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Morning Prayer in the Ecumenical Centre 17th week after Pentecost, September 16 2013

Worship led by the World Communion of Reformed Churches This week in the prayer cycle we are praying with people and churches in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania

Call to prayer

Prayer

Jeremiah 4.11-12, 22-28 (read in German) At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert towards my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgement against them. For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.

I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled. I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger. For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. Because of this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above grow black; for I have spoken, I have purposed; I have not relented nor will I turn back.

3. If I should take my flight into the dawn, if I should dwell on oceans farthest shore, your mighty hand will rest upon me still, and your right hand will guard me evermore. 4. If I should say, Let darkness cover me, and I shall hide within the veil of night, surely the darkness is not dark to you: the night is as the day, the darkness light.

5. Search me, O God, search me and know my heart; try me, O God, my mind and spirit try; keep me from any path that gives you pain, and lead me in the everlasting way.

Luke 15.1-10 (read in Spanish) Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them. So he told them this parable: Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance. Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost. Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

Reflection: Just the basics Two Christian leaders were cycling by the seaside when they bumped into each other. Quite literally. Their two bikes collided. They picked themselves up, dusted themselves down, fell to talking, and found that they were both Christian leaders. What are you doing now? one asked the other. Oh, Im writing an introduction to the basics of the Christian faith, he told her. You mean things like caring for the poor, the sick, and the rejected of the world? she asked. No, he said, Not things like that. Just the basics. And of course we laugh, as we are supposed to do. Because, from the superior height of our ecumenical vantage point, we know that any introduction to the basics of the Christian faith that leaves out things like that has left out one of the most basic things of all. Indeed, from the superior height of our ecumenical vantage point, some of us may even be inclined to think this is the only basic that counts. The old tension between Life and Work and Faith and Order hasnt gone away; the old battles are still fought under new names. Its not that the more things change, the more they stay the same as that world-weary cynic Qoheleth put it, that there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl 1.9). The story I tell comes from the Poverty and Justice Bible, published by the United Bible Societies, which highlights every verse in the Old and New Testaments that mentions poverty or justice. Its a safe bet, I think, that a generation or two ago, the United Bible Societies would not have seen fit to publish a Poverty and Justice Bible. Things do change; and sometimes for the better. On the back of this Bible, Jim Wallis tells a story of the early Sojourners community in North America that may be familiar. When they were at seminary, they cut out of an old Bible every reference to the poor, to poverty, to justice. They cut 2,000 verses and were left with a Bible full of holes. We could conduct a similar experiment and cut out of the Bible every verse that refers to God; and we would be left with even more holes. But what is interesting, of course, is that many of these holes would overlap if, to be sure, a hole can be said to do that. Take this thought from later in Jeremiah, for example: to know God is to do justice. It comes from a passage (Jer 22.13-18) in which the book of Jeremiah contrasts bad king Jehoiachim unfavourably with his father Josiah. On either criterion, the passage is cut. But on reflection we may feel that Jeremiah has got things back to front. To know God is to do justice: true enough. But truer still is that to be known by God is to do justice. Or as First John puts it, we love because God first loves us (1 John 4.19). In all our strivings for justice, peace and the integrity of creation, it is God who is the prime mover and shaker. This is true within the ecumenical movement and outside it, within the universal church and outside it.

It is God who takes us by the scruff of the neck and shakes us out of complacency into concern and out of righteous indignation (or self-righteous indignation) at the wrongdoings of others into reflective analysis of all that is wrong with our world and with ourselves within it. Unless we are poor in spirit, we shall have little concern for the poor. And unless we are rich in insight, we shall have little to offer them.
Rev. Praic Ramonn Prayers

Gaelic kyrie: Sen Riada (Thuma Mina 48)

The Lords prayer (in our own tongues)

4. All praise for music, deep gift profound, through hands and voices in holy sound; the psalms of David, and Marys praise, in wordless splendour and lyric phrase, with all creation one song we raise: Soli Deo gloria! Soli Deo gloria! 5. All praise for Jesus, best gift divine through word and witness, in bread and wine; incarnate love song of boundless grace, priest, teacher, prophet in time and space, your steadfast kindness with human face: Soli Deo gloria! Soli Deo gloria!

6. A billion voices in one great song, now soft and gentle, now deep and strong, in every culture and style and key, from hill and valley, with sky and sea, with Christ we praise you eternally: Soli Deo gloria! Soli Deo gloria!

Blessing