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Stories of Redemption – broken and blessed

A service exploring the beatitudes and with modern stories of redemption from St Aldates, Oxford, with Canon Charlie Cleverly.

A service exploring the Beatitudes linking to modern stories of redemption. The service will be led by Anita Cleverly, and sermon will be given by Canon Charlie Cleverly, Rector of St Aldates, who will reflect on the Beatitudes. They are a set of blessings in the Gospel of Matthew, spoken by Jesus during the Sermon on the Mount and are 'treasured paradoxical writings'. For example - 'Blessed are those who mourn', how can mourning be blessed? Although during a time of suffering people can feel broken, often a blessing can follow. Worship leaders: Jamie Thompson and Lauren Harris.
Producer: Miriam Williamson

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38 minutes

Sunday Worship

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.

ANITA: Good morning and welcome. From where I’m standing, I can see the Saxon cross on the south wall of this ancient church. This has been a place of worship for over a thousand years. Since my husband Charlie and I arrived in 2002 as leaders of this community, we have seen numerous people find both faith and a home in this diverse church that we call A House of Prayer for all nations and ‘Home at the Heart of Oxford. ’ It’s a city visited by every nation, For so many students, international students and visitors, this city and this church has become almost a holy place – a place to meet with God.We begin by singing a hymn by Oxford poet and Missionary to India Reginald Heber, Holy Holy Holy, 
Music 1: Opening hymn - Holy, Holy, Holy (Nicaea)Holy holy holy, lord god almightyEarly in the morning our song shall rise to theeHoly holy holy, merciful and mightyGod in three persons, blessed trinity 
Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee, casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea; cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee, who were, and are and evermore shall be. 
Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee, though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see, only thou art holy; there is none beside thee, perfect in power, in love and purity. 
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea. Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty, God in three persons, blessed Trinity.
ANITA: The theme of the service is ‘broken and blessed’ – and we will be reflecting on the powerful message of the beatitudes.    Part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel. the Beatitudes show Jesus at his most poetic, and the depths of God’s counter-cultural love. For example, he says times of mourning will be matched with comfort from God. The Beatitudes are a rich source of both comfort and encouragement in the difficult seasons of life, and worth calling to mind as Christians prepare for the season of Lent.  During the service we’ll also explore and express the rhythm of prayer that we have adopted from the ancient practice of a Rule of Life. This has been used for hundreds of years by monastic and church communities as a framework to stay close to God in the press of daily life.  
FUNMI DURODLA: Reading (The Beatitudes – Matthew 5:1-12)I work as a safeguarding adult practice supervisor in my professional life and I find I need the wisdom contained here in Jesus’ words when making what can be difficult ethical decisions.
“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.He said:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.4 Blessed are those who mourn,    for they will be comforted.5 Blessed are the meek,    for they will inherit the earth.6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,    for they will be filled.7 Blessed are the merciful,    for they will be shown mercy.8 Blessed are the pure in heart,    for they will see God.9 Blessed are the peacemakers,    for they will be called children of God.10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.ANITA The extraordinary words of Jesus:  We sing about His Hidden Glory and His Beauty from the beginning – His beautiful name above all names
MUSIC 2: What a Beautiful Name (Hillsong Worship)
You were the Word at the beginningOne with God the Lord Most HighYour hidden glory in creationNow revealed in You our Christ
What a beautiful Name it isWhat a beautiful Name it isThe Name of Jesus Christ my KingWhat a beautiful Name it isNothing compares to thisWhat a beautiful Name it isThe Name of Jesus
You didn't want heaven without usSo Jesus, You brought heaven downMy sin was great, Your love was greaterWhat could separate us now
What a wonderful Name it isWhat a wonderful Name it isThe Name of Jesus Christ my KingWhat a wonderful Name it isNothing compares to thisWhat a wonderful Name it isThe Name of Jesus
Death could not hold You, the veil tore before YouYou silenced the boast of sin and graveThe heavens are roaring the praise of Your gloryFor You are raised to life again
You have no rival, You have no equalNow and forever, God, You reignYours is the Kingdom, Yours is the gloryYours is the Name above all namesWhat a powerful Name it isWhat a powerful Name it isThe Name of Jesus Christ my KingWhat a powerful Name it isNothing can stand againstWhat a powerful Name it isThe Name of Jesus
CHARLIE: “What a beautiful name”… We find His beautiful name is revealed…  to people in our city of Oxford: city of dreaming spires; cradle of philosophers, politicians, poets and priests; steaming cauldron of ideas and policies, proposals and discoveries; high place of discourse and debate; womb of new science and new law; greenhouse of culture. This is our city - a wonderful city to inhabit; stimulating and spiritual — but it’s also home to the poor, the dispossessed, the confused, the struggling and many fighting mental and physical ill health. What does it mean to be poor in spirit in this cocktail of contrasts? The Beatitudes begin: “Blessed are the poor in Spirit”: How can poverty of spirit be in any way good? “Blessed are those who mourn” How can mourning be blessed?  Like many, I have known times, short and long, of feeling utterly helpless; times when I literally cannot move, whether that be mentally, emotionally or physically. When tragedy strikes or other pain looms over us, and we’ll talk about some of this this morning, It feels like being paralysed. Some listening to this may identifyIn the Beatitudes, the Greek word for ‘poor’ describes absolute and abject poverty; in Aramaic, the word evolved: it began by meaning simply ‘poor’, then ‘because poor, therefore having no influence, power or prestige’; from there ‘because having no influence, therefore downtrodden and oppressed by people’; and so it came to mean ‘because they have no earthly resources whatever, the poor person puts their whole trust in God’. There can be blessing however paradoxical in this: ‘Blessed is the person who has realised their own utter helplessness and has put their whole trust in God.’ Blessed are those who mourn – they shall be comforted. In a moment we’ll hear (my wife) Anita Cleverly speak of her experience of coping with recent traumatic bereavement, In our Church, partially in response to our helplessness without prayer, we’ve tried to live a ‘Rule’ based on the Beatitudes involving pausing and praying Morning Noon and Night. In the morning, as the day begins, following the practice of lectio divina: we read / meditate / pray the passage and then contemplate God’s beauty. In our poverty and mourning – He is a deep comfort! 
ANITA: No human being lives a life untouched by pain or sadness or grief. For the Christian, believing in the resurrection is a source of hope and comfort at such times, and we seek to be a community that holds the tension of joy and suffering. Just 3 months ago my beloved sister was killed in a brutal car crash; hearing the news I screamed and screamed. Not for the first time, our world instantly collapsed, as it had nearly 40 years earlier when our first son died in a cot death. Just as I did all those years ago I felt I would not be able to bear this new loss, or recover from it. But in the chaos, I knew, and still know, that God is with me. God’s word and presence are my daily strength and comfort, and I am broken, but I am blessed. And the body of Christ comforts and strengthens me too, because Jesus is present and embodied by his Holy Spirit in his people. This is the glorious reality of the Christian message, bringing hope through the pain of the cross for all, including you.
MUSIC 3: You Restore my Soul (St Aldates Worship) INTRO BEGINS HERE, UNDER FOLLOWING SCRIPT:
ANITA: However bleak our circumstances the truth is that God can restore us...and when he does, our perspectives are radically changed, as our next song, a setting of the 23rd psalm, expresses. Written by St Aldates musicians, it reflects their personal journeys as well as proclaiming a universal truth.And after that, we will hear the voices of our international community  - some of them in their own language - in prayer to the God who is a very present help in time of need.(MUSIC 3 continues: congregation sings You Restore my Soul (St Aldates Worship) 
The Lord is my shepherd, he restores my soulHe leads me by still waters, he restores my soul
Surely your goodness and mercy are chasing after me all of the days of my life
Even when I’m lost in the deepest valleyI’ll fear no evilEven when the silence falls around meI know you hear meEven when it feels like we’re separatedYou’re holding onto me
You lift my head you wipe my tearsYou restore my soulYou draw me into your embraceYou restore my soul
Surely your goodness and mercy are chasing after me all of the days of my life

PRAYERS Intercessory prayers said with a background of music, 
ANNA WITHERS: I speak as a German married to a Welshman working in a business consultancy here: Geliebter Vater wir beten Dir fur Europa, dass sie geheilt werde. Dear, Beloved Father we pray for the healing of Europe. In the light of the past tumultuous year in European politics: Please heal divisions in Europe. You are a God of Mercy. We pray for those in authority that you would give wisdom and a sense of your presence. May the nations of Europe be ‘godly and quietly governed’. Lord in your MercyALL:  Hear our Prayer

AUGUSTINE KANU:  I speak as a Nigerian working in xxx  In igbo:  God please hear our cry and heal racial division in our lands Lord God, we love you and we come to you. Please heal racial division in our lands. You called us to be a House of Prayer for all nations. Father we pray for the nations that you would bring peace and reconciliation. We especially pray in the wake of recent terror events: Have mercy and heal our land… Lord in Your MercyALL: Hear our prayer
MUSIC SOLO ‘You restore my soul’ brief moment sung by Lauren Harris? Then music continues under remaining prayers…
Even when I’m lost in the deepest valleyI’ll fear no evilEven when the silence falls around meI know you hear meEven when it feels like we’re separatedYou’re holding onto me
You restore my soul x4
EMILY BERRY: I was a partying student in Oxford, living a pretty chaotic life, when Christ was revealed to me and my days of mourning ended in His comfort (to quote the Beatitudes). I now work as a one of the student pastors here: Father please comfort students in every university. Please protect them and awaken them to your truth and your kindness as you awakened me. We remember George Whitefield who as an undergraduate came to know you in Pembroke College 50 metres from this church and preached with such power to a whole generation ushering in a revival. Father, please raise up Whitefields and Wesleys from among the over 2 million students in the UK. We pray for another Great Awakening.Lord in your mercyALL: Hear Our Prayer

ROB ROGERS: I was a sofa surfing drug user who came to know Christ and was completely set free. I now work for the Church’s Charity  with their 12 houses and programs for ex-prisoners and addicts. Father… you came to ‘set the captives free’. I thank you that you are a God who liberates and transforms today. Please bless those using shelters across the country. Jesus you are the One who heals the broken hearted: Please heal those in trouble, sorrow, need sickness and adversity. As the next song says: May you who are the ‘firstborn of all creation’ cause new things to come to life even today.  Lord in your mercyALL: Hear our Prayer
MUSIC 4: Raised With Christ (Aldates Worship) (no bridge)The firstborn of all creationThe world was made for your delightTaking on our human natureBecoming sin to give us life
You hold everything togetherFrom beginning to the endWith a love no one could measureStronger than the grip of death
I’ve been raised with ChristThe old is gone the new has come to lifeI will lift my voice and sing our praiseForever I will sing  your praise 
I lift my eyes up to the heavensI set my mind on things aboveYou are the prize you are my treasureHow sweet the name that reaches us
You hold everything togetherFrom beginning to the endWith a love no one could measureStronger than the grip of death
I’ve been raised with ChristThe old is gone the new has come to lifeI will lift my voice and sing our praiseForever I will sing  your praise Forever I will sing your praise Forever I will sing your praise CHARLIE: The Beatitudes continue: ‘Blessed are the meek – they shall inherit the earth, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice – they shall be filled’; Blessed are the merciful – they shall be shown mercy‘Oxford is packed with people searching for justice and showing mercy. There’s one charity working with the homeless run exclusively by Undergraduate students like Emily who prayed earlier: Our community of 100 or so Oxford Postgrads who regularly attend this church supports people in Masters and Doctoral programs called to do research and proposals as diverse and needed as climate and creation care, epidemic disease prevention, holistic mining development in Africa, international politics, gender oppression, mental well being, education, and radical solutions to injustices concerning wealth. They have in common a longing for justice and are so beloved, I believe.But one way to begin hungering for righteousness is to hunger for God. ‘Blessed are the meek – they shall inherit the earth’. The Greek word praus translated ‘meek’ is the word for a wild animal which has been trained to obey. Like a beautiful powerful horse which has learned to accept leading. The discipline of a morning noon and night Rule of Life can help us be meek and as we hunger… to be filled.  At noon, we recommend what Theresa of Avilla called ‘Centering Prayer’: The Prayer of recollection – a time to gather all of our distracted thoughts and tasks and re-orientate our heart. We are interrupted many times in an hour by messages and alerts; this is the chance to turn your phone off, go outside if possible, listen, and breathe. Then a Prayer of Quiet … In the Prayer of Quiet: there is a listening stillness. Experiencing Silence is almost a lost art but can bring healing when we discover it. Then: Union and Communion with God. American theologian Henry Nouwen says: ‘If there is any focus the Christian of the future will need it is the discipline of dwelling in the presence of the One who keeps asking us: ‘Do you love me?’… This is the discipline of contemplative prayer: Blessed are the meek: Paradoxically it seems they shall inherit the earth! 
ANITA: Striving for justice can mean being awake to needs of the planet and caring for creation, to caring for the poor... Let’s consider our own response to Jesus as we sing our next song: When I survey the Wondrous Cross.  
MUSIC 5: When I Survey the wondrous cross (O Waly Waly)
When I survey the wondrous crossOn which the prince of glory diedMy richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride
Forgive it lord that I should boastSave in the death of Christ my lordAll the vain things that charm me mostI sacrifice them to his blood 
See from his head his hands his feetSorrow and love flow mingled downDid ere such love and sorrow meetOr thorns compose so rich a crown
Were the whole realm of nature mine That were an offering far too smallLove so amazing so divineDemands my soul my life my all 

ANITA: At the heart of the Book of Books, the Bible, lies the Song of Songs. We have been speaking of a God of Hope, in whose embrace the poor can know provision and those in mourning can find comfort. This next reading tells of the One who changes the sadness of winter into Springtime – into the season of singing where flowers appear on the earth at last.

REVD NINA OSKARSDOTTIR  Reading (Song of Songs 2:10-15?) I was ordained in the Church of Norway and I love children. For the past three years have served the two hundred or so children of this church and many more in this city as families pastor
10 My beloved spoke and said to me,    “Arise, my darling,    my beautiful one, come with me.11 See! The winter is past;    the rains are over and gone.12 Flowers appear on the earth;    the season of singing has come,the cooing of doves    is heard in our land.13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;    the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.Arise, come, my darling;    my beautiful one, come with me.”

CHARLIE: The Beatitudes go on to say: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Our second reading - from The Song of Songs goes further and calls humankind “The Beloved”.   God says to His ‘beloved’: ‘Arise my darling and come with me – the winter is over.The Church Fathers used to read this passage as referring to the Incarnation when Christ comes into the ‘winter’ of this world – a place where as CS Lewis said. It is ‘always winter and never Christmas’. When Christ comes into the winter of our world, He turns all to Springtime and fragrance and flowers appear on the earth. Maybe this is why Christians care deeply for creation and the planet – that flowers, fragrance and diversity and ecological balance are loved and looked after. 
This famous passage is also a call to know the presence now even in the ‘winter’ of our soul. Your winter may be the fact of tragedy or trouble as we have heard – it may be the winter of routine drudgery. It is the Call into experiencing God daily. In this way, though broken, we can be blessed!
We have been looking at a Morning Noon and Night Rule of Life… At night, we can use the powerful Ignatian Practice of ‘The Examen’ to come away from the winter and enter a new springtime.  At the end of the day, we can ask: Where have I met Christ today? And then: ‘Where have I missed Him’? Often, we meet Him when we are present to someone- when we are not too busy to pause or not too self-preoccupied to notice and to listen to others. And we also meet Him in prayer through the day in quiet encounter. It is a Beatitudes paradox – in Brokenness, there is blessing, in Mourning there can come comfort. How does this work – well as the next Song say: “I cannot tell”… “I cannot tell” But this I know – He heals the broken hearted – he stays our sin and calms our lurking fear – I cannot tell how – but He lifts the heavy burden – and then to quote the Song of Songs – Flowers appear on the earth. 
MUSIC 6: I Cannot Tell (Londonderry Air) 
I cannot tell why he whom angels worship should set his love upon the sons of menOr why as shepherds he should seek the wand’rers to bring them back, they know not how or whenBut this I know, that he was born of Mary, when bethl’hem’s manger was his only homeAnd that he lived at Nazareth and laboured and so the saviour, saviour of the world is come. 
I cannot tell how silently He suffered,  As with His peace He graced this place of tears,Or how His heart upon the Cross was broken,  The crown of pain to three and thirty years.But this I know, He heals the broken-hearted,  And stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear,And lifts the burden from the heavy laden,  For yet the Savior, Savior of the world is here 
I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,  When, at His bidding, every storm is stilled,Or who can say how great the jubilation  When all the hearts of men with love are filled.But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,  And myriad, myriad human voices sing,And earth to heaven, and heaven to earth, will answer:  At last the Savior, Savior of the world, is King

ANITA:  Let us pray together
ALL: Our Father in heaven,hallowed be your name,your kingdom come,your will be done,on earth as in heaven.Give us today our daily bread.Forgive us our sinsas we forgive those who sin against us.Lead us not into temptationbut deliver us from evil.For the kingdom, the power,and the glory are yoursnow and for ever.Amen.
CHARLIE:Your salvation is near to those who fear you;that glory may dwell in our land.Your salvation is near to those who fear you;that glory may dwell in our land.Mercy and truth have met together;righteousness and peace have kissed each other.That glory may dwell in our land.
May the Lord bless you and keep you May He make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you and give you peaceAnd the Blessing of God Almighty, Father Son and Holy Spirit be with you now and always AmenMUSIC 7: Instrumental music to close service


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