Tag Archives: waiting

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: 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: 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.

Week 1: Saturday Matthew 26:36-46

This story, together with what happened the following day, is for me the core of the incarnation.

God fully entering into what it is to be human.
God fully partaking of our deepest darkness.
God sharing to the full our despair.
God knowing what it is to be alone in pain.
God knowing what it is to be at the end of our tether.

And that’s just Gethsemane – at Calvary, God enters the experience of utter abandonment by God.

We still experience those things.
People we love still experience those things.
Strangers on our TV screens still experience those things.

But the incarnation is God saying to us (and by “us” I mean everyone who has ever lived)
“I’ve been there – done that – got the T-shirt… and what’s more I’m still there, doing that, wearing the T-shirt because I’m in you in the shit. Most of all when the shit is in your eyes, ears, heart and you can’t see, hear, feel me – then most of all”

So today I offer you this as a token of Incarnation when it really matters:

Meltdown

 In the soft silence
A man weeps
In the gathering gloom
His friends sleep.
Alone at the point of deepest need,
Heart breaking, yet taking a moment to plead
“Please watch with me, pray with me, do this for me.
I need you. I’m frightened. The future I see
Is deepening darkness, is pain and despair.
I, hope-giver, healer, see no hope out there
For me, as my Father now
Silently waits
As I ask him to take from me
This dreadful fate.
But no – it is time.
Time to drink to the dregs
From the cup I’ve been given.
For I know, though I beg
To be let off the hook,
Yet my deepest desire
Even now, now as I enter the mire
Of torture and death,
Is to do his will.
To surrender to him,
To obey him still.”
His friends sleep – he wakes them.
It’s time now – too late
To prepare for the future.
It’s here – at the gate.
Here they come with their torches,
They come with their swords
Relentlessly coming
To silence the Word
of Life.

Day 2: Matthew 13:24-35

The Waiting Game

“Are you still here?”
The voice rang out cheerfully as Sally, who’d been on an early morning stroll, turned up the path towards her front door. Inwardly groaning, she slapped the regulation bright smile on her face as she turned to the speaker – a new neighbour.
“Yes, I’m still here.”
“That baby of yours is taking its time, isn’t it? By the look of you, you’re more than ready to drop! I’ll bet you’re fed up with the whole business by now!”

Little did the speaker know.
Sally’s baby wasn’t even due for another four days, and every day the pregnancy extended was one of joy for her, despite the squeezed bladder, the aching legs, the great hump which seemed to have a life of its own, rising up under her ribs and shifting at the most awkward moments from side to side as the child within her womb shifted position. She was not for one moment fed up with the whole business. She’d waited so very long for this.

This was not Sally’s first pregnancy.
There’d been five others, not one of which had run to term.

The doctors were nonplussed – there seemed no obvious medical reason for the miscarriages, and even less for the most recent one – stillbirth at 8 months. She’d never forget the sight of that tiny, perfectly-formed but utterly dead baby, never forget the psychological and physical pain of induced labour, knowing all the time that there would be no live child at the end of it.

The doctors had advised them to give up trying, to consider adoption – but Sally and Tom, her husband, would have none of it. Painful though their losses had been, nevertheless they continued to hope.

This time… this time, against all the odds, the pregnancy was running to term. Doctors and midwives were keeping a very close eye indeed on the situation, but so far so good. And every day, every hour, every minute, every second of indigestion, bladder-urgency, leg-ache, heaving belly, seemed to both of them to be filled with glory.

This long time of waiting, even though full of anxious moments, spoke to them of life – life, hope, joy, faith fulfilled.

Sally escaped her neighbour, turned her key in the front door and entered.

“Hi, love!” she called out to Tom, who was on a late shift that day so was only now settling down to enjoy his jug of coffee.

As she spoke, she felt a stabbing pain and all of a sudden fluid was gushing down her legs onto the doormat.
Eyes sparkling with joy, she called out again.
“Tom! Quick, come here! It’s coming! I think our baby is coming!”

Tom, normally bleary-eyed for at least an hour after waking up but now wider awake than he’d ever been, was by her side in a moment.
All the hope and desire of the past long years of disappointment, pain and grief were contained in this moment.
His mobile was out of his pocket and he was dialling the hospital.
“Come right away” said the voice on the other end of the phone.
“All babies are precious, but this one – we’re taking no chances!”

Eight hours later, Sally lay back on the pillows in the maternity unit bed, hair lank around her tired sweaty face. Tom, at her side, was seriously wishing he’d taken his wedding ring off – that was the hand Sally’d been squeezing to help her through every contraction and the ring had cut into his finger – but reminded himself that his pain was as nothing compared to the hard work she’d just done!

And in any case – that tiny bundle in her arms made it all worth while. Their child. Their daughter. Perfectly formed, she’d entered the world screaming lustily at the top of her lungs. Tears flowed from every pair of eyes in the room, including the medical staff who were only too well aware of the history. This baby was not only alive, but perfectly healthy. For a moment, the room seemed to shine with a brighter light even than the neons overhead.

Tom and Sally looked at each other, then at their daughter, and smiled as the church bells rang out. This day was Christmas Day – and at last to them also a child was born, a child was given.

It had been worth the wait.