Thought for the month
40 days since resurrection
40 days since you encountered Mary in the garden
and told her – Do not hold on to me
40 days since you walked the road to Emmaus
and explained the Scriptures to grieving disciples
40 days since you snuck in to a locked room in the evening
and breathed peace into that space that was filled with regret
40 days in which you hung out with your friends
often at the beach
continuing to teach
Love one another
Feed my sheep
Go into all the world
I can’t help but wonder
if that 40 days
brought any more comprehension
or made letting go any easier
Or, whether, like a second pandemic lockdown
your followers were traumatised all over again
plunged into bewilderment
that all the “knowing it’s for the best”
still failed to diminish.
It’s hard to play the long game
when spirits are already worn out
tired of riding the roller coaster
of hope and disappointment
It’s easier to dally on the beach
to stick with what we know
than follow you where you call
trusting that we will be enough
that you will be enough
for whatever comes next.
Liz Crumlish’s blog for 9 May 2021 at https://tinyurl.com/5yttf62x
25 April was Good Shepherd Sunday, and the St Margaret’s pew sheet intentionally included this image. But Rev Dr Michael Paterson urged us to get real: “Have you ever seen sheep as clean as that? Where’s the matted wool? Where’s the caked-in mud? Where’s the swarm of flies? Where are the fleas? And where’s the incessant baaing as the lamb wriggles to get free?”
He continued: “In the midst of a personal and global pandemic: We need a shepherd who doesn’t need us to come clean and tidy in our Sunday best. We need a shepherd who is familiar with the dirt and the dung, the mess and the muddle. We need a shepherd who gets up close and personal even when we stink or bleed or are covered in sores. We need a shepherd who doesn’t give up on us when we lock horns with Him and resist his advances.
“This year, more than ever, we need a Shepherd who accepts and embraces our bruised and battered bodies and our even more bruised and battered souls and mental health – we need a God who doesn’t approach us in a mask, or gloves or PPE.
“And we need to tell a better story than the sanitized and disinfected versions for which the Church has become known … a story of a God who entered the world in the muck of a manger, got up close and personal to those who were suffering, and whose life ended – not between two silver candlesticks – but in a bloody mess on the cross.”
He urged us to “consign the anodyne and sanitized Jesus to history and let’s hear it for the real Shepherd, the dusty, sweaty, unwashed Jesus, who gets up close and personal, down and dirty with people like you and I who know we need Him” and to tell a story of a Shepherd worthy of the title ‘GOOD’.”
Read Michael’s full sermon at this link.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:30–35)
This Easter Lord Jesus
you walk with us
not on the road to Emmaus
but through every emotion
and cry of despair
You listen without dismissal
all that we share.
This Easter, Lord Jesus
we recognise you
not in breaking of bread in our sanctuaries
but at every table
where families gather
or kept apart
and in every means we have
of maintaining relationships
and of staying connected
You continue to surprise us
Turning up when we least expect you
in places we would never imagine
May the light of resurrection
Pierce the darkness in us
and in our world today.
Thank you to Liz Crumlish for sharing this Easter thought, which comes from Living through Lent, the booklet of reflections that we introduced in this Ash Wednesday post, and which you can still download at this link.
It’s the preparation of Holy Week that speaks more to me and evokes more memories than Easter Day itself. Vivid memories of my home Church, where our choir would sing a sacred cantata every Palm Sunday evening. Then on Good Friday afternoon we would head off in a coach to a country church to repeat the piece we’d rehearsed for the previous Sunday.
Our choice of setting for the Passion narrative alternated: one year Maunder’s Olivet to Calvary; the next Stainer’s Crucifixion. Both of them late Victorian attempts to rethink the great Bach Passions so that congregations could relate to them and they weren’t too difficult for ordinary choirs to perform. Each had choruses, chorales, recitatives and arias – and hymns for everyone to take part in.
It’s the Stainer that’s stayed with me. That’s not just because I still have the copy I sang from in the 60s, but I’ve sung it three times during 30 years in Dunfermline and, as many of you know, until coronavirus intervened we had plans to sing it here again last April with an augmented choir. It’s because it still speaks to me, all the way from The Agony in the Garden when Jesus asks three times “Could ye not watch with me one brief hour”, through that well-known setting of “God so loved the world” to The Appeal of the Crucified which starts “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?”
I’m sad I won’t get to sing Crucifixion this year, but its words and music will be with me as I re-read the story of Christ’s Passion and death. I won’t hear a pin drop in the stillness that follows “It is finished” and I’ll think back to the congregation rising to sing the final hymn “All for Jesus”.
[If you want to find out more about Crucifixion and hear the music, go to our archive page]
Reflecting on a year of COVID restrictions in Scotland
the wave of disbelief
and the stunned silence
The shock of furlough
– surplus to requirement
in an institution
focused on survival
the mounting fear
as death tolls rose
The longing to be able to do more
than make a difference
by staying home
and the low grade anxiety
that began low in the belly on waking
and lodged in the throat on sleeping
and the conspiracists
and the optimists
all of whom made the work of scientists
and out of their depth governments
all the more difficult
the hope snatched away
by a second wave
crushing already beleaguered services
affecting a less compliant populous
by the whisper
of vaccine potential
into a hope reborn
Oh to share the indictment of Maya Angelou
“When we know better, we do better”
Sadly, I wonder…
What have we learned?
And will our learning make any difference?
Will it make a difference
to the marginalised
to those on the edges
to “the least of these”
whom we are called to love and to serve?
Or, as is often the way,
Will those in power
tell the story
through rose tinted glasses
of a nation that fought
and won the fight
papering over the cracks
of dissension and division
of incompetence and pride
ignoring the long shadows that remain
and “building back better”
as the tools with which to move forward?
And sitting with the grief
so that the loss and sacrifice
of so many
and the ongoing trauma and suffering
is not swept aside
as we move forward
but is carefully woven
into the fabric
of our communities
not only as dark threads
but also as bright and vivid streaks
carried with us
into the compassionate future
that we craft together.
This reflection by our friend Liz Crumlish is used by permission, and comes from her blog, which you can follow at this link.