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  • A Daffodil in the Snow

    Today we said our last farewell to Rachel in what was the most beautiful funeral I have attended.  The simple wicker coffin lovingly adorned with garlands of ivy and daffodils reflected the beauty of the women whose life we celebrated.

    Traditional elements mingled seamlessly with the symbolic act of each person adding a daffodil to a giant cross as a sign of ressurection hope.   Old hymns and specially composed words flowed in perfect harmony as we gave thanks for the privilege of having known her.

    The tribute spoke of a life lived to overflowing and of an endless outpouring of humble love - the choice of Bible reading of the Beattitudes could not have been more appropriate.  Rachel would have been embarrassed to think that I might 'post' about her twice but her passing has, in its own quiet way, been almost as influential as her life.

    Each person who attended the funeral received a little memory card with these words printed on it: -

    Love, like a yellow daffodil, is coming through the snow

    Go well, Rachel, to your place of rest and reward.  You were a beautiful daffodil sent to bloom for a season bringing delight to our lives.  When we see daffodils will remember you, and all you inspired within us.  Well done good and faithful servant.

    (Photo from Google images)

  • Crowd mentality: Good, bad or inauthentic?

    I am beginning to think about my Palm Sunday service (only because I don't have to do Passion Sunday as it's a 'Cluster' service with the BUGB president preaching).

    Last year we had a sermonless service with loads of reading from the Bible and a central visual focus and lots of interactive bits as we went from Palm Sunday to Gethsemane in an hour!  We had Communion as we read of the Last Supper - it was all quite powerful and meaningful really.

    This year, given that few will be at Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services, I intend to cover similar ground but in a more traditional preaching form.  I plan on using a Palm Sunday account counterpointed with a Good Friday trial account - two crowds and two very different responses.  It got me thinking about crowd behaviour and wondering which, if either, crowd was an authentic representation of people's views.  We like to think the Palm Sunday crowd was good because people acknowledged Jesus as 'he who comes in the name of the Lord' and the Good Friday crowd as bad (even as we think we Jesus had to die to fulfil his mission) because they shouted 'crucify him!'

    This seems too simplistic and I started hunting around the web to find more educated views than my own.  For example, we tend to see massive 'responses' at evangelistic campaigns as 'good' while football pitch invasions are 'bad.'  Why?  At one level the behaviour is the same: people fired up by some sort of crowd fervour act in ways they might not do otherwise.  Yes, people are converted at evangelistic campaigns - but not the numbers who apparently respond.  Likewise decent law-abiding citizens can get drawn into violence once they are part of a big crowd (although here it seems to be called a mob!).

    I suppose I'm left wondering if the crowd is ultimately just inauthentic in some way.  It is perhaps authentically 'of the moment' but with time to reflect guilt, regret, a sense of foolishness or artifice can set in.  I'm not entirely sure how this helps with my sermon but maybe we do well to be aware of crowd behaviour and a little less swift to judge individuals as  'good' or bad' because they are part of it.  It also makes me take stock of what I think of as 'good' events which may, to others, be bad (e.g. I think Palm Sunday is good; presumably for some Jews it remains part of a terrible and regretable  heresy). It also makes me think about the internal tensions inherent in a faith that is centred on a 'bad' crowd deciding to execute an innocent man so that 'good' may come out of it, and all the muddled theology that surrounds it - but that's a topic for another day!

  • Joys and Sorrows

    Rejoice!  Norman Kember, James Loney and Harmeet Singh have been freed.  Checkout BBC website at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4836218.stm

    Checks and balances - the next BBC headline is that 15 were killed by a suicide bomb in Baghdad.

    For the joys and for the sorrows, for the best and worst of times, for this we have Jesus. (Kendrick)

    We rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.  We remember the family of Tom Fox and the former captors of the men now freed: all God's children needing our prayers.