Holy Tuesday Reflection

Tuesday

John 12.20-36

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. The crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’ Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’

After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

In what follows my aim is to provide something for you to reflect on in the silence that follows.  If you find something that you engage with please feel free to stay with it and stop listening to me – what you reflect on for yourself is more important than what I say.

Yesterday we explored what kind of Disciple we were, what our giftings were and how best we could use our gifts.  Today we look at the implications of doing so.

What does living out our discipleship mean?

What does following Jesus look like?

What does it mean to be where Jesus is?

unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain – Is Jesus talking about himself or all of us here?  Whichever, elsewhere he also calls us to take up our cross and follow him.  He goes on to say:

Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life – What does this mean?  Do we have to have to be miserable?  How do we reconcile this with Jesus promise of “life in all its fullness”?

What is your experience of chasing after life?  What about the times you have been less selfish?  Which have led to greater joy?

Have you put your trust in something other than God?  Possessions, health, family, work, your own ability?  Do you remember a time when it worked?  If so how did it feel?  Do you remember a time it let you down?  And if so how did that feel?

Can you remember a time that you have put your trust in God?  Do you remember a time you felt let down?  If so how did it feel?  Do you remember a time that you felt supported?  If so how did that feel?

Whoever serves me must follow me – What do you think it means to follow Jesus?  The disciples literally followed Jesus – leaving behind homes and families.  What are we called to give up if we follow Jesus?

What are the rewards in this life of following Jesus?

where I am, there will my servant be also – Where was Jesus?  Rarely with the religious leaders.  They accused him: “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!”  Jesus said “Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.” and ‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven’.

With whom did Jesus spend his time?

Where do you spend your time?

Who do you think of as sinners?  What is your attitude towards them?  Do you shun them, or do you welcome them, or do you seek them out?

‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’

What did Jesus think of the righteous?

Do you consider yourself righteous or a sinner?

What does living out our discipleship mean?

What does following Jesus look like?

What does it mean to be where Jesus is?

O God, you know my foolishness and my sins are not hidden from you:
Lord, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.

Let not the flood overwhelm me nor the depths swallow me up;
let not the pit shut its mouth upon me:
Christ, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

Hear me,O Lord, as your loving kindness is good; turn to me as your compassion is great:
Lord, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.

May God who loved the world so much that he sent his Son to be our Saviour
forgive us our sins and make us holy to serve him in the world,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Loving God – thank you for your call to each of us to follow you.  Help us as we struggle within ourselves to let go of our trust in things other than you, and to rely on you and you alone.  Give us wisdom and strength to discern what you are calling us to today, and to take up that call.

We ask all this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Go forth into the world in peace;
be of good courage;
hold fast that which is good;
render to no one evil for evil;
strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak;
help the afflicted; honour everyone;
love and serve the Lord,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
Amen.

Holy Monday Meditation

Monday

John 12.1-11

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

 

In what follows my aim is to provide something for you to reflect on in the silence that follows.  If you find something that you engage with please feel free to stay with it and stop listening to me – what you reflect on for yourself is more important than what I say.

What kind of Disciple are you?

What are your giftings?

Are you Mary, Martha, Judas, Lazarus?  None of them?  All of them?

Don’t be fooled – there is good and bad in all of them.  None of them are all good, or all bad – though some of them might seem like it.

Let’s look at them one at a time.

Lazarus – We know little about Lazarus – we know that he was a brother to Mary and Martha, and that he died and Jesus brought him back from the dead.  We know nothing about what he did – and yet… and yet … he was one of the strongest witnesses to Jesus – to the extent that the Chief Priests wanted to put him to death.  It wasn’t what he did that was his witness – it was what Jesus had done for him, it was who he was.

Rather than ask yourself what you have done for Jesus, ask rather what has Jesus done for you?  Who do people think you are?

Judas – What good is there in Judas?

Judas took on responsibility – he served acting as treasurer for the disciples; he was passionate, there was a strong desire to do what he thought right – what he thought would lead to the right outcome; and he was penitent he recognised he had done wrong and felt remorse for it.

And yet he betrays Jesus for a false idea of Messiahship.  And in a bizarre way he is proved right – although not in the way that he thought.  Jesus had to die to fulfil his destiny – without a betrayal how was that to happen?  Without a Judas there would be no Christianity!  Was Judas betrayal the ultimate act of service he could render to Jesus?

But…  Judas substitutes his thoughts, his ideas, his desires for those of Jesus.  He “knows” what God wants to happen – and goes all out to make sure that it does.

Do you serve as passionately as Judas?  Are you as penitent when you have done something wrong, or do you find it difficult to accept that you have been wrong?  Can you get carried away with your ideas, your views on what is right?  Can you find it difficult to let God make the decisions?

Mary – Mary is a generous and attentive person.  We have heard today of her pouring out the nard – and in another passage we hear of her sitting at Jesus feet learning from him – and Jesus takes her side when others question her behaviour.  However, there may have been a reluctance to act in Mary – when Lazarus died she stayed at home, and Martha’s complaints about her were about her lack of activity.

Are you as generous towards Jesus as Mary was?  Are you as passionate about learning from Jesus as Mary was?  Do you sit back – or do you act?

Martha – Martha is perhaps best known as a grumbler – the one who asked why Mary wasn’t helping her.  Yet Martha is practical – in both that story and this it is Martha who is serving, and when Lazarus dies it is Martha who goes to meet Jesus and has the faith to ask him bring him back from the dead.

Can you be a grumbler?  Complaining when others are using their gifts to do something else?  Are you practical, always willing to serve?  Do you have Martha’s faith – trusting in Jesus?

What kind of Disciple are you?

What are your giftings?

Do you need to explore areas of your weakness to deepen your discipleship?

How best can you use your gifts in God’s service?

 

 

Lord Jesus Christ,
we confess we have failed you as did your first disciples.
We ask for your mercy and your help.  When we take our ease
rather than watch with you:  Lord, forgive us.  Christ have mercy.

When we bestow a kiss of peace yet nurse enmity in our hearts:
Lord, forgive us.  Christ have mercy.

When we strike at those who hurt us rather than stretch out our hands to bless:  Lord, forgive us.  Christ have mercy.

When we deny that we know you for fear of the world and its scorn:
Lord, forgive us.  Christ have mercy.

May God who loved the world so much that he sent his Son to be our Saviour
forgive us our sins and make us holy to serve him in the world,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Loving God, thank you for the gifts you have given each one of us.  Help us to discern what they are, discovering those that are new to us, as well as those we know well.
You know that all gifts can be used for good or ill, so help us too to use them in the way that you would wish, using them in your service to help build your kingdom here on earth.

We ask all this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord

Christ crucified draw you to himself, to find in him a sure ground for faith,
a firm support for hope, and the assurance of sins forgiven;
and the blessing …

St George’s Dragons

Dragons

Would you like to come to a Communion service but worry that your children woud be bored? If so and your children are aged between 4 and 10, then St. George’s Dragons is for you!

The children stay in church for the start of the service and then all go next door together to enjoy singing action songs, playing games, reading bible stories and praying. Please come along on any of the dates below or contact Maxine on 01252 318135 if you have any questions.

The next dates (all at 10am at St George’s Church, Badshot Lea, GU9 9LD) are:

26th April

24th May

28th June

25th October

22nd November

New Signs at St Mark’s

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We have some new signs at St Mark’s with our new logo on them… plus directionals so that people will be able to find their way in! Soon there will be similar signs at St George’s and St John’s too. Sadly they came a week too late for one family who were parked in the car park at St Mark’s last week but couldn’t find the right door… Reminds me of the archdeacon telling me that we obviously didn’t want anyone to come to our church. “Why?” I asked. “Because no one would be able to find their way in,” he said.

Mindfulness

Breathing!

We all have to do it but probably pay it little attention.

Once a month for the last six months Suzette Jones, The Diocesan Health and Well Being Adviser, has been leading us in Mindfulness sessions at St Mark’s Centre. Using Suzette’s simple technique it is possible to find moments to be mindful wherever we are – in queue, a traffic jam, even at the dentist’s.

Mindfulness is simply focussing on the breath and being present in the moment. Just by breathing attentively for a few minutes I have been able to step away from my busyness and whirling thoughts to find a little calm and perspective. I have found it liberating to realise that I don’t have to be doing all the time, it is ok to stop and be.

Many of us who have attended the sessions have managed to incorporate some mindful breathing into our lives and found it really beneficial in different ways.

It is so easy and impossible to get wrong. Come and sit with us and breathe.
Sue Jones

Next Mindfulness Sessions at St Mark’s Church, Alma Lane, GU9 0LT are on Monday Mornings 9:30-10:20am on 30th March, 27th April, 1st June

Don’t Grumble, Rejoice!

There are various people in the Bible who had problems with grumblers. I want to say Moses had the biggest problem – I feel sorry for him beset by grumblers for 40 years in the desert, but then I read this comment from Paul, “And do not grumble, as some of them did — and were killed by the destroying angel” (1 Corinthians 10:10).

Wow – I think Paul is saying that “God hates grumblers!” I get the feeling that Paul was pretty fed up!

But what is grumbling? In the New Testament the Greek word is gaguzo which appearently means “To express one’s discontent or complaint in low tones of condemnation. To murmur.” And let’s face it – we all do this sometimes, it comes from a place of anger or frustration. We can’t help feeling angry or frustrated – these are important emotions, they tell us something about ourselves and the world. Anger can be the impetus for change, unjust systems would never fall unless someone got angry about them. But grumbling isn’t the right way to work, Paul says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” (Phil 2:14)

So if we are angry what is the right way to act? Well there are a lot of Biblical Principles we can draw on:
• Getting the log out of our own eyes first. (Matthew 7:3-5)
• Overlooking minor offenses (Prov 19:11)
• If we have a problem with someone we talk to them, not about them (Eph 4:29)
• We make charitable judgements towards each other, believing the best in them (1 Cor 13:7)

In Matthew 18, Jesus gives a step-by-step suggestion for resolving conflicts without resorting to grumbling:

• If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.
• If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
• If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.

Or perhaps in the case of an Anglican congregation if the member refuses to listen then write to the PCC! Conflict in churches is both inevitable and good – it shows that people care, that they are passionate about their church.

So what is so bad about grumbling? For me it poisons the atmosphere, takes away all the joy and hope and peace. In fact a small number of people grumbling can poison a large group. And Moses, when he got fed up of grumblers said: “You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD” (Exodus 16:8). Grumbling shows a lack of faith in God and a lack of gratitude for what God has provided.

Much better to rejoice, to thank God for all that God has given us and to take any concerns through proper channels, without dampening the joy of the community.

Lent Talk

During Lent, several members of our congregations have been willing to tell their stories of faith during the Sunday morning “sermon slot”. It has been a huge blessing and I have asked whether I can put them here on the blog… This is one who said “yes”.

 

When Alan asked if I would give a little talk in a service during Lent I took a long time to get back to him. When I did and he gave me a Sunday I took a long time to get around to writing anything. The reason for this was partly that my name was at the bottom of the list and so I assumed that my date was a long way off. If I had read the email properly I would have realised the list was in alphabetical order according to our first names and that March 1 was before all the other dates in March, by virtue of being, well, March 1.

But I hesitated for another reason, the same reason that I hesitated in getting back to Alan in the first place. I simply didn’t know what I would say. I don’t have a great conversion story and I don’t have answers to theological questions, though I have plenty of questions. I have questions and I have doubts, lots of doubts. And sharing doubts seems disloyal to the God I am trying to believe in and to other believers.

It wasn’t always the case. As a child I had an unquestioning faith, the sort that meant I was shocked when I heard a bishop on the radio saying that sometimes he doubted the existence of God – a bishop! I ask you – the sort of faith that meant I knew exactly why Abraham had been prepared to sacrifice his son because God told him to. Of course God was going to make it all OK. He’s God.

I don’t have that faith now. Like the bishop I sometimes doubt that God exists and I can no more understand how Abraham could tie Isaac up and prepare to kill him than I can understand how a jet plane can fly. In fact I could be taught how a jet plane can fly but there is no way that I could understand how anyone could prepare to murder their child, nor how there could be a God who would ask it, who would test people so cruelly. And exactly what did tying Isaac up like that do to Abraham and Isaac’s relationship, and to Isaac’s psyche?

I know it is all allegory, a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus, in fact I have always believed large parts of the Bible to be allegorical rather than literally true, but it illustrates a problem I have. Not only do I sometimes doubt the existence of God, I no longer find the old interpretations of the Bible to be helpful and I find myself worried by the image of God that I once believed in. And when you start picking at the fabric of belief then there is a danger of everything unravelling. You find yourself asking questions such as ‘What about the virgin birth? ‘Were there really wise men who visited Jesus?’ ‘Who exactly is Jesus?’ ‘If God is a loving God why would he answer some prayers but not intervene to stop something as massive and terrible as the Holocaust?’

And so I started searching, trying to find out what is central to my faith, reading books and entering discussion groups. And what I have found is that I am not alone and that it is Ok to question, it is Ok to use your brain, and it is also OK to take some little steps in faith, or if not always in faith, then in hope. Quite a number of years ago these doubts were beginning to clamour for attention and I asked a previous rector here whether it was it still OK to take communion when I wasn’t sure what I believed. The answer was and remains one of welcome. The Church of England does not get everything right and it does not have all the answers, the Christian church as a whole does not get everything right and does not have all the answers. But it is OK to ask the questions and to seek new interpretations with fit our modern understanding of the world. Some may say, ‘Oh you are just following the wisdom of the world’ but there is no reason why we should not use our brains to try to work out discrepancies in what the Bible says or look at what experience may tell us. At the moment we know very little of the true nature of God, we see through a glass darkly. But while we are peering forward trying to make out the next steps in our faith, it is also Ok to trust instinct and emotion and take a few tentative steps forward towards God.

There is one other thing I have to say for now. Unfortunately, the image of God that I had from when I was very young was one who would happily demand that his people sacrifice their own children, a hard God, a judgemental God, a God for whom I would never possibly be good enough. This is a God that does not fit in with the welcome and acceptance that I have found in the church and I am trying to work out whether this could be a true God. I have been challenged recently to give the God of love a go, to try believing that I am acceptable, and that God loves me.

That will be a step of faith.