Monday, April 30, 2012

Readings and hymns with an astronomical theme

With thanks for Facebook & Twitter contributions:

Psalms 8 & 19

'King of the universe, Lord of the ages' by Michael Saward ('Sing Glory', 266) – “Powerful in majesty, throned in the heavens-- sun, moon and stars by your word are upheld;”

Indescribable (From the highest of heights) – “You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.”

'Eternal Ruler of the ceaseless round' (AMNS 353) – “Eternal Ruler of the ceaseless round
of circling planets singing on their way”

'Lord of the boundless curves of space' by Albert F. Bayly (1901-84). 'Hymns Ancient and Modern New Standard' no. 493. – “Thy mind conceived the galaxy… Science explores thy reason’s ways”

Crown him with many crowns – “creator of the rolling spheres”

The servant king – “hands that flung stars into space”

Lord Reign In Me. (Brenton Brown) – “Over all the earth / You reign on high / Every mountain stream / Every sunset sky”

Jesus is Lord! Creation’s voice proclaims it – “Sun, moon and stars in heaven cry Jesus is Lord!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Peter's sermon notes

One way of slicing up Peter's sermon in Acts chapter 3 would be some headings a bit like this, I reckon:

What you did…
What God did…
What you must do…
What God will do…


Getting results

Off and on I am pondering on church Mission Action Planning and what we should seek to focus on etc.

A thought that is bugging me is this: what we are currently doing is leading to the results we are getting. That seems pretty irrefutable! If we want different results, we ought to try something different.

Maybe that's obvious. And maybe in reality things aren't quite that simple. Remember God, and all that. But I think there might be something in it.

Assuming we don't think that our current results are the best possible, and we dare to hope for better, that line of thinking calls for thinking about some change. And the conclusion might not be "do the stuff we are currently doing more and / or better".

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My life for yours

I've read a number of Rev'd Douglas Wilson's books on marriage, children and family, and heard him speak on such things, but I still found My Life For Yours: A Walk Through The Christian Home (Canon Press) fresh and engaging. It's highly readable (short chapters) and full of wisdom. Well worth getting hold of.

Mr & Mrs David Mackie

I'm very pleased to say that the Mackies have begun blogging together.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I've written an article about the Titanic for the next edition of our parish magazine.

You can find more comment from a Christian perspective from J John and 10 of Those.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

The message of the Bible

Acts 10 gives a surprising account of the message of the Bible:

  • The message of the New Testament (v42): Jesus is the one whom God has appointed as judge of the living and the dead
  • The message of the Old Testament (v43): everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins

According to the Apostle Peter, the New Testament apostles preached judgement to come; the Old Testament prophets preached the free offer of forgiveness. Not a lot of people think about the Old and New Testaments that way.

Who did what?

You could have a sermon on Acts 10 that went something like this:

What Jesus did (vv37-38)
What people did (v39)
What God did (v40)
What the apostles did (v39, vv41-43)
What Jesus will do (vv42-43)

Friday, April 06, 2012

An Hour at the Cross: Christ's Cries From The Cross

Good Friday 2012
An Hour at the Cross
Christ’s Cries From The Cross



Hot cross buns & coffee afterwards

Other Easter Services

This service: An Hour at the Cross
It’ll be about an hour!
And it focus on the cross!
 In particular, on Christ's 7 cries from the cross.

Opening Scripture:

Some words from the prophet Isaiah, from 800 years before Christ:

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

            Is 53

Christ’s silence throughout most of his passion perhaps makes his cries from the cross all the more remarkable.

Opening prayer:

O Lord, open our eyes, that we may see wonderful things in your law, for Jesus sake. Amen. (Ps 119:18)

May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in your sight O Lord, Our rock and our redeemer. (Ps 19:14)

            Eternal God,
            in the cross of Jesus
            we see the cost of our sin
            and the depth of your love:
            in humble hope and fear
            may we place at his feet
            all that we have and all that we are,
            through Jesus Christ our Lord.

            (Times and Seasons, p307)

Hymn: There is a green hill far away

Reading 1: Luke 23:32-34

It’s extraordinary that even as Jesus died, he prayed for those who were crucifying him.
In the agony of the cross, Jesus could have be forgiven for being entirely taken up with himself and his suffering, but as ever, he lived selflessly.

As the Bible says, “No one ever spoke like this man” (John 7:46).

Yet, in a way, it’s hardly surprising that Jesus thinks of others as he dies, because that was the whole manner of his life.
And, after all, he deliberately chooses to die for others.
He prays that sinners might be forgiven, and he dies that sinners might be forgiven.
There has never been a more self-less man.
Jesus lived and died for others.
Here is Jesus’ grace, his undeserved love, in action.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
And that’s exactly what Jesus Himself did.

Notice Jesus’ understanding and compassion.
He even manages to find an argument in favour of his persecutors:
“They no not what they do”.
Their only plea in mitigation could be their ignorance – to some extent a culpable ignorance, no doubt.

The Bible says: “None of the rulers of this age understood [the wisdom of God], for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Cor 2:8)
They did not know what they did.

Which of us can say that we really know what happened at the cross?
God died!
It is utterly beyond us – mysterious, incomprehensible.

All our sin is really a kind of stupid, futile, inexplicable madness.
Sin is insane.
Whenever we sin, in a sense, “we know not what we do.”
Sin is not the kind of thing a proper human being in their right mind would do.
And we never really know the enormity of our sin.
We know not what we do.

Jesus prays for us sinners still.
He always lives to intercede for us (Heb 7:25).
Even now he is at the right hand of God interceding for us (Rom 8:34).
If anyone sins, we have an advocate with God the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
He is the propitiation for our sins (1 Jn 2:1-2).
Jesus can plead his own atoning sacrifice:
“Father, forgive them, for I shed my precious blood for them.”
What stronger argument could there be?
How could we doubt that Jesus’ prayer will prevail?

The choir will sing I Give You Love by Michael Forster, based on The Good Friday Reproaches – Finlandia, Jean Sibelius
This piece imagines God speaking to his people.

Reading 2: Luke 23:39-43

Here is Jesus the innocent one, the perfect, sinless, spotless Lamb of God, numbered with transgressors. (Is 53:12)
Jesus the innocent one dies that the guilty might live.

Jesus dies to open the gate of glory.
The Risen Jesus says: “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Rev 1:18)
King Jesus may admit whomever he pleases to his heaven.
He says with the authority of a conquering champion, “I say to you”, on my authority as Almighty God, the Eternal Beloved Son, as the only Saviour of Sinners and the Lord of Life, and as the vanquisher of death and hell, “I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
There can be no more sure promise, no stronger guarantee than the personal word of Jesus himself.

Jesus is able to take his people directly from a hell-ish cross to paradise, to a garden of delights.
Today, you will be with me in paradise”.

Here is a death-bed conversion.
There’s no-one living who is beyond hope.
One deathbed conversion, so that none may despair; but only one, so that none may presume.
One thief is saved, the other, it seems is lost.

The thief on the cross had no good works to commend him.
He could do nothing to atone for his life of crime.
His hands and feet were nailed to the cross.
And yet Jesus promised him a welcome into paradise.
Here is the undeserved, free grace and mercy of our redeemer to sinners.

        Not the labours of my hands
        can fulfil thy law's commands;
        could my zeal no respite know,
        could my tears forever flow,
        all for sin could not atone;
        thou must save, and thou alone.

3.      Nothing in my hand I bring,
        simply to the cross I cling;
        naked, come to thee for dress;
        helpless, look to thee for grace;
        foul, I to the fountain fly;
        wash me, Saviour, or I die.

            (Rock of Ages, Cleft For Me)

“O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer, the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.”
            Praise the Lord!

            (To God Be The Glory)

        There is a fountain filled with blood
        drawn from Emmanuel's veins;
        and sinners plunged beneath that flood
        lose all their guilty stains.

2.      The dying thief rejoiced to see
        that fountain in his day;
        and there may I, though vile as he,
        wash all my sins away.

Bach, St John’s Passion – No. 60 – My dearest Saviour, wilt thou answer? (Disc 2, no. 11)

My dearest Saviour, wilt thou answer?
As thou upon the cross didst suffer,
thyself hath said that thy work is done.
Have I from death a ransom won?
Am I then through thy cross and passion
an heir to heaven's salvation?
Are all our sins now washed away?
Thou canst for anguish
make no answer,
yet thou dost bow thy head
and say in silence: "Yea".

Jesus thou hast suffered death,
now thou liv'st for ever.
When I draw my latest breath,
o, forsake me never.
Thou'lt forgive all I have done,
my beloved master.
Grant me, Lord,
what thou hast won,
that is all I ask for.

Reading 3: John 19:25-27

Again, here is Jesus thinking of others.
Jesus’ selflessness:
His humanity:
His affection and care for his mother:
His love.

And here is a new kind of relationship established:
The church as a family.
Mary loses her son, Jesus, but she gains a new son, the disciple Jesus loved.
Those who follow Jesus must be willing to go to the cross, to lose all things, and are not spared the bitterest sorrows, but they gain many brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters.
Even in his death, Christ is committed to us and he commits us to one another that we might care for one another.
In the face of death, we look not only to Christ for comfort, but also to the family of God, the church, which Christ has provided for us.

The Collect for Good Friday is a prayer for the church, the family of God:

Almighty Father,
look with mercy on this your family
for which our Lord Jesus Christ was content to be betrayed and given up into the hands of sinners and to suffer death upon the cross;
who is alive and glorified with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Hymn: Man of Sorrows, what a name

Reading 4: Mark 15:33-34

Jesus, the beloved Son of God, with whom the Father was always well-pleased, was forsaken by him (Mark 1:11).
The Son who had always known his Father’s smile, now endures his dreadful frown.
Well might the sun hide and the earth shake.
The wrath of God the Father is poured out on God the Son.
Jesus willingly endures the curse of sin, separated from the blessings of God’s presence – which include every good thing.
In his infinite person, the Son tasted Hell for us.
God Himself is punishing God Himself for our sin.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21)

Martin Luther once wrote:

All the prophets did foresee in spirit, that Christ should become the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, rebel, [and] blasphemer... that ever was….for he, being made a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, is not now an innocent person and without sins….Our most merciful Father…sent his only Son into the world and laid upon him the sins of all men, saying [to him]: Be thou Peter that denier; Paul that persecutor, blasphemer and cruel oppressor; David that adulterer; that sinner which did eat the [fruit] in Paradise; that thief which hanged on the cross; and, briefly, be thou [that] person which hath committed the sins of all men; see therefore that thou pay and satisfy for them. Here now cometh the law and saith: I find him a sinner…therefore let him die upon the cross.

Martin Luther  (found at Galatians, ed. Philip S. Watson (London: James Clarke, 1953), 269-271; on Gal 3:13)

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
He was forsaken, that we might never be.
He was abandoned, that we might be received.

Hymn: O sacred head sore wounded

Reading 5: John 19:28-29

Jesus said, “if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37)
But now he himself thirsts.

Here again is Jesus’ humanity: the reality of his suffering.
He is poured out like water (Ps 22:14)
His strength is dried up, his tongue sticks to the roof of his mouth and he is laid in the dust of death (Ps 22:15)
He who made the oceans and sends rain on the earth, ran dry.

Jesus was literally thirsty, but our Blessed Lord hungered and thirsted for righteousness too (Mt 5:6).
As the deer pants for streams of water, so Christ’s soul pants for God.
His soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (Ps 42:1)
Jesus’ passionate desire, his thirst, was to save mankind, to please his Father, to finish what he had come to do.

It is through Jesus’ thirst that he is able to offer living water to the thirst.
When he has died, waters will flow from his side. (John 19:34)
Living water will flow from him to revive and refresh the world.
Ask him and he will give you living water so that you will never be thirsty again.
Indeed, the water Christ gives you will become in you a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4)
He says to us:
"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” (Is 55:1)
Jesus has drained the cup of God’s wrath that we might drink the cup of salvation and blessing.
One day we will drink the fruit of the vine anew with Jesus in his Father’s kingdom. (Mt 26:29)

Hymn: Here is Love vast as the ocean

Reading 6: John 19:30

Not, “I am finished”, but “it is finished”
Not a cry of defeat but of victory.
In the Greek a single word, “Tetelestai!”
The kind of thing a builder might say as he adds the final brick to house. – “Tetelestai!”
Or which you might say after 10 years of labour, when you finally complete your match-stick model of Chichester Cathedral – “Tetelestai!”
Or the kind of thing an elderly couple might say as they finally pay off their mortgage.
The 90 year old woman hands over the final cheque at the bank and she waves her walking stick as she cries out, “Tetelestai! It is finished!”
Job done.
Mission achieved.
Jesus has paid the price of sin in full.
He has drunk the cup of God’s wrath to the bitter end.
Death is defeated.
Satan’s power is spent.
It is finished!

Poem: Death be not proud, by John Donne
Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so,
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

Reading 7: Luke 23:46

Like Jesus’ cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”, these words are taken from the Scriptures.
The incarnate Word of God dies with the inspired Word of God on his lips, trusting his Father, doing his will.
Jesus is obedient to the end, even to death.
He knows his Father loves him with a love stronger than death. (Song 8:6)
Jesus entrusts himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:24)
Jesus knows that “the strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The powers of death have done their worst;
But Christ their legions hath dispersed;”.
Jesus is returning to His Father and ours. (Jn 13:3; 20:17)
We too can commit our lives and our deaths into the hands of our loving heavenly Father, knowing that he cares for us.

(Further prayers – adapt Times & Seasons p316-8)

Hymn: When I survey the wondrous cross

Final Prayers:

Most merciful God,
            who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
            delivered and saved the world:
            grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
            we may triumph in the power of his victory;
            through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
            who is alive and reigns with you,
            in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
            one God, now and for ever. Amen.

            Worthy are you, O Lamb of God who was slain,
            To receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
            and honour and glory and praise!
            for with your blood you purchased people for God,
            from every tribe and language and people and nation.        (Rev 5)

            To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,
            and has made us to be a kingdom of priests
to serve his God and Father
            to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen                        (Rev 1:5b-6)