#40: Resurrection life

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world. (John 11:17-27) Continue reading “#40: Resurrection life”

#39: Cloud of witnesses

This passage follows on from a long list of ancestors in the faith: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart … Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:1-3, 12-13) Continue reading “#39: Cloud of witnesses”

#35: Resist false teachings

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ They said to one another, ‘It is because we have brought no bread.’ And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, ‘You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!’ Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:5-12) (You may recall that Jesus elsewhere criticises the Pharisees for their insistence on ritual purity and a moralistic legalism, all the while maintaining a hardness of heart.)  Continue reading “#35: Resist false teachings”

#30: Entering another’s pain

In this story, Jesus ‘had compassion’ on the crowds. At least, that’s how it’s usually, politely, translated. A more accurate translation is that his ‘guts wrenched.’: Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. (Matthew 9:35-38) Continue reading “#30: Entering another’s pain”

#24: The faith of friends

And after getting into a boat he crossed the water and came to his own town. And just then some people were carrying a paralysed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’ Then some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he then said to the paralytic—‘Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.’ And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings. (Matthew 9:1-8) Continue reading “#24: The faith of friends”

#18: According to your faith

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you.’ And their eyes were opened. (Matthew 9:27-30) Continue reading “#18: According to your faith”

We need to talk about hell

Hell is the location of human violence, not God’s; “indeed, it did not even enter my mind.” (Jeremiah 7:31) (Listen.)

Some of us grew up with threats of hell, that burning lake of fire and brimstone into which the sinful will be cast at death to their everlasting fiery torment. Given how regularly hell comes up in many a church’s preaching and in popular culture, and given how graphically it is described, you might wonder why I never mention it. Am I avoiding all the nasty bits of the Bible? Well, no—but I think it’s time we had that little chat: we need to talk about hell. Continue reading “We need to talk about hell”

Remembering the cloud of witnesses

The night Great-Aunty Pete died, she came to my mother on the other side of the country and said goodbye in a dream. After Lindsay died, he came to my kitchen while I was cooking dinner. In his life, he had intellectual and emotional disabilities; when he appeared in my kitchen, he was wise and mature and laughing. He told me not to worry about him anymore: everything was just fine. And I’m sure many of you have similar stories, where the dead have presented themselves to the living, and provided words of love and reassurance. Continue reading “Remembering the cloud of witnesses”

#20: Find your voice: #40ways40days

Jesus said to the crowd: ‘When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.’ (Luke 12:11-12)

It was one of those sombre drizzly grey days of winter. The large car entered the cemetery. A young couple got out of the back seat and walked over to the grave site. I quickly put on my alb and priestly stole and joined them, prayer book in hand. The funeral director opened the boot of the car and lifted out a white box, scarcely bigger than a shoe box. It was the coffin of the couple’s first child. Continue reading “#20: Find your voice: #40ways40days”

Pell-mell to the cross

It is Lent, and one of the most powerful men in the Catholic church has just been sentenced to jail for the sexual assault of two altar boys. It reminds me of a terrible story by the Jewish writer Elie Wiesel, which is based on his experiences in Nazi concentration camps. Three people were sentenced to hanging for sabotage, among them a young boy. The two men died quickly, but the boy, too light, writhed and swung between life and death for over half an hour. Continue reading “Pell-mell to the cross”

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