Posted in Book, Church of England, Easter, Jesus, Lent, Life

Contemplating the cross

I’ve been following the book Contemplating the Cross a Pilgrimage of Prayer by Tricia McCary Rhodes.

Her Last chapter – epilogue is entitled Resurrection and starts with a quote by Dorothy L. Sayers…The Disciples had seen the strong hands of God twist the crown of thorns into a crown of glory, and in hands as strong as that they knew themselves safe…They had expected a walkover, and they beheld a victory; they had expected an earthly Messiah, and they beheld the Soul of Eternity.

Each daily prayer / section of the book has a reflection, read, respond, pray.  It is an amazing book to follow through lent or use with Lent groups – it is very good at making you think about how horrific the cross was and how lucky we are.

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Posted in alternative worship, Easter, Jesus, Lent, Life, liturgy

The last Supper

I found this liturgy on Hold this Space.

Judas

This is proof that you can sit at a table surrounded by friends and be the loneliest you have ever been.

Everyone seems to think this is what Jesus has been on about all this time:
that if everyone’s welcome and everyone’s home, that’s enough.

They think that it can go on forever just like this,
that this table is enough to change the world,
but it’s not.
And Jesus knows that too.

human love has a limit
and we need to know what lies beyond that limit.

They love me tonight
but they’re fickle.

When they look back through the annals of history
they’ll say Jesus paid the ultimate price
and that i got what i deserved.

They’ll say i sold my soul for 30 pieces of silver
but no amount of money goes close to making up for the thousands of years
of abuse i’ll now be dealt
from those who never even bothered to get to know me,
or find out why i’m doing this,
or thought about how much this story needs me
so it doesn’t simply become idealised politics or a religious cliche.

For everyone else, sitting round this table tonight
all concepts of welcoming the unloveable
and forgiving the impossible
are still purely theoretical
and therefore gospel truth.
Tonight no one questions my place here.
Tomorrow theylll just wish I was dead.

Mary of Bethany

[standing against a wall]

They sit over there and talk about how the world has changed
how radical all this is.
They’ve never felt like this before.
They never knew this was possible.

i can hear them talking amongst themselves
remembering things he’s said:
the last shall be first… blessed are the poor… come to me all you who labour…

They’re telling stories of the woman at the well
of Zaccheus coming down the tree
and even of me, just the other day, rubbing oil into Jesus’ hair

remember her,
i hear them saying.

I know they think i should be grateful i’m even in the room.
that it wouldn’t have been the case
years ago.
we know you want more, i hear them say. give us time, we’ll get there.

But let’s be honest, if i gave them 2000 years i’d still be waiting.

If this is the only way i can be here
i’m not sure here is where i’m meant to be.

Because I’ve tasted it now.
i know what it’s like to have a place at the table
to have my place at the table.

i’ve sat with jesus.
i’ve eaten that bread and drunk that wine.

i owe it to myself – and jesus – to not go back.

Thomas

i look around at all this:

it’s too good to be true
too impossible, too fragile.

It can’t last. It’s got to end sometime.

Part of me longs to lose myself in it,
to embrace it all,
to be as sure as all of them,
but i just don’t have that bit inside me that will let me let go.

Thomas, they say to me. Stop doubting.
What they don’t get is, if i give into it completely, and it all ends tomorrow
it would break me.

I don’t think i could recover.
i don’t have their faith in miracles
and that’s what it would take.

Sometimes i almost tip over into their life
where a brave new world is possible
and i am part of it.
I get it, just for a moment.
but then it’s gone.

Faith’s a gift you know, and it’s not mine.
not tonight.

John

I got here early so i could sit next to Jesus
but then i turned my head for a minute
and someone else took the space.

They know i’m his closest friend.

i’m not being selfish. He needs me there.
it’s been such a strange week
and he needs someone who will keep his glass full
who will take the weight off his shoulders for a while
who will just stop people bugging him
and expecting more from him.

And i need to know he’s ok.
It’s all changing,
and i want it to be how it was before
when right was right
when up was up
when we all knew where we belonged
and what could be expected.

I wanted to sit next to him
to get just a moment of that back.

i’m his best friend
his beloved
i’ve shared him with the world for the last three years
is it too much to have him next to me?
just for tonight?

Peter

I’ve been part of this meal every year of my life
but it was always a pale imitation of this.
i get it now, i really think i do.

though you won’t believe that.
it’s hard to imagine how anyone could get things more wrong than me
even now,
even three years on.

I so don’t deserve to be here.
i’m not worthy of all this.

i want to understand
but none of it makes sense.
the rules are all different in this game and every answer i’ve been taught
no longer fits.
Nothing prepared me for this.

i just look stupid.

But, every time, just when i think i need to give the whole thing away
because i’ll never get it
something happens
something so remarkable and incomprehensible
that i know i can’t leave.

Like tonight.
It feels like the earth is shifting
and we’re just beginning
everything’s just opening up
it’s all possible.

look how far we can go with this
look how much more we can do

Who wouldn’t want to be part of this?
I can’t believe I am.

Liturgist

The first time this story was told
they gathered around a table
a ragged collection of people –
sinners
betrayers
power-hungry
fragile
lost
lonely.

The first time this story was told,
Jesus promised that it was for all time
that whenever the bread was broken
and the wine was poured,
wherever the story was told around the table
he would be there.

Today we tell the story
as its been told a thousand times over;
we break the bread,
and we pour the wine;
sure, as we do,
that we belong at this table
and that Jesus is here with us.

On the night Jesus was betrayed…

Posted in Book, Easter, Jesus, Lent, Life, Love, Poem

The Dream of Rood

Many years ago – the memory abides –
I was felled to the ground at the forest’s edge,
Severed from my roots.  Enemies seized me,
Made of me a mark of scorn for criminals to mount on;
Shoulder-high they carried me and set me on a hill.
Many foes made me fast there. Far off then I saw
The King of all mankind coming in great haste,
With courage keen, eager to climb me…
Then the young Hero – it was God almighty –
Strong and steadfast, stripped himself for battle;
He climbed up on high gallows, constant in his purpose,
Mounted it in sight of many, mankind to ransom.
Horror seized me when the Hero clasped me,
But I dared not bow or bend down to earth.
Nor falter, nor fall; firm I needs must stand.
I was raised up a Rood, a royal King I bore,
The High King of Heaven: hold firm I must.
They drove dark nails through me, the dire wounds still show,
Cruel, gaping gashes, yet I dared not give as good.
They taunted the two of us; I was wet with teeming blood,
Streaming from the warrior’s side when he sent forth his spirit.
High upon a hill helpless I suffered
Long hours of torment; I saw the Lord of hosts
Outstretched in agony; all embracing darkness
Covered with thick clouds the corpse of the World’s Ruler,
The bright day was darkened by a deep shadow,
All its colours clouded; the whole creation wept,
Keened for its King’s fall; Christ was on the Rood.
Yet warriors from afar eagerly came speeding
To where he hung alone. All this I beheld.
 

Anon., translated by Helen Gardner.

I took this from Signs of your kingdom by Michael Perham.

Posted in Church of England, Easter, Jesus, Lent, Life, Love, Poem, Story

One Solitary Life

He was born in an obscure village,
the child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in still another village
where he worked in a carpenter’s shop
until he was thirty.
He did none of the things one usually
associates with greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.
He was only thirty-three when
public opinion turned against him.
He was turned over to his enemies
and crucified.
When he was dead he was laid
in a borrowed grave.
Nineteen centuries have passed and today
he is the central figure of the human race.
No one has affected the life of man on earth
as much as that one solitary life.
 

This was originally a sermon written by Dr James Allan Francis in 1926.  It has since become shorter and tweaked by various people and from an anonymous source.

Posted in Advent, Christmas, Church of England, Easter, Help desk, Humour, Jesus, Lent, Life, Love, Sketches, Story

Why He Came

 
Dear Reverend God,
 
Your private research commission has prepared its final report.
As chair person I must inform you that we are unanimously against your project and for the following reasons:
 
It’s dangerous for your son to become a human being:
he could be hungry, thirsty, suffer or even be killed.
But if you insist, we suggest a few changes and some delay:
 
Jesus must be born from a married woman:
nobody will believe the story of Mary and the angel.
Or he should appear on earth as an adult:
why waste all those growing up years?
Whether Jesus is a boy or a girl,
50% of the people will feel discriminated against.
The birth in the stable is ridiculous:
our commission prefers a palace.
Shepherds should be involved:
they are scorned even by the middle class.
Galilee is a remote province, little esteemed:
Jesus won’t find the right kind of apostles there.
Transportation system is too slow yet:
It’s a long walk from Nazareth to Jerusalem.
Sound systems don’t exist yet:
too few people will hear Jesus’ message.
But the most compelling reason against your plan
is that it has never been done before.
  

And God said:

Thanks to all the members of your commission.

You are very intelligent, and you have discovered very valuable reasons against my project.

But what do your hearts tell you?

Dear Reverend God,
 
You asked us for a study based on scientific facts and rational analysis.
The heart reasons were not part of our mandate.
You are the specialist about the love questions.
 

Good, said God.

I’m glad you feel like this.

Then, let’s go for it.

by Fr. Rene Fumoleau

Posted in Easter, Jesus, Lent, Love, Story

The Room

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features except for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endless in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read “Girls I have liked.” I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one. And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was.
 
This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn’t match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.
 
A file named “Friends” was next to one marked “Friends I have betrayed.” The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird “Books I Have Read,” “Lies I Have Told,” “Comfort I have Given,” “Jokes I Have Laughed at.” Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: “Things I’ve yelled at my brothers.” Others I couldn’t laugh at: “Things I Have Done in My Anger”,
“Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents.” I never ceased to be surprised by the contents.
 
Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my years to fill each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.
 
When I pulled out the file marked “TV Shows I have watched”, I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn’t found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of shows but more by the vast time I knew that file represented.
 
When I came to a file marked “Lustful Thoughts,” I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content.
 
I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded. An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!” In insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn’t matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.
 
Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh.
 
And then I saw it.. The title bore “People I Have Shared the Gospel With.” The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.
 
And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt. They started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key. But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him.
 
No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn’t bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own.
 
He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one? Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn’t anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn’t say a word. He just cried with me.
 
Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card. “No!” I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was “No, no,” as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn’t be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side.
 
He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, “It is finished.” I stood up, and He led me out of the room.. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.
 
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”-
Phil. 4:13 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” If you feel the same way forward it so the love of Jesus will touch their lives also. My “People I shared the gospel with” file just got bigger, how about yours?
 

by R. Bliss (Brian’s Essay).