Monthly Archives: April 2017

Easter Day 2017

Easter Day 2017

The Lord is Risen, alleluia, alleluia.
He is Risen indeed, alleluia, alleluia.

Happy Easter everyone. Thank you for following our Lenten Blog.
This is the last entry for this year.
I finish with the sermon for Easter Day.

One of my favourite moments in the year is early spring
when I walk into Chinbrook Meadows early morning with the dog, and it is still dark,
but against the background of the darkness
is the first blossom of the year appearing on the trees.
At first glance it looks like frost or snow but then it dawns upon you
that you are witnessing the first blossom of the New Year and hope is renewed.
That for me is the perfect image of Easter, of Resurrection.
The darkness and the winter is giving way to light.
The world is being transformed.
All is well.

In my sermon on Christmas morning
I said that Christmas was a love a letter from God.
A love letter brought to us by Jesus in human flesh.
Holy week and Easter is a continuation of that love letter,
telling us that no matter what we may be going through in life – God is with us.
Telling us that God is continually transforming our lives through love,
reminding us that every day is a springtime for our souls.
God is alive, present and active in our world and in our lives,
and the love letters of God’s Presence appear suddenly, dramatically, and wonderfully
like the blossom that appears unannounced from our trees and shrubs.

Many have been through some difficult times during this past year,
have known the darkness of winter in life,
and may well have wondered where God is.
This Holy day tells us and shows us that God is right here.
God has walked the way of the cross by our side on our Good Fridays,
and God lifts us up to new beginnings and opens us to new life in our Easter rising.
This day, this holy season, is the ultimate love letter from God,
brought to us and opened for us in the birth, death and resurrection of our Lord.
It is a love letter that comes with a PS.
P.S. Don’t forget to look for my letters, little notes, small gifts,
and hidden treasures scattered throughout your life in each every day.

You see every day is Easter day.
Even when we are caught up in our Good Fridays,
Easter is right there if we open our eyes and see.
Right there in the kind word, the little act of kindness,
the warm smile, the gentle hug, the song of the blackbird,
the breaking through of the sun, the appearance of blossom.
The sudden rising of joy.
Life is full of little love notes, of Easter moments, of God’s Presence.
May we have the grace to look for them and recognise them, and experience them.
May each day be a day of Resurrection.

Last night at the lighting of the new Easter fire,
the waters of baptism were blessed
when the new Easter candle was plunged into the font,
reminding us that the Grandeur of God’s presence and love
is constantly blessing and renewing life.

In a few moments we shall be sprinkled with those very waters,
no, not sprinkled but sprayed and drenched by that water of renewal.
As the water caresses you and blesses you,
recognise it for what it is – a love note from the Risen Christ,
calling you to surrender to that love
and be transformed in the miracle of this Holy Day.

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Sermon: Holy Saturday

Earlier this week I was visiting a lady in St Christopher’s Hospice.
During our conversation she said to me:
I know I am dying of cancer, I have come to terms with that now,
but you know, and it seems odd to say this, I have never felt more alive.
Suddenly it is like something has lifted and I am seeing everything differently.
I look out the window and see the spring flowers and they have never looked so lovely,
I went outside at the weekend and the sun has never felt so comforting,
and when my family visit me I have never felt so close to them.
The she asked me: Do you know why that should be?
 
I have pondered that question all week
and the answer has come, I believe, in our Holy Week services.
What she is experiencing is Resurrection, Easter Glory, the anticipation of new life.
Not only new life but life in all its fullness.
 
That is what this most beautiful and holy event in life has done.
It has made everything more alive; it has made everything more immediate;
it has made everything new and holy.
What we have to do is open our eyes and see; and open our hearts and live.
 
The closeness of death has opened something up inside that lady in the hospice.
By beginning to let go of life as she has known it,
she has begun to experience it for what it truly is.
That is what it means to die with Christ, and to rise with him to new life.
It is no longer me who lives, said St Paul, but Christ who lives within me;
in other words life is a process of letting go of the little, limited me
and allowing our true, Christ like, nature to begin to break through.
 
Resurrection, Easter, is not about the end of life
– it is about the beginning of life.
This Holy Night has the potential to change our lives and to change our world….
To Charge us with the Grandeur of God –
to use the words of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.
 
He goes on to say that God’s grandeur will flame out within us
like the shining of shook foil –
And the world broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
 
This Holy Night and in this Holy Season
God’s Grandeur, God’s Flame, God’s Presence and God’s Love
breaks in upon our world and our lives –
once again calling us to wake up,
to open our eyes and see, and open hearts and live.

The Empty Tomb

Holy Saturday 15th April
 
John 20:15-16
Supposing him to be the gardener she said to him:
Tell me where you have laid him.
Then Jesus said to her: “Mary”.
She turned and said “Teacher!”

They came away from the tomb grieving,
only to find him unexpectantly on the garden path.
Sometimes we may feel as if we are praying in an empty tomb,
it may be later that the Lord becomes present.
– Abbot Guerric of Igny

My favourite resurrection story is Mary Magdalen’s
encounter with the Risen Lord in John’s Gospel.
Unlike the others,
Mary was willing to linger at the empty tomb
and not rush away.
As a result she saw what she supposed to be the gardener,
who asked who she was seeking.
She told him, and asked if he knew where they had put him.
The gardener then spoke her name
and instantly she recognised the Risen Lord.
For me this is a beautiful parable of prayer,
as Abbot Guerric points out in today’s quote.
How often when we settle to pray
does it feel like we are sitting in an empty tomb;
we want to feel or sense God’s presence
but our prayer feels empty.
It is often later in the day or week
that we encounter the living Christ
in something that happens or something we experience.
But would we have encountered Christ
in that event or experience
if we had not been prepared to sit in an empty tomb?
It is not always in our times of prayer
that we encounter God’s closeness to us;
It is often later, like Mary,
that we have an unexpected encounter with the Living God.

 
 
A Language You Once Knew by Dorothy Walters
 
There will be an invitation
It will not come tied in ribbons
Nor a message streaming down
From the sky.

There will be no Roman candles
Sizzling
Nor bright colours
Exploding overhead.

Instead there will be a soft
Whisper
In your ear
Something in a language
You once knew
And are trying to learn again.

In order to hear it
You will need to
Put down all your packages
Stop everything you are doing
And stand very still
Then wait….
Until something stirs inside.

Sermon: Good Friday

In today’s Holy week reflection I quoted St Francis of Assisi speaking of pain as prayer.
Towards the end of Francis’ life, when he was very ill and in much pain
his friend, brother Sylvester, said to him:
“Brother Francis, with God’s help I will do all I can to make your pain go away
so you will then be free to devote yourself to prayer once again.”
Francis smiled at him and gently said:
“Pain is prayer too, Sylvester, it too is prayer”

Pain and suffering are the hardest things we face in life.
We struggle to understand why they exist and why a God of love allows them.
Yes, there are times when we realise that we have brought suffering upon ourselves,
by our actions, or mistakes we have made.
But, at the same time there is so much suffering and pain in our world and in our lives
that seems to come randomly and through no fault of our own.
How do we make sense of that?

St Francis of Assisi, it would seem, chose not to debate such questions,
he simply accepted and embraced the pain he was going through
and offered it as prayer.
Pain is prayer – hold his friend Sylvester – pain too is prayer.

Jesus in his suffering and death on the cross, and in the long journey that led to it,
took upon himself the suffering and the pain of humankind and, through love,
transformed it and made it into the most beautiful prayer ever offered for creation.
Because of this day
a ray of light and hope has shone through the pain and suffering of our world.
Because of this day, a ray of light and hope
has shone through the pain and suffering that we undergo in our own lives.
Jesus took the very thing that can mar human life
and transformed it into the most beautiful vehicle and channel for love.
He took the very thing that for many can be an obstacle to God’s love and grace,
and made it into a most profound doorway into God’s presence, a doorway of prayer,
a doorway and channel to experience God’s merciful love and presence in our lives.

Because of this day, the likes of St Francis and many others like him,
have also chosen to bear their pain as an offering of prayer and love
for the world and all who are in need.
They have offered their suffering
as a prayer for justice, for peace, for hope, for healing, for comfort,
and as an act of solidarity and empathy
with others going through the same experience.
Not only that, they have found that by offering their pain as prayer,
by allowing God to use their pain as a profound moment of prayer for others,
they themselves have found love, joy, peace and meaning
in the midst of their own pain.

The message that Jesus left with the world on this holy day
is that there is nothing in life that cannot be redeemed and transformed by love,
and that through love our pain can be the most powerful prayer we can ever offer;
and, in that offering, we too, like Jesus, like Francis and others
can find wholeness and joy in God.
as we come forward later in this liturgy to venerate the cross of our Lord,
may we too find the grace to allow God to use our pain
as a means of blessing and healing for our world, for others and for ourselves.

Pain is Prayer Too

Good Friday 14th April

Luke 22:44
And he prayed even more earnestly;
and his sweat became like drops of blood
falling to the ground.

Pain is prayer too, it too is prayer
– Saint Francis of Assisi

There is a story of St Francis of Assisi
when he was very ill and in much pain.
His friend and follower Brother Sylvester said to him:
“With God’s help I will do all I can to make your pain go away
so you may devote yourself to prayer once again”.
Francis smiled at him and gently said:
“Pain is prayer too, Sylvester, it too is prayer”.
We often think of pain and suffering as being an obstacle to God.
We pray for it to be taken away,
we ask why a God of love allows it,
we sometimes wonder what we have done to offend God
that we are suffering in such a way.
Francis of Assisi had come to understand that pain,
far from being an obstacle to God,
was actually a profound way of prayer,
a doorway into God’s presence.
Many people have experienced times of pain
and great distress as moments of grace,
when they have been granted
an experience of God’s love through their suffering.
Pain and distress is not something we seek or desire,
but when it does come along in life
it can become a moment of profound prayer.
Jesus himself, in the garden of Gethsemane,
asked that cup of suffering may be taken away from him.
But he also allowed it to draw him into deeper prayer
and communion with God,
and had a profound experience of God’s love
when the angels came and ministered to him.
May we too be open to recognise the blessing and the love
beyond the pain we experience.

 

 
Found in the belongings of an unknown confederate soldier
At the end of the American Civil War
 
I asked for strength that I may achieve
I was made week that I might learn humility.
I asked for health that I might do great things
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might have life
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing I asked for but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself
my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.

Sermon: Maundy Thursday

Jesus got up from the table, took off his outer robe,
and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin
and washed his disciples feet and dried them with a towel.
There is nothing too extraordinary about that really,
Jesus was only doing what many others had done before him.
It would normally be the role of the servant to wash the feet of guests,
Jesus simply chose to do it in their place.
It was just an ordinary everyday activity in that part of the world at that time.
As was breaking bread before a meal, especially at Passover.
Jesus didn’t invent that ritual, it was normal custom for that time.
Nothing unusual, nothing out of the ordinary was taking place,
just everyday daily tasks and rituals.

So what made this particular night so special? What made it different?
What made it so significant that we re-enact this night each year?
For me, the secret lies in the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta
that I included on the Lenten blog earlier this week. She wrote:

In this life we cannot do great things;
we can only do small things with great love.
It is not how much we do
but how much love we put into the doing.
And it is not how much we give
but how much love we put into the giving.
To God there is nothing small.

I love those words.
For me they sum up not only Holy Week
but the whole of Jesus life and ministry.
It is not what or how much we do that ultimately matters,
but how much love we put into it.
What made the washing of the disciple’s feet extraordinary,
special, and memorable
was not that Jesus took the role of a servant, we would expect nothing less,
he was always just as willing to serve as easily as he accepted the service of others.
what made it extraordinary, like everything else he ever did in life,
was the love through which he did it.

Jesus knew how to do small, insignificant, humble things with great love;
therefore nothing in his life was ever small or insignificant.
It was not his miracles, his teaching, or his actions
that were ultimately significant about his life.
There were many who claimed miracles,
there were dozens of itinerant preachers,
here were many who died through crucifixion and not all of them criminals.
What made Jesus stand out
was the love that he brought to everything he said and did.

It was love that brought Jesus to this world.
It was love that made him dedicate his life to others.
It was love that made him say “thy will be done” this night in Gethsemane;
It was love that took him to the cross;
and it is love that is at the heart of the resurrection that will celebrate on Easter day.

As we begin this Holy journey with our Lord to Easter morn,
may we open ourselves to that love,
and allow that love to be central to everything we are;
everything we say; and everything we do.
As Mother Teresa tells us:

It is not how much we do
but how much love we put into the doing.
And it is not how much we give
but how much love we put into the giving.

 

Thy Will Be Done

Maundy Thursday   13th April

Luke 22:42
Jesus prayed: Father, if you are willing,
remove this cup from me.
Nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done.

Insofar as we able to abandon our own ideas
about what should happen,
and allow the situation as it us to reveal itself to us,
we are amenable to discerning the will of God.
– Jean Pierre de Caussade

Jesus taught us to seek God’s will in prayer,
and not impose our own.
To not be so insistent on convincing God to do things our way,
that we stop being attentive
to the path that God is trying to lead us on.
Even in his most trying moments of life,
as in Gethsemane the night before he was crucified,
Jesus held on to what he believed to be at the heart of all prayer:
to seek God’s will and not insist on his own.
He taught it early on to his disciples
when they asked him to teach them about prayer:
when you pray say
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”
But how often have we prayed with the attitude of
“my will be done”? It is so easy to do.
It does not mean that we should not be honest with God
about what we would like,
even Jesus prayed that the cup of suffering
be taken away from him.
We should have an honest relationship with God
but, as Jesus knew, that in the end it needs to be
about trusting God, and not trying to manipulate God, in prayer.

A prayer by Jean Pierre de Caussade
 
I consecrate this day
entirely to your love and your greater glory.
I know not what this day may bring,
either pleasant or troublesome,
whether I shall be happy or sorrowful,
enjoy consolation or undergo pain or grief;
it shall be as you please.
I give myself into your hands
and surrender to whatever you will.