Speak Lord: Our Hope

Jerusalem Sunrise IIThe First reading today comes from Isaiah a book that knows the tragedy of Jerusalem conquered and her peoples dispersed, many in exile in Babylon. And yet the prophet calls on this same Jerusalem to rejoice at the healing and restoration that God has for her.

In our day too Jerusalem is a tragic place and a place where constantly people turn to God in hope for restoration and healing. Muslims, Christians, Jews all turn to God and look for his intervention, for his will to triumph over political vicissitudes and human sinfulness. In their prayer (our prayer) we may have very different futures in mind – and so even our prayer can be part of the problem blocking God’s will – and yet at our best we turn to God and ask that God’s will be fulfilled, on earth as in heaven.

Rejoice, Jerusalem,
be glad for her, all you who love her!
Rejoice, rejoice for her,
all you who mourned her!

That you may be suckled, filled,
from her consoling breast,
that you may savour with delight
her glorious breasts.

For thus says the Lord:
Now towards her I send flowing
peace, like a river,
and like a stream in spate
the glory of the nations.

At her breast will her nurslings be carried
and fondled in her lap.
Like a son comforted by his mother
will I comfort you.
And by Jerusalem you will be comforted.

At the sight your heart will rejoice,
and your bones flourish like the grass.
To his servants the Lord will reveal his hand.

Isaiah 66:10-14

Our prayer too, our prayer for the future of all sorts of things may be a way of God’s will being fulfilled and sometimes might be an attempt to frustrate God’s will!

  • Where do you feel your will and God’s are at one?
  • Where do you feel/fear that might not be the case?

Sunrise over Temple Mount, looking to the Mount of Olives. (c) 2013, Allen Morris



Speak Lord: Tears and smiles

Tears, EindhovenThe Psalm set for the 4th Sunday in Year B remembers the experience of exile and loss, as recounted in the first reading.

O let my tongue cleave to my mouth if I remember you not!

By the rivers of Babylon
there we sat and wept,
remembering Zion;
on the poplars that grew there
we hung up our harps.

O let my tongue cleave to my mouth if I remember you not!

For it was there that they asked us,
our captors, for songs,
our oppressors, for joy.
‘Sing to us,’ they said,
‘one of Zion’s songs.’

O let my tongue cleave to my mouth if I remember you not!

O how could we sing
the song of the Lord
on alien soil?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!

O let my tongue cleave to my mouth if I remember you not!

O let my tongue
cleave to my mouth
if I remember you not,
if I prize not Jerusalem
above all my joys!

O let my tongue cleave to my mouth if I remember you not!

Psalm 136:1-6

Tears, Eindhoven II

  • What do you place great trust in? Does it merit your trust?
  • What gives you hope?
  • What challenges you?

Bring your thoughts and feelings to God in prayer.

– – –

The psalm for Year A is to be used when the second Scrutiny is celebrated.

The readings of Year A may also be used in any year.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Psalm 22:1-6

Photograph of tears in stained glass window, Eindhoven. (c) 2003, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of what is lost and found

Altar of Sacrifice, London Central SynagogueOn the fourth Sunday of Lent in Year B the first reading is from the Second Book of Chronicles. It tells of the sacking of the Temple by the Babylonians, and the taking of the people of Israel into exile. But the reading concludes with a pagan king requiring the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s Temple.

All the heads of the priesthood, and the people too, added infidelity to infidelity, copying all the shameful practices of the nations and defiling the Temple that the Lord had consecrated for himself in Jerusalem. The Lord, the God of their ancestors, tirelessly sent them messenger after messenger, since he wished to spare his people and his house. But they ridiculed the messengers of God, they despised his words, they laughed at his prophets, until at last the wrath of the Lord rose so high against his people that there was no further remedy.

They burned down the Temple of God, demolished the walls of Jerusalem, set fire to all its palaces, and destroyed everything of value in it. The survivors were deported by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon; they were to serve him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. This is how the word of the Lord was fulfilled that he spoke through Jeremiah, ‘Until this land has enjoyed its sabbath rest, until seventy years have gone by, it will keep sabbath throughout the days of its desolation.’

And in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, to fulfil the word of the Lord that was spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom: ‘Thus speaks Cyrus king of Persia, “the Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; he has ordered me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him! Let him go up.”’

2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23

The despair of Israel in the loss of the Temple and its privileged place of engaging with the presence of God can barely be conceived.

Likewise the joy and astonishment of the restoration achieved through the actions of a pagan king.

  • How much we lose through sin and failing.
  • How wonderful is the restoration of our communion with God through the love and mercy offered us in the sacrifice of Christ.
  • Give thanks! Count your blessings

– – –

The readings for Year A may be used as an alternative, and indeed must be used when the second Scrutiny is celebrated.

The first reading in that case is:

The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Fill your horn with oil and go. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen myself a king among his sons.’ When Samuel arrived, he caught sight of Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed stands there before him,’ but the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Take no notice of his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him: God does not see as man sees: man looks at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.’ Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’ He then asked Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’ He answered, ‘There is still one left, the youngest; he is out looking after the sheep.’ Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send for him; we will not sit down to eat until he comes.’ Jesse had him sent for, a boy of fresh complexion, with fine eyes and pleasant bearing. The Lord said, ‘Come, anoint him, for this is the one.’ At this, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him where he stood with his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord seized on David and stayed with him from that day on.

1 Samuel 16:1,6-7,10-13

Photograph of stained glass of altar of sacrifice, in stained glass window at London Central Synagogue. (C) 2015, Allen Morris