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Showing posts from January, 2006

Prayer for the Week Beginning 29th January

Gracious and loving God, we praise you for the privilege we have of being able to come to you in prayer, knowing that you are more than ready to hear what we ask.
We praise you for the privilege of being able to explore new ways of praying and share special times of prayer together.
We praise you for the power of prayer and the joy of knowing that we are in your presence.
We praise you that we can bring our concerns to you and that prayer can help to inspire and deepen our faith, our hope and our love.
We are sorry that we have not always been diligent or enthusiastic about prayer.
Renew our vision of what prayer can do. We ask it for Jesus' sake and in the power of his Spirit. Amen.

Pray Without Ceasing

The other day I was reading an account by someone who went with an inter-faith party from Leicester to take part in the big demonstration in London which preceded the declaration of war against Iraq in 2003. The Christians were deeply moved when they saw the Muslims in the party dropping out of the march from time to time in order to pray. They prayed in a mosque on the route, but also in Hyde Park at the end of the speeches, kneeling on discarded placards to protect their clothes from the mud, seemingly oblivious to the cold and to the crowds swirling around them. It dawned on the Christians that they had made no plans to pray at all, despite the importance of the issues at stake, but fortunately they encountered a group of people from Leeds who invited them to share in a liturgy for peace while their Muslim colleagues at prayer.
It was a reminder that – despite all we have in common with Muslims and the followers of other faiths – Christians are often seen as a bunch of lightweights …

Prayer for the Week Beginning 22nd January

Lord Jesus, the first people to follow you were fishermen.
They heard Jesus' call and left their work to become fishers of people.
Help us to be willing to listen for the promptings of your spirit.
Help us to make the space we need to hear what you want us to do.
Help us not to drown out your spirit's call
by the background noise of our daily rushing around and busyness.
Help us not to be afraid to follow you, even when the way you are calling us to is hard.
And help us to be ready to tell others that you are calling them to follow you, too. Amen.

Confronting Modern Day Demons

The other day I heard a convicted child sex offender talking about himself on the radio. His plea was that he was not a dangerous beast. He was just an ordinary person who had made a mistake.
In the story of Jesus he many times encounters, and confronts, people with unclean spirits[1]. It's not clear who they were. Were they really possessed by spiritual beings – unclean or evil spirits? Or were they simply possessed by their own inner demons – psychological torment, mental illness or a burden of guilt or bad experiences which somehow cast them adrift from their moorings in ordinary society and left them free to challenge its conventions by shouting out in meetings, or behaving abruptly and disruptively? Whoever these people were, sometimes they were able to recognise the true significance of Jesus – both for themselves and for other people.
The demonised people of our society are the people on the child abuse register. Often they're struggling with their own inner demons and co…

Fishing for People

The essential thing about being a Christian is not praying to Jesus or worshipping him, nor is it a question of believing the right things about him. The essential thing is following Jesus, even getting alongside him, and sharing in his mission.
Jesus doesn't work alone. His mission involves team work. He's clearly the team leader, boldly going where no one has gone before, even to death on a cross for the sake of God's plan, but he expects his followers to carry their own crosses, too.
Taking his cue from the occupations of his first disciples [1], Jesus describes the task of his new team as 'fishing for people'. It's an interesting image to use because, from the fish's perspective, it's not entirely positive, is it? It suggests being hooked or snared. There's a hint that the people Jesus aims to catch will not realise what's going on until they're well and truly caught. Using their skills, Jesus and his team will entice them into believing.
I…

Prayers for the Week Beginning 15th January

1 A call to worship
Lord Jesus, you met people in everyday places and called them to follow you. As we come to worship you in this everyday place , may we, too, be open to your call. Amen.

2 A prayer of adoration
God of power, we see that power at work all around us, in big things and small, in new life and old, in beginnings and endings, and we want to praise you.
Gentle God, we feel that gentleness in the care and concern, the warm embrace or the gentle caress of those who love us, and we want to praise you.
Loving God, we discover the incredible depth of your love in Jesus and in his death for us upon the cross, and want to praise you.
God with us, we share in your mission to save a broken world when we ask your Spirit to help us serve you in our daily lives, and we want to praise you.
God of power and gentleness and love, working to change our world through us, we give you praise for Jesus' sake, and in the power of his Spirit. Amen.

3 A prayer of confession
Loving and forgiving God, …

Prayers for The Week Beginning 8th January 2006

A prayer of Approach
Lord God, we come as we are, preoccupied by thoughts and cares. May you meet us now and help us to open our minds to receive your message. So may each one of us know that you are with us. Amen.

A prayer of Thanksgiving
Let us give thanks to God for the creative power which brings us each new day.
Let us give thanks to God for the way of love revealed to us in the living and dying of Jesus.
Let us give thanks to God for new life through the Spirit of our risen Lord.
Let us give thanks to God for the Church, the body of Christ on earth, and let us give thanks for the love and care, the witness and the challenge which we discover in the Church at its best.
Gracious God we offer you our thanks and praise through Jesus your Son and in the power of his Spirit. Amen.

A prayer of Confession
Gracious God, forgive our failure to take good care of your creation and our selfishness in using it for our own needs.
Forgive our reluctance to let go of the past when it hinders us from confr…

Making something extraordinary out of the ordinary in Beeston, the story of Trinity and Faith Together in Leeds 11

Next week I'm going to Harrogate to talk about the story of Trinity Church and its involvement with Building Blocks. Here's part of what I am going to say.
As a small church in a rapidly changing area, the members of Trinity in Beeston Hill have wrestled long and hard over the last ten years with the question of what God wanted them to do.
Some people wanted to close down and leave organised religious expression entirely in the hands of the growing Muslim community. With the benefit of hindsight, we're certainly glad we didn't do that!
Some wanted to retreat into a nostalgic little grotto where they could safely recreate Methodism in Beeston as it used to be years ago when the parade of shops opposite the church included a high class confectioner's, and bank managers jostled with headteachers for car parking spaces outside the big houses on the main road. Of course, it would never be quite the same as it was in the days when 150 voices were raised in song, but it woul…

Turning the World Upside Down (John 1:43-51)

St John's Gospel begins with an account of three special days – the day on which Jesus was baptised, the day on which he first met Andrew and his brother Peter, and the day he decided to go to Galilee to begin his mission. These days come one after the other, without a break, and each new day is introduced with the formula 'The next day this happened.'
There is no period of doubt and temptation in St John's Gospel, no suggestion that Jesus wrestled with what he was called to do or tried to figure out what it all meant. He gets straight down to the business of making disciples. Maybe that's the kind of resolution which St John was looking for in the members of his church – muscular action rather than endless contemplation, certainty rather than doubt. Or maybe he just wants to make clear that Jesus always knew where he had come from and where he was going, even if we don't.
What kind of Christian do we think it's better to be – someone who's sure of what t…

Wafah Dafour (Mark 1.4-11)

If you go to an Internet search engine and enter the name 'Wafah Dafour' you will find plenty of pictures of her, not least because she's the niece of Ossama Bin Laden. Actually, she isn't his one and only niece. He comes from a big family. He has fifty-four brothers and sisters, and countless nephews and nieces. But Wafah Dafour is the only one of Bin Laden's nieces who is a US citizen, and she's the only one who wants to be a singer. Recently, in an effort to kick-start her career, she has been posing for the kind of photographs that you normally find in luxury bathroom catalogues – with her legs and shoulders sticking out of lots and lots of bubbles in a beautiful white enamel bath. She says that Americans have been victimising her because of her association with Ossama Bin Laden, but she can't be too anxious about it because she hopes to cash in on his notoriety by describing herself as 'the sexy Bin Laden'.
Wafah's unqualified enthusiasm for…

My Interview for 'The Message' on Radio 4, Friday 30th December

[If the following reads a little disjointedly, it's because it was an 'interview' from which the interviewer's questions have been cut.]
Jenni Murray: Good afternoon, and today we review some of the year's biggest stories. What was it like to be under the spotlight of the press and how do those involved regard the message the media put forward? Paul Vallely, Associate Editor of The Independent, Simon Jenkins of The Guardian and the Labour MP for Dewsbury, Shahid Malik, join me to look back on: the ejection of Walter Wolfgang from the Labour Party Conference, he'll be telling us what he thought of the coverage of his story; David Okuro, the cousin of Anthony Walker who was murdered in Liverpool, describes how his family handled national media attention and the columnists' response to the concept of forgiveness; but first we go to Beeston in Leeds where two of the July London Bombers had lived as part of the community. An international media circus descended o…

My Interview on Radio 5 Live's "Weekend News" programme on Christmas Day

Richard Evans: Seven minutes past four now on BBC Radio 5 Live. Now the Queen in her speech today was talking about how in 2005 there were lots of man-made disasters like war and terrorism as well as natural disasters like the tsunami and hurricanes. One place which became infamous after the July the 7th Bombings was Beeston in Leeds, when it was revealed that two of the London bombers were from there. The Revd Neil Bishop is a Methodist minister in Beeston, and he joins us now. Good afternoon to you. Merry Christmas.
Neil Bishop: Good afternoon, Richard. Happy Christmas to you.
RE: Did you watch the Queen's Speech?
NB: Yes I did.
RE: What did you make of it?
NB: Well I thought actually it was very inspiring and I thought that the way she ended her speech chimed in with the very strong feeling of people in Beeston, actually, in July - which was that we weren't going to let the bombers, some of whom as you know, unfortunately, came from our neck of the woods - we weren't going t…