Tag Archives: choice

Week 4: Saturday (aka Christmas Eve! yay!) Matthew 28:16-20

What goes around comes around.
Child in the manger
Innocent peace
Sleeping so soundly
Not knowing the danger
From Herod’s police
Pursuing him roundly
Already authorities
see him as threat
Yet still he sleeps calmly

As he grows older
At mother’s knee
Learns of his Father
Now enters manhood
Clearly we see
As crowds now gather
Here’s a man speaking
with authority

Touches the leper
Gives sight to the blind
Hope to the hopeless
Never unkind
To those who are needy,
Who come for his aid.
Forgiving the guilty,
Says “don’t be afraid”

Authorities now feeling
threatened indeed
their power is challenged
As he meets the need
For love, for forgiveness,
For healing, release
From fears that disable –
To all he brings peace

Around him disciples
are blind to the signs
of the times.
Though walking beside him,
Alone now he strides on
to certain destruction
for other men’s crimes

He hangs on a cross now
In great agony
Centurion looks up
At man on the tree
This foreign invader
Is first one to see
“surely oh surely
this can only be
The Son of God”.

Why?
‘Cos unlike the usual kinds that hang close to death
This one, far from cursing, with his dying breath
Says “Father, forgive”.
Nothing if not consistent.

Disciples are gathered in fear in the dark
Fearing they’ll be the next one.
Women determined to care for their Lord
Head off at the rise of the sun
Expecting a closed tomb, to their deep dismay
the tomb is now open, the stone rolled away.
weeping and wailing, expressing their grief
the voice of an angel now offers relief:
“He’s not here – he’s risen! now run, tell the rest”
But Mary remains, sobs still racking her breast.
Still not understanding, she asks of the man
She thought to be gardener “Please tell, if you can,
Oh where have they taken him? where lies he now?”
He speaks but one word
“Mary”
She sees him at last
“Rabboni”

Now forty days later, on mountain-top high
The man who now lived though they’d all seen him die
Leaves them once more, he’ll not be seen again –
But first sets in motion unstoppable chain
Reaction

“You’ve heard me teach,
Seen me reach out to all
Now one last commandment
I give you – I call
you to take on the mantle
of Love.”

And that is how God’s Kingdom rule
is even now, through me and you,
by power of Spirit shared with all.

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Week 4: Tuesday Matthew 6:16-24

Just five days before what is traditionally the biggest blow-out of the year in our over-commercialised Western celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, our reading begins with the three words “When you fast”.

Not if – when.

Fasting isn’t a fashionable discipline.
Come to that, discipline isn’t a fashionable concept.
In particular self-discipline and self-denial fly in the face of the current Zeitgeist.
I suspect the decline of discipline, in that sense, began
around the time that your flexible friend took the waiting out of wanting. Any of you remember that?access1978_85c

We are challenged in this passage to live by another standard.

Not “I’m on a sea-food diet. I see food and I eat it.”
Not “I’m entitled – why should I wait?”
Not “I’ve worked hard – I deserve to splurge on ……. (insert indulgence of choice)”
Not “My happiness depends on owning the latest piece of technology” (despite what the adverts would have you believe)

No.
The challenge of Jesus is summed up in those first three words – “When you fast“.

What Jesus is not saying is that it is inherently wrong to have nice things or to enjoy nice things. Remember – he liked going to parties – even provided the best wine they’d ever tasted. So go ahead – enjoy your Christmas feast.
Just don’t make the consumption of things the main goal of your life.
The discipline (that word again) of the Christian year includes two seasons of fasting – Advent and Lent.
Two seasons of putting the wait back into wanting (unless of course you succumb to mince pies in October and Hot Cross Buns in January  winking-smiley)

Fasting isn’t just going without food or alcohol.
Fasting is about priorities.
It’s about putting prayer – simply being in the presence of God – higher up the list than anything else.
It’s about not allowing your appetites to rule your life.
It’s about allowing God to rule your life.
It’s about discipline – remaining steadfast in prayer for our broken, hurting world including the perpetrators of the latest atrocities as well as giving thanks for all that contributes to building God’s kingdom .
It’s about being Christ to the world by the power of the Spirit.
It’s about building the kingdom of God.

 

 

 

For all who are not yet ready for Christmas…

Christmas is coming…

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat…
Time to go out shopping for the tinsel tat.
Don’t forget the turkey, the pudding and the cake –
Better buy the mince pies, there’s no time left to make…
Stilton, cheddar, camembert, brie and Roquefort too –
Better get some port and whisky, red wine, white and – phew!
‘most forgot the stuffing, brandy butter, clotted cream –
And walnuts and pistachios, almonds, pecans also seem
Essential for the feast, with salmon, smoked, and sausage rolls.
But where, in all this great long list, is succour for our souls?
…..
All this to celebrate the birth
of He Who made the universe
yet left His throne and came to us,
was born in poverty?
How can we feast when others starve?
When prisoners still aren’t freed?
When sick still suffer, can we laugh
And dance and shout with glee?
Why, yes, we can – for so He did,
At weddings and at feasts.
And we rejoice for He has come
For all of us, not just for some,
To cleanse and heal and bring release
And calls us now to share our feast,
Our riches, with all those who still
Are captive, sick and hungry.
…..
For still He comes to earth, is born
In humble places – hearts so torn,
And binds and heals and brings release
And calls us on to share His peace,
To feed the hungry, heal the lame,
To give, and never be the same
As all the tinsel-tangled world.
And so His standard is unfurled
And flies above the dirt and shame
And through us others hear His name
And the whole world will be aflame
With Love come down at Christmas.

Week 3: Friday Matthew 18:21-35

Forgiveness.

In the face both of unspeakable atrocities in the world – the grand-scale ones we witness in the news and the hidden personal ones of abuse, cruelty, simple unkindness – I offer you these two poems, which begin to explore the Mystery at the heart of the Gospel – the response of Love to unspeakable, unthinkable darkness and destruction.

 

Justice

“Love, love, love”… the music croons eternal truth
“love, love, love”… the hopeful zeitgeist of my youth
“love, love, love”… all-pervading sentiment
“love, love, love… love is all you need”

The years roll by
Bring sorrow and joy
Hope and despair
But always there
In the background…
“love, love, love… love is all you need”

And down the years
Love becomes
Warped
Twisted
Sullied
The word used to
Abuse, to
Accuse.
Pain unending
Clouds my days
I become
Scapegoat
For the sins of others
Bearing the unbearable.
Guilty for being.
Until
At last I hear
God’s whisper in my heart
At last I hear
His verdict –
“Not guilty!”
“Never guilty!”
“Innocent victim!”
Then
At last
My heart cries out,
My soul screams out for
Justice!

And on that day
I turn to
Christ my King
I petition
Christ my King
For
Justice.
Not for
Vengeance
But for
Justice

And Christ my King
Hears my cry
Says
“Rise up! Stand tall!
Your petition is granted.
You shall have the justice you seek.”
And I know that
Christ my King
Never lies
Christ my King
Never dies
Christ my King
Will look them in the eyes
And they will know
They will know
They will know
What they have done
To me and so to Him
And I know that
Christ my King
Will judge them
Christ my King
Will pronounce their guilt
Christ my King
Will pass sentence
Christ my King
Will open wide His arms,
Show them His wounded hands,
Speak to them words of
Forgiveness and healing
Pass His sentence of Love

For that is the
Justice
He bought
And that is the
Justice
I sought.
For
Christ my King
Reigns supreme,
Reaches out His wounded hands,
Gathers me to His wounded side,
Heals my wounded heart,
Breathes His truth into my soul –
“Love, love, love… love is all you need –
My love”

Father, forgive

Crown of thorns on piercèd head
Eyes dark with pain, deep wells of dread
Knowing too well what lies ahead –
To hang on cross until He’s dead.

On mountaintop with vision vast
The choice was made, the die was cast
He nailed His colours to the mast,
Chose God – and still to God holds fast.

Now nails will bind Him to the tree
A banner raised for all to see
He hangs and dies in agony
By cruel death to set us free

He trusted God – now God is gone
What price now faith? He hangs alone
There’s naught but pain – temptation strong
To curse, deny, hate – not atone

And yet, though blind with blood and tears
He conquers hate, He quells His fears
“Father Forgive” rings in our ears
His cry still echoes down the years

For we make the same choice as He,
Embrace God’s way on bended knee
To live, love, die to set all free
And “Father, forgive” is still our plea

For we, like Him, must bear the weight
Of others’ pain, uncalled-for hate –
Yet still to pray “Father, forgive”
That Christ in us may help them live,
To find in Him their own true state
As by His grace love recreates
What was destroyed by evil’s might –
That darkness may give way to light

And though it seems too hard to do,
With strength nigh gone, resources few –
Yet He who died in agony
Now lives in us, empowers, that we
May live, love, give – and give some more
Drawing on His unending store
Of grace, of love, of life divine
Grafted in Him, the One True vine.

Week 3: Thursday Matthew 12:15-21

Gentleness and patience – that’s what today’s passage speaks to my heart.

We are quick to justify ourselves, to confront those who seek to undermine us, to stand out ground, to fight our corner, to be assertive, to win the argument.

That’s not what Jesus does when personally threatened.
He withdraws.
And here’s a thought… in the context of the situation, who are the damaged reeds and the guttering lamps? Surely not his disciples, nor the crowds following him for healing. No. Those who need time and space and opportunity to grow strong and tall again, to burn straight and true, are surely the religious leaders – those who are currently plotting against him.

We look at those who seek to do us down and see an enemy who needs to be fought and subdued.
Jesus looks at those who seek to do him down and sees someone who is broken and in need of healing.
We are impatient for idiots to realise their stupidity.
Jesus quietly continues to live out the truth of the Kingdom, giving time for the broken ones to realise their own need and come to him for healing. As some of them did.

Peace in conflict.
Hope in despair.
Courage in danger.
Faith in doubt.
God of paradox and miracle.

And what of us?
We bring our brokenness to him for healing.
We live out our own lives true to kingdom rules, regardless of societal norms – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, releasing the prisoner, sending blankets to refugees, accepting the stranger into our community.

Week 3: Wednesday Matthew 9:18-26

If only…

Shunned through no fault of my own
Ostracised, left on my own
Twelve long years since I could be
Living in community

Barred from Temple worship
Food I touch unfit to eat
Others shun me, fear me
Avoid me in the street
Loneliness my clothing
Shame my daily meat

Hopelessness embraces me
Until… until… there comes the day
When news arrives of One who heals
Hitherto death-bringing ills
Touching even lepers

He seems to have no fear of taint
Never speaks words of complaint
Never turns a need away
Always welcomes, day by day
Sick in body, mind or soul –
Touches them and makes them whole

If I wait ’til He comes here
Then I’ll never be let near
Folk’ll know that I’m unclean
I don’t want to make a scene
So I’ll go to Him, away
From those who see me day by day
And just for once, I’ll push my way
Through the crowds – they’ll never know
I shouldn’t be there. As they flow
Around me, I’ll just touch his hem
No need to trouble Him – and then
I’ll quietly slip away

That was my plan – but now it seems
My plans are just the stuff of dreams
I’ll swear I only touched his hem –
So how was it He knew?

For in that moment, He turned round
The crowd was hushed – never a sound
Until he spoke “My daughter, know
That you are well” and it was so

All those years of self-effacement
Swept away – no self-abasement
Now for me – I’ve been set free
Cleansed by His boundless purity


I also offer you this background to today’s readings


And for those amongst you who are Pratchett fans (naming no names Graham and Rachel Hartland) I find myself thinking of Granny Weatherwax – the only person to be bitten by a vampire and not become one herself. Oh, she had a bit of an internal battle… but then instead of her craving blood, the vampires who’d drunk her blood found themselves, strangely, craving a nice cup of tea!
That’s what happens when our impurity touches and is touched by the purity of Jesus. Our impurity is transformed into purity and we belong. We belong to Jesus’ in-group which consists, in case you haven’t noticed, of the entire world.
He is the light that lightens everyone who comes into the world.
He said that when He was lifted up He would draw all to Himself – and by implication to God.

My brothers, my sisters – today may you all know that you belong.
My brothers, my sisters – today may all whom you meet know through you that they belong.

Lord Jesus, I come to you just as I am.
Needing healing of body, mind, spirit.
Thank you that as I reach out to you, you are already reaching out to me
Enfolding me in your arms
Wiping every tear from my eye
As I step into today, strengthen me with your strength
Fill me with your love
And as daily I am more and more broken by life,
May your love in me flow ever more freely to all whom I meet
May I become your eyes, ears, feet, hands, heart in this broken world.
Amen.

Week 3: Monday Matthew 8:14-22

I can’t make any sense of Wright’s commentary today.
The words seem to be, as it, were, jumping up and down on the page and re-ordering themselves into random syllables.

Come to that, most of my brain-cells seem to be doing the same thing.
So here are some random responses to the passage itself, as they strike me.
And I offer you this as the widow offered her mite and as the little boy offered his packed lunch to Jesus when 5,000 were hungry – all I have. If there is any blessing for you in my thoughts, then that’s up to the One who takes and blesses and breaks and distributes our meagre offerings.

  • Jesus’ encounter with Peter’s mother-in-law was, in a way, random. She didn’t go to him and ask for healing. Peter didn’t ask Jesus to heal her. They simply went to the house and according to another, slightly fuller, gospel account found,   instead of dinner on the table, the cook in bed poorly.
  • Jesus reached out and touched her – not what I do when faced with a sneezing/ coughing pupil… I keep my distance!
  • Her healing was immediate and absolute.
  • Jesus healed all who were sick or demon-possessed (probably mentally ill in today’s understanding).
    • a question I can’t answer – why doesn’t Jesus heal all who are sick today? I’ve heard it argued that healing isn’t the same as curing – but in the gospels there is no such distinction. My brain is fuzzy (along with quite a raft of physical symptoms which, according to two different weekend out-of-hours medics, cause serious concern when taken together, so seeing emergency GP later for urgent referrals for procedures to try to find out why) so I can’t get my head round this at the moment. All help welcome.
      • I would add that, as I sit in silence before God these past few days when the symptoms have really begun to rack up, thought is impossible. Prayer is being in the Presence of Being, utterly as I am with the mental fog and physical neuropathy. And somehow, at a level far beyond thinking or feeling, I’m being granted a deep, deep knowing and the gentlest of shifts in perception – eyes opened to see God in all things, one thing at a time.
  • Two potential followers – the same response from Jesus. How say? they appear to be different….
    • to the over-enthusiastic one – a word of warning and of challenge. “Make sure you know what you’re offering – following Me won’t be easy or comfortable. It’ll strip all your security from you.”
    • to the reluctant one – a word of warning and of challenge also. “You call me Master… but you’re living as if I’m only 2nd in line, other priorities come first. Which is it? Am I truly your Master? choose…”

There you are. That’s my offering for today. As someone who’s used to having an extremely active and sharply analytical brain, this brain fog is disturbing. And yet, and yet… the cessation of the usual fizzing-over mental activity which has always been my lot is bringing a kind of peace. And in the absence of earthquake, wind and fire I am more aware of the still, small voice soothing and comforting.