Tag Archives: hope

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 4: Thursday Matthew 22:34-40

A sideways look at the pain and privilege of loving and being loved.

The Great Commandment

The first time was unexpected
I thought it was a one-off
But now  …
One after another the burdens come
Crowding in
Jostling, fighting for attention.
Each heavier than the last

Everywhere I turn
Need
Hunger
Despair

I bring it all to
You
Offer it all to
You
Increasingly
You
Give it back,
You
Offer it to me to
Carry for a
Time

A compliment, I’m told
A sign of
Your trust
A reward for a job well done
Or at least for a job
Done

Some reward!!!

And yet
And yet

With the
Burden comes
Blessing,
To bear the
Pain brings
Privilege

Not privilege as the world would understand it
No Nobel prize here!
No accolades
No public praise
No medals
No honours
No glory…
No, the glory goes to others and
Ultimately to
Him,
To the ultimate
Source

Instead,
Privilege far greater than any the world could bestow
Privilege beyond measure
Priceless treasure
Privilege of sharing in the
Hard, heavy work of
Redemption
Privilege of entering
Daily
Hourly
Moment by moment
Deeper into the
Mystery of the
Cross

Experiencing from within the
Depth
Height
Breadth
Of the love of
Christ
Christ who said
“I love you”
Christ
Who opened His arms wide and said
“I love you this much” as He
Died
Christ
Who rose to new life
Christ who raises us to new life
Christ who loves with
Boundless love
Who said “go, love others like that”

Living in the ocean of His love
We also are
Healed
Who bring
Healing to
Others
And this is
Glory enough

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.

Fourth Sunday of Advent: Matthew 1:18-25

Emmanuel

In heart of clamour
Silence grows
In midst of turmoil
Peace flows
Beyond all logic
God draws near,
Takes on our flesh –
Christ is here.

Rest for the weary,
For hatred, love.
For sin, forgiveness,
For warfare a dove.
Hope for despair,
Comfort for grief
For sorrow, joy –
Such sweet relief
When dawns the Dayspring
On our sight,
Dispersing gloom,
Bringing light.

The King is born –
We own His sway,
Kneel in homage
On this His day.
Thoughts are stilled
Words fall away.
Gaze in awe
In silence pray
Before the Babe
Asleep on hay
Emmanuel

Week 3: Saturday Matthew 27:27-38

This passage came as a shock.

Wright’s commentary gave new insights – I’d never before made the conscious connection between the Sermon on the Mount and the events surrounding the crucifixion, although I’d always seen in the crucifixion narratives a deep integrity with all that Jesus lived and taught up to that point.

Powerlessness. That’s the word that sprang to mind as I read the penultimate paragraph on p89 of the book where Wright ponts out that similar atrocities continue to happen and asks what our response is.

Powerlessness.

Jesus, who had demonstrated such authority and power over sin, guilt, sickness and even death, was in this moment powerless – this is, above all, the moment when he, “though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2)

Powerlessness.

The disciples looking on could do nothing – the full might of the occupying forces was ranged against their Lord and Master, and would crush them instantly, like an insect underfoot, if they gave any sign at all that they objected.

Powerlessness.

Maybe above all, the powerlessness of his mother.
Mary, who had born him in her womb for 9 months, facing herself the possibility of condemnation and rejection for her “immorality” (an angel?? the Holy Spirt??? yeah, right… who does she think she’s kidding???).
Mary, who had nurtured him as only a mother can, held him to her breast, watched over his development, disciplined him when, an unthinking adolescent, he caused her and Joseph heart-lurching anxiety when they couldn’t find him following his Bar Mitzvah.
Mary, who had looked on as he left the carpenter’s bench to which he’d been trained by Joseph and began to wander the country – claiming, at one point when she and her other sons came to speak with him, that all the needy people crowding around him were his family.
Mary, who had given her life to love, cherish, nurture this precious gift from God.
Mary, now powerless to mitigate the suffering of the man who was once the baby inside her womb.

Powerlessness.

Ours, as we look around our deeply troubled world today.
There seems so little we can do – and certainly we are powerless to change the big picture.
Ours, as we watch those near and dear to us suffer physically and psychologically.
Ours, as our own bodies begin to fail or develop life-limiting conditions.
Ours, as our nearest and dearest or indeed ourselves, approach the end of life.

How do I respond to the cross? How does it touch my life?
It proves beyond doubt that God is in all things – including the unspeakable, the unthinkable.

This is Incarnation.

God in all things?

Truly?

Is God in all things?

A beautiful sunset, a sleeping child,
A rose in bloom, a mother’s smile…
A father’s strong hand, a lover’s caress,
A hug from a friend, my deepest distress…

Hold it right there! What’s that I just heard?
My deepest distress? When the sun is obscured
And the lightning strikes, the tsunami floods in
Sweeping all life away – or so it seems…?
When grief shreds my heart, when my body is wracked
With pain, when for lust a child is attacked?
When I’m sinking in mire, when I can’t find firm ground,
When all hope is lost, when the darkness surrounds…

Is God in all things?
Is God truly in all?
Is God?
Dare I say it?
Is God at all?

Is God in my doubting, my darkness, my fear?
Or does God hide away when the fog fails to clear?
Does God simply watch from the side-lines, wait
For the act of destruction which settles my fate?

Is God in the darkness?
Is God truly in all?
Is God?
Dare I say it?
Is God at all?

A child in a manger,
A refugee flight,
A victim of prejudice,
Sought out by night
For fear of the others –
Yet offering sight
For the blind, healing, hope
For those life leaves behind…
A man in a courtroom,
Falsely accused…
A whipping, a taunting,
Face battered and bruised
By a crown of thorns
Pressed down on his brow…
As he hangs on a tree
Is God in all things now?
If not now, then never…
At this moment of death,
Of defeat, the man says
With his last gasping breath
“Into your hands, my Father, my God, I commend
My spirit” – and still the night had no end
As darkness encompassed the earth at noon,
As the sun was obscured, earthquake rumbling on.
Grief, despair, darkness had won the day.

Until three days later the stone rolled away…

Yes, God is…
In darkness as well as in light
Yes, God is in all things,
In both day and night.
As I face the tsunami of life I proclaim
That God is in all things,
In both joy and pain.
Yes, God is…

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.