Thoughts on grace and atonement – The feather of grace – hymn/poem on this site

Grace is unwarranted, unexpected yet universal. For something so important one would expect it to be protected, invincible. Yet the medium of announcement is vulnerable and fragile.
The fact of grace, that we are all accepted as we are without condition is unfathomable, cuts across expectation and logic. To explain it we construct models and metaphors out of human experience. There must be a ransom paid. There is none. Just a birth in a foul stable and a death on a sordid cross.
The way of signalling this drama is through the kiss of a man who subsequently kills himself. His act sets the play in motion. Who would trust something so momentous to such a person?
Choice and decision is placed before Pilate. He wants nothing of it. Natural justice points in one direction. His inaction as much as a negative action seals the injustice that is unfolding.
At the end love incarnate hangs bleeding, in human terms, destroyed, eradicated.
The girder of God’s grace is as frail as a feather, yet achieves total human freedom. The balance could have been so much better weighted. But the feather is God’s way. We are rarely, if ever, going to risk it. It is not expedient. It will not work. We do not understand it. But faith’s feather says this is the way.

John Wesley – timely words for today…

Words of John Wesley in his sermon on the catholic spirit – original, non-inclusive language of the 1700s – strong inclusive sentiment:

Is thy heart right toward thy neighbour? Dost thou love as thyself, all mankind, without exception? “If you love those only that love you, what thank have ye?” Do you “love your enemies?” Is your soul full of good-will, of tender affection, toward them? Do you love even the enemies of God, the unthankful and unholy? Do your bowels yearn over them? Could you “wish yourself” temporally “accursed” for their sake? And do you show this by “blessing them that curse you, and praying for those that despitefully use you, and persecute you?”

Do you show your love by your works? While you have time as you have opportunity, do you in fact “do good to all men,” neighbours or strangers, friends or enemies, good or bad? Do you do them all the good you can; endeavouring to supply all their wants; assisting them both in body and soul, to the uttermost of your power? – If thou art thus minded, may every Christian say, yea, if thou art but sincerely desirous of it, and following on till thou attain, then “thy heart is right, as my heart is with thy heart.”

“If it be, give me thy hand.” I do not mean, “Be of my opinion.” You need not: I do not expect or desire it. Neither do I mean, “I will be of your opinion.” I cannot, it does not depend on my choice: I can no more think, than I can see or hear, as I will. Keep you your opinion; I mine; and that as steadily as ever. You need not even endeavour to come over to me, or bring me over to you. I do not desire you to dispute those points, or to hear or speak one word concerning them. Let all opinions alone on one side and the other: only “give me thine hand.”

I do not mean, “Embrace my modes of worship,” or, “I will embrace yours.” This also is a thing which does not depend either on your choice or mine. We must both act as each is fully persuaded in his own mind. Hold you fast that which you believe is most acceptable to God, and I will do the same. I believe the Episcopal form of church government to be scriptural and apostolical. If you think the Presbyterian or Independent is better, think so still, and act accordingly. I believe infants ought to be baptized; and that this may be done either by dipping or sprinkling. If you are otherwise persuaded, be so still, and follow your own persuasion. It appears to me, that forms of prayer are of excellent use, particularly in the great congregation. If you judge extemporary prayer to be of more use, act suitable to your own judgement. My sentiment is, that I ought not to forbid water, wherein persons may be baptized; and that I ought to eat bread and drink wine, as a memorial of my dying Master: however, if you are not convinced of this act according to the light you have. I have no desire to dispute with you one moment upon any of the preceding heads. Let all these smaller points stand aside. Let them never come into sight “If thine heart is as my heart,” if thou lovest God and all mankind, I ask no more: “give me thine hand.”

The care of our planet, the threat of extinction – Hymn

The care of our planet, the threat of extinction,
alerts us to need to be stewards of the earth:
this place of great beauty, our God given tenure,
the place of our nurture, the globe of our birth.

This place we must guard for each new generation,
to leave as we found it or, better, restored;
to share each resource without greed or pretension,
not barring the needy, not plunder, nor hoard.

The  banquet of God is for all of God’s people,
communion companions are both rich and poor,
our ultimate end will remove all distinctions,
no birthright or creed can obstruct heaven’s door.

God’s common wealth love can encompass all nations,
but here in this place we must all make a start:
a life of acceptance of sister and brother,
the practice of loving, a God given art.

Andrew Pratt 1/5/2019
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.
Written for the 140th Anniversary of St John’s Methodist Church Whitchurch, Shropshire.
Tunes: STREETS OF LAREDO; ST CATHERINES COURT

A Cosy Armageddon

When arguments are brewing we don’t notice,
it seems that tension builds with every word,
we say things while not hearing one another,
like children in a playground, quite absurd!

It could have been a cosy Armageddon,
the words had seemed innocuous and bland,
yet hidden in each phrase, each idle sentence
were thoughts designed to undermine each stand.

If we could simply seek a gracious outcome
when others hurt and harass, fault or harm,
a look inspired by love could turn the tables,
could echo hidden need, befriend, disarm.

© Andrew Pratt 3/5/2019

Good Friday

There is no glory in this cross,
nor in a crown of thorn,
just hard derision, fearful hate
and rising human scorn.

There is no joy to see a son,
his tendons taut and strained,
he hangs, discarded garbage now,
his life blood dried, or drained.

How dare we alleluia praise,
or thank God for a gift
This heinous, human victory sees
humanity adrift.

We cannot cope with such a love,
it almost seems insane,
a counterpoint to what we seek.
We question it again.

And so we stand, if we will dare,
in shadow in this place,
and contemplate another time
Love’s dying, mortal grace.

Andrew Pratt 3/4/2019
Tune: ST FULBERT
For ‘Good Friday’.
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.

Nothing can tear us from the love – hymn – Romans 8

Nothing can tear us from the love
that breathed creation into birth,
that nurtured, mothered what we are
and placed us on this fragile earth.

We walk through chaos, fraught with fear,
where death distils its dark demands,
as tragedy pulls curtains down
and care is shattered, no more stands.

In all this stuff that forms our lives,
each place where hope seemed flawed or veiled,
in spite of all, through shadowed times,
a shimmering shard of light prevailed.

And nothing now in all the world,
it seems, can rip me from the grace,
that grace that holds me still in love,
in this and every future place.

Andrew Pratt 21/3/2019

Tune: O WALY WALY

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.

Written for David Hamflett

The ancient path – a hymn for Lent

Word, wisdom, song: the grounding of creation;
a rhythmic, rhyming, rhythm from the past
that weaves a mystic saintliness of being,
compelling sense of God, un-built to last.

The ancient path will lead our footsteps forward,
the future beckons us – as yet unseen,
the lapping sea of love will yet enfold us,
for every way  we go the Christ has been.

The heavens that encompass us while waiting,
the gentle touch enfolding us in death,
this warming spirit deep within our being,
is intimate as every living breath.

At every crossing woven through our seeing,
our sensing of the myriad stars of light,
give glances of a God beyond our being
still standing high in love beyond death’s night.

Yet on and on the circle is still turning,
a rhythmic, rhyming rhythm from our past:
Words, wisdom, song, the grounding of creation:
encircling love will hold, will always last.
Andrew Pratt 6/6/2015 © Stainer & Bell Ltd 2015
Tune: INTERCESSOR

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