BigRead13 Day 47 : Resurrection

Day 47’s BigRead13 post can be found here.

Before we get to the formalities of today’s post:

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

1 John 2:17 for today:

And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.

We’re asked that, as we celebrate, we think about whether we are able to think that there is more to life than this world.

Well, what a question! Lent has been a long time, waiting, praying for an answer to this question.  Today is when it is answered.

The buzz after sundown last night (liturgically today, natch) when we lit the Easter fire and the Exsultet told us that Easter had arrived, that Christ had broken the prison bars of death and risen victorious, when 45 members of God’s church were newly confirmed in the Spirit, and then we made a great noise before launching into a rousing finale of Thine Be The Glory was quite something.  But coming into a Church full of happiness and glory this morning was equally wonderful. Of course there is more to life than this world!

Alleluia! I’m afraid there’s another hymn here that needs to be played loud…

BigRead13 Day 46 : Time

Day 46’s #bigread13 post can be found here.

Psalm 39:4-5 is set for today:

“Lord, let me know my end,
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
You have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight.
Surely everyone stands as a mere breath. Selah

I’m not quite sure I’m in the mood for this as I’m just back from the Easter Ceremonies at church and buoyed with the elation of Easter. But I shall attempt it anyway! What is our attitude to time and  the limited span we have been given?

The passing of time is something I was pondering slightly earlier today in that time of waiting that is Holy Saturday. Waiting for what we know is to come. Wondering where the last (liturgical) year had gone to – earlier I found out one of Ben’s friends has chicken pox and it was Easter 2012 we found that Ben had it; earlier I had an email from the PhotoJoJo Time Capsule service with last year’s Easter photos.

Has it been a good year? Yes.  I’ve seen our baby boy turn into a proper little man.  Watching him learn and explore is a thing of wonder. And I’ve not done too badly on improving my Biblical literacy – the Advent Book Club that Pam organised and the #BigRead13 have helped. And I’ve become a little better at praying on the back of both of those and a more concerted effort at #trainprayer as inspired by Sara. And my fellowship with my fellow Christians has improved as well – deepening love with my wonderful wife; an occasional theological discussion rather than just admiring the flowers with fellow congregation; and meeting a handful of my Christian twitter pals. Hopefully this Easter will be the beginning of another year of deepening love of Jesus, our Lord and our redeemer.

Finally… this needs to be played throughout Easter (there’s 50 days of it, y’know) at top blast whenever you feel the need for a perk up! Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

BigRead13 Day 44 : Minds

Today’s #BigRead13 post can be found here.

Today we’re asked to think on Romans 12:2:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

And with it a snippet from C S Lewis – The Last Battle this time – people who are trapped in a prison of their mind – if they but trusted, they could be helped out, but they cannot trust.

Today’s prayer asks us to be thankful for the transformation God makes in us.

Some music for this evening which helped me think about this – the Agnus Dei from the Missa Bell’ Amfitrit’ altera by Lassus. Tonight isn’t about big drama. It’s about quietly sharing a meal with friends. It’s about what could turn into a bloodbath being defused by Jesus healing the high priest’s slave’s ear that Peter had cut off. And it is about the peace, the calm, that sharing the Eucharist has brought countless generations since – being still, and knowing God’s presence, by harking back to what he asked us to do and, well, doing it.

BigRead13 Day 43 : Seek

Day 43’s Big Read post is here.

Matthew 7:7 is the set reading for today:

Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.

We’re asked if we take time to seek after God, or are we content as we are?

I don’t think with me it’s so much content – rather it comes back to the idea of being #notbusy. When we’re too busy we settle for second best, rather than striving after best when that could take just that last little bit of free time – or have to squeeze out something else essential. I tried to make time for the Lent addresses this week, I really did. The first was excellent. I missed the other two though.  Am hopeful of Maundy Thursday though…

Lord, give me the time to seek after you. When I’m busy, let me look for you in the busyness. When I can make the time, help me to be not busy and look for you in the calm too.

BigRead13 Day 42 : Colour

Day 42’s #BigRead13 post can be found here.

2 Corinthians 4:4 is today’s reading:

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

In today’s excerpt from The Silver Chair, Aslan arrives. He is so bright and real and strong, all else pales. We’re asked “are we just living in the shadowlands?”

Part of me says yes, we are. At first we see through a glass darkly, and then we see face to face… There are shadows which cloud God from us and which we hope to see pass when we get to Heaven.

We look at God in black and white – with occasional glimpses of colour that hint at what there might be to see in future. And I always worry that others may be seeing more of him than me, and that that means they are somehow closer to him than me. I’m not wading into this weekend’s debate that raged on the Guardian website and in the twittersphere about the respective merits of the evangelical and anglo-catholic view of Jesus and the Cross. I will, however, confess if I may, to a teensy little bit of jealousy when I hear some of my more evangelical friends sound like they are having a far closer relationship with God than I am – that perhaps they are seeing, if not in Glorious Technicolor™, then in sepia or faded tones rather than the washed out grey I do. But then I pray that God won’t mind, and that he’s just glad I’m trying to see him at all, and doing my best, and perhaps will let me see more as I deepen my relationship with him.

The one thing I do think I get to do is to hear a little of God in richness and colour through music. I know that none of you will sit back and listen to this for an hour, but I’m going to listen to it tomorrow, and it is just a little audible glimpse of God’s wonder. The music starts at 02:21 in:

BigRead13 Day 41 : Real?

Day 41’s post from the BigRead13 can be found here.

1 Corinthians 15:12-34 was today’s reading – I’m not pasting it here as it’s a little long but go read it here if you like. From The Silver Chair we have someone wondering what if Aslan and Narnia weren’t real, but deciding they’d be on Narnia’s side, for Aslan, whatever. And so we’re asked to think how we might respond to those who say that we’re living in an ‘imaginary world’ – presumably a response to those who think God and religion are just a construct to those of us who need something comforting, well, comforted.

I think I blogged about this back in Advent. Just who could make up a story as intricate and unlikely as the Bible? Who would invent a God who gives himself up to die for the people he has created? Who would choose a God who refuses to save himself? A God with a very short list of demands – to love him, and love each other? A story so compelling that millions have heard it and believed, even Perhaps there might be something in this…

Which brings me on to tonight’s Lent address. This week we’re lucky to have Canon Mark Oakley with us to preach all week. Why bring this up now? Firstly because it both challenged and encouraged me. And secondly he brought up C S Lewis as he spoke of how God is revealed to us in Holy Week and through the Passion and Easter. Lewis said that we have an incomplete knowledge of God – and that when we come to Heaven, we might well be glad with the knowledge we then have of the prayers God didn’t answer.

Mark likened God’s for us to sitting in the sunlight. If we are willing to just sit and let the sun do its work, we will be changed and be warmed. He gives us the gift of our being; and asks only for our gift of becoming more like him. And what, then, of Holy Week? We don’t necessarily get a new revelation. Rather, all we think we know about God is laid bare, starkly before us.

I pondered on this afterwards and realised how true it is. We know the stories very well. They are some of the most read bits of the Bible. But if we truly think about what they tell us, oh boy. We are reminded of human frailty (Peter’s denial), of human fickleness (the crowds welcoming Jesus – “hosanna” – before turning on him – “crucify!”), of human grief (Mary at the foot of the cross). Mark reminded us of the contrast between two bowls of water – one of love (the washing of the feet), one of indifference (Pilate’s washing of his hands).

Finally, I’d not heard before of the seven gifts of the Passion. But now I have – the unbidden donkey, the scented ointment, the upper room, and then the four we will come back to on Good Friday – Simon of Cyrene’s shoulder, the words of encouragement from the second thief, the drink of vinegar from the soldier, and finally the gift of the tomb – Joseph of Arimathea giving up his own resting place to offer Jesus a loyalty he could not admit when he was alive.

Lord, help us to be loyal to you. Help us to be loyal to the future, to justice and equality and love, rather than just the past. Let the story of that last, dreadful week not just inform us but form us. Amen.

BigRead13 Day 40 : Happiness

Day 40’s post from the BigRead13 can be found here.

2 Corinthians 5:5 today:

He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

And with it a thought from Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. God can make us happy, but only through God – because there is no place without him that he can make us happy without him.

Take up thy cross?Perhaps this is a slightly funny thing to be thinking about this morning, when as Twitter reminds us, we start to think that #everythingchanges.  Whilst Lent has not been a full-on barrel of laughs*, there was a darkening a week ago when we started to turn our minds to the Passion of Christ. Today there was joy and happiness again, as we remember the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey. Yes, that is my son being happy about the donkey on the right.

But then things got dark again.  Instead of a Gospel reading and sermon, we had the dramatised Passion of Christ. We recalled Peter’s denial of God. We recalled Pilate washing his hands. We recalled the Via Dolorosa. And then those agonising three hours on the tree.  And it wasn’t just passive. The congregation joined in as the crowd, shouting “Crucify” – enough to send shivers down your spine. Gets me every time.

And it’s only going to get worse. There’s a whole week ahead. A week of darkness, sadness, suffering.  So why happiness now? Perhaps there was a clue in what we did after the Passion. We moved on, as ever, to share peace with each other. To pray.  And then to remember what it’s all about. To remember that the victory of the cross is followed by a victorious resurrection. To remember that without Good Friday, there couldn’t be Easter Sunday.  But without Easter Sunday, nobody would remember Good Friday. It’d just have been another crucifixion by an occupying power.  Instead, it is the selfless act by which we are reconciled to God and God to us. It is the darnkess before the light, but the light that we are luckily enough to know is coming.  And sharing a meal with friends to remember this – what could be happier?

* technical theological term.

Ride on, ride on in majesty

BigRead13 Day 39 : Worry

Day 39’s post from the BigRead13 can be found here.

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Matthew 6:34

Today’s extract from The Screwtape Letters reminds us that worry and anxiety keeps us from God.  We’re asked how worry features in our life and what can we do about it.

Ah yes, worry. Worry and anxiety lead to business that squeezes out time for God. What if I don’t work hard enough and I get blamed for something and lose my job? What if I forget something and get demoted? What if…? All too easy to let your mind race. All too easy for it to squeeze out thoughts of God. All too easy not to “Be still and know.”

BigRead13 Day 38 : Blood

Day 38’s post from the BigRead13 can be found here.

13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

Hebrews 9:13-14

In less than a week we will be at Maundy Thursday, when we remember the last meal that Jesus ate with his disciples. “This is my body” and “This is my blood”. Jesus says he is giving us all of him; the disciples still don’t quite get it though – until the next day when he gives up his life for us.

Today’s thought from Hebrews reminds us that the Jews had long ago sacrificed various animals in the temple to God. Yet here is the ultimate – a human self-sacrifice. And to remember it, the meal the night before – a meal that gives, that brings us closer to God. What can we do in return? Well, of old those whose physical lives were spared felt themselves indebted to their saviour and would serve a debt of gratidude. How much greater the debt for our spiritual life where our Saviour truly did surrender himself for our sake? Sadly, not enough. But, Lord, help me become closer. Amen.