Hiroshima Day Poem

Hiroshima Day Poem – Hiroshima Day is designated as August 6th

This can be used as a responsive prayer

As we remember holocaust,
in horror disbelieving
the history of the human race,
we share each other’s grieving;
God purge us of hypocrisy,
of all our self-deceiving.


Our language is inadequate,
unfit for the expression
of hatred that we visualise,
humanity’s confession;
we hurry headlong into hell,
we witness love’s regression.

The deepest, distant agony
that throbs through all creation,
the silent tears that quietly fall
in every generation,
are signs of our humanity,
our need for re-creation.

God give us strength to make a pledge
to move beyond contention,
to see, in each, humanity.
Through greater good intention,
God, move us toward a purer love,
a gracious intervention.

Andrew E Pratt

Words © 2003 © Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@stainer.co.uk . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

Idyllic beaches break the waves – a hymn relating to migration and asylum – sadly still pertinent..

These images will not be diminished by persecuting migrants, nor by making a false distinction between those seeking asylum and so called economic migrants. We need to welcome as fellow human beings people coming to our shores who are fleeing fear or poverty and to provide them with safe passage to our shores and a humanitarian reception.

1	Idyllic beaches break the waves 
	as bathers line the shore
	This view of peace is now disturbed:
	an aftermath of war.
	The ones who fled from lives they knew 
	have gone in fear and dread, 
	the ships that offered hope to them 
	are sunk with many dead.
 
2	And where is God amid the swell 
	where tides still ebb and flow,
	unfeeling of this loss of life,
	as others come and go?
	The commerce of the world goes on. 
	Can we ignore the pain?
	It is as though we're blind to see 
	Christ crucified again.
 
3	The ones who drown are ones we own 
	as neighbours we should love;
	how can we turn our eyes away, 
	avert our gaze above?
	For when our politics conspires 
	to shut the door to grace 
	it is as though we turn away 
	from Jesus' tortured face.

Andrew E Pratt (born 1948)
Words © 2015 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk.
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

CMD
Tune: KINGSFOLD

 

Romans 13: 8 – 14 – Am I in debt? Meditation: Am I in debt?

Am I in debt?


Surely!


In debt for the love you have given me.
Undeserving, sometimes callous, thoughtless and cavalier with the expectations
of others. Yet I am loved.
And so I owe this debt of love.
How can it be paid?
How do I repay the patience of a nurse who stands by me while I am sick?
How do I return the love of a mother who invested her life in my life from birth
to her death?
How do I thank those people who affirm me in what I do, in writing and in
teaching?
How do I thank the teacher who told me, but then demonstrated that from his
point of view there was some good in everyone?
How do I thank my son for music, art and an openness of spirit?
How do I thank colleagues who have stood by and encouraged me as my life has
changed pace and direction often giving them more work to do?
How do I thank my wife for her care?
How do I thank the child who smiles and hugs me and says, ‘That’s better’?
How do I thank countless friends who have done the things that only they could
do?
How do I thank the father who taught me to work with wood?
So much to be thankful for!
Am I in debt?
Surely…

To each and all is owed a lifetime of love, so graciously given, so easily received.

No wonder he said, ‘Love one another”!
I’ll try, really I will.

Will you?

A reflection for Holy Week

When I opened my social media one morning I caught the comment, in relation to nothing in particular, ‘that’ll wait till after Easter’. Some things won’t. And in another sense some things can’t, shouldn’t be hidden or avoided. I don’t want to be a spoil sport, nor to confront us with things that are just too painful in a world which has pain enough of itself.
Come Easter day it will all be daffodils and Easter eggs, children and fun. Well not quite all. But that is jumping the gun. Let me take you back to the beginning of this, so called ‘Holy Week’.
Some people like to look at the whole drama of this week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday as ‘part of God’s plan’. I think that diminishes God. It doesn’t speak of the God I see in Jesus, or even the pages of the Hebrew scriptures. The events of this week are less planned, more inevitable; earthly as much as heavenly.

Remember that Jesus is a man, God become human, but a man. God does not put his ‘son’, through unimaginable cruelty. Charles Wesley had it right speaking of God ‘contracted to a span, incomprehensibly man’, a God who ‘emptied himself of all but love.’ So this Jesus is God. But he is human, like you and me. Very special, yet nothing special at all. Growing up he had witnessed religious corruption. That is not an anti-semitic comment. The church is just as riddled with corruption today. Occasionally people rise above it, but it is a human characteristic, built into our DNA. We are hard-wired for self-preservation and that makes us want to clamber to the top of the pile. Now and again we managed to repress our natural instincts and become a little more kind, a mite more gracious. Anyway, I digress.

Jesus rode a donkey into an occupied city at the time of a religious festival. Stirred up a crowd. If anything could be calculated to raise the temperature, rather than calm the conflict, that was its precursor. He challenged the religious people, over-turned the tables of the money changers, caused chaos. Then just walked away. Deals are done, silver changes hands, plots are elaborated. In the midst of all of this he shares a meal with his friends. Then an arrest is executed. Now this becomes political. Pilate is confronted rather than ignored. A charge is brought, a thief is dismissed. The dice is thrown, the deed is done. And this Jesus is brutally murdered.

 
Tortured, beaten, scarred and tainted,
Not a picture deftly painted,
More a tattered, battered being,
Torn, disfigured, stark, unseeing.
	
Muscles twisted, strained, contorted,
Body dangling, bruised, distorted.
Life blood drying, sun-baked, stinging,
Hatred, bitter hatred, flinging.

Crowds insensate, tempers vented,
Full of anger, discontented.
Curses scattered, insults flying,
Spurned, derided, God is dying.


And the women wait and watch. And the crowds disperse.
 
The single reason for this death is not, I feel, some cosmic, metaphysical plan but rather the consequence met out to anyone who seeks to embody to the uttermost the love of God. People leave the church when it is suggested that someone THEY consider unworthy is acceptable, is loved by God. Others say the church should not be political when it overturns their fiscal tables and hints that the poor have needs. I am trying to put this delicately because I don’t have Jesus’ courage or willingness to self-sacrifice. 
But the way I see it, this Easter story is less some master plan and more a parable demonstrating how we need to live with each other in this world now. As I think Christian Aid once put it, life before death, and that for everyone, the have-nots as well as we who have. And it is a warning for those of us who seek to be Christian, that it is not always a popular path to take. It has as much, if not more to say, about how we live now, holding all humanity in God’s love, than what happens when we die. 

Do hold fast to faith in resurrection if you have it, but being Christian ought to have as much to do with how we live now and love our neighbours as with what comes hereafter. For this latter, well I’m happy to trust that to God. 

Art © Andrew Pratt; Poem © 1997 Stainer & Bell Ltd

The illogicality of faith

The illogicality of faith – Andrew Pratt 20th March 2022 first published Theology Everywhere 28/3/2022


It has been said that the earliest Christian creed was ‘Jesus is Lord’. It carried with it the understanding that for the Christian Jesus was the definitive model for human life and living. To say the words is easy but, for the most part we don’t take this seriously. If we did, finding out how Jesus lived in relation to people and mirroring that in our own lives would be our priority.
Beginning with that creed, we have built a religion predicated on the affirmation of beliefs rather than on ways of being. The consequence is that faithful living has become equated with this affirmation rather than on a recognition of the enormity that follows from embodying those beliefs. When they are attacked we spend time defending them and trying to diminish our detractors rather than demonstrating through our lives and actions that we accept Jesus as Lord. Our loss is that we dismiss this opposition often without hearing what its proponents are saying. Richard Dawkins, especially, I think largely because of his aggressive tone, has been side-lined. Some of what he has to say ought really to be understood if we are to recognise how difficult the call to faith actually is. This calling is unnatural.
A starting point for Jesus was not adherence to a creed, but with a call to love, demonstrated to the uttermost in how he lived and died. Deuteronomy 30:19 states: ‘I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore, choose life, that both you and your seed may live.’ If Jesus did have a creed, this was it. This choice of life is not referring to life after death, though you might want to define it as ‘eternal’ as being so utterly different from ordinary human life as to be ‘other’. The choice is existential, determinant for the very existence of humanity and love is at its centre. This is what I believe Jesus was pointing towards.
Dawkins in The Selfish Gene writes of his understanding that life continues from generation to generation by preferring aspects of living things which preserve them. Self-survival is hard-wired into out very being. That is why being selfless is so difficult. It is, by definition, unnatural. Human nature is counter to what Christians are supposed to espouse. Dawkins is, however, subtle. He addresses altruism. ‘Altruism’ may have advantages. It can make us feel good, but it can have other benefits which are not individual. He points out that care of another, in the long term, can help the whole population. This is simply utilitarian. It relates to the long-term survival of a species, in our case, humanity.
This, if we could see it, brings us back to Jesus Lordship. When we frame our statements as to what defines being Christian we need to be conscious that what is being asked of us is, firstly, apparently running counter to a strand of our being which is fine-tuned to self-interest. This demonstrates itself, for instance, in the uncritical development of hierarchy in the church. We have an inherent drive to survive and the higher up we rise, the greater the likelihood of survival.
It seems that Jesus is conscious of this, but his understanding reaches beyond the individual, beyond the tribe to encompass all of humanity. Jesus demonstrates not what to say, or believe, but how to live in a way which chooses life.
Two, illustrations undergird this. In Mark 1 Jesus is moved to reach out and touch a leper. This opens him to condemnation. It is physically and socially isolating, the opposite of being self-protective. In terms of the Greek words describing what is happening, he is viscerally moved so that he feels the person’s alienation as his own. This motivates him far more strongly than simply seeing it. He has to do something about it even if it is personally deleterious. Secondly, the Good Samaritan is moved to help in the very same way. The same language is used. Following this example puts us at a disadvantage but ultimately makes the body of humanity stronger, more inclusive, more likely to survive.
If we take Jesus as Lord, this is our model. It is not natural, in the sense of our biology, it works against our own existential longing, yet it offers salvation for humanity as a whole. The outcome enables the continued life of those despised or damaged. Finally, on the cross, those who have taken Jesus’ life are offered forgiveness. Had they been condemned, and such condemnation been our creed, humanity would have been diminished.
Moving to immediately current events, the events of war. I am conflicted. For whom do I feel compassion? The answer must be obvious. But Jesus interposes himself between those who espouse hatred and those who are hated to save both. He becomes victim to save both.
And can I follow? This is never as easy as giving assertion to any creed or belief.
This is no cheap grace.
© Andrew Pratt 2022