Tag Archives: Christian inspirational

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 7

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 7

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

Psalm 7

O Christ of the poor and the maligned,
the suffering and the weak
we give thanks for your love
that binds us together
in our small congregations
in the broken east.

You know our struggles and our fears
our doubts and our burdens
our deep weariness
you are our constant companion
giving us the strength and inspiration
we need day-to-day.

We never feel like we have enough people
or enough resources
to meet the challenges
or respond to the needs
of this shattered place

But strangers are welcomed
food and drink is offered
someone listens when pain is shared
people are accepted just as they are
help is given in small ways

One day a week we gather
in a circle like a family
in a plain and ordinary place
to celebrate our faith and trust in you
to seek your guidance
restore our energy
keep our hope alive

It’s never easy but
we continue to find our way
through the mess and chaos
the grief and the loss
sustained by your life within us
and the warmth of community

So it hurts and angers us
when we hear that big wealthy churches
in the west of the city
don’t think that we are performing.

They say that we are not up to scratch
we are failing and should be shut down
we don’t match their vision
of what a church looks like.

Give us courage in the face of such judgement
and the laughter and wisdom
to deal with “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

Help us not to get caught up in their negativity
but in your grace and joy.

O Christ, we thank you for your loving solidarity
with the widow, the poor, the small and the downtrodden.
In the midst of our struggles we are not alone.

From The In-Between Land: Psalms, Poems and Haiku by Mark Gibson (2015)

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Prayer / Poem of the Week # 6

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 6

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

A Season of Transition (Poetry)

Summer is past, winter draws near,
autumn is a season of transition.
A time of preparation.
Epiphany is past, Easter draws near,
Lent is a season of transition.
A time of preparation.

The story is told of Jesus walking southwards
taking fateful steps from Galilee to Judaea.
A time of determination.
The story is told of disciples shocked and rejecting
predictions of death and resurrection.
A time of incomprehension.

Pilgrims excited, Passover coming,
commemorating past, anticipating future deliverance.
A time of celebration.
Chief priests worried, Passover coming,
remembering past, fearing future disturbances.
A time of apprehension.

Soldiers marching, Governor resplendent,
putting on display the might of mighty Rome.
A time of intimidation.
Man on a donkey, crowds shouting, “Save Us,”
waving palm fronds and throwing down their cloaks.
A time of acclamation.

A final supper, bread and wine shared,
words of encouragement followed by despair.
A time of betrayal and desertion.
Man crowned with thorns, hung on a cross,
words of forgiveness and promise spoken.
A time of suffering and sacrifice.

Women confused and afraid,
grave empty, angels present.
A time of hope slowly dawning.
A stranger joins mourners on the road to Emmaus,
his identity discovered in the breaking of bread.
A time of revelation.

From: Prayers for Southern Seasons: Poems and prayers for Christian worship and devotions. By Joy Kingsbury-Aitken.

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Prayer / Poem of the Week # 5

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 5

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

Prayer

God of goodness, gaps, and glitches
help us to see each other for what we are.

God of struggles, strengths, and strategies
help us to cope with what we have.

God of difficulties, disabilities, and delights
help us find joy in who we are.

God of individuality and invisibilities,
enable us to understand how life is harder
for some than it is for their peers;
Give us a readiness to ease difficulties,
remove barriers,
and create level playing fields

Bless us with the will to appreciate
the courage, creativity, and skills
required to live with impairment;
along with the discernment to realise
impairment is merely a fragment
of personhood.

Empower us all to live in fullness,
valuing what we have,
and knowing we are loved. Amen.

From: Lay Preaching Basics by Rosalie Sugrue (2018)

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Prayer / Poem of the Week # 4

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 4

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

33. A Farmer’s Prayer for Daily Work

O God, in the burst of spring growth,
let me rejoice.

In the first plantings of crops,
bring me hope.

In the summer heat,
shade me.

In the dried up hills
water me.

In the harvest work
sustain me.

In the big decisions
guide me.

In the autumn chill
warm me.

In the driving rain
shelter me.

From the howling winds
protect me.

In the slush and mud
encourage me.

In the lonely hours
stand by me.

In the beauty of each dawn,
let me wonder at your creation,
and the peace of the earth.

From The Shepherd’s Call – Te Karanga o te Hēpara:
Prayers and liturgies for rural Aotearoa New Zealand
By Bill Bennett (2018)

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Prayer / Poem of the Week # 3

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 3

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

Costly Love

Martha
   the busy one
   whose natural way of showing love
was to cook, clean, serve
and she delighted to serve her Lord.

Mary
   the quiet one
   whose natural way of showing love
   was to listen, absorb
and she delighted to love her Lord.

Jesus’ friend Lazarus dies
beloved of his sisters – and their Lord away,
returning
meets Martha, first as always, breathless
“Lord, had you been here
    our brother would not have died!”
and Jesus consoles, teaches, explains.

Then Mary –
“Lord, had you been here
   our brother would not have died!”
…and Jesus weeps… and acts
the overwhelming love of Almighty God
leaping forth in resurrection power.

Lord –
take my love
I pour it at your feet
take my tears
   take my busyness
   take my stillness
may I serve you Lord.

(John chapter 11)

From A Celebration of Life by Meg Hartfield (2016)

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Prayer / Poem of the Week # 2

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 2

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

One

I love your story Jesus
  I think about you often
    drinking deeply from the flow
      your life unlocked in me

Hungry for the promised fruit
  longing to sprout and grow tall
    hoping to be the kind of plant
      you’d enjoy to look at

I’m tired of windblown days
  one more storm-stripped leaf
    fluttering away to nothing
      on un-consecrated ground

Please don’t judge me harshly
  for the bad advice I’ve taken
    the times I’ve stood for nothing
      those I’ve criticised or mocked

I know you’re watching over me
  one day you’ll make me prosper
    because my roots are in your garden
      and my branches are your cross.

From Redemption Songs by Mark Laurent (2016)

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Prayer / Poem of the Week # 1

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 1

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

Psalm 5

My friends, sometimes the best thing we can do is go to the beach,
or wander into the wetlands, to get close to the divine again.

The challenges we people of the east are dealing with at times seem
as high as the Southern Alps, and they can get us down, really down.

So taking time out of the mire and the mess to restore our waning spirits
is on some days simply essential.

On the beach I can gain a better perspective on things.
The vastness of the ocean reminds me of the immensity of God’s love.
It extends way beyond the horizon that I can see.
There is nothing that I am facing or in the grip of
that God’s love cannot absorb and transform.

When I really listen to the roar of the ocean,
instead of the noise of my thoughts,
I can hear God saying this over and over again.
The surf seems to shout eternally, “L-o-v-e,” in one long rolling sound…

When I feel the fresh, clean wind blowing on my face
there is a sense of being cleansed.
All the heavy things that pollute and clutter my mind
are somehow wonderfully dispersed.

So what I’m really trying to say is that a walk on the beach
can be a holy and healing experience.

As Adam and Eve discovered the divine walking in the Garden,
and Galilee fishermen experienced the same presence
in Jesus walking on the lakeshore,
we too can experience the divine walking with us on New Brighton beach.

It is the go to place when we are looking for new inspiration
and release from things that bind and blind us.

The quiet wetlands are another place to go to get closer to God.
Amongst that great seeping silence there is space to be and meditate.

On a still day all that breaks the silence is the song of birds.
There is something calming and comforting being close
to these beautiful and graceful creatures.
Like the dove that hovered over Jesus
they speak powerfully of the presence of God’s Spirit.

O God, draw us again to the places of beauty and life that surround us.
In these sacred places restore our strength and health.

From The In-Between Land: Psalms, Poems and Haiku by Mark Gibson (2015)

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Sermon: Good things come in threes. 11 June 2017 Trinity Sunday

The following sermon was given by lay preacher Philip Garside
at Wesley Methodist Church, 75 Taranaki Street, Wellington, NZ
on 11 June 2017 — Trinity Sunday

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You can download an audio re-recording of this sermon by the preacher here:
https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/worshipresourcessermons/Sermon_Wesley_11_June_2017_Trinity_Sunday_Philip_Garside.mp3

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Bible reading:

Matthew 28:16-20 — The Commissioning of the Disciples

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

 Sermon: Good things come in threes…

Let’s pray; May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our creator, redeemer and enabler. Amen.

Today is Trinity Sunday. It is an opportunity to focus on our understandings of God as being one and yet also being three.

They say that bad luck come in threes… But good things can come in threes too. And that is what I have titled this sermon, “Good things come in Threes…”

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Our gospel reading this morning comes right at the end of the book of Matthew. Jesus is crucified, and rises after three days. He appears to the women and tells the women to instruct the men, to go to Galilee where they will see Jesus again. The eleven remaining disciples go north to Galilee, climb a hill and Jesus appears to them as promised.

Note that Jesus reappears to the women – Mary Magdalene and the other Mary – first. They are the first people to visit the tomb when the Sabbath is over. It is the women who tell the men to go back to Galilee. The women are the messengers. The writer of Matthew’s gospel also gives women prominence in the genealogy at the start of the gospel, that traces the line from Jesus back to David and then back to Abraham. Both women and men have a full part in these stories and in spreading the Good News of God’s love for us.

There are eleven male disciples remaining after Judas has left. For Matthew it isn’t important to make the number back up to twelve, so his gospel has no story about appointing another disciple to take the place of Judas Iscariot. Eleven men, a small group, are enough to set the vision of the kingdom in motion.

Did you note in the reading that the disciples worshipped Jesus when he re-appeared to them, but some doubted. Not just doubting Thomas who we hear about in John’s gospel, but maybe 3 or 4 others too! Don’t be too quick to judge the disciples who weren’t sure that they were seeing Jesus and whether or not they could do the things that he was asking of them. If we were there, that might have been our reaction too. And anyway, I think it is better, healthier, wiser even, to ask questions and be sure in your own mind that you are doing the right thing, before setting out on a new mission.

These men had left their businesses, work, maybe wives and families, and land, to follow Jesus up to now. And that hadn’t worked out very well for them. Jesus hadn’t defeated the Romans, hadn’t overturned the Jewish political and economic authorities and powers that be, and hadn’t made their lives any easier. The disciples and the rest of the un-named people in the group that had followed Jesus, were now at a turning point. They had to make a decision: go back and pick up their old lives as best they could, or persist in working towards Jesus’ vision of a better world for all.

Go back or take a step forward in faith, to a hopeful, but uncertain future.

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The Jewish community in Jesus’ time had many laws and rules and regulations written down in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. Also known as the law of Moses. These laws are summarised in the Ten Commandments, which still provide us with useful guidelines for living today. But for every rule there is always someone who wants to find a loophole, and so the regulators, mainly the priests, had to keep refining and clarifying the laws, down to the last detail. They ended up with many different rules about what sacrifices were required at the Temple and about what activities did and didn’t constitute work on the Sabbath, and so on. I’m not entirely sure whether all Jewish people actually bothered to try to follow all these rules in their day-to-day lives. We know that the Sadducees and Pharisees groups did try to live by the rules. Probably the rest of the Jewish community would follow them as best they could.

But the trouble with such detailed and nit-picking laws is that they become a burden and people lose sight of the intent of the original rules — how to live well, alongside others, in peaceful communities. Jesus was a back to basics sort of guy. He put people before rules. If someone is hungry on the Sabbath, then pluck that corn and feed them now. If he can heal someone with a withered arm now, even though it is the Sabbath, then how dare you make that person wait another day to be healed. How obscene to let his suffering continue another minute, just for the sake of a precious rule.

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What do we think about the Bible now? What is our attitude to it?

Some Christians believe that every word in the Bible is literally true, factual and historically accurate. And furthermore, that if any part of the Bible is not true, then the whole foundation of their faith will be shaken. The Bible then becomes a rigid text, that can be interpreted in only one way. It becomes a weapon to beat those with different ideas into submission.

It will not surprise you to learn that is not my attitude to the Bible, and I don’t recommend that you treat the Bible that way either.

The Bible is full of foundational stories and wisdom, about people relating to God and to each other. We can reach into the depths of this book and pull out treasure for our lives today. The issue is not whether a particular story in the Bible really happened the way it is written down, whether it is true in any absolute sense, but rather what value and encouragement can we take from it today? The Bible is a beautiful and powerful thing, which needs to be treated with respect.

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Let’s get back to those disciples on the mountain in Galilee. What does Jesus say to encourage and persuade them, to help them move through and beyond their doubts?

First: I make the rules now and I give you permission to act. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Don’t look to your law books and scriptures, don’t look to your Kings and priests, ignore the Romans – I, Jesus, have all the power you need. And I’m offering it to you. All you have to do is say, “Yes.”

Second: What do I want you to do? “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

Let’s break that down. “Go.” Don’t stay here in a pious huddle, take that first step, start your journey.

“Make disciples of all nations.” That means tell everyone you meet on your travels about the good news that God loves us and that there is a better way to live. But what if they already have a good, nurturing religion of their own? (I’ll come back to that!)

“…baptizing them” Baptism was a serious and often dangerous commitment for a follower of Jesus to undertake in the first century. It required training over several months and was often performed at Easter. The Romans persecuted and attacked Christians, so worship was often held in secret, in private houses.

“in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Matthew’s gospel was probably written down in the 80s of the first century – about 50 years after Jesus died. My theological reading suggests that the concept of the Trinity – Father, Son & Holy Spirit – probably wasn’t known to Jesus, but was developed later by the early church. Jesus came to be known as Jesus the Messiah, or Jesus the Christ, but I think these are terms that were applied to him by his followers long after his death, as they struggled to come to terms with his crucifixion and started to build a new theology that would serve the developing Christian church. The Council of Nicea in the year 325 was still arguing over the fine points of how Jesus could be both human and also divine. Jesus key vision was always of a just society, where everyone had enough – of the kingdom of heaven, here on earth.

and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” What did Jesus command his disciples to do? Actually, his instructions were quite simple: Love God, Love your neighbour, Love yourself. That is the sum total of Jesus’ law. There are no loopholes to sneak out through. Either our lives meet these simple standards or they don’t.

Third: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This is harder to interpret. In what way was Jesus with the disciples after he died and rose? How is Jesus with us here today, how do we know? When does the age finish? Does it ever finish?

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I find the usual descriptions of the Trinity, of God being Three in One, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a bit distant. The modern usage of Creator, Redeemer and Enabler is more appealing, but I have come up with my own description.

Worship God, Follow Jesus, Spirit Filled.

Worship God, Follow Jesus, Spirit Filled.

To me this has an implied movement, freedom of action and purpose. It is not a static theory.

We here this morning are worshipping God. (Remember, I’m just up here leading and guiding you, I am not the focus.) If we worship God, we are saved from worshipping possessions or worldly power. And God is found through the week in our everyday lives, in beautiful unexpected sights or interactions with other people. When we keep still and listen, God is with us.

I find it helpful to make a distinction between Jesus the man who was born and lived on this earth and died just like us, and Jesus the Messiah or Christ of faith. We can then focus on what the Bible tells us Jesus the man said and did, and try to do the same. We will fail as often as we succeed, but we need to keep doing and saying the things that Jesus’ example showed us.

I see Spirit as Energy. The Spirit is that flash of inspiration and second wind that we get when we have run dry. Spirit is freedom. Spirit is power. Spirit is light and music. Spirit is the good in you and the good in me.

If we are filled with the Spirit, we also recognise the Spirit at work in other people. Pala explained to me recently that the greeting and action of Namaste [demonstrate] is more than just a polite greeting. It has a deeper spiritual significance and conveys the meaning: The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you. Isn’t that beautiful! Namaste.

Some closing thoughts:

Step out in faith, encouraged by Jesus’ message and example, and recognise the good in others.

Live well, alongside others, in peaceful communities

Good things come in threes.

Amen.

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You can email Philip at books@pgpl.co.nz

 

Free Sample poems from A Celebration of Life by Meg Hartfield

Here are two sample poems from Meg Hartfield’s A Celebration of Life

The book is available in print and in 3 eBook formats – see below for ordering links.

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Emmaus

We had heard Mary
rapturous, glowing
afire with excitement
“We have seen him – he spoke to me!”
Well, we know women –
the harrowing, terrible last few days
prostrated with grief
obviously her mind unhinged –
women are unreliable witnesses
that is well known.

So, wearily, returning home
seven miles, from Jerusalem to Emmaus –
but seeming longer,
discussing, despairingly
the seeming futility
the end of our dreams.

The stranger was not noticed
was obviously ignorant of events
so momentous to us –
so we told him.
Strange the way he responded –
explaining
courteously we invited him in.

And as we ate, amazingly,
the stranger became host
broke the bread, passed it –
a stunned moment of recognition –
only one man broke bread thus!
Jesus! alive! here!
gone!
Seven miles was as nothing
with winged feet returning
bursting
with incredulous joy.

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Swords Into Ploughshares

Ploughshares –
implements for cutting furrows
Swords –
implements for cutting people.

Ploughshares –
fixed in a frame
drawn by a horse
guided by a man
Swords –
fixed in a hand
wielded by a man.

Ploughshares –
used before sowing
Swords –
used for cutting down

Ploughshares –
used for rooting out weeds
Swords –
used for rooting out lives

God help us
to prepare our life-soil
to receive your seeds
of fruitful love.

Isaiah 2: 4

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“…poetry in motion. Freewheeling, anguished and inspirational…” Redemption Songs: Review in NZ Catholic , 12–25 March 2017

Review

Redemption Songs: Prayers for People Like Us
by Mark Laurent

Reviewed by

Kieran Fouhy, headmaster at St Paul’s College, Auckland in NZ Catholic 12–25 March 2017

“This 80 page book is poetry in motion. Freewheeling, anguished and inspirational.

I could imagine the words of these ‘new psalms’ being sung in some type of Leonard Cohen album. There is struggle, doubt, alienation, despair, gratitude and self-emptying built into each prayer. Themes which resonate today as they did 4000 years ago.

The author draws these universal lyrics from two sources; King David’s Psalms of the Old Testament and Jesus of Galilee. He places the lyrics in contemporary settings.

“I’ve wanted to be some sort of pop star
one of those heroes of the marketplace
but there is no blessing if I turn aside
wanting things you don’t want for me” (55)

“The mind craves understanding
this body longs to be healed from pain
my spirit needs to touch you
then I’ll be whole again” (42)

There is a hint of a reverse Hound Of Heaven theme running through this book … chasing God through life and seeking his forgiveness. Hence the title, Redemption Songs.

I found that I read this book over many days before going on my morning walk.  It spawned my own thinking about life and the pilgrimage we enjoy. It is a book for the moment … to be read slowly, flicked through and thought about.

The 71 psalms are numbered (no headings) giving an open-endedness to the lyrics, which invites further thought. I like the authenticity of the lyrics, such an antidote to the narcissism and self-importance shown in world politics at present.

Who is this book for? It’s for the reflective, meditative type personality. The retreatant.  It’s for the harassed, the time-poor and the spiritually barren person. It’s for the teacher giving a reflection at a staff briefing. It is, as the cover states, “for people like us.”

I like this book.”

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Click here to order Print or here for eBooks