Category Archives: Christianity

Angels

Are they with us today?

Angel by Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849–1921)

It is funny how sometimes a few words said, or read at the right time can spark a train of thought. “whilst Sandy was struggling in a cruel east wind to keep her tent from blowing away, she was joined by Penelope, who believed that angels lived amongst us“, from Sue Townsend’s book The Woman Who Went To Bed For a Year, inspired these thoughts.

Lots of people have lots of different ideas about angels. One of the more popular, perhaps the most popular is of divine, benign beings with wings. There are references to them in the bible. They also appear in many old and new stories and classic and contemporary art. One of my favourites is John Collier’s picture, Annunciation.

I do not expect to find any actual angels (with wings?) living amongst us today, though I do not dismiss the possibility. I do think that angels, or maybe I should more accurately say angelic people are amongst us. People we think of as angels, or acting like we imagine angels might act. And, of these angels I have personal experience.

Regular readers might remember me writing in 2016 about an emergency admission to Bristol Eye Hospital. I was admitted again in May 2017, with the same trouble in my other eye. Once againMy Other Familyrallied around.

The kindness of my friends is how I imagine the kindness of angels to be.

One stayed overnight with my wife while I was an in patient, and helped in many ways after my discharge (I’m still under hospital care as I write but no longer an in-patient). I’ve had meals cooked, been taken shopping and to the hospital for follow up appointments, while I can’t drive. I’ve had the bed stripped and re-made, while I’m not supposed to do anything strenuous, and my dog walked.

So do angels live amongst us? In literal terms, of the popular conception, probably not though we can’t be sure. In allegorical terms, yes there are angels amongst us, some of the unlikeliest kind. These are mine.

Once again, my heartfelt thanks for the blessing I received, and
I am still receiving as I write, from all who came to my aid.

In The Beginning Was the Word

So be careful what you say.

WordsThe title to this post, is the first words in John’s gospel in The Bible (NIV). The first verse goes on to say “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In biblical terms they refer to all creation coming into being at God’s word. Yet as important as these words are to Christian belief, I hope to explore them a little more in the human not the religious context.

Words are important. Without words there would be no language and without language, no, or exceedingly limited, communication. Wars start with words and we make peace with them. Words are what we live by. Our first words to someone can lead to a friendship, or a division if we say the wrong thing.

Contracts are written with words and yet it is often what we say to each other that are more important and more likely to be remembered, than the words we write down on a piece of paper, or a virtual piece of paper, such as the screen you are probably reading this on.

If we say to someone we will do something and then fail to do it if we are able, we have not kept our ‘word’; we have no integrity. What we say to each other is more important than any legal document. There is a wonderful couple of lines in a scene from the iconic 1960 western film, The Magnificent Seven, that makes the point. Chris and Vin are discussing leaving the Mexican village they have been protecting:

Chris: – “You forget one thing. We took a contract.”
Vin: –  “It’s not the kind courts enforce.”
Chris: – That´s just the kind you’ve gotta keep.

 The words we say to someone can lift them up, or bring them down. Make someone laugh or make someone cry. Carefully chosen words can be mighty and poorly chosen can make the speaker look stupid, or ignorant, sometimes both.

Words can be true or false. Truth or lies. Some words that are false, or if we use them in storytelling we might call them fiction, can still carry a truth within the story. Jesus parables might be one example of this.

Just like God when He initiated the creation in which we live, everything today created or developed by human beings begins with words, so we need to be more careful how we use them.

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug
used by mankind.” – Rudyard Kipling

Jesus Wept

But who were the tears for?

The Raising Of Lazarus By Vincent van Gogh

It is related to us in John 11: 1-44,  that after Jesus was told that Lazarus, brother of Mary & Martha, was ill, that he did not go immediately to them in Judea; He stayed another 2 days in Jerusalem. Upon His arrival, we learn that Lazarus was already dead had been interred four days earlier. It seems then , from the timeline we are presented with, it was almost a week after being told about Lazarus, before Jesus went to see the ones’ he loved.

When Jesus arrived in Judea, He wep(John 11: 35) at the news of Lazarus’ death; but why?

Jesus knew that the power of the Father, through the Holy Spirit could resurrect Lazarus. Knowing this, it seems unlikely His tears were for Lazarus, so who were they for? Might they be tears of shame, that he allowed not only the suffering of Lazarus until death but also the suffering of Mary and Martha, all of which He could have prevented.

Perhaps His tears were for Mary and Martha, for what they had endured, after all untill He called Lazarus from the Tomb, they probably thought He’d let them all down.

Maybe it was because He new the resurrection of Lazarus would be in vain. Maybe he knew that Lazarus woud be executed in the future by the Pharisees (John 12: 10). He might have been hoping his delay would save Mary and Martha from even more pain and suffering, but when He got there emotion took over and He felt compassion for Mary and Martha and compelled to do something.

We’ll never know. I just offer a possibility.

Intercession Prayer for Sunday 7th May 2017

The Fourth Sunday of Easter.


Audio expires approximately after 90 days after posting.

Father of our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, You sent Him to Earth to care for your flock. To lead, not to heard. To open the gate to Your pasture, Not to round us up when we stray but to show us the way back to Your fold.

May this prayer encompass not only our words to You but, guided by Your Holy Spirit, that which you need us to hear today.

At Jesus baptism, You sent the blessing of Your Holy Spirit upon him as a dove. Send Your Spirit today to all those being baptised. Protect and sustain children as they grow, guide their parents, godparents and all who will care for them, that they may thrive.

Creator spirit, remind us of our own baptism and confirmation. Open our hearts and minds, to hear Your life giving word and be renewed by Your power.

Thank You Father that we live in a free democracy. We pray for the coming election. May the campaigns be fought on policy, not personality. On debate, not disparagement or dogma.

Source of truth and wisdom, guide us as we examine the options and remind us of our responsibility, to consider good and justice for all, not just our own needs and ends.

Heavenly Father, comfort all who grieve the death of a loved one or friend. Give strength to those who handle the formalities of death. Heal the unwell and injured in body or mind, according to their own need. and hear too the care of our own hears that we may say in silence within ourselves. 

Merciful Father, hear this prayer in the name of Your son, our Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Download and print this prayer.

In Faith We Doubt

Would faith today be so widespread without Thomas?

Doubting Thomas, by Hendrick ter Brugghen, c. 1622

I wonder what you think might be one of the crucial momnets related to Christ’s resurrection? For me, it is the moment Jesus lets Thomas see, and touch for himself his wounds, the marks of his crucifixion (John 20:24-29). Would the events have been so plausible without Thomas’ insistence on seeing the evidence himself.

All the disciples except Thomas saw Jesus on the evening of the day of his resurrection. Thomas was not with them, we do not know where he was at that time. Maybe he was out procuring supplies. It was another week before Thomas also saw Jesus when he appeared to them again.

Thomas must have had a strong character. For a week he resisted the peer pressure of his friends and fellow disciples, before Jesus appeared to them again when all were present. Thomas doubted but there is no suggestion he didn’t believe. Thomas asked the question I probably would, you probably would and I suspect most believers might ask.

Unbelief is quiet different from doubt, it includes denial, which Thomas never did. I suspect that at some time of life everyone who has a faith doubts at some time, to some degree. I have. Sometimes we all need some kind of sign.

When Jesus appeared the second time, he let Thomas see and touch his wounds then said to him “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (UKNIV). These words could easily be perceived a rebuke to Thomas, for his doubt. Perhaps it was; I do not think so.

I think Jesus’ remark was encouragement, to the disciples and future generations. Encouragement for all the people of the time and to come, who could only rely on the testimony of people like Thomas and would rely on word of mouth and later, the gospels we rely on today.

With thanks to Joanne for inspiring part of this post.

Lost In Translation

Mind your language.

My native language is English. I can read sufficient Dutch to make sense of a lot of things, I write it a little, very poorly, and hardly speak it at all. Like many English people, I was, I suppose, quite arrogant for a long time about my language, with no knowledge of any other.

When we refer to language, we don’t always mean your language or mine where translation from one country’s language to another is necessary to understand one-another. Sometimes language can mean the form of words we use. For example when talking about someone’s manner of speaking I might say ‘he doesn’t beat about the bush’ . Someone else might say ‘he speaks his mind’ or ‘he has a direct manner’. Another person might simply say ‘he’s blunt’. It all means the same thing, expressed differently.

The same is equally true when we talk to someone about religion, for me Christianity but the language chosen is equally applicable to all religions. If you were not already A Christian, what would you think if I strolled up to you and said ‘can I talk to you about Jesus’ or Do you read the bible?’. Chances are, you would think me a bit odd and look for the first excuse to get away.

It’s not just what we say but also how we say something that can attract someone, or put them off entirely.I was put off The Bible early in my life by the, to me at that time, impenetrable, archaic language used in the King James Bible (given to me when I was 8 years old and which I still have). When we hope to introduce someone to Christianity, how we talk to them is important.

The same approach does not work for everyone, so be careful not just what you say, how you say it too. As usual I do not have answers, I just hope to get a bit of consideration started.

 

Interview With Mary Magdalene

Christ and Mary Magdalene by Rembrandt

Something a little different from me, so I hope you like the audio post that follows this introduction.

As with all my posts, the script is entirely by me. With thanks to my friend Jenny, who provided the voice of Mary Magdalene in the recording.

I present a fictional news interview with Mary Magdalene, set outside Jerusalem on what is now Easter Sunday.