Tuesday, August 26, 2014

That "prayer book"

In some churches these days, it seems, an exercise book is circulated during Sunday worship. People are invited to write prayer requests in it and at the time of intercession, it is given to the worship leader and many of the entries are incorporated. Some are even read out word for word whether they are expressed as prayer or not.

I am very uncomfortable with this intimate link between personal aspirations and public prayer. I am sure many will have given more thought to this than me but--
  • All too often people in the congregation have no idea what or who is the intended beneficiary of prayer. That seems to cut across a fundamental principle that if nothing else, intercessory prayer is good for those who pray...  How can we do that without meaning?
  • At its worst, the prayer book becomes a conduit for gossip on a grand scale, by imparting information that would otherwise not be known...
  • The practice seems to encourage the idea that worship is about what we can gain from God rather than an awareness that in worship we are bringers and givers... 
  • The implication that we may be able to change what happens because we have prayed always raises implications about what "God" does or does not do for those for whom we have not prayed. I am astonished by the thanks given that this person or that has been "saved" or "cured" or even "returned to our congregation"..
  • The whole issue of intercessory prayer is sharpened fearfully by these specifics of some requests in the book. What is our image of God when we ask for special favours at the crude level that sometimes appears? Can we not leave this element of public prayer to our worship leaders (though even some of them sound like a kind of congregational wish-list)?
  • Fundamentally, however, the use of a prayer book can easily contravene our country's Privacy Act which does not allow one's personal circumstances to be made public without permission... We should not do it.
I have told our minister that I am not giving permission for my name to be read out in public worship as a subject for prayer.  I guess that won't change much. And, as anyone knows who reads this blog, I want to be open and honest about my circumstances. But I want to do it myself. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Home" again!

We're just back from five nights away in Paihia. The Sunday service with the Lex Pistols was a blast, with a good congregation including a number of visitors who came along for the music. We were so grateful to host the group and enjoy their passion for the music. It was a privilege to integrate so many great pieces into the liturgy.
And, of course, it was wonderful to re-visit our friends in the congregation and spend some time in one of the units that we have been so closely involved with for the last three or so years. We helped out with a few odd jobs and stayed on to attend the local meeting of Probus where we had a fascinating - if somewhat puzzling - introduction to the Scenic Hotels venture on Tongatapu. And in the evening we joined the Probus Club's first "dining group". Jimmy's Rib Shack was crowded to the doors for the two-for-one ribs deal...
We collected some bits and pieces from the workshop at our home at Tui Grove where Gary seems very comfortable. A smooth trip home rounded off a very pleasant break.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

"Particularly Chilling Video Clip? Indeed!

I've just received a "particularly chilling video clip" which is a very professional-looking interview predicting that the population of Belgium will be taken over by Shariah Muslim in a few years. It looks very convincing and I imagine that a lot of people who have received it will take it as some kind of gospel.

But "CBN" which has produced it appears to be run by a bunch of Christians every bit as fanatic and conservative as the Shariah Muslims in Belgium or anywhere else. Alas, conservative extremists in every religion get far more publicity than the most moderate in every religion. And when fanatics set themselves up to look like impartial news facilities and use the simplicity of the internet to get their message out they do no favours to any religion.

This is a time when the three great faiths that name Abraham as their father are finding some ways of listening and speaking to each other. In many places there is immense progress in understanding and mutual respect. But not, it seems, among the fanatics. Their extreme and abusive and insensitive attitudes, whether demonstrated in military might or subtle persuasion in the public media, are chilling indeed.

But wait a bit. Wasn't Jesus a fanatic? Yes, he was: for love and peace among people of all kinds.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

With a Hoot and a Toot

Last night, after a day spread out on tables under strange machinery, I went back into the city and joined the Lex Pistols in Mt Eden for their last rehearsal before the Jazz and Blues Festival in Paihia.
Bev and I happen to be going up to take the service on Sunday and discovered a member of the band here. So we have been planning a joint appearance at church for Jazz and Blues Festival weekened.
It promises to be a noisy service, but, hopefully, inspirational. In any case, we will be delighted to be back for a visit.