‘One in a Million’ – some thoughts.

I’ve been listening to Chris Wood singing and playing ‘One in a Million‘ on and off all day, as I’m trying to learnt play it. I think he’s got the guitar tuned, not to open C as I thought, but C modal (CGCGCD). There are some runs which aren’t that difficult, except that if you get your fingering wrong you end up tripping over your pinky and making a thundering mess of it! Oh well, practice, practice. Then comes the issue of memorising the words to a song that’s ten minutes long…

Chris Wood, I know, is an atheist (I don’t know about the author of the story, Hugh Lupton), but I can’t help seeing in the faithfulness of Billy a reflection of God’s faithfulness (i.e. stubborn love) toward us. In fact, I could easily make this song into a parable. God quietly works away and saves and offers us a great treasure (his love) which we callously throw away, suspecting it isn’t worth very much; we prefer to bank on the dream of winning the lottery, getting rich, getting ‘shot of this old town’. But God’s love for us is one in a million, and he continues to love and hope and wait. Eventually, miraculously, another chance comes along – ‘Billy, love, your ring’s come back’ – and by now we’ve had a chance to reflect on what’s important and what’s not. God may not be flashy, but his love is steady as a rock and he sings the songs that comfort our hearts. And so, although he gives us the choice to sell his ring and pursue our idolatrous dream we finally know our own hearts and realise that what God has to offer is what we really want.

Thank God for that love, and may we who follow Jesus imitate it in our love for others too.

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Chris Wood: ‘One in a Million’

I was listening to this song in my car again today. I defy anyone to listen to this song for the first time, all the way to the end (and it’s a long song) without tears in your eyes.

I had all sorts of spiritual reflections that I don’t think Chris Wood would appreciate (I believe he is an atheist), but they can wait until tomorrow. For tonight, just soak in the power of this incredible musical story and enjoy Chris’ wonderful guitar playing (for guitarists, the tuning is open C).

(video taken at Shrewsbury Folk Festival 2009)

Why is My Life Important? (sermon for Back to Church Sunday)

A minister friend of mine was once leading a group for people who were inquiring into the Christian faith, and at some point early in the first meeting of the group he asked them about the role that God played in their lives. One of the members made this reply: “The way I figure it, God’s got a lot of things to worry about – earthquakes, and famines, and wars, and AIDS, and global warming and all that stuff. My little concerns probably aren’t very significant to him. In fact, the best thing I can do for God is probably to stay out of his way”.

The man was not being facetious; he genuinely had difficulty believing that, in the great big scheme of things, the mundane concerns of his life were all that important. And if that is the case for a person who believes in the existence of God, how much more for a person who has no such faith? Why is their life important? Why is my life important?

Until fairly recently in human history, we human beings have believed that we were the point of the story of our planet; the whole story of life on earth was leading up to us, and we had the manifest destiny of subduing the earth and using it to better our own lives. But the advances in scientific knowledge over the past two centuries have given us a very different view. Most scientists now believe that the universe came into existence as the result of a big bang over fourteen billion years ago, and that our earth did not come into existence until about nine billion years later. Our earth appears to be about 4.5 billion years old, and we human beings have been around for a tiny fraction of that time.

Sometimes this is illustrated in terms of a twenty-four hour clock. Suppose the entire 4.5 billion year history of our planet had been compressed into one twenty-four hour day? What would the proportions be like? Well, if the earth was formed at 12.01 a.m., then the earliest forms of life would appear at about 3.30 a.m. After a long day of slow progression to multicellular organisms, the enormous diversification of life that scientists call the Cambrian explosion would finally occur at about 9 p.m. – twenty-one hours into the twenty-four hour day. A bit later on, dinosaurs would appear and would roam the earth until they became extinct at 11.40 p.m., with twenty minutes left in the day, at which time mammals would start to become dominant.

The divergence of the evolutionary branches leading to chimpanzees and humans would occur at one minute and seventeen seconds before midnight. Anatomically modern humans would arrive with just three seconds left, and the life of a middle-aged human today would occupy only the last one thousandth of a second.

In this scheme of things, how can my little life possibly be of any significance?

(Read the rest here).

Traditional folk mix, September 27th 2010

For your Monday morning listening pleasure (courtesy of we7):

Kathryn Roberts and Seth Lakeman: Once I Had a Sweetheart

Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick: Clyde’s Water

The Copper Family: Here’s Adieu, Sweet Lovely Nancy

Nic Jones: Courting is a Pleasure

Spiers and Boden: Rambling Robin

Nancy Kerr and James Fagan: Locks and Bolts

A.L. Lloyd: Farewell Nancy

June Tabor: I Wonder What’s Keeping My True Love This Night

Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick: Sir Patrick Spens

Shirley Collins: The Sweet Primroses

Planxty: Johnny Cope

A Simple Daily Office

A daily office is a set form of prayer, often using words that have come down to us in tradition. It helps give shape to our prayers, and people who use it often report that it helps them to stick to a prayer discipline, even when they don’t feel like it.

Many forms of daily office are available, but some of them are quite complicated to learn to use. The following is a very simple format that I devised a few years ago and have often given to people since then. I’m quite sure that I’ve stolen most of the elements of these offices from various places, including (but not limited to) The Book of Alternative Services of the Anglican Church of Canada, and Gavin Reid and Sheila Brown’s very fine little book Confirmed for Life.

Help yourself to whatever you find helpful here.

A Simple Daily Office
Please adapt this for your own use.

  • Either use a lectionary or Bible reading plan, or make your own plan for reading the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Psalms.
  • These Offices can be prayed either alone or with others. Pronouns may be changed appropriately to reflect the situation.

Daily Morning Prayer

Begin in relaxed silence for a minute.

Praise and Adoration

Lord, open our lips,
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
O God, make speed to save us,
O Lord, make haste to help us.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

The following psalm may be prayed, or you may wish to use another favourite psalm, hymn, or song of praise to God.

Come, let us sing to the Lord,
let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving
and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great king above all gods.
In his hand are the caverns of the earth,
and the heights of the hills are his also.
The sea is his for he made it,
and his hands have moulded the dry land.
Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,
and kneel before the Lord our maker.
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.
Oh, that today we would hearken to his voice!
(Psalm 95:1-7)

Read a psalm or psalms as prayers to God.

Bible reading and Reflection
Begin by praying the following prayer:
Open my eyes, O God, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law (Psalm 119:18).

Read one or two passages of Scripture. If you are not using a Bible reading system with comments and notes, ask yourself the following questions about the passage:

  • What does this passage tell me about God?
  • What does this passage tell me about myself and the world in which I live?
  • Is there something I need to learn?
  • Is there something I need to do?

Intercessions and Thanksgivings
Offer your prayers to God informally. Your prayers may include:

  • Thanksgiving for particular blessings.
  • Confession of your sins and asking for God’s forgiveness.
  • Prayers for God’s world, your community, God’s Church, members of your family, people who have particular needs.

Conclude with the following prayers:

Lord God, Almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day. Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, or be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.

Go before us, gracious God, as we go into this day, and so fill us with your Holy Spirit that we may live as faithful followers of Jesus, to the honour and glory of your name. Amen.

Daily Evening Prayer

Begin in relaxed silence for a minute.

Praise and adoration

You may find it helpful to light a candle. Then say or sing the following, or some other hymn or psalm of praise to God:

O gracious Light, Lord Jesus Christ,
in you the Father’s glory shone.
immortal, holy, blessed is he,
and blest are you, his holy Son.

Now sunset comes, but light shines forth,
the lamps are lit to pierce the night.
Praise Father, Son, and Spirit: God
Who dwells in the eternal light.

Worthy are you of endless praise,
O Son of God, Life-giving Lord;
wherefore you are through all the earth
and in the highest heaven adored.

Read a psalm or psalms as prayers to God.

Bible reading and Reflection

Begin by praying the following prayer:
Open my eyes, O God, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law (Psalm 119:18).

Read one or two passages of Scripture. If you are not using a Bible reading system with comments and notes, ask yourself the following questions about the passage:

  • What does this passage tell me about God?
  • What does this passage tell me about myself and the world in which I live?
  • Is there something I need to learn?
  • Is there something I need to do?

Intercessions and Thanksgivings
Offer your prayers to God informally. Your prayers may include:

  • Thanksgiving for particular blessings.
  • Confession of your sins and asking for God’s forgiveness.
  • Prayers for God’s world, your community, God’s Church, members of your family, people who have particular needs.

Conclude with the following prayers:

Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this (coming) night; for the love of your only Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

The Almighty and merciful Lord, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, bless and preserve us this night and forever. Amen.

Lesley’s ‘Fourteen Reasons to Become a Vicar’

Like any other pastor or priest I’ve gone through dry spells in my ministry, and times when I just wished there was some other way I could make a living (never was quite able to persuade myself that a career in music was viable!!!). But most of the time, when I’m being true to my ordination vows and to the call of Christ on my heart, I love my job. I get to pray and read scripture, to meet people at the most important moments of their lives and help them process them, to point people to Christ and help them commit their lives to him and grow in their walk with him. It’s almost a crime to get paid for doing this stuff (though I’m not ready to forego my pay cheque just yet, thank you very much!).

There’s a lot of negativity around these days about the work of a parish priest, so I was really happy to see Lesley’s ‘Fourteen Reasons to Become a Vicar’ (for those who aren’t familiar with the language of the Church of England, a ‘vicar’ is the rector or senior pastor of a parish). Some of them are particular to the Church of England (eg. working from your home, or going into schools to lead ‘assemblies’ [times of worship]), but most of them apply here in Canada as well.

An older colleague of mine used to call me up on the phone and ask me ‘Are you enjoying your ministry?’ I certainly appreciated that question and how, again and again, it pointed me to the joy of the gospel which is what got me into full-time ministry in the first place. I’m glad Lesley enjoys her ministry, and I pray that many more of our colleagues will be able to share more of that joy.