Led Reflection – Easter Saturday Vigil

Culturally I feel like I am ill equipped for grief. Grief and death are events to be wrapped by professionals and delivered in a short period of time before everyone is encouraged to get on with it.

I look at some of the beautiful cultures around me and how they enter into grief and death, how they sit in ashes (metaphorically) and how their community of loved ones enters with them.

This Easter I am trying to hold space for the grief of Saturday better. To not avoid the grief but to be present to it and in doing so to be more human.

These strange times we find ourselves in confront us with many emotions that have been able to be ignored in our usual busyness.

Below is a reflection to participate in – holding space for grief and for Jesus on this Easter Saturday.

Led Reflection – Good Friday

I am always undone by Good Friday.  Every year there seems to be something new to engage with and explore.

I pray this reflection will help you to come to the cross again with a new sense of holy awe and wonder.

May we never rush past what Jesus did for us and for the cosmos.

Led Reflections – Maundy Thursday

In their final evening together Jesus knelt before his friends and washed their feet. Though he was about to go to the cross he still loved and served his friends. May we too have strength to love those near to us in these difficult days.

A quiet meditation for Maundy Thursday.

Holy Week

A couple of years ago I did the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius with my spiritual director. I found as I set out on the journey to the cross that I didn’t want to walk with Jesus to the cross. I just wanted to be there on Sunday. It is something in me that still needs changing – this ability to enter lament, to be present to pain. May we all have courage to allow ourselves to enter pain and to receive love even there.

Miriam x

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I don’t want to walk with you to the cross

don’t want to pass the jeering crowd

or be present to the lonely abyss of Gethsemane

 

I want to stand on Sunday’s horizon

and say

it’s okay Jesus

            look resurrection will come

 

So, like the crowd I condemn

and the disciples I judge

I abandon you

on your walk to the cross

 

I leave you alone

so alone

human man

acquainted with suffering and grief

 

I really just want

the resurrection power

the triumph of the lamb

the roar of the lion

 

so I climb up to my privileged position

and wait at the dawn of Sunday

ready to sing my alleluias

where a stone is rolled away

 

and as I abandon you

I acknowledge I have abandoned others

on their difficult journeys through

death’s valley

preferring to whisper hope

from resurrection’s empty tomb

 

instead of being empty accompaniment

into the cave

where death seems

to have the victory

 

I am afraid of accompanying you

and afraid of accompanying others

I am a broken disciple

 

would you hold this unfaithful

uncomfortable hand in yours

as I attempt not to run away

 

to hold the course for

Gethsemane

Golgotha

and

tomb

 

for as long as my small strength holds on

The Work of Lent

Lent has started, and in all my usual style I have missed its entry and filled its first days with busy and loud. I love the concept of Lent – a time for reflection, a journey to the cross, a pared back, quieter faith that demands facing silence and finding God without noise and crowds and hype.

… still, I live my life at top volume, revelling in the crowd and energised by busy.

Lent doesn’t come naturally to me, just as the scorn of the cross was not something Jesus desired. The process unenjoyable, tough, solo, demanding – but – for the joy set before him…

Sometimes the process of getting to the big celebration feels nothing at all like preparing for something wonderful and exciting. It just feels hard.

Maybe Lent is an invitation to prepare so that when the cross arrives to us we are ready – stronger, more faithful, more equipped to pass through the waters into the storm. Lent becomes the hours spent in training in order to endure and overcome in the arena, for the joy of the podium.

Having lived in an area where bushfires were a seasonal expectation I have learnt that from the burnt-out lifeless carcass of aftermath springs new life, and it springs rapidly because ashes are the perfect breeding ground for new life.

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Ash Wednesday has just slipped by and I am reminded of the times in the Bible when ashes represented grief, sorrow, despair and remorse; when sitting in sackcloth and ashes was visual representation of inner turmoil and grief.

Ash Wednesday reminds us we are dust, it paints our brokenness starkly on our foreheads, we find ourselves sinful, empty, lost. But, we remember as N.T Wright so elegantly put it we know that God can make extraordinary things from dust. (paraphrased)

I am reminded as I start this Lenten journey that ashes are not the end of the story, maybe the devastation looms large in your life, possibly it’s easy to see the blackened trees and smoking debris and much harder to hold onto the promise of new life coming. But it will come.

We remember the promise of difficulties (hooray, it’s hard to get excited about that right?)

and we hold onto the greater promise of the crown of life for the one that endures.

Lent invites us, invites me, to start breaking up the hard ground, strengthening the root system, being strategic. Lent is a time of preparation for the unknown difficult, for the arena, for the joy of the ‘good job, well done.’

Beauty comes from ashes, not immediately, but it comes, and there will be a time when all that people who visit an area previously destroyed will notice is the beauty. The ashes will have done their work and only the expert and the highly observant will see the signs of what once was ravaged and wrecked.

The final destination is fruitfulness, the final promise Shalom, the final outcome joy.

Wherever you see ashes in your own life today may you be filled with all the hope and strength of knowing underneath those ashes, even now, new life is  forming.

He is, and we are, anointed to:

bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendour.

Isaiah 6

This year I want to invest in Lent – to be about preparing my heart, doing the work, paring back, leaning in, trusting.

 

the gift of the creative

This morning I have played your songs loud

songs written from your heart to The One

a gift of your talents

your song, not for me, has made a way, for me….

you have opened up the way and I am reminded of the words that say

the gift opens the way for the giver and ushers her into the presence of the great

but your gift also makes a way for me

your act of worship becomes a gift to me and I get a new encounter, I get fresh wings for my feet

your song gives me a gift to give of my own, and I dance for The One

and this is the great and wonderful blessing of the creative in action – your art, your story, your song, your dance….

your giving back makes a way for others to come in, to experience Presence, to experience Truth, to See the nail scarred hands

what is your gift?

don’t be stingy with your talents – holding back isn’t humility it’s pride or self-preservation or listening to a voice that seeks to get you to hide your light – whatever it is, it isn’t generosity or abundant living or freedom

David was a musician but he didn’t let that stop him dancing – oh no, he danced for his true King, with all of his might

and maybe there might be a battle that needs to be waged on your behalf and the gift of the creatives in worship might just win the battle for you

maybe your creative act of worship is winning a battle for someone who needs it today

don’t despise the smallest of gifts of the creative

maybe you are making a way for another as you go ahead

tell your story, paint your painting, sing your song, dance your dance

I need your help to go to a new place today

I need new eyes to see God

I need a new rhythm to dance to

I need new words to give back when my own falter

and isn’t Easter a picture of a gift given with total selfless abundance and aren’t we invited into this kind of generosity too?

I need your gift 
your gift for The One
blesses us all
x

when faith feels like oil in my hands

there are days when holding onto all I know to be truth feels like being given a litre of oil and only my hands to hold it with

the days when arguments storm around the internet with Christians pointing fingers at other Christians, and fingers racing across faith divides faster than lightning strikes, and enough rhetoric to make the whole world confused and turned off

the days I don’t feel anything

the days I look at the violence we commit against each other and the way we ravage the planet

and I start to doubt that I have built my house on a rock and I start to worry that I’m trying to build on quicksand

do you have those days?

this is why I need Lent

this is why I need a daily dose of reminding that running from pain is not the way of the cross

that pain and heartache are evidence of how we all need the cross

that pain, rejection, fear, misunderstanding…. these are not the end of the story

Jesus didn’t run from fear

he didn’t only say the words that people wanted to hear

he also didn’t seem to engage in endless debates about the side issues

he didn’t pretend there weren’t tears – he wept, remember?

he didn’t run away from pain – the lashes, the crown of thorns, the suffocating death, remember?

remember, remember, remember

so, when the world and all its words and images and arguments seek to land me with a faith that feels like oil, I need to run again, back to the cross and feel its splinters real in my hands – to face the pain without the fear

I sit and wait and breathe and hear again

peace I give you, my peace I leave with you – do not let your hearts be troubled, do not be afraid

and I drink it down like a parched plant

in this world there will be trouble but take heart, I have overcome the world

and when I have nothing left to hold onto but the splinters of the cross I wait to hear

surely, surely Miriam, little one I am with you right to the very end

and this is where I sit, and I stop trying to hold the oil and I let the oil pour down over my head and into my heart and I take courage in the fact that when I cannot hold onto my faith I can at least be held and I can know

that I have been given to Jesus by the Father and no-one can ever snatch me from his hands

and these words, this oil anointing, this will be enough for today

smuggled out

throughout history there have been people persecuted, hunted, haunted, mistreated

and there have been beautiful ones who have bravely thrown their own safe lives to the wind and smuggled, hidden, guided, served, met people and got them to safe pastures
things done in covert under the eyes of the oppressor
people whose lives make me realise the true high calling of loving another at the cost of all else.

And Jesus
Jesus who loved us while we were strangers in the mocking crowd
and he didn’t sneak into the enemies camp and smuggle us out
he marched right in and busted down the door with his perfect life that death could not contain
he turned the clock on death inside out
he broke the chains, turned on the lights, tore open the bars
and then he invited us all 
follow me
because when you follow him you find you have left the prison behind
the lock and key are broken, the victory is won, the only thing that remains is the response to the invitation
follow me

it doesn’t mean the journey will be easy or the going always clearly charted – there will be leaps of faith, and laying down and turning the other cheek, there will be mourning and tribulation – but all in freedom
the debt is paid
the chains are gone
the love is free
and I am chasing after this freedom fighter because my very life is held in his hands
and may we all know it loud in our hearts that we don’t need the key, we needn’t fashion our own way out because the locks, all our locks, are broken
the victory is already won and all the keys are held by The One