SPIRITUAL SINGING

The hardest aspect, for me, about worship in church at the moment is not being able to sing! Singing is an essential and life giving part of worship. St Augustine must have loved a good sing! It was he who described Christians as an ‘ Easter people’ whose song is ‘Alleluia!’ He also wrote that ‘to sing a psalm is to pray twice’ and in encouragement to those daunted by their very precarious situation he exhorted them ‘to keep walking and keep singing.’ Singing and music is integral to Christian spirituality: growing, as it did, out of the worship of Judaism with his highly developed tradition of singing the psalms. On Maundy Thursday we heard that Jesus and his disciples ‘after singing some hymns went to the Mount of Olives.’

St Paul in his spiritual counsel to the Ephesians writes that they should ‘be filled with the spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord in your heart.’ ( 5:19)This is echoed in the letter to the Colossians (3:16) ‘ Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing  psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.’ Here Paul makes the connection between the word of God dwelling in us  and heartfelt singing. There is in the New Testament a very dynamic ‘confusion’ of word and song: we need only bring to mind the canticles which are part of the rhythm of our daily prayer – The Benedictus, The Magnificat and Nunc Dimmitis. There are others too as found in Philippians Chapter 2 and the texts which are now woven into the Eucharistic liturgy. 

It is singing that helps so much of Christian doctrine penetrate our consciousness: as any teacher of young children knows singing can help remember. If one reflects on how the singing of hymns has formed perceptions and understanding of the Faith one sees how absolutely essential it is.

There is a spontaneous singing to hymns and canticles that might happen anywhere from the shower to the drive to the supermarket; but there is also a more deliberate use of singing to gather mind, body and spirit together as a preparation for more wordless and contemplative prayer. The chants and songs that have come out of the Taize community can be as well used by individuals in solitude as by large gatherings; most are created to enable a stilling into silence.

Our generation have an opportunity to use music in ways that Christians of earlier generations could not imagine. We have access to a wealth of recorded music we can put in our pocket to provide inspiration and solace anywhere we choose. This does, however, produce difficulties if this resource in not managed carefully. There is a thin distinction between being inspired and being entertained. Listening to music may aid reflection and bring us to a ‘place’ of stillness but it should not be aural wallpaper to our prayer. It is very easy to become dependent on having an ‘eternal music feed.’ It is an aid to, and not a substitute for, that quiet in which we can hear the ‘small murmuring voice’. We might remember that after the triumphant hymns to the lamb there was silence in heaven for the space of half an hour! (Revelation 7 and 8)

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REFLECTING ON PHILIPPIANS: A SHORT AUDIO REFLECTION

Philippians 1:12–30

The Advance of the Gospel

[12] I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, [13] so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. [14] And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

[15] Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. [16] The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. [17] The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. [18] What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

To Live Is Christ

Yes, and I will rejoice, [19] for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, [20] as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. [21] For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. [22] If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. [23] I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. [24] But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. [25] Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, [26] so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

[27] Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, [28] and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. [29] For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, [30] engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (ESV)

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LETTER TO LOVED ONES: REFLECTIONS ON PHILIPPIANS

THIS LETTER WAS WRITTEN BY PAUL WHILST UNDER HOUSE ARREST IN ROME ( C 61-63 AD)
Philippians 1:1–11
Greeting
[1] Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
[2] Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
[3] I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, [4] always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, [5] because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. [6] And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. [7] It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. [8] For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. [9] And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, [10] so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, [11] filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (ESV)

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REFLECTION FOR ST LUKE’S DAY

Luke 1:1–4
Dedication to Theophilus
[1] Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, [2] just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, [3] it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, [4] that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (ESV)

THE COLLECT.   ALMIGHTY GOD, WHO CALLEDST LUKE THE PHYSICIAN, WHOSE PRAISE IS IN THE GOSPEL, TO BE AN EVANGELIST, AND PHYSICIAN OF THE SOUL: MAY IT PLEASE THEE THAT, BY THE WHOLESOME MEDICINES OF THE DOCTRINE DELIVERED BY HIM, ALL THE DISEASES OF OUR SOULS MAY BE HEALED; THROUGH THE MERITS OF THY SON JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD. AMEN

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REFLECTIONS ON ACTS: PAUL IN ROMAN

Acts 28:17–31

Paul in Rome

[17] After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. [18] When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. [19] But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against my nation. [20] For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” [21] And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. [22] But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”

[23] When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. [24] And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. [25] And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:

[26] “‘Go to this people, and say,
“You will indeed hear but never understand,
    and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
[27] For this people’s heart has grown dull,
    and with their ears they can barely hear,
    and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
    and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
    and turn, and I would heal them.’


[28] Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

[30] He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, [31] proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. (ESV)

PAUL'S JOURNEY FROM ROME
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REFLECTIONS ON ACTS: THE SNAKE AND THE APOSTLE

Acts 28:1–16
Paul on Malta
[1] After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. [2] The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. [3] When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. [4] When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” [5] He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. [6] They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.
[7] Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. [8] It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him. [9] And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. [10] They also honored us greatly, and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed.
Paul Arrives at Rome
[11] After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead. [12] Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. [13] And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. [14] There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. [15] And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. [16] And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him. (ESV)

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REFLECTIONS ON ACTS: BREAKING BREAD ON A BREAKING SHIP

27] When the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. [28] So they took a sounding and found twenty fathoms. A little farther on they took a sounding again and found fifteen fathoms. [29] And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. [30] And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship’s boat into the sea under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, [31] Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” [32] Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go.
[33] As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. [34] Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” [35] And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. [36] Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. [37] (We were in all 276 persons in the ship.) [38] And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea.
The Shipwreck
[39] Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to run the ship ashore. [40] So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders. Then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. [41] But striking a reef, they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf. [42] The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. [43] But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, [44] and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land. (ESV)

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REFLECTIONS ON ACTS: INTO THE STORM

Acts 27:1–26

Paul Sails for Rome

[1] And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort named Julius. [2] And embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. [3] The next day we put in at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. [4] And putting out to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. [5] And when we had sailed across the open sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. [6] There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy and put us on board. [7] We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind did not allow us to go farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. [8] Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.

[9] Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, [10] saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” [11] But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. [12] And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.

The Storm at Sea

[13] Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. [14] But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. [15] And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. [16] Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. [17] After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along. [18] Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. [19] And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. [20] When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.

[21] Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. [22] Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. [23] For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, [24] and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ [25] So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. [26] But we must run aground on some island.” (ESV)

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REFLECTIONS ON ACTS: WISDOM AND PRESENCE

Acts 26:24–32

[24] And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” [25] But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. [26] For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. [27] King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” [28] And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” [29] And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

[30] Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them. [31] And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” [32] And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” (ESV)

[24] And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” [25] But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. [26] For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. [27] King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” [28] And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” [29] And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

[30] Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them. [31] And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” [32] And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” (ESV)

YESTERDAY ALSO MARKS THE 105TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE EXECUTION OF EDITH CAVELL. SEE ‘REREAT WITH EDITH CAVELL IN SERMONS AND ADDRESSES PUBLISHED IN OCTOBER 2018

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GUESTS AT A WEDDING

HOMILY ON THE PARABLE OF THE WEDDING FEAST

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