Sunday, 29 April 2012

Chocolate overload

This is a SERIOUS Chocolate Fountain - at the number 1 chocolate factory where I spent a delightful evening with a friend last week. I am now the proud owner of a beautiful chocolate handbag. What fun. What a charming chocolatier who led our workshop - though he would shy from calling himself that. As we made conversation with two precocious young girls, also participants in the workshop, we discovered that they also lived in Ayrshire and that their head teacher is a member of my congregation. What a small world! It was a great way to spend an evening but I am sorry to testify that there IS such a thing as too much chocolate! Fortunately the recovery time is short.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Tried and found wanting

Today I feel as though I have been "tried and found wanting". That's not an entirely unfamiliar feeling. I'm sure most of us have negotiated that territory at some point. While an uncomfortable place to be, it does prompt what can often be valuable reflection and discernment.  Is living up to the expectations possible - or desirable?
On reflection, my failing to meet expectations is something with which I can live. The gospels are littered with stories of Jesus being tried and found wanting. Assured of his calling, Jesus pressed on, confident in mission, not prepared to compromise the work of the kingdom, not prepared to be distracted by the shiny new things. As a beloved child of God, I too am prepared to be a disappointment for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Continuing on the theme of boats, I used this image of a paper boat I saw floating in the canal recently in worship today. It was only when I saw the image enlarged on the screen that I realised how beautiful was the image on the paper folded to create the boat. Right in the centre, it displays two people in relationship. Did the person who created this vessel plan this or was it an accident of creation? I love the idea of random forces coming together - of the image in the folding and of being on the tow path and capturing this photo - all just at the right moment. But isn't that life?

Friday, 20 April 2012

The beat of a different drum

In a leadership training day, the question was posed: "Where have you seen a model of Servant Leadership?" The quick response from a group comprising of ministers: "Well, that would be the gospels." True - but look how it ended for that particular leader!
It was fun to explore different forms of leadership and give some thought to how and where we might model those systems in an organisation that involves managing so many volunteers and appears to operate using a different code - or is that just an excuse to manage badly?
Another question that has stayed with me is: "What kind of organisation are we attempting to steer - is it more akin to a luxury cruise ship or a budget airline?" That question wasn't couched in quite those terms, but those are illustrations that appeal to me! Understanding the culture in which an organisation operates may well be important in determining which model of leadership we might employ, but gaining that kind of perspective and understanding of the church at times seems an impossible task. And just when we feel we've glimpsed that, it is sure to change and slip out of our grasp again. None of these challenges, however should prevent us from seeking to be effective leaders and motivators and, in particular from learning from those who model good leadership in contemporary culture. The church demands and deserves nothing less.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Alongside ministry

One of my favourite post Easter gospels is the story of the two disciples walking to Emmaus, downcast because of Jesus' death. Jesus comes alongside and walks with them. They don't recognise him and fill him in on what has been happening. I love the idea of them having a good debate. But, even more, I love to read of the understanding that dawned on them when they got who their companion was. As they recognised him, Jesus disappeared from their sight, but he left behind immense joy. That moment of revelation is always a cause for celebration. In this encounter, it was so much more.
It is a wonderful thing to be able to get alongside people, to come to an understanding. Just one of the tasks of ministry.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Inconvenient Resurrection

It takes a while to absorb the death of someone we love. To let the news sink in, to make our peace with the loss and grief and emptiness, with the rage and the turmoil stirred up in us. That, in itself, is a roller coaster ride. But imagine the disciples state of mind when, in the throes of that emotional journey, they are faced with the Resurrection. In a funny sort of way, wouldn't it have been easier to deal with death than with this crazy state of affairs - a loved one come back to life? At least, in death, there are customs and traditions and protocols, an almost defined trajectory. Not so with Resurrection - this is charting a whole new territory. A territory that still seems awkward and unfamiliar for followers of Jesus today. Still, we wonder, how can we accommodate this (supposed to be) good news? Wouldn't it be easier to be grieving disciples? At least then we'd know what role to play, where we fitted in. But to deal with the non conformity of Resurrection takes us into unfamiliar waters, for which there is no manual let alone 5 stages. There are no tomes written about what feelings we might experience, what might be normal reactions. And so we have to deal with it - this alien landscape that confounds explanation or direction. We have to absorb it and run with it.
So, having done our best to observe the Passion, to journey carefully and faithfully through Holy Week, gathering around the cross wrung out on Good Friday, and just about managing to release the Alleluias and proclaim the good news - He is risen - on Easter Sunday, what now? There is more demanded of us. Much more. After all that expression of emotion, do we have anything left to give? Wouldn't it be easier to stick with the shadow of the tomb than to emerge into the sunlight of the garden?
Far simpler to deal with the more familiar pattern of grief than to be cast adrift in the Resurrection for which there is no template or guidelines. Are any of us willing to confess that Resurrection is just a little inconvenient? For even as we proclaim the good news in loud voices, inside our heads is a cacophony of "what now" questions and the realisation that a journey we expected to be over has only just begun. Worn out with Lent, we must hit the ground running again. The Risen Jesus does not make it easy for us in these early days beyond the cross, beyond the tomb. But the Risen Jesus does sit with us, offers us food and asks - "do you love me?" The Risen Jesus takes time to offer reassurance of our worth before commissioning us to "feed his sheep". The Risen Jesus knows only too well how inconvenient is his Resurrection.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Another kind of silence

So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Mark 1:8

No Alleluia!
No Amen!
Just a stunned silence
from the women
who went to the tomb
early in the morning.
Was it because they were overcome? 
with emotion?
with fear?
Or was it because
they realised
that if this was true
if he could rise from death
as he told them
then all those other things he said
must also be true
and we've been tagged
to continue the story. 
Still God waits
For the ending
depends on us.

Saturday, 7 April 2012


How can silence be so deafening?
The discarded wood of the cross creaks gently
as bloody rags flutter in the breeze
The hillside, heaving with humanity just a few hours ago
is now deserted, eerily quiet.
Folk have wandered home,
spectacle over,
not the high jinks anticipated
just another political crucifixion
served up as propaganda,
a warning to others who might consider
stirring up dissent.
All that hype of Messiah talk - 
just another delusional magician
who couldn't magic his way
out of execution.
The place of the skull is empty
and those who do venture out of the city
hurry past, shuddering at its eeriness,
struck by the silence that hangs
like a visible pall
over the place
where the criminals were killed.
It is a silence charged and pulsating
a silence that feels as though
it's about to burst.
All is not well.
There is something terrible in that silence
As though hell is about to burst through
and only God can prevent it.

Friday, 6 April 2012

It was on the Friday

From pillar to post
tried by religious authorities,
political authorities,
and by ordinary people.
Tried and found wanting
on trumped up charges
from corrupt motives.
Tried, condemned and summarily sentenced to death,
death by public execution, nailed to a cross of wood,
witnessed by friends and family
by criminals and soldiers
experiencing total dereliction
surrendering his spirt
into the hands of God.
And the crowd moves on
to find something new
to catch their interest
a dead Messiah
can't cut it any more.
And, even though we know
the twist in the tale,
we who know the joy
of Easter Sunday
are no less fickle
as we seek new thrills
and fresh scandal
in which to become embroiled.
And still Christ hangs on
to his cross
determined to save
the likes of us.
Hallelujah! What a saviour.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

It was on the Thursday

Back to the city
Sharing Passover with his friends,
showing them how to serve,
washing their feet,
serving at table,
being God incarnate
layering everything with new meaning,
the depth of which they could only grasp
after his death.
And, after instituting a memorial,
he went out into the garden
to await his betrayer's kiss.
Knowing agony
but remaining resolute
to do God's will.
Off he goes to arrest and trial
witnessing all his friends
fleeing and failing
yet still looking on them
with eyes full of love
and a heart full of forgiveness
and a mind resolved
to save the world.
Hallelujah - what a Saviour.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A woman's instinct

In Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper
a woman went with her gut
she saw something she could do
and, in love, she did it.
While the religious authorities were pontificating,
getting all aerated about their rules being flaunted,
while the political kaisers were brewing venom
perceiving their supremacy was being eroded
while the men around Jesus were humming and hawing,
knowing something was up but not sure what to do,
a woman saw an act of spontaneous love she could offer
and she did.
Pure nard became pure love
poured out extravagantly
without inhibition
flooding the room with fragrance
soothing the Lord
with healing balm.
"Wherever the gospel is preached, this story will be told in memory of her."
We remember a woman who gave
spontaneously, extravagantly, uninhibitedly, in love.
We salute her instinct.
And we look for opportunities
to trust and to act on our instincts with spontaneous love.

It was on the Wednesday

On the Wednesday, at last
he kept a low profile
"withdrawn in silence in Bethany"
But it was already too late.
Judas was bargaining with the chief priests
negotiating his thirty pieces of silver.
It would take more than a day in silence
to quell the resentment he had stirred up.
It would take more than a day withdrawn
to let the furore die down.
And you would think it would take
much much more than a day's retreat
to prepare himself
for the agony that awaited him
much more than a day
to step back into the fray
and continue his journey
to the cross.
In that final week
he kept out of the spotlight
for a day.
Hallelujah! What a saviour.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

It was on the Tuesday

It was on the Tuesday 
that he told stories
about the two sons
the wicked husbandmen
the marriage supper
the ten virgins 
and the talents.
He fielded questions,
batted them right back
to the Pharisees, the Sadducees
and that "certain lawyer"
He looked into the future
and predicted
that Jerusalem would be destroyed
and painted a picture
of the last judgement.
All in a day's work
for a man on a journey,
 a man whose friends
were dropping like flies
failing him at every turn.
And who can blame them?
Who wants to set themselves up
for public execution?
Best to get out now
as the stories gets stranger
and the teaching gets too near the bone.
That was on the Tuesday...

Monday, 2 April 2012

It was on the Monday...

Mark 11:15-19

Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, ‘Is it not written,“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”? But you have made it a den of robbers.’ And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples' went out of the city

The crowd has dispersed for now
but still Jesus hogs the limelight
upsetting the temple traders
re-asserting the law
fascinating onlookers.
The religious big wigs
did not appreciate
that he pointed out their failings
and they're already determined
to get him
they are desperate
to put an end
to his unconventional behaviour
that attracts attention 
and encourages ordinary people
to act subversively.
Keep a low profile?
He wouldn't know how.
He is on a mission - 
uncovering  failure
all the way to the cross.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Fool's errand

It started with the search for a colt
a fools errand for the disciples
It ended with a parade
a clown's procession for the common people.
For Jesus used that colt
to laugh in the face of the authorities
taunting them
flexing his muscles of influence and popularity.
He really should have been keeping a low profile.
But, throwing caution to the wind,
he took himself into the city
and, enjoying, momentarily, the protection of the crowd
he pushed his enemies over the edge.
And he knew it.
He looked around, saw it was late, and left.
Late on so many levels.
Late in the day.
Late in the journey.
Too late for him.
His boats were now burned
and the salvaged timber already fashioned
into a cross.
A simple request: Find me a colt
set in motion
a whole series
of truths and dares
of arrest and trial
of betrayal
and denial.
His fate was sealed
and so was our redemption
as palms dissolve into passion.
A fool's errand indeed!
Liz Crumlish Palm Sunday 2012

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