Intercession Prayer For Sunday 26th January 2017

The Sunday Before Lent.

Audio prayer


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Living God who knows each of us by name, we thank You for coming to us in human form in Your Son, to show us how to live and to teach us how to pray. We offer you this prayer in Jesus name.

God said to His Son, at both Jesus’ baptism and later on the mountain top with Peter, James and John, in the company of Moses and Elijah, “with Him I am well pleased”. God is with us at every stage of life and He knows our thoughts and our actions. We pray that with His guidance and by our faith in Him, that when the time is right He will say to us, ‘With you I am well pleased’.

As we prepare for Lent and to honour Your Son, guide us in faith. Be with all who attempt an initiative during the 40 days, and attempt the challenges it offers.

We pray for those affected by storm Doris in the United Kingdom, especially the family and friends of the woman killed in the West Midlands, after debris was blown onto her. May she be at peace with You, Father and her family and friends comforted by your presence. We pray for those who were without power and especially for the homeless, without shelter, that we take for granted.

We pray for places where there is violence, intolerance and injustice. This week we pray for those affected by the bomb blast in Lahore. Receive the souls of the dead, heal the injured and comfort the bereaved.

Living God, source of life, we pray for the unwell whether injured or ill, physically or mentally and for the bereaved who have lost someone. We offer them into Your gentle hands to comfort them, ease their pain and still their suffering.

May Your light surround them,
Your presence enfold them,
And Your power heal them.

As Your light shone around those who accompanied Jesus, let it shine in our hearts. As Jesus shines in glory, let that radiance spread across the world and on into the universe bringing peace and love wherever it shines, banishing shadow.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of Your son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen.

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When Bigger Is Not Better

Some people were not so poor before things got bigger.

The sums of money given to the poorer and developing nations by the prosperous, advanced western world seems huge to most of us with figures in tens of billions (choose your own currency). It is not so big considered in relation to the interest payments many of these nations make in debt repayment, ten times bigger running into hundreds of billions.

Money is spent on huge projects but who does it really benefit and does it help those who most need help. It is not unusual for our western perception of what constitutes progress and quality of life, to drive some people in developing places, who were living a sustainable life, into poverty.

We ‘civilised’ westerners have become used, even indoctrinated, into the idea that bigger is better. We buy our food in multipacks from multinational companies, that I’m not bothering to try and name because of how tied up they are are with each other. Whatever they might say about their ethics and raison d’etra, their primary purpose is to make a profit for their shareholders.

There are places where people that we advanced westerners think of as poor, by our standards, are not by theirs. They live on and work subsistence farms, that provide sufficient for themselves, their families and their communities. Unlike our consumer oriented society, they did not produce goods beyond what they need nor do they try to. Their farming methods are determined by planting crops that grow naturally well on the type of land they cultivate.

In our society, we would probably plant what we wanted and try to change the land with chemicals and diverting waterways and any of our other ‘advanced’ methods, so we could grow more, not just to feed more people but to make more money.

By introducing western ideas of economics, that it was necessary to create wealth to create a better ‘quality of life’ bearing in mind that “quality” is in any case a subjective term, we have in some areas destroyed a functioning, fed population.

Where small subsistence farms fed the people around them, now huge business farms dominate, employing few people. They take over land and then charge for food that was once grown by its consumers for the price of a few seeds, or free by saving some of last years seed from the crop to re-plant.

This has the effect of driving millions of people who once provided for themselves to the cities, where they can not find jobs and have no money to pay for the food they once grew themselves. Someone makes a profit, but only a relatively few people benefit compared to those who now have trouble sustaining themselves.

We recognize that the majority of people who are food-insecure
or hungry in the world live in rural areas. And most of them are
small holder subsistence farmers. – Ertharin Cousin

Giving

Do you tell others when you give to charity?

Beggars receiving alms at the door of a house, by Rembrandt 1648

Beggars receiving alms at the door of a house, by Rembrandt 1648

In amongst the daily diet of violence, politics, terrorism and all the other stories in the news media, there is the occasional bit of good news. One bit of good news that might appear from time to time is when a rich individual or organisation makes a big donation to a charity, or other good cause.

The giver gains kudos and the charity gets valuable publicity, which in turn can attract additional donations from other sources. Charity begets charity you might say. The publicity generated by the big donation attracts other smaller givers.

Matthew 6:1-4 Says it is not a good idea to self publicise when you give to charity. I don’t think it’s necessary to do it in secret, but perhaps with some discretion. For the majority of us it is probably good advice, but charities rely on publicity as a means of generating income. Publicity for donations given by public figures or companies is part of the lifeblood of the charities’. Even smaller donations seen by friends or families of those with average to low income can highlight a cause amongst peers, and lead to more, albeit smaller, donations.

No one denies that the charities themselves do good work (at least mostly though some are fraudulent or support questionable causes), but how can we square not publicising what we give, which can help charities collect more money for their work, with what The Bible tells us about giving in secret?

I have no answer, I just raise the paradox for consideration.

Forgiveness

Nothing is unforgivable but that does not make it easy to forgive some things. It can be incredibly difficult. Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is yourself.

God forgives everything. He forgives but does not forget, but neither does he hold it against us.

Forgiving someone for what they have done, or you perceive to be undeserved, to you or someone you care about, is easier than forgiving yourself. And, forgiving what is done to you is often easier than forgiving for what is done to someone you care about. It seems to me that it is easier to offer forgiveness than to ask for it, even if you are the guilty party.

The Bible counsels forgiveness in various passages but nowhere does it say we need to forget. The most likely origin of the phrase “forgive and forget” seems to be by Miguel de Cervantes  “Let us forget and forgive injuries.” writing about Don Quixote. Of course forgetting is virtually impossibe.

Things always remain in our minds, especially what we think of as bad or unjust things done to us. They might become harder to recall with time but they never go away. Memory of injustice to us usually seems easier to recall than enjoyable, or neutral memories.

Not forgiving has consequences, and not just for the unforgiven but for the person who refuses to forgive too. It poisons the mind of the person who does not forgive. It prevents them from moving on as much, maybe more than the person who perpetrated the act for which forgiveness needs to be given.

Forgiving doesn’t mean there should not be consequences for a perpetrator. Consequences in law can be community service, a fine or jail. Consequences personally can last longer, and feel worse than any legal consequences to an action.

Ultimately, failure to forgive will often be to a greater detriment to the person who needs to forgive, than for the person who carries out an act for which they are sorry.

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Anna’s Story

A different view of Candlemas (Luke 2: 12-40)

Simeon’s Prophecy to Mary, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669

As they often did when things were not busy in the temple, Anna, the old prophetess a daughter of the tribe of Asher, and Simeon, a priest were sitting on a blanket talking quietly in a discreet corner of the temple . Both of them were old. Anna was 84. No one knew how old Simeon was, he was not even sure himself.

Anna never left the temple precincts. She had stayed there, fasting, praying and worshipping, as she had done since the death of her husband, after just seven years of marriage.

Suddenly Simeon was silent for a few moments. When he spoke again, it was not to continue the same conversation with Anna. ‘Someone comes’ he said more to himself than Anna. She looked at him, a slightly worried expression passing across her gentle, old face. People came and went every day at the temple, and at all hours. In all the years she had kown him, she had never seen Simeon act like that before.

As Simeon turned from Anna, standing up and moving toward the door to the temple court, a couple came into view. It was a young woman carrying a baby and a man carrying a closed basket. Anna guessed the basket held a temple offering. The man was full grown, and the woman carrying carrying the child was younger, perhaps just a teenager. Anna got up slowly and painfully, to follow her friend. Simeon walked out into the temple court and hailed the visitors with a warm greeting, disappearing momentarily from Anna’s view.

As Anna made her slow progress following Simeon, she remembered something her friend had told her long ago, that God promised him he would not die before he saw The Messiah. The arrival of these visitors, and his reaction, even before they had seen them, made her wonder if this might be who he had waited patiently for, for all these years.

By the time Anna reached the arched doorway, from where she could see her friend and the couple with the baby again, Simeon was cradling the child in his arms. As she drew close enough for her failing sight to see the baby properly, she knew it was probably not more than days old, a couple of weeks at most.

Anna was not close enough to hear everything that Simeon said to the couple but from the look on their faces,  it must have ben something quite startling. As she got closer still to her old friend, Anna heard a part of what Simeon was saying, ‘This child will cause many to fall and rise in Israel, and he will be will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ Joining her old friend, she too blessed the child before Mary, Joseph and Jesus left the temple.

As Anna and Simeon made their way back into the cool shade, inside the temple, she thought she detected a lighter step and aura of contentment about the old man. They settled down again in companionable silence to rest, each lost in their own prayer of thanks.