Remembrance – Once crimson poppies bloomed out in a foreign field

Once crimson poppies bloomed
out in a foreign field,
each memory reminds
where brutal death was sealed.
The crimson petals flutter down,
still hatred forms a thorny crown.

For in this present time
we wait in vain for peace;
each generation cries,
each longing for release,
while war still plagues the human race
and families seek a hiding place.
How long will human life
suffer for human greed?
How long must race or pride,
wealth, nationhood or creed
be reasons justifying death
to suffocate a nation’s breath?
For everyone who dies
we share a quiet grief;
the pain of loss remains,
time rarely brings relief:
and so we will remember them
and heaven sound a loud amen.

Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) Words © 2012 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, 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: 6 6 6 6 8 8 Tune: LITTLE CORNARD

All Saints – All Souls – Remembrance

The 1st of November is All Saints Day; the 3rd All Souls Day. As we enter this period, culminating for many on the 11th November with Remembrance Day, and the 13th Remembrance Sunday, this hymn might be helpful for we who mourn, who remember those who have died.

Some churches will recognise All Souls this coming Sunday. This hymn was originally requested for remembrance of people who had died of kidney disease and later included in a book: Hymns of Hope and Healing.

The lives we mourn have known their share of heartache,
of human fear, uncertainty and shock,
and yet we also shared in love and laughter,
our memories hold solid as a rock;
for on through time remembrance will be treasured,
we'll keep it close when joy is tinged with pain,
we'll never lose the smiles that sign togetherness,
and day to day we know that love will still remain.

We never know what waits in life's uncertainty,
we never know what love, what joy, what fear,
can build us up, or leave us lost and comfortless,
afraid to face, again, the coming year,
yet here are people who can hold their hands with us,
can walk with us into the great unknown,
and so together we can walk the path of life,
and know that when we stumble love will still be shown.

So take my hand, my friend, my neighbour, walk with me,
together we can face the passing storm,
and know with God, in spite of tears and emptiness,
there is a sense that new love can be born.
In this we trust, for through our grief God held to us,
and human arms have caught us when we fell,
beyond this day each dawn will bring new hope for us
that through God's love and grace and care all will be well.

Andrew E Pratt (born 1948)
Words © 2015 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England .
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 10 12 1012 10 12 12

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

Jesus – help in our time?

I sometimes wonder if we, as Christians, haven’t got it all wrong, or at least we’re focussing on the wrong thing. When I was studying biology we sometimes used microscopes, homing in on ever smaller things, an insect or the cells of a leaf. One lecturer reminded us, obvious really, that if you didn’t know which plant the leaf was from or where the insect lived you didn’t have a full picture. More to the point, you could be way off the mark in terms of any conclusions you drew.

I think we have sometimes made the same mistake with our faith. We have the whole of the Bible So let’s begin there. Think of a long bookshelf with a bookend at each end.

‘In the beginning, the earth was without form and void’. At the other end… ‘a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away’. It seems that, even in the understanding of the writers of Genesis and Revelation earth had a beginning and an end. I have an insatiable curiosity. Always have had and I’ve not grown out of it. The James Webb telescope points, not just into the distance, but back in time. The universe is older than the earth, it seems, much older. Light takes a long time to reach us from things that are further away. It strikes me, that as humanity, we are perhaps just a little arrogant. Biblically we begin with the earth. While that’s an old perspective it can limit our thoughts.

The same is true at the other end… Revelation talks of the old earth passing away…so do today’s prophets, perhaps in a different way? – David Attenborough…puts the fault at our door. There is talk of the end of the world, apocalypse. But let’s think on a bit. My sense of global warming is not that the earth will end, but that an awful lot of life on earth will end, including us. Focuses the mind just a little? Should do anyway?

Where does Jesus fit into all of this. For the moment I have no personal knowledge of life before I was born, even less of space before the earth formed. I’m content with scientific findings but they can, and do change. As to the afterlife I don’t doubt it, but humanly I’m agnostic as to its nature.

So, as I was musing, what of Jesus?

Ask people outside the church what is important about our beliefs. They know about Christmas and Easter and little else. In short-hand Christmas says that God is so intimately concerned with us as to live with us, some of the Biblical language sounds like ‘tent’ with us. Then God’s humanity – Jesus – here on earth – is temporary. Yet still we emphasise birth and death, beginning and end, bookends. Is it not time to re-adjust our focus and read the books that come between, the Life of Jesus? What can that teach us? The most important things that we can ever learn about being human, I believe. For us birth is self-evident – we are alive! And last Monday I was at a funeral – so is death. So rather than stressing the obvious would it not be best to learn from God in Jesus how to live between the book-ends of life?

There was something before the earth and there will be after, before us and after, but, as Sydney Carter once said ‘show me the good news in the present tense’! And the bottom line is, I believe this, everyone who met the human Jesus went away better for the meeting. That’s not to say they felt better – Jesus criticised bigotry and hypocrisy, but he lived love. If we hear criticism we can be better for the learning… what is significant is to find out all we can of Jesus grace, self-giving, joy, love, kindness and honesty, and to quote him, ‘go and do likewise’. That won’t, in itself stop global warming, nor postpone our death, but while we are here together, stewards of this earth, lent to us for a life-time, life will be better all round if we treat others as Jesus did, with love. Not a wishy washy love but a love that cares for our neighbours now, and the neighbours that come after us. It Involves us and those WE delegate to govern us. Christianity Is not above politics. But It should point us to choices which are not driven by self-Interest but the Interests of those with whom we live from day to day, with those with whom we share this planet and to those who Inhabit It when we are dead. This learning to live is the essence of being a disciple, a learner of Christ. It is always far more about what we do and how we live, than what we claim to believe., more abut the here – the only earth we know – than the hereafter.