This is our mother, the source of all being, sharpening starlight, then raising the dawn, singing forth sunshine, then playing with laughter, scattering teardrops, in passion newborn. Mother of oceans, so careful with splendour, ground of creation and centre of life, love in abundance, all caring, all seeing, counter to conflict, now staying our strife. This is our mother, the God of our parents, source of the hope that has brought them to be, present to hold us, then leading us onward, loving, renewing, and setting us free. Andrew Pratt (born 1948) Words © 2006 © Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England email@example.com . 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.. 11 10 11 10 Tunes: WAS LEBET WAS SCHWEBET; EPIPHANY HYMN
Choose life – a reflection on Deuteronomy 30:19 in the light of the Turkish/Syrian earthquakes
Choose life – a reflection on Deuteronomy 30:19 in the light of the Turkish/Syrian earthquakes
After the earthquakes in Turkey, Syria and the surrounding regions – What do we make of this? How do we cope? What, if anything can we do? – a donation, an offering? YES.
But let us begin at the beginning and admit that our understanding of this God and this world of which we are inhabitants, of which we are, stewards is incomplete, a mystery. God moves in a mysterious way as William Cowper wrote.
How can we live in this world.
Some would turn to the The Ten Commandments. The writer of Deuteronomy, literally Second Law, makes some suggestions, attributes them to God:
30:19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,
These are words from the Hebrew scriptures. Could Paul, writing to the church in Corinth be speaking to us? It is for us to decide. He speaks to people who claim allegiance to different leaders
1 Corinthians 3:1-3; 9
1 And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.
2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready,
9 For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.
That last verse dedicates us for we are God’s servants, working together; God’s field, God’s building…
What might a prophet say to us today?
This world looks pretty awful at the moment, a mix of war and natural, disaster and we, as humanity, even if we don’t admit to it, are, in Paul’s terms, infants. We have so much to learn, beliefs to change perhaps, habits to unlearn, changes to be made. A friend of mine (Graham Adams) has written a book, Holy Anarchy. He suggests that if we look at Jesus and listen to what he says then the Kingdom we talk about and the church we have built is unimaginably far from what Jesus envisaged. So far that if we found it it would seem like Holy Anarchy compared with the ordered society and church we know.
But I’m getting ahead of myself . What do we make of earthquakes? When things go wrong we like to blame someone, to ask questions. So we blame God? Why does God allow this to happen? There is a problem, many, if not all Christians believe God created all things, this earth included. If we were to say to God ‘Why? And I’m not being irreverent. I imagine a conversation. It’s like this if the earth was a really round ball there’d be no puddles, no oceans. Moving tectonic plates make dips in the earth’s surface, raise up the mountains, made the sea in which life began, the lakes that gather water that you drink. No tectonic plates, no earthquakes, NO YOU either! So not so much God’s judgment, more providence
So lets readjust to that. Following an earthquake a still small voice cries in the darkness and the dust. And we can lay this at God’s door but not as a judgment but a necessity, We can lament at the unfairness, that is doesn’t make sense, that a loving God shouldn’t let this happen. But this is the paradox. If it wasn’t like this we wouldn’t be here. To coin a phrase, the goal-posts have been moved.
So lets begin again. ‘Natural’ things happen. They are well named. We have to live with them. This is how the world is. From here on in Deuteronomy makes sense. The comment is pertinent. ‘Choose life so that you and your descendants may live’. This is infant school to use Paul’s term. Are we ready to move on?
To do so means to start taking responsibility for our own actions and the lives of one another. That works in Turkey and Syria today, in Ukraine and over the whole planet threatened by global warming,
In each and every situation, choose life. This is the essence of being Christian, it is active love of neighbour and, hence, God. It begins in the care of a child whose mother had been killed in an earthquake. And that is not away over there, but for at least one family living in near me, a Muslim whom I addressed as brother, who hugged me on Wednesday. He looked no different from me, like Samaritan to Jew. We shared our humanity, formed a bond that transcends the different faiths to which we give allegiance. We could, of course, argue over the value of different surahs of the Qu’ran, the relative strengths of the different Gospels. As Paul put it ‘For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?, And that is the bottom line. Merely human. And when we treat each other as such we begin to grow up and we realise that we can ‘choose life’, because every other person on this planet, however they present themselves is ‘merely’ human. If we are, again ‘God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building’, then our attitude ought to be that of Christ whose grace was and is accepting of all.
Charles Wesley, asked himself a question, worth us asking ourselves the same question. ‘ What shall I do my God to love’?
We began with a question and we return to it. Remember
At a time of decision for the people of Israel Moses challenged them – ‘I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live’. (Deuternomy30: 19)
This hymn asks what choosing life might mean for us today.
1 What are the gifts we would treasure most highly: freedom or justice or money or wealth; food for the hungry, or drink for the thirsty, love for our children, or power, or health? 2 Once God had given a choice to the people: they could decide to choose life or choose death. They were encouraged towards life's enhancement, shunning the ways that would quench life and breath. 3 What does it mean for ourselves at this moment, challenged by God, as to what we should choose? What does ‘life’ mean, for each friend, for each neighbour, what will encourage and never abuse? 4 Now at each crisis, each time of decision, save us from selfishness, things that oppress; help us, O God, to be wise, never grasping, help us to cherish those things you would bless. Andrew Pratt (born 1948) Words © 2011 alt by the author 2022 © Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England firstname.lastname@example.org . 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. alt 2022 by the author. Metre: 11 10 11 10 Tune: EPIPHANY HYMN What now? For you? For me? © Andrew Pratt
In the beginning was the Word – a Hymn
The Gospel according to John says nothing about Jesus’ birth. It talks of ‘The Word’ becoming flesh. We can translate that today as ‘the energy, the source of all creation becoming human’. In shorthand God becoming human. This hymn echoes John Chapter 1. 1 The logic, the life-blood, the source of creation, the word that had spoken when all came to be; the ground of existence, of love and emotion, this God is incarnate, the light is set free. 2 This light in the darkness could not be extinguished, it shone through the cosmos, was coming to birth; the great conflagration of stars in their forming condensed to humanity, born on the earth. 3 The person of Jesus who walked in the desert, who argued and struggled, who hungered and wept, was one with that God-head, yet totally human, was growing and learning, could know or forget. 4 So here in this person our God is illumined, the word that is spoken, the love that is lived, are clues to the nature, a window beyond us to things we have doubted, to One we believed. Andrew Pratt (born 1948) based on John 1 Words © 2010 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England email@example.com . 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. Metre: 12 11 12 11 Tunes: ST CATHERINES COURT; STREETS OF LAREDO
Our responsibility to be stewards of the earth – Hymn – The care of our planet
In between All Souls, All Saints and Remembrance Sunday we are witness to COP 27, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, beginning on the Sunday 6th November. This is an international meeting which the UK has chaired. We are handing the Chair to Egypt and for various reasons our Prime Minister has indicated he will not attend it. King Charles has been advised not to attend. This hymn, written in 2019 and used last year in Durham Cathedral emphasises our responsibility to be stewards of the creation (Psalm 8: 6-8). 1 The care of our planet, the threat of extinction, alerts us to need to be stewards of the earth: this place of great beauty, our God given tenure, the place of our nurture, the globe of our birth. 2 This place we must guard for each new generation, to leave as we found it or, better, restored; to share each resource without greed or pretension, not barring the needy, not plunder, nor hoard. 3 The banquet of God is for all of God's people, communion companions are both rich and poor, our ultimate end will remove all distinctions, no birth right or creed can obstruct heaven's door. 4 God's commonwealth love can encompass all nations, but here in this place we must all make a start: a life of acceptance of sister and brother, the practice of loving, a God given art. Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) Words © 2019 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. Tune: STREETS OF LAREDO; ST CATHERINE'S COURT Used at Durham Cathedral on Climate Sunday, 17th October 2021.
Creator God: in lightning, clouds and thunder – a new hymn
Creator God: in lightning, clouds and thunder, I hear your voice, I sense the mountains shake. But love is greater, causes me to wonder, and in this moment faith begins to wake. So I will sing in praise of all I see, and in God's grace, I place my trust; and through our lives may love confound our fear. Sing praise to God, for God is love. I look to stars, foundations of creation, reflections gleam from streams as I pass by, from mountain pass to shingle by the ocean, the breath of God is moving with each sigh. Within this world a human once embodied a depth of love beyond what had been known, a love that gave forgiveness once in dying, that we could find in life, that all could own. And when my breath is ceasing as I’m dying may grace confirm the hope that faith has given, this human love that I have known in living grows firmer, deeper in the love of heaven. © Andrew Pratt 29/9/2022