Over a term in Oxford…


Chapel of the Resurrection, Pusey House

I just realised that I haven’t posted anything since I moved apart from the texts to my homilies…

The last time I left you, dear readers, I was preparing for the move to the noble city of Oxford. By now, I have been here for five months, and I am completely convinced I made the right move by changing careers (again, some of you might say….)!

As you all know (who am I kidding, let’s rephrase: as I have already said on here): I am a Chapel Intern/Pastoral Assistant at an Anglo-Catholic student chaplaincy in Oxford. Pusey House was founded as a ‘House of Piety and Learning’ in memory of E B Pusey, one of the main figures within the Oxford Movement. As someone who is a major bookworm, living under the same roof as the biggest theological library in Oxford is a great blessing.

Being in the Home Counties have been a great blessing for many reasons, the foremost being that I have been able to meet up with loads of online friends, most of them I started talking to online while still living in London. Working in a place such as the Domus Puseiana has also given me lots of new friends – and I am working on introducing old friends to new friends – a post-Lenten project, maybe.

Oxford in itself is a wonderful city, especially those rare moments you find yourself being the only one wandering down a certain lane, or walking past the castle, or in the University Parks, or…… OR – when you’re all alone late at night in your House Chapel that’s all dark bar the sanctuary lights…..

Anyway, I meant for this post to be much longer, but I thought this would be better than nothing, as I am currently busy preparing for our Ash Wednesday High Mass tomorrow.




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Conversion of St Paul



24 January 2018

Chapel of the Resurrection, Pusey House, Oxford

Readings: Jeremiah 1.4-10, Acts 26.1-23 

Father: all those words and thoughts which come from thee, whilst thou bless them and make them fruitful. And all those words and thoughts that come not from thee but from our own vanity wilt thou forgive. AMEN.

When I first came into Chapel this evening I thought there was something wrong. We’re all in gold – the colour of celebration, and not the red for martyrs. Now, I am not accusing the Sacristan of not doing his job, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Today we are not commemorating a martyrdom as is usually the case when we have an “Apostle-Day”, but rather the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, when he, so to speak, was ‘made’ into the Apostle Paul.

While the exact details of his death are not entirely clear, most historic sources do agree that Paul was martyred by decapitation, and a large number of these sources claim that it was by the order of the emperor Nero. So, his martyrdom is celebrated on the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul on 29th June, and on the 25th January (for which we celebrate the first evensong today) we celebrate his conversion.

The Apostle Paul was, as many of you might know, a prolific letter writer, giving advice to the congregations of the early Christian Church, and he is still to this day considered one of the more prominent early theologians.

I have to admit that a stubborn person like myself can actually find Paul to be rather interfering (telling all those budding congregations what to do and how to live their lives), but in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles today we see a much more human side of him. He describes his past as someone who persecuted the earliest Christians, who then, when he saw “a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun” (Acts 1.13)  – eventually was converted to Christianity.

Paul wasn’t only converted to Christianity, he was called to ministry – “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me (Acts 26.

As someone who is in the very initial stages of discerning a possible vocation to Holy Orders in the Church of England, I have, quite naturally, been reflecting quite a bit about both my faith and my possible vocation recently.

The calling from God to Paul, who in his former life as Saul of Tarsus, persecuted, imprisoned and even worked for the execution of Christians, seems to me as Scriptural affirmation of the twenty-sixth article of religion in the Book of Common Prayer – Of the unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacrament.

Now, I can feel the Fathers looking at me with worried eyes – please do not take this as me encouraging people to go out and be “evil men”, to quote the BCP, on the contrary. What I want to do is to point out that the calling Paul had, indeed the calling we all have as Christians, come from God and is not dependant on ourselves, but that we can only do it by His Grace.

Now, many Christians believe St. Paul’s calling, his conversion is like most conversions we know of, from an immoral to a moral life. But that wasn’t Saul’s conversion at all. His was from a false notion of a holy life to a true notion. He was a zealous follower of God. He had come down from Turkey to Jerusalem to study at the feet of the greatest rabbi of the age, Gamaliel.

As a young man, he had such zeal to keep the community of Israel together that he made it his mission to try to stomp out the heretical sect that was dividing Judaism and blasphemously claiming that a carpenter from Nazareth not only was the Messiah, but the Son of God and would destroy the holy Temple. That’s why he was hunting Christians down.

In the persecution of the Church, he was the furthest thing, for example, from Herod, who hunted down the baby Jesus in order to preserve his own privileges. Paul’s conversion was, rather, from a false notion that we are saved by our external adhesion to all the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law, to the true one that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. We are saved by Christ’s work, not our own. The culmination of the saving life of faith he wrote about in his letter to the Galatians when he said, “I have been crucified with Christ and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me” (Gal 2:20).

The true notion of holiness is to die to ourselves so that the Risen Christ truly can live within us, reign within us, sanctify and save us and make us his instruments to co-redeem the world. Holiness is union with God. Since we are saved by grace, and grace is not a thing but a participation as a creature in the life of the Creator, Christian conversion must be continual, because it’s based on a continued encounter with the Lord, as he seeks in us to form us more and more in his image with our free fiat. In St. Paul’s life we see that conversion was not a one-time thing but a continuous reality as he continued to grow in the Gospel that he was fearlessly and faithfully proclaiming.

Isn’t it apt, then, that this feast should be the finale of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity? This week, or, well, octave as it was originally known, began in 1908, and was eventually blessed by Pope Pius X. This week was based on the prayers of Christ Himself: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me (S John 17.20-21)”. It is rather fitting that this octave ends with the Conversion of St Paul, whom we can see in his letters condemning division and exhorting unity, for the churches in Corinth and in Rome, asking them to live this life of holiness to allow the risen Christ to truly live within them.

Let us pray:

Almighty and everlasting God who by thy holy apostle hast taught us to make prayers and supplications for all men: We humbly beseech thee to inspire continually the universal Church with the spirit of truth, unity and concord; and grant that all they that do confess thy holy Name may agree in the truth of thy holy Word, and live in unity and godly love; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.










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Homily for St Nicholas Day


Chapel of the Resurrection, Pusey House, Oxford

Readings: Isaiah 8.16-9.7, James 2.14-end


For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

In the Name of the Father + and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.

How would you like it if your identity was stolen by a fat, bearded man in a red jumpsuit? Well, that is what happened to St Nicholas. This bishop of Myra had his identity stolen by Father Christmas, in what must probably be one of the world’s most famous identity thefts…

Nicholas is the patron saints of such a diverse group of people as children, coopers, sailors, broadcasters and repentant thieves. (He also happens to be co-patron of the Lutheran cathedral in my home town Stockholm…) It is also said that he got so angry at the heretic Arius during the Council of Nicaea that he went up and hit him in the face. Luckily, that’s not how most Church of England meetings end up at this present day…

It is interesting that the readings we had for the Evensong tonight should be the same as the ones for the Christmas Midnight Mass, and that the saint commemorated today is one so significantly associated with Christmas, to the extent of him showing up in many houses around the country on Christmas Night.

While hitting an opponent in a meeting square in the face might not be what James was talking about when he talked about salvation through work in the New Testament reading today, in his other acts Nicholas was a primary example of translating faith into action – one of his more famous acts is supposed to be the reviving of three girls murdered by a butcher to be sold as ham, as well as the paying of the dowry for the three daughters of the poor man, which is supposed to be the first instance of “Santa Claus” throwing things down the chimney close to Christmas.

This much for the former bishop of Myra. As this is the final Wednesday Evensong homily preached in the Chapel of the Resurrection for 2017, I shall try and focus more on the event which Isaiah prophesied – the birth of the Prince of Peace.

Already here, in one of the prophets from the Old Testament, we see an idea of all that Christ would be. To quote Iranaeus:

“He was a man without comeliness, and liable to suffering; that He sat upon the foal of an ass; that He received for drink, vinegar and gall; that He was despised among the people, and humbled Himself even to death; and that He is the holy Lord, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Beautiful in appearance, and the Mighty God, coming on the clouds as the Judge of all men;—all these things did the Scriptures prophesy of Him.”

In a little while, we will be given the world’s greatest gift from God – as we heard in the psalmody a little earlier:

The Lord looked down from heaven, and beheld all the children of men: from the habitation of his dwelling he considereth all them that dwell on the earth. He fashioneth all the hearts of them and understandeth all their works”[1]

In his prophesy, Isaiah talks about a wonderful counseller. Wonderful in this context does indeed also mean good, and nice, and all other such superlatives, but what we also need to remember is that, in this context,  it actually also means “beyond the normal capacity to perform”.

The prophet also refers to Christ as Mighty God, someone using this might to do all the things that his mighty counsels talk about and actually translate them into action – to absorb all the evil thrown at him, and to defeat his enemy – indeed something far beyond the normal capacity to perform!

He will also come as the Prince of Peace, someone who will always do what is best for me, to be there for us, to be our only mediator and advocate with his Father, and who died on the Cross to redeem our sins.

For those who don’t know me very well, I am rather active on Twitter, a form of social media which lets you post short snippets of your take on the world, and most of my clergy friends on Twitter will soon start tweeting things along the line of “let’s keep Christ in Christmas this year”, and that is actually an exhortation (to borrow a word from our dear BCP) I would like to make my own tonight.

Christmas should not only be about the things that the slightly morphed version of a 3rd century bishop throws down your chimney, but about something more profound.

Friends – let this Christmas be about the world’s final and greatest King, the King to end all kings, whose kingdom and peace will never stop expanding. Let it be about the Rescuer that we all need. Let it be about the Leader that we all long for. Let it be about the answer to the heart’s great questions. Let it be about Jesus!


[1] Ps 33. 13-14 Coverdale Version

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Word Of The Week: Courage



Homily preached at Choral Eucharist 9 November 2017

Hertford College Chapel, Oxford

Readings: 1 Thess 2, S John 16 (NRSV)

Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

In the name of the Father +, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

Have you ever heard of the “Dependent Order of Really Meek and Timid Souls”? When you make an acrostic of the first letters of its name, you have the word “Doormats.” The Doormats have an official insignia—a yellow caution light. Their official motto is: “The meek shall inherit the earth, if that’s OK with everybody!” One would assume that this order is not full of brave and courageous people….

Did he know? Did Jesus know what was going to happen? Admittedly Easter is quite far away, but  I thought these readings were quite apt for discussing the subject of courage, which is the word of the day.

Courage. It’s a somewhat old-fashioned word, isn’t it? At least to me, it brings about mental images of valiant knights in shining armour riding in on a white horse to save the fair maiden from the jaws of the dragon. As a matter of fact – that is the complete opposite to how Jesus approached the end of His life – he came riding on a donkey.

We have all exercised courage some way or another, be it with or without equine companions. Those of you who are freshers this term have taken the step of moving from home, for most of you maybe to a strange city, without the comfort of family and friends readily available. For others it might be taking up a new job, or maybe entering the lectern to teach or preach for the first time.

On Sunday we celebrate Remembrance Sunday, commemorating all those brave members of our armed forces who have died in the line of duty. In 2017 we especially commemorate the battle of Passchendaele, where at least 260 000 British soldiers died.

Here we see a courage that many – myself very much included – would never be able to show. Here we actually see the knights in shining armour fighting for the free world. Other people who died for their beliefs can be found on the walls of this very chapel – the Jesuit martyr St Alexander Briant, the 2nd century martyr St Eustace and the 16th century martyr William Tyndale.

Today, the Anglican Communion commemorates Margery Kempe, a Norfolkwoman who lived in the late 14th and early 15th century. She was a woman who most certainly was NOT a member of the Dependent Order of Really Meek and Timid Souls… In proclaiming her faith she blatantly defied the bishops of her day, and she was indeed tried for heresy, but never convicted. Instead she continued to proclaim the Gospel faithfully. That must also have taken a fair amount of courage…

In the Gospel for today St John recalls Jesus’ words to prepare his disciples for his death on the Cross. Jesus knew what was going to happen, indeed it was foretold. Facing that must have taken quite some courage.

However, courage in the face of death, although extremely commendable, might not be the most common sort of courage one have to muster… I have already discussed the courage it takes to take a step to doing something new, be it moving to a new university, a new job or teaching or preaching for the first time.

It also took quite a lot of courage for the early Christians, which St Paul’s description of his time in Thessalonica in the Epistle tells us about. Is that a courage we, as Christians have today? Do we actually dare to live a Christian life in the modern world?

I am not talking about some kind of overly pious living, where one wears hair shirts and goes around beating oneself up, but rather a way of living in a way that transfer the Gospel into action. (How one does that, however, is a matter for a completely different homily, as I fear the Chaplain will have words afterwards if exceed my time limit by too much….)

Of course, we see our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, these days more than ever our fellow Christians in Egypt. For them to live their faith does basically take the same courage as the people who fought in the battle of Passchendaele. Once again, however, that is a (very urgent) topic to be discussed at some other point.

What I am talking about today is the courage needed to live in a way that shows people the love of Christ for all people, men and women, old and young, conservative or liberal, gay or straight, rich or poor.

Given all the other acts of courage I just have mentioned, one might argue that the act of living a Christian life in itself isn’t necessarily something that takes courage, but I would claim that in an increasingly secular world, that is actually the case.

Jesus tells us in the Gospel those comforting words – “the Father himself loves you”, and let us, while resting in those words, go out and show people that very love. Go out into the world and let it be done as He Himself said “take courage, I have conquered the world”.

O God, give us courage: courage to make experiments, and not to be afraid of making mistakes; courage to get up when we are down and to go on again; courage to work with all our might for the coming of thy kingdom on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.


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Homily Ss Crispin & Crispinian




 Wednesday 25th October 2017

Chapel of the Resurrection, Pusey House, Oxford

Readings: Job 33, S Luke 7.36-end 

Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

In the Name of the Father + and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.

We really should be appalled by Jesus’ actions in St Luke’s Gospel today, shouldn’t we? I mean, the Son of God first choosing to dine with someone who denies his divinity, then the very same Christ allowing a woman of the street to anoint him with expensive perfume?

It was truly and utterly disgraceful….


I assume no one in Chapel tonight would be surprised to hear, that my answer to that question is an unequivocal NO.

The reading would be quite easy to use as basis for yet another warm and fuzzy homily about God not condemning anything and permitting everything, but I think that we can use the texts today to examine ourselves, rather than as an excuse for being lenient.

The fallen woman is forgiven by Jesus, because ‘she loved much’. Christ pardons sinners. This, to me, is one of the most profound things about Christianity. We all fail, we are all sinners, but we are all forgiven. During Mass, we all confess our sins, and the Priest absolves us, in order for us to be able to receive the Blessed Sacrament ‘because it is requisite, that no man should come to the holy Communion, but with a full trust in God’s mercy, and with quiet conscience’. After this, we come to the Communion and receive the ultimate sign of Christ’s redeeming death on the cross for us, the Blessed Sacrament.

Jesus shows us the same mercy that he showed the fallen woman – our sins are forgiven – ‘thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace’ – if we examine our minds and confess our sins.

The examination of conscience might sound terribly outdated and pious, but it truly helps us benefit from the holy Sacrament, so that we ‘dwell in Christ, and Christ in us; we are one with Christ, and Christ with us’ as the BCP rite for Holy Communion says.

As St Paul said – ‘This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’.

HOWEVER – regardless of Christ’s forgiveness – there’s something else, that is also very profound for any Christian community – being in love and charity with our neighbour as the BCP says in the rite of Holy Communion – and as we just prayed – forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

This act of love and charity is something that is very often mentioned in Scripture, but what does forgiveness really mean? What does it mean to forgive your neighbour? The seventeenth century nonconformist preacher Thomas Watson had a very useful definition in his work ‘Body of Divinity’:

“When we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them”

The same Thomas Watson also said: ‘We are not bound to trust an enemy, but we are bound to forgive him’.

So, to forgive, then, becomes a duty – a duty that indeed is helped by the forgiveness we receive from God, but nevertheless a duty. The act of reconciling oneself to ones neighbour is never easy, but through that very same forgiveness received from Christ on the Cross, we are given the peace to forgive those who trespass against us.

This then means, that Christ’s attitude towards the fallen woman was not so disgraceful at all – he was merely doing his duty, just as it is time for us to do our duty and forgive those who have trespassed against us.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, who hast reconciled us to thyself through the cross of thy Son, and hast committed to us the ministry of reconciliation: Grant that we who bear witness to thy reconciling word with our lips may also demonstrate thy reconciling power in our lives, through the same thy Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

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Saint Luke – Physician of the Soul



Wednesday 18 October 2017

Chapel of the Resurrection, Pusey House, Oxford

Readings: Ecclus. 38.1-14, Col. 4.7-end

Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it. 

In the name of the Father + and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

With all the talk about physicians in the readings today, one could probably be excused for thinking that today’s Evensong was tailor made for the British Medical Association…. but don’t worry, I shall not try and instigate a strike!

The Collect for today calls Saint Luke “a physician of the soul,”, and he is believed to be the author of both the Gospel that bears his name and the Acts of the Apostles (neither of which is 100% verifiable). All of this means that – in order for this to be a proper homily rather than a guess-work, we will have to look for other sources of information.

(We do know, however, that he is the source of two of the most well-known parables – the parable of the Prodigal Son and the parable of the Good Samaritan)

SO – where do we start? Father Isaac Williams, at the time curate to John Keble, wrote the following[1]:

“There is something peculiar in St. Luke’s day, something calm and soothing connected with it; it occurs at a time when summer often revives a little before it finally goes, and sheds on us a parting smile; there is something in St. Luke’s own character which speaks of healing to both body and mind, like the good Samaritan, into the wounds of both pouring oil and wine.  We connect his Gospel especially with the Atonement, and the mercies of God to penitents; it is the storehouse of consolation, in incident, and parable, and precept; the source of evangelical hymns.  To these we may add the personal history of St. Luke himself.  In the service for the day he is brought before us as the faithful companion of St. Paul in the last view we obtain of the great Apostle.  While St. Paul is strengthened for his last trial, and ready to encounter death with calm hope and joy, the good Physician is found by his side in his chains.  The recurrence therefore of this day is like the last gleaming of the year itself at this season, when a serene and bright interval precedes its close.”

Even though Paul’s exhortation to Archippus that we just heard in our New Testament reading clearly was meant for him and not for Luke, I want to propose that it is equally as valid for us in this world, and who better to model our fulfilment of ministry on than Saint Luke himself?

Now, how do we do this? I apologise in advance, but I am going to be slightly provocative….

A few days ago, I had a chat with someone who suggested that the Church of England needs a second Oxford movement. What better day and what better place to ponder how that could happen than here in Pusey House, only days away from the exact 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his theses to the Church door in Wittenberg?

I want to propose that we do try and change our focus slightly. Let us change the focus from sexuality and synod debates, from powerpoints and popes, from lace and worship bands and onto things that really matter:

Let us, like St Luke, be physicians of the soul- let us be a Church that walk alongside people from all stages of life, regardless of age and social background, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation, regardless of origin or race, regardless of appearance and regardless of churchmanship.

Let us, like St Luke, be a church that welcomes everyone without judging, so that, by being living examples of the love of Christ, we can draw people closer to God.

Let us also, like a certain Doctor Pusey suggested, use the beauty and splendour of Anglo-Catholic worship as one way of doing this, and to bring, to use one of his old sermon titles ‘The Holy Eucharist a comfort to the penitent”, and by doing so show the origin of the Christian welcome we want to show – the gift from God of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ’s Death on the Cross.

Might this be what we are called to do as followers of Christ? To bring that all-encompassing love He showed for us by dying on the Cross into the world, and actually transfer the words of the Gospel into action, to heal souls, comfort those who grieve and be faithful companions to one another, to be, as St Francis says – instruments of peace.

Let us pray:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

In the name of the Father + and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

[1] Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and Holy Days throughout the Year, Vol. II. Trinity Sunday to All Saints’ Day, Rivingtons, London, 1875.

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Homily for Harvest Festival 2017


Short homily preached at the Vigil Mass on 30th September 2017 (Vigil for the Harvest Festival) at St Thomas the Martyr, Oxford. Readings: Deut 26.1-4, Gal 6.6-10, S Luke 12.13-21.

“Take heed, and beware of covetousness, for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he posseseth”

In the Name of the Father + and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

Not the easiest of parables to preach on, I have to admit (especially if your brief is to be….well, brief). If we try and set this parable in context, Jesus was talking to his disciples about hypocrisy and the duty of ministers of the faith. In the middle of this, Jesus Himself gets interrupted by a man asking him to judge on an issue of division of inheritance. (It is comforting to know, as a rookie preacher, that not even Jesus Himself could keep everyone’s attention all the time….)

We have just heard Jesus giving an answer worthy of a politician, in that he doesn’t really provide a solution to the issue, however, His answer points towards something much more profound than division of inheritances, namely the state of your soul.

This evening we start the celebration of the Harvest Festival here in the parish, which will culminate with an abundance of fresh produce being auctioned off in aid of Farm Africa tomorrow, so trying to steer the focus away from the gathering of riches today might seem like a contradiction in terms.

However, if we look at what St Paul says in his letter to the Galatians: ‘let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith’ we see that both our produce action at the Smoko tomorrow and the parable Jesus told his disciples is not about avoiding earthly riches, but rather to use all our talents and assets to do the work of God.

St Ambrose writes in his On the Duties of the Clergy: “There are many kinds of generosity. Not only can we redistribute and give away food to those who need it from our own daily supply, so that they may sustain life, but we can also give advice and help to those who are ashamed to show their need openly”.

All of this goes to show that the amassing of worldly riches in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but we do have a duty as Christians to help our neighbours.

So maybe that is the spiritual fruit of the Harvest Festival – we harvest the Lord’s gifts and use them both for ourselves and to help the world – could that be the way to benefit from the abundance of things that we do possess in this day and age?

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, thank you for all the good things you continue to provide for us.

Don’t let us take your gifts for granted or abuse them.

Instead, help us to always rely on you in faith.

Use us and what you have given us for your good purposes.

In the Name of the Father + and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

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