Today people of faith with angels incorporated in their cosmology i.e. Jews, Christians and Muslims, celebrate the War in Heaven reaching its climax when Archangel Michael and his army of Angels cast out the Dragon and their angels. The artwork by Les Talbott depicts the moment in vivid colours.
This War in Heaven which ended at Golgotha when the Crucified Lord Jesus pronounced, ‘It is Finished’ finds its fulfilment each time we fight war against injustice and oppression.
It is a joy and a blessing to be part of this War in Heaven which we continue to fight on earth each day in prayerful action.
May the Lord be with you and bless you today as we celebrate the Feast of Michael and All Angels.
Today, we will know who our next Prime Minister is. We pray for God’s anointing and blessings upon the chosen one as they take up the Office at an important moment in history. In the shadows of this historic moment, we anticipate a matter of truth in the life of our Church. In the context of this I watched a political thriller on Amazon Prime Video recommended movies, ‘Nothing but the Truth’ and listened to the song by Coby Brown. His words carry the echoes of the words of Lord Hodge to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland this year.
Lord Hodge said: "At a time when political leaders in autocratic regimes, and regrettably in some democracies, have often been disrespectful of the truth and commentators accept with a resigned shrug the deliberate purveying of lies, the commitment of the Church and other churches to promote truthfulness in our public and private lies has never been more important.”
Coby Brown wrote.
Hey, baby, do you see what I see?
Hey, baby, did you hear the decree?
Hey, baby, can you look in his eyes?
And does it still make you feel high?
And are you ready to go?
Go out to, to be at your man
Do you see the sound of the stars?
Red road to Mars
One thing we share is the silence of God
We got nothing to do but wait out our trip
To the end of the way and you get used to it
And all we are asking for
Is nothing but the truth
And are you feeling a free will
And is it burning in you still
While this whole, whole world just dies
And as we move from the light
Do you see the sound of the stars?
Red road to Mars
One thing we share is the silence of God
We got nothing to do but wait out our trip
To the end of the world and you get used to it
And all we are asking for
Is nothing but the truth.
I cannot but notice that there is a sudden curiosity into the business of ‘Truth’. Here is the title for the opening session of the Aberdeenshire Theological Club received today. ‘The first meeting will be held in the Chaplaincy lounge on Monday September 19, open at 2pm for a 2.15 pm start. Our topic will be “What is Truth, and Who Cares?” The importance of truth in public discourse, a discussion led by Jim Gordon.
I wonder, if this sudden curiosity into ‘Truth’ is merely a chance occurrence and nothing to do with the public display of ‘untruth’ in the realms of a ‘truth telling community’! ‘Truth in the inwards parts’ is ‘a desire of God’ according to King David in Psalm 51. Allegri caught this moment in his ‘Miserere Mei Deus’ with the vocals chords of the Sopranos launching a note that makes us realise what King David meant when he wrote those immortal words, touched by the ‘Spirit of Truth’. He tried all in his power to conceal the truth, of abusing Bathsheba and murdering her husband Uriah in the worst conceivable cover up, at the hands of the ‘uncircumcised.’
Have we come to believe in the art of deception in telling the whole world that we care for human dignity while we do everything in our power to diminish it with utter contempt for it. ‘Will Mary ever sing Magnificat Again?’ Will the traumatised now taken hostage by the ‘guardians of reputation’ be ever set free to worship God without fear, in holiness and righteousness, all the days of their lives?
If it were possible for King David to repent, surely it would be possible for the ‘guardians of reputation’ to stand in solidarity with him. Would it take ‘the murder of Uriah’ to bring the ‘guardians of reputation’ to repentance?
I must confess, I don’t have a clue what all this is about. It was triggered by a friend making reference to an, ‘In Camera’ event in Scotland today. I quipped, “that is good if the event is ‘in camera’ for the world to see the mind of the church” ignorantly. He corrected me gently saying that the Latin, ‘In Camera’ means ‘in chamber’ i.e. ‘In Private.’ Last time something similar happened, there was much expectation of revival in the church. However, even since the last ‘In Camera’ we have witnessed everything but the Truth.
By the way, I enjoyed the exceptional performance by Kate Beckinsale and Vera Farmiga in ‘Nothing but the Truth’ and pray those who meet ‘In Camera’ today will excel in their performance of truth. The fight for truth and justice should continue until the ‘Coming of the Lord.’
‘Fear not Little Flock’
Today, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was full of surprises like the lady of the Feast. Her Yes to God is the joy of our Salvation in truth, justice and peace. We pray that the voice of Mary will echo in every corner of our World. May her singular voice bring and peace and justice to all those who are seeking peace.
It was blessing to say prayers at the Shrine of our Lady of Aberdeen on the South West end of the Dee Bridge. It was a joy to imaging people gather at the shrine of Our Lady before crossing. I was asking for her blessings as when we come to crossroads each time.
Today, I met a number of most remarkable people and the two stand out. I was blessed to meet Priscilla, a specialist in Landscaping from California. It is easy to be energised by such people who participate fully in the world God has given us in Creation so wonderfully. The Landscaping specialist has the honour and privilege of being God's fellow worker in recreating nature. I saw her as a partner in peace making. May God bless her and keep her a blessing.
I met Mark who recently biked 150 miles and two days. His story inspired me to develop Peace Maker Challenge!
Please watch the Space for the next Peace Maker Challenge and Donate on the Home Page.
God bless you.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Matthew 7.18
On Wednesday the 10th of August I was in Pennan, the village of the Local Hero. The breath taking beauty of this tranquil little village on a warm sunny day could be regarded as heaven on earth. The kindness of a dear friend made it possible for the family and I to spend a couple of days away in prayer and rest. Prayer is rest and rest is prayer for we believe in the God of Sabbath.
We returned home that evening to a huge excitement because someone had found an Oasis, a pool of water in the desert. I was so out of touch with the excitement of something that seemed to have happened that day that I said to a friend who was delighted to have found an oasis after a long period of wilderness in the desert, that it could just be a mirage.
How could one even dream of an oasis in the desert where mirage is the only virtual reality! Why do we, the human beings ever dream of justice, peace, truth and love when we experience nothing but injustice, oppression, violation of human dignity and trauma in exchange for kindness? As if this is not true in real life, all we see at the heart of our homes and our places of prayer is that solitary Man hanging on the cross. Somehow, this has come to be the symbol of love, forgiveness, peace and rest for many. No wonder many contemporary churches prefer a white wall to a decorated front with a cross in the middle with a solitary Man hanging on it.
It is true of our virtual generation to create the reality we believe in or dream of and deny the reality that confronts us. We would rather talk about Human Dignity while we do everything in our power to deny it.
Contemplating on this Oasis which turned out to be a Mirage I went to ‘the place’ of comfort, the place where Mary sat, at the feet of the Master! A place where you can still hear truth and dream of Mary sing the Magnificat again! The words of the Master was flowing from his sweet lips … Blessed are the Peace Makers … for they shall be called the children of God. My thoughts must have drifted at that point that when I heard him again, I couldn’t believe my ears when he said,
‘A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.’ Matthew 7.18
Jesus saying something deterministic! How could he call people to repentance when he knew too well that a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. How can a whole people of God believe in truth and justice when the core is corrupt! How can a mirage ever become an oasis?
It was good to encounter an energised young man turn up at the house of prayer recently talking about a mirage of mitres. It was quite refreshing to see young people see something for what it is and not be tempted to believe that a corrupt tree can bring forth good fruit? There is nothing new under the sun, says the Preacher! We can do nothing but pray, ‘save us in the time of trial and deliver us from the evil one.'
What is man that you should be mindful of him ...?
What is Woman that you should be mindful of her...?
I believe, the General Synod of the Church of England this year had, 'What is woman?' for debate.
It would be wrong of a man to define, 'What is a woman?'
I have been mindful of one news today. It is the pure sense of joy at the victory of the England Football Team of Women.
My soul must have been in search of celebrating something and our amazing footballers lifted the spirits of the nation for the first time in over two or three years and in turn mine. What a delight and a joy!
As I rejoice at the triumph of these incredible women, how I wish and pray for the day when another group of women I am praying for, who are fighting for justice and truth elsewhere, would give me the news of their triumph over their adversary!
What is Woman that you should be mindful of her?
Today, I also read about the shortest day recently. On the 29th of June, the earth spun on its axis 1.59 millisecond less than 24 hours. There is plenty written about this. And I was thinking of where I was and what I was doing. Firstly, it was the Feast of St Peter and St Paul and secondly I was kindly invited to preach at the Festal Eucharist at Sheffield Cathedral. I was travelling on train from Aberdeen to Sheffield. I was met by Dean Abi and was treated for a wonderful Italian supper before the liturgy and preached on, 'Becoming and Being the Beloved.' It was a joy to spend the evening at the local with the wonderful people of God at the Cathedral.
It was the most memorable journey of discovery on the train from Aberdeen to Sheffield, contemplating with Peter and Paul, their own journey with Jesus, their Lord, Master and Saviour. Two most difficult men made captive to the love of their Lord is a story of transformation. The time between their first encounter and their intimate knowledge of Jesus is a journey of discovering that they are the beloved. We know from their lives that neither religion nor natural instincts helped them but the encounter with Jesus, day by day made them into 'the Beloved'.
Now I dare to locate myself on the shortest day in the Universe and discover the most incredible truth that, you and I, are the beloved of God.
My heart is troubled even unto death.
The Father’s House is without music and dance.
The Elder son is staying out!
The Younger is happy eating the pig’s pod!!
When will I hear the Lark sing again!
Who will play the music and sing.
I hear him cry, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
I hear him say, ‘Peace be with you.’
Therein lies the mystery of love.
No greater love than the one laid for friends.
Would the brothers ever be friends again?
Would I ever hear my sisters sing again?
Would Mary sing Magnificat, again?
Would the bearer of Christ make music again?
There is no peace without repentance.
There is no joy without forgiveness.
St Andrew Cathedral Church is the Home of the Father who has two sons! The Elder son is Orthodox and the younger one is Radical. The Orthodox stays at home, does the right things and enjoys the comforts of the Father’s House. The Radical is addicted to gambling, ready to take risk at the expense of others and never sure of himself. The Father has enough and more for the whole world and yet neither of the sons enjoy the blessings of the Father’s House. The Elder believes in servitude to enjoy Father’s love and affection. The younger seeks the pleasures of the forbidden fruit and breaks the heart of the Father.
When I am with the Father, as I contemplate, there is a deep sense of peace, tranquillity and above all, love. The face carries the marks of pain and hurt and yet it also reflects deep love in that dim light!
The sons too have love at the heart of all they do and say. But, it is evident that the love of the Father has a distinctive substance and texture which is not in the love expressed by the sons. It is hard not to see the pain in the Father’s heart.
While praying for the gathering of some bishops from the worldwide Anglican Communion in Lambeth, I cannot resist making comparison with the Home of the Father and his two sons. My vocation to serve at St Andrews is one that is full of joy and now a deep sense of peace is added to it since my Platinum Jubilee Walk during Eastertide. I did not see the significance of this walk as I received the call to the work of a Disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ in proclaiming the essence of His message, ‘Peace be with you.’ It was an experiment of Truth. What happens when I walk the length of this Great Britain pronouncing, ‘Peace be with you!’ Besides meeting some great people along the way, experiencing first hand the kindness and generosity of people of all Faiths and no Faith, the warmth and generosity of total strangers, I simply felt the echo of my proclamation, ‘Peace be with you.’ It was a realisation that the Peace I pray for and long for others will be given to me in greater measure than I had intended for others. Such is the nature of the ‘Peace’ that the Risen Lord proclaimed.
And yet, the news updates that comes from Lambeth is none other than the sad state of the Church in the United Kingdom, lost and troubled like the younger son. It seems to be seeking affirmation in rebellion and finding distress and trauma. And the Orthodox elder son is staying out of the Father’s House, successful, growing and flourishing yet without the joy of the Father’s love.
Here at St Andrew Cathedral Church in Aberdeen, I feel blessed to have the honour and privilege of being part of the band of custodians of this Father’s House in readiness to embrace both the Orthodox Elder son and the Rebellious Younger, praying earnestly that this will come to pass in the fulness of time.
My heart is torn to see the Bishops in Africa unable to join their brothers and sisters in Britain and beyond. Equally I am troubled to see those hiding behind the Lambeth Calls while violating each one of them!
The above lament, composed as a Psalm was nailed to the door of St Andrew Cathedral Church, on the Sunday before the Lambeth Conference.
We offer this lament with the painful realisation that some of our bishops from our extended St Andrew Cathedral Church (SC 001058) family will not be in attendance at this global gathering while the College of Bishops of our own Province will be using this occasion to seek emancipation from the burden of accountability.
It is extremely distressing to read the LAMBETH CALL ON SAFE CHURCH: Safe Church/Safeguarding is about working to ensure the safety of all members of the church community, with a particular emphasis on children, young people and adults made vulnerable by circumstance or relationships where there is an imbalance of power while some members of the St Andrew Cathedral Church (SC 001058) family will continue to suffer trauma and plead for help. The Lambeth Call states further ‘We, the bishops of the Anglican Communion gathered at the Lambeth Conference 2022, make this call to promote the physical, emotional and spiritual welfare and safety of all people, especially children, young people and vulnerable adults, within the churches of the Anglican Communion.’
Please find the Statement from the College of Bishops here: Preparing for the Lambeth Conference. Also, please find here: The Lambeth Calls.
I find myself in deep distress as I found the above Psalm nailed to the door of St Andrew Cathedral Church, Aberdeen (SC 001058). It seems to carry the significance of the 95 Theses nailed to the Doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg in 1517.
In today's gospel the Disciples asked, 'Lord, teach us to Pray' and the Lord taught them: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”
We shall reflect on this first step of Discipleship - Prayer and in the problem of calling God, 'Father' in the context of 'Human Dignity.'
There is clear evidence of excitement in the Scottish Episcopal Church about the Lambeth Conference going by a Statement made by the College of Bishops. And yet we have a lament nailed to the door of our historic St Andrew Cathedral Church (SC 001058) mindful of our place in the Anglican Communion. Do we hear a call to lament over the Lambeth Calls?
We shall continue to reflect over the coming days, pray and lament the state of our Church which is ready to make a Statement on 'Human Dignity' while 'it is written' (three times, like the Temptations of our Lord) that it is being violated by the words and deeds by this troubled body of Christ? Why is this community called again to be prophetic? It made a prophetic proclamation in 1784 by Consecrating the First Bishop to the Free and Independent America? It is called again to make a Prophetic Proclamation today in these Lambeth Laments!
On the Feast of Corpus Christie I gave a lift home to Sis Columba, a dear friend and great source of inspiration, after the service. Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ is a celebration of the Institution of the Holy Communion. It is a great festival of joy and many countries still make it a very public event. What can be more appropriate than to process the ‘Corpus Christi’ the Body of Christ through the street of our cities. The Tradition is still alive in many cities of the United Kingdom. I was sent the image of a procession above from All Saints, Margaret Street in London. For our own part in Aberdeen, we gathered on King Street outside the St Andrew Cathedral Church (SC 001058) sang the hymn of praise, ‘Now thank we all our God’ in Scots and Igbo!
On the way home, Sr Columba challenged me, yet again, the lack of 'Epiclesis' in the Liturgy we used at the Thursday morning Holy Communion. What is your problem now, with Can’t Pray – Won’t Pray: you may wonder?! Well, it is simply this. In the service of the Holy Communion, the bread and the wine are set on the Altar. The People of God gather around the Altar and offer prayers. It includes prayers of Confession, prayers of Intercession and the Great Prayer of Consecration i.e. the prayer offered by the community in Thanksgiving for bounteous Gift of God in Christ Jesus who is present, mysteriously, in the bread and in the wine. The Ordinary is transformed into Superordinary in and through prayers. Any more discussion on this mystery will only expose my ignorance.
Epiclesis is part of this Great Thanksgiving prayer when the Priest invokes God to send the Holy Spirit upon the Bread, the Wine and the People gathered around it. It is my most favourite part of the prayer where we enjoy the wonderful moment. Some churches make this explicit and the others implicit. The implicit is powerful as it avoids the risk of some people misunderstanding their power to summon!
‘Send you Holy Spirit upon Us and upon this Bread and this Wine’ are the words used to summon. It was suggested to me that if a priest has a propensity for dominion, this prayer could fuel their problem and make governance of a community, a very difficult process. This risk is avoided when it is implicit, I am told.
I took this matter to a friend, in a monastic community, to reflect. He said, he loved the simplicity of the Eucharistic prayer of Addai and Mari. This is a prayer from the Eastern Syriac ancient Christian community. The beauty of this prayer is its simplicity. The friend said that all we regard as important such as the words spoken by Jesus also knows as the words of ‘Institution’ and the ‘Epiclesis’ the invocation of the Holy Spirit is beautifully diffused in the simplicity of the prayers by Saints Addai and Mari that it reaches the core of the soul with the message of love. I was overwhelmed to hear it put across in such a profound manner because I know this to be true from experience.
In 2001 I was invited by the then Bishop to consider the role of the Rector of St John’s Episcopal Church in Aberdeen. After due process, the Trustees invited me to be their Rector. The People’s Warden, Tom Ferguson Sr and his wife Jessie, cradle Episcopalians, devout and deeply committed to the Mission of the Church had a single desire to grow the church community, spiritually and numerically. They were the core members of a midweek Eucharist on Wednesday evenings meeting the choir vestry. This small group met for a simple form Eucharist prayer and Songs from Taizé. Numbers were added to this congregation as a member of the church who also served as a psychiatric nurse brought people to this service. After much thought and prayer and in consultation with those who formed this community felt that the simplest form of prayers would be most appropriate given the mental state of some people attending regularly. The prayers of St Addai and St Mari was chosen. While questions were raised by a few liturgical puritans about the appropriateness of the use of this form of prayers, the benefits were very evident as it happened to be the most efficient and direct vehicle of delivery of the message of the Gospel delivered direct to the troubled souls of people with mental health issues.
For Darren and Mark, the simplicity of prayers are most effective when the soul is longing for God. it is this simplicity at the heart of ‘Peace Makers’. The prayer for peace from the First World War would be an appropriate end this three part reflection on, I can’t Pray. I won’t Pray. Lord teach us to pray.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.
Can’t Pray. Won’t Pray. Our Father …
On Trinity Sunday, Darren was baptised following an epiphany that nothing but the Grace of God can transform his life and asked to be baptised. He came to it with utter conviction but with great trepidation as the business of public declaration of faith in Jesus Christ is a great privilege and responsibility.
It was providential that the day Darren gathered his courage to come and ask for baptism, Mark Walker, my companion on the Platinum Jubilee Walk and Darren’s class mate was in the Cathedral for Thursday Communion Service. Mark encouraged Darren in his decision to be baptised. And this humble beginning became a beautiful story of Growing in Grace.
On Trinity Sunday after the Service, Mark took Darren to have a burger for lunch after the Baptism, like Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement.. They needed time to reflect on what had just happened. It transpired in the conversation, I believe, that they shared a struggle – the business of prayer. Mark was honest and shared his struggle with prayer and more so in the company of others in the church! I thought, how honest can two disciples of Jesus Christ could be towards one another.
One of Darren’s struggle was praying in Church with others. Not that praying in the closet was any easier for him as it is for most of us, with the wondering mind and restless thoughts can be overwhelming. But praying together with others is equally hard because words can be as much as help and equally be an hindrance. Darren’s struggle with prayer is as ancient as the human soul that longs for God yet be distracted easily as of Eve and Adam.
Much has been said about our struggle with prayer that we could say with the Preacher, ‘there is nothing new under the sun’. It is a paradox between the longing soul and the fragmented life. It is providential that the reality of ‘I can’t pray. I won’t pray’ surfaced on the Feast of the Trinity for Mark and Darren.
Our affirmation of faith in the Triune God opens for us a space where we can simply be and not strive towards something. It is the mystery of the Blessed Trinity in action where love, joy and peace, with their counterparts of truth, justice and forgiveness coexists with an unending prayer of, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy. This must be at the heart of the Triune God and Darren and Mark just walked into that mystery unawares.
I reflected further on this conversation in holiness. Firstly, I came to the conclusion that it is impossible to share in the life of the Communion of the Trinity with defiled hearts and corrupt minds. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ Would the reverse be true? Cursed are the corrupt in heart, for they shall see nothing but the reflection of themselves? It is tempting to dabble with this form of thought. So, I went for a confession to a friend and former Monk. My confession was somewhat linked to the conversation on prayer between Mark and Darren.
When Darren spoke about his struggle with prayer, Mark suggested visiting Pluscarden Abbey where prayers are short and sung in Latin. While what is sung may not be heard and understood by the reasoning mind, it enters the soul of a saint and fulfils its purpose i.e. the union of the longing soul with God. One longing soul talks to another longing soul and together they find the place of peace. I shared this with my confessor who acknowledged the life of God in the soul of man, fragmented and troubled.
It is hard to persevere in prayer therefore the Lord made ways to help us with our infirmities in prayer. Prayer in Latin is better than the prayer that distracts me. I can’t pray. I won’t pray. Lord, teach us to pray.
I have one more story to add to this dialogue on prayer!