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Posted: Sun Apr 09, 2017 10:24 pm
Thank you! I hope you might feel encouraged to post your sermon on i-church?
Posted: Sun Apr 09, 2017 11:46 pm
Lent Pictures Day 40
Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week, has been dominated this year by the news of Coptic Christians in Egypt being killed at worship.
The Spectator magazine notes:
"At least 36 people have died in Egypt after blasts targeted Coptic Christians on Palm Sunday. Today’s attack is just the latest strike in the war on Christians in the Middle East. As Jonathan Sacks observed: ‘until recently, Christians represented 20 per cent of the population of the Middle East; today, 4 percent’."
and republishes a blog from 2013 by John L Allen Jr
detailing the largely unreported persecution of Christians around the world.
The gospel of Matthew tells us that the crowds welcomed Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem with cries of celebration:
'Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ '
Yet as the story of Holy Week unfolds, we will hear how the crowds turned against Jesus, in the end calling for his crucifixion.
Since I became a Christian, it's puzzled me that the day we choose to come out of our churches and process through the streets is Palm Sunday, when we replicate the HOSANNA of the fickle crowd.
Posted: Tue Apr 11, 2017 12:31 am
Lent Pictures Day 41
God's love is described in Psalm 36 as faithful, or steadfast. God doesn't give up on us, although we can, and do, give up on God.
I was once asked to be the parish lay representative on a residential Diocesan conference. My discussion group included a visitor from a link parish in southern Africa. He said he thought we had a much harder job talking to people about our faith in this country, because he felt our society was spiritually hard, and unreceptive to the gospel because of that.
I do wonder if it's hardness that stops people accepting the idea of God's love, though. A lot of people seem to feel quite angry about what they perceive as God's failings - they expect better. Even if our own lives are comfortable, we're confronted every day by suffering, cruelty, and natural disaster happening elsewhere.
One piece of advice I've heard is that, in any situation where God's love isn't obvious, look for the helpers. There is always hope when people feel moved to help.
5 Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your judgements are like the great deep;
you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.
7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
10 O continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your salvation to the upright of heart!
11 Do not let the foot of the arrogant tread on me,
or the hand of the wicked drive me away.
Picture by trokilinochchi, vis Wikimedia coomons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
Posted: Tue Apr 11, 2017 6:52 am
I am always amazed at the compassion that people show towards others, particularly to those who might be on the fringes of our society.
One such instance is D, a former member of our parish, who has fallen on hard times. He failed to cope with the death of his partner and descended into a a spiral of drinks, drugs and self-abuse, resulting in his having a major stroke, which disabled him.
He lost his home, and required residential care - and due to his problems, has been in every care situation locally, until he exhausted them all, and was sent away to Margate, where he had an accident, being knocked down by a car and hospitalised and lost his accommodation - so was returned to our community.
He has stopped the drinking and drug taking and tries hard to stop smoking, which he knows is slowly killing him, with COPD. But, every member of our congregation remembers him as he was, and are unfailingly kind to him. He is given money by many, he is fed and watered often and even, despite his condition (often dirty and smelly) given bathing facilities and clean clothes.
He is currently on the streets again, but sleeping in an alcove at the rear of our church - he won't accept peoples hospitality, he just wants to be given a place of his own, where he can look after himself. And we are working with local social services to achieve this - not in a different place, but locally. He is a bright guy, when he is well enough, but his COPD impairs his ability to communicate.
He is often in Church, sitting at the back, and we always feed him and allow him to use the facilities to clean himself up. He is unique in many ways, but we know that thousands of other vulnerable people need support - and many will get it from their local churches - the safety net for them all.
The compassion shown towards D is a microcosm of the compassion shared by so many people, who help others for now reward - perhaps they don't expect any in this life, but their faith and trust in God or Good is their motivation. I thank God for them all.
Posted: Tue Apr 11, 2017 2:41 pm
So many churches are closed down or out of use most of the week these days, it's difficult for effective ministry like D's to take place. There are parishes in city centres now where nobody lives but the needy hang around : it's not just rural areas that are deserted.
There's a very big Sikh temple across the road from a church I used to attend. It's in a dense residential area a short walk from a main road where there are many shops and businesses. There is hot food going free at the Gudwara 24/7. Anyone is welcome to pop in and partake at any time. It's 'staffed' mainly by the young people. I have no idea how they fund it. I've been fed so much in so many Sikh homes over four decades I'd be glad to contribute the odd fiver but they don't take donations.
For D and others like him.
Posted: Tue Apr 11, 2017 11:55 pm
Lent Pictures Day 42
There's a cluster of frog spawn in our tiny, leaf-filled pond again.
A few years ago, I had a bout of hospitalisations with various acute illnesses. I found the hospital environment very dull, and longed to see the outside. Once I was home, I spent quite a few weeks watching the development of frogspawn into our pond into tadpoles and froglets. It was fascinating to see the process unfold. I've been a keen observer of tadpoles for the last few years. Unfortunately, last year all the tadpoles disappeared very suddenly. They are part of the food chain for a lot of other things that live in and around ponds - which is why they're so plentiful. This not only disappointed me but upset me, even though it's quite impossible to pretend a tadpole or frog has even shown the slightest interest in being friends with me.
Even so, I am full of hope that this batch of spawn will develop into a happy little colony of froglets whose development I can watch and wonder at.
Prayer for Lifelong Protection and Help
1 In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
2 In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me and save me.
3 Be to me a rock of refuge,
a strong fortress, to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.
5 For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
6 Upon you I have leaned from my birth;
it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.
A Western Chorus Frog by Ravedave via Wikimedia under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
Posted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 7:06 am
We often find frogs in our garden, despite not having a pond in it. But we do have a half barrel of water, which we leave out for cats and birds - we sometimes see birds perched on the edge trying to drink from it - wondering will they lose their balance and fall in.
We are keen to protect wild life, with having cats, that can be difficult. But we have managed to catch several mice brought in by them in a humane trap and release them back into the park behind our house. Unfortunately, we often find half a mouse or a bunch of feathers, where a bird has had bad luck.
As for protecting life ours and others. The psalm says it for us.
Posted: Thu Apr 13, 2017 12:27 am
Lent Pictures Day 43
I'm the daughter of a midwife, so the word 'deliver' always makes me think of birth. I heard loads of stories of births when I was growing up, and whenever I went to the shops with my mum we'd be stopped at least once by someone whose baby she had delivered.
Birth is very popular on the TV at the moment as well - both as historical drama in Call the Midwife, and in contemporary fly-on-the wall documentaries like One Born Every Minute. I've never really understood the fascination, but maybe I heard enough about birth when I was growing up to have my curiosity satisfied.
When Psalm 70 speaks of God as a deliverer, it's referring to his ability to defend and rescue us rather than his ability to help us through birth. But there is still a sense of God being able to bring us into a new life which fits with the theme of birth.
To the leader. Of David, for the memorial offering.
1 Be pleased, O God, to deliver me.
O Lord, make haste to help me!
2 Let those be put to shame and confusion
who seek my life.
Let those be turned back and brought to dishonour
who desire to hurt me.
3 Let those who say, ‘Aha, Aha!’
turn back because of their shame.
4 Let all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you.
Let those who love your salvation
say evermore, ‘God is great!’
5 But I am poor and needy;
hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
O Lord, do not delay!
Posted: Thu Apr 13, 2017 6:11 am
On Maundy Thursday, the day when Jesus exhibited Radical Love for the disciples and for us all, this is a great piece.
The Psalm articulates our need for God, for his grace and mercy and love - and how we respond to it, when it's given unconditionally.
Jesus set his disciples an example of service with the foot washing and gave them one, new commandment - "to love each other as he had loved them" I can't see any greater commandment to follow.
Posted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 2:05 am
Lent Pictures 44
John's Gospel Chapter 13 tells us the story of what has become known as the Last Supper, when Jesus shared a meal with his disciples and washed their feet as if he was their servant. This took place around the Jewish festival of Passover.
When I worked in prison chaplaincy, someone came in to do a session on Passover to explain the background of the gospel. It was complicated getting permission for various things to be brought in, and some of the work fell on me as the chaplaincy manager at the time. I must say I became quite irritated by it at times, when I had so much else to do.
During the session, we tried out the traditional seder foods. I think we had got to the hard boiled eggs and salt when one of the men looked round and said 'Isn't this lovely!'
'Lovely' isn't a word you hear very often in prison. It taught me something about God's extravagance. Through the effort of the volunteer, and my own more grudging contribution, a sliver of kairos - God's time - had been inserted into the prison timetable, and within this, grace was experienced, at least by one person.
Picture: Cpl. Brandon Saunders, Wikimedia Commons
Posted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 7:32 pm
Lent Pictures Day 45
On Good Friday we remember the death of Jesus by crucifixion, after being tried for blasphemy.
I find the the details of death by crucifixion horrific, too horrific to contemplate to be honest. But he also went through enormous mental suffering. The gospels record that he knew his death was coming, and prayed to God the night before to save him, saying
"Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." (Luke 22.42)
On the cross, he cried out just before he died
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27.46)
This seems to refer to Psalm 22, which starts
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
People sometimes assume that being a Christian is about accepting a particular world view where God is all powerful and ensures that Christians are privileged above others.
Nothing could be further from the truth in my case. When I was suffering from postnatal depression, I felt completely alone and isolated. Oddly, it was Jesus' cry of suffering and sense of abandonment that made me turn to him for help.
Jesus is the God who suffers with us.
Picture by John Robinson on Flickr, York Mystery Plays 2014: The Crucifixion and the Death of Christ. Creative Commons licence.
Posted: Sun Apr 16, 2017 1:29 am
Lent Pictures Day 45
After Jesus' crucifixion, the authorities placed a heavy stone across the mouth of the tomb and placed an armed guard there, to prevent any rumours about his resurrection starting.
The gospel of Matthew tells us that the morning after the sabbath, the women went to his tomb. They saw an angel roll the heavy stone away. The guards were terrified and lost consciousness.
The angel told the women the tomb was empty, and told them to go and tell the disciples. Jesus then met them, and told them to tell the disciples to go to Galilee, where they would see him.
To an extent, faith is what we choose to believe - not just religious faith, but faith in the people we trust, and the systems we rely on. Sometimes, faith is like a gift; but for some of us it can be a struggle.
Who could believe such a story? Various theories exist to explain away the resurrection. Was Jesus a ghost? Was the resurrection a fiction spread by Jesus' followers? Was it a metaphor for Jesus' teaching and healing ministry 'living on' through his followers? Or just a way of manipulating people spiritually?
St Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, when they were arguing about the resurrection:
'Unless Christ was raised to life, your faith is useless, and you are still living in your sins. And those people who died after putting their faith in him are completely lost. If our hope in Christ is good only for this life, we are worse off than anyone else '(1 Corinthians 15.17-19)
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”
So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
James Tissot, Mary Magdalene and the Holy Women at the Tomb, from the Brooklyn Museum via Wikimedia Commons
Posted: Sun Apr 16, 2017 9:04 am
Thank you Pam for a beautiful Lent blog and for allowing me to join you on your journey ...I have enjoyed the various views expressed daily and am truly grateful.
May you and all your family have a Very Happy Easter
Alleluia Christ is Risen !
Posted: Sun Apr 16, 2017 12:57 pm
He is risen indeed !