Sunday, 20 April 2014

EASTER DAY

This morning I am off to the village of Knott End to conduct the morning service, which will include Holy Communion. There will be an address, relevant hopefully to this greatest day in the Christian calendar. I will attempt to direct our thoughts to the ways in which the entire Easter event (past, present and future) exhibits evidence of God at work. Putting this another way, to see beyond the human actions and responses to another presence in it all- evidence of a God at work.This I will look for in three ways- the actual stories of that first Easter(more mysterious than we might first think) ; the experiences that arise from it (then and through history) to the present) and the hope it implants in human hearts.

I need to keep lifting my thoughts beyond the story. I need to go beyond the happy and safe childhood understanding of the story( whilst still retaining the story of course) to the far bigger issues they represent. So what do they represent? The first notion in humanity's history when death was not seen as the final chapter, but the doorway to a life beyond.  In a world of suffering and tragedy it represents the prospect of joy in the midst of it all. And- a matter that can be seen by all people, whether believer or not- light following darkness, love triumphing over evil. ( Even if some doubt that Jesus rose from the grave to a new sort of life, there can be no doubt that his followers were charged with new life of joy and vitality).

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I have been following the diary of a reporter who fell from her horse, breaking her neck and back and becoming a tetraplegic. This week she is remembering her pre- accident times of constantly looking in the mirror becoming over familiar with all her features. Now she looks in the mirror and sees no one there but a folded up figure with a haunted face. This week's piece is about the sadness disabled people feel  when the able bodied young complain because they do not fit with the expectation of celebrity beauty.There is a comment too about our look obsessed world, and how she (the writer) now had deep regret how  she 'courted the mirror, twirling, criticising. self loathing. Instead of being out there, living.'

The piece concluded with this trenchant comment: 'Relish your bodies while you have them, smile more and waste not a moment agonising over your looks'.

Easter is a mirror in which we can look at ourselves afresh, seeing love, joy, possibilities in us and all around us. It should indeed be a season of light and joy, and yes even if this day finds us in the midst of sadness.

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 Last evening we saw the programme about the Foundling Hospital, and the philanthropist who was angry about the abuse and state of children, and his utter determination to do something about it. Allied with this, the altruism of a famous painter and the music of a great conductor. What a mixture it was of the arts, philanthropy and music. Each one reflecting all that Easter Day is about- the blessed triumph of love beauty and light. And those who recall the old, much loved 'Methodist Hymnbook'will know that many hymns were taken from 'The Foundling Collection'.

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Saturday, 19 April 2014

HOLY SATURDAY

On this Saturday let me share with you a poem, or extracts from it, written by John Betjemen many years ago.It was called 'Three Crosses'

And when the time of trial drew near, His other friends ran off in fear.
Have you known what it is to be, liked and respected? So did he.
And then known what it is to fall. Into contempt? Christ knows it all
Have you done what you didn't ought, and then unluckily get caught?
And sent to Gaol not merely fined? 
Well keep this healing thought in mind.
Jesus did nothing wrong, but he was stripped and nailed upon a tree.

I well can understand that thief, who gave his agony relief
But calling from his cross, Art thou
The Christ? Well save three of us now.

Three crosses stand upon a hill, so black against the sky and still,
So still and black against the sky
The three of them and we stand by.
After the pain the blest relief
After the doubt the firm belief
After the dark, the dread the sinister
The moment comes when angels minister
The sap is rising in the trees, a scent of spring is in the breeze
Good Friday passes. After gloom
Christ bursts in glory from the tomb.

A good poem, I think. The triumph of hope over despair. And this Easter time there can be no greater places of hope than Christian churches. And we must be people always looking out for hope and hopefulness.

Just going back to my campaign to give away the little books about Book Aid International, I have visited 7 or 8 places and not one contact recognised Book Aid. That is despite 150 million books over 60 years and the patronage of Prince Philip. I don't blame them , of course, because in this needy world there are so many worthy causes.But hopefully, my books will awaken a little interest somewhere. On Thursday I got a little encouragement- a lady told me that as a result of reading my book about Credit Unions, her son had deposited several thousand pounds with his local Credit Union. So our humble efforts, often seeming to be a waste of time, can result in little benefits. The words must be 'We never know'.


Thought for the Day

  Strange things are mentioned in the Gospel stories about the happenings when Jesus died. There are reports of earthquakes, darkness, graves being broken open and the dead coming to life again, even walking around Jerusalem.We need not take this too literally but one report I do find interesting- darkness and the huge storm. Was it simply coincidence that when Carl Jung died there was a huge storm. In the same  way there was a terrible storm  when Beethoven died. Question: was nature in some way responding to great minds that touched upon the life of the spiritual world?It is a question. No more than that. But an interesting one.
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Friday, 18 April 2014

GOOD FRIDAY

A holiday, and yet in some senses not a holiday. I shall probably attend morning service and a musical time of quiet reflection early evening. I recall an old ministerial academic saying that we need to be Good Friday Christians  and Easter Sunday Christians. The former emphasising the gravity and depth of the world's Evil and suffering, the latter revealing the light and victory of love. Not just two aspects of the story but at the heart of who we and the Church must be.

I will also spend a little time reflecting on a busy time in North Wales. In the morning of yesterday(Thursday)we went to'Kingdom Crafts', an excellent, 12 year old shop selling every kind of fairtrade goods, books and a small area for tea, coffee cake.There were also cards of various sorts and the ambience of the shop was bright and engaging. I often think that we make such hard work of the fairtrade issue andI wish we could set it to music.By this I mean make it lighter, brighter, set it against real stories of thousands of people gaining hope in the form of education, health care, better pay as a result of our visit to the shops.Perhaps if I did engage with fairtrade in an active way again, I would call the group 'The Samba and Salsa Fairtrade Club' just to reflect this vibrancy.

I am getting the order of things wrong. We actually started out at  a big DIY store because the lady who runs our hotel with her husband keeps a rooftop garden at the back of the hotel, as well as a lovely one facing the Promenade. And growing in profusion what did I see? My beloved and much sought after Jamaican Primroses And where did she get them? The big store round the corner. So off we went and they are now ready for my garden.

After Kingdom Crafts we made our way to Conway. Oh dear, the library was closed on Thursday mornings. This made me feel even more discouraged in my 'Is it really worthwhile?' quest to give away the little books (I was forgetting the little hands that would hold them wasn't I?). But as we passed the side door a lady with a librarian's uniform was having a chat with a friend. So I hovered. She paused and ask could she help. I explained, and she took some little books. This little co-incidence of the open door restored my confidence

Then we visited a card shop and gallery where we found an exhibition of the most beautiful textile artwork. My enquiries revealed that they had been produced by a young lady called Josie Russell. We didn't recognise the name until the lady at the shop explained. She was the survivor of that truly horrific attack on her family that left her mother and younger sister dead through a horrible stabbing. You will recall that Josie survived but only after a long time of silence and recovery. Her father brought her back to their native North Wales, where she now lives. And from the cottage in which the family used to live there is this wonderful flow of  beautiful products.

Later research revealed that she obtains her materials from local charity shops, often bits and pieces left over from other things. And Josie fashions them into something beautiful. A lesson there perhaps? The little, seemingly useless, things in our lives refashioned, reworked into something beautiful. THis makes me recall a famous writer on things of the mind and spirit being shown a Persian rug being made. All he saw was a mad mixture of threads, ends, clashing colours. But once taken round the other side he saw a most beautiful product that would grace any home. The ways of Providence, he decided. Or in terms of one of St Paul's most exalted utterances When we take God into the picture- our picture- all things work together for good.

Twenty four hours- but so much packed into a short time. BUt we are a bit tired today!!

Thought For Today.
Please look back to what 'escaped' yesterday.


Thursday, 17 April 2014

Getting ahead of myself I started my Good Friday piece today, Thursday. My computer was clearly disobedient and 'published' instead of saving. So if this did happen perhaps ignore my 'Good Friday' piece until you can read it in full on that great day itself.
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