Jesus mostly spoke about the Kingdom of God in Parables illustrating or picturing abundance, grace, forgiveness, generosity and hospitality. In my view Jesus summed up his thoughts on the Kingdom of God in half a minute, in the words of what is often referred to as the Lord’s Prayer which can be said, without rushing, in just 30 seconds.
We note three key themes in the prayer.
The priorities of Jesus are seen here in the honouring of
The Kingdom of God is seen on earth (as in Heaven) where:
God’s Name is honoured (not my name or anyone else’s)
What we decide, do or say reflects God’s Kingdom (not a personal aspiration or opinion)
The will of God is discerned and done (not my will or any other individuals’)
Following these words Jesus’ petition reflects where these three key themes are seen:
Where all have dailybread (a world free of inequality, gluttony or greed, governed by the philosophy of hospitality and enough). Give us our daily bread literally means give me what is on my essential shopping list for my daily needs. The key item of course is food
Where all debt is remitted or forgiven (a world free of debt), and a spirit of forgiveness governs relationships
Where all are assured of strength/support in their times of trials/tribulations/temptations (a world free of isolation and loneliness, and wanting what is not yours)
Where all are delivered from all that is evil (a world free, for example, of awful disease and crime, war and violence, waste and environmental degradation; where relationships are healed and reconciliation is real)
This is the kind of world where we see change and transformation of the world as it is. In such a world God’s will is done, God’s Kingdom comes on earth as in Heaven, and God’s Name is hallowed.
Or as the Prayer says it, in such a world, “Yours is the Kingdom, the power and the glory”. We see signs of the Kingdom of God here and there, but the Kingdom of God is not fully realised on earth, so we constantly pray, “Your Kingdom come”.
The prayer of course is addressed to God the divine loving parent and creator of all. I hear the words “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your Name…” in all people and all creation, all the time. Jesus captured in just a few words the prayer of all, and all creation, centred on the Kingdom of God.
This is a good daily prayer.
Jesus said, when you pray use these words.
Prayer is not meant to be wordy, or to tell God how to order the world.
I can assure you that I pray for you every morning.
What do I pray for you, and for all others I pray for?
I say the Lord’s Prayer in your name. This is what I pray for you and all people.
There is simple wisdom in Jesus’ prayer.
Use these words as your prayer, and use the wisdom contained in Jesus’ prayer for your daily life and decision making, always seeking first the Kingdom of God.
12 July 2020
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On 15 May is the annual Conscientious Objectors Day when we remember those who refused to join the war.
With others I give thanks for all those who give their lives for justice and peace, and pray for a world without war and violence.
With the whole world at present, in our times of coronavirus, I give thanks for all those who work to provide care, prayer and healing.
I give thanks for all those who have upheld the witness to non-violence and peace. I find inspiration in them.
Today with the Corrymeela Community I especially give thanks for Ray Davey who was a prisoner in World War 2, and was released on 8th May 1945, and I will conclude my offering with a prayer written by Ray on 10th June 1944.
I want to begin with a prayer I wrote on 31 January 2020 as the UK determined to leave the EU which has at least tried to maintain peace in Europe.
PRAYER FOR OUR TIMES
Holy God Creator of the universes, the heavens and the earth. You make all people in your image; You know the hurts and hopes of us all; Your presence is deep within us and around us. Holy are your ways and holy is your name. For all the ways in which We assault and abuse your image in us, and in your creation around us Forgive us For seeking the best for ourselves but not others, and so often at the expense of others Forgive us That our highest ideals are marred by our selfishness Forgive us For our ways and words that bruise and break relationships, households, congregations, communities, neighbourhoods and nations Forgive us For the inhumanity, inhospitality, hatred, wars and violence Which destroy homes and displace people Forgive us For the inhumane, inhospitable and hate filled treatment of people seeking sanctuary, and of refugees Forgive us Holy God Bring us and the world to end hatred, war, and violence, and always to build cultures and communities of healing, hospitality and justice Where all are welcome, valued, belong equally, and have sanctuary and well-being. Strengthen us to work with you to heal hurts, keep hope alive, to make all things new, and never to tire of seeking justice and peace. In the Name of Christ.
For a reading I offer only one verse from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and it is from Matthew 5:9
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
I came to Ireland in my younger days to meet people I admired, including the leaders of Corrymeela. I looked up to them all, especially Ray Davey the founder of Corrymeela.
I recall once sitting on a wall by the Croi with Ray Davey. I was talking to him about an idea growing in my mind about Sanctuary for refugees.
In typical form Ray said, “If you have an idea you must incarnate it. Go and do it”. I did, and have seen sanctuary grow as a movement in Britain and Ireland and beyond, and I am thankful to Ray for his encouragement.
Ray is an inspiration for me because he stands out in a world littered with the debris of war as a peace maker. He never gave in to war and violence. He remained constant in his objection to war and in his work of building relationships of respect and trust.
Ray was a prisoner of war and kept diaries which he published. I have a copy signed by Ray and Kathleen that Ray gave me when I visited them on 26 September 2005.
Ray used his confinement in a prison camp positively and learned the importance of human community as he brought prisoners together for prayer, and how relationships sustain the human spirit in difficult times.
He wrote that “love is at the root of all things, not force and hate” (War Diaries, page 175). Ray stressed the need to live with this attitude consistently.
He wrote of “the sacrament of social workers”, of service, modelled in Jesus washing feet. “A revolutionary idea of leadership” noted Ray, “one of the master touches of his life” (War Diaries, page 211).
This experience he used as a leader and theologian while he was University Chaplain twenty years after he left prison, and worked with the wisdom and enthusiasm of young people to lay the foundations of Corrymeela Community and its work over the last 55 years or so.
Ray used his solitude to deepen his relationship with God, a communion from which nothing and no one could separate him. He was a man of deep prayer. Ray’s prayers reveal his deepest hopes and desires.
Only one of Ray’s prayers in his diaries make it into his book The War Diaries. It is on page 202. He prays that his life will be an “instrument fit” for God’s greater service.
I had the privilege of reading through Ray’s actual diaries when I visited him on 11th November 2010. I was particularly fascinated by his prayers and wrote down three of them into my own diary. I will use these prayers to close this meditation in a couple of minutes.
Prayers reveal our deepest hopes and desires.
What are you praying for in your time of confinement?
It seems to me that the whole world has one common prayer at present. Everyone is praying that a cure for coronavirus may be found soon, and for healing. No one is immune from Covid-19. We all want anyone who is hurting to be healed.
I dislike the use of war terminology in relation to Covid-19 like “enemy” and “battle”. We should talk instead about healing and hope. Be positive in your language.
Ray’s War Diaries close with important lessons (page 222). He concludes, “the things that make wars and unhappiness are not just Hitlers and Mussolinis, but are things in our own lives – greed, pride, dishonesty, lack of consideration. If we are to overcome these things, we must become different ourselves”.
Ray incarnated his ideas. The Corrymeela Centre was opened in October 1965 for “all people who are of good will who are willing to meet each other, to learn from each other and to work together for the good of all..”
Let me close by sharing with you lessons I have learned from Ray’s time in confinement, they are valid for our communion in times of coronavirus:
Do all you can, within your restrictions, to bring people together and build community
Love is the root of all things, not force and hate. Incarnate love in your lives
Never take pride in the humiliation of others. The sacrament of leadership is modelled in the humility of service as seen in the ministry of Christ
Invest in instruments and efforts of healing. Put away words and weapons of violence, hate and harm
Deepen your relationship with God. Devote more time to prayer
So, I will close with a prayer written and said by Ray in prison.
O God of all ages, we know that we live in momentous days, days of destiny and change.
Today we look to the world, we think of all that happens there.
Humbly and in faith we commit our cause to thee.
We confess our wrongs and evils, as a nation and as individuals.
We admit our part, and we accept our blame for this disordered and shattered world.
Be with all who take part in the struggle, endue them with patience, courage and crown their efforts with success.
May all the nations learn the folly, uselessness and senselessness of war.
And in thine own good time may a just and lasting peace be born from the ashes and destruction of so many lands and lives.
Give us the determination to live in patience and faith until the day of our freedom.
Breathe in us anew the burning resolve to fashion a society that shall think more of the things that bind men together than those that keep them apart.
Give us the will to raise a new community, God centred and God controlled.
Give us the practical willingness to plan the remaking of our own homes and the rededication of our lives, so that our land may be built on the solid basis of love and trust.
O God of our captivity, whose hand has held and sustained us through this weary journey,
Be with us now in these days of suspense and waiting.
As thou hast been our guide and strength in the past strengthen us now.
Give us the quiet mind of patience and confidence.
We remember thou hast said, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth thee”.
Father who hast created the nations as all members of the great human family, cause the terrible strife to cease.
And when it comes to an end may reason, justice and foresight prevail.
Cleanse our hearts from the spirit of revenge and hatred and reprisal.
Give us the spirit of charity and forgiveness.
We would reaffirm our belief in love as the centre of life.
Give us the determination and faith so to live as individuals and nations that wars may be outlawed forever.
RAY DAVEY PRAYER DATED 10 JUNE 1944
A Blessing Creative God Breathe your breath of life on us. Forgiving God Breathe your words of peace on us. Empowering God Breathe your spirit of strength on us. Amen.
Inderjit Bhogal, Former Leader and CEO of Corrymeela
8 May 2020
Note: Davey, R.( 2005). The War Diaries: From Prisoner-of-War to Peacemaker. Belfast, Brehon Press
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These words are written from the confinement of a prison. What is it to live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel?
There are four key ingredients and movements of the Gospel, namely the incarnation, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ.
First, Incarnation: God is revealed in, and is like Christ
God who is with us is revealed and reflected in the powerless dependence and vulnerability of a new born child born, not in the might of an almighty warrior. Humility is the first characteristic God.
Matthew and Luke record birth narratives. Written in the context of the fall of Jerusalem after AD70, at the height of the power of Caesar who was being proclaimed the Saviour, armed to the teeth, the Gospel writers assert that the Saviour is a helpless, dependent, vulnerable, weapon free refugee child.
A life lived in a manner worthy of the Gospel will be a life lived in the confidence that God is with us, and shares our fragility. It will be a life that is characterised by humility, not oppressive and intimidating behaviour. It will be a life that will make decisions from the perspective of the most vulnerable, and most in danger.
Discern the presence of God in people and places of humility.
Live humbly without being oppressive and intimidating, at home, in church, at work, in community, and you will reflect Christlikeness and the Gospel of Christ.
Secondly, Ministry: Reflecting the hospitable and healing ministry and practice of Christ
The ministry and practice of Christ was characterised by being a healing presence. Jesus had a ministry of healing, not harming or hurting. Jesus lived humbly, and was angry when confronted with hurt and exploitation. He modelled leadership as service.
Jesus’ ministry is revealed as a service of mending hurts, doing good, including the outsider, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison, sharing food with the hungry and water with the thirsty. He sought justice for those who were most exposed to exploitation.
We never hear of Jesus carrying any weapons of war in his hands. This is relevant in our world characterised by hurting and harming, and by increased spending on instruments of war. We need medication, and instruments of healing. Turn the spears into pruning hooks. Invest in those things and practices that heal, not in things and practices that harm and hurt.
Our commitments and actions have to be consistent with the ministry and practice of Jesus.
A life lived in the manner worthy of the Gospel will be a healing life not a harmful or hurting life, and will call for this in others. Be a healing presence, not a hurtful one, at home, in church, at work, and in community.
Thirdly, Crucifixion: Reflecting the passion and cost of such a ministry
Marks Gospel was perhaps the first attempt at recording the life of Christ. It does not include the birth narratives, but interprets Christ from the perspective of his suffering and crucifixion. The message of these themes is the recognition that nothing worthwhile is without cost. A ministry of healing and hospitality is not cost free. It makes heavy demands, and is exhausting and painful.
There is a cost involved in exercising the ministry described above. Jesus was tortured and persecuted and rejected. He valued communion with a small community. But Jesus died denied, betrayed and abandoned even by his closest friends. What greater humiliation is there than that?
Living life in a manner worthy of the Gospel will be costly. Expect opposition. However, such a life will be lived in a spirit of service and humility, without seeking to hurt or humiliate others. It is Gospel wisdom that we bear the cross. It is the pathway to resurrection and hope.
Fourthly, Resurrection: Reflecting hope, always
The resurrection stories in the Gospels insist that there are no dead ends. The weightiest obstacles can roll away.
This is modelled in the life and ministry of Christ. He always looked for transformation and the fulness of life in all places and for all people.
Reflect on your life and all the situations in which you feel you are at your wits end, at a dead end, stuck, imprisoned, not sure of which way to turn next. It is perfectly legitimate to puzzle over obstacles (Mark 16:3). Living and serving humbly does not mean you turn away from them, or that you give up in fear and frustration.
According to John’s Gospel (21:1-13), the disciples had laboured hard and had nothing to show for all their efforts, they were ready to give up, but in the wisdom of Christ they were shown a way forward.
A life lived in the manner of the Gospel will embrace the cross and the cost of life, but will always be characterised by hope, even in the worst of circumstances. Do not despair. Live with hope. Help others to do so also.
The Letter to the Philippians insists that we are to live our life in a manner that is worthy of the Gospel, but also that we are to live “side by side” not by ourselves, that’s why we are part of the community of followers of Jesus, with the “mind that was in Christ”. This is the mind that Charles Wesley says is “emptied of all but love”. It will not be a life without difficulty, opposition or conflict, but it will be a life that is not intimidated by opponents [Philippians 1:27-30].
A life lived in the manner of the Gospel has confidence in God who is revealed in Christ’s birth, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection.
It is a life that will not exercise oppression or intimidation. It is a life lived in the confidence that God is with us. It is a life that will give you breath, that will be healing, that will give you strength to bear the cost, and to remain hope full, always.
So live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel, and bring and encourage this lifestyle in all life and reality at local and wider level. You will help to build a better world governed by humility, service, hospitality, healing and hope as opposed to oppression, intimidation and humiliation. It is the pathway of a follower of Christ.
INDERJIT BHOGAL, 9 APRIL 2020 MAUNDY THURSDAY. ANNIVERSARY OF EXECUTION OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER (1945)
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