Tag Archives: faith

Tracing the Tears – Resurrection #OurHolyWeek

This Holy Week, I’m going to be blogging each day, tracing the tears Jesus shed for Jerusalem to the tear filled eyes who first saw the Risen Christ. Throughout I’ll be following prompts from #OurHolyWeek


“Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying.”

John’s account of Jesus’ resurrection begins with tears.

The tears of Good Friday and Holy Saturday were still wet on the faces of Jesus’ friends when He returned to them.

And it was through the tears of Mary Magdalene that He chose to appear – that tells me a lot about the Jesus I follow.

It tells me that this suffering servant is acquainted with the deepest grief, but it also tells me that Jesus forever reigns over the agony, that death and agony are beaten.

Twice in the stories of Jesus’ resurrection He is obscured to the people He appears to; first here when Mary believes that someone has taken the body of Jesus she does not realise to whom she speaks until He speaks her name.

Jesus makes the first move, every time, and waits patiently for us to respond. He leaves the ninety-nine to go after the lost sheep and waits for us to invite Him in when we are found.

And secondly, in Luke we read that Jesus is not recognised until He breaks bread with the hopeless travellers on the way to Emmaus.

The Risen Jesus does things as unexpectedly in life as in resurrection (as if resurrection were not unexpected enough!)

He reveals His power over the grave through signs that others may call weak; Mary’s tears, Cleopas’ hopelessness, His own scars which prove who He is to Thomas.

Our first signs of life are our cries of a baby; and here we see that it is through tears that the risen Lord first appeared. Our tears signal the beginning of everything new; the new life Jesus offers, the new hope He embodies.

As the sun rises on Easter Sunday morning, we are reminded that His mercies and our hope are new every morning.

Our hope is in the Christ who died for us, who suffered in His mercy.

Our hope is in the Christ who rose from the grave who has beaten death and evil, in His mercy still bearing the scars of crucifixion.

Our hope is in the Christ who will come again in glory and who in His mercy allows the dawn to rise slowly so that our eyes may become accustomed to the blistering light and life of who He is.

“We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” Pope John Paul II

 

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Tracing the Tears – Holy Saturday #OurHolyWeek

This Holy Week, I’m going to be blogging each day, tracing the tears Jesus shed for Jerusalem to the tear filled eyes who first saw the Risen Christ. Throughout I’ll be following prompts from #OurHolyWeek


No one likes to talk about days like today.

There is no drama, no battle, no victory.

The grave is full and the grief is raw.

It feels like death has won.

Below is a reflection on Holy Saturday adapted from my book “Learning to Breathe“.


Holy Saturday is a day to lament.

Holy Saturday is the valley of grief and uncertainty, for us and for Jesus’ disciples.’

It’s the place where we spiritually live so often, when the worst has happened and we don’t know if or how we can go on – yet in the midst of darkness we trust that dawn will break. It’s often like this in the rest of life, I think. We often remember the most dramatic days, the happiest, but how often do we remember the days of silence, when everything is wrong but nothing can be done? I don’t know if it’s a good thing that we forget days like these in our own lives, but I think it would be good if we spent a little more time remembering Holy Saturday.

It goes beyond the agony of the cross, even. The day when it was finished – when Jesus was dead – because of our sins. It is a day of silence, it seems.

God doesn’t always speak. Sometimes the silence of God says it all. As I write, I’m reminded of Job. Job who lost everything and everyone who mattered to him. Job whose friends were worse than useless. Job to whom God remained silent, waiting to speak. It strikes me that the silence of God is more often than not followed by a presence of God that is so awesome, so mighty, that we can do nothing but bow in praise and awe.

A season like this Holy Saturday can seem endless. It’s the state in which we sometimes live our lives. It’s an open wound. Shelly Rambo writes:

‘The reality is that death has not ended; instead it persists. The experience of survival is one in which life, as it once was, cannot be retrieved. However the promise of life ahead cannot be envisioned.’

There is no happy ending on Holy Saturday. Jesus is in the grave and the shadows of His death keep this day dark without a hope for the resurrection dawn. It’s a mistake to rush beyond today, because it is reflected so often in life.

Holy Saturday continues the tradition of lament set out in the Old Testament, throughout the Psalms and, of course, Lamentations. It tells us that even when God is silent, he is still to be trusted.

It’s important not to rush past the silent days of lament.

We have to be able to deal with the times when God does seem to be on mute, to be absent.

Silence does not mean that God does not exist; scripture shows us that God’s work of life begins in the dark silence and reminds us that even on these; there is hope because Jesus has been in the dark of the tomb and it was the beginning of our greatest hope.

He blesses every love that weeps and grieves

And makes our grief the pangs of a new birth.

The love that’s poured in silence at old graves

Renewing flowers, tending the bare earth,

Is never lost. In him all love is found

And sown with him, a seed in the rich ground.

Malcolm Guite

Trap or Treasure?

Ever since I can remember, I have felt “called” into a specifically “christian” ministry. I toyed with the idea of being a singer and actress for a while, quickly dismissed the idea of teaching primary school children, rejected the idea of nurse because it involved science etc etc.

All the ideas I considered were never really more than that. Just ideas. Because from the age of five – I’ve known that I have a job to do. I had no idea, of course, of shape and name at that age. But I wanted to be a missionary, a preacher, wanted to work for the Church which I loved so much.

Indeed, the calling got me through my GCSEs and A-Levels. When I wanted so badly to throw in the towel, the knowledge that I needed qualifications to get into LST meant that I carried on.

It has been a massive encouragement and blessing to me, to have an inkling of where I’m headed. God has been incredibly gracious in prodding and calling me on in the right direction, in promising me a future when I was lost in the past. I have treasured my calling.

And yet.

Recently it has begun to feel like a trap.

Because this is hard. This life, is hard.

It takes so much energy, to be the person I feel called to be, to lay my story out for people to poke, prod and question.

And sometimes, I wish for a different life. I wonder if a different life would be less painful. Less all-consuming. Less of a sacrifice?

Because what if I walked an easier road? A comfortable job that didn’t involve the questions?

What if I could feel, for once, like a twenty-two year old instead of a forty-two old?

Perhaps these feelings are some kind of long forgotten and neglected rebellion?

Perhaps, it’s just been a long week.

But the difficulties of this life, this one where I’m called to bare my soul and speak of my vulnerability, this one which uses the pain instead of burying it – it is, after all, the path I chose.

For all my sense of calling, I chose to say ‘yes’. I chose to write and speak about those things which most scarred my soul.

I choose the light instead of giving into the lure of the darkness.

It is a choice I would make again. And again.

And so I guess, this is the price I pay. It is not, in perspective, a very high price. I gave up my “right” to give up on life. I gave up my “right” to give up on God.

I have been through too much to give up now.

I need reminding of that, today of all days. I can see it as a burden, a trap.

Or I can be reminded of the grace it took to get me to today.

 

So I choose to be reminded of grace – to see the gift, instead of the trap.

 

It isn’t easy.

 

I trust that it is worth it.

 

Getting the Balance Right

So I’ve been reading Jeremiah recently, and as is often the case when reading the Bible, I came to a realisation. 

I either view God as a cuddly teddy bear, soft and loving – or I view an angry, jealous God who I have to impress, and whose standards are unattainable. 

I guess that to some extent both extremes are true. God is loving – He is Love. God is also just and perfect and to be revered. I’ve never quite got the revering bit right, I so often flail about between being scared of God, and forgetting His awesome power. 

If you know me, you’ll probably have realised that I quite like the middle ground! Why go extreme (except in my love for pretty things, matching and organisation) when you can pick the best of both sides and amalgamate them. It’s true for me in politics, theology, pretty much all the big stuff! I’ll search for a way to appease both sides and get the best of both worlds. 

Sometimes, this can be a good thing. Other times, like trying to write academic essay, it’s a bad thing. 

When it comes to my relationship with God, that tendency and love for balance goes out the window! Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t get passionate about the God we serve, the God who created the world – anything but! 

But what I am saying is that I think I’m not alone in viewing the different parts of God’s character as completely isolated from one another when in truth, the reverence and awesomeness of God are as much of a part of the love of God as His healing and willingness to send His Son to die for us.

Reverence and love aren’t mutually exclusive. They go together like nutella and, well pretty much anything – they go together like strawberries and cream, books and coffee!

So I’m going to try and readdress my balance issues. I want to delve into the loving, pastoral heart of our God. But I also want to stand back in awe and acknowledge Him as Lord. I was to bow before Him, give Him all I’ve got – but I also want to run into His everlasting arms and accept the love God has for His children.

 

Who are we?

A couple of thoughts from the Chapel service yesterday at LST:

Who are we to doubt the power of the God who fed over 5000 people with a manky packed lunch?

Who are we to shirk the responsibility of using our giftings for the Kingdom of God?

Who are we to not be part of God bringing change?

Who are we to keep staring at the darkness – instead of bringing the light?

Who are we not the change the world through the power of God?

Hope

Written a while ago…hopefully still relevant!

Hope is a much discussed, and often misunderstood concept. Some say hope is precious, some say hope is dangerous. Yet surely, a hope that is professed by the ultimate ‘hope-giver’ could not be dangerous. Surely this sort of hope should be sustaining and life-giving.

When Kate and Gerry McCann’s daughter Madeline went missing in Portugal on a family holiday, they said they would never give up hoping that their daughter would be found alive. Years later, their statement has not changed, despite many believing it is foolish to hope for her return; it seems that this hope-however vague and distant it may seem at times, sustains them in their fight to find her, and in their day-to-day lives caring for Madeline’s younger siblings.

The McCann’s have often stated that the reason they remain hopeful is because of their strong catholic faith. Yet it is often true that Christian faith can be called blind, that we are ‘duped’ into pressing on in a difficult situation purely because of an eschatological hope. During the holocaust many of the prisoners were taunted with the familiar phrase ‘where is your God now?’. These starving and tortured people stuck to the hope of heaven, even when they were in the depths of hell on earth.

Yet it is perversely true to say that hope often springs from waves of despair. Hope sprang, quite literally through waves of despair for the Israelites escaping Pharoah’s forces. They were hemmed in, between soldiers baying for blood and the Red Sea with waves ready to swallow them. Yet it was here, in the midst of hopelessness that God showed that he was still there, his hand was still protecting them and as he parted the waves for them, and showed them hope.

In life these days we seem to be faced with the waters of despair on a daily basis, if not personally, then each time we turn on the news we are assaulted with images of the starving, whose lives have been sentenced with AIDS, stolen by suicide bombers and destroyed by knife crime. Hanging on to hope, in a climate such as this is a tough call. Yet it is what the Church, the body of Christ, are called to do. To show in our everyday lives the hope that comes from the spilled blood of Christ.

I am drawn back, time and time, again to the images of Jesus on the cross. Here we see the ultimate image of despair-everything Jesus’ followers had hoped for seems to have been snatched from their grasp. Jesus himself, abandoned by those who professed never-ending love and commitment, must have been in the depths of despair. We see this clearly in Gethsemane; Jesus sweated blood at the knowledge of what he would have to endure, even though he knew the hope it would bring to the world. From this poignant picture, shines the beauty of his human holiness.

We know that despite the utter desolation of the crucifixion, comfort is brought, like a mother mopping a child’s grazed knee, by the Father. He turned the image of the brutal crucifixion into a sign of hope, which still speaks of God’s glory and benevolence.

The crucifix is a sign to every one of beauty, even those who do not believe its truth and hope for themselves, have necklaces adorned with it. For the believer the cross is the ultimate sign of God reaching out to his creation. Jesus’ arms stretched wide saying ‘come’.

The cross shows that even in Jesus’ depths he was welcoming us home. He promised the criminal beside him a home in paradise, and he does the same for us. No matter how many times we turn away, his arms are always open.

False hope is by no means an absent phenomena in todays’ world. We are offered ‘get rich quick’ schemes, notions and potions that will wipe away our tears and fears in an instant. Sometimes, even the church can be guilty of instilling false hopes in those desperate for some release. It is a common misconception that with a relationship with God comes automatic exemption from life’s aches and pains. Biblically, however we are told a different story, the epistles in the New Testament frequently tell us to rejoice in our sufferings, and persevere when the going gets tough.

Phrases such as this, I think can be somewhat ‘over-quoted’. We can bombarded with an image that Christians should never feel sad. We see that the Bible has a whole book of Lamentations. These writings come out of a place of profound pain and suffering for Israel, but from the tears that were cried, came waters of hope for the nations. The grief-letting that takes place is not only healthy, but the writer even found the strength to proclaim ‘22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’

Hope can spring from the praises we bring from the depths of our hopelessness. The psalmist says that a broken heart and contrite spirit are brought as offerings, we need not paper the cracks when it comes to God. Draw courage and hope from the cries of Jesus at the cross ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’. If Jesus, the Son of Man can bring his pain and disappointment with God to his throne, then surely, we, who have not seen him face to face can do the same.

I have often found it unfathomable to think that when we bring our praises to God, he gives us a hope more precious and life-saving than despair deems possible.

I am going to finish with the example I began with, Kate and Gerry McCann, seem to portray a clear example of hope in action. Their unwavering hope does not come without its moments of despair I’m sure; but it does sustain them through the intolerable and it does exactly the same for us.

When everything in our world seems bleak and despairing, it is my prayer that we will choose to hang onto the hope which holds on. Hope is seen in the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross. Even more importantly, hope is seen most stunningly through Mary Magadelene’s tears, when she saw the full beauty of the Risen Lord Jesus.