Tag Archives: Easter

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.

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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.

 

A Child’s Truth Of Lent.

A true story told to my by Anneka’s grandmother.

Little Anneka (aged 3 at the time this story was told to me) asked her Mum, Angela, why they had pancakes on Shrove Tuesday and what Lent is. Mum, although not religious herself, explained about using up food ingredients to make pancakes and about Jesus fasting in the desert for 40 days.

After this was explained to Anneka, she exclaimed that Jesus could have half her pancake and that she would make him sandwiches too, so he wouldn’t be hungry.

Lent is not just about giving up something but about giving something. It took the kindness of a child to remind me of this simple truth.

I hope it reminds you too..

Doubting Didymus

Did the disciple we know as Thomas get a raw deal?

Doubting Thomas, by Caravaggio

Didymus, whom we know better as the disciple Thomas, is one of the only two disciples whose name has survived in fairly common usage in today’s language, Judas being the other. I imagine that at some time you have heard someone referred to as ‘a Judas’ and in Thomas’ case, you have probably heard someone called ‘a doubting Thomas’

Thomas, was sceptical that Christ had risen again. He was the only one of the remaining eleven disciples, Judas having already killed himself, who was not present at Jesus appearance in the upper room a week after Mary Magdalene told the disciples their Lord had returned. Thomas, when told of Jesus appearance, is reported to have said “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20: 25 NIV).

A week earlier, before Jesus’ appearance in the upper room, Luke writes (Luke 24: 11) that when Mary Magdalene told the disciples that Jesus had risen, they did not believe her. I think it is important to remember that when Jesus first appeared to the disciples, Thomas was the only one not present. The rest had not only seen the Lord, they met him all together.

For Thomas, Jesus’ resurrection was second hand information on both the first and second appearance of Jesus after his crucifixion. The first time when Mary Magdalene brought the news from the open tomb and on the second occasion, when the other disciples told Thomas what they had seen.

After what they had witnessed at Calvary, can we really blame Thomas for his skepticism? If it had been one of the others instead of Thomas, would he have put his doubt into words? How often do we keep quiet about things today,  just so as not to stand out in a crowd, or look silly in front of our peers? Perhaps Thomas was the only one with the courage to speak out about his doubts.

The disciples had all seen Jesus perform miracles, including resurrecting at least two people, Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter, although in both those cases their bodies were whole and without injury. In Jesus’ own case not only was the cadaver mutilated, it would mean a dead man healing himself.

Try and imagine yourself in Thomas’ place, would you have found it easy to believe such a momentous event without evidence of some kind? Thomas doubted, he was skeptical but let us not forget what Peter did; he lied. Three times, Peter denied knowing Jesus at all. Thomas never denied the Lord was alive, he just wanted something more than second hand testimony, after all since Peter had already lied, why should Thomas believe him at all.

Poor old Thomas’ woes don’t end there. When he sees the Lord for himself and Jesus allows him to touch his wounds, Thomas believes and he cries out “My Lord and my God!”. Jesus next words though “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” might be taken as an implication (at least in the NIV translation), that Thomas is less blessed than those who believed without seeing the Lord. Whilst almost certainly not intended like that, it can be read that way, so suppose that that was how Thomas took it?

When Thomas did see the risen Lord and touch his wounds, are we to believe that at least some of the other disciples in the room did not also want to reach out and touch but were afraid to, perhaps even afraid to ask? If I were a betting man, I would give good odds that they all the other disciples watched very closely as Thomas was given licence to, and had the courage to, touch Jesus’ wounds to satisfy himself. Perhaps Caravaggio’s picture that I included with this post makes the point. We do not know who the two disciples are in the picture with Thomas but, just look how closely they are watching what he does.

Thomas touched Jesus wounds almost two thousand years ago. We have no option other than to rely on the accounts in The Bible, on which to have faith. Could we have the same confidence in our faith without Thomas’ actions? So, to answer my own opening question; Yes I think Thomas (or Didymus) does get a raw deal, at least in the way his actions are reported in ‘the press’.

There is an old Chinese proverb that seems
to me it might be appropriate to Thomas:

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand”
________________________________________________________________________

The Govenor’s Report (Palm Sunday)

Prefect of Judea to Military Tribune, Rome
My Lord,


There is growing excitement and growing tension in Jerusalem and the surrounding region, as the Feast of the Passover Approaches. There has been one major incident this week, which had been preceded by various rumours, a message from the Jews’ chief priest, Caiaphas, and a personal visit by him few days later. The rumours, and later message and visit, concerned a man going by the name Jesus who came to Jerusalem, although at the time of Caiaphas visit he had not yet arrived. Nevertheless, the high priest seemed to consider Jesus some kind of threat.

So far, although this Jesus has caused a little public unrest, it has been nothing our soldiers could not control. Any perceived threat by Caiaphas or his priests would appear to be mainly to themselves, not Rome, however we might still be forced to intervene at some point to maintain public order during the festival. The Pharisees appear to be worried that their authority as religious leaders will be undermined.

The public unrest I spoke about above is, to date, two incidents, one of which was really just high spirits in a crowd as the Passover festival draws closer and which resulted in a few minor injuries cause by the crowd’s own movement. The other a minor disturbance at the temple, dealt with quickly by a detachment of two contubernium of legionaires; no one was hurt. There was also an earlier report of the theft of a colt, that was later returned and found to have had reported stolen in error.

The first incident occurred when this Jesus entered Jerusalem. He came in riding the colt, that had formerly been reported as stolen, and appeared to be playing the part of a king for the crowd, which, at one point, was shouting “Blessed is the King of Israel”. It is our suspicion that the chanting crowd that followed Jesus on the donkey, all the way to the temple, was incited by a group of his followers, however we have been unable to confirm this. As the donkey carrying him approached the temple, the assembled people began to throw palm leaves ahead of the donkey as it made its way along the street.

This act of entering on a Donkey was, apparently, intended as a deliberate affront to the Jews’ priests. It might also be inferred that it was a slight to Rome however the watch commander wisely decided to let the incident pass, as to attempt to intervene to quell the crowd might have caused a greater disturbance, than the relatively good natured atmosphere prevailing. The crowd dispersed at dusk without further trouble and the man named Jesus we think left the city for the night time, thought to be going to the village of Bethany, nearby.

Tesserarius Laurentius is to be commended for his restraint in this matter. This is not the first time he has demonstrated good judgement whilst in command He might in due course be considered as a candidate for promotion to Centurion, to succeed his current officer.

The following day was another incident, initiated directly by Jesus according to witnesses. He had apparently re-entered the city soon after daybreak and made his way to the temple. No legionnaires arrived in time to take action in the matter, which was apparently over quickly.

Reports from witnesses indicate that Jesus entered the outer courts of the temple, where he was heard to shout angrily at the money changers and seen to tip over some of their tables of business. He apparently considered their presence sacrilege and attempted to drive them out. No one was hurt although the business in the outer temple courts was disrupted for a short time.

I intend to have this Jesus watched until after the Passover feast, to try and ensure no further incidents that might incite the crowd to further unrest. With so amy people in the city for the passover, the garrison is spread thinly already.

In regular matters we have collected approximately 2000 Denarius in additional tax in Jerusalem this week, due to the large number of people who have come to the city for the festival.

Your Servant, Sire,

PP

A Night In The Garden

Events at Gethsemane probably didn’t happen this way but …

Gethsemane, by Carl H Bloch 1834 – 1890

They walked mostly without talking, the only noises being the soft footfall of the band on the packed earth, with the occasional slap of a loose sandal on a heel. Hearing a murmured comment about getting to the place they were going before dark, it was already dusk, he glanced back to the following group. As he wasn’t sure who has spoken and no one appeared to have noticed him look back, he ignored it though he did quicken the pace slightly. After a few minutes more, he slowed again before turning off the road they had been following around the Mount of Olives and into the garden of Gethsemane.

‘Right then you lot’ their leader, Jesus, said. ‘Sit down for a while and make yourselves comfy. This might take a little while. I’m going to have a chat with Dad, about a bad business that’s stressing me out a bit’. He started to walk on but after just a couple of steps paused, seemingly in thought for a moment, then turning back said ‘You three, Pete, John and Jim. Don’t get comfortable, you’re coming with me.’ Waiting just long enough to be sure they had heard and were following, He went on along the narrowing, uneven path.

Out of earshot of the main group, he turned back to them. “Ok I want you three to stay here and keep watch for me. No listening though, this chat’s between me and Dad. Promise?’ They nodded in unison, then he moved of further down the path, loitering as if trying to put off the chat as long as possible. As they watched the lean figure fade into the darkness, Pete, John and Jim sat down, leaning against the trunks of trees each side of the path, the brothers Jim and john together on one side and Pete facing them in the gloom from the other.

Pete woke with a start when Jesus kicked the sole of his sandal, and his cry of surprise woke the brothers. ‘Come on now boys, it’s a simple task.’ Jesus chided them. ‘Just stay awake and keep watch, now is that really too much to ask?’ ‘No Boss they mumbled shamefaced, though he could not see that in the dark. He turned on his heel and shambled back along the path to finish his chat.

Next time Jesus came back, only a few minutes later, the three disciples were again asleep. This time he left them sleeping, going back out of earshot to finish his chat with his Father. When he came pack to them the third time, he was getting irritated and impatient with them.

‘Oi you dozy bunch’, he raised his voice, ‘this time kicking the sandals of both Jim and John’. ‘Seems I can’t trust you with the simplest of jobs. All you had to do was keep watch for a while.’ He sighed before going on ‘Oh well I suppose it doesn’t matter now anyway. What’s coming has already begun he turncoat will be on his way now with his employer’s henchmen.’

 

This story is found in Matthew 26: 36-45, Mark 14: 32-41 and Luke 22: 39-46