Why are we here? What’s the point of life? These big questions have been around since our beginnings and we all ask them at some point in our life.
Whether it’s the child becoming an adult, or the adult confronted by the cruelty of life as they grieve a loved one – why are we here is a question that persists.
In the ancient world the Greek culture was one in which these kinds of philosophical questions were discussed.
Learned men (as they were then) gathered at the Areopagus in Athens to engage in dialogue and it is where we find Paul in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles.
I imagine him to have listened to the different discussions learning about the different strands of Greek culture and belief. And yet he is there not just to listen but to speak and so is asked ‘May we know what this new teaching is you are presenting.’
Paul’s speech begins by identifying their devotion to the search for meaning. He directs them to consider an altar he has seen dedicated to an unknown God declaring that ‘what therefore you worship as unknown. This I proclaim to you.’ At the end some scoff but some want to know more.
Continue reading “Experiencing God”
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.’ Jesus says things like that. Says things knowing that we do have troubled hearts.
Says things like ‘Consider the Lilies of the field.’ That we should stop worrying, as if we can stop it just like we turn off a light switch.
But beyond our immediate sense of inadequacy perhaps these words are more of an invitation than a command for Jesus knew what it was to be human.
He spent time with people like you and me. People who were worried, who were troubled by big things and small things. None of us want to be troubled or worried but we are.
At the moment we are troubled by this virus that has limited and changed our lives. Troubled too perhaps by what life will look like in the future.
Thomas words from the Gospel this morning find echoes in our current situation ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going.’
Part of what makes this time troubling is that we do not know where we are going. We are learning to live with uncertainty.
And so, we need to hear the words.
Words that comfort us. Words that give us hope.
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’ says Jesus ‘believe in God, believe also in me.’
But at times like this Philip’s words in that Gospel may be ours too. He demands a sign of Jesus ‘Show us the Father’ he says ‘And we shall be satisfied’ as if Jesus were a conjurer.
Continue reading “Troubled hearts? Maybe, but…”
If someone says they’ve been hearing voices we most likely look at them strangely.
We’d probably think they were a bit mad.
And yet if we think about it for a moment don’t we all hear voices.
That little voice that says “Go on have another biscuit.”
That says “I should go and help that old lady cross the road.”
That says “That was a cruel thing to say” and so on and so on.
And then there are those voices we hear when we dream. Those vivid moments in our sleeping when our unconscious mind comes to the forefront.
So perhaps we do hear voices and with that in mind hear again words from the Gospel this morning ‘the sheep hear his voice.’ Jesus was likely recalling the 23rd psalm that begins ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ a psalm I reflected a bit on in the midweek musing last week.
He is of course using it as a metaphor, as he does when he also talks of the narrow gate. This image connects this Gospel with the first reading in which we get a glimpse of the shared life of the first Christians.
Continue reading “The voice of Jesus calling us into community”
It’s all over. No not coronavirus – Masterchef.
Last Friday we learned that Thomas Frake who specialised in English classics, despite a soggy bottom on his last cheesecake was the winner.
I really enjoy Masterchef and thanks to lockdown I watched most of the episodes – a rare treat.
The food cooked is interesting. John Torode and Greg Wallace make for a lively double act of judges.
But most of all I enjoy it because its about passion and transformation.
Passion in that those who succeed really love making food, and making people happy through their food.
Transformation because we share the journey some of the contestants go on as they learn new things as they are opened to new possibilities and ways of cooking.
If they’re successful the contestants get the chance to meet famous chefs who teach them new skills and give them ideas.
It’s always interesting to watch this and see how different chefs interact with people. There are those who are demanding, critical and pushy. There are others who show them the way, guide them and encourage them.
Both are valid ways of learning though I suspect most of us would thrive more in one than the other.
But what has this got to do with Easter and the reading’s we’ve just heard? Well, both readings speak a bit about transformation.
Continue reading “Transformation”
So, there’s this garden. In it we see a woman crying. She’s blinded by grief.
She has stumbled her way there. She hadn’t slept.
So, she doesn’t notice the signs of beauty and newness around her. Like the dew on the grass, or the flowers reaching for the sun.
She knows only sadness.
So, her gaze is downward when she hears footsteps through her veil of tears, a question stumbles out.
A question that mingles, sadness and anger.
The voice of love replies.
A voice that she cherished more than any other.
A voice she longed to hear and would know anywhere.
A voice that calls her by name.
The love song of God that have we recalled over the last few days has sung a new song of life into the lifeless body of Jesus.
The faith and trust that Jesus placed in the way of love on Friday has been fulfilled.
He is risen!
Continue reading “The way of love: The victory of love”
Jesus is alone. Last night Jesus girded himself with a towel and told his followers that if they were to follow him they were to love one another.
Then he broke bread and shared wine, his body and blood. Gifts of love to sustain those whom he loved then and those whom he loves now.
The way of love then took us to the garden. We kept watch with him as the way before him was revealed.
From there came his arrest. The steps from the garden to the prison made, then trial, sentence and onto Golgotha. Each step costly along the way costly.
Those who said they would never leave him have fled they have taken a different path leaving Jesus alone. Alone to face his end.
Continue reading “The way of love: The cost of love”
They’d sat at the feet of Jesus.
They had listened on hill sides, on sea shores. In houses without a roof. In holy places and whilst walking along.
Time and again they missed the point, they heard but didn’t understand. Now his words were to take on even more depth of meaning because they were to be enacted.
They weren’t to be words of an instruction manual rather they were words embodied in action.
His talk of love was to find expression as he wrapped a towel around his waist and washed their feet, as he broke bread and shared wine symbols of his message, of his self-giving, life giving love.
These actions embodied those too easily spoken words – ‘I love you.’
A few years ago, the priest I worked with then came to his last celebration of Holy Week and Easter as a parish priest where we worked.
He approached these three days keen to share what he believed about what it was all about.
I cannot remember much of what he said but the sense of wanting to define what these days are all about is a question I return to each year.
This year, of course, things feel very different for us all yet the answer to the question for me remains the same the death and resurrection of Jesus is all about love.
Continue reading “The way of love: The showing of love”
Over the last few weeks our outlook on life has shrunk. Whereas just a few weeks ago we could come and go as we pleased, not just here in our country but around the world.
Nowadays that world seems different, smaller and somehow more fragile. It brings into perspective how despite all our apparent progress how vulnerable we really are.
For us here at St. Mary’s our church is closed.
And all of us spend our time at home, our freedom is restricted.
Consequently, the world looks different and our outlook on life has shrunk. Perhaps it’s inevitable for though wonderful acts of kindness and generosity have been manifest amongst us, at a time like this we tend to focus on our own concerns and worries.
the practical – will have enough food to eat?
Will I have work, get paid, pay the bills.
To the profound – what shall I do with all this time, or even will I survive this?
These questions are seldom asked for we have become accustomed to a life of plenty and an abundance of opportunity.
Whilst we hope and pray that these days will soon be forgotten the feelings kindled by them find echoes in the story of Jesus.
Continue reading “The narrow way leading to…”