The gospel for the first Sunday after Easter is John 20:19-31. Peace be with you.
Peace be with you is a very common greeting when people meet in many parts of the world today.
It literally means I come to you in peace. My intentions towards you are good. I mean you no harm.
In the last couple of weeks have you been spending time walking or sitting in the natural world or
even observing a potted plant for a while? Have you made any discoveries about the world
or about yourself or about God? Have you been listening for God in these slower quieter times?
Have you ever observed when sitting quietly in a field or park or garden, that when you sit still,
animals and birds draw closer to you? Cattle especially will come right up close, sniff you and even
give you a lick with their tongue. They no longer see you as a threat but as an object of interest.
They see you sitting peacefully and approach you in peace.
On the evening of the first Easter day the disciples had isolated themselves behind locked doors
in a house because they were afraid that those who had orchestrated Jesus’ death would come
for them next. They hid in fear. Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
Jesus found them. They weren’t out looking for Jesus. Jesus found them.
An aspect of prayer and meditation is letting God find you, allowing God to find you, allowing God
o come to you, allowing the love of God come to you, allowing the peace of Christ to come to you,
allowing the breath of the Holy Spirit to rest upon you, filling you, refreshing you, restoring you.
Peace be with you. May the peace of Christ find you this day. Amen.
I appreciate very much living in a rainforest and being able to take long walks with our dogs in the green lush undergrowth. This afternoon the dogs and I went walking earlier than usual and there were others out walking with their dogs. I decided to deviate from one of the bush roads and head down a narrower track and then down an even narrower track I had not been on before. We came to an opening and a motorbike in the distance spooked the dogs; so we headed into a densely overgrown area where there were no tracks and came across what looked like a place where kids camped out, hidden from restrictions. The dogs were not keen on roughing it and wanted to be back on tracks where they could sniff other dogs. I thought how like people the dogs are; they like the safety and security of the familiar. But it is only when we stray off or deliberately leave the known tracks that we make new discoveries. I thought of how we stick to our creeds and confessions and doctrines, our routines like treadmills, like grooves on a record spinning around and around, playing the same old song, never straying from our orbit. In the midst of traversing tangled undergrowth, sliding on slippery slopes and lost in long tall grass that seemed like a sea stretching out before us, I thought about the longings for wildness and spiritual adventure in the prayer of Sir Francis Drake…
Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little,
when we arrived safely, because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess
we have lost our thirst for the waters of life!
Having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity
and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision
of the new heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wilder seas
where storm will show Your mastery; where losing sight of land,
we shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back the horizons of our hopes;
and to push us in the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our captain, who is Jesus Christ.
Short daily meditations for Holy Week by Trevor Jennings.
I will post a very short mediation each day in Holy Week 2020. I liken Holy Week to a long dark tunnel that we enter on Palm Sunday. We know it will get darker as we make our way and that the violence of Good Friday is to come. However, we know that Easter Sunday and the hope of resurrection is that glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel and so we begin our journey of contemplation. Rather than being a people who normally gather in buildings each Holy Week, this year we are free to encounter God outside our buildings. I encourage you once you have read the short meditation for the day to go outside, find a place to sit where you can see trees, grass, or even a pot plant or go for a walk. Breathe in the air. Notice the sounds – the music of nature. Spend some time meditating on what you have read and contemplating the natural world around you. What do you see? What do you hear? What is speaking to you?
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. (John 20:1)
And suddenly after a long week in a dark tunnel we come out into the light. When you walk in darkness for a long time your eyes adjust slowly over time and you can make out shadows and shapes. Then when you suddenly come into the light again you still have difficulty seeing. Now it is not darkness that is hindering your sight, but the intensity of the light. It takes time again for your eyes to adjust. Having walked in the darkness of death this Holy Week it takes times time to adjust to the idea of resurrection. Even the disciples took a while to believe. They had witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus. Their hearts were broken. Their hopes were dashed. And now it seemed that Jesus’ body had been stolen. Mary stood there looking and weeping. But Jesus came and said to Mary, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” This week we have looked for God in the darkness and in death, now is the time to look for God among the living.
May the light of Easter morning shine from our eyes, shine from our hearts, shine from our lives and shine all over the world, challenging injustice and transforming life. May the hope of resurrection not only calm our fears as we face death and eternity, but as we live now in the fulness of God’s presence and love. May you walk in the light of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24
I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God's wrath; God has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; against me alone God turns God’s hand, again and again, all day long. God has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones; God has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; God has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago. God has walled me about so that I cannot escape; God has put heavy chains on me; though I call and cry for help, God shuts out my prayer; God has blocked my ways with hewn stones, God has made my paths crooked. The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in God."
When everything is going wrong, when everything is going against us, when there seems to be no help, no end in sight, no answers; why do we blame God and why do we think God has forsaken us? Is this what a God who we experience as life, light and love would do? The writer of Lamentations expresses both our confusion and our hope, our quickness to blame God and our faith in a loving and faithful God. Why does God seemingly allow all this to happen to us and yet God is good?
This is something to sit with. Where is God? Who is God? Are my ideas about God too small? How were these ideas formed? Is there room in my life for a God who is larger than life and bigger than suffering and death?
Loving God, there is so much suffering and death in this world. In all that we experience and in the darkest of days, may we know your presence. Help us to be still and know that you are God. Amen.
Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, Lema sabachthani?” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Where are you God? We began Lent by asking this question as we thought about an elderly Palestinian woman passing through the checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. It was taking hours. It was tiring, frustrating and degrading. People were crammed in like sheep, forced through gate after gate under the watchful eye of Israeli soldiers and CCTV cameras.
Where are you God is a question that many throughout the world are asking as we endure the restrictions and upheaval of life due to the Corona Virus. Does it comfort us or shake us that Jesus asked the same question from the cross? This is a question to sit with, not just today, but every day. Meditation and prayer are very much about wrestling with this question. Being aware of God’s presence is most difficult when everything seems to be going wrong and especially when facing death. Where is God when all around us there is death and destruction? Where is God when we are consumed by fear for the future? Today is a day to sit and wait, to listen for God. Where are you God?
Where are you God? Come close to us and to all people this day and in these coming days as we isolate from one another. We remember our loved ones. We remember those who have lost incomes and businesses and especially those who do not have access to financial and other support. We remember all who are ill and those who have died from the virus. In this day of death, may the first shards of light emit from the cruel cross and fall softly upon our faces. Amen.
We come to the night when Jesus shared the last supper with his disciples in the upper room. There Jesus broke bread with them and shared wine, telling the disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me.” In humility, Jesus washed their feet and told them to follow this example. Then they went out to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed for hours before finally being arrested and taken away. It was a long night. As Holy Week progresses darkness encircles Jesus. Those who want to be rid of Jesus tighten their grip on his demise, but Jesus continues to speak of light and life and love. “I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in darkness” (John 12:46). “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12,13). Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6a).
God of life, light up our lives with your love. As we face an uncertain future and as we continue the journey to the cross and to Easter morning; you are our source of life, of light and love. May your love, your life and your light be known by all people, by all things and in all places of the world through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Amen.
Wednesday in Holy Week
The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning God wakens-- wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. Isaiah 50:4.
John Callanan in the book ‘God in all things’ recalls how he asked a number of people what prayer meant to them. One person responded by saying that prayer had changed over time for them. First prayer was talking at God, then talking to God, then listening to God and finally prayer came to mean listening for God. When you are out walking in the natural world think about what it means to listen for God? Notice the sounds you hear and the silence.
As light gives way to darkness
and the busyness of day concedes to night’s stillness.
As conscious thought surrenders to dreams
and our bodies long for rest
we pause to listen
for the beat of your Presence in all things
pulsing in the light of distant galaxies
sounding in the depths of our soul
vibrating in each vein of earth’s body.
One Sound as vast as the universe
one universe filled with Presence
one Life within every life.
In the darkness of night
in the stillness that surrounds us
in the unknown depths of our being
we pause to listen.
-from Praying with the Earth: A Prayerbook for Peace by John Philip Newell
Tuesday in Holy Week
Jesus said to them, "The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light." After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. John 12:35, 36.
In the Gospel of John Life, Light and Love are three themes that are highlighted. What does it mean to believe in the light? If you are talking a walk in the natural world, what does it mean in to walk in the light? Perhaps, you can notice the way the light changes throughout the day? How does it effect colours and moods? Think of a time that you have been out walking in the dark? What was it like? Were you able to glimpse some light to give you hope?
We pray that all beings may walk in the light. May your light guide us this week and all through our lives. May light find its way into all the dark, violent and fearful places of our world. Let there be light. Amen.
Monday in Holy Week
Psalm 36:5-11 (Psalm for today)
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O Lord. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart! Do not let the foot of the arrogant tread on me, or the hand of the wicked drive me away.
… you save humans and animals alike... all people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings... with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light...
For many people God is apart from the world, the creator who is separate from creation.
What if God is not that far away, but a breath away, a breeze, a warmth, a shadow?
What if God is in all life? What if God is life itself?
If God is in all life wouldn’t that mean that all life is sacred: all people are sacred, family, friends, neighbours, foreigners, strangers, even enemies are sacred and animals and birds and fish and insects and plants and trees and air and water and soil and microorganisms - all living things? All sacred?
As you walk in nature today or stare at your potted plant, breathe in that life... may the light surround you.
We pray for an awareness of the sacredness of all life and for that awareness to transform the world from its reliance on exercising power through violence. Show us the way of Jesus and help us to carry our cross. Amen.
"Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Matthew 21:5)
Imagine you are walking with Jesus into Jerusalem. Everyone is asking who is this? Remember, that even though he is lauded as a king, he is riding a donkey and comes in humility. Who is this Jesus? Who is God?
Prayer: Traditionally Palm Sunday is a day to call for peace and non-violent action. We pray for all who come in peace to make peace in the world. May there be peace in our homes and in our minds especially at this time when so much time is spent at home. May we keep the peace. Amen.
Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation