Saturday, April 29, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 29 April 2017

When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ 
John 6. 19,20

Many today, faced with the divinity of Christ, react with their emotions. They are afraid and hide their fear by claiming such things can not be. But such things are. And Christ tells us we have no reason to fear.

Friday, April 28, 2017

prayer diary Friday 28 April 2017

When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ 
John 6.12

Christ told his followers that nothing should be wasted. Neither should we waste anything, whether from that with which God blesses us of the fruits of the earth, or of any opportunity to share the word of God with all who come near.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 27 April 2017

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' 
John 14.6

This is a hard truth for modern ears. And even harder to share in a world so quick to take offense at anything proclaimed as an absolute truth. But share it we must, for it is part of the truth that God so loved the world that he sent his Son into it to proclaim.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 26 April 2017

'the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.' 
John 3. 19

People would not listen to Christ and crucified him instead. But as he died for our sins, by continuing in our sins we show our love for the darkness rather than the light. Repent, therefore, of your evil and enter into the light that is Christ.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 25 April 2017 (St Mark)

'and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.' 
Mark 13.13

Christ warned his disciples of the consequences of following him. Should we not then expect to be persecuted by those who hold to the popular opinions of the day? And if we are not a thorn in their side should we not ask ourselves why we are not.

Monday, April 24, 2017

prayer diary Monday 24 April 2017 (St Joseph of Nazareth)

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son.’
Matthew 1. 22,23

The gospels tell us St Joseph was a righteous man. His faith was rewarded by his being accorded the privilege of being the foster-father of God himself.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

St Thomas: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed

May my words be in the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today's reading shows us the last time in the Gospels that we hear St Thomas speaking. It is the occasion for which he is most remembered, the one which earned him the sobriquet 'Doubting Thomas.' It occurs to few, I believe, to think back to the first time we hear this holy Apostle speak in the Gospels in a passage we read only a few weeks ago just before the beginning of Holy Week. I refer, of course, to the passage in St John's Gospel recording the events around our Lord's raising of Lazarus from the dead. You may recall on that occasion that Jesus' followers were anxious about his plans to go to Bethany. The Jews, they knew, had only recently attempted to stone their master. Returning to Judea so soon after would be dangerous for him; and, we may note, also for anyone with him. So they are glad when he delays going; and alarmed when he announces that he intends going after all. And, with all around him afraid, St John records his fellow-apostle speaking some remarkable words: St Thomas says 'Let us go also, that we may die with him.' He considers going to Judea to be a grave risk – but he nonetheless is willing to face death rather than abandon his master.
So he was a man of great courage. And his bravery is also revealed in the passage we heard read today – even though it is easy to miss it. Most are too caught up in St Thomas' refusal to accept what the other disciples who have seen Jesus try to tell him to consider a very important implication revealed in the fact that he was missing for the time when our Lord first revealed himself to his Apostles. He was not there. All the rest of Jesus' followers kept themselves hidden for fear of the Jews. And yet St Thomas was not there. He alone of them all does not keep himself hidden. He is not afraid to go out and about in Jerusalem among the people who seized his master, subjected him to a mockery of a trial, and then condemned to death on a cross.

We may ask ourselves why such a man, a man not only of such great courage but who also was so deeply devoted to our Lord, unafraid to face death for his sake, may have doubted that his master had Risen from the dead? But this is something I believe we must not be too hard on him for. Doubt is, after all, quite a normal thing – especially in the face of extraordinary events such as these. We may also note that the other disciples also doubted when they were first told of our Lord's Resurrection. The woman who went to the tomb on that morning told them of the Empty Tomb and how they has seen the Lord Risen and Alive. But they did not believe them. It was not until they saw the Lord for themselves that they believed. We may also consider the words of the Church Father St Gregory concerning this – that it was no accident that St Thomas was absent when our Lord first appeared, but rather it was something intended by God for our benefit. Indeed, that it was part of God's plan seems beyond dispute. Our Lord could easily have timed his appearance so that all of his Apostles were there; that he did not must have been deliberate. And he knew how St Thomas would react to the news of his first appearance; just as he knew how he would react on being present at the second.
What are the ways in which we benefit? First that our Lord allows St Thomas to touch him, proving the Resurrection was no mere spiritual event. Christ had risen indeed in bodily form; if it were not so, then St Thomas could not have touched him. Next there is St Thomas' truly wondrous declaration of faith: My Lord and my God! The Risen Lord is addressed as God by one of his disciples – and he does not reject his words or rebuke him for using them. Indeed, he confirms them by saying to St Thomas 'because you have seen me, you have believed.' The Resurrection is intended to confirm to all men that Christ is God – and St Thomas is the first one not only to recognise this but to declare what it means publicly. Finally, St Thomas' initial doubts allow our Lord to directly bless all Christians who would come after him: blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed. We should bask in those words, savour them, glory in them. Christ himself has pronounced his blessing upon our faith; God himself has proclaimed that we are blessed by our faith in him.

Because of all that I have already said, I have never liked the fact that many have given St Thomas the title 'doubting.' St Thomas through whom God himself has blessed us might be better. Or perhaps St Thomas the bravest of the Apostles. He, after all, was the one who declared he was willing to die for Christ even before he understood that he was God incarnate. And when he did understand, he lived that declaration out in its fullest sense. Like all the Apostles, save St John the beloved disciples and writer of the Gospel that bears his name, St Thomas died a martyrs death; he took the faith to India, where the Church he founded still remains and today is nearly 30 million strong. I pray that all here will be inspired by his witness, declaring for themselves daily 'My Lord and my God' in response to the Gospel witness; and thereby hearing in their hearts from now until the end of the ages our Lord's words spoken directly to them 'Blessed are you who have not seen and yet have believed.' Amen. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 22 April 2017

Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.' 
Mark 16.14, 15

Christ calls us all to proclaim to the world not only that he is risen, but what his Resurrection means for all. To do otherwise shows a lack of faith and stubbornness of heart.

Friday, April 21, 2017

prayer diary Friday 21 April 2017

Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ 
John 21. 5-6

Christ's words that day to his apostles recall the events of when he first called them to him, telling them that they would be fishers of men. It reminds us that our work continues and that we must strive daily to make disciples of all people.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 20 April 2017

Jesus said ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see.' 
Luke 24. 38,39

Christ's Resurrection was both spiritual and physical. Death could not hold him and so body and soul together broke free of the tomb. Therefore we can be sure that the eternal life he promised waits for all who love him and show that love by hearing and obeying his word.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 19 April 2017

Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. 
Luke 24.35

Each time we gather round the Lord's Table he makes himself known to us in the breaking of the bread. How blessed are we that we can share in the intimate experience of those who journeyed with him on the road to Emmaus whenever we gather to celebrate the Eucharist together.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 18 April 2017

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her. 
John 20.18

We also encounter the Risen Lord daily in our lives. Like Mary we must proclaim this good news to others and be his witness to all the world.

Monday, April 17, 2017

prayer diary Monday 17 April 2017

Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 
Matthew 28.9

The joy of the disciples at the Resurrection of Jesus found its natural expression in immediate worship. So too must we be filled with this joy each day and worship our Lord who has risen from the dead and in so doing has vanquished death for us all.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

the good thief and the birth of hope at Easter

May my words be in the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today we have come to the end of our journey through the desert; our 40 days in the Wilderness has come to an end and we have emerged from the desolate places into a wonderful oasis, the joyful Paradise that is Easter Day. And why is it that we rejoice – because the Lenten Fast is over? No; for it would make no sense to fast for the sole purpose of rejoicing when we cease to fast. We rejoice because Christ is risen – and what it is that his Resurrection means for us.

And what does that Resurrection mean for us? Well, consider a man, justly condemned to death. The morning for his execution comes and he is taken from his cell. And then as he stands at the foot of the steps of the Gallows, instead of being forced to ascend, he is instead set free. Would not such a man rejoice? Of course he would – and yet what Christ has given to us through our Baptism into his Church is even greater than that. For that condemned man must one day face death again in some other form. But we, through our Baptism have gone beyond that; for by his Resurrection Christ has destroyed the power of death; and what was once the end of Life has now become the Gateway to Eternal Life.

And this Eternal Life is something that he offers to all, no matter how terrible as sinner they may have been, what crimes they may have committed, provided they Repent and through themselves upon Christ's mercy. To know this, we have only to think about the life of one person who was also at Calvary with Jesus, a person whom we may forget about as the pain and sorrow of Good Friday are left behind in the joys of Easter Day.

That person is the man who also hung on a cross on Golgotha with Christ. We often refer to him as the 'Good Thief' – but his crimes were surely greater than mere theft, for we have his own words recorded for us in St Luke's Gospel telling us that he was justly condemned. Tradition has given him the name Dismas, and St John Chrysostom tells us that he was both a murderer and a bandit, a man who preyed upon anyone unlucky enough to cross his path, robbing them not only of their goods but their very lives.

A terrible man, then, who has earned his terrible fate – death on a cross. And yet this is the one who rebukes the other criminal who hung on our Saviour's left, asking him does he not fear God, admitting that his crimes are deserving of death, and then turning to Christ, asking him that he remember him when he comes into his Kingdom. Why should such a wretched man do such a thing? Well, St Augustine put forward an interesting idea concerning this matter. He wondered if perhaps this was a man who had been previously baptised. It is of course only a speculation – yet it is a compelling thought. Perhaps this man had once followed Christ – and then turned away from him to go back to his life of Evil. And then after many terrible crimes, after much shedding of innocent blood, he is caught, condemned, and his sentence of death is carried out. And then as he hangs on his cross, his life beginning to ebb away, he recognises his former master. Perhaps the nearness of his own death causes this man who was once a follower of Christ to understand something that all the other disciples, even the Apostles themselves, failed to understand …he alone sees through the Cross to the Resurrection and the Empty Tomb … he alone sees that the suffering of the man beside him does not indicate failure but a triumph.

It does not really matter whether it was because he was former disciple or simply a deeply sinful man blessed with a sudden flash of divine insight that caused him to ask Jesus to remember him. Whatever his reason, he received as his answer the wonderful words – truly, I tell you that this day you will be with me in Paradise - by which Christ meant Heaven, as St Ambrose assures us. The criminal on the cross is blessed to hear our Saviour himself assure him that that very day, the moment his sufferings in this life were ended, he would enter into the divine glory which is eternal life.

Dismas, the Good Thief, is also sometimes called the Penitent Thief; and his penitence reminds us of something important – the very thing we celebrate this morning. And that is that it is the birth of hope into the world. The Resurrection of Christ from the dead tells us our lives are more than what we see around us; it tells that by our Baptisms we are born into the hope of Eternal life. It tells that however far we have strayed from the path that God calls all his children to, repentance offers the hope of salvation and eternal life. Dismas, as St Gregory of Nyssa tells us, was bound to his cross, with only his heart and his tongue under his control. Yet this was freedom enough for him to recognise Christ as Lord, freedom enough to accept him as his Saviour. This tells us that no matter how our own lives seem to hem us in, we have that Freedom also – a Freedom that opens to us the Hope that Christ offers – a hope that I pray that all here will joyfully embrace this day and always. Amen. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

prayer diary Easter Eve 2017

And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. 
John 19.42

This day your Saviour's body lies in the tomb. He lies there for you. Let your every act and thought this day reflect your awareness of this.

Friday, April 14, 2017

prayer diary Good Friday 2017

He said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 
John 19.30

Christ died on the cross for you. He who was without sin gave up his life so that sinners might have eternal life. Do not reject the sacrifice that he made for you.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

prayer diary Thursday in Holy Week 2017

Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 
John 13.5

Christ, God and man, was not above the humble service of others. What are the ways in which you are too proud to serve, thinking such actions beneath you?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday in Holy Week 2017

Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ 
John 13.22

Do not in your pride despise Judas. Rather, consider the ways you daily, even hourly, betray your Lord.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday in Holy Week 2017

'Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.'  
John 11.24

Deny yourself that you may die to self and thus bear much fruit for Christ.

Monday, April 10, 2017

prayer diary Monday in Holy Week 2017

'You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’ 
John 11.8

There are some who think themselves too busy with the practical work of the Gospel to spend time in worship. Christ demands both of those who follow him.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 8 April 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him.' 
John 11.47,48

The authorities of his day feared people's faith in Christ. They still do today. This is why they either try to subvert it to their own dark ends or attempt to undermine. But we, faithful to the teaching passed on from the beginning, must stand fast.

Friday, April 7, 2017

prayer diary Friday 7 April 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Many came to him, and they were saying, ‘John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ 
John 10.41

John the Baptist was the last and greatest of the prophets. The people of his time saw that all he told us of Christ was true. John continues to speak to us today through scripture and he continues to testify as to who Christ is and what we can hope for as a result.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 6 April 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

'Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.’ 
John 8.51

By his resurrection we know all of Christ's promises are true. Life eternal awaits those who are faithful to his teaching in the face of all the temptations of this life.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 5 April 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.' 
John 8.31

Those who follow Christ must be obedient to him. Reflect on this when next you find some of his teachings difficult or another tries to tell you they are too hard to bear.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 4 April 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he.' 
John 8.28

It is through the cross that God's plan is fulfilled and on it his Son is revealed to be who he truly is. It is through the cross also that God's plans for us reach fruition and we become who we were created to be. This is why we must take up our own cross and follow Christ.

Monday, April 3, 2017

prayer diary Monday 3 April 2017 ( Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’ 
John 8.11

Christ does not condemn the woman taken in adultery, but he does condemn her sin. His forgiveness is for all, as is his command to go and sin no more.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

'Lazarus, come forth!'

May my words be in the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

In our gospel reading today Jesus stands outside the tomb of his friend and follower Lazarus and commands the dead man to come forth. It is perhaps the best known of all of Jesus' miracles – so well known that the name of the man raised from the dead is often used to describe occasions when a person seems to all but miraculously survive a brush with death. But sometimes familiarity can breed if not contempt then at least a certain comfortableness with the event. We know from the moment the passage begins what is about to happen. And so perhaps something of the awesomeness of what is recorded here can pass us by. We read of Jesus raising the man from the dead and we almost forget to think how remarkable what is recorded here really is. Instead, when we hear how he stood outside the tomb of a man who had been dead and buried for four days and says 'Lazarus, come forth' and the dead man obeys and is restored to his family we should be stricken to our core. For by virtue of the living and inspired word of God in Sacred Scripture we have been made witness to something truly extraordinary – the power of the divine in action. For it is only God that can restore the dead to life.

This point is brought out very clearly in our reading from the prophet Ezekiel, the most famous of all the passages in this book of the Bible, concerning the valley of the dry bones. In it God almost teases the prophet – look at all these bones, and see how dry they are – so dry, as we learn later that no so much as a scrap of flesh remains upon them, not even a withered sinew – can something like this live again, he asks? And the prophet wisely defers to the Almighty, saying that is something that only he can know. And God tells him that these bones will indeed live again; and the reason that they will live is so that he will know that this is indeed the Lord.

And that last point is important, for it is for just the same reason that Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Before he begins his journey to Bethany to where his friend is buried, Jesus tells his disciples that he is glad for their sake that he had not been there to prevent Lazarus from dying – why? So that they will see the divine power he wields, the power over life and death. He says much the same thing to those who stand by the tomb with him, that they are about to see the glory of God. Something that they indeed see when he tells the dead man to come forth.

Jesus intends that those present be awed by what they see, that they be left in no doubt that what they are seeing is the glory of God first-hand. He wants them to understand who it is that stands before, that he is exactly who he claims he is, the Son of God, a person who can say with absolute truth that he and the Father are one – a claim that the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day had no hesitation in understanding was a claim to be God himself – for they, in their wilful blindness refused to believe him and instead accused him of blasphemy, knowing that by what he said he was making himself equal with God.

And this is the point we must not miss – Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead to give witness to his divine authority - not for the sake of restoring his friend to the world. Of course he loves his friend – he weeps at his grave; and he loves Martha and Mary also, the dead man's sisters and it grieves him to see them mourning for their brother. But the lives of all men end in the grave. No, Christ's purpose was to show even though the grave waits for all, the grave does not have to be the end of life. True life, as we read in our Epistle, is the life we have in Christ. Christ calls Lazarus forth from the grave so that all might know that he came into the world so that all men might be saved and have eternal life.

Without this hope it is the world that is the grave; for without this hope our lives are short and meaningless and crumble to dust that are lost in the winds of time after a few short years. But we do have that hope. Christ proved this to us in many ways. And today we see him doing it by calling Lazarus forth from the grave. And by doing so, he does far more than make a single dead man live. He calls us forth all of us who were otherwise dead into eternal life. Christ calls us all forth to share in eternal life with him. The question we must ask ourselves is our we listening … and our we willing to obey him and so enter into the eternal life he offers? This is something that I pray all here will: in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

haiku: web on window

web on window
the fly
behind the glass

Saturday, April 1, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 1 April 2017 (Day of Discipline and Self-denial)

Nicodemus .. asked, ‘Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?’ 
John 7. 50,51

Christ was an innocent victim in all that he suffered for us. Those who opposed him denied him everything, even simple justice. Yet he willingly endured it all for our sake.