Praying in the Mind of God

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La Sagrada Familia Barcelona – from the Passion Wall

 

Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

 

A couple of nights ago there was the most terrible fire in a twenty-three storey tower block in London called Grenfell Tower. The fire was started by an electrical fault in someone’s fridge and should have been contained within a few flats but it was a hot night and windows were open so flames leapt onto cladding that had recently been installed on the outside of the block. The flames leapt up the side of the building as if a flame thrower was being used and, within 15 minutes, much of the building had been engulfed. The residents at the top of the tower block had no chance of escape because that sort of fire was not supposed to happen and there was no way to rescue them. The whole country is still in shock.

Donations started to flood in and community leaders asked for help during the next day. I don’t live in London but I live nearby and I was able to get to the community centre within an hour to help sort the donations of food and clothes. Everyone was still in shock but I knew that anger would soon follow. The residents in the block were mostly the poorest of the poor and questions were being asked how such a tragedy could occur in a first world country.

On my way home I stood in front of the incinerated block. The experience was nothing like seeing it on the news or in a newspaper.  It was an eerie tomb. The police were already saying that the severity of the fire was such that they may not even find remains for identification. The tower block had become a living crematorium. I was shaken to my core. On my way home I stopped in a catholic church near the railway station and went to see Jesus. I was angry and asked him over and over again – “Where were you? Where were you?” I have often asked for the gift to be able to pray ‘in the mind of God’ so that my prayers are always in His will but I couldn’t find Him at all that night.

The next morning it was announced that the cladding used in the refurbishment of the building was illegal in the US for buildings over about three or four stories because the cladding core was made from inflammable polyethylene. The block cost about 10 million pounds (just under 13 million dollars) to refurbish and it would have cost another 5000 pounds (about 6400 dollars) to buy the more fire resistant panels. I realised that I could have paid that from my savings and saved all those lives.

Suddenly I became very angry – so angry that I wanted to punch someone. I do not know anyone involved and I am not personally affected by the tragedy but my anger was overwhelming. Then I realised that this was God’s anger. He was telling me that He was not distant from what was happening but that His anger was as incandescent as had been the fire.

I went to Mass still looking for answers but I was overcome with sorrow. Weeping I left Mass having found no comfort. Then Jesus spoke to me – “You asked me where I was during that fire? I was there with each and every victim. I experienced the fear, the panic, the pain; I was with every little child calling for Superman to come and rescue his family and with every parent crading their child as the smoke got thicker and the flames got nearer. I experienced everything just as I experience the hunger of the famine victim and the panic and fear of the war refugee. I wasn’t just crucified once. You asked to pray in the mind of God? Well this is what it’s like – so be careful what you ask for.”

I’m not sure I find this message comforting because the emotion is still too raw but I have my explanation. This was not an act of God but an act of man at his most venal. God is angrier than all of us put together and Jesus is bearing the pain.

Deep Calls to Deep

 

 

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 La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, The Passion Wal

 

Deep calls to deep        Psalm 42:7

Only deep can answer deep. Nothing that is merely of the shallows can respond to the depths, and only what goes deep in us can meet the deep needs of others. If we want to help those who are passing through floods, we must have been through floods ourselves. Have we a history of God’s secret dealings, or does what men see represent all we have got? Many of us are shallow. We only seem to grow outwardly, with nothing in reserve. If we choose to live on the surface of things, we may be of some help to folk in need, but the happiness we bring them will pass. We shall not have been really able to meet them where they are. Paul had a secret he kept for fourteen long years, and what help has its eventual disclosure brought! When we have found God speaking to us in the depths, then it is we possess treasures of darkness to share with others in their hour of trial

Watchman Nee – A Table in the Wilderness, June 8th.

Psalm for Politicians!

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The Friars, Maidstone, Kent, UK

A Psalm of warning for politicians who feel like straying from the straight path!

Psalm 64

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

Hear me, my God, as I voice my complaint;
    protect my life from the threat of the enemy

Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked,
    from the plots of evildoers.
They sharpen their tongues like swords
    and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.
They shoot from ambush at the innocent;
    they shoot suddenly, without fear.

They encourage each other in evil plans,
    they talk about hiding their snares;
    they say, ‘Who will see it?’
They plot injustice and say,
    ‘We have devised a perfect plan!’
    Surely the human mind and heart are cunning.

But God will shoot them with his arrows;
    they will suddenly be struck down.
He will turn their own tongues against them
    and bring them to ruin;
    all who see them will shake their heads in scorn.
All people will fear;
    they will proclaim the works of God
    and ponder what he has done.

10 The righteous will rejoice in the Lord
    and take refuge in him;
    all the upright in heart will glory in him!

Jesus Teaches Tolerance

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La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

‘Master,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said, ‘for whoever is not against you is for you.’ As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him;  but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’  But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village. Luke  9 49-56

Here we have two lessons in tolerance. There were many exorcists in Palestine all claiming to be able to cast out demons. No doubt John regarded this man as a competitor and wanted to elininate him. The direct way from Galilee to Jerusalem lead through Samaria but most Jews  avoided it. There was a centuries’ old quarrel between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Samaritans did everything they could to hinder and even to injure any bands of pilgrims who attempted to pass through their territory. For Jesus to take that way to Jerusalem was unusual and to attempt to find hospitality in a Samaritan village was still more unusual. When Jesus did this he was extending a hand of friendship to people who were enemies. In this case not only was hospitality refused, but the offer of friendship was spurned. No doubt James and John believed they were doing the most praiseworthy thing when they offered to call in divine aid to blot out the village.

Jesus directly teaches the duty of tolerance. In many ways tolerance is a lost virtue and, when it does exist, it exists from the wrong cause. God has his own secret stairway into every heart. God fulfills himself in many ways but, and this is intensely important, tolerance must be based not on indifference but on Love. We are not tolerant because we could not care less but because we look at the other person, not with the eyes of criticism, but with the eyes of love. When Abraham Lincoln was criticized for being too courteous to his enemies and when he was reminded that it was his duty to destroy them he gave the great answer “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” Even if a man be utterly mistaken you must never regard him as an enemy to be destroyed but as a strayed friend to be recovered by love.

William Barclay Study Bible Luke

The Heart of the Gospel

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 Vezelay Tympanum, Burgundy, France

Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism  but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.  You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached –  how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. ‘We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross,  but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.  He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen – by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.  He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.  All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’ Acts 10: 34-43

Here we have the very essence of the first preaching about Jesus.

  1. Jesus was sent by God and equipped by God with the spirit and with power. Jesus is therefore​ God’s gift to men. Often we make the mistake of thinking in terms of an angry god who had to be pacified by something a gentle Jesus did. The early preachers never preached that. To them the very coming of Jesus was due to the love of God.
  2. Jesus exercised the ministry of healing. He was uniquely the helper of men. It was his great desire to banish all pain and sorrow from the world.
  3. They took him and they crucified him. Once again it is stressed, for him who can read between the lines, the sheer horror of crime that was in the crucifixion. That is what men’s sin and disobedience can do.
  4. He rose again. The power which sent Jesus and which was in Jesus was a power not to be defeated. It could conquer the worst that men could do and in the end it could conquer death.
  5. The Christian preacher and teacher is a witness to the Resurrection. To him Jesus is not a figure in a book or someone whom he has heard. He is a living presence whom he has met and with whom he has spoken face to face.
  6. The result of all this is forgiveness of sins. The result is that man has entered into a new relationship with God. The estrangement, the hostility, the fear are gone. Through Jesus the friendship that should always have existed between Man and God, but which sin interrupted, has dawned upon mankind.

William Barclay, Study Bible

 

Prayer Warriors Needed…

Saint Michael Archangel,
defend us in battle,
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil;
may God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, cast into hell
Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls.

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Saint Michael c1476 Carlo Crivelli National Gallery London

 

Some years ago I visited a museum that had a room dedicated to pictures of the Holocaust. I entered the room but found the pictures so appalling and aversive that, after one glance, I could look no further. The inhumanity was beyond what my mind could grasp. I have had this experience  many times in recent years due to the internet and particularly social media which bring these images into our homes and lives in a way never before experienced. We may not search for them but they come up in news stories and social media feeds. These stories and images stay with me and are difficult to shake off but I do my utmost to block them and turn my eyes away. I’m sure most of us have had this distressing experience.

I believe the love of God in the person of the Holy Spirit sensitises us to this evil. I find man’s inhumanity to the vulnerable, weak, poor, sick, young and animals too much to bear. Some of the terrible things that we do to animals in the name of sport or commercial gain is beyond belief. However, I am able to turn my eyes away from this. I was blessed enough to be born in a stable country with laws to protect me and a welfare and health system to support me and, although I see pictures in the media that haunt me for a while, I can turn my face away. I block out the horror and revel in my comfortable life.

God doesn’t turn away. He is intimately woven into the fabric of our world and His eyes never turn away. He feels every hurt and pain, every fear and distress. I can’t even begin to imagine what it feels like to experience every horror in the world and to take it all onto His shoulders. Occasionally, in deep prayer, we can get the shadow of an indication when we feel overwhelmed with sadness, start sobbing and have no idea why. We are given the tiniest taste of what it is like to feel each and every evil and to crush them with His love.

I believe our Lord is calling certain of us to this ministry. We are called to share the evils of the world with Him; to face evil and not to turn away; to look at what is happening in the world and to share the responsibility in prayer with our Lord. We are called to share this burden and to actively search for the stories and activities whose evils turn our stomachs but, instead of turning away in disgust, we hold onto them and combat them in prayer.

This is not a ministry for the faint hearted and I’m not sure it is one I could cope with and I do not think any of us should try to cope with this alone. But I would be interested to hear from anyone who is also receiving this call to combat evil in this particular way. Never before, in the history of mankind, has it been easier to find evil from the comfort of our own homes, look it in the face and say – no more. However, don’t enter into this unless you feel a particular calling and have support.

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On 10 June, an SS Unit in France sealed off Oradour-sur-Glane and ordered all the inhabitants – and anyone who happened to be in or near the town – to assemble in the village square to have their identity papers examined. The SS also arrested six people who did not live in the village but merely happened to be riding their bicycles through there when the SS unit arrived.

The women and children were locked in the church and the village was looted. The men were led to six barns and sheds, where machine guns were already in place.

According to a survivor’s account, the SS men then began shooting, aiming for their legs. When victims were unable to move, the Nazis covered them with fuel and set the barns on fire. Only six men managed to escape. One of them was later seen walking down a road and was shot dead. In all, 190 Frenchmen died.

The SS men next proceeded to the church and placed an incendiary device beside it. When it was ignited, women and children tried to escape through the doors and windows, only to be met with machine-gun fire. 247 women and 205 children died in the brutal attack. The only survivor was 47-year-old Marguerite Rouffanche. She escaped through a rear sacristy window, followed by a young woman and child. All three were shot, two of them fatally. Rouffanche crawled to some pea bushes and remained hidden overnight until she was found and rescued the next morning. About twenty villagers had fled Oradour-sur-Glane as soon as the SS unit had appeared. That night, the village was partially razed.

This is now a historical event but such massacres have happened on numerous occasions since and are still happening today. Prayer can make a difference.

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The Martyr Village is now a memorial to the evil of that day

 

 

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To the memory of our beloved martyrs
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To the memory of Father Jean-Baptiste Chapelle, killed with his parishioners

 

 

God Be in my Head

 

 

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La Sagarda Familia representation of God

 

God be in my head
And in my understanding.
God be in my mine eyes
And in my looking.
God be in my mouth
And in my speaking.
God be in my heart
And in my thinking,
God be at mine end
And at my departing.
SARUM PRIMER 1527

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 The Sarum Rite or the the Use of Salisbury was established by Saint Osmund, Bishop of Salisbury in the 11th Century and was originally the local form used in the Cathedral and Diocese of Salisbury; it later became prevalent throughout southern England and came to be used throughout most of England, Wales, Ireland and had a great influence of later Anglican forms of worship as represented in the Book of Common Prayer. Many aspects of the Sarum use are a profoundly beautiful vehicle for contemplative worship.