Monday, April 30, 2018

prayer diary Monday 30 April 2018

'They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me.' 
John 14.21

Christ calls us to show our love for him by obedience to what he teaches. How then can you fail to do as he commands?

Sunday, April 29, 2018

nothing but the truth

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

I had a phone call from a doctor the other day, a consultant obstetrician. He wanted to talk with me about something that was on his mind, the essence of which is that Ireland has become a very dark place and is becoming darker. It wasn't exactly a random call – he and I had met couple of times – once at a funeral and once as I was leaving the hospital he works in after visiting someone there. From these two brief encounters he had formed the opinion that I was someone who would understand where he was coming from.

I guess he was right because I tend to agree with him. In many ways Ireland is a bright, shiny, modern country – after all we have motorways and smart-phones and broadband … if you live somewhere you can get broadband … but for all the material advances and the trappings of affluence in most lives there is indeed a great darkness hanging over the land … many, I imagine, can't see it … but that would be because it is a spiritual darkness … the kind of darkness that comes when large numbers of people start to think that there really is no such thing as objective truth when it comes to moral and ethical questions and all that really matters is how they feel about the decisions they make …

Theologians have a special name for this way of thinking, this philosophy if you will. Of course they do! They call it relativism. Essentially it consists of the idea that in such matters different people can have different truths. One is not better than the other, each is equally good, equally valid.

But such relativism is not the Christian way. 'I am the true vine,' we hear Jesus say in our reading from St John today. He did not mean by that that he was the true vine for some but not for others. He is the true vine for all. Some, of course, may refuse to accept him as the true vine. That is their choice. God gave us all free will. But their rejection does not lessen the truth of what he says. That is what objective truth is all about. It remains the truth, no matter who rejects it … even if the vast majority reject it.

We, of course, are Christians. This means that we accept the truth of what he told us, the teachings he has passed on to us through the Sacred Scriptures and Traditions of his Church. But even we need to be reminded sometimes that when it comes to the truth, this kind of Truth, you must accept it all. For if you say, either openly or in your heart, that you believe A and B of what Christ taught, but not C, that A and B are necessary for the salvation of souls, but not C, that God surely could not care about C, then you are letting the spiritual darkness of the age enter your own soul; for Christ himself gave that teaching to us as of the truth he taught …

Such a person is surely on dangerous ground indeed, for how can such a one, someone who says I will obey this teaching and that teaching but this other one, this I do not like! This teaching I will not obey and it does not matter because I do not believe in it, even though it is part of the Truth that Christ gave his Church. Can such a one be said to abide in Christ? It is not for me to say; but I would worry for them, and think of our Lord's words in our Gospel reading today – if a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown in the fire, and burned.

Sobering words. Sobering words indeed. But it is important here to remember that there is a difference between someone who rejects Christ's words and being someone who accepts them and occasionally fails to live up to them … or even fails to live up to them often! The first, the one who rejects our Lord's teachings and refuses to believe that he has done anything wrong, they will never ask God's forgiveness and his Grace to do better in the future. The other, they do indeed sin, but they know they sin; they have fallen prey to the many temptations that surround us … but they understand that they have done wrong and ask God's pardon … they repent and ask his strength to do better in the future.

And that strength that they pray for when asking God's forgiveness will be given. For weak and frail though they are, they are the branches that abide in Christ, the branches that, as he tells us also in our reading today, bear much fruit … branches that his Father, the vine-dresser, will prune so that they may bear even more fruit.

This is good news indeed. Good news for us, for we are all sinners; and good news for the world … good news for the world because of something that Christ said elsewhere … that his followers are the light of the world. It is a reflected light, of course, because Christ is the one who is truly the light of the world; but those who follow him faithfully help shine his light into the world.

And this is something that the world desperately needs, threatened as it is by so much darkness. God sent his Son into the world that all might be saved; and the Son sends us and all his followers that his saving word might be known to all. We must pray that all who hear it will choose to be branches that are part of the true vine … and that they will continue always to abide in the vine which is Christ so that they will bear much fruit … just as I pray that all here will abide always in Christ and bear much fruit all through their lives so that at the last they will abide with God forever in heaven - Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 28 April 2018

'Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? ' 
John 14. 9-10

Do not be troubled if you find the oneness of the Son with the Father difficult to understand, for the Apostles themselves found it difficult. Rather consider why it is that you, a limited human being, might think that you should be able to understand all the mysteries of the universe and the One who created it.

Friday, April 27, 2018

prayer diary Friday 27 April 2018

'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 teaching for our age. But they are Christ's own words. Therefore you must believe them, live them, and proclaim them. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 26 April 2018

'Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.’ 
John 12.20

Christ appointed his apostles who in turn laid their hands upon others and so on down to the day. Those who will receive Christ must receive those whom he entrusted with the leadership of his Church and the handing on of his teaching.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 25 April 2018

'The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge.' 
John 12.48

Christ died for us that we might be saved. And those who reject him will be judged according to his Word.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 24 April 2018

'My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.' 
John 10. 27,28

To listen to the voice of the one true shepherd is to be blessed indeed. Those who do know God and are known by him - and at the last will be with Him in Paradise.

Monday, April 23, 2018

prayer diary Monday 23 April 2018

'The sheep follow (the shepherd of the sheep) because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him.' 
John 10. 4,5

Christ is the good shepherd and we are his sheep. If we would hear his voice we must listen only to those who speak with his voice, the voice that is to be heard in Sacred Scripture and the teachings of his Church. From the voice of all others we must flee.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

the faith - what you have signed up for!

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

When I joined the US Army I had to take an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. I remember the day well. We were gathered in a large, low-ceilinged room in a recruiting centre in North Florida. The décor was quite dull, as were all government offices at the time – a very plain, beige carpet, walls painted a nondescript shade of green, and with a scattering of desks and chairs, all the standard government issue gunmetal grey. The only splash of colour was the red, white, and blue of the flag in the presence of which the oath had to be taken.

The people who were to take that oath with me that day varied considerably. They ranged in from late teens to mid-thirties, covering the whole span from youngest to oldest ages at which a person might join up. Some were Black, some Hispanic, some Asian, others, like myself, Caucasian. Perhaps other ethnic groups were represented, but nothing stands out in my memory. The style of dress varied greatly also. Some were in t-shirts and jeans, a few in hoodies; a small number were dressed quite formally, men in suits, women in dresses. The majority would have been somewhere in between – smart casual is the term, I believe – the men wearing proper shirts but no ties with neatly ironed trousers, and the women blouses and skirts.

Really, the whole melting pot that is American society was represented there that day. But whatever their age, ethnicity, or socio-economic background all there had one thing in common: they were all prepared to make a solemn pledge that if need be they would die to defend the values of their society and the democratic way of life.

Most soldiers know, of course, that they will never be called upon to make that ultimate sacrifice. Even in times of war most in uniform have a very good chance, statistically speaking, of avoiding not just death but serious injury as well. But that was not what Jesus was signing up for, so to speak, when he became man. Death was certain. As he says in our Gospel today, He is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep – the sheep being all of mankind, all those who have ever lived or ever will live.

And like a soldier, he laid down his life for a purpose. That purpose was the salvation of all mankind. But unlike a soldier he had the power not only to lay down his life, he had the power to take it up again. And by his rising he destroyed the power that death had over his flock – like him all would die; and like him all would rise again – but to eternal life on the last day.

But until that day comes, he left work for his flock to do. In our Gospel we also hear our Lord speaking of the sheep who are not of this fold who must be brought in also. Jesus was telling his disciples that he had not come only for the Jews, but for all the people of the world. This is a teaching that he would give to his followers more than once – for example at the end of Matthew's Gospel in what is often called the Great Commission where he told them make disciples of all peoples.

And how are we progressing with that work? Well, with over two billion Christians in the world some might think not badly. But if we consider that there are around six billion people in the world there is clearly much that needs to be done. Indeed, perhaps much more than we might first think. Firstly, how many of those two billion are Christians in name only, people who although they are baptised live no differently to those who are not, people who would never dream of allowing the teachings of their faith to interfere with how they live? And secondly, there is our Lord's teaching that there should be one flock and one shepherd. And there is indeed only one shepherd and can be only one, our Lord himself, but the flock is sadly divided into many thousands of different denominations.

So there remains much work to be done. And looking to further words of our Lord's in today's gospel, the place to begin that work is, as always, with ourselves. We must not be as those he condemns as hirelings, who care nothing for the flock. And because Jesus commanded all his followers to make disciples of all nations, all have a role in caring for his flock – both in increasing it by bringing more in and maintaining it by supporting and encouraging those already within the fold in the faith. All, of course, have different roles to play; but there are certain basics that all must fulfil. 

The first is we that must know our faith. This involves both the regular reading of scripture and educating oneself in the teachings of the faith. Studying what the Church teaches did not end with Confirmation class – that was only supposed to be the beginning of a new stage in your journey of faith! 

Next, we must live our faith. Private prayer and regular attendance at public worship are a vital part of this. Those blessed with having the care of children and young people must ensure they are instructed in the faith – part of which is the example of godly living that they see in the home. Decisions, small and especially great, must be proceeded by prayer and careful consideration of what it is that the doctrines of the faith instruct us as to what is right and wrong in particular situations – by which I mean the teachings given by Christ to his Apostles and handed down by his Church generation after generation, not some new and fashionable thought that someone came up with five minutes ago. 

And third and last we must proclaim our faith. I do not mean by this standing on the side of the road holding up a sign that says 'sinner repent!', but rather in our everyday interactions with others. If someone tries to get you involved in some deal that means cheating of some kind – a good price for cash, for example, but no receipts so that the taxman need never know – not only say no, but say why you're saying no. If you are discussing the issues of the day with friends, don't be afraid to make it clear that your Christian faith informs your views. If an election candidates comes knocking on your door, make it clear that if they want your vote they have to represent your values … and if it happens to be someone who said one thing to you last time round and then behaved another once elected, make it clear that they needn't expect your vote this time and why. 

And, of course, when you do vote cast it in accordance with those Christian values. Secularists make no bones about trying to see their values enshrined as matters of public policy – why should a Christian feel it is wrong to also vote in the way he or she feels is right? And, in any case, if Christians will not vote in support of Christians values, then who will?

This may seem like a lot. But really it is not. It is simply a small part of what it is to live as a Christian in the world – something, I will add, that you faithfully promised that you would do as part of the vows you made at Confirmation. These, rather like a soldier's oath, commit you to serve as Christ's witnesses in the world. Such living is not something you will be awarded medals for - indeed, many in the world many condemn you for your fidelity to Christ. But this should not dismay us but rather cheer us. Christ told us to be afraid if the world hates us, for it hated him first; and his followers all through the ages always considered it a great privilege to suffer for the sake of his name. Indeed, we even today we have a title of great honour for those who die for the faith – martyr. But even if our fidelity brings neither medals nor martyrdom, it brings us something greater: eternal life in heaven. And this is something for which we must thank God always: Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 21 April 2018

Jesus said; 'It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.' 
John 6. 63

We worry a great deal about material things – which we indeed need to live. But we must not in pursuing these things neglect those which are more important – those which lead to eternal life.

Friday, April 20, 2018

prayer diary Friday 20 April 2018

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ 
John 6. 52

This is one of the holy mysteries of our faith. Yet we believe, for our Lord said 'this is my body' and told us that he was 'the bread come down from heaven.' And we remember that when those who followed him could not accept this teaching left him, he did not call them back, but rather asked those who remained if they wished to leave also.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 19 April 2018

'I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’ 
John 6.51

Christ died for us and gives us of his flesh to eat in the Holy Eucharist. Partake of this holy food joyfully, humbly, and worthily that you may have eternal life

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 18 April 2018

'This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’ 
John 6. 40

It is never for us to judge who will and will not be saved. But from Christ's words it is clear that those who having seen him refuse to believe in him risk much; therefore pray that their eyes be opened.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 17 April 2018

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.' 
John 6. 35

Christ gives us his very body to eat to strengthen us in our faith. For his is the bread come down from heaven that gives life to the world.

Monday, April 16, 2018

prayer diary Monday 16 April 2018

Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ 
John 6. 29

Our faith in Christ must be reflected in our obedience to his teachings. For, as he taught, those who love him will be obedient to him also; and if you believe in him, you must also love him.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

giving thanks for the Resurrection

Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed – Alleluia!

In our Gospel reading today our Lord, having come to spend time with his disciples, shows that he is truly a living man of flesh and blood and bone. He touches things. He eats food. They both see him and hear him. And at the end of his time with them, he tells they are witnesses to what they have seen and heard and they are to preach to all the nations his good news of penance and remission of sins to all nations.

They were his witnesses. And in this season of the resurrection, it makes me wonder when it was that all here first heard that good news – that Jesus was risen from the dead. Truly, I must say I can not say the precise moment when I first heard that good news. My first memories connected with religion is of when I was a small boy, kneeling with my brother by the side of the bed as our mother taught us our prayers. My sister was too young to be with us, still being a baby in her cot. And as I am two years older than her I must have been somewhere between the ages of two and three. I do not remember the precise moment, as I said, when I first heard the resurrection mentioned; but it was most likely at that young age with my mother and brother.

A few days ago I came across a short video clip on line of a man who remembered precisely when he first heard of the Resurrection. He was an elderly bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Ioan (John) of Timisoara, and he told the story in a very moving way. Allow me to tell you in his own words how it was that he told the story. My telling, I am afraid, will not do justice to the heart-felt emotion with which he told it. You must imagine a very old man with a long white beard; his eyes are full of tears as he speaks; and he says what he has to say very slowly, because he has to stop often, so choked is he with emotion at the memory of what it is that he is recounting:

I will tell you when I received the good news in my life. When I was in the cradle, on Easter night, my mother went to the church for the service of Resurrection. And… She came back home with the lit candle. Leaning over my cradle, making the sign of the cross with the lit candle she whispered to me: “Christ is Risen!” Since then, I believe in the Resurrection, because my mother never lied to meBrothers and sisters, I also believe that your mothers never lied to you…”

He does not give his exact age for when this took place. Now, he says he was in his cradle; but the Romanian word he uses might equally well translate as cot, and as he remembers the details we may estimate that he was a small boy, a toddler, perhaps around two. Why was he so emotional as he told the story? Well, perhaps it was simply because he was an old man being a little bit sentimental, remembering a tender moment from when he was a small child with his mother who has long since gone to her grave. But it is more likely his tears are a combination of joy and sorrow. Joy as he thinks back to the time when his mother gave him the most precious gift one person can give another – the wondrous central truth of our faith that Christ is risen … and sorrow as he thinks of all those who have been offered that great gift, lovingly by their mother, or perhaps their father … only for that gift to be rejected … if not openly, by their child's later failure to lead a Christian life … or even try to do so.

That sorrow would not just be for the one who has so foolishly rejected the gift of eternal life … but also for the pain of all those mothers and fathers who have seen their children chose not the narrow path that leads to life, but the broad one that leads to perdition. For all parents want what is best for their children; this includes, of course, the good things of this life; but far more important are those that lead to eternal life. For no life is a success if it does not end in heaven.

This is why parents, in the Christian tradition, are the primary educators of their children. It is so that they can bring them up in a godly fashion – so they can do for them as Christ commanded his disciples and be his witnesses to them. If all parents took that duty seriously so many of the evils in the world would be eliminated. Parents would go to their graves proud of their children, not because they had a good job or a fancy car, but because they were faithful disciples of Christ. And those same children, when they were old and grey themselves, would weep tears of joy that they had had such parents … parents who loved them enough to give them to gift of faith in Christ … the faith that would bring them one day to the place where they would be with God: Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed – Alleluia!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 14 April 2018

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

Coming near the divinity of Christ can cause us to fear; and that fear can cause us to do foolish things, to draw away, to risk turning from all he offers. Remember that he is truly man as well; and that through your baptism he is your brother and you have no need to fear.

Friday, April 13, 2018

prayer diary Friday 13 April 2018

So they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. 
John 6. 10,11

These words echo the Institution of the Holy Eucharist as found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. As well they might; for Christ is the bread come down from heaven and he feeds all who will draw near to him with the bread of life.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 12 April 2018

'Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.' 
John 3.36

Christ, here in his own words, links the eternal life he offers both with belief in him and obedience to his teachings. Ponder these words deeply and pray that you may both believe and live out his teachings daily in your life.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 11 April 2018

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.' 
John 3.16

Jesus came into the world and died for you. Confess his name, both with your lips and with your life, that you may enter into the eternal life he offers.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 10 April 2018

'If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?' 
John 3. 12

If people will reject what God teaches us through the laws of his natural world, is it any wonder that neither will they believe what he has revealed by his Word?

Monday, April 9, 2018

prayer diary Monday 9 April 2018

‘No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.' 
John 3.5,6

Through the waters of baptism Christ offers us eternal life. However, it is the beginning, not the end in itself. Strengthen yourself, therefore, by prayer and the sacraments, that you may grow in holiness all your days and at the last end in heaven

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Doubting Thomas and weak theories

Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed – Alleluia!

This might well be thought of as the Sunday of Doubting Thomas, for the reading that earned him that nick-name is the traditional one for this day. The reason for its place in our liturgical calendar is obvious. The appearance of our Lord that he 'missed' took place on Easter Day; and the one that he was present for happened exactly one week later, what we would now term as the second Sunday of Easter.

St Thomas, of course, might seem a very appropriate saint to be high-lighted at this time of year. Because even as Christians recall and celebrate the resurrection of Christ from the dead, the doubters and the nay-sayers predictably crawl out of the wood-work to re-cycle all their old anti-religious 'fake news'. Particularly they love to make all sorts of false claims about how Christianity has hi-jacked various pagan festivals and symbols. In this case the hi-jacked occasion would be the celebration of the coming of Spring with Easter; and the hi-jacked symbols would be those associated with fertility such as rabbits and eggs.

So in the interests of what in modern parlance is called 'fact checking' let us examine those claims, beginning with the claim that Christians have somehow tried to take over a pre-existing Spring Festival with Easter. First, let us note that the best lies always contain some small element of truth. So it is indeed true that festivals celebrating the coming of Spring long pre-date Christianity. But what of it? That Christians celebrate Easter during this season has nothing to do with the timing of various pagan festivals. It is rooted in the historical fact that Jesus died on Good Friday, at the beginning of the Jewish Passover festival; and rose from the dead three days later, what we now refer to as the first Easter Day. The suggestion that Christians were somehow acting strategically, picking a time that was already a cause for celebration in wider society so that it could in some way supplant the existing festivals is nonsense that flies in the face of the historical facts. 

Indeed, given that Easter is a movable feast, one whose date can vary by several weeks from one year to the next, one would wonder exactly what pagan festival it is supposed to be taking over. Of course, the purveyors of modern doubt never specify; they merely talk vaguely about pagan festivals without ever identifying exactly which one Easter is supposed to have supplanted.

Some, occasionally, will try to do a little better and talk about how the word Easter comes from the Old English word 'Eostre' which scholars speculate was the name of a pre-Christian Old English goddess. However, by doing so, they merely compound their ignorance. 'Eostre' was the name given to April in the Old English calendar; and because April is the month in which Easter normally falls, with the passage of time, the Christian festival in English became known as Easter. But it is only called Easter in the English language. Originally in Greek and later in Latin it was referred to as 'Pascha', referring to the Passover. It is still known as Pascha in many other languages; and even in English the word Paschal remains – used, for example, to describe the Paschal candle lit during the Easter season. There was never, it should be noted, a spring festival in honour of this goddess as far as we know; a pagan deity, it should be remembered, whose existence remains a theory constructed for the sole purpose of explaining why it is that a month in the Old English calendar should have the name that it did.

Regarding eggs – they are indeed a fertility symbol of long-standing. But their association with Easter has to do with the fact that during Lent Christians traditionally fasted from them, along with meat, dairy, alcohol, and other items. It became the custom to paint eggs and give them to children as treats once the fast was over; and the tradition continued even after the practice of fasting from them during Lent was abandoned in the Western Church. As for the Easter Bunny – well, given their fast-paced breeding, rabbits have not surprisingly long been associated with fertility.

But the association of rabbits and Easter is a rather late development. Children today have no idea how lucky they are – for having done some historical research of the matter it would seem that the Easter Bunny made his first appearance in the late 17th Century, less than 350 years ago. Why he should have done so then and not before is a matter that is shrouded in mystery; but the fact remains that for most of Christian history there was no bunny bearing eggs to children; and by the time he appeared paganism was long vanished from our society. The idea that he is some kind of Christian hi-jacking of some old pagan symbol is simply too ludicrous to take seriously.

Interestingly, these rather lame theories are put forward by those who claim to be too intelligent to be taken in by the foolishness of religion. Of course, if they were really as smart as they think they were they wouldn't keep repeating their tired old claims about Christians festivals. But instead they cling to them and continue to repeat them no matter how often their errors are refuted. They could learn a lot from St Thomas. He may have doubted for a short time; but once he was confronted from the truth he turned from his error and uttered the words for he should be better remembered, the words which made him the first to directly acknowledge the divinity of Christ: my Lord and my God. That is the truth that we celebrate in this season; a truth that has withstood all the foolish errors, half-truths, and deliberate falsehoods that the world has thrown at it down through the ages … and will continue to do so until the end of the ages. For Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed – Alleluia!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

prayer diary Saturday 7 April 2018

'I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.' 
Mark 16. 12,13

Christ promised he would never leave us. And indeed he did not, for he sent his Holy Spirit to guide us.

Friday, April 6, 2018

prayer diary Friday 6 April 2018

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 
John 21.4

We read many times in the Gospels that Jesus' disciples had difficulty recognising him after the resurrection. Perhaps we can make it easier to recognise him ourselves by remembering that we are called to see him in the face of all we meet.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

prayer diary Thursday 5 April 2018

He said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. 
Luke 24. 42-43

The risen Lord proved himself to his disciples to be a real flesh and blood person that truly walked among them. Is it any wonder that they were willing to witness to the faith unto death, knowing now that the power of death had indeed been broken?

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

prayer diary Wednesday 4 April 2018

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. 
Luke 24. 30, 31

Great was the joy of the men who journeyed to Emmaus when they recognised our Lord in the breaking of the bread! Great must our joy be also, we who like them are priveleged to meet with him in the breaking of the bread.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

prayer diary Tuesday 3 April 2018

‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death.' 
John 20.18

Even as Jesus had warned them of his death, he had told his disciples of his resurrection; and still they were bewildered when it happened. Do not be too quick to think that you understand all that it means for you; prayerfully and with great wonder ponder this awesome event.

Monday, April 2, 2018

prayer diary Monday 2 April 2018

So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 
Matthew 28. 8

The reaction of the women to the empty tomb was both fear and joy. Joy the grave no longer held their master; but fear as to what all this might mean. Therefore, even as you rejoice in the resurrection, tremble also as to what it means for you.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed – Alleluia!

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed – Alleluia!

We gather here this morning to celebrate one of the greatest historical events that has taken place since the beginning of the world – the Resurrection of our Lord. I use the word 'historical' deliberately – for ours is a faith that is grounded in history, in things that took place at certain places and at certain times, happenings which we need have no doubt are completely and utterly true. And we know that they are true because the documentary evidence that supports the facts that took place during our Lord's time on this earth are more varied and of greater reliability than we have for any other event that took place around that time.

Some will say the Gospels and the other New Testament writings are not to be trusted because the writers had an agenda. But all writers have an agenda. Why should a writer be trusted more because he wishes to glorify some military or political leader than one who wishes to share the good news of Jesus Christ? If we are to apply such a standard fairly, then we must say that there is nothing we know from written sources of what happened in the Ancient World that can be relied upon. Most would, rightly, regard such a position as nonsense; and therefore the idea that the facts as related to us as in Scripture as to the details of our Lord's life are not to be trusted are equally nonsensical. The same standards must apply to both; what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

This means that the events that took place in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover Festival in the year of our Lord thirty-three are to be accepted as absolute fact. Jesus did indeed enter the city to the acclamation of the crowds shortly before the festival began. A few days later one of his own closest disciples betrayed him for money and handed him over to his enemies, the religious authorities of the city. They, regarding him as a danger to their own power and as someone who might bring down the wrath of the Roman overlords upon the region, conspired against him, falsely accusing him of blasphemy to turn the people against him, and of fomenting rebellion so that the Romans would have cause to execute him. The governor, Pilate, saw through their deception, but allowed the execution anyway rather than risk a riot in the city and out of fear that the Jewish leaders would send false reports about him also to Rome. And so Jesus was scourged, made to carry his cross, and crucified. And after a few hours upon the cross, he died and was buried by two members of the Council, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, while women from his group of followers watched.

All are happy, whatever their religious persuasion or none, to accept this account of what happened in Jerusalem during those frightful days. And had the story ended there, no one would have raised any issues. It would simple be the tale of a holy man like Buddha, who lived and died; or a wise man like Socrates, conspired against by his enemies and executed. But the story does not end there; and that is what makes it one of the greatest historical events to ever take place. For Jesus did not remain in the grave – he rose from the dead. Such things do not happen say the scoffers. But the evidence that he did is just as good as it is for the facts concerning how he died; to believe those and refuse to believe the rest is to fail to be consistent. These are the historical facts. Jesus lived. Jesus died. And Jesus rose from the dead.

Not only is this true, it is something that all should want to be true. For it is a truth that gives ultimate meaning to all our lives. Without it the coming into being of the universe is an inexplicable occurrence; the existence of life is a matter of highly unlikely random chance; and that there is intelligent life is even more unbelievably unlikely. Without it all our lives are just the blink of the eye in the vastness of eternity – we came into being for no reason, our brief time consciousness is without significance, and soon we will die and all too quickly what we have done will be forgotten … even those lucky few whose lives and deeds are remembered for a short number of decades or even centuries after their deaths are little better off, for time will consume the universe and everything that exists will fade into nothingness.

But we know that this is not the case. We know this because Jesus rose from the grave, proving to us and all the world that what he told us was true. We have a God who loves us so much that he became man for our sakes; a God who made both the world and us; a God who created us so that once our lives on this earth was over, might live with him for all eternity in heaven.

And we know this to be true not just because it is something that we want to be true, not just because it is something that are hearts know to be true in spite of what logic and reason tell us, but because the plain and simple historical facts, documented and attested beyond all doubt, tell us that it is true. This day all those many years ago Jesus rose from the dead and left behind him an empty tomb – breaking the bonds of death for all and letting us know that our lives and every life is precious and full of meaning – not just now but into all eternity. No wonder we celebrate this day – it is something that we should celebrate every day for the rest of our time on this earth – and then, please God, continue celebrating with him throughout all eternity. For Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed – Alleluia!

Examin: Easter Day

By his Resurrection Christ indeed proved that he was who he said he was and that he had broken the bonds of death for all mankind. But the salvation he bought for us came at a terrible price, his suffering and death which he willingly bore. Do not ever take that for granted, thinking you may sin and sin and that the price for it all has been paid. For the salvation that comes by the Cross requires sorrow for your sins and repentance; followed by obedience and striving daily for holiness.