"Consider this ...."

It’s always fascinating to watch small children when they’re out for a walk. They take note of everything with a keen interest, examining their world in minute detail. They are captivated by things that grown up’s hurry past unseeing- like the veins of a leaf, petals from a flower, a snail’s shell. They may not make speedy progress but, for them, the journey is as important as the destination; the getting to as satisfying as the getting there.

The Christian life is often characterised as a journey and, as such, allows for similar opportunities for growth, maturing and lifelong learning, if only we keep our eyes, ears and minds open. Faith is not static and, although we are encouraged to press on towards the goal of salvation, we are also encouraged to be still and to grow in our awareness of God, other people, and ourselves.

These offerings are written to provide a moment for you to draw aside, reflect, and pray. They are based on the weekly Collect, Scripture readings and Post-Communion Prayer of the Church of Ireland. Wherever you may be on your own journey of faith, you are welcome to join us and to consider this…

Belfast Cathedral on Twitter Belfast Cathedral on Facebook

 

------------------------------------------------------------

The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

Collect
Almighty God,
whose only Son has opened for us
a new and living way into your presence:
Give us pure hearts and steadfast wills
to worship you in spirit and in truth,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The First Reading - Jeremiah 2: 4-13
The Psalm - Psalm 81: 1, 10-16
The Second Reading - Hebrews 13: 1-8, 15-16
The Gospel Reading - Luke 14: 1, 7-14
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website.

Post Communion Prayer
Lord God,
the source of truth and love:
Keep us faithful to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
united in prayer and the breaking of bread,
and one in joy and simplicity of heart,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Now here’s a thing that I have found myself pondering lately: how come my attendance at, participation in and general association with Church hasn’t made me a nicer person? Compared to this time last year I’m no less (and in some cases markedly more) self-centred, condescending, prejudiced, condemnatory, impatient, ungracious, hypocritical and downright faithless.

You wouldn’t necessarily know, looking at me. Seeing me stumping about the cathedral with my ecclesiastical neck-brace spouting God-talk, you might see a very different me. But, you see, I know better. Of course, there are positives to me as well as that list of negatives. But the positives don’t take the negatives away, whereas sometimes the negatives cancel out the positives.

Anyway, to get to the point, the Gospel relates Jesus attending a dinner party amongst a gathering of respectable and pious fellows: my kind of folk! He tosses one of his trademark spiritual hand grenades into the chatter and tells them all they’ve got one too many faces. I guess being a respectable person doesn’t make you a caring person.

Many of the services held in the Cathedral each week are celebrations of Holy Communion. It’s a consistent reminder of Jesus’ death out of love for us, a regular confrontation with the kind of lifestyle he calls for from his followers: self-sacrifice, compassion and cross-carrying witness. I generally chalk up an average of 6 a week: how could you possibly go to so many and not be influenced for the better?

But perhaps that’s the danger. Maybe familiarity breeds, certainly not contempt, but quite possibly complacency. How does the experience of God’s love, encounter with Christ and filling with the Holy Spirit that comes to us uniquely in the Eucharist actually facilitate a spiritual recalibration within us? Maybe it isn’t automatic; maybe turning up isn’t quite enough; maybe it calls for a more active engagement at a much deeper level…

Consider this in light of the sentence that started this all off for me (I’ll give you the source if you ask me!): Why is it that in spite of hundreds of thousands of eucharistic celebrations, Christians continue as selfish as before?

Revd Mark Niblock

------------------------------------------------------------

The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

Collect
Almighty God, who called your Church to bear witness that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself: Help us to proclaim the good news of your love, that all who hear it may be drawn to you; through him who was lifted up on the cross, and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

The First Reading - Jeremiah 1: 4-10
The Psalm - Psalm 71: 1-6
The Second Reading - Hebrews 12: 18-29
The Gospel Reading - Luke 13: 10-17
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website.

Post Communion Prayer
God our creator, you feed your children with the true manna, the living bread from heaven. Let this holy food sustain us through our earthly pilgrimage until we come to that place where hunger and thirst are no more; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

One summer, when my children were young, our parish church was closed for renovation and we were worshipping at a neighbouring church. We didn’t have a car and so we all got on our bicycles and cycled there. It was a very pleasant ride, the weather was good that summer and our journey was mainly along the tow path of the local river. During the summer I got talking to a fellow parishioner and listened to her complaint that she and her daughter couldn’t get to church. I told her how we got there and suggested that they might do the same. “Oh” she said “we couldn’t cycle on a Sunday, we would be breaking the Sabbath.” She went on to say that she would get her neighbour, also a parishioner, to get the car out and drive her and her daughter to church!

I remembered this incident when I read this week’s gospel reading. In it Jesus healed a disabled woman, who had been bent over for the past eighteen years. He does this on the Sabbath day and is severely criticised because he dared to heal on the Sabbath day. Jesus answered his critics, calling them hypocrites, and pointing out to them that if they fed their animals on a Sabbath day and gave them water to drink on the Sabbath day; surely he should be able to set someone free from their disability.

I have heard the church accused of hypocrisy, the accusers saying that we don’t practise that which we preach. It is an accusation that we need to take seriously. Someone once left a church because she saw churchgoers being unpleasant to a man who was begging in the vicinity; she felt that they were being hypocritical, bearing in mind the Jesus’ teaching that we should care for those less well off than ourselves.

I suspect that the lady who wanted a lift to church was a bit of a hypocrite; if it was wrong for her to cycle on a Sunday surely it would be equally wrong for her neighbour to drive the car. Are there times that we could be accused of hypocrisy? Perhaps we should consider that question seriously.

Rev Janice Elsdon

------------------------------------------------------------

The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

Collect
Almighty and everlasting God,
you are always more ready to hear than we to pray
and to give more than either we desire, or deserve:
Pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,
forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid,
and giving us those good things
which we are not worthy to ask
save through the merits and mediation
of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.

The First Reading- Isaiah 5: 1-7
The Psalm- Psalm 80: 1-2, 9-20
The Second Reading- Hebrews 11: 29 - 12: 2
The Gospel Reading- Luke 12: 49-56
Click here to view the readings vis the oremus Bible Browser website

Post Communion Prayer
God of compassion,
in this Eucharist we know again your forgiveness
and the healing power of your love.
Grant that we who are made whole in Christ
may bring that forgiveness and healing to this broken world, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

 

In many ways we in Northern Ireland do not overtly suffer persecution in a way Christians other parts of the world do – especially when in the minority in various Middle Eastern and some African countries, but not exclusively so as the recent vicious slaying of Father Jacques Hamel in nearby France being a most recent example.

But persecution of the people of God is no new thing. The reading from Hebrews this Sunday paints a very graphic and grim picture of the suffering experienced by many people of God over the centuries because of their faithful witness.

Jesus too in our New Testament reading speaks of the division and persecution that can be expected by those who follow him because of their faithfulness to the gospel.

And yet in the pluralistic society in which we live how challenging it is to present the Jesus who said; ‘Do you think that I have come to bring peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division…’ and so on. I suppose this is so because at the heart of the message Jesus brings, is that men and women can only be related to God only if they know him and come to him on his terms. Does this then compel the people of God today, as St Paul urges, to stand firm on what we believe (Ephesians 6:14) and this may make us the objects of criticism and scorn! Phillip Brooks writes, ‘Truth is always strong, no matter how weak it looks and falsehood is always weak no matter how strong it looks.’

How faithful are each of us in presenting the claims of Jesus in in living out our faith? How much more so should those charged with the presentation of the claims of Jesus be - popular or unpopular though they may be. (Read God’s view of his unfaithful people is very graphically described in the OT reading from Isaiah chapter 5) – I think Id rather be amongst those of whom the writer to the Hebrews identifies in chapter 12 that those in Isaiah chapter 5 (readings above).

May each of us consider our walk and our witness where God has placed us in this hurting and troubled world, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of[ the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Rise up and serve the Lord!
Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and soul and mind and strength
To serve the King of Kings.

Revd Campbell Dixon MBE

------------------------------------------------------------

The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

Collect
O God,
you declare your almighty power
most chiefly in showing mercy and pity:
Mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace,
that we, running the way of your commandments,
may receive your gracious promises,
and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The First Reading - Isaiah 1: 1, 10-20
The Psalm - Psalm 50: 1-8, 23-24
The Second Reading - Hebrews 11: 1-3,8-1
The Gospel Reading - Luke 12: 32-40
Click here to view the readings vis the oremus Bible Browser website

Post Communion Prayer
Lord of all mercy,
we your faithful people have celebrated
the memorial of that single sacrifice
which takes away our sins and brings pardon and peace.
By our communion
keep us firm on the foundation of the gospel
and preserve us from all sin;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

I’m told that, very occasionally, church services can be ever so slightly boring. No doubt this news will be as shocking to you as it was to me, but there it is. We’re used to reviewing a service based on our criteria of choice, and declaring it to have been good, bad or indifferent. But how often do we think about God’s perspective on our worship?

The first reading presents God expressing frustration at having to endure occasions of religious worship. As divine spokesman, Isaiah pleads for the people to give God’s head peace, because worship without justice is an affront to God. However shocking it may seem, throughout Scripture God never upbraids anyone for observing justice without worship, but consistently upbraids people for observing worship without justice: God’s order is, justice first, thenworship.

Here’s an unsettling thought arising from that: Jesus only told one person that they needed to be born again; but he told many people to sell up, give the proceeds to relieve the poverty of others, and follow him. Historically the Church has tended to reverse that ratio, ignoring the selling and giving, and focussing on telling everyone to be born again. Consider this: does God get a kick out of my worship, or does God want to kick my worship out?

Revd Mark Niblock

------------------------------------------------------------

Previous Months

2016

August 2016

July 2016

June 2016

May 2016

April 2016

March 2016

February 2016

January 2016

2015

December 2015

November 2015

October 2015

September 2015

August 2015

July 2015

June 2015

May 2015

April 2015

March 2015

February 2015

January 2015

 

2014

December 2014

November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

August 2014

July 2014

June 2014

May 2014

April 2014

March 2014