We live in times of crime and violence, aka – We live in sharp infested waters

We live in times of crime and violence
where guns and knives would seem to rule;
incarceration offers respite,
is prison now the only school?

We learn so slowly in this era,
how we should nurture love and care.
For still we model cold derision,
with disrespect, derisive stare.

Our politicians rage and stumble,
as racists bawl across the street,
then disagreements twist and tangle,
with language coarse and indiscreet.

God give us grace and apt discretion,
the skill of choosing words that skirt
around each tempting confrontation,
give words that calm instead of hurt.

Words (including alternatives below) © 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk.
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

Tune: ST CLEMENT (Scholefield)
Metre 9.8.9.8

The original first verse of this text is as follows and can be used if wished:

We live in sharp infested waters,
the law of Cain would seem to rule,
incarceration offers respite,
is prison now the only school?

In the second stanza, first line ‘era’ can be replaced with ‘country’.

At a time when knife and gun crime are rife this text may be seen to be pertinent either as a poem or a hymn.

Wrapped up in the silk that shines silver in moonlight – response to ‘All things bright and beautiful’

Wrapped up in the silk that shines silver in moonlight,
the cycle of life will go on day by day.
The spider devours what is needed by nature;
for life to exist death must also hold sway.

The cancer that kills through an act of mutation,
the building of love, the destruction and strife;
the things labelled ‘evil’ are part of creation,
the earth’s moving surface is needful for life.

Our eyes are half open to vast constellations,
are blind to the particles light can’t resolve,
but in them and through them the mystery beyond us:
the one we name ‘God’ makes our wisdom dissolve;

for on through our living and final destruction,
beyond deep imagining, artists might hold,
this ‘God’, this enigma, the source of our being
will love through eternity, comfort, enfold.

Andrew E Pratt (born 1948)
Words © 2015 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk.
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
12 11 12 11
Suggested tune: STREETS OF LAREDO

At a Hymn Society Conference some years ago I was asked for a hymn in response to ‘All things bright and beautiful’ which took ‘bad’ things seriously, things like cancer. This exploration of creation of ‘bad things’, technically theodicy, followed.

Published in  More than hymns

Unravelling the Mysteries – new book – Marjorie Dobson

You may well know Marjorie Dobson as a hymn writer and contributor of material to https://theworshipcloud.com/ . Stainer & Bell say this about her:

Born and raised in the mining district of County Durham, Marjorie Dobson became a Methodist Local Preacher at the age of twenty, with a particular call to seek out new paths of meaningful worship. Her writings have been fed by her experience of leading worship in a wide variety of churches in Durham, Bristol, Bradford and Scarborough, and reflect her concern for those who feel disconnected from faith by their image of the church as being outdated and irrelevant. Her hymns have been included in several collections, including Singing the Faith, and hymns, prayers, poems and other writings have been published on The Worship Cloud website, in Worship Live and in many anthologies.

You might have a copy of her book of worship resources: Multicoloured Maze (https://stainer.co.uk/shop/b882/). She has just published a completely new resource: Unravelling the Mysteries. You can get this from Stainer & Bell at: https://stainer.co.uk/shop/b959/.

b959

God’s condemnation of Sodom and Gomorrah

Genesis 18:20-32 

This passage relates the story of God’s condemnation of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham pleads for the people. If any are righteous then the cities will be saved for their sake.

More often than not the condemnation of Sodom and Gomorrah is related to sexual sin, and righty but whether it can be taken to be a condemnation of homosexuality is not quite so clear. It looks as though this is the case until we read further.

What was happening in Sodom was a total disregard of other people. In a later passage we read that two angels – messengers – are being sheltered by Lot. Men come out from the city and want to ‘know them’ – it is assumed that this means to ‘rape them’. The messengers were alien, visitors if you like. The judgement is not primarily against the sexual act but against the men’s violation of another human being simply because they are foreign, alien. These aliens were doubly threatening as they were coming to deliver God’s message of judgment. In addition the men of Sodom want to deal with Lot even more violently because he has given shelter to these strangers. (The sexual morality of the story is even more muddied as we read later that Lot, while guarding the aliens, is willing to hand over his daughters to be raped. Subsequently we find his daughters in the foreground, getting their father drunk in order for him to have an incestuous relationship with them. Not exactly a pattern on which we might want to base our sexual ethics – remember that Lot is ‘on God’s side’).

To bring it up to date. Someone comes and stays with you and they begin to point out something of the wrong they see in you or ,your nation or town. Those with power are threatened. Firstly they resist or reject, alienate or harm the foreigners; then they aim their hatred, perhaps their fear, at anyone who gives the foreigner shelter or comfort. The foreigner is labelled and can be abused.

This puts a different spin on the story. How do we feel about the stranger in our midst? And about those who welcome and support them? Tempted to say ‘Oh I wouldn’t act like those people’. But how would we act if the presence of the messenger was going to threaten our way of life? I wonder.

Let’s step a bit further. A contemporary translation of the Lord’s Prayer from Luke 11:1-4 replaces the words ‘lead us not into temptation’ with ‘do not bring us to the time of trial’.

The word ‘trial’ (or ‘temptation’) is a translation of the Greek πειρασμός (peirasmos). The meaning of the Greek is putting to the proof, ‘trial’, as we would understand it, rather than ‘temptation’. It is used in this way explicitly elsewhere in the New Testament. It implies a testing of a person’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy.

In this light the question about how we would act confronted with the alien who is judging us becomes a testing of our fidelity, faithfulness.

Those who want to make a link between Jesus and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah usually refer to Matthew 10: 5 – 15. Jesus is sending out his disciples:

‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’. Verse 14 concludes the story, ‘If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town’.

Putting this passage beside the one from Genesis suggests that:

  1. Given the most important commandments are to love God and our neighbours as ourselves. It is reasonable to assume that this was the message, the Good News, that the disciples were sharing.
  2. That it is this that the people may not accept. This, then is their time of trial.
  3. Rejection puts them in the position of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

And this is exactly what the people of Sodom were condemned for, though the expression of this lack of love for neighbour was, for them, expressed in the violation of those who ought to be both neighbour and guest.

So for us the test, the trial, the judgement is arguably related to how we accept those who are different from us, how we demonstrate love of our neighbour, rather than on anything sexual.

Whatever your race, your colour or creed you are a sister or brother to me…

Whatever your race, your colour or creed
you are a sister or brother to me.
You speak with a language I don’t understand
but I want to learn what you mean.
1 So much we could share if you listen to me,
so much if I listen to you.
Wherever you’re from, and whatever your need,
however you name God, whatever you plead,
your culture is foreign, unusual to me
but both of us want to be free.
Refrain

2 So much we could share if you listen to me,
so much if I listen to you.
When tragedy strikes and our lives spin around,
while babies are crying and battle resounds
I know you still love me, and I still love you,
I’ll help with what you need to do.
Refrain

3 So much we could share if you listen to me,
so much if I listen to you.
So let’s join together, the table is set,
the laughter and pleasure will help us forget
the fear at the difference that keeps us apart.
In loving we’ll make a new start.
Refrain

Andrew E Pratt (born 1948)
© 2003 Stainer & Bell Ltd 11 8 11 11 11 8 and Refrain 10 10 11 8
Tune by Alex Jarrett with words at No.117 in Reclaiming Praise

Our borders, our walls mock the faith that we own -Hymn/Poem

Our borders, our walls mock the faith that we own,
denying the Christ that we claim to enthrone,
for Christ is our neigbour to love or reject,
for us to disdain, or to treat with respect.

The justice of God is as real as our flesh,
as real as each life that we drown or refresh;
as active as righteousness seen in the cross,
where love met with hatred while bearing the loss.

And now, in this moment, we need to decide,
our crisis of conscience to love or deride:
to claim that some small print lets us off the hook,
or answer, with courage, Christ’s challenging look?

Andrew Pratt 14/7/2019
Words © 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk.
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Tune: ST DEINIO