Tag Archives: Lent

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]

 

4 Comments

Filed under Lent, Sermons, Uncategorized

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)

Meditation

‘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!

Prayer

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. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Easter, Meditation & Prayer, Through the Year

Easter Saturday Meditation 2015


The tomb

Reading: Luke 23:50-56

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. (Good News Bible)

Meditation

‘It was Friday, and the Sabbath was about to begin.’

They put Jesus in the tomb, and waited….

Meanwhile, the women prepared….

We spend so much time waiting for things outside our control: for telephones to be answered, for service to be provided, for pain to cease, for opportunities to arrive, for miracles to occur. But the secret seems to be hidden from us, as the body of Jesus was hidden in the tomb.

So we wait. We wait to become gentler and more loving; to become kinder and more humble towards our families. We wait for the right circumstances, for more wisdom, for greater faith before we serve our neighbours. We wait for opportunities to do great things for God. We wait to be made holy.

Meanwhile, the women prepared….

While we are waiting, we, too, can prepare. We, too, can care for the body of Jesus: the Church, our community, our family whom Paul called, ‘the body of Christ’. People around us struggling, hurting and dying … and waiting.

What is the Spirit of Jesus inviting you to do to care for the body of Jesus today?

Prayer

Lord, help us recognise your body in the people around us, especially those closest to us.
Lift our eyes from our impatient busyness.
Teach us to prepare, not for some outward event of the future but for the renewal of our hearts and for renewed relationships with our family and our neighbours.
Help us to offer our lives (as Joseph offered his tomb) to be a source of gentleness and kindness for the body of Christ – the people in our family, our neighbourhood and our world.

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 past years’ contributions.

2 Comments

Filed under Lent, Meditation & Prayer, Through the Year

A meditation for Easter Saturday


Each year about 40 members of Prestbury Methodist Church each write a meditation or two for our Lenten Diary on a given theme. This year, each day focused a single word. This was my contribution for Easter Saturday. The word was ‘Tomb’. My Easter Sunday contribution will be published tomorrow.

Reading: John 19:38-42
After this, Joseph, who was from the town of Arimathea, asked Pilate if he could take Jesus’ body. (Joseph was a follower of Jesus, but in secret, because he was afraid of the Jewish authorities.) Pilate told him he could have the body, so Joseph went and took it away.  (39)  Nicodemus, who at first had gone to see Jesus at night, went with Joseph, taking with him about one hundred pounds of spices, a mixture of myrrh and aloes.  (40)  The two men took Jesus’ body and wrapped it in linen cloths with the spices according to the Jewish custom of preparing a body for burial.  (41)  There was a garden in the place where Jesus had been put to death, and in it there was a new tomb where no one had ever been buried.  (42)  Since it was the day before the Sabbath and because the tomb was close by, they placed Jesus’ body there.

Meditation
We have reached the end of our journey and here we are, outside a tomb. Is this where it ends? We place your body in a tomb? We keep you in a place where we can access you when we need to, leave you when we want to, think about you when it’s convenient and ignore you when it suits us?

Lord we confess that, as we do with the legacy of other great leaders, we have taken your legacy, kept the bits we like and left the rest in the tomb. We have not allowed you to change us, challenge us or lead us to new places.

Tomorrow we will celebrate your release from the tomb, your resurrection. What then? We will have no control over you. You will be in charge. When you tell us to love our neighbour, we won’t be able to um and ah. We won’t be able to play around with the words ‘love’ and ‘neighbour’ to weasel out of the plain meaning: love your neighbour. You will be there to point the way. Your words will not mean what we want them to mean, but what you mean. Am I ready for tomorrow? Am I ready for the sunrise of a new day and a new relationship with you?

Prayer
Lord Jesus, please help us use this day to prepare our hearts for tomorrow. Prepare us for your sunrise call to new beginnings. Make us ready to follow, not your legacy, but you as you are, as you continually reveal yourself to be, new every morning. Amen.

___________________________________________

See also:

Easter Saturday: Joseph, the secret follower — Lenten Diary 2013
Lent Diary 2012: Easter Saturday and Handel’s Messiah — Lenten Diary 2012

3 Comments

Filed under Lent, Prayers and Meditations

Easter Sunday: Is “Amen” the end, or just the beginning?


“Amen”

Amen; the very last word of Handel’s Messiah, sung about 49 times for emphasis.

But what does it mean?  The end?  Does it mean, “That’s done and dusted, you can all go home now”?  Well, that might be true at a performance of Handel’s Messiah.  And in our prayers “Amen” often just means, “That’s the end of the prayer; we can move on now.”  But forty-nine Amens suggest that Handel wanted to convey something more.  

Amen is a Hebrew word.  Used in response to someone else’s words it means, “That’s true,” or “Let it be true; so be it.”  Jesus used it uniquely at the beginning of some of his own sayings—usually translated “Verily” or “Truly”, as in John 3:3  “I am telling you the truth: no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again” (GNB).  The Message translates it, “Listen very carefully”.   It suggests that this isn’t something to say a casual “Amen” to and then carry on as before.  This is going to change your life, so listen up.

The Interpreter’s Dictionary describes Amen as “an exclamation by which listeners join in what they have heard, and affirm their readiness to bear the consequences of this acknowledge­ment.”

On this great day, we declare, “The Lord is risen; he is risen indeed.”

What now?  Jesus, who died for you and for me, and for our neighbours, and for our enemies and friends, is risen, and we say, “Amen!”  But does it mean that is the end, and now we get on with our lives?  Or does it mean that we affirm our readiness to bear the consequences of our acknowledgement, to allow the risen Christ to reign in our lives, and to follow him in the world?

The Lord is risen.  Will you let that change your life today, forever?

Prayer
Risen Lord Jesus, you said “Amen” to your Father’s plans, and laid down your life for me.  Let my “Amen” today affirm my commitment to bring your life into my world, and the world of my friends and enemies alike, today and every day. Amen

This was my contribution for Easter Sunday to “The Lent Diary”, a devotional project of Prestbury Methodist Church to which some 40 different people contribute each year.  This year the meditations were based on the readings used in Handel’s Messiah (My mother edits the Diary; maybe that’s why my contributions get published each year?)

4 Comments

Filed under Easter, Meditation & Prayer

Lent Diary 2012: Easter Saturday and Handel’s Messiah


“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.” (Based on Revelation 5: 12-13)

If you could take one human-made thing to heaven, what would it be? But what if, in all of heaven, there was to be only one thing that had been made on earth.  How do we choose something precious and meaningful for everyone: for kings and rulers; for sporting legends and movie stars; for shopaholics and the poorest of the poor; for empire builders and environmentalists?

Someone has suggested that there is one set of human-made items in heaven.  They are objects of intense worship. They bring the wearer power, riches, wisdom, strength, honour, glory and blessing.  None of us would have chosen to bring them to heaven; none of us is proud to find them there. But it wasn’t our choice; it was God’s.  The only human-made things in heaven are the wounds of the nails in the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.

It is significant that the glory of the Christ is not in his majestic position or his power, but in his wounds.  He may well be the Lion of Judah but in heaven he is glorified as the Lamb of God, who was slain.

Here on earth, this Easter Saturday, as we ponder the events of Good Friday, we can only kneel in shame and recognition that our sins (yours and mine) caused those wounds.  But it was no accident.  “The Lamb was slain from the creation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8)  Our sin and the only solution were known to God from the beginning; his love made it inevitable. His wounds are not marks of shame but evidence of God’s extravagant love.  That is why, in heaven, they are worshiped, and why, even on Easter Saturday, we can join in the heavenly chorus, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!”

Prayer
Lamb of God, our sin led you to the cross, but your cross frees us from our sin.  Thank you for taking on our shame so that we can share in your glory.

This was my contribution for Easter Saturday to “The Lent Diary”, a devotional project of Prestbury Methodist Church to which some 40 different people contribute each year.  This year the meditations were based on the readings used in Handel’s Messiah

5 Comments

Filed under Easter, Meditation & Prayer