Reflections for Holy Week & Easter
Friday 22nd May 2020
“While they were gazing into heaven... two men stood by them in white robes and said “Why do you stand there looking into heaven?” Acts 1
So Jesus does this dramatic exit for our benefit (the ascension)
And then this slightly comical scene.
Two ‘men’ in white, (angels?)
Asking “What are you doing?”
What are you doing looking there?
You can almost hear them say “Get on with it!”
“What are you doing looking for Jesus there for?
He gave you a job to do – so get on with it!”
“What are you looking for Jesus in heaven for?
You should be looking for him on earth
and what was that he used to say – seek and you will find?”
If you start looking for Jesus in the people around you – you will find him
If you start looking for God in the situations you are in
You will find
“Why are you still standing looking up to heaven?
Looking for some future time
Just get on with it now!
Didn’t he also say something about not worrying about tomorrow because there is enough things to worry about today!!
There is enough to do,
Enough that can be done
So stop looking there – look here
And if you look here you will find a bit of heaven as well.
So as part of our prayer time today. Think about the people you are with in your situation and think about their good qualities,
Think about yourself and your good qualities,
Start to think about people you know and their good qualities
Try thinking about someone you may not like too much and think about their good qualities,
Begin to see the world as God sees it,
Yes he is not blind to the bad things,
But he sees the best as well,
And prefers to see what good we are and what even better we could be.
Seeing things as God sees them
Is a little piece of heaven
Just try it
Thursday 21st May 2020
“And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” Acts 1:
Today is the feast of the Ascension and a national holiday in many countries around the world.
So here we are,
40 days after Jesus rose from the dead,
40 days of Jesus being with and not with the disciples,
Jesus lifts his hands in blessings,
And disappears into the clouds,
Out of context this seems a bit unbelievable,
A bit unnecessary,
A bit fantastic,
Like something out of a film,
As if heaven were ‘up there’ anyway
A place in the clouds
Which way is up in space anyway,
Out of context it is hard to believe.
But we have the context.
Was doing what he always did
He was working within our limitations, within our world views,
In order to take us to a different view,
A different reality
The more real one,
That transcends our current understanding,
This is the whole point of Jesus’ life
To be with us,
In our world,
To challenge us to a bigger view,
A better way of seeing
A better way of being.
The disciples needed to know,
That Jesus had gone.
They really had to know that things were going to be different now,
In some way
It would depend on them.
Depend on us.
Were to become Jesus to the world,
After all this is what the word disciple meant,
We are to be Christ to others,
God’s feet and hands,
lips and ears,
in this world,
To this world.
Are to be bringers of God’s love,
So he ‘staged’ this dramatic parting,
This elaborate good bye
This final parting
Just to make sure that they knew
That it is up to us now.
Maybe in our prayer today we can think and remember all those in the world who are bringing love, help, kindness to others at this time.
And just say thank you.
Maybe we can also think about one or two acts of kindness that we could do today.
And do them.
Wednesday 20th May 2020
“Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterwards” John 13
When was the last time you heard these words?
Certainly something was about to happen
Perhaps something that someone had put in a lot of training, time and effort for,
Perhaps this was you,
Perhaps you were saying it in your own mind, starting something you had prepared for and now it was time,
Here you were,
It was about to happen,
No going back,
This was it.
Do you remember the feeling?
The excitement, the nervousness,
Do you remember the rising within you of that spirit,
It was not the time for doubts,
That was before,
It was not the time for worries and concerns,
It was not the time for practice
This was now
This was it
A new spirit surged within you,
The muscles tensed,
The brain focused,
The countdown really was the last seconds
An then .......
Today is the day before the Ascension,
This would be the disciples,
They were on their own,
Count down ticking,
This was their time,
They had to know that this was it,
This was it.
They were about to begin,
No more training,
No more preparation,
They needed to know that this was it
They needed to feel that spirit rising
And their time coming
Maybe today in our prayer time we can reflect on those occasions that began “3,2,1......”.
Were you launching or letting go?
What did you feel?
What happened next?
Who helped you be there?
When do you next want to be there hearing those words, out loud or in your mind?
What do you need to be there?
Who do you need to help you there?
What is this spirit that rises from deep within you?
Tuesday 19th May 2020
“In a little while the world will see me no longer, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also”
There are many stages and times when we need to let go.
Quite often the letting go feels difficult,
It can create anxiety, fear and worry,
And sometimes it is coupled with excitement, enthusiasm,
As we stand on the edge of a new stage of life,
On the edge of a new skill,
As we stand on the edge of letting go,
And doing it for ourselves,
I am watching a bird getting ready to fly,
I am thinking about the time I first learnt to ride a bike and someone let go,
Or the stabilisers were taken off,
I am thinking about when I learnt to swim,
And when I left home for the first time on my own,
Sometimes we need to let go of other things as well,
Things that hold us back,
Things that stop us being who we were meant to be,
Sometimes we have to let go and leave something behind,
And spare a thought for the person letting go of you,
Their worries for you,
They have to let go,
They sometimes know the risks and dangers far better than we do,
And sometimes we just want to run and leap and fly,
But we are not aware of the dangers there,
But there comes a time when they have to let go as well
Have you had these feelings?
Wanting to let go?
The excitement and the nervousness?
The step into the unknown
This is where the disciples are today.
Jesus is about to let go.
Let them go.
And he has to do it dramatically.
Because they have become used to him coming and going over these past 40 days.
They have become used to his hands being there,
Practicing letting go,
But now it is time
Time to step,
And yes maybe to fall a few times as well.
In our prayers today,
let’s remember those who are out there looking after people at this time,
you may well be living with one,
those who have risked and are risking,
those who have their own worries and anxieties,
But who let go each morning,
And support others.
If we start making a list of all the people who look after us,
Support our way of life,
We will soon realise how many people there are,
And give thanks.
Friday 15th May 2020
“Then he led them as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.
While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up to Heaven.
And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
and were continually in the Temple blessing God” Luke 24
What a change from just a few weeks ago.
The very last thing recorded in the Gospel of Luke points us towards next Thursday.
The Ascension of Jesus.
40 days after Easter Sunday
40 Days after the Resurrection of Jesus.
The disciples were given a second chance,
when they thought it all was lost.
The Journey from then to now is a journey from despair and hopelessness,
From a lack of understanding and perspective
To a sense of perspective and knowledge
Through a time of reassessing and rediscovering what is important to us
What is important to me.
A time that could have been used to reflect,
To find joy in things we didn’t before
A time to rediscover people and things within ourselves that we didn’t know before
A time to look at ourselves in the mirror
To grapple with our demons and our weaknesses
And to grapple with the weaknesses of others,
And to forgive ourselves
And forgive others.
In this journey, like the people going to Emmaus so long ago,
We have not been alone,
We are never alone,
And we are always loved,
Whether we feel it or not,
Recognise it or not,
Jesus has walked with us through these difficult days,
It’s beginning a new stage
Things are changing,
It is time for a new thing and a new energy,
A new openness.
The disciples moved from fear
and being self isolated together,
To being joyful,
Worshiping with confidence
They made use of this time,
They grew to know themselves more,
And to appreciate others,
And they began to recognise and have faith in the one who walks with us always.
Maybe this has been our journey,
And if not,
There is still time for us to do the same,
Maybe in our prayer time today we can look back on our Covid journey so far,
What were the highs?
What were the lows?
What made you laugh?
What made you cry?
How have you changed?
What changes do you want to take with you into tomorrow?
What do you want to leave behind.
And you will be telling the one who has walked with you every step of the way.
Thursday 14th May 2020
He’s not all there.
The very last words of John’s Gospel:
“But there are so many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” John 21
As we come towards the end of this Easter season and move onto the next stage, the next adventure
This last word from John that he felt he had to remind us of,
This is just one book,
A book that is only a brief summary of three years of Jesus’ life and teaching,
But its not all here,
Not everything he said,
The fun they had,
It’s not all here.
Just a flavour,
It’s good to know,
It’s good to imagine,
What drew the crowds?
How could he hold their attention for hours?
He must have been a phenomena.
Knowing that not everything is written down leaves open the unknown,
Leaves open the dynamic,
Leaves an opening for the spirit,
It cannot all be there,
Because the life,
The relationship continues,
Pictures, and stories, and documentaries of the past are good,
and in some ways necessary,
But only when they inform the now,
Create the beat,
Direct the rhythm,
Enable the dance.
This is why we should read the Gospels,
They are the root,
They inform the dance,
The dance we dance today.
When we read we should not read as history, or literature, or for information, good though they are,
but to inform our nows,
What does this say today?
What is this adding to my life today?
How can this speak to me today?
Maybe in our prayer time today we can just pick up bit from one of the Gospels.
You can get one from the internet just type in ‘Gospel of the Day’
A short passage, something Jesus says or does.
Read it and ask, what does this tell me today?
Maybe go a step further in ‘ imaginary prayer’ and actually take a few moments to be there in the story, in the incident.
What does it feel like to actually be there, to be seeing, hearing, feeling.
Look around you, listen, see.
Feel how it changes your experience of the passage.
Wednesday 13th May 2020
Peter said “But what about this man (John)” Jesus replied “What is it to you? Follow me!” John 21
So Peter has just been told that he will have to suffer for following Jesus and his immediate reaction – yes but what about John – no seriously – what about him - doesn’t John have to suffer as well –
The implication is of course
Is it fair?
Why should it have to happen to me?
What about him?
What about them?
How come they don’t get told off?
How come they get away with it?
It’s a natural reaction,
It calls on something deep inside of us,
A version of justice,
Justice as seen by us,
Justice from my point of view
Jesus does not enter into the world of comparisons
Or perceived justices
“What is it to you?”
It’s not about them
It’s about you.
It’s not about them
It’s about me.
It’s about what I should do,
It’s about what I can do.
In my circumstances,
In my situation,
In my life.
It’s never about them.
It’s always about me.
God loves me,
God Chooses me.
“Follow me” He says.
God loves you,
God chooses you.
God asks us to stand with him
In the individual circumstances of our lives.
And we can be responsible only for what we do,
Not what others do,
That is their choice,
This is ours.
It’s a powerful message at the end of the Gospel of John.
Each and every one of us is responsible.
For our part
For our role
For our life.
Maybe as part of our prayer time today we could ask ourselves what is God calling me to do today.
Some time ago it was popular to wear a wrist band with WWJD on it,
What would Jesus do?
A good question.
What would Jesus like you to do for yourself, and for others today?
Tuesday 12th May 2020
Peter said “But what about this man (John)” Jesus replied “What is it to you? Follow me!” John 21
Peter has just been told what to expect in his life, where he is going next, what difficulties he will face.
And he reacts so humanly by asking – But what about him?
What about them?
I don’t know when in our lives we started comparing ourselves to other people
Or whether it started before we were even conscious,
Maybe we grew up being compared to other people even as little babies,
I certainly remember taking one of my children to a ‘carers and toddlers’ groups and listening to adults comparing what their child could do,
It’s not wrong to be proud of what you can do,
It’s not wrong to want to improve yourself,
It's certainly not wrong to develop our talents,
Indeed Jesus teaches that we ought to be developing our God given talents,
But when we boast of what we can do, how does this make others feel?
What is our intention?
Are we comparing ourselves to encourage others?
or are we comparing ourselves with others in order to feel in some way better than others?
Or are we genuinely thanking God for the gifts and talents that we have,
For the opportunities that we have in our lives?
It is good to be thankful for what we have,
and what we are,
And the opportunities that we have.
This is a route to happiness and wellbeing
But in this passage Jesus reminds Peter that this does not need to be done at the expense of others,
We can be happy with who we are
and what opportunities we have and have taken
Without comparing ourselves to others,
Jesus’ way leads to being thankful,
And accepting that the gifts in our lives,
Our natural abilities,
The support we have received
The people God has sent us
We call them ‘Graces’
Gifts from God.
And as gifts we should accept them thankfully
And not with bad pride,
because in many ways we did not create them
we received them.
They were given to us
And hopefully we have made the most of what has been given to us
This passage calls us to continually make the most of the situation we find ourselves in
To keep trying
To keep discovering and developing our gifts, our talents,
Our ability to love,
To be kind
Maybe as part of our prayer today we can list things in our own life that we are thankful for, maybe we could list people in our lives we are thankful for
Maybe we can list people from our personal history we are thankful for.
When we have made the list maybe we can look at each person on that list – picture them in your mind for a few seconds – and say thank you – to or for that person.
Monday 11th May 2020
“... you will stretch out your hands, and another will fasten your belt for you and carry you where you do not wish to go” John 21
Almost the final words of Johns Gospel are these words to Peter warning him about his future.
Jesus warns him that he is not in control of his future.
There are some things that we can control and there are something’s that we cannot.
There are something’s that others control for us.
Sometimes there is the illusion of control,
We think that we are in control of things,
Governments and authorities think that they are in control
And always to an extent we are,
But then always to an extent we are not.
Sometimes we feel worried and even overwhelmed by what we cannot control,
Sometimes we need to trust those around us,
But this is not always easy,
In this conversation between Peter and Jesus, Jesus is warning Peter, who likes to be in control of his life, that he is going to have to let go,
He is going to have to accept that there are some things he can control and some things that he cannot and he is going to have to trust,
He is going to have to trust God, trust Jesus, trust others,
After the easing of the restrictions on us announced last night we may be feeling happy and excited that we have more freedom, more control.
Or we might be feeling worried about moving from a place of safety within our home situations, to a place of less certainty,
Or we may be feeling happy that there feels like an end to the controls we have had to implement
Or we might be feeling hesitation about trusting others to still ‘keep their distance’ still be ‘vigilant’ and careful and considerate of those that we could still put at risk by our actions.
In the end we can only control what we can control,
And mainly that is ourselves, and our own actions,
And just as Jesus reassures Peter that he will be with him,
we can be sure that God is with us today.
Helping us to control what we can control,
and hold our hand through our worries and concerns.
In our prayer time today maybe we can share with God what we feel about the situation today,
what are our worries and what are our joys,
What are our concerns and what are the opportunities to do good here,
And maybe you could capture these thoughts and feelings in a piece of art, or writing, or a montage of pictures,
Thursday 7th May 2020
Jesus said to Peter ‘Do you love me?’ .... Jesus said to Peter ‘Do you love me?’..... Jesus said to Peter ‘Do you love me?'
In this last encounter with Jesus before the ascension recorded in John’s Gospel is this conversation between Jesus and Peter.
Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him.
Three times peter responds that he does love Jesus and three times in response Jesus says
feed ‘my lambs’,
‘look after my sheep’,
‘Feed my sheep’.
Three times again.
Mirroring the three times Peter denies Jesus.
Three times Peter is given a chance to declare his love.
Three times Peter is given instructions about what to do next.
With God there is always a next, there is always more,
But what is often lost in our English translation of the Bible is the subtleties of what Jesus asks Peter,
In Greek (the language that this Gospel was written in) the author uses three different words for love here,
Jesus is not just asking Peter whether he loves him
But what kind of love does he have
And each kind of love that we have is an invitation to a different level of response.
The start of the conversation we need to have with ourselves is do we love others,
How do we love others,
And what do we do about it.
Many live in situations where they have reason not to ‘feel’ love for the people they are with,
but they would not actively wish them harm,
This is a level of love,
Some of us live in situations where we feel a certain feeling of loyalty and care for some people around us, maybe our families and our friends,
this is love
Some of us feel a general love and care for people beyond this,
Maybe we do not wish others harm,
if we actually met people who needed something we would help them,
this is love
Some of us feel or are aware of the pain and suffering of others and long to do something to help people,
there is a nagging inside us that wants to do something,
And tries to find opportunities to do something to relieve other people’s pain and suffering,
and this also is love.
For some this may extend beyond human beings and be a love for animals, and nature and the environment,
and this is also love
For some of us it is easier to love animals than humans,
For some of us it is easier to love in the abstract than in the concrete
Some of us actively dedicate our lives to looking for or serving those who have needs
or supporting those who can and do look after these people,
and this also is love
Do you love me?
How much do you love me?
What do you do?
Maybe in our prayer today we can ask ourselves that question: Who do we love? And what kind of love? And how do we show it?
And also importantly: Who do we not love?
Is there someone in your life you would like to see hurt or suffer?
There may be good reasons why you feel that you cannot love someone
Or are you able to ‘love’ them even on the most basic level
trying not to wish them harm
It is still ‘love’
Also importantly: Who in your life do we feel that we do not love?
And can we choose to love them, on any level?
And what do we need to do in order to make this happen?
Jesus said "Do you love me?"
Tuesday 5th May 2020
“They cast their net on the right side and they were not able to haul it in because of the sheer quantity of fish” John 21
As we wake up this morning to a bright and sunny day and look at the skies,
Hear the birds singing,
The seagulls calling,
To feeling the slight chill in the morning air,
To smell the faint saltiness in the breeze,
As we take in our morning breath
Feeling the free gift of life in our lungs,
As we take our walks, our runs, our bit of exercise,
we can see and smell the blossoms
The smell of the flowers in the gardens,
Maybe we get to see and smell and hear the sea,
Maybe we get to just look up to the clear skies and see the plane free blue and the floating of the clouds,
Spring is happening,
New life is happening,
Growth is happening,
The days are longer
There is more sunlight
Hope is in the air
Maybe if we take the time that we have and consider even something as small as an ant,
A wood louse,
Spending some time with these gifts that are around us all the time
In this time of lockdown some of us are more aware of nature around us, because we have the time.
Are there more birds as people are saying
Or are we just noticing them more because we have time and the other noises have faded
Was here before
Was and is, always here,
Was and is, and will be here,
What might have changed is our relationship to it.
And when this lockdown is relaxed
Will we remember?
Will we appreciate?
Will we change?
Or will we go back to the way it was?
Taking and not appreciating
Taking and not giving
Reaping the free harvests of the world
But giving nothing back to future generations?
Starts with ME
What will I do to give rather than just take?
What will you do to give rather than just take?
Maybe today as part of our prayer we can write a note to our future self about the beauty of nature that we see, feel, hear, touch, smell and taste around us now
Maybe we can write a note to our future self about the way we would like to lead our lives
Or maybe we could write a poem, draw a picture, or take pictures or find pictures from the internet and make a thank you card for the good things that we don't normally appreciate.
Monday 4th May 2020
When they had finished breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter “Do you love me?” John 21
So this is the last big story of Jesus’ appearances on earth after his resurrection in the Gospel of John.
They have re-lived the amazing miracle of the catching of fish,
they have eaten and talked together,
And now Jesus asks this question three times of Peter.
It is painful to read because if we put ourselves into the event we know that around a camp fire just like this one,
early in the morning,
just like this one,
Peter denied that he knew Jesus at all,
Denied his friend,
let himself down
And this event mirrors that event,
A chance not to deny Jesus three times
But a chance to proclaim his love for Jesus three times
around one fire.
What happened between the fires?
Jesus died and rose again to show us all that no matter what we do in life
There is a way back with God,
There may be or there may not be a way back with other people
That depends on so many things
But there is a way back in our relationship with God
That door is never closed.
No matter what we have done.
And from this place,
From this relationship
From this love
We can reach out,
Reach forward in our lives
So often people say that they can never forgive,
That someone has gone too far,
And maybe they have,
And maybe you cant,
Or maybe you don’t think you can,
Or maybe not yet,
But God can,
No matter what we have done
There is always a way back
If we choose to take it.
This is the hope that is offered to each person.
People can change
The worst people can change
Not all of them want to
And not all of them choose to
And many don’t
But they can
This is our Easter faith.
It may, or may not be,
part of our journey to help them change,
Too much may or may not have happened for us to be the ones to help that person,
And it might not be helpful for us
And in that case we need to walk away for our own sake
And let other’s offer that choice to them
Sometimes we have to let go and move on.
So Peter is given the chance to choose,
He takes it.
Maybe in our prayers today we can think about people we would like to give the opportunity to be reconciled with us in our lives,
Maybe we can spare a thought for those that we do not feel it is our job to be reconciled with,
and wish them well in their life,
Maybe we can think about who we would like to be reconciled with,
who we would like to say sorry to, or ‘I love you’ to in our own way.
Maybe we can spare a thought for those in prison,
those who cannot escape others,
or have to be locked up (literally) for most of the day to ensure ‘social distancing’
Maybe we can ask for a change in their hearts and a choice to love.
Thursday 30th April 2020
“They got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing.
As day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; thought they did not recognise him.
‘Children have you caught any fish?’
‘No’ they answered him.
‘Cast your net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’
So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in for the quantity of fish.” John 21
You would be forgiven for thinking that this was an incident at the beginning of the Gospel.
But it is actually at the end of John’s gospel but echoes an event that happened at the beginning of the journey.
An echo in time.
Time is the stream we cannot turn back
We flow out of the past,
The past of others.
The past of our own making
And the past that others made.
We can carry the past,
And we can ride up on its waves,
Or feel drowned by it’s burdens.
We can look backwards and carry its clouds, and relive its pain
Or we can try to not look back,
forget it and flee into fantasies of the future
Or we can take a while to look
And to move on.
Into the future
The past shaped our present,
But it does not determine us,
Nor our future,
The past brought us to here,
But we determine the next step,
The past is a reality but the future is the opportunity
This is the Easter message.
We are not bound by the past but walk into the future.
We are not in the cave of the past
But the doorway of the future.
Maybe our prayer,
In a moment of stillness,
could be to ask the Holy Spirit to show you a happy moment from the past
try to re-enter that memory
to feel and experience again
not just the facts but the feelings, the sensations,
really relive that happy moment
this is an amazing gift that we have as human beings
Take your memory and maybe share it with others
Wednesday 29th April 2020
“Jesus called to him those whom he wanted and they came to him” Mark 3:13
How did the Apostles (the twelve chosen disciples) get to be the chosen ones?
What qualifications did they have?
Well, this was part of the problem that people had with Jesus
He didn’t seem to have, what religious people of the day thought, were the ‘right qualifications’, to talk about God.
He was a Carpenter,
not a priest,
not a lawyer,
not a copier and learner of the Bible.
In Jesus’ day in order to become a Rabbi (a religious leader) you had to get the ‘right qualifications’ and follow the ‘right process’.
You started by learning parts of the Bible,
All children had to do this,
Then some, ‘the best’,
were picked by a Rabbi to go further
and learn more of the scripture and copy them down they were The Scribes
and listen to the teachings of the Rabbi.
‘the best’ of these,
were chosen to be taught by the Rabbi and learn his ways and these became The Teachers of the Law,
then finally ‘the best of the best of the best’ were chosen to ‘become the Rabbi’
they would follow the Rabbi in all his thoughts and actions
until they became a mirror image of the Rabbi.
This was being a disciple.
Not just following a person but becoming that person.
And then there was Jesus
He was not chosen by the Rabbi as the best and learnt a trade instead,
He was a carpenter
not ‘the best’ and certainly not seen as the ‘best of the best of the best’
So when Jesus turned up speaking with authority, healing,
showing knowledge and understanding of the scriptures,
speaking ‘for’ God,
they rightly asked - Who is this man?
What right does he have to talk like this?
And then there were those that Jesus chose to be like him.
Not the best.
But normal working people, fishermen, tax collectors.
And even some who were decidedly dodgy, political agitators, potential thieves.
So what were the right qualifications for the disciples?
What were the right qualifications for Jesus?
The right qualifications were not in what you knew – the learning came later
The right qualifications were in who you were,
who you wanted to be with,
who you wanted to know,
how you wanted to act.
Jesus obviously was God in human form, there is no higher qualification than that,
The disciples wanted to be with him,
to learn from him,
to be the kind of person they were meant to be
to do the things that God wanted them to do
These were the right qualifications
And they still are today
The Easter message is that we are all qualified to be a disciple of Jesus,
A follower of Jesus,
To become a reflection of Jesus in the world,
In our families,
In our situations,
We can choose whether we want to follow,
And making the choice is the only qualification,
If only all qualifications were as simple!
But there is even more,
Many people make the choice to follow God’s ways in their lives
Without even knowing that they are doing it,
They follow what is right, kind, loving
They also have the right kind of qualification
As our prayer today maybe we can make a pledge to be the ‘right kind of person’ today, Whether we do this explicitly by finding out and following the teachings and actions of Jesus, Or by following what we know in our heart is the right, good, and kind thing to do,
Or whether it is just be having that open conversation with God today, sharing what is going well and what is not going so well and asking to feel his presence in your life today,
Jesus teaches us that we can all be ‘the best, of the best, of the best’
that’s how God sees us – as we are, and as we can be, fully qualified.
Tuesday 28th April 2020
“Simon Peter said ‘I am going fishing” John 21:
When you spend time with the Bible you begin to notice all sorts of little details that are in it that you did not notice before.
Take this detail for example.
We are still looking at the events that happened after Jesus rose from the dead.
What is interesting about these accounts is that we learn that the initial discovery of the resurrection on the Sunday morning was not just a once off experience that people could or could not be mistaken about.
No the Gospels record numerous events where Jesus appears and is with people for 40 days after His resurrection.
Resurrection is not a one off event, but a continual reinforcement of the fact that Jesus is with them, with us, in a different way.
So the Gospel records that sometime after being in ‘self isolation’ the followers of Jesus begin to venture out of Jerusalem.
In this passage we find Simon who Jesus renamed Peter, Thomas, Nathan, James and John the sons of Zebedee and two others by a part of Lake of Galilee called the Sea of Tiberias.
We know that at least three of them are professional fishermen.
And Peter just decides to get some headspace and go Fishing.
A lot of the thoughts and encouragements that we see on social media and the tv are about looking after other people and being kind and caring to other people.
And rightly so.
For their sake and actually for ours as well.
But this passage is about doing something for yourself.
Making sure you look after yourself as well.
Not all of us will be in ‘good places’,
not all of us will be coping well,
Some of us will be finding weaknesses and stresses in ourselves
And some of us will be having to experience the stresses and weaknesses in other people
Some of us will just be crying out to get away from situations
Some of the way we deal with things will be under our own control
and we need to be aware of what we can do in our situations and pray for the strength to do them and the strength to keep doing them
But other things are not under our control,
And are harder to bear,
Sometimes you need to talk to someone outside your family situation,
Sometimes you need to know that things are not right or good
And sometimes we even need help from others to ‘rescue’ us.
None of these things are bad, or a failure on our part,
There is only so much that we can do on our own
Only so much that we should have to put up with.
If this is you then know that there are people at school,
people on help lines,
Possibly other family members or friends,
People you can talk to.
Do not suffer in silence
“Go fishing” Do something for yourself.
And this is prayer.
And for those of us who are not in these situations
let’s remember those who are
and pray that they have the courage and perseverance to reach out
and that they feel the resurrection presence of Jesus helping them to do what they need to do.
Monday 27th April 2020
“Eight days later, Jesus appeared amongst them. “Peace be with you” He said
After the resurrection Jesus the Gospels recall several accounts of Jesus appearing and being with many of His followers.
One of these was when he appeared to the 10 of the apostles and to other followers as they sat in a house in self imposed lockdown because they were both scared of what had just happened to Jesus and did not know what would happen to them and secondly because some of them had experienced the resurrection and did not really know what to do next.
They were stuck in this place of not being able to lead their normal lives but also not really knowing how to move forward.
In John’s Gospel it records that Jesus appeared again eight days later to the apostles and disciples and that this time Thomas (the missing disciple) was with them.
Eight days later.
They were locked in fear and hope, in this nowhere land, between two worlds.
Some of them were probably venturing out to do essential tasks,
to get some exercise,
to find a bit of personal space.
Much like us.
And what does the Gospel say Jesus says or does about this situation?
He is with them.
He offers them peace.
He offers to be with them.
For them to be with Him.
To find peace.
Not peace that is the absence of fighting, (although this as well),
But peace that comes with knowing that even though you do not understand what is happening,
You are loved,
Even though this is difficult,
You are loved,
Even though you feel cut off
There is one there who is listening,
and who is with you,
Who loves you.
We can help to create the conditions for peace in our own situations,
We can be calm,
Be careful what we say,
Not wind situations up,
Be peacemakers in our situation.
And we can ask for the power and strength to do this.
There is a beautiful prayer attributed to St Francis of Assisi that has been converted into a song (you probably know it) that might work as our prayer today.
Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me bring your love;
Where there is injury your pardon, Lord;
And where there's doubt true faith in you.
Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love with all my soul.
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there's despair in life let me bring hope;
Where there is darkness, only light;
And where there's sadness, ever joy.
Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
In giving to all men that we receive;
And in dying that we're born to eternal life.
Friday 24th April 2020
At the end of the story walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus ,
where the two followers of Jesus are joined by Jesus,
though they don’t know it,
but we are told, their “Hearts burn within them”
as he explains things to them.
At the end of this walk - Luke included this little strange exchange between them.
They get to Emmaus and (the unknown) Jesus makes to continue his journey,
“He appeared to be going further,
but they stopped him and said “stay with us” Luke 24:13-35
Jesus obviously wanted to be with them, and they obviously wanted to be with Jesus
But then why this conversation?
Is it that Jesus wants to make them ask him in?
Is it just that he is not presuming?
Or is it that after hearing what he has to say he wants them to actually respond to him,
welcome him into their lives?
Or could it also be pointing to something else?
There comes a stage in any relationship where you actually have to say something.
You can assume the other person knows how much you care about them,
or assume they know you are sorry,
assume that they know you are grateful,
or that they know you love them.
You can do all sorts of things that you think might show this,
But actually there comes a stage,
Where you just have to say it.
You just have to tell them:
That you are grateful,
That you are sorry,
That you are hurt,
That you love them.
This event at the end of the day at Emmaus points to one of those moments.
Maybe our prayer today should be to actually tell people something,
Not assume that they know,
Not assume that you have ‘shown it’
Actually say it.
‘I forgive you’
“I love you”
‘I actually do love you”
Sometimes you actually have to say it.
Nothing else will do.
Thursday 23rd April 2020
“Didn’t our hearts burn within us”
Luke recalls this strange incident on the morning of the discovery of the resurrection of Jesus.
Two people (disciples/followers of Jesus) are walking away from Jerusalem, towards a nearby village called Emmaus,
we know one is called Cleopas,
They know about the events of the empty tomb,
but rather than stay and find out more there they are walking away.
They are conflicted between continuing with the same logic, thoughts, and habits that they had,
and the dramatic challenge of this new reality.
They struggle to live this new reality and want the safety and comfort of their previous life.
But things have changed.
Maybe the change will affect them for a long time,
Or maybe it will only affect them temporarily.
And then amid all of this turmoil, indecision, worry, conflict,
someone gently joins them,
walks alongside them,
explains things to them,
helps them to calm down
Is just there,
In another place He says “Know that I am with you, even to the end of time”
Sometimes we see and feel the support around us,
Sometimes we do not.
But Jesus is always there.
You don’t have to listen.
But sometimes in the stillness and in the storm
Something breaks through
And our “Hearts burn within us”
And something of the other, touches our lives.
when we make the space,
start the conversation,
ask the questions,
like those on the road to Emmaus,
we find ourselves listening to the answers,
not always the answers we would expect or want,
But “our hearts burn within us”
and we can say yes.
Even though we may still, not fully understand.
Maybe today we can take a few moments in the stillness,
to talk into the unknown,
either in our minds or out loud,
And ask the questions
And listen for the answers.
Wednesday 22nd April 2020
Mary Magdalene ran to Simon Peter and John. They both then ran to the tomb. John stood at the entrance and Simon Peter ran into the tomb’ John 20
This is a famous picture of the two disciples running to the tomb of Jesus on Sunday morning having been told by the women who went there that Jesus was not there and that he had risen.
If you look at it, spend time with it, you can feel the early morning wind and the cold, you can feel the anxiety and the questioning, you can feel their desperation to be there.
It is so natural for us as human beings to want to be there,
To rush there,
To want to know,
To want to find out,
To want to be with people in their time of need,
To want to share time with people,
To connect with people
To want to be there for each other.
And this is why for many of us this Covid time is hard.
It is not our natural way of being,
We are social animals
We are all trying to connect with each other through technology as far as we are able,
and for those of us who can do this it is better than nothing,
Some people even report that they are spending longer with people than they did before, and are looking up old friends and family that they did not have ‘time’ for before.
But it is not the same,
As humans we like to hug, to hold a person’s hand, to give a reassuring pat, to be able to pick up those subtleties of body language that say more than words, or even just to be in each other’s presence,
Mother Teresa (look her up) said “If you cannot love, or care for the whole world, then just love and care for that one person in front of you at this moment”
Each of us has been given someone, or some-ones to be with, or to look after, or communicate with.
We can be a gift for that person at this time.
Lets not focus on all the things that we cannot be, or cannot do,
but rather focus on the things that we can do, and the people we can be kind to.
They are right in front of us today.
In your house, your contacts, or just a friendly wave and smile to a neighbour.
Let’s make that our prayer for today.
Choose to be kind to someone
Tuesday 21st April 2020
“You Believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those that have not seen and yet believe” John 20: 24-29
There is an old saying that ‘seeing is believing’ and in some ways it is true. The scientific approach seems to justify this - looking for evidence in order to believe.
But this is not a strong understanding of the scientific method.
Many of the greatest discoveries in science have come from believing something first and then seeking to ‘evidence it.
Notice that even here we are reluctant to use the word proof.
On the other hand there are many people in the world who refuse to believe what they do not want to believe
Even when there is evidence that their belief might be wrong.
They find reasons not to believe, to dismiss the ‘evidence’ and to doubt even the science that backs it up or call it ‘fake news’.
After Jesus rose from the dead He appeared to many of his followers over the next few hours, days and weeks. Thomas was not present the first time that Jesus appeared to his disciples together and so refused to believe no matter how much his friends told him, no matter how much he trusted his friends , he could not believe this.
The question remains unanswered as to why Thomas felt so strongly, would not let go, would not believe.
The words in the original Greek language that John was written in uses a word that is interchangeable with the word trust.
Thomas cannot ‘believe’ but deeper than that he cannot ‘trust’.
He cannot let go.
He cannot risk.
In all of our lives there are moments where we will need to ‘risk’ trusting, believing in someone.
No amount of evidence can ‘prove’ that someone loves you if you don’t allow yourself to believe.
And it is a real risk.
But with God there is no real risk.
God is love.
What is there to lose?
When Thomas realises this he just believes – “My Lord and my God” He says.
A while ago I reminded you of or introduced you to the Jesus prayer.
Breathing in you say “My lord” and breathing out you say “and my God”. This is where it came from.
It is an ancient form of prayer that calms and deepen the breathing and centres you as a person.
Maybe you can try it., Or try it again.
Ancient Monks and religious would make this the main prayer of their life because you can do it all day in all your activities.
Monday 20th April 2020
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me so I send you’. When he said this he breathed on them and said ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ John 20: 19-22
Welcome Back After Easter
Just like the Easter experience some things have changed and some remain the same.
We are back to school and yet not quite in the same way.
We may have mixed feelings about this,
Some of us are excited to be back and back to learning,
Some may be looking forward to having something meaningful to do,
Some of us are going to find it hard to go back to using our leisure space for work again,
Some of us would prefer to just stay on holiday,
Some of us are feeling frustrated with this situation and some of us have settled into this new reality
Some of us feel connected and disconnected at the same time
Some of us just want someone to talk to.
Some of us are really struggling with the situation.
School is back,
With all its support, with all the teachers,
With all the Year heads and pastoral leaders,
We are all beck to try and make the best we can out of this un-normal situation.
The Bible passage above highlights this non – normality.
In the Bible God ‘breathing on’ people was a sign of blessing, and a sign of life.
Human beings were given the ‘breath of God ‘ in order to convert them from lifeless beings into animated beings.
St John in this post resurrection appearance of Jesus is pointing to the fact that Jesus promised, and gives, new life to those who are willing to receive.
A new energy,
a new perspective,
a new hope.
So in this time where we try not to breathe on others, we can still ask God to breathe His spirit into our lives.
A simple ancient prayer still used today is just to tune into god with the words
“Come Holy Spirit”
repeated either out loud or in your mind.
Normally this can be done three times slowly or can be repeated for a minute or so.
Maybe today is a good day to restart our breathing in tune with God and asking Him to help us through this day
Thought for today - 18th April 2020
“They laid Him in a rock-hewn tomb, where no one had yet been laid” Luke 23
Only a week ago we were sitting in with the disciples in the aftermath of the death of Jesus and the placing of His body in the tomb.
The feelings of crushing disappointment,
doubt and loss.
The loss of a loved one, good friend
the one we had dedicated our lives to be with.
And then it all changed.
We can never go back to last Saturday.
We will always see last Saturday in the light of what we experienced on the Sunday.
And this is the Easter experience.
For some of us we are tuned into spring, into new life, into hope,
Living with the feeling of a new dawning,
a deeper and more hopeful reality.
Knowing that although we may not be through this yet
and that there will be difficult times ahead
but there is also an understanding of the war having been won and these battles are not the end.
The knowledge that there is one who walks with us, and is for us.
But for some of us,
we are still in the tomb,
things are still dark,
There are still hard battles to be fought and we don’t know how we are going to find the energy, the perseverance, the will to continue fighting.
And like the first reactions of the disciples,
we cannot relate to the new reality,
to the hope, to the joy that others tell us about.
It does not seem to fit into our world experience.
And this also is the Easter experience.
On one level everything was the same, nothing had changed.
There was no sudden perfection,
no sudden ending of suffering,
or injustice or oppression or disease.
But on another level
Everything had changed
We now knew that death was not the end,
that suffering was not the whole story,
that there is a deeper story
and an invitation to meet the storyteller
and to join in the new story
The Easter story does not take away, or excuse, or minimise
the sufferings and injustices of the world,
But it gives us fresh energy, insight and determination to fight them,
And a knowledge that we are not alone in the fight,
There is one who stands with us, and for us,
and offers us strength and comfort,
And who has shown us that whether in this life or the next
we will win
because love wins
love always wins.
Easter Friday 17th April 2020
Amid all the running and the questioning,
the turmoil and the fog.
Amid the questions and the worry.
A single line from John’s Gospel points to one who was calm.
Just a rolled up piece of cloth in the tomb.
Amid the seeming chaos of everything,
the turning upside down of peoples lives.
There is a glimpse of one who has it all in perspective.
One who knows the deeper story
Of one who walks calmly and continues to do what needs to be done.
Of the one who calmly took the time to roll up the cloth that covered His face.
And place it.
No hint of rushing,
No hint of panic.
Just in His own time.
A calmness of the one who knows and loves everyone and everything.
A calmness that is offered to us if we will but spend a moment.
If we will but breath and calm and find our perspective.
As we come to the end of our ‘holiday’ and start to think about coming back to ‘virtual school’ again.
Maybe it would be good to finish this ‘holiday’ reliving some good memories.
Maybe as a family, or with friends, or just on your own, spend some time today reliving past holidays or memories of loved ones.
And saying thank you for them.
Easter Thursday 16th April 2020
”Jesus walked with them”
”See my hands and my feet”
“He ate he fish in front of them”
“And they came and took hold of his feet and worshipped him”
One of the things that stops some people today from believing in life after death, the resurrection and therefore the claim that Jesus is God is that they do not believe in the existence of a ‘soul’.
For those that do believe in the existence of a ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ of a person it is easier to take the next step that this ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ could live on after the body dies.
For some people this ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ is not a different and separable thing from the actions of a physical brain and for them the ceasing of brain activity and death is the end of the ‘soul’ as well.
And for some people it is not ‘helpful’ to talk of a soul at all and all ‘soul talk’ should be reduced to conversations and descriptions of physical realities and interactions. (Chemistry and physics).
For many years and in the minds and words and actions of Christians there has been a strong belief in the existence of a separable ‘soul’ or ‘Spirit’.
But alongside this is another set of ideas and beliefs about the nature of life after death and it’s possibilities.
This second set of thoughts is based on the acceptance of the idea that we are physical beings with no separable soul and are in line with the events recorded in the resurrection accounts of Jesus.
The Gospels do not record that Jesus’ soul went to heaven and that His body remained.
The Gospels record that Jesus’ body was resurrected.
But that this was in some way a perfected body.
It was recognisable as Jesus.
He even invited one unbelieving disciple to put his fingers in the wounds that he still had.
The Gospels do not record how, or why this was the way that it was but only that this is how they experienced Jesus (they were not scientists).
The Bible even records that he sat and ‘broke bread’ with people and that He prepared and ate breakfast.
He appeared and disappeared.
Stepped in and out of our reality.
All of this can tie in with modern scientific understandings.
If we are our body, and not a composite of ‘soul and body’ then it would make sense for Jesus’ to be resurrected in a bodily form.
It is also no large step to accept that if you accept that God could create an entire universe out of nothing, then resurrection of a person is no great feat.
Nor are the countless miracles that scatter the Gospel.
It is also no great feat of scientific imagination to view ‘reality’ as coexistent dimensions rather than ‘here and there’, enabling a resurrected Jesus to step in and out of our dimension/experience of reality.
However you read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, it is a physical resurrection of his body.
One lesson to learn from the resurrection here, is the importance of our bodies,
and especially at these moments of a realisation of our physical vulnerability,
we should take the time to appreciate and look after our bodies.
Maybe today your prayer time and your exercise time can be the same, as you look after yourself,
you are following Jesus’ commandment to ‘Love yourself’
and in loving yourself you are both following God’s commandment,
and also looking after something that is precious to God,
Easter Wednesday 15th April 2020
“Do not hold me, for I have yet to ascend to my Father”
”Jesus walked with them”
”See my hands and my feet”
“He ate he fish in front of them”
“And they came and took hold of his feet and worshipped him”
The resurrection of Jesus is strange – and was unique.
Although we are promised by Jesus that it is no longer unique but open to all.
As with things that people do not want to believe there were, and are cries of ‘fake news’, and alternative explanations given for what might have happened instead of what did happen.
The amazing thing that makes ‘fake news’ believable is that it is often what you ‘want to hear’ or ‘confirms’ what you want to ‘believe’.
It is convenient to dismiss things that you do not want to her, find difficult, or are not to your advantage, as ‘fake news’.
This is not new,
It has just reached a level of immediacy and volume that has never existed in history before.
It is uniquely personalised in a way that was not possible before.
We can see the use of ‘fake news’ by the writers, artists and leaders of ancient civilisations through their carvings, paintings, scrolls and writings, tombs and monuments.
We can see ‘gods’ being blamed for natural disasters and their mismanagement or to justify decisions and dynasties.
We can see ‘scapegoats’ created and persecuted.
The amazing thing about history is that the same story of human nature and its consequences are retold countless times in countless context’s and in countless cultures through time.
One of the fascinating things about reading the Bible is it records these as well. It is full of real people doing real things, not nice things, and not ‘polished’ up.
People who are recorded as much to say ‘do not be like this’ as much as ‘what a great example’ this person was.
Often the message of the Bible is that God works through these broken, and idiosyncratic and flawed people. Quite reassuring really, as few of us are perfect or ‘worthy’ for God to act through us, and yet God does.
This is what is fascinating about studying history, archaeology, literature and science.
If the early disciples were to avoid the charge of fake news all they had to do is not make the outlandish claim that Jesus had risen bodily from the grave.
They could have led peaceful lives if they had just said that his soul went to heaven but his body was still here.
They could have said that his soul went to heaven and his body was waiting for some kind of judgement day. No one would have minded and Jesus’ message could still have been spread.
But they did not say these things.
Most of the disciples were eventually caught by the authorities and tortured before being executed.
None of them ever went back on these claims that Jesus had bodily risen from the dead and that they had spent time with Him after He rose from the dead.
It is easier for some people to dismiss the bodily resurrection of Jesus than to accept it’s implications.
But if you believe in a God that could start this universe and set in motion the Big Bang,
Why is it so hard to believe that this same God can raise someone from the dead?
Could transform and upgrade their body?
Why would this be so difficult, so impossible, so unbelievable?
And why would the disciples and the other people who witnessed Jesus after His resurrection lie.
Especially if it would cost them their lives and the lives of those that they loved.
Given this evidence it is more unbelievable that something didn’t happen than that something did.
Maybe today in this fresh spring morning we could take some time to appreciate our own bodies, to be mindful of our breathing, our posture, our senses, the movement of our muscles.
Take some time to appreciate this amazing biological machine that is you.
You are amazing. Look after you and yours.
Easter Tuesday 14th April 2020
“Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome brought spices”
In the Easter story we see a number of women are mentioned even by name:
Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joses a
Jesus’ aunt, the woman who anoints Jesus at Bethany,
the wife of Pilate.
In contrast to the men in the story of the last days of Jesus who betray him and run away, it is the women who, we are told,
anoint Him as the messiah,
meet him on his way to the cross,
stay with him as he dies,
accompany the body to the tomb,
discover the resurrection,
are the first to experience the newly resurrected Jesus.
The Jesus story does not set out to compare the role of men and women
nor to draw comparisons or divisions between them
Quite the opposite
It reminds us that we are all in this together
It does draw our attention to an equality that did not reflect the society of the time,
and unfortunately does not reflect the role of women in some societies today.
The importance of Mary the mother of Jesus is central to the story,
the bankrolling of Jesus by the women supports the s Jesus’ mission,
and Jesus’ interactions with women are central to the revelation and proclamation of the Gospel
– the good news.
We remember for example the woman by the well,
the woman caught in adultery,
the woman who washes Jesus feet with her tears,
Mary who instigates the first miracle recorded in the Gospel of John,
and the willing acceptance of Mary to allow the incarnation to take place.
In Genesis we see a vision of men and women as equal partners with God.
They are created at the same time in Genesis Chapter 1, and given the same creative and stewardship role in the earth.
And Genesis 2 there is a beautiful image of men and women being part of each other and not complete unless they are working together.
An inter dependency in order to be a whole humanity.
The Easter story returns s to the story of the beginning,
a story that pictures God’s intent,
the intent we should all be working towards,
where all of us are loved children of God,
without exception and without human distinctions and definitions of difference.
Maybe today we can take some of our reflection and prayer time to appreciate the women in our lives, friends, carers, parents, sisters, grandparents.
Just name them in your head, picture them and say thank you for them.
If you can go a step further you might like to say thank you to them in person and maybe showing your appreciation with a message or a card or a picture.
Or maybe just a simple thank you.
Easter Monday 13th April 2020
As we have seen, the Easter story is the central and defining story of Christianity.
It is a cosmic revelation of love,
and the revelation of a completely different and life changing view on life.
Without the resurrection Christianity can be reduced to an amazing moral story,
and a great moral example of love and of dying for some very good, profound, insightful, useful beliefs and teachings . It makes those teachings worth looking at.
It ranks alongside some of the great people and moments in history.
And in a way if that is what you get from the Christian story it is not a bad thing.
But there is so much more to the story than this for Christians.
This is not one event along side other events,
not one example alongside other examples,
not just one person alongside other people.
This is a single and unique event
And it points to a single and unique reality
A single and unique underlying reality
Which we call God, Allah, Brahman, Yahweh and many other names.
It points to a single point and purpose of all life, all being, and a single calling to each and every human being on the planet.
Mediated through different cultures, traditions, histories and perspectives, mediated through different levels of understanding and clarity,
The one reality,
Which we call God
And we know of as love.
As Jesus, God incarnate.
The Easter experience was, and is, the beginning of a journey,
Both individually and as the followers of Jesus
It calls us to see the commonality of all people,
What we share, what we have in common,
Rather than looking at the differences.
We share more than we differ
and in appreciating what we share
we can appreciate and celebrate our differences as well.
I am reminded of a song by Bob Marley
“One love, one heart,
lets get together and feel all right ....”
Maybe today you can find your own song that captures your appreciation of others, our similarities and our differences or make a play list that captures this.
Understanding the foundational Easter message;
that what unites all people, is the love that God has for them,
and the love that we are all called to be.
The vision and a revelation of what we really are.
Easter Sunday 12th April 2020
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Luke 24:
The most important day in the Christian’s year.
On this day we remember, celebrate, relive the most important reality of the life and message of Jesus.
Often love seems missing, love seems dead, dormant, twisted absent.
But it is there.
He is there.
In the action of the resurrection God shows us that there is always a bigger story, a bigger picture, there is more going on than we can see,
God shows us that we are part of the picture but the picture is not us.
It is both humbling and liberating.
Where others see stumbling blocks and dead ends,
meaninglessness and destruction.
Where others let the undeniable difficulties define them.
Where others fear the consequences, only protect themselves, only look after themselves, give in to the self centred part of our nature,
Christian’s are called to see things differently, to experience things differently,
To live and love and be the ‘good news’ the Gospel.
To be the Easter people.
But it is not exclusively a Christian calling, this complete revelation of humanity for humanity by the God that was human is a reality for all people
The call to be what and who we were meant to be,
The call to humanity to be truly the best of humanity
To be love
Is a call to all
Is a revelation to all
As Jesus said “those who are not against us are for us” Mark 9:
And “those who love live in God and God lives in them” 1 John 4
The ‘Good News’ is not just a confirmation, a motivation and a call to those who believe but it is also as claim to a fact,
A cosmic fact
That God loves everyone.
Those who recognise Him and those who do not.
Those who see Him through Christian eyes and those who see Him through other eyes,
Those who do not see Him at all,
And those who actively work against Him and all He stands for.
God’s love is truly Universal
It/He is woven into the fabric of the Universe
It is as real as the subatomic particles and waves in which, and of which, we are.
‘In whom we and live and move and have our being’ Acts 17:
Easter is not only for those that have made this Lenten pilgrimage, those who have entered into the story of the one who revealed the good news, it is and always was for everyone.
It is a revelation and a call to the heart of who and what we see ourselves as,
who and how we see others,
and how we respond to the ‘good news’ of who we all truly are.
It is a revelation of who we really are,
what we really are.
It is the journey from the cave to the light.
And a call to live in the light and not return to the cave. (1 John 2: 1 Timothy 6:16)
Have a good day – but more ....... so much more.
Saturday 11th April 2020 - Easter Saturday
Jesus is dead.
It is finished.
They saw their dreams and hopes shattered,
They ran away.
Did some of them make their way back in the crowds to see what happened to the friend, they deserted?
John was there with Mary the Mother of Jesus and some other women.
Where were the others?
Where did they go to?
Where did they end up?
They were strangers in this city,
Eventually they had to end up back together.
Stuck in the same rooms.
What did they say to each other?
What uncomfortable silences were there?
Each one carrying their own guilt, their own recriminations, their own self justifications, their own disappointments.
Each knowing that it was over. That it was finished.
It wasn’t supposed to end this way.
This was Jesus – and He was going to change the world – and they were going to be part of it.
But He was dead – death cuts across everything.
And so we sit in this tomb with Jesus today.
What would we have done?
We sit today in the long silence of the tomb, where there is no escape, and we are forced to ask ourselves ‘Is it finished?’
I cannot change the past, it is gone, it is written on the sands of eternity.
The things I did or did not do,
The people I helped, or did not help,
The words I said or did not say.
The love I showed or did not show.
They are in the past.
There is nothing I can do to change them now.
They are dead.
They are in the tomb.
But this is the beauty of the Christian story.
Death seems the end.
The tomb seems the end.
But in this apparent end, there are the stirrings of a beginning,
In the place of death a new life, a deeper life,
A better life, is stirring.
It is good to linger a while in the tomb,
If only to list what you want to leave there,
What regrets, what memories, what harsh and careless words spoken, what actions left undone,
What do you want to leave there?
Because the Christian story does not end in the tomb,
This is only a temporary place,
Someone is reaching out their hand to take us through this place,
To leave it behind,
To take us to a new life,
A life of possibilities,
A life transfigured.
Maybe today as part of your prayer you can think about what you would like to leave in the tomb, what feelings, actions, memories do you want to move on from. What do you need for Jesus to take to His tomb so that they can be buried for good, and you can start to look for a new life.
A new way forward.
We all have things we could leave in that tomb, large or small.
Time to hand them over.
Friday 10th April 2020 - Good Friday
The very last words of Jesus on the cross
“My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?”
Matthew 27:46 (Psalm 22?)
“Into your hands I commend (give/release) my spirit”
“It is finished (completed)”
Today we remember one of the two halves of the dynamic that is at the centre of the Jesus story. The cruel death of Jesus.
Jesus is killed for so many reasons, and in some ways it does not matter what cruel reasons Jesus is killed by, because death is in itself cruel.
All life ends up at this point, and loved ones are taken from us.
Some lives lost can seem to be more painful, or pointless or unfair.
But the truth in life, is that for each of us it ends here, fair or unfair, just or unjust, a release or a cruel cutting short of so much potential. It is the human condition. It is a fact of the universe.
The question at the heart of the Jesus story is not so much about death as such but about life.
What do we do with death? How do we see it? What does it teach us? How does it shape us?
For many people in the world death is the end.
The confirmation that life is pointless, meaningless, absurd.
For many in the world it is a justification for selfishness, greed, self interest and ‘the survival of the fittest’ that can justify so much ‘inhumanity’ to other people.
For some people it is a motivation to leave something better than you received it, to contribute, to leave good memories and lasting legacies.
What does the Jesus story tell us?
It does not justify death, or suffering, or pain or distress.
It does not say that in some way that because good might come out of it, it makes it good, or acceptable.
It does not say that death and suffering are necessary if there is to be good and happiness.
It does not say that death and suffering are OK because we will all get to heaven with a ‘happy ever after’.
It shows that death and cruelty are realities. There is no denying this fact.
Some of these realities are caused by us as human beings or made worse by us,
and some realities are the nature of the universe that are in some way necessary to the very existence of life in the first place.
Jesus does not explain,
or lesson the suffering of humanity and nature but enters into it, shows us that He is in it, and with it.
That He too feels this pain but multiplied by the pain and suffering of all things that suffer.
Jesus points to a deeper reality. A deeper “magic” as CS Lewis puts it. And the suffering and pain of this world are not separate from this.
The question is what do we do with this? What do we do with this fact?
Do we accept that death makes all life meaningless?
In the last words of Jesus on the cross we see a clue.
Jesus quotes Psalm 22. A poem that expresses what He is going through (worth reading) but ends up in a place of hope and praise.
Jesus lets go of His own thoughts, rationalities and trusts in God.
Jesus completes the tasks that he was entrusted to do in His life.
He does what he can do, did what he could do, what He is called to do in the situations He finds himself in.
Jesus points not to solutions but to the fact that we are all part of a much bigger story.
And as John Henry Newman points out in his meditation we are called to do what we are called to do in the time that we have. And we may never know what the purpose of this, our lives, were in this life. For the moment we just have to Trust.
There are no simple solutions.
Not even for Jesus.
At 3:00 today we remember that Jesus died. Maybe you could just take a minute’s silence to remember not only Jesus’ death but all those who have died at this time. Maybe you could make a minuets silence part of your day.
Thursday 9th April 2020
Maundy Thursday – Command Thursday
“A new commandment I give you ....” John 13-17
As the week enters its final stages we are drawn deeper and deeper into what Jesus did for us; what He continues to do for us, what He asks us to do for ourselves, what he asks us to do for others. Yet The richest telling of this part of the story comes in John’s Gospel.
The main focus of today is on the last meal of Jesus with his friends.
A last meal with your family or friends; What would that feel like? What would you say knowing that everything that you say will take on more importance because this was the last conversation you had with your friends? What would you want them to know? What would you want them to remember? How would you like them to remember you? What final gift of you, what memory could you give them that would stay with them when you were gone? This is why this last meal with his friends was so important.
It might feel quite morbid to be asked to imagine your last meal with your friends and family but this is what we are remembering about Jesus today. And to imagine this helps us to think and reflect on what is most important in our own lives and how we would like to be remembered.
In one respect Jesus was fortunate because he knew what was happening around Him. He knew what was about to happen even if not in detail, He had set the wheels in motion, he had started, pushed and provoked what was about to happen. He knew that time was running out. He knew that this was the last chance He had to be with his friends before he was arrested.
So many of us are overtaken by events rather than are able to carve out a farewell time. Our thoughts today should be with all those who have not had, or will not have, the chance to say a proper good bye, and will live with the regrets of things never said.
Although it is hard to have not said all we would want to say to a loved one who passes away, it is our Christian belief that this is not the end, and we will get a chance to speak to them again, we will get a chance to say the things we wish we had said.
We also as Catholics believe in the communion of saints and as part of that we do not believe that those who have parted are as separate from us as perhaps we sometimes feel. This is why we remember those with whom we are parted (temporarily) in our prayers and our thoughts.
Maybe today, if we feel we need to, we can say those things in our heart and minds knowing that in some way we believe that we are still connected.
And what are the last words and actions of Jesus? – What did He leave us?
He left us a commandment – not a wish – or a desire but a commandment. “Love one another as I have loved you” and “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”.
He left us an example in the washing of his friend’s feet – an act of service.
He left us His continued presence in the Eucharist
He left us the Holy Spirit.
Maybe today we could also ask ourselves how can we help in our household. What extra can we do today to give a hand? To help out, to serve rather than being served.
John 13 -17
Wednesday 8th April 2020
Spy Wednesday and the woman who anoints Jesus
Wednesday of Holy week is often called Spy Wednesday and it remembers the betrayal of Jesus by His friend Judas.
No one really knows why after three years of following Jesus and becoming one of the 12 closest disciples that Judas would turn his friend over to the authorities.
There are various theories: The first being that he did it for money, and we know that he was certainly paid a reward for doing it.
Secondly; some people think that Judas was a Zealot a group of Jewish people at the time who wanted to fight the Romans and set up a free country going back to their own laws. As Jesus teaches through Holy Week that he is not that kind of ‘King’ maybe Judas was disappointed and felt that he had been betrayed by what he thought Jesus was about.
Thirdly; some people think that He was a Zealot and thought that if he had Jesus arrested it would force Jesus or His disciples and followers to fight to defend Him and so start the revolution.
Fourthly; Some people believe that maybe Judas was trying to force a trial and meeting with the religious authorities so that Jesus could defend Himself and convince them that He was right.
Fifthly; Judas was upset and maybe shocked by the events at Bethany where a woman anointed, poured expensive oil over Jesus’ head and rather than telling her not to and to ‘give the money’ to the poor, Jesus thanked her for the beautiful thing that she had done for him.
Anointing, pouring oil over someone’s head was an ancient sign that this person was special and set apart to be God’s leader, a Priest, a Prophet and a King. This is why as Catholics we are anointed at Baptism in recognition that all Christians are called to be Priests, Prophets and Kings.
What we do know about Judas was that it was his choice and that there were consequences for the choice that he made. There are always consequences for the choices that we make, consequences for ourselves and for others.
Often people quote the fact that God has given humans free will to choose and He has, but God does not always approve of our choices because He knows what is best for us, and there are always consequences for the choices we make.
We can never go back and change the decisions that we made in our lives. We can be proud of them, sorry for them, try to make amends for them. But we cannot change them.
Fortunately for most of us the choices we make affect others in small ways, not life and death ways but we still affect others with the words we use, the actions we take, the kindnesses we share. Whatever we choose will affect others or ourselves.
Let’s try today to think before we speak and before we act and choose our words and actions well.
Holy Week Tuesday 7th April 2020: Learning to love
At the end of the passage about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem it says “Then Jesus went into the Temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he...Left.”
After this amazing event his entry into Jerusalem, people crying out that he was the new King, he just leaves.
And then over the next few days he returns and begins a series of conversations, debates and arguments with people in the Temple.
The arguments are about what he says, what he teaches, and what right he has to teach it.
In the end people are so frustrated, and angry, and challenged by him that they want to remove him, not just to banish him, or imprison him, but to have him publicly disgraced and killed.
What is it that Jesus says that is so challenging and so threatening?
We all follow ‘rules’; rules of law, social rules, rules in our families and rules in our relationships.
Rules are not bad in themselves. We need to know how to act with people; we need to know what the boundaries are and how to get on with people. Rules are necessary to help us to know where we stand and how we should act in certain situations.
As people and families and households in ‘lock down’ we may well have had to revisit the ‘rules’ of our family’ or the ‘rules’ of our household and we should certainly be following the general ‘rules’ of the government .
There will be conflicts where what I want, does not tie into the ‘rule’ . And already in our households we may have, or may have to have, discussions about the ‘rules’ that we should follow in our households so that we can get on in a more sustained and long term way.
We are probably having to have discussions about ‘rules’ that we never had to follow before because we had the freedom to avoid each other, or the freedom to do what we wanted and ignore what others wanted.
‘Rules’ are necessary, whether they are formal rules, or just casual ones that are the guidelines of how we should behave in relationships. We need to work out what ‘the’ rules are. We need to work out what ‘our’ rules are and then to live by them.
But what Jesus teaches is that beyond rules there is Love.
Jesus teaches that following a way of life (rule) that is loving, caring, being kind, generous, empathetic is better than just following rules because they are rules.
He also teaches that sometimes what we think of as a ‘rule’ that cannot be broken, actually, sometimes, might not be loving. And when this happens it is time to change the ‘rule’.
There is always a question mark on any ‘rule’ – is it loving? – or has it just become a rule with no love?
What is true for us in our relationships as a society, is true in our relationships as friends, and family and partnerships and is also true of our relationship with God.
Religions are good things when they are an expression of our love for God, for others, and for ourselves.
Religion’s ‘rules’ help us to capture and live within our relationship with God. Jesus was never against religion or ‘rules’ in this sense, just as we cannot be against ‘rules as such’ as they are the way in which we all live.
But he did question, and does question, whether the ‘rules’ of religion and our own personal ‘rules’ in our relationship with Him are loving and good.
In the last week of His life He questioned whether some of the ‘rules’ that the society, the religion and the people were following were truly loving.
And this was, and is, and always will be, a challenge.
We like, and need, ‘rules’, because ‘rules ‘ help us to frame our lives.
But Jesus’ challenges us to go beyond ‘rules’, and ask, ‘is it loving?’,
‘Am I loving?
As Pope Frances put it recently. “Love comes first”.
How you act on that love, what ‘rules’ you make because of that love, necessarily come next.
Some people want to stick to the rules without thinking about the love, especially when those rules favour them.
Maybe today we can look at the ‘rules’ in our lives, in our household and think about how we can make these ‘rules’ more loving, starting with me and how I live my life, and how I plan to live my life today and going forward.
JESUS THE SHOWMAN Monday 6th April 2020
As we begin our holiday from school today and cannot ‘go on holiday’ maybe we could take some time to relive past holidays and events.
Maybe we could dig out old pictures of past holidays and share them and their memories with our families or loved ones or even on our own. Sitting together and listening to each other is fascinating because although we were all on the same holiday or the same event we will have different memories to share of those events – different stories to tell.
JESUS THE SHOWMAN
Yesterday was the start of what we call Holy Week or the Passion. In churches and on live around the world we read about the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and then about the events of the last supper through to his death on a cross. In doing this we remind ourselves of the main events of the Passion but we also miss out huge chunks of the story and with it the subtleties of the story.
All the four Gospel writers devote proportionally huge chunks of their Gospels to the last week of Jesus’ life given that Jesus was teaching and preaching and doing miracles for three years. A quarter of Luke and Matthew's Gospel, a third of Mark’s and just under a half of Johns are taken up with the events of the last week.
The questions that they are all trying to answer is how did Jesus move from being welcomed into Jerusalem by the crowds as their new King, to the same crowds turning against him and calling for his brutal and tortuous death and a collaboration with the Romans whom they hated.
What caused them to want to welcome Jesus into their lives to rejecting Him?
The answer is actually in the entry into Jerusalem, but it is subtle.
The people wanted a saviour, a leader, one who would take them out of the situation that they were in and bring them a new reality, a better reality, even for some a ‘perfect’ kingdom.
And this is what they welcomed into Jerusalem, a projection of their own ideas, dreams and wishes. An image of Jesus created in their own likeness.
In Mark Chapter 11 we see Jesus plans and prepares his entry into Jerusalem, it is no spontaneous act. He chooses which gate to enter the city through because it fulfils the prophesies of the coming of the king.
But he chooses to ride not on a horse like a conquering king – like the Romans would do. He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. If you have ever seen people ride horses and donkeys you will know they are quite different.
Jesus enters Jerusalem as a King – and the people recognise this – but they do not get the subtlety of what kind of king Jesus is because by riding a donkey he points to another prophecy about the king, the messiah, that he will not be the glorious king of battles to make everything ok but will be the humble king, who enters into our situation and walks with us.
Yes he will lead us, yes he is the king, but there is no promise of defeating all evil and hardship here creating a ‘perfect’ world.
This king is going to be with us in our sorrow, our loneliness, our suffering even in our death. But also in our new life as well.
The story of Easter week is not mainly that it will be all right in the end, although that is part of the story and the ultimate destination of us all, but that God is with us in our sufferings.
He has walked this journey a billion times accompanying each and every person on their own journey whether they knew it or not.
Maybe today you could take time to read through what happened through the week.
The shortest version is Mark 11-16 and the most theological and ‘meaningful’ is John which actually begins without an ‘entry into Jerusalem but with the events of the raising of Lazarus which prefigure the events of the passion. John chapter 11-21.