Resurrection Now!

ImageHappy Easter!

What does it mean to wish each other a ‘Happy Easter?’ 

“I hope you enjoy that glass of wine you’ve denied yourself throughout Lent?”

“I hope you have lots of chocolate eggs (though not so many that you are sick?)”

What is Easter all about?

I think liberal Christians can find it easier to believe in Good Friday than Easter.  It takes no leap of the imagination to imagine a good man crucified by an unjust occupying force.  “Nice guys finish last” is a twenty first century cliche.  It’s what we expect.  

But we struggle to believe in Easter Day – if we believe it at all.  New life, new hope, the thought that things can get better – that is a struggle.

But if we don’t believe in resurrection we are cheating ourselves and missing out on the joy that faith offers, and we are missing out on a fundamental truth of human existence.  

I must clarify that I don’t mean the physical coming-back-to-life-from-the-dead – that’s a trick that happens several times in Scripture and is a bit strange and bit mysterious and is a story from the ancient world that is a bit hard to get our modern heads around.

But I mean the historical fact that the disciples who fled Christ at his arrest become the missionaries who turn the world upside down with Christ’s teaching of love and forgiveness.

In our world resurrection is not an incident in history or an abstract theological idea, it is a present reality.

 

“We’re all going to hell in a handcart” – is the subtext (if not the text) of most stories in the Daily Mail.  But they are totally wrong.  The world is getting better.  Fact.

Two thousand years ago the most advanced, civilised nation in the world carried out the death penalty on an industrial scale.  It’s true that the death penalty still exists in many countries worldwide including the United States of America (but in America constrained by a phrase in their constitution that forbids ‘cruel and unusual punishments’ and so no nailing people to planks of wood).  No nation, not even the worst civil rights offenders, practices public crucifixions today.

Things are getting better.  Easter is a constant reality in our world.

Torture still happens, but it is no longer morally acceptable.

We no longer allow slavery.  It still happens, but its not considered a crime.

I hear some of you protest at my glib optimism!  “How can you say the world is getting better – world wars and genocides have occurred in the last 100 years!”

There have been genocides and attempted genocides in the last fifty years, but these are now the exceptions in how we deal with conflicts between people’s – a thousand years ago these were common practice.

Our technological advancement has been faster than our moral advancement – so there are very real dangers.  But we don’t live in the shadow of immanent global destruction in the same way we did a few short decades ago.  We still have the weapons, and they are still a danger, but we are no longer pointing them at each other with the same insane enthusiasm.

Things are getting better.  Easter is a constant reality in our world.

Our technology is threatening the future of the planet.  Pollution and global warming are perhaps he greatest threats that the human race has ever faced.  But we have never been better technologically or morally equipped to meet these challenges.

If the ancient world or the medieval world were suddenly transported through time to take over we all be dead in a generation.

Things are getting better.  Easter is a constant reality in our world.

But we don’t always feel that.

As we get older we lose the innocence we enjoyed in our youth (if we were fortunate enough to have a peaceful and safe youth).  In our life we go from a sate of fluffy childhood loveliness to having to encounter the difficult realities of life, and the older we get the more unpleasant stories we read in newspapers and it seems easy to believe things are getting worse.  It’s seductive to look back with rose coloured spectacles, and look ahead with fear for more disillusionment to come.

But we should look back with honesty and ahead with hope.

Things are getting better.  Easter is a constant reality in our world.

One symbol of the resurrection is how society has changed – is the place of women.  In the ancient world women were property, passed from their father to their husband… When no longer property they had to promise to “obey” their husbands in the marriage service until recently.

It wasn’t until 1918 women over 30 were able to vote in Britain and women were not allowed to be lawyers or accountants until 1920.  It was not until 1828 – just 86 years ago, that women were given the equal right to vote with men.  The first female minister of state was not until 1965 (when Barbara Castle was appointed Minister of Transport).  Equal pay didn’t come until 1970 Equal Pay Act – and that was a very imperfect piece of legislation that has needed several revisions.

Only last year were women given theoretical equal hereditary rights for the British monarchy.

Today women still do not have full equality – but it is prejudice and inertia, not the rules that cause inequality, the rules largely push towards equality now…

Things are getting better.  Easter is a constant reality in our world.

But they get better by struggle, by a recurring process of work and campaigning and protests and sliding back before pushing forward.

It’s not that we are drifting into a better world, it’s that campaigners and organisations and individuals are working hard and standing up to injustice and making sacrifices and being crucified over and over and over yet daring to believe that there is a resurrection to come

Things are getting better.  Easter is a constant reality in our world.

Watch and old television show from the 1960s or 70s and you will be shocked by the casual sexism, and racism, and homophobia.  Even in the last 40 years attitudes have changed for the better.

Another symbol of the change is our attitude to sexuality.  In much less than a generation we have gone from homosexuality being illegal to gay marriage.

Here is a perfect symbol of the resurrection.  The resurrection does not end the story – it begins it.

The resurrection is a message of hope and new life that has to grow and spread.

The celebrations of the first same-sex marriages were exciting, and for many a symbol of resurrection after long years of prejudice, bulling, violence and state-sanctioned persecution.

There will be a song on this subject to come later in the service, but for now I close with one of my favourite poems, Sometimes by Sheenagh Pugh.  I’ve used it before, but it bears repeating:

 

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse.  Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

 

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.

Maundy Thursday – a Dramatic Eucharist (or ‘all the Church is a Stage…’)

ImageA Sermon for Maundy Thursday

There is a saying that all clergy are, at their heart, failed actors.  I would like to poo poo this as terrible stereotyping (the clergy version of the famous insult to teachers: “those who can – do; those who can’t – teach (and those who can’t teach – teach P.E.)”

But the truth is that my childhood ambition was to be an actor (strictly speaking I wanted to be Doctor Who, but when I discovered that Doctor Who wasn’t real I decided to settle for being the actor that played him!)

There is a close link between religious practice and drama – I’m not just thinking of medieval Passion Plays or Hollywood Biblical blockbusters like Noah with Russell Crow…  The Eucharist, every Eucharist, is, at its heart a drama – a reenactment of the both the Last Supper and, symbolically, the crucifixion.  On Maundy Thursday, especially with the Seder meal, the nature of the reenactment is writ large, but the drama is in the heart of every Eucharist.

The congregation take on the role of the disciples, the priests stands in the role of Jesus, teaching the disciples and sharing the food.  (Although in a deeper sense the role of Jesus is performed in a much more profound sense by a scrap of bread and sip of wine.  If I get too carried away with the playing the role of Jesus I have to remember than inanimate objects are doing the job in a more meaningful way that I ever could!)

In a sense we are all disciples and we are all the Body of Christ, but for the moment of the drama, around the table we are in role…

But we come to the Eucharist to act out a role – and the stories of the disciples help to locate ourselves in the story:

  • are we like impetuous Peter, rushing forward to volunteer and tripping over ourselves and causing chaos?
  • are we like dour Thomas, glum and wracked with doubts? 
  • are we like James and John, jostling for the best seats?
  • are we like Judas, fed up with the whole thing and ready to betray Jesus?

Seeing the drama in the Eucharist can help make our Communion more profound.

We take the role of disciples because we are disciples.  ‘Disciple’ simply means ‘learner’ or ‘student’ – if we want to learn from Jesus, if we want to follow Jesus’ teaching then we are not simply playing the role of disciples, we are disciples.

The drama has been played out over centuries in countless different situations.  In our ‘Ordinary Time’ Eucharist service books there is a lengthy quotation from Dom Gregory Dix about how the drama of the Eucharist has spoken to people across the world and through history:

Jesus told his friends to do this, and they have done it always since.  Was ever another command so obeyed?  For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacles of earthy greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth.  Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; for the wisdom of a Parliament or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus setting out to discover America; for the famine of whole provinces or for the soul of a dead lover; in thankfulness because my father did not die of pneumonia; for a village headman much tempted to return to fetich because the yams had failed; because the Turk was at the gates of Vienna; for the repentance of Margaret; for the settlement of a strike; for a son for a barren women; for captain so-and-so, wounded and prisoner of war; while lions roared in the nearby amphitheatre; on a beach at Dunkirk; while the hiss of scythes in the thick June grass came faintly through the windows of the Church, tremulously, by an old monk on the fiftieth anniversary of his vows; furtively, by an exiled bishop who had hewn timber all day in a prison camp near Murmansk; gorgeously, for the canonisation of St Joan of Arc – one could fill many pages with the reasons why [we] have done this, and not tell a hundredth part of them.  And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, the pastors have done this just to make the ‘plebs sancta dei’ – the holy common people of God.

 

But there are strange things about the Last Supper.  Every time it is described in the Bible it is prefaced with the words “on the night he was betrayed” – not “when all his disciples were gathered together” or “on the night of the Passover” or “on the day before he died.”  Always it was “on the night he was betrayed” – words that echo through scripture and down the centuries

As a good liberal Church we don’t like to focus on sin, we prefer to focus on God’s love for us, and God’s calling that we should love others.

But tonight we are reminded of our capacity to betray the Lord; the gift of Jesus to us (in bread and wine) is given in the context of a betrayal.  I don’t think we are reminded of the betrayal to keep us imprisoned in guilt, but we do have to acknowledge our brokenness and the brokenness of our society and our world to allow forgiveness and healing to take place.  We are reminded of the betrayal so that trust can be be restored.

Only Christians, only a church, which knows and owns its own capacity to collude, to oppress,  to betray, like those first friends of Jesus, can be a church that can proclaim the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the dead.  We have to be aware of how the Church still betrays Jesus, in our prolonged failure to appoint women bishops, in our inability to see all Christians regardless of gender, social class and sexuality as equal before God, in our obsessions with power and authority the Church still betrays Christ.  And in our own lives with our obsessions with the insignificant, our inability to love and whatever else in our lives that falls short of God’s calling.

The liturgy tonight takes us through the last supper with its strange and moving teaching and sharing of bread and wine, through the symbolic washing of feet, to Jesus’ betrayal and arrest and the disciples fleeing in disarray.

Tonight we leave in silence – and it feels awkward and ‘wrong’ – we should end our worship with a cup of tea and a chat.  Our friendships formed over cuppa and Rich Tea Biscuit are an important expression of our faith and being the Church.

But tonight we take time out from the joy and inspiration that hopefully characterises our faith most of the time to reflect on our brokenness and offer that to God.

And the Church will be open for silent prayer once the formal part of the service has ended…

Now I close with the words of St. Paul:

“…I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’”

Poetry for Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday in Poetry

ImageMatthew 21.1-11

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “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.”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?”
The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

 

Lent is drawing to a close, the story of the Life of Christ which we act out as we walk the Church’s year, is reaching its climax.  Jesus preaching has upset too many people, his opponents are up in arms.  It is the religious leaders who are thirsting for Jesus blood, Jerusalem is the seat of their authority.  And on Palm Sunday Jesus enters their domain.

Jesus does not creep into Jerusalem, he parades in…  Palm Sunday is a day of triumph – Jesus rides into Jerusalem and is acclaimed by the crowd.

For the last few Palm Sundays I have read a poem by GK Chesterton, because it makes me smile & it makes me think.

So this year I went looking for an alternative poem, and found so many that today’s sermon may end up resembling an episode of Radio 4’s Poetry Please:

I want to begin with a short poem entitled ‘Palm Sunday’ by Henry Vaughan, the Welsh metaphysical poet.  He gives the crowds of Palm Sunday a heavenly significance:

Hark! how the children shrill and high
Hosanna cry,
Their joys provoke the distant sky,
Where thrones and seraphims reply,
And their own angels shine and sing
In a bright ring:
Such young, sweet mirth
Makes heaven and earth
Join in a joyful symphony.

Vaughan’s poem is beautiful, and the image of earth and heaven in unison is touching, but I think the power of Palm Sunday is much more earthy and earthly than that.  Jesus rides in on a donkey.  I’m sorry I cannot help myself returning to G.K. Chesterton and his poem, simply called ‘The Donkey:’

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools!  For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

Chesterton sees the humble and the despised lifted up to divine use.  And certainly this is the very core of the gospel, that the uglyness and messiness of our lives can be redeemed by God’s love.  However, we would be mistaken if we saw Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey as a symbol of Jesus humility.  Riding into a city on a donkey was not a sign of humility, but a sign of Kingship.  A King at war would ride into a city on a horse, but a King coming in peace would ride a donkey.  The crowd certainly understood the symbolism, and hailed Jesus as ‘the Son of David’.

Jesus is defiant as he walks toward his fate.  The crowd, along with the disciples are delirious.  The disciples were euphoric – they thought this was their time of triumph was at hand…  They were marching with confidence into the stronghold of their enemies.  Surly they came to pull down the authorities that condemned them and their leader.  Surely their Messiah would oust the Romans.  Surely the Kingdom of God was at hand, and this was the pivotal moment.

The Kingdom of God was at hand.  This was the moment that Jesus ministry had been building up to, but it was not how the disciples imagined as they cried ‘Hosanna’ on the first Palm Sunday.  If they really knew what it was all about they would not desert Jesus on Good Friday, leaving the women followers to quietly keep the faith.

They came to Jesus for many reasons.  A famous person, doing something unusual in public always gathers a crowd, and Jesus was famous.  He was famous because of the healings that had been reported, and many people would have gathered to see a miracle – to see some magic worked.  Others heard of his criticisms for the religious authorities, and many would have liked that, and come to see the pompous be deflated by this bolshey satirist, whose jibes about logs in eyes of the authorities, and ‘whitewashed tombs’ were the toast of every disreputable inn in Palestine.  Others would have heard the rumours that Jesus was the Messiah, and gathered to see if he really could do away with the Romans.  Perhaps I’m biased, having been brought up in Northern Ireland, but I imagine that it was those desiring political independence, who wanted the Romans to go home, that made up the bulk of the crowd.

Yet in Palm Sunday are traces of Good Friday.  Jesus’ defiance would make him powerful enemies, and the crowds that chant “Hosanna” are soon chanting “crucify him.”

My next poem is  by Marie J. Post, a 20th Century poet and hymn writer who suggest parallels between Palm Sunday and Good Friday in her poem, entitled simply “Palm Sunday:”

Astride the colt and claimed as King
that Sunday morning in the spring,
he passed a thornbush flowering red
that one would plait to crown his head.

He passed a vineyard where the wine
was grown for men of royal line
and where the dregs were also brewed
into a gall for Calvary’s rood.

A purple robe was cast his way,
then caught and kept until that day
when, with its use, a trial would be
profaned into a mockery.

His entourage was forced to wait
to let a timber through the gate,
a shaft that all there might have known
would be an altar and a throne.

The joyful hosannas of today will soon be drowned out by the crowd baying ‘crucify him!”  We can only really understand Palm Sunday in the context of the week that follows.

It is Jesus’ courage here, and in the turning over of the money changers tables in the Temple that make his opponents take action, but it it in his courage that we see meaning of Jesus’ ministry writ-large.  His opposition to the misuse of power and his insistence that God’s love is for everybody, not just the social or religious elite.

By coincidence the poems I have chosen are in chronological order of being written, so finally contemporary Canadian poet Carol Penner reflects in her poem “Coming to the City Nearest You” that the events of Palm Sunday and Holy Week are not simply historical events; they are present realities.

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you.
Jesus comes to the gate, to the synagogue,
to houses prepared for wedding parties,
to the pools where people wait to be healed,
to the temple where lambs are sold,
to gardens, beautiful in the moonlight.
He comes to the governor’s palace.

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you,
to new subdivisions and trailer parks,
to penthouses and basement apartments,
to the factory, the hospital and the Cineplex,
to the big box outlet centre and to churches,
with the same old same old message,
unchanged from the beginning of time.

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you
with his Good News and…
Hope erupts! Joy springs forth!
The very stones cry out,
“Hosanna in the highest,
blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
The crowds jostle and push,
they can’t get close enough!
People running alongside flinging down their coats before him!
Jesus, the parade marshal, waving, smiling.
The paparazzi elbow for room,
looking for that perfect picture for the headline,
“The Man Who Would Be King”.

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you
and gets the red carpet treatment.
Children waving real palm branches from the florist,
silk palm branches from Wal-mart,
palms made from green construction paper.
Hosannas ringing in churches, chapels, cathedrals,
in monasteries, basilicas and tent-meetings.
King Jesus, honoured in a thousand hymns
in Canada, Cameroon, Calcutta and Canberra.
We LOVE this great big powerful capital K King Jesus
coming in glory and splendour and majesty
and awe and power and might.

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you.
Kingly, he takes a towel and washes feet.
With majesty, he serves bread and wine.
With honour, he prays all night.
With power, he puts on chains.
Jesus, King of all creation, appears in state
in the eyes of the prisoner, the AIDS orphan, the crack addict,
asking for one cup of cold water,
one coat shared with someone who has none,
one heart, yours,
and a second mile.
Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you.
Can you see him?

Can these bones live? a sermon by Margaret Offerman

ImageCan these bones live?  asked Ezekiel

Yes they can, said Jesus.

The fourth gospel is the most carefully crafted and most literary of all the gospels.  The narrative is quite different from the other three.  The nativity story for example, lacks reference to a manger or shepherds or Mary and Joseph.  Instead the birth of Jesus is set in a cosmic context.  Taking his cue from the writings of Plato, the fourth gospel writer presents Jesus as a pre-existent unity with God who becomes incarnate at a particular moment in human time and shows the world the glory of God in human form.  God the risk-taker.

John’s gospel is stylish.  It’s full of symbolism.  A vast crowd is filled with real bread and later in a long digression from the  narrative, Jesus explains his role as the bread of life.  And at the end he identifies his betrayer by giving him a piece of bread, a sign that he is putting his life into Judas’s hand.  At the beginning of his ministry he performs a miracle with water;  then at Jacob’s well he asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water and presents himself as living water: whoever drinks the water that I shall give will never be thirsty again.  Whereas the other three gospels, though they’re certainly not biographies of Jesus, are close to the style of  traditional narrative,    John’s gospel is elliptical and full of abstractions and revealed meanings.

The long story of the resurrection of Lazarus which we’ve just heard is one of the most detailed and complex episodes in any of the gospels.  There are several resurrection stories in the NT,  like the raising of Jairus’s daughter  and the widow’s son at Nairn.  We have to ask ourselves what they mean.

There’s another Lazarus story in the NT, in Luke chapter 16.  It’s  the parable of the rich man, Dives,  and Lazarus,  the  leper.  In it, the rich man ignores the plight of the leprous beggar who sits at his gate hoping to be given scraps which fall from the rich man’s table.   But when they both die and Lazarus is carried off to heaven, the rich man, in the torment of hell asks that Lazarus can be sent to him with water to slake his thirst.  He’s told that this is impossible.  Just as there had been in life, so in death between him and Lazarus there’s a great gulf fixed;  there had been a gulf of the inequality of their status, income, lifestyle.  Now there’s a gulf in the treatment they’re experiencing after death.  The rich man begs that at least Lazarus could be resurrected so that he could return to earth and warn the rich man’s brothers of the fate that awaits them if they continue to ignore the poor who sit at their gates.  But Abraham, the mouth piece of God,  tells them sternly that they have all ignored the words of the prophets and will not be convinced, even if someone should return from the dead.  There can be no resurrection for the hard-hearted.

This parable must have been part of the oral tradition which Luke drew on when he was writing his gospel and which John would have known.  It’s surely no coincidence that John uses the same name for the character in his resurrection story.  Both Lazaruses experience a new life, free from the constraints of their former lives; now they are living a life in God.

The resurrection  of Lazarus in John’s gospel in  many ways is a pre-echo of the story of Easter morning.   The parallels are there: Lazarus was buried in a tomb;  the tomb was sealed with a stone;  a woman called Mary stood outside the tomb weeping;  the body was bound with strips of cloth with a separate cloth wrapped round the head.  

What’s the significance of this story?  

The writer is clear.  The point of this story is to show the hand of God working miracles through Jesus even when the situation seemed totally hopeless. 

There are still many people in the church and outside it who seek in God the kind of supernatural power that will break into natural law and overturn it.  

I’m not one of those people.  But I’m deeply moved by this story, the story of desolation being overcome.  

The story contains elemental aspects of the grieving process.  There’s an intense sense of loss, masked to a certain extent by ritual – the preparation of the body, the ceremonies of burial.  There’s anger –  Martha confronts Jesus.  If you had been here my brother would not have died.  The crowd of friends and family say, He opened the eyes of a blind man; surely he could have prevented this man’s death.   There’s a feeling of impotence – Jesus wept.  His first reaction is profound sorrow so that the onlookers cease to think of Lazarus in their amazement at the depth of Jesus’s love for him.  There’s a need for people to come together and support each other in their mourning.  The story conforms to our experience of bereavement, of abandonment.  

When Jesus called  Lazarus from the tomb, he ordered  the onlookers, Unbind him.  Let him go free.  At Bethany, Lazarus was raised to new life and became part of the Passover celebration which began with the anointing of Jesus in Lazarus’s house, followed by the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the washing of the disciples’ feet and the last supper .  

I see the story as an extended  metaphor,  like the story of Ezekiel and the dry bones.  The monumental piles of bones which represented the history of the house of Israel were enfleshed by the hand of God and brought back to life.  God said: I will put my spirit within you and you will live.  Even the Israelites in despair, in exile, with no apparent possibility of returning to freedom in their own homeland can be offered the promise of new life and hope.  

I hesitate to tempt Providence but I feel that in the C/E we might be tottering slowly to the threshold of a resurrection.  It’s just possible that this year, the long march to the consecration of a woman bishop might be coming to an end.  And last week the law allowing same sex couples to marry came into effect and the media were full of scenes of great rejoicing as men and women were able to affirm their loving relationships.   Anglican bishops had reacted to the passing of the new law by saying that there could be no blessing of these relationships in church, and certainly not a marriage ceremony.  But a few Anglican priests said that they were going to defy their bishops, some by conducting same sex weddings and some by actually marrying their same sex partner.  Adam Smallbone, BBC 2’s Rev, agonised over a request by two friends that he would marry them He settled for a mealy mouthed compromise in the form of a few wishy washy prayers.  Then he pulled himself together and married them.  The archdeacon, who had affected to be angry with Adam ended the episode by putting his telescope to his deaf ear.  It was funny, though I felt like crying.  Can’t we see a new life when it’s staring us in the face?

David Jenkins, the former bishop of Durham who caused huge controversy 20 years ago with his remark that the resurrection must be more than a conjuring trick with bones, also said that he wanted to shout at  people: don’t tell me that you believe in the resurrection Show me that you do.   

Remember the words of Hosea: Yahweh has torn us but he will heal us;  He has struck us down but he will bind up our wounds.  He will bring us back to life.  On the third day he will raise us and we will live in his presence.

We have to be free to receive God’s spirit within us so that we can live in his presence, NOW.