A time for decisions – a hymn – What are the gifts we would treasure most highly

John Wesley once referred to the Methodists as ‘a peculiar people’. One of our peculiarities is treating September as the beginning of a New Year. 

At another level we live in a world in conflict and, in the UK with a government with a new Prime Minister.
All of us together are faced with decisions.
 
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)

The following 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 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.
alt 2022 by the author. 
Metre: 11 10 11 10
Tune: EPIPHANY HYMN

Lent 3 – Two hymns a Meditation and a Poem

Lent 3

 1 Corinthians 1: 18-25
  
 Poem: One Big Question
  
 When worldly wisdom 
 and superior knowledge 
 and intellectual snobbery 
 and informed atheism 
 have died the death 
 of earthly flesh 
 and fragile brain, 
 will God be quietly 
 weeping over the waste, 
 even as the cross blazes out 
 its triumphant foolishness? 
  
 © Marjorie Dobson. This may be used personally or for local worship, but not published elsewhere without permission.
  
 John 2: 13-22
  
 We play at church 
  
 We play at church, one long charade, 
 a trite religious game,
 and all the time the world goes by, 
 Christ dies again in vain.
             
 The down-and-out wish for our tithes, 
 the homeless plead and pray, 
 while we enact our sullen rite, 
 our crass religious play. 
             
 We watch defenceless ones denied, 
 the ones we should defend, 
 we keep the best place for ourselves, 
 self-righteous to the end.
             
 O God forgive our self-deceit, 
 hypocrisy and pride. 
 God, bring us down to dine with you 
 and those we would deride.
             
 God, give us hearts of gracious love,
 to look beyond our greed, 
 to live and love with those you call, 
 at one in hope and need.
 
Andrew E Pratt 
Words © 2015 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. 
Metre: CM
Tune: AULD LANG SYNE
  
 Poem: Anger
  
 Whip in hand 
 and uncharacteristically angry, 
 Jesus swept through the temple courtyard.
 Tables were smashed, 
 money scattered; 
 pigeons found freedom in flight 
 and sacrificial animals fled to safety.
 His voice boomed 
 across the rapidly emptying space – 
 ‘this is desecration! 
 How can strangers worship here 
 in a place over-run with commerce and greed? 
 My Father’s house is for prayer, 
 not for profit! 
 How dare you do this to it?’
 And traders huddled in corners 
 and tried to keep their eyes on their vanishing possessions. 
 And priests flocked 
 to witness the devastation 
 and to gather in consultation 
 and to plot their revenge. 
 And strangers came out of the shadows 
 to wonder at the nerve of this man 
 who had said exactly what they wanted to hear, 
 but so powerfully 
 that he was bound to create new enemies for himself.
 And as Jesus turned to leave, 
 the accused robbers spat at his departure; 
 the opportunists gathered all the loot they could 
 and disappeared into the shadows;
 and the self-righteous Jewish believers 
 could only ask for proof of authority 
 for his actions. 
 They didn’t like his answer. 
 It was completely unrealistic. 
 But in the end it proved to be true, 
 although not in the way they were expecting.
 Three days they had succeeded in destroying him, 
 but in three days he was back. 
 Indestructible!
  
 © Marjorie Dobson. This may be used personally or for local worship, but not published elsewhere without permission.
  
 Our vulnerable God suffered pain and temptation 
  
 Our vulnerable God suffered pain and temptation, 
 rode lightly to wealth, saw the greedy as flawed.
 And we, as disciples, who walk in Christ's footsteps 
 are challenged to follow, to love, not defraud.
 
 Transparent in action, confronting injustice, 
 upbraiding the rich, while upraising the poor.
 He called us to welcome the outcast, the homeless, 
 by giving, not taking, by opening each door.
 
 Let taxes revalue the lost and discarded, 
 ensuring the powerful will equally share;
 until all the world is redeemed for all people, 
 until inequality ends as unfair.
 
 And now as we look to the world let us value, 
 each person, each neighbour of infinite worth,
 through sharing and stewardship to lift up the lowly, 
 to raise out of poverty all upon earth.
 
Andrew Pratt 
Words © 2019 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 ©  Stainer & Bell Ltd
Metre: 12 11 12 11
Tune: STREETS OF LAREDO; ST CATHERINE’S COURT 

‘This sudden Sabbath gives us pause’ – a hymn response to the Coronavirus crisis – link to new tune by John Kleinheksel added

This sudden Sabbath gives us pause
to rest and to reflect.
What is the focus of our lives
and what is its effect?
We live within a common world,
whatever race or creed;
for things maintaining life and health,
we share a common need.

For some a love of God becomes the
centre of their prayer,
but such a love’s a hollow boast
when neighbours have no care.
The early Christians took the lead
of Jesus as their style,
to hold in common all they had,
to go the second mile.

When people safe-guard all they have,
while others queue in fear,
when those who have are given more,
while hunger’s drawing near;
where is our faith, our common love,
as cries become more stark,
when poverty crowds round our door,
the future clouded, dark?

Now is the moment for us all
to live what we confess,
to live within community
the faith that we profess.
Then let us stand as one with all
we share a common birth,
that on until eternity
love holds each life on earth.

Andrew Pratt 18/3/2020 – In response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Tune: COE FEN; SOLL’S SEIN
New Tune: This.Sudden.Sabbsth.virus.2021.Pratt
Words © 2020 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.