Thursday, 13 April 2017

Maundy Thursday reflections...

Some reflections for Maundy Thursday, written for a project that I'm involved with...


‘Radical’
It is a week that begins so well.
The crowds roar their delight as he rides into town:
Word is on the street.
He is teaching, healing,
and the crowds surround him.
Mid-week, the mood turns
along with the tables in the Temple.
Not good for business,
all this chasing folk from stalls,
making whips from cords,
berating them for just earning a living,
running about as if he owned the place.
These country folk don’t understand
the art of tact and diplomacy.
Hackles on backs are raised
while there are still some who seek a miracle.
His friends are getting twitchy watching
as he dances dangerously on the edge.
Wary, they walk the city
trying to keep a low profile,
keeping their heads down
and wishing that he would do the same.
He doesn’t play the game:
speaks out against the powers that be
for not caring for the least,
for loving privilege more than these.
On Thursday, his friends are fractious,
cracking under stress.
He bids a couple to go prepare a meal.
Over bread and wine and blessing,
he talks of his body breaking and bleeding,
wants them to eat the bread
and drink from his cup of suffering.
It’s all too much,
and they lash out at one another:
fingers point and accusations fly.
They fight for top position
on what is feeling like a sinking ship.
His words, though quiet,
cut through the conversation:
overturn their notions.
He tells them of God’s kin-dom,
built on loving service:
seeing, hearing, those ignored
and those unheard,
and making space at the table
for all.
Radical.
That kind of talk will get him killed....

'A time, and a place'
'The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death,  
for they were afraid of the people.' 
In the city, in the halls of religious power, there is fear.  
The unruly rabbi has been causing trouble.
Proclaimed by palm-waving crowds,
popularity has gone to his head.
His habit of spending time with outcasts is offensive;
his unholy act of anger in the Temple is verging on the seditious.
They must put him in his place, contain him.

So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying,   
'Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.'
In an upper room, the table is made ready for the feast.
He is eager, they are puzzled;
wine is poured and bread is blessed.
The One who is the Word speaks into startled silence:
breaks bread, and says it’s his body, broken;
pours wine, talks of the shedding of his blood.
This, a meal, not soon forgotten.

'I am among you as one who serves.'
At the table, tempers fray:
ambition unmasked, they fight for power.
The beloved teacher watches as they squabble.
Three years and yet they’ve missed his point entirely.
Quietly, he pours water into basin,
takes the towel,
and kneels before them:
gives them the place of honour with a servant’s heart.
There is still a little time to learn...

'A growing darkness'
Symbolic actions could be incorporated into this reflection, 
either by the person reading, or done by another while this is being read.
This could be used just prior to Communion.  
Begin with lights dimmed, if possible....

Act I: The Plot 
(coins are placed on table at one side)
Shadows creep and darkness deepens,  
fear hangs heavy in the air.
Terms agreed - a secret meeting;  
betrayal, sanctified by prayer.

Act II: The Meal
(table is ‘dressed’ with a candle, at each end and lit; bread and wine is placed centrally on the table)
Friends now gather, drawn together,
Jesus calls them to the feast.
Blessing bread and wine, he bids them:
‘Do this to remember me.’

Act III: The Fight
(symbols of power - e.g. hammer, crown, or badge of office - are placed next to the coins)
As they eat, the talk grows heated;
bitterly, they fight for power.
Oil lamps flicker, shadows lengthen,
time circles closer to his hour.

Act IV: The Servant
(a towel and basin of water is added to the table opposite side of coins/ power symbols) 
Lamplight dims—their eyes upon him
as he speaks of sacrifice,
and of the power of humble service.
Judas walks out into night...

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Ash Wednesday: Dust

'Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.'

It is a day of turning.
No.
It is a day of returning;
changing direction,
and purposefully,
step by step,
walking toward, not from, God.
This is a day of new beginnings,
putting down a marker
where we start afresh,
where we wander into wilderness
following footsteps that have walked this way before -
travelling with the great crowd of saints
following the way of Jesus.

It is a day of dust,
of ashes,
of remembering our mortality;
of remembering who we are
and whose we are.
Today reminds us that we are not gods,
but we are God's:
beloved.
The sign of mortality and love and belonging
smeared in ash upon us.

It is a symbol.
Yes.
It is also a promise;
of cleansing,
of mercy,
of showing to the world that this
is not all there is
and that death does not have the final say.
In the mark of ashes
the power of resurrection
waits to be rebirthed.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Are you the one? Reflection on Luke 7:18-35

‘Prepare!’
‘Make way!’
‘All will see God’s salvation!’
The crowds gather,
hear the call to repent,
are baptised
by the camel-haired prophet.
Is he the One
they’ve all been waiting for?
But he points, instead, to another.
Later,
when uncomfortable arrows of truth
find their mark,
the twitching Tetrarch
tries to tame
the wild man of God.
Starry vastness of open sky,
replaced by stone-walled cell.
No wandering wilderness here,
but rather wondering:
thinking of that other.
Are you the One
bringing winnowing fork and fire?
Or is it another?
Disciples dispatched,
come back,
with stories of signs
and words of encouragement.
‘Are you the One?’
is answered
by God’s kingdom breaking in,
predicted, expected,
yet strangely disconcerting.

c Nik

Monday, 30 January 2017

Centurion and Widow: a reflection on Luke 7:1-17

Centurion and widow
Had he always wanted to be a soldier?
To travel the world, fight for Rome,
and gather up honour and glory?
Had she always wanted to be a wife, a mother?
To settle down, make a home,
and calm her son with bedtime stories?

Had he ever imagined a land like this:
strange ways, strange words, strange God,
and he, with power, privilege, and prospering?
Had she ever imagined a lot like this:
hard times, hard hearts, hard loss,
her future like a vine uprooted, withering?

Different lives
and different journeys,
but both, outsiders in their time of grief.
Had they ever imagined a God
who loved both powerful and powerless,
who cared for foreigner and widow?
Conceived of a God
as patron of lost causes?
Dared to believe in a God
who’d draw the circle wider,
extend the love and blessing;
break down the boundaries
and welcome all?

c.Nik