Sunday 13 November 2022

Prayers with the Nenagh Walking Club, Aonach ar Siúl

The Nenagh Walking Club, Aonach ar Siúl, held a walk on 13th November 2022 in memory of deceased members, beginning at the Nenagh Famine Graveyard, behind the hospital, walking through the town to St John's Well, and back along the river. I was invited to contribute prayers on behalf of the Church of Ireland community, but did only parts of the walk.

At the Famine Graveyard

As we remember all those buried in this tranquil graveyard, 
e pray for grace to live in the light of eternity.
Grant us, Lord, the wisdom and the grace 
to use aright the time that is left us here on earth. 
Lead us to repent of our sins, 
the evil we have done and the good we have not done; 
and strengthen us to follow the steps of your Son, 
in the way that leads to the fulness of eternal life; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Father of all, in whom we are one with your saints,
We remember members of the Nenagh Walking Club 
that you have gathered to yourself, 
and we rejoice in the fellowship we have enjoyed with them.
We remember walkers and mountaineers of previous generations,
including Anthony Adams-Reilly, the pioneering C19th alpinist,
who is buried in Kilbarron CofI graveyard.
We give you thanks for those whom we love but see no longer.
Keep us in unbroken fellowship with your whole Church, 
and grant that at the last we may all rejoice together in your heavenly home; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

At St John's Well

Let us pray

Today is marked as Remembrance Sunday in churches of my Church of Ireland tradition. On this day we pray not to glorify war, but for all who suffer as a result of conflict, and ask that God may give us peace:

To the bidding May God give peace, please respond God give peace.


We pray for the service men and women of every nation who have died in the violence of war, each one remembered by and known to God;

May God give peace

God give peace


We pray for those who love them in death as in life, experiencing the distress of grief and the sadness of loss;

May God give peace

God give peace


We pray for civilian women, children and men whose lives are disfigured by war or terror, in particular today those in Ukraine, as we call to mind in penitence the anger and hatreds of humanity;

May God give peace

God give peace


We pray for peace-makers and peace-keepers, who seek to keep this world secure and free, and in particular for our Irish service men and women on peace-keeping duties with the UN;

May God give peace

God give peace


We pray for all who bear the burden and privilege of leadership, political, military and religious; asking for gifts of wisdom and resolve in the search for reconciliation and peace.

May God give peace

God give peace


O God of truth and justice, we hold before you those whose memory

we cherish, and those whose names we will never know. Help us to lift our eyes above the torment of this broken world, and grant us the grace to pray for those who wish us harm. May we put our faith in your future; for you are the source of life and hope, now and for ever. Amen.

 Adapted from CTBI

We pray for ourselves, in the words of John Henry, Cardinal Newman, who before joining the Roman Catholic church was a priest in the Anglican tradition in the Church of England.

O Lord, support us all the day long

until the shades lengthen,

and the evening comes,

and the busy world is hushed,

the fever of life is over,

and our work is done.

Then, Lord, in your mercy

grant us safe lodging,

a holy rest, and peace at the last;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


Tuesday 8 November 2022

Renewal in the ruins

Reflection for morning worship with the Community of Brendan the Navigator on Tuesday 8th November 2022

Do you sometimes feel that time is accelerating, that events are moving faster and faster?

I do. Though perhaps that is just my advancing years - as I grow slower, so time seems to pass ever faster. Waiting for Christmas as a child seemed to go on for ever, but now it feels that Christmas is almost upon us – just over 5 weeks now, only 30 shopping days!

I have the same feeling when I look at the state of the world today, the beautiful world we inhabit, God’s world. The COP27 climate summit is taking place this week in Egypt. We can all see and experience for ourselves that climate is changing. The seasons here in Ireland have become distorted. We see images of extreme, damaging and even catastrophic climate events elsewhere – wildfires out of control across Europe and North America, one third of Pakistan flooded. Climate scientists tell us that the forecasts they made 20 years ago were wrong. The damaging changes they foresaw are really happening – but they are happening much faster than they at first believed they would. It is as if we are all in a flimsy canoe being swept faster and faster towards dangerous rapids, which may prove fatal to millions, and even destroy our very civilisation.

The words of the prophet Haggai (1:15b-2:9) speak to me in this time of danger.

‘Take courage, all you people of the land, says the LORD; work, for I am with you, says the LORD of hosts, according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear.’ Haggai tells the people that the LORD of hosts will ensure that the Temple they rebuild will be even more splendid than the ruined Temple of Solomon, and the LORD of Hosts will give them prosperity. And at Haggai’s urging the people did successfully rebuild Solomon’s Temple.

I see the beautiful world we inhabit as a temple to God, who has filled it with life including ourselves. What Haggai’s words tell me is this - we must trust that our God is with us, and overcome our fears. If we as the people of God work to repair the damage being done to his world and all its creatures, he promises we will be successful. God’s world will then be even more splendid than it was before, and all God’s creatures will flourish.

This surely is cause enough for us to ‘sing to the Lord a new song’ in the words of that wonderful hymn of praise, Psalm 98.

Sunday 6 November 2022

On resurrection from the dead


Address given at St Mary's, Nenagh on Sunday 6th November 2022, the 3rd before Advent

We have just heard Jesus answer a question about one bride who married seven brothers (Luke 20:27-28).

Now, the idea of a woman marrying seven successive brothers, each of whom dies childless, may seem a bit bizarre to us. But ancient Jewish law in the Torah obliged a man to marry his dead brother’s wife if she were childless. Her firstborn child - if she had one - would inherit the dead man’s name and property. If the man refused to marry her, he would be publicly humiliated. In a deeply patriarchal society this law provided some protection and security to the widow and her future children.

The question was asked by Sadducees, Jews who accepted only the Torah, the 1st five books of our OT, as God’s law. The Torah does not mention the possibility of resurrection, so Sadducees rejected the very idea. Later books of the OT – the prophetic and wisdom books – do talk about resurrection. They were accepted by other Jewish traditions who did believe in resurrection – in particular the Pharisees. The disputes between those who did and those who didn’t believe in resurrection were very bitter.

The Sadducees’ question was this: if you believe in resurrection, which of the seven brothers will the woman be married to when they all rise from the dead?

It is a trick question. If Jesus replies, ‘all of them’, everyone will be outraged, because for patriarchal Jews it was entirely unacceptable for a woman to have more than one husband - even though a man could have more than one wife. If Jesus picks one brother, they will tie him up in knots justifying which one. So - they think - he will have to support their view that resurrection is a nonsense – and that will annoy the Pharisees.

In his answer Jesus avoids the trap set for him by the Sadducees – and at the same time reveals what he himself believes about resurrection.

Jesus tells the Sadducees they are mistaken. He quotes the Torah they revere to argue for life after death, for resurrection.

He points them to the story of the burning bush in which God tells Moses, in the present not the past tense (Exodus 3:6), ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’. God, says Jesus, ‘is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive’. They have died, but they are alive - so they must have been resurrected.

And he draws a clear distinction between living mortals and those who have died and been resurrected. He says that after death there can be no such thing as marriage – death really does change human relationships.

‘Those who belong to this age’ – mortal human beings - ‘marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age’ – after death - ‘and in the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage’. Notice that Jesus does not say that all will rise from the dead – only those who are considered worthy of it. ‘Indeed’, he says, ‘they cannot die any more’ - they have eternal life - because they are like angels’ – and angels were believed to be sexless. They ‘are children of God, being children of the resurrection’.

From this we can be sure of 2 things:

1st, Jesus himself does believe in the resurrection of the dead – at least for those considered worthy of it; and

2nd, Jesus does not believe that those who are resurrected are simply re-animated corpses – they have become something completely different.

Jesus believed in the resurrection of the dead – but do you, do I?

I hope so, because every Sunday in the creeds we publicly declare our belief in resurrection!

These days most people find it very difficult to believe in the resurrection of the dead. Even many Christians mouth the words of the creeds without really meaning them. Our modern, materialist world view, informed by science, can make resurrection seem literally unbelievable. The atoms and molecules of which I am made will be dispersed when I die, and recycled into other living creatures, including other human beings. How can they be re-assembled after my death into a living body? My identity as a unique person is encoded chemically both in my DNA and in my memories. How can it persist beyond my dissolution?

But surely, it would be wrong to reject what Jesus himself believed! If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Jesus did not rise from the dead, and as St Paul said, our faith is in vain.

Our world view – how we make sense of everything around us – is not the same as the Sadducees’. When Jesus talked to the Sadducees about resurrection, he spoke to them in language they could relate to and understand – the language of the Torah. I feel sure that when we try to make sense of the resurrection, we must also use language that we can relate to and understand – and for many of us that is the language of modern science.

We should not be afraid to express our faith in new ways that make sense to us.

I ask myself how Jesus might explain to me what resurrection means in language I can understand and believe in. I can imagine him saying something like this:

In the 4 dimensions of space-time, our lives are like 3 dimensional threads, they are world lines. They start at our conception and end at our death, and each of them is entangled with the world lines of all the others we encounter.

But God is not constrained by space-time. He loves and apprehends each one of us in our entirety, from the start to the finish of our world line.

God judges our worth against the quality of our love – our relationships with others – measured over our entire world line, our whole lives.

Our resurrection is precisely to be apprehended by God as being worthy of him.

In resurrection, we are as different from our mortal selves as a line is to a point - we cannot die a 2nd time, we have been transformed into immortal children of God.’

I find these ideas help me to understand resurrection and to believe in it. Perhaps you will find them helpful too. But if not – if this sounds to you no more than meaningless science fiction psychobabble – don’t worry, just ignore my words.

In any case, if you find the idea of resurrection difficult, I urge you to search for your own way to understand it, and to believe in it – because Jesus believed in resurrection, and because God raised Jesus from the dead as our Lord and Saviour.

Let me finish in prayer with a Collect for Resurrection from the BCP (p495)

Bring us, Lord our God, at our last awakening,
into the house and gate of heaven,
to enter into that gate, and dwell in that house,
where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light;
no noise nor silence, but one equal music;
no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession;
no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity;
in the habitation of your glory and dominion,
world without end. Amen.