#20: Find your voice: #40ways40days

Jesus said to the crowd: ‘When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.’ (Luke 12:11-12)

It was one of those sombre drizzly grey days of winter. The large car entered the cemetery. A young couple got out of the back seat and walked over to the grave site. I quickly put on my alb and priestly stole and joined them, prayer book in hand. The funeral director opened the boot of the car and lifted out a white box, scarcely bigger than a shoe box. It was the coffin of the couple’s first child. Continue reading “#20: Find your voice: #40ways40days”

Pell-mell to the cross

It is Lent, and one of the most powerful men in the Catholic church has just been sentenced to jail for the sexual assault of two altar boys. It reminds me of a terrible story by the Jewish writer Elie Wiesel, which is based on his experiences in Nazi concentration camps. Three people were sentenced to hanging for sabotage, among them a young boy. The two men died quickly, but the boy, too light, writhed and swung between life and death for over half an hour. Continue reading “Pell-mell to the cross”

Let’s Make a Splash!

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Baptism. It’s something John offered, and something Jesus underwent, and something his disciples are told to do. It’s got something to do with water and washing and sin: but what is it, actually? What are we doing, what are we declaring, who are we becoming when we are baptised? What does it all mean? Tonight’s story offers a few clues, but to explore the depths, we’ll first need to zoom out a little. Continue reading “Let’s Make a Splash!”

A Revolutionary Abolitionist and our Cloud of Witnesses

Last Thursday, we gathered for All Saints’ Day. We ate, sang and spoke of people in our ‘Cloud of Witnesses’ – those who have passed on and who have inspired us and our faith. Their names were added to the blackboard that stands over us year round, and those of us who wished to told a story about the soul whose name they had added. I had not attended this service before, and had not really understood what Alison had meant when she said it was a way for us to be reminded of and acquainted with death, and brought in community with our cloud of witnesses (that’s how I remember her explaining it anyway).  I had thought that meant it was a kind of memorial, anniversary-like, and was okay with that. But sitting there, saying the prayers, singing the names, reading the people on the board and hearing the stories about them – it created an awareness for me that those who have died and we who are living are not ‘us’ and ‘them’: we are collectively the Body of Christ, and His Spirit is with us. Continue reading “A Revolutionary Abolitionist and our Cloud of Witnesses”

Becoming Heaven on Earth

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Today is Mother’s Day. For some, it’s a day of celebration; but for many, it’s a day of absence. A day of remembering who has died, perhaps. A day of grieving what we never had because our own mothers were damaged, disappointing, and difficult. A day of thinking about the children we could not have, or the children we still long for. For those of us who find Mother’s Day painful, the hype and the sentiment can be a bit unbearable. So we come to church for comfort but, because we follow the lectionary, we get this weird story: One minute, Jesus is teaching his disciples; the next, he’s floating into the clouds and the last thing we see is a flash of his ankles. Is Jesus like Superman, flying up, up, and away? And is that where our mothers and all our loved ones who have died are now? Floating in the clouds? And what on earth do we do with our grief, for all that was, and is, and might never be?  Continue reading “Becoming Heaven on Earth”

Life. Be in it!

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We have just listened to the Easter Vigil readings (listed below), which give a whistle stop tour of our faith. And there is something which runs through them. Did you hear it, echoing through the readings? Did you see it, lighting up the darkness? Did you recognise it, erupting from the horror? Life! But first … chaos.  Continue reading “Life. Be in it!”

Living Death, or Resurrection Life: You Choose

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Kathleen Norris tells a story of two women she knew, both of whom were diagnosed with terminal cancer. The first woman said, “If I ever get out of this hospital, I’m going to look out for Number One.” Despite the diagnosis, she survived, and went on to live only for herself—and, as Norris writes, “it made her mean.” The second reflected on the blessings of her life, despite some acute early losses. This woman read the Psalms, and said to Norris, “The one thing that scares me is the pain. I hope I die before I turn into an old bitch.” And that’s exactly what happened.  Continue reading “Living Death, or Resurrection Life: You Choose”

The Great Leader and the Gravedigger

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Here we are, at the end of Moses’ epic journey. He has led the people out of Egypt, through the desert, across the Red Sea; he has brought them out of slavery, and turned them away from idol worship and towards God; no one has ever shown such mighty power or performed such awesome deeds; he is the greatest prophet the world has ever known; and the promised land is in sight. If this were an ordinary story, we all know what would happen next: a red carpet unfurling, trumpets ringing out, and Moses riding a white stallion as he leads the people in triumph into the land. Except, this is no ordinary story.  Instead, Moses encounters a gravedigger.  Continue reading “The Great Leader and the Gravedigger”

Anatomy of a Murder

Whodunnit? It’s the question asked of every murder mystery. Perhaps it’s Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with the lead piping; or maybe it’s Miss Scarlet in the dining room with the candlestick. But “whodunnit?” is not a question that is asked very often about the death of Jesus: either we don’t think about it, or we assume that we know. But if we take a closer look, we might find that the answer to “whodunnit?”, that is, who demanded Jesus’ death, is not exactly what we assume; yet whodunnit has enormous implications for our faith. Continue reading “Anatomy of a Murder”

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