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Issue 248
Fresh Thoughts
For Su nda y
2nd December 2018
A selection of commentary, reflection and prayer ideas from various
Christian authors for this week’s lectionary Bible passages:
Jeremiah 33:14-16 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Psalm 25:1-10 Luke 21:25-36

Bible Texts
The Disciples’ Question - Dick France 9
Second Sunday Before Advent - Jane Williams 11
Signs of the End - Tom Wright 13
How Not to Display Accurate Empathy- John Goldingay 15
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Susan Thorne 17
Lectionary Resources
Stone Circle - Marjorie Dobson 20
Second Sunday Before Advent - David Adam 21
Second Sunday Before Advent - John Birch 23
Discipleship Resources
The Monastery Of The Heart - Joan Chittister 25
Great Christian Thinkers - Pope Benedict XVI 28
‘Fresh Thoughts for Sunday’ is compiled and produced by twelvebaskets from the resources available
on www.theworshipcloud.com.
The following resources are a small selection of what is available. Many more resources and
inspiration for this week’s lectionary, leading worship and other church use are available on The
Worship Cloud.
All resources featured can be downloaded as separate files from the website as part of a subscription.
Copyright for each resource is retained by the original author / contributor.
Bible Texts are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the
Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Jeremiah 33:14-16 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Psalm 25:1-10 Luke 21:25-36

Jeremiah 14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will
33:14-16 fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and
15 “‘In those days and at that
time I will make a righteous
Branch sprout from David’s
line; he will do what is just and
right in the land.
16 In those days Judah will be
saved and Jerusalem will live
in safety. This is the name by
which it will be called: The Lord
Our Righteous Savior.’
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Psalm 1 In you, Lord my God, I put my trust.
25:1-10 2 I trust in you; do not let me
be put to shame, nor let my
enemies triumph over me.
3 No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame, but
shame will come on those who
are treacherous without cause.
4 Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
5 Guide me in your truth and
teach me, for you are God my
Savior, and my hope is in you
all day long.
6 Remember, Lord, your great
mercy and love, for they are
from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins
of my youth and my rebellious
ways; according to your love
remember me, for you, Lord,
are good.
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners
in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in
what is right and teaches them
his way.
10 All the ways of the Lord are
loving and faithful toward those
who keep the demands of his
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1 Thessalonians 9 How can we thank God
enough for you in return for
3:9-13 all the joy we have in the presence of our God because
of you?
10 Night and day we pray most
earnestly that we may see
you again and supply what is
lacking in your faith.
11 Now may our God and
Father himself and our Lord
Jesus clear the way for us to
come to you.
12 May the Lord make your
love increase and overflow for
each other and for everyone
else, just as ours does for you.
13 May he strengthen your
hearts so that you will be
blameless and holy in the
presence of our God and
Father when our Lord Jesus
comes with all his holy ones.
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Luke 25 “There will be signs in 35 For it will come on all those the sun, moon and stars. On who live on the face of the
21:25-36 the earth, nations will be in whole earth. anguish and perplexity at the
roaring and tossing of the sea. 36 Be always on the watch,
and pray that you may be able
26 People will faint from to escape all that is about to
terror, apprehensive of what happen, and that you may be
is coming on the world, for able to stand before the Son of
the heavenly bodies will be Man.”
27 At that time they will see the
Son of Man coming in a cloud
with power and great glory.
28 When these things begin
to take place, stand up and lift
up your heads, because your
redemption is drawing near.”
29 He told them this parable:
“Look at the fig tree and all the
30 When they sprout leaves,
you can see for yourselves and
know that summer is near.
31 Even so, when you see
these things happening, you
know that the kingdom of God
is near.
32 “Truly I tell you, this
generation will certainly not
pass away until all these things
have happened.
33 Heaven and earth will pass
away, but my words will never
pass away.
34 “Be careful, or your hearts
will be weighed down with
carousing, drunkenness and
the anxieties of life, and that
day will close on you suddenly
like a trap.
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John Goldingay David Perry
Jane Williams
Tom Wright

Expect Great Things
by John Goldingay

Taken from Jeremiah for Everyone
by John Goldingay - Copyright SPCK 2015
Click to purchase full book from SPCK
In the 1780s a shoemaker and part-time or of what has happened (if we assume the
Baptist preacher near Northampton in England perspective of his later readers). But they
named William Carey used to do his work with do pile up images for the work of restoration
a world map on the wall in front of him, and that Yahweh will do—recovery, healing, well-
while he worked he’d pray for the nations of being, truth, building, purification, pardon, joy,
the world, many of whom knew little or nothing celebration, confession of what God has done,
about Jesus Christ. He was convinced that commitment, deliverance, security, faithfulness.
the church should be doing something about
that ignorance. It was a strange idea to his The promises do go on to become concrete.
contemporaries; it was surely God’s job to Israel had two forms of regular leadership,
convert the heathen, not ours. Eventually kings and priests. Both kings and priests were
Carey produced a pamphlet arguing his under God’s judgment along with the people
conviction about the question, An Enquiry into as a whole, and it could look as if Yahweh was
the Obligations of Christians to Use Means abandoning his undertaking to David’s line
for the Conversion of the Heathens. In 1792 as the royal family and to Levi as the priestly
in a sermon he argued, “Expect great things; clan. In the exile there are no kings reigning
attempt great things,” and next year set off for and there’s no regular ministry to be exercised
India to put his life where his mouth was. in the temple. Yahweh promises this won’t
be the end of the story for the priesthood or
A Baptist Old Testament scholar friend of mine for the line of David, any more than for the
traces Carey’s stress on expecting great things people as a whole (the two families of Ephraim
to Jeremiah’s promise about the “great things” and Judah, the descendants of Abraham,
God here makes a commitment to doing. It’s Isaac, and Jacob). God’s promises to David
significant that the “expecting” comes before and to Levi will stand forever. A few decades
the “attempting.” It’s when you have promises later, you could say that these promises have
from God to hold onto that you can act on the seen some fulfillment. Not only are people
assumption that they’ll come true— rather than free to return to Judah. People from David’s
going out on a limb and daring God not to keep family (Zerubbabel) and from the priestly clan
up. (Jeshua) are exercising authority in Jerusalem.
Yet no one from David’s line ever reigned as
With this section the four chapters dominated king, and in this sense it doesn’t seem that God
by Yahweh’s promises to Judah come to an kept his promise to David. Then with the further
end. Here the promises become very broad. destruction of the temple in AD 70 it doesn’t
Oddly, it might seem, the context is still seem that God kept his promise to Levi.
Jerusalem’s imminent fall and its aftermath.
The promises give people no chance to escape There are people today who expect to see a
the horror of what is going to happen (if we Davidic monarchy re-established, and a new
assume the perspective of Jeremiah’s listeners) temple built with Levi offering its sacrifices.
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The more usual Christian view is that Jesus’
coming was a fulfillment of God’s promise to
David, though this approach doesn’t help much
with the promise to Levi, because Jesus was a
Judahite, not a Levite. Maybe Jeremiah would
point out that we need to read these promises
in light of what he said about promises and
warnings in his chapter about the potter.
Circumstances, too, sometimes mean we have
to renegotiate promises. What we can’t do (or
what God doesn’t do) is renege on promises
arbitrarily—that’s a major emphasis in this
chapter. If God reworks promises, it’s in order
to make the fulfillment better than the original
formulation, not to abandon them. God’s original
vision was for Israel as a whole to be a kingly
nation and a priestly people, and when that
kingly nation and priestly people becomes one
whose membership comes from all the nations,
you could say it is indeed a super-fulfillment.
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First Sunday of Advent

by Jane Williams

Taken from Lectionary reflections
by Jane Williams- Copyright SPCK 2011
Click to purchase full book from SPCK
Intelligent waiting seems to be the theme at work, they will be preparing themselves
of these three readings – not a bad theme and the people for the time when ‘Judah will
for the start of Advent, but definitely to be be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety’ (v.
distinguished from Aunt Juley in Forster’s 16). Did people hear the word of hope from
Howard’s End, who goes through life the prophet of doom? Find out for yourselves.
overprepared. The point of Advent is to learn
God’s characteristics so as to recognize The passage from Thessalonians is a
him when he comes, not to be so armoured passage full of relief. For once Paul, the man
against life that we never really experience full of the white-hot confidence of the convert,
anything. has been uncertain about his mission. Did it
work? Did the Thessalonians remember what
It is hard to believe that today’s reading he taught them? Were they still constant?
comes from Jeremiah. From Jeremiah, the Paul had got so edgy that he had finally sent
prophet of doom, one of the most depressing Timothy to find out, and Timothy has come
reads in the Bible, comes this lyrical piece, back with good news. So now Paul can relax
full of hope and trust. Jeremiah has spent the – as far as Paul ever does – and express his
whole of his life telling Israel things they did joy in these new Christians. But Paul is never
not want to hear, and watching the destruction one to give praise and leave it at that. His
of the nation and the division of the people. prayer for the Thessalonians is that they will
In the first chapter of Jeremiah, we are told use their time to prepare for their final meeting
that he was aware of his prophetic calling as with God. There is no time for complacency,
pre-dating his earliest memories. We are also every minute is vital. In fact, Paul seems to
told that the only way that he will be able to have given his readers such a jolt of urgency
speak God’s terrible judgement on his people that they seem, from the later correspondence
is to become ‘an iron pillar and a bronze wall’ with them, to have given up everything else
(Jeremiah 1.18) – God will protect him, but at in order to concentrate on Jesus’ second
the cost of separating him from the love and coming. Paul has to write again later to tell
companionship of his own people. In today’s them that they do have to get on with their
reading, Jeremiah has been imprisoned by normal lives while they prepare for God’s
his own King for being right. The enemies of arrival.
Jerusalem are besieging the city, as Jeremiah
had said they would, and suddenly he is Luke seems to have taken on Jeremiah’s
filled with hope. At last Jeremiah is allowed normal tone. Normally, we associate Luke
to tell people that God’s judgement does not with heart-warming stories of women and
undo his earlier promise to Israel. If they wait, children. It is Luke who tells us about John
watch, endure, and try to see the hand of God the Baptist’s mother, and who gives us
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the Magnificat. It is Luke who provides the
shepherds and sheep, the stable and the
manger, so many of the props of the nativity
play. But those who only see the picturesque
side of Luke need to read a little more carefully.
The fig tree is the key to all three of today’s
passages. Just as we know how to watch
for the signs that mark the changing of the
seasons, so we have to train to be people
who can recognize the signs of the coming
redemption. Luke also has the wonderfully
vivid picture of the Christian standing up like
a dog sniffing the air for the familiar smell of
the master, even in the middle of distress and
confusion. The irony of this is, of course, that
Jesus is talking to his disciples just a short time
before his arrest and death, an event that they
were wholly unprepared for, so the Gospel
writers tell us. Interpreting the signs of the times
is not an easy task.
Jeremiah and Luke are both talking about
seeing the signs in times of turmoil, but Paul is
talking into a situation of growth and joy, and
trying to keep the note of urgency. So how do
we wait intelligently, noting the signs, sniffing
the air, yet also preparing ourselves to wait it
out? Well, the three passages suggest that the
key is to know what you are preparing for. In
Advent, we are waiting for God’s arrival, so our
task is to make sure we will recognize him when
he comes.
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Signs of the End
by Tom Wright

Taken from Paul for Everyone Galatians and Thessalonians
by Tom Wright - Copyright SPCK 2004
Click to purchase full book from SPCK
Learning to read Paul is a bit like learning to came back from Thessalonica with excellent
enjoy great music. It’s quite easy to whistle a news about the church. Paul, meanwhile, had
tune that you’ve heard on the radio or sung in most likely left Athens and was now in Corinth;
church. The tune probably only lasts for ten he had had much to cope with in both places, as
seconds or so, and you can recognize and he indicates near the start of his first surviving
remember it. But many great composers have letter to Corinth itself (1 Corinthians 2.3). On
not only written wonderful tunes; they have top of it all was his anxiety about the churches
woven them into much longer compositions – further away in northern Greece. Timothy’s
symphonies, concertos, operas and so on – in report was indeed ‘good news’; the word Paul
an astonishing variety of patterns, so that the uses is the same as the word for preaching the
pattern itself becomes a sort of new, larger tune, gospel. It must have felt as though he’d heard
harder to whistle as you walk down the street, the gospel all over again when news reached
but even more satisfying when you can listen him of God’s power and love at work, in his
to it, understand what’s going on, and hear the absence, in Thessalonica.
large tunes and the small ones together and see
how it all fits. In particular – and this will remind us of his
opening remarks in 1.3 – he is delighted to hear
At the end of this paragraph, and then in the not only about their faithfulness, but also about
closing three verses of chapter 3, we realize, their love. This love (Paul here focuses on their
if we are listening closely, that throughout this love for him and his colleagues, but in the next
long description of his relationship with the chapter he will speak also about their love for
Thessalonians – his first arrival, his work among one another) was truly one of the astonishing
them, his anxiety after his departure, his sending things in the early church. Imagine, within that
of Timothy – Paul is not simply reminiscing. world, a new community where people from
He is thanking God for them and praying to different social, cultural and racial backgrounds
God for them. What we have been listening treated each other with the love appropriate
to is framed within the explicit thanksgiving at within a family! This was a sign, which Paul
the start of chapter 1 and the thanksgiving and regularly celebrated, of God’s dramatic work,
prayer into which Paul now moves. Perhaps starting something quite new, the like of which
this itself serves as a good model for missionary the world had not seen before. It was evidence
and pastoral work: when praying, to think back that in Jesus, and by his spirit, the living God
in the presence of God through one’s entire was indeed at work. No wonder Paul, in the
relationship with the church, mulling it over, midst of his own difficulties and the opposition
learning to see God’s strange design in what that met him in Athens and Corinth, found
has gone on, earnestly asking God to complete himself buoyed up. ‘Now we are truly alive!’ he
and bring to perfection the work he has begun. says, ‘if you are standing fast in the Lord’ – in
other words, if your life of allegiance to the Lord,
Once we try to imagine a world without and membership in his family, is really going so
electronic communications, and without a well. Paul senses the life of God at work afresh
reliable or speedy public postal service, we can in him, too, as a result of hearing this ‘good
imagine the huge relief Paul felt when Timothy news’.
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So he returns to the central task and joy of his
life: thanking and praising God for all that he
has done and is doing, and praying for a closer
bond yet with the churches he has founded.
Paul’s life, with all its day-and-night hard
physical work (2.9), was also a matter of day-
and-night prayer, realizing that he could never
thank God enough for what he had done and
was doing, and that through prayer God would
do yet greater things.
In particular, Paul knows that there is yet more
for the Thessalonians to face. More trials to
their faith are on the way. They have met the
first tests; will they meet the next ones? And
so he prays not only that he will be able to see
them again soon, but also that, when he does,
he will be able to supply anything that may
be needed to make their faith (in all senses:
belief, trust, faithfulness and loyalty) grow
yet stronger and stand firm for the future. He
doesn’t say there is anything wrong with their
faith at present; he only implies that faith needs
to grow with every day, with each new trial or
test, and that maybe his own further teaching
and encouragement will be needed to help that
to happen.
The word he uses to describe his prayer is a
rare one, meaning more or less ‘even more
exceedingly than you can imagine’. Could you
describe your own prayer in that way? If you
are a pastor or teacher, is that how you pray for
those in your care? If not, what is it about your
vision of God and the gospel that is allowing
you to be satisfied with less?
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The Distress of Jerusalem Predicted
by Tom Wright

Taken from Luke for Everyone
by Tom Wright - Copyright SPCK 2004
Click to purchase full book from SPCK
At school we were sometimes made to write on her (Isaiah 48.20; Jeremiah 50.8; 51.6, 45),
stories which included several very different so Jesus’ followers are to leave Jerusalem while
characters and objects. ‘Write a story,’ the there is still time. Violent death and enforced
teacher might say, ‘including a rabbit, a deportation will await those who are caught
telescope, a cathedral and a man with a wooden there. Instead of the Jews making Jerusalem a
leg.’ Often this would involve huge leaps of the delight, the pagans will flatten it and have it all
imagination, as young minds struggled to come to themselves. These warnings, of course, came
up with something that met the requirements true in and after AD 70.
and yet made sense in itself.
But how does this square with the rest of the
Many people have felt, reading Luke 21, as passage? The answer is that we must learn,
though Jesus is setting us a puzzle rather like again, how to understand the picture language
that. How can we make sense of an event which that was common at the time. ‘Signs in the sun,
involves armies round a city, the roaring of the moon and stars’ might well be taken literally, but
sea, the coming of the son of man on a cloud, such a phrase could easily mean that the great
and the arrival of the kingdom of God? And how nations and kingdoms of the earth would be,
can whatever-it-is be said to happen within a as we say in our own picture language, ‘going
generation of when Jesus was speaking? through convulsions’. Those who have lived
through the fall of the apartheid regime in South
The best place to begin is on safe ground – safe Africa, and of the Berlin Wall, will know how
for us in terms of our understanding of the text, quickly, and how unexpectedly, great changes
but decidely unsafe for anyone there at the time. can sweep through large systems, with huge
Verses 20–24 are clear, and fit with everything and unpredictable consequences. Anyone living
Luke has reported Jesus as saying up to this in the Roman Empire during the years AD 60–
point. A time of great crisis is coming, in which 70 might well feel the same, particularly during
the failure of Israel in general and Jerusalem in the last two or three years of that period. After
particular to repent and follow the kingdom-way Nero’s suicide in 68, four emperors followed
advocated by Jesus would have its disastrous in quick succession, each one at the head of
result. The Romans would come (they are not an army. The much-vaunted ‘Roman peace’
mentioned by name, but if anyone was likely to that Augustus and his successors claimed to
surround Jerusalem with armies it was surely have brought to the world was shattered from
them) and would lay siege to the city. The result the inside. A convulsive shudder went through
would not be in doubt. the whole known world. That fits verses 25–26
When that happened, those who were able to
get out and run while there was time should do The ‘coming of the son of man’ must then
so. Jesus’ instructions at this point are quite be understood, as first-century Jews would
specific; his followers were not to imagine, out certainly have understood it, as the fulfilment
of false national loyalty, that they had a duty to of the prophecy of Daniel 7. One of the most
stay in Jerusalem and go down with the ship. popular prophecies of the day, this passage
Just as the Israelites were commanded to leave was believed to speak about the time when
Babylon in a hurry before God’s judgment fell God’s true people would be vindicated after
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their suffering at the hands of the ‘beasts’, the
pagan nations who had oppressed them. This
prophecy imagines a great lawcourt scene,
in which God, the judge, finds in favour of
his people, ‘the son of man’, and against the
oppressive ‘beast’. The judgment that falls on
the pagan nations is the same judgment that
vindicates ‘the son of man’, who is then brought
on a cloud to share the throne of God himself.
The best way of understanding this passage in
Luke is then to see it as the promise that, when
the Jerusalem that had opposed his message
is finally overthrown, this will be the vindication
of Jesus and his people, the sign that he has
indeed been enthroned at his Father’s side in
heaven (see 20.42–43). Luke does, of course,
believe in the ‘second coming’ of Jesus (Acts
1.11), but this passage is not about that. It is
about the vindication of Jesus and the rescue of
his people from the system that has oppressed
Here, then, are the signs that the disciples
are to look for. God’s kingdom has come near,
and God’s city has rejected it; the fulfilment of
the kingdom will involve the destruction of the
city. All must take place within a generation,
because Jesus is after all the last prophet; once
the vineyard-owner has sent the son, he has no
other messenger left (20.13).
Christian readers, puzzling over this passage
nearly two thousand years later, are often at a
loss to know what it can say to them. For us,
the destruction of Jerusalem, an act of great
pagan brutality, is far away in the past, and we
know of so many other subsequent crises that
the church has faced that we are inclined to
think of it as comparatively insignificant. We,
however, live and preach the gospel in a world
which, as Jerusalem did to Jesus, often refuses
the summons to peace. We have at least a
duty to warn our contemporaries that to reject
God’s invitation may well lead to disaster. And
in the meantime we must continue to practise
patience. We never know when we shall need
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Kairos Moments
by David Perry

As the sky lightens at daybreak this is the how John the Baptist was filled with fiery
moment in which the sun penetrates the chilly passion to preach and baptise in preparation
shroud of mist and bathes the landscape for the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom through
in milky light. Chronological time becomes the imminent arrival of the Messiah; how Mary
irrelevant. Here and now, in this Kairos moment, accepted the heart-piercing gift of bearing Jesus
consciousness is suffused by rays from another in the Kairos moment knowledge that in birthing
realm, imparting a deeper sense of place and and cradling his life she was participating in the
space, purpose and meaning. God is our soul’s divine rebirth of hope for humanity.
timekeeper and the light of God’s love describes
an arc of grace on the sundial of our yearning. All these precious world-remaking Kairos
moments are the historical antecedents of our
When you see these things taking place, you own in a pattern that never changes and a
know that the kingdom of God is near (Luke process that is recognisable today. God reaches
21:31). You must be vigilant at all times (Luke out to us as individuals and imparts to us an
21:36) imperative awareness of Kingdom opportunity
In those days and at that time I will… (Jeremiah and invites us to grasp and own its significance
33:15). for the benefit of others.
The choices of scripture for this Advent Sunday What Kairos moments will God offer to us this
carry the same sense of expectation, revelation Advent?
and surprise for us as does the sun emerging
through the cloaking mist. God’s love has What does God intend to happen through
broken through, is breaking through and will them?
break through to enlighten us and to show
us the world in a different light. These Kairos And will be vigilant when they occur and be
moments are an invitation to recognise God’s willing and prepared to be changed by them?
unfolding initiative, to be inspired by what we
see and to participate in its outworking.
In this sense the season of Advent takes us
right back to basics. We rediscover just how
dependent we are upon such Kairos moments
and how stale and staid our faith journey would
become without these gifts of awakening to the
in-breaking dimension of God’s presence-full
Through the Sundays in Advent we recall how
the prophets were compelled to proclaim,
challenge and act by their Kairos moments;
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Marjorie Dobson John Birch
David Adam

We Thank You Loving God
Prayer by Marjorie Dobson
We thank you loving God,
that we live in a time when we can celebrate the way that you showed us
your true nature through the life and ministry of Jesus.
For many ages you were regarded as a mysterious presence,
hidden from sight, surrounded by priests and prophets
who were the only source of information about you.
Then you broke into the world to resolve the mystery,
to wake us up to the reality of your love and grace.
So we celebrate again the birth of a baby;
the incarnation of yourself demonstrating your nature;
the translation of the mystery of ages,
seen in the birth, life and death of Jesus.
Thank you for the clarity of that revelation.
Thank you for the joy, the hope,
the forgiveness and the peace that it offers.
Guide us as we attempt to follow the example of Jesus
in sharing your good news and your love with all we meet.
In the name of Christ. Amen
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First Sunday of Advent
by David Adam
Taken from Traces of Glory by David Adam
Copyright SPCK 1999
Click to purchase full book from SPCK
Come, Lord God, change us and we shall be changed. Come, increase our
awareness of your presence. Come, strengthen our love for you.
Come, fill our hearts with holiness. Come, awaken us to be ready and watchful for
your coming. Come, Lord God, change us and we shall be changed; Through him
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. Amen.
Holy and Mighty God, we long for you and your love.
Fill your church with grace and goodness,
That we may grow in holiness and hospitality,
That we may reach out in mission and love,
That we may reveal your light and your glory.
Lord, make us active in service and joyful in praise.
Lord, show us your way
And teach us your paths.
We pray for the nations of the world and for the righteous dealings.
May the resources of the earth be neither hoarded nor squandered,
But used to the benefit of all and the relief of those who need.
Strengthen all who strive for justice and integrity in world trade;
May vulnerable peoples be freed from oppression and abuse.
May we all have compassion and concern for the poor.
Lord, show us your way
And teach us your paths.
Come, Lord, fill our homes with your light and love.
Make us sensitive in our dealings and gentle in our actions.
Keep us alert to the needs and hopes of others,
That or homes may reflect your presence and your glory.
Lord, show us your way
And teach us your paths.
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God of freedom and peace,
we remember before you all who are captives to sin, vice, addiction,
all who are damaged by oppression, violence or abuse…………
We pray for our friends and loved ones who are ill,
Bless all who seek to rescue and restore those who are in need or distress.
Lord, show us your way
And teach us your paths.
We give thanks for all who have passed beyond trouble and darkness
and are now at peace in your kingdom.
We rejoice in the fellowship of the saints
and pray we may follow their way of holiness and love.
Lord, show us your way
And teach us your paths.
The Holy One comes to you in peace and love
that you may increase and abound in love.
The peace of the Lord be always with you
And also with you.
Put off the works of darkness, put on the armour of light.
Know that God comes to you in power and in peace.
Be steadfast in your hope that the Lord may find you ready at his coming;
And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit be among
you and remain with always. Amen
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First Sunday of Advent
Year B
by John Birch
The Act of Prayer
Praying through the lectionary
Opening Prayer
This is Advent, a season of promise.
In our worship we prepare for the birth of a baby in a dusty stable,
and remind ourselves that this child will become the Saviour of the world,
who will return again
in power and glory to bring all of his children together
in songs of everlasting praise.
The promise of the baby is also the promise of eternal life to all who believe.
God of hope and promise,
be with us throughout this Advent season,
and draw us ever closer as we travel together
toward the stable and the birth of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
God of majesty and promise,
who spoke and this world was,
who breathed and this world lived,
who counts the hairs upon our heads,
sees our thoughts, reads our hearts and loves us more than we deserve,
how can we not bring to you this offering of praise?
For in the child at Bethlehem
lies the promise of intimacy
with a Saviour who would die even for me,
and the promise of an eternity
in which to praise you more each day.
God of majesty and promise,
we praise your holy name.
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To you, O Lord, we bring our lives,
troubled, broken or at ease,
a sacrificial offering
for you to use.
Take away our selfishness
and teach us to love as you loved.
Take away our sense of pride
and show us the meaning of humility.
Take away our blindness
and show us the world through your eyes.
Take away our greed
and teach us how to give as you gave.
Show us your ways;
teach us your paths,
that we might walk with you more closely,
our hand in your hand,
our feet in your footprints,
eternal Lord who became
a baby in a stable.
For your word which endures,
we give you thanks.
For promises to hold,
we give you thanks.
For intimacy with you,
we give you thanks.
For the love that surrounds us,
we give you thanks.
For all those here today,
we give you thanks.
For family and friends,
we give you thanks.
For visitors among us,
we give you thanks.
For the hope of Advent time,
when we prepare to see
the divine step on to earth,
we give you thanks. Taken from The Act of Prayer
by John Birch - Copyright BRF 2014
Click to purchase full book from BRF
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Joan Chittister

The Monastery Of The Heart
An Invitation to a Meaningful Life
Joan Chittister
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
Retreat and Reflection
“The life of a monastic ought to be a continuous Part of our spiritual journey, Benedict implies,
Lent.” must, if the soul is to make progress in the
spiritual life, be spent remembering what we
There is a time in every life when the very act say are our intentions in life, in the light of what
of looking back and taking stock becomes we can clearly see are becoming the patterns
essential to going forward. and actions of our lives.
Without the light that shines out of the darkness In fact, what we’re called to do is to pray more
of the past, we cannot chart a new path to the thoughtfully, to read more intensely, to feel
future. more keenly the distance between what we say
we are and what we know ourselves to be, and
Monastic spirituality is built around a life of to strengthen our capacity for resolve.
retreat and reflection.
“The life of a monastic,” Benedict writes, “ought Retreat times remind us that it is easy to
to be a continuous Lent”- a life in which holy become slack in concern for the mundane,
reading, self-control, and reflection on the great the daily, and the unglamorous in the face of a
questions of life should be of the essence. world so enticingly exciting.
For those with a Benedictine heart, a Lenten Life in a Monastery of the Heart is meant to
spirit is not an exercise in spiritual athleticism freshen the embers and stoke the fire of fidelity,
designed to show that my fasting is better than to deepen our understanding of the great
your fasting. treasure we seek,
to remind us of who we are and what we are
In a Monastery of the Heart, the Benedictine meant to be, to bring to new life in us again the
soul learns always to return to the cave of the sight of the road on which we have put our feet.
heart, where the superfluities of life do not Retreat time is the flagship piece of the year
distract from the significance of life. that sets the standard for a rhythm of life that
moves seamlessly between contemplation and
This requires the cultivation of a reflective soul action, between work and Sabbath, between a
and a disciplined mind that goes regularly into regular retreat and reflection days throughout
“retreat”- into that space where we look, first the year.
of all, at what we set out to be, and then look There is a temptation in religious life to play
consciously at what we are now doing to get religious, to dress the part of the seeker, to
there. look, as the Gospels warn us, wan and worn
out from fasting.
Retreat time is the practice of making personal
time for the kind of spiritual time that is beyond What is more growthful, the Rule demonstrates,
the routine of religious practices or spiritual is to ask ourselves regularly about all the little
duties. ways we are tempted to cut the corners of the
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spiritual life:
by ceasing to pray, by giving up on the study of
the faith,
by failing to grapple with the scriptures, by
neglecting to go out of ourselves to meet the
needs of others, to tell the world a Gospel truth,
to give voice to the pain of the world, to put
down the ambitions of the political, to take up
the challenges of the prophets.
Retreat times remind us always to make the
space to begin- again- and, in the midst of the
cloying demands of work and family, of money-
making worries and the stressors of social
systems, to fix the eye of the heart on the really
important things of life.
In every Monastery of the Heart, there must be
regular times set aside to go down into these
inner recesses of the soul once more, alone
and centred, to take another look, a new kind of
look, at ourselves.
Retreat, reflection, Sabbath, and soul-space
are of the essence of the monastic spirit- not for
our sake alone but for the sake of those who
depend on us to make the promise of creation
new again.
First, painfully aware of our own lack of steeled
spirit, and full of compunction- what the
ancients called the regret of the soul- we must
forgive ourselves for being less than we know
we can be.
Second, we must turn the compass point of the
heart back again to where God waits for us,
arms open, full of mercy, made of love,
to be our own best selves- not for our own sake
alone but for the sake of the rest of the world.
Benedictine spirituality, after all, is life lived to
the hilt.
It is a life of concentration on life’s ordinary
It is an attempt to do the ordinary things of life
extraordinarily well.
Taken from The Monastery Of The Heart
by Joan Chittister
Copyright SPCK 2011
Click to purchase full book from SPCK
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Pope Benedict XVI

Great Clement which is acknowledged to be genuine and is of considerable length and of remarkable merit. He wrote it in the name of the Church of
Christian Rome to the Church of Corinth, when a sedition had arisen in the latter church. We know that this epistle also has been publicly used in a
Thinkers great many churches both in former times and in our own” (Hist. Eccl. 3, 16).
An almost canonical character was attributed
by Pope Benedict XVI to Clement’s Letter. At the beginning of this
text, written in Greek, Clement expressed
** his regret that “the sudden and successive calamitous events which have happened to
Part One ourselves” (1, 1) had prevented him from
Heirs of The Apostles intervening sooner. These “calamitous events”
can be identified with Domitian’s persecution:
therefore, the Letter must have been written
St Clement, Bishop of just after the emperor’s death and at the end of the persecution, that is, immediately after the
Rome year 96.
Clement’s intervention— we are still in the
first century— was prompted by the serious
After the first witnesses of the Christian faith, problems besetting the Church in Corinth: the
mentioned in the New Testament writings, elders of the community, in fact, had been
we find the Apostolic Fathers, that is, to the deposed by some young contestants. The
first and second generations in the Church sorrowful event was recalled once again by
subsequent to the Apostles. And thus, we can St. Irenaeus, who wrote: “In the time of this
see where the Church’s journey begins in Clement, no small dissension having occurred
history. among the brethren in Corinth, the Church in
Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the
St. Clement, bishop of Rome in the last years Corinthians exhorting them to peace, renewing
of the first century, was the third successor their faith and declaring the tradition which it
of Peter, after Linus and Anacletus. The most had lately received from the Apostles” (Adv.
important testimony concerning his life comes Haer. 3, 3, 3)
from St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons until 202.
He attests that Clement “had seen the blessed Thus, we could say that Clement’s Letter was
Apostles,” “had been conversant with them,” a first exercise of the Roman primacy after St.
and “might be said to have the preaching of Peter’s death. His Letter touches on topics
the Apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their that were dear to St. Paul, who had written two
traditions before his eyes” (Adversus Haer. 3, important letters to the Corinthians, in particular
3, 3). Later testimonies, which date back to the theological dialectic, perennially current,
between the fourth and sixth centuries, attribute between the indicative of salvation and the
to Clement the title of martyr. imperative of moral commitment.
The authority and prestige of this bishop First of all came the joyful proclamation of
of Rome were such that various writings saving grace. The Lord forewarns us and
were attributed to him, but the only one that gives us his forgiveness, gives us his love and
is certainly Clement’s is the Letter to the the grace to be Christians, his brothers and
Corinthians. Eusebius of Caesarea, the great sisters. It is a proclamation that fills our life with
“archivist” of Christian beginnings, presents it in joy and gives certainty to our action: the Lord
these terms: “There is extant an epistle of this always forewarns us with his goodness, and
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the Lord’s goodness is always greater than all an organism with its different functions. The
our sins. However, we must commit ourselves Church, in fact, is not a place of confusion and
in a way that is consistent with the gift received anarchy where one can do what one likes all
and respond to the proclamation of salvation the time: each one in this organism, with an
with a generous and courageous journey of articulated structure, exercises his ministry in
conversion. accordance with the vocation he has received.
With regard to community leaders, Clement
In comparison with the Pauline model, the clearly explains the doctrine of Apostolic
innovation is that Clement adds to the doctrinal Succession. The norms that regulate it derive
and practical sections, found in all the Pauline ultimately from God himself. The Father sent
Letters, a “great prayer” that virtually concludes Jesus Christ, who in turn sent the Apostles.
the Letter. They then sent the first heads of communities
and established that they would be succeeded
The Letter’s immediate circumstances provided by other worthy men. Everything, therefore, was
the bishop of Rome with ample room for an made “in an orderly way, according to the will of
intervention on the Church’s identity and God” (42). With these words, these sentences,
mission. If there were abuses in Corinth, St. Clement underlined that the Church’s
Clement observed, the reason should be sought structure was sacramental and not political.
in the weakening of charity and of the other The action of God who comes to meet us in the
indispensable Christian virtues. He therefore liturgy precedes our decisions and our ideas.
calls the faithful to humility and fraternal love, The Church is above all a gift of God and not
two truly constitutive virtues of being in the something we ourselves created; consequently,
Church: “Seeing, therefore, that we are the this sacramental structure does not only
portion of the Holy One,” he warned, “let us do guarantee the common order but also this
all those things which pertain to holiness” (30, precedence of God’s gift which we all need.
1). Finally, the great prayer confers a cosmic breath
to the previous reasoning. Clement praises
In particular, Clement recalls that the Lord and thanks God for his marvellous providence
himself “has established where and by whom of love that created the world and continues to
he wishes liturgical functions to be carried save and sanctify it.
out, so that all may be devoutly performed in
accordance with his wishes and in a manner The prayer for rulers and governors acquires
acceptable to him… For his own peculiar special importance. Subsequent to the New
services are assigned to the high priest, and Testament texts, it is the oldest prayer extant for
their own proper place is prescribed to the political institutions. Thus, in the period following
priests, and their own special ministries devolve their persecution, Christians, well aware that the
on the Levites. The layman is bound by the persecutions would continue, never ceased to
laws that pertain to laymen” (40, 1–5: it can be pray for the very authorities who had unjustly
noted that here, in this early first-century letter, condemned them. The reason is primarily
the Greek word laikós appears for the first time christological: it is necessary to pray for one’s
in Christian literature, meaning “a member of persecutors, as Jesus did on the cross.
the laos,” that is, “of the People of God”). In this But this prayer also contains a teaching that
way, referring to the liturgy of ancient Israel, guides the attitude of Christians toward politics
Clement revealed his ideal Church. She was and the state down the centuries. In praying
assembled by “the one Spirit of grace poured for the authorities, Clement recognized the
out upon us,” which breathes on the various legitimacy of political institutions in the order
members of the Body of Christ, where all, established by God; at the same time, he
united without any divisions, are “members of expressed his concern that the authorities
one another” (46, 6–7). would be docile to God, “devoutly in peace and
meekness exercising the power given them
The clear distinction between the “layperson” by [God]” (61, 2). Caesar is not everything.
and the hierarchy in no way signifies opposition, Another sovereignty emerges whose origins
but only this organic connection of a body, and essence are not of this world but of “the
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heavens above”: it is that of Truth, which also
claims a right to be heard by the state.
Thus, Clement’s Letter addresses numerous
themes of perennial timeliness. It is all the
more meaningful since it represents, from
the first century, the concern of the Church of
Rome, which presides in charity over all the
other churches. In this same Spirit, let us make
our own the invocations of the great prayer in
which the bishop of Rome makes himself the
voice of the entire world: “Yes, O Lord, make
your face to shine upon us for good in peace,
that we may be shielded by your mighty hand…
through the High Priest and guardian of our
souls, Jesus Christ, through whom be glory and
majesty to you both now and from generation to
generation, forevermore” (60–61).
—7 March 2007
Taken from Great Christian Thinkers
by Pope Benedict XVI - Copyright SPCK 2011
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Titles of Resources in this issue:
Expect Great Things - John Goldingay
First Sunday of Advent - Jane Williams
Timothy’s Report - Tom Wright
The Distress of Jerusalem Predicted - Tom Wright
Kairos Moments - David Perry
We Thank You Loving God - Marjorie Dobson
First Sunday of Advent - David Adam
First Sunday of Advent - John Birch
The Monastery Of The Heart - Joan Chittister
Great Christian Thinkers - Pope Benedict XVI
Advent Candle - Alan M Barker
sun breaking through mist shining on sundial - David Perry
The Lord our Righteousness - Twelvebaskets Ltd
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