Weaving the ‘Resurrection story’ in our lives

easter day

The more Easter sermons I share with congregations, the more I pay attention to and am amazed by the loud voice of the women on Easter Sunday !!! They play such a central role on this great day. They stand in such stark contrast to the disciples, all who had fled, and now declare that the women’s story is an idle tale or outright nonsense.

Good news is what we hope for, we long to hear it but it often requires a leap of faith, a willingness to believe what we have not seen with our own eyes.

As Martin Luther King once said Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Good news can transform us and everything we know, but……. sometimes we are not quite ready for it.

Resurrection is seen and experienced in the quality of the lives of those who live out their faith in the Risen Lord We see it most clearly in the transformation of Peter, who went from misunderstanding the Scriptures to interpreting them through the lens of the Resurrection. We see it in Paul who had set out to put Christians to death, only to become the champion of “dying and rising with Christ.”, but the resurrection is not just for people… it is also situations and relationships, where all seems lost , then a new spark or light rays shines through and shatter doubt , fear and injustice, and replace them with strength and hope.

Such lives are evidence that Jesus has risen from the dead and is alive in the world today. By this I mean we see with new insight , we see the world through Jesus eyes, not through our own , if we accept that at Easter something happened to transform, renew, and enthuse the disciples… well I want some of that, and I expect we all do . This is the resurrection. Making a brand new start today …through the eyes of the resurrected Jesus

God has woven resurrection into our daily lives so we can learn the shape of it and perhaps learn to trust the strength of it when our own time comes.

We are “Easter people”……. when we put on brand new lives, not merely brand new clothes.

Easter Day is the key to our faith and to our hope,

It is central to everything that Jesus taught, concerning himself and the Kingdom of God

It is central to everything that the church has proclaimed, since the day that Jesus ascended into heaven.

Alleluia .. Christ has risen !!

Prayer

Loving God

we thank you today

for that which we cannot understand

but which we can appreciate, and experience.

Pour out upon us, a renewed faith in your power

and the peace that comes with hope in you

and in the resurrection of Christ our Lord.

Amen

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Small boy reflecting on Good Friday

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I have a had a very interesting Good Friday.The service went well , ecumenical , quiet and reflective with some music from Keith Duke from Lindesfarne; only one reflection from Mary Jesus mother, and then each person took a nail to the cross and laid it down before the candle was extinguished.

How ever the most powerful image that will remain with me, is the image of my 8 yr old grandson on the floor gazing at the cross( see picture). When I asked him if he was OK … he said yes .. I was just thinking about the pain that Jesus must have had once nails were in him …..he then told me that he liked the red cloth as it reminded him of the blood , but also of the pain the world we live in.  I said that many people live in Good Friday and Holy Saturday mode … that all people can daily see and feel is pain and terror and fear, never getting to the resurrection hope that Easter Day brings.

Even though I obtained have a first class BA honours in Contextual Theology, and Masters in Theology, this simple act and conversation with my grandson that I witnessed spoke to me much more that words can imagine.

He knew pain, from his short life and personal experience, and knew it was part of life and living …yet he sat here thinking about how Jesus had helped him.

Thank God for children , who minister and teach us !!

Good Friday God,

When we can be immersed in Liturgies and words ,

The simple act of a sitting and reflecting in a childlike way …is all it takes ..

As we gaze at the cross, let us be aware of the pain of others

As we see your arms outstretched holding the world in an embrace.

Heal our wounds by your love for us

As we hear the cries of  friends,  families and strangers  who stood  before you .

Help us move from

the pain of living …..to the hope of abundant blessing.

In Jesus name …..we  pray this today Amen

Life is like music

I love the thought of the created world living in harmony with each other … yet at times we want to go it alone. As Passion Week approaches, the crowds are rich in song and praise, yet all too quickly Jesus will be alone.

When life is joyous and fulfilled, it is as though we are one with our Creator God, when the orchestra of life is rich, a full bodied tone reaches out and fills our soul … yet there are other times when our life is like a solo oboe player, playing a soulful tune…waiting for the instruments of life to re-join the music.

I wrote this prayer a number of years ago to remind me of the joyous praises as Jesus enters Jerusalem, the loneliness as the week progresses, then returning to the hope and euphoria of the resurrection.

O God,

You made the world.

In creation we see the wonder of your handiwork… the animals, and rolling hills.

In our humanity we see, we feel , we sense your presence

Surrounding us, embracing us, and sustaining us.

In this creative atmosphere,

An artistic process occurs.

You call us…A Voice …a melody …a song .

You become the conductor to a wonderful symphony .

The sweet solo song of the Lark ascending from earth to sky.

The musical notes of our conversation with each other.

The excited and enthusiastic melodies of the ultimate joy

In knowing you are near and guiding us.

Creation and humankind come together in harmony,

To sing a chorale of unity and wholeness.

Where our song is sweet and our spirits soar at the very sound of you.

You are the conductor, the composer …of all that is.

However, Lord

There have been times

When we want to go it alone.

When we think we can create and compose

A sweeter and more distinctive sound.

We have listened to our own voice.

Clashing noises have been heard.

Our pride and self-centredness create disharmony,

And we find ourselves alone.

The grand symphony has gone

And the loneliness of individuals hearts wander aimlessly,

Longing to be re-united,

with the harmony of creation , humankind and you.

O God

Forgive us our arrogance

Forgive us our pride

Forgive us for destroying the harmony of others.

In the silence, let us ask for forgiveness.

Lord,

Thank you for your forgiveness and

healing our wounded spirits

Thank you for enabling us to join the orchestra of your creation.

Where voices, hearts and spirits can mingle together

Until we become a permanent member of your eternal musical creation…. Amen

The ‘scent’ of Love

 

annointing woman

 

My favourite perfume is Green Tea, by Elizabeth Arden … Not that I ever wear it a great deal, apart from special occasions, however I also love to have aromatherapy burning in the house. I adore the many scents and fragrances and often will mix them up and see what will develop. Although it has been a while now, I used make bread, which can evoke such memories of warmth and comfort, yet I feel one of the most tangible ‘scents’, is the scent of Love. I have been in a room where I have felt the magnetism in the air between two people, and again when I read the reading of the woman who anointed Jesus from the Gospel of John, I wondered what the atmosphere would have been like.

The onlookers would have been shocked and disgusted, that Jesus allowed her to anoint his feet; not a slave, but a woman of status, and her hair not bound and tied up like a good obedient Jewish woman would do, but let down, flowing locks for all to see, so she could wipe the excess oil from his feet. This act of true devotion has been discussed many times, and yet again, I too am reflecting on it. Recently, I thought that the smell of the oil would have been with Jesus for a long time. I know when I spilt aromatherapy oil on my fingers, the smell lingers for ages. Jesus knew that this caring and tender act would be a ‘final goodbye’, for now he faces Jerusalem; the city that is full of betrayal, deceit, bitterness and death.

He can smell the tension in the air, yet…. The overpowering scent which he will take with him is one of Love.

A scent which will sustain him through the difficult days ahead.

A scent which will calm his nerves

A scent which is just for him

And what does Mary get in return?…As she anoints his feet with oil, and the fragrance permeates every pore between them, she wipes his oily feet with her hair, and as the oil sticks to her hair it becomes drenched, so she unwittingly anoints herself on her forehead with the same oil . That simple, yet important act of courage and faithfulness, has been blessed by God.

As disciples, we serve the God of Love, and it is that Love which will be our ‘scent’ in the world, a scent which will linger, a scent which means devotion, a scent which will carry us through our difficult and sometimes tortuous journey of life.

God who is Love

whose Love for us is overflowing,

whose Love for us is eternal whose love for us is seen in the act of a woman

Bless us with the oil of gladness and faithfulness

So all may know that we are your disciples

Amen

What a privilege !

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I am always humbled when I conduct a funeral. I think it is such an honour to be there with relatives and friends as they ‘hand over’ the person that they have loved and cherished over many years to God.

However, it does need reinforcing that God never leaves us, and ‘Time’ as we understand it, is all too precious. However in God’s ‘Time’, life and death merge into a cyclical time, not linear. God is present with us in this life and also continues to cherish us through into the phase of our journey… the circle of existence. We are all part of the essence of God, so when we journey through to the next part of our existence that we call heaven, I like to think that the Spirit of God that dwells within us, merges with the perfect essence of God, which we call Love, and therefore we become a new creation.

We are changed and transformed into something that radiates God’s love even brighter than before. I am not so bold as to think that I know what heaven is like, however as I Christian, I believe and have hope,  that we have a new beginning surrounded by the Grace and Love of God; that I am reunited with all my friends and relatives, whatever their colour, gender, race or creed. ‘For there is nothing in this world or the next that can ever separate us from the Love of God’. What a privilege to have faith!!

God who is Love,

Enable us to recognise your Spirit within others

So we may look into their eyes

and see your love radiate back to us

So we may feel the pain,

and hold your hand

So we may speak word of comfort

And show you that we care

What a privilege and blessing it is

to have you in our lives

Amen   

Tough Love

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As I write this I am filled with joy as it is Mothering Sunday, the day when we acknowledge and are aware of God’s nurturing, comforting and all-embracing love  for us. It is a day to remember the women and men who have cared for us.

In a box at home I have kept the cards that my children made for Mother’s Day when they were at school. They are a lot older now 33 and 29. Yet it does not seem that long ago since they were small, and running to give me the card made from feathers and cotton wool at the school gate.

Yet I am also aware that 1in 10 people in Britain have experienced a degree of child abuse in the name of parental love; I am also aware that for some people motherhood and memories of mothers maybe tinged with sadness, regret and pain.

Being a parent does brings its highs and lows, ranging from the terrible twos and trusting threes to the turbulent teenage years. However you don’t have to be a parent though to forge meaningful relationships with children. Relationships vary whether you are a mother, father, grandparent or someone who has never had children of their own. What binds them all together is love.

Love is preached on many times, however I would like to focus on one particular type of love …tough love.

Love is a gift from God, not the fragile, vulnerable, ‘here- today- gone- tomorrow’ love, but a love forged with strength, courage and ‘stickability’.

It is by God’s grace that we can love; it is that same love, that are the cords that bind us together with God and the world ;it is that same love which Anna and Simeon felt when saw the infant Jesus,and recognised the pain that would eventually come to him and it is that same love which enables each one of us to take a step each day into the unknown day ahead.

Whether we like it or not loving is tough

Firstly, let us think for a moment about Gods love. God understood the need to let go …the stories of Adam and Eve are surely stories that echo our experience as children. Eager to try the forbidden, eager to taste new experiences and explore beyond the bounds that our parents have drawn for us.

Secondly, a mother’s Love. Mary is often portrayed as a Jesus mother an idyllic picture of family life, round the manger, the time when Jesus stayed in the synagogue and Mary could not find him and at wedding at Cana. However the story of her at the cross is often missed. Yet here she reveals a love, which is unique.

A tough love…

Loving to the uttermost.Loving when it hurts.Loving to the bitter end. She watched her son, beaten, taunted, shamed, and hung on a cross. Yet in this moment, his greatest moment, Mary was still there loving him.

Finally, the tough love of Christ on the cross. The cross truly is a place, where humanities brokenness meets Christ’s brokenness. Not just the physical, but spiritual brokenness. A place where many fear to go … however if we venture to the cross, we will be in good company. We will be alongside other people whose love has been strengthened, and forged in the cross.

One the wisest statements given to me, was by my father about my children. he said, there would come a time when I will have to drop the reins, and let them go it alone.

If you hold on too tight that’s possessive love, and they will run away. But if you gently drop the reins, they will want to come back in your arms.Wise words…. yet when the moment came for me to drop the reins … it was tough, and painful, knowing what lay ahead could be danger.

Yes, tough love is necessary for certain situations, but remember you are in good company for our love comes direct from God. A God who loves is so immense, that he can cradle all of humanity in the crook of his arm. A God who knows what is like to experience pain and nurse us back with tenderness.

Gracious God,

Whose Loving Spirit knows no bounds,

We ask that you would help us into being open to your Love

a Love that knows no limits

a Love to care for others

a Love to journey with us on a voyage of self-discovery

Enable us to see more clearly,

and so to love you more dearly, day by day

Amen