The student’s revenge
The following story, in dramatic form, was supplied by Joan Osborne.
Professor: You are a Christian, aren’t you son?
Student: Yes Sir.
Professor: So, you believe in God?
Professor: Is God Good?
Professor: Is God all powerful?
Professor: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to God to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But God didn’t. How is God good then? Hmm?
(The student was silent for a moment)
Professor: You can’t answer, can you? Let’s start again, young fella. Is GOD good?
Professor: Is Satan good?
Professor: Where does Satan come from?
Student: From … God …
Professor: That’s right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?
Professor: Evil is everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything. Correct?
Professor: So, who created evil?
(The student did not answer)
Professor: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don’t they?
Student: Yes, sir.
Professor: So, who created them?
(The student had no answer)
Professor: Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me, son, have you ever seen GOD?
Student: No, sir
Professor: Tell us if you have ever heard your GOD?
Student: No, Sir.
Professor: Have you ever felt your God, tasted your God, smelt your GOD? Have you ever had any sensory perception of GOD for that matter?
Student: No, sir; I’m afraid I haven’t.
Professor: Yet you still believe in Him?
Professor: According to Empirical, Testable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says your God doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?
Student: Nothing. I only have my faith.
Professor: Yes, faith. And that is the problem Science has.
Student: Professor, is there such a thing as heat?
Student: And is there such a thing as cold?
Student: No, sir. There isn’t.
(The lecture theatre became very quiet with this turn of events)
Student: Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat. But we don’t have anything called cold. We can hit 458 below zero which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.
(There was pin-drop silence in the lecture theatre)
Student: What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?
Professor: Yes. What is night if there isn’t darkness?
Student: You are wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light. But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing and it’s called darkness, isn’t it? In reality, darkness isn’t. If it is, well you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?
Professor: So, what is the point you are making, young man?
Student: Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.
Professor: Flawed? Can you explain how?
Student: Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good GOD and a bad GOD. You are viewing the concept of GOD as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, Science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing.
Death is not the opposite of life; just the absence of it. Now tell me, professor, do you teach your students that they evolve from a monkey?
Professor: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course I do.
Student: Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?
(The professor shook his head with a smile, beginning to realise where the argument was going.)
Student: Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work they cannot prove that this process is an on-going endeavour. Are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher?
(The class was in uproar)
Student: Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor’s brain?
(The class broke into laughter)
Student: Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor’s brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so. So, so, according to the Rules of Empirical, Stable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says that you have no brain, sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we trust your lectures, sir?
(The room was silent. The professor stared at the student, his face unfathomable)
Professor: I guess you’ll have to take them on faith, son.
Student: That is it sir; EXACTLY! The link between MAN and GOD is FAITH. That is what keeps things alive and moving.
P.S. By the way, that student was EINSTEIN
Still on the lighter side
In Florida, an atheist created a case against Easter and Passover Holy days. He hired an attorney to bring a discrimination case against Christians and Jews and observances of their holy days. The argument was that it was unfair that atheists had no such recognised days.
The case went before a judge. After listening to the passionate presentation by the lawyer, the judge banged his gavel declaring “Case Dismissed!”
The lawyer immediately stood and objected to the ruling saying, “Your honour, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter and others. The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah, yet my client and all other atheists have no such holidays.”
The judge leaned forward in his chair, saying “But you do. Your client, councillor, is woefully ignorant”.
The lawyer said “Your Honour, we are unaware of any special observance or holiday for atheists.”
The judge said, “The calendar says April 1st is April Fool’s Day. In Psalm 14:1 it states: ‘The fool says in his heart, there is no God’. Thus, it is the opinion of this court, that, if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool. Therefore, April 1st is his day. Court adjourned”
You’ve got to love a judge who knows his scripture.
Prayer part 2
By Tony Poole
This is a continuation of the article on prayers and praying, published in the last Messenger. In that article, we looked at informal prayers of intercession, and at prayer as a conversation with God, and how God may speak to us during silent prayer. We also looked at prayers of thanksgiving, and at daily devotions as an extension of prayer.
We also looked at the 11 forms (or sub-forms) of prayers of the people in our Anglican Prayer Book. In a moment I would like to return briefly to this topic.
But first, I would like to acknowledge the contribution of Joan Osborne to the topic of prayer. After the last issue of this magazine, she wrote to me, rightly emphasising the importance of gratitude in prayer. When we ask for something, take a moment to thank God when we get it. God does answer our prayers – just not always as we might have expected. Thank God for his answer. When God gives you a godly thought, thank God for that thought. Let us cultivate a climate of thanking God, rather than just asking for things all the time.
It is a real privilege, and also a responsibility, to be entrusted with the prayers of the people on a Sunday. These prayers, of course, need to be for everyone, because the liturgist is entrusted with putting into words the thoughts of all the people in the congregation. The prayers should therefore be equally relevant for the newest, and the oldest Christian in Church that Sunday.
For that reason, there is no disgrace in taking the prayers of the people straight out of the Prayer Book. The “Second Form” of prayer on page 416 – 418 is ideal for this purpose. But note that it is not exclusively for that purpose. Read the italicised print at the beginning in reverse order to get the full meaning:
- This form may be used as a continuous prayer, or
- each section may include particular intercessions and thanksgiving, and
- Each section may include (including conclude) with a versicle and response.
To my mind, the periods of silence are what sets the second form of prayer apart the other forms. The silences should be long enough for us be properly silent before God, so that God may communicate with us if God wishes.
While one continuous prayer with pauses for reflection is one form of the Prayers of the People, the disadvantages of too much of this type of prayer is that it is not inclusive; the congregation has limited opportunities to join in – unless the third option of including versicles and responses, is chosen, and even then, there are limits to this form of response.
We have looked at prayer so far as something that we originate, which it often is. But there are lots of prayers which have already been written – often a long time ago. These prayers catch our attention when we first come upon them, and remain with us as both an example and an inspiration.
Such prayers can easily be incorporated in the Prayers of the People, but they can equally easily be used as part of one’s own private prayers; especially if you have them on hand, for use when originality seems to desert us. I conclude by sharing with you a small anthology of some of my own favourite prayers, in the hope you will find them useful.
1 The prayer of St Chrysostom (chrys-sos-tom; a real tongue-tier!), who lived from 349 until 407, was the Bishop of Constantinople, and was renowned for the quantity and quality of his many writings. This prayer (translated into modern English) still survives today.
Almighty God, who has given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplications to you and promised that when two or three are gathered together in your name you will grant their requests: fulfil now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of your servants, as may be most expedient for them; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the world to come life everlasting.
2 The three prayers on Page 417 of our prayer book, at the conclusion of the second form of the prayers of the people, are three further examples of much older familiar prayers which have survived in a modern form.
3 Here is a relatively modern prayer, written not by a member of the clergy, but by the novelist Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson had close connections with New Zealand; as far as I know he never visited here, but he was fascinated by Samoa, and having visited the island nation in 1890, he returned that same year and spent the last four years of his life in Samoa, where he died in 1894 of a cerebral haemorrhage. He is buried in Samoa.
This prayer is intended for use at Christmas time:
Loving Father, Help us to remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men. Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts. May the Christmas morning make us happy to be your children, and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake AMEN.
Here are two further familiar prayers, the origins of which I have forgotten (hopefully someone will know).
4 The first of them is also intended as a Christmas prayer:
O heavenly and merciful Father,
you loved us so much,
that you sent us your only begotten son
to be the Ruler and Saviour of the world.
Help us to receive Jesus anew in our hearts.
May this Christmas season be a time of peace, love and joy,
a time of repentance and forgiveness,
a time of reconciliation, friendship and dialogue,
a time of openness and renewal,
a time of faith, hope and love.
5. Here is the second familiar prayer; it is a prayer to be used in our own prayers, or during the first Anglican form of prayer, as a prayer for the community or for the world:
Grant us, Lord God, a vision of our land as your love would make it: A land where the weak are protected, and none are hungry or poor; A land where the benefits of civilised life are shared, and everyone can enjoy them; A land where different races and cultures live in tolerance and mutual respect; A land where peace is built with justice, and justice is guided by love. And give us the inspiration and courage to build such a land, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
6 I can remember where the next prayer came from; it was attached to someone’s death notice, in the NZ Herald fairly recently. It is entitled “I’m Free”.
Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free. I’m following the path God laid for me. I took God’s hand when I heard God call. I turned my back, and left it all. I could not stay another day, to laugh, to love, to work or play. Tasks left undone must stay that way, I found that place at the close of day. If my parting has left a void, Then fill it with a remembered joy, A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss; ah yes, these things I too will miss. Be not burdened with times of sorrow, I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow. My life’s been full, I savoured much; good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch. Perhaps my time seemed all too brief – Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief. Lift up your heart and share with me: God wanted me now, God set me free.
7 Our prayer book contains two collections of prayers, which can be used as either private or public prayers. The first of these occurs between pages 525 and 545, and sets out sentences, prayers and blessings for the whole Church Year from Advent to Pentecost.
8 The second collection runs for nearly 100 pages, from Page 549 to 641, and sets out sentences, collects (i.e., prayers), the Psalms and readings for every Sunday of the Church year, beginning with the first Sunday in Advent. Both of these collections include some duplication if they are to be used for daily prayers, although there are several prayers given for each week. These collections are a real treasure trove for inspiration for anyone seeking inspiration for prayers on a daily basis.
9 Devotions (prayers and Bible Readings) are natural companions, and many passages of scripture are either by their content or their style also prayers. Prayers can also come from many countries, and can be translated many times. The following is the 23rd Psalm, which originates in our Bible (which itself is translated several times), was translated in this case into Japanese, and then back into English again. In the Japanese version, it is as much a prayer as a Bible Reading.
On the left is the traditional English version (from the New Revised Standard Version), on the right a translation back into English of the Japanese 23rd Psalm:
|1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.||1 The Lord is my Pace-setter, I shall not Rush;|
|2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;||2 He makes me stop, and rest for quiet intervals. He provides me with images of stillness, which restores my serenity;|
|3 He restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.||3 He leads me in ways of efficiency through calmness of mind, and his guidance is peace.|
|4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.||4 Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day, I will not fret, for his presence is here. His timelessness, his all importance, will keep me in balance.|
|5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.||5 He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity, by anointing my mind with his oils of tranquillity. My cup of joyous energy overflows.|
|6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.||6 Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours, For I shall walk in the pace of my Lord, and dwell in his house for ever.|
I am indebted to Joan Osborne for drawing the Japanese 23rd Psalm to my attention
10 Finally, a rather different style of praying is practised by orders of Nuns and Monks, such as the Franciscans and the Benedictines. In the Anglican Church, we have a certain amount of responsive praying, especially when using the third form of Eucharist (Thanksgiving and Praise) beginning on page 476. In the services of Franciscans and others, much/most of prayer is responsive. Typically, the priest (or leader) will say one line, and the congregation of Monks will either repeat it, or respond to it, for quite long periods of time. This can be joyous and meaningful, and I would be tempted to use this form of prayer at St Thomas’s from time to time, were it not for the size of the prayer sheets that each service would require. Sometimes, to reduce the length of the script required, just three or four responses are used, in blocks of 10 or twelve times, which the priest or leader announces when the response changes. I have included as an example of one page of a Franciscan prayer script, for illustrative purposes, on the following page.
I have enjoyed this two-part ramble through Prayer in the Christian Church. It was born largely out of personal need, because I think of all aspects of Christianity, my prayer life is in fact the part that needs most attention.
The Franciscan Order
From all evil and mischief; from pride, vanity and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred and malice; and from all evil intent, Good Lord, deliver us.
From sloth, worldliness and love of money; from hardness of heart and contempt for your word and your laws, Good Lord, deliver us.
From sins of body and mind; from deceits of the world, the flesh and the devil, Good Lord, deliver us.
From famine and disaster; from violence, murder and dying unprepared, Good Lord, deliver us.
In all times of sorrow; in all times of joy; in the hour of our death and at the day of judgement, Good Lord, deliver us.
By the mystery of your holy incarnation; by your birth, childhood and obedience; by your baptism, fasting and temptation, Good Lord, deliver us.
By your ministry in word and work; by your mighty acts of power; and by your preaching of the kingdom, Good Lord, deliver us.
By your agony and trial; by your cross and passion; and by your precious death and burial, Good Lord, deliver us.
By your mighty resurrection; by your glorious ascension; and by your sending of the Holy Spirit, Good Lord, deliver us.
Hear our prayers, O Lord our God. Hear us, good Lord.
Govern and direct your holy Church; fill it with love and truth; and grant it that unity which is your will. Hear us, good Lord.
Give us boldness to preach the gospel in all the world, and to make disciples of all the nations. Hear us, good Lord.
Enlighten your ministers with knowledge and understanding, that by their teaching and their lives they may proclaim your word. Hear us, good Lord.
Give your people grace to hear and receive your word, and to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. Hear us, good Lord.
Bring into the way of truth all who have erred and are deceived. Hear us, good Lord.
Strengthen those who stand; comfort and help the fainthearted; raise up the fallen; and finally beat down Satan under our feet. Hear us, good Lord.
Guide the leaders of the nations into the ways of peace and justice. Hear us, good Lord.
Guard and strengthen your servant Elizabeth our Queen, that she may put her trust in you and seek your honour and glory. Hear us, good Lord.
Endue the High Court of Parliament and all the Ministers of the Crown with wisdom and understanding. Hear us, good Lord.
Bless those who administer the law, that they may uphold justice, honesty and truth. Hear us, good Lord.
Give us the will to use the resources of the earth to your glory, and for the good of all. Hear us, good Lord.
Bless and keep all your people. Hear us, good Lord.
Help and comfort the lonely, the bereaved, and the oppressed. Lord, have mercy.
Keep in safety those who travel, and all who are in danger. Lord, have mercy.
Heal the sick in body and mind, and provide for the homeless, the hungry and the destitute. Lord, have mercy.
Show your pity on prisoners and refugees, and all who are in trouble. Lord, have mercy.
Forgive our enemies, persecutors and slanderers, and turn their hearts. Lord, have mercy.
Hear us as we remember those who have died in the peace of Christ, both those who have confessed the faith and those whose faith is known to you alone, and grant us with them a share in your eternal kingdom. Lord, have mercy.
From Our Priest in Charge
Our Gospel reading for 7th February has, among other things, Jesus going off to a solitary place, literally “a desert” (Mark 1:35). And after all the healings and casting out of demons, he certainly needed some time out! But, Simon and some of the other disciples go and look for Jesus – they literally “hunt Him down” – “Everyone is looking for you!” exclaims Simon. No pressure!
We encounter in this passage a thoroughly modern kind of thing; how can our hugely competitive system co-exist with the need to get away from it all? Being on holiday in January got me thinking about it. It is of course true that as we get older, we see that life is not just about money, buying a house and bringing children into the world. The need to be competitive becomes less, we no longer need to prove ourselves; to pit ourselves against others to try and justify our existence. Patience with ourselves and with others becomes an option where previously if we were challenged, we might have chosen “fight the good fight”.
I’ve been reading a book our eldest daughter sent me for Christmas – “Cathedrals of Steam” by Christian Wolmar, a well-known writer on railways. Prior to the railways, there was local time – London might be on one particular clock, Leeds on quite another. Railways put an end to such shenanigans; a national time became imperative, timetables a necessity.
But clock-time tends to make for impatience and hurry; trains may sometimes be late but did you ever know someone who deliberately turned up at the station late for their train – hurry is built into the system and as someone once said, “Hurry is of the devil!” If we are always worried about being somewhere on time, can we really be thinking about others, about God indeed? Does compassion take a back seat?
The Syrian priest, Nadim Nassar, tells us time is not nearly so important in Middle Eastern culture, where the emphasis is on hospitality and food and relating to others. “Investing energy in being punctual is, for them, a waste of time because relationships are far more important than schedules – time becomes a richly available commodity”. (Nadim Nassar, “The Culture of God”.)
This put me in mind of Martha and Mary; the latter chose the “better part”, wasting time with Jesus! It also reminded me of the Trappist Monk Thomas Merton (died 1968); he found in his hermitage in the grounds of the monastery that solitude did not separate him from his fellow monks, but indeed brought them into closer communion. His life centred around the eucharist – intimacy with God meant intimacy with others. Solitude, not loneliness, enables a restful existence centred in God, a life hollowed out for God to enter.
Lent approaches, all too rapidly! St Paul encourages us – “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). Along with love, these are the things that led to peace and which enable us to live in “perfect harmony” (verse 14). Finally, remember that all the great events in the Bible take place in God’s time (“Kairos”) as well as in our time (“Chronos”) so there should be less anxiety, just patient waiting: see Romans 5: 3-5.
Have a richly blessed and patient Lent.
Reverend Bob Driver