Tag Archives: Jerusalem
There were a few more people in the boat that morning than we can see here: Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathaniel, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples; seven of them altogether. I can see how they’d have wanted to get Jerusalem out of their hair, and in any case, the message was to get themselves back to Galilee. And once there, it made sense to go fishing, just as it made sense to the children in yesterday’s picture to go fishing. They preferred the river to the lough, and could charm little trout onto a bent pin dangling from a hazel rod, putting us to admiring shame, but I digress – a little.
We, after all, were amateurs. Peter was a professional, whose livelihood depended on a good catch. Had he lost his touch? He’d lost his brash self-confidence …
The stranger on the shore could see the shoal through the mist, but Peter the professional could bring the fish in.
The story in John 21 is familiar enough: as on Easter morning, John gets the picture before Peter, but it’s Peter who jumps in and staggers ashore; Peter who is challenged three times, three challenges that allow him to accept forgiveness for three denials; Peter who is commissioned three times. And Peter leaves the lorry behind – or at least the aspirations to a better life that Joe’s lorry stands for in yesterday’s story. Peter’s vocation now was not to be a fisherman but a fisher of men, a feeder of the five, ten, hundred thousand sheep and more, even down to us today.
There’s good in the heart of the likes of Joe’s dad, working hard, denying himself to provide for his family with a lorry he could earn more money from. No wonder Joe was proud of him! And then some of us are called to leave our father’s house and spread the love of the risen Lord. Come to think of it, that’s you and me as well. We should all be ready to share the love, even with a simple smile to a stranger whenever we leave the house (and perhaps at home as well; but that can be a real challenge!)
I am writing this at the beginning of Holy Week, the week in which Christians around the world recall the journey Jesus made into Jerusalem, and ultimately to his death on Good Friday and through to his Resurrection on Easter Day. It is a journey that takes him into Jerusalem, riding upon a donkey, that in itself being a sign of peace. He goes onto washing the feet of his closest friends (a job normally undertaken by a servant), before sharing a meal with them, and asking that every time they break bread and share wine together they do so ‘in remembrance of me’. During the meal he is betrayed by a close friend, and eventually arrested, before being brought before the High Priests, is flogged and then Crucified. For many this they thought was the end, Jesus was dead, only to discover that Jesus was in fact alive, he had risen from the dead on that first Easter morning. The tomb was empty, Christ had Risen! And was witnessed by over 500 people on 12 separate occasions.
In our Baptism we die with Christ, so that we might be born again with Christ, a new life with him, and in doing so in the knowledge that in believing in Christ we too will have this eternal life (John 3:15). I often look at what nature tells us. In the autumn, when nights are drawing in we plant seeds into the cold dark soil, only in the spring to find an abundance of new life that has emerged from the darkness. Likewise, with the dawn chorus, when it is still dark, the birdsong announces a new day and ‘the light shines in the darkness, and darkness has not overcome it’ (John 1:5).
As we approach Easter, we do so in the knowledge that we have to journey down, to then be lifted up; we have to walk with Christ through the depths of Good Friday, to be raised up high on Easter Day with our heads held high.
Like a mother hen protecting her young, Christ died that we might live, and by believing in him we too have that eternal life, and all in the knowledge of God’s grace and unconditional love for each and every one of us.
Wishing you all a Blessed Holy Week & Easter.
Rev. Jo Richards April 2019
Rev. Jo Richards is the rector at Saint Mildred’s Church in Canterbury, where L’Arche have our garden project.
Scripture references: Matthew 16:13-23, Get behind me; Luke 23:28, John 19:20-22, crowds watching.
Peter recalls when Jesus said that he would be killed, and Peter tried to stop him from going to Jerusalem.
It was a struggle to keep sight of Jesus on the way to Calvary. Not that he could make any speed, weak as he was, and with the soldiers, the crowds watching him go by, the hundreds who seemed to be following him.
I heard he had fallen, even with Simon on hand to help. I saw blood on the stones as I came up behind. Always I was behind him.
‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he once said. And now it comes to this: what was God thinking of?
And now it comes to my turn. Lord I am behind you, but not far behind now!
Jesus, remember me, when you come into your Kingdom!
The second part of Rupert’s reflection on the Crucifixion.
The Centurion by Rupert Greville.
Luke’s Gospel records that it was on seeing the signs that followed Jesus’s death that the centurion declared him to be “a righteous man”. It seems likely to me that he might also have witnessed the conversation between the two thieves and Jesus, and that if he had heard it, he would not have been unmoved by Jesus’s extraordinary compassion.
We led him out beyond the city gate
Onto the hill, where women wept for grief,
And mockers jeered and spat with studied hate;
We nailed him there, with either side a thief.
Our dismal task, on raising up the three,
To watch them writhe and die in sickening pain;
But now a thief, bound fast against his tree,
Enrolled himself in this Messiah’s reign.
A merciless morning sun in that place of death
Had welded wounds to wood; scourged back with torn skin
Glued, then prised away each laboured breath;
He spoke as one who knew him, one who cared,
And promised paradise with him that very day;
In shameful death he blessed! I stood and stared,
Seized by the power of what I’d heard him say:
Words of life. But I Rome’s servant sworn –
A lifeless soul, unmoved by death or pain:
That cold indifference died, and hope was born
There on that hill and in this man we’d slain.
Rupert Greville is a member of the L’Arche Kent Community.
The print that illustrates yesterday’s post and today’s can be found in the public domain at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves: The Three Crosses
Rembrandt 1653 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
Orthodox and Roman Catholic tradition names the centurion Longinus, supposing that it was he who drove the lance into Jesus’s side. A number of traditions grew up around him in the early church, among them that he was martyred. As a saint, he is now remembered by Roman Catholics on the 16th. October, though his original feast day was the 15th. March (still kept in the Extraordinary form). He appears in Luke and Mark’s gospels confessing by himself, and in Matthew, confessing together with the other guards. The spearman in John’s gospel is only identified as “one of the soldiers”; we cannot know if this was the centurion himself or one of the soldiers under his command. Nevertheless, responsibility for ensuring that all three crucifixion victims had died would have rested with him.
In this print, Rembrandt depicts the moment of Jesus’s death, after three hours of unnatural darkness. The eye is drawn towards Christ on the cross, but the crowded scene is one of contrasting human responses to revelation. Some run away, others stand in awe. Mary has fainted, overwhelmed by grief. Mounted Roman soldiers continue, unmoved, in their menace, but the centurion kneels at the foot of the cross to declare “Surely this was a righteous man”.
Though Luke doesn’t record that the centurion heard the exchange between Jesus and the two thieves, it seems likely that he would have made it his business to listen. We cannot know at what point during that day he recognised the uniqueness of Jesus among all the men he had executed, from the trial where Pilate declares him to be innocent, up to the time of his death. But I imagine that Jesus’s extraordinary compassion towards an anguished soul (while in the midst of his own suffering) compounds with all the other questions that Jesus had raised in the centurion’s mind that morning – and with this strange darkness – to persuade him, not only of the injustice in which he has played such an active role, but also of its massive cosmic significance.
The penitent thief (a Jew) and the confessing centurion (a gentile) both recognised the truth, and indeed the understatement, of the words on Pilate’s sign intended to mock Jesus: “King of the Jews”. The true King welcomed them, one at the point of physical death, and the other in a radically restored life, purpose and hope. The one, cursed and shamed by the world for crimes he acknowledged, yet received by Jesus; the other, an enforcer of Roman law and follower of the imperial cult, moved and shaken by his involvement in an act of barbaric injustice, now knowing that he was in the presence of the true “Son of God”. And so he also welcomes us, whatever our past, and whatever our blindness has been towards him. He welcomes us to participate in a kingdom on earth that has not grown out of human competition or military might. He welcomes us to the very presence of the living God.
Rupert Greville is a member of the L’Arche Kent Community.
Join us on a walk in mid September. The road name Pilgrims Way appears in various places around Canterbury. This one, six or seven miles west at Chilham village carries the pilgrims’ scallop shell badge as another reminder of the ancient ways that led to Canterbury and beyond, to Rome or Compostella or even Jerusalem.
Clearly the only way from here is upwards!
The second picture, taken by the Pilgrims Way just beyond Chilham, shows the first view of Canterbury Cathedral in the distance. The discerning eye – meaning one that knows what to look for – will spot the Bell Harry tower almost dead centre behind the trees that follow the downward slope left to right.
The sight must have put a spring in the pilgrims’ steps, and no doubt they were further encouraged by a long drink in the inn whose wall appears in the first picture. As Chesterton once said, Let a man walk ten miles steadily on a hot summer’s day along a dusty English road, and he will soon discover why beer was invented.
We walked rather less than ten miles on this occasion, but we agree with GKC!
Thank God for hospitality, wherever we find it.
Strasbourg Cathedral: the risen Christ brings Adam and Eve out of Hell to Paradise.
Is all human suffering the same suffering
– the suffering of God who is a Man?
Did he not exist before all of us?
Did he not live in the unfathomable joy
of endless, ceaseless, divine
love, so resplendent that it brought forth galaxies
of stars and blue and green planets
teeming with flowering, fluttering, soaring life?
And when the great joy of his creation, so wondrously beloved,
became the great pain of its falling – just in a moment
from his grasp of tender love – seeing it, feeling it, sensing it collapse
in the misery of mistakes immeasurable and immutable,
with agony as immense as the ecstasy
that rushed the universe into being, then infinity was cut through
with the loss of its loveliest part,
the part given freely and generously in
Did he not suffer before all of us?
Did he not die before all of us,
any of us,
his beloved creatures, who ever struggled for the last earthly breath?
When he felt his own skin rip and tear with the cruelty
of the fallen, when he watched his own feet stagger in the forced death
march, when he saw his own mother weep and brave
his pain, her pain,
when he sensed the strong beat of his heart weakening
from the failing gasps of air… did we not all die?
The moment that his love sought for the lost
in the garden of his grace, the moment that
he knew that we had left him – that we were gone –
in that incalculable instant as quick and cataclysmic
as the burst of creation, he reached out for us
and fell to his knees in the gravel of Jerusalem,
his heart erupting with the affliction of love’s pain.
And didn’t he rise before all of us?
Before any beloved human body turned cold upon the ground,
before any mourning mother laid a wreath upon a weathered grave,
he caught hold of the beloved
and saved his exquisitely loved one from the endless falling away,
stretching out his mercy like the vast stretches of the cosmos
so that every sufferer, every pained, beleaguered,
and bewildered human creature who senses the slip from infinity,
who mourns the divide from love’s heart and home, can look up
and feel his presence within and all around, loving, caring,
carrying the soul of every hopeful home.
Eucharist is how Jesus summed-up his life and death; something not nearly catered for by going to Mass! Let‘s be clear about Jesus’ life. The interpretations of the Gospel say nothing about his own experience of living in Palestine, nor indeed about the impact he made on the ordinary folk of his time. Freedom is of the essence of his presence. Unlike political liberators he didn’t have a goal to achieve. Part of the old devotions of the Way of the Cross – the Second Station – referred to him receiving the cross as the means whereby he would save the world. He didn’t come with a goal in mind – he came to live his life freely, and therefore differently – a new way of being human.
This new way – non-resistance to violence, no finger-pointing, not needing to blame – proved wonder to the few, but irksome to the many, especially the powerful, whose disenchantment turned to hate, and the compulsion to be rid of him. He didn’t come to die – nor did the Father send him to die – he came to live life and death in a new way. We tend to interpret his going to Jerusalem as seeing death as his destiny. Why are you going there, it’s full of enmity for you…? His answer makes no reference to a predestined fate – Jerusalem is where the prophets died – Luke 13.34. Prophecy is not foretelling the future but living life as it was meant to be lived.
We are invited to be present in the Eucharist as Christ is present to us – a person to be met and experienced. A Mozart Concerto can be analysed and dissected to illustrate its melodic and harmonious structure, but to be present to it as it is allows it to become an experience, a unique experience, and see how it satisfies a hunger within us; to be soothed with its harmony, surprised by its ongoing creativity.
It is not grasping the experience, but being grasped. This is what mystery means – a work of art, a unique person. Eucharist is mystery.
Picture from Missionaries of Africa
Do you ever, probably unconsciously, feel that a teaching of Jesus is not aimed personally? Recently I had a reminder to think again. I’m thinking of this little story from the Lord’s final journey to Jerusalem. Mrs Zebedee has just tried to get top jobs for James and John.
Jesus called the apostles to him, and said: You know that the princes of the Gentiles lord it over them; and they that are the greater, exercise power upon them. It shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be the greater among you, let him be your minister: And he that will be first among you, shall be your servant. Even as the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a redemption for many.
I’m no Prince of the Gentiles, and indeed the royal princes in the United Kingdom seem to have taken this text to heart. But still, ‘It shall not be so among you’ suggests that Jesus expected that it often would be. The various scandals in the Church are to do with exercising power over other people.
But a more mundane instance hit me during the cold spell we had in March. I had to go to a place where dedicated people care for others, and to reach the area where the hands-on care actually actually happens, walked past the administration offices. The path as far as that door had been treated with grit, so that all the snow had melted and walking was easy. For the last fifteen metres the grit had not been applied.
If you asked the admin staff straight out, are you more important than the carers, they could hardly say yes. But the pathway tells another story.
So perhaps a little examination of conscience on where I might be lording it over people? Even though I never thought I was?
When Peter’s mother-in-law was cured, she at once ministered to Jesus and his companions. With all the gifts I have received, I should be ministering to his friends too.
PS: spare a thought and prayer for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as they prepare to marry tomorrow. The timing of this post was co-incidental; I only noticed on rereading it today.