Blogging Holy Week; Maundy Thursday…

two lovers

The Queen will toss out a few specially minted coins today as a symbol of charity to fellow man. Of course, she can afford it.

The origins of the word ‘Maundy’ seems to be obscure, but one thought is that it derives from the Middle English and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” which many of you will of course already have correctly translated into these words from John chapter 13;

 ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this shall men know you are my disciples.’

The story goes that Jesus gathered with his friends for a last meal together. One of them was going to betray him, another would deny him before the night was over. After all the parables and obscure teachings he offered something unequivocal. He distilled his hopes for his friends into this one simple phrase. He demonstrated it as well by washing their road stained feet.

So many things he could have said- stuff about saving souls, striving for correct doctrine, worshiping correctly, fighting to defend the faith, condemning sins in society etc. All those things that seem to have become the preoccupation of his followers over the years; he chose not to mention these.

So, how do we demonstrate love for one another? What does this look like? Can we or others really recognise it when they see it?

I think of my own community- a loose ragged group of people on a parallel journey. Our love is sometimes tinged with irritation, pride, ignorance. There are often undercurrents that even when unacknowledged leave a stain on our gathering.

But gather we do. We eat together and share lives. In spite of all our busyness, we remain faithful to one another. The quality of our loving is imperfect, certainly less than Christ-like. I fear it might not be convincing to others who might observe from the outside.

And yet- what we have in this gathering is so much more than many others that I know. We have become so separated from one another. Human contact is increasingly excarnate, more like a software interface.

May this Maundy Thursday offer places of connection. May it be a bowl in which you are held in love.

Blogging Holy Week; Holy Wednesday…

Chris Goan:

This is a re-blog of an old post. Traditionally in the Eastern Church, the story of a woman pouring expensive oil onto the feet of Jesus and wiping them with her hair is told. The identity of this woman is unclear- but some have suggested that she was one and the same character familiar from this story. I thought it worth re-telling…

Originally posted on this fragile tent:

(This is a continuation of a series of posts (here and here) asking questions about the dark passages of the Bible. Forgive me if this is all old news to you theological types- I began writing this as a review of where my own thinking is up to….)

So, we come to that truth word. I am tempted to try to deal with this as a philosophical concept- but for now, lets stick to Jesus-

 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

What did Jesus mean?

When you read the full passage, the whole thing gets even more complicated- Jesus is in the middle of one of his regular arguments with the religious hard liners- the Pharisees. Firstly they try to catch him out by bringing him a woman caught in adultery- who by law (Biblical, scriptural…

View original 861 more words

Blogging Holy Week; Tuesday…

He stood in the door of the temple

And saw red

foodbank

The beautiful ones

Stressed up like sharks

Creases sharp enough to cut

Hunkered down over their spreadsheet scriptures

Their holy bottom line

These beautiful creatures

Who can never have enough

Who are blind, but for the glint of golden things

Their altars slickened with the substitutionary sacrifice

Of the poor

Tear a rib from me Father

Make them anew

Turn over their chemical tables

Snap the twisted strings of their DNA

My blood boils

bright

red

Blogging Holy Week; Monday…

City of London, construction

The Easter news is shadowed by the dirty politics of the up and coming election. Opinion and counter opinion. Analysis based on believability and presentation skills of leaders. As has become normal here in the UK, ideology, meaning and passionately held principles are rather absent from the debate and I mourn the absence. Without principles in our politics, what is left? Personal advantage, protected and enhanced privilege? A game of power played out by corporations and international capital? Conquest held only in check by threat?

Not that faith has really helped us to solve these ethical dilemmas. Ever since stories about the life and death of Jesus first began to be told, those who follow him have been caught up in confusion as to what it was all about- what is the central message that we are to hold close and carry into all other things?

Some said that he came first and foremost to solve a cosmic problem; that his death was to assuage the need for vicious eternal punishment that were the just deserts of sinners everywhere. Those that carried this message had a powerful duty to spread the Good News- which amounted to the fact that not everyone needed to face this dreadful punishment in the next life as Jesus could rescue those who would climb aboard his life raft. In this version of the story, the world we live in has already been handed over to the devil, and the best we can hope for is to save those just like us.

I confess to an increasing discomfort with this very modern reading of the story. Perhaps God is bigger than the cosmic laws we projected skywards confounding millions in the process. Perhaps he is more. Perhaps the death to come was not the point after all- it was more about the life thereafter.

Other Christians have always focussed more the here and now. There are after all many words of Jesus as recorded in the accounts handed down to us that call us first and foremost towards compassion to the other. We are clearly instructed to look after the poor, the weak and the broken, so Christians have thrown themselves into great works of philanthropy, throwing up hospitals, libraries and orphanages. They have opened their homes to strangers and taken in orphans and foundlings. They have become politicians.

A friend of mine quoted these words at an Aoradh meeting on Sunday from Zachariah chapter 8. They are the dreams of every society, the hope of every new voting generation;

“Old men and old women will come back to Jerusalem, sit on benches on the streets and spin tales, move around safely with their canes—a good city to grow old in. And boys and girls will fill the public parks, laughing and playing—a good city to grow up in.” (The Message.)

It could be said that we in the UK have known this city. More than most of the world, we have been blessed with relative peace, with a welfare system, a health system and a society that has been mostly harmonious, but we should take nothing for granted. At present, the rich are getting richer, and despite the current arguments about living standards, the poor and broken are being vilified.

Of course it could be argued that our peace has often been bought and paid for at the expense of others who did not enjoy these advantages. This too should be a responsibility be bear heavily.

Blogging Holy Week; Palm Sunday…

flags, horse guards parade, buckingham palace

Hindsight blinds us to what was really going on in that procession into Jerusalem. We are accustomed to read the narrative through a particular set of goggles that focus in on those elements of the story that allow a knowing juxtaposition with events soon to come.

The crowds of people greeting Jesus as Messiah – waving their palm leaves and lining the road with clothes – could not see into the future. They longed for a Messiah to come and solve their very immediate problems. They needed him to be a King of action; a King who would burst onto public life and overturn the politics. A Vengeful all-powerful King who would smite the oppressor and raise up a new Holy Empire. There were a few clues that they were always likely to be disappointed; he was riding a donkey for a start, and then there were all his scruffy no-hope followers and his past association with all sorts of outcasts and undesirables. This King was never going to deliver what people thought they wanted.

The thing is, even with all this hindsight, we often still make exactly the same mistake. We think that the answer to our serial problems lie in the achievement of fresh conquest and we even come to believe that these are God-ordained, despite all the evidence to the contrary- the donkey, the Lepers and all.

We forget that in this upside-down New Kingdom, power only matters when it is laid down in the form of love.

A poem for International women’s day…

Emily

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
Maya Angelou

Do something that won’t compute…

IMGP7487-001

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry