What happened next? Mary, the mother of Jesus

This meditation appeared in the Baptist Times recently. I follow it with some of my thoughts as I tried to compose it and some suggestions for reflection and prayer. We pick up the story of Mary, mother of Jesus sometime after his ascension as the disciples gather in the Upper Room. (Acts 1)


Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Mary quietly left the room and made her way to the wall of the city where she could see Olivet. She sat down carefully and lent against one of the great stones left by the builders. The pinnacle of the temple soared above her and she watched the birds launching themselves into the wind as it swirled up from the valley below. She could smell the desert – heavy with heat.

So she would see him no more. He spoke of a return but she did not think it would be tomorrow. Where had the years gone?

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What happened next? The shepherds

Untitled2I offer this brief series for anyone who would like to have some material for their prayer or reflection on the meaning of Jesus Christ over the Christmas season. This meditation on the story of the shepherds appeared in the Baptist Times recently. I have added some questions and back-up material.

The Shepherds

Let us imagine that two shepherds who had gone to Bethlehem to see the child in the manger and wake up the next morning. We listen to their conversation …

I told you to let me sleep. All that running across the hills isn’t good for me at my age.

Well I don’t know how you could sleep after what we had seen. Angels. Mysterious voices. A baby in a manger. It was wonderful.

I know, pass the water I’m as dry as dry. So what? What does it all mean? It’s a miracle to me that the sheep are still here. They could have been half way to Jerusalem with all that noise and fuss. I expect we’ll have some still-borns later this season.

We’ll deal with that when it happens. You’re right though, what now?

We could ask the Rabbi.

Him! He would take so long to work it out the Messiah would be with us. In any case that’s what it all meant. The time of waiting is over; the exile is finishing. The Land is going to be ours again. No more working for others. No more stewards lining their pockets whilst the bosses are all down at the coast with the Romans. People didn’t need convincing last night. Once we told them what the angel said the party started.

Yes, but that was last night. You know what people are like. Last night’s party is today’s hangover. Can we really believe it all? After all it’s only a baby.

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What happened next? Elizabeth

Untitled1I am writing this brief series for anyone who would like to have some material for their prayer or reflection on the meaning of Christ over the Christmas season. This meditation on Elizabeth appeared in the Baptist Times recently. I have added some questions and back-up material.

The case of Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist?

She had spread the washing on the rocks to dry. The wind was getting stronger. She had placed stones from the stream on the clothes to hold them down. The other women still kept her at a distance. It was time for a brief rest. Shading her eyes she looked up across the valley to see if he was in sight.

People used to tell her he was God’s blessing. She would smile but kept her thoughts to herself. Zechariah insisted they call him, John. She did not argue … much; but she would have chosen Aaron, an ancestor. John was always wandering to edge of the wilderness. He spent more time there than their house. It was as if it were his home. He had his ancestor’s blood in him.

She worried. She couldn’t relax until she heard him calling her name from the hillside.

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What happened next? Herod the Great


This meditation appeared in the Baptist Times recently. I am imagining what a Teacher of the Law in Jerusalem might have thought about Herod sometime after the massacre of the infants in Bethlehem. I follow it with suggestions for reflection and prayer.


Herod the Great

I turned my back on the Temple and made my way through the crowded streets. It would soon be the Sabbath and I wanted to be in my home long before it started. I had to struggle because there were still visitors gawping up at the Temple walls. I hated the look on their faces. Didn’t they know the cost in human life this building had exacted just because of one man’s desire?

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A strategic move

Pentecost Sunday is not only about ‘tongues of fire’ it is also a time to see the work of the Spirit in the world.

Pentecost-by-Lawrence-OP-flickr-225x300‘It is expedient that I go away’ John 16:7

Expedient: strategy, convenient, advantageous, in one’s own interest, useful, beneficial, pragmatic, politic, wise, sensible. A temporary expedient = method, stratagem, scheme, manoeuvre, device, ploy. (Oxford Thesaurus)

It seemed a strange translation at first. I didn’t link the Spirit with expediency. It sounds manipulative. It suggests an action that is not transparent. But there it was in the AV and used in the Book of Common Prayer for a Sunday reading shortly before Pentecost.

Undoubtedly the meaning of words change and contemporary bibles translate John 16:7 differently. But the word ‘expedient’ stayed with me. Is it still a helpful translation?

Jesus is preparing his disciples for his death. They are grieving. They cannot imagine life without his physical presence. He tells them it is not only inevitable but necessary. Without his absence the Comforter cannot be present.

The Comforter will have a greater reach than Jesus. He will engage with the whole world. He will provide the disciples with a universal perspective. He will issue three forensic tools.

  • Sin – the capacity to discern what is against the purpose of God
  • Righteousness – the ability to create God-given relationship
  • Judgement – the conviction that actions have consequences

These are the companions of Truth; with them we can be led into all truth. They are given to the disciple church. They must first convict the church of its own lack of integrity and then guide the gathered community of Christ into truth in all its completeness found in all places and circumstances.

There is no division in truth. Its shape may be scientific, psychological, economic, political, artistic and theological. The Spirit is the conductor who makes a harmony of them all.

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