Of course you can’t celebrate Easter without Good Friday – the remembrance and celebration go hand in hand.
There is plenty of historical evidence for this event – despite what a very small minority might claim. There is enough historical evidence to claim that the disciples were thoroughly convinced that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. It is then up to us to decide what we are going to believe about it.
I’m not someone who always finds it easy to believe the majority position but in this case I do – and of course believe what the disciples of Jesus did. That Jesus has risen from the dead and still lives today – even if in a different way than he did then.
I hope you have a very happy Easter.
The most important day (alongside Easter day) in the Christian calendar. Today we remember the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us. Crucifixion is a barbaric form of execution and has been described by experts as the worst form of execution ever used. We only make sense of it all in the light of Easter day, but not in a overturning a failure kind of way. We can see the victory of the cross because of Easter day, we can see that God was at work even in that most horrible of events. This is why we can gather on Good Friday in churches and sing about the sacrifice and that is why we call it Good Friday.
Here is a song to help you in your devotions this day.
I’ve always thought that this meal was poorly named by Christians. It isn’t the last meal that Jesus eats with his disciples. He eats with them on the beach after he has risen from the dead. He promises that when they reach the kingdom he will eat with them again. I suppose, though, that it is the last supper before he is executed. He told us that this is something we should do together, to remember this moment and that God will be among us as we share in it together.
Christians have had problems with how to celebrate this meal ever since. Do we celebrate it as a happy occasion? After all it is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet and when we share it we celebrate all the wonderful things that Jesus Christ has done.
Or do we treat it as a solemn moment – we are remembering that last supper after all.
For me it varies. Sometimes I want to celebrate something great and it is good to celebrate with a meal with friends but other times I would rather reflect on the cost of my sin. I guess on Maundy Thursday it is inevitable that this meal will become a solemn occasion. Today of all days we remember the last supper that Jesus shared with his disciples before he was betrayed and executed. Of course we also know that Easter day is just around the corner and soon after the darkness there will be light.
I love the story of the cleansing of the temple. Three of the gospels have it during holy week and John puts it at the beginning. This alone is enough to upset a lot of Atheists who can’t cope with the fact that some people want to describe history in a different way so they can get a point across – having a story in a different order doesn’t change the reliability of the story – in fact in the ancient world this approach to history was quite common.
Then we have Jesus making a whip and causing mayhem. Again some Atheists get all worked up about this. Doesn’t this prove Jesus was a violent man who lost his temper at the slightest provocation? Not at all. To claim this betrays a complete lack of understanding about the story, the ancient world and how people work. Yes, Jesus gets angry but that does not mean he loses control, plenty of people get angry about stuff but are very in control of that anger. Yes, Jesus makes a whip or,as it turns out, whip is probably a bad translation because it is actually a small switch – the kind of thing a farmer might use to move on cattle and then he uses it to move the animals out of the temple. There is no description of Jesus hitting anyone or using the whip as a weapon in the stories and to claim that is to abuse the text.
Instead the story is a good one for every church to hear – and fortunately for many churches they don’t hear this bit of the story because they skip from Palm Sunday (Donkey Sunday for me) to Maundy Thursday (when the last supper is shared). It is important to hear because it reminds us that so much of the activity of the church (fayers, fund raising, bazaars, beetle drives, buildings, etc) is not really what the church should be about. Of course buildings and fund raising can be good things to employ in God’s work (a building is a good resource for a community and fund raising to help others is always a good idea) but this should never ever interfere with our prayer and worship.
Incidently in my experience it is often the Atheist who seems unable to control their anger – I’ve read more vitriol, intolerance and hatred from the fingers of Atheists on the web than from any one else. I am disturbed that people who claim to be speaking out for truth should be so full of hate and be prepared to spread that hate as if treating anyone like they are dirt is acceptable. Still people hated Jesus enough that they crucified him I guess we should not expect better treatment. Just for the record, Jesus taught us that no matter how much people abuse us we should still respond with love and I’m trying hard to follow his way rather than way of the New Atheists. If the way of New Atheism is to throw around vitriolic insult and ridicule (and then pretend it is a joke) then it makes me want to follow Christ’s way of peace and love all the more.
What bits of our temple need cleaning?
It’s Holy Week again. That first day of Holy Week when Jesus rides into Jerusalem is often known as Palm Sunday – so named for the palm branches cut down and laid on the floor or waved to celebrate his entry into Jerusalem. Palm branches were used in celebrations at that time, hence the use of them in this story.
It seems to me that perhaps we should rename this story to something more appropriate to our times. I think Donkey sunday may work better, for instance. We just love those shaggy looking working animals so much – there are now sanctuaries for them all over the place. Perhaps the problem with this idea is that some would insist we call is Ass Sunday and I guess that wouldn’t work so well.
But Palm Sunday is actually more about the fact that Jesus wrode into Jerusalem than it is about the palm branches. The people that celebrate will either desert him or call for his blood in a few days time – this has always made me uncomfortable when I take a Palm Sunday service. The point is that Jesus rides into Jerusalem like a King should, he fulfills the prophecy concerning the coming of a messiah to Jerusalem, the crowds are just the sub-plot to the main event.
Congratulations to Justin Welby on your enthronement, even if it does seem a little odd to have a clergy person sitting on a throne – hope it doesn’t become your entombement instead.
I was heartened by the number of times I have heard him mention Jesus Christ in his interviews – I hope that trend continues. Not being an anglican myself it is easy for me to watch from the sidelines but I am always impressed by anyone who is prepared to put Jesus before themselves. Best part of the service for me was being interviewed at the door, the responses to the questions are humbling for anyone.
Keep putting Jesus first and you can’t go far wrong. I will be praying for you Justine and that new bloke in Rome.
You can read more about the service on the bbc website
There is an old saying that if all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail. The meaning being that we tend to see things depending on the tools we have available. Those tools might be: experience, education, paradigms (i.e. world views), etc. What we believe when we approach a subject will determine, in part, the answers we will get.
I once had a long conversation with an atheist who kept telling me I was not open minded like he was. I kept pointing out to him that he was in fact just as close minded as I was – if close minded means coming to something with prior beliefs. In truth I think he was even more close minded that I was because I was at least willing to listen to evidence he presented while he completely rejected any evidence I presented on the grounds that my prior beliefs meant anything I called evidence could not in fact be evidence. He, according to him, had no prior beliefs and could not accept that being an atheist he was coming to the subject with some very clearly defined beliefs. Even the agnostic can’t claim to have no beliefs because they come to the discussion with the belief that evidence cannot provide an answer (either because it is always suspect or there is always counter evidence). Even logic can’t dig us out of the whole because it requires a prior belief that logic always works and of course there are just some things that logic can’t solve.
This has a profound influence on thinking about Jesus. If you come to the discussion believing that there is no God or that Jesus could only have been a man then you will not accept that Jesus could perform miracles. This will probably lead you to think that this means the miracle stories must have some other explanation and so you will quite happily decide that this must be down to some psychological explanation (either in the person affected by the miracle or the people watching). If, however, you believe that Jesus was divine then the miracles are perfectly possible and the stories about them quite acceptable as they are.
You see, the antheist scientist will claim that we have no evidence for Jesus being a miracle worker based on the “fact” that people do not perform miracles and there is no god anyway (fact is of course their word although I would agree with them here because people, on their own, do not perform miracles but then Jesus is not an ordinary person). This is not evidence it is prior belief determining the conclusion.
This is where a Christian will ackwoledge that at least they are honest in saying that this is a matter of faith. Not believing despite the evidence but admitting that a prior belief influences the way something is viewed. My prior belief in Jesus being divine means that my belief in his ability to perform miracles is perfectly logical and justified (not blind ignorant childish faith as some would want to claim). Of course I thn might need to explain why I think Jesus is divine but that will have to be done on another day – this blog is already too long.
Why is passion for God so frowned upon in our society? We have become scared, perhaps, that the person who feels deeply and who can’t keep those emotions to themselves might turn out to be a terrorist. Even worse, in our churches (or at least my experience of most mainline churches) we feel very uncomfortable when someone expresses an opinion strongly.
Sadly, this now means that only the strange or the missfit seem able to express any emotion about anything, and maybe their ‘edge of acceptable’ thinking gets passion a bad name and the problem continues.
But should not Christians be bothered that most of the country seems uninterested in what they have to say – when they believe they have the most important thing to say – ever! Should we not squirm in our seats on a Sunday when so many people fail to turn up to worship – again! Should we not be demanding that someone pay attention to the suffering and the persecuted!
It seems to me that most of our society (I live in the UK by the way) thinks that Christians are only passionate about telling you how to ‘do’ religion and are especially passionate about telling you what – in their opinion – you should not be doing! The reality of the church (at least most of them) is that they are far more bothered about the quality of a persons life than judging what they do and they are far more bothered that people should have space to think spiritually than providing all the answers.
Yet, you can’t blame those of us who have struggled with the same questions and found some astounding answers to want to say what those answers are. If you were starving and looking for food you would be very upset with anyone who knew where to find some asking you: where do you think that food is? or how do you see the problem? If I have an answer to spiritual starvation wouldn’t you be upset with me if I left you with only more questions to answer?
Of course, Jesus was very passionate and it got him in to all kinds of troubles.
I came across this story on huffington post the other day (a spoof story trying to make a point – about an atheist teacher refusing to take assembly). It does raise the question of whether people should be given the right to refuse to do something because it goes against their beliefs.
This is a difficult question to answer because it must depend on what the person wants to get out of and what the belief entails. It is simply not true that our modern society is completely free, there are plenty of things that people are simply not allowed to do (for instance murder or child abuse). A doctor wanting to opt out of saving someones life because they believe in murder would be nonsense as would someone saying they are opting out of safety procedures when looking after children because they to defend the rights of the abuser.
But when does a belief become one that is harmless to others and that a conscience clause can come in to effect?
Maybe when there is a difference of opinion and it is really impossible to say who is right (and I mean who is right – not what does public opinion decide). No doubt this raises the question of what is right and who decides, although as a Christian I do believe that there are some guidelines in this provided in the bible (itself not always an easy book to unpack).
Sometimes, though, there are issues that are just a matter of opinion and one persons opinion is not necessarily the same as another’s, sometimes these opinions are minority views but this doesn’t make them any less valid. It doesn’t make you a bigot just because you disagree with the majority opinion – although I have heard that word used of Christians often.
Once Christians were faced with the prospect of death or be prepared to declare the Roman Emperor a God. Many Christians died is such persecution because they refused to bow to the majority opinion and forego their faith. We should never reach such a dark place again where anyone with a genuine difference of opinion should be persecuted for holding that opinion, I fear we are heading that way now, perhaps not to the point of execution but for many are now facing the axe on their careers (and hence for some lives).
Where would we be if the likes of Jesus had not stood up for what he believed in because majority view said he should not?
One of the great strengths, it seems to me, of the Christian faith is the broad range of beliefs that Christians have. There are differences in the main stream denominations as well as some of the more colourful fringe churches. Whilst this can be a frustration, it is always kind of nice when everyone agrees with me, it does reflect the Christian belief that our faith is about searching for truth and not uniformity.
Of course there are some basic beliefs and these are contained within the Bible, the Creeds and Christian tradition. We don’t then all agree on every detail of how these things should be interpreted, which can make for some pretty meaty discussions, but in the end we all agree that the central figure of the whole enterprise is Jesus Christ.
For my part I’m a pretty traditional believer. I’ve been through an atheist phase, a very liberal Christian phase, a doubting everything phase but have now come to a very happy traditional Christian phase. I’ve reached that point after a great deal of study and reflection (although sometimes I get the impression people think I’ve blundered into my beliefs).
The great thing about the Christian faith – and maybe something we need to show more of – is that we can actually love each other, even when we fundementally disagree. If all you ever see is what the press report then you would think we are all at each others throats. Yes we disagree enough to want to be in seperate denominations but we also love each other enough that no denomination can keep us apart. Maybe our modern world also needs to discover the power of loving each other even when we disagree? We have had a long journey getting to where we are but I think this is something for us to value.