Tag Archives: Incarnation

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.

 

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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.

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

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.

 

 

 

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: 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.