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Showing posts from April, 2012

Have I only slipped through the door?

Acts 10.34-43
1 Corinthians 15.1-11
Mark 16.1-8

A popular request at funerals is for a poem written by Henry Scott Holland, who was Dean of St Paul’s in the 1920s. The poem begins,
Death is nothing at all,I have only slipped through the doorinto the next room.
Holland is echoing the words of Jesus when he said ‘There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house’ and ‘I am going to prepare a place for you.’ In dying Jesus will, so to speak, slip through the door to the next dwelling place. And Jesus goes on to reassure his heart-broken disciples that he will come again and take them to himself, so that where he is they may be also.

But saying that death is about slipping through the door from one room to the next, or from one state of being to another, is not the same as saying that death is nothing at all! Someone who lost her grown-up son when he drowned has written her own retort to Henry Scott Holland:
The poet says that ‘Death is nothing at allI have only slipped through th…

Feeling Alone with Jesus

1 Cor 11.23-26
John 13.1-17, 31b-35

The washing of the disciples’ feet is an acted parable of Jesus’ love for us. He loves his followers, and his love for us makes it possible for us to love one another.

Jesus knows that he is about to be abandoned and betrayed. Yet, like a person lying in a hospital bed and saying, ‘I just feel sorry for all the other people here!’ his main concern is that the disciples will not feel abandoned. They must continue to know that he loves them when he is gone.

People sometimes says, don’t they, that they can’t do long distance relationships. It’s OK when the person they love is very close and can be seen and touched every day, but they can’t cope with separation. They will get distracted, or their love will no longer be fed and will steadily diminish with the passage of time.

Now I don’t hold any truck with that. For three years Helen and I lived at opposite ends of the country. I was in Brighton and she was in Derby and then, later, in Mancheste…

Freedom in suffering

Mark 15.25-39
2 Corinthians 12.5b & 7b-10

This Lent, as you know, we have been following the themes of the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland Lent Course. The same themes have been used on Sunday mornings in the Radio 4 service at 8 o’clock and they can be found on the CTBI website.

As the weeks have gone by so the theme each week has got gradually darker. This is surely appropriate. Mark makes a point of saying that Good Friday was a day when darkness fell over the the whole land even though it was the middle of the day. Jesus’ death was, he says, like a total eclipse of the sun, a moment when ordinary life was challenged and put on hold, an unnatural moment when goodness and godliness appeared to be vanquished by evil, when God’s plans for the whole course of universal history seemed to be under permanent threat. And yet, just like an eclipse, it was followed by the restoration of the light. ‘The light shines on in the darkness and the darkness has never been …

Palm Sunday & Holy Week

Mark 11.1-11

Today is the first day of Holy Week, when we remember the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. Today is called Palm Sunday because on that day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while his followers waved palm branches in celebration and sang praises to God. It was a demonstration of Jesus’ claim to be a new kind of peaceful leader and it upset the people who were leading the Jewish nation at the time.

The next day Jesus upset the Jewish leaders again by causing a disturbance in the Temple but he spent most of the week quietly teaching the crowds, until Thursday evening when Jesus and his disciples shared a special meal. This was the Passover meal, when Jewish people celebrate their escape from slavery in ancient Egypt. But Jesus changed the meaning of this meal for his followers when he picked up a piece of bread, broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, broken for you.’ Then he picked up the wine cup and said, ‘This is my blood poured out for you. Whenever you do…

Freedom in action

John 12.20-33
Writing from prison in 1944 the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:
Freedom is found only in action, not in escaping into thought. We must dare to quit anxious faltering and enter the storm of events, carried by our faith and by God's good commandments alone. Then, rejoicing, true freedom will welcome our spirit in its embrace.
‘Freedom is found only in action.’ Few of us will find ourselves in an actual prison cell, but it's easy to become prisoners of what is comfy and familiar as we take refuge from ‘the storm of events’ going on outside.

The BBC's John Simpson has said something very similar in a book based on his experiences as a foreign affairs correspondent. 'What if the point of living isn't to be placid and happy and untroubled by the world, but to be deeply, painfully sensitive to it, to see its cruelty and savagery for what they are and accept it all as readily as we accept its beauty; to be touched by it, moved by it, hur…