Lord, behold a wretched sinner

Below is a wonderful hymn by Kim Fabricius.  
I can't sing very well, so if you'll join me in praying it I'll be delighted!

Lord, behold a wretched sinner

(Tune: Quem pastores laudavere)

 

Lord, behold a wretched sinner,

from the outer to the inner;

at repentance, rank beginner:

day and night my conscience cries.

 

Where begin?  My faults keep mounting;

when I start I can’t stop counting;

huge the sum, but Christ’s accounting

crosses out and nullifies.

 

Good I would but can’t achieve it,

bad I hate but can’t relieve it.

God for us?  I can’t believe it:

me the apple of his eye!

 

God forgives before petition;

grace alone shows our condition;

truth demands our self-suspicion:

like a snake the heart is sly.

 

While accusing scribes are hissing,

Christ portrays the Father kissing

cheek of child that he’s been missing:

Love forgives and sanctifies!

 

by Kim Fabricius found here.

Sideways CrossI took this photo outside All Saints Church in Torquay.

Recovering the Race

“Centuries before the man of Uz had wrestled with the problem of the Almighty’s dealings with men as personalised in his own tragedy.

Now in Christ, Forsyth says, God has givien his answer to Job’s demand that he should vindicate his ways with men.

His answer is in a person who is in history yet above it.

The answer is not a mere revelation; it is a redeptive act and a moral victory which has in principle recovered the race.

The Vindicator has stood on the earth.  He is Christ crucified, risen and regnant, the eternal Son of God.

In his work the dread knot created by God’s holiness and man’s sin and drawn into a tight ‘snarl’ by mankind’s misuse of its God-given freedom, has been undone.

And God’s undoing of it in his Son’s cross provides the key to all his dealings with men, as it gives us his master-clue to his final destiny for the world and the race – a moral sovereignty without end, a recreated humanity, and a consummation of all things in the eternal kingdom of God.”

P. T. Forsyth, Per Crucem ad Lucem, by A. M. Hunter, pg.112

yellow flower 2From my garden in 2014 (I think it’s a sunflower)!

A Communion Liturgy

Below is a most wonderful Communion Service on the Ben Myers blog faith and theology, written by Kim Fabricius.

Service of Holy Communion

THE INVITATION
Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? You’ve come to the right place!
There is plenty of room at this table.
It’s not full until all kinds of people are here:
tall people and short people, portly people and skinny people,
people with rosy cheeks and people with wrinkly skin,
black-skinned and white people, the blond and the bald.
Come, there is room for you. We’ve got the best food –
hearty bread to fill your belly, heady wine to make you sing.
Come, join us – and live.
Let’s eat and drink!

THE NARRATIVE
People have been breaking bread in the name of the Holy One for centuries.
Our Jewish mothers and fathers blessed bread and wine and shared it.
Christians have gathered around tables and sat on mats
to pass the loaf of love and the cup of kindness.
And generous people have given hospitality to travellers and strangers, fellow pilgrims on the way to the kingdom.
We remember how Jesus shared a meal with his disciples in an upstairs room,
one who would deny him, another who would betray him.
There he took bread, raised it to heaven, and giving thanks to his Father,
broke it with a sound that echoed in his heart, and said:
“This is my body, broken for you. Eat it and remember.”
Then he took the cup, sweet and bitter offering, held it in both hands –
it would not pass – and giving thanks to his Abba, said:
“This is the cup of mercy that will spill all over the world
and open the hearts of many. Drink and remember.”
And they did. And we do. Let us give thanks to God.

THE THANKSGIVING
World-maker, Barrier-breaker, Peace-bringer, Holy God:
In the beginning, You. In the now, You. 
And when time ends, You. Always You!
With a handful of dust you gracefully fashioned us,
shaping us to be signs of your presence on earth.
You gave us the breath of life and placed into our hands the power to create,
into our heads the freedom to think, 
and into our hearts the strength to love.

You gave us all we need to live:
food and drink for our bodies; natural wonders for our senses;
wake-time and dream-time for our minds; and for our souls –
the light of the law, the rod of the prophets, the songs of the psalmists,
and the vision of a just and joyful world.

In the fullness of time the Word became flesh – you pitched your tent among us:
learning and loving, teaching and healing, forgiving and rebuking.
You shook the pillars of power and paid the price –
the lash of the whip, the crown of thorns, the cruel cross.
Death held you briefly, but in three days you burst forth alive,
and the echo of the empty tomb rang around the world.
Risen and reigning, you call us into fellowships of faith seeking understanding,
communities of character, churches in mission.
Your Spirit continues to revive and empower us,
informing, unforming, reforming, transforming.

Now, God, we pray: infuse these gifts of the earth – bread and wine and us –
with your grace and energy.
May our eating and drinking in faith and expectation equip us to share
the good news of your peace with all people and nations,
until the coming kingdom is the kingdom come,
and all rejoice in a new heaven and a new earth.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

THE BREAKING OF BREAD
This bread, earth-grown, hand-made, and heaven-blessed,
is now for us the bread of life.
This cup, fruit of the vine, lifted in love and drunk with courage,
is now for us the wine of salvation.

THE POST-COMMUNION PRAYER
God, our creator, we thank you for the nourishment of bread and wine,
word and worship, family and friends.
Jesus, our brother, we thank you for the way you walk with us,
past comfort, through conflict, toward connection.
Spirit, our breath, we thank you that you call us in to send us out
with strength, commitment, and compassion.
Holy Three-in-One, now may our thanks go from our lips to our living,
human hymns of hope and laughter:
Amen.

(Carla A. Grosch-Miller, much adapted)

The Flight into Egypt

Having recently seen the exhibition at St Margaret’s Church in Westminster, London, my imagination was fired by the brilliance of the poetry of Malcolm Guite, that brought to life the excellently ordinary paintings by Adam Boulter.

The words and paintings also bring to life the power of God’s Word as it takes these far too familiar accounts and recasts them in genuinely powerful and contemporary ways, attempting to announce the arrival of God the Son, incarnate, yet forever unsafe in a violent and tempting world.

Or those other encounters with God in the Old and New Testaments – this is the God who pursues us, whether in wrestling, in blinding light, in silence or temptation.  The wilderness is the crucible, and I just wonder why our allegedly sophisticated Western world will do anything to avoid this barrenness of wilderness.  Ironically, our techno-utopias are in fact a kind of wilderness of soul, and I suspect that in this barren place of techno-babble, this app-fuelled tom-foolery, God will meet with us here too in quite unexpected ways.

Here’s one poem by Malcolm.

Continue reading “The Flight into Egypt”

Moltmann and the Annihilation of Hell

Jurgen Moltmann in his foreward of Nicholas Ansell’s The Annihilation of Hell – Universal Salvation and the Redemption of Time in the Eschatology of Jurgen Moltmann:

20150213_200619“A foreward is not an afterward and also not a critical review.  A foreward should open the door and point out the worth of a book so that it can be properly read and discussed.  Nicholas Ansell’s book on The Annihilation of Hell and Universal Salvation is so far-reaching and profound a theological and philosophical work that a brief foreward can’t really do it justice.  I’ll limit myself here to some biographical references, a few factual observations, and then an attempt to bring the theology of grace and the theology of faith into a theological dialogue.

Any theology of grace will be oriented for God’s sake to the universal triumph of grace.  Any theology of faith, however, will start from the human decision of faith and will result in the separation of believers from unbelievers.  The universalism of salvation, on the one hand, and the particularism of faith on the other hand, are on two different levels.  What is important is to closely connect them.

Since my theology studies in Gottingen, where I wrote my dissertation in 1952 on the “hypothetical universalism” of the Calvinist theologian Moyse Amyraut, who taught at the theological Academy of Saumer in the 17th century, the idea of universalism has not let go of me.  Amyraut’s idea, that the universal offer of grace is merely hypothetical until faith grasps it, I considered inadequate.  Then I read Karl Barth’s new doctrine of election which appeared in his Church Dogmatics 2/2 and became convinced by his theology of the cross:  On the cross of Christ, God took the guilt of sinners upon himself in order to give them his gift of grace.  I continued to think through this dialectical universalism of salvation and found in Christ’s resurrection from the dead the beginning of the destruction of death and thereby “the annihilation of Hell.”  Many Easter hymns in the German Lutheran hymnal celebrate the “destruction of Hell” by means of Christ’s descent into Hell and resurrection from Hell.  In the Orthodox Easter liturgy, the destruction of Hell through Christ is also celebrated.  Those who descend into Hell should “abandon all hope” according to Dante.  But the Christ who descended into Hell is the “hope of the hopeless” (spes desperatis).

I then took up an old desire of Karl Barth and Helmut Gollwitzer, namely to reform the doctrine of the LAst Judgment from the perspective of the crucified one who will come to judge the living and the dead.  Here I had the Old Testament notion of “divine judging” for help.  According to Psalm 96, God will come to judge the earth, and the earth will rejoice and the fields will make merry.  In this instance, “judge” means raise up, set straight, heal, and bring to life.  How could it be otherwise in the Christian anticipation of God’s Final Judgment and coming kingdom!  In fact the so-called “Final Judgment” is penultimate; what is truly final is the new, eternal creation in which God becomes “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).

At this point another thought came to me:  with the forgiveness of sins and the overcoming of death, God is concerned primarily with the expulsion of the godless powers of evil, of sin, of death, and of Hell from his beloved creation.  Isn’t our question as to whether all or only a few will be saved not an anthropocentric and in many cases even a selfish one?  For God, it is about God’s glorification of all his creatures.  The salvation of the new humanity is only a part of this.  If we look to the glory of God, then the universalism and particularism of human salvation are relativised.  The “annihilation of Hell” is an action of the cosmic Christ, whose reign is universal.  “Universal salvation” is only the human part of the “salvation of the universe.”

I must stop here, since I’m only writing a forward.  But you can see how stimulating this study by Nicholas Ansell has been for me.  I hope the same holds true for his other readers.  There is much to be gained by considering this work and then thinking further on one’s own.”

Continue reading “Moltmann and the Annihilation of Hell”

Fruitful Vision

Paul claims he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19).

Not to be disobedient is to be deliberately obedient; intentionally faithful; God-wardly focused.  Paul clearly could have been disobedient, and that’s the point.  Other things could have crowded in, worthwhile things, ministry and Gospel things even, but he had to be obedient to (not his) but the heavenly vision, a heavenly vision given by Heaven’s King.

IMG_6748I don’t read much Oswald Chambers, but a generous lady at church gave me his complete works – nice.

I randomly opened a page and read this:

“If we lose the vision, we alone are responsible, and the way we lose the vision is spiritual leakage…”

He continues along these lines and then writes,

“Though it tarry, wait for it….We get so practical that we forget the vision.  At the beginning we saw the vision but did not wait for it; we rushed off into practical work, and when the vision was fulfilled, we did not see it.  Waiting for the vision that tarries is the test of our loyalty to God.  It is at the peril of our soul’s welfare that we get caught up in practical work and miss the fulfilment of the vision.”

An objection might be raised here about the necessity of doing “practical work,” but without careful, biblical infused thought, the point would be missed.  God’s vision is not anti-practical work per se, but He is against us when we lack the spiritual fortitude of being in Christ and enjoying salvation’s benefits and goals by attending to matters that we find “practical”, Forsyth’s “the sin of bustle.”  This is a heretical bastardisation of the Christian faith, and a chief enemy of the believer. 

Continue reading “Fruitful Vision”

Preachers as Watchmen of the Night

For all the negative diatribe spoken about preaching in our day, we must realise that it isn’t new, nor are preachers to lose heart.

Preachers mustn’t pander to so-called “short attention spans” of our high definition, graphics saturated age. Preachers are not to make the message more palatable by joke telling, or attempting to give a biblical text the wiff of relevancy by surrounding it on all sides about the wondrous examples you are experiencing that make your point so perfectly!

Night-Watchman

Not a bit of it.  Preachers are the messengers.  Messengers of God.  Angels.  Prophets.  Watchmen (or women – I don’t buy Complimentarianism).  Jeremiah was commanded to “Tell them what I tell you to tell them…”  Likewise Ezekiel, literally, “Open your mouth and eat what I give you…”  And so Moses, the prophets, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul and others.

They were messengers of the One who himself is the Message, the Word.  Jesus doesn’t bring the message, because He is the Message, in a way that everyone else isn’t:  We preach Christ and Him crucified.  We preach the whole counsel of God.  The whole Bible for the whole person in the whole world the whole time!

We do not select, pick and choose, cut and paste, add to or ignore.  We don’t embellish with cute stories, nice pictures, snazzy powerpoint (God deliver us from this banality)!  We preach with utmost courage because all of it is God’s Word and all the world is God’s.

Preachers are thus Watchmen.  A watchman does not fall asleep when everyone else is asleep.  A watchman stays awake, alert to danger, alert to mischief.  Alert to everything that may or may not be going on.  And when danger comes, and it will for the devil does indeed prowl around like a roaring lion – looking for people to devour – it is the duty of the watchman to raise the alarm, to fend off the danger, to proclaim a Redeemer who has conquered the lion.

The watchman must eat the book, even when people do not even think the watchman is necessary.  Even if they think they can do it without the watchman, lulled into a false sense of security, they do not eat the book, the nibble the edges, the palatable bits, the familiar bits, ignoring the wideness and vastness of God’s Word, whilst consuming the familiar, embellished as it is with the odd joke and tired story.

The Bible has enough material of its own for us to use, without our trivial attempts to make it palatable.  It is already relevant; it is already palatable.  We need to eat it and simply be faithful proclaimers among God’s people, faithfully declaring the Word of the Lord in all its beauty and glory and majesty, in all praise and inexpressible joy, with tears and hearts open to a God who heals and saves.

So, watchmen, stay awake.  Stay alert.  Be faithful.  Preach the whole word.  It is literally a matter of life and death.

Why Do You Read the Bible?

“We can open our Bibles for all sorts of odd reasons—as a religious duty, an attempt to earn God’s favor, or thinking that it serves as a moral self-help guide, a manual of handy tips for effective religious lives.

That idea is actually one main reason so many feel discouraged in their Bible-reading. Hoping to find quick lessons for how they should spend today, people find instead a genealogy, or a list of various sacrifices. And how could page after page of histories, descriptions of the temple, instructions to priests, affect how I rest, work and pray today?

delighting

But when you see that Christ is the subject of all the Scriptures, that he is the Word, the Lord, the Son who reveals his Father, the promised Hope, the true Temple, the true Sacrifice, the great High Priest, the ultimate King, then you can read, not so much asking, ‘What does this mean for me, right now?’ but ‘What do I learn here of Christ?’

Knowing that the Bible is about him and not me means that, instead of reading the Bible obsessing about me, I can gaze on him. And as through the pages you get caught up in the wonder of his story, you find your heart strangely pounding for him in a way you never would have if you had treated the Bible as a book about you.  It is vital for a church to guard against assuming the gospel.”

 

Michael Reeves, ‘Delighting in the Trinity’

Jesus – the Fisher of Men

Ballad to the Fisher King by Eugene Peterson (in Holy Luck, p.74-5):

 

Pete and Andy and Jack and Jim, sailed in sturdy ships.

They were fishermen who plowed the sea, while curses flowed from their lips.

Heigh ho to the Fisher King, Heigh ho; Heigh ho to the Fisher Christ.

The world for them was stuff to grab, the sea a chest to plunder;

Creation was a vacant lot and not a place for wonder.

 

Heigh ho to the Fisher King, Heigh ho; Heigh ho to the Fisher Christ.

They caulked their ships with sticky pitch, were quick at mending sail.

They swore and sang old chantey tunes, and drank from a common grail.

Heigh ho to the Fisher King, Heigh ho; Heigh ho to the Fisher Christ.

But the fight though hard was joyful and free; and they sang good songs of blessing.

They helped and healed and loved and prayed, and seldom missed the fishing.

Heigh ho to the Fisher Kin, Heigh ho; Heigh ho to the Fisher Christ.

Now the fish is a sign of the saving Christ, and a sign of the men he’s for;

And a fish is a sign you can scratch on the sand, and a meal to feed the poor.

Heigh ho to the Fisher King, Heigh ho; Heigh ho to the Fisher Christ.

sky1

 

 

 

 

A Resurrection Poem

IMG_6736LET THERE BE LIGHT

The stone has been rolled away,

Hell’s mouth silenced, it has no say;

Over who Christ will raise with Him,

A once dead people, now raised, to sing.

 

The transformation now complete,

From the head down to the feet;

The Alpha and the Omega,

Has changed everything forever.

 

Oh the marks of death are still there,

As a testimony to all who will see;

The nails, the spear, the thorny crown,

Not even these could keep Jesus down.

 

And so the confused, the broken, the weeping, the lost,

The empty, the dirty, those counting the cost;

Cast to the wind, afraid and alone,

A useless crowd, hiding at home.

 

The denier was there, “Peter the Great,”

The prostitute, his mum, awaiting their fate;

The door, the door, someone’s banging the door,

End of the story? But wait, there’s more….

 

What? He’s alive? Ridiculous. Dead men don’t rise.

Men on their cross, lifted into the skies! They die, they die, they stay dead!

They’ve stolen his body, the most obvious conclusion,

But this is resurrection morning, and no pathetic illusion.

 

So the denier and loved one ran to the tomb,

They went in; into the dark room;

The shroud was there, but He’s gone, He’s gone!

This is madness, are we losing our minds?

 

Don’t you remember, He spoke about this?

We didn’t listen, resurrection is silly, and easy to dismiss.

But Jesus said it; He’s not here, his words must be true,

And then it dawned on us, like the sun turning a dark night sky blue,

We’d been outwitted by the Saviour, as He so loved to do!

 

As in the first day of creation, up to today,

God has been speaking, “Let there be light!”

And to the tombstone these words were spoken,

“Let there be light,” to the hurting and broken.

 

This is about real life, people and sin,

And a God who loves and welcomes us in.

Easter’s been hijacked, a sloppy sentimental mush,

It’s not about chocolate, or bunnies and bunches of flowers,

It’s all about Christ, how He defeated the Powers.

 

 

Don’t get me wrong, these things are nice,

Just don’t forget who paid the price.

Bunnies and flowers?  Ah! How sweet.

But it’s hardly nails through God’s feet!

The cost of our sin, infinite indeed,

The Cross is our gateway declaring we’re free!

 

You see, over our hearts, lies a monstrous stone of sin,

Cry out to Jesus, to let His light in.

Confession, repentance, forgiveness, new birth.

Is ours through His death, He is redeeming the earth.

 

 

For unless there is within us that which is above us,

we shall soon yield to that which is about us.

 

So repent your sin and enter in.

Robes for rags, a gift of the King.

We were made for glory,

We were made to be part of God’s amazing story.

 

So come all you doubters and haters and loveless and lost.

The tired the weary, the broken and proud.

Sing and dance, whisper, be loud.

The stone has moved, there’s just a shroud.

 

He is alive. Outrageous but true,

God’s great plan to reach out to you;

We call it Gospel, because it’s good news –

Not a ruse to fill the pews – but a plan to proclaim a Man,

The Man from Heaven, God the Son, sent to save everyone!

 

It’s Resurrection morning, shout it out “LET THERE BE LIGHT!”

Goodbye darkness.

And . . . . . there . . . . . was . . . . . light!

 

 

(c)  Gralefrit

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