Eucharistic hymn

This is your body, for your people giv’n,
We break the bread, and voice the sacred song;
Food of the angels, taste of highest heav’n,
crumbs dropped for all who fear we don’t belong:
We are your body, help us dare to share
all that we have, and offer all we are.

This is your blood, the pain that makes us whole
With love was pressed from this live-giving vine,
The smallest sip can warm the coldest soul,
And fill the human heart with fire divine:
We are your body, help us yearn to share
all that we have, and offer all we are.

We are your body, fed with heavenly food,
Washed through the blood that flows with heavenly love,
And then you send us, by that love renewed,
to find that earth is full of heav’n above.
We are your body, in your grace we share
all that we have, and offer all we are.

(Tune: Finlandia)

I wrote this one last month too, and forgot about it. Again, sorry.

Hymn: Christ the eternal priest

I was asked to write a hymn, to the tune ‘Kingsfold’, on the theme of ‘Christ the eternal priest’, for a friend’s first mass. Here it is!  (I cheated slightly in that the last four lines are from another hymn I wrote earlier – if I can think of another ending I’ll replace them one day!)

O Christ, our Shepherd, brother, friend,
O Prophet, Priest and King,
Our Lord, our Way, our Truth, our Life,
It is for you we sing:
Accept this sacrifice of praise
from voice and heart and soul,
For only in your Love, dear Lord,
can we be truly whole.

“A priest for ever you shall be
Enthroned in heav’n above.”
Yet still we know on earth below
The blessings of your love.
You did not cling to heav’nly bliss
but chose to share our pain,
Your life and death and rising still
draws earth to heav’n again.

One sacrifice, made once for all
on Calvary’s blessèd tree,
You stooped to lift up all who fall,
were bound to set us free.
And still through you we make our prayers
and know that we are heard,
For you have opened heaven’s gate,
O loving, living Word.

Make us your holy people, Lord,
in this and every place,
that we, through word and sacrament
may know your saving grace.
You call us here as servants, guests,
as sisters, brothers, friends:
to gather and be richly blessed.
with life that never ends.


All age friendly sending out song

My train was delayed so while I waited I wrote this, to the tune of ‘I saw three ships’. It’s not profound, but it might be useful to someone somewhere.

Now send us out to serve you, Lord,
and show the love of heaven above,
We gladly go to serve you, Lord,
on this and every morning.

Now send us out to serve you, Lord,
Your peace to grow on earth below,
We gladly go to serve you, Lord,
on this and every morning.

Now send us out to serve you, Lord,
to share your grace in every place,
We gladly go to serve you, Lord,
on this and every morning.

Now send us out to serve you, Lord,
In all we say and think today
We gladly go to serve you, Lord,
on this and every morning.

Now send us out to serve you, Lord,
to live for you in all we do,
We gladly go to serve you, Lord,
on this and every morning.

Advent doodle 1: Hills of the North, rejoice

I don’t know yet if I’ll try for (let alone succeed at) a doodle a day again, but here’s day one, based on the readings from today’s Eucharist (bits of Isaiah 2 & Matthew 8) and the hymn that seemed most to resonate with them.

We are those who come
from North and South
and East and West;
We are those who come
not in our own right,
but by the grace of God;
We are those who come late,
unclean, and unprepared;
We are those who, as beloved guests,
sometimes need reminding
that we do not own this:
it is a gift that we may come as we are
to become all we were created to be.


The Sunday after Ascension

‘Why do you stand there looking up to heaven?’
It’s no wonder the disciples were caught staring up at the place where their friend and teacher and Lord had bid them farewell, but the angels are right to point the disciples back to the world – we are not to be so heavenly that we are of no earthly use.

It seems to me that the Ascension is, above all, a feast of the body of Christ – as is this Eucharist that we celebrate this morning, just a few days afterwards. It’s the period in the church year when we remember the departure back to heaven of Jesus’ earthly, incarnate form, the day when his presence stopped being particular (tied to a specific time and place and material form) and started to be universal – present to all times and places ‘even to the ending of the age’ (Mt 28.20).

But the ascension is but one moment of this process of the particular becoming universal.  Jesus fed a crowd with a few loaves and fish, and called himself ‘the bread of life’; at the Last supper he explained his own body in terms of bread and wine, which he then broke, poured out, and distributed.  On the cross his actual body was broken and his blood flowed.  At the resurrection his body was both physically real (which he proved by eating and drinking) yet also able to go unrecognised and walk through locked doors (a step up, perhaps, from walking on water?).  Then at his ascension, that physical body disappeared into glory, and in its place was left a group of bewildered disciples left with the task of carrying on their teacher’s work.

By the time St Paul started writing his letters to the early church, he had started calling the christian community ‘The Body of Christ’ – something which we still do, and to which we continue to aspire.  There was one final thing that needed to happen before those early Christians could assume the role as Christ’s new body on earth: that body had to receive the Holy Spirit, the breath of life, which we can read about in the story of Pentecost (Acts 2) or indeed in the quieter version in John’s gospel where the risen Christ breathes his Spirit on his friends in the upper room.  It is that which we look forward to celebrating next Sunday.

So during the course of this process, the Body of Christ which begun as the incarnate Son of God, born as a baby in Bethlehem, growing up as a carpenter’s son in Nazareth, being baptised and undertaking a three-year ministry of preaching, healing and teaching, and culminating the cross and resurrection – that Body of Christ is transformed into the Church – established by Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to continue his work in co-operation with God.  Thus, Jesus’ particular body (limited to one time and one place, two thousand years ago) becomes universal, filling the whole world, and for all time.

We talk about the universal church, but really is that what we mean?  In the end, to be true to the Christ whose body we try to be, we come full circle: in the Church, the body of Christ becomes not, after all, merely ‘general’ or ‘universal’ but particular again, incarnate in the individuals and christian communities in which the Holy Spirit dwells.  If we are, in Teresa of Avila’s words, “Christ’s hands with which he blesses people now” then our action in the world is particular, in the places where we find ourselves.  The church may fill the world, but if it is truly to be the Body of Christ, then it cannot be ‘general’ but must always be active in the places where it finds itself.  If we are the Body of Christ then we must be incarnate, too – through the ascension we will always have a heavenly life, but here and now our calling is to continue, in his name, the work that Christ began.

You have heard the phrase, ‘you are what you eat’ – hear also these alternative words of distribution at the Eucharist: ‘receive what you are’.  These challenge us to connect what happens here in church with what happens in the other 167 hours each week. We are the body of Christ not just gathered in a church building to hear the word and bread bread together, but in everything that we do and think and say.

At times like these, when as a nation we face again the reality of terrorism, violence, hatred and fear, we must grasp more than ever the need to work out what being the body of Christ looks like in real life. What will it look like for us to be Christ’s hands and feet, his eyes and ears, today, this week, this month?  How will we be active in continuing the work of God in the world?  How will we be continuing to live out Christ’s own manifesto, as we receive the Holy Spirit afresh, and proclaim, as Jesus did, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, because he has anointed us to preach good news to the poor; he has sent us to proclaim freedom to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and liberation for the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’  We have seen this week the inspiring and humbling response of the people of Manchester. Their refusal to meet hatred with hatred and evil with evil. Their solidarity in diversity, and their embracing of one another in shared pain and fear so that there might instead be the transforming power of love.

When Jesus said ‘do THIS’ in remembrance of me, he cannot have been talking just about the breaking of a piece of bread in a closed room. He must surely have been talking about everything captured in the phrase ‘This is my body, broken for you’ – the totality of his incarnation, life, ministry, preaching and teaching, passion, death and resurrection, so that as we do ‘this’ and remember Jesus, we may truly receive what we already are, and go out to love and serve the Lord as his body on earth, ready to bless and heal and reconcile and bring something of the love of God to a world in desperate need of it.