Friday, 30 April 2010
Sunday, 25 April 2010
Saturday, 10 April 2010
McDowell Presbyterian Church
Sunday 11th April 2010
John 20 v 19-31
This Sunday, the Sunday after Easter, is often considered a kind of low time in the Christian season.
As we would say in Scotland: “an auld claes and purridge Sunday”
The big build up to Easter has come and gone – the resurrection has been celebrated.
Pastors often go on holiday or at least take some down time – that’s what we’ve been doing this week.
We even call it Low Sunday.
But it’s not the kind of Low we might imagine.
It’s very different.
Because the Low in Low Sunday comes from the latin Laus – meaning praise.
So instead of having a lull in the proceedings, we continue with the hype of Easter.
We continue the celebration.
And that’s as it should be.
Because of Easter nothing can ever be the same again.
And so our gospel reading this morning takes us back to the reality of Easter.
The disciples are cooried in – huddled together in fear.
We can maybe imagine just some of the things going through their minds:
Those random and real thoughts that are summed up in the passage as fear:
He’s gone – are we safe?
Or are they just waiting to kill us too as soon as we venture out of here?
And, supposing we do get to leave and go back home, what is there for us?
We abandoned everything there.
Can we just crawl back and pick up the pieces?
We’ll be a laughing stock.
We couldn’t even follow through with our convictions.
With all those sorts of possibilities going on in their heads and in their hearts, Jesus appeared.
I love that – that he snuck in.
Not with a fanfare.
Not in a lightning bolt.
But he snuck in beside them.
And his words?
Peace be with you.
What happened to:
You failed me.
Well, didn’t you mess up?
Thanks a bunch, friends.
Jesus brought none of that.
He snuck in bringing Peace.
What a gift.
If there’s one thing scarier than someone who was dead coming back to life, it has to be someone who was dead coming back to life angry at us.
Jesus knew his disciples were afraid.
And he brought them what they needed most : Peace.
He brought them Peace.
And then if that weren’t enough, he brought them Pentecost.
He got right up close and breathed his Spirit into them.
And the Spirit of the resurrected Christ.
And there was more.
Once he’d brought them Peace and his Spirit, he brought them purpose.
Jesus commissioned these fearful, cowering disciples to go and breathe peace and forgiveness into the world.
For me, that would have been the biggest gift.
I would need to know, not only that I was forgiven – but that I was also redeemed.
Knowing how badly I’d messed up, I would have to know that I was trusted again.
Trusted to go and take the peace and the forgiveness of the risen Christ into the world.
Jesus gave his disciples that gift too – the gift of trust, the gift of confidence.
Gifts to accompany them onto the next stage of their journey,.
And so the journey was not, as they had feared, all over.
Their journey was entering a new stage, a stage in which they were to be accompanied with affirming gifts from the Risen Christ.
Picture, for a moment, the changing atmosphere and charge of emotions in that room during that brief encounter with Jesus.
A huddled, closed group is opened up.
Perhaps, for a moment, their fear is increased, as they anticipate censure and recrimination.
Then the relief and puzzlement as Jesus offers, instead, peace.
And the incredulity as he affirms that they are still his disciples, still required to tell the good news, still empowered to take forgiveness into the world.
I imagine the most unlikely of parties breaking out.
As the fearful, oppressive, heaviness is gradually transformed into joyful anticipation.
The journey isn’t over but is beginning anew.
The transformation of resurrection.
Fearful, sorrowful, despairing disciples sent out with accompanying gifts.
And what of Thomas?
Thomas missed out on all that.
D’you ever wonder where on earth he was?
Had he been sent out to see what was up?
Was he spying the land to see if it was safe for the disciples to come out of hiding?
Was he away getting provisions?
Bread for the journey?
Or did he just need a break from the oppressive atmosphere in that room?
Why wasn’t he there?
If he was upset with his colleagues before he left, he must have been even more upset when he returned to hear their tales of Jesus being among them.
And all of us, who have not quite grown out of our childhoods, all of us who have not completely lost our childish ways can surely identify with Thomas when he stamps his feet and says: I will not believe.
We all know that feeling well.
Just because you say it doesn’t make it true.
Not when I’m feeling stubborn and pretty miffed.
I won’t believe it.
And you can’t make me!
Jesus thought Thomas worth coming back for.
He, too, needed to have Peace breathed into him.
He, too, needed to know that he was entrusted to take forgiveness into the world.
He needed to be reassured and convinced.
He needed the accompanying gifts of the Risen Christ.
And what of us this morning – the doubters and the believers?
The fearful and the confident?
The overwhelmed and the blessed?
What accompanying gifts does the risen Jesus come among us to share?
What Spirit of peace and trust does he breathe into us?
What commission does he bestow on us?
Jesus said: Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.
Even better blessings.
You and I, overwhelmed by life, personal life – relationship issues, health worries, increasing cost of living, family concerns
- or political life, the worrying costs of war, accessibility of health care…
Whatever it is that overwhelms us today, the risen Christ invades our space, quietly, and breathes peace into us, before commissioning us to go and spread forgiveness.
And, as if that weren’t enough, the Risen Christ promises us even better blessings.
William Sloane Coffin, said, "You can't think straight with a heart full of fear, for fear seeks safety, not truth. If your heart's a stone, you can't have decent thoughts – either about personal relations or about international ones. A heart full of love, on the other hand, has a limbering effect on the mind."
Jesus promises to us even better blessings.
With that peace of Christ breathed into us, our heavy hearts can be transformed into love and the things that overwhelm us can make way for forgiveness.
As the Father sent me, so I send you, says the Risen Christ.
This day, the Sunday after Easter, may you know the Peace of Christ being breathed into you, releasing your fear, transforming you in love and commissioning you to take forgiveness into all the places it is so badly needed in our world.
For the glory of God.
Thursday, 8 April 2010
A reflection for the Sunday after Easter:
Doubting Thomas no more
I needed to escape that room
the others were ripping my knitting
going over and over and over
blaming each other
So I baled out
just to get some space
to vent some of my frustration
It was over
what were we all sticking around for anyway?
I was really making some headway
working out what I was going to do next
and then they came to find me
came to rub it in more like
they said Jesus had come back
I just called their bluff
told them he'd have to come find me
I wasn't about to believe what they'd concocted between them
just to wind me up
I went back to see the others
tell them my plans for the future
say - so long
and that's when it happened
Jesus slipped into the room
How, I'll never know
but he gave me proof
embraced me with his wounded body
he came back
Friday, 2 April 2010
Simon of Cyrene
I guess I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But now I think that maybe it was the right place at the right time.
Because that guy really needed help.
He couldn’t have made it any further.
Why they chose me to shoulder his cross, I’ll never know.
But there weren’t really many other men around.
Lots of weeping women but not many men.
And when those Roman soldiers say jump, you simply ask: how high.
Especially in those days.
The oppression was really biting.
There was some sort of crackdown.
And no one was safe, no matter how good your credentials.
So I didn’t argue.
Simply took the burden from this poor criminal clearly on his last legs.
IT was doubtful if he’d even need crucified, the mess he was in.
The funny thing is – he didn’t look like a criminal.
You can usually tell.
Especially the ones that end up crucified.
They look hard and cold and menacing.
But this guy – had the softest eyes and the saddest face.
And he wasn’t defiant like they always are at that stage.
Taunting the crowds and the soldiers with nothing to lose.
This man was courteous and concerned – he was worried about me.
And he kept telling the folks who tried to show him kindness – don’t worry about me – look after each other.
So I did my bit.
Not because of the Roman soldiers – I had no choice as far as they were concerned.
But I did my bit willingly for this man, because he awakened in me a compassion such as I’ve never known before.
I did my bit.
I carried his cross.
And I’m glad I was able to serve even so late in the day.
Mary, mother of Jesus
You know you’d do anything for your child.
You fathers, you wouldn’t stand by and see your boy hurt.
But I did.
I stood there.
I watched him.
I heard every last groan.
Felt every last sob.
My heart wasn’t just being broken, it was being shattered to smithereens.
As I stood there.
I couldn’t turn away.
I had to endure every last pain and torment.
I had to suffer every blow with him.
And, though my thoughts were murderous for those who were hurting my boy.
I stood there.
I couldn’t do a thing.
I was immobilised by grief.
And by something unimaginably stronger.
The knowledge that this was God’s will for my boy.
I couldn’t understand it.
Couldn’t see what on earth this would achieve.
Couldn’t even believe that God could possibly turn this around.
But I still had to stand there.
Knowing that I was again doing the will of God.
So, just as I said yes to God’s messenger about carrying this child.
So I said yes to standing by and waiting with him as he died.
And let me tell you.
The pain of disgrace at bearing a child out of wedlock
was nothing compared with the pain of watching that child abused
and tortured and strung up on a cross
to die an agonising death.
For with every pain filled breath he took, a part of me was cut out,
a part of me died too.
I obeyed God once and experienced the joy of motherhood.
I obeyed God as I stood before the cross
but experienced only hurt and death.
My God, why have you forsaken me?