out of the frying pan

firelightLuke 22:54-62

Peter had done his best. He was trying to be true to his promise to Jesus that he would never leave him and would die for him. None of the others had made it as far as Peter. And then the accusations and questions started:

“This man was with [Jesus].”

“You also are one of them.”

“Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”

“What did you do on Sunday?”

“You go to church don’t you?”

“Are you a Christian?”

Have you faced the crowd around the fire in the courtyard at work, at school, at college, among your friends? Did you respond like Peter? Have you heard the cockerel crowing and had Jesus turn around and look you in the eye? How did he look? How did you feel?

Response:

If only I’d kept my mouth shut – making promises he knew I wouldn’t keep. If only I’d kept my eyes open – instead of falling asleep. If only I’d kept my mouth shut – when they accused me. If only I could stop the tears from flowing.

Offer Jesus your regrets, ask for his forgiveness and receive his restoration.

Judas’s kiss

Each day this week we will follow Jesus from the moment of his arrest, through his trial to his execution. Before you read the passage you may find it helpful to pause, take a few long, deep breaths, and offer the time and space to God. Ask his Spirit to lead your thoughts and responses. As you read the passage, or even reading the reflection, if your thoughts or emotions take you in a different direction follow them – see where God might lead you.

Luke 22:47-53

TorchWhere are you in these events?

Are you one of the disciples struggling to catch up with what is happening having fallen asleep (v.45)?

Are you in the crowd waiting to see what is going to happen?

Perhaps you are even Judas, greeting Jesus with a kiss?

Do you plan to take out the opposition?

Are you angry with Jesus and wanting to get rid of him?

Wherever you are in the narrative, re-read it and consider what Jesus would say to you if the scene was paused for a moment and it was just you and Jesus.

Jesus didn’t refuse Judas’s kiss. Matthew tells us that Judas kissed Jesus. Luke tells us that in response Jesus pointed out the hypocritical nature of what Judas was doing. A kiss usually signified devotion, warmth, love. Judas’s kiss signified disillusionment, betrayal, hate.

Jesus welcomes us all. He accepts us with our mixed motives, our misunderstanding, even our hypocrisy. There is no mistake he cannot redeem (even cutting off someone’s ear!). There is nobody he does not love.

Prayer: Jesus take me as I am, I can come no other way. Help me to be honest with myself and with you. Thank you that you welcome me as I am. Thank you that you can redeem any situation. Help me to let go of confusion, insincerity, anger, defensiveness and instead respond to those around me with your grace and acceptance.

Be blessed, be a blessing

Son rise

After what some of you may consider to have been a surfeit of pomes (sic) last week, when I was in a reflective mood, this week I am returning to the more ‘normal’ style of bloggage. Except that I’m going to cheat slightly and post a reflection based on something I said in Sunday evening’s sermon at our church. So, apologies to anybody who has already heard this.

Sunrise & Sunset 2
To be fair, this is not an image of the sun rising over Horsham!

In my first church, in Horsham, we used to have a sunrise service on Easter Sunday mornings. We would trudge and squelch our way across some fields and up a hill that overlooks the town. Usually it was after the sun had risen but it was still very early in the morning and we would reflect on the events of the first Easter Sunday.

On one occasion I asked some of the teenage girls in the church to interrupt me as I was speaking. The idea was that while I was speaking about the encounter that the women had with the risen Jesus they would rush down the hill through the crowd shouting, “Jesus is alive! We’ve seen him, we’ve met him!” The girls were quite excited about this and sneaked to the back of the crowd to await the cue. My idea was that I would try to bring a little realism to the narrative. I didn’t count on a retired minister who was part of our church.

As the girls started to make a commotion and ran down the hill shouting, “Jesus is alive!” Gordon turned around to them and told them to be quiet and stop messing around.
The girls were a little taken aback by this but thankfully they decided to continue and ran down the hill as arranged. They were not going to be shushed by anyone!

Sometimes churches are like Gordon: we can unwittingly try to stop the good news of Jesus from spreading. I think everybody is hard-wired not to like change but somehow when we get together in churches we can be even more resistant. Perhaps because God is unchanging we think we ought to be as well.

Gordon also typifies the reaction of the disciples on Easter Sunday when the women burst into their room and told them that Jesus was alive. They were told to stop being so silly and calm down. What did they think they were doing interrupting a serious and important meeting with their excited and exuberant shouting?

Thankfully, just like the girls on the hill overlooking Horsham, those women would not be silenced. They had the greatest news in history and they wanted everyone to have an opportunity to hear it.

Over to you.

Be blessed, be a blessing

B lieve it or not!

Before most people were awake

Beside themselves with grief

Baffled about how they would move the stone

Bewildered about Friday

Bemused about the empty tomb

Bowled over by the angels*

Blurred vision through the tears

Blissful in recognition

Blessed by the impossible

Breathless with excitement

empty tomb

*Some later less reliable manuscripts include these words:

‘Behind you’ chuckled the angel

‘Boo!’

SYLOFTRK*

empty tombOn Easter Sunday evening we going to hold a service that we’re calling “Songs of Resurrection”. It is a sort of Easter Carol Service, where we will sing some of the great hymns and songs of Resurrection and retell the Easter Resurrection narratives to celebrate the fact of Jesus’ resurrection.

*I did toy with the idea of calling the service “Sing Your Lungs out for the Risen King” but decided that ‘Songs of Resurrection’ was a slightly less in your face name.

There are 2 main reasons to do this: one is that inevitably at Easter we will not be able to sing all of the amazing Easter songs and hymns in one service and this will give us an opportunity to sing and celebrate some more. The second is that there is something significant and powerful about retelling the narrative as a whole. Just as at Christmas we are familiar with the story and yet retell it each year to refresh and remind ourselves about it so it will be good to take a similar opportunity at Easter.

I wish I’d come up with this idea a lot sooner so that I could have given our musicians and singers more time to prepare. But I’m sure we will still make a joyful noise and it will lift our spirits.

At Easter I find it very difficult sometimes not to rush to the resurrection because it is such a spectacular event. In my first church I was asked to lead the service at the end of the Good Friday March of Witness. It was a big event with several hundred people gathered in the Market Square and I had arranged for young people from different churches to participate. Because it was such a public event I felt that I could not leave Jesus buried in the grave but we had to finish on a resurrection hymn so that the general public could hear that Good Friday was not the end.

I was fascinated by how many people complained about this. ‘This was Good Friday, Easter Sunday has no business being mentioned’ seems to be the general thrust of the complaints. Every single complaint was from a regular church goer.

Without Good Friday Easter Sunday makes no sense. Without Good Friday God’s gracious act of reconciliation is impossible. It is important that we pause and reflect on that and on the astonishing sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. But, a little like re-watching a favourite film that I have seen many times before, I know the ending and cannot help viewing Good Friday through the lens of the Resurrection. We know how it ends, or rather how it really begins.

Without Easter Sunday we follow a dead martyr. Without Easter Sunday death is not defeated. Without Easter Sunday Jesus was a liar and a fraud.

But Jesus is alive and that makes all the difference.

if you are in the vicinity of our church at six thirty on Easter Sunday evening you would be very welcome to join us for the ‘Songs of Resurrection’. Whether or not you are able to be with us, however, don’t neglect to reflect on the one that resurrects!

Be blessed, be a blessing

whether forecast

This is a whether forecast. I don’t know whether I will be posting as regularly over the next few days. I may well be preoccupied with a few other things so the bloggerel may be in short supply (stop cheering). However, I will leave you with a pre-Easter thought and the threat of possible random thoughts during next week…

The religious authorities and the crowd did not demand Jesus’ crucifixion because he was tame, boring, and quiet.

This Sunday I will mostly be speaking about…

Is it just me? I find myself increasingly irritated by the news in the morning. We are told what has happened overnight. That’s great. That’s important. We are told about some things that are happening today. That’s helpful, even if it is a bit like advertising (especially when the ‘news’ is about a TV programme that is on later!). But what irritates me is when we are told what someone will be saying in a speech later.

Why? Why do we need to be told what is in the speech? Why not wait for the speech and then tell us what was said? And if we know what will be in the speech, why bother making the speech at all? It all seems rather silly to me. It would be like me announcing what will be in my sermon later this week. Yes, I know I sometimes say what the theme will be, but that is usually because something I have read or considered feels important then, and is not an attempt at trailing the sermon in advance to gain publicity.

Trailer
Trailers… pah!

I reckon this trend could probably be linked to the growth in the numbers of publicists and ‘spin doctors’. I suspect that the thinking is that if you announce the theme of the speech before it happens you can show how important / relevant / in touch with public opinion / controversial the speech will be and generate interest in it. It has certainly happened today with an announcement of the theme of a speech by David Cameron being trailed on the morning news and then picked up in a radio phone-in. By the time of the speech it becomes the topic everyone is talking about on that day and so become even more relevant.

There is a sense in which Jesus did that. During his ministry his theme was often about ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand / near / coming’. It was breaking in as he preached, healed, taught, blessed, encouraged, rebuked, challenged and invited. But it came in more spectacularly at Easter. On the cross. In the tomb. Out of the tomb!

This Sunday morning (unsurprisingly) the theme is Palm Sunday. I am not going to tell you what aspect of the theme we are taking. But is it possible that Palm Sunday was a trailer for Easter week? We are participating in the Passion Experience at our church. If you join in you will be sent a series of texts or emails during Easter week that reflect the events and help you to consider what was happening. The tension rises. The action gets more vivid. The dramatic music swells.

If you want to join in text ‘cbc’ to 07797 803 730 or visit www.thepassionexperience.org.uk/cbc and you can sign up for free. Make it the thing you are talking and thinking about next week.