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HONOURING THE NAME

Sharing the notes of my ‘sermon’ from Palm Sunday … April 9th 2017

Remember the Burning Bush where Moses is commissioned to visit his people. They were enslaved in Egypt under a tyrannical regime and Moses ‘task’: to lead them into freedom, and into a Promised Land. Moses asks: “Who shall I tell them has sent me”, and God replies: “… tell them I AM has sent you … for this is MY NAME”. “I AM” translates the original Hebrew: “YHWH” – often pronounced as YaHWeH. So, what’s in a name ? Well, in Scripture name indicates the WHOLE PERSON: identity, individuality, personality, character, authority and reputation – and also PRESENCE.

In reading through the Psalms in March I was impressed by the many references to the NAME and made a point of underlining the verses concerned. When I started thinking/praying about this sermon I sensed a ‘nudge’ to re-visit those underlined verses, and decided to write them out in full, which I was then able to analyze … here are a few of my discoveries:

– At least 96 references to the NAME – one third of these (some 32) are either exhortations to, or exclamations of, praise to the NAME – a significant number of these have strong musical connotations – (singing, playing instruments & dancing).

– A number of ‘adjectives’ are used to describe the NAME – e.g. MAJESTIC, HOLY, GOOD, GLORIOUS, GREAT, AWESOME, EXALTED.

– One stand out reference – (86:11) – is a frequent prayer of mine: “Give me an undivided heart that I may fear (or reverence) Your NAME” –  hence, the sermon title, expressing my desire to encourage a stronger commitment to HONOURING the NAME.

– Many of these verses indicate HOW we may indeed honour the NAME – e.g. by LOVING, TRUSTING, DECLARING, PRAISING, CALLING ON the NAME.

Now this is Palm Sunday when the Christian world commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a young donkey. A ‘prophetic’ event described in all four Gospels. Importantly, each writer records the words of the crowd (mainly Jesus’ followers) as they accompany Him into the city: “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord” (Luke amends slightly to “Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of the Lord). These words, drawn out of Psalm 118:26, a Messianic Psalm, strongly affirm Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah (or, the Christ).

Further ‘revelation’ is given as Jesus prays on the eve of His crucifixion – a deeply moving and significant prayer, found only in John’s gospel, where a couple of His petitions under-score the importance of the NAME. Listen with your heart as Jesus prays: “HOLY FATHER, protect them by the power of Your Name – THE NAME YOU HAVE GIVEN ME … while I was with them I protected them and kept them safe by THE NAME YOU GAVE ME” – (John 17:11b-12a). Of course, Jesus was fully aware of the significance of the NAME, and of His own Name. “JESUS” literally means “YHWH SAVES” – and the implication of Jesus’ prayer, recorded by John, ought to banish any doubt concerning His true identity and mission.

ABU’S STORY: I met Abu on a plane at Tripoli airport, which was flying our team out to Ghana, but taking on extra passengers in Libya. Abu sat in the vacant seat beside me, and we quickly engaged in conversation. He noticed a book I was reading – ‘Knowing God’ by J I Packer – and asked if I was a pastor. He shared an experience of a vivid dream, in which an assailant attempted to strangle him. As a ‘nominal’ Muslim, with a Muslim father, he called on Allah and recited verses from the Koran all to no avail – as the grip around his neck tightened.

Then he recalled the faith of his ‘Christian’ mother in Accra, and desperately shouted out: “Jesus”. The assailant’s grip instantly released, and Abu woke from the dream with the realization of an incredible power in the name of Jesus, that he’d never known or believed. Prompted by this dream, he gave up his job in Libya, and was returning to Ghana, where he hoped to find a pastor who would explain how he could become a follower of Jesus.

For the next few hours I had the joyful privilege of sharing the Good News of Jesus with this hungry young man. He absorbed the Scriptures which I shared, and some 30,000+ feet above the African Continent, Abu committed his life to Jesus Christ through a prayer of repentance and faith, coming into a wonderful sense of assurance of forgiveness and of peace with God.

I’m sure you will agree this is a remarkable story. I share it because it illustrates the saving power of Jesus’ Name, and in the deep conviction that Jesus, who humbled Himself and surrendered to the humiliation of crucifixion has been exalted to the highest place, and given “the NAME that is above every name, that at the NAME of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

So, as we live through the events of this Holy Week may we be blessed with a renewed desire to honour the NAME.

 

Go Peaceful

best-happy-new-year-pictures

I was recently impacted by these words, written by Paul Field, which deeply resonate with my heart’s desire as we move into 2017. I hope that you appreciate them, and it’s my heartfelt prayer that you will be richly blessed in the coming 12 months – indeed, may we all be known by love.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Go peaceful
in gentleness
through the violence of these days.
Give freely.
Show tenderness
in all your ways.

Through darkness,
in troubled times
let holiness be your aim.
Seek wisdom.
Let faithfulness
burn like a flame.

God speed you!
God lead you,
and keep you wrapped around His heart!
May you be known by love.

Be righteous.
Speak truthfully
in a world of greed and lies.
Show kindness.
See everyone
through heaven’s eyes.

God hold you,
enfold you,
and keep you wrapped around His heart.
May you be known by love.

(by Paul Field)

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here’s a version of the song I found on YouTube, sung by Sarah Hart:

Go Peaceful – A Reflection

https://c4.staticflickr.com/1/752/23018595403_4738e47e39_b.jpg

Any Room ?

Please stop and ask yourself

“Do I make space for what really matters”

OR is it a case of :

Image result for no room

No room for the Baby at Bethlehem’s Inn,
Only a cattle shed,
No home on this earth for the dear Son of God,
Nowhere to lay his head.
Only a cross did they give to our Lord,
Only a borrowed tomb,
Today He is seeking a place in your heart,
Will you still say to Him “No room”?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

O Lord, in my heart there’s a welcome for You,
Gladly I now would say,
‘Come in, blessed Saviour, my heart and my life
Henceforth would own Your sway.
Long have You waited and long knocked in vain
Outside my heart’s closed door;
O cleanse me from sin, then dear Lord, enter in
And dwell there forever more’

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Behold I stand at the door and knock …”

Image result for holman hunt jesus at the door

An allegorical painting entitled: “The Light of the World” (from the 1850’s)

by English pre-Raphaelite artist, William Holman Hunt

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Let every heart prepare Him room …”

Here

I’m dedicating this new piece to all my friends in the Manna Community, on this special “Vision Day”

~~~~~~~~

Here I am

not there in the past:

neither basking in success

nor bemoaning failure

Here, now

longing, attending,

waiting, listening

~~~

Here I am

not there, in the future:

neither hoping the best 

nor fearing the worst

Here, now

trusting, surrendering,

receiving, being

~~~

Here I am

not there distant:

neither lagging behind

nor running ahead.

Here, now

Repenting, aligning, 

changing, clinging.

~~~

Here I am

in this moment

calling His Name

touching His heart

Here now

available, vulnerable,

malleable.

~~~

Here I am

not where I would be

should be

or could be

Yet knowing

I am deeply loved

as I am, by I AM

 

 

 

 

A Chaplain Prays

In May 2011 I was greatly honoured when asked by the incoming Mayor of Brigg, Cllr. John Kitwood, to act as his Chaplain during his mayoral year. I came across these Ten General Principles, and with the approval of the Mayor used them at monthly Full Council meetings during that year. Here I reproduce both principles & prayers, with the hope that they may provide some with a guide to praying for those in authority.

~~~~

Praying The Ten General Principles of

The Relevant Authorities Order 2001

The Secretary of State has, by order, set out 10 general principles

which are to govern the conduct of Members

and certain co-opted Members of local authorities.

These are as follows:-

  1. Selflessness – 27th June 2011

“Members should serve only the public interest and should never improperly confer an advantage or disadvantage on any person.”

Prayer: Almighty God, we are grateful for the trust placed in us by the people here, and being fully aware of our human propensity to be self-centred and self-seeking, we humbly ask You to give each one of us a true spirit of servant-hood, in order that we may selflessly serve our community, without paralysing fear or inappropriate favour. May this humble spirit be very evident in our deliberations today, and guide us in the making of good decisions, which will enhance life within this town.

We offer this prayer through the Lord, Jesus Christ – the supreme example of selflessness – as we bring to you the words He taught us:  Our Father …

  1. Honesty and Integrity – 25th July 2011

“Members should not place themselves in situations where their honesty and integrity may be questioned, should not behave improperly and should on all occasions avoid the appearance of such behaviour.”

Prayer: God of holiness & truth – as You require of us honesty in thought, word and deed, we turn now to You for grace to enable us to live as those who will stand to account, both before You and also before the people whom we serve. As frail human beings here today … forgive our sins, our shortcomings, and our failures, remove the sin that corrupts us & grant us sorrow of repentance that brings release. In Your kindness and mercy strengthen us so that we may turn from all that is evil, and commit ourselves to what is good and right in Your sight. So may we prove worthy of the trust placed in us by this community, and exercise our responsibilities with due diligence and unquestioned integrity.

For You have saved us by the cross of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. who taught us to pray, saying: Our Father …

  1. Objectivity – 26th September 2011

“Members should make decisions on merit, including when making appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards or benefits.”

Prayer:  Sovereign Lord, Creator & Sustainer of all … since the people of this community have entrusted to us responsibilities for making judgements and taking decisions which affect them in so many ways, we humbly come to you today, asking for insight and wisdom, in the fulfilling of those tasks at all levels of this Council’s work. Especially when faced with tough decisions, which may go against our personal preferences or even popular opinion, we ask that you will enlighten the darkened areas of our minds, so that we may decide and act always within light rather than shadow. Grant to us the discernment which results in effective decision-making, for the good of this community.

And graciously be with us in our discussions this evening, through Jesus Christ, our Lord – who inspired us to pray for the coming of your righteous rule: Our Father …

  1. Accountability – 24th October 2011

“Members should be accountable to the public for their actions and the manner in which they carry out these responsibilities, and should co-operate fully and honestly with any scrutiny appropriate to their particular office.”

Prayer:  Merciful God, who knows the hearts of all people, enable us to live and conduct ourselves in the light of Your divine scrutiny, and to be constantly mindful that we are here as representatives of the people of this community, who will in time pass their own judgement upon our time in office. Specifically, may all our discussions this evening be conducted with dignity, sincerity, courtesy…and may the decisions we reach be in accord with Your Will, and for the common good of this community, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who taught us to pray with confidence for the advent of Your Kingdom: Our Father …

  1. Openness – 28th November 2011

“Members should be as open as possible about their actions and those of their authority, and should be prepared to give reasons for those actions.”

Prayer: All-knowing God, from Whom nothing is hidden, rid us of guile, duplicity, dishonesty, and those deficiencies, which may bring the office of Councillor into disrepute. Enable us to live and act with integrity and transparency, especially in reference to those who have entrusted us with public office. May we never resort to making decisions from a self-serving motivation, which conflicts with the public interest, but send your Spirit of wisdom and servant-hood to each of us, guiding us in our discussions, decisions, and subsequent interactions with those we seek to serve. Help us to continue making a difference in our community, even as we pray for the coming of your righteous rule on earth in the words that Jesus taught us: Our Father

  1. Personal Judgement – 19th Dec 2011

“Members may take account of the view of others, including their political groups, but should reach their own conclusions on the issues before them and act in accordance with their conclusions.”

Prayer: Gracious God, as You have given to us the faculties of thought, reason, and evaluation, so that we may arrive at our own judgements & decisions, we humbly ask that You enable us to maintain integrity by nurturing those gifts for the good of this community & those we serve, refusing to succumb to any pressures to become what we are not, or to align ourselves with those points of view which may compromise our personal values, merely for the sake of personal promotion or that of others. In remembering the reason for this season, we give you thanks for Your Christ who judged it worthwhile to lay aside personal reputation in order to identify with our human plight, and thus enhance our human condition. And in remembering, we pray as He taught us for the advance of Your Kingdom among us: Our Father …

  1. Respect for Others – 23rd January 2012

“Members should promote equality by not discriminating unlawfully against any person, and by treating people with respect, regardless of their race, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability. They should respect the impartiality and integrity of the authority’s statutory officers, and its other employees.”

Prayer: Mighty God, as we consider the wonderful diversity of humankind, we are grateful for making us uniquely different. We recognise that variety can sometimes become the source of friction and division, especially when we fail to discern that to be different is not necessarily to be wrong. Enable us therefore to live in appreciation of all our fellow men, and ever to choose the path of respect over the way of bigotry and prejudice.

Specifically we pray for the Clerk and assistant Clerk to this Council and all others in our employ, thanking you for their constant service and asking that they may be constantly strengthened to carry out their duties with dignity and integrity.

We ask these things with confidence as we bring all our prayers to you in the prayer which our Lord Jesus taught, saying: Our Father …

  1. Duty to Uphold the Law – 27th February 2012

“Members should uphold the law and, on all occasions, act in accordance with the trust that the public is entitled to place in them.”

Prayer: Lord, God of mercy and fidelity, you made a new and lasting pact with men and sealed it in the blood of your Son. Forgive the folly of our disloyalty and help us keep your commandments, which are good & right, so that in your new covenant we may be witnesses of your faithfulness and love on earth, and sharers of your glory in heaven.

We hold in our thoughts our Town Mayor and his wife at this time of difficulty. Be merciful to them – strengthen and sustain them in your grace.

And guide us in our deliberations this evening, that with courtesy and due respect we may make decisions for the benefit of our community

And finally, let us pray for the coming of God’s Kingdom among us, in the words taught by our Lord: Our Father …

  1. Stewardship – 26th March 2012

“Members should do whatever they are able to do to ensure that their authorities use their resources prudently and in accordance with the law.”

Prayer: Bountiful God, we acknowledge that You have enriched our lives with spiritual and material blessings innumerable. With Easter fast approaching we recall that You did not spare Your own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, consequently through Him making many benefits available to us. Now, we express our gratitude for enabling us to serve the people of this community, and ask that we may do so with humility and integrity, as faithful stewards of the resources placed into our hands, and that we may use those resources wisely and justly, for the good of this town, and for the honour of Your Holy Name.

We hold those of our community before you who have experienced bereavement, or may be battling with health issues of any kind. We offer these our prayers through Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray: Our Father …

  1. Leadership – 23rd April 2012

“Members should promote and support these principles by leadership, and by example, and should act in a way that secures or preserves public confidence.”

Prayer: Holy God, we’ve become painfully aware, in recent years, of the consequences of those elected to office failing to live up to these principles, and bringing reproach both upon themselves and on their office, which they’ve greatly demeaned.

We know the weaknesses that lie within each one of us, and that power at any level is also accompanied by danger. We therefore ask for your grace to strengthen us with the ability to continue working on these matters of integrity and moral rectitude. Let us exemplify the kind of servant leadership, in order that those who tend to look on with suspicion and cynicism, may see in us a consistent example of not merely talking the talk, but also of walking the walk. May we, as members of this Council, live out these principles of selflessness, integrity, honesty, and accountability in such a way that the trust of the public will be both secured and maintained at all times.

So enrich our discussions this evening with wisdom, judgement and mutual respect that we may see the advance of Your Kingdom among, for which we pray with confidence in the words taught by our Lord, Jesus: Our Father …

AND FINALLY … 21st May 2012

A man named Job, living thousands of years BC, had 7 sons & 3 daughters. The sons took turns to host parties, always inviting their 3 sisters. After each party Job went through a ‘ritual’ of purification on behalf of his children, in case they’d sinned against God, or perhaps cursed him in their hearts. At the commencement of another mayoral year I wish to offer prayers of penitence on our behalf, concluding with the Lord’s Prayer …

Prayer:  Almighty God, we come to You with due reverence and humility, acknowledging before you our many imperfections; and that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed. We ask for forgiveness where we have wronged you, others and even ourselves in the past 12 months, and chose to release the gift of forgiveness to all those who may have wronged us. Cleanse us from all impurities of mind and spirit, so that we may be fully prepared to serve anew during the coming 12 months.

We pray for the outgoing Mayor, Cllr Kitwood, thanking you for his service over the last 12 months, and asking that your favour and strength will continue to be evident in his life. For all who have served on this Council, for our Clerk and assistant clerk we give you thanks, and ask for your ongoing strength to fill their lives. For our newly appointed Mayor, Cllr Carl Sherwood we ask for a year that will be crowned with your goodness and mercy. Asking all these blessings through Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we pray also with confidence for the coming of your Kingdom: Our Father …