Sunday, 31 March 2013

He is not here - he is risen!

Incredible witnesses
In the garden
making their way quietly
to the tomb
eyes cast down
watching their step.
Carrying precious ointment
to anoint their Lord's body
That Sabbath must have seemed unending
as they waited
to care for their loved one
like waiting for a funeral
over a long weekend.
Then reaching the tomb
and seeing - what?
A stone rolled back
An empty tomb
And two angels
- reminding them
of all that he said.
"Three days later..."
But they were women
prone to hysteria
talking nonsense
It seems that, even then,
the resurrection
had to be verified
by men.
But we know
that the ones who stuck with Jesus
the ones who waited at the cross
the ones who rose early in the morning
to prepare his body for burial
the ones who nurtured and cared
from beginning to end
were women
prone to exaggeration
and "idle tales"
But, on that day,
witnesses to resurrection!

Liz Crumlish 2013

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Saturday, 30 March 2013

The longest week

And so we wait
What a journey
We processed with palms
We cleared out the temple
We puzzled over parables
And broke open perfume
We cowered in the garden
And hid in the courtyard
We followed the crowds
through the streets
and watched at the foot of the cross
We saw his body taken down
and laid in a tomb
then crashed out
exhausted with all our emotions
wrung out
And now we wait
to see what will happen next.
Whatever it is
we need some time.
Enough already.
We simply can't deal
with another thing today.
And so we wait...

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Friday, 29 March 2013

Black - The colour of death

Black speaks of death
and dereliction
Of abandonment
And betrayal
Black covered the earth
as Christ died
having endured
the agony of the cross
Yet black is every colour
the green and the red
the purple and the white
All mixed up
blended into black
So, in Jesus' death
is captured
all the colours of the Passion
The green of field and palms
The red of resilience and hope
The purple of priesthood
The white of table fellowship
all melding into
the black of death and dereliction.
With such a mix
perhaps it is inevitable
that some of the colours should leech
that some should seep through
But, for now,
Black is the colour of death.

Liz Crumlish 2013

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Thursday, 28 March 2013

White - a colour of the Passion

The cloth
thrown over the table
settles and comes to rest
covering and beautifying
Covering up the scratches
of wear and tear
and family use
transforming the kitchen table
making it a welcoming space
not just for family
but for visitors too.
A place to greet old friends
and make new
A place to catch up
with life and each other
A place to encourage
persuade and cajole
A place to listen
and console
A place to celebrate
and commiserate
A place to share food
that nurtures and sustains.
The bread of life
broken and shared
around a table
Gathered up
as each gives and takes
what they need
and returns to give
and to take some more.
And in the sharing
finds communion.
White - a colour of the Passion

Liz Crumlish 2013

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The colour purple

for a king
for a burial
Purple - the robe draped in mockery
around the man betrayed
and tortured
and led out to die
the cloth that hung
on the broken body
of the Prince of peace
as he cried
"It is finished."
Purple -
The cloth torn up
and divided
as the soldiers
of execution
divided the spoils
Purple the colour of glory
especially glory bought at a price
the colour of glory
that was wrought in Christ
when God's glory
was revealed in the Son.
Purple - a colour of the Passion

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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The colour of love


I wonder if poppies
grew at Calvary
Springing up
as bright red flags
Signalling hope
and persistence
Testifying to resilience
and the refusal
to be denied life
Proclaiming love
the love of one
whose shed blood
atoned for many
Whose love affirms
all love
wherever it is found.
The one whose light
shines in the darkness
and cannot be put out.
Red - the colour of love.
A colour of the Passion.

Liz Crumlish 2013
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Monday, 25 March 2013

The Colours of Passion - Green


We see the colour green
in the fields in which the shepherds abided
to whom the good news was proclaimed:
Christ is born
We see green on the plains
on which Jesus taught
surrounded by those who were mesmerised
by his teaching
We see green behind the ears
of those first disciples
who put their lives on hold
and tagged along for the journey
and who learned from the Master
things they could never have imagined.
We see green in the envy
in the hearts of the religious authorities
who saw their influence trickle away
as the people discovered
a new and liberating way to love God.
We see green in the waving palm branches
that heralded a triumphant entry
and the beginning
of the final passion filled journey
We see green in the colour of money
that was enough to buy betrayal
when the authorities said: "Enough is enough"
We see green in the face of Peter
as he squirmed out of his association
with the man arrested and tried
sick as he realised
he'd reacted
just as Jesus said he would.
We see green
in the new wood
roughly hued
to form a cross
hoisted high
proclaiming death.
We see green
A colour of the Passion.

Liz Crumlish 2013

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Sunday, 24 March 2013


Following a donkey riding king
presents us with challenges
we may not have signed up for
The challenge of humility
Of taking our place up front
in the knowledge
that that is where we're called to be
not because we are God's gift.
but because of God's gift
Gods gift of love
about which we cannot be silent
Gods gift of love
that we have to model up front

Following a donkey riding king
presents us with challenges
we may not have signed up for
The challenge of subversion
Finding ways to quietly
and peacefully
subvert what others perceive
as necessary evils
so that justice can prevail.
Quiet subversion
that brings love to the fore.

Following a donkey riding king
presents us with challenges
we may not have signed up for
The challenge of humour
Finding humour
even in our darkest moments
laughing with the God
who transforms
tears of sadness
or frustration
into belly laughs of joy

Following a donkey riding king
presents us with challenges
we may not have signed up for
The challenge of uncertainty
Following even though
we do not know
how or when it is going to end
Following even when we do know
how or when it is going to end
because in all the uncertainty
is the promise
that God's love will be enough

Following a donkey riding king
presents us with challenges
we may not have signed up for
The challenge of compassion
being so moved
as Jesus was
about the plight of the world
that we can do no other
than do whatever it takes
to make a difference

Following a donkey riding king
presents us with challenges
we may not have signed up for
The challenge of love
that makes us want to serve
And, in serving God and each other,
finding that love
really does change everything
and allows us
to meet all these challenges
head on
following our donkey riding king.

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Saturday, 23 March 2013


The church hall was buzzing this morning with families gathering to take part in our annual bunny hunt. This morning, for some reason, the bunny hunt seemed to take second place to the socialising folk did once they got back from the woods to enjoy brunch. It was great to see people meeting up with old friends, making new ones and just enjoying each other's company. And, with church members of all ages involved in welcoming, cooking and serving, there was a wonderful feeling of community. Looking forward to exploring ways to provide more opportunities to develop and nurture that community.

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Thursday, 21 March 2013

Foot washing

The news, today, that Pope Francis is to wash the feet of prisoners on Maundy Thursday prompted a friend to ask me- Why don't you do that in worship? Why indeed?
My hunch is that we have too many Peters in many of our congregations - those who would not want to be served in such a way.
In one of the local secondary schools, however, pupils have decided to enact a more contemporary way of serving each other. Reckoning that painting each other's nails would be a modern day equivalent, they are going to spend some time doing that as a Maundy Thursday gift to each other.
So, what is foot washing all about - the one who serves or those served? And how might we imitate Jesus in serving those around us today?
Questions to ponder as we approach Holy Week.

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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Black and white

Monochrome is "in" this season
Perhaps a response to all that is uncertain
Black and white
is so much more reassuring
easier to grasp.
But dull.
However complex life becomes
Even the colour grey
Is so much more desirable
Than black and white.
Only nature does that well.

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Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The great divide

I travelled from the west side of the country today to the east to attend a couple of church meetings. Leaving a grey, dreich town I was soon enveloped in a snowy wonderland. The contrast was startling.
As was the first meeting. I felt like a rabbit caught in the headlights as I was confronted by accomplished theologians well used to navigating weighty doctrinal documents seeking my input in response to yet another ecumenical vision statement on journeying together.
On first reading of the document, the text that had caught my imagination was the notion, from the Toronto Declaration of 1950 that "the WCC challenges the churches to recognise that the membership of the church of Christ is more inclusive than their own church body."
I have often sought refuge in Christ's inclusiveness, especially on the numerous occasions that I've felt like an alien in my own denomination.
Today was one such day.
Not, I hasten to add, because people were not kind or loving but because I felt, as is becoming more common, that I exist on some parallel universe.
So - I have long been aware that my skills are not in planning or in administration - attention to detail is not one of my strengths.
Today I felt those two glaring omissions in my makeup combining to compound my inadequacy.
It's not always a disaster to feel out of one's depth. It is, rather, for all its discomfort,an opportunity for growth.
But - here's hoping that the rest of the week brings some affirmation of the gifts with which God has blessed me!
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Monday, 18 March 2013


So, was it a job lot of paint
Left over from some other job?
Was it a deliberate act of vandalism?
Or simply a desire to be distinctive?
Whatever the reason,
One thing is sure
No one will miss this porch
tacked on to an otherwise
fine looking church.
Hopefully there are other elements
that ensure a visit here
is equally unforgettable
no fading into the background
but making a statement
that won't be missed
Proclaiming just as loudly
the outstanding love of God.

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Sunday, 17 March 2013

Missing Landmarks

Last weekend, three tower blocks were demolished in Greenock. They were brought down in a controlled explosion in the early hours of the morning. Just over 40 years ago, my grandparents were among the first residents of those shiny new houses. They were the latest in local authority housing provision, having central heating, drying areas and shiny new lifts that worked really well in the beginning. And, moving from homes well overdue for demolition, my grandparents and their neighbours were well pleased. It doesn't seem a very long shelf life but already their home and three other 12 storey tower blocks have been raised to the ground ( that always strikes me as a weird phrase). The same weekend, a tower block in Tulliallan was demolished. It, however, wasn't brought down in the early hours but in daylight - and morning worship had to be cancelled! Perhaps it was the same explosives team and they had to travel?
Anyway,the reason I share these local interest stories is that, tonight, we had reason to be in Tulliallan to attend evening worship led by the Heart and Soul Swing Band (who were excellent). The church in Tulliallan sits (or sat) in the shadow of the recently demolished tower block. Describing how to get there, I found myself saying: "It's just where the tower block used to be."
That's a common thing - to navigate by landmarks that are no longer present. "Turn left at the corner where... used to be..."
Strikes me as a familiar predicament in which we find ourselves in the church - navigating by landmarks that are no longer present.
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Saturday, 16 March 2013

All that you need

"If you don't see what you need, just ask" was the invitation issued for the Preacher's Party this week. "If you don't see what you need, just ask"
It's an invitation we often make when we have company, though I'd normally say "Now, what have I forgotten?"
But as I read that invitation this morning "If you don't see what you need, just ask" it struck me that that would make a wonderful invitation to the table. Our generous and extravagant God invites us in to a sharing of abundance and would not hesitate to urge: "I f you don't see what you need, just ask"

If you don't see what you need, just ask!
Thank you God for inviting us in to your abundance
Thank you for ensuring we have all we need
Thank you for inviting us to simply say
if there is something else we'd like
But with your unconditional love
and your amazing grace
your boundless compassion
and your extravagant giving of yourself
what more could we want?
So, thank you
for making space for us at your table
and for encouraging us
to ask for what we need.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Holding the memories

I attended a seminar on aspects of Spirituality in Dementia Care and emerged with an incredible sense of déjà vu. The sentiments being expressed and the information offered virtually replicated the things being discussed almost 20 years ago when I undertook a multi-disciplinary Diploma in Palliative Care. There was the impression, from today's seminar that Dementia Care is only now at the stage that Palliative Care was then. I'm sure that that is not the case. Rather, like Palliative Care, the standard of care varies from place to place and from setting to setting with many examples of good practice and not so good practice.
Whilst the notion of living well with a diagnosis of dementia was mentioned briefly at the beginning of the seminar, the focus seemed to be on end of life care. That, too, mirrored the training I undertook in Palliative Care where the focus tended to be on Hospice care and on " a good death" rather than on the early stages following diagnosis. And perhaps that is necessary in the early days of gathering evidence and drawing up policies. One has to almost work backwards - being assured of quality care will encourage folk to seek intervention at an earlier stage and so on.
However, one phrase that caught my imagination today was the notion that, as spiritual care givers, we might be involved in "holding the memories" for others. That seems to me to connect well with the feeling that I have often of "holding the faith" for others, who are unable because of the stage they are at in life or because of their life experience to subscribe to faith for themselves. Custodians of faith and of memories seems to me to be a sacred calling.

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Thursday, 14 March 2013

Straight lines and shadows

The loch becomes a mirror
for the bumps and curves of nature
But even the sharp contours
of human construction
take on a beauty
when reflected in the water.
Like the slow smile of recognition
that lightens the features
when wonder is revealed
in all its mystery.
Revelation and mystery
do not compete
or contradict
but live side by side
in glorious harmony
in nature
as do light and shade
They need each other
one made whole
by the other
their true effect
only realised
when viewed
in completeness

Revelation and mystery
Light and shade
God and creation.
Each complements and completes
the other.

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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Society of Jesus

Early on in my ministry as a hospital chaplain, seeking works to enrich and challenge my practice, I grew to have tremendous respect for authors whose name was followed by the letters SJ. Writing by such authors usually signalled depth and practicality, along with profound wisdom. Today, as a Jesuit pope is elected, the world needs more than ever to witness, in this pope, humility, sensitivity, and wisdom.
There are a lot of firsts in these early hours of his election - first Latin American, first Jesuit, first to take the name Francis.
Could this signal new things to come?
Sadly Pope Francis' previously published comments in opposing same sex marriage do not bode well but that is hardly surprising. While we would expect any pope to " toe the party line" perhaps Pope Francis will at least bring a new depth to spirituality as well as identification with the poor who, incidentally, we are reminded in this week's gospel "will always be with us". In that reminder is an exhortation to care for the poor whom we encounter in our midst.
While his age and apparent obscurity might suggest something of a place holding position, place holders can play an important part, and a man disciplined in the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola should bring a refreshing perspective to the role. Time will tell.
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Tuesday, 12 March 2013

What the desert reveals

Pondering what the desert reveals
in the process of discernment
a slow unfolding
of tightly wound dreams
unfurling at the edges
Teasing in its winsomeness
swirling around the periphery
just out of reach
hidden from sight.
And so the work must continue
to carefully listen
and try to comprehend
but, above all,
to exercise patience
until, in the fulness of time
all is revealed.
And in the waiting
to know the calm assurance
that God's will is good.

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Monday, 11 March 2013

Are we nearly there yet?

Counting down the days
until we can be done
with this Lenten austerity
such as it is.
Til we can reclaim the Alleluias
and make a joyful noise again
It's a slow burn to 40
The question is:
At the end of the day
will anything have changed in us?
Has the discipline done us any good?
Has the wilderness proved fertile
for our souls?
Or are we simply marking time,
doing what is expected of us
with no enthusiasm
and no sense of growth
or of movement?
Half way there
and weary.
But maybe that's a good sign
- the wilderness isn't supposed to be
a walk in the park.
If we're feeling the burn
then maybe, just maybe
we're doing something right.
Half way there.
Only one way to go.
One step at a time.

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Sunday, 10 March 2013

Mothers and prodigals

Mothering Sunday in the UK always presents a challenge in crafting worship, unless one ignores it completely. This morning, the Lectionary reading - the parable of the Prodigal, brought a real sense of homecoming. It was also our Stated Annual Meeting, so we celebrated in worship our life together serving at the heart of our community and parish. All of these elements combined, hopefully, to foster the sense of all who were there having a unique place in the family of God - and of each one needed to make that family complete. There was a blizzard raging outside during worship but, like hardy snowdrops, God's people emerged just as the sun re-appeared and forged on to share hope and love.

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Saturday, 9 March 2013

While he was still a long way off....

Inspired by tomorrow's gospel (Luke 15: 11-32), a story of inexhaustible love.
While he was still a long way off
a heart leapt for joy
an arm raised in welcome
feet danced in abandon
hands twitched to embrace
While he was still a long way off
hurt feelings were repaired
anxious thoughts were calmed
tears of sadness
gave way to smiles of joy
While he was still a long way off
eyes tired from constant hopeful staring
were crinkled with laughter
words repressed and under-used
were released in whooping circles
shoulders slumped in resignation
once more rose proud and tall
While he was still a long way off
Everything changed
And yet nothing was different
Only that the irrepressible flow of love
was once more released and recognised
While he was still a long way off.

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Friday, 8 March 2013

Spitfires and sweethearts

Today, I met a 93 year old lady who repaired spitfires during the war. She was a real character and listening to her stories was a tonic. Yesterday, I got caught up in an impromptu mission songs karaoke with some delightful ladies in a dementia care unit. Wonderful encounters like this are simply perks of ministry. The kind of perks that, though they don't come along nearly as often as I'd like, affirm that ministry of presence that we are called to exercise. Sometimes ministry does not entail form filling or document writing or cleverly crafted words and thoughts but more basic yet nonetheless important skills of responding to the moment we find ourselves in with the people who are our companions on the journey. It is to be hoped that such life-affirming incidences occur frequently enough to ground our Theology and to make it real.

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Thursday, 7 March 2013

Using the muck

Normally, by this stage of the week, I have long since left the readings from last week behind in order to focus on the Lectionary for the following Sunday. But, somehow, the parable of the fig tree has accompanied me and even plagued me this week. I find myself drawn, again and again, to the image of the gardener who didn't simply "give it another year" but was prepared to set to digging around those roots and putting in manure, giving the tree every chance to produce the goods instead of just giving up on it.
I was involved in a discussion (aka moan) with a colleague about some of the minutiae of ministry in which we often become mired. The politics of keeping individuals and groups on side, even when it seems to distract us from the core business and take considerable energy and patience and gritting of teeth is, perhaps, the manure that has to be dug in to allow the tree to bear fruit. Hard work, but worth the effort. It does not make the task easier but does perhaps give it purpose. Maybe that is why the fig tree has stuck with me - that work is a necessary,ongoing part of ministry. As servants of the God of second and third and fourth chances we are called to be engaged in according others the same opportunities for growth as are extended to us.
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Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Losing credibility

News reports this week quote a leading Scottish church person claiming that: "The church has lost credibility."
The church has always suffered from in credibility.
It is founded on the incredible sacrifice of the Son of God, who had a pretty incredible ministry, died an incredible death and, incredibly,rose again.
The church has also always been subject to very fallible humans getting it wrong, abusing power and, generally, screwing up.
But, like the incredible love of God on which the church is founded, the church endures, in spite of the human beings who make up the church. Failings or not, we flawed humans are not in a position to give the church credibility. Our task is to ensure that we don't obscure the incredible message of the gospel by taking centre stage when we do mess up.
Thank God that incredibility is a hall mark of the church of Jesus Christ and may we never seek to be credible and compromise the gospel.

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Tuesday, 5 March 2013

In it together

Often when I preach, I am acutely conscious of how much I need to hear the message that is being offered to enable my own growth and spiritual enlightenment. Recent controversy in "the church" has given me cause to wonder how often the things I abhor or condemn are also the very things that I need to befriend and make space for. Things that I perhaps fear and,to counter that fear, try to keep at a distance. It is easier to deal with the darkness in another's soul than in one's own. While I give this pause for thought, I will also muse on Paul's wisdom that "where one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers".
Our calling is to build up, not tear down, to practice love and forgiveness and to be salt and light - bringing flavour and proclamation that stands up to scrutiny. There is a spiritual discipline in the art of listening, not just to others but to the voice within.
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Monday, 4 March 2013

The extra ingredient

The coffee was good. The cakes were delicious. But it was the other ingredients that made this stop for morning coffee priceless - the craic, the laughter, the confidences shared, the encouragement offered. The unmeasurable gift of time shared with friends setting the world to rights and, in that endeavour, finding our own world gradually tilting back into place.
There's always room for more coffee, a vital discipline, especially in the busiest times on our journey. Preaching again what I most need to hear!
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Sunday, 3 March 2013

What a difference a day makes

This week I took a day off. Not only did I take a day off but I got out of the parish. Visiting friends in a beautiful part of the country, I experienced real rest and renewal.
It's been a while since I've felt inspired to do much writing - but that day's retreat worked wonders for creativity.
Now I know that some might say that writing a sermon or creating liturgy are not proper pursuits for a day off but it was the creation of space and time that provided the opportunity. And so the time away was enhanced, not diminished by the accomplishment of some "work tasks".
So maybe I should more often practice what I preach and create space through which the Spirit might flow.
Meantime, I simply give thanks for sabbath that has restored and refreshed.

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Saturday, 2 March 2013

In the sunshine

In the sunshine
everything seems different
Smells, sounds, sights, feelings
even spirits are lifted
There is a sharpness and a freshness
enhanced by light and warmth
Even if only briefly.
But what is lasting
is the new perspective gained
in the light of the sun
- a burden lifted
- a joy enhanced
- a conviction confirmed
- a commitment sealed
Giving thanks
for the enlightening
and uplifting power
of the sun (Son).

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Friday, 1 March 2013

Ayr to Schiehallion

It seemed crazy last night to leave a service of induction around 10pm and then drive for over 3 hours to spend my day off with friends. But the view this morning more than compensated.
Almost every time I go to the induction of a colleague, the next morning I find myself musing on that feeling of waking up in a different world the morning after installation. Induction into a charge brings so much responsibility - the care of souls. But what a joy to care. And, of course, it is a responsibility through which we are carried by the amazing grace of God. Hoping Morag, who was inducted last night is still feeling the love this morning!
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