Category Archives: Easter

Roll Away The Stone

A slightly off-beat look at a familiar event.

‘Ouch’, he exclaimed sitting up in the pitch darkness, banging his head on the low ceiling. when his head stopped throbbing, he sat up again, more cautiously with his hand above himself to ward off any further knocks. Putting his hand gingerly to his head, he could already feel a swelling and tenderness. He ignored it. It was insignificant, compared to his other injuries.

Once his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he was able to make out chinks of light, a faint outline, that he supposed to be the doorway. He made his way slowly, still with his hand outstretched, carefully toward it until his hand touched a cold, hard, smooth rock surface roughly in the middle of the faint outline. All the time he was wincing slightly because of the rough, uneven surface under his bare feet.

After feeling around the cold surface his hand had come into contact with, he gave it a tentative push. It didn’t move. He tried again, pushing harder with both hands. Still no movement, not even the slightest shift. He turned around facing back into the darkness and flattened his back against the unyielding surface and heaved with his legs with all his might. A moment later, he slid down to the floor, with his back still resting against it still not having moved as much as a finger’s width.

He wouldn’t be able to shift what he now guessed to be a huge boulder himself. He needed help. Closing his eyes, even though it was a bit pointless in the pitch dark, he called out softly ‘Dad, Dad, can you hear me?’ He was silent a moment and then ‘I’m stuck. I need you to send a couple of the boys to help.’ then as an afterthought added, ‘quick as you can please Dad.’

What seemed to him to take ages, but in reality was only probably only a matter of seconds, he felt the boulder rock and then start to move slowly sideways away from the portal. He rose quickly, still taking care not to bang his head, and watched the light grow and seep into what he now saw was a cave, a tomb, until the gap was wide enough for him to step out into low sunshine of the dawn light.

Emerging from the tomb he gave a friendly nod to the two slightly glowing figures, that had freed him. ‘Thanks Michael, Gabriel, I could have been in there ages.’ ‘Try to keep yourself out of trouble for a while, Jesus.’, Michael said, just before both he and Gabriel both disappeared, a second too soon for Jesus to ask one more question. ‘What day is it?’

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Forsaken

Separated from the Father?

Christ On The Cross, by Eugène Delacroix, 1798 – 1863

On the day that Jesus is crucified, when he is hanging nailed to the cross, at around three in the afternoon he is heard to say “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” (UKNIV Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34). It seems to be generally assumed that he has become separated from his father, can no longer feel His presence. Is there be another possibility?

Jesus knows he is going to die, that is clear. He prophesied his own death to his disciples, though they don’t listen, don’t believe or don’t understand. As well as knowing he was to die, Jesus knew why and quite possibly when.

You and me know we are going to die too. Only a very few people know when and with the exception of suicide, the time of their death. The very old probably realise why they die; They reach the natural end of thier life. Most of us do not know when, why or how we will die. We probably expect to live into a ripe, old age.

As I have aged my fear of death has diminished. I think that happens for most people as they get older. What I am afraid of now is not being dead, it is the manner of my dying.

Is it possible that Jesus’ cry of “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” as he was crucified was because of the manner of his death, not because he was afraid to die and not because he was experiencing separation from God His Father?

Jesus crucifixion was a brutal act. It was unjust, but that is not relevant in this context. It would have been excruciatingly painful. Most men probably could not have born such agony for so long, knowing their life was ebbing away. I am not saying any other interpretation is wrong, only that I think the scenario I offer bears consideration.

Intercession Prayer for Sunday 4th June 2017

Pentecost

Updated following the events in London on the evening of Saturday 3rd June 2017

Heavenly and glorious Father, You sent Your Son to be our shepherd and saviour, to show us the way to You. Thank you for bringing us together as Your church. Hear this prayer on the day of Pentecost, that we offer in the name of Jesus Christ.

On the first Pentecost, You sent Your Holy Spirit like tongues of flame, and in the presence of the spirit all those present with different languages understood one-another. There are still many languages today as then, but only two are universal. The language of love and the language of hate. Father teach us to speak only the language of love.

We pray for our coming General Election. Let us vote with consideration of what is in the best interests of all, not just our own individual wants. Father guide the government elected to implement the policies that are necessary, not just those that are popular. We pray for our politicians to govern with honesty and integrity.

Father God, comfort those who have suffered loss or injury, especially in the bomb blast in the Afghan capital Kabul, this week. Strengthen and guide the emergency services and workers bringing aid and relief to the injured and maimed. Safeguard from anxiety those handling the bodies of the dead.

We give thanks for the fast response of our security services to the unprovoked attack on civilians in London, on London Bridge and in the surrounding area. Let us seek only justice, not revenge which leads only to more violence.

We pray for our Brothers and sisters of other faiths. Help us to see the elements of truth and justice in beliefs that might be different from our own. Inspire us to act towards those who seek You under other names, in the same way as we act towards each other.

Father whose love is wider, deeper and stronger than our imagination can comprehend, we pray to You for the sick and injured. Send Your breath of life to restore and heal those in need. Comfort and support the ill, guide and support those who care for them and hear the the unspoken words of our own hearts.

God of all blessings, thank you for the gift of life, for the air we breathe and the food that sustains us. For the love of family and friends and the mystery of creation. For the beauty and joy we find in You and for the hope You give for the future.

Merciful Father, accept this prayer for the sake of Your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Intercession Prayer for Sunday 7th May 2017

The Fourth Sunday of Easter.

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.

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.

 

My 40 Acts

The 40-day generosity challenge for Lent.

If you haven’t heard of 40Acts take a look at the 40Acts website or facebook page.

I would like to say that I’ve done all 40 acts successfully. I haven’t, so this is as much a catalogue of my failings, as my successes.

 

 

 

Act 40: Delivery.
I was happy to re-read Romans 12, as suggested today, as it is a passage from that book and chapter that brought me back to the church over ten years ago. What follows is an extract from the page of my blog titled My Christianity.

In spring 2006, I can’t remember the exact date, probably around Easter time, I took Wendy to church as usual but before I left, she started to feel unwell. She said that she didn’t want to go home but neither did she want to stay there on her own, so for the first time as an adult since our wedding I stayed and joined the service with her.

One of the church’s lay ministers, Wully Perks whom I am now happy to count amongst my friends, was preaching that morning on a Bible passage from the book of Romans. The reading was quite long, but a short passage struck a particular chord with me: Romans 12: 4-8

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (UK NIV).

I don’t remember where I had first heard that passage but, like most of the other Bible passages I’d heard, it hadn’t make much sense to me and I’d almost forgotten it.

Wully’s preaching on that reading unexpectedly made sense to me. I had vague memories of it, or something similar, but like so much of the Bible up until then, I did not get what it was saying.

By coincidence, or so I assumed at the time, I had been attending a management and team building course at work. One of the ‘facilitators’ (I loathe that word) was comparing a business team to the parts of the body, where each part had a role to play and no single part could accomplish very much on its own. With the combination of the Bible reading, Wully’s preaching and what I had learned on that management course, suddenly the passage made sense to me.

What I also realised, is how relevant the Bible still is to us today, after all I had just learned ‘modern’ management theory from a two thousand year old book.

After that little eye-opener, I continued to go to church each Sunday with Wendy. Some weeks I’d learn a little bit more, or understand some other passage and some weeks I didn’t but I started to see how other parts of the Bible too are relevant to modern day life.

Act 39: Testimony.
The penultimate act and one which I already have something ‘concrete’ to point to. I can answer today’s act after reading it, not at the end of the day.

My story, or testimony is here.

Act 38: Wash Day
Failed today but it’s something I can try and do another day.

Act 37: Content
I think for many of us, we become more content as we become more mature (not necessarily just older). Chasing contentment is like chasing happiness. Chasing it is self defeating.

Yes, I use social media but rarely post about myself, or personal my personal situation.

So, five things that I’m grateful for:

  1. The attitude and values instilled in me by my parents.
  2. My health and the treatment I got on the rare occasions I have needed treatment.
  3. My family, by blood, marriage and my church family.
  4. That I can provide for my family.
  5. That I live in a peaceful country.

Act 36: Habit
Looking back to my Act 30, I will try to be more prepared to approach strangers entering the church, to offer a friendly greeting.

Act 35 : Against The Tide
Whilst quite willing to air my views on various subjects on social media, I have not posted anything I am not willing to speak directly about.

Whilst I post anonymously, I do not hide behind it to ‘attack’ or insult anyone.. When I feel it necessary, I put forward an argument.

I seems to be mostly those unable to muster a reasoned argument, that resort to insults and personal attacks.

Act 34: Flow
Called a friend in Milton Keynes that I don’t chat with much.

Act 33 : Forgive Part 2
Oh dear, after what I said yesterday, I’m not sure what, if anything, I can add today.

Act 32: Forgive part 1
I haven’t really done this one. It’s not that I can’t or won’t forgive. Maybe I’m just lucky. I’ve rarely been in a situation that it’s been necessary to forgive something big.

Act 31: Gulp

I fear that this act might have produced some unintended consequences.

I totted up my annual giving by regular direct debit and standing order (omitting occasional/impulse/one-off donations).

 

Act 30: Step Out
I
 kind of managed to fulfil this act a day before it was published.

I had been invited to a worship review meeting in my church in the morning of Monday 3rd April.

During the meeting a stranger came into the church. He had just visited a grave and before coming to visit the grave had watched a video of his parents, both now with God. He came into the church to find a little peace and quiet.

I was able to leave the meeting for a few minutes and speak with him. He seemed glad of the very brief chat and particularly that I had introduced myself by name, not just as an anonymous person in the building.

Act 29: Sign Up
I help out two or three times per year when the local food bank does collections (think I missed the last one though) at the nearby supermarkets.

Act 28: Foolish
Guess I made a bit of a fool of myself today, by not keeping up with today’s act.

Act 27:  2:1
No, I didn’t get a buy one get one free offer. The suggested socks by Jollie, whereby they give a pair to someone on the streets for every pair sold, are expensive. More than I have ever paid for my own. I took a different approach. 

I bought a pair of my normally priced socks and gave them to a charity store, new with the label/tags still attached and untouched.

Act 26: Grateful
Sent an e-card to a friend in Holland who wrote to me when my mum died a few years ago, and who lost her own sister more recently.

Act 25: Stuff
Some of my “stuff”, comes from charity shops. Probably about 25% of my clothes do. Many of the books I read come from charity shops and are returned there after I finish them, to be sold on again.

When I do discard things I consider if it might be of benefit to other people or charity shops.

With that said, I have too much “stuff” around my home.

Act 24: Date
I got a large Larry Lamb biscuit for the Tuesday Growth Group. Does that count?

Actually this is probably a bit cheeky. It’s Tea & Biscuits week in the Diocesan Lent Study we’re currently undertaking.

 

 

 

 

Act 23: Boost

Whoops, I’m a day late posting this update.

I couldn’t think of, and didn’t see anyone, I could easily give a Boost to today. I do always try to give credit where it’s due.

This is an act that should not be a one-off. It’s something we can all do when we interact with people just as we go about our day-to-day business. I will try to keep it in mind. Will you?

Act 22: Origins
I took the easy option today. I made a donation to 40acts #Origins Raising £300 to cover 50 places in parent support groups, by the Mothers’ Union (No I’m not a mother, no I’m not female and yes, I’m a member). I realise that making a donation is not an easy option for a lot of people.

Tomorrow, Mothering Sunday, we’re travelling 80 miles to visit my wife’s Mum. Mine died 5 years ago. 

Act 21: Refuge.
My concern is not with refugees arriving seeking a safe life, but that some people automatically associate refugees with muslims. 

The leader of UKIP Paul Nuttall, while not directly referring to refugees, in his statement “cancer within our society of radical Islam” does nothing to alleviate fears and in some cases will strengthen people’s fear and/or hatred of refugees. He needs to be more careful how he phrases his public pronouncements, unless of course it is deliberate to try to bolster UKIP support.

I’m not sure if this really addresses Act 21 but maybeit will give pause for thought.

Act 20: React.
I prayed for justice, not revenge for the terrible act in London.

Act 19: On Time.
I was brought up in a family that believed in being on time, usually early. I was taught from a young age that being late was disrespectful. This has stayed with me throughout my life.

If I’m late today, it’ill be a costly waste of time.

Act 18: Pray
I pray while out walking my dog, mainly early morning or late evening when there’s few people around.

Act 17: Generation.
I didn’t do today’s act as specified. I think I brought some comfort to a young friend yesterday, after a sad event.

Act 16: Beyond
This one brings me right up to date (when published Saturday 18th March 2017). I gave my winnings in the Make A Mothers Day Raffle, a large box of wine gums,  to a mum with three children she had brought in to make Mothering Sunday cards.

Act 15: Influence
I write a regular, weekly blog, you’re reading it right now, on Christian topics and things I care about. Unfortunately this post is detailing more failings than successes.

Act 14: Boss
Today I assisted the local Mothers’ Union branch (I am a member, even though I’m neither a mother or a female) by setting out tables and chairs for their forthcoming Make A Mothers Day morning.

Act 13: First Fruits
It probably sounds like an excuse but I have managed to maintain my existing giving commitments at the same level since retiring with a consequent drop in income. Is that ok

Act 12: Chocolate Tuesday
Took sone chocky to the Growth Group. I wasn’t opened. It ended up at the Mothers’ Union Make A Mother’s Day coffee morning, as a raffle prize. At least it will do some good there.

Act 11: Talented
Oh dear, now what did I do with the list I made at Act 1?

Act 10: Shared Spaces

The first act where I guess I can say I made some kind of proper effort. I live away from a main road and my home has a public footpath and grassed area on two sides. I picked up all the litter in the public areas on the far side of the footpath around my home.

Act 9: Lean
I didn’t do anything specific to help anyone today but when a situation arises where I can help, I do. I know what it’s like to need help and be given it, by the kindness of my church family after I had retinal surgery last year.

Act 8: Pause
I probably lack a degree of diplomacy in my speech, being unnecessarily blunt sometimes to avoid ambiguity.

Act 7: Undivided
I have a Jordanian, muslim friend who I chat with for up to half an hour most Saturday mornings.

Act 6: Listen
Went for the green option, had a chat with a friend recently out of hospital, since we missed our usual Saturday morning chat in the coffee shop in the shopping centre. I wonder if that really counts.

Act 5: Captive
Oops, didn’t even get round to looking at this one until day 6.

Act 4: Real World
My screen time is split fairly evenly between my mobile phone in the daytime and desktop computer in the evenings. I have turned off the unnecessary notifications on my phone.

Act 3: Local.
Made a bit more of an effort today. Went for the amber challenge level and explored the local park properly, instead of just passing through or going to an area where an event is taking place.

Act 2: Likewise.
I added a collapsible warning triangle to the emergency items I keep in my car, along with a cheap waterproof cape that I can give away at very little cost to someone without protection in heavy rain.

Act 1: Set Out 
I got as far as writing the suggested list. Not a particularly good start but I did do something.