Empty

god is deadI have always been quite intrigued by Holy Saturday.
I always try to get inside the scene but it is quite a challenge.
Those disciples did not know Sunday was coming … but we do.
The sheer emptiness that the disciples must have felt is hard to fathom.

This year I have tried to get into this day a little more. The pain of absence and devastation is something I can relate to … but the pain I have experienced must, I think, pale into some form of insignificance when we consider the pain of those first disciples on this first Holy Saturday.

The pain must have been acute, and intense, inducing fear and confusion with masses of ‘what if’ questions and and ‘if only’ with a real unrational desire to pull the clock back to a much earlier time so that things could possibly be made different.

I wrote some words back in 2009 … and forgot about them …. and although they capture something of the day for me … I think they seem pretty hollow 5 years on.

If I could travel back 2000 years maybe I would be thinking…

Today is a day of total devastation
A day that carries a heaviness of heart
A sick feeling in the very depths of my existence
A day where I cannot stop tears flowing
As I search for meaning
Meaning in the face of death
death of the one who was to redeem

How do I pick up from here?
How do I move forward?
There was no plan B
total investment
this was it
finished
empty
dead
gone
.

But as I try to wallow in that …… I see a crack of light ….. because no matter how hard I try …. i do know Sunday is coming …..

but those first disciples
hiding in that room
they didnt …

 

to share it you gotta be it!

imgresBishop Graham Cray preached well this morning at the Chrism Eucharist. I not only liked the fact that he was brief and to the point, reminding us why we do what we do, but also because I think he hit home with quite a subtle comment.

He said something like our role, as church, is to share good news. He then said, ‘but first … before you can share good news … you need to be good news yourselves.

That’s pretty obvious … and I wonder whether the Christian faith is not attractive to lots of people because sometimes…. (just sometimes!!) … Christians look and sound so bloody miserable that people think …. ‘why would I join that lot?’ Ok … I’ll be honest …. it’s true … I know certain Christians that I don’t want to hang out with as they are pretty miserable …. and I’m sure some people think I am sometimes too!

So …. this Easter …. lets not just share the good news of the gospel …. lets think seriously about how we can be good news to those around us.

interruptions

I saw this You Tube clip over at Cool Runnings …. it is definitely worth a watch. The joy on the faces of these ‘two brave ladies’ is something beautiful to behold. The video made me both laugh as well as bring a tear to my eye.

After watching the video my friend asks:

I wonder how much of our lives are “interrupted” because of fear?

I’ve been holding that question throughout my day. I’ve been wondering if too many times or too often I have simply played safe, or worse … not stepped out, not changed, not tried some different ‘something’ out of a fear of what may or may not happen. So I’ve been wondering today …. how much interruption have I had due to fear and worry?

In Matthew 10 Christ says some pretty cool things about fear and worry …. basically that we don’t need to have them! So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” … Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

As we travel with Christ during this Holy Week, ever onwards to the cross of Friday and into the empty disappointed numbness of failure that must have laced that first Holy Saturday … I’m carrying this thought with me ….

it’s all about grace

graceSo ….. we are here again.
Holy Week.
It seems to have come quickly.

Lots of people have said to me … ‘it’s your busy time isn’t it?’ Strangely … despite being ‘available’ to support a few churches I have not been ‘booked’ at all over the Easter period. I’m not complaining, as that does mean I can be available for people who do not cross the church threshold … but nevertheless it will be a little strange not actually leading anything or preaching in a church building this Easter.

Last year I preached and was thinking about vulnerability. I don”t think my outlook has changed much a year on … and the freedom from church stuff this Easter will mean I can stay in this vulnerability state for longer as I hang out in places where people might want to talk. I’ve come to find that there is nothing quite like a festival to get people asking questions. With that in mind I look forward to the pub on Friday evening.

If I am honest …. I am no more than meandering into this Holy Week …. and I meander with a sense of raw vulnerability and fear for what may happen both now, in the immediate future and the long term. I meander with the full knowledge that I am not in control … and in a sense it is right that I am not in control … and not having control means there is a need to trust both God and others …. and that is where I find myself today.

But I do not sit in vulnerability alone.
There is more.
So much more!

If this Holy Week brings anything to my mind … it brings grace.

“Grace sets the Christian faith apart from every other world religion. What is grace? Simply put, grace is God’s unmerited favor. You cannot earn grace; you cannot do anything to deserve grace. It is simply God doing something for you with no strings attached. God’s grace is solely motivated by love: deep, abiding, unconditional, sacrificial love.” Warren Wiersbe

For me … I am seeing more and more than everything … totally everything … comes back to grace. God’s unconditional love and acceptance really is that …. unconditional and total!

Some will try to tell you this Holy Week that you need to jump through certain hoops, believe particular things or behave in specific ways …. don’t believe them … they are wrong …. that’s rules … not grace …

This Holy Week is a good opportunity to focus on grace … that deep abiding unconditional no strings attached love that God has for you … seasoned through the cross, matured through the trip to hell, and available to us through Christ bursting out of the earth …

Holy Week … vulnerability …. grace …. that is all.

falling into God?

DSC_1445So Easter has come and gone, bank holidays are over, lots of people are back at work, or doing other, normal,  things …. and everything seems to have returned to normal.

Or has it? Throughout Easter the Church of England has been using the #everythingchanges on its twitter account. Gimmick … or has it? Or is it simply that nothing changes because the resurrection has already happened …. and so already everything has changed.

Over this Lent and Easter I have managed to get on to the allotment a little bit more (today, for some reason I was one of only two people there as we dug with snow falling around us!). While I have been digging, or tying up raspberry canes, or whatever I have found myself uttering the Franciscan prayer:

Who are you God? And who am I?

Such a simple unassuming prayer that I did not even know that I knew. I must have forgotten as it came from my subconscious to being verbalised somehow. An open ended prayer that asks everything while assuming nothing; and in its very asking invites that charge of ‘everything changes’. As I have dug and contemplated, I think I have learned a little more of God, and a little more of me in my digging. But …. in that mini revelation I have become aware yet again how little I know and how immense God is …. but even more …. how immense I, a creation in his image, must also be.

As I dug today in the snow, I started to understand something of my own significance and validation from the Creator God who ‘knit me together in mothers womb’. Even as I write that my 50% Britishness kicks in and urges me to press and hold the delete button …. but today, for a few moments, as I turned soil, God seemed to sift through my thoughts and re-affirm me as the person he created, approves of, and validates.

And the reason easter is so exciting, so amazing, is that this affirmation is true for everyone. It’s not just me, it’s not just Christians, it’s not just people of faith … it’s every single person who is significant to God. They must be, we must be, if we believe God created us all because “God hates nothing that he has made’. I believe ana wakening to that knowledge, or a remembering of that sentiment that is so easy to forget in the monotony of everyday life, mens that ….. for all of us … everything changes.

I was hit between the eyes this morning as this very prayer was the subject of Richard Rohr’s daily meditation:

Evelyn Underhill claims it’s almost the perfect prayer. The abyss of your own soul and the abyss of the nature of God have opened up, and you are falling into both of them simultaneously. Now you are in a new realm of Mystery and grace, where everything good happens!

falling into God … I think that’s good news …

come … because all are invited

eucharistToday is Maundy Thursday; a day which, for me, over the last 5 or so years has been a day to contemplate, reconsider, and dwell on the whole basis of my faith. In particular on this day I am always drawn to think about what celebrating eucharist is all about.

It’s quite pertinent for me this year as I have already had a number of conversations with around a dozen people which have fallen into two broad categories; one being of whether children should be ‘allowed’ to take part, the other with (Roman) catholic friends about who should be allowed to share.

Both questions shock me really. The first really saying, ‘when do children fully understand?’ To that I answer when do any of us fully understand what God is doing in Eucharist? If, as I heard the other day, a child saying ‘..but I love Jesus just as much as anyone else…’ then surely that understanding is enough. I know that is a simplistic viewpoint, but sometimes simplicity is necessary.

The second question really makes me shiver. This question really talks about people in some form of authority making a judgement; it’s people deciding who is or is not worthy of receiving communion. I think this midset betrays a forgetfulness. A forgetfulness that is missing the fact that this is Christ’s table, and that it is Christ that invites because, actually, none of us are worthy to join Christ around his table. No human can refuse to ‘allow’ someone to come to Christ’s table for it is not us inviting others, but Christ himself.

In the gathering we have started too use this invitation which i have seen versions of flying around in various places, but this is taken from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals:

come to this table
you who have much faith
and you who would like to have more;
you who have been here often
and you who have not been for a long time;
you who have tried to follow Jesus,
and you who have failed;
come.
It is Christ who invites us to meet him here.

In his daily thought today, Richard Rohr shares:

‘The issue is not worthiness; the issue is trust and surrender. It all comes down to “confidence and love,” as Thérèse of Lisieux said.  I think that explains the joyous character with which many celebrate the Eucharist. We are pulled into immense love and joy for such constant and unearned grace. It doesn’t get any better than this!’

Today I shall be walking into the Chrism Eucharist this morning reflecting on this meal, and remembering the immense love, acceptance and grace that welcomes and draws me in … and that that welcome and grace and love is not just for a few, but for everyone.

This Easter time come … because you have a personal invite from Christ himself.

the week in a day

8772172-bread-and-chalice-with-wine-shallow-dof-copy-spaceI had a great day today. Sometimes some days are just a privilege to be part of. Today was one of those days. For 4 hours per week I am chaplain at St Mary Island School. I don’t think I do a lot other than be around and support people who need supporting, but the school seem to be happy with how I work.

Today the school held an RE day on the subject of Easter. The idea was to present the whole of Holy Week through various activities in one day. Each class in the school was timetable to mov from activity to activity – the logistics of this being a massive challenge and I think, Fi, the member of staff that organised this deserves a medal.

In the planning stage I agreed to take on the Thursday of Holy Week and explore the last supper through taste and smell. To try to encourage exploration, and after consultation with Sarah,  I set up two rooms.

In one room we considered Mary washing the feet of Jesus. Beforehand I set up oils burners and a scented candle in the room so that when the pupils entered they were hit with a waft of perfume smell. We used this image to look at and wondered what different people in the painting were thinking. There were some amazing interpretations. FRom this we thought about what was precious to us and what precious thing we might share with those we cared about.

The other room was set up to look at the sharing of the bread and wine. A video clip introduced the subject and then the children, guided ably by Richard and Jamie (thank you) visited different stations involving eating bread, drinking (non alcoholic) wine, as well as other activities to help them focus on some parts of the meaning of the meal, such as giving thanks, remembrance, forgiveness and friendship.

I have been amazed at some of the stuff and insights that the children have come up with, and some of the stuff seems to have challenged the adults to think as well. Today has just been a really exciting day … I foolishly started to think I wouldn’t mind returning to teaching …. but I’ve seen Sarah’s paperwork again so I remembered that I don’t really!

As I said … some days are just a privilege to be a part of  … today was one of those days.

a humble vulnerability

20130325-005318.jpgI preached yesterday on Palm Sunday. It was interesting mulling over Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem while holding onto all the ‘being present’ stuff that I have been considering over the last few weeks.

A friend commented on my post via facebook, pointing out that being present is an act of vulnerability. If we really do want to build relationships and become friends with people, rather than just viewing them as pew fodder (that very thought makes me shiver!) then there is a vulnerability on both sides. There is risk, there is a real possibility of rejection. If we wish to be present with people then we have to be that …. present, available, willing …. and all that means we need to be willing to be close and vulnerable.

On Palm Sunday we see Jesus riding into town on a donkey. I shared in my sermon that at the other side of town at some stage Pilate would have been processing into Jerusalem too, but that his procession would be one of grandeur and pomp with the aim of instilling fear. Jesus, on the other hand, rides in an act of humble vulnerability. Pilate looks to control and intimidate. Jesus looks to be present with the people that he loves. Pilate is fully protected by a powerful army is sits aloft on his horse for all to see. Jesus has no protection, sits on a donkey and is swamped by the crowd. Pilate wants obedience. Jesus wants relationship.  

Relationship means vulnerability and presence but sometimes I think the church has tried to act from a position of detached authority or believed she had some right to warrant respect without question, rather then be present in the mess of reality and genuine lives. That gives a massive challenge to contemplate for this Holy Week; how can we live out a humble vulnerability like that? Is it even possible?

the paschal mystery

Todays meditation from Richard Rohr .. a good way to enter whatever the Tuesday of Holy Week may have for us:

Christians speak of the “paschal mystery,” the process of loss and renewal that was lived and personified in the death and raising up of Jesus. We can affirm that belief in ritual and song, as we do in the Eucharist. However, until we have lost our foundation and ground, and then experience God upholding us so that we come out even more alive on the other side, the expression “paschal mystery” is little understood and not essentially transformative.

Paschal mystery is a doctrine that we Christians would probably intellectually assent to, but it is not yet the very cornerstone of our life philosophy. That is the difference between belief systems and living faith. We move from one to the other only through encounter, surrender, trust and an inner experience of presence and power.

In other words … we need to live it out in our normal everyday lives!

the easter gathering

Easter has been an amazing time … busy and amazing.
I have been involved in masses of conversations centred around the meaning of things like Maundy Thursday foot-washing, resurrection – conversations that have been made up of lots of questions and interest.

A highlight of Easter for myself was the gathering on Easter morning. At 5am I left the house to set up bbq’s on the beach at Upnor. At about 530 other people from the gathering started to arrive and before long there were 18 of us gathered to watch the sun rise and remember the joy of the resurrection of Jesus.

As daylight was breaking we had a time of confession by throwing pebbles into the water, symbolising Christ taking our sins away for ever. After listening to the easter accounts Emily led us in a time of discussion as all were given different parts in the tory and argued over where the body had gone. Some were cast as thieves, some as disciples, others as Jewish leaders and others as Romans. This worked really well and there was something very powerful about being led in this why by one of our amazing young people.

Following this we ate fish freshly cooked on the bbq (John 21) and drank bucks fizz before moving into sharing eucharist together.

As this was happening alongside the calm and quietness of the shore the sun rose and bathed us in light as may be seen in the photos here. As this was happening someone shared what they were noticing:

‘as the sun rises we can see that it shines on some places while other places are still in darkness … but as time goes on the sun shines on everyone and all feel it’s warmth’.

I thought that was a great image to carry through Easter Day.

Thank you everyone that was there … all of us together made this a very special day.