Speak Lord: Help us on…

DSC00514a David.jpg
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

The First reading at Mass today draws us into the narrative of monarchy in Israel.

That narrative depcits Israel as rejecting at least something of the kingship of God in choosing to have a king such as the nations have. It leads to the collapse of the community brought from Egypt, and to exile in Babylon. When Israel returns from Babylon it is a chastened community.

But in this passage we are presented with a new start, and with hope…

 

  • How do you seek to ensure that your new starts have firm foundations?

Stained Glass. All Saints, Leamington Spa. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

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Speak Lord: Help us sing a new song

Music angels

Tomorrow, the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, we sing a song repeating the ancient encouragement to God’s gathered people to know the wonders of the Lord and to proclaim them to those who without our witness of  (might) lack eyes to see and ears to hear

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

O sing a new song to the Lord,
sing to the Lord all the earth.
O sing to the Lord, bless his name.

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

Proclaim his help day by day,
tell among the nations his glory
and his wonders among all the peoples.

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

Give the Lord, you families of peoples,
give the Lord glory and power;
give the Lord the glory of his name.

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

Worship the Lord in his temple.
O earth, tremble before him.
Proclaim to the nations: ‘God is king.’
He will judge the peoples in fairness.

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

Psalm 95:1-3,7-10

Our faith, our insight into the workings of God is (at least in part, and arguably in largest measure) given us not for our own benefit but for the benefit of all. A silent Israel, a silent Church, is barely tolerable: we have a work to do.

  • What are the wonders of the Lord?
  • Where is his help evident to you?
  • To whom did you last share the good news?
  • To whom will you next share the good news?

Music making Angels. Church of the Holy Name, Manchester. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and see: at the family table.

Baptism JordanSunday was the last of the now usual three Sundays of Christmas that the Church celebrates in England and Wales: Holy Family, Epiphany, Baptism of the Lord. The sequence of feasts provides a fine opportunity for exploring the meaning of Christ’s incarnation and our incorporation into Christ through faith and baptism, faith’s first Sacrament.

The first of the two alternative Collects for Sunday’s feast highlighted our new relationship with God through Christ.

Almighty ever-living God,
who, when Christ had been baptized in the River Jordan
and as the Holy Spirit descended upon him,
solemnly declared him your beloved Son,
grant that your children by adoption,
reborn of water and the Holy Spirit,
may always be well pleasing to you.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

They say you cannot choose your blood family – but we are all members of our water family, the family formed through Baptism, by God’s choice: we are adopted by him, lovingly welcomed into his family.

The season of Christmas is a season when we are ‘confronted’ by our own families – by the joys and challenges we find there. We tell stories and watch fairy stories – Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White – which tell of (other?) dysfunctional families!

And we do this safe in the re-telling of the Christmas story – the bigger, truer, endlessly resilient story of God’s family, a story told to heal and hold us together.

There is work still to be done on our families and the human family, but God helps with a new start to the work. It has firm foundations….

Photograph is of the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus on the river Jordan. It is now an international border, separating Jordan and Israel. Crossing from one side to the other is prohibited. Pilgrims approach either from Jordan or from Israel. What might be a sign of unity is another sign of division. (c) 2013, Allen Morris. 

 

Taste and See: Promised newness.

The Wall

The first reading on Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Advent, spoke of Bethlehem as source for the leadership that would reunite the children of God. Micah speaks of Israel re-united, Isaiah of the human family.

In our days for all that we are preparing to celebrate the birth of that leader some 2000 years ago, the human family is proving might resistant to being reunited, re-formed, reconciled. Again and again its various members show themselves to be at odds with each other, and traduce the better values of revealed religion (and philosophical/cultural humanism at its best).

We need to grow and change. The prophesy still stands: God waits for our response.

The Lord says this:

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
the least of the clans of Judah,
out of you will be born for me
the one who is to rule over Israel;
his origin goes back to the distant past,
to the days of old.
The Lord is therefore going to abandon them
till the time when she who is to give birth gives birth.
Then the remnant of his brothers will come back
to the sons of Israel.
He will stand and feed his flock
with the power of the Lord,
with the majesty of the name of his God.
They will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power
to the ends of the land.
He himself will be peace.

Micah 5:1-4

  • What reconciliation is needed in your self and your family and friends? How might you work for it, as a Christmas gift to your circle?
  • What reconciliation is needed in your broader community? How might you work for it, as a Christmas gift to society?
  • What reconciliation is needed in the Church? How might you play your part in order that all might better respond to Jesus’ call that we might be one?

The Wall. Israel. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Giver of gifts

Manna NG

The first reading at Mass today, the 18th Sunday of the Year, reminds us of the moaning and groaning people of Israel, and of the gift of manna (and quails) that sustains them during their desert wanderings.

The context of the Liturgy, and Christian Tradition, means we will focus more on the manna than the quails. Indeed the compilers of the Lectionary chose this reading to accompany today’s Gospel reading with its talk of the bread of heaven that is Christ, the antitype to the type of the bread gifted by God to Israel.

The whole community of the sons of Israel began to complain against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness and said to them, ‘Why did we not die at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we were able to sit down to pans of meat and could eat bread to our heart’s content! As it is, you have brought us to this wilderness to starve this whole company to death!’

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now I will rain down bread for you from the heavens. Each day the people are to go out and gather the day’s portion; I propose to test them in this way to see whether they will follow my law or not.

‘I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel. Say this to them, “Between the two evenings you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have bread to your heart’s content. Then you will learn that I, the Lord, am your God.”’

And so it came about: quails flew up in the evening, and they covered the camp; in the morning there was a coating of dew all round the camp. When the coating of dew lifted, there on the surface of the desert was a thing delicate, powdery, as fine as hoarfrost on the ground. When they saw this, the sons of Israel said to one another, ‘What is that?’ not knowing what it was. ‘That’ said Moses to them ‘is the bread the Lord gives you to eat.’

Exodus 16:2-4,12-15

Israel does not sound too impressed at the gift of manna! And we do not hear here of any appreciation of the quail either! Yet these gifts keep them alive…

  • What comes our way, as gift from God? Are we able to accept it gratefully, appreciatively?
  • Do we live by faith? Or live according to our own lights, our agenda? And if it is a bit of both, then what’s the balance and what makes for the difference?

Picture is The Israelites gathering Manna by Ercole de’ Roberti. In the collection of the National Gallery, London. 

Speak Lord: ‘Sing to his name’

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Cry out with joy to God all the earth,

O sing to the glory of his name.
O render him glorious praise.
Say to God: ‘How tremendous your deeds!

‘Before you all the earth shall bow;
shall sing to you, sing to your name!’
Come and see the works of God,
tremendous his deeds among men.

He turned the sea into dry land,
they passed through the river dry-shod.
Let our joy then be in him;
he rules for ever by his might.

Come and hear, all who fear God.
I will tell what he did for my soul:
Blessed be God who did not reject my prayer
nor withhold his love from me.

Psalm 65:1-7,16,20

The psalmist refers us back to the story of Israel freed from slavery in Egypt and protected from the armies of Pharoah which pursued them. As God was then, so God is now – and in this is his/our reason to rejoice.

  • What stories from the Old Testament resonate in your journey of faith? Which from the New Testament?
  • Where do you see the works of God? With whom can you share them?
  • What has the Lord done for your soul?

Can you cry out in joy together with the psalmist? Together with all the earth?

Image found at http://www.pinterest.com/pin/150096600053912676/