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Showing posts from April, 2011

Head over Heels with Joy

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I enjoyed every minute of the Royal Wedding that I watched on TV yesterday. I was disappointed that it was the 1928 version of the Marriage Service that was used. Although it did seem to work in the context of that particular wedding and it is legal and beautiful, I really hope it's not going to lead to many more requests for this by couples planning C.of E. weddings. What's wrong with modern language?


I thought the choice of Bible reading was particularly apt and I note wih approval that it was read from the New Revised Standard Version and not the King James Bible and very well read too. Richard Chartres sermon has to be one of the best wedding sermons I've heard. I could go on - the whole event was a feast for the eyes, the ears and the spirit. Everyone seemed to play their part as we've come to expect of great British pageants of this sort. But at the centre was a man and woman making a life-long commitment to each other before God (and a truly enormous congregation…

Royal Wedding

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I don't have a flag to wave today for the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.


My husband and I do have patriotic lollipops to wave and suck, thanks to a gift from our daughter. She has left the UK for a few days - trying to escape the royal weddding? She was a toddler playing around my feet while I watched TV all day for the wedding of William's parents - probably put her off royal weddings for life.


Fow today's happy couple and for all getting married today
"may their marriage be life-giving and life-long". From The Marriage Service, Common Worship




Photo: My own of lollipops given by my daughter

Does my blog look pink in this?

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This pink elephant shows the surprise and horror I felt on discovering that for some months this blog's background colour has looked pink to many visitors. Some people like a pink background, but a girlie pink colour doesn't reflect my taste at all. I've occasionally been known to wear pink, but can't forget overhearing one of my grandmothers saying to my mother, "Nancy must never be allowed to wear pink". I was about 9 years old at the time and my dark blonde hair had a sandy/gingery tint to it which was thought not to go well with pink.

Exactly how this blog went pink I don't know - obviously I must have caused it when fiddling around with personalising the template. On my PC the background continued to look white, which is what I wanted. I had begun to suspect others saw it differently. The problem finally came home to me this afternoon when I was undergoing an annual 'MDR' (Ministerial Development Review) and my reviewer, who had visited this …

Before Breakfast

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What do you do to keep fit? Go to the gym? Walk? Jog? Run? Swim? Ski? Thanks to my lovely family, I've tried a few different things these last 3 months. This image of Jean-Louis Forain's 'De Seiltänzerin' (The Tightrope Walker) is displayed to celebrate that I've now reached 'professional' level in walking across a tightrope suspended high between tall buildings. I hardly ever fall off now and all my practice has been before breakfast.


I'm not doing so well on heading footballs. Only amateur status there. Well, I've told you before I have no interest in football. Is that why I keep heading the trainers and the pandas flung at me instead of the spherical black and white objects?


I do now easily manage 1000 + revolutions of a (virtual) hula hoop and catch all the additional hoops that come at me.


While jogging after a guide around an island, my trainer told me recently 'you are a good runner'. This is a surprise. I hate running. I think it just m…

Scottish Blessing

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This view has a special meaning for me. It's near the farm where my great great grandmother was born and where she married my great great grandfather. It's here because I wanted a Scottish view for the blessing I quote at the end of this post.

How do you you think I should use this blog in the future? I'm thinking of making changes, but am undecided. The readership has increased, including returning and regular readers, so I hope that means that some people appreciate what I write. I enjoy the process, so I will probably continue to post regularly anyway.

For now, I want to say a big THANK YOU for visiting, THANK YOU for returning (if you do). If you have THANK YOU for commenting, either on the blog or via Facebook. For those of you bloggers whose blogs I so enjoy THANK YOU (you will know who you are, because I have probably left comments on your posts.) So for all of you, here's a Scottish blessing which really appeals to me

May the blessing of light be on you
     - …

Gift of Today

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Today, Easter Monday, is a Bank Holiday in the UK. It's my first day off from posting daily on a Biblical reading through Lent and Holy Week. So just for joy, here is something different.


Thanks to Penelope I recently discoved the beautiful video below. The pictures are stunning. Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, gives encouragement to open your eyes to really look at what's around you and be grateful for today.


Enjoy!


Christ is Risen

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Experience teaches that death wins. Experience teaches that life is what you make it, so get what you can while you can, because it will be over soon. And the Easter message says, “Really? How can you be so sure?”


Death is real. We humans are not immortal. Jesus certainly died. Roman soldiers were efficient at executions. He was buried, the tomb sealed and a guard set. There were eye-witnesses of this.


There were no eye-witnesses of Jesus' resurrection. By that I mean no-one saw him rise from the dead. So why didn't the Christian story end with the crucifxion? Jesus' disciples, who ran away in fear of their lives when Jesus was arrested, gave just one answer. They proclaimed that 3 days after Jesus was crucified, died and buried, God raised him to life.


They preached it because they were witnesses, not that they saw it happen, but they saw an empty tomb, grave-clothes, a stone rolled aside. And they met Jesus, in a garden, in a locked room, on the road, on a beach. They recog…

Dead and Buried

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It's late spring in the UK and everywhere we see the miracle of buried seeds shooting green and producing flowers and more seed. The bright yellow dandelions around our way are particularly numerous this year. After a long cold winter they are a wonderful sight, even if I don't want too many in the garden.


Yesterday, with many others, I took part in a Good Friday procession, following the cross along a high street. In the place where we assembled on a warm sunny April morning, we found ourselves in a seed cloud. Countless tiny seeds carried on the air were falling on us and around us down to the ground. They appeared to be dandelion seeds - I can't be sure. I remembered what Jesus had said about another seed,
"...unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but it it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12: 24 NRSV)For Christians, today, Holy Saturday, is a day to confront the reality of Jesus' death and burial, the grief …

Good Friday

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   "So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them."
John 19: 16 - 18 NRSV

That's all I want to say today. If you want more then Dave Perry has a superb photograph and reflection in Good Friday Snapshot, inluding these words:

"...in this one life, and now in this solitary death, God is revealed as God is. We see the real cost of Grace displayed in its full and utter vulnerabilityas God gives all that God has and is for the sake of all that will ever be..."



This post is the 45th in a daily series of Lenten and Holy Week reflections based on a Bible reading from the Common Worship Lectionary of the Church of England. this one is based on John 18: 1 - 19: end.

Maundy Thursday

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Supposing you knew you had only hours to live? What would you do with the time  left? Jesus knew he was about die. What did he do? He shared a meal with friends.


Today we  remember what Jesus did and said at that meal, before he was betrayed and arrested.


Maundy Thursday is about doing what Jesus said, imitating what Jesus did. “Maundy” is from “mandatum’ or “command”. It refers to the mandates given by Jesus at the Last Supper. What were these?
to share bread and wine in remembrance of himto wash one another’s feetto love one another. 1. To share bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus
This is how this command is passed on in one of the earliest books of the New Testament:

"...the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this a…

Peter's Denial

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In 'Plotting' I wrote about Judas' betrayal of Jesus. He wasn't the only one to let Jesus down when he most needed his close friends. When Jesus was arrested by the Temple guard most of the disciples deserted him, in fear of their lives. Peter and another disciple were more courageous and followed Jesus as he was dragged to the house of Caiphas the high priest. 


Earlier that evening Peter boasted he was ready to go with Jesus to prison and death. Jesus predicted that before the cock crowed that day Peter would have 3 times denied knowing him.


We remember Peter as much for his mistakes as for his great leadership qualities. The golden cockerel on the top of the magnificent church of St Peter in Gallicantu  on Mount Zion in Jerusalem is a permanent memorial to Peter's worst mistake. This church is built on the traditional site of the house of Caiaphas.


Outside the church is a statue. It shows Peter sitting by the fire in the courtyard where a servant girl said he too h…

Praying

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After Jesus' last meal with his friends he went out to the Mount of Olives, followed by his disciples. At the foot of the Mount of Olives is a garden - 'Gethsemane' (oil-press). There Jesus withdrew about a stone's throw from his disciples to pray alone. He was in anguish, anticipating the suffering to come.


His prayer is a model of simple trust with honest request. He tells his heavenly Father what he really wants - to be spared the cup of suffering. At the same time he affirms his commitment that God's will be done. Here is Luke's version of his prayer:


"Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done." Luke 22: 42

I visited Gethsemane last October and was very moved by a prayer written in response to Jesus' prayer and engraved on a stone plaque:
"O Jesus, in deepest night and agony you spoke these words of trust and surrender to God the Father in Gethsemane. In love and gratitude I want to say in times of…

Plotting

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In the gospel accounts of the last days leading up to Jesus' crucifixion there are at least 2 stories of betrayal: Peter's and Judas Iscariot's. Simon Peter betrayed Jesus by denying him 3 times after Jesus' arrest.

Today I'm thinking about Judas - whose name has become a bi-word for betrayal.  Judas conspired with the religious authorities to hand Jesus over to them. They were plotting to kill Jesus. Did Judas know that? Or was he deceived into thinking he was protecting Jesus?

I would love to know more about what was in Judas' mind - what led him to do what he did. The gospels give us enough hints to build a variety of theories, which I won't discuss here. I wonder if he was an idealist who had come to feel betrayed by Jesus, because Jesus didn't conform to Judas' idea of how the Messiah should be?

Judas was one of 'the Twelve' - the inner circle of disciples hand-picked by Jesus. Judas was present at 'The Last Supper'. Jesus washed…

Who is this?

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And so it begins - Holy Week. It begins with a man on a donkey and people asking “who is this?” Imagine the old walled city of Jerusalem, getting crowded ready for Passover. The Roman occupying power needed extra security to prevent trouble. There was often trouble, threats of rebellion.
Supposing there’d been helicopters in 1st century Palestine. Imagine yourself in one, looking down on the city. You see the huge golden domed temple. You see the busy narrow streets. You see two processions entering the city from different directions.
On the main road coming from his winter quarters on the Mediterranean you see the Governor Pontius Pilate on a fine stallion. Alongside him, riding and marching into the city are highly-trained and well-armed Roman soldiers, a lot of them. People line the streets cheering - probably paid to cheer or threatened with violence if they didn’t. Here are the conquerors who have brought peace – of a sort. Everyone watching this procession has to cheer . . . or …

Building the House

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Life is busy for many. It's easy to keep on going through the motions, the everyday chores of living, making a living, creating a home, raising a family. 


Just to keep juggling all the balls in the air, to do all the things we have to do or have set ourselves to do, can become an end in itself. It's easy to lose sight of why we do what we're doing. We can forget our true purpose.


Psalm 127 reflects on the tasks of life and relationships in the family and community - all things that require human effort to build and maintain. But the Psalm reminds us that these things are gifts of God. Ultimately we depend entirely on God for life, protection, peace and fruitfulness. The opening verse reads,


"Unless the Lord builds the house,those who build it labour in vain.Unless the Lord guards the city,the guard keeps watch in vain."Psalm 127: 1



Lord, you are ever watchful and bless us with your gifts; as you provide for all our needs, so help us to build only what pleases you; throu…

Cry for Help

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I found this image by Daniel Drew (a self-portrait) a very powerful way to convey the despair and desolation expressed at the beginning of Psalm 22. It is the experience of someone in the agonizing depths of isolation, who cries out to God for help and finds none.


As the Psalm progresses, the note of hope and trust in God begins to sound and turns into praise.


This psalm is often assoicated with the crucifixion of Jesus because he quotes the opening verse while hanging on the cross, feeling totally abandoned by God.


It is one of two psalms set for Morning Prayer today, but is often used on Good Friday - only a week ahead now.


Here is a video with extracts from Psalm 22 using the King James Version.






This post is the 38th in a series of daily Lenten reflections based on a Bible reading from the Common Worship Lectionary of the Church of England. This one is based on Psalm 22.


Image by Daniel Drew from here

5 Senses of Love

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What does love look like?
Shocking. It breaks the rules of respectable behaviour, like the woman Mary of Bethany rubbing perfume on a male rabbi's feet and drying them with her hair, in public. It offends when it looks like a life wasted, like Jesus of Nazareth hung out on a cross to die.


What does love feel like?
Good to the one who can receive it like a baby relaxing in its parents' care, or like a lover in the arms of the beloved.


What does love sound like?
To Judas, the sound of 300 coins, a year's wages, spilling to the ground, rolling away and lost - an extravagant waste.
To Jesus, the sound of friends, of tears and laughter and music and companionable silence.


What does love taste like?
The best food and drink, prepared and served by close friends. The taste of friendship, of family, of belonging.


What does love smell like?
Expensive fragrance filling the house, creating unforgettable memories of intimacy, but evoking thoughts of death and burial.
"Mary took a pound of c…

Fiery Furnace

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If you're a high-ranking official serving a dictator, what do you do when your conscience won't allow you to obey the latest dictat? Much will depend on where your true loyalties lie. Whose interests are you really serving? How effective is your indoctrination into the prevailing culture? How courageous are you? Are you prepared to take the consequences of disobedience, whatever they may be?

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were provincial rulers in ancient Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar. They were Hebrews from Jerusalem. They'd been head-hunted, or more accurately conscripted. They'd had 3 years intensive training in Babylonian culture and language. Even their names were changed from their Hebrew ones.
To stengthen his power the King wanted to create unity in his multicultural kingdom. He organized a worship event on a grand scale which all the dignitaries and officials had to attend. It was the dedication of a 90 foot high statue . He decreed all must fall down and wo…

Marathon Running

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I've never run a marathon or half-marathon or even a 10K run. But I know people who have and do. I admire their commitment to training. The annual London marathon  will take place in a few days on 17 April. The runners I admire aren't the super athletes who complete the route in amazingly short times. It's the people who take 9 hours or more, some with considerable disabilities, but who make the finish eventually, through dogged perseverance.
It's only when you are nearly at the end that you can see the goal in a marathon. In faith that it will be worth the effort, you just have to keep on going without being able to see the end for most of the run. It helps to have good mentors and role models, other people to run with and the inspiration of past marathon runners as well as spectators egging you on.
The life of faith isn't about goals you can see, but promises you trust enough to act on. This sort of faith is practised by people who are in it for the long hard haul,…

Tears before Joy

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Thomas' Story Part 4
(Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.)


It was when he saw Mary and the other friends and relations weeping and wailing and singing laments. That's when Jesus broke down. Jesus wept. All the way to Lazarus's tomb he sobbed his heart out. We cried with him. I'd been to lots of funerals, but never felt as deeply moved as that day. I think Jesus wept, not just because of Lazarus, but for others he had lost and because he knew he too would die soon.
When we got to the cave where they'd laid Lazarus's body, Jesus asked for the stone covering the entrance to be taken away. I couldn't believe he was serious. Martha said what we all thought. There would be a dreadful stench. The body had been dead 4 days. It should be allowed to rest in peace. But they did take away the stone. And here's something really strange. I couldn't detect any putrid smell. Please don't ask me to explain. I can't.
Jesus thanked God for having heard…

Can these bones live?

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Thomas's Story Part 3
(Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.)

I told you yesterday what Jesus said to Martha when we came with him to console her and her sister Mary after their brother's death. I tried to tell you how I was affected by Jesus' words, "I am the resurrection and the life". I couldn't continue the story then - I was too overcome.
You need to understand what I went through as we made that journey back to Bethany. Coming up through the Judean desert from the fertile Jordan Valley the land looked so dry. And that's how I felt. Dry, pessimistic, trying to cling to faith in God. I was determined to stay loyal, but afraid of where Jesus was taking us. Living with him had been a roller coaster of emotions. We saw Jesus perform amazing signs. His teaching was profound, but so simple. He could make you laugh and make you see things differently. I loved him. Some hated him. As fast as he attracted followers he gained enemies. It had felt such a privilege t…

If Only...

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Thomas's Story Part 2(Part 1 is here)

We made it back. I was worried which route Jesus would take. It was often hard to predict where Jesus was going. He chose the highway. I'd have felt safer using shortcuts and goat paths to avoid military checkpoints. Bethany was far too near Jerusalem for my liking.
We could hear wailing long before we reached the house, so we knew lots of people were there to grieve with Mary and Martha. If only Jesus had come back to Bethany sooner. Why did he wait so long when he might have healed Lazarus? Martha said it all when she ran out to meet him, "...if you had been here, my brother would not have died". Well it was too late now - at least we'd all come with Jesus to offer our condolences. I hoped he'd keep a low profile - surely no-one would arrest him for mourning with friends?
Jesus was gentle with Martha. We all nodded when Jesus told her "your brother will rise again". We believed in resurrection at the end of ti…

Bad News

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Thomas's Story Part 1


Getting away from Jerusalem after Hannukah felt good. The things Jesus said there had made some people think he was crazy. They nearly stoned him - tried to arrest him. Jesus always slipped away. Bethany wasn't far. That's where Lazarus lived with his sisters Mary and Martha. You could be sure of a warm welcome and good food there. But it was too near Jerusalem. We were glad to retreat with Jesus out of Judea and back across the Jordan river. I hoped we'd stay there. Much safer.
Then Jesus got the message that Lazarus was very sick. It was odd that Jesus didn't set off for Bethany immediately. He really loved that family. But he stayed put 2 more days, before he said 'let's go back to Judea'. We tried to talk him out of it. We didn't want to see him killed. But Jesus was determined. He said Lazarus was asleep and he had to go and wake him up. It didn't make sense to us. It made even less sense when Jesus said Lazarus had died…

Exodus

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In a recent post Take of Your Shoes I thought about Moses' encounter with God while he was caring for sheep - an experience that led to a call for Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery into freedom. This story is told in the 2nd book of the Bible, Exodus.


Consecutive readings from Exodus are set for Common Worship Evening Prayer during this part of Lent and on beyond Easter, so I thought I would revisit this story, but in more lighthearted mode.


Supposing Moses was living out his vocation now, in the internet age? Thanks to Doug Chaplin I came across this Jewish retelling of the story as 'Google Exodus' - clever and fun. Enjoy!






This post is the 28th in a series of daily Lenten reflections based on a Bible reading from the Common Worship Lectionary of the Church of England. This one is based on Exodus 4: 27 - 6:1 and the rest of the book!