Tabernacl Baptist Church, Cardiff
PLEASE NOTE: This script cannot exactly reflect the transmission, as it was prepared before the service was broadcast. It may include editorial notes prepared by the producer, and minor spelling and other errors that were corrected before the radio broadcast.
It may contain gaps to be filled in at the time so that prayers may reflect the needs of the world, and changes may also be made at the last minute for timing reasons, or to reflect current events
Item 1. INTRODUCTION – Roy Jenkins
Good morning, and welcome to Cardiff. In a few hours, the streets outside this church will be bustling. We’re in the heart of the city, right opposite the newest and largest shopping centre, which at peak times has more than a million customers a week.
Tabernacl normally uses the Welsh language for its worship, but its ministry is a broad one. It’s long had a practical concern for homeless people. Its vestry is the base for street pastors, kept busy until the early hours with revellers leaving clubs and pubs the worse for wear. And in the weeks before Christmas, it’s the venue for no fewer than 180 performances of the Cardiff Nativity.
The church’s members have a wide range of international and political concerns, so it’s fitting that as the United Nations marks a significant anniversary this week – it’s 25 years since its Convention against Torture came into force – we should be thinking about how people of faith are meant to respond to some of the seemingly intractable problems of our time. It’s so easy to be overwhelmed. Just what should we be doing?
The minister of this church the Rev Denzil John takes up the theme after our opening hymn, ‘Crown him with many crowns.’
Item 2: HYMN - Crown him with many crowns- Diademata
Item 3: DENZIL - Prayer
Lord God, all life proceeds from you, all truth affirms you, all love reflects you.
We bless you for the life you give, for the truth you reveal, for the love you make visible in Jesus Christ, crucified, risen and ascended.
We acknowledge our failure to live worthily in response to your great goodness. Forgive us and renew us, we pray; and may the worship we offer today reflect the desire of our hearts and the intentions of our wills.
And in the words Jesus taught us, we say:
ITEM 4: DENZIL + CHOIR
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. For ever and ever. Amen.
Item 5: DENZIL - Link
Hardly a week passes when torture is out of the headlines. A frail elderly person is hurt by a robber. Terrible injuries are inflicted on a child by a parent. We are shocked, unable to grasp how anyone can do such things.
The torture outlawed in the United Nations convention being marked this week is of a different order. It’s pain or suffering deliberately inflicted by a person in authority – a police officer, a soldier, some other official. States sign up to an absolute prohibition, not to be breached even by war or threat of war, by political instability or any public emergency. Its concern is to prevent experiences like those of Mark’ not his real name, an Iraqi exile here in Cardiff who spoke to us a few days ago. He ran a car hire business in Baghdad before finding himself in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison for failing to report on his foreign customers to Saddam Hussein’s security police.
Item 6: Insert - CD Mark’s story (duration 1.58)
When they were torturing me, they put electrodes on my leg. Second they put wood and hit my legs. They also show me different way to torture: first, hang the people from the fan; second tie the people on bed, tie their legs and hands, and three men, both sides, they hit them by cable.
He come nervous, the officer, he want me to confess. I say, please, can you write anything you want, because I don’t have anything to confess, to write and I sign. That time he was holding a cutter, paper cutter, and they cut my face with paper cutter. They took me to hospital because I was bleeding. I had twelve stitches on my face. Now there is a scar on my face also.
When they were torturing me I felt humiliated in myself, and I don’t like myself. I felt very angry at first about those doing these things to me, but after I left it all to God, because I trusted in God. I was praying, and he gave me patience to tolerate ten years in prison.
The torture is still with me. When I see my face in the mirror, I see the scar, and it remind me what happened to me in the prison, and it makes me anxious. And I have also scar on my back, and it gives me pain from that time until today, especially when I sit and stand, there is pain, every day, every time.
Item 7: DENZIL - Link
Mark’s story is typical of many across the world - bewildered, frightened, humiliated men and women, unable to give the information that’s wanted; and so damaged physically and emotionally that the pain never completely goes away. There might be consolation in faith, for sure, but the body still aches, and sometimes trembles at the memories.
The most basic thing any of us can do is to pray for an end to all such abuse, addressing our plea to one who knows what it’s like from the inside: ‘Rid the world of torture’s terror, you whose hands were nailed to wood’ - the hymn, ‘God of freedom, God of justice.’
Item 8: HYMN - God of freedom, God of justice – Westminster Abbey
Item 9: DENZIL - Link
In the light of an issue like torture – or any number of injustices which diminish life for millions - our Bible reading has a striking directness. It’s one of the most familiar stories Jesus told, from Luke chapter ten, and the sung response, ‘Diolch i Ti yr hollalluog Duw’ proclaims, ‘Thanks be to you, Almighty God, for the holy gospel’
Item 10: READER - Luke 10.25-37 NIV
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked,
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise’.
Item 11: CHOIR - Diolch i Ti yr hollalluog Duw
Item 12: DENZIL - Link
People in great need, desperately poor or denied many basic rights, have a proper claim on us – and sometimes they manage to sing through their struggles. When Nelson Mandela came to Cardiff to be awarded the freedom of the city, the Ardwyn Singers, our choir this morning, sang a medley of African songs of faith and freedom, which speak of gratitude and hope, and of marching in the light of God.
Item 13: CHOIR - African medley
Item 14: Roy Jenkins - ADDRESS part 1
Whenever disaster strikes – earthquake, hurricane, famine - people of all faiths and none respond to an evident need. Whatever the dulling effects of compassion fatigue, pictures of hungry children, overcrowded refugee camps can still prompt large sums for relief. We’re recognising in each suffering individual one of the people referred to in our gospel reading as a ‘neighbour’ Jesus tells us to love as we love ourselves. So we do what we can.
But what if it’s more complicated, if the suffering can’t be addressed by online pledges or coins in a collecting box? What of the forces which keep people in poverty? What of the persistence of trafficking, literal slavery? What of wrongful imprisonment, or the vested interests which work against peace and feed instability?
Loving neighbours can be far from simple. Which is why the first of the two great Old Testament commandments which feature in the exchange between Jesus and the lawyer who enquired about eternal life is crucial: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.’
No emotional spasm, this, but the deliberate, grateful, energetic response to God’s own love, the desire and intention to pursue his purposes for our own lives and for the world.
We know that many perform deeds of great good with no conscious reference to any divine being, but for Christian believers, commitment to changing the world is to be rooted and sustained in commitment to the God who loves the world, and makes that love visible in Jesus Christ.
All this implies action. While the priest and Levite in Jesus’ parable passed by on the other side, fearing for their ritual purity, the heretical foreigner risked ambush. His action was immediate and selfless.
Our careful schedule might also be interrupted by a wounded person, unattractive, perhaps, but hurt or lost or bewildered and needing another human being to hold their hand, calm their fear, phone for help, or whatever.
It can be so inconvenient; but all our theorising about big problems or high theology counts for little if we find a way of stepping out of this encounter.
And we know that behind every statistic of deprivation and abuse is a real person for whom potentially we can make a difference: to get them fed or protected, maybe, to get their torture stopped, begin a process of healing, support a traumatised family.
Sometimes what’s needed is the unglamorous business of attending MPs’ surgeries, raising petitions, lobbying major companies. Or just letting people know they’re not
forgotten: like the Kurdish politician who stood in another church in this city after his release from ten years in jail and said simply: ‘Your cards and letters fed me.’ Or the Baptist pastor in the former Soviet Union who told us that in labour camp he treated similar greetings as ‘a cup of cold water’ - tangible reminders of the Lord he loved in many dark places as his shepherd.
And so a setting of Psalm 23 by Dilys Elwyn Edwards, who died earlier this year: The Lord is my shepherd.
Item 15: CHOIR - The Lord’s my shepherd (Dilys Elwyn Edwards)
Item 16: Roy Jenkins - ADDRESS part 2
If loving God with all our strength can be tough, so can loving him with our minds - trying to see ourselves as we are, stripping away illusions; and also wrestling with what’s happening around us. We’re not free simply to switch off from facts we’d prefer to ignore.
Take the use of torture. Despite decades of international agreements, despite near universal revulsion, it’s not gone away. Minds and bodies are still being broken deliberately to extract information, to punish or to instil terror. It’s happening blatantly at the behest of tyrants; and possibly more worryingly it’s also being justified in defence of liberal freedoms, colluded in by those who regard it as a necessary evil. Maybe it’s time to stop being squeamish, it’s argued; to redefine practices currently outlawed; or maybe simply to be honest and declare that any torture is justified if the need seems urgent enough.
It’s a seductive call when threats are real and governments and security services are under permanent pressure to keep us safe – and definitions of torture can vary. But we need to think through some implications. Is it possible to strap electrodes to another human being and still recognise him as a neighbour? Is it possible to submit him to simulated drowning and still acknowledge the image of God in him – and in ourselves? We need to think what it says about our most fundamental values: what it says about us.
And always, lest we slip into self-righteous condemnation, we need to be thinking about how we see those who commit the worst of atrocities. Kate Adie has recalled two occasions when she watched officials of Muammar Gadaffi shaking with fear, sweating, twitching and trying to edge out of his direct gaze: a member of his inner circle explained that his rages were so frightening that many thought he might kill. ‘It’s terrible,’ he said. ‘But what can we do? He has the power.’
And from Baghdad, the Anglican priest Andrew White, who knew many of the officials ultimately responsible for the suffering of thousands, has written: ‘I have pondered which of them were evil and which were not, and I have come to the conclusion that almost everybody in Saddam’s regime was a victim. If you were asked – or rather instructed – to do something, you did it, unless you were prepared to see your family suffer, and to suffer yourself, intolerably.’
The hard thinking which faces the tough questions strives also to see even the bad guys as God sees them: it’s part of loving God with our minds.
And what of loving God with ‘heart and soul’? That’s the absolute dependence of the person who goes on praying in the prison cell, or the scene of catastrophic disaster, knowing that there’s nowhere else to turn.
It’s trust which rebukes any resignation on our part to things as they are, any fateful acceptance that they’ll never change; and also rebukes the arrogance which implies that righting them is all down to us, that if only we did more, gave more, campaigned more, the world would be as it should. Loving God involves recognising that we depend on him absolutely, the humbling awareness that we achieve anything of ultimate value only by grace.
Through the years, I’ve counted it a privilege to meet people who’ve dedicated themselves to the most marginalised, inspired thousands to stand up for their rights, put their lives on the line to speak words of defiance. That’s what they’re known for. But with some I’ve been staggered to discover the depth of the roots beneath the
all-action public image. They’ve been brave, for sure; but they’ve done so on the basis of lives infused by prayer, constantly attentive, concerned that their thought and their activity will be the fruit of a loving relationship with the God in whom they trust. For them, the discipline of prayer and worship is no escape from the struggle for a more just world: it’s a central part of that struggle, and they couldn’t be loving their Lord without it.
So with them in our next hymn, we pray, ‘Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore…grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the facing of this hour.’
Item 17: HYMN - God of grace and God of glory - Rhuddlan
Item 18: INTERCESSIONS
Now our intercessions
Lord Jesus Christ, you proclaimed liberty to the captives, freedom to the oppressed. We pray for all whose minds and bodies have been damaged by torture;
all who are in great pain at this moment and who dread suffering more.
Heal their wounds, and end their torment.
We pray for all who break people out of a sense of duty, or for their own pleasure; and for those who know the truth but keep silent because they are afraid;
Melt hard hearts. Open closed eyes. Grant your courage and your compassion.
As we give thanks for international agreements which seek to defend the rights of the most vulnerable, we remember those with responsibility for making them work: judges and magistrates, police and prison officers, members of the armed forces and all who care for victims of abuse. We pray for all who have grown weary in their struggle to do what is right, and all who are tempted to become bitter because life seems so unfair. Warm them with your love, and revive their hope.
We remember all who are caught up in war and civil unrest, and especially this morning
the people of Syria.
Hold safe, we pray, all who seek to keep peace or to make peace;
all who risk their own security to work for justice
and all who make decisions which mean life or death for others.
Lord Jesus Christ, prince of peace, may your peace reign.
And we pray for ourselves. Save us from the tyranny of schedules which claim precedence over human need. Help us to sit lightly to our own plans, so that we might recognise the people we are meant to serve. Grant us grace truly to love you with heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbours as ourselves.
For your name’s sake. Amen.
Item 19: DENZIL - Closing Link
Our closing hymn, to a celebrated tune by Arwel Hughes, a former organist of this church, is a prayer that a day will never dawn without praise for God’s goodness in creation, and his grace expressed in the suffering of Christ: ‘O Lord, who gave the dawn its glow.’ Tydi, a roddaist liw I’r wawr:
Item 20: HYMN - O Lord, who gave the dawn its glow – Tydi a Roddaist
Item 21: ROY JENKINS- Blessings
Enable us to love you, Lord, with all we are.
To think hard, when the questions are tough
To act generously, reflecting the mercy shown to us
To live day by day in humble gratitude, that with every fibre of our being we may strive for what you require.
Grant that we may truly love you with heart, soul, mind and strength, and so love our neighbours as ourselves.
On the way of goodness,
when we stumble, hold us;
when we fall, lift us up;
when we are hard pressed by evil, deliver us;
when we turn from what is good, turn us back;
And bring us at last to your glory.
For your name’s sake. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with us all, evermore. Amen
Sunday Worship came from Tabernacl Baptist Church in Cardiff and was led by the Rev Denzil John. The preacher was the Rev Roy Jenkins, the Ardwyn Singers were directed by David Michael Leggett and the organist was Janice Ball. The producer was Sian Baker. In next week’s Sunday Worship, Archbishop Patrick Kelly leads a service of Morning Prayer to welcome the light from Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.