Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

salt

Every year at this time, Christians are reminded of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples and, by extension, all Christians and followers of Jesus today:

“That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” – John 17:21

… and invited to pray for the Unity of the Christian Church as a witness to the World of the love of Jesus for them.

My parents were brought up to be hardline protestants who viewed the Roman Catholic church as the arch-enemy, and they were appalled at the idea of ecumenicism, believing it to be some kind of nefarious plot of the devil to “mix truth with error”, and they looked with horror at the spectre of some future “One World Church” with the Pope as head, and government-controlled and sanctioned beliefs.

I’m still a protestant (which essentially means that I do not accept the authority of the Roman Catholic church over the whole church), but I have grown to respect and appreciate much about the Catholic and Orthodox churches. I count many Roman Catholics as my closest friends. I can see beauty and meaning in a lot of the things that my traditions have rejected.

I don’t necessarily agree with everything that I learn though of course.

But actually, ecumenicism isn’t about joining together to throw off doctrine so we can fully agree with each other – I think that, if we did, we would all be poorer, with a wishy-washy, watered down version of the faith that ends up having less power and impact because of it.

No. In fact, we don’t need to agree with each other. We don’t even really need to fully understand each other.

What we do need to do, however, is to love each other.

“By this all men will know that ye are my disciples – that ye love one another.”

Of course, understanding may help, and so Kernow Community is my humble attempt to invite people – Christians and non-Christians – whatever your background or denomination, who are interested in looking at the roots of our faith, to see where we have come from, how we have developed differently over the last 2000 years, and to learn to love and respect each other despite our differences.

week_of_prayer_logo_2016

Resources:

Resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity can be downloaded from Churches Together in Britain & Ireland here.

From the World Council of Churches here.

From the Vatican here.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity!” – Psalm 133:1

Divine Mercy

This morning, I completely lost my temper. I was driving a bus-load of people (my children, actually) on a trip, and I lost my way, repeatedly. We may have been given the worst map ever created, but my total lack of a sense of direction probably played a part.

After the 16th* wrong turn, my patience – already wearing thin – completely ran out. There were tears. There was screaming and shouting, swearing and slamming of doors. It was all very Celtic, in fact. (I don’t have red hair for nothing!)

By the end of it, after I had traumatised my children and made myself thoroughly ashamed of my behaviour, we did actually arrive at our destination.

The proverbial ‘devil’ on one shoulder thoroughly condemned me, for being a bad driver, a bad parent, and a bad Christian, not at all qualified to guide anybody else through the disciplines!

Thankfully though, I didn’t need to listen to the voice of the little ‘devil’, as I know that God’s righteousness, perfection, peace and mercy is more than a match for my weakness and failures.

Today in the Roman Catholic calendar it is Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast upon which the sacrament of Confession is encouraged, and forgiveness promised.

In the evangelical tradition with which I am familiar, however, of course there is no sacramental confession to a priest, and we tend not to practice confession at all, but in the letter of St James, there is the admonition to confess our sins to one another:

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
James 5:16 (NIV)

So I am confessing my sin and failure and weakness here to you and I ask that you would pray for me, so that I “may be healed” – of my anger and lack of self control (and poor sense of direction!).

The forgiveness that comes after confession makes us righteous, and so our prayers will be all the more effective.

May my Celtic temperament and passion be put to better use!

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever,
Amen.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divine_Mercy_Sunday
(Opens another tab – please bookmark us before you leave!)

*a random number, hopefully 16 is an exaggeration 🙂

Counting Through Eastertide

High King of Heaven
Who hath given us the Paschal Lamb
And raised this same Jesus to life

Be with us as we count the days
Of Eastertide

Journeying with You
To the revelation
Of Your Great Spirit
At Pentecost

In the Name of the Father, Son and Spirit, three-in-one
We pray
Amen

This week is the Feast of Unleavened Bread and, for Jews, the first week of the Counting of the Omer leading up to Shavuot. 

“You shall count from the eve of the second day of Passover, when an omer of grain is to be brought as an offering, seven complete weeks. The day after the seventh week of your counting will make fifty days, and you shall present a new meal offering to God.
Leviticus 23:15-16).”

Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are linked to the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot (Whitsun or Pentecost) by the Counting of the Omer. 

While Passover is the celebration of redemption and freedom from slavery, The Feast of Weeks is the celebration of revelation, and traditionally the time of the giving of the Law, the Torah.

If you read what happened in the days following Passover (Exodus 12 and following), you will be able to see how God prepared His people for revelation:  there was the parting of the Red Sea, the bitter waters of Marah, the time of respite at Elim, their murmurings for food, the giving of manna, the attack by Amalek and so on, all of which happened during the period of the Counting of the Omer. 

Perhaps the reading of these events could be part of your own preparation for Pentecost.  

We can also read of the events following the resurrection of Yeshua in the Gospels and the book of Acts.  The 40 days that Yeshua spent with His disciples were the first 40 days of the Counting of the Omer. 

These events also prepared them for the special receiving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Jerusalem.  

Ten days before this first century Shavuot, Yeshua’s disciples ask Him their final question:

“Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Acts 1:6-8

The disciples were understandably preoccupied with the political situation of their day and the time line for future events.  Yeshua brought them back to His priority – being a witness of who He is.  The power of the Holy Spirit would be given to them to enable them to accomplish this mission. 

It is just as true today as it was then.  

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Matthew 6:33

Yeshua spoke about the need to avoid leaven:

“Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
Luke 12:1

We are truly unleavened because of Yeshua, our Passover Lamb:

“Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Messiah, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”
1 Corinthians 5:7

Leaven is of course a metaphor for sin, and has to do with the heart. Unleavened bread then represents purity of heart. 

Because of what Yeshua has accomplished for us, we must walk out His character:

“Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
1 Corinthians 5:8

During this week of Unleavened Bread, while we are eating bread without leaven, in our hearts and minds we need to be getting rid of the fleshly leaven of self and get ready to accept the good leaven of His kingdom!

“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God….Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness…in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.”
Colossians 3:3-8

“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.”
1 Peter 2:1-2

By the time of Shavuot, the Israelites were asked to bring a wave offering of two loaves of leavened bread. 

Why leaven now?  Why not just do away with leaven completely? 

In fact, leaven is not always regarded as a symbol of evil.  Yeshua used the image of a woman adding leaven to a lump of dough to signify the (invisible) spread of the kingdom of God in the earth:

“And again He said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? “It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
Luke 13:20-21

This is our goal.  To put away our fleshly leaven and be filled with the spiritual leaven that expands the kingdom. 

Next week we can once again introduce leaven into our diet.   What kind of leaven will it be?

“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:1

The traditional blessing in Hebrew and English is:

Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha’Olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tizivanu al sefirat ha’omer.

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments and commanded us to count the omer.

~

The prayer at the top of the page here is my attempt at writing a Celtic prayer to mark the counting of days through Eastertide.

~
Over on Twitter, we’re posting the day count on @CelticOrder

Counting the #Omer from #FirstFruits #Pascha #Easter to #Whitsun #Pentecost #Shavuot
#Eastertide

Passover

“The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

This year, Passover begins at sundown on Good Friday, 3rd April.

It is always good when Passover coincides with Easter / Pascha, especially Good Friday since then there is no doubt about when to start the omer count, and the church’s Pentecost and the Jewish Shavuot – which are one festival in the same – automatically end up on the same day).

So we start ‘counting the Omer’, 50 days / 7 weeks to Pentecost / Shavuot.

And then tonight, as Lent is ending, we are starting the Biblical fast, also called the ‘Feast’ of Unleavened Bread, which lasts for 8 days.

Chag Sameach!

Information on the Passover seder as well as all aspects of Jewish traditions around the Biblical Festivals can be found here:
http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Spring_Holidays/Pesach/Seder/Introduction/introduction.html

A traditional ‘seder’ – that is, order of service, with Messianic notes
http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/haggadah.html

As always, I haven’t checked every page and can’t vouch for external websites – please use your discernment.

St Patrick’s Breastplate

The prayer of St Patrick is known as St Patrick’s Breastplate because it is a Lorica, a Latin word originally meaning armour, and later referring to the incantation of a prayer written on the breastplate of a medieval knight before he went into battle, the idea linking the two no doubt originating with the apostle Paul’s admonition to wear the ‘breastplate of righteousness’ in Ephesians 6:1.

The first stanza of St Patrick’s Breastplate is well known, but here is the full version in English:

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.
gainst the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Happy St Patrick’s Day! May you be blessed by the God whom he knew and loved.

The Lenten Fast

The English word ‘Lent’ originated with the Anglo-Saxon name for the Spring month of March – Lenctentid – when the days start to become longer.

The Latin name is Quadragesima, the 40 day period (excluding Sundays) when Jesus’ time in the Wilderness, confronting the devil, is remembered.

I have never really kept Lent before. It wasn’t part of the evangelical faith tradition that I grew up with, which viewed it as a Roman Catholic tradition, irrelevant to non-Catholics since there is no specific Biblical mandate to remember Jesus’ fast.

Since being part of a liturgical church, though, I have come to see the value in the traditions associated with the church year.

Although they didn’t fast while He was with them, Jesus did expect his disciples to fast when He, ‘the Bridegroom’ would be taken away from them.

In fact, it became the custom in monasteries never to eat the meal of ‘breakfast’, since during this time when the ‘Bridegroom’ is taken away from the ‘Bride’, the church, this is always a time of fasting.

Lent is supposed to be a spiritual preparation for the celebration of Easter, which is traditionally kept as a fast after the example of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness before his baptism.

I toyed with the idea of going “local for lent” – foregoing supermarket shopping for independent, local shops, but it would have been quite impossible living where we do, so maybe that’s for another time.

I already gave up meat, so I decided to go vegan for lent instead. Not really that much of a sacrifice at all, to be honest, but certainly a challenge.

Giving something up, whether it be meat, or sugar or cakes, or whatever you choose, is both a discipline and a way to shut out the world in order to connect more closely to God, but is God really impressed when we ‘mortify the body’? What is He looking for actually when we fast?

Isaiah 58:6 says,

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

⁠Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?”

So God isn’t looking for any kind of discipline or mortification for its own sake, but rather sacrificial giving, or giving up with a purpose.

The Salvation Army calls it ‘Self-Denial’ – William Booth decided to give up dessert for a month so that he could give the amount he saved to the work of saving the needy.

I never really considered the idea of social justice seriously until I found myself in the position of needing help personally. But when I did, I was shocked to realise how little the church family looks after its own, let alone the needy outside of the church. That is something that Lent shines the spotlight on, and that can only be a good thing.

So even if you hadn’t considered keeping Lent before, you might like to think about what needs there are around you – both within and outside of the church – and what you could do to help meet them.

St James has this to say:

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” – James 1:27

What are the needs around you? In your church, in your neighbourhood? What can you do to help meet them?

Advent

adventwreath

Advent is the beginning of the traditional church year. This year, the first Sunday in advent falls on the 30th November, also St Andrew’s Day. (St Andrew is of course the Patron Saint of the Celtic country of Scotland.)

In the Celtic church, Advent – like many of the other festivals – was counted differently from that of the Roman church, as a 40 day period of preparation, much like Lent, starting around the middle of November (depending on whether or not sabbaths are counted) – not so much a preparation for Christmas, but rather for the return of the King.

In the early Jewish church, it is likely that this 40 day period of preparation was originally linked to the season of repentance running up to the High Holy Days – Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), Yom Teruah (The Day of Trumpets, known in Judaism as Rosh haShanah, Jewish New Year), and Sukkot, (The Feast of Tabernacles, Booths or Shelters, the final harvest festival of the Jewish year, and thought to be the Puritan Pilgrims’ inspiration for Thanksgiving).

All of the Autumn festivals have prophetic significance, and Sukkot in particular is linked to the return of the Messiah and the great Marriage Feast of Christ and his bride, the Church (Greek: Ekklesia, Hebrew: Kahal, both meaning a ‘called out body of people’. The Israelites in the Wilderness are sometimes referred to as the ‘Church in the Wilderness’.).

It is not known when the traditions associated with the High Holy Days of the early church migrated to the midwinter festival, but it was in any event a very early change, and it is impossible to know whether the early Celtic church retained the earlier Jewish traditions or the later customs. If Gildas was right in saying that the British church was founded in AD 37, however, it is conceivable that the earliest Celtic Christians celebrated Sukkot in the same way that we now celebrate Christmas, to celebrate Messiah’s birth and to look forward to his return.

Whenever you celebrate the first advent of Messiah, whether it be in the Autumn with the Jewish believers, or at midwinter with the Roman church, let us say together of his return, ‘Come Lord Jesus’.

Maranatha!