Tag Archives: mercy

24 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, VII.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2023

Photo: Mazur/cbcew.org.uk

As we join with other Christians around the world for the Week of Prayer we pray that our hearts will be open to see and hear the many ways in which racism continues to destroy lives, and to discern the steps we can take as individuals and communities to heal the hurts and build a better future for everyone.

Day 7 Agency

Matthew 5:1–8 
Job 5:1-16

Commentary

Matthew’s account of the Beatitudes begins with Jesus seeing the crowds. In that crowd he must have seen those who were peacemakers, the poor in spirit, the pure in heart, men and women who mourned, and those who hungered for justice. In the Beatitudes Jesus not only names people’s struggles, he names what they will be: the children of God and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Howard Thurman, African American theologian and spiritual advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., believed, “the religion that Jesus lived produced the kind of life for Him that identifies with the downtrodden, outcast, broken, and disinherited of the world.” Yet, Thurman also believed that, “It cannot be denied that too often the weight of the Christian movement has been on the side of the strong and the powerful and against the weak and oppressed – this, despite the gospel.”

If we listen hard enough, we will hear a diversity of voices crying out under the weight of oppression. Action is needed today to bring love, hope, justice and liberation for us and others in the future. Oppression of any kind demands that each of us chooses to engage in order to eradicate the injustice(s) that break our hearts open.

In prayer we align our hearts with the heart of God, to love what God loves and to love as God loves. Prayer with integrity therefore aligns and unites us – beyond our divisions – to love what, whom and how God loves, and to express this love in our actions.

Let us all work together with God in our hope and commitment to shut injustice’s mouth and eradicate oppression in all areas of our society.

Reflection

I see you there,
You – blessed ones,
You – poor in spirit,
You – mourners, meek ones and merciful ones.
I hear your stomachs rumble with hunger. 
Is righteousness enough to satisfy your thirst,
like rain upon the earth?
You have had your fill of the schemes of crafty ones,
been force fed so-called wisdom by the wily.
With pure and undivided hearts
you train your eyes upon God’s cause – 
to lift high the perceived lowly,
to bring to safety any who are in danger of being trampled by pride-filled footsteps of trespassers,
or stabbed by weaponised words hell-bent on cutting down and dehumanising.
Shut the mouth of injustice, God,
tear down the strongholds of the power-hungry
and give us the desire and the strength
to rebuild a realm
where all who are wounded are brought comfort,
where the inheritance is shared by all,
where swords and shields are beaten
into tools for sowing peace and reconciliation,
where healing abounds
and mouths open to sing stories of shared blessing and hope.

Prayer

God of justice,
Empower us to be agents of your grace and mercy.
Bless us with the courage to relinquish our power.
Bless us with the humility to stand with the oppressed.
Bless us with the integrity to love our neighbours 
as we ourselves would seek to be loved.

Questions

Can you think of a time when you felt powerless? How would you have liked others to respond?

Think about the ways you might have influence in your local community? How might you use that influence to help those who feel powerless?

Around the world whole communities find themselves powerless as a result of corruption and exploitation. How might the choices we make in our daily lives impact these situations?

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23 October: Liberty the right of every human.

Oscar Murillo’s dehumanised migrant workers.

Yesterday we witnessed child labour in XIX Century England, but exploitation is still with us. I read recently that Garment Workers in England are still receiving no more than a fraction of the National Minimum Wage, legally established since 1999, and exploitation is rife elsewhere in the fashion industry world-wide. Here is John Wesley on slavery and justice. His first sentence sets out with great clarity why slavery is evil. Following on from that realisation, there should be action: give liberty to whom liberty is due … every child of man. The prayer that follows is also a homily that every one of us should reflect upon, for slavery, or near slavery, still exists in different forms and we all benefit from poor people’s suffering.

Liberty is the right of every human creature, as soon as he breathes the vital air; and no human law can deprive him of that right which he derives from the law of nature.

   If, therefore, you have any regard to justice, (to say nothing of mercy, nor the revealed law of God,) render unto all their due. Give liberty to whom liberty is due, that is, to every child of man, to every partaker of human nature. Let none serve you but by his own act and deed, by his own voluntary choice. Away with all whips, all chains, all compulsion! Be gentle toward all men; and see that you invariably do unto every one as you would he should do unto you.

O thou God of love, 
thou who art loving to every man, and whose mercy is over all thy works; 
thou who art the Father of the spirits of all flesh, and who art rich in mercy unto all; 
thou who hast mingled of one blood all the nations upon earth; 
have compassion upon these outcasts of men, who are trodden down as dung upon the earth! 
Arise, and help these that have no helper, whose blood is spilt upon the ground like water! 
Are not these also the work of thine own hands, the purchase of thy Son's blood? 
Stir them up to cry unto thee in the land of their captivity; and let their complaint come up before thee; 
let it enter into thy ears! 
Make even those that lead them away captive to pity them, 
and turn their captivity as the rivers in the south. 
O burst thou all their chains in sunder; more especially the chains of their sins! 
Thou Saviour of all, make them free, that they may be free indeed!

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21 July: Another view of eternity.

Yesterday we advocated butterfly’s days: no set agenda, no targets, no business, no busy-ness. Today we open the Book of Common Prayer to read a collect that is complementary to Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘The Butterfly’s Day’. It makes explicit that we are passing through this life, and need God’s guidance and rule to survive passing through things temporal, but we can keep a hold on things eternal with Our Father’s mercy.

Our picture from Saint David’s Cathedral invites us to be still – Emily might say ‘idle’. And knowing that Our Father is God will follow; we will be given a hold on things eternal

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
increase and multiply upon us your mercy;
that with you as our ruler and guide
we may so pass through things temporal
that we lose not our hold on things eternal;
grant this, heavenly Father,
for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.


			

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17 July: Calamities in Sussex

The forest can reclaim industrial land.

Here is E.V. Lucas in the Sussex woodlands more than a century ago. The iron trade moved North as iron and coal mining techniques evolved during the Industrial Revolution. But he cites Thomas Fuller’s question as to which use of iron was the more harmful – guns or the printing press? Fuller lived in the XVII Century and witnessed the Civil War. I doubt he would maintain today that fewer lives were lost to guns than the sword. Let us pray for the beating of all weapons into instruments of peace, and for a continuing change of heart towards our sisters and brothers and our earthly home. Archbishop Dunstan of Canterbury was a part-time iron worker.


St. Leonard’s Forest, and all the forests on this the forest ridge of Sussex, were of course maintained to supply wood with which to feed the furnaces of the iron masters—just as the overflow of these ponds was trained to move the machinery of the hammers for the breaking of the iron stone. The enormous consumption of wood in the iron foundries was a calamity seriously viewed by many observers, among them Michael Drayton who was, however, distressed less as a political economist than as the friend of the wood nymphs driven by the encroaching and devastating foundrymen from their native sanctuaries to the inhospitable Downs.

Jove's oak, the warlike ash, veined elm, the softer beech, 
Short hazel, maple plain, light asp, the bending wych, 
Tough holly, and smooth birch, must altogether burn; 
What should the builder serve, supplies the forger's turn, 
When under public good, base private gain takes hold, 
And we, poor woful woods, to ruin lastly sold. 

Under the heading of Sussex manufactures, Thomas Fuller writes, in the Worthies, of great guns:— “It is almost incredible how many are made of the Iron in this County.

A Monke of Mentz (some three hundred years since) is generally reputed the first Founder of them. Surely ingenuity may seem transpos’d, and to have cross’d her hands, when about the same time a Souldier found out Printing; and it is questionable which of the two Inventions hath done more good, or more harm. As for Guns, it cannot be denied, that though most behold them as Instruments of cruelty; partly, because subjecting valour to chance; partly, because Guns give no quarter (which the Sword sometimes doth); yet it will appear that, since their invention, Victory hath not stood so long a Neuter, and hath been determined with the loss of fewer lives.

from Highways and Byways in Sussex by E. V. Lucas

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2 July: The Good Shepherd

St Mildred’s, Canterbury.

One of the classic Victorian hymns that still speaks to us today.

Souls of men! why will ye scatter 
Like a crowd of frightened sheep?
Foolish hearts! why will ye wander
From a love so true and deep?
Was there ever kindest shepherd
Half so gentle, half so sweet,
As the Saviour who would have us
Come and gather round his feet?

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in his justice
Which is more than liberty.

There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Saviour;
There is healing in his blood.

But we make his love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we lose the tender shepherd
In the judge upon the throne.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of man’s mind;
And the heart of the eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

FW Faber

The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice.

John 10;27.

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11 February: What is amiss, let us amend.

A queue for covid vaccinations at Lichfield Cathedral. TB.

Feb. 11, 1784.

TO MRS. LUCY PORTER, IN LICHFIELD.

MY DEAREST LOVE,

I have been extremely ill of an asthma and dropsy, but received, by the mercy of GOD, sudden and unexpected relief last Thursday, by the discharge of twenty pints of water[11 litres]. Whether I shall continue free, or shall fill again, cannot be told. Pray for me.

Death, my dear, is very dreadful; let us think nothing worth our care but how to prepare for it: what we know amiss in ourselves let us make haste to amend, and put our trust in the mercy of GOD, and the intercession of our Saviour.

I am, dear Madam,

Your most humble servant,

SAM. JOHNSON.

Life of Johnson, Volume 4 1780-1784″ by James Boswell.

Lucy Porter was Johnson’s stepdaughter; he had married her widowed mother but she had died after just a few years. Although he lived and worked in London – the man who is tired of London is tired of life is his saying – he kept in touch with family and friends in Lichfield, his home town, including Lucy. At the time of writing he was an old man and sick; dropsy is now called oedema, a swelling of soft tissue especially in the legs, and may be an indication of heart failure – so carrying 11 kilos of extra weight in fluid was not good. Johnson does not say how his relief was brought about.

But his heartfelt love for his stepdaughter shines through, as well as his apprehension of death and judgement.

What is amiss, let us amend.

Amen to that!

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January 2, Tagore XVI: My day is done.

margatesunset-21-1-17

My day is done,

and I am like a boat drawn on the beach,

listening to the dance-music of the tide in the evening.

from “Stray Birds” by Rabindranath Tagore
And very gentle music it was, this winter’s evening in Margate. At the turn of the year, let’s pray that we may enjoy such evenings in this life, with a warm home to return to.
And may He support us all the day long, till the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in His mercy may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest and peace at the last.
Amen.
John Henry Cardinal Newman
Apologies that the Tagore’s numbering has got out of sequence.

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1 January: Francis teaches the gift of thanksgiving.

Ste Anne de Beaupre

Are you worried about the coming year? Are you happy to be alive? What would make you happy? Are you grateful for your existence? Chesterton calls us to learn from Saint Francis how to accept life as a gift from our Creator.

The full and final spirit in which we should turn to St. Francis is the spirit of thanks for what he has done. He was above all things a great giver; and he cared chiefly for the best kind of giving which is called thanksgiving. If another great man wrote a grammar of assent, he may well be said to have written a grammar of acceptance; a grammar of gratitude. He understood down to its very depths the theory of thanks; and its depths are a bottomless abyss. He knew that the praise of God stands on its strongest ground when it stands on nothing. He knew that we can best measure the towering miracle of the mere fact of existence if we realise that but for some strange mercy we should not even exist.”

From “Saint Francis of Assisi: The Life and Times of St. Francis” by G. K. Chesterton.

Photo courtesy of Christina Chase.

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7 November: Rescue me from the captivity of sin.

O, GOD, giver and preserver of all life, 
by whose power I was created, and by whose providence I am sustained, 
look down upon me with tenderness and mercy; 
grant that I may not have been created to be finally destroyed; 
that I may not be preserved to add wickedness to wickedness. 

O, LORD, let me not sink into total depravity; 
look down upon me, and rescue me at last from the captivity of sin. 
Almighty and most merciful Father, 
who hast continued my life from year to year, 
grant that by longer life I may become less desirous of sinful pleasures, 
and more careful of eternal happiness. 
Let not my years be multiplied to increase my guilt; 
but as my age advances, let me become more pure in my thoughts, 
more regular in my desires, and more obedient to thy laws.

Forgive, O merciful LORD, whatever I have done contrary to thy laws. 
Give me such a sense of my wickedness as may produce true contrition and effectual repentance; 
so that when I shall be called into another state, 
I may be received among the sinners to whom sorrow and reformation have obtained pardon, 
for JESUS CHRIST'S sake. 
                                               Amen. 


From "Life of Johnson, Volume 4 1780-1784" by James Boswell

Boswell acknowledged Johnson as a most pious friend, who was by no means as wicked as the reader might imagine. Johnson was inclined to melancholy and to a deep sense of his own sinfulness, but any of us could make our own the last paragraph of this prayer.

Blake’s Jacob’s Ladder dates from some 20 years after Johnson’s prayer. May they both be received among the sinners who have obtained pardon.

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September 12, 1775: A most pleasing effect on my mind. Season of Creation XIV.

An Island ferry docked at Mallaig.

Two Hundred and forty six years ago, Dr Johnson and James Boswell were on the Isle of Raasay in the Hebrides, making for Skye and thence for home. No regular Calmac ferry then! Indeed they had waited in the islands for clement weather to allow the rowing boats to set out. Now the conversation grew serious; can one die contented? Johnson’s answer is comprehensive, and reminds me of the old catechism answer: God made me to know him, love him and serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in the next. We rely on his mercy for the latter.

More of Boswell’s idiosyncratick spelling!

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 12. It was a beautiful day, and although we did not approve of travelling on Sunday, we resolved to set out, as we were in an island from whence one must take occasion as it serves. Macleod and Talisker sailed in a boat of Rasay’s for Sconser, to take the shortest way to Dunvegan. M’Cruslick went with them to Sconser, from whence he was to go to Slate, and so to the main land. We were resolved to pay a visit at Kingsburgh, and see the celebrated Miss Flora Macdonald, who is married to the present Mr. Macdonald of Kingsburgh; so took that road, though not so near.

All the family, but Lady Rasay, walked down to the shore to see us depart. Rasay himself went with us in a large boat, with eight oars, built in his island; as did Mr. Malcolm M’Cleod, Mr. Donald M’Queen, Dr. Macleod, and some others. We had a most pleasant sail between Rasay and Sky; and passed by a cave, where Martin says fowls were caught by lighting fire in the mouth of it. Malcolm remembers this. But it is not now practised, as few fowls come into it.

We spoke of Death. Dr. Johnson on this subject observed, that the boastings of some men, as to dying easily, were idle talk, proceeding from partial views. I mentioned Hawthornden’s Cypress-grove, where it is said that the world is a mere show; and that it is unreasonable for a man to wish to continue in the show-room, after he has seen it. Let him go cheerfully out, and give place to other spectators.

JOHNSON. ‘Yes, Sir, if he is sure he is to be well, after he goes out of it. But if he is to grow blind after he goes out of the show-room, and never to see any thing again; or if he does not know whither he is to go next, a man will not go cheerfully out of a show-room. No wise man will be contented to die, if he thinks he is to go into a state of punishment. Nay, no wise man will be contented to die, if he thinks he is to fall into annihilation: for however unhappy any man’s existence may be, he yet would rather have it, than not exist at all. No; there is no rational principle by which a man can die contented, but a trust in the mercy of GOD, through the merits of Jesus Christ.’

This short sermon, delivered with an earnest tone, in a boat upon the sea, which was perfectly calm, on a day appropriated to religious worship, while every one listened with an air of satisfaction, had a most pleasing effect upon my mind.

From “Life of Johnson, Vol 5 Tour to the Hebrides (1773)” by James Boswell.

Keeley Psalms devotions_30
Follow this link for Sister Johanna’s Psalm reflection for today, again bearing out CS Lewis and Thomas Merton:

‘In the psalms we have theology expressed poetically.’ 

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