April 12th, 2020 - Easter Sunday

Reflection on John 20 - The Resurrection of Jesus.


https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+20%3A1-18&version=NRSV


How can God let this happen !? 


Cried the family and followers of Jesus .

Jesus, who had just died and been put in a cave for the Sabbath 

until his body could be buried the following day.  

The loss and anguish of the hopes and dreams that had died with him,

all to be put aside and buried.


How can God let this happen !?  


Cries the world today - anyone impacted by corona virus.

Or disease.

Or violence.

Or starvation.

Or illness.

Or injustice.  

The loss and anguish of hopes and dreams that die because of those,  

all to be put aside and buried.


But, what if God didn’t let this happen?


The ancient texts of Genesis tell an interpretation, a story, of a tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Humans deliberately ate the fruit and at that moment they knew, had awareness, of good and evil.  


However humans became aware of good and evil, it was a turning point.  Humans had, by their actions, shown God they’d rather live without God - they could deal with this knowledge on their own.  


God was pushed away …


It’s easy to blame God for all that goes wrong rather than look to how we humans might have contributed to the dis-eases of the world.  We shout and scream at injustice - and in those cries is the admittance that something is wrong.  


This is not how life is meant to be!!!  


Jesus was betrayed by those who pursued their own agendas.  Humanity is also betrayed by those who pursue their own agendas - at the expense of everyone else.


And yet … in the midst of all this there are those who push back with kindness and gentleness and compassion and courage and goodness and peace and patience, and bring healing to all around them, to every situation.  

They bring ease into dis-ease.  

They bring love to hatred.  

The love of God whether it’s acknowledged or not. 


God reached out.


Through Jesus, through people, God reached out to show and encourage us that there is hope for a better way. 


On Easter morning the stone was rolled from the tomb, not by human hands but … somehow, in the mystery of that early morning, love had burst out.  Love that could not be overcome, even by death.  God’s love for all, to give us each a chance to turn again to what is good and true and right.  Inviting us to love in such a way that all have second chances, to show that all are valued and have worth.


God reached beyond the tomb.  


We might feel like we live in God-less times but each of us has the chance to bring a touch of heaven to the world.  Easter and faith, give us a chance; will we keep it to ourselves and be content for the world be unchanged - or, will we enter the tomb with Jesus and emerge, restored in our souls, to run and share the good and joyful news? 


This Easter, will you take the chance to reach out and accept the hand of love, grasp the hope God offers, and offer love to others?  


How can God let this happen !? 

God doesn’t.

God reaches out through Jesus and offers new life and new hope.

Have a joyful, life-changing, hopeful Easter.

God bless.


Prayer


Lord God, Easter is a season of new beginnings; 

we rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus from the darkness of death, 

and we praise you for that.


Yet, today, when the roads are empty 

and we keep our distance from each other, 

when life has changed so dramatically, 

it’s hard to think of new beginnings.


Help us to remember that we do have reason for hope.

We thank you for all those working so very hard to look after us 

and make sure we have what we need.

We pray for the people and nations that are struggling.

We pray for those affected by violence, famine and fear.

May there be hope in their lives too.


We bring to you all that holds us back, 

the baggage of the past 

and fears for the future, 

and we lay them at the foot of the cross.  

As we step back, 

turn around and see the empty tomb, 

may we be strengthened by the hope we are given, 

that we can trust in strength and love coming from you 

that will give us a new beginning.


We thank you for the assurance 

there is nothing in heaven or earth 

that can separate us from you love, 

no situation, however dreadful it may seem, 

is finally beyond your power to save and change.

We rejoice in the opportunity 

to take up your offer of new beginnings, 

each day.

Take the changes and chances of this life, 

and help us, whatever we may face, 

to trust that your love and purpose will overcome all.


Give us new heart, 

remind us of the resurrection and of faith rising again, 

love is not defeated.

Speak to us your words of peace 

and may our souls find rest.

Amen.

Based on Nick Fawcett’s Easter prayers in Prayers for all seasons, book 2.


If you feel inspired to sing today, why not look up a hymn on YouTube.  Here’s a link to a page full of recommendations for listening to ‘Thine Be The Glory’. www.youtube.com/results?search_query=thine+be+the+glory+hymn


April 11th - Easter Saturday


Easter Saturday reflection on grief.


Easter Saturday is the day when all was quiet.

The dead are taken away and we wait for the funeral.

It's such an odd time when arrangements are in place and we wait.

For those without faith, death and grief can be the deep dark abyss of mourning (mentioned in a previous post). A black hole sucking the joy and life out of us.

For those with faith it’s no less painful, but there is something else. I don’t know the word for what I’m thinking of but it’s like a black hole that gives back some of what we’ve lost.

To start with, grief is all consuming.

But, we still need to eat, sleep and live. At first we may not want to or be able to do any of these - that’s normal.

Each in our own time, we will start doing these again.

We will never again be unmarked by grief. I often think of grief as, to start with, an open wound that, with time, becomes a scar. We can refuse to leave it alone and it won’t heal. Or we can learn to live with it; it’s always there and it may well still hurt, at times, but it won’t ever go away.

On Easter Saturday those grieving the loss of Jesus were in a dark, numb limbo.

Christians know Easter morning is coming, and that gives hope and reassurance that love will break the bonds of grief. There is a new perspective to be had. Love will reach through grief. For those we have lost, our love doesn’t end - and deep inside us we know, somehow, that the love of those lost is still with us.

That’s the difference and that feeling is the word I can’t give you. The Bible tells of God’s love giving a deep peace beyond our understanding. In a letter to a group of early Christians in the city of Philippi, Paul wrote, ‘ … the peace of God, which transcends (is beyond) all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’

Today, beyond whatever grief you have or hold, may you be blessed by feeling the peace of God in your life. Amen.


April 10th, 2020 - Good Friday


Reflection on Good Friday.

Yesterday, I took the funeral of a friend and retired minister. He had recently celebrated his 90th birthday amongst around 90 friends. In normal times, a wake is also a great celebration of the relationship between friends, family and the deceased, and it’s often said that it should really happen before someone dies and not after - how true! How good it was that the party took place!

None of know the time when we will die.

During Holy Week, Christians follow the final week of Jesus life. When he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he knew what lay ahead. On Good Friday we mark the day of Jesus death. As Christians we know Jesus will be raised but, imagine that Friday when the Jesus had said, ‘It is finished’, he’d been laid in the tomb and the stone rolled shut. That feeling his family and followers must have had. The celebration of passover had become the dark and empty abyss of grief and mourning.

Today, around the world it feels a bit like humanity is stepping into an abyss. Normal life has changed so very much, and we mourn its passing. What will the future be like without the familiar events and landmarks of life as it was?

Jesus had lived bringing the touch of healing, of peace and the possibility of a better future, a touch of heaven, into people’s lives. None of us know what lies ahead but as we step into the future, God’s people trust that God is with us offering a hope of heaven on earth today.

Perhaps that’s why today is Good Friday? At funerals, Christians speak of the love of God that is beyond understanding. Love that is hope in the face of the darkness of death. That’s good, especially on this Friday.

Saturday of Holy Week is a day of wondering and waiting. I wonder what you will think of tomorrow - and if you might put your trust in the hope, given by God, that love will overcome and prevail. What are you waiting for?

May you find hope in your dark times.
May you celebrate the goodness and fulness of life today.
May you be blessed with God’s love, today and always. Amen


April 9th, 2020 - Maundy Thursday


Reflection on John 13:1-17 & 31b-35 - Love one another


In this passage, by washing the feet of the disciples, Jesus assumed the role of a servant.  


Servants were marginally above the status of slaves.  They had few rights and did those tasks society deemed almost the lowest.


Yet, Jesus washed the feet of the disciples.  It would have been shocking and perhaps that’s why no questions are asked, until Jesus washed Simon Peter’s feet.  Simon Peter was the man who always asked the questions others maybe thought about but didn’t ask, spoke out and acted impetuously.  Jesus explained that no one is greater than their master (God) and if the one who is God’s Son (Jesus) set the example of washing the feet of a disciple then who are they not do that for others, not to act similarly as a servant?  


Over the last few weeks, society has realised how much it depends on those who do the jobs no one else seems to want to do.  Suddenly, care workers, rubbish collectors, delivery drivers, shop assistants and so many others are in the spotlight - just who are essential workers?


In verses 13-17 Jesus tells his followers that although they may call him Teacher and Lord, which He is, He is no higher than the servant who washes dirty and dusty feet.  In verses 34-35, Jesus returns to this theme, echoing the words recorded in the Old Testament book of Leviticus (19:18), ‘Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men (all people) will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ 


Today, society and the cultures around the world are becoming increasingly aware that those do the ‘lowliest’ of jobs, those people should be valued just as much as those who do the ‘highest’ of jobs. those who work hard for little recognition or pay are worthy of our respect.  


In this time of confusion, Jesus message again reminds us what really matters, that all people are worthy of respect and should be valued, loved - that’s the lesson God wishes humanity to learn - and act on.  


God bless!



April 5th, 2020 - Palm Sunday

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Matthew 21: 1-11, NRSV


When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,  ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me.  If anyone says anything to you, just say this,  ‘The Lord needs them.’  And he will send them immediately.’ This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

‘Tell the daughter of Zion,

Look, your king is coming to you,

    humble, and mounted on a donkey,

        and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’


The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.  


A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,

‘Hosanna to the Son of David!

    Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!’


When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’

biblegateway.com




Reflection on Matthew 21: 1-11 - Jesus entry into Jerusalem - Pam Sunday


For the last few weeks we’ve been reading and reflecting on the account of Jesus’ story as told by his good friend John.  This week we turn to Matthew’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. 


In this episode are themes that cross over the bridge of time to help us today; 

this reflection is about identity. 


There is no doubt we are living in strange times.  


The NHS is amongst the best set up health care systems in the world and provided a centralised health-care system freely available for all.  There has been contingency planning for such an event as Covid -19.  Spare a thought for those in other countries where this is a dream.


The food supply chain is maintained, education adapting and life re-forming into some sort of new or temporary ‘normal’.  


‘Normal’ now includes restrictions on freedom of movement and realisation we all have personal responsibility for the impact of our action on the lives of others.  It’s as if the clock is turning back to a time when society was happy to queue, to help neighbours and stay at home if you bad cold.  On the other hand, we watch the news and see empty shelves because of panic buying, scrabble over loo-rolls and castigate those out for a walk.  


What does this tell us about our society or culture today?  Is our identity determined by the different groups that make up society (kind of top down), or is it from each individual (bottom up), or a mix / blending of the two?


In the first half of John’s account of Jesus life, which we looked at last week, signs and events point towards Jesus identity as the Messiah, the one who is the saviour, who shows people how God meant people to be, to live, with others in the world.  (There is more, much more, but a short reflection cannot tease out all the meanings of Messiah; nor would a long reflection! )  Each sign or event resulted in a clash with the religious authorities, the Pharisees.


Because he spoke out for compassion and care and against injustice and misuse of power, Jesus had already been threatened with death by the Pharisees of Jerusalem.  By raising  Lazarus, who lived close by, Jesus, almost certainly, signed his own death warrant.  It was love for others, in this case Lazarus, that moved Jesus to this act (John 11: 33) tells us, ‘he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.’  Jesus knew the risks, the implications, of what he was doing but continued regardless.  

According to Matthew, Jesus then entered Jerusalem, on a donkey, surrounding crowds waved palm branches, cloaks and coats, cheered and proclaimed him to be the Son of David (from a royal family line), who came in the name of the Lord (which Lord, Roman overlord, Jewish king Herod Antipas or Jewish Rabbi) and cheered, hooray, much as a crowd would have for the triumphant entry of a liberating lord or a king returning home.  


Who was this Jesus the crowd were cheering?  Jesus identity was the problem.  


The Pharisees had built their identity to be intermediaries between God and God’s people, the Jews.  God’s laws had been given by God to guide the Jewish people in a way of living to show, individually and corporately, concern for others, kindness, care, compassion and love for all.  The Jews should have been an example to the rest of the world but the Pharisees used their manipulated interpretation of law to serve their own interests, giving themselves power and authority over the lives of ordinary Jews.  Within the Pharisees, there was a strong outspoken group able to sway the opinions of the others, or at least to ‘encourage’ the silence of any who disagreed.  Love for and service to others was not at the heart of their lives or being.  Jesus reminded them of who they were not.


The Pharisees cultivated the equivalent of the ‘woke’ culture today where society is divided into those who agree and live by one set of rules and standards and those who don’t.  In this divisive culture, what does our response to Covid-19 tell us about ourselves? 


Too many questions? Maybe, but this time is giving us pause, individually and collectively, to think about our identity, who we really are, how we want to live.  Covid-19 has brought out the best and worst in people - brought out the true identity of individuals and communities.  


Jesus told us he fulfilled the law (Luke 4:21).  This means, Jesus obeyed God’s law, as did the Pharisees, but, unlike the Pharisees, Jesus interpreted the law as God intended, with love, kindness, compassion for others resulting in a network of connectedness and relationships leading to building stronger and better communities.  At the heart of Jesus’ identity is an intentional building of relationships with each other and with God.  


As an alternative to divisiveness, 

may the intentional building of relationships be at the heart of what we each do today.  

May we build stronger and better communities.  

May these communities build a world-wide network of support and love for all, just as God first intended.  Amen



Prayer For a world in need, and a coming together in this time of crisis


It’s not just here, Lord;

it’s everywhere;

this horrible virus seemingly affecting everyone

and everything.

It’s spread across the world,

one moment here,

another there,

nowhere apparently beyond its reach,

so many people in so many countries living now under its shadow,

wondering what the future holds for themselves and their loved ones.

Help me to keep that bigger picture in mind,

rather than turning inwards in narrow self-pity.

Help me to remember the needs of those far afield,

as well as those closer to home;

to think of others,”

“to think of others,

pray for others,

and do what I can to help others,

whether near or far.

So much divides us, Lord –

person from person,

nation from nation –

denying our common humanity.

If nothing else,

may this crisis teach us that we are one world, despite our differences,

and may we learn from it truly to work together,

for the good of all.

Amen.

From: Nick Fawcett. “For Such a Time as This”. Apple Books. 



March 29th, 2020

This reflection is based on John 11, which can be found at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+11&version=NRSV

The death of Lazarus.

While in lockdown it’s great to have something good to read so why not this full story? 


John, the writer of the story, was a close friend to Jesus, and recorded this eye-witness account of an incident most find unbelievable.  How can someone who was dead be brought to new life?


A month ago none of us would have quite believed what we see around us - quiet roads, shops shut, businesses that have stopped trading (hopefully only for now).   This too is quite unbelievable.  Can our lives restart too?


Two thousand years ago, a simple cold or tummy upset, a cut or a scratch could lead to death.  No antibiotics, no anaesthetics or dedicated health service.  Sickness was to be avoided at all costs!  


Today, we assume the health service will cure all ills.  Corona virus has turned this assumption upside down.  NHS workers, who we applauded this past week, know the risks and carry on because of their love, care and concern for others.  They know that their courage and intervention will give the possibility of a better outcome than would have been expected previously.  We thank you.  


We are, however, now aware that sudden death is so much closer that we thought possible. 


With the death of their brother, Martha and Mary grieved the loss of their loved one, and of the way they had lived together as family.  They grieved their change of status and of all the assumptions they’d have made about their future.  Jesus saw all this, felt their pain and grieved with them.


When our way of living dies, we grieve.  Today, we are grieving the loss of physical contact with family and friends; we are grieving the interactions of daily life, shopping, chatting in the tea room, playing together at school; we are grieving our plans for the future and wondering how much we’ve lost.  God sees all this, feels our pain and grieves with us. 


God knows God can offer new life to us, just as God did through Jesus to Lazarus, do we reach out and accept new life?  


Lazarus would live again, but life had changed.  He’d always be known as the man Jesus raised to life, he and his sisters would always be questioned about that experience.


After corona virus, our lives will have changed.  Around the developed world todays generations have, unexpectedly, to come to terms with living with uncertainty thought unbelievable only such a short time ago.  For numerous reasons, past generations lived with uncertainty and many in the developing world still do.  


In years to come, our grandchildren will ask, ‘What did you do during the virus?’  A further question might be, how did you cope, what was your attitude?  


Those who are able to have stepped up, volunteering and helping keep others supplied with shopping and medicine, phoning and checking on neighbours and friends.  We see and experience the strength and support that comes from care and concern for others.  Altruism perhaps but, ultimately, where does that come from?  A question for us all to think about.


The love of God reached out through Jesus and called Lazarus from the tomb to face a new life, full of questions and curiosity.  Perhaps because of the virus we too will face a new life full of questions and curiosity; questions about what really matters in life, were our priorities the right ones, what about our relationships with family and friends, with the environment, the world?  Curiosity about how did we get through this, where did the impetus, the altruism, come from to start up all those support networks, and what will be the long-term implications be of this upset to what we called normal?  


How can someone who was dead be brought to life?  Today the question is how can communities and relationships thought dead be brought to new life?  Through recognition we are all in this together; the realisation that through love care, concern, justice and resetting of priorities, we can all have a new life.  


People of faith recognise and share that God is the genesis of new life.  May you acknowledge God’s blessings in your life, and live with the hope and assurance of a better tomorrow because you find new life today.


Health and sanity my friends, God bless!

Rev Fiona



Prayer 

Loving God, thank you for life,

for all the people who bring joy to our lives, for all the people who make us angry,

for all the people we disagree with, for all the people who love us. 


Life is a wonderful mystery, 

for us to savour. 


Death is a strange mystery,

which leads us into the next phase. 

Facing death, our own or another’s, 

is difficult and something we would prefer to avoid, if we could. 


Grief consumes us at times and makes it difficult to continue to live life to the full. 


Hear our prayers, Lord, 

for the people who are facing their own death today.

For those people who are coming to terms with illness, 

or facing long and difficult treatments or investigations. 

Lord, may they know your presence around them and within. 


Hear our prayers, Lord, 

for the people who are already grieving the loss of a loved one.

For those people caught up in the anger and despair that loss can bring. 

Lord, may they know your presence around them and within. 


Hear our prayers, Lord, 

for the people who care for those at the end of life, in hospitals, hospices and care homes, 

for the doctors and nurses, the health care assistants, the porters and the clerks. 

Lord, may they know your presence around them and within. 


Hear our prayers, Lord, 

for the people who care for people in their homes,

for the staff who travel to their patients and provide a way for people to be at home. 

Lord, may they know your presence around them and within. 


Hear our prayers, Lord, for the people who live in places where there is no NHS, 

where health care is limited and end of life care non-existent. 

Lord, may they know your presence around them and within. 


Hear our prayers, Lord, 

for the people who are forced to provide care themselves for their loved ones,

who struggle to cope with their own feelings and lack of experience. 

Lord, may they know your presence around them and within. 

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers this day. 

Give us patience to await your answers 

and strength to be the answer when you ask it of us. Amen. 

( Spill the Bean, Issue 34, Page 54 )



March 22nd, 2020

This reflection is based on John 9, which can be found at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+9&version=NRSV

Wow has the world changed in the last few weeks and days!  

Something that seems to have started on the other side of the world has spread and is totally changing our lives here.  

We are suddenly realising how interconnected we all are.  


We see our lives and networks in a new light.


In the reading today - 

It’s a long episode, 

but interesting to read of the attitudes of the various people and groups one to the other.  

We read of a man who is blind for no known reason, 

given sight by Jesus, 

trashed and turned out of town by religious leaders 

who can’t cope with this miraculous event; 

Jesus deliberately goes and finds the man to talk to him, 

make sure he’s ok and reassure him. 


Today we are all struggling to explain and cope with the very rapidly changing world around us.  Perhaps this outbreak of the corona virus will never be fully understood, 

but we do know it’s time to deal with events, 

look out for one another,


to support, reassure and encourage one another, 

as Jesus did the man.


There is a huge difference between ‘self-isolating’ and ‘social-distancing’.  

There may be some in society who will ‘self-isolate’ themselves, 

and for some that may be right thing to, 

but for the vast majority of people 

‘social-distancing’ may be the right approach.  


When we isolate we push others away 

only to discover it’s a lonely place to be - 

physically alone, mentally and emotionally too.  

Isolated and disconnected is not good.


Distancing means we keep in touch with one another, 

Making sure each others needs are met, 

making contact by phone or email or social media.  

We remain connected, although at a distance.


The religious leaders of Jesus day sought to socially isolate the man 

because they didn’t understand that the love of God, 

in the person of Jesus, 

was there for all people.  

Jesus saw from a distance what  was needed - 


he found and talked to the man.  

We can’t be physically with each other as we’d like to be 

but we are there for each other at a distance.


May we see the needs of each other, 

may we be there for each other, 

may we see we are all interconnected 

and all in this together.  

May we see that the care and concern we have for each other 

is rooted and grounded in the love of God, 

shown through Jesus Christ 

and nudged into being in each of us through the Spirit.  

God bless.


PS. Happy Mothering Sunday!  May there be cake!


Rev Fiona


Prayer 

It’s hard to understand healing 

when so many are sick.


It’s hard to understand blessing 

when so many are in need.


Yet, God comes to us 

in the midst of sickness, 

in the midst of need, 

in the midst of brokenness.


And God sees us - sees to our very hearts.


And God loves us - loves us to our core.


May our gifts and talents be used for healing.


God, take our hearts and fill them with the love that never ends.  Amen

Based on a prayer from Spill the Beans, Issue 34, Lent, Easter and Pentecost 2020, page 45