Thursday, 24 December 2015

The Mystery

Luke 2:1-7
The Birth of Jesus
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Birth does not happen
just when the time is right
or when everything is ready
when we've done all the right things
or when we wait patiently ...
Even when carefully planned
and engineered
long awaited
or dreaded,
birth comes crashing in
bringing change
and disruption
The arrival of a baby
in the best of circumstances
brings upheaval that cannot be anticipated.
Whether homeless on the streets
Or camped in a refugees enclosure
Crouched in squalor
Or laying in a manger
Birth comes
Heralding joy and sorrow
excitement and danger
Signalling despair and hope
fear and longing.
Into melee and mystery
God is born.
The world is not suddenly transformed.
The experience of birth is no less traumatic
The chaos and squalor do not disappear.
But the air is charged with a new reality
that is seldom grasped:
A message for all:
You are deeply, deeply loved
by a God who is love.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

For a season

 
Grief caught me unawares this morning
as it is wont to do
Amidst the hope and the peace 
and the joy and the love
proclaimed by the Advent candles
grief snuck in
unbidden
unwelcome.
I want to push her away
ignore her
push her far down
into the recesses of my soul
where she can languish
until she decides to play nice.
But she keeps on surprising me
with her force and her persistence
with her ability to make me confront 
what ails me
or at least to consider
the reality of pain
being present
when all is good
and right
and life-giving.
To follow a call
does not grant immunity
from the pain of loss
and the vagaries
of transition.
And the comfort God promises
is slow to appear.
But maybe wholeness is found
in acknowledging, not denying
in welcoming, not ignoring
in sitting with grief as a companion
through whom God intends
to reveal purpose.
And perhaps healing will come
when the tasks of mourning are done.
In God's time
the landscape of loss
will be transformed
into newness of life.
The God of every transition
calls us, not to easy paths
but to paths 
that will help us grow.
And that promise
is the hope and the peace
and the love and the joy
of this season.
Thanks be to God.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Advent waiting

It's strange this Advent
not to be running full tilt
to make sure that everything's ready:
The candles, the poinsettias, the bulletins, the powerpoints,
the trees and the nativity scenes,
the baubles and the stars for the blue Christmas service,
the readers, the mince pies and mulled wine,
the prayers, the poems, not forgetting the midweek reflections.
(and that's just the church stuff)
It's strange.
And I'm not sure I like it much.
But I wait.
Empty handed.
Vulnerable.
Tearful.
Bereft.
Wondering why God calls me to this.
But assured that God does.
I have hope in this season of Advent.
Hope for the world - 
for the glimmer of light in all the darkness that abounds.
Hope for the church - 
for renewal that incites love.
And hope for peace
that reaches deep within in the waiting
massaging a bruised and tired spirit
healing a wound that refuses to close
revealing a purpose as yet not fully grasped.
It's strange this Advent,
And so, I wait...

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Peacemakers and Peacekeepers

Matthew 5:9
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.


"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

I was moved, yesterday, to hear murdered US Journalist, James Foley's mother speak with grace and dignity on the killing by government security forces of Jihadi John. She questioned how, in the light of her son's peacemaking efforts, anyone could imagine that justice had been done in more violence.
And, as several world leaders declared the world a better place with the death of one terrorist, the horror of IS attacks on Paris, clearly carefully planned and orchestrated, exploded on to our TV screens and social media feeds.
Right now, nations across the world are united in grief and outrage. Public events are being cancelled, both as a mark of respect and out of fear of security breaches. Public buildings are being illuminated with the blue, white and red of France's tricolour.
Religious leaders are calling for prayers for peace.
But how long before governments retaliate with violence?
How long before more lives are lost, lives that will not be mourned or even named publicly, mere collateral in the war on terrorism?
In this week when the UK has honoured those who have fallen in war, along with all those who "kept the home fires burning", as we've heard impassioned pleas from many veterans of war to find a way to peace, we hold our collective breaths, fearing what seems inevitable in a world that knows not how to make peace - that once again we will be led, by our power hungry governments into more revenge and violence in the name of justice.
And our tears mingle with those of God...

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Processing change, encountering grace.


It is now six weeks since I left Parish Ministry to take up my new post as Path of Renewal Coordinator.
As well as getting to grips with a new job, the description of which is still, largely, being written, there has been the challenge of moving house, leaving church, and finding a new faith community.
We have discovered how easy it is to accumulate far too much "stuff" in 34 years of marriage. Although neither of the manses we have occupied contained the required number of rooms stipulated by the Church of Scotland,  we still had a lot of recycling to do in order to occupy our new home. 
We have also discovered the freedom of choosing our own colour schemes and having work done without committee discussion and approval!
Finding a new church wasn't difficult: there are plenty around and the one closest was so welcoming that we haven't ventured anywhere else. But Sundays are still traumatic. It is difficult to be in the pew. 
It's not so much that I miss preaching or conducting worship per se. And I certainly don't miss all the preparation and angst. But I miss being with the community that I know and love, the community that appreciated the unpredictable on a Sunday, who were always up for a challenge and who welcomed my style and spontaneity in worship.
Well meaning friends and colleagues have suggested that I should fill in for other ministers, and there have been offers. But that still wouldn't mitigate the miss that I feel of worshipping with a community who had become familiar - pilgrims together.
Sundays are pain-filled but I give thanks for a new community of faith in which folk are willing to let me simply be, offering space and compassion, empathy and companionship on this latest stage on the journey of faith.
And in my new post, as I mentor and support others who are exploring new ways to be communities of faith, I will remember these important lessons in letting go, in grieving,  and in embracing the new, supported by those who live into the grace of God.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Refreshing community

I had occasion to travel by bus today in Glasgow. What a refreshing experience. On my 15 minute journey, I witnessed community in action. 
Having no idea where I needed to alight, and having been informed by the driver: "Saracen Street's a lang street, hen", I asked another passenger if she knew of the church I was scheduled to be. She did know and she took great care to not only make sure that I got off at the right stop but that I also knew in which direction to walk to reach my destination, (including where to cross the road).
One passenger got on, heavily laden with packages. In one of his carriers was some grocery shopping. But the carrier bag was torn and his groceries were in danger of spilling out. Another passenger not only donated another bag for him, but helped him repack his groceries. He then proceeded to share with everyone on the bus where the best bargains of the day were to be had. His advice was heard and appreciated. And good natured banter ensued.
I arrived, glad that I had chosen to travel by public transport.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Another way

Isaiah 65:17-25
The Glorious New Creation
For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain,
or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—
and their descendants as well.
Before they call I will answer,
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain,
says the Lord.
As we continue to witness the appalling plight of refugees throughout the world, fleeing war, persecution, starvation, discrimination and oppression. As our daily news bulletins show children washed up on European beaches, lorries full of bodies abandoned at the road side and migrants being vilified, our hearts tell us: There must be another way. But the vision that is sketched in Isaiah seems like light years away.
And yet...
And yet we see ordinary human beings exercising compassion, refusing to be hampered by governments' attempts to plead poverty or to scaremonger, opening their hearts and their homes, sharing their resources, making a difference in whatever way they can, fulfilling just a bit of that vision, creating chinks in the wall of resistance and fear and apathy that have arisen. We see love in action that gives rise to hope. Hope in the ordinary bringing about the extraordinary.
And we are called simply to keep on being ordinary, using and sharing the gifts that we have until, by the grace of God, our ordinary becomes extraordinary.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Ashamed #Not in my name


As another day dawns and the displaced migrants at Calais (and at other border points) are pilloried by the UK Government, as the chaos unfolding and the loss of business caused by trucks being parked up, unable to cross the channel is blamed, not on port and ferry workers engaged in industrial action, but on those same migrants, treated with less dignity than we treat livestock, as (some)UK tax payers cry foul at the tax funded BBC filming Songs of Praise from a sanctuary erected in the migrants' enclosure and as that same callous UK Government seeks to spend £7 million on a fence to imprison the migrants, already dehumanized by (some) reactive hate filled media reporters, I offer this prayer, written, earlier in the week for Sanctuary First.

Refugees 
Queued at ferry ports
Hanging around dock yards
In the cold light of day and under the cover of darkness
Gathered up like cattle 
Escorted back to persecution and death
As you see these now familiar sights O God
What are your thoughts?
As you see small boats washed up without their many occupants
who now lie at the bottom of the ocean
What are your thoughts,O God?
As you see prosperous nations refusing to offer aid
or even temporary shelter or asylum
What are your thoughts O God?
And as you witness us redrawing boundaries
feeling our security threatened by the plight of others
Or, worse, turning to look the other way
What are your thoughts,O God?
Your son was often far from welcome
in our streets and towns
seen as a threat to security
a challenge to the authorities of the day.
What are your thoughts O God
as you see your children today
still closing ranks
still refusing to share
still condemning others to death
God help us to see what you see
and to be convicted by your thoughts
until we open the borders of our hearts and our minds
to make room for all your people. 


Saturday, 25 July 2015

Path of Renewal

Matthew 10:5-9 (The Message)
Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:
"Don't begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.
"Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start.

At the end of this month, I will celebrate the 20th anniversary of my Ordination to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament.
I have served those years in Health Care Chaplaincy, in rural ministry and in urban ministry.
I have had the joy of being involved in church councils and committees (no, really!), mentoring students, facilitating discernment, and staffing National youth events while engaged in the immense breadth of everyday Parish Ministry.
And now, a new challenge beckons.
I have been called to serve as Coordinator for the Path of Renewal Project on which the Church of Scotland is embarking.
This project seeks to serve and support, in the first instance, 20 congregations throughout Scotland as they seek to discern the mission of God in their communities and grow and equip leaders to join in that mission.(in a nutshell!)
Since I first shared with the congregation I serve that I felt called to pursue this new pathway I have been profoundly affected by their questions and comments as well as by their grief and congratulations.
Questions such as: "Were you not happy here?"
Comments such as:"We always knew you were destined for higher things."
I know that few of us handle the process of change well. Indeed, the Path of Renewal Project will be hugely concerned with supporting Transitions as we seek other ways to do and to be church.
And, to be honest, I'm really struggling with the major upheaval it is to move from parish ministry into this new post- not least, finding a new home!
People say things out of shock or grief.
However, I would hope that it is clear to anyone who knows me how much I love Parish Ministry and how much I love this parish I am about to leave.
And it is frustrating that, after seven years of preaching on how special, unique and loved by God these people are, that any should think there is a higher or better calling in service of God.
But I cannot deny that God has now called me to a new thing and so I must relinquish a ministry I hold dear at present.
No matter how risky it is, no matter how fatuous colleagues might deem this new role, it is a role to which God is calling me at this time.
And so I go in faith.
Not without tears.
Not without trepidation.
Not because I seek something higher or better.
But because God calls.
And where God calls, there I must follow.
I look forward to continuing to share the journey with you.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Reinforcing the Stained Glass Ceiling

I am a member of RevGalBlogPals, a supportive network for women clergy. I discovered this ministry some ten years into my own ordained ministry in the Church. Enduring the isolation of a solo pastorate and being surrounded by male colleagues, I experienced the need to reach out to other women who were juggling the tasks of ministry with all sorts of other roles in life. I immediately found kindred spirits who, quite simply,"got it", women who knew how challenging it is to balance all the different tasks assigned uniquely to women in Ministry. RevGalBlogPals remains a life line for me. I serve on the Board and I participate in their Continuing Ed events. Recently, some of my colleagues have been questioning the gender exclusivity of these events. This is my response:
When I began the process toward ordination over twenty five years ago, I had barely heard of the Stained Glass Ceiling. My denomination had been ordaining women to the ministry of word and sacrament for over twenty years and I had experienced some impressive role models of women in leadership along the way.
After training, experiencing a call to Hospital Chaplaincy rather than Parish Ministry saved me from some of the pain other women colleagues were encountering.when they applied for parishes and were rejected on the basis of gender. And each of my appointments since have been based on reputation and recommendation. Along the way,I have had occasion to challenge discrimination against women as I've encountered it. And, for a time, I was confident that there were cracks appearing in the Stained glass ceiling of the church. But, more recently, as my denomination grapples with issues of inclusion based on sexuality, it seems that, for some, re-establishing the church's historically narrow, male-dominated, conservative leadership is a priority.
Twenty years post ordination, my fear is that the Stained glass ceiling was too fragile for many and so now, it has been reinforced in all sorts of obvious and insidious ways. And, while the most effective way to counter this is for women to keep stepping up, to challenge this denial of God's call that does not discriminate on the basis of either gender or sexuality, when one is often the only woman in a room full of men, or when one's contributions have been mansplained one more time (and once is one time too many), it is wearing to keep going back for more. It calls for certain appendages with which only men are endowed. And, meanwhile, there are other tasks to be accomplished as the body of Christ: feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoner, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked... Tasks that, as a woman in Ministry, I find it difficult to subjugate to the fight to be accorded my rightful place at the table as a woman called by God.
Hence my need to indulge in women only events that examine the role we play in an institution that continues to discriminate against us because of an alignment of chromosomes or of body parts over which God presided.
That tinkle of breaking glass? It wasn't the glass ceiling coming down. It was being reinforced.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Accepted as we are


Psalms 69:1-3
Psalm 69
Prayer for Deliverance from Persecution
To the leader: according to Lilies. Of David.
​Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.

Come as you are.
Bring what you have.
Not just  good news.
Not just the praise.
Not just the highs of the day.
But every cry and every want
and every complaint,
even despair.
These too are welcome
in God’s sight.
For God wants all of us,
the parts we reveal
and all that we hide,
the things we can live with 
and the things that we bury.
All of these- shaken, stirred, poured out and laid in plain view 
are not pretty to us
but precious to God.
God is big enough to take all of us
and love us even when we do not love ourselves.
Steadfast God who takes it all.

(A reflection written for Spill the Beans)

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Counter Balance



Musing today on how my Facebook news feed is filled with silly statuses.
Probably because I'm involved in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The silliness is a counter balance to the gamut of emotions raised by GA business.
During the course of the first thirty minutes today I was moved to tears by the beauty of worship being signed for deaf participants, wounded by a condescending and patronising message from a colleague, filled with hope and pride listening to Youth Delegates' contributions and flooded with gratitude, love, and joy at being part of this great, flawed, maddening, respected and influential institution composed of living stones.
No wonder I feel compelled to take refuge in some silliness!
Thanking God for the love, inclusion and potential of the Church of Scotland, living stones for the nation and the world.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Hope


This reflection was written for Spill the Beans before I knew that this would be the Sunday after a General Election in the UK but seems pretty apt for the season.

For what do you hope?
For what do you hope?
Is it some future event?
Something that can be planned, researched, engineered or financed?
Like a cure for cancer?
Or a way of regenerating brain cells destroyed in dementia?
Or marvellous DNA repairs for confused chromosomes?
For what do you hope?
Is it some notion that tomorrow will be better?
That the benefits system will serve those in need?
Or that Food Banks will no longer be necessary?
That no one will sleep rough on our streets but that all will know shelter?
For what do you hope?
Is it for signs of world peace?
The dismantling of refugee camps?
The sharing of clean water?
For what do you hope?
The promise of God
for God’s people everywhere
is to know peace in every situation
because we are loved by the God whose name is love
and who, in Christ has already gathered us up in love.
Now that is something for which to hope.
And a hope that will not disappoint.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Welcome to a brand new day...


As the sun rises on another day in Scotland, the day after a General Election in the UK and 70 years since VE Day celebrations, the landscape looks different. It is as yet unclear what that difference is or how it will play out. But, in a country still struggling to re-define itself post Referendum and with so many claiming, I believe falsely, that to vote SNP is to vote for Nationalism, it is certainly a country in turmoil. While democracy has prevailed and people have exercised their democratic right to change the political hue of government, it is unclear whether that voice of protest will in fact change the things we want to see changed.
Will the hungry be fed without the need for Foodbanks?
Will the benefits system provide the safety net it lacks at present?
Will the "never employed generations" be offered a way to meaning and value?
Will austerity be banished?
Post- Referendum, churches were asked to pray for peace and reconciliation.
I believe that, today, that is perhaps even more crucial as this small nation finds its way to show the rest of the UK - and the world- how to "Walk humbly, act justly and love mercy" (Micah 6:8)
And, in working out how to do that, remember all those whose life's work and honest intentions have been swept aside overnight and who are forced to begin today to reassess their place in the future of Scottish and UK Politics.
When victory was declared in Europe, there was much shaking up and shaking down to be negotiated. Hopes were high. But there were also many wounded souls that required just care and compassion.
Seventy years on, my prayer is that we can find a way through the melee, listening to and for the voices that reach for justice and peace. And, above all that we will love one another through all our differences.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Uproot

Uproot
Being pulled up gently
Like a tender sapling
Disturbing the soil
Shaking it loose
Each tendril
claiming its own space
before being replanted lovingly elsewhere
to bloom and to grow 
knowing the nourishment of good soil
and the nurture
of caring and competent hands.
OR
Being ripped out of the earth
Pulled violently
from a place of deep longing
Broken apart
with no way back
Uprooting comes in many ways
For some an every day occurrence
accepted as a part of existence
For others, a fiercely resisted intrusion
that wreaks havoc
And yet uprooting 
always carries the potential
Of life and growth
however it comes to us. 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Relinquishing shepherd hood

Ruth Everhart, teaching on Pilgrimage said: "So much of what we do is about shepherding other people's spiritual experiences." And she asked: "What is it you do to reclaim your spiritual authenticity?"(or something along those lines.)
I began to think, firstly, of some of the physical ways I would attempt to remove myself from being in pastor mode. I have a T shirt I love to wear which bears the question: "Ask me if I care?" That serves to remind me that, at this moment, in this setting I am not the pastor. I am not the one called to be the carer. It is a T shirt for time off.
If physically possible, I head to the beach and can usually find a spot with no other human company. Then it's just me and God. The wind and the waves and the beauty of the scenery conspire to renew my energy and to draw me to something other than my bone crushing weariness. My senses are tantalised. I breathe deeply, deeper than I have for some time and, even though this beach pilgrimage is a fairly regular occurrence, I'm always surprised to discover in it, the presence of God. When I move out of God's way, God materialises, sitting alongside me on the beach, walking next to me at the water's edge, blowing around me, messing my hair and placing the tang of salt on my lips. And in those moments I am reminded that God cares for me too. The God I work hard to reveal to others is revealed to me in those sacred moments. That shift in perspective is surely pilgrimage.

Down the Line

One of our number was delayed yesterday enroute from England to Scotland to participate in a Continuing Education Event by an incident on the Railway Line.
I found it difficult to embark on the Conference until I'd taken some time to reflect on/pray about this:

Sitting on the train
On a journey
Destination determined
Perhaps musing on events before the journey started
Or anticipating what is to come
An announcement is made:
"There's been a fatality on the line."
Inconvenient - to say the least.
Inconvenient for me
delaying my arrival 
Inconvenient for those with whom I am meeting
pushing back the start of a carefully planned programme
Inconvenient for train crews
those on either side of "the blockage"
Inconvenient for those whose task it is to schedule
arrivals and departures
and rolling stock
being in the right place
at the right time.
But much more than inconvenient
for family members
whose loved one has died
and who will never know
why that was the time and place and method chosen.
Much more than inconvenient for a community
saddened and shocked as the news travels through.
Much more than inconvenient for emergency crews
responding to a call
and becoming embroiled in trauma.
Way down the line
the effects roll out 
connections are made
and humanity
knows itself embroiled
in the drama of life
united in fragility
and vulnerability
and in being mortal.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

There's a woman in the pulpit


Every single day, ministry brings incredible challenges and opportunities. It embraces the sublime and the ridiculous. It is a vocation liberally peppered with poignancy, confidences and stories. Many of these stories deserve to be shared. "There's a woman in the pulpit" is a book full of such stories contributed by clergy women who are members of RevGalBlogPals, a supportive network for women serving, seeking or discerning a call to ministry. These are stories laced with sadness and joy, with honesty,,openness and a great deal of humour.
RevGalBlogPals started in 2005 as a handful of women clergy reached out to one another through their blogs offering prayerful and practical support. The community has grown exponentially as word spread and, as well as daily blog posts, the community now also supports a Facebook Group of almost 3000 members, where posts are moderated to ensure that a safe and supportive space is maintained, along with Twitter and Tumblr accounts. Honesty,humility and humour underpin much of the work undertaken as RevGals and pals support each other through life and ministry. Rev Martha Spong is the Director of RevGals and editor of the book. RevGalBlogPals demonstrates how virtual community can be real. There's a Woman in the Pulpit is testimony to that.


Sunday, 5 April 2015

Risen indeed!

Matthew 28:5-8
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

The sanctuary is prepared
to greet another Easter dawn
The white cloths
The flowers 
All is quiet
Just waiting on the congregation to arrive
And the service to get underway
So that we can proclaim
Christ is risen
He is risen indeed!
Those who utter those words of life
utter them with varying levels of conviction
with varying levels of need.
For some, there is no hesitation
Words spoken with joy 
For others, they are spoken through gritted teeth
The grit of hope 
The hope that God enters
all the tombs that feature in our lives
However we greet this Easter dawn
in sorrow or in triumph
the Risen Christ meets us
and goes ahead of us
fulfilling our hopes
fulfilling our need
Affirming time after time
that love is stronger than death
And in every darkness
God walks beside us
breathing life.
Christ is risen
He is risen indeed.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Laid in the tomb

Matthew 27:57-61
The Burial of Jesus
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

Laid in the tomb
The hopes and dreams of a nation
Laid in the tomb
That bitter taste of disappointment
Laid in the tomb
The stories, the promises, now meaningless words
All replaced with a grief filled silence
And in that silence
rudderless folk
who had desperately wished
for a different outcome
scattered to lick their wounds
not even far enough along to wonder
What next?
They sat with their grief 
and bitterness and disappointment
in silence
as all that they loved
was laid in the tomb.

Friday, 3 April 2015

In the shadows

Matthew 27:45-46
The Death of Jesus
From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The shadows lengthen
And in them crouches Judas, the betrayer
And Peter the denier
And Thomas the doubter
And Mary the anointer
And Simon the cross bearer
And Pilate washing his hands 
And Barabbas, a freed man
And the soldiers casting lots
And the women quietly crying
And Joseph, preparing the tomb
All with bit parts in the unfolding drama
Of the death of Jesus
And the breaking of the heart of God

Thursday, 2 April 2015

With friends...


Matthew 26:31
Peter’s Denial Foretold
Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

Celebrating the Passover with friends
Taking time out in an upper room
Caring for their tired and weary bodies
with water, wine and bread.
Then, stories shared and hunger sated,
going into the garden in the cool of the night to pray.
Going into the garden 
where betrayal and arrest awaited him.
And one by one, the friends disappeared
slinking into the night
watching form a distance
feeling the hurt and betrayal
but powerless to change it.
And the Son of God
who removed his robe to serve his friends
was left exposed and abandoned
on the night before his death
as the light burned dimly
just before dawn.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Who is this?

Matthew 21:10
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?”
Riding a donkey into the city
Clearing the temple
Cursing the fig tree
Dining with friends
Telling stories 
Being anointed with precious ointment
Trying to keep a low profile
Constantly glancing over his shoulder 
To see if his time had come
Lengthening shadows
And gathering clouds
Time's running out
And the question remains:
Who is this?

Monday, 30 March 2015

Such love

Matthew 21:14-15
The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry

There will always be those
who are suspicious
of the motives of others
or threatened
by their popularity
Those who cannot see good
for what it is
Pure
Uncomplicated
Love in action
And for those 
who practice justice
and love mercy
and walk humbly 
the naysayers
bring danger
and do their best
to suck the good out of
all that promises 
wholeness and healing.
But love had - and has the last word
Even as he was being crucified
the King of love cried
"Father, forgive them"
And such love
could not be extinguished
but triumphed
over the angry ones.
Such love.

Making room

Matthew 21:12
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.
No room for the poor
who couldn't afford the temple taxes
or acquire the right kind of offerings
No room for the sick
who might defile the space for others
No room for the sinners
who might dilute the righteousness
No room for the lonely
who might carry the expectation of community
Jesus entered the temple
and cleared the space
making room for those
who wanted to pray.
And what of our sanctuaries today?
Is there a place for those who could use some care
Those who don't sit still for very long
Those who interrupt
Those who are confused
Those who need our patience 
as we sit with them in welcome
Those who do not contribute
except by affording us the opportunity
to welcome and embrace.
Is there a place
for the poor and the lonely
for the sick and the hurting
for the righteous and the sinner
Is there a place for prayer?
Matthew 21:13
He said to them, “It is written,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’;
but you are making it a den of robbers.”

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Hosanna


Matthew 21:9
The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Hosanna'
Lord save us
cried the children
mimicking their elders
Hosanna
Lord save us
cried the weary
pleading for an easier load
Hosanna
Lord save us
cried the women
longing for compassion
Hosanna
Lord save us 
cried the outcasts 
hoping for acceptance
Hosanna
Lord save us
cried the disciples
still confused about their journey
And who are the folk today crying
Hosanna
Lord save us
Seeking companionship
on their journey 
compassion and acceptance 
along the way
a lightening of the load
and purpose
for each new day
Hosanna
Lord save us
A cry that awaits
our response today.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Pray, pray and pray again

Colossians 1:9
For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

To be covered in prayer
Is a gift without price
Like a comfort blanket
gently draped
or held on to.
Like a duvet
being pulled back
on a cold wintry morning.
Like a soft fleecy snuggle
that brings warmth.
Prayer that
Comforts
Confronts
Cajoles
Prayer that
Relaxes
Stimulates
Motivates.
Prayer is a gift
For giving
And receiving
A blessing 
too often overlooked
but never overdone.
Pray without ceasing

Friday, 27 March 2015

Avoiding corruption

James 1:27
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Caring involves
rolling up our sleeves
diving in
making a difference.
It's often hands on
rough and gritty.
Not too effective
when we hold ourselves back
and try to care remotely.
But it's easy to get sucked in
become complicit.
It's easy to find our worth
maybe even our identity
in serving others.
And going that bit further
to help folk up
to enable
risks our sense of being.
It is that seduction
that poses a danger
a trap into which
we might fall.
There is a balance to be struck
and finding it allows us 
to be more effective
at restoring the rights and freedom
df others.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

A time for clearing

1 Peter 2:1
The Living Stone and a Chosen People
​Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander.

That's a tall order
ridding oneself
of all malice
of guile
of insincerity
of envy
and slander
What will be left
but a gaping hole
in the places
where those things resided.
A gaping hole
into which can move
kindness
positive regard
Joy
compassion
earnestness
And still there would be room
for other positive qualities
Qualities that take energy
to cultivate
but which bring
their own growth
and capacity for expansion
A tall order.
Clearing the weeds
to allow beauty to grow.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Tender-hearted

1 Peter 3:8-9
Suffering for Doing Right
Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.

A tender heart
may be bruised
abused
manipulated
hurt
even broken.
But the ability
to be a blessing
outweighs all the risks.
And the strength there is
in being tender hearted
especially against the odds
compensates every slight
heals every hurt
and binds up
every brokenness.
Be challenged
Throw caution to the wind
And let your tender heart
shine through.
Be blessed.
And be a blessing.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Resilient

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

Like the oyster pearl
produced by irritation
yet emerging as a thing of great beauty
so there is opportunity
to use all the discomfort
of being put down
of being falsely accused
of having integrity questioned
of being disrespected
or overlooked
to build up resilience
and the ability
to know the nearness of God
even in those
who would do us harm
and, in discovering God there
to give thanks
for a new way of seeing
an insight
not afforded
by easy times
but a saving grace
of trial.

Monday, 23 March 2015

To see Jesus

John 12:20-22
Some Greeks Wish to See Jesus
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
To see Jesus
Among the crowds
At the festival
In the disciples
In places of worship
On our streets
In our places of work 
In the coffee shop
In the garden centre
On the High Street
Downtown
Huddling on a bench
Sleeping in a doorway
Holding out a cup for  loose change
Selling newspapers
Driving the bus
At the school crossing...
To see Jesus
in all whom we meet today.

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