Saturday, 30 April 2011

The need for hope

This week has involved lots of conversations about hope. Hope in the face of illness. Hope in the possibility of change. Hope in a brighter future.
I have always maintained that part of ministry involves having enough hope for others who feel they have none.
I was also reading about the Beltane Festival, an ancient celebration occurring at the beginning of May, marking a season of hope for the harvest that is to come, among other things.
And, of course, it was said of the Royal Wedding, that such pomp and pageantry, were welcome signs of hope in the midst of so much darkness in the world. A brief respite, if you like.
In this season after Easter, faith gives us cause to hope and allows us to be a people who can hold out hope, enough for others, in all the struggles that are a part of daily life.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Easter is forever

As we returned from a day away yesterday, I caught myself thinking - "Well, that's Easter over!" And a resounding Noooooo went through my head. Of course it's not over. EASTER LASTS FOREVER!
It's tempting to feel, after the journey through Lent and the emotion of Holy Week that the joy and exuberance of Easter Sunday brings things to a fitting conclusion. But, of course, the wonderful heart of the Christian faith is that the message of Easter - Life and love overcoming death - is something we can celebrate every day bringing light even into the darkest of times. ALLELUIA!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

He is risen - Alleluia!

Why do you seek the living among the dead?
He is not here. He is risen!
(Matthew 28 paraphrased)

Saturday, 23 April 2011

For whom do we wait? (not the Easter bunny!)

In the silence that now ensues
after all the worship
and all the singing
after all the shouts of Crucify him!
and the soundscape of whips and nails
and creaking and groaning
and weeping and wailing
for whom do we wait?

The Risen Christ in all his glory?
For sure.
But how will he come?
In shining white robes,
striding with power and majesty
entering on a fanfare of praise?
or silently stealing in
walking alongside us
and, when pressed,
showing us the marks of his suffering and death?

Where we are
the Risen Christ is
How we need him to be
the Risen Christ is
In the watching and the waiting
in the silence
he comes.
King of Kings
Lord of Lords
We wait on the miracle that is Resurrection.

Friday, 22 April 2011

The things he carried - The amazing love of God

The Things He Carried – The amazing love of God
How could he bear all those things.
The weight of the cross.
The piercing mockery of the crown of thorns.
The burden of the sin of the world.
The dashing of the hopes of his followers.
The crushing rejection.
Each a weight more deadly than the last.
How could he carry all that
and still cry – Father forgive.
How could he carry all that
and still say to the thief– This day you will be with me in Paradise
How could he carry all that
and, on seeing his mother watching with breaking heart,
say – Woman, your son.
How could he carry all that
and in the depths of rejection
cry - My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
How could he carry all that
and say I thirst
How could he carry all that
and cry: It is finished
How could he carry all that
and, at the last say
Father into your hands I commend my Spirit.
Bearing the weight
of the cross,
the crown of thorns,
the sin of the world
the unfulfilled hopes
the rejection
still Christ knew
the amazing love of God
there for him
and for us
there in the beginning
and in the end
all that he carried
was carried in the amazing love of God

Thursday, 21 April 2011

The things he carried - The sin of the world

The Things He Carried – The sin of the world
We see the ugly lump of wood
that he bears through the streets.
We see the crude crown of thorns
piercing his head.
Less visible is the weight of our sin
that bears down upon him
So much weight there
the big and the small
the grand and the petty
the local and the global
the commission and the omission.
All those wrongs that are ours
sometimes when we don’t even know it.
He carries them
and bears them away with him
on the cross.
Sometimes, we don’t even want to give them up
our sins.
but he carries them anyway.
He lifts them up
with him on that cross
and in carrying our sins
offers us a chance
to begin again
free of our burden.
He carried
the sin of the world.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The things he carried - Rejection

The Things He Carried – Rejection
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
The words Jesus cried as he gave himself up to death.
As his body stretched out of kilter
and his lungs were crushed
as he struggled with each agonising breath.
As he pronounced forgiveness for the thief
and for us.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
The man who went about doing good.
Teaching, healing, restoring worth.
Turning on its head
all the practice of the law.
The man who had to carve out space
to be by himself
because folk wanted
constantly to be around him.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
As he watched his disciples
skulk away
and hide in the mob
of angry people
baying for his blood.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
As he looked in sorrow
at his mother in her sorrow
enduring the agony of losing her child.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
The man who gave himself for others
Who loved and laughed and held nothing back
In death alone, deserted,
knowing the desolation of rejection.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The things he carried - Unfulfilled hopes

The Things He Carried – Unfulfilled Hopes

Too good to be true
Just knew it.
Everytime we pin our hopes
on some new liberator
we come up disappointed.
The talk was good.
Even the action.
But, in the end,
we’re left high and dry yet again.
Is it us?
Our sense of judgement that’s wrong?
Are we too easily led?
Whatever the reason,
we keep on backing the wrong horse.
And only when we’ve thrown in our lot
and given up our livelihoods
are our hopes dashed once more.
This really seemed to be the real thing.
A revolutionary who was so extraordinary.
Who came, bringing peace, not a sword.
Preaching love, not hate.
Who spoke so eloquently
and backed up his words with action.
Who had us, quite literally, eating out of his hand.
We tried to tell him
that he’s gone far enough.
That he should keep it down for a while.
With so many folk in the city for Passover
it would have been easy to keep a low profile.
But Jesus always did it his way –
or his Father’s way, he claimed.
And so, instead of lying low
when the authorities were baying for blood
he walked right into their path.
He seemed to welcome arrest.
Even then, we thought that might be
some last heroic act.
But it doesn’t look much like it now.
There he hangs,
like any other common criminal
silenced, defeated.
And with him, all our hopes.

Monday, 18 April 2011

The things he carried - a crown of thorns

The Things He Carried – A Crown of thorns
As if it weren’t enough
to be sentenced
to a slow and agonising death,
Jesus was mocked.
A crown of thorns
placed on his head
Roughly, crudely.
Perhaps the stabbing pain of that
as it dug into his scalp
in the warm sun of the day
subsided in the midst
of all the other pain he endured.
A crown of thorns
signifying his kingship
that no one would recognise
neither religious authorities
or civil authorities
not even his followers.
A king.
A king who bore regally
all that was placed upon him that day
who carried with dignity
a crown of thorns.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

The things he carried - a cross

The Things He Carried – A Cross
A benign piece of wood
that might have been whittled
and fashioned into something beautiful
became an instrument of torture.
Something once living
in the density of the forest
that grew up from a sapling
to become the fine specimen
that was cut down
to provide the means
by which the oppressor’s
death sentence
was carried to completion.
Carried by a sinless man
hoisted up on a hillside
with its human cargo
forced to undergo
a public and humiliating death.
Jesus, already suffering
from beatings
physically and emotionally
imagining all too vividly
what lay in store for him
Jesus forced to carry
that rough, heavy piece of wood.
Shouldering the cross
that the world might be saved.
Shouldering the cross
that you and I might know love.
Shouldering the cross
to show what love is.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Preparing for Holy Week

In our Holy Week services, we'll be looking again at some of the folk Jesus encountered on his journey to Jerusalem, who have featured in the lectionary gospel readings for the season of Lent. People like the Samaritan woman at the well, Lazarus, whom he raised from the dead and the blind man whose eyes Jesus opened in more ways than one. All people whose lives were changed by their encounter with Jesus.
On Maundy Thursday, we remember the institution of the sacrament of communion and gather, as Jesus did with his disciples to share bread and wine.
On Good Friday, inspired by Stephen Cottrell's book: The Things He Carried, we will consider all that Jesus took upon himself, physically and emotionally.
Each day, I hope to post on the blog, a meditation on those things that Jesus carried to the cross.
Lent has, for some reason, seemed very long this year. The journey is almost over. But the best - and the worst - is yet to come.
And so we journey on.

Friday, 15 April 2011

In good company

Enjoying the company of good friends this weekend and into Holy Week. Although there's lots of work to do, it's amazing how that takes on a whole new perspective when shared with different people and looked at with fresh eyes. And how much more fun there is in the busyness knowing that there is the opportunity to relax in good company at the end of the day.
As Jesus journeyed resolutely to the cross, I wonder how much opportunity he had to be cared for by his friends and how much it changed things for him to be accompanied, even though he knew that, at the end of the day, his journey was one he had to make alone.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Palm Sunday People

Who were these people?

The city was busy.
Teeming with Passover revellers.
Why did they all feel the need
to come and welcome Jesus?
We were hoping, for once, to keep a low profile.
Tired of attracting big crowds wherever we went with Jesus
we thought, at least, we’d have a quiet Passover
Thought everyone would be too busy
with their own family preparations
to take notice of ours.
And it was also time that
Jesus got out of the limelight
We could tell the authorities didn’t like it
they were getting really antsy
It wasn’t just Jesus
though he kept attracting unwelcome attention
but, all the people, it seemed
were getting pretty feisty
and the authorities were getting nervous
clamping down on the most minor infractions.
Definitely NOT the time to be processing into the city
even on a donkey!
It was only a matter of time
before a ban would be imposed
on public gatherings
and demonstrations
the kind that had been breaking out everywhere recently.
So we’d hoped to enter the city quietly
to keep below the radar.
But, before we got anywhere near,
we could hear the shouts of the crowd
not angry, insurrectionist shouts
but the shouts of revellers
out for a picnic.
Maybe they were hoping for more miracles
a healing or two
or to be fed some more of those amazing stories
Jesus seemed to
make up as he went along.
Whatever they came looking for
they were not disappointed
There was Jesus
seemingly innocuous
riding on a donkey
but the people saw it
as something different altogether.
They always seemed to read into everything Jesus did
Saw mockery, even subversion
to the political era of oppression.
Why was it Jesus they flocked to?
Why turn their attention on him.
surely that day, the people signed his death warrant
as surely as if they had shouted
Crucify him!
 Liz Crumlish 2011

Another Palm Sunday Reflection here.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Part of the crowd

These worry dolls, picked up in Mexico on the RevGals cruise last month, provided the final symbol for our mid week Lenten worship. Each week, we have collected a symbol illustrating the gospel and allowing us to reflect during the week on Jesus' journey to Jerusalem and the people he encountered on the way. Tonight we were reflecting on how easy it is to be part of the crowd and go with the flow, even when we know we should stand up for something different. Hopefully, these colourful dolls will encourage us to "stand out from the crowd".

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Toasting Peeps

This time last year, Easter was over and we were enjoying a break with good friends in Virginia. We were introduced to something that seems to be an integral part of an American Easter - marshmallow peeps! Cute, coloured marshmallow chicks and bunnies. We decided to barbecue some. As they caught the flames, the psychedelic colours produced testified to all the unnatural chemicals they contained.
Cute, but not harmless.
Preparing to celebrate Palm Sunday and, in doing that, give some hint of the Passion that is to follow the image of burning peeps keeps flashing into my mind. Not helpful - except as a reminder that, hidden in amongst the cuteness of children waving palm branches and singing Hosanna! is the barb of a crown of thorns. Before we get to that celebration of Christ rising from the tomb at Easter, involving fluffy chicks and bunnies and even marshmallow peeps, we must first witness Christ's death on the cross - in love for us.

Monday, 11 April 2011

It's all in the timing.

Have had a timely reminder, at the beginning of another week that God's timing is always perfect timing. No matter how impatient we get. No matter how frustrated. God brings everything in season.
That fact is so often evident in retrospect - the trick is - to remember it when we're caught up in the thick of things.
There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Following Christ

Approaching the end of a long, exhausting day, at the end of another long, exhausting week, just part of yet another long and draining liturgical season, it is tempting to question the point of all the effort expended. Why sit with those who are dying? Why laugh with those who celebrate the wonder of new birth? Why walk alongside those with so many questions, knowing there are no answers? Why seek to encourage others to experience the wonder of faith and worship? Why be constantly open to others' joy and pain and appreciation and censure?
Because our world, locally and globally needs to know the love of God. Love that is patient and kind. Love that does not envy or boast. Love that lasts for ever.
And so, while hierarchies posture and strategise, while the Church of Scotland as an institution reshuffles and reorganises ad infinitum and forgets that it is presbyterian, still God calls ordinary people to love and to serve. To use all that we have been given and all that we have learned in the service of the Kingdom. And when we see folk being rewarded disproportionately in this life and their skills seemingly valued over ours, yet we can know the satisfaction of practicing obedience. And be reminded of the path that Christ chose - a path that led not to greater renumeration or popular acclaim but to a cross.
And onward goes our Lenten journey.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

It's all about me... and my kindle

How delightful to discover that the new picnic tables at the beach were designed to co ordinate with my Kindle cover.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Resurrection just around the corner

At this stage in Lent, I am impatient for Easter. I feel the need to get out of the wilderness. All around are signs of spring. Not just fluffy chicks and gamboling lambs but places being spruced up for a new season. And the spring like sunshine has aided and abetted the impact of longer days topped off with pretty sunsets.
But the whole point of Lent demands that we wait, that we stick it out to the end as Jesus did. The journey is not yet over. So we need to soak up that sunshine while it is available. We need to enjoy the signs of spring and allow them to lift our hearts. And return to the wilderness, keeping faith with Christ who went all the way. Resurrection IS just around the corner but we still have work to do. And our celebration will be all the sweeter if we hold back and savour the journey.

Thursday, 7 April 2011


The setting sun just visible 
through the blossom
soon to dip behind the hills.
Before the sun bids farewell
for another night,
it puts on quite a display
that makes us look forward
to its rising
to herald a new day.
The blossom too will soon disappear
but, before it does
it trails a wonderful pageant
 littering the ground 
and dancing in the wind
making us long for its return
but, in the meantime
encouraging us
to simply enjoy
each moment.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Proclaiming faith

As I travelled by train through some beautiful Scottish countryside this morning, I was struck by how many church towers and spires dotted the horizon. Even the smallest hamlets boasted an impressive edifice. Some of these buildings may, of course, no longer be in use as churches but their presence spoke to me of witness and of heritage.
In our midweek service tonight, we read of Martha's confession, before Jesus raised her brother Lazarus from the dead: You are the Messiah, Son of God. 
Each of us has the potential to stand as a living, breathing testament to faith in the God of life.
By fulfilling this potential, not only our countryside but our towns and cities too will be infused with signs of the presence of God.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Traveling light

Musing today on what is really necessary for the journey. And how much "stuff" we could leave behind. Wanting to be prepared, we sometimes carry too much. I know I am much too shallow to be away for any length of time without my hair straighteners. Yet, if I could lay them down, what else might there be room for?
And if I reach beneath the surface, what else do I carry around or imagine I cannot be without? What could I make room for if I would only risk being without something I consider vital?
Lenten discipline might involve dredging up those things we consider necessary to make some space - and then to resist the temptation to immediately fill the void created. Poverty of Spirit is a gift to be sought after and treasured.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Standing firm

Solid as a rock
that has withstood the ravages
of sea and wind and weather
that has cowered in the blast
yet remained
standing firm
Worn at the edges
chiseled and gouged
but grounded
Such is faith
in the God of life
Faith that brings not immunity
but helps us withstand
all that life brings
and more- 
faith that helps us
smile through the storm
not because we are hardened
or because we do not care
but because we love deeply
the one who loves us
with a love
that cannot be measured
or eroded
or swept aside
one whose love
endures forever.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

That unseen cloud of witnesses

Tonight I shared in a memorial service for a friend who died at the beginning of the year. While I still feel his loss keenly, at this stage, some 3 months on from the funeral, I'm in a much better place to celebrate his life. I was privileged to share his impact on my life, his encouragement and his nurture - all of which were considerable. On the way home, I've been reflecting on the saints who are in my life right now. And thinking - I shouldn't wait until they are no longer physically present to celebrate all the gifts they share. Giving thanks for that unseen cloud of witnesses, I also want to celebrate those who provide inspiration and nurture and spiritual enrichment every day. Thanks be to God.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Windows to the soul?

Amidst the cooking and cleaning today, I have been thinking about the story of the shepherd boy David, the youngest of his brothers, being anointed by the prophet Samuel as the next king(1Samuel 16:1-13). The prophet is assured by God, that it is not the outward appearance that counts. Just as well, since David must have seemed really puny in comparison to his big brothers. However, the text does mention that David had "beautiful eyes". It's a strange detail to include, especially when one layer of the message seems to be that appearance doesn't matter. Those "beautiful eyes" must surely reveal something much deeper - a beautiful soul perhaps?
The Gospel reading is the one we considered mid week about a blind man being given sight. Sight that revealed Jesus to him as the Son of God. As always, lots of hidden depths in the texts this week. Lots to work with and mull over. What will God reveal to us?

Friday, 1 April 2011

Revisiting old haunts

In the past week, I've encountered two colleagues whom I haven't seen since we graduated in 1993. One of those colleagues took the time to track me down and make contact. That's a wonderful gift - to be able, rather than vaguely wonder how someone is, to go further and follow up. I don't do that nearly enough.
I could make all sorts of excuses about why I let some relationships slide. And there are some relationships that are not meant to last for ever. But I would like to be more intentional about keeping in touch. Facebook certainly helps and I am grateful for the new old friends I have made on there. But Bill's example has given me a wonderful lesson in taking the initiative.
Here's to more intentional nurturing of relationships.

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