LENT – POEMS AND SONG TO SET THE SCENE – THINK AGAIN; EMPTY WORDS; SPIRITED DANCER

 Think again
  
 If the extent 
 of our sacrificial content 
 is to give up chocolate for Lent, 
 what kind of a sacrifice is that?
  
 If the inclination 
 of our celebration 
 is for a self-centred commemoration 
 for the current congregation, 
 what good is that to God,
 or anyone else?
  
 If a Holy Day 
 becomes a holiday 
 with the holiness left out, 
 where has the significance gone?
  
 God sighs for the real sacrifice 
 of working to eliminate poverty and injustice.
  
 God craves for the genuine celebrations 
 of people set free and of changed lives.
  
 God holds out hope 
 for those who make holiness their aim, 
 however far they still have to travel.
  
 God asks us to think again.
 © Marjorie Dobson 

  
 Empty words 

 Empty words
 from those who live in luxury 
 and despise the poor.
 Empty words 
 from those who enquire after the sick, 
 but never visit them.
 Empty words 
 from those who offer hollow sympathy, 
 but never weep with those in sorrow.
 Empty words 
 from those who are severely critical 
 of local and national governments, 
 but refuse to vote, 
 or to become involved in politics.
 Empty words 
 from those who proclaim themselves 
 to be Christians, 
 but only take care of themselves 
 and their own kind.
 Empty words 
 from those who preach 
 of suffering and sacrifice, 
 but have never challenged themselves 
 to experience either.
 Empty words from those … …
 Empty words … …
 Empty … …
  
 And God, 
 who knows our hearts, 
 looks on 
 and asks us to look again 
 at the sacrificial love of Jesus 
 and to fill our empty words 
 with love and action.
 Marjorie Dobson 
 Words © 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, copyright@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. 
 Spirited dancer

 Spirited dancer, a pantomime figure,
 comic, distorted, misused and abused;
 never expedient, yet working with rigour,
 seemingly foolish yet never confused.
 
 Crying the wilderness down on your shoulders,
 offering pedants the cool time of day;
 I would dance with you, by paths or rough boulders,
 willing to enter the fun or the fray.
 
 Now in my cowardice, fear, apprehension,
 sharing the life that you've given to me;
 help me to put away pride and pretension,
 learn in your footsteps the way to be free.
 
Andrew E. Pratt (born 1948)
Words © 2003, 2006 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@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.
METRE: 11 10 11 10
Tune: WAS LEBET, WAS SCHWEBET; QUEDLINBURG 

ASH WEDNESDAY/LENT – A calendar has called us to share with Christ in Lent & Tangled in prejudice

 A calendar has called us

 A calendar has called us to share with Christ in Lent,
 to walk within the darkness: some drawn, yet others sent; 
 and here we sense contrition, an ashen cross we bear: 
 a sign for our remembrance, God’s love is everywhere.
 
 In many different places God's people bear the strain
 of human expectation as cruel norms constrain;
 for each convention sealing another person's fate,
 forgive, release, give freedom before it is too late.
 
 We witness acts of hatred dressed up as self-defence, 
 where vengeance is the motive hid deep in self-pretence; 
 great God, forgive those moments, when hate and human pride 
 lead to the domination of those we might deride.
 
 As Christ you suffered torment, the torture and the hate,
 yet on the cross forgave them, the ones who sealed your fate, 
 so as we kneel confessing complicity, we pray, 
 great God, forgive our cruelty when selfishness holds sway.
 
Andrew E Pratt (born 1948)
Words © 2020 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@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.
Metre: 13 13 13 13
Tune: CRUGER 

Tangled in prejudice, lost in presumption
  
 Tangled in prejudice, lost in presumption, 
 locked in our judgments, so sure of our ground; 
 others are sinful, but we are the righteous, 
 this is the truth we are sure we have found.
             
 This is our blindness and now we must own it, 
 owning suspicion of those we deride; 
 painting them wrongly, unjustly with hatred, 
 side-stepping honesty, trying to hide.
             
 For like the Pharisees' we are self-serving,
 gaining our wealth from the ones we oppress;
 sometimes we bring down the ones who would challenge, 
 this we have done and now this we confess.
             
 In this confession we seek your forgiveness, 
 God who has touched both the broken and frail. 
 We were thought strong, but we plead for compassion, 
 we, the successful, have found we can fail.
             
 Yet you astound us, 'your sins are forgiven', 
 words that have echoed down into our time.
 How can we warrant such scandalous mercy?
 Only through grace can you offer this sign.
 
Andrew Pratt (born 1948)
Words © 2011 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, copyright@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. 
Metre: 11 10 11 10
Tune: EPIPHANY HYMN; IN THE BEGINNING GOD PLAYED WITH THE PLANETS
 
 

ASH WEDNESDAY – The world’s no stage where we are acting

 
 
The world's no stage where we are acting
  
 1          The world's no stage where we are acting 
             to show how good we think we are; 
             this is no place to call attention, 
             or seek acclaim from near or far.
             
 2          Our prayers are worthless, void and empty  
             when uttered for the crowd's applause, 
             much more of worth are silent actions, 
             compassion shown behind closed doors.
             
 3          So find a place, that's quiet, secluded, 
             a simple room where we can pray, 
             and then in words that Jesus taught us 
             let's seek the bread for each new day.
             
 4          Let's join in humble prayer and fasting,
             while making little of the act, 
             and then our witness, plainly worded, 
             will add its essence to love's fact.
 
Andrew Pratt
Words © 2011 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, copyright@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.
Metre: 9 8 9 8
Tune: ST CLEMENT
 
 

ASH WEDNESDAY – Ashes come from crosses

The first of a selection of items by myself and Marjorie Dobson for Ash Wednesday, Lent, Holy Week and Easter to appear regularly over the coming weeks.

 Ashes come from crosses
  
 Ashes come from crosses, 
 symbolically palm-leafed 
 for joyful jubilation, 
 yet shaped 
 for betrayal and condemnation.
 Crosses carried last Lent 
 as emblems of enlightenment 
 and hand-held holiness, 
 now tired and tainted 
 by a year of faults
 and failing to follow 
 the sacrificial example 
 set by the crucified Christ.
  
 So ashes of symbols 
 become badges of repentance 
 to be warily worn, 
 not as a display of duty 
 to be proudly presented 
 as an outward sign 
 of hollow holiness, 
 but as a reminder of those times 
 when our hopes turn to ashes, 
 as our welcoming 
 of Christ’s kingdom 
 is overwhelmed 
 by the opinions of the crowd 
 and easily influenced 
 into denial and defeat.

 © Marjorie Dobson