Waiting For the Phone To Ring & Hoping It Doesn’t

I’m sitting down to write this as a kind of reflection in progress. I say in progress because the event(s) I’m reflecting on as I’m sitting here ruminating are only in the midst of their processing. How I feel today is not necessarily how I’ll feel after the next conversation I have on the phone.

It’s been that kind of week. Each time the phone rings, change happens. Some calls have led to minor improvements in mood and outlook. Others the opposite and more than one has brought quite a swirl of shocking emotions, competing for attention in my increasingly-stretched and pressed emotional view.

Just under two weeks ago, my family suffered an unexpected and sudden bereavement. Trained in pastoral work and care as I am, quite experienced in doing it pretty well as I’m told I am, after those first few times the phone rang to offer increasingly desperate and then ultimately crushing news, comforting words seemed far from my mind. Presence, quiet consolation, mixed with a raging sense of the unfortunate unfairness of it all, they’re what came to me then and have sustained me ever since. I hope I’ve been of some support and use to my family in their grief, still so new and raw, but even if I haven’t, I’ve given what I had, what  God gave me when I prayed urgent, hushed prayers asking for ‘enough’ for today and then that tomorrow would bring enough for that day. God has been faithful, kind and generous as have so many of our family and friends, and yet, still I wish what happened hadn’t happened. Death and grief are fine enough when they’re distant, theoretical concepts, but when they come close the feelings they engender, the tiredness, the bone tiredness that’s been part of my life for 12 days now, that’s what I think will change how I talk to bereaved families or families whose loved ones are close to the end. Anyone who’s been through it will probably remember, or still be experiencing the feeling. Being a professional minister means that I sometimes have to do the professional work of supporting grief and loss, but it is so important that any of us who have this privilege don’t detach ourselves so far from the visceral pain of what is happening that we seem aloof. The most helpful things that have happened over the last few days are people who have asked us ‘how are you?’ or who have turned up at the door with food we didn’t ask for or realise we needed but which have meant we haven’t had to think. Thinking is hard. Thinking is tiring. Decisions are distant dreams. So I all of a sudden am very keen on provided soup, casserole and the like.

All of that would and probably should be enough, but then a couple of days ago when the phone rang, it was for a different reason. On the line when I picked up was the Family Liaison Officer from a prison not too far from us. As soon as the prison was named I knew who it was about, but what I was told next really did shock me. A prisoner who I an others at Emmanuel befriended through our Foodbank and other work and who became part of our Church family was seriously ill with Covid-19, she said. He was in a bad way. My heart sank. How sad. He’s due out this year. The shock didn’t end there though. The prisoner, my friend, had named me as his next of kin. Was I willing to take on the role? Having then as I do now, not much idea of what that might entail I thought I ought to say yes.

What a privilege, a sad and humbling privilege. On the one hand that the work I and many others had done with him had had such an impact; on the other that there was no one else who he felt he could trust and rely on to take on this role.

That was on Wednesday morning. I’m writing this on Friday afternoon. In the intervening time, P has deteriorated and rallied, deteriorated and rallied. I have decisions and judgement calls on his behalf which have all been best-guesses. Apparently the answer ‘keep him alive please’ is not detailed enough when responding to the question ‘How would you like us to proceed’, for instance. Just this afternoon I have spoken to the prison FLO, a Dr who is treating him and a member of the hospital’s fantastic chaplaincy team. What I’ve gleaned is that all of them are fantastic and want the best for P and are doing the very best they possibly can to bring it about. It is still very much touch and go what will happen in the coming time. This afternoon P has been asking if I could go and see him. It is, I have to say, pretty gutting that I can’t at the moment.

So, rather than just tell you a long-winded piece of a tale with an unknown ending, how about some reflections….

First, at the moment, the two situations I’ve described above are all I can think about at the moment. As I’m typing I know that there are some people I work with who are pretty unhappy with how things are going at work. I also know that the Church of England, of which I am a part and who to an extent I represent, has got itself in more than one media kerfuffle over the last 24 hours. I also know that all over the place people are receiving news, both good and bad, that the team I support and chaplain for, Northampton Town, have a game tomorrow and plenty more besides. Ordinarily, of course, all of these things are important, some of them crucial, even, but at the present moment I couldn’t really care less about most of that. I wonder where God is in that thought? I wonder how it might impact how I talk to those who are dealing with things of this nature (because I know there are a lot of them) in the future that might be changed compared to how I might have been three weeks ago?

What would Jesus say to P, or to those treating him, caring for and about him, or to my family, or to me, if we paused to listen today? Maybe ‘come to me all who are weary’ might be something. Would Jesus weep? Would he rage? I think I know what he would not do: walk by on the other side. I think he would point out all the ways he is at present involved, working, caring for, soothing and challenging in equal measure. I think at some point he would ask ‘what do you want me to do for you?’ and then do it, to show that this world is not all there is, that what we see in front of us, the failures, the mess of our own making and that made by others, is actually gloriously passing away, and would give a sign that the better world we are promised and of which we dream is closer than we even dare to believe. I think he would do all this and more.

A little while back, in a previous lockdown, far, far away before any of this happened (the end of October) I wrote a piece about starting to record a new album called Ruthless Trust. Sometimes my trust is wafer thin. Sometimes it’s thinner than that, whatever that is, but at times like these, when I honestly have no clue what to do or say, it’s a surprising comfort to me to be able to say ‘I am no longer my own’ and that in some small way I have understood a little of what it means to enter into the fellowship of the suffering that Jesus went through for me, for my family, for P, for those treating and caring for and about him. I’d give a lot to not have gone through the last two weeks, or to have watched those I love go through the last two weeks, but it seems like all I can do is persevere and hope that in doing that, faith and character follow and that out of all of that, this maelstrom of words I have written here which gives you an insight into a little of the chaos of my brain at the moment, new hope would be born. I want that hope to be firm, not in a concept or a thing, but in the One who is making all things new.

In the meantime, if you pray, please do for my family, for me, for P and all who have not had pieces written about them today but who also need some comfort, some peace and some strength to carry on.

The phone only rang 3 times while I was writing this. I hope it doesn’t ring again for a good while.

2020 Bible Reflections

April 11th 2020: Psalm 142

Psalm 142

A maskilof David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.

I cry aloud to the Lord;
    I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
I pour out before him my complaint;
    before him I tell my trouble.

When my spirit grows faint within me,
    it is you who watch over my way.
In the path where I walk
    people have hidden a snare for me.
Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
    no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
    no one cares for my life.

I cry to you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my refuge,
    my portion in the land of the living.”

Listen to my cry,
    for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
    for they are too strong for me.
Set me free from my prison,
    that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
    because of your goodness to me.

You can listen to today’s Psalm here: Psalm 142 audio

David speaks this psalm from within a cave. It’s an important detail, particularly resonant today on Holy Saturday, when we remember the body of Jesus, in Joseph’s tomb, on the day of lost hope and quiet turmoil that his friends and disciples were going through. Yes, he had promised that if he, was destroyed he would rise within 3 days. Yes, those who had been paying attention might have been hopeful of something miraculous taking place, but Jesus’s family friends and followers had just watched the flame of hope and the light of love die, apparently, with the death of Jesus as they awoke on this Saturday. And they were frightened. Life was locked in a cave.

And so we return to David, another who spent time hiding in a cave, pursued by his enemies and, it often seems to me, by his own fears, doubts and questions, both about himself and his life and about whether the God he had put his hope in was really going to come through for him and save him. It’s a fair enough question and just as David asked it, the followers of Jesus asked it whilst he was in a cave, so it seems understandable to me that many of us might be in a place of doubt and questions and crying out to God for deliverance. Only a few days before this in his own story, Jesus had asked God if there was any possibility of the cup of suffering being taken from him. When the answer came back a resounding no, he once again set his face to what was needed and required of him and gave his life, his all, on the cross, scorning its shame, so that the possibility of resurrection might exist not just for him but for all.

David hiding in his cave cried out to God but still wanted to make it clear that he trusted God. Jesus trusted God and his plan all the way to the cross, the cave and the depths of death. Will we trust God through our own doubts and suffering in the hope that Sunday is coming?

Something To Do

Commit to contentment. What gifts have you been given that you can enjoy and use for the benefit of other people?

Something To Pray

Lord, you invite us to enter into the fellowship of Jesus’s sufferings. Help us to wait in this place of pain and watch with you for the dawn of tomorrow’s brand new day and brand new hope.

2020 Bible Reflections

Good Friday Reflection

Yesterday morning, quite early (!), I was invited to give a ‘thought for the day’ on BBC Northampton, linking in with Good Friday being the start of what is usually a big weekend in the football season. Even though I’d rather it was better known for other reasons, of course, it was great to be invited to share with those listening. In lieu of a reflection post for yesterday – sorry, it’s been a busy time preparing things for Good Friday and Easter Sunday – here’s the reflection I shared.



It could be a Friday like any other. Looking out of my window as I share these thoughts with you this morning, all looks quiet, the sun is rising and the day looks like it has the chance to be a bright one ahead. 

And then I remember: it’s a Bank Holiday, Good Friday. No work for most of you listening today, time to rest, time with family and plenty besides, no doubt.

And then I remember: Good Friday should mean it’s a weekend with two Cobblers games in it. One of my favourite weekends of the year. So often promotion and relegation issues have been settled decisively one way or another this weekend. It’s never boring being a Cobblers fan, as many of you will know. Except of course this year there is no football to punctuate the Easter weekend. This is a Bank Holiday weekend unlike any that any of us has ever known in a series of days and weeks unlike any of us have ever known.

There was another Friday, long ago that could have been just another day and indeed was for many. But not for one man. For that one man, dying on a hill in Palestine in a supreme act of love and sacrifice, made faith, hope and love real and reachable for each one of us. And if you reach out today searching for enough faith, hope and love to get through today, you’ll find Jesus is already there, reaching out for you. Good Friday, Best Friday. It could have been just another day. But it wasn’t. Thank goodness for that.

2020 Bible Reflections

March 21st 2020: Hebrews 8

You can read today’s passage here:… and if you would like to you can listen to it here: If you’re not in the practice of regularly listening to the Bible, I think you’ll find that it comes alive in a really different way when you listen to it compared to how it sounds in your own head when you read it from a book. I certainly do.

I run into two problems quite regularly as a minister which today’s passage looks at directly and challengingly enough to really make me stop and think. One is, to make sure I do my ministry and live my life ‘right’. The second is to do what I can to make sure that I serve the people that God has taken me to care for, love and support as best I can exactly that, as best I can. It’s easy to feel a failure at both of these tasks and the truth is that without God I would absolutely be a failure in my attempts.

‘But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.’

I’ll never be a High Priest in the way that the Old Testament and old covenant Priests were encouraged to live their lives to conform as closely as possible to what they had received as the directives on how to live and minister from the law that was given to Moses, but there’s still a temptation to build a ministry, or a temptation for us to build a Church, which is bigger, better, more noteworthy and which receives more favour than others we see around.

But here’s the rub and here’s what I think the writer to the Hebrews is trying to say: without Jesus, all efforts to do something good in ministry are fairly pointless, and not really ministry at all. It’s because Jesus did what He did that any of us are able to be followers of His and minister in the power of His name at all. None of us should minister in our own strength. There’s no point me praying ‘in the name of Haydon’. That won’t achieve anything, but if God writes his law on our hearts, his law of love over all things, mercy triumphing over judgement, people who act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him every moment of their lives then, and only then, we might have some hope of being used to build a Jesus ministry, a kingdom ministry, one which does the things that Jesus does and has the world-transforming outcomes that all of us dream of but I wonder how many of us truly hope for. Do we want to see the world changed? Set aside our own ambitions and get in line with God’s and commit ourselves to His cause. Then great things can happen.

Something To Do

Write down or draw the ambitions you have for your life. Who are you trying to please? If you get everything you want, who will benefit?

Something To Pray

Ask God to give you an opportunity to show His love and power to someone today

2020 Bible Reflections

March 20th 2020: Hebrews 7:11-28

You can read today’s post here:

Hebrews is a complicated book. It, or the English translations of it at least – I can’t claim to have read in other languages – is full of close argument and complex sentences which take a lot of unpicking. Take the 18 verses we’re given in the Morning Prayer Reading from the Church of England today. People could write books about exactly what is being argued here. Indeed it’s been done. But breaking it down to the core important single point the writer is making is what I am hoping to do in the next few sentences.

The writer is making the point that God set up priesthood – people who point people to God and represent them to Him -first with the tribe of Levi and Aaron. The covenant – the contract or relationship between God ands people – was continually broken by the people as they turned from God and did their own thing, living life in their own way. And so God set up priesthood in a new line, the order of Melchizedek – Melchizedek means ‘My King is Righteousness” – God wanted a King who was truly good, in the deepest, most meaningful and foundational sense of the word and so Jesus, who was ultimately good, ultimately put the kingdom of God first, justice mercy, joy and peace first and showed what true love was, this man was able to properly show God to people and people to God and so the new relationship was made possible.

I’ve tried to keep that short and so would probably be accused by some of cutting corners or missing out something central to Christian belief and history, but the key point is this: we couldn’t ever get to the point where we were who we were designed to be on our own. We needed Jesus to show us what it is to be a Godly person. He put God first in His life. He put the needs of others before His own. He didn’t ask to be served. He served others instead. His actions backed up His words. And His words shared love, joy, mercy and peace, as well as justice and a warning that one day a moment will come for each of us where we will be asked to account for what, or who we put first in our own lives. Jesus sacrificed everything so that we who often put ourselves first, so selfishly, don’t receive the consequences our selfish actions deserve. If we put our trust in him, ask for forgiveness for what is gone past and every day seek to live facing in a new direction, his direction, then we can be free in the freest sense of the word free.

I want that kind of freedom, but not so that I can put my feet up, metaphorically or literally and live just as I want to, but so that I can live in a way that is as close to the way that Jesus did it as I possibly can. Wouldn’t it be good to feel free? It doesn’t mean things won’t be hard or go wrong in the future, but it does mean that we have the kind of freedom, the kind of peace, that it is just not possible to manufacture on our own.

Something to do

Commit to doing 5 things tomorrow that will definitely put someone else first, rather than just making you happy or more comfortable.

Something to pray

Ask God to show you things from today from your life which have been selfish, have hurt others, hurt you or been not the way that he would want. Ask him to forgive you. If you do that and really mean that you won’t live the same way from now on, you can know that you are free. Make sure to (safely!) spread some of that freedom tomorrow.

2020 Lectionary Ramblings Lectionary Ramblings March 2020

March 17th 2020: Psalm 38 and Hebrews 6:13-20

As my ramble through some of the daily readings offered by the lectionary (the set readings many Churches use throughout the world for their daily prayers) you’re welcome to join along if you would like to. You can read today’s readings here:

18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.’

What a fantastic promise we’re given from the letter to the Hebrews today. God bound himself with an oath and he’ll never change his mind because it is impossible for him to lie.

It all feels very uncertain in our world today. I’ve been ‘isolating’ at home for three days already and it has to be said that the initial shine of having plenty of time to do all the things I’ve been meaning to do for ages hasn’t taken long to start wearing off. When times are scary, uncertain, or just very different from what we are used to, the easiest thing for us to do is to look to ourselves for the strength and the force of will to get through things, to make it out the other side of whatever issue we face – Covid 19 at the moment – and to think about how much we’ll congratulate ourselves when the troubles of this moment are over and things return to ‘normal’. The thing is, the more I think about it, the more I realise that there’s no such thing as ‘normal’ at the best of times, even less so now. This can send me into a spiral of doubt and uncertainty about what’s at the centre of my life. What am I about? What is this life for? What should I be aiming to do with the time I have? Of course there could be not much of it left, so how do I make the most of it? It’s tempting to flee, but if I was going to do that, the only place to flee to that truly makes any lasting, life-giving sense is to flee to God. He is firm and unchanging in uncertain times

I love Psalms. Songs, prayers and hymns from a time long ago, but a time when people seem to be just as disgruntled and discombobulated as we are often today. David writes the one that we have today and he is not happy. Everything is going wrong in his life and, a little bit like I do when I list my various entirely justified complaints to God, my wife, my family or anybody else, the majority of the song today is about how it’s all falling apart, but David is clinging on to God, clinging on to the hope that he believes will see him through. I wonder how many of us feel like we’re already clinging on. Or perhaps we feel like we’re rising above it all, but have a little note in the back of our minds that we might need some kind of safety net if it all eventually goes wrong.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews that the second reading up at the top of the post is from points to Jesus as the proof of the truth of God’s promise. His goodness, or holiness,  is astonishing enough, but the invitation that he extends to us to follow him, to take refuge in God and to invite others to take refuge in God too, that is all the more astounding. Who would give their whole life so that others could experience what it was like to be truly free, truly loved, truly the people that they were made to be? As we try and love and serve our families, our communities and ourselves in these testing times, perhaps there’s a moment or two available to us each day to ask the question what if? What if Jesus really is not just good, but Good? What if the hope and peace we’re all searching for is within touching distance? If it was, wouldn’t you want it? Wouldn’t you want it for all the people you are concerned and fearful for and about at the moment? I know I would.

Something to pray for

Pray for all people who are scared and fearful at the moment, that they would have the courage to ask God for help and peace.

Something to do

As you’ve been reading this, I’m fairly sure at least one person has crossed your mind. Phone or message that person and give them some of one of the most precious gifts you have to offer: your time and attention.



Talk Text: Carol Services 2016: John 1:1-14

As the Christmas season has rolled into view, I’ve had the great joy and privilege of leading and preaching at a variety of services and events. For the Emmanuel Carol Service and the Northamptonshire County Council Staff Carol Service I used variations on this talk. As quite a few people have said that they found it (variously) helpful, challenging and encouraging, I thought I’d reproduce it here. 

If Jesus hadn’t been born, would we still celebrate Christmas? This is the key question I was asked by a child in year one of a local school last week. What do you say when you’re asked a question like that? Of course, it’s an easy one to answer, without the birth of Jesus, Christmas wouldn’t happen, the Mass, the remembering of his birth, it wouldn’t be happening. We wouldn’t have all these carols (beautifully led this evening by the musicians, thank you guys). We wouldn’t have the Bible readings to listen to, glorious, well-known words to many of us that tell the story of the birth of a Saviour which was more fraught with uncertainty than it sounds when you’ve heard it for most of the Christmasses you can remember. We wouldn’t have turkey or the veggie equivalent, we wouldn’t have presents, a special reason to spend time with people at this time of year. 
Nor would we have the hope that now, today, God has made a way for the world to be more fair, more just, more honouring to him and his ways of doing things. .
However, before we get too despondent, good news: Jesus was born. The word of God was not just spoken into the world, it came alive and is still alive today. Jesus is that word, as we’ll hear in our final reading shortly. He’d been there at the beginning of all time, everything was created through him, he had a hand in it all. 
Later in his life, Jesus would continually frustrate those who he spoke to by emphasising God’s priority for those in the community who are poor. So did the early Church which followed in his wake, and so must we. God calls us, his people, to be the ones who live in a different way, acting justly, loving mercy and walking in humility with him. We do it not because doing good things makes sense (although it does). We do it because the Word of God came into the world full of grace and full of truth, and his word was that the world would never be the same again
When a word is spoken, written, signed or communicated in any kind of way, it demands a response. We don’t use words (most of us at least) for the sake of it, shouting into a void. We speak because we want people to hear us, to respond to us, to relate to us and what we’re saying. It’s the same with Jesus, the word of God to the world when he was born that first Christmas day, and the word of God to the world today. What is that word? It is life, hope, transformation, salvation, being given new eyes to see the part of the world that we live and love and serve in through the eyes of God and with the opportunity to make the priorities of his coming kingdom and way of life ours, too. Are we watching? Are we listening?
We live in a world which feels like it is waiting for something to happen. It’s a world which is searching for a better way, someone or something to change things. It feels like a time has come when the old order of things is passing away. In politics, the rise of the right is making things look very different. In our world of swiping from post to post on Facebook, of instant gratification of a like or a retweet, or of the need to respond immediately to everything that happens, it’s hard for us ever to be truly satisfied, trusting, at rest. Many of us see things that happen all over the world on our screens, or in our newspapers, all day every day. We can become anaesthetised to the enormity of it all. It’s hard to know what is truly important, crucial in the midst of the sheer quantity or volume of things that are offered to us for our response, our entertainment. Workloads seem heavier than ever, needing to be completed quicker than ever, and in the midst of it, it’s easier, it seems to be swamped in the dark and the chaos and let it all happen, than to pick out the light, the one true light, which came into the world to save sinners, all of us, and give us the opportunity of life, now and forever as children of God.
We’ll be hearing John 1:1-14 in just a few minutes. Again, we’ll be reminded that Jesus, the word of God, has spoken, transformed the world and wants us to hear, recognise and welcome him into our hearts this Christmas. Take the few moments of that reading to ask God to make his home in your heart again this Christmas time.
So, no, if Jesus hadn’t been born, we wouldn’t be celebrating Christmas this coming week, but, truly, thank God that he was. We have hope, for ourselves, for our Church, for the whole world. We have a story to tell, we have a story of grace, mercy and peace to be part of, to live out and share with the world, that everyone we meet might see the true light of the world shining out from us. The light shines, let’s show it to as many people as we can. Let’s be hearers, doers and speakers of the word of God this Christmas.
April 2016

April 5th and 6th 2016: Colossians 1:15-2:15

You can follow today’s reading by clicking on this sentence.

So much of what makes knowing and following Jesus so exhilarating, so crucial, so necessary to human flourishing is encapsulated in the readings which we are looking at here. Continuing on from our jaunt in to Romans a couple of days ago, Paul is at pains to emphasise the sheer majesty and wonder of Jesus, and his total sufficiency. Not just in terms of what he has done, but in who he is. It isn’t just his action that makes him acceptable to God and able to present us holy and blameless to him. It is who he is. Similarly, the work of salvation Jesus has done for us doesn’t just render freedom where captivity once resided, it changes us at the very core of who we are. We are new people. We wear the skins we have always worn, but everything ultimately consequential about us has been made new because of this god-man, this second Adam who has won the victory and brought us to fullness of life. He is only able to do this because the fullness of God dwells in him, or to put it another way, because he is God.

We are full of life because God has made us full of life. Nothing we can do can make us more full of life. We are full as full can be already. Don’t be deceived by claims that you can have more, better, a closer relationship with God through a certain way of living, speaking, singing or anything else. You have fullness, closeness, full intimacy already. Accept no weak substitutions for intimacy with God. Instead, rejoice that you have the freedom that was meant for you. Freedom to know the Lord, to trust him, to give your life to him. That’s all this life is for. Everything else is a pale imitation of life, joy and the hope Jesus died and rose to make real.

April 2016

April 4th 2016: Romans 5:12-21

With apologies to those who have been waiting, and probably given up, for these posts to return after a two-week break. I decided to pare down what I worked on in the week before Easter, and have then been on holiday this past week. Normal service will now, I hope, be resumed.

You can follow today’s reading by clicking on this sentence.

 ‘Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.’

Do we believe what Paul says about the saving work of Jesus Christ (his death and resurrection) here? People have spent whole lifetimes trying to work out the salvific value of the cross, to whom it applies and what must be done in order to benefit from its consequence (or, to be crude, to be saved). Who’s in? Who’s out? What do we do to get ‘in’?

There are things that Christians are expected to do. We are to love others at least as much, if not more, than we love ourselves. We are to love the poor. We are to partner with God in building his new way of life here, because has given us that privilege. We are, primarily, to love God with everything we have, worshipping him, but not just with Rend Collective songs, or Charles Wesley hymns, with who we are and how we live. We’re to prioritise service, with everything we have, including our money. We’re to pray for those in authority, speaking the truth in love to power.

But none of that, in and of itself, gives life to anyone. Jesus Christ gives life and justification, purpose and all that goes with it, to everyone. Not just some people, his one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all, Paul says. All. Not just some. There’s no contraction or contingency here based on us behaving rightly in order to receive the undeserved consequences of the act of righteousness. We don’t even have to say a special prayer at a particularly emotive moment in our lives. Jesus has brought justification and life to all.

If this is true, and I can see already the sharpening of keyboards everywhere quoting various scriptures that might argue against it, doesn’t this have a monumental impact on everything? Perhaps Paul misunderstood salvation. Well, wouldn’t that be interesting. Some of us would struggle with that even being possible. Perhaps he’s journeying with his thinking on the issue. Perhaps what he really meant isn’t what has been communicated to us by the translation here. I wonder what Jesus would have to say about what he is asserting here.

But what about this: what if the greatest lie the devil uses in this age to confuse and concern people, aside from the one about not existing at all, is that Jesus did not know what he meant when he said ‘it is finished’ on the Cross? Wouldn’t that be a neat and powerful trick? See, I believe Jesus did know what he meant. Exactly what he meant. He meant that we have life and justification. Not so that we could build edifices, power structures, empires, whole industries, around his name and following him. We have life and justification so we can share it with everyone, those who know the life Jesus has won for them and those who do not.

A time is coming when evil’s complete annihilation and the total, final victory of love will become plain to all. This is the promise of the Cross and the wonder of the grace and mercy of God. So, lots of fine and fancy words, but what difference will they make to how we live today?


March 2016

March 22nd 2016: Luke 22: 39-53

You can follow today’s reading by clicking on this sentence.

Have you ever prayed so earnestly that it was as if you were sweating blood? In our comfortable Western context, prayer can easily lack intensity. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a place where someone sweated like great drops of blood blood in anguished prayer. If they did, we’d probably try and calm them down, make them sit down so as not to distress other people. Jesus, as he does this, is entering the most intense moment, not just of his life, but arguably of all of human history. Still, it’s a detail that can sometimes get brushed over in our cultural of appropriateness.

Jesus finds his disciples sleeping ‘because of grief’ and demands that they pray ‘earnestly that you might not come into the time of trial’. If we do pray like this, it’s easy for us to slip into feeling selfish or to descend into self-absorption. Recently, the concept of the enemy ‘prowling like a lion that he might devour some’ has been much on my mind. As I write this in front of the backdrop of the unfolding event of the terror attacks in Brussels this morning, I find myself thinking again of how accepting I have become of ‘times of trial’, moments when evil rears its head and wreaks as much havoc as it possibly can, seeking not just to devour individuals, but whole communities, cultures and ideologies. Evil is part of our world, our lives, but it is never acceptable. We should do all we can to stand against it, recognising, especially this week of all weeks, that we have one who is for us and who went to the Cross to defeat evil. In our own lives, in our thoughts and actions, in our words, in our politics, in the choices we make with money, let us not be people who repay evil for evil. Let’s instead be people who pray earnestly for those who find themselves in a time of trial, that the merciful love of God would enfold them. Let’s be people who, when faced with evil, repay it with good. Where there is hatred, let’s bring love. Easy in theory, but all so very hard in practice.

Let’s be people who hold true to the one we believe in and love, the Prince of Peace.