Altars in the World

Untitled2What people’s religious faith took indoors, their spiritual intuition discovered outdoors.

High above ancient city of Petra, the Nabataea people carved the windswept rock into a place to honour their gods. It was simply a High Place. An altar in the wind of the winds of the heavens.

Temples, cathedrals, churches and shrines have their altars too. But for all their drama and eye-catching splendour do they imprison the spirit as much as they may release it.

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Conversation: Nicodemus

Untitled4John 3: 1-10; 7: 45-52; 19: 38-20: 1


I am always known as the one who met him at night.

I am not making excuses but it was just better that way.

I was too well-known in Jerusalem.

If it was known I had met Jesus I would have lost my reputation.


I was known for my caution.

I did not take sides.

Jesus gave me a problem.

He created division.

He polarised opinion.

He made it difficult for others;

especially people like me.

I tried to be a voice of calm

In stormy times;

but it was not easy.

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The mistake they made was to pray to Jesus

Kenya University AttackAl-Shabab militants deliberately found and killed Christian students at the Garissa University in Kenya it has been reported this week.

I wondered how they knew who were Christians. Student Reuben Mwavita described what he saw. Three female students knelt in prayer before the gunmen and Reuben commented: The mistake they made was to say ‘Jesus please save us’, because that is when they were shot.

I find this overwhelming. I am humbled and appalled. I know little about African Christianity but people whom I have met from that part of the world have impressed me with the intensity and directness of their faith in God. Prayer is not a few grunts at the beginning of the day. It is woven into the material of daily life.

Devotion to Christ has exacted a terrible price. Their voice is now silenced but they still speak. They speak into the prayers of people all over the world who mark Easter Day as a signal event for their faith. In the words of an unknown author:

Resurrection is the touch of God’s hand on my scars and the invitation to breath again.

Like their Lord they did not raise their voice against their slaughterers.

May they rest in peace to rise in the new earth and new heaven; and may those of us who are left who pray in the same name never take the gift of faith for granted.

 Photo: Khalil Senosi/AP

Conversation: The Centurion

Untitled2Mark 15: 33-39


Do not put thoughts into my head which are not there.


I am no Christian.

I am not about to go off and become one of his followers.

As far as I am concerned his death was impressive;

you might even say unusual.

But whatever a Christian may mean by ‘God’s son’

all I am saying is he died like a child snuggling in his mother’s arms –

and that you don’t see when death by crucifixion gets to work.


I could hear what he was saying in between the gabbling of his tormentors.

They are bunch of idiots.

You couldn’t tell whether they were for him or against him.

It was almost as if they wanted to worship him.

But they weren’t listening.

They were too busy making their own noise to hear him.

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