Monthly Archives: October 2012

Reflections and Prayers for Sunday 5 November

Sunday 4th may either be kept as the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time – or in some churches as All Saints’ Sunday (if the Feast is transferred from Thursday 1st).

The readings for 31st Sunday are Deuteronomy 6: 2-6, Hebrews 7:23-28 and Mark 12: 28-34 (Roman Catholic & Church of England lectionaries). In the Gospel reading, Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is. He replies by weaving together verses from the first reading (Deuteronomy’s command to love God with all one’s heart, soul and strength) with verses from Leviticus 19 – about loving our neighbours as ourselves.

This passage expresses a central theme of Scripture – that love of God is inseparable from right treatment of our neighbours. Faith in God, and right worship of God, require practical works of justice and of mercy. This is not about winning our salvation by good deeds: but transformed relationships – including economic ones – are part of what happens when we allow God to be sovereign in our lives.

The Gospel reading for All Saints’ Sunday (Church of England lectionary) is John 11.32-44 – the raising of Lazarus from the dead. A starting-point for reflection might be the Christian Aid slogan We believe in life before death. The story of Lazarus, and the lives of holy men and women (such as S Francis of Assisi, S Margaret of Scotland and more recently Oscar Romero and Dorothy Day) speak to us of the way resurrection life dawns in this world. We are promised, not eternal life in heaven, but a new heaven and a new earth, and in Jesus and his Church, that new creation begins to dawn. The Bible is unambiguous in its teaching: this renewal has an economic and social dimension. It is ‘good news for the poor’ (Luke 4) with the hungry fed and the humble exalted (Luke 1).

Prayer intentions

This is Living Wage Week – pray for all who live on poverty pay; for churches who are reflecting and acting on this issue.  Fuller details in CTC’s Living Wage Resource Pack.

Reflections and prayers for Sunday 28 October

Sunday’s Gospel reading is Mark 10.46-52

When Bartimaeus heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and say, ‘Son of David, have pity upon me’.  And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ … Jesus asked, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’  ‘Rabbuni,’ the blind man said to him ‘Master, let me see again.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has saved you.’
In this month’s Gospel readings, a constant theme has been the very different way in which Jesus looks at the world – and the way he seeks to communicate this different value system to his disciples.  This has been true of Jesus’ conversation with the rich young man, and the welcome Jesus gives to children and the response Jesus gives to the disciples when they compete for status and position.  It is also true of the encounter in today’s passage.

In physical terms, Bartimaeus is the blind person.  But, at a deeper level, it is the people around him who lack vision. Bartimaeus sees who Jesus is, and his faith saves him.  But the crowd don’t see who Jesus is, or what he is about.  They imagine Jesus to be too important, too grand, to deal with someone who is a blind beggar.  They don’t yet view the world through God’s eyes – and so they cannot see that someone like Bartimaeus is in fact at the centre of His Kingdom. 

In all of October’s readings, the value-system of the Gospels is shown through practice – not simply through teaching.  Our response to these passages also needs to be practical.  
What light do these stories cast on our relationships – and in what ways do they call us to transform our attitudes and actions?

Prayer Intentions

Pray for Jeremy Aspinall (Director of Communications at the Church Urban Fund) and Andy Walton (Press officer at the Contextual Theology Centre) as they seek to communicate this different vision of human relationships – and the ways in which their organisations and partner churches are seeking to embody the values of the Gospel.

Neighbours who eat together, stay together…

Near Neighbours projects are developing something of a reputation within Eastern London. Not only are they places where communities are coming together and real relationships are being formed… Great food is also high on the menu for many of them!

This is especially true in Waltham Forest. When a group of Asian ladies decided they wanted to open up their lunch club to a wider group of local residents, they sought support from Near Neighbours and the results have been fantastic.

Waltham Forest Asian Seniors had been meeting for many years and sharing food together. But the volunteers who ran the project wanted to help build better relations in their community. They were soon in touch with Shern Hall Methodist church, who have provided the group with a place to meet and eat together.

Organisers say it’s essential that local people have a good, healthy meal to eat at a very low price. Many of the guests suffer from health problems and are on low-incomes.

Some are also living alone so the weekly sessions are a good chance to come together and form new bonds with those who live in the area. One guest said “We’ve lived in the area for 30 years, but in the last year we’ve really begun to get to know each other.”

Someone who’s been impressed with the work of the group is Mayor of Walthamstow, Richard Sweden. He visited the project recently to declare it formally open and to cut the ribbon, while also sharing some food.

Before he was Mayor, Cllr. Sweden was responsible for health and recreation in the borough and remarked that projects which encourage healthy eating as well as building community are essential to reducing inequality.

The food available when the Mayor was visiting included South Asian cuisine, dishes from the Caribbean, as well as Pasta, sandwiches and other treats.

Around 50 guests were served from many different faiths and backgrounds, with the Pastor of the church joining the Mayor and the project’s founder, Mrs Sabra Syed, in welcoming everyone.

If you live in the area and want to take part, come along every Tuesday.

Listen to the reflections of the Mayor as well as a group of volunteers from the church and the  lunch club on why this project has been so well-received.

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Reflections and prayers for Sunday 21 October

This Sunday’s Gospel reading is Mark 10.35-45
Anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of all.
There is a big difference between being a servant and being servile.  Jesus tells his followers that becoming like him involves ‘drinking the cup that [he] must drink’.  Part of that ‘cup’ is bearing the cost of the fight against injustice.
Last week’s reflections were about economic injustice.  Challenging such wrongs can involve a heavy price.  Some of the cleaners involved in the Living Wage Campaign have faced pressure in their workplaces because of their courageous stance.  And most of us will have had to face the cost of standing for the truth in some part of our lives.  This teaches us that true servanthood can be anything but submissive. As Peter Nembhard (Senior Pastor of one of CTC’s partner churches) has put it ‘meekness isn’t weakness – it is power which is obedient to love’.   Biblical servanthood and meekness both involve courage; being willing to upset as well as to oblige.
Prayer Intentions

Pray for Christians discerning how best to confront injustice in our own day – and how to combine words of challenge with words of reconciliation.

Reflections and prayers for Sunday 14 October

This Sunday’s Gospel reading is Mark 10.17-30 (or 17-27)
Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’  They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case,’ they said to one another, ‘who can be saved?’

The disciples have been taught that wealth is a sign of blessing from God.  So they think that rich people – like the young man in this encounter – are among the closest to Him.  If it is hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom, what hope is there for anyone else?  Jesus sees the world very differently.  While the good things of creation are a gift from God, the way they are shared out has more to do with our greed than God’s will.  Poverty is a sign of human injustice, not of God’s displeasure.  And so, as Jesus makes clear in many places, those whom the world neglects have a special place in God’s Kingdom.
The Living Wage Campaign brings people together from religious and civic groups, demanding that all workers receive a wage they can live on with dignity – not having to choose between having enough money and having enough time for their families.  Its one practical way we can live out the values of God’s Kingdom.  But low pay  is just one part of a much bigger picture of economic injustice  – including exploitative lending, and a lack of work and affordable housing.  If we pray ‘your Kingdom come’, we cannot let these wrongs go on unchallenged.
Prayer Intentions

Pray for churches in Citizens UK preparing to mark Living Wage week with prayer, thanksgiving and campaigning next month, and for the work being done by the Contextual Theology Centre to equip them.  Pray also for the work done by the Church Urban Fund and its partners to deepen public understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty wages.

Reflections and prayers for Sunday 7 October

It’s easier to think about how the Gospel challenges others than to look hard at the way it challenges us.  Just as the Pharisee in one of Jesus’ famous parables prays ‘Lord, I thank you I am not like that publican,’ we can begin to think ‘Lord, I thank you I am not like that Pharisee’!
As we read this month’s Gospels, we need to ask what they say to us.  Just as Jesus challenged the religious and political powers of his age, his words should shake us up today.  As our final reading underlines, words of challenge are also words of love – God wants to transform us, not because he is angry or impatient with us, but because he longs to share more of himself with us.

Reflections on this Sunday’s Gospel
This Sunday’s Gospel is Mark 10.2-16 (or 2-12)
From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.  This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body.  They are no longer two, therefore, but one body.
What does it mean to call Holy Communion (or Mass) a sacrament?  It means that outward signs (bread and wine) enable us to taste and see a deeper reality – the reality of God’s Kingdom.  Through a physical act, Christ continues to nourish us.  His sacrifice makes us ‘one body’ – reconciled to the Father, and thereby to one another.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us that marriage is also sacramental.  It can give the couple – and those whose lives they touch – an experience God’s reconciling love.
Not everyone is called to marriage, nor do all marriages flourish quite like this!  But it is through our relationships and friendships that God’s Kingdom can become visible.  Through them we embody God’s nurture, generosity and forgiveness.
The longer version of today’s Gospel ends with another saying of Jesus which reinforces this message:
People were bringing little children to him, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.
The way we treat one another – and in particular those with the least power, those who depend most on the care and nurture of others – is a powerful sign of which King we follow, and to whose Kingdom we bear ultimate allegiance.

Prayer Intentions

Please pray for the Near Neighbours programme, administered nationally by the Church Urban Fund, and in East London by the Contextual Theology Centre.  Pray especially for former Jellicoe Intern Daniel Stone, beginning work with the Stop Da Violence project, which has recently been awarded a Near Neighbours grant to bring people of different faiths and cultures together to tackle gun and knife crime in Forest Gate.