Tag Archives: Lent

First Sunday of Lent: A sermon

Photo by Mimi Moromisato from Pexels

‘Do you repent of your sin and renounce all evil?’
The first question asked at Baptism. But the Christian life is not a checklist of dos and don’ts. It is a journey into relationship. The journey may not begin with repentance, but with a welcome.


Lent and the virus

Today is the first Sunday of Lent.

It is a period (traditionally) of fasting until the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.

‘What are you giving up for Lent?’ was a common question when I was growing up. Most of the time it was (reluctantly) sweets and chocolates.

Some would say that this year we have been forced to give up worshiping together, we have given up hugs and holding each other close. You could say we have given up the lower half of our faces!

But we must not think that these constitute the essence of worship or the only signs of friendship. They are just what we are used to, how we are used to worshiping and showing affection.

So, this virus is challenging us to change our pace and to find new ways to worship, to engage with each other and to care for those who are struggling.

In the same way, the period of Lent calls us to change our pace and challenges us to find new ways to live and to express our faith – to learn new ways in which we can draw closer to Jesus and draw others to him and to his family, the church.


But we must be sure that the new things are rooted and ground in our faith. So, what better place to start than with our baptism, our coming into the family of God? Traditionally, Lent is a time to prepare new members for baptism on Easter Sunday.

And the first question put to candidates for baptism or Confirmation is Do you repent of your sin and renounce all evil?

This isn’t a very happy question, of course.

The second question is much more comforting: ‘Do you trust in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour?’

However, while we would much rather spend time thinking about Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, today we are going to concentrate on the first question: ‘Do you repent of your sin and renounce all evil?’

Having a series of questions and answers about our faith does help us remember the basics, but it can also be a trap.


Like most people, we Christians like to take the easy route. We take the wonders of awesome God, the challenging words of scripture and the mysteries our faith and we cut them down to size and package them in bite-sized pieces – usually in the form of a list of what’s allowed and what is not, of who is in and who is out.

We translate ‘the way of Jesus’ into a checklist of do’s and don’ts.

And even these powerful questions of our baptism are reduced to some sort of test – get them right and you’re in. Tick here if you want to go to heaven.

Repent and renounce

So, our question today, ‘Do you repent of your sin and renounce all evil?’ is treated as an entrance requirement. If you do, you’re in. If not, well, come back when you’re ready.

Personally, I don’t think this question should be first on the list for people who are coming into faith.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that sin isn’t real and that it doesn’t separate us from God. It is real and it does. I’m also not suggesting that repentance and renouncing evil isn’t part of the deal – it is. It’s an essential part of our relationship with God, our journey with God. I am just not so sure that it comes first.

Sin and holiness – light and dark

There is absolutely no doubt that there is sin and evil in the world, and that there is a fair amount of it in the hearts of each one of us. It is equally true that sin and holiness cannot mix; God and evil cannot coexist. We cannot bring evil into the Kingdom of God; we cannot continue to sin, do those things that hurt God or his creation and expect to live happily in his family.

You can’t bring darkness into a lightened room. When the light goes on, darkness disappears. That’s how it is. You can block the light with furniture and create shadows where the light is hidden, but where there is light, there is no darkness.

So, when I suggest there might be a problem with this question, it’s not because repenting and renouncing evil aren’t important. They are; they’re essential. But they don’t always come first like we think they do. And sometimes, the way we understand them gets in the way of everything else.


We tend to see repentance as an entrance requirement. You have to do this if you want to come in. If you don’t wear a mask and you don’t sanitise your hands, you’re not coming in.

Repent, turn away from evil, then God will consider your application for adoption.

Jesus doesn’t seem to have understood repentance and renouncing evil like that.

For Jesus, it is part of the package of Good News, part of what we do on the journey. For us, it becomes a barrier to entrance.

‘You support abortion, you’re divorced, you’re rude, arrogant, cheeky; you drink too much, gamble, cheat on your spouse, lie, steal …. God doesn’t want you like that,’ we say. ‘Come back when you’ve sorted your life out.’

The prodigal son

But if we look at the stories Jesus told and his actions around sinful people, we find quite a different approach.

The prodigal son wasn’t asked whether he had really repented or had only come home because he was hungry. The father didn’t care. That’s a question the older brother would have asked, not the father. His son was home, and he welcomed him with open arms and a fatted calf. He didn’t give him a list: ‘Tick these boxes, and then we’ll have a chat about whether you fit in. And, of course, your older brother will have to approve.’

None of that. The father threw a party and gave him a place of honour in his heart and in the home.

And the older brother? Those of us who are ‘older’ in the faith? God doesn’t ask our permission before opening the doors of his heart, before welcoming sinners and backsliders.

We, too, have a place in God’s heart, but we’d better get used to the idea that we share that place with all the other children God loves and calls his own. And that, without our prior approval.

Woman caught in adultery

Then there is the woman caught in adultery. We like to emphasis the fact that Jesus told her to go and sin no more. But that was after he said, ‘I don’t condemn you.’

He didn’t give her a conditional certificate of forgiveness: ‘If you promise to stop sinning, I’ll forgive you. And if you do stop, well, then we’ll make this forgiveness permanent.’ [like employment & probation]

For Jesus, forgiveness is unconditional. And the crazy thing is, it comes first.


We think about sin as a list of dos and don’ts, and we must try to get as many of them right as possible.

The Bible looks at sin as to how it affects our relationships, both with God and with others. Again and again, God shows us he is interested in relationships not rightness, not ticking boxes. He doesn’t say, ‘I’ll let you in if you do it like this.’

Instead, he says, ‘Come and join the party.’

Past versus possibilities

You see, God is interested in our possibilities, not our past.

We ask, ‘What has this person done? How bad are they?’ and we start closing doors.

God asks, ‘How can I help this person shine?’ and he opens doors to new possibilities.

You see, God believes in the good news, in the power of the Gospel. He takes it seriously. I don’t think we share that faith quite so much.

God believes that if you come to his party, you won’t be able to help yourself; you’ll want to stay.

The pearl and the treasure

Jesus said we don’t need to force people or tell them to sell everything and to let go of their past. If they just get a sniff of that pearl beyond riches, if they just get a glimpse of that treasure hidden away, they won’t be satisfied with anything else. They won’t be able to help themselves. They’ll get rid of everything, just to have that treasure, just to own that pearl.

I don’t think we really believe that so much. We think God’s holiness has to be protected somehow; that the good news is so fragile it needs to be kept back. So, we stand at the door with a list of requirements. And repenting of sin and renouncing all evil is top of the list. If you want what God offers, if you want to join this family, if you want a piece of the Good News, you have to tick these boxes.

All evil

But, friends, we have to be very careful here because the question is ‘Will you … renounce all evil.’

The truth is we don’t know half of it.

I was a 14 year-old kid when I gave my life to Jesus. I repented of sin and renounced all evil. Of course I did. I’d heard about the party. I’d had a glimpse of the treasure. I knew what the pearl looked like.

But, at that point, I didn’t have any idea of just how much evil I was capable of. I wanted to follow Jesus; I wanted to let go of all evil. But I hadn’t even begun to do evil. Sin (real sin) had hardly had any chance to rear its ugly head in my life. What did I know about sin and evil and of its power and destructive force; of how much I would hurt those around me and destroy relationships? What did I know?

God knew

But I want to tell you this. God knew. He knew. He knew not how bad I’d been – that was nothing – he knew how bad I was going to be. And he still loved me and welcomed me with open arms.

You see, God believes in the power of his love. He knows that it is his love that will rescue, heal and give new life even to the worst of us.

So: ‘Do you repent of your sin and renounce all evil?’

It doesn’t mean will you promise never to sin again, never to entertain evil. Because, trust me on this, you are going to mess up. Some of you will mess up in ways you could not imagine. But God knows. Your baptism wasn’t a mistake. God accepting you into his family wasn’t a slip, like your neighbour’s Takealot order coming to you instead. You are meant to be here; you are wanted.

Our baptism is a reminder, not to God (he doesn’t need a reminder) it’s a reminder to you and to me that we are already part of the family of God, showered with his love. And nothing we can do will ever change that.

Do you want to share in this journey?

So, don’t be frightened by the question, do you repent of your sin and renounce all evil? And let’s be sure not to use it as a weapon against others.

It simply means, do you want to share in this journey; do you want to walk with one who loves you so much? He will walk with you through the ups AND the downs. He will never leave you.

Let me invite you to use this time of Lent, this quiet, separated Lent, to reflect on God’s love and find new ways to relate to him; find new ways to let go of the things that separate you from God and from the people around you; find new ways to connect with God and with the rest of his beautiful (and crazy) family.

How about five minutes a day reading the Prestbury Methodist Church Lent Diary (ask me for a copy, if you like) or a devotion of your own?

How about five minutes a day reading through the Gospel of Mark or John?

The journey begins today. It is a difficult one, scary even, but it ends in the victory of resurrection and the glory of God.

Blessing to you all.


[For the prayer from the end of the message, see here]

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Easter Sunday Meditation 2017

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Reading: Luke 24:1-10 (GNB)

Very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, carrying the spices they had prepared. (2) They found the stone rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, (3) so they went in; but they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. (4) They stood there puzzled about this, when suddenly two men in bright shining clothes stood by them. (5) Full of fear, the women bowed down to the ground, as the men said to them, “Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive? (6) He is not here; he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was in Galilee: (7) ‘The Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and three days later rise to life.’”

(8) Then the women remembered his words, (9) returned from the tomb, and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest. (10) The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; they and the other women with them told these things to the apostles.


The Lord is risen.
He is risen indeed!

Death is destroyed.
Victory is complete!

Death and everything that destroys has been defeated. We stand before God stripped of our human frailty, our sinfulness, our physical weaknesses. We are, instead, bathed in his love, clothed in his righteousness, filled with his Spirit.

We are not yet complete. There is still work to be done. The last movement, the final steps will take place in an instant, in God’s time. But the Easter message is that the resurrection is now. The defeat of hurt and failure and death begins today. It takes place on every step of our journey. Every day as we open ourselves to the transforming work of the Spirit.

God invites us, today, to offer him our struggles and our joys, our failures and our successes. They are not what define our journey. Our journey is not defined by our strengths or weaknesses. It is defined by our companion on the road: the risen Saviour. Acknowledge his presence, and ask him to help you journey with him, starting today.


Lord, we cannot comprehend the resurrection, it is beyond our human understanding. But we do know that we are in your glorious hands. We journey with you. We acknowledge your victory and we surrender today those things in our lives that hinder your work, that lead to death rather than to life. Thank you for walking with us, and thank you for our destination and the welcome you have prepared for us.


This meditation was written for the Prestbury Methodist Church Lenten Diary. A collaborative project with various members of the church writing meditations for each day of Lent around a given theme.
See HERE for Easter Saturday and past years’ contributions.

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Easter Saturday Meditation 2017


Reading: Luke 23:50-56 (GNB)

(50-51) There was a man named Joseph from Arimathea, a town in Judea. He was a good and honorable man, who was waiting for the coming of the Kingdom of God. Although he was a member of the Council, he had not agreed with their decision and action. (52) He went into the presence of Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. (53) Then he took the body down, wrapped it in a linen sheet, and placed it in a tomb which had been dug out of solid rock and which had never been used. (54) It was Friday, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

(55) The women who had followed Jesus from Galilee went with Joseph and saw the tomb and how Jesus’ body was placed in it. (56) Then they went back home and prepared the spices and perfumes for the body.

On the Sabbath they rested, as the Law commanded.


Those who knew Jesus stood and watched.
They watched him die.
They watched him being buried.
Then they went home to prepare spices to embalm the dead body of their Saviour.
And they waited for the Sabbath to end.
Just one last duty to perform.
It would be the final act. It would mark the end of their journey with him.

They had no idea.

We, too, have no idea of what God has in store for us, what awaits around the corner.

We watch, we make plans, we prepare the next step. We think we have everything under control. But like those first followers of Jesus, we really have no idea. And when things don’t work out, when someone or something puts a spanner in the works, we react, we struggle, we lose our temper.

But God has plans for us that are not dependent on success or failure in our life’s journey. God’s work in our lives does not depend on our comfort, our health or our wealth. God’s plans depend on our openness to him and availability to the Spirit whatever else may be happening.


Lord, forgive us for thinking we can control our future and our surroundings. Forgive us when we are so focused on our detailed planning, that we miss the spontaneity of the Spirit. Forgive us for thinking that the cross is the end, rather than a new beginning.

Help us amid our struggles and tragedies to discover you in new beginnings and new relationships and to find our strength in you.


This meditation was written for the Prestbury Methodist Church Lenten Diary. A collaborative project with various members of the church writing meditations for each day of Lent around a given theme.
See HERE for Easter Sunday and past years’ contributions.

See also:
Easter Saturday Meditation 2016
Easter Sunday Meditation 2016


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What’s Your Story: Forgiveness (A Sermon)

[A sermon for the 5th Sunday of Lent at Prestbury Methodist Church, 2 April 2017]

SCRIPTURE:    Zechariah 7:8–14; Matthew 9:9–13; Colossians 3:8–17

This is the fifth and last in the Heartlines’ series ‘What’s Your Story?’ which we have been following during Lent.

The first week was called ‘The Power of Storytelling’, and Collin introduced us to the Heartlines’ framework for sharing stories: Ask. Listen. Tell. Then he explained the Heartlines’ method for telling our story called ‘The River of Life’. I wonder if you have written your ‘river of life’ story, yet.

On the next three Sundays, we looked at Love and the new commandment of Jesus to love one another, Understanding and how understanding comes from experiencing the world as others experience it and Acceptance and Respect, where Delme reminded us that we were all outside of God’s family, until the love of Christ brought us near.

Today, the subject is Forgiveness.

There are two aspects of forgiveness we are going to look at today. The first is being forgiven and the second is forgiving others.

Being forgiven
I am not talking here about being forgiven by God.

We are forgiven. We know that.

The cross is God’s forgiveness splashed onto the big screen. God, in his loving kindness, taking all the sin in our lives that destroys relationships – our relationships with God, with each other and with ourselves – Jesus taking all of that and dealing with it through his own death. Jesus opening the door into the Kingdom of God for each one of us.

We are forgiven.

That famous verse in John 3:16: ‘For God loved the world (you and me) so much, that he gave his only son so that whoever believes in him shall not die but shall have eternal life.’
Paul says in Romans 6:23, ‘The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’
And in chapter 5:8 ‘But God has shown us how much he loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! ‘
And in verse 10, ‘We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son.’

We are forgiven by God. That forgiveness is the foundation for everything else. We are forgiven, therefore we reach out to others.

So, today it’s not about being forgiven by God. What we are talking about is how we need to be forgiven by others, by those we have hurt and are still hurting. Now that’s much more difficult. It is difficult not just because of the humiliation of having to say you’re sorry and to ask for forgiveness. That is hard. But it is difficult because we don’t always recognise just how we have hurt others and do hurt them.

I’d like to focus on just one way we hurt others without thinking and, sometimes, without even knowing. I want us to think about our language – what we say and how we say it.

You know, the biggest problem with communication (and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a formal presentation or a quick word as we pass in the street), the biggest problem is in the ‘decoding’ process. When we have something to say and, whether it’s a presentation to the board or a word to the children, our brains work out what we want to say. We take our thoughts and translate them into words or pictures, which we then convey to the person. And we might do that through a PowerPoint presentation, a WhatsApp message or by talking to them.

Now comes the tricky part. The message has reached the other person or group. And that person has to understand it, has to decode it, interpret it and make sense of what you are saying. And it is tricky, because that person, or that group, uses their entire history to interpret your words. Everything they have ever heard, seen or experienced goes into the interpretation process – including your relationship with that person. Or rheir relationship with people they think are like you.

Let me be controversial for a moment to make it more real. There has been a lot of talk recently about the use of the word ‘monkey’ in talking about people. And I know that a lot of white people have grown up using ‘monkey’ as a term of endearment. ‘Hey, you little monkey.’ But it is a term that, in this country, comes with a whole lot of painful and hurtful baggage.

Now we can say, as I have heard a lot of people saying, ‘Oh, please. They are so oversensitive.’ But until we have experienced the pain of that word (or any other) being used against us to oppress and to hurt, we dare not call other people oversensitive. We have to hear their pain.

‘But, I didn’t mean anything by it,’ we often say. What we mean by something is not important. We are trying to get a message across that we want others to receive, understand and respond to. If they don’t get the right message, we have a problem. It’s like advertising. If people are getting the wrong message, you have to change your advert. It’s no good wringing your hands and telling everyone, ‘That’s not what I meant.’

Jen grew up with the term ‘silly sausage’ being just about the worst thing her father would say about (for example) a taxi driver who swerved in front of him. I grew up with ‘silly sausage’ being a term of endearment my mother would use. Can you imagine the first time I called my wife a silly sausage!

So, when we talk about being forgiven, it is not enough to confess to God and ask for his forgiveness. We, as Christians, need to be humble enough to recognise that we contribute to the pain that others experience. And while that includes people of different race or gender, of religion or culture, it also includes our children and parents, our spouses and our friends our domestic workers or work colleagues.

We need to find ways to listen more, to listen to the stories of others that will help us understand what our words and actions might mean to others.

Forgiveness is not just about being forgiven by God; it is about recognising that we need to be forgiven by others day by day and about seeking out their forgiveness.

Forgiving others
The second aspect of forgiveness I want us to consider today is forgiving others.

Of course, we know that we have to forgive others. We are reminded every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.’

Jesus said, ‘If you do not forgive the sins of others, neither will you be forgiven.’ We can’t horde forgiveness. If we are not passing it on, we can’t receive it.

So, we know we have to forgive others. But how do we get that right?

One of the ways I have approached it is to remind myself by repeating that word throughout the day: ‘Forgive.’ A kind of mantra for every situation:

  • When something goes wrong – forgive.
  • The neighbour revs his motorbike – forgive!
  • The kids are annoying – forgive!
  • My wife is late – forgive!
  • Yes, even when the taxi swerves in front of you – forgive.’

But as I thought about it this week, I realised that there is a comforting little message that is perhaps getting through to us. Well, to me, anyway. You are probably much more loving than I am. You see, if I’m really angry, and I say ‘Forgive!’ I am not letting go of my negative thoughts; I’m not changing my attitude towards the person.

What I am often saying is, ‘He’s an idiot, but I forgive him.’
‘She’s irresponsible, but I forgive her.’
‘They are disgraceful, but I forgive!’

You see what we are doing here. Well, not you, of course. It’s probably just me.

I am saying, ‘They are terrible, but I am a good Christian.’ The focus is on how bad others are and how good I am.

I mean, why do I have to forgive people? It’s because they are bad; they have done something wrong. So, when I focus on forgiving others, there is a danger that I may be encouraging myself to think how wonderful I am compared with them.

But Jen read an article to me last week (Witness, Sat, 25 March 2017) about three-year-old Prince George of Great Britain going to school. And what struck us is that the school’s website says that its most important rule is ‘be kind’.

Be kind.

Now, think about that for a moment. What if ‘be kind’ became our most important rule. What if, instead of talking about love, we started to act out our love by being kind. So, ‘be kind’ becomes our mantra, something we say to ourselves throughout the day. Think how that would begin to transform our relationships. And isn’t transforming relationships what our faith is all about?

Now don’t try to second guess this being kind. Don’t start saying to yourself, ‘Well, the kind thing to do here would be to discipline him, to make her face the consequences, to….’ Just be kind.

‘Well, if they are going to benefit from this kindness thing, then I need to explain to them….’ Just be kind; be kind.

Picture the scene. There I am behind some scary taxi driver or some idiot driving erratically – probably on their cell phone! – and I grip the wheel and say to myself, ‘Forgive! Forgive!!’

I haven’t learned anything; I haven’t changed anything.

But, what if I relax my grip a little and start saying, ‘Be kind; be kind.’ What if I look for ways to be kind. What if I start saying ‘be kind’ before I respond to my child, my parents, my spouse, the teller, my employees?

What will happen is that we will begin to let go of the failures of others and focus on what we can do to make a difference in the world, to listen to stories, to create relationships, to encourage rather than tear down.

Just for today, let go of the negative, and speak words of encouragement.

Be kind.

Prayer: click here

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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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Easter Sunday Meditation 2015

Christ is risen – he is risen indeed.

Reading: John 20:11-18

Mary stood crying outside the tomb. While she was still crying, she bent over and looked in the tomb (12) and saw two angels there dressed in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and the other at the feet.  (13) ‘Woman, why are you crying?’ they asked her. She answered, ‘They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him!’

(14) Then she turned around and saw Jesus standing there; but she did not know that it was Jesus.

(15) ‘Woman, why are you crying?’ Jesus asked her. ‘Who is it that you are looking for?’

She thought he was the gardener, so she said to him, ‘If you took him away, sir, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.’

(16) Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned toward him and said in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ (This means ‘Teacher.’)

(17) ‘Do not hold on to me,’ Jesus told her, ‘because I have not yet gone back up to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them that I am returning to him who is my Father and their Father, my God and their God.’
(18) So Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and related to them what he had told her. (Good News Bible)


‘The day of resurrection, earth, tell it all abroad;

… for Christ the Lord hath risen, our joy that hath no end.’

But wait. Why are you crying?

A lost loved one? A lost opportunity? A failed relationship? Are you afraid of something or someone? Do you feel helpless and alone?

Trevor Hudson reminds us ‘that each person you see … sits next to his or her own pool of tears.’ You are not the only one crying today. You are not alone in your tears.

Mary, too, was crying, and she tried to fix everything, as we do: ‘tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.’

But there is so much that cannot be fixed, however many times we go over what we did; however many times we cry, ‘If only ….’

But what if the empty tomb was not a sign of loss but of life? What if our pain could be transformed into healing for others? What if others could find hope because of what we have experienced?

Jesus calls us by name today. And he sends us out to his brothers and sisters – our brothers and sisters, our parents and children, our neighbours, friends and enemies. He asks us to tell them that his Father is their Father, that his God is their God. We are not alone; we belong to the Father and we belong to each other.

We were never meant to keep the tomb filled with our pain and hurt and fears and anger. It was meant to burst open and to fill the world with light and love and hope.

The Lord is risen – he is risen indeed!


Thank you, Lord, for the hope of this day.

Thank you that our tears and the tears of the world do not have the final say.

Help us to discover, in the place of our hurt and loss and suffering, an opportunity to bring hope and love to the world around us.

Help us, today, to call someone by name, to reach into their tears and give them hope.

This meditation was written for the Prestbury Methodist Church Lenten Diary. A collaborative project, with various members of the church writing meditations for each day of Lent around a given theme. See HERE for Easter Saturday and past years’ contributions. 

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