Monthly Archives: March 2016

Holy Monday Compline Reflection

“Love is blind”, we say when someone falls in love
with someone we view as a not so very nice person.
“Love is blind”, we say when someone will not hear a word said against
a person who treats them abysmally.
“Love is blind” is a phrase we tend to use in a negative way,
it tends to describe the naivety, if not downright stupidity,
of the person we say it about.

Yet is such love blind at all?
Or is it the rest of us who are blinded by our assumptions?
Are we so caught up by the negative traits we see in a particular person,
that we consider them unlovable?
Maybe it is we who are blind and not the person who loves them.

Perhaps they see clearly something we cannot see, or refuse to see.
Perhaps what they see, hidden from our eyes,
is something so lovely that any faults the person may have become irrelevant.
Maybe love is not blind at all,
but the very quality of life that opens our eyes to see.

Is that the love of God, I wonder?
God sees, deep within us,
that wonderful soul that we have not even glimpsed ourselves yet.
And when God looks at that soul he, or she, can do nothing else but love us.
Our faults, gigantic or minute, are nothing in comparison
to the wonder that God has fallen in love with.

We may not see it in ourselves; we may spend a lifetime trying to work out
why God should love or care about us so much;
but it would seem that for some reason God does.
Maybe it is time we just accepted it
and be thankful that true love is so beautifully blind.

It is that true love that led Jesus to take the journey that ended on the cross.
As we begin to take that journey with him this week,
may our hearts be open to that love,
may we become blind to the judgements that separate us from others,
and may we learn to see as God sees and recognise the hidden beauty in all.

Lent 2016 Discipline of Gratitude

Monday 21st March

Mark 8:6
And he took the 7 loaves and, having given thanks,
he broke them gave them to his disciples to set before the people.

The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge
that all I am and have
is given to me as a gift of love to be celebrated with joy.
– Henri Nouwen

I have written a lot this Lent about the discipline of gratitude.
Is it a discipline? Should it not be spontaneous?
My answer to those 2 questions is “yes” and “yes.”
Yes, gratitude should be a spontaneous response to the gifts and blessings of life,
but such gratitude does not always come naturally.
To make gratitude also a discipline
is to remind ourselves to be thankful even when we do not feel it.
If we practise gratitude as a discipline
it will become the spontaneous response it should be in our lives.
Things that we now do naturally and spontaneously
are often the result of hard work and discipline.
Sports men and women do what they do naturally
because they have been disciplined enough to practise their art over and over again.
The same is true of other professions.
Thankfulness grows in our lives, and becomes natural and spontaneous,
when we practise it in daily life and are disciplined in finding things to be thankful for.
Children are taught to say thank you and show proper appreciation for gifts.
It is a gift that is there to be developed within us.
That teaching and practise needs to be continued in adulthood
and developed further,
so that our gratitude is not just for things that make us feel good
but for life on a whole.
May we daily practise the discipline of gratitude,
so that thankfulness may become, and continue to be,
a natural and spontaneous part of our lives.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

The following is the calendar for Holy Week and Easter at St Augustine’s, Grove Park.
Also the Vicars letter for Holy Week.

Calendar for Holy Week

Holy Monday         9am Silent Prayer
8pm Compline and Reflection

Holy Tuesday       9am Silent Prayer
8pm Stations of the Cross

Holy Wednesday   10am Eucharist
8pm Compline and Reflection

Maundy Thursday   8pm Mass of the Last Supper and Vigil
Vigil includes prayers at 10pm and Compline at 11pm

Good Friday       10am Procession of Witness
Noon Church open for Silent Prayer
12.45 Stations of the Cross
2pm Liturgy of the Cross
7pm   Music for Good Friday

Holy Saturday     11am Children’s Workshop & Egg Rolling
8pm Lighting of the New Easter Fire

Easter Sunday     10am Family Eucharist

Holy Week Letter

Dear friends,

This week we enter into the sacred time of Holy Week. It is the most significant week of the year for Christians as it takes us on a journey through the final days, hours, and events of our Lord’s life, and once again brings us face to face with all its pain and all its joy; with all its ugliness and all its beauty. It is a week of extremes and is something of a rollercoaster of a journey. The danger for us is that we will tend to lean towards one of those extremes at the expense of the other. Those who are going through a difficult time often get wrapped up in the pain and the anguish of Good Friday that they lose sight of the joy and hope of Easter Sunday. But many others choose to opt out of the painful bits all together and just jump in at the end as if the rest of the week never happened. It’s a bit like watching that classic film: “It’s a Wonderful Life” but after the first 10 minutes fast forwarding to the last 10 minutes for the happy ending. The end of the film has no impact if you have not journeyed through all that built up to it. Easter is like that. Without journeying through the other Major liturgies of Holy Week the impact of Easter is limiting. So I would encourage you to join in as much as you can of this incredible week, and allow the redemptive act of Christ to imprint itself on your life afresh.

The week begins reflectively with Compline and Reflection on Monday. On Tuesday at 8pm there will be Stations of the Cross; these are meditations on the journey of Jesus to the cross, beginning with his trial before Pilate. Most of the Stations are Biblical events, though some are from tradition. For these meditations we process around the church stopping at each station for a short reflection.

On Wednesday there will be the usual Eucharist at 10am and at 8pm there will be Compline and a Reflection.

On Maundy Thursday we move into the major liturgies of Holy Week. At 8pm in the evening we celebrate the Mass of the last Supper. This service includes the washing of hands (which we do in remembrance of Jesus washing his disciples feet); and remembering the Last Supper Jesus celebrated with his disciples. The service ends with the stripping of the altar and sanctuary as the mood of week begins to change and Jesus arrest and trial approaches. Following the Eucharist vigil is kept in the Lay Chapel until Midnight, remembering the time Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane, and his betrayal and arrest. You can come and go as you for any part of this vigil. The silence will be broken by prayers at 10pm; Compline at 11pm; and ends with a reading of scripture at Midnight.

 Good Friday is probably the most significant and sacred day of the Christian year. The day begins at 10am with the Procession of Witness beginning at St Augustine’s and ending with prayers at Lee Green shopping centre. For this we join with the other Lee Churches.

At Noon the church is open for prayer and 12.45pm we once again have Stations on the Cross.

In the evening at 7pm there is Music for Good Friday of which there is more information elsewhere.

But the most significant act of worship of the day is the Good Friday Liturgy at 2pm. This is the act of worship we should aim to be at above all others as we sit with Christ during the final hour of his life on the cross. The Liturgy begins in silence as the priest lays prostrate before the altar. It is an act of surrender. The priest lies prostrate on behalf of everyone, surrendering to the love that brought God’s Son to the cross. Something extraordinary has been done for us. A unique gift of love has been given to us, and all we can do is surrender to it. The picture created by the prostration of the priest is one that reminds us of Christ surrendering himself to his call and purpose; and also of the only response that we ourselves can make: surrendering ourselves in return to that love; one act of surrender responding to another act of surrender. The moment ends with the singing of the words:

Ours were the grief’s he bore, ours were the pains he carried.

Ours were the sins he took on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

The service also includes the reading of the passion; the solemn prayers on behalf of all God’s creation; and the procession and veneration of the cross. All are invited to venerate the cross by either standing or kneeling before it; and by kissing or touching the feet of Christ for those who wish to. Again this is a moment of surrender to the wonderful gift of love we have been given. The worship concludes by the receiving the bread of Holy Communion which was consecrated on Thursday evening. The liturgy ends as it begins in silence.

Holy Saturday is a beautiful day of anticipation. We have gone through the painful events of Good Friday and we begin to look forward to the joy of Easter. In the morning at 11am we have a workshop and egg rolling for the children at which decorated hard boiled eggs are rolled down a slope to see who can get the furthest – it gets quite competitive! The egg rolling symbolises the stone rolling away from the tomb as we begin to look forward to the resurrection of Christ.

In the evening at 8pm is probably my favourite part of the week as we light the New Easter Fire; process into a darkened church; with the newly lit Easter candle; listen to the beautiful Easter proclamation being sung; hear readings of God’s saving acts and renew our baptismal vows at the font. The service ends with the sharing of the Peace and an eager anticipation of the wonder that is still to come.

The week is completed, of course, with the glorious celebration of the Risen Christ at our Easter Family Eucharist. Easter morning is a full on celebration of joy, wonder and hope. But I hope you will get the full impact of that joy by joining in as much as you can in the other worship of this very significant and Holy week.

May God bless you and your families in the sacred mystery of love that we share together at this Holy time.

Lent 2016 Enough is a Feast

Saturday 19th March

1 Chronicles 29:13
And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.

Gratitude turns what we have into enough – unknown.

Enough is a feast! – Buddhist proverb

One of the biggest gifts that gratitude brings to our lives is contentment.
Gratitude helps curb our craving
for something else, something more, something better.
The trouble with craving is that it does not recognise when we have enough,
when we have everything we need to be happy already.
Craving always tells us that we need just a little more.
When the American multi-millionaire, J D Rockefeller,
was asked how much more money he would need to make before he had enough,
his response was: “Just a little bit more!”
Is that not so often our own response to money, life, possessions?
When we make the practise of gratitude central to our life
we begin the process of curbing that craving to always be wanting more.
Looking regularly at what we have through the eyes of thanksgiving
helps us to appreciate life more; helps us to realise we have enough;
and that enough is actually a feast!

Foundation of Prayer

Friday 18th March

Psalm 95:2
Come into His Presence with thanksgiving;
make a joyful noise with songs of praise.

If the only prayer you ever said I your entire life was “Thank You!”
it would suffice.
– Meister Eckhart

Gratitude is the foundation of true prayer.
When are we most likely to turn to God in prayer?
Is it when we want something of God,
or when we want to say thank you for what we already have?
I would imagine that on a whole it is wanting something from God
that is more likely to turn our hearts to prayer.
People often call at the vicarage asking if they can be let into church to pray,
and regularly ask me to pray with them.
The vast majority of the time
it is because they are worried about something or someone,
it is very rare for people to want to be let into church to say thank you.
That is not a judgement or a criticism, it is just a fact,
and is probably true of all of us.
The discipline of gratitude teaches us to place thanksgiving
at the centre of our prayer.
If the only prayer we ever uttered was Thank You, says Meister Eckhart,
it would suffice.
Prayer is not primarily about asking things of God,
but living in awareness that God is present in all things;
in both the joys and sorrows of life.
Prayer is not about getting God to see things our way,
but to seek to see and understand things God’s way,
and to align our lives with God’s Presence in all things.
To begin to change our attitude in prayer from: “I don’t like this God, change it”,
to “Thank you for being present to me in things I don’t particularly like”,
is to change our relationship with God to one of pure trust and gratitude.
It does not mean that we cannot pray for things to change,
but to simply first recognise and be thankful for God’s Presence in what is.
“Prayer is grateful living” writes David Steindl-Rast.
May thankfulness be the foundation of our prayer.

Compline Reflection Lent 5

“You have given me so much” said George Herbert in his prayer to God;
“grant me one thing more. A grateful heart.”
In Tuesdays reflection
I wrote of how easily we can become distracted from our gratitude by
spending too much time comparing ourselves with others.

Jealousy of others fortune can become a real stumbling block
to being truly grateful for our own.
On one hand we applaud our great and generous God,
and on the other we are appalled by God’s generosity –
especially when it is lavished upon those whom we feel are not deserving of it.

When we see people who we consider to be selfish, brutish, or uncaring
seemingly living a life of carefree happiness it bothers us.
We have all heard people say, and no doubt have said it ourselves,
“Oh, they appear to be outwardly happy, but it is probably all show”.
Or we say:
“What goes around comes around, one day they will get their comeuppance.”
We simply find it hard to bear
that they actually might be happy despite their behaviour.
Surely God will bring them down to size! Surely God cannot allow them to prosper?

Oh how we struggle with the extraordinary generosity of God
when it is not distributed in the way we think it should be.
One of the most challenging parables that Jesus told
was about the labourers in the vineyard who toiled for different hours in the day,
some for the whole day, some for half a day, and some just for the last hour,
only at the end of it all to be paid exactly the same wage. (Matthew 20)

Those who toiled all day complained bitterly that it wasn’t fair,
and when we read the story we are immediately sympathetic to their complaints.
It’s just not right!   But the owner merely says to them:
“You were paid well for your day’s work, and were happy with what you received.
Why should I not be generous
with those who came to work in the vineyard after you?”

Had the workers focussed upon the generous wage they had been paid,
they would have left happy and contented.
But because they focussed upon the owners generosity towards others,
they became discontented with his generosity towards them.

Our God is a generous God.
Gratitude for God’s blessings in our life is important –
but learning thankfulness for the blessings God gives to others
is what makes gratitude complete.

Lent 2016 Gratitude and Courtesy

Thursday 17th March

Titus 3:2
Speak ill of no one, avoid quarrelling and be gentle;
and show courtesy to all people.

Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy
– Jacques Maritain

Every morning I have trouble turning right out of my drive onto the main road.
By the time the traffic has stopped coming from my right the lights have changed
and there is no gap to get into on the other side of the road.
This morning a driver of a 261 bus saw me trying to get out
and waited on the other side of the road
until there was a gap on myside so I could get in.
Such courtesy brings out a great sense of gratitude within
and, as Jacques Maritain says, is in itself an exquisite form of gratitude.
We are often inspired to be courteous to others
through the gratitude we feel as a result of the courtesy offered to us.
There is a strong link between the two.
I often find when driving that a simple act of courtesy offered to one driver,
inspires them to offer the same courtesy to another.
Courtesy in life is sadly so often lacking these days;
holding the door open for someone, asking someone if they need help,
giving our seat up for someone on a bus or a train,
being friendly to people who serve us,
not ignoring someone while we check our mobile, etc.
Lack of courtesy is linked with lack of gratitude.
When we are grateful for what we have, where we are, what we are doing,
we are much more likely to offer common courtesy.
Likewise when we receive courtesy from another
the effect is often to make us feel more grateful.
So thank you driver of the 261.
Your simple act of courtesy, which you have probably forgotten,
has brightened my day and will no doubt get passed on to others.

Lent 2016 Gratitude for our Body

Wednesday 16th March

1 Corinthians 6:19
Do you not know that your body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit within you?

I finally realised that being grateful for my body
was key to giving more love to myself.
– Oprah Winfrey

We probably show more ingratitude towards our body than we do anything else.
We take our bodies for granted until something goes wrong;
we are often dissatisfied with its shape, weight, performance and general looks.
Many of us are even prepared to pay good money to change parts of it,
simply because we don’t like the look of it.
We regularly abuse it with overwork, lack of exercise, poor diet,
too much alcohol, cigarettes or drugs.
Something that is so vital to our lives
takes quite a lot of abuse from us in one way or another,
and receives so little gratitude.
So take some time to appreciate, value, and be thankful for your body,
despite the limitations and the faults that we perceive it to have.
Give thanks for all that it has done for you, for it being there for you,
for taking everything that life can throw at it.
Take a look at yourself in the mirror today
and offer an apology for your lack of appreciation
of this beautiful and intricate vehicle that carries you through life.
Take time to see it in a new way, to recognise its value,
and appreciate its efforts on your behalf
– despite, at times, our best efforts to mess it up.

 

Lent 2016 A Grateful Heart

Tuesday 15th March

Ephesians 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly
that you may sing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Thou hast given me so much, give me one thing more: a grateful heart.
– George Herbert

Gratitude is a central component in our relationship with God.
It is impossible to claim any relationship with God
that does not fill us with gratitude and thanksgiving.
God is the source of our life, the very breath we breathe, the love that sustains us,
the wisdom that inspires us, the strength that upholds us.
How can we not, moment by moment, be filled with gratitude and praise?
And yet, how easily we forget. How easily we become distracted.
How easily we lose sight of that essential relationship in our life.
We can also become distracted by the very generosity of God,
when we focus on what others receive instead of or own blessings.
How often have we found ourselves to be envious and jealous
of other people’s fortune and blessings?
Like a small child who wants what another child has
rather than enjoying the toy they have,
we can so easily get caught up in comparing our lot with that of another.
“Thou has given me so much” writes George Herbert,
“give me one thing more – a grateful heart.”
A grateful heart remembers its blessings
and is not distracted by focusing on what it does not have.
A grateful heart can look upon another’s life
and rejoice in their blessings also, and be content.
A grateful heart draws us daily close to the Presence of God.

Lent 2016 Service has a Gift

Monday 14th March

Psalm 86:12
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart.

As long as we hold fast to our ideal of what we deserve from the world,
we blind ourselves to the gifts we are receiving.
– Greg Krech

We live in an age when we know our rights.
We know what we should be receiving from the health service,
we know that our local emergency services have a required response time,
we know our streets should be swept to a certain standard,
we know how a store should respond when we return goods bought from there,
we know our buses and trains should get us to our destination by an appointed time,
and so on.
We are quick to complain when those rights are not delivered to our satisfaction.
In many ways it is a good thing to know our rights,
but once we begin to take those rights for granted
we begin to lose a sense of thankfulness
for the service that we are given.
Just because someone, or some organisation,
is obliged to fulfil obligations towards us,
does not mean we should lose sight of their service being a gift
and take it for granted.
A strong sense of entitlement can lead us to forget how lucky we are
to have such service available to us.
We need to take special care to show our gratitude and appreciation
not only to those who do us a favour,
but also to those who are fulfilling obligations.