Journeying toward Palm Sunday

Monday 19th March– Saturday 24th March

 

If you can light a candle then do so to remind you that God is present.

Be still.

Be quiet.

Listen.

Receive.

 

God of time and space,

at this point I focus on your presence here and now.

May this pause be a moment

to ponder your nearness

and your guidance.

Amen.

Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place. With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to me? The Lord is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in mortals.

Psalm 118.4-8

 

Walking with God is easier said than done.

The walk is tougher than the talk: the sun beats down upon us, or the wind lashes at our face. At times the very thought of pressing on may seem too much for us.

We are tempted to abandon the journey; after all, pulling in for a break can surely do no harm. Surely we can pick up where we left off? On occasions we are lucky, we can catch up.  But sometimes we are left feeling that we have missed our chance.

Such is God’s enduring love for us that no one be left behind. God not only journeys with the pilgrim but restfully waits with the faithful.

 

I heard the voice of Jesus say:

Come unto me and rest;

Lay down O weary one, lay down

Your head upon my breast.

Horatius N. Bonar (1808-1889)

 

 

God of reassuring presence, God of exacting love,

God of knowing, God of patience,

You hear us and pull up alongside us,

waiting until we are ready to press on.

Help us to hold on,

to draw breath

and, if need be, to let others do the praying. Amen

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Grains

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

John 12.24,25

To let go of something precious goes against common wisdom: it doesn’t seem natural. Our experience of life has led us to hold on to the things we value and love. After all, we may never know when we would get them back, if at all. So we cling tight.

The Gospel often contradicts the way things have become. To us it is shocking in its teaching and presents the possibility of radically changing our practices.

‘If you love something: set it free. If it comes back: it is yours. If it doesn’t: it never was.’ This modern proverb was sent to someone who had just experienced a relationship breakdown. To receive it was tough at the time. But as the months passed how true it became. The reality finally sank in.

 

In loss and gain, gain and loss,

Your love is unwavering.

In giving and receiving, receiving and giving,

Your provision is more than ample.

In living and dying, dying and living,

Your life endures. Amen.

 

 

 

If you can light a candle then do so to remind you that God is present.

Be still.

Be quiet.

Listen.

Receive.

 

God of time and space,

at this point I focus on your presence here and now.

May this pause be a moment

to ponder your nearness

and your guidance.

Amen.

 

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. Jeremiah 31.33,34

If you were to seek advice, to whom would you go? Someone who readily agrees with you? Or someone who would tell you straight? Consider taking advice from someone to whom you would not normally approach: what would you have to lose? Would your views be better informed? Might they gain something from your approach? Would the relationship change?

What is Church? A group of people in whom all have a very similar outlook on life? And agree on their faith? On their style of worship? Some of the most ‘successful’ churches are ‘club-like’. But the Church is not called to be ‘successful’; success is based on effort, stress even. However, the goal of the Church is to be effective, born in weakness, grounded in humility and ever open to the prophetic stranger.

Knowing God leads us to see God in others. Recognising God in our neighbour, especially the one with whom we are not familiar, broadens our vision and deepens our love.

 

Desmond Tutu spoke to a class of children. He told them that God had rescued us from slavery and as a consequence we should worship God and behave responsibly towards others. Asking the children what this meant one put his hand up and replied that God had said “I saved your bum, so now you go and behave.”

 

 

To those we overlook, may our eyes turn.

To those for whom we are deaf, may our ears open.

In those about us may we find God. Amen.

 

 

DSC_0174 

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.

John 3.19-21

Populist politicians have again come to the fore in the Western World. They identify with the disenchantment of the electorate and appeal to emotions with quick and naïve ‘solutions’. This situation fills many with dread, especially those who have read and learnt from history. We might even claim there is a battle going on between light and dark.

The belief in something outside the earthly realm, yet One who is deeply committed to healing the world of its wounds, activates us. Our imagination is fuelled by the possibility of something better. No matter how tough the fight, no matter how long is the war to be waged, it is a battle worth committing to. We may not see the outcome of all our actions but we can be content in the knowledge that our contribution has been significant.

 

Eternal Light,

Paternal and Maternal,

having birthed our faith You inspire and nurture us,

You defend, with us, the causes that are right and just.

You fight alongside us, so that together,

we will defeat those who seek to destroy your sovereign rule.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Journeying toward Lent 4

Monday 5th March– Saturday 10th March

 

 

If you can light a candle then do so to remind you that God is present.

Be still.

Be quiet.

Listen.

Receive.

 

God of time and space,

at this point I focus on your presence here and now.

May this pause be a moment

to ponder your nearness

and your guidance.

Amen.

 

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Numbers 21.4,5

 

 

‘Eat your food! Stop complaining!’

How many of us grew up with these instructions?

‘Accept your lot. Things could be worse.’

It’s not always easy to hear such words. They may add to our woes and might feel justifiably more aggrieved.

What will you complain about today? Will you be justified? After all, there is a degree of discontentment about life, even for those who live in relative luxury.

We only seem to appreciate what we had when it’s taken from us. But we can’t go back. We are where we are.

Consider the God who provides sufficient for all our needs. Seek what blessings there are even in the midst of the grumbles.

 

I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining. I believe in love, even when I cannot feel it. I believe in God, even when he is silent.

Graffiti on the wall of a Cologne cellar

in which Jews had hidden during the Holocaust

 

From complacency – deliver us.

From the incessant carping – forgive us.

From that which diminishes us – lead us.

Amen.

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Temple Steps, Jerusalem

 

Lent 3 Sunday 4th March

When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone. John 2.23-25

 

It’s easy to believe when there is ample evidence; or when there is plenty of razzmatazz; less so when all seems quiet. Yet the seed grows in the dark.

Jesus does not trust himself with those who look for a show, with those who base their faith on flamboyance. Impressive though his actions may be, impressive too the impact the faithful may have on the world, or even the patient, long-term commitment of the disciple, but the ones who base their convictions on certainty are soon disappointed.

It is mystery and uncertainty, wrestling with dilemma and doubt that transform the soul from self-interest to service, from pride to that open humility which is the most infectious.

 

You turn the tables of those who had missed the point.

In the loss of certainty and the ensuing chaos,

may we realise our errors and our need for something different;

so that we journey from the desire to know,

to a place of willing trust. Amen.