Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Temptations

This is the latest in my series of poems.  I hope you enjoy it.

TEMPTATIONS

40 days in the wilderness
40 nights alone
My only friend the desert rat
Scurrying for cover under a sundrenched sky

Dust devils weave their magic
Dancing patterns of dust at my feet
Gravel in my hair
My mouth too dry to speak

Visions of food waft before me
Hot bread, Cool wine
Except this is a fantasy
The LORD alone is my reality

The tempter hasn’t finished yet
He know how this will end
Visions of my future, betrayal, despair and death
Does he really think I care?

Leave this trap and come to me
Worship me and you can have it all
Liar! He doesn’t have the world to give
I and my Father are one

Cool breath of God whispers over me
Bathed in the Spirit’s light
Refreshing waters of life run through me.

The tempter runs – for now.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Football and being a Christian

I have been a lifelong supporter of Manchester United, probably in part because my Dad supported them and I learnt about the Munich Aircrash Disaster, quite early in my life.

I remember getting overly excited at games on TV, no doubt shouting at the ref and even wrote to the FA once complaining about the lack of fairness over a dismissal.

However I have started to wonder whether football, especially as it is portrayed in the media and how the premier league is run is truly compatible with me calling myself a Christian.  The overriding principle of Football these days is to make money, and this is carried out on the pitch by fair means or foul it would seem.  The amount of players who all too readily try and win a penalty by diving is evidence of this.  When the commentators suggest that it is reasonable for the player to go to ground - that is what you should do for the team after all - and hearing players and managers support their colleagues when it is clear that their has been cheating going on is starting to make me rethink my position.  I heard on the radio yesterday that David Moyes had allegedly been given a £10 million handshake and that MUFC had made £120 million by sacking him.

This behaviour no longer fits with my following the way of a peasant from nowhere who argues for righteousness and justice first.  When I do see Football on TV I see players doing anything to gain an advantage.  Even the terminology, is telling that a player wins a freekick.   Winning is an active verb which doesn't fit with the presumed truth of the player is fouled, i.e. something is done to him

This season Luis Suarez is a hero, everyone has forgotten how he will do anything - even bite someone - to get an advantage

So what can Christians do?  Pray certainly, but should we be supporting teams financially?  Should we be joining the baying crowds, so reminiscent of the crowds in Roman Theatres baying for blood.  One look at the forums on social media will show us that we haven't changed much in 2000 years.  Some so-called Christians are just as bad as people who support a humanist tradition or also other  faith traditions.

I think we also need to ask ourselves uncomfortable questions.  What are we willing to sacrifice in our lives to follow Jesus.

Please feel free to comment.  I am still praying and thinking through this myself.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The first morning

The First Morning

I stand in the midst of Hell
Pain and suffering surround me.
I arrived bound, but now I am free.
The thief lies cowering in the corner
I spread my wings and light spreads everywhere
The darkness flees before it.
I break the gates of Hell, those held for eternity are freed.

I live


Through darkness and mist
I open my eyes and wake.
Light streams into the place where I am
A man in white stands by the doorway
Hands expertly free me from a shroud
Gently I am helped to stand

I rise

I stand by a cross
I see my friends running to the Tomb
Peter goes inside
He still looks broken
John looks around but doesn’t see me
They leave

I have risen

Mary is left, she sees me
Asks me what I have done with the body.
“Mary”
“Rabboni”
Sweet Joy.  Mary understands.
I am left alone with the cross and an empty tomb

I am risen

I am the resurrection and the life
Come to me and I will give you rest
Today is the new beginning, the new covenant
Live with me!  I am risen so that you may rise in me       


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Cross

Beaten, Abused, Kicked , Flogged
Pain sears my body with each lash of the whip.
My mind loses focus;
I try to breathe:

Love the enemy

Half conscious, we are dragged inside
A crossbeam tied to our arms.
The smell consumes me
Sweat, blood, excrement.
I vomit.

Love the enemy.

My legs won't work, I can hardly see;
I fall, landing face first in the dross of humanity.
I feel strong arms
A face I have seen before, Simon Cyrene
I look into his eyes, into his soul
In hell's midst, another child is saved.


Piercing pain shoots through my wrists and feet.
I am blind.
All I can hear is the Tempters voice
"Save yourself", "Follow me and you can be their King"
I am God.  I am love

Love the enemy

My God, My God, where are you?
The darkness closes in
My mind swirls in freefall...
Into the wings of the Father.
Father forgive them.

Love the enemy

The bonds break free
The shackles are broken
Tempter is defeated.
I reach out in love, he runs to hide
Light bursts forth
Love endures


The Garden

The Garden
Prayer;
I don’t want to be here
My insides convulse with fear;
Is there a way out?
What if I just walk away?

Prayer;
I can’t sleep, I hear every sound;
Senses on red alert
The snoring of my friends
Father how can they sleep?

Prayer;
Father, I know your will
We are one.
Angel whispers; “Do not be afraid”
The tempter retorts, “Walk away”

Prayer;
NO!!!
My cry wakes Peter from a slumber
I am sweating blood; I am cold – shivering
Torches approach up the hill – it is coming.

Prayer;
Father hold me close; Spirit fill me
We are one
Judas.  A kiss. A scuffle.  A sword flashes
One more healing – My friends run away
It is done.



©  Colin Waldock April 2014

  

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Hill

I am coming down the hill in the morning
the morning dew fresh and light
people gather as I pass their tents
the shouts grow louder
"Hosannah to the Son of David"

I am coming down the hill
the cold night boring deep into my soul
soldiers at my side
I am tied to prevent escape
though escape is not on my mind.

I am coming down the hill
I have been betrayed by my friends
into the hands of those who want me dead
They call me a messiah, and I am
just not the one they were expecting

I am coming down the hill
a crossbeam over my shoulders
someone called Simon helps the load
we arrive at Gehenna
it means hell, little do they really know

I am looking down the hill
The pain drains my life
The darkness closes in
Heaven and Earth break down
The Father weeps for a Son

I am coming down the hill
A hill that none have seen
The barricades of hell fall down
The rescue is made
I am the light which the darkness cannnot hold

I am coming down the hill
Mary runs ahead to tell my friends
A new world is dawning
Heaven and Earth are reconciled
The Father greets the Son.


Sunday, 6 April 2014

no-win scenarios



Sermon:      

Have you ever found yourself in a position where you feel there is nowhere to go. A no-win scenario.   I am sure you have all been in situations where you need to do or say something, knowing that whatever you do or say the outcome will be challenging.  The story of Lazarus’ resurrection from the dead by Jesus, I think, opens a window for us on just this type of situation.  It also gives us three perspectives.  Two from humanity; one accepting God, the other rejecting God.  And further it gives us a glimpse of God’s perspective on life, and his take on how to cope with “no win” scenarios.

First of all it’s worth looking a little at who wrote about this story, and where they were based.

These lines of scripture from the Gospel of John were written and composed by the Johannine Community in Ephesus towards the latter part of the first Century.  Most scholars agree that the final version of the Gospel was produced between 90-100 C.E.  Whilst it is quite possible that the Gospel was written by John the son of Zebedee, it is also feasible that revisions prior to the final version were produced by someone other than the Apostle, however the style remained such that it was clear that the reader should identify the author with “the beloved disciple”.  Much of John’s material highlights difficulties that Jesus had with the Jewish Leadership, and this particular vignette is no different.

Jesus had just withdrawn to the area surrounding the Jordan River after a visit to Jerusalem during the festival of Hanukkah (dedication).  Whilst in Jerusalem, Jesus had again been accused of Blasphemy and threatened with stoning, he  was forced to escape.  Today, in 21st Century Britain, we probably don’t give too much thought to charges of Blasphemy, but we do have in insight into the seriousness of this when we consider the reaction of the Islamic communities comments about the prophet which are taken as blasphemous.  Into this tense atmosphere, He receives a message from his good friends Mary and Martha informing him that their brother Lazarus was sick and requesting his help.  Jesus proceeded to wait a while.  Some interpret this delay as being designed to highlight his authority over heaven and earth, knowing that he will raise Lazarus from the dead and by this, show the disciples his divinity.  Others suggest that Jesus may actually have been a bit nervous of returning to the outskirts of Jerusalem so soon after the events at Hanukkah.  Certainly there is a mood of concern raised by the disciples in v8, “Rabbi”, they said, ”only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you.  Are you going there again?”  What is clear from the text is that Jesus is aware that Lazarus is dead when they set off for Bethany, and it is quite likely that he is also aware that raising Lazarus from the dead is (a) required to show his disciples exactly who he was (perhaps critical in view of what he knows will happen when he must return to Jerusalem, and (b) will be politically explosive as far as the temple authorities are concerned.

By the time Jesus arrives in Bethany, Lazarus has been dead for 4 days, and Martha greets Jesus in grief at the loss of her brother, anxious for the future and wondering if this man whom they trust so much can help. 

Martha initially seems to misunderstand Jesus when he tells her “Your brother will rise again” v23 but Jesus then tells Martha in vv25-26 that he is the resurrection and the life.  Martha experiences a moment of enlightenment and sees who Jesus really is.  Following this, Jesus then meets with Mary and coping with strong emotions, the NLT translation states that “ a deep anger welled up in him”, calls Lazarus from the tomb, in the full knowledge that this will provoke a violent response from the spies of the temple authorities who are everywhere.  I wonder why he was so angry, if of course the translation is correct.  Perhaps it could have been that he had been active for almost 3 years now and people had seen miracles happening around Jesus, and yet still people found it hard to believe.  I think, however it would also be associated with what happens next.

The after effect of this miracle is that the temple authorities led by Caiaphus, decide that Jesus must be killed, along with Lazarus, presumably because he was evidence of something too politically sensitive.


There are several levels of meaning in this story of which I think, vv 25-26, when Jesus says to Martha ‘ I am the resurrection and the life.  Anyone who believes in me will live even after dying.  Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.  Do you believe this Martha?”  form the summation.  In 1st Century Judea, women had few rights, widows even less, single women even less so.  The death of Lazarus would have proved disastrous for Martha and Mary.  At the very least they would have probably lost their home and certainly any means of independence they had.  Jesus in returning Lazarus to life heals the fracture in his friends’ lives, making their family unit whole again.  The action, however, was also highly politically charged.  The Sadducees who held power within the temple elite did not believe in resurrection (see Matt 22:23) and would have found an actual demonstration of resurrection on Jerusalem’s doorstep to be highly threatening.  The other side of this is that the authority of those in power was now being directly challenged.  Slaves and the poor were controlled often by the fear of reprisal and ultimately death.  If death were proved to be not the finality that everyone thinks it is, then the control that political leaders have over the people is taken away, or at least considerably weakened.  Jesus is also undermining totally the theology of the Saduccees.  He had not only declared that he was the Resurrection and the life, but had then proved it.  Lazarus’ resurrection therefore directly leads to the decision by the temple authorities to kill Jesus.  Lazarus, by the way,  is also targeted because he is living proof.

Why has Jesus this power?  Quite simply, because he is the word of God, everything was created through him.  The word that gave life to everything that was created (see John 1:2-3).  Whilst he was in Jerusalem just before at Hanukkah, Jesus had claimed “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30).  Jesus is saying to Martha that he is LORD and so can speak the words of life even in the midst of death.  In conclusion, the scene played out at Bethany is a further example of the Kingdom of God pushing up against the Kingdom of the world and bursting through.

So what does this 2000 year old story have to say to us in the busy digital age of the 21st Century
This is a timely reminder for those today who only see the material world as the only reality.  For many people, life has to be made perfect, and an exclusion of spirituality leads to behaviour that focuses on material growth and development and the development of selfish gains.  This is dangerous as in focusing on the purely human self, one rejects God, thus rejecting Jesus and harming the true self, whilst carrying the risk of committing the sin that cannot be forgiven (Matt 12:31)  This of course is the story of the sin against the Holy Spirit

So, Jesus, here, gives us a plainly spoken reminder of exactly who he is.  “I am the resurrection and the life”.  Not only does he speak these words to Martha, he then proceeds to call from the tomb a man who has been dead for 4 days.  The importance of the time period of 4 days is that there could have been no doubt that Lazarus was dead.  Obviously this event challenges us today in the 21st Century.  Jesus has turned our perception of life upside down.  This offers challenges to our perceptions of ethics; how we treat the recently dead, how we live our lives – as here is demonstrable evidence of life beyond the grave and of Jesus’ absolute authority over life and death.  Jesus calls us to live in intimate relationship with him.  If we take him up on this offer, we enjoy eternal life.  If, alternatively, we choose to reject Jesus, then we face an eternity separated from God.  Be careful which pathway you choose, for separation from God is Hell. 

In reflecting on this part of John’s Gospel, we should be honest about our lives and our motives.  Do we stand with Mary and Martha, hearing the call of Jesus and responding to it with faith and action, or are we like the temple authorities who build up treasures for themselves, only to find their foundations are built on quicksand.

Which path will you choose this Easter?

In Jesus name.


Amen