Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Marathon

I LOVE Holy Week. I even relish the long slog through Lent - much more than the craziness of Advent when we prepare for the Incarnation. Lent, Holy Week and Easter move me in a way that Christmas just doesn't.
MAybe that's because Advent and Christmas are done at breakneck speed. With Lent, Holy Week and Easter, there is a more leisurely lead in, time for reflection, time to savour each event and remembrance. Time to live the Incarnation. From the crib to the cross - and on to resurrection.
SO I look forward to the week beginning tomorrow with Palm Sunday, to celebrating a parade before we then tiptoe through the rest of the week, spectators, bystanders, witnesses to Christ's passion, participants in his death, beneficiaries of the resurrection. A marathon for preachers, one measured in blood, tears and agony but that promises a wonderful trophy at the end.
And so it begins...

Friday, 30 March 2012

Sharing the love

This has been a great week of school chaplaincy that has afforded access to all kinds of end of term activities, from coffee and hot cross buns to end of term services in primary and secondary schools.
Although the secondary pupils mostly stand mute in their services while members of the orchestra play their hearts out, they still bring a buzz to the church building, enhanced by this week's sunshine when a walk from school building to church is a welcome distraction.
In one of the primary school services, we bade farewell to a member of staff who has brought a lot of music into the life of the school and who is now moving on. She said that all the tributes and good wishes made her feel really loved. Hopefully, she experienced that love in her work and not just now as she takes her leave.
It is so important that we express appreciation for each other every day, that we let those around us know about the difference they make to our lives, especially when their influence is for the good. It is good to share the love.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Take, Eat

An Easter Communion invitation:

This is the table of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ
Behold his broken body  - the broken bread
Behold his spilled blood   - the poured wine
Behold his amazing love  - in the remembering and sharing here
These elements laid out before us
come to life as the Risen Christ strides along this table
strides through our lives,
strides through our towns and villages and communities
breathing hope
breathing forgiveness
breathing love that knows no bounds
Young and old
friend and stranger
pilgrim or resident alien
The Lord Jesus makes space for you at this table
offering nourishment
offering fellowship
offering communion with all the saints in heaven and on earth.
Take, Eat. To remember him.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Becoming like children

Becoming like children
We imagine Jesus riding into Jerusalem
surrounded by palm branch waving children
surrounded by exuberance
and infectious laughter
shouts of greeting
cajoling and cheering.
There is a freshness in the welcome of children
a candour that is not subdued
or diminished
but comes from the heart.
bringing warmth, promoting acceptance
with is no expectation of return
but simply a desire
to spread the love.
We imagine those greetings containing familiarity
arising not out of disrespect
but out of the ability
to naturally honour and cherish
every relationship
deeming all as worthy of nurture
and investment.
We imagine Jesus surrounded by children.
The adults would have been much too reserved,
too inhibited
to be so vulgar
in their welcome.
Palm branch waving
and jacket tossing
are not for sophisticated grown ups.
We leave that nonsense to the children.
And most of the time that’s OK.
Most of the time, we are quite relieved
to keep our feelings to ourselves
to remain tight lipped
cool and distant.
But, on occasion,
wouldn’t it be great
just to throw caution to the wind
and let our exuberance escape
even just for a little while?
And what better day than this fools day
when we celebrate the absurdity
of a king riding a donkey
into Jerusalem.
Palm Sunday – a day to become like children.

Liz Crumlish Palm Sunday 2012

Tuesday, 27 March 2012


Blessed is the one who comes in the Name of the Lord
A cry taken up by ordinary folk
men, women, children
out lining the streets
looking for a spectacle
longing for a cause.
Blessed is the one who comes in the Name of the Lord
A cry to get behind
to celebrate
to champion
welcoming the rebel
on whom the hopes of a nation are pinned
Blessed is the one who comes in the Name of the Lord
A cry to imitate
when there is little else to do
and nowhere else to be
when it is easier
to go along with the crowd
Blessed is the one who comes in the Name of the Lord
A cry that echoes in emptiness
when enthusiasm wanes
and hope fades
when excitement moves aside
to make way for disillusionment
Blessed is the one who comes in the Name of the Lord
A cry that drifts away
on the tide of change
as the mood of the crowd
becomes blacker
and more dangerous
Blessed is the one who comes in the Name of the Lord
A cry that becomes mocking
as the people jeer
and change their tune
and Blessed
becomes Crucify!
Blessed is the one who comes in the Name of the Lord
Liz Crumlish Lent 2012

Monday, 26 March 2012

This day

Living in the moment is a recurring theme just now. And the unseasonably warm Scottish weather seems to be endorsing that. Chances are that, by the weekend, the weather will have reverted to the usual damp and chill for this time of year, so it is important to enjoy it while we can.
Many of us are programmed to always be on the lookout for our next challenge or goal for which to strive. And while complacency isn't terribly productive, there does  come a time when it is important to simply be - enjoying what is, appreciating what has been achieved, often through hard work, taking a breath before plunging in again. Maybe we will discover as we breathe that we are indeed in a good place and that is something we want to hold on to - negating the need or desire to dive in again.
This day is a good day and that's enough to be going on with.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

We wish to see Jesus...

We wish to see Jesus
THAT was the moment Lord when it seemed to hit you
when you knew the game was up
We wish to see Jesus
Those strangers who came
rocked your boat
Confirmed you'd come too far
Reminded you that your fate was sealed
The word was out
and there was no escape.
We wish to see Jesus
the journey was nearly over
YOUR journey - to the cross.
We wish to see Jesus
So quietly, you get on with it
You walk right into their hands
give yourself up
to death.
THAT was the moment
when you went viral
And you've been viral ever since.
We wish to see Jesus.

‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The whole story

We have a beautiful wooded area just across from the church.
Today, the woods were filled with children's voices as they searched for Easter bunnies enjoying the warmth of the Spring day before returning to the church hall for brunch and crafts.
It was a delightful interlude in this long season of Lent.
But now it is time to get back to it - producing orders of service and liturgies in preparation for Passion.
As the noise of the children faded today though, I wondered: Are they now relegated until Easter? We shield them from the "nastiness" of the plot against Jesus and the depths of inhumanity displayed in Jesus' execution but happily share with them the joy of resurrection. Perhaps a child's perception and comprehension is more profound than many adults. Shielding them from reality does not tell the whole gospel of redemption in life, death and resurrection.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Squeezing it all in

Tonight I am pondering the mystery that is Lent. It is a long season of preparation. And I do feel prepared. There was considerable planning of services, lots of creative writing, consultation with and involvement of others. And yet now it feels just as hectic as Advent. In part, that is due to scheduling extra school end of term services - chaplaincy in 5 schools makes the last week of term pretty hectic. But it is also due to the deep desire to ensure that Lent and, in particular, Holy Week and Easter are observed well and that all the different observations, the liturgies, the visual presentations, the music and readings leave a lasting impression with all those who journey for all or part of the season. A friend remarked recently: you've done it enough times now, isn't it easy? The answer is no. That quest to keep on affording new and enlightening encounters with a God who loves us enough to die for us is relentless, calling for new understanding, new depth, new relationship. And, if that makes life a bit frenetic right now, that's a small price to pay to be able to stand at the foot of the cross and then be led onwards to the hope of Easter. There is glorious hope (and rest!) just around the corner.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Unseen witnesses

There is something quite wonderful about celebrating communion with a housebound member in their own home.
From the carefully laid white cloth, kept specially for that purpose, to the perching of the elements in a tiny space amidst the clutter, each occasion is unique. Some communicants like to get down to business right away, others to have a wee blether first, while still others have an afternoon tea tray all laid out to be unveiled after communion has been celebrated.
Today, as I shared with a lady in her 90s, it felt as though her living room was crowded out with that "cloud of unseen witnesses". Together with all the saints we feasted on God.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Praying without words

At our Lenten Spirituality workshop today, we considered praying without words. It was soothing to create and craft prayer using tactile media. My prayer was a prayer of gratitude - for the cross, for the love, for the world, for the fallen, all of whom are embraced by the God who "so loves the world". This is a discipline of prayer that I would love to revisit often.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Holy laughter

Had a fun night tonight entertaining a church guild with a few talented colleagues, one of whom was pointing out the irony it is that, in church, we usually sing the Old 100th in such a sombre way.
The words just call out for laughter:
All people that on earth do dwell
sing to the lord with cheerful voice
him serve with mirth his praise forth tell
come ye before him and rejoice.
Every line an incitement for merriment and yet we manage to make it thoroughly miserable.
It was wonderful to be with a group tonight and see and hear so much joyful praising of God.
I heard someone say recently that while laughter is good for you, gravity is on your side when you frown.
Even though it is Lent, let's defy gravity and indulge in some mirth.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Interpreted by love

washed up
left high and dry
but telling the story
of storms
and turbulence
of erosion
and carving out
weathered and worn
brought to life
though organically dead
bleached and weathered
drawing speculation
and interpretation
but retaining mystery
for none can really know
the journey
whose ending
has culminated
in beauty.
None can know
but there is room
for gratitude.
And the cross that Jesus bore - 
did it take on another life?
Did it wash up on some other shore, 
bleached clean,
hosting new life
and new possibility
and telling a whole other story?
Redeemed in cleansing water
released to recreate
another life giving story
a story of love.
Liz Crumlish Lent 2012

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Carried in love

 “Woman, here is your son.”
(John 19:26)
Carried in love
in the womb of his mother
cradled in arms that were gentle
nurtured and loved
then released to life
set free to teach and to heal
And now, in the throes of death
filled with compassion
feeling the pain
of the woman who gave him life
the woman who trusted enough
to say Yes! to God’s plan
to say Yes! to a life
of worry and turmoil
the woman who bore
the son of God
and who now shared
the awful pain
of his death
Forgetting his own agony
and reaching out
to ease the pain
of the one
who carried him in love.
“Woman, here is your son”

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Lifted up

Just as Moses lifted up the servant in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.
John 3:14
Lifted up - but not in a good way
lifted up - but not with any sense of glory
lifted up- in the last way we'd imagine
Lifted up - the Jesus way
meant an excruciating death
at the hands of those he thwarted
lifted up alongside real  criminals
lifted up on a cross
on a hillside
lifted up - for public execution.
Lifted up
displaying love
that is out of this world.
Lifted up
taking us to the heights
because he plumbed the depths of death
in love for us.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Daily examen

Through this day, O God
I saw you in the raindrops
slithering down the window pane.
You were playing hide and seek
in the swirls of mist
that hung around for the morning.
It was you who spoke
in the friendly, welcoming voices of school children
you, who challenged me
in their searching questions.
As I sat with the lady
bereaved of her husband
her soul mate for 56 years,
it was you who breathed comfort and love
and gently hinted at hope to come
when the time is right.
You were there as I shopped and cooked,
peering over my shoulder into the pans,
savouring the aroma of a family meal.
And, as I vacuumed
and scrubbed laminate flooring
you put a song in my heart
that escaped through my mouth.
There is nowhere O God
that you will not travel with us
Only our blindness
prevents us glimpsing you
always ready to weave your Spirit
in and around our lives
assuring us that we are beloved
longed for children
with whom God longs to spend time.
Thank you God
for this day.
Liz Crumlish Lent 2012

Thursday, 15 March 2012

God, where are you?

One of the priests ministering to families caught up in the horrific bus crash in Switzerland this week posed the question: "Has God left us?" In that small village, with so many families affected and awaiting news, that seems a very pertinent question. And yet it is one that is rarely heard spoken aloud. And certainly not by clergy. Though we all speak regularly of the mystery and perhaps even the hiddenness of God - that invisible deity is not the one we want to rely on in our darkness or the "ever present help in any trouble" to whom we want to point when life is cruel.
As we travel through Lent, eventually to Holy Week and follow the passion of Christ, we journey alongside a man who also experienced the abandonment of God.
In the darkness, resurrection is too far away to see or think on but the knowledge of accompaniment on the journey, companionship in the struggle does make a difference. If we cannot bring hope then at least we can help with the crying. That, too is a task of ministry - a task of humanity.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012


“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
(Luke 23:43)
After forgiveness comes redemption
the one who proclaims forgiveness
also proclaims redemption
the one who know us
knows all that we are
forgives us
and embraces us
all the way to paradise
promising that we are not only forgiven
but loved and carried
all the way to eternal life
“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
(Luke 23:34)
Forgiveness, forgiveness
hoisted aloft
in agony
near death
and from his lips
come words of forgiveness
Of all the things he could have said
the litany of woes and sorrows he could have recited
the folk he might have railed at
the folk he might have cursed
But instead, he implores forgiveness
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”
Those words are for you – and for me
Do you know it?
Dare you believe it?
We are forgiven
By the one who hung on a cross and died
so that we might be forgiven.
THAT is forgiveness.
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”

Monday, 12 March 2012

Toe in the water

In the light of Jesus cleansing the temple - this week's gospel reading, we considered what would make folk feel welcome in worship.
What would encourage folk to put a toe in the water?
We can easily think of the discouragements - but what constitutes a welcome?
And how can we change the nature of those whose countenance is forbidding?
A work in progress.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

In remembrance

Reposting this a year on from the Japanese quake:
God you are omnipotent
and lots of other big words
that mean that you have power.
So where was your power
when the fault plates shifted
and the earth moved for hundreds of thousands 
of your people?
Where were you when
the ocean
took up the vibes
and swelled and raged
and attacked the land
with such force,
wiping out cities 
and towns and villages
sweeping the board clean 
like a child
who has fallen out with friends
and refuses to "play nice".
Where were you as folk fled for their lives
with no warning
and so many had nowhere to go?
And where are you now
as folk huddle in makeshift centres
or trawl the streets
looking in vain
for loved ones.
Or jump in alarm 
at the slightest shudder, 
living in fear
of the very real threat
of after shock.
All powerful God 
where are you?
As we look on in horror
safe but impotent
open our eyes O God
to see you
crouched and slouched 
with your suffering people
broken and battered
and washed up in the carnage.
Huddling with the lost
and the grieving
and the confused
and the hurting.
Cowering before the forces of nature
that may strike again
with the same savagery
and the same unpredictability.
Simply because
you are NOT a distant God
but a God who dwells with God's people
 suffering the ravages
that affect humanity.
And, when we despair
that you share our impotence
remind us
that we would have you
no other way
but wholly involved
with your creation.
All powerful God
too close for comfort.
 Liz Crumlish March 2011

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