The voice of Jesus calling us into community

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.

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Transformation

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.

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Faith and the five senses

Good morning! It’s good to be here!

Over these past few weeks we have all had to adjust to using different methods of being together. But being together is what we are achieving week by week.

Although we may sound and look different, we can still join as a community.

Although the building is closed, Church is still very much open for business.
It did occur to me that us being in an imposed lockdown certainly has an impact on our 5 senses.

Touch – We are not able to touch our loved ones. Hugging is a no-no, whilst those hands need to be washed more often.

Sight – We cannot just go and see our friends, or family. We have been given boundaries and rules. Perhaps we have become too confined to our own four walls.

Hearing – How often does the phone ring? When we read words on a text or email, but cannot hear the voice of the one who sent it.

Taste – we have no appetite to eat alone. A shared meal becomes something some us have had to avoid.

Smell – I have particularly missed the smell of being in the church. The heady mix of incense and fresh flowers usually hang in the air at this season.

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The way of love: The victory of love

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!

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The way of love: The cost 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.

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The way of love: The showing 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.

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The narrow way leading to…

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.

From 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.

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“Not a very tactile Vicar!”

“You’re not a very tactile minister are you!” were the closing words after visiting someone a few years ago. Perhaps they expected a hug when I left. And whilst I know I’m not a ‘hug a vicar’ type of cleric, I’m really not averse to a hug or putting my arm around someone as a sign of my support for them.

Over the last few weeks as we have struggled to cope with how to respond to Covid 19. The handshake which in our Eucharist symbolically expressed our desire for reconciliation and to be at peace with our neighbours was suspended.

It’s felt strange not to enact the words with that simple gesture, for actions in some ways do, as saying goes speak louder than words.

In the Gospels many of encounters Jesus had with people involved touch.
He touched people to heal them.
He washed people’s feet.
He was a very tactile Saviour.

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