Broken (an advent lament) updated

Our A&E groans like a gangrenous laugh,
satisfaction now far from both patients and staff.

An NHS ward makes up the next bed,
as suffering souls become targets instead.

Consultants are drawn by satisfaction and pay, the
and the mind stretching challenge of curing Miss Hay.

Our nurses demob and chase agency stash,
a fraction of trouble for double the cash.

The budget expands with nowhere to turn,
As government cuts continue to burn.

The system is broken, the money is tight,
people are stressed, just turn off the light.



Our schools are no better, it has to be said,
results are what count if you want to stay Head.

The government calls for results to improve,
our children need grades if the country’s to move.

So Ofsted investigates every small crack,
and anyone lagging will soon face the sack.

The teachers are stressed and seek to implore,
our children to progress, just a few stages more.

Our children are pawns in political chess,
their results are required to keep voters impressed.

But the voters have children who need to see CAMHS,
They are under the pressure of endless exams.

So which will break first? The schools or the kids?
Something must change as our lives hit the skids.



Our debt grows each day by millions of pounds,
It’s 1.8 trillion and we’re still losing ground.

Our economy falters and refuses to grow,
we’re told to work harder with nothing to show.

The deficit shrinks, but not by enough,
and one more recession will finish it off.

The state will default or something much worse,
the banks will foreclose on our poor public purse.

Then what shall we do, with no money to pay,
for our schools and our hospitals on that very dark day?



Our lawmakers tinker with national policy,
unfettered by norms not matching their honesty.

The economy’s god, and has to be served,
adopt monetary law or face hardship deserved.

Competition is fierce and all must comply,
from banker to bin man to sly private eye.

And cameras stare into all open space,
There’s nowhere to hide from their all seeing gaze.

The state becomes nanny, policeman and judge,
with laws to control all those who won’t budge.

Dare anyone protest about all of this pain?
Any who differ face Twitter campaigns.

It’s an animal farm behind this ol’ barn door,
how did we all drift to Orwellian ‘4?



Our housing costs spiral up out of control,
As landlords benefit from those on the dole.

The rich quickly swoon at the value of property,
as the gap in our wealth lands millions in poverty.

It’s location, location, location, they say,
undesirable places soon urban decay.

The rich separate and the poor must then cluster,
As the sad urban landscape loses its lustre.

The people who gather in middle class cliques,
have no real idea about life on our streets.

Grandparents swim in the wealth they have gained,
Whilst grandchildren muse about their future sustained.



The cool Western nations suppose order’s a given,
human nature, they say, is the root of true livin’.

We pity poor countries where corruption is rife,
we can’t fathom out their bent way of life.

“British values” are best and they need to be taught,
or the nations which move here will bring us to naught.

Society believes that we Brits know what’s best,
Rule of law and good justice will make you all blessed.

But to live by which laws? And who did create,
the sad way of life which now we all hate?

These laws did not grow, as if from the soil,
But we must live in Great Britain, in a way not to spoil.



The threat from abroad is now threat from within,
an evil idea gains a following thin.

But then in our streets, and across many lands,
this trickle of followers slowly expands.

Their message is clear, their methods intense,
submit to our way or lose your defence.

We rely on our spies and then on the Met,
as GCHQ trawls the vast internet.

But these systems are creaking, there’s barely a plan,
our intelligence systems are dependent on man.

Our confidence wanes as we wake from the dream,
this world is in melt down, or so it would seem.

 

The United Kingdom has been rent asunder
By a Brexit debate which continues to thunder

In corridors powerful still held in check
By democratically fierce public debate

Our proud sovereign nation gave up the goose
As EU structures tightened the noose

The historical voice of the once great Great Britain
Now left like a sad and whimpering kitten

We beg and we plead as deal breakers rise
And the threat of collapse reaches the skies

So what will result from the daft referendum
A poor vassal state or complete isolation?

We just need to wait as the future unravels
And poor UK folk find new directions of travel

 


And where is the church in all of this mess,
The body of Christ, who came down to bless.

Her life is now hidden, tucked safely away,
by media moguls on vast corporate pay.

But the church has gone quiet, embarrassed to speak
the words of our Saviour, who honours the meek.

The voice of the prophets becomes a mere mumble,
as the servants of Christ continue to stumble.

Through internal wars, designed to divide,
the house of Jehovah, the Lord’s precious bride.

And so as predicted, the branch of Christ withers
The faithless are blown like snow in a blizzard.

The church has lost heart and sight of her Lord,
Congregations now age whilst the young are dead bored.

There needs to be change, a new way and direction,
The work of the Spirit, a complete reformation.



The system is broken, and so then are we,
we collectively groan whilst longing to flee.

But to what shall we run and to where shall we go?
We can’t close Great Britain and move the whole show.

There’s one thing to alter, our god we must change.
Out with the targets and cold stock exchange.

We must usher in God, three persons in one,
Eternally loving, the bright morning Sun.

Creation gives value and true dignity,
To each human being, made by bless’d Trinity.

Our fall is complete, as we each went astray,
vast temples of Mammon trade on our Lord’s day.

What we desp’ratly need is a dose of real grace,
our sins washed away as to God we must face.

His laws they do bless and by wisdom he guides,
our burdens he carries, he heals our divides.



God refused to stay distant but came down instead,
to be born with his creatures in a poor cattle shed.

His words bring us life and his light he does shine,
in pits of our darkness, he says “you are mine.”

From the pain of the cross he calls “it is done!”
As God our great Father gave us his Son.

Christ’s life and his death were true sacrifice,
and he turns on it’s head, our fools’ paradise.

As our life finds meaning in the love of the Lord,
our reason for living now strikes a new chord.

God’s kingdom of love is a kingdom of peace,
our rest is then found and our battles will cease.



And so goals need to change from the bank to the Lord,
our desire is to please him, no longer to hoard.

The Lord is not stupid, he’s no crazy fool,
he let’s us chase others, till we go through his school.

His lessons are hard, his love can be tough,
we go our own way till we cry “that’s enough!”

“Have mercy on us, please turn the way back,
we were fools to chase targets, as one thing we lack.”

“We lack a real sense of what life is for,
the stress and the chaos shout, there has to be more!”

So when we will turn from the cruel god “economy”,
who drives us like slaves through lies of autonomy?

Let’s abandon this god, and his ways which bring strife,
and collectively turn to the God who brings life.

To lose our life now, in the King’s saving grace,
is to find our real self in the Lord’s resting place.



by Neil Robbie

(First published December 2015. Updated to include comment on Brexit and the state of the Western church)

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The Western Lord’s Prayer

The Western Lord’s Prayer

There’s no Father in heaven
No heavenly place
No king to respect
Just the vast human race.
What I own I deserve
I’ve no need for redress
But blame other people
When they make a mess.
I yield to temptation
I’m uncertain of evil
For mine is the kingdom
The power and the glory
Until I die.
Amen

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If my disciples stay quiet, the stones will cry out.

 ‘I tell you,’  Jesus replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’ (Luke 19:40)

I have often been left wondering what this little phrase might mean.

It clearly means that the whole of creation, even rocks and stones, cry out that Jesus is King.  But what kind of king?

The phrase “the stones will cry out” is a prophetic phrase given to us by God through the prophet Habakkuk and it links Jesus’ lament for Jerusalem, his clearing of the temple of money lenders and his death.

Habakkuk 2:9-14

Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain,
    setting his nest on high
    to escape the clutches of ruin!
10 You have plotted the ruin of many peoples,
    shaming your own house and forfeiting your life.
11 The stones of the wall will cry out,
    and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.

12 ‘Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed
    and establishes a town by injustice!
13 Has not the Lord Almighty determined
    that the people’s labour is only fuel for the fire,
    that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?
14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

Habakkuk 2 is a warning of judgement against people and cities which are built on unjust money and the abuse of power. When greed and injustice multiply, the stones of the houses in the city cry out to God’s king for justice.  When we see war torn cities in Syria, the buildings lying in heaps of rubble, those stones cry out to God’s king for justice. 

And we are left without doubt that this is what Jesus meant when he said the “stones will cry out”. Jesus approaches Jerusalem and laments, he weeps over the city (Luke 19:41). He weeps because judgement is on it’s way and the people could not see it coming. God’s house of prayer had become a den of robbers. Temple workers took money from the poor to keep the religious show on the road. The temple had become a kind of religious shopping centre it was never intended to be.  Jerusalem was going to fall, not one stone would be left on another (Luke 19:44), and those stones would cry out. Jesus could see it coming and he wept.  His city, God’s Holy city, was meant to be a place of generosity and justice. But it had become a place of unjust gain and bloodshed.

But the bloodshed in the city becomes God’s means of salvation for the ones to whom woe is coming.  Jesus sheds his blood to remove the woe.

Jesus is the king who builds a city by shedding his own blood, not the blood of others.
Jesus is the king who lays down his life for the good of others, not by corrupt or selfish practices.
Jesus is the king who gives generously, even giving his life, not by unjust gain.

This is how Jesus came to rule. And he rules by changing our hearts as people see what we did by dying for our sins.

Jesus did not come to rule for us, he came to rule in us.
Jesus is not the king we want, but the king we need.

Do we weep when we see Jesus on the cross?
Do we weep for our sins which held him there?
Do we weep with joy when we know we escape the woe of judgement, because of him?
Do we turn from unjust gain and bloodshed?
Do we shout the praise of Jesus, even when powerful people tell us to be quiet?
Or will the stones of our city cry out?

 

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May they be one as you, Father, and I are one: overcoming segregation in the church

God is using the changes in our parish to make us read the scriptures from a fresh perspective.  In the space of ten or fifteen years, people from all over the world have moved into our small, once settled community.  We are being made to ask what being “one” as a church looks like and we are beginning to see some answers in John’s gospel.

My prayer is…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one (John 17:22).

If we are to be one as the Father and Son are one, then we need to know some of the ways that the Father and Son are one. So far, there are four ways I have found in John’s gospel.

  1.  God the Father and God the Son are the same but different
  2.  God the Father and God the Son know each other perfectly
  3.  God the Father and God the Son love each other
  4.  God the Father and God the Son bring glory to each other

Continue reading

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When Jesus saw their faith. The healing of the paralytic, a physical expression of true faith.

In Mark’s gospel, physical healings and miracles, done by Jesus, parallel a spiritual reality in his followers.  For example, Jesus healed the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8) who could only partially see to begin with, and this parallels Peter’s growing but partial understanding of who the Christ is.  In chapter 10, the healing of blind Bartimaeus, comes between Jesus’ teaching on his coming to serve, by giving his life as a ransom for many, and his entrance into Jerusalem as King. Those with eyes could see.

I believe that a similar physical parallel exists in Mark 2, perfectly illustrating the nature of true faith.

As the four men lowered their paralysed friend from the roof, we are told “When Jesus saw their faith.”  The physical reality of this situation reveals a spiritual parallel.

First, the men were drawn to Jesus and their faith did not let obstacles get in their way of coming to him.  There was a packed room, an impenetrable crowd and the pressure of social etiquette (you don’t dig holes in the roof of other peoples’ homes) which stood in the way of the men, but none of those obstacles stopped them coming to Christ. There is an irresistible pull, draw, attraction when Christ is revealed to us and no obstacles can get in the way of our being drawn to him when true faith appears.

Second, the paralysed man dangled helplessly from the roof. His resting in the mat on which he was carried, secured by ropes and held by his friends, showed something physical about the nature of faith. He was helpless, paralysed.  He depended on his mat, the ropes and his friends.  We come to Christ as those who are helpless. We are spiritually paralysed by our sin, fear, anxiety, past failures, anger, resentment, self pity, pride, the list goes on.  True faith rests in Christ.  True faith depends on him.  He has an unbreakable hold of the rope, which stops us plunging into the fires of hell, and he will never let it/us go.

Third, true faith in Christ results in the forgiveness of sin, by faith alone, not by works.  “When Jesus saw their faith, he said “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  The paralysed man is like the man on the cross. He is unable to do any good works.  The paralysed man rests in his mat, unable to do anything except trust.

Fourth, true faith is like a jigsaw puzzle with no edge pieces.  The paralysed man came to Christ for healing he left with the forgiveness of sin and healing.  Christ added forgiveness of sin, like an extra puzzle piece.  When we come to Christ, we come with limited knowledge.  As our knowledge grows, true faith grows too. Christ adds piece after piece of the puzzle.  To healing and forgiveness, are added, in different orders for each of us, true knowledge of eternal life, adoption, redemption, sanctification, imputed righteousness, purity, love, holiness and so on (see 25 benefits of faith union with Christ and the 12 rare privileges of the children of God).  I have found that as the puzzle expands, the pieces get smaller, more nuanced, and just as I believe the puzzle is about to be completed, more pieces appear.  The paralysis of my fears, anxieties, past failures, sin, anger and so on find their corresponding and healing truth in Christ.

When Christ brings that healing, then I can go out with joy, giving him the glory.

 

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Advent according to Revelation chapter 6

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained10 They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer [Revelation chapter 6:9-11]

Christians in the West have lived in a bubble of privilege for several decades. No war, no famine, no deadly pestilence, no persecution. Waiting for Christ has been relatively easy for most western believers.  Much more “Merry Christmas” than not.

But this season has been exceptional in church history.  The normal experience of Christian believers down the ages has been to feel the weight of the four horsemen of Revelation 6; conquest by deception; war, economic imbalance and death, as God judges the earth for slaying his Son and rejecting his good and loving rule.  It is more normal for believers to cry with the martyrs “how long, Sovereign Lord?”

We watched two videos at church today to help us wait during advent according to Revelation 6.  Pastor Suta waits on the Lord as does Hannalie.  Their waiting is different but their commitment to Christ and their faithfulness to him in mission is not.

 

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Marrow of Modern Divinity notes from week 3.

Antinomian is pleased that Evangelista has silenced Nomista and so asks Evangelista to explain the covenant of grace.  In this section, Evangelista turns his conversation to the nature of God, and the inseparable work and interaction between God’s attributes: Truth, Justice, Mercy and Wisdom.

Truth and Justice demand that since man had sinned, and therefore man must die;

Mercy, pleaded for pity and kindness, appealing to the great court in heaven: “Satan seduced mankind and plunged human beings into misery and death. Have mercy!”

Justice replied, “When I am offended, I must be satisfied and have my right; and therefore I require, that man, who disobeyed God must face the judgment of God.

Read this bit on the wisdom of carefully, it is the wisdom of God that his mercy and justice meet in the eternal Son.

Then wisdom became an umpire, and devised a way to reconcile truth, justice and mercy.

Two things needs to be done to bring about reconciliation between God and mankind.

(1.) A satisfaction of God’s justice.

(2.) A reparation of man’s nature.

A middle and common person must have zeal towards God and compassion towards man,

Such a person would have man’s guilt and punishment translated on him, satisfying the justice of God, and as having a fullness of God’s Spirit and holiness in him, might sanctify and repair the nature of man.

Of the promise made to Adam

God made a promise to Adam, on the same day he sinned, by sacrificing an animal as a sign of Christ, to cover the shame of Adam and Eve.

As soon as Adam broke the covenant with God, then justice would have been immediate, God would have moved swiftly to summary execution, to the destruction both of Adam and the whole creation, had not Christ, at that very time, stood as the ram [or rather the lamb] in the bush, and stepped in to perform the work of the covenant.

Adam was saved by faith in Christ, who Adam perceived was the promised offspring of Eve, symbolised by the sacrifice of animals, shedding of blood, who would crush the serpent’s head.

The promise renewed to Abraham.

Promises of God were made to Abraham and his seed (not seeds). The singular pointing to Christ.

The paschal lamb is a type of Christ; the Red Sea a type of baptism; the manna and water in the desert a type of communion and so to the covenant and law at Sinai in the next chapter.

Questions.

  1. Fisher sees Christ in all the scriptures, being symbolised by blood shedding to provide skins for Adam and the promise of God to provide a descendant of Eve who would crush Satan’s head. Do you think Fisher is right to see Christ signified this way when there is no direct reference to Genesis 3 in the rest of scripture?
  2. Fisher understands that, because of God’s justice, execution would have swiftly followed Adam’s disobedience (In the day you eat of it, you shall surely die).  Adam is not executed in that day.  Fisher believes that Christ stood in the way of execution, offering himself as the ram (or lamb), in Adam’s place.  What other reasons could be given for Adam not being executed by God in that day?  What can be said of these reasons from the rest of scripture?
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