Showing posts from April, 2017

Easter begins: Alleluia

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 barbaric executions.

Jesus 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, discarded grave-clothes, a stone rolled aside.

And they met Jesus, in a garden, in a locked room, on the road, on a beach.…

Easter Eve, grief and prayer

This last day of Holy Week is Easter Eve or Holy Saturday. It is the day after Good Friday. On Good Friday Christians remember Jesus' crucifixion.

Tomorrow the great celebration of Easter begins but if we try to rush into that joy too quickly I think we miss something important.

We miss entering into the desolation and grief of Jesus' mother Mary or of his close friends like Peter, John Mary Magdalene and others.We miss sharing with all who this Easter weekend are mourning the death of someone close. We miss getting in touch with our private griefs and sorrows and finding a way to express them. The deepest joy is that joy that comes after tears.
Joy will come 'in the morning', but for today it can be helpful to find the space to pause, to stay in imagination with those who watched Jesus' burial and who grieved. This is how the writer of Matthew's Gospel describes Jesus' burial and the sealing of his tomb:
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathe…

Good Friday: The Killing: a poem

For reflection on Good Friday here is a poem by the Scottish poet Edwin Muir (1887 - 1959)


That was the day they killed the Son of God
on a squat hill-top by Jerusalem.
Zion was bare, her children from their maze
sucked by demon curiosity
clean through the gates. The very halt and blind
had somehow got themselves up to the hill.

After the ceremonial preparation,
the scourging, nailing, nailing against the wood,
erection of the main-trees with their burden,
while from the hill rose an orchestral wailing,
they were there at last, high up in the soft spring day.
We watched the writhings, head the moanings, saw
the three heads turning on their separate axles
like broken wheels left spinning. Round his head
was loosely bound a crown of plaitied thorn
that hurt at random, stinging temple and brow
as the pain swung into its envious circle.

In front the wreath was gathered in a knot
that as he gazed looked like the last stump left
of a death-wounded deer's great antlers.
who came to stare grew …

Remembering with Friends

One of the great joys of life is sharing a meal with friends of family.

Today is Maundy Thursday, a day when Christians remember Jesus' 'Last Supper' with his friends.

In particular we remember Jesus' command that he gave to his friends, that whenever they break bread and share wine they should do it in remembrance of him. "Do this in remembrance of me" he said. The central way that Christians obey this command is through the shared special meal known as the 'Breaking of Bread' or 'The Lord's Supper' or the 'Holy Communion' or the 'Eucharist' or the Mass. It doesn't matter what you call it. The essential thing is that friends and followers of Jesus meet together, take bread and wine, give thanks and share the broken bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus. And in doing so we discover again that Jesus is really present with us and among us.

We may also discover that Jesus is present wherever and whenever people enjoy sharing…

Palm Sunday: a day to remember

Earlier today, as Christians met for Palm Sunday worship, there were 2 bomb attacks on Coptic Christian churches in Alexandria and Tanta in Egypt with many killed and injured.

Even as Christians around the world were singing Hosanna, murderous intentions were carried out. 'In the midst of life we are in death' - it was ever thus. Lord, have mercy.

In what Christians remember today, the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem that began the last week of his life, we see themes of praise, life and joy intertwined with murderous plots.

The painting at the head of this post depicts Christ's entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, surrounded by those who cheered waving palm branches. Others are perhaps just looking on, not sure what to make of it all. It was painted by the German artist Wilhelm Morgner, who died on Flanders fields during World War 1. 

For me the painting expresses both peaceful procession and the passion and suffering of Christ. The rich colours speak of royal triumph, but…

Sign of Dying and Rising

One way to really hear a Bible story is to imagine being one of the people in the story. When reading the gospels I sometimes try to put myself in the shoes of someone who was there, who saw, heard, smelt, tasted and felt it all.

What follows is my imaginative take on a story that will be read in many churches today, John 11: 1 - 45, the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. The image above shows Jesus with the dead man's sisters Mary and Martha at the entrance to Lazarus' tomb. Jesus is (shockingly) calling for Lazarus to come out.

What if I had been Thomas, one of Jesus' disciples who was there at the time?
How might I have reacted to what I experienced?
I was so scared in Jerusalem. The things Jesus said there made some think he was crazy. They nearly stoned him - tried to arrest him. We escaped with Jesus. We could have gone to Bethany where Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha lived – only 2 miles away - always a warm welcome there. But it was…