Tag Archives: despair

Freedom?

crucifixion

There he is – hanging there,
crying words of deep despair
“my God, why have you gone?”
…..
What lay behind that cry of pain?
He’d lived and loved, he’d healed and prayed.
He’d sought to do his Father’s will,
to serve God all his life until the bitter end – and then,
At hour of deepest, darkest need
“Forsaken!”
…..
This man had stilled the raging storm,
fed thousands with a young boy’s snack.
He’d raised a dead man from the tomb –
when lashes tore him front and back
why did he not speak a word
of power?
…..
The voice that whispered in his ear
That day in wilderness, so clear –
“just claim your birthright, Son of God
take the short-cut, Son of God
ignore your Father’s will”
Surely that voice rang out again
as now his body, wracked with pain,
hung bleeding, dying on the cross.
He heard the man beside him say
“why don’t you just walk away?
Prove that you’re the Son of God –
or was it all a lie?”
…..
The sense of unity he’d known
with God his Father – “we are one”
was, in his hour of deepest need,
gone.

He could have simply walked away
but chose to stay.
And this is why I love this man –
this God who chose, despite the pain,
the agony – chose to remain
with us,
with me.
…..
When all is dark, when faith is gone,
when pain controls each thought
when hope is done, when light goes out
when any sense of God is nought
then look I upon the cross
and live.

 

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 2: Saturday Matthew 26:69-75

Am I the only one who hears a strong streak of condemnation in some of Wright’s commentaries?
A kind of conditional proclamation of the Good News?
Not to mention speculation and supposition regarding motives and responses presented in authoritative tone, such as makes them seem the way to read the text?
Maybe it’s just me…

Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s my alternative take on what might have been going on.

Peter was struggling to make sense of the incomprehensible.
He, like all the others, including Judas, still didn’t get it – that the Kingdom was indeed coming, but not in the way that generations of Jews had believed it would.
Finally, faced with the reality he saw – Jesus arrested, taken before the High Priest, accused of blasphemy… there was only one way this could end.

So he fell apart.
Denied the man he loved, the man he’d thought was the Messiah.
Wept for the betrayal of hope he felt as well as for the words of betrayal he’d spoken.
Wept the deep, deep sobs of grief for the deepest of losses – the loss of faith, of hope.

Judas was likewise struggling to make sense of the incomprehensible.
He also didn’t get it – that the Kingdom was indeed coming, but not in the way that generations of Jews had believed it would.
Maybe, in his case, he thought betraying Jesus would finally push Jesus into making the display of power that would prove to all that he is the Messiah.
That plan backfired when Jesus submitted, Ghandi-style, to the soldiers.
In his utter despair at the apparent failure of his grand plan, Judas also wept – but not tears. He wept blood – his own blood as he went out and hanged himself.

Because I’m sorry, I don’t buy it – Wright’s theses that tears indicate genuine repentance and suicide indicates only remorse.
All I can say is that Wright must never have felt the urge to kill himself.

Finally, it simply isn’t as simple as the black-and-white examples Wright gives of choices to deny, or otherwise, Jesus with the words we speak, which is the focus, it seems, of his closing points.

Life is full of shades of gray.
Of choices between the bad and less bad.
What if the soldiers are threatening to rape and kill my daughter before my very eyes if I don’t tell them the hiding place of my son?
such situations arise – although, please God, such extreme choices will never be ours to make.

This passage, and our own failures and betrayals of God-in-others and also, at times, of God-in-ourselves, let alone God-to-others, are unendurable taken in isolation.

Lord, have mercy. Open our eyes and hearts to know you as Emmanuel – God with us.

Week 4: Friday Matthew 22:1-14

First, a point of interpretation, and to clarify

I’ve always understood the following to be the case:

“The framework of the parable probably presupposes the Oriental custom of providing garments for the guests who were invited to a royal feast. Wardrobes filled with many thousand garments formed part of the wealth of every Eastern prince, and it was part of his glory to bring them out for use on state occasions. On this assumption, the act of the man who was found “not having a wedding garment” was one of wilful insult. He came in the “filthy rags”  of his old life, instead of putting on the “white linen” meet for a kingly feast which had been freely offered him.”

Which puts a whole new slant on the King’s anger.

“Wilful insult”.

So – thought for the day.

Choices have consequences.
If I wilfully choose to live in a way which is not in accord with the kingdom, I am wilfully choosing exclusion.
Teachers frequently have that kind of conversation with pupils… putting the responsiblity for their behaviour and its consequences firmly on the shoulders of the pupil.  See Graham Hartland’s post mentioning the direct correlation between effort in and results out.

Question for the day – from what today will I repent? or to what will I repent?

Prayer for the day – “Lord, the evil that I would not, that I do, and the good I would do, that I do not. Have mercy on me.”

Week 2: Monday Matthew 3:11-17

Think outside the box

think-outside-the-box_o_2066109

Jesus calls us out of the box.
Jesus calls us to live in freedom, not under law.
Jesus calls us to live in love, not judgment.
Jesus calls us to live in hope, not fear.

We try to put him in the box – the box of theology, of doctrine, of tradition, of “correct understanding”.

John the Baptist had his own preconceptions and Jesus surprised him by not stepping into that box.

Too often, churches attempt to put people into their particular theological box – Evangelical, Catholic, Charismatic, Dispensational, …………….. (insert box-label of choice).

A change of image:

fish-jump

The bowl offers safety of a kind – but not freedom.
The ocean offers freedom – but not safety.

Which do we choose?

Enjoy the swim…