Tag Archives: Holy Week

State Capture and the Christian Hope


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This past weekend has handed us a much scarier South Africa than we had last week. President Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle has taken state capture to a whole new level. However, he did not reckon with the timely and graceful death of struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada and the horror, determination and drive that platform unleashed.

We should not be fooled, however. This is not the worst government or the worst crisis the country has experienced. It cannot be compared with the horrors of the apartheid government and the despair felt by the majority of South Africans in the 80s. Which is why many black people are sceptical about the sudden white outrage.

The Church, and Christians generally, should certainly be asking what we should do. However, we should never lose sight of the truth that our salvation does not lie in the downfall of a president. Our salvation does not depend on the overthrow of a government. We may pray for both of those, as Desmond Tutu has suggested, and join with civil society to rally towards those goals, but that is not where our salvation and the salvation of this great land lie.

As we near the end of Lent and move towards Holy Week, we are reminded that our salvation lies with One who chose to give his life a ransom for many.

Nothing will change that. Whatever the government, whatever our physical, social and economic prospects for the future, our salvation is secure. And it finds expression as we pray and reach out to each other in love and compassion, listening to each other’s stories and sharing each other’s pain.

Let’s not rally together because our taxes are being wasted and our comfort is at stake. Let us rally together because we have cared enough to listen, and we understand the pain and hurt of those who are most affected, those whose pensions and childcare grants are at stake.

[Some thoughts shared at Prestbury Methodist Church on Sunday 2 April 2017]

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Discipleship and vulnerability: A prayer for Maundy Thursday


This prayer was one I wrote for Epiphany Sunday 2013 (see here).  Christine Jerrett very kindly suggested I reblog it on Maundy Thursday – a night of shadows. Christine writes (among other things) her own beautiful prayers that are challenging, life affirming and encouraging. You can find her blog here.

I pray that this prayer will help your meditation on this night of brokenness, denial and betrayal. Thanks Christine.

Lord we love to offer you our successes,
our strengths and our achievements.
But what are they compared with your glory,
your majesty, your power?

Yet you come to us tonight, not in victory but in vulnerability.
You come in weakness, as the baby revealed to the wise men,
as the saviour on the cross who could not save himself.
You come with broken body and tormented soul.

In awe and in wonder, we gather round your table tonight.
We receive your brokenness,
and we offer to you, and to each other, our brokenness in return.
As we touch your wounds tonight, and you touch ours,
open our hearts to the wonder of your love,
and the saving power of your brokenness.

For we acknowledge that, while we may never pull a trigger in anger,
we are made of the same stuff as every other sinner:
the same fears drive us, the same selfishness, pride and greed;
We are as full of insecurities and mistrust as every sinner.

Help us to embrace our own vulnerability, our own brokenness,
so that the fruit of your love may become the fruit of our lives:
a feast for our family, our community and our world.

Amen

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Holy Week Service – Matthew 24


Our theme at Prestbury Methodist Church this year is the teaching of Jesus during Holy Week as recorded by Matthew. I was privileged to preach on Tuesday evening on Matthew 24.

SCRIPTURE:    Matthew 24:1-14; 42-44

We sang Stuart Townend’s song just now, ‘I will not boast in anything, no gifts, no power, no wisdom’.

Well, the disciples wanted to boast. They boasted in the glorious architecture of the Temple: ‘Isn’t it magnificent!’ they cried. The Romans might be in charge, but this is the real centre of power. This is what really matters.

And it was important. Whatever the world might throw at them, however difficult it might be to make ends meet, to put food on the table, to pay the rent, if the Temple was there, if Jerusalem was secure, there would always be hope.

And we are no different. We worry about the Guptas, we worry about Nkandla, we worry about inflation and interest rates, we worry about unemployment and how it will affect our children and grandchildren. But while we are complaining that this is bad, that’s bad and the whole world is corrupt, we are constantly looking for something to hold on to, something that will give us a sense of security, just as the disciples found in the Temple building. If we could just fix this; if we could just settle that; if there was less corruption, more tolerance, there would be hope.

Jesus said to his disciples, and to us, ‘You may think that these stones, this wish list, this fix will keep you safe, but none of these things will last; not a single stone will be left in its place.’

None of the things we put our faith in, none of the things that give us hope, none of them really matter, none of them is permanent. And what happens to our faith and to our hope when they are gone?

If our relationship with God depends on the Temple, what happens when it is pulled down? If our confidence and trust in God depends on our health or our security or our comfort, what happens when our health deteriorates, our security is threatened, our comfort is taken away?

The disciples were horrified at the idea that the Temple might not be as permanent or as important as they thought. So they cried out, ‘When, Lord? When?’

We need to know, so that we can plan, we can prepare, we can get ready. If we know when it will happen, we will live our lives differently; we will plan differently, we will be ready.

Every now and again, of course, someone comes along bragging that they have worked it out. They know when it’s going to happen, and they give us the date. The end is not simply near, it is set for the 17th of April, just after tea.

Now we know. We can stop working, stop shopping, stop planning. We can go up onto a mountain, down by a stream, into the wilderness or into the Temple. We can worship without distraction, meditate without worry, pray without fear.

So, tell us, Lord; when will it be?

But Jesus is emphatic: no one knows, and no one is going to know.

He does warn us, however, that the end will not come easily. The process will be like the pains of childbirth: the reward is magnificent, but you are not going to enjoy the journey. There will be war and famine and earthquakes. Our own comfort and wellbeing will be threatened. We will be arrested, punished and put to death because of our faith. People will hate us, simply because we trust in Jesus.

Jesus warns us about these things not so that we can work out which war, which famine, which earthquake is the final one. He even tells us that these things ‘do not mean that the end has come.’ No, he warns us so that we know what to expect and are not taken by surprise.

No matter what happens, Jesus is saying, hold on to your trust and faith in God, not in fine buildings, good health, security systems or healthy pensions. Many will give up their faith. But if we hold onto our faith, we will continue to live in the security of God’s presence, no matter how bad it gets. Don’t give up.

But ever since Jesus said these words we have been trying to work out which earthquake he was talking about, which famine, which war would announce the end. (I can just see the angels rolling their eyes and saying, ‘Which part of “no one knows, and no one is going to know” don’t you understand?)

But Jesus does tell one thing that will happen just before the end. We tend to ignore it. It has nothing to do with earthquakes and war and stars falling from the sky. Jesus says: ‘(The) Good News about the Kingdom will be preached through all the world for a witness to all people; and then the end will come.’

The end is not heralded by wars or famine or pain and suffering. Those things are going to happen. They will always be around us. Whether they will be any worse towards the end, Jesus doesn’t say. But instead of counting wars and famine and earthquakes, we should be looking for ways to share the Good News with people around us.

So when Jesus says, ‘You must always be ready because the Son of Man will come … when you are not expecting him’, he isn’t saying have your bags packed ready for heaven. He’s telling us always to be ready to share our faith, always to live as if the Kingdom of God is already among us. It’s not crime and corruption that matter or even our health and security. Persecution and death may be our lot. What really matters is that the Gospel is proclaimed, God’s way is demonstrated.

What has eternal significance is when our lives, what we say and what we do, begin to proclaim God’s love and faithfulness to a hurting world; when our choices and our reactions demonstrate that ‘normal’ responses, our ‘normal’ way of life, are not the only way to live – there is a better way.

In the chaos and the struggle of our lives, we are challenged to rise above the normal, to find ways to be better than normal; to stop taking offence at what we see around us, at what others are doing or saying.

That’s a phrase that challenged Jen and me in our quiet time recently: ‘Don’t take offence.’ Because we do. We take offence at what others do or fail to do; we take offence at what others say; we take offence at other drivers. It’s a normal reaction. But Christ calls us to be better than normal, to offer an alternative response, to demonstrate what the Good News looks like and what life in the Kingdom of God is like.

How about we start this Holy Week.
They are planning to put Jesus to death. There are signs it’s going to happen this week. But Jesus doesn’t want us to take offence – to scream and shout and draw our swords. He wants the love that drives him to the cross to drive our every interaction, our every relationship, our every decision; that his love should drive us this Holy week and every week, come earthquakes, war, famine or persecution, until he comes again.

‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.’

Or as Graham Kendrick writes:

‘So let us learn how to serve, And in our lives enthrone Him;
Each other’s needs to prefer, For it is Christ we’re serving.’

[We closed with Christine Jerrett’s beautiful prayer found here: Faithful, promise-keeping God]

 

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A Holy Week reflection


Holy Week.
Why are we here
In this holy space,
Watching as Jesus prepares for death?

Jesus engaging with his Father;
Jesus engaging with his disciples;
Jesus preparing himself for what is to come.
(Jesus, how do you prepare for such a thing?
The intense agony in the garden;
The anticipation of the cross?)

But what am I doing here,
Looking on, asking questions?
I’m trying to understand,
Eager to penetrate this holy drama.
But, how dare I trample here?
How dare I babble in this holy silence?

Holy Week —a holy space;
A time for awe and wonder
Not for noise and chatter.
Jesus asks his disciples:
‘Wait with me.
Watch and pray.’

Hush, child, be still.
Come quietly into this holy space;
Watch….
Watch….
Watch and pray.

The time for participation and celebration will come.
The time for action and proclamation will soon be here.
Love and life will emerge from this drama.
But not yet
Not now.

Wait with me;
watch and pray.

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Lent Diary: Easter Sunday 2011


The Holy Sepulchre Church: Anastasis. Jerusale...

Image via Wikipedia

Luke 24: 13 -35

For most people this is just an ordinary Sunday.

You and I know differently.  You and I know that this is the day that changed the world.  This is the day that death was defeated.  Well, actually it was defeated on Good Friday; it just didn’t know it until today.

For the disciples it was to be the second day of mourning, and emptiness, and doubt.

Mary and the other women were the first to discover its glory early in the morning.  Peter and John followed on their heels.  Two disciples were walking to Emmaus that afternoon heavy with grief but wondering about all the strange reports, when Jesus walked into their lives.  They didn’t know it then but he was with them. They recognised him “in the breaking of the bread” and were so inspired that they ran all the way back to Jerusalem where Jesus met that evening with all his disciples (except Thomas).  Thomas, with his questions (and fears perhaps) discovered the wonder and glory of this day a week later, and fifty days later five thousand people from around the world, gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost, discovered the significance of this day for themselves.  And from there the message spread.

For many more people, the meaning of this day began to filter through over several years and, for most, over centuries.  Even today there are so many for whom this is just another Sunday.

How did you discover the wonder of this resurrection day?  Reflect on God’s first meeting with you and your journey of discovery with Jesus, who died for you and who was raised this day.  We have a story to tell.  Let’s find a way to tell it.

Prayer
Risen and exalted Lord, friend of sinners, thank you for this glorious day.  Thank you for the glory you have brought into my life.  Help me to bring something of that glory into my world today.

(The Lent Diary is a devotional project of Prestbury Methodist Church started by my mother, Norma Webster, 21 years ago and still edited by her.   This year 40 different people conntributed devotions for the 40 days of lent and the seven days of Holy Week.  This was my contribution for Easter Sunday 2011.)

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Lent Diary: Easter Saturday 2011


Luke 23:49-56

When John the Baptist was in prison dark doubts began to plague his mind.  Is Jesus the one?  He doesn’t seem to be taking charge and making things happen.  What if he’s not the one?  What if I have not prepared the way as I should have done?  What if I’ve prepared the wrong road for the wrong person? 

On that first Easter Saturday the disciples must have felt the same.  What went wrong?  Was this whole thing a failure?  Did we follow the wrong person?  What now?  Is love not the way after all? Does love have no chance in this world?  What do we do with all his teaching, with his new way of relating to God, with his “Blessed are the poor in spirit”?  He taught us to call God ‘Father’; what do we call him now?

Familiar?  Dark moments in our lives give rise to these questions.  But we are not alone.  Sometimes God seems far away and out of touch, even to the saints among us.  The Psalmist cried out: “LORD God, my saviour…hear my prayer; listen to my cry for help!  So many troubles have fallen on me that I am close to death….  You have thrown me into the depths of the tomb, into the darkest and deepest pit….  Why do you reject me, LORD?  Why do you turn away from me?”  (Psalm 88 GNB)

Tell God today about your darkest thoughts, your deepest pain, your most anxious questions.  You may find no answers for now, but take heart.  The Psalmist discovered that “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

There is a morning that is coming that is the most glorious, the most wonderful, the most life-changing morning of all.  It’s not here yet.  But know, in the midst of your questions and doubts and tragedies, it is coming.

Prayer
Lord, sustain us and those we love, in the dark night of fear and loneliness and defeat. Give us hope for the morning that is to come.

(The Lent Diary is a devotional project of Prestbury Methodist Church started by my mother, Norma Webster, 21 years ago and still edited by her.   This year 40 different people contributed devotions for the 40 days of lent and the seven days of Holy Week.  This was my contribution for Easter Saturday 2011, what I have always thought of as the darkest day of the Christian year.)

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