Showing posts from March, 2016

Easter Sunday:

Easter Essentials by J. Barrie Shepherd
Strip away the perfect lilies massed along, across the chancel steps, the bright reflecting sight and sound of brasses, and the white and gold of paraments and stoles. Set aside two thousand years, almost, of holy words and gestures, the jostling flotsam of an epic tidal surge of global custom and conviction, conquest too. Try to ignore this new spring sunlight, the steady warming of the soil, the waking birdsongs, green and early fragrant air. Reject all this and you are left with a report, some blood-stained bandages in a vacated garden cave, several startled temple guards, a gaggle of bewildered witnesses, and through all this a dawning hope, so strange yet sure it drives you to your trembling knees, groping for fresh syllables and sounds to shape this ever new, yet ancient cry. The Lord is risen...risen indeed!
Image Credit: Flickr, CC License

Holy Week: Easter Eve:

Is it the day after his death? Or the day before his rising? The day between? Or the day in the tomb?
Is it time to look back in sorrow? Or look forward with joy? The time to rest? Or the time to be buried?

For now, I will stay here, close to where they buried him. I will rest on the good earth outside the sealed tomb.
I will remember what he said, "unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12: 24)

Image Credit: Gwen Meharg, CC License

Holy Week: Good Friday

Today, Good Friday (or God's Friday) Christians reflect on the death of Jesus and its meaning.

Here is how the Gospel of Luke describes the moment of Christ's death after hours of agonising suffering:

"It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun's light failed, and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said,
"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."Having said this, he breathed his last.

When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said,
"Certainly this man was innocent."And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts.

But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things."Luke 23: 44 - 49

On Good Friday Christians often reflect on the traditional 'seven last words…

Holy Week: Maundy Thursday: Jesus washes the disciples feet

On Thursday of Holy Week Christians remember 'The Last Supper' - the last meal Jesus shared with his friends before his arrest. One of the things that Jesus did during that supper, according to John 13: 1 - 11 was to take the role of a slave and wash his disciples' feet.

Joan Bidwell wrote a beautiful poem reflecting on this event:

In the quiet place
at close of day
he washes the feet of my mind from the dust of its feet.
His infinite eyes
see the staining and wounds of the road, his hands
bring smarting
and cleansing
and balm.
The grace of his health
restores my soul
her place in the circling stars of perpetual praise.
Then, taking again the seamless robe, the Alpha-Omega,
Master and Lord,
we talk together,
friend with friend.

Poem by Joan A. Bidwell

Image Credit: Jesus Washing the Disciples’ Feet by Leszek Forczek, found here

Holy Week: Wednesday: When Loyalty Fails

When the opposition to a leader gets stronger, team members are forced to consider their position. Will I stay loyal to this leader, no matter what happens? Do I think my leader is making wise choices or finally 'lost the plot'. Does the way my leader and friend is going actually further our cause or hinder it?

The gospels are mostly silent on why Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, which leaves room for speculative interpretation. Judas may, in his own mind, have had the best of intentions for his action. Like so may other religious and political figures, perhaps he did what he thought was 'the right thing to do' and only later was appalled by the dreadful consequences of his action.

Whatever the reason, Judas Iscariot decided to assist the religious authorities to arrest Jesus by night. They promised him 30 pieces of silver in payment - and yes, he did collect it. At the Last Supper, Jesus knew who was planning to betray him in that way and lovingly treated him with special…

Holy Week: Tuesday: Follow Me

Words change their meaning over time.
Take the word 'follow'. It's a common enough word, but what does it mean?

If I want to follow that man as he disappears over the ridge of the sand dune, I would be wise to follow in his footsteps. Although only if I trust him and believe he knows the best way to go.

This particular uphill climb looks as if it could be hard-going. It's easy to see the first few steps but I'm not sure my feet or stride can match them.

And where will the way lead over the horizon? I don't even know where this man is going. What lurks ahead? Will the way get harder? Is there danger ahead? Will the effort of following be worth it? Will there be water? Will there be shade? Will there be rest?

If I'm a pilot driving an aircraft to the terminal of a large international airport then I must follow whatever marshalling instructions are in place.

The way may be led by a small vehicle with a big 'follow me' sign. 

Following it as precisely as possi…

Holy Week: Monday: Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus

A man's feet, a woman's hands and hair, the wetness of expensive perfume. What's that all about? What's going on?This photo illustrates the following story from John's Gospel:
"Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped him with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?" (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my…

Holy Week: Palm Sunday

Holy Week has begun. This is when Christians recall events of the last week of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The first day is Palm Sunday, remembering how Jesus rode an untamed foal of a donkey from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem. Jesus was accompanied by his disciples who praised God for the powerful deeds they had seen Jesus do. People spread their cloaks and branches of trees ('palms') on the road as Jesus made this journey in fulfilment of ancient prophecies about a king who would come in God's name to set the people free and bring peace.

(You can read the story in Matthew 21: 1-11; Mark 11: 1-11; Luke 19: 28 - 44; John 12: 12 - 19.)

I love this dramatic 1617 painting (shown above) by Anthony van Dyck of the Palm Sunday event. There is so much in it - strength, movement and colour. There is jubilation, but also confusion, a darkly brooding sky and other hints that if this is a 'triumphal entry' it is a dangerous sort of triumph.

What draws my eye most in the …

St Patrick's Day Prayer and Song


St Chad of Mercia

What music would you like to hear just before you die? I'd probably choose something from Mozart or Bach. What could be better? The singing of angels? That is what St Chad of Mercia is said to have heard before his death.

On 2 March 672 A.D. Chad, the Abbott and Bishop of Lichfield died. This image of a stained glass window in Worcester Cathedral shows St Chad in the oratory of his house in Lichfield. It illustrates the story of Chad's death as told by the Venerable Bede (673 - 735) in his 'Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum'. 

According to Bede many of the church in Lichfield had died of a plague. Chad's habit was to pray and read in his oratory with 7 or 8 of the monks, but one day shortly before his death he had just one with him whose name was Owine and who later told the story of Chad's death. The following is taken from a translation from The Clerk of Oxford's post.

"The bishop was alone reading or praying in the oratory of that place, when on a…

St David's Day

Why are daffodils associated with St David's Day? Not being Welsh I had no idea until I looked it up. According to the Visit Wales website page on National Symbols of Wales the daffodil began to be associated with Wales as recently as the 19th century thanks to the British Prime Minister Lloyd George. It is an optimistic symbol for Wales, rather more attractive to wear on St David's Day than the leek. The custom of wearing leeks in the hat is said to have come from the time of a battle between the Welsh and the Saxons when St David wanted the Welsh to wear leeks so they could recognize other Welsh.

St David is the Patron Saint of Wales. There are more legends told about him than there are certain facts. He certainly existed, was probably born in the Dyfed area of Wales, became a travelling priest  and later an Archbishop. He is said to have founded several monasteries including a major abbey at Mynyw where St David's Cathedral now stands. The fact of his existence as a Chri…