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Posts Tagged ‘liturgy’

Round this time last year I was reflecting on there being Too Much News. And today, with a budget, more virus and vaccine figures and a chocka email inbox, I was wondering what I should do about Everything.

And I was reminded of the lovely book I gave the Vicar for Christmas – Every Moment Holy.

It has a Liturgy for Those Flooded By Too Much Information.

I commend it to you.

But you, O Jesus, are not disquieted

by such news…

Give us discernment

to know when to pray,

when to speak out,

when to act,

and when to simply

shut off our screens

and our devices,

and to sit quietly

in your presence,

casting the burdens of this world

upon the strong shoulders

of the one who

alone

is able to bear them up.

Amen

What do you pray when you are overwhelmed?

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This evening we met at church for an Ash Wednesday service. In previous years, we have had ashing. And on one notorious occasion the Vicar managed to burn my forehead with incorrectly mixed ashes.

This year, with the need for social distancing, the Vicar, like several others, has decided to return to the older liturgy of the Church of England, and lead a service known as A Commination (The Confession of Cursed Sinners). We used a modern, shortened version, provided by Church Society. The original 1662 one is in the Book of Common Prayer.

The service is not all that popular in the Church of England. People find it quite harsh, because it reminds us of all the things that God does not like – that are under his curse. It is a painful exercise, to remind ourselves of our sinfulness and the ways in which we break God’s laws and reject his rule in our lives. But the phrase that struck me the evening, as we went through the service was towards the end of the confession:

and so make haste to help us in this world,
that we may ever live with you in the world to come,
where there will no longer be any curse

That reminder that there will ‘not longer be any curse’ is so helpful to carry out of a service of penitence and mourning for sin. The promise that we will be free of the heaviness we feel when we think of the Lord’s standards and the way we fail to keep them. To remember that

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us

As I was looking for pretty pictures to illustate this post, I came across a poem by Wordsworth. It seems that The Commination wasn’t popular even in his day. But he too realised that this service where we contemplate the darkness of our sin is needed, that we should deal with our guilt and seek pardon from the Lord. So my prayer this Lent is that I would have that fruit of peace and love and joy as I thank Jesus that there will no longer be any curse.

Ecclesiastical Sonnets – Part Iii. – Xxix – The Commination Service
Shun not this Rite, neglected, yea abhorred,
By some of unreflecting mind, as calling
Man to curse man, (thought monstrous and appalling.)
Go thou and hear the threatenings of the Lord;
Listening within his Temple see his sword
Unsheathed in wrath to strike the offender’s head,
Thy own, if sorrow for thy sin be dead,
Guilt unrepented, pardon unimplored.
Two aspects bears Truth needful for salvation;
Who knows not ‘that?’ yet would this delicate age
Look only on the Gospel’s brighter page:
Let light and dark duly our thoughts employ;
So shall the fearful words of Commination
Yield timely fruit of peace and love and joy.

William Wordsworth

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Things have been tough in parish life lately. Tougher than usual. I am bad at concentrating on things in the normal run of life, but recently I’ve often struggled to find a way to rest my mind.

I have found some things that have helped though. So I thought I’d share them in case your life is also causing your head to scramble like the only version of eggs that the Engineer will eat.

First off, I found that, of course, my pattern of daily devotions had gone completely to pot. I can’t even remember what I was doing – some large chunk of Scripture a day I think. And since I couldn’t think, I just couldn’t absorb a thing. And even turning the light on in the mornings was a challenge.

Last July, before the Church Society podcast took a break, I’d had to read A Tender Lion – a biography of Bishop J C Ryle – for the book review slot I’ve been part of, alongside our good friend Song. And since reading that I’d been thinking of going back to Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels. I remembered reading them as a student and finding them heartwarming. And reading the biography reminded me that Ryle had written and preached in an accessible style – in short sentences with simple vocabulary. And I wanted to read a gospel – to go back to basics.

So I downloaded a copy of Ryle’s Expository Thoughts onto my Kindle (other e-readers are available). My version had the Bible passage as well as the Thoughts. And I read through Mark, blessed by the good bishop’s clarity and simplicity, and also by my Kindle’s backlight that meant that it helped me to wake as I read. I really got quite boring with friends, and the poor Vicar, telling them (rather too many times) how much I was enjoying Mark with Ryle’s help.

Ryle portrait

The refreshing Bishop Ryle

I also have three of Andrew Case’s prayer books on my Kindle – and when my head can’t get into prayer, written prayers always help. This is the value of liturgy too – to ‘pray until you pray’, as Don Carson puts it in A Call to Spiritual Reformation. So I would read Mark with Ryle’s help and pray those prayers, and I wouldn’t be distracted by my phone, which would happen if I went to my PrayerMate app or opened the CofE’s Daily Prayer app. So I would pray a prayer for me, one for the Vicar and one for the kids. Then I’d pray the Lord’s Prayer. And sometimes I’d pray some more. And sometimes I wouldn’t. But I was still hanging in.

It was simple. And it was something. And so I’ve been able to slowly reconnect to the Lord and anchor my thoughts in the truth of the love of Christ. Reading a gospel in the company of a clear thinking bishop, some written prayers to use when I couldn’t think of words. I’m thankful.

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