Wednesday, 29 April 2009

29 April 2009

Today’s epistle reading from Morning Prayer

Ephesians 2.1-10

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Sunday, 26 April 2009


Mentmore Sunday 26 April 2009

First Reading

Acts 3.12-19

12Peter addressed the people, ‘You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. 14But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, 15and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.

17‘And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. 19Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.’


Luke 24.36b-48

36While the eleven and their companions were talking about what they had heard, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.

44Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you - that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.’


Period after Easter – good time to read Acts. Second volume of Luke’s gospel. Addressed to same man – code name Theophilus. At start, Luke reminds his readers it was he who collected all the information together about the life of Jesus, and wrote it down. He ‘investigated it very carefully’ and ‘wrote it all up in an orderly fashion.’

But now Luke slips from being narrator to speaking with his own voice. In his excitement, does not say what second volume will contain, but dives straight in with account of ascension of Jesus.

After questioning Jesus for last time, disciples witness ascension at Mount of Olives, then return to Jerusalem to await gift of Holy Spirit as he had commanded them. Peter takes lead – speaks to 120 followers – proposes 2 possible choices to replace Judas as one of 12: Joseph called Barsabbas and Matthias. After prayer and casting lots, they chose Matthias.

Then familiar account of Pentecost – sound of rush of violent wind – divided tongues as of fire – all filled with Holy Spirit and started speaking in other languages. Wind was always associated with the Spirit – word actually means wind – and metaphor of tongues provides the link with the new powers of speech that enabled the apostles to speak to the nations in a way could understand.

Peter again acts as chief spokesman. He addresses crowds. He answers 2 questions: one, what does all this mean? And two, what should we do?

At first, his message is to the men of Israel. Quotes Hebrew scriptures – prophet Joel. Associates new gift of tongues to Biblical prophecy – it is the same Spirit of the same God which inspires the apostles, he says.

But events of Pentecost cannot be explained as just an outpouring of God’s Spirit in the manner of the Old Testament. It can only be understood as referring to Jesus Christ. The OT witnesses to the ministry of Jesus, but the miracles he performed and the words he spoke were part of God’s continuing plan – Peter quotes from Scripture to illustrate his point.

Crowd had been part of the mob baying for Jesus to be executed – hearing all this and seeing the outpouring of the Spirit they are convicted and ask what they must do to make amends and seek forgiveness. Peter tells them they must repent of what they have done, be baptized, and receive the same Spirit. As a result, several thousand new converts were made.

These are the glory days – church united – sharing possessions between them – well regarded by the people – a paradise where praise and growth are spontaneous.

We then move on to Act I Scene II – the healing of a lame man by Peter at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. This is followed by another address by Peter in Solomon’s Portico. Once again, he attributes the healing to the power of the risen Christ, whom the people had handed over to be killed, preferring the release of a known murderer and calling for Jesus to be crucified.

But far from railing against the crowd or blaming them, Peter says they acted in ignorance. They must repent and turn to God, so that their sins may be wiped out.

Here we have a model of forgiveness and repentance. How do we repent? Is saying we are sorry and turning back to what is right good enough? Or do we have to try and put matters right before we can be said to have truly repented? Do we have to make reparations for what we have done before we can receive forgiveness, both from God and from the person we have wronged, or is the grace of God sufficient in itself?

Repentance is a change of heart and mind. It involves thinking differently after we repent than we did before. That’s the meaning of the Greek word metanoia. But thinking and acting differently is not enough. There are other steps we must take.

Firstly, we must confess and ask for forgiveness, both of God and also to the person we have wronged. But that in itself is not enough. We must make a genuine restitution. Finally we must resolve to forsake our sin before receiving forgiveness.

Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son, which is the model given us by Christ of true repentance. The point is that repentance in itself does not earn God’s forgiveness. It is a necessary step on the way.

God’s forgiveness is lavish. The fatted calf is killed. The feast is spread. All friends and neighbours are invited to the celebration. There is no recrimination – if the sinner wishes to be found, like the lost sheep the shepherd will do everything possible and more to recover him and bring him back to the fold. That is the grace of God.

Every service in Common Worship has a prayer of confession and repentance, followed by the assurance of forgiveness. Often the words have become so familiar to us, they tend to lose their meaning. Saying sorry can also be perfunctory and also meaningless. Even politicians have to constantly say sorry these days, whether it is truly meant or not. The whole process is a devalued currency.

It should not be that way with us. Confession is a necessary process on the road to forgiveness. So is restitution – God’s forgiveness requires us to leave our baggage at the altar steps, return to the person we have wronged, and put matters right with them before we return to the communion table. Then we must turn from the error of our ways and have a change of mind and heart before we are put right with God and receive the assurance of his grace.

That’s the process of repentance. That’s what Peter was explaining to the crowd who had send our Lord to the scaffold only a few days beforehand. Even the means of confession is important. Remember the Pharisee and the Tax Collector:

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

14 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."  Luke 18


Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Trusting in ourselves

Lord, you hide your face
when we trust in ourselves;
strip us of false security
and re-clothe us in your praise,
that we may know you
as the one who raises us from death,
as you raised your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.


Sunday, 19 April 2009

Doubting Thomas

St Mary Mentmore – Easter 2

Reading Acts 4 (NIV)

The Believers Share Their Possessions

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Gospel John 20 (NIV)

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of anyone, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus) one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
       But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

29 Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


It remains unclear in Christian tradition how many times after his resurrection Jesus appeared to his disciples. Paul says 5 times: once to the 12; to more than 500 people; to James; to the apostles; and lastly to himself.

In the Gospels, Mark says Peter and the other disciples would meet Jesus in Galilee. According to Matthew, this is a farewell scene when the 11 disciples are sent out on their mission to the whole world. In Luke, Jesus appears to them in Jerusalem, wishes them Peace, shows the disciples his hands and feet, and eats the fish they gave him. He promises them the gift of the Holy Spirit for their mission to all people.

As we have just heard, John’s account is similar to Luke’s, but John mentions that the room in which the disciples were hiding was locked. Jesus had previously promised his disciples the Holy Spirit to be their Helper. Now he breathes on them his Spirit. It’s like a baptism.

Thomas is listed as one of the apostles in all 4 gospels, but only in John does he have a starring role. He’s one of my favourites, not only because he is honest enough to doubt, but also because when all doubt is removed he makes a more positive affirmation of the nature of Christ than any other of the apostles.

Thomas’s first speaking role comes just after the Lazarus is gravely ill, and the disciples are resisting going back to Jerusalem because of the danger of arrest. With heavy irony, Thomas says Let’s go back, so we can die with Lazarus too. Then in The Last Supper Thomas protests that he has no idea how to follow because Jesus has not told the disciples where he is going. But his best known appearance is in John 20 when he doubts the risen Christ, and says he will not believe Jesus has risen until he sees with his own eyes, and perhaps more unreasonably touches him with his own hands. So he went down in history as Doubting Thomas and was immortalised by Caravaggio among others for his incredulity.

Once Thomas sees for himself and has the opportunity of touching (even though John does not explicitly say he does) all doubt is removed. Thomas bursts out with My Lord and My God. Pretty strong stuff for any Jew to call another human being My God.

But then we come to Jesus’ message to us. He tells Thomas: Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

I always think these few words of Jesus – almost the last he speaks – give comfort to us at times of doubt and when our faith is challenged. We don’t know how we would have behaved had we been Jesus’ disciples at the time. We would have seen and heard many wonderful things. We would have had a personal relationship with the Lord over a long period. But only if we had been prepared to give up everything we ever owned, and put ourselves entirely in his hands. Just like the early church, as we heard in Acts. They pooled everything they had, sold their houses, and shared their possessions with each other. Would we have been prepared to do that?

Then there were times of extreme danger. Would we have stuck with it, or made ourselves scarce when our lives were threatened? What about at the very end, when all the disciples except some of the women deserted him? Would we have done the same?

Lastly, what about after Jesus was executed and was buried in secret. How would we have reacted when some women came and told us they had seen Jesus walking about in the flesh?

All we can say, I suppose, is that all the encouragement we would have received by being one of his followers for a few months would have helped, but may not have made us strong enough to put our lives or livelihoods on the line for Jesus when we were called upon to do so.

So this is the message to us. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. We will never know how faithful we would have been had we been there at the time, though we are probably all honest enough to have our own suspicions, which may not be very flattering I suppose. We will never know, but we do have the chance of responding in faith to the words of Christ aimed fairly and squarely at us – those who have not seen. His blessing is on all of us who have believed, without the benefit of sight or touch. For we are blessed indeed, if we believe, yet have not seen. Amen

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Thursday 16 April

Reading Acts 3 (NIV)

Peter Speaks to the Onlookers

11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon's Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: "People of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

17 "Now, brothers and sisters, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.'

24 "Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, 'Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.' 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways."

Gospel Luke 24 (NIV)

35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, "This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."


Favourite story. Road to Emmaus. Walk from despair to hope. Dawning realisation of faith and true identity of Christ and all that means in a life-changing way.

Not straightforward story. Why did disciples not recognise Christ? They had been with him 3 years. Clearly his resurrected body must have been different in appearance from his previous physical manifestation.

This account comes right at end of Luke. The two disciples encounter Jesus on a 7 mile walk to Emmaus. They persuade him to join them for a meal as it is late, and the road is dangerous. He breaks the bread with those familiar words instituting the Eucharist. This is how the disciples recognise him.

Despite the danger, they set off to walk back to Jerusalem at once. They break the news to the other disciples. As they were doing so, Jesus appears in the flesh. A ghost does not have flesh and bones. A ghost does not consume boiled fish.

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures and the prophecies concerning the Messiah. They were the witnesses to these events, and in due course would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to clothe them with power from on high.

Then he led them out to the vicinity of Bethany and was taken from their sight.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Music from Easter Sunday

Click here to listen to a rough cut of some of the music at the Easter Sunday service.

Thanks to Julie Stanley and the Choir for wonderful music both on Easter Sunday and also Good Friday.

The recording is in mp3 format. The original is a high quality digital file at 192kbps. This download has been compressed to only 64kbps. The file size is 11.2MB.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Easter Day

Reading Acts 10 (NIV)

34 Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism 35 but accepts those from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

39 "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

Gospel John 20 (NIV)

The Empty Tomb

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!"

3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus' head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?"

    "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, "Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"
       Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."

16 Jesus said to her, "Mary."
       She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means "Teacher").

17 Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.


In the village newsletter, I wrote a column about the resurrection. In it I said that the fact of the resurrection of Jesus and the empty tomb was the one statement of belief that set the Christian faith apart from any other. Belief in the resurrection is not some sort of optional extra in the pick-and-mix supermarket of faith. It is not something we can take or leave. It is an essential plank of our faith. Indeed, without belief in the empty tomb, our faith is nothing.

Paul makes this point when writing to the Corinthians. If Christ had not been raised, he said, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. If Christians do not have faith in the resurrection, then we are to be pitied because our confidence in the future is of no avail, and we remain in sin and have no redemption and no hope of life after death.

So, if faith in the resurrection is so crucial, then it’s no surprise that what we celebrate today, and these readings from Acts and John’s gospel, should occupy our thoughts, not just at Eastertide but for the whole of the rest of the year.

You see, John’s gospel is a witness statement. John records what he saw, and tells is what the women experienced before the other disciples. We can read the account and judge for ourselves what is the truth of what we are being told. It’s a pretty far-fetched story, but the way it is related has the characteristic of an eye-witness about it.

John insists on two things: one, the risen Christ; and two, his appearance in the flesh to the disciples. His certainty, based on these two facts, should, John believes, lead us to faith.

The accounts of the empty tomb are different in each of the four gospels, but the women play a crucial role in each one. In Mark and Luke they come with spices to anoint the body. In John, this has already been done. In Matthew there are three women at the tomb. In Mark there are only two.

In Matthew and Mark, the stone is rolled away from the mouth of the tomb. In John there is no mention of it. All these are details which vary as the story is retold, before being written down 30 years or more after the event.

All agree on the empty tomb. The grave clothes left behind, indicating the body had not been stolen. The appearance of the risen Lord to the women and to the other disciples.

So that’s what we celebrate today, the essence and very foundation of our faith. A faith not founded on a man, a faith not founded on an innovative moral code, a faith not founded on a particular set of beliefs – but a faith founded on the fact of the empty tomb and the resurrection of Jesus – and a faith based on a personal relationship with the risen Lord.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Service of Light – 11 April 2009 Easter Eve

Gospel Reading

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead


He has defeated the powers of death


Jesus turns our sorrow into dancing


He has the words of eternal life.


Jesus Has Risen

Mark 16

1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?"

4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

6 "Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.' "

8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

At the end

This is the Gospel of the Lord.

Praise to you, O Christ.


Burial at end of Mark 15. Women watch from afar. Mary Magdalene; Mary mother of James and Joseph; and Salome. Plus many other women there too.

Preparation Day (before Sabbath) Joseph of Arimathea asks for body and buries it in tomb. 2 Mary’s see where the body is laid.

Same 3 women go to tomb at sunrise. Anoint the body. Discuss how the stone can be rolled back.

When arrive, see stone already rolled away. See young man dressed in white, who tells them Jesus risen. Gone to Galilee. The women are to tell Jesus’ disciples ‘and Peter’ to see him there.

8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

End of Mark’s gospel. Women say nothing to anyone and flee away in fear. Are these Mark’s last words?

No account of risen Jesus. Later longer ending not be same author. Represents attempt to complete narrative and append more satisfactory ending.

Mystery has not been resolved. Many theories. Women clearly did not stay silent. Clumsy ungrammatical ending at verse 8 may mean gospel was incomplete. Later scribes evidently thought so. We have other gospels to refer to. All attest to continued human failure to follow God’s commands. Women told to speak out, yet they cower in fear. We may probably have done the same. On this night of Easter, we have the chance to reflect on the disciples response to the death of their master; the women’s faithfulness in the absence of the men during his crucifixion; and subsequently our own response to his command to speak out as witnesses to our faith and to the events of Passiontide and Easter. Amen

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Church Notice Board

The manufacturer of church notice boards we discussed at the DCC is

Palm Sunday

Cheddington 5 April 2009

Reading Psalm 118

19 Open for me the gates of the righteous;
       I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.

20 This is the gate of the LORD
       through which the righteous may enter.

21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
       you have become my salvation.

22 The stone the builders rejected
       has become the cornerstone;

23 the LORD has done this,
       and it is marvellous in our eyes.

24 The LORD has done it this very day;
       let us rejoice today and be glad.

25 LORD, save us!
       LORD, grant us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
       From the house of the LORD we bless you.

27 The LORD is God,
       and he has made his light shine on us.
       With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
       up to the horns of the altar.

28 You are my God, and I will praise you;
       you are my God, and I will exalt you.

29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
       his love endures forever.

Gospel Mark 11

Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, 'Why are you doing this?' say, 'The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.' "

4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, "What are you doing, untying that colt?" 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
       "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

10 "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!"
       "Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.


Today we celebrate triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Deliberately unusual way – on a donkey. Why? Fulfilment of Zechariah 9.9:

9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
       Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
       See, your king comes to you,
       righteous and having salvation,
       lowly and riding on a donkey,
       on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

So what is Jesus claiming to be? King? Messiah?

Mark is not clear: one who comes in the name of the Lord. Maybe even the crowds don’t appreciate what is actually going on. People shout Hosanna = Save now! Remember the meaning! Hosanna in the Highest! Is virtually meaningless as we say it at Christmas.

Save from what? Roman occupation? Save from slavery of sin? Probably from occupying power, as the people found their salvation through obedience to law and not belief in any one individual, even Messiah.

So probably acclaiming a King. King of Jews. How apt – given Pilate’s sign on cross. King in the line of David. Things become clearer in the story as cross approaches.

Triumphal Entry in all 4 gospels. Details vary – how disciples find ass, how it is prepared, what they are told to say – but all agree on what actually happened. Coming into city riding on ass would be royal prerogative. Most people would walk, so there is little doubt some sort of royal claim is being made, backed up by prophecy.

All this interesting historically, but is that all it means to us now? Is it just the start of Holy Week and a familiar piece in jigsaw puzzle of events recorded prior to trial and crucifixion? This is what we have been asking in Lent Course.

Started in OT during Advent. Need to understand what it is to be acclaimed Messiah. Militaristic title – king warrior. Very different from Christ. So not surprising people shout Save Now from oppression by occupying power. Not a personal salvation at all, but a national one. King in line of David. King of Jews.

In Lent, we reflect on Christ’s claims for himself, and our response to them. Jesus claims to be the Way, Truth and Life. Following the Way leads to Life.

But the Way is not a set path. In Triumphal Entry, Jesus follows a known way. People line the way. The way goes into Jerusalem. Everyone knows the destination. You just follow road indicated. Everyone goes same way. Same destination. Only means of travel different.

Jesus’ Way is not like that. Why? He does not show the Way. He himself IS the Way. No one can show you the way to follow. I can’t. No one can. It’s not like a road map. No set of instructions to follow. The answer personified. We walk with him. Only by walking the walk can we be fully alive. Like a guided walk.

Holy Week means we walk the Passion of Jesus and try to understand what he went through both as a man and as Son of God. The magnitude of the sacrifice made for us. The agony of separation from the Father. The trial. Betrayal by all he held dear. Abandonment by those closest to him. The humiliation of the cross.

But death was turned into life. Defeat into victory. Burial into the mystery of an empty tomb. So let’s set out on this journey together during the next 7 days, observe a holy holy week, and aim to deepen our faith as we walk alongside our Saviour who came that we might have life, and in doing so have it abundantly. Amen