Anselm, Paul, Jesus and Motherhood: A Pray for Mothering Sunday

Today is Mothering Sunday. I was reading Beverly Gaventa's excellent book Our Mother Saint Paul, which explores the various maternal descriptions Paul uses in his letters about himself (1 Thess. 2.7; Gal. 4.19; 1 Cor. 3.1-2; Rom. 8.22). At the end of the introduction she shares a prayer from St. Anselm that picks up this language. Anselm also describes Jesus as mother.

O St Paul, where is he that was called
the nurse of the faithful, caressing his sons?
Who is that affectionate mother who declares everywhere
that she is in labour for her sons?
Sweet nurse, sweet mother,
who are the sons you are in labour with, and nurse,
but those whom by teaching the faith of Christ
you bear and instruct?
Or who is a Christian after your teaching
who is not born into the faith and established in it by you?
And if in that blessed faith we are born
and nursed by other apostles also,
it is most of all by you,
for you have laboured and done more than them all in this;
so if they are our mothers, you are our greatest mother.

...

And you, Jesus, are you not also a mother?
Are you not the mother who, like a hen,
gathers her chickens under her wings?
Truly, Lord, you are a mother;
for both they who are in labour
and they who are brought forth
are accepted by you.
You have died more than they, that they may labour to bear.
It is by your death that they have been born,
for if you had not been in labour,
you could not have borne death;
and if you had not died, you would not have brought forth.
For, longing to bear sons into life,
you tasted of death,
and by dying you begot them.
You did this in your own self,
your servants, by your commands and help.
You as the author, they as the ministers.
So you, Lord God, are the great mother.

Then both of you are mothers.
Even if you are fathers, you are also mothers.
For you have brought it about that those born to death
should be reborn to life -
you by your own act, you by his power.
Therefore you are fathers by your effect
and mothers by your affection.
Fathers by your authority, mothers by your kindness.
Fathers by your teaching, mothers by your mercy.
Then you, Lord, are a mother
and you, Paul, are a mother too...

And you, my soul, dead in yourself,
run under the wings of Jesus your mother
and lament your griefs under his feathers.
Ask that your wounds may be healed
and that, comforted, you may live again.

Christ, my mother,
you gather your chickens under your wings;
this dead chicken of yours puts himself under those wings.
For by your gentleness the badly frightened are comforted,
by your sweet smell the despairing are revived,
your warmth gives life to the dead,
your touch justifies sinners.
Mother, know again your dead son,
both by the sign of your cross and the voice of his confession.
Warm your chicken, give life to your dead man, justify your sinner.
Let your terrified one be consoled by you;
despairing of himself, let him be comforted by you.
and in your whole and unceasing grace
let him be refashioned by you.
For from you flows consolation for sinners;
to you the blessing for ages and ages. Amen.


Prayers and Meditations of St Anselm, trans. Benedicta Ward (London, 1973), pp.152-6.


Praying with Mark's Gospel in Lent

We pray for those like John the Baptist, a voice crying out,
grant them the gift of truthful speech

We pray for those like Andrew who responded to your call to follow
grant them the gift of perseverance

We pray for those who listen to your teaching
grant them the gift of learning
  
We pray for those like Simon’s mother in law, who respond to your grace with service
grant them the gift of joy in serving

We pray for those like the man with leprosy, who are made outcasts,
grant them the gift of being accepted

We pray for those like the paralysed man, who are forgiven
grant them the gift of thankfulness

We pray for those like Levi who are loved by you, and hated by others,
grant them the gift of loving
 
We pray for those like the Pharisees, who only see in black and white
grant them the gift of grace
           
We pray for those like Jesus’ family who feel helpless
grant them the gift of trust to let go
 
We pray for those like the crowd who listened to your parables
 grant them the gift of sight to find your kingdom
                       
We pray for those like the disciples in the storm,
grant them the gift of trust in your love and care
 
We pray for those like Legion struggling with mental health
grant them the gift of peace of mind
 
We pray for those like the woman who had been bleeding for 12 yrs,
grant them the gift of healing
 
We pray for those like Jarius’ daughter, young and dying,
grant them the gift of life in the shadow of death
 
We pray for those like the residents of Nazareth who didn’t believe,
grant them the gift of faith to see and believe
 
We pray for those like Herod who murder those who challenge them,
 grant them the gift of ears to hear the truth
 
We pray for those like the 5,000 who were fed on the hillside,
grant them the gift of daily bread
 
We pray for those like the Syro-Phoenician woman, a foreigner,
grant them the gift of being welcomed
 
We pray for those like Peter, who want a saviour who doesn’t suffer,
 grant them the gift of understanding
           
We pray for those who have experienced the presence of God,
grant them the gift to see it as a gift of your grace

We pray for those who caught between belief and unbelief,
grant them the gift of faith to believe
 
We pray for those like the children Jesus blessed,
grant them the gift of joy and laughter
 
We pray for those like the rich young man,
grant them the gift of letting go of treasures
 
We pray for those like James and John, who want the glory without pain,
grant them the gift of living the way of your kingdom

We pray for those like Bartimaeus, who struggle to get a hearing,
grant them the gift of those who will listen
 
We pray for those like the witnesses to your entry into Jerusalem,
grant them the gift of praise
 
We pray for those like the templer seller,
grant them the gift of fairness in their dealings

We pray for those whose loyalties are divided,
grant them the gift of giving to God what belongs to God

We pray for those who read the bible as a rule book,
grant them the gift of seeing more light and truth in the word

We pray for those who have the right answers,
grant them the gift of joining their thinking with their living

We pray for those like the women who anointed Jesus,
grant them the gift of courage to risk the scorn of others

We pray for those who live in fear of persecution,
grant them the gift of your body and blood,
the promise of your presence 

We pray for those like Judas who betrayed a friend,
grant them the gift of repentance

We pray for those like the high priest whose god is too small
grant them the gift to see beyond their theology

We pray for those like Peter, who lack courage at the time of testing,
grant them the gift of forgiveness

We pray for those in power like Pilate,
grant them the gift of mercy

We pray for those like Simon, forced to work against their conscience,
grant them the gift to do good

We pray for those like the centurion who carry out the orders of the state,
grant them the gift to see a different kind of power

We pray for those like Joseph, who sit upon the fence,
grant them the gift to know and do what is right


Dancing Scarecrow

Dancing ScarecrowIn recent times I don't of many collections of prayers and liturgies from Baptists. The only book I know is the wonderful Prayers of the People (eds. Simon Woodman and Karen Smith), which is probably the bestseller in terms of the Centre for Baptist History and Heritage Studies (it's only £10!). So the website that is Dancing Scarecrow is a gift. A growing collection of earthy liturgies of all types for those planning and leading worship. It is run by Baptist ministers Tim Presswood and Clare McBeath (Clare is about to become Co-Principal of Northern Baptist College), based in East Manchester. They published a book Crumbs of Hope in 2006, but more recently are uploading their many many bits for free on their website Dancing Scarecrow. 

The latest bit of news is they are now beginning to take submissions from others and so you can now find a set of dramatic-style readings I've written (many with my friend Miriam).


Book Review: Prayers of the People

F37300b6906e42908426298d68ff8739 Karen E. Smith and Simon P. Woodman (eds.), Prayers of the People (Regent's Park College, 2011)

In 2005 the Baptist Union published Gathering for Worship: Patterns and Prayers for the Community of Disciples edited by Chris Ellis and Myra Blyth. This was a fantastic collections of liturgies for communion, baptism, marriages, funerals, etc, plus a section of prayers for general worship. In more recent years, I've silently hoped that there might be a sequel which included a wider range of prayers for worship. In this collection edited by Smith and Woodman, that need is fulfilled. Pulling together nearly a hundred contributors - so a wide range of voices (reflecting the diverse traditions that Baptists draw on) - the book offers prayers of gathering, adoration, confession,  thanksgiving, petition, intercession, sending out, prayers for liturgical seasons and prayers for special services. The book will quickly find its place on my shelf - and hopefully many more - next to Gathering for Worship as resource in planning worship. 

Paul Fiddes provides a helpful introduction on the theology of public prayer around themes of inspiration and sincerity, divine dialogue, divine dance, intercession and prayers written and spontaneous. Another inclusion that I liked was each chapter begins with some short quotes from Baptists on prayer, which demonstrates we have said quite a lot! Too much public prayer in Baptist worship is poor - sadly more often than not at the Baptist Assembly (on which can I cheekily suggest each worship leader is given a copy of Prayers of the People) - in that it lacks shape and depth. Prayers that are prepared or borrowed can provide worship with a more intentional shape and help form the particular prayer lives of those gathered. Good prayer teaches us how to pray freely - so this book gives lots of examples of thoughtful and theological prayer which will enrich the church.

The book is also in honour of John Weaver on his retirement from Principal of South Wales Baptist College. While the usual festschrift of collected essays is also an interesting read (see recent collections in honour of Nigel Wright and Brian Haymes), Prayers of the People I think will make a long lasting contribution to Baptist life and worship, in both its accessibility and its practical usage, and for that reason it a fitting tribute to John Weaver who has sort to be a practical theologian of the church.

I do have a few quibbles - the chapters of prayers of sending out is pretty sparse compared to the other chapters, which perhaps reflects we struggle to end worship well (something I'm planning a short paper on for the hearts and minds conference) and it would have been nice to see some prayers of illiumination before scripture is read or sermon is preached, which reflects another concern of mine that we don't acknowledge that reading of scripture is a key moment in worship.

At £10 don't miss this bargain. It will be well used.


7 advent cries

This is the words and prayers from our final advent service which follow the seven advent cries. Happy Christmas!

Cry 1: O come Wisdom
 
Reader 1:
Where can wisdom be found?
And where does understanding live?
People do not where it is,
It cannot be found among those who are alive.
The deep ocean says, ‘It’s not in me.’
The seas says, ‘It’s not in me.’
Wisdom cannot be bought with cash,
And it cannot be paid for with credit cards …

So where does wisdom come from,
And where does understanding live?
It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,
Even from the birds of the air.
If you asked among the dead, they would say, ‘we have only heard rumours.’

Only God understands the way to wisdom
And he alone knows where it lives …

Wisdom is like a woman shouting in the street. She cries out:

Reader 2:
You fools how long will you be foolish?
How long will you make fun of wisdom and hate knowledge?

My friends listen to what I say:
Listen carefully to wisdom
Set your mind on understanding.
Cry out for wisdom
And beg for understanding
Search for it like a lost child
And hunt for it like hidden treasure.
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord
And find the knowledge of God
For God gives wisdom
He gives knowledge and understanding

Reader 1:
Wisdom calls to you like someone shouting.
From the rooftop along the road
and at the crossroads, she stands calling.
Beside the shopping centre, at the entrance to Tescos, she calls out:

Reader 2:
Listen everyone, I’m talking to all of you!
Listen, you fools – learn good sense!
You who are unwise – get understanding!
Don’t miss a word of this – I’m telling you how to live well,
I’m telling you how to live at your best.
You’ll only hear true and right words from my mouth;

Reader 1:
I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who hurt you …

I say to you, do not store up treasures on earth …

I say to you, ‘do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or what you will wear; instead seek first the kingdom of God …

I say to you, ‘do not judge … because how can you point out a speck of dust in your friend’s eye, when there’s a big piece of wood in your own eye …

I say to you, ‘ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened for you.

I say to you, ‘Love God with everything you are and love your neighbour as yourself.

Reader 2:
Nothing I say is crooked or false
Choose my teachings instead of chasing after money
And my knowledge rather than the lure of fame
For wisdom is more precious than anything
Nothing you could want is equal to it.

Reader 1:
Where is the one who is wise?
Where is the one with the PhD?
Where is the one with all the answers?
Has not God show all the wisdom of the world to be nonsense?
Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb – the good news of Jesus – to save those who trust in him.
While some look for miracles and others look for philosophy,
God chose Christ crucified.
This does not look like a miracle, to those who love miracles
and makes no obvious sense to the philosophers,
but to us whom God has called,
it is the wisdom of God.
For Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God,
and in his coming
puts us right with God,
makes us holy
and frees us from sin.
Where is wisdom to be found?
It is to be found in Jesus, born of Mary.

Prayer
O come wisdom of God
Breath of God’s power
Wiser than our foolishness
Come grant us
Eyes to see truthfully
Ears to hear clearly
Hearts to love openly
For we desire to know God

Song meekness and majesty    

Cry 2: O come Ruler of Israel

He was a long-awaited
and long-hoped for Ruler
who would come
And be Israel’s king and judge
The psalmist writes
Give the king your justice, O God
May he judge your people with righteousness
And your poor with justice
May he defend the cause of the poor
Give deliverance to the needy
And crush the oppressor’

Like an architect measures carefully with a ruler the dimensions of a building
This ruler would carefully intervene to set things right
To deliver the poor and oppressed
To pardon the wronged
To give voices to the marginalized

He was a long-awaited
and long-hoped for Ruler 
who would come
And be Israel’s king and judge
The prophet Isaiah writes,
‘with righteousness he will judge the poor
and decide with fairness for the meek of the earth’

Like a builder uses a spirit-level to make sure a wall is level
This ruler would be the greater leveller
Lifting up the humble and lowly
And bringing down the proud and pompous
Filling the hungry with good things
And sending the rich away empty

He was a long-awaited
and long-hoped for Ruler
who would come
And be Israel’s king and judge
The prophet Micah writes,
‘But you, Bethlehem
though you are one of the littlest clans of Judah,
from you will come forth for me
a ruler of Israel
a shepherd of the people’

not from Jerusalem, home to Herod and failed dreams
but back to Bethlehem, home to David and new hope

He was a long-awaited
and long-hoped for Ruler
who would come
And be Israel’s king and judge
And Jesus, born in Bethlehem, says,
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor
he has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind
to let the oppressed go free’

Prayer
O come ruler of Israel,
he who rescues his people from Egypt
who teaches them justice and mercy
who blesses the poor and the humble
who feeds the hungry and needy
who cares for the orphan and widow
Come and write your holy way onto our hearts

Song: my heart is full of admiration            

Cry 3: O come Root of Jesse

God said to Noah
‘never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth’

God said to Abraham ‘you shall be the father of many nations … your wife Sarah will have a son, and will name him Isaac’ 

God said to Jacob
‘Know that I am with you and will protect you everywhere you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you’ 

God said to Moses
‘I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt … and I have come down to save them from the Egyptians and to bring them out of that land to a land flowing with milk and honey’ 

God said to Joshua ‘I will be with you; I will not fail you or forget you. Be strong and courageous; for you shall lead my people so they can take the land that I promised their fathers I would give them’   

God said to David
‘I will make your descendants kings of Israel after you. Your family and your kingdom will continue always before me; your throne will last forever’ 

God said to Isaiah ‘I will give you a sign. The young woman is pregnant. She will have a son, and she will name him Immanuel’   

God said to Jeremiah ‘I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and the people of Judah … I will put my teachings in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’   

God said to Ezekiel
‘A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you … and you will be my people, and I will be your God’   

God said to Joel “I will pour out my spirit on all people; your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions’   

God said to Micah
‘But you, Bethlehem … from you will come one who will rule Israel for me’   

God said to Malachi ‘I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me’   

God said to Zechariah ‘Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to a son, and you will name him John’   

God said to Mary
‘You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus’   

God said to Isaiah ‘A new branch will grow from a stump of a tree,
A new king will come from the root of Jesse.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him.
The Spirit will give him wisdom and understanding, guidance and power.
The Spirit will teach him to know and fear the Lord

Through the stories and songs, poems and prophecies, proverbs and laws, we discover the God who makes promises. Promises weaves in and out of the story of Israel. At particular points in the story God makes himself known through a promise

A promise of a son
A promise of rescue
A promise of a land
A promise of the Spirit
A promise of hopeful future
A promise to be Immanuel

And so because he has promised, we look to his coming.

Prayer
O come Root of Jesse
The one promised by the prophets
The wonderful counsellor and mighty God
The Everlasting father and Prince of peace
O come promise-making God of Abraham and Moses
Of Sarah and Miriam
Of David and Elijah
Of Hannah and Esther
Of Isaiah and Micah
Of Mary and Elizabeth
Draw us into your salvation story

Song my jesus, my saviour   

Cry 4: O Key of David

Testimony on how God unlocks us                           

Prayer
O come key of David
Open the doors of our hearts and make your home
Come and free us, where we are trapped in despair and lies
Come and unlock the dark places of our lives and shine your light
Come and open our eyes to see you
In the faces of friend and stranger
In the words of song and scripture
In your risen glory

Song  open the eyes of my heart 

Cry 5: O come Morning Star

a powerpoint of sun rising with 'ruthless gravity' by craig armstrong and words spoken over
Wake up church! Wake up!
Put your face in the sunlight.
   God's bright glory has risen for you.
The whole earth is wrapped in darkness,
   all people sunk in deep darkness,
But God rises on you,
   his sunrise glory breaks over you.

God will be your eternal light,
   your God will bathe you in splendour.
Your sun will never go down,
   your moon will never fade.
He will be your eternal light.

Wake up church! Wake up!
Put your face in the sunlight.
   God's bright glory has risen for you.

Prayer
O come morning star
Come and waken us
from the greyness of our apathy
and renew in us your gift of hope
Come and stir us
from the gloominess of our indifference 
and restore in us your gift of love
Come and  inspire us
from the darkness of our doubt
and rekindle in us your gift of faith

Song the church’s one foundation

Cry 6: O come King of the nations 

Powerpoint where the name each nation appears

Prayer
O come King of the nations
Creator and redeemer of all
Author and finisher
Come to your world
bringing
truth and reconciliation
freedom and welcome
love and compassion
for we long to see
your kingdom come

Song awake awake o church              

Cry 7: O come Immanuel

Immanuel means ‘God with us’
And we celebrate that God stands at our side
Sharing our humanity
A comforting thought, an assurance of God’s love

Immanuel means ‘God with us’

And we celebrate that God is here to pick us up
And bale us out
A comforting thought, an assurance of God’s love

Immanuel means ‘God with us’
And we celebrate that God is here calling us
To care for the cruel and kind, to reshape the world around us
Still a comforting thought? Are we confident of God’s love?

Immanuel means ‘God with us’

And we celebrate that God is here transforming us
Into image-bearers of his love, into ambassadors of mercy
Still a welcome thought? Are we open to be changed?

Immanuel means ‘God with us’
And we celebrate that God is God and we are not
That God comes to give all that God is to that which is not God
An uplifting thought, a promise of God’s love

Immanuel means ‘God with us’

And we celebrate that God comes to us in Jesus
Born of Mary, gift of the Spirit, the welcome of God
An amazing thought, an experience of God’s love

Prayer
O come, o come Immanuel
Gift of God
come into our communities
and our homes
our hearts and our lives
come quickly and stay
for you are
the love of God revealed
who comes to seek and save

Song he is here                  

Blessing                        
May the wonderful grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
The amazing love of God
And the deep fellowship of the Holy Spirit
Be ours tonight, tomorrow and for ever more
Amen


as we look around us ...

This is a prayer I wrote for this morning's service at Bunyan. The responses in bold I borrowed from Gathering to Worship.

From where we sit or kneel we look around us
and see the faces of friends and family, of neighbour and Christian
each face tells a story of life, just beginning or long lived
each face tells a story of laughter and sorrow
each face tells a story of love and hate, of joy and anger
each face tells a story of God and his grace

From where we sit or kneel we look around us and say
In the life of those we love and know
Your kingdom come, Lord
Your will be done

From where we sit or kneel we look around us
and see the streets and the houses
the flats and the shops
the schools and the offices
the parks and car parks
where we live and work, play and learn

We see a town of plenty
of money and abundance
families with dishwashers and TVs
with cars and mobile phones
with computers and holidays abroad

But we also see, if we look hard enough
a town in need
of homeless haven and living room of rehabilitation
of contact centre and ASBOs
of one night stands and young mums
of credit card debt and life-taking cancer

From where we sit or kneel we look around us and say
In the life of our town
Your kingdom come, Lord
Your will be done

From where we sit or kneel we look around us
and see the world
of presidents and peasants
of buildings and bombs
of deserts and forests
of greed and starvation
of banks and poverty
of fast food and no food
of death and living

We see the people
of Keembe, Zambia
of Kadoma, Zimbabwe
of Tabora, Tanzania
of Bagwere, Uganda
of Baghdad, Iraq
of Gaza, Palestine
of Dafur, Sudan

From where we sit or kneel we look around us and say
In the life of our world
Your kingdom come, Lord
Your will be done


LENT, day three

Big plans, big dreams
to see persons grow
take deeper root

Big fears, small strength
no end in sight
no break of day

Yet Yahweh my shepherd
good to me
my solid ground
...

Where is the time to be still
to not speak
to not rush ahead
to not cut you off with my words


In a world

A prayer I wrote for parallel universe event at Baptist World Alliance Congress 2007.

In a world of many stories
Jesus teach us to hear your story

In a world of many images
Jesus help us to recognise your face

In a world of many 'gospels'
Jesus show us the good news found in you

In a world of fame and fortune
Jesus we acknowledge that you are Lord

In a world which is being damaged and destroyed
Jesus may God's kingdom come

In a world of lonely individuals
Jesus join us together in your love

In a world of passing fashions
Jesus you are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow


Lighter of lights

designbygeckogod

Lighter of lights – illumine us
Fire of fires – thaw us
Power of powers – strengthen us
Lover of lovers – warm us

Teller of tales – encourage us
Destroyer of darkness – save us
Touchstone of truth – examine us
Summoner of stars – amaze us

Wellspring of wisdom – weather us
Water of life – refresh us
Dancer of days – delight in us
Breath of the universe – bless us

by Ruth Burgess

(picture from designbygecko's new photo blog)