New hymn

I rashly promised I’d try and convert the Ely Diocese Vision Statement into a hymn. Here is the result. The tune is Guiting Power (Christ Triumphant, ever reigning), which is such a good tune I’m pretty sure it deserves better words than mine, but there you go!  There are quite a few verses, so I guess it would work as a processional/recessional/offertory? 

Gracious God, your love has found us,
bound us, set us free.
Take our lives, transform us into
all that we can be.
Call us, one and all, together,
now and evermore, we pray.

Call us to be Christ-revealing,
radiant with your light;
generous as a hilltop city,
visible and bright.
Call us, one and all, together,
now and evermore, we pray.

 Call us all to live the kingdom,
active here and now;
Life affirming, world-renewing.
Church above, below.
Call us, one and all, together,
now and evermore, we pray.

Call us all in love discerning,
strong in word and deed;
sent, commissioned, gladly serving
all who are in need.
Call us, one and all, together,
now and evermore, we pray.

Call us as your loved disciples:
learning, growing, fed;
Send us out, as new apostles,
Leading as we’re led.
Call us, one and all, together,
now and evermore, we pray.

Call us deeply, touch our souls through
worship, prayer and word,
teach our minds to feel in echo
myst’ries yet unheard.
Call us, one and all, together,
now and evermore, we pray.

Call us, as you called creation
when the world began,
Guide our hearts’ imagination
to your loving plan.
Call us, one and all, together,
now and evermore, we pray.

Harvest Festival Poems

I’ve posted these before, but as it’s that time of year again, here are the two versions of my harvest poem – as always, help yourself if you’d like to use them in worship, print them in notice sheets or use them in home groups, or whatever. I’d love to know how you decide to use them, if you do.

The poem comes in two sizes: the original one is the longer of the two, and then there’s a ‘lite’ version for those who like their poems shorter. It still didn’t end up short enough for a sonnet though!

Here is the original (longer) version:

We bring our gifts:
The first-fruits of our labour,
or perhaps the spare we do not need,
(an offering to mitigate against our greed).

To the church we bring them,
and into the hands of Christ we place them,
and we say, ‘Take this,
and do with it some miracle:
Turn water into wine again,
or multiply my loaves and fish
to feed a crowd again.’

And Jesus takes them from our hand,
this fruit of the ocean, this product of the land,
and blesses them, accepting back
what always was the Lord’s.
Our gifts will fill the lack
of hungry people,
putting flesh on words
of charity, and making folk
in our small corner of the world
more equal.

We know there is enough for everyone.
But once the leftovers are gone -
taken to the homeless, hungry poor -
what of those twelve empty baskets standing idly by?
Can there yet be more
that we can ask our Lord to multiply?

Into those baskets therefore let us place ourselves,
those parts of us that need transforming,
grace and strength and healing,
the gifts in us that need to be increased and shared
with a greater generosity than we may be prepared
to offer on our own account.

For we are God’s rich and splendid bounty,
seeds, sown and scattered by the Lord in every place.
the human race:
the crowning glory
of the ever-evolving creation story.
We thank the Lord
that he does not just separate wheat from tare,
but takes our very best
then turns us into far more than we are.

And here is the shorter version:

We bring the spare we do not really need
(for surely God will honour all we bring
although it cannot make up for our greed).
And place into Christs’s hands our offering:
“Turn water into wine again,” we say,
“and multiply my token loaves and fish
to feed another hungry crowd today.”
Our gifts, we know, will put some flesh
on words of charity. Then into those
twelve empty baskets, let us place the gifts in us
that need to be increased and shared
with greater generosity than we may be prepared
to offer on our own account.
For we are God’s most rich and splendid bounty,
sown as seeds and scattered by the Lord
in every place.
the human race:
the crowning glory
of the ever-evolving creation story.
We thank God that he does not only separate the wheat from tare,
but takes our very best then turns us into far more than we are.

Letter from America (1)

I think we experienced a pretty broad range of church today.

This morning we were at St Mark’s, the church we have made our home while we are here in Columbus.  God was there in the serenity of the building, the echo of the music, in the depth and unfussiness of the liturgy, and in the warmth of the people.  This morning was more special than usual because Joanna and Daniel sang in a robed choir for the first time (and in parts, too!).  I had a proud parent moment at how grown up they are getting (even though Daniel looked tiny in his cassock!).  I saw them take their place as ministers not just as children but as musicians and worship leaders, and I rejoiced at how their music brought heaven and earth closer. 

Then this afternoon we went to our neighbours’ garden to witness their teenage daughter baptise one of her friends in the swimming pool, alongside five other baptism candidates from their church, each of whom had chosen who would baptise them – often the people who had been most instrumental in bringing them to faith. It was an occasion full of joy, completely informal, completely humane, and completely full of God. 

I was moved by both events: I saw my own children take a step in their journey of life and faith this morning, and then as I heard the testimonies this afternoon I found myself hoping that my children will grow up to speak and sing of God and life so fearlessly and with such love.  The words and gestures that we use and the ways that we express our faith are so richly diverse, yet it is the same love, the same life, the same grace that animates all praise. 

Hymns for weddings

During a facebook conversation lamenting the over-use of All Things Bright and Beautiful at weddings (and indeed, at baptisms and funerals) a slightly tongue-in-cheek challenge was issued, and in a fit of procrastination I rose (or sank) to it. The fruits of my afternoon’s procrastination are below, and since they are still at the ‘scribbled-on-the-back-of-an-envelope’ stage, I’d welcome comments, criticisms and suggestions for improvement. 

This is the first one, and it goes to ‘Lord of the dance':

Love, faith and hope are free
to all who live abundantly,
So lead us, Lord, wherever we may be
in the dance of life for eternity.

The gift of love is a powerful thing,
Blessed and worn in a golden ring,
The vows are the binding of our lives,
giving voice to all that the heart believes.

The gift of faith is the gift of care,
The promise that says, “I will always be there.”
For better, for worse, in joy and pain,
faith brings love to life again.

The gift of hope is a burning fire,
a guide we can follow that will never ever tire,
A lamp to guide us in the darkest night,
to show us the path that leads to light.

 

This is the second one, and it goes to the almost inevitably banal ‘All things bright and beautiful': 

Bless this sacred moment 
with your greatest gift of love,
Bring us ever closer
to the joy of heaven above.

All future growth and flowering
are rooted in our past:
two lives entwined together
in promises that last. 

Lord, make us more forgiving
to those who do us wrong,
give patience and endurance
and peace our whole life long. 

The care of those around us,
our families and friends,
uphold us and inspire us
to love that never ends.

A ring to seal the promise,
A kiss to touch the heart,
A prayer to know the blessing
that you alone impart.

 

The mustard seed

How should one measure the stature of a tree? Its girth in centimetres? Its height in metres?  Jesus rarely measured anything quantitively, for him it was all about the quality. The stature of a mustard tree, quite clearly in Jesus’ mind, is measured by its ability to host nesting birds – to give them a place to be safe, to raise their young, and to fly home to.

If that is what the kingdom of God is like, and the church is in some way a sign of it, then can we be the kind of church whose stature is measured not by the number who attend, nor by the amount of money in the collection plate (good and helpful though these things are) but by our ability to provide an environment that is safe, that is nurturing, in which people can feel at home. In essence, for Jesus the kingdom of God is about hospitality.  That’s maybe why after the mustard seed he goes on to talk about yeast – the stature of which is measured by its ability to raise a whole loaf, a loaf which can then be broken and shared with friends and strangers.

Our stature, then, as churches, might be best measured by our generosity – our ability to give, to share, to be given, and to be shared. We practice this each week as we share in Holy Communion, and seek to become what we eat – the Body of Christ, Christ who lived a life of hospitality, and enjoyed the hospitality of others, and who spoke of heaven as a sum of many dwelling places and as a great feast.  May we embody the life of heaven here on earth and may our churches be more like the mustard seed and its tree, the yeast and its bread.