Tuesday, 31 March 2015

One of those SOAPBOX moments - Defying Expectations

Engaged in a conversation with someone regarding the whole nurture/nature/environment issue I found myself listening to many reasons explaining why those around us have such low expectations.

Look at the place they live

I found myself pulled up rather short because as it was explained to me how many of the issues regarding low attainment and even lower ambition levels where I am were due to the place in which 'those' people found themselves.

'Just look at the town and you'll see that they have no roles models,' said the other person, 'Is it any wonder that there's such low levels of attainment? Their families are low-attainment and that's what they fail to aspire from - destined to continue be working class!'

Goodness me, thought I, because I look at the place I came from and no one had been to university from the streets around me. There were no role models with regard to learning or 'bettering yourself' (anyone else remember that oft spoken parental mantra?) and in fact I grew up sounded by a lathe operator, a road digger, a bin man, a window cleaner, a postman and an insurance salesman (door-to-door) all of whom had left school as soon as they could and entered the world of world.

But then I discovered that 'working class' was a state of mind rather than a condition set by the numbers of digits on a bank statement. 

I grew up on the edge of the city of London in a place where few had a 'proper' education and where the term 'public school' applied to most of us because everyone could go there! The old joke that my school was so good it was 'approved' (it's a bit like borstal or Young Offender Institutions for those who are too young, or posh, to get the joke).

Look at the number of people who have come out of poorer areas and made good - and I don't just mean because they were wheeler dealers or nicked stuff either. Class and ability will always come through in the end and yet this truism is being turned into a lie by the idiots who peddle the myth that school is all about earning potential and getting a good job. 

Education is about maximising the potential of a person - It doesn't automatically translate into higher earning capacity or ability. That said, I'm not telling the truth because I have been in the company of many with good quality school ties who have made it because of the real factors relating to 'getting ahead', namely it doesn't matter if you're thick as long as you are privileged and have friends in the right places. But even then - ability will, eventually, shine through.

I was listening to a female comedian (Josie Long) who managed to get herself to Oxford only to find herself sneered at because of her roots (one of those sneering being a minor royal apparently) but she got on and got through - and this where Jesus comes to the fore because He made time for a poor, ill (and therefore unclean) bloke and keep a rich geezer waiting!

Jesus didn't look at the clothes or listen to the accent or notice the pong (and pong I'm sure some did) but He saw the person and dealt with the needs as they presented themselves regardless of ethnicity, sex, creed, accent or cash!

Look at their families

Goodness me, this lit the touch paper because as we all know what the 'facts tell us:

If you have an alcoholic parent then you'll be an alcoholic


If you are from a home with domestic violence then that's what you'll do too


If you grew up in a single-parent family you'll struggle to be a parent too*

The problem is that parents can hold their kids back and the role models they present can be poor and yet given half the chance the reality is that they won't be alcoholic or engage in domestic violence and the like. Statistics and the results of poor science (if psychology and sociology are to be considered sciences that is) conspire to pull attitudes and behaviours out of hats and by assigning them to people condemn those people to 'more of the same' because of their home environment and geographical location.

Many years back a few of new clergy were visiting a hospice and whilst there bumped into a bishop who was about to retire. Being joy sort of chap he took some of us to one side and told us how, "Even though many people think we're an open organisation when it comes to who we ordain, the reality is that at the very top we're still one of the most exclusive gentleman's clubs in the world!" 

Of course the fact that the people he was telling this too were the plebs that he was speaking of in the lower echelons spoke volumes about the bloke and his discernment - and I write this as one who joined as a foot soldier and know that ordination was the pinnacle of recognition ;-)

Can anything good come from ??????

You can insert your own place name here but the reality is that where you come from doesn't determine who you are because all have choices and regardless of what your family did, the caste system does not (well it should not) apply here!

There is nothing that separates us from God's love  and there is nothing that stops us from reaching, and exceeding, our potential except us being will to let others be condemned to failure and constrained to 'know their place'.

So here's a plea to Christians of all shapes and sizes of denomination:

Don't ever stand by and let others be condemned or consigned to failure but take up their cause and stand with them and for them because that's what Jesus would have done too, but since He's busy elsewhere He's left this job to us.

So get on and do it!

Oh yeah, happy Holy week!


*Alright, I understand about role models but there are many to be found outside of the family - this one amounts to a curse rather than an observation in my book!


Tenebrae - a service of shadows

This has to be one of the most moving and sensory rich piece of liturgy that we have in the Church today as readings, music and sound conspire to take us another step forward along the road to the cross.

In the same way that contractions get closer and more intense as the end is reached - so too does Holy Week bring this into the experience of those who seek to take the final steps with jesus, the Christ, as we engage with the lengthening shadows as the drama of the Passion unfolds.

The word 'tenebrae' is Latin for 'shadows' and it it the lengthening shadows of Jesus last days leading to the crucifixion that this service makes more real for us.

Traditionally this service would have taken place on Good Friday, or for some Maundy Thursday, but where we are we have a full Holy Week and so it has moved to Tuesday this year.

As readings are done a candle is extinguished until we find but one candle remains - the Christ light - and then, this too is hidden from us and (like Maundy Thursday) the people exit silently in darkness.

40 Acts - Do the Dirty Work

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)
Five words guaranteed to change your life this year: ‘Can I help with that?’

I’m the type of person you’ll always find in the kitchen at parties, getting stuck into the washing up, collecting empty glasses or taking out the rubbish. I like helping others but to tell you the truth this is actually my coping mechanism for navigating scary social occasions. As a painfully shy child I found that having something practical to do gave me the courage to start conversations with people I wouldn’t normally speak to. Some of the most interesting people I’ve met have been elbow-deep in a washing-up bowl.

In my working life, I travel the world gathering stories about how poverty and injustice affect communities, speaking to individuals and civil society groups who are working for change. I’ve often found that the quickest way to put people at ease is to help out with their chores or be willing to get stuck into some seriously dirty work.

This can be a bit of a risky tactic! The learning curve for certain activities can be rather steep (cement mixing),  they certainly won’t be glamorous, and some jobs definitely require a strong stomach (clearing sewage ditches) but when you’re working alongside someone, laughing and joking together as you learn the ropes, you have the time and space to ask questions and share stories from your lives.

So I ask you to think about doing things for others, not purely as acts of service but as an opportunity to learn more about our world and the people we share it with.  Be generous with your time and your comfort zone. Look for opportunities to volunteer or help out in communities that are different from your own, and do not be afraid to get some grime and life experience under your nails.

Stephanie Atkins

For today's web page - Click HERE

Morning Prayer - 31 March 15


Psalm 27
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?
When the wicked, even my enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not be afraid, and though there rise up war against me, yet will I put my trust in him.

One thing have I asked of the Lord and that alone I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the fair beauty of the Lord and to seek his will in his temple. For in the day of trouble he shall hide me in his shelter; in the secret place of his dwelling shall he hide me and set me high upon a rock. And now shall he lift up my head above my enemies round about me; Therefore will I offer in his dwelling an oblation with great gladness; I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Hear my voice, O Lord, when I call; have mercy upon me and answer me. My heart tells of your word, ‘Seek my face.’ Your face, Lord, will I seek. Hide not your face from me, nor cast your servant away in displeasure. You have been my helper; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. Though my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up. Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me on a level path because of those who lie in wait for me. Deliver me not into the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen up against me, and those who breathe out violence. I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and he shall comfort your heart; wait patiently for the Lord.

Lamentations 3.1-18
I am one who has seen affliction
   under the rod of God’s wrath;
he has driven and brought me
   into darkness without any light;
against me alone he turns his hand,
   again and again, all day long.

He has made my flesh and my skin waste away,
   and broken my bones;
he has besieged and enveloped me
   with bitterness and tribulation;
he has made me sit in darkness
   like the dead of long ago.

He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
   he has put heavy chains on me;
though I call and cry for help,
   he shuts out my prayer;
he has blocked my ways with hewn stones,
   he has made my paths crooked.

He is a bear lying in wait for me,
   a lion in hiding;
he led me off my way and tore me to pieces;
   he has made me desolate;
he bent his bow and set me
   as a mark for his arrow.

He shot into my vitals
   the arrows of his quiver;
I have become the laughing-stock of all my people,
   the object of their taunt-songs all day long.
He has filled me with bitterness,
   he has glutted me with wormwood.

He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
   and made me cower in ashes;
my soul is bereft of peace;
   I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, ‘Gone is my glory,
   and all that I had hoped for from the Lord.’

Luke 22.24-53
A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

‘You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.’

He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘No, not a thing.’ He said to them, ‘But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, “And he was counted among the lawless”; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.’ They said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ He replied, ‘It is enough.’

He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’ Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’ [[ Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.]] When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’

While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?’ When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, ‘Lord, should we strike with the sword?’ Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!’

The Collect
Almighty and everlasting God, who in your tender love towards the human race sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross: grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Stations of the Cross - Do WHAT?

If you come from a non-Church background like me, or are perhaps an evangelical or pentecostal type who finds the whole 'stations of the Cross' thing to be a bit of an issue then I have some great news for you: You can cease the distrust and have a think about embracing this amazing piece of liturgy for yourself as I can confirm that it is a safe practice.

Now my dear old Dad used to tell me that the stations of the cross were

like the stations on my Monopoly board and that this was what the religious people used to remember the way things happened when it came to the crucifixion.
That said, he was a bit of a wicked old worst and so he taught me that the first four stations were those surrounding this text - the Eleanor Crosses - marking the twelve places where Queen Eleanor's coffin rested on its thirteenth century journey from Lincoln to London.

 Of course I now know that Charing Cross and Waltham Cross are the only two legitimate crosses of the Eleanor kind and have also discovered that the church type 'stations of the Cross' and legitimate too.

And this is where I have to encourage you to seek out, and try, the experience of journeying from the comfort of your seat or knees (or whatever it is you find yourself on) with Jesus on His journey to the Cross and His sacrifice made there for all.

Those who live near me are most welcome to join us as we join Jesus as He is condemned to die and then follow Him as He takes up His cross and falls and is helped by Simon of Cyrene to come to the place of execution and from there to reflect upon that death.

When: Monday 30th March 2015  @  7:30pm

What: A gentle, reflective service.

Why: Because without the Cross there can be no Easter Sunday,
          Without the Cross there can be no sacrifice made for us
          Without the Cross the victory we claim is hollow, clean and lacking in so much.

If you can't join us - find somewhere this week - Holy Week - and make the journey with Jesus, the Christ, and remember that it was all for You!


Tamworth Renewal Event - 10 June 2015

A bit of advance notice of one of those 'must be there' Church events which will be taking place at St Paul's, Fazeley this June.

You'll hear more about it but put it in your diaries and publicises it amongst those you know - and bring a friend too - you've still enough time to make one if you don't have one):

See you there?

Holy Week 2015

Holy Week is upon us:

A week of journeying towards the cross until finally, once again we, in an act of unity with the churches of Tamworth we find ourselves witnessing our to our faith in Jesus, the Christ, and in the salvation that comes through the cross. Will you be joining to reflect upon, and witness, the salvation of the world made real through the sacrifice of the Christ?

Before us is yet another Easter which sees our shared Lenten journey come to an end and sees Christians across the globe gather to greet the Easter morn' and joyfully respond to the words, 'He is risen,' with at the proclamation, 'He is risen indeed - Alleluia!'. 

There are many challenges before us as we seek to live and witness as Christians where we are. Challenges we will find in:

Our Town
Many of those around us are potentially pagan (this means not Christian) and so we face the challenge of telling the Christian story to people for the first time. Are you equipped and confident that you can do this?

Our Families and Friends
Often trying to share our faith in our homes or with loved ones can be the most difficult witness of all because familiarity and the feeling of deja vu - those 'having been there before moments' - can see us going dow the same old roads saying, and hearing, the same old things. Do you feel you'd like to find new ways of sharing what you believe?

Do you know that you need to find new ways of sharing but don't have the time or perhaps feel inadequate or out of your depth with it all? If the answer to any of this is 'Yes' then talk to someone who can help you get past the obstacle because once you have there's no greater joy than doing it and seeing changed lives (yours included)

It is often said that the 'road to hell is paved with good intentions' and this is definitely true in my life as I see myself determined to become someone different, do something different and be found in different places where I can be useful to others. The Apostle Paul sums up my experiences neatly in Romans 7:

'For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing.'

This is the same for all of us and is the reason that Jesus came to this earth: To create within us the ability to do what we desire and put of those things that pull us down and separate us from neighbours, family, friends and, ultimately, God.

So let us make Easter a place of rejoicing and commitment to one another, to those in our town, to our families and friends and to God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

For those of you who live in, or her to, Tamworth (the Midlands not upsidedownworld's version) don't forget the act of witness on Friday - always a time of blessing and reflection as one for those who are still perhaps 'far off':

May you and yours have a most blesséd Eastertide.

Morning Prayer - 30 March 15


Psalm 41
Blessed are those who consider the poor and needy; the Lord will deliver them in the time of trouble. The Lord preserves them and restores their life,
that they may be happy in the land; he will not hand them over to the will of their enemies. The Lord sustains them on their sickbed; their sickness, Lord, you will remove.And so I said, ‘Lord, be merciful to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.’My enemies speak evil about me, asking when I shall die and my name perish.If they come to see me, they utter empty words; their heart gathers mischief; when they go out, they tell it abroad. All my enemies whisper together against me, against me they devise evil, Saying that a deadly thing has laid hold on me, and that I will not rise again from where I lie. Even my bosom friend, whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. But you, O Lord, be merciful to me and raise me up, that I may reward them. By this I know that you favour me, that my enemy does not triumph over me. Because of my integrity you uphold me and will set me before your face for ever.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.

Lamentations 1.1-12a
How lonely sits the city
   that once was full of people!
How like a widow she has become,
   she that was great among the nations!
She that was a princess among the provinces
   has become a vassal.
She weeps bitterly in the night,
   with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
   she has no one to comfort her;
all her friends have dealt treacherously with her,
   they have become her enemies.

Judah has gone into exile with suffering
   and hard servitude;
she lives now among the nations,
   and finds no resting-place;
her pursuers have all overtaken her
   in the midst of her distress.

The roads to Zion mourn,
   for no one comes to the festivals;
all her gates are desolate,
   her priests groan;
her young girls grieve,
   and her lot is bitter.
Her foes have become the masters,
   her enemies prosper,
because the Lord has made her suffer
   for the multitude of her transgressions;
her children have gone away,
   captives before the foe.

From daughter Zion has departed
   all her majesty.
Her princes have become like stags
   that find no pasture;
they fled without strength
   before the pursuer.

Jerusalem remembers,
   in the days of her affliction and wandering,
all the precious things
   that were hers in days of old.
When her people fell into the hand of the foe,
   and there was no one to help her,
the foe looked on mocking
   over her downfall.
Jerusalem sinned grievously,
   so she has become a mockery;
all who honoured her despise her,
   for they have seen her nakedness;
she herself groans,
   and turns her face away.
Her uncleanness was in her skirts;
   she took no thought of her future;
her downfall was appalling,
   with none to comfort her.
‘O Lord, look at my affliction,
   for the enemy has triumphed!’
Enemies have stretched out their hands
   over all her precious things;
she has even seen the nations
   invade her sanctuary,
those whom you forbade
   to enter your congregation.

All her people groan
   as they search for bread;
they trade their treasures for food
   to revive their strength.
Look, O Lord, and see
   how worthless I have become.

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
   Look and see
if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
   which was brought upon me,
which the Lord inflicted
   on the day of his fierce anger.

Luke 22.1-23
Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people.

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.’ They asked him, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for it?’ ‘Listen,’ he said to them, ‘when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ ” He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.’ So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!’ Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.

The Collect
Almighty and everlasting God,
who in your tender love towards the human race sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross: grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility,and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

40 Acts - Bite your tongue

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.
James 3:5 (NIV)
Sometimes I’m hilarious.

Intentionally hilarious as opposed to falling-smack-on-my-bum-on-the-top-deck-of-a-bus-on-a-first-date kind of hilarious.

I have moments when the banter is flowing, my wit is at full pelt and I’m looking for every opportunity to chip in with my next perfectly crafted punchline. I can feel the words speeding off my tongue like a rollercoaster creating a rhythm to the conversation where each person is trying to outwit everyone else.

But you know exactly the moment it happens. When It Goes Too Far.

Suddenly people aren’t laughing but frowning, the sniggers become muffled and you realise you’ve Crossed The Line.


It’s happened so many times to me. My tone has been a little too sharp or patronising; I realise I’ve kicked someone exactly where it hurts the most. I’ve said something cruel, demeaning or even downright racist. Surely I’m not that kind of a person, am I?

Those excruciating moments – when you just want to crawl under anything you can get your hands on or disappear like they do in Star Trek – can teach us so much.

It’s in those moments that my privilege, status and the depths of my prejudice are exposed – in front of a whole crowd. They cause me to examine whom exactly I have issues with, to question who I think I am to put others down quite so spectacularly and why my own insecurities lead me to do this. 

Equally there have been those times when a word of encouragement, solidarity or support has affected me so deeply that I have felt transformed even in the seconds in which it has been spoken. After all it was the ‘Word’ that came alive full of grace and truth to set us free. 
Our words have power. A gentle word can heal, a harsh word can destroy a relationship, a joke can stick for a lifetime. Words have the power to change how people feel about themselves, their view of the world and outlook on life. James describes the tongue as being like a fire (James 3:6).

Today, let’s start a revolutionary spark, fuelling our words with grace and truth.
Katherine Maxwell-Cook

For today's web page - Click HERE

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Can't make it to church - 29 March 15

Today is Palm Sunday and so let's begin with Mark 11.1-11 and a description of the Jesus entering Jerusalem to set the scene:

"When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” ’ They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve."

One of the big things about people, something I have seen played out many times, is our ability to be fickle; people are put on pedestals so later they can be knocked off. We cheer and celebrate them and then, when things go wrong or others around us cry out against them, we set our faces against them and boo and jeer and despise them.

I remember this first most clearly when Ian Botham, a test cricketer, was vilified and denounced because the team was playing badly. He was still the same man they'd cheered but the people were different; they were a rabble calling for his sacking. And why?

Because the press stirred the people up, they muttered and schemed and pulled the man down - seeking to publicise all and every negative aspect they could find they fired up the people to the state where cheers were replaced by boos and the admiration turned to cries of, Sack him!'

And this is the story of Jesus and Palm Sunday too for although on this day the cheers and blessings, the waving of palm leaves and cries of 'Hosanna. Blessed is He who comes in the name of The Lord ' (hosanna meaning 'Our saviour') greet Jesus - today in our service we remember what comes next with what we call the 'Liturgy of the Passion' as found in Mark 14.1 - 15.47:

Traditionally we do not preach a sermon after the reading of this rather lengthy passage - the reason for this being that the words themselves say it all:

It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, ‘Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.’

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’ They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’ He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’

While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’
Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’

When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters; for it is written,
“I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”
But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’

Peter said to him, ‘Even though all become deserters, I will not.’
Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ But Peter said vehemently, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And all of them said the same.

They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’ He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’

And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him.

He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’
Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 48Then Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.’ All of them deserted him and fled.

A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked. They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire.

Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, ‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.” ’ But even on this point their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’ But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said, ‘I am; and “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power”, and “coming with the clouds of heaven.” ’

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?’ All of them condemned him as deserving death. Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ The guards also took him over and beat him.

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘I do not know or understand what you are talking about.’ And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, ‘This man is one of them.’ But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.’ But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about.’ At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ He answered him, ‘You say so.’ Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, ‘Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.’ But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.

Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews.’ And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!’ In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.’ Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’ And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’ Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’

There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem. When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.

Almighty and everlasting God, who in your tender love towards the human race sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross: grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion
Lord Jesus Christ, you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant,
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation: give us the mind to follow you and to proclaim you as Lord and King, to the glory of God the Father.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

40 Acts - CARBONate

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11 (NIV)
I don't know about you, but I don't like being told what to do. I might do it, but grudgingly – doing only the minimum required. When I first measured my lifestyle's contribution to climate change – my carbon footprint – I felt censured, but also liberated. Now I could see what activities were the most damaging to creation and so ‘discern what is best’. I stopped asking for plastic carrier bags and recycling an envelope rather than re-using it, so I stopped feeling guilty. And I was able to revel in the rightness of choosing ground-based travel and eating low-dairy vegetarian food.

God has entrusted us to care for his creation, and care requires understanding.  So work out your own carbon footprint and take control of your greenness! There are many calculators out there – my favourite is the Quakers', both because it takes account of the real climate impact of flying and because it doesn't involve rummaging to find and make sense of your energy bills. A simple tool such asimeasure can help you get to grips with your household energy usage. I put in our meter readings every week or so and it produces a nice graph that shows how much our insulation and new windows have helped and exactly when our parents have been to stay! It's free to use and does all the calculations for you.

Possibly the most important thing you will find when you do your carbon footprint is that, living in our fossil-fuelled society, you can never do enough. This, for me, means three things: firstly, when we have cut our emissions as much as we can, we offset the rest with Climate Stewards; secondly, more important than living low-carbon is to campaign for a low-carbon society, which you can do with Operation Noah; and finally, we need to thank God for grace!

Ruth Jarman

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Morning Prayer - 28 March 15


Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; therefore can I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. He shall refresh my soul and guide me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; you have anointed my head with oil and my cup shall be full.

Surely goodness and loving mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Psalm 127
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the Lord keeps the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.
It is in vain that you hasten to rise up early and go so late to rest, eating the bread of toil, for he gives his beloved sleep.

Children are a heritage from the Lord and the fruit of the womb is his gift. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy are those who have their quiver full of them: they shall not be put to shame when they dispute with their enemies in the gate.

Jeremiah 25.1-14
The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah (that was the first year of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon), which the prophet Jeremiah spoke to all the people of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: For twenty-three years, from the thirteenth year of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah to this day, the word of the Lord has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened. And though the Lord persistently sent you all his servants the prophets, you have neither listened nor inclined your ears to hear when they said, ‘Turn now, everyone of you, from your evil way and wicked doings, and you will remain upon the land that the Lord has given to you and your ancestors from of old and for ever; do not go after other gods to serve and worship them, and do not provoke me to anger with the work of your hands. Then I will do you no harm.’ Yet you did not listen to me, says the Lord, and so you have provoked me to anger with the work of your hands to your own harm.

Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, I am going to send for all the tribes of the north, says the Lord, even for King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these nations around; I will utterly destroy them, and make them an object of horror and of hissing, and an everlasting disgrace. And I will banish from them the sound of mirth and the sound of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon for seventy years. Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, says the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste. I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations. For many nations and great kings shall make slaves of them also; and I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.

John 12.36b-end
While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’

After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him. This was to fulfil the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
‘Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’

And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said,
‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and turn - and I would heal them.’

Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him. Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.
Then Jesus cried aloud: ‘Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.’

The Collect
Most merciful God, who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ delivered and saved the world: grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross we may triumph in the power of his victory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, 27 March 2015

40 Acts - SCRAP the Schedule

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 
Colossians 1:9-12 (NIV)
Every day has the same number of hours. Every hour has the same number of minutes. Every minute has the same number of seconds.  But there are some moments that we just never forget.

Meeting Gina was one such moment for me.

Gina was one of many women I met in 2011. But she stood out because we bonded over my inability to sew and her total determination to teach me, and because we met in Haiti.

We sat together for nearly two hours in a hot humid church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Gina patiently trying to teach me to sew. And as I learnt to sew we talked about our lives.

Gina was 22 and had two young children. She’d lost everything in the earthquake that’d struck Haiti in January 2010; her house, her possessions and – even – some family members. As we talked, what struck me about Gina – despite her circumstances and everything the earthquake had stolen from her – was that she was still openhearted enough to give me her time to teach me to sew.

Giving someone your time is one of the most precious gifts you can give.

Like anyone running a home, Gina had plenty of other things to do that day, and I knew it. Gina’s home was a tarpaulin tent smaller than my garden shed. So Gina’s day was an endless list of keeping the tent tidy and secure, fetching and purifying water, getting food and cooking over an open fire, all while taking care of her children.

So next time you think you’re too busy to get involved, remember Gina. Remember a young woman in Haiti who, despite losing everything, was openhearted enough to give this British woman a lesson in sewing – and more importantly in generosity and kindness – that I will never forget.

Wendy Beech-Ward

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