  Jesus had done this by proclaiming God’s grace in word and in action, in radical outreach and in divine power, and he prays in this reading that the quality of life of his disciples would be such as to make known God’s name, God’s character – a quality of life that would speak of the fullness of God’s glorious nature.

Such a witness was the mission of the early Church, and our reading from the book of the Acts of the Apostles shows how Paul and Silas among others found themselves doing that in unlikely ways and unlikely places.

The Church in Wales today inherits not just the witness of these first disciples and apostles, but of at least fifteen hundred years of witness to Jesus by the saints and disciples of Wales.  Our forebears in the faith witnessed the Romans leave these shores, the Saxons and the Normans arrive.  They have seen conquest, war, union with England, industrial revolution.  They have seen decline and revival, the flowering of Catholic spirituality, and the passion of the Reformation.  In every generation God has raised up those who make known the glory of the fullness of life found in Jesus.  When the Anglican Church would not or could not, God raised up others, and we have been through separation and division, and yet we have also been drawn back towards relationship with one another because our true relationship is founded on the one Lord Jesus Christ.

In every generation we have tried to work out what being a disciple of Jesus and a living witness to the name of God means.  We have asked ourselves questions about the scriptures and our witness and our worship and our service.  The world in its turn has asked questions of us about our way of life and our beliefs in ways which stimulate new thinking.

Such questioning has never been more urgent than today, and as we approach the centenary of our disestablishment  [our separation from almost a thousand years living as part of the Church of England] we are beginning to learn that we have to be less of an institution and more of a movement: that we have to recapture the spirit of those first apostles; uncertain what our role might be, but excited by the knowledge that Christ reveals the glory of God and makes his name known through our witness.

Jesus called all people to turn their lives around in order to become ambassadors in God’s name, to receive from God’s hand the new heart of flesh, of compassion and love, to replace the hardened heart of life outside of God.  He invites us into the glory of a fullness of life in which God’s name is made known through healing and justice and love.

The worth of the Church in Wales depends entirely on our being ambassadors for that same glory today.  Unless our lives reflect God’s love and glory, and we live the sort of life that he wants proclaimed, then the witness of the Church in Wales is hollow and without power.

That is why we are talking today of “ministry” and of “calling”.  There is not a person sitting in the congregation today who cannot offer ministry in God’s name to the world.  God calls every one of us into the exercise of that individual service for which God has made us and equipped us.  God calls every one of us to be a bearer of God’s name and glory for others.

We would not be your bishops today, if we were not aware in our own lives that God has been merciful to us, and if we did not in some measure know that renewal of our hearts by God prophesied by Ezekiel and prayed for by Jesus. We have confidence that God has called us to this ministry and will sustain us, in the very same moment that each of us feels deeply unworthy of the task.  However, the question today concerns not just our vocation, but the vocation of every member of the Church in Wales.  What has God called you to do and to be alongside us for his sake?  How can we together make known the glory and love of God in our world?

Today, we are asking you to join us in making God’s name known.  Jesus prayed for us that we might reflect God’s glory and love, and we believe he calls us to become a people together, ready for ministry and service. Each member of our family has a place and a vocation to contribute and adventure forth in God’s name.  The letter to the Ephesians speaks of God’s vocation:  God “gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers”, and we could add “and some, priests and deacons and readers and lay ministers”.  What gifts has God given you to equip you to make known his name?

Isaiah heard the Spirit of God, saying:  Whom shall I send, and who will go for me?

There is only one answer which can meet such a call, and God waits for everyone of us to give it:

Here I am, send me.

 

+Barry Cambrensis                                    +Andrew Bangor

+Dominic Monmouth                                  +Gregory Llanelwy

+John Swansea and Brecon                       +David Wilbourne

+Wyn Tyddewi

 

 

(http://www.vocationwales.org.uk/home.php?lang=en)
(http://www.vocationwales.org.uk/home.php?lang=en)

Curates Corner: May 2013 (Parish Magazine)

Curates Corner

As many of you are aware, I’ve recently come back from the Holy Land. I know it seemed like I was away for a long time, I’ve miss you all as well, but I only missed one Sunday (promise). I wouldn’t call it a holiday because of the type of group it was and some of the things we went to see, it was a pilgrimage. As well as all the holy sites you would expect to see on a trip like this, I also got to see many of the places that are not often seen by us in the west and a side of the troubles out there that are not often reported on.

I admit I went out there quite ignorant about the situation, and I didn’t know what to expect from this trip, but I can honestly say it was life changing. One traveller said that she went out there blank, but comes back an activist, and in many ways her feelings ring true for me.  

Alongside places like the Church of the Nativity, the Sea of Galilee, and the Mount of Olives, we also visited Sindyanna Women’s Organisation, Jeel al-Amal Boys’ Home (orphanage), Hope Secondary School in Beit Jala (who St Peters will be helping this quarter), Wi’Am who work in nonviolent conflict resolution, Aida Refugee Camp, St Matthews Anglican Church and clinic in Zababdeh, and we spoke with an Ecumenical Accompanier at the Separation Wall. We saw the effect conflict and separation has had, and the results of warfare and violence.

Many of these places are still with me at heart and I’m sure will remain with me. And I warn you all now to prepare for sermons where these people and places feature (I feel them brewing)! But seriously, I do look forward to being able to share with you some of these places and the stories of the people I met.

Among the violence and conflict there are voices of peace and hope. Many have not given up their hope of living peacefully within the Holy Land, and we join our prayers with theirs. I ask that you do pray for those Christians in the Holy Land, especially those who live in the West Bank and all those who are working for peace.