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Showing posts from April, 2006

Be Known To Us In Breaking Bread

There's nothing so irritating as someone who doesn't know what's going on, especially when everyone else is glued to the news because of some headline grabbing event that has stirred things up. The two disciples, Cleopas and his unnamed companion – probably his wife, cannot believe it when the stranger asks them, 'What things?' [1]
We've all been in the same situation, haven't we? 'You mean to tell me that you don't know! Where have you been?' we ask, incredulously. 'Haven't you seen ”The News”?'
Of course, there's more than a smidgen of irony here. If the stranger has lost touch it's not because he forgot to turn on the TV news bulletins. He's been dead and buried! And all the time – whether he was alive or dead – he was at the very centre of the events they describe. When the two disciples explain how Jesus of Nazareth was handed over to be condemned to death and crucified, and how – since then – his body has disappeared …

There Are More Things in Heaven and Earth

(More reflections on John 20.19-31)
The Bishop of Oxford wrote an article for one of the Sunday papers [1] in which he criticised non-believers for not taking religion seriously. He didn't mind them being doubtful, he said, but he did mind if people simply dismiss faith out of hand without thinking through the arguments in its favour.
For instance, he noted that when people want to attack religion they always focus on the worst examples – the Crusaders sacking the city of Jerusalem and murdering its inhabitants, the Spanish Inquisition torturing heretics, Muslim terrorists blowing themselves to pieces, or people who insist that the world was made in seven days because they think that's what the Bible tells them they must believe.
The Bishop cited the example of the scientist in Korea who falsified his results in order to claim that he had made amazing advances in the field of cloning. Just because there are a few rogue scientists, we are not expected to stop believing that scienc…

Why Selfishness Doesn't Pay

I listened to a deeply depressing radio programme the other day. It was about selfishness.
One man said he had persuaded himself that it was right to buy a Porsche with a legacy which had been left to his wife. His wife was a gifted pianist and she had been given explicit instructions to spend the money on a better piano, but she had agreed that there was nothing much wrong with her existing one, leaving the way open for her husband to buy himself the Porsche, instead. 'Is that selfish?' he asked, 'I don't know.' The depressing thing was that he needed to ask!
Worse still was a woman who described how she had been challenged by her new husband to rethink her own attitude to self. 'Soon after we were married,' she said, 'We found ourselves running along a platform to catch a train. A man with a limp was running to catch it too, and I found I just couldn't overtake him – I had to slow down. My husband got really cross with me and afterwards he told me I…

Love Without Limits

Most people agree that belief in the resurrection of Jesus is crucial to being a Christian, but what do we mean by the word 'resurrection'? Some Christians take it to mean that Jesus' physical body was miraculously transformed and disappeared from the grave as St Mark reports [1], while others argue that his new spiritual existence is much more important than what actually happened to his earthly remains. Either way, if we don't believe that Jesus is alive, can we really call ourselves 'Christian'?
However, if the resurrection is so crucial to belief in Jesus, what are we to make of the curiously downbeat ending to St Mark's Gospel? Let us make no mistake about it, the Gospel does end here and the rest of chapter 16 consists of later additions by people who felt that St Mark's abrupt conclusion to his story is much too severe.
At least we can take some reassurance from the psychological honesty of the Easter accounts in all four Gospels. The narratives re…

The Gospel of Judas and The Gospel of John

Last week the National geographic magazine published the text of a long lost Gospel, the Gospel of Judas. Its discovery was hailed by some scholars as the most important archaeological event for sixty years. It took five years to piece together and translate what remains of the manuscript. Newspapers printed headlines claiming that the new Gospel would shake the foundations of orthodox Christianity. The Guardian newspaper, which is not noted for its piety or interest in serious theology, mischievously made the whole translation available to its readers.
According to the hype, The Gospel of Judas shows that a completely different understanding of God, the world, Jesus Christ and the salvation he came to bring, was circulating among some early Christians not long after the canonical Gospels were written. Critics of Christianity are thus able to argue that the New Testament interpretation of who Jesus was, and what he came to do, is just one of many competing attempts to make sense of his…

Prayers for Holy Week

Dear God, we praise you because it is part of your nature to want to share our life with us. And not just the good times, but the bad times, too.
But your love for us does not stop there.
We praise you because you not only came in Jesus Christ to share our life and death, but also to draw us to yourself with an invitation to become your children.
But your love for us does not stop there.
We praise you because, when we accept this invitation to become your children, we open ourselves to the energy and power of your Holy Spirit which can give us the rich possibilities of life in all its fullness.
So let us open the doors of our church, and let us open our hearts and lives, to let you in. Amen.

Like your disciples, who ran away on Maundy Thursday evening and left you to be crucified alone, we let you down.
Whenever we leave innocent people to suffer alone, we let you down.
Whenever we fail to keep watch with people who are struggling against injustice, we let you down.
Whenever we choose the way …

When We're In Trouble

The picture of Fireman Michael Kehoe climbing one of the Twin Towers on 9/11 was printed in papers all over the world because it was a symbol of courage. Everyone else was leaving, as quickly as they could, but he was risking his life by going into the burning building and for a while no one knew whether or not he had survived. In fact, he did get out and he has said since said that he came down those stairs again in no time at all!
Of course it was a different world then. Everyone believed that the first plane which hit the Twin Towers had done so by accident. Afterwards, when the tower collapsed, six of Michael Kehoe's colleagues died. Would they have gone into the building if they had known what was really happening?
At the time they said that they would. Lieutenant Andrew Graf of the New York Fire Department said, 'If you know there's life in there, you go inside. That's what they're paying us for.'
It's a comforting thought, but Health and Safety rules di…

The Woman Who Understood Jesus

As the recent news headlines about bird flu have proved, illness makes people afraid. In France and Germany some people have even stopped feeding garden birds and have taken down their nest boxes. This may be daft but it's just an ordinary human reaction.
When we hear that someone else is poorly, the first thing we usually ask ourselves is, 'Can I catch it?' And even if the answer is, 'No, ' still some of us feel uncomfortable about visiting sick people. Perhaps that's because illness reminds us how fragile we are. It shakes the illusion that health and fitness can be taken for granted.
Leprosy is a serious illness and in Jesus' day there was no cure for it. Although, like bird flu, it isn't particularly contagious – people took no chances. They were afraid of leprosy and they stayed well away from anyone who had it. The fact that Jesus went to the house of Simon the Leper is interesting in itself. [1]
Had Jesus healed Simon's leprosy? Was this a celeb…