And Jesus was like a breath of fresh air


Once upon a time in Jerusalem there was a church and Jesus blew through it like a breath of fresh air.

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Before the ending of the day 10


A request too far?

In John’s account of the death of Jesus there is a moment when the frail humanity of Christ breaks the silence. He cries out: I am thirsty. It is the thirst of the dying. But when the drugged cloth is offered him he refuses. Was there another sort of thirst he need quenching?
This is another in a series for Before the ending of the day where I am considering each of the last words of Jesus as he died on the cross. I wonder what meaning they may have for our own contemplation of death and dying. Continue reading

He said: God why have you left me?

The last words of Jesus were My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

This is the first in a series for Before the ending of the day when I will consider each of the last words of Jesus on the cross and their meaning for our own contemplation of death and dying.
In Mark’s gospel 14:33-39 Jesus’s final words are full of fear and puzzled anger. He is dying terror-stricken and alone.
He might have saved others but he cannot save himself from the inevitable.What can a God-forsaken Christ say to us about dying?

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Before the ending of the Day 5


It surprises me how often I find Christians uncomfortable with the thought of dying. You’d think they did not know Jesus said: take up your cross daily and follow me.

The cross was a weapon of mass destruction in the hands of the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus. It was used to end its victims’ lives in humiliation, exposure and vulnerability. A person’s life ended in a pain-filled death.

Faith in Christ invites us to prepare to die. Continue reading

And whose feet will you wash?

sofiyskiy_sobor_61_2The man with tired eyes lingers with his question hanging in the air. His friend continues to walk away and does not reply. His mind is made up. He seeks a purer life than can be found in the city. The desert beckons.

For a moment he closes his eyes, maybe he is in prayer and then stroking his long beard the man with the tired eyes turns indoors.

Later he would enshrine his question in a Rule for Christian living which he would offer his flock as their Bishop but for that moment it was part of a painful encounter.

I do not know whether it happened this way. Sara Maitland who introduced me to the question in her book A Book of Silence suggests that Basil, the man with the tired eyes asked the question in irritation as he watched another parishioner wander off into the wilderness. I do not know whether this was how he felt any more than she might but it is a powerful question.

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The Wilderness Experience (2)

Sinai2The experience of a wilderness is often used as a metaphor of spiritual emptiness. In my last post, I described my own experience of staying in the Sinai desert. It taught me not to use the metaphor glibly.

Spiritual emptiness – by which I mean loss of direction and one’s hold on God or your own convictions – may be no more than lack of discipline and persistence. Time spent in a wilderness may be deeply challenging yet at the same time enriching.

Here is another piece I wrote after coming out of the Sinai. It starts with a question Jesus asked of people who went out into wild places around the Jordan valley to meet the prophet John.

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A very influential man (3)

index“My object in writing this book is to persuade all readers that the experience they must reflect on is not mine, but their own, because the only place any of us can find God at first hand is within our own experience” Gerard Hughes

I’m continuing to read Cry of Wonder and this quotation sums up its core theme. It is to know and reflect on one’s own experience. He describes his own struggles to recognise this. Whilst he is clearly based within one of the Christian traditions, he does not regard it as a well-guarded sanctuary. Indeed he believes that when the Church seeks to exert her authority in relation to this is when God can be pushed out.

Hughes writes:

“God is to be found in the ordinary, in the earthiness and messiness, the chaos and strife of everyday life”.

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A series of convictions

landscape-view-bradgateThis is my last post for a while as I relocate to another part of the UK. I’ll start writing again in a few weeks time with the benefit of some time to consider WindingQuest’s purpose and content so far. Any thoughts or reflections on the content so far would be welcome.

I leave you with something I wrote a few years ago. It comes from a book I wrote for the Bible Reading Fellowship in 2007 entitled: Seeking Faith Finding God (extract here).

I concluded it with a series of convictions about what it means to be a Christian:

  • We need to seek God. Rowan Williams, shortly before he took up his post as Archbishop of Canterbury, was asked what he was praying for the Church. He expressed the hope that Christians would be able to set on fire the imagination of our society with a vision of God the Holy Trinity. This will not happen unless, like the psalmist, our deepest desire is to know God (Psalm 63:1-5). We have reduced our idea of believing to having a number of ideas about God. The original meaning of the word is to give our heart to the object of our belief. So to believe in God is to move into a relationship with God. One that will give energy to the task of exploring our faith with others.

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But it was not, worth it?

Testament of Mary credit Brigitte Lacombe

If the world was saved by the death of Jesus, was it worth all the effort?

Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary (see review here and here) is the latest in long line of English literature based on material from the Bible. It follows in the tradition of Lew Wallace, Robert Graves, Jenny Diski, Norman Mailer and others who have reworked Bible stories. What emerges is not necessarily the Church’s teaching. The material is explored as human experience rather than divine dictat.

Tóibín’s Testament tells the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus. It is both a novella and a play. In the latter, recently finishing its season at London’s Barbican (see review here) actress Fiona Shaw plays a Mary half-crazed with grief and severely critical of the position that she has been placed in by her son and his followers.

Tóibín’s is clear about his intention. Unlike the New Testament authors, he gives Mary a voice. He visualises her living in exile resenting the custody of her ‘guardians’. He tells her version of the events of the last few days of Jesus, using mainly material from John’s gospel and, in particular, the story of Lazarus, the man Jesus raised from the dead.

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Jesus shouldn’t be left to the mercy of Christians

In a recent article in Christian Aid Magazine Susan Durber, Christian Aid’s theology coordinator, reports the astonished reaction of a BBC1 Question Time audience to Jeanette Winterson’s use of the words of Jesus to back up her point in a discussion about poverty.

Winterson later reiterated her point on Twitter:

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Durber expresses her delight at the warm response Winterson received. This is unsurprising after all Winterson’s comment supports Durber’s own view of Jesus as the radical subversive. For the Christian Aid theologian declares that ‘to be Christian is to hear that voice [of Jesus] and keep trying to listen to it’.

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