Leominster Team Ministry

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Prayer from the Archdeacon of Hereford

Monday 22nd June
Perspective – it is an obvious thing to say but our view of life always depend on our experiences. Human beings are complex and the working of our minds often defy understanding. The way we are brought up, our family experiences, our schooling, our work and our faith all give us different perspectives on the world. It sometimes means we are blind to the impact we have on others and our view of right and wrong. I often defy expectations because people make assumptions about my background and upbringing based on the fact I am an Archdeacon! However between us Claire and I have grandparents who were labour councillors, coal miner, railway driver, skilled wheelwright and members of ASLEF, the NUM and the NUR! Perhaps not what you might expect of an Archdeacon. However we have parents who were a doctor, a senior auditor, a nursery nurse and a secretary! This mix of history, background and antecedents makes for interesting meal times! However in spiritual terms it is a really good example of how we are called not to judge one another! Jesus was really clear that we need to start by accepting we are all different and that difference helps to create the Kingdom of God!

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Our spiritual life also has perspectives and our character, personality and life experiences shape how we pray, read the bible, determine our theological preferences and even preferred choice of worship style! Intovert, extravert, reflective, activist, theorist the list goes onwards each changes our perception of one another and the world around us. However these things should never be an excuse for poor behaviour or worse for defending values and cultures which stand against the values of the Kingdom. We may not be able to change the journey we have been on but we can change the future which is yet to be written. The church is under a lot of scrutiny at present for its part in the history of slavery and empire. What is without doubt is that the Church of England has been a force for cultural imperialism and has not always acted from a Kingdom perspective! We are not responsible for history but we are responsible for the future and how the church behaves going forward. Peter, in his first letter pointed us in the direction we should go.

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”

Whatever your starting point, whatever your background, however you have used your life thus far you have a choice, you can change your perspective and God will give you his view of his creation.

“I appeal to you therefore by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

As you pray today ask God to reveal to you what from your past and culture shapes your perspectives on faith and belief. Pray that the Holy Spirit might fill you afresh and enable you to look forward with Kingdom values. We also continue to pray for our nation that our leaders in politics and the church would work for justice and equality for all. We pray particularly for those in our society impacted most by the COVID virus that they might receive the protection they need.

God of surprises, you call us
from the narrowness of our traditions
to new ways of being Church,
from the captivities of our culture
to creative witness for justice,
from the smallness of our horizons
to the bigness of your vision.
Clear the way in us, your people,
that we might call others to freedom
and renewed faith.

Daily Prayer from the Archdeacon of Hereford

Tuesday 9th June
Legacy is a really interesting concept. Many leaders in my experience worry far too much about their legacy! I say that not as a criticism but because when legacy becomes more important than mission or purpose an organisation can end up losing it’s way. It is only human to want to be remembered well, we all have a need to be needed but in hierarchical organisations like the Church of England it seems to me that concern over where you have been and what impact you have had can hamper your ability to hear what God is asking you to do in the moment.
It could be argued that King Saul in the Old Testament lost his way and stopped trusting in God because he became more concerned about being successful. Success is important after all none of us want to live with constant failure but when we chase success for success’ sake then again we can miss what God is saying to us. At the heart of all of this is human pride whether we chase after success or are concerned with our legacy, ultimately we have shifted the attention from God and on to ourselves. The accounts of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness at the start of his ministry ultimately show how he was being offered power, success and adulation by the tempter.

“The second temptation was for Jesus to throw himself from the highest point of the temple and order angels to catch him. Jesus replied “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Finally, the Devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in return for worshipping him. Jesus replied “Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!”

The starting point for us as Christians therefore needs to be service, we are primarily called to serve God, our communities and one another. If success comes or we are remembered well that is a gift and not something we should chase after or look for.
Jesus himself was quick to condemn the religious authorities for chasing after human adulation and the consequences of doing so.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”

As you pray today ask God to equip you to serve wherever you find yourself that you may grow into the person God created you to be. Pray too for our leaders that they might pursue God’s vision and values and not worry about their popularity, success and legacy.

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves,
when our dreams have come true, because we
dreamed too little, when we arrived safely
because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
we have lost our thirst for the waters of life;
having fallen in love with life,
we have ceased to dream of eternity.
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.

Daily Prayer from the Archdeacon of Hereford

Monday 8th June
One of the challenges of our present age is our understanding of history. History is certainly more than remembering dates and names, although if you are a child in school it might seem it is all about the Tudors! The book ‘1066 and All That’ took a sideways glance at British history and in a humorous way tried to make it both memorable and fun. Some historians write from the perspective of a neutral observer, others make no bones of the fact that history is inevitably political.

The Old Testament is written by numerous writers who mostly write through the perspective of not politics but faith and religion. Even the so called history books like Kings and Chronicles are as much about God’s interaction with His people as they are about recording factual events. Although perhaps surprisingly for a religious text much of it fits perfectly with the archaeological record, but even then it is interpreted for an audience of faith. It certainly isn’t history as we would define it now because it is telling the story of salvation.

I love history and I believe we should continually look back to discern the future. It is only when we understand where we have come from that we can truly understand the present and future. The writer of Hebrews understood this only too well as they lay out for their readers and listeners the whole of the history of salvation:

“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. … These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

History is never neutral, people will look back in years to come and interpret these days in ways we cannot imagine. Actions which now seem acceptable and normal to us may well be reinterpreted by a new normal seen through the cultural lens of its time. As Christians our anchor and fixed point is the cross, death and resurrection of Jesus and we need to interpret the actions and activities of our time through this lens. Jesus accused the religious people of his time for understanding the environment but missing the spiritual realities.

“He replied, ‘When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

So whether you love history or prefer to think on the future make sure you know how to interpret the times.

As we pray today ask God to give you the spiritual discernment to see our present times as he sees them. Ask Him to allow you to see the spiritual realities not just the earthly ones. Pray too for those who lead our nation at this time that they will speak truth and work for justice and that they might work for the common good and not out of self interest and political expediency. That wisdom to do the right thing in the pandemic might over rule the desire for a popular quick fix.

O God, we thank Thee for Thy Church,
founded upon Thy Word, that challenges
us to do more than sing or pray,
but go out and work as though the very
answer to our prayers depended on us
and not upon Thee.
Help us realize that man was created to
shine like the stars and live on through
all eternity. Keep us, we pray, in perfect peace,
help us to walk together, pray together, sing together,
and live together until that day when all
God’s children, will rejoice in on common band of humanity,
in the kingdom of our Lord and our God.

Daily Prayer from the Archdeacon of Hereford

Thursday 28th May
I feel a theme coming on as I am going to pick another Psalm to aid us in our reflections. The psalmist often has a way of capturing the moment and psalm 121 is one that I often return to.

‘I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.’

The psalmist understood only too well that wellbeing started and ended with God. In an uncertain world it is easy to put our faith and trust in people or things rather than God. Our world has so many distractions in normal circumstances that mean we focus our trust and belief in other things. When a crisis like the Coronavirus comes those things fall away and we are left with our own four walls and we realise so much of what we rely on is hollow. Much of our sense of self worth can be tied up in what we do rather than who we are! Our wellbeing and self worth need to be seen not in terms of status or role but in light of our relationship with God. I suspect that is why this psalm is often associated with funerals in our liturgies because we are stopped in our tracks and called to examine ourselves.

There is a story in the Old Testament which I have alluded to before and it concerns Elisha the prophet. He and his servant are trapped in a besieged city and the servant is fearful for his life and can see no solution. In fact his faith is based on his view of oncoming doom caused by the circumstances. Elisha quickly prays and the spiritual reality of the situation is revealed as with Psalm 121 he has his life rooted in the spiritual reality that God is with them.

‘When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.’

In the present crisis we need to ask God to constantly draw us back to putting our faith and trust on him. As we pray let us ask God to reveal himself to those who feel alone and hemmed in by the present circumstances. We pray for those who are lonely, isolated and physically separated from love ones.

Lord, our heavenly Father,
almighty and everlasting God,
we thank you for bringing us safely to this day.
Keep us by your mighty power, and grant
that we fall into no sin,
neither run into any kind of danger;
but lead and govern us in all things,
that we may always do what is righteous
in your sight, through
Jesus Christ our Lord.

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