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  • A Home in Lent - Day 46

    The last day, the last object, the end of the book (apart from a postscript for tomorrow).

    The object is the bed, and the social history reminds us that bedsteads as we know them are a relatively late invention.  A gentle parallel is drawn between sleep and death, and the naturalness (if ther'es such a word) of each (unless tragedy is the cause of death).

    Among my minister friends is a running annual joke that we are queueing up to borrow Jesus' tomb for a sleep on Monday, because we are so weary after Lent and Holy Week.  It's certainly irreverent but it pretty much captures the same idea - that death and sleep are not so different.

    In recent weeks I have learned of two devout, and well loved people, who have been place in medically induced comas in an attempt to save their lives, one from a brain injury, the other following an extrememly rare adverse reaction to medication.  The first of these is now making steady progress, though it will be a very long time before they get home; the second is still critically ill.  The first I know, and count as a friend; the second I know of, and have never met.  Thankfully, the God who, in Christ, has experienced and transformed death for all eternity, is watching over each of them and will hold them safe now, and for always.

    I find myself reminded of the Victorian children's bedtime prayer...

    Now I lay me down to sleep,

    I pray ther LORD my soul to keep;

    And if I die before I wake,

    I pray the LORD my soul to take.

    As Lent draws to its close, and we wait patiently for what tomorrow will bring, may God bless us all; wiith refreshing rest  now, and the assurance of etenral rest still to come.

  • At Home in Lent - Days 44 and 45

    As we enter the triduum (the three dyas) of Easter, the momentum increases.  Yesterday, Maundy Thursday, was a busy, busy day with meetings we had hoped to avoid holding in Holy Week and a service to set up and lead.  Today it'll be the three hour vigil, which wil mean a lot of sitting in what is usually a freezing cold church. This is not very thought out, it's just a few thoguhts dumped onto a computer!

    The object for yesterday was the alarm clock (a link to the cock that crew) and the crucifix - something that most protestants actually don't have in their homes.

    As Lent draws to its end (and arguably already has ended, it all depends how you choose to count) it is the pace of the story that carries us through the last few days.  It's entirely feaible that, in reality, what we comemtorate as happening in one long, sleepless night, took significantly longer, but what matters is not the timescale but the meaning of it all.

    Today, it's good if we can find just a few minutes to ponder the cross, a hinge point in human history, a moment when the gaps bewteen heaven and hell and earth (however we understand any of those) was closed (or opened, or maybe both).  A moment where time and eternity merged, where the timebound power of evil was destroyed by the eternal power of love, even if within time we have yet to see its full outworking.

    If I was to choose a hymn for today - and I'm not choosing any of the ones we'll sing in the vigil - it would probably be this one, I hope you enjoy it.

    My song is love unknown,
    my Saviour's love to me,
    love to the loveless shown,
    that they might lovely be.
    O who am I,
    that for my sake
    my Lord should take
    frail flesh, and die?

    He came from his blest throne,
    salvation to bestow;
    but men made strange, and none
    the longed-for Christ would know.
    But O, my Friend,
    my Friend indeed,
    who at my need
    his life did spend.

    Sometimes they strew his way,
    and his sweet praises sing;
    resounding all the day
    hosannas to their King.
    Then 'Crucify!'
    is all their breath,
    and for his death
    they thirst and cry.

    Why, what hath my Lord done?
    What makes this rage and spite?
    He made the lame to run,
    he gave the blind their sight.
    Sweet injuries!
    yet they at these
    themselves displease,
    and 'gainst him rise.

    They rise, and needs will have
    my dear Lord made away;
    a murderer they save,
    the Prince of Life they slay.
    Yet cheerful he
    to suffering goes,
    that he his foes
    from thence might free.

    In life, no house, no home
    my Lord on earth might have;
    in death, no friendly tomb
    but what a stranger gave.
    What may I say?
    Heaven was his home;
    but mine the tomb
    wherein he lay.

    Here might I stay and sing:
    no story so divine;
    never was love, dear King,
    never was grief like thine!
    This is my Friend,
    in whose sweet praise
    I all my days
    could gladly spend.

    Samuel Crossman (1624-1684NS)

  • At Home in Lent - Day 43

    Last night I was taking part in an ecumenical 'Stations of the Cross' service at the University Chapel. Tomorrow night I will be wahsing feet (if anyone comes forward!) at an ecumenical Maundy Thursday service.  In each of these towels feature - and towel is the object we are invited to ponder today.

    As the author notes, the towel in the story of Jesus washing his disiciples feet is almost incidental, yet without it the story does not, cannot, work.

    That got me thinking about the incidentals of my own life, the things I don't even notice, but without which the story would be very different.  And not just 'things' also people - who is it that I don't notice, that I won't notice today, even as I hurtle from one sphere of service to another?

    Thank you, God, for the incidentals, the taken-for-granteds, the inivisible people, who I may never now about, but without whom my life would be so much less.

  • Be careful what you preach...

    As part of Sunday's service/reflection I focused on this incident from Luke's gospel (21:5 - 6)...

    When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, [Jesus] said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’

    I didn't read the text, instead I invited people to go in their imagination to a place they consider especially beautiful, and to savour the feelings such imagination invoked.  And then to hear someone say, as Jesus did, "see this, one day soon it'll all be gone."

    Oh my! Who could have predicted that the very next day fire would rip through Notre Dame cathedral in Paris destroying the spire?

    The photo at the top of this post was taken from a river cruise on the Seine when I visited Paris with my chemo-buddies in 2016.  For me, the memory is less about the place - and it is a stunning building -  than about the people.  It's desperately sad that the spire has been destroyed and so much damage caused, but for me it is more significant that no-one was injured or killed.  Hopefully the bulding can be repaired/restored; it will take longer for the broken hearts of those who love it to mend.

    Note to self, though, be careful what you preach on... the unfounded guilt levels were riding high last night!

  • At Home in Lent - Day 42

    Today's object is the purse, and unsurprisngly the focus is the betrayal by Judas for 30 pieces of silver.

    What struck me was this final paragraph (p 168)

    "Yet [Judas'] betrayal of Jesus set in motion the wheels of the climatic days of salvation.  Judas himself, like the money he held, is ambiguous and complex, being able to do harm and enable good. When you look into the dark recesses of your  purse, pray for light, and remember Judas and the fate of so many after him who have been betrayed and destroyed by money."

    So, what if it is Judas who actually bought our salvation? That what others intended for harm, God employed for good?  It's no secret that I have a soft spot for Judas, that I feel he gets a bad press, and that I hope beyond hope that he is safe in God's embrace, not cast into outer darkenss, or worse, for all eternity.

    What if Judas had said, 'no' to the money? What if he had refused to follow through? How then might the story have ended?  As I type this, it strikes me as curious that we celebrate Mary's 'yes' and condemn that of Judas, yet each is equally important to the story we tell.

    Much to mull over as I think about the money in my purse, how I came by it, and how I then employ it...

    Jesus said, you cannot serve both God and mammon (money) - God of all creation, help me to align my will with yours, and so avoid the temptation to let money rule my life. Amen.