Friday, 31 January 2014

Prayer for Saturday 1st February 2014

Our prayers focus today is on our town of Walsall.  We are blessed with many churches of different denominations who all seek to do God’s will for the citizens of Walsall.  There are also many charities and other faith organisations who work tirelessly to help the poor, distressed or needy of our town.  Loving Lord, we ask you to bless all the initiatives taking place in 2014 whose purpose is to give support and succour to those in greatest need.  Help them all to work co-operatively and harmoniously so that the greatest good may be achieved for the largest number of people. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Prayer for Friday 31st January 2014

We pray for the members of the RNLI. Today is SOS Day; the RNLI’s main National Fundraising day. Their volunteer lifeboat crews, flood rescue teams and lifeguards receive no government funding and risk their own lives to save others at sea and in floods as well as safeguarding beaches. May we be grateful for their efforts and give them our support. We pray also for the coastguards and search and rescue helicopter crews. Merciful Lord, guard them all from danger.  Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Deep Harmony

A long time ago two men were sharing the same vehicle; one was a world famous composer. His travelling companion was getting increasingly irritated with the breathy whistling which was being produced by his famous companion. Unable to stand it any longer he asked the composer to stop whistling as it was annoying him. The composer agreed but said that while his companion only heard whistling he was hearing a complete orchestra.

There is a particular hymn which has the same effect on me. While most people will hear just the organ or piano as they sing the words I hear a full brass band. The hymn is “Sweet is thy work my God my King” (MP 620) by Isaac Watts (1674 -1748) and the tune is Deep Harmony” by Handel Parker (1854 - 1928).

The hymn is not sung very often as it tends to be slow and ponderous and its words more suited to funerals since the second verse starts with the words “Sweet is the day of sacred rest, no mortal cares disturb my breast;” I suspect that, although the hymn was written by one of the most prolific hymn writers Isaac Watts, it is really the tune which is considered to be more important.

The tune Deep Harmony is used as a competition piece by brass bands and is also a staple piece for the Salvation Army. It was also used by the band which used to accompany my Sunday school as we paraded around the village prior to our Sunday school anniversary.  Consequently it is not the famous brass bands I hear but the one local to our chapel.

Yet if you take time to read the hymn you will find a set of words in which Watts invests personal spirituality as he does in many of his hymns for example, one of his most famous hymns “When I survey the wondrous Cross” (MP 755)

 If you have time try to read the words and think of their meaning.

God bless

Responsibility Assembly

School assembly for Junior School children based on the theme of 'Responsibility'.  The Bible story is a retelling of the Parable of the Talents Matthew 25:14-30

Props: 15 Chocolate coins or monopoly money, brief case, sealed envelope containing sheet with 'Trust - The Key To Responsibility, are you someone people can trust?' written on it.

  • Start assembly by introducing theme
  • Ask for a responsible pupil to hold the sealed envelope during the assembly
  • Ask for four volunteers to act out the the story of the Parable of the Talents:

There was a successful businesswoman (change depending on gender of child), who one day announced to her employees that she was going away on business, and would be away for a long time.

She told them that whilst they were away, she wanted her employees to look after the business until she returned.

To each person  she gave money, depending on their ability.

To one she gave 5 bags of gold coins, to another 2 bags, and to the final person 1 bag of gold.

As soon as the businesswoman went away, the person with five bags of gold thought about how he could put the money to work.  “I know!” he said, “I’ll start a Rent a Camel business.  People are always looking to rent camels.” So that is what he did, using the money that had been entrusted to him he started a rent a camel business.

To the person who had had been given two bags of gold coins, he thought, and thought, and scratched his head, until finally he said “I’ve got it!  I love painting, so why don’t I use this money and produce some paintings and sell them.”  So that is what he did.  He went to the market, brought himself a canvas, paint brushes and paints, and started painting beautiful pictures, which he sold to his friends and his family.

The third person, who had been given one bag of gold, thought long and hard about what he could do with the money.  He thought about all the ways he could put it to good use, but then he thought to himself, “That’s a lot of work, and what if my plans don’t work out, and I lose the money my boss has given me to look after.  I know what I’ll do, I’ll go and bury the money, that way the money will be safe.”  So that is what he did, he went out and dug a hole, and put the money in it.

After many months, the businesswoman came back from her trip and called her three employees, and said to them, “What did you do with my money whilst I have been away.”

The first man said “You gave me 5 bags of gold, and with this money I set a rent a camel business. Look here is the 5 bags of gold you gave me, plus 5 more which I have made.”

The businesswoman was delighted, and gave the man a big hug, and slapped him on the back, “Well done!” she said.

The second man said “I love painting, so with the gold you gave me, I produced paintings which I have sold to my family and friends.  Look here is the two bags of gold you gave me, plus two more.” 

“Well done!” said the businesswoman, with a big smile on her face.

Then came the third man, he said, “I gave a lot of thought about what to do with the money you gave me.  But then I decided that the best thing for me to do was keep your money safe, so I buried it.  You gave me one bag of gold, and look here it is, count it, it’s all there… sorry it’s a bit dirty.” 

The businesswoman’s face dropped, and she was angry.  “Why did you not do anything with this money I gave you?   You knew I wanted you to invest it, but instead you are a lazy and good for nothing employee.  You could not even be bothered to put it in the bank, where at least it would have earned some interest.”

Then she said to this man "You will never work for me again", and she had him thrown outside. But she promoted his two other employees, and gave them both a pay rise, because she knew she could trust them to always do their best.      

  • In this story who were the responsible people?
  • Who was the irresponsible person?  Why were they irresponsible?
  • What are some of the responsibilities you have? (At home/School elsewhere)
  • What is the key to responsibility?  Invite responses (hopefully someone will say 'Trust'), then ask the pupil with responsibility of looking after the envelope to open it and show what is inside (the piece of paper with 'Trust - The Key To Responsibility, are you someone people can trust?' written on it).
  • If we want to be given responsibilities, we need to be people that others can trust.  

Let’s think about all the responsibilities we have at school, at home and in other places.  And let’s ask God to help us to fulfil our responsibilities and not to let people down, even if that is sometimes hard.   

Prayer for Thursday 30 January 2014

Lord Jesus, bless all the members of St Martins PCC. We give thanks for their commitment and contribution to our church. As they attend tonight’s meeting, may your presence guide them through the discussion and decisions they make on our behalf. 

“O God, you are the light of the minds that know you,
the life of the souls that love you,
and the strength of the wills that serve you:
help me to know you that I may truly love you,
and so to love you that I may fully serve you,
whom to serve is perfect freedom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. ” (Augustine of Hippo)
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Prayer for Wednesday 29th January 2014 - Poverty and Homelessness Action Week

Lord, during this Poverty and Homelessness Action Week, we  pray for all those who are facing poverty for a variety of reasons, including the unemployed and those on low incomes who are struggling to feed themselves and their families and to find the funds to keep their homes warm. We pray for the work of the food banks, especially our local Black Country Food Bank –one of the charities supported by St Martin’s last year. We pray that the privileged and wealthy and those with more than enough for their needs, will be inspired to share their good fortune and give support to those in need. We pray that those involved in policies that perpetuate these problems and those who refuse to acknowledge that the problems exist, will open their eyes and begin to change their ways for the good. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Prayer for Tuesday 28th January 2014

Merciful Lord, today we continue to think of the effect of hatred and intolerance as we pray for the people of the Central African Republic. This country is a struggling after a yearlong conflict. between Christian and Muslim fighters who are both injuring and killing hundreds of people including small children, with guns and machetes, and attacking homes and businesses. Religious communities that have always lived together in perfect harmony are now massacring each other.We pray for the half a million people forced from their homes and seeking shelter in makeshift camps and for those in remote areas fleeing from armed gangs who burn their villages. We pray for the troops backed by the UN who are trying to restore peace and for aid agencies including Save the Children, who are running health clinics and a hospital and providing food for those in need. We pray that somehow there can be peace and reconciliation.  Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Prayer for Monday 27 January 2014 - Holocaust Memorial Day

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. The theme for 2014 is “Journeys” –reminding us of the multitude of journeys that people were forced to undertake because of genocide, in fear of what would be found at the end. Compassionate Lord, We remember the millions who were killed and whose communities were destroyed in the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. We reflect upon the depths to which humanity can fall.  We ask you to help us to fight against the evil in thoughts and minds which allows intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on religious belief, ethnic origin or nationality, wherever they occur. Help us to build bridges between faiths, races and nationalities and to learn from the lessons of the past to create a better future for our world. 

God, you created us all in your own likeness. We thank you for the wonderful diversity of races and cultures in your world. Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of fellow feeling and understanding; show us your presence in those most different from us, so that in all our relationships, both by what we have in common and by things in which we differ, we may come to know you more fully in your creation; for you are Father, Son and Holy Spirit for ever.  (Prayer said on the 50th anniversary of the death of Anne Frank)  Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Prayer for Sunday 26th January 2014

Collect for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany
“God of all mercy,
your Son proclaimed good news to the poor,
release to the captives,
and freedom to the oppressed:
anoint us with your Holy Spirit
and set all your people free
to praise you in Christ our Lord.” 

Today is Homelessness Sunday which is the beginning of Poverty and Homelessness Action Week, the annual opportunity for Britain’s churches to show solidarity with people who are pushed to the edge of society through poverty or homelessness. Money given at the cafĂ© for the next two Thursdays will be donated to Church Action on Poverty.

This year’s aim is to “Speak up for the rights of all who are destitute”. “Low wages, zero-hours contracts, outrageous interest charges by  doorstep lenders, benefits cuts, benefits delays, ‘sanctions’ on job-seekers – all these and more contribute to a Britain where many are locked out of what the rest take for granted. And there are plenty who are not destitute, but teetering on the edge. “Just two pay-packets away from homelessness” is how many feel.” 

Friday, 24 January 2014

Prayer for Saturday 25th January 2014

Collect for The Conversion of St Paul
“Almighty God, who caused the light of the gospel to shine throughout the world through the preaching of your servant Saint Paul: grant that we who celebrate his wonderful conversion may follow him in bearing witness to your truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”

Lord help us throughout today to be true to our faith in thought, word and deed and not be afraid to bear witness to you. We pray for all who preach your gospel, especially those who in doing so risk persecution and violence.

Our Saturday prayer for Walsall focuses today on the work of the police and of law enforcement in our town. Our police have so many roles to fulfil and we pray that they have sufficient resources to deal adequately with all aspects of crime from major criminal and terrorist activities to robbery, domestic violence and antisocial behaviour. We also remember before you, O God, all others who are engaged in the criminal justice system especially judges and magistrates, and all who try to help those who have broken the law. May they all act fairly, wisely and speedily so that the laws of the land may be upheld and we may live in security and peace. We pray for a society where people care for one another and support those in difficulties. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lessons From Joseph (Genesis 41:1-16, 25-end)


When the National Lottery was launched in 1994, it had the slogan ‘It Could Be You’.  The chance of matching all six numbers and winning the National Lottery is 1 in 14 million, and the Euromillions it is 1 in 76 million.  As a way of putting it into context, if you played the National Lottery every week, you could only expect to win a jackpot if you lived to be 300,000 years old. 

Compare the odds of winning the lottery to other things:

  • 1 in 3,000 chance of being struck by lightning in your lifetime
  • 1 in 10,000 chance of being injured by a toilet this year
  • 1 in 3.7 million chance of being killed by a shark
  • And between 1 in 3,000 and 1 in 250,000 chance of dying from an asteroid or comet

But despite the odds, for the millions of people who do play the lottery, they have no doubt dreamt about what they would do if they won the lottery, and the difference it would make to their lives to suddenly come into untold wealth.

Joseph in our reading today, also experiences this sudden change in fortune, where in the course of just one day he goes from a forgotten prisoner, languishing in a prison cell, to the second most powerful man in all of Egypt.  It is the ultimate rags to riches story.

Recaping the Story

Joseph was only 17 when he was betrayed by his brothers, and sold into slavery.  He ended up in Egypt working for Potiphar, an important Egyptian official who served Pharaoh.  Things seemed to be improving for Joseph, as the Lord blessed him and he found favour in Potiphar’s eyes and was put in charge of running the house.   But this all came to a sudden end, when Joseph was falsely accused on attempting to rape Potiphar’s wife, and he was thrown into prison. 

But despite the desperate circumstances, God was still with Joseph, and Joseph was put in charge of the other prisoners.  There he met Pharaoh cupbearer and baker, who had angered Pharaoh and been put into prison.  They had dreams which Joseph helped interpret, telling the bread maker than in three days he would be executed, but that the cupbearer would be released from prison and reinstated to his post.  All Joseph asked the cupbearer was that “when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison” (Genesis 40:14).  But the cupbearer forgot all about Joseph.  In chapter 41 we are told that two full years passed since this incident.

Those two years must have been extremely difficult for Joseph, as the days became weeks, and the weeks became months, and it became clear to Joseph that the cupbearer was not going to remember him. 

Joseph was now 30 years old, 13 years had passed since his brothers had betrayed him, 13 years during which time he had faced injustice and abuse. The Bible doesn’t tell us how Joseph coped during this time.  Did he have moments where he despaired of ever regaining his freedom?  Did he wrestle with depression?  Did he ever feel as though God had abandoned him?  Did he blame God for allowing these misfortunes to fall upon him? 

If Joseph did experience any moments of doubt, he clearly came through it, because the Joseph we encounter in chapter 41, appears to be full of faith and confidence in God.

God can use us in all circumstances

The period he was in prison may have felt like wasted time, and it certainly wasn’t where Joseph wanted to be. But God used Joseph in the prison, in helping to serve other prisoners, including the baker and cupbearer, and the time in prison helped prepare Joseph for the tasks that lay ahead. 

Paul in Romans 8:28 writes ‘we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’

There are times in life, when we find ourselves in places where we’d rather not be, or facing situations we would prefer not to have to deal with.  For example, you may be in a job which is causing you a lot of stress, or not fulfilling you, or you may have health problems, or undergoing tests, or there may be tensions in your family life.  We would not choose to be in these situations, but just as God was with Joseph in the prison cell, so God is with us in these situations.  As God worked through Joseph in the prison, so we need to be open to allowing God to use in the situations and places we find ourselves.  So if you find yourself in a difficult place at the moment, don’t just pray ‘God get me out of here’, but ask God to reveal Himself to you, and to show you how He can use you in this situation. 

Joseph may have thought the cupbearer had forgotten all about him, but God hadn’t forgotten about him, and was in control of the situation, and most importantly in control of the timing.  If the cupbearer had remembered his promise, and spoken straight away to Pharaoh about Joseph, it is unlikely that Joseph would have been called upon when Pharaoh had his own disturbing dreams which he could not interpret.

God’s timing is perfect. But most of us, myself included, find waiting one of the most difficult things to do, whether we’re waiting for a bus, a phone call or an answered prayer.  We become impatient, and the more we want something, the harder it is to wait – and we even get impatient with God!

But in Proverbs we read ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight’ (Prov 3:5-6) 

This was the lesson Joseph learnt in those 13 long years as a slave, but it prepared him for the even bigger task that God had install for him.

Learning to trust God is one of the most important lessons we can learn as Christians.  The passage of Scripture that I always come back to, is the words of Jeremiah 29:11 which say 'For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'  Trust is built on knowing we have a God who loves and cares for us, and that God will work things out in your life if you trust him.

Pharaoh’s Dream

Everything that Joseph had gone through, was leading up to the moment when Pharaoh had two disturbing dreams, which none of Egypt’s magicians or wise men, were able to interpret.  It was then that the cupbearer remembered how Joseph had interpreted his dream two years earlier, and finally told Pharaoh about it.

For Joseph, the day which would have started like every other day in the prison, was suddenly turned on its head, as his cell door was flung open and the guards said to Joseph, “Come with us, you’re going to see Pharaoh.”

After shaving and changing his clothes, Joseph was rushed into Pharaoh’s presence, and the king said to him, “I had a dream, yet no one can explain what it means. I am told that you can interpret dreams.” (Genesis 41:15). 

What a moment for Joseph to capitalise upon.  This was the moment where he could try and make a bargain with Pharaoh to secure his freedom.  It could have been the moment when he let Pharaoh know about the injustice of his present circumstances, how he was betrayed by his family, and in prison for a crime he did not commit.  But he does none of these things, instead his first concern is to give God the credit.  “Your Majesty… I can’t do it myself, but God can give a good meaning to your dreams.” (Genesis 41:16)    

Joseph goes on to explain the meaning of the dreams as well as instructing Pharaoh on what needs to be done to avoid the oncoming disaster.  But never once does Joseph seek to promote himself.  When he says “Your Majesty, you should find someone who is wise and will know what to do, so that you can put him in charge of all Egypt.” He’s not saying this in order to manoeuvre himself into this position, but he does this because he has proven himself to be honest and trustworthy, and because he was an able administrator. 

Self interest was never part of Joseph’s character or conduct, but instead he had a humble spirit.  Joseph’s concern was not to honour himself, but to bring honour to God, and because he does this, God in turn honours Joseph.

Then and there Pharaoh appoints Joseph to be the one to carry out this project, saying “No one could possibly handle this better than Joseph, since the Spirit of God is with him.” (Genesis 41:37)  Pharaoh sees something special in Joseph, because of his relationship and knowledge of God. And so Joseph finds himself being elevated from a common criminal a nobody, to the second most powerful man in all of Egypt just like that.  Pharaoh’s trust in Joseph was vindicated, as Joseph implemented the plan he put forward, which would ultimately lead to saving not only the people of Israel, but also the family that had betrayed him. 

Lessons from Joseph

So what can we learn from the story of Joseph?

  • PLAN:  God has a plan for our lives - Joseph may have felt overlooked, and forgotten whilst he was in prison, but God had not given up on him, he had a plan for him.  God does not give up on us either, instead he has a plan for our lives.
  • PURPOSE: God can use us in any and every situation – Joseph didn’t want to be sold into slavery, or to end up in prison, but God used him all the same. We may found ourselves in situation’s we’d rather not be in, but God can still use us.  We need to learn to be open to him, to trust him, and to ask God reveal to us in what way he would like us to serve him here and now.
  • PRIMED: Joseph had no warning that he would suddenly be pulled from prison to be questioned by the king.  Yet he was ready for almost anything because of his relationship with God.  We need to be ready and primed for the opportunities God has for us, and we do that by getting to know God better, just like Joseph.   
  • PROMOTE: Joseph’s priority was always to serve and promote God, and to put God first, never himself.  Our calling as Christians is to put God first, to make him know in the world.  Joseph did that through what he said, as well as what he did.  He was a man of honour and integrity, and because of this, people could see the Spirit of God at work in him. This is our calling too as Christians, so that others may be able to see the Spirit at work within us.  And when we honour God by putting him first, God will honour us.   

Joseph led a God dependent life and he lived it in the midst of great adversity. He knew his future rested in the hands of the Lord.  Because of his dependence, faith and trust in God, God used Joseph to change history. Let us pray that we too may be history makers.  

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Prayer for Friday 24th January 2014

Loving Lord we pray for the care and protection of all the residents of our local respite care home - Daisy Bank Annexe and for a pleasant and  stimulating environment which enhances their lives and meets their needs. For the staff there, that they feel appreciated for the valuable role they fulfil and that they are always sympathetic and supportive to those in their care. We also pray for everyone who is receiving “care in the community” that they will be properly supported and not left alone and  vulnerable. Also we pray for the organisers and members of the Walsall Older Persons Project who meet fortnightly at St Martins to socialise and take part in the activities which are an important part of their lives.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Prayer for Thursday 23rd January 2014

Compassionate Father we bring before all those who find the cold winter months difficult. For those who struggle to adequately heat their homes. For those who suffer depression during the short dark days and for those nervous about being out in freezing conditions. We pray for good neighbours to give help where needed and for adequate financial and practical support from local authorities and charities. May those who live in our neighbourhood, especially the lonely, continue to find our Thursday Cafe a source of companionship and a change of scene.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Homily on Mark 3:7-12

In our Gospel reading today, we get an insight into what Jesus’ ministry was like, and the impact it had.  How the crowds flocked to Jesus from all the regions surrounding Galilee to hear Jesus preach, to bring the sick to be healed and the demon possessed to be delivered.
So many people flocked to Jesus that he ordered his disciples to get a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him, such was the hunger and desire people had to be near Jesus. 
The response to Jesus was huge, and one of the reasons why was because of the compassion Jesus had for these people.  In Mark 6:34 we read “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” 
Jesus had compassion and love for all people, for the sick, the lost, the lonely, the homeless, the disposed, everyone, and he never turned anyone away.    
When Jesus visited the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth he laid out his manifesto, quoting from Isaiah 61. ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ (Luke 4:18-19)
He longed for people to be healed in body, mind and spirit, and in fulfilling this manifesto he met all kinds of people in all sorts of places, in synagogues, in boats, in towns, in the countryside, in busy places, in lonely places.  However crowded or under pressure, he always has time for people, and he never turned anyone away.
How does this compare to the church today?  How does this compare to us as Jesus’ disciples?  Do we show the same love, concern and compassion as Jesus demonstrated?  Do we make time for people in need, and what about people who are different to us, who have different views and opinions to us? 
Reading the gospels what strikes me is that the people who objected to Jesus the most were the religious people, the scribes and the Pharisees.  They didn’t like the things Jesus did, they didn’t approve of the people he would hang out with, because as far as they were concerned they were the wrong sort of people.  They were tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners.    
How different are we to the scribes and Pharisees?  Would we welcome the outcast and the stranger if they came to our church today? 
Last week at the clergy conference the former Bishop of Rhode Island, the Rt Revd Geralyn Wolf spoke about her experience of living as a homeless person for 30 days. 
She changed her name, her accent and her appearance and moved into a homeless shelter in her diocese.  In the homeless shelter, she found acceptance and love amongst a group of very diverse people. 
During her time in the shelter she visited a number of churches in her diocese, including the Cathedral, to see how she would be treated.  But because she’d changed her appearance, and accent, she wasn’t recognised. 
What she found is that in many of the churches she visited (but not all), she was often ignored.  She visited one church because she was hungry, and she knew they served breakfast, but found she couldn’t afford it, because they charged $5, and no one thought of offering her the food for free, but they did invite her to attend a Bible study!  I suspect all of those churches she visited, believed they were welcoming, open communities.    
Jesus had love and compassion for all he met.  He didn’t expect people to come to him, but he went in search of them, on the sea shore, in the market place, hiding in a tree, or sitting by the well.  And however crowded, or under pressure he was, he always had time for people, he never turned anyone away. 
The calling of the Christian faith is to follow the example of Jesus Christ.  How do we compare to him?   
Let us pray
Open my eyes that I may see the deepest needs of men, women and children
Move my hands that they may feed the hungry;
Touch my heart that it may bring warmth to the despairing;
Teach me the generosity that welcomes strangers;
Let me share my possessions with people in need;
Give me the care that strengthens the sick;
Help me share in the quest to set prisoners free;
In sharing our anxieties and our love,
Our poverty and our prosperity;

We partake of your divine presence. Amen.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Prayer for Wednesday 22nd January 2014

Heavenly Father, we pray for our mission as members of St Martin’s and disciples within the community. Help us to find new opportunities to reach out to others and share the Good News of our faith. We pray for Simon, Phill and Penny as they serve you and your church and for Margaret as she continues her training for lay ministry. We ask for your guidance as we seek three new members for our Ministry Team, a new Church Warden to take over from Mick in March and more leaders for the children’s Sunday groups.  Inspire us as we look at the possibility of employing a Children and Families worker.

“Living God
so breathe your Spirit around us
that the fears that freeze us,
the doubts that drain us,
the apathy that afflicts us
melt away in the warmth of your love
Touch our hearts with your grace,
our minds with your truth,
and help us to hear your still small voice
deep within our souls.” (‘Still Small Voice’ – Salop 2012)
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Monday, 20 January 2014

Prayer for Tuesday 21st January 2014

We pray for all those who suffer from addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling or any other destructive forces. We ask that those in trouble will have the courage to face up to their problems and seek appropriate help. Give strength and endurance to those who are battling to get clean and rebuild their lives, that they will be able to cope with each day and each challenge as it arises. Be with the families and friends of addicts as they try to support their loved ones and cope with the damage that their illness has caused to personal relationships and domestic security. We give thanks for the work of Hi’s and Lows in Walsall, and other groups who try to help vulnerable people overcome their addictions, and restore them to the health and dignity of free human beings. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

The Power of Prayer

A few months ago I read this inspiring true story in my Scripture Union notes: Peter Wynn was a dysfunctional, hard-nosed gangster who had had a chaotic early life and soon became involved with gangs and drug culture on the streets of Liverpool.  His life descended into a spiral of violence until he was eventually found guilty of murder and sentenced to 14 years in prison.  It was at this point that a woman started writing to him saying things like, “I believe that you are not the person that they say you are, but that you are a man of God.”

At first he binned the letters after reading them, thinking she was mad.  But she didn’t give up but kept on writing to him telling him to pray and to join the Alpha course being run in the prison.  Eventually, Peter did start praying and he did join the Alpha group.  Over the coming months Peter’s life changed.  The pastor running the Alpha group had a dream about him and told Peter he was going to tell people about God and how his life had been transformed.

Peter became a new man, growing in faith and determined to make the best use of his remaining time in prison. He started training as a chef which would become vital to his future vision after he was released in 2009.

Peter now works as a volunteer alongside SU staff in juvenile prisons and schools running RE days and assemblies with the focus on crime, punishment and restorative justice. He is developing a project called ‘Masterchef’, where he teaches the most chaotic, truculent and disruptive pupils how to cook a meal from scratch. While doing so he tells them his background and is able to connect with them. Peter says, “While I’m doing it, they get to hear my story and maybe get a bit of hope.  I’m planting seeds – it’s great to work with them and tell them what the Lord can do in their lives.”

What an amazing story which all began with one woman’s faithful prayer and determination.

God bless, Jackie

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Prayer for Monday 20 January 2014

Recent government economic statements and forecasts suggest that the UK economy is beginning to show signs of recovery. We give thanks for the hope of improved conditions in the months and years to come, and ask for your blessing and guidance on all those with the power to influence policy, that they may make wise decisions. We continue to pray for all those for whom talk of economic recovery is so far nothing but empty words, who suffer from continued underemployment and struggle to afford basic commodities. As further cuts are expected in the coming months in both national and local government expenditure, we pray for those who will inevitably lose out on services and support. Help us to help each other in difficult times, and do what we can to work for a fairer and safer future for all. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Prayer for Sunday 19th January

Collect for the Second Sunday of Epiphany:
Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new: transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

As we come to worship today, we ask for your blessing on each one of us. Help us to open our hearts and lives to you, and make us ready to receive anew the transforming fire of your love.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Is Christ Divided? 1 Corinthians 1:1-17


The title for the Week of Prayer For Christian Unity is, 'Is Christ Divided?' which is taken from our reading from Paul's 1st letter to the Corinthians. 

A cursory look at the church today, may very easily lead you to the answer that yes, the church, the Body of Christ is wrought with division.  Did you know for example that there are 40,000 Christian denominations around the world?

In Jonathan Swift's book Gulliver's Travels, Gulliver visits the island of Lilliput, where there is a dispute between the ‘Big Enders’ and the ‘Little Enders’ over what end to crack open a boiled egg, the big end, or the little end.  Traditionally, Lilliputians broke boiled eggs on the larger end; but then a former Emperor of Lilliput decreed that all eggs be broken on the smaller end after he cut himself breaking the egg on the larger end. The differences between Big-Enders and Little-Enders had given rise to "six rebellions... wherein one Emperor lost his life, and another his crown".

It is of course a ridiculous argument, but it reflected in a much simplified form British quarrels over religion.  Around 200 years before Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver’s travels England had been a Catholic (Big-Ender) country; but a series of reforms beginning in the 1530s under King Henry VIII had converted most of the country to Protestantism (Little-Enders).  These changes had led to religiously inspired revolts and rebellions, in which one king, Charles I lost his life, and his son James II lost his crown and fled to France. Some of these conflicts were between Protestants and Catholics; others were between different branches of Protestantism. What Gulliver’s Travels so clearly illustrates is the ridiculousness and scandal of disunity amongst Christians. 

Whilst huge strides towards greater unity amongst Christians has taken place over the years, we have to acknowledge that we still have a long way to go before the church is united as Jesus prayed

Sadly disputes and disunity amongst Christians still continues, sometimes over silly matters, as this letter demonstrates:

I was standing on the Golden Gate Bridge admiring the view when another tourist walked up alongside of me to do the same.  I heard him say quietly as he took in the view. ‘What an awesome God.’  I turned to him and said: ‘Are you a Christian?’  He said ‘Yes, I’m a Christian.’  I said, ‘So am I.’  We shook hands. 

I said ‘Are you a liberal or fundamental Christian?’  He said, ‘I’m a fundemantal Christian’.  I said: ‘so am I.’  We smiled and nodded to each other. 

I said ‘Are you a Covenant or dispensational fundamentalist Christian?’  He said ‘I am a dispensaiontal fundamental Christian’.  I said ‘So am I’.  We slapped one another on the back. 

I said, ‘Are you Early Acts, Mid Acts or Late Acts dispensational fundamentalist Christian?’  He said ‘Iam a Mid Acts dispensational fundamental Christian’.  I said ‘So am I’  We agreed to exchange Christmas cards each year. 

I said ‘Are you an Acts 9 or 13 Mid Acts dispensational fundamentalist Christian?’  He said ‘I am an Acts 9 Mid Acts dispensational fundamentalist Christian.’  I said, ‘So am I’.  We hugged one another right there on the bridge. 

I said ‘Are you a pre or post trib Acts 9 Mid Acts dispensational fundamentalist Christian?’  He said: ‘I’m a pre trib Acts 9 Mid Acts dispensational fundamentalist Christian.’  I said ‘So am I.’  We agreed to exchange our kids for the summer. 

I said: ‘Are you a 12 in or 12 out pre trib Acts 9 Mid Acts dispensational fundamentalist Christian?’  He said ‘I’m a 12 in pre trib Acts 9 Mid Acts dispensational fundamentalist Christian.’  I said, ‘You heretic and I pushed him off the bridge.’


There are many different causes of disunity in churches and between Christians, sometimes over big issues, and sometimes over very minor trivial issues.  It can be to do with theology, worship style, leadership issues, personality clashes, historical disagreements - which rumble on, even though no one can remember what caused the disagreement in the first place, disagreements over the position of the choir, or music group, etc, etc.

Disunity is one of the biggest scandals that the church faces.  A divided church is one of the biggest reasons why people can be turned off God and church.  I have a lot of sympathy with the person who says "Well if that's how God's people love one another, then I don't want anything to do with it."  Disunity is damaging to the church and our witness to the world.  In contrast however, when Christians live together in unity and love it becomes a sign of hope for our divided world.  Tertullian writing in the 3rd Century recorded the comment of one pagan who said "See how those Christians love one another." 

Division and disunity is not a new thing in the church, it is why Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, and why he writes "I appeal to you, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought." (1 Cor 1:10)

Corinth was a very modern cosmopolitan city.  It was a commercial centre, and a centre for arts, recreation, literature and architecture, a place of museums and theatres. 
It was also a centre of immorality, the Vanity Fair of the Ancient World.  It was a large city through which people from every nation passed.

In AD 50, Paul went to Corinth and stayed with his friends Priscilla and Aquila, and started a church in a house and stayed eighteen months until the Spring of AD 52.  Then he handed the church over to Apollos and moved on to plant more churches.

Sometime later Paul received a report that in his absence all kinds of problems had developed including division in the church, and so around AD 57 he wrote this letter to try and deal with some of the issues.

Paul writes, ‘My dear friends, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.  What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”  Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Were you baptised into the name of Paul?’ (1 Corinthians 1:11–13).

The church had split into factions, over which leader they most respected – Paul, Apollos or Cephas.  Sadly this sort of behaviour still happens around in the church today.  But we must resist the things that can divide the church, and instead follow the example of Jesus and Paul in seeking unity amongst God’s people. 

The thing that should unite Christians is our relationship with Jesus. 

At the start of his letter Paul writes, ‘To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours’ (v.2), and in verse 9 he talks about how God has called us ‘into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord’ (v.9).

It is our common faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour that should unite us.  All Christians are all called into fellowship with Jesus; the word for fellowship that Paul uses is koinonia.  It is the deepest and most intimate relationship possible.  It is the word used of the marriage relationship.  As Christians we are all called to love Jesus deeply and intimately, and this is the supreme basis of our unity.

Imagine if you had one hundred pianos, and you tuned each piano using the same tuning fork, by using the same tuning fork they would automatically be tuned to each other.  Our unity comes not when we are striving for closer fellowship, but when we fix our eyes on Jesus Christ. 

Jesus prayed for the unity of the church, so that as God’s people we may be a powerful witness to the reality of God’s love in the world.  Unity was important for Jesus, and therefore must be important for us.  We should therefore do all we can to unify the body of Christ, the church. 

What does this mean in practice?  It means avoiding gossip and petty disputes that lead to division, and instead doing all we can to build others up, working together in humility, praying for the church. 

Paul also talks about the grace of God in his letter to the Corinthians. This grace is God’s underserved gift of love, which he pours out on us, and which is supremely shown in and made possible through the death of Jesus Christ for each one of us.  It is this gift of God’s grace, that is also the basis of our unity.  Just as God shows us unconditional love, so we should seek to show unconditional love to one another, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.  There cannot be disunity, where there is true love. 

Unity is at the core of our faith.  We believe in one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  There is unity in the Trinity, which is based on love.  Disunity, on the other hand, has been the curse of humankind ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin.  Jesus died to bring reconciliation and unity, and so we need to strive for unity in our homes, in our families, in our churches, and between Christians.   It is why Paul in his letter to the Ephesians appeals to them saying ‘Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit’ (Ephesians 4:3). 

We may not succeed in our lifetime in seeing the complete unity of the church, but we should never settle for less.  We should pray for it and seek to do all we can to bring about unity in the body of Christ, so that the world may know the transforming power of God’s love.