Monthly Archives: June 2012

Readings and prayers for Sun 25 June

The Gospel reading for this Sunday is Mark 4.35-41

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?

Last week we saw that God’s Kingdom is revealed in the things we often overlook.   The parable of the mustard seed also reminds us that God’s Kingdom takes time to develop.  You can’t hurry the harvest: it takes time for the seed to bear its fruit.  Today’s story makes the same point.  Jesus is patient.  He listens to God – and so knows when to act and when to rest.  We too need to learn to be still, to let go of the things that are beyond our control, and sense God’s presence in the storms of life.

As the book of Ecclesiastes reminds us:  “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…”  Jesus knew the time to rest – and the time to act.  We too need to listen to God in prayer, if we are to act at the right time, and also to enter into his rest.

Prayer intentions

Give thanks for 25 years of ministry of the Church Urban Fund – and ask God’s guidance on its staff and trustees as they plan for the future.  Pray for Church Urban Fund and the Contextual Theology Centre as they plan together the next stage of the Call to Change – encouraging churches to pray, listen and act together for social justice. Pray for David Barclay, who will begin working at the Contextual Theology Centre in August, and will have a particular focus on developing Call to Change’s programme of Community Conversations.

Readings and prayers for Sun 17 June

The Gospel reading for this Sunday is Mark 4.26-34 

Jesus said, “What shall we say the kingdom of Godis like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?  It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground.
 “Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.” 
Earlier in the month we thought about the Trinity – one of the greatest mysteries in Christianity.  While we can’t fully understand what it means for one God to be three persons, we can learn something about God from the picture of a family, or a community.  In Jesus’ parables, he too offers us pictures  from daily life to tell us something about the mystery of God. 
The stories in the Gospels come from a society that is very different from ours – one where most people earn their living through farming or fishing.  In stories drawn from their everyday experience, Jesus helps them to see something of the Kingdom.  
In the stories of our lives we can also see something of God and of his Kingdom. Today’s parables show that the Kingdom of God starts in fragility and not in force – but that something which begins in an insignificant way can be life-changing.  What stories from our lives have helped us to discover this hidden power of God’s Kingdom?

Prayer intentions

Pray for all that the Church Urban Fund and Contextual Theology Centre do to help Christians share their stories of God’s transforming power – in particular the work being done through churches’ engagement in community organising, which begins with relationship-building and the sharing of stories.

Archbishop of Canterbury praises Near Neighbours

In the same week he delivered a sermon at St Paul’s Cathedral as part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, the Archbishop of Canterbury visited east London to commend the work of Near Neighbours.

He said he was, “amazed and delighted that in this relatively small space of east London, so much is going on because of this programme…. I’m delighted to see the resources of this programme being used so creatively, so joyfully and imaginatively.”

Dr Rowan Williams was part of a delegation which included the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, the Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell and Councillor Richard Sweden, the Mayor of Waltham Forest.

The Archbishop of Canterbury with members of the church and temple

They visited St Andrew’s Parish Church for Morning Prayer and were then welcomed to Shri Nathji Sanatan Hindu Mandir. The church and the temple have been working together using Near Neighbours funding and training.

Both institutions have been in the local community for many years, yet until recently hadn’t had any contact – despite being round the corner from each other. That’s now all changed, thanks to the hard work of members of both congregations and the support of Near Neighbours. They’ve set up a ‘faith friendship club’, meeting every fortnight and sharing all kinds of arts. Dance, drama, artwork and more are discussed, and practiced! It’s been a great way for members of both communities to learn about each other’s culture and background.

Also there on the day were other Near Neighbours projects which are thriving locally. A project which helps people to mentor schoolchildren, a street safety initiative in central Walthamstow and a group bringing together senior citizens of many different backgrounds were all profiled. Leaders and users of all these projects were given the chance to tell the Minister and the Archbishop about the great work they’re doing, with the support of Near Neighbours.

Listen to the Archbishop’s short address here:

The Primacy of the Social and Ethical: Blue Labour Midlands Seminar

A number of CTC Fellows are involved in an upcoming seminar on Blue Labour.  Details, including how to RSVP to attend, are below.  The event organisers write..

The Primacy of the Social and Ethical – How Blue Labour speaks to the social, political and economic situation in the UK in 2012.

6 July 2012, 9.30am to 17.00pm at the Centre of Theology and Philosophy, University of Nottingham

Out of what materials can Labour fashion a compelling vision of the type of country we wish to govern and offer an effective orientation for assured political action?

The Labour tradition is not best understood as the living embodiment of the liberal/communitarian debate, or as a variant of the European Marxist/Social Democratic tension.  Labour is robustly national and international, conservative and reforming, Christian and secular, republican and monarchical, democratic and elitist, radical and traditional,and it is most transformative and effective when it defies the status quo in the name of ancient as well as modern values.

(‘Labour as a Radical Tradition’, Maurice Glasman, 2011)

The aim of this seminar is to gather Blue Labour thinkers, supporters and activists to explore and discuss substantive Blue Labour themes. The aim would be to deepen, enrich and expand upon the themes that constitute the emerging Blue Labour narrative.

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Gospel Reflections for Corpus Christ & Sun 10 June

This week sees the Feast of Corpus Christi – which the Church of England marks on Thursday 7th, whilst the Roman Catholic Church marks it on Sunday 10th.  The Gospel reading set for this Sunday in the Church of England is Mark 3.20-35.  This blog includes a brief reflection on both themes.

Corpus Christi
The Feast of Corpus Christi enables the Church to give thanks for the institution of Holy Communion.  Every
Communion service, whatever its name, reminds us of the central fact of Christian life – that our lives flow from, and find their meaning in, the life of another.

We can only feed because we have been fed; we are sent out in the power of the Spirit because have first been called together as Christ’s Body.  For Christians, spiritual renewal and social action must go hand in hand.   It was amidst the cholera epidemic of the 1840s that the Sisters of Mercy in Plymouth asked their parish priest for daily Communion, to strengthen them for their work amongst the poorest in the city.  This was the first time since the Reformation that an Anglican church had a daily Eucharist.   Worship and action each inspired a deeper engagement with the other.

As we give thanks for Jesus’ passion and resurrection – and for the gift of Holy Communion as a memorial of that self-offering and a sacrament of that new creation which has dawned in him – let us pray for grace to hold worship and action more closely together.  May the new creation we celebrate in the Eucharist (a feast in which all can share, and all are fed) give us the grace and strength to work for transformation here and now.

Binding the Strong Man: Mark 3.20-35
This Sunday – after the special cycle of readings for Lent and Easter, Pentecost and Trinity Sunday – we return to Ordinary Time, in which we read through the Gospel of Mark.  One of St Mark’s favourite words is ‘immediately’.  The opening chapters of his Gospel are incredibly fast-paced.  Jesus’ ministry is shown to have a focus on those the world ignores or condemns (1.21-8, 40-5; 2.1-12, 15-17).  He reminds the religious leaders of  the purpose of the Law: not to be another burden on the vulnerable, but a means of protecting them from injustice (2.23-3.6).

These chapters have an insurgent feel – today’s Gospel most of all.  For here, Jesus compares himself to a thief, whose purpose is to ‘bind the strong man’ and ‘burgle his property’.

However, Jesus’ insurgency is utterly unique: his purpose is not to turn the world upside down, or to steal someone’s rightful goods. Rather, Jesus turns an upside-down world the right way up, restoring just stewardship to a creation which is being pillaged and misused.

Today’s reading reminds us that such transformation is not a comfortable thing.  It necessarily involves tension and conflict.  This is where today’s Gospel brings us back to Holy Communion, and the feast of Corpus Christi.  It is only by feeding on, and abiding in, Jesus Christ that we gain the needful courage and grace for this work.  Only then can ensure that it is inspired by him, and not reliant on our own energies and driven by our own agendas.

Prayer Intentions
Pray for the staff and supporters of the Church Urban Fund as they prepare for a service of rededication with Archbishop Rowan Williams – to be held at St Paul’s Cathedral on June 18th.  And pray for the growing co-operation between CUF and the Contextual Theology Centre, in helping the wider church both to see the urgency of social action, and to ensure it is rooted and grounded in Christ.