Thursday, 25 April 2019

Grief demands space

Luke 24:36
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

The disciples huddled together
Behind closed doors
Walking a day’s journey
Fishing on the lake
Or in locations not disclosed
Nursing their hurt
Burying their hope
While the whispers
And the rumours
And the women’s idle tales
gathered pace
Their grief demanded
that they pay attention
It demanded
that they sit awhile
with loss.
Before they began to piece things together.
Before words recalled began to make sense
Before hindsight began to shed light
Grief demanded its space.
And, whatever our loss
Whether we are able to make sense of it
Whether we can find purpose through it
Whatever we hope for the future
Grief demands
that we pay attention
give it some space
Even when we hear in its midst
Peace be still...

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Risen today!

Luke 24:1-12
The Resurrection of Jesus
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

The altar is dressed again
Resplendent in white and gold
as the resurrection message is proclaimed
He is not here
He is risen!
God could not be confined to the tomb
God returned to a world
where the “idle tales” of women
were not believed...
God returned to a world
where the boots of oppressors
still lay on the throats of the vulnerable...
God returned to a world
where insurrectionists believed
that their way of disruption and carnage
would herald a new hope...
And, in 2000 years
what has changed?
We proclaim Christ risen
in a world where the word of women is still questioned
where dictators and the deluded hold power
where bombs, bullets and knives
are the instruments of choice
to draw attention to a cause.
And the realisation that now, more than ever,
the need to proclaim
Faith, Hope and Love
to a world in darkness
is greater than it ever was.
And so we proclaim 
He is risen!
The challenge now, as then,
is showing God present
in such a messed up world
The Prince of Peace
shouldering a cross.
The king of love
stooping to serve the broken
The Risen Lord 
carrying the world
through the darkness of death 
to a glorious new life.
He is Risen!
He is Risen indeed!

Saturday, 20 April 2019

In between day

John 19:40-42
They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Holy Saturday
The in between day..
When we cannot return to the way things were
Nor move forward to how they might be
But must, somehow, live in the vacuum
The vacuum of an in between day
A vacuum whose silence confronts us 
with questions of complicity and culpability
and with the realisation that even our love is not enough.
Stripped of all our resources
in which we’d normally find comfort
Laid bare
Just like the altars waiting to be dressed again
At the end of ourselves
We teeter on the brink of God
the only one who might bear us over this chasm
of the now and not yet.
And we cannot fast forward
but are forced to wait
to dwell in this in between day
as in all the in between moments 
we have experienced.
We are forced to wait
in the knowledge
that the worst has happened
and we do not know what’s next.
We are forced to wait
when even hope deserts us.
And Good Friday
cannot give way
to Easter Sunday
unless we wait
unless we dwell
in the in between day.

Friday, 19 April 2019


John 19:16-19
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

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.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

He loved them to the end.

John 13:1-2
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 

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, 17 April 2019

Surely not I?

Matthew 26:20-22
When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?”

We too would have protested:
Not, I, Lord
Still protest
While we betray our Lord
at every turn.
bread from the hungry
love from the unloved
freedom from those imprisoned
by circumstances that we help create
Turning a blind eye 
to the plight of our neighbour
and the earth we inhabit
Distancing ourselves
from justice
when it demands too much of us.
Betrayal lurks at every turn
pervades our every day.
Yet still
Christ calls us his friends,
looks on us with love
shares a cup with us
and shows us how to love
and serve one another
as he loves
and served us.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

As I have loved you...

John 13:34
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

As I have loved you...
With tenderness
With grittiness
With challenge
With encounter
With knowledge
With reality
With insight
With understanding
From the inside out
Not superficially
but getting under the skin
Piercing the tidy (or untidy) exterior
to get to the heart
That kind of love
takes work.
It invites vulnerability.
It does not happen from a distance
It does not come
from assumptions
or suppositions
but from the kind of understanding
only grasped 
when space and time
have been invested
that make encounter a reality
and love a possibility 
Love one another as I have loved you...

Monday, 15 April 2019

House of prayer

Luke 19:45-48
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there;
and he said, “It is written,
‘My house shall be a house of prayer’;
but you have made it a den of robbers.”
Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.

House of prayer
How do we enable that?
How do we obstruct?
How do we make room for the light of Christ
to infiltrate the world around?
And where do we become a hindrance
making it harder for others to see?
When do we rob others
of the opportunity to be
in the presence of the Holy One
who intercedes 
with us
and for us?
A house of prayer
where folk are spellbound
by the teaching of Christ...
A teaching that upsets
the good order that we try to instil.
A house of prayer.
For all.
Lord, may it be so.

Sunday, 14 April 2019


Luke 19:37-40
As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

It it is not about our voices
or our excitement
or our fickle natures
that turn from
to Crucify!
It is about his willingness
to take the road anyway
wherever it led
and to keep on going
Even when 
the noise of the crowds
died away
and when
 friends abandoned him.
To keep on going
when the silence became eerie
and when the end was in sight
He kept on going.
It’s not about us.
It’s all about him.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Emptying ourselves

Philippians 2:5-8
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

How often is my humility false?
Put on for effect?
What about those times
I use the fact
that I am created in God’s image
as a defence
or as a counter to others’ disdain?
And when have I exploited 
the status God bestows on me
to justify my actions
to stand my ground
in the face of perceived injustice?
All of this might seem acceptable
might appear necessary
might even be applauded
in smashing patriarchy.
And yet
It is not the way of Christ.
Christ, who humbled himself
Who was obedient
to the point of death.
And so I must own
that there are times
I do not want
to be like Christ.
Mea culpa!

Friday, 12 April 2019


Matthew 18:21-22
Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

Jesus was a hard man.
Took no prisoners.
Called a spade a spade.
Didn't let folk waffle.
Was highly sensitive to hypocrisy
and spoke some harsh truth.
But when he spoke of forgiveness 
and then went on
to practice what he preached,
he raised the bar
way beyond what most of us 
are capable of reaching.
And it's not just about ability.
It's about the will to forgive.
Quite frankly,
I'd rather go on living with resentment
than roll over and forgive
I'd rather hold on to that edge of anger
than gather the energy
to have another go at building a bridge.
The work of forgiveness
demands too much energy.
It seems easier just to move on
and chalk it up to experience.
But Jesus was a hard man.
He didn't simply roll over.
He didn't simply smile sweetly
and allow others
to go on hurting,
to go on betraying.
He lifted forgiveness up to God
in an agonising cry:
"Father forgive"
And, if we can do no other...
If the time for building bridges is past.
If the time for enduring more hurt has expired.
We call on God to do the work that we can't.
And we move on -
perhaps a tiny bit broken
and certainly scarred.
And we find our healing
in the love and forgiveness of God.

Thursday, 11 April 2019


Genesis 17:6-7
I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

What does that look like today?
Is it success?
Or is it something more precarious?
Whatever it looks like,
involves covenant
and faithfulness.
In those 
is borne fruit
that lasts
from one generation
to another.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Embracing freedom

John 8:36
So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

So often we yearn to be free
yet embrace the things that hold us back
We acknowledge the oppression of institutions
yet subscribe to the values that make them so
We claim to want to wrest power to use it for good
yet  reinforce a culture of power abused
It takes courage to choose the way of freedom
Courage that doesn’t foster popularity
Courage that takes us into awkward places
and difficult conversations 
No one person is responsible for our captivity
We are all complicit 
in denying ourselves
and others
the freedom promised in Christ 
But it is possible
that, with Christ,
one person can begin
the journey to being free
Free to serve
with heart, mind, and soul.
One step, taken with courage
Freedom in Christ 

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Seeing beyond ourselves

Numbers 21:4-5
From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.”

When we can only see what is before us
Lord, lift our eyes to see beyond
When we can only see what is around us
Lord, lift our eyes to see beyond
When we can only see all that we have lost
Lord, lift our eyes to see beyond
When we can only see change and upheaval
Lord, lift our eyes to see beyond
Show us, O Lord, how far we have come
Remind us of how you have stayed with us all the way
Reassure us that still you walk beside us
Restore our faith in all the new things you reveal
and the new paths in which you lead us
And though we may not recognise
the places we now inhabit
May we trust in your goodness
which is for every generation
Lord, lift our eyes to see beyond.

Monday, 8 April 2019

Not yet time

John 8:20
He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

His hour had not yet come
But the forces were gathering
His hour had not yet come
But his fate was pretty much sealed
His hour had not yet come
But the damage had been done
His hour had not yet come
But his plain speaking
and subversive action
had riled enough of the powerful
They would not hold off much longer
before they would attempt
to extinguish
The Light of the World.
His hour had not yet come.
And so, for a while yet
he would continue
by his love in action
and by his
living in the margins
to noise up
those in authority
the religious zealots
and the occupying forces
until they were forced to act
aiding and betting one another
united in their desire
to snuff out
the peacemaker
who cared for the poor.
His hour had not yet come.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

It’s all about her

Mary of Bethany tattoo 
John 12:3
Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

It’s all about her
A woman filled with love
driven to extravagance
bursting to show
how madly, deeply
she loved.
A woman who acted on impulse,
threw caution to the wind,
risked everything
gave way beyond her means.
A woman who managed to break free
of the taboos
and cautions imposed on her
by her patriarchal culture
just for a moment
because the moment
was simply too special to miss.
And, as is often the way
as the story is told
and retold,
the focus shifts
from a daring
inspiring woman.
And the story becomes, instead,
about the men around her.
Their discomfort fills the space
instead of the fragrance 
of the perfume.
And we are diverted
to a whole other story
that’s all about the men.
Another hidden woman
in a story edited by men.
May we allow her story
to emerge from history.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Drawing a line

John 8:6
They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.

I like to think of Jesus
doodling on the ground
while folk who thought they were important
awaited his pronouncement
on the fate of the woman.
caught in adultery
I like to think that Jesus
did not draw a straight line
but a squiggly circle.
A circle that made room
for more and more inclusion.
A circle that meandered
accommodating others.
A circle full of loopholes
that enabled even the most sceptical
and the least likely 
to find a way in.
And I pray that my doodling
will always be as inclusive.
I pray that, when I draw a line
I don’t discover Jesus on the other side of it.*
I pray that any pronouncement I make
will be filled with compassion
and love
and acceptance
as Jesus was 
and is.
I pray that, when the time comes
I will be engaged
in doodling with Jesus.

* Finding Jesus on the other side of any line we draw inspired by Kathryn Johnston’s preaching at NextChurch, Baltimore Feb 2018

Friday, 5 April 2019

All in the timing

John 7:25-30
Is This the Christ?
Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come.

Even when all the signs are there
when the odds stack up
when the ducks are all in a row
God’s timing is not our timing

When we’ve worked toward a resolution
when the arc of the universe
appears to curve toward justice
when forces conspire together
God’s timing is not our timing

 When we get to the end of our tether
and know something has to give
When we find ourselves crying
“How long O Lord?”
God’s timing is not our timing

Attuning to the rhythm of God
demands that we learn
to sit with impatience
to embrace frustration
to befriend 
all that we do not yet understand
in the knowledge
that God’s timing is not our timing
yet our belovedness ensures
that God’s timing is perfect.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Standing in the breach

Psalms 106:19-23
They made a calf at Horeb
and worshiped a cast image.
They exchanged the glory of God
for the image of an ox that eats grass.
They forgot God, their Saviour,
who had done great things in Egypt,
wondrous works in the land of Ham,
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

Who are the ones, today
Who stand in the breach?
Those who save us
from destroying ourselves
and the world around us?
Is it the eco warriors,
the pacifists,
those who give up their own comfort
to live differently
and not only imagine
but carve out a different way of living? 
And how might we
catch their vision
and be inspired
in daily life
to stand in the breach
for others.
How might we
once more
be heralds
of the glory of God?

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Comfort and Compassion

Isaiah 49:13
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted his people,
and will have compassion on his suffering ones.

When, O Lord
will your people know
your comfort and compassion?
When will there be singing?
Your suffering ones
cry to you
day and night
and still their onslaught 
is relentless.
How can we lift our eyes?
How might we make a difference?
What will it take
to change our lives enough
that the difference will show up
in the lives of those
who are oppressed
those who struggle 
under the weight
of poverty
and famine
and war.
The suffering ones- 
May our compassion 
that mirrors yours
bring comfort
and singing
Show us how, O God.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Always asking

John 5:5-6
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

Always careful to ask
Never presumptuous
Jesus does not look at the obvious signs
but looks for the hidden
Knowing that what works for one
may not be the desire of another
That skill
of giving space
in which things long hidden
can be brought into the light
That place
where healing
visible or not
has a chance 
to happen 
Finding that kernel
of hope and desire
and setting it ablaze
Such is the pastoral encounter
in the space held
by Christ
Creator, Redeemer, God

Monday, 1 April 2019

Strange but true!

Isaiah 65:17-18
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.

On a day when it is difficult to distinguish
between April Fools
and fake news
and real life shenanigans
When it seems the world
is going to hell in a handcart.
When real life stories
are stranger than fiction
When the plight of so many humans
is incomprehensible
and anything but civilised.
When creation itself
groans in anguish - 
We turn to the Creator
and Redeemer
of the Universe
to ask for a sign
in the words of Mother Julian
that all shall be well
and all manner of things
shall be well.
And God sends
not a cartoon character
not a Facebook meme 
but an eternal promise - 
A new heaven and a new earth
A glorious new creation.
Thanks be to God.

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