Tag Archives: Christ

Too lazy to swim

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September 20, 2015 · 12:47

‘Who does He think He is?’  (Proper 9B )

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William Scott “Scotty” Bowman holds the record for most wins in the Canadian National Hockey League 

Mark 6, vv 1- 5

 

After Jesus healed Jairus’ daughter at a place called Capernaeum –   a short distance from his hometown of Nazareth, a stone’s throw from where he had lived most of his life – it was only natural that he was inclined to go home.

He and his friends climbed the hills to Nazareth, and on the Sabbath day, Jesus began to teach in the synagogue there.  There seem to have been two reactions to his teaching.  Some people were astonished by his wisdom and by his amazing powers; others were angry and jealous and resentful that one of their own had apparently had risen so far above them.

Nazareth was just a small village, and its people were hill people.  They were probably all related, and they certainly all knew each other very well.  Rather than rejoicing in this representative of their own village who was clearly so special, some of them “took offence”.

Nikolai_Ge_Christ_in_the_synagogue_700

 

It does not take much for some people to take offence.  There are those who take offence not because they have been harmed in any way, but because they feel threatened.  And some people feel threatened when other people have better fortune than they do themselves.

–ooOOoo–

One family who won the lottery a few years ago really did intend to continue in their old jobs and their old home, because they genuinely did not want the lottery win to make any difference to them.

To start with, most of their friends and neighbours rejoiced in their good fortune, although others deeply resented them.  However, before long, the mutterings spread.  Things were said like, “Why should they take up one of our houses when they can afford to live anywhere?  Why should they be allowed to work in this factory when they’ve got all that money and there are other people who are unemployed?”

In the end, life became so unbearable for the lottery winners that they were forced to move away into a different area.

 

lottery-ticket-big

 

Some people feel threatened if someone they know well has the courage to move away and seek a better life.  Those that are left behind can begin to feel inferior, although they themselves could with a little effort follow a similar path.  For example, there have been families in the past where working-class parents have been deeply upset if their children choose higher education.

Or, there have been youngsters who have moved away from this rural South West of Scotland, away from the farm or the fishing, to the Central Belt or down South to the big cities, and it sometimes appears as if they have abandoned their heritage.

It can be especially true, perhaps, within ones own kith and kin.  The one person who failed to rejoice when the prodigal son came home again, was the prodigal’s brother. Rather than rejoicing, the elder brother took offence.  He interpreted the event of his younger brother’s homecoming as threatening to himself, and showed a deep jealousy and resentment.

And this is exactly what happened to Jesus in his own village.  “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon.  Aren’t his sisters living here?” said the villagers.  “Who does he think he is?”  And so they rejected him.

 

Alexandre_Bida_Jesus_rejected_at_Nazareth_525_captioned

 

The problem is, anger and resentment and jealousy cause disharmony within a person. They are underlying currents, which act as blocks to God’s love and healing power.  So Jesus found that even he was unable to perform many miracles in his own country among his own kin.

It’s well known that a prophet is without honour in his own country.  It’s also well known in medical circles that you shouldn’t treat your own.  You may be married to a doctor, but he or she will not usually be your GP.  Golfers are well aware that it is tantamount to instant divorce to attempt to teach your spouse to play golf.  And driving instructors rarely instruct their spouse in the art of driving.  Prophets are indeed without honour in their own country.

Yet it’s interesting to note that Jesus was able to heal a few sick people in his home territory.

When the chips are really down and people are desperate, they will turn to anyone who offers hope.  And Jesus was able to work with even a tiny amount of faith like that, faith no bigger than a mustard seed.  God can work within anyone who has an open mind.

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Compassion  (Proper 8B)

Mark 5, verses 21-43

I remember reading of a man who was once involved in a terrible car accident.  When he was cut from the wreckage, there was so little life left in him that the paramedics and then the doctors gave little hope of survival.

However, after the surgeons had done their work, he did survive – but at what cost: both legs were gone, his left arm was missing together with part of the collarbone.  Only a finger and thumb remained on his right hand.

However, he still possessed a brilliant mind, enriched by a good education and broadened with world travel.

And it all was wasted.  There seemed to be nothing he could do in his helplessness.

A thought then came to him.  It is always a delight to receive letters, but why not write them.  He could still use his right hand with some difficulty.  But to whom could he write?

Was there anyone shut in and incapacitated as he was, and whom his letters would encourage?  He thought of’ men in prison.  They did have some hope of release, unlike him, but it was a try

He wrote to a Christian organisation concerned with prison ministry.  He was told that his letters could not be answered, as this was against prison rules.  However, he decided to start on this one-sided correspondence.

He wrote twice a week and it taxed his strength to the limit.  But into these letters, he put his whole soul, all his experience, all his faith, all his wit, and all his Christian optimism.

It was hard writing these letters, often doing so in pain, and especially since there was no chance of’ a reply There were times when he got discouraged and was tempted to give it up.  But he carried on.

At last, he got a letter.  It was a very short note written on prison stationery by the officer whose duty it was to censor the mail.

All it said was ‘Please write on the best paper you can afford.  Your letters are passed from cell to cell, until they literally fall to pieces’

I bring that rather moving story to your attention because it tells us something of the nature of’ compassion.

Compassion is about giving. It is about giving unconditionally, without thought of reward or acknowledgement.  It is about going on giving even it’ sometimes it hurts.

It’s about DOING rather than just talking.  Words are cheap; actions cost.

Look at our Bible story for today.  Here is Jesus, being jostled by the crowd, as he tried to get on his way to see a little girl who was terminally ill.  It would be noisy, frenetic, and, no doubt, frustrating.

Yet, Jesus gave up precious time for the woman who wanted to be healed.  He gave all of his time and attention to this poor anonymous woman in the crowd.  Jesus had time for her, because compassion always has time for everyone, even the apparently hopeless and worthless of folk.

It cost him time, and, more importantly, it cost him something of himself.  He felt his power ebb out of him, when she touched him.  No real help can ever be given except at the cost of something of oneself.

There must have been days when from morning to night, Christ was surrounded by people begging him for help, and he freely gave it.  Every time he gave, it cost him something.  All the time, he was using himself up.

It was not simply wisdom that Christ gave to people; it was not simply healing; it was Himself.

Supremely, he gave of himself on the Cross.

Look at that Cross – beneath it, all the cruelty, apathy and self-centredness that lack within humanity was on display.

But from it, flowed all the love, forgiveness and compassion that God has for us, his errant children.

With the sign of the Cross in our hearts, with the divine compassion alive within us, let us start today with a burning desire to practice the same compassion with a new humility, a new liberality, and a new joy

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Short Homily – Sunday after Ascension Day

It’s difficult to try to imagine the thoughts of the apostles at Christ’s departure from them. He was leaving them but they remembered His words, “I will be with you always.”

So often, although we know & remember these words, we still have difficulty in accepting them – and we feel that we’ve been left alone to cope with all life has to throw against us.

This brings me to this story for this Sunday after the Ascension.

One evening, a father who lived in suburb of London, said to his 10-year-old son, “I want you to join me at my office next week. We’ll take the subway and you can spend some time seeing how I spend my day. Then you’ll come home by yourself so you can get acquainted with travelling by the Tube.” The boy was a bit apprehensive about the prospect of coming home alone but his father assured him he would be fine.

On the morning they left, his father explained all the details of the trip to Town and gave him a written, detailed set of instructions for returning. After boarding the Tube train, his father showed him the maps posted in the carriages which identified all the stops and all the intersecting Underground lines.

Everything went smoothly and they arrived in the centre of London as planned. However, the young lad was still apprehensive as his father took him back to the station for the return trip home. He had the instructions, he had his father’s assurance he would do fine but he still worried.

As he waved goodbye to his father and boarded the train, he immediately checked out the map of the Tube line on the opposite wall of the carriage where he was sitting. Sure enough, all the stops were outlined. He got off at the correct station and, just as his father had shown him, found his way to another platform where another Tube line passed through, and, as his Dad had promised a train soon pulled in.  He boarded and as he again studied the map he was relieved to see that his “home” station was just 6 stops away. Now, he felt more confident. When the train approached his station, he got up, stood in from of the exit door and when it opened he breathed a sigh of relief … he had made it.

His mother was there to meet him.  She hugged him, and to his surprise, she then put her arms around a man who was immediately behind him in the exit queue.  It was his Dad!  His father had been in the carriage behind his all the way.   His father had been with him all the time. There had never been any need to worry. His father took his arm and aid, “Son, you know I will always be with you when you need me.” As he locked arms with his mother and father, a very confident, happy young man knew he was surrounded by those who loved him.

Those who are parents can relate very easily with the father of the young boy. Who would ever leave a child unprotected? If we feel that way, don’t you think Christ is even more committed to our well being.

I think it’s very important for all of us to understand that no matter what the problem may be, no matter what the circumstances, Christ has promised He will help us.

Jesus performed His first miracle changing water into wine, not because of some earth shaking situation, but merely because a young Jewish couple would be embarrassed if their guests knew they could not afford enough wine. He fed 5000 people even though His apostles told Him, “We can’t help these people.” He was there when Lazarus died, when Peter was sinking into the lake and He will be there for us when we need Him.

As it was in every one of these situations, Christ expects that we believe, that we have faith and that we put that faith into action. The father asked his son to take specific actions: check his directions, find the maps, change to the proper train, get off at the right stop. The little boy didn’t know it but there was no possibility of his making a mistake or getting lost. His father was with him during the entire trip. So, Christ is with us.

Our journey through life may at times seem hard and the road may seem rough and long and twisting and difficult – but he’s with us, and always will be with us, wherever we may travel: a comfort, a guide, a companion and friend: the one who says of himself I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

He travels with us, and he will never desert us….never

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Good Shepherd Sunday (Fourth of Easter) – UCPC, 26 April 2015

A  lorry driver once pulled up at a roadside cafe – a greasy spoon – for breakfast.

As he was tucking into his mountain of sausage, bacon, runny fried eggs,Lorne sausage, mushrooms, grilled tomato, black pudding, baked beans, fried tattie scone, giant mug of tea with four spoonfuls of sugar, and a mountain of toast, he quietly skimmed through the pages of his paper – the Financial Times, of course – occasionally pausing to chew his way through his packet of Rennies.

Halfway through his meal, three wild-looking bikers roared up–bearded, leather-jacketed, filthy.

They went over to the lorry driver, snatched his paper from him and poured his tea over it, before rubbing his beans in his hair, and shaking HP sauce down the front of his shirt.

The poor chap never said a word, just stood up, paid his bill, and left.

“That lorry driver isn’t much of a man,” sneered one of the bikers.

The girl behind the counter, peering out into the car park, added, “He doesn’t seem to be much of a truck driver, either. He just run over three motorcycles.

–00Oo0–

We can communicate in different ways!

The pithy saying, the sarcastic comment, the word of comfort or of encouragement; perhaps just a smile.

It can be as simple as a hug; as complex as the language and jargon of the expert – be he or she be a medic, professor, technician, scientist, or whoever.

–00Oo0–

Sometimes, our communication skills and actions can be over complicated.

There once was a shepherd herding his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW roared down the road and screeched to a halt beside him.

The driver, a young man in an Armani suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and Yves St Lauren silk shirt, leans out the window and asks the shepherd, “If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?”

The shepherd looks at this flash dandy, then looks at his peacefully grazing flock and calmly answers, “OK Why not?”

So the smart young man presses the touch screen on his dashboard, puts in certain co-ordinates in his satnav, links it to his phone by Bluetooth, and connects it to his very expensive looking laptop which is resting on the passenger seat.

Various buttons are pressed. Then – after five minutes or so, he triumphantly announces “You have exactly 1,586 sheep.”

“That’s right” says the shepherd, “Well, I suppose you can take one of my sheep”

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the boot of his car.

Then the shepherd says to the young man, “ if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my beast?

“

The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, “OK, why not?”

“You’re a business consultant.” says the shepherd.

“Spot on! That’s correct, but how did you guess?”

“No guessing required.” answered the shepherd. “You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked; and you don’t know a thing about my business…

…Now give me back my collie dug!”

–00OO00–

I once wrote a particular essay at University many years ago. The only “red mark” on it was the tutor’s comment scribbled after the last convoluted, over elaborate conclusion: it read “clarity is the essence of communication – this you don’t seem to have grasped!” Ouch!

When Jesus talked, his listeners understood. Sometimes, we’re told, they didn’t always “get” the meaning of some of his parables, but he would go on to explain them to his audience.

But so often, he would talk with clarity. Nothing complex or particularly esoteric. Many times, he would use everyday illustrations – matters that his listeners were acquainted with in their daily life.

So when Jesus talked about sheep and shepherding, his audience would immediately connect with that picture. They lived in a pastoral society, surrounded by flocks. It was an everyday part of life. They ‘got’ what Jesus was trying to communicate. Here was something simple, straightforward, relevant, clear.

And let’s say this: shepherding was part of his society’s theological heritage and culture.
Abraham, the father of the nation, was the keeper of great flocks.

Moses was tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro, when God called him into a special service.

David was a shepherd boy called in from the fields to be the King of Israel.

The imagery of the shepherd was also imprinted upon the literature of the day.

The 23rd Psalm is frequently referred to as the shepherd psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside still waters.”

Isaiah speaking  of the coming of the Messiah said: “He will feed his flock like a shepherd! He will gather his lambs into his arms.”

Yes, the tradition of the shepherd was very much a part of the cultural ethos of that society and that time.

Look especially at the New Testament.

For example, there’s the parable of the lost sheep: a shepherd had 100 sheep, and one wandered off.

Remember the old hymn “There were ninety and nine that safely lay…”  The shepherd, representing God, the Father (just as with the parable of the Prodigal or Lost Son), searches for the lost sheep and brings it back to be part of the full flock once more – as God wishes for all his “lost” children.

Another time, when Jesus was speaking to a great throng of people, we’re told that he had compassion upon them because they were “as sheep without a shepherd.”

Throughout the Judeo-Christian faith, then, the image of the shepherd has a prominent place.

In our scripture text for this morning Jesus again taps into this imagery when he refers to himself as the good shepherd.  As talked about earlier (in the Children’s Story), a shepherd cares for his flock, wants only the best for them, guards and protects them – that’s good shepherding…that’s how God in Christ cares for us. He gives – unreservedly – unconditionally

–00OO00–

Once a school inspector was questioning a wee girl – examining her on her arithmetical skills…..

“If you had £5” asked the Inspector, “and you asked your Dad for another £5 and 50 pence, how much money would you have?”

“Five Pounds.” she answered

“You don’t know your basic maths.” said the Inspector shaking his head, disappointed.

Wee Jeannie shook her head too, “You don’t know my Faither”

–00OO00–

But we know our Heavenly Father…..

Many years ago, a minister once encountered a shepherd on a country lane.. “You know,” he said. “You’re the first real, live shepherd I’ve ever met. Do you mind me asking what you think of when you hear the expressions ‘The Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd’?



The answer was more than he ever could have expected.

The old shepherd said, “You know, springtime is a very difficult time for sheep and shepherds. It’s lambing time. It’s a time of tragedy.

When many ewes are giving birth, the shepherd must often deal with problems. Sometimes a lamb dies at birth, sometimes a ewe, giving birth.

Over here is a mother sheep that has lost her baby. Over there is a lamb that has lost its mother.

But sheep can be difficult animals. A sheep will not take a lamb that is not its own. And so, we have the situation of a mother full of the milk that will not nourish her baby because she has no baby to feed. And we have a lamb, hungry for life-giving nourishment and no mother to feed it.

So this is what the good shepherd must do. The shepherd takes the lamb that has died and washes the orphaned lamb with its blood. Only then will the mother accept and feed the motherless lamb as her own.

And that” the shepherd concluded “is what I know about ‘The Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd’”

–00Oo00–

Our Heavenly Father communicated with our race – not in an abstract, complicated, over-elaborate way – rather he sent his Son to save us.

And through the Cross, through the blood of Christ, and by his glorious Resurrection, his love is communicated to us – during this blessed Eastertide, and forever.

Hallelujah! Amen!

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Thursday Service – Dumfries Northwest Church; 23 April 2015: NAMES

Philippians 2

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
 did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
 by taking the very nature of a servant,
 being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
 he humbled himself
 by becoming obedient to death—
 even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
 and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
 in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
 to the glory of God the Father.

imageI’ve got a new granddaughter, born three and a half weeks ago. Her name is Maeve.

Her older sister, Cora, who is five, initially had problems getting the baby’s name right, and suggested to her mum, “Why don’t we just call her ‘Strawberry’?”
Names can sometimes be confusing.

I was at school with a lad called Hamish Marshall. But he signed his name “James” – “Hamish” being the Gaelic for “James”.
I can sympathise. I too have a first name that confuses many people. I was christened ‘Alexander’ but am known as ‘Sandy’ which is a shortened form – or a diminutive, to give it it’s proper description. ‘Sandy’ always reminds me of third-rate Scottish comedians or collie dugs!

My uncle was also Alexander, but was known as ‘Alec’ and I have a friend who is ‘Alex’ with an ‘x’

I once looked up a dictionary of names and to my horror discovered that another version is ‘Sanders’ – maybe, on hindsight, it is a bit more upmarket that ‘Sandy’

In Gaelic, Alexander becomes ‘Alastair’ or ‘Alasdair’

I once met a Russian lady at university, who told me that in her country, a version of Alexander is ‘Sacha’ – (Sacha Distel – French singer)

There’s a Nothampton Town football player – previously with Aberdeen – who rejoices in the name of Zander Diamond, as does Alexander Armstrong, the comedian and presenter of the TV quiz show “Pointless”, who is also known to his close friends as “Zander”.

Rather fancy that moniker!

And I’m sure there are many more variations on my particular name – as there are on so many others:

Robert can be Rob, Robbie, Bob or Bobby, Bert or Bertie. Catherines are sometimes known as Kate, or Katy or even Renee.

Another friend of mine was James, as far as his family was concerned, but Jimmy to myself and his other friends, even after he changed it himself to Jim.
He was the same person, of course, but others saw him differently – James for his parents, brothers and sisters – the name his mother and father had given him, the name which was registered after his birth, the name given at his baptism – his official name

.

But Jimmy to his pals who knew another facet of his personality – Jimmy, a familiar, easy-to-relate to kind of name – the name of a pal, a friend, a mate.

Then he himself started calling himself ‘Jim’ – more grown-up perhaps than Jimmy, more formal than Jimmy, but less so than James.

He saw himself as ‘Jim’ whatever the implications of that were.

Some people see us in different ways and call us by different names, as the case of friend Jimmy shows.

Perhaps something of this was reflected in the different names people had for Jesus.

The prophet Isaiah writing about the Messiah called him ‘wonderful counsellor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’

The hymn writer, John Newton, once wrote:

‘Jesus my shepherd, brother, friend, my prophet, priest and king, my Lord, my life, my way, my end’

Jesus is different things, has different names, different aspects for different people – depending on their outlook, depending on their needs.

There is a bridge in an old European town where each archway has a carving of Jesus represented in a different way.

As the workmen cross the bridge early in the morning, they can pause for a moment at the figure of Jesus the carpenter.

The farm workers on the other hand can see him depicted as a shepherd.

The elderly and sick can view him as the great healer.

Those who are feeling tired or discouraged are reminded of Jesus the friend.

So all who cross that bridge can find the picture of Christ which suits their particular need.

And he fills all our needs.

He said of himself ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ and in him we find our direction, and our integrity, and our very being.

He said of himself ‘I am the Door’ and he opens up for us the way to a new kind of life.

He described himself as ‘The Good Shepherd’ and we know that he will protect us, direct us and guide us lovingly through life to the security of the fold.

And he said ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life’ – in this life and the next, we have nothing to fear.

He is our Redeemer, our Saviour, and our Friend.

And let us remember this – the Bible tells us that ‘God has engraved our name on the palm of his hand’…in other words, we are as near to God as our hands are to us.

God knows us through and through, every last detail about us (why, even the hairs of our head are all numbered).

 God knows us; Christ loves us – whoever we are, wherever we come from, whatever our name!

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Seven Last Words – Seven Incarcerated Women (via Huffpost)

Incarcerated Women Reflect On Jesus’ Seven Last Words On The Cross
HuffPost Religion Editors The Huffington Post

Posted: 04/03/15 10:06 AM ET Updated: 04/03/15 12:59 PM ET
On Good Friday, many Christians reflect on what are known as the seven last words — the final statements Jesus Christ said while on the cross, as recorded by the canonical gospels. For some people in prison, these words can be particularly affecting.

David Carr, a professor at Union Theological Seminary, teaches a course called “Trauma and the Bible” to female inmates at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, New York state’s only maximum security prison for women. Half of the students in the course are prisoners finishing degrees in sociology in the Marymount Manhattan College Bedford Hills College program, while the other half of the students in the class are enrolled at Union Seminary.

Although Carr has spent years studying, teaching and writing about the Bible and trauma, he said teaching the course at Bedford Hills has been illuminating for him.

“Each week these students, many of whom have experienced traumas of their own and been incarcerated for years, have taught me,” he said.

Some of Carr’s students — six prisoners and one Union Seminary student — wrote reflections on Jesus’ seven last words, offering a glimpse at how life experience and circumstances can influence the impact Jesus’ words can have on people.

Read the students’ reflections:

“Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

As a practicing Jew, with very little knowledge of the New Testament, I am surprised by how often I use this phrase “Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I say it aloud to others or silently to myself. I say it lightly, with humor at times and at other times, far more earnestly, when I need to remind myself, in the face of the daily indignities of life in prison and the larger destructive forces in our world, to focus on our common humanity, rather than resorting to anger and judgment against others. This phrase slips so easily off my tongue that I can overlook its deeper wisdom, and the poignancy of imagining it as Jesus’s last words.

I picture the scene of Jesus, a rebel, on the cross, and the cries for blood from the crowd, so caught up that they are blind to their own situations under Roman rule. And I ponder this last utterance: “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” As someone who participated in a robbery in which three people were killed, I acknowledge my identification with that mob. I too have felt the fever that took hold of them and how it is to lose myself in the group, to allow my political passions to be distorted by the allure of violence, to dissociate myself from my own fear and healthy inhibitions in order to prove myself: to willfully not know. Coming to terms with my crime and the harm I caused to so many, began with choosing to wake up — to land in my reality — to become aware, no matter how painful that was.

Working with other women in here, I see how many of them responded to terrible traumas by shutting down. Yet we are most dangerous to others and ourselves when we are in that dissociated state, of refusing to know or care. I urge them to land in their reality and I admire their courage to risk all the feelings that arise when they face their truths. It is worth it, I say to them. For I know the restorative energy that comes from feeling remorse and taking responsibility.

This brings me back to Jesus’ words: “Forgive them.” The power of those words! Here he is, bereft, in agony, ridiculed. By his choice to forgive, he raises himself up from the abyss of victimization. He takes back the power, by knowing the truth — his, theirs, ours, all of it.

Reflection by Judith Clark, Marymount Manhattan College Bedford Hills College Program

“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

The interpretation I’ve always heard of these words is that Jesus was promised Paradise for sacrificing his life for humanity’s sins. I disagree with this concept because it’s vague in various ways. It depicts a paradox where God is kind and merciful, yet he allows an innocent man to suffer for every man’s sin. But every man is endowed free will and thus, is responsible for his own actions.

The paradox continues because God is held as an all-powerful entity; this verse also refers to the concept of Jesus as an intercessor to salvation with God when Jesus sacrifices himself and ascends to Paradise. Why would an all-powerful God need to create a son and sacrifice him viciously to provide a way for communication with his own creation?

God is depicted throughout the entire Bible as a God who is powerful, loving to his creation, and most importantly an entity beyond the human imagination — who clearly does not have human traits. If in fact, he did have a son, or needed help to give salvation to his creation, is this a God we can imagine? The God that people usually imagine here is a less-powerful, dependent entity who is unjust for allowing an innocent, pious man to suffer for what he did not do.

My reflection on these last verses is one of disagreement. Realistically, although God could, God did not need to sacrifice a righteous man to preserve humanity. Clearly, humanity is still in sin, and that would mean that God’s “sacrifice” here was futile, an unacceptable theory since God wouldn’t make futile decisions. In my opinion, these words from God to Jesus are improbable and lean towards blasphemy more than anything.

Reflection by Tallulah Gillespie, Marymount Manhattan College Bedford Hills College Program

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. John 19:26-27

Tortured, humiliated, and dying on a cross, Jesus manages to tell his mother and his beloved disciple to take care of one another … to fill a void within each other who suffer the trauma of his death.

These words struck me because, as Jesus is dying, he still manages to consider his mother’s pain. It is hard to imagine what new relationships, forged from traumatic events, will be like. His disciple can never take his place in his mother’s heart. There will always be an emptiness in her hollowed by memory. It is hard for me to believe that anyone can ease the pain of watching someone you love be murdered right in front of you. But the thought of being given comfort and a sense of security during such cruel times, the idea that you should not and will not be alone to cope with your pain … moves me.

It brought up the idea of surrogate families for me — the ones where someone steps into your life and fills in the absence of someone else. My life has been filled with incredible strangers who stepped into my life and, today, love me more than any family can compare. The image of “beloved disciple” however, someone so faithful to God and trustworthy to care for Jesus’ mother, it makes me think of my sister, Pauline. She is no “substitute” though — she really is my sister — but prior to the tragedy that surrounds my incarceration, we barely knew each other. She has every reason to justify hatred towards me. She has every right to shun and abandon me as the rest our family has. But she doesn’t. I know her outspoken love and loyalty for me comes at a high cost to her. Pauline is the bravest woman I know. She was the first person to step into my life when I was stripped of everything that made me human and had the courage to still love “something” like me.

Trauma brought us together and although we cannot forget or change the past, we carry each other forward. There is something about having someone by your side when you are suffering that saves you. Even when life seems so dark, this person stands there in that same darkness, waiting for you. It is a gift to know you don’t have to suffer alone.

Reflection by Connie Leung, Marymount Manhattan College Bedford Hills College Program

Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? Which means “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:34

I have heard the Crucifixion narrative every year in church and we are usually instructed to leave service, go home and “sit with it” — sit with what Christ did on our behalf, sit with what he said, sit with how he must have felt. I always intended to do as my pastor instructed but I allowed life to get in the way — the phone rang, my mother needed help cleaning the house, there was food to prepare for Easter dinner, or last-minute shopping needed to be done.

However, when you are in prison, there is no excuse for not “sitting with it.” After my first Good Friday service here at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, I had no choice but to go back to my cell and reflect on Christ’s words. The cell doors closed and I was utterly alone. It was then that His last words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46/ Mark 15:34) took on a whole new meaning for me and maybe for the first time, I was able to grasp the extreme desolation, rejection, and abandonment Christ must have experienced on the cross.

Everywhere you turn in prison, you see women who have been abandoned and are truly alone. Phone calls go unanswered, visits do not show, the mail starts to dwindle, your friends change, and the pictures taped to the peach-colored cinder block wall start to fade. Even if you have a wonderful and strong support system, there is an unconscious fear that by the end of your sentence you will be left completely and totally alone. But who could fault them? I was sentenced to prison not them. It seems that everyday my family bares the burden of my mistakes.

These feelings are overwhelming and I am sure there are many others who have experienced or witnessed a depth of loneliness, abandonment, and rejection far worse than anything I have seen or felt. I know my Savior has. Being nailed to the cross, Jesus already knew what it meant to be forsaken — he was intimately acquainted with rejection, abandonment, and mockery. As Christ cries out in torment and rejection, not only is he fulfilling the messianic psalm, but more than that, he is experiencing the full and furious wrath of God. The theologian R. C. Sproul states: “This cry represents the most agonizing protest ever uttered on this planet. It burst forth in a moment of unparalleled pain. It is the scream of the damned — for us.” I alone deserve it but do not feel it. He does not deserve it yet took the full wrath for me. He was forsaken so I may be forgiven. The Roman cross was meant to humiliate, dehumanize, and destroy Jesus, as well as his followers. However, the cross of Christ, for me, is a symbol of hope, change, restoration, and a second chance.

Reflection by Sarah Cushman, Marymount Manhattan College Bedford Hills College Program

“I thirst.” John 19:28

Reflecting on the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross in order to cleanse us from our sins fills me with joy and inspiration as “I” too take a step forward and commit to walk in newness of life through the symbolic act of baptism. On Saturday, April 4, I will finally get to undergo the holy Christian sacrament of Baptism.

As Jesus exclaimed these ordinary, yet powerful words, “I thirst,” he yearned for the culmination of his mission on earth, as well as the fulfillment of scriptures. However, he exposed his vulnerability, as his innate humanity enveloped the magnitude of his sacrifice.

Through an act of surrender and a hunger for a deeper connection with God I declare, too, that “I Thirst.” Being thirsty places me in the right place, at the right time, stirring within me a yearning to the point of physical need; I need, I want; I desire to quench my thirst.

I have waited for years for this Saturday. I claim the time is right, the moment is now, my eyes have been opened, and my heart has been readied, similar to the Samaritan woman at the well to whom Jesus gave “living water” (John 4). I search for spiritual maturity that can only be achieved through an earnest and diligent relationship with God the creator.

As I sacrifice a weekend visit with my children in order to partake in this holy celebration, I rid myself of any thoughts of insecurity, inadequacy, and fear, and confidently immerse in the foundation of living water; leaving behind old things and embracing all that is new, and as Jesus once did, I accept in faith the path laid out before me.

This Easter not only will I celebrate the triumphant resurrection of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I will rejoice with great conviction in the authenticity of my commitment towards a fulfilling new chapter of my life, and as I bury my heart in his hands and submit to his will, I’m baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Reflection by Assia Serrano, Marymount Manhattan College Bedford Hills College Program

“It is finished.” John 19:30

This verse is powerful and gives me hope that there is an end to suffering. I chose this verse because it signifies that nothing is permanent and an individual’s suffering is only temporary. Just as there is a beginning, there is an end to everything. When I first began the sentence issued to me of 25 years to life, I did not have hope and I did not believe I would ever say it is finished. As a 19-year-old, I could not imagine what my life would be like. Now that I am 42 years old and at the end of this prison sentence, I have a hope restored that I did not have before. I can finally see the end of not only this prison sentence, but of my suffering.

When Jesus spoke these last words, “It is finished,” His time on earth ended. Many see it as a time of sorrow or sadness, and yes, His pain and suffering did warrant sadness, however, His time on this earth was only temporary; just as our time here on earth is temporary. Jesus experienced betrayal, violence, and abuse as a human. All these are things that we ourselves have experienced. When Jesus died on the cross, His life as we know ended, but in truth, His life began and He was free. He was beginning a new chapter in a better place.

When an individual sees the words spoken by Jesus, “It is finished,” they may see the words as negative. After serving 23 plus years in prison, I can look at the words that Jesus spoke in a positive light and find comfort in them; knowing that nothing lasts forever and the end to suffering is near. The words give me hope and strength to get to the ‘end’ of this chapter of my life. I know that once I am released from prison, I too can speak the words, “It is finished” and begin my life anew; in a better place.

Reflection by Claude Millery, Marymount Manhattan College Bedford Hills College Program

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Luke 23:46

At 9:55 p.m., on June 13, 1985, I took a deep breath, gathered the last of my waning strength and pushed, delivering my firstborn. While pushing, I screamed with excitement, relief and gratitude. I will never forget the pain or the shout. In enormous pain and discomfort, I yelled like a banshee. My yell, however, was not one of fear or anguish. I yelled for sheer joy. After 9 months and 12 hours of labor, the moment had arrived: my baby was here. It was time to welcome her.

On the cross, in the midst of pain and suffering, Jesus musters his last ounce of strength to cry in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” thereby delivering humankind from their sin. Jesus’s last action on the cross was one of deliverance and hope. In pain and suffering, Jesus reminds us of his humanity and steadfast love. He also minds us that he does not belong here on earth and returns to his Father.

The cross is a symbol of everlasting life and deliverance. Out of pain and suffering comes hope and everlasting life.

Reflection by Lorna Woolham, Union Theological Seminary in New York

Prof. David Carr is author of Holy Resilience: The Bible’s Traumatic Origins

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Humiliation – “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:3

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Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta
1841–1920

John 18

19 Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 20 Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22 When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

 

 

I read an article this week about Billy Connolly in which he talked about his difficult childhood in Glasgow. One of his stories was about how grim one of the schools that he attended had been.

A particular teacher, whom he disliked intensely, was so unpleasant that she actually called one of the young Billy’s spectacle-wearing classmates “four-eyes”. Yes, a TEACHER. A teacher humiliating a young pupil.

How insensitive, as well, obviously, as being totally unprofessional.

It’s how we expect some kids to behave: picking on the “runt”, or the ginger-haired lad, the child with glasses, the one who is a bit slow in thinking, the fat girl. Humiliating, tormenting, abusing.

Sadly, it can carry over to adult life. There are many bullies who have left the playground for the workplace. There are many who humiliate those in an inferior job position, hurting and distressing them.

Christ was put to shame at his birth. The Christian belief is that God could do anything, so the question is asked, “Why was Christ made so lowly by being born in a stable and laid upon a manger?”

Herod sent out soldiers to kill him. Jesus was saved from death as a mere baby by a miracle.
Christ was rejected by his own town’s synagogue. He read from Isaiah and the people rejected him. Jesus stated that no prophet was accepted in his own town. The people were filled with anger and tried to kill him.
Christ was put to shame for doing miracles such as casting out demons.
Jesus was rejected by his own people in favour of Barabbas, a criminal.  He was then spat upon, beaten and mocked by the Roman soldiers.
The ultimate form of humiliation, Christ was crucified while being mocked.

The Humiliation of Christ is a Calvinist doctrine that consists of the rejection and suffering that Jesus received and accepted.

Within it are included his incarnation, suffering, death and burial with sometimes a fifth aspect included – descent into hell.

We tend to focus on the physical pain that Christ experienced at the crucifixion so sometimes we overlook the humiliation that Jesus went through for us and therefore can fail to appreciate his full sacrifice.
Jesus suffered heart rending humiliation at the hands of the Pharisees, Herod, the Soldiers and the mob.
In the courtyard of the High Priest they spat in his face, struck him with their fists, slapped him and sarcastically taunted him, saying, “Prophecy to us , Christ. Who hit you?”
When Jesus did not perform any miracles for Herod, Herod and his soldiers mocked and ridiculed him and sent him back to Pilate, where the soldiers increased their mockery by clothing him in a purple robe and pushing a crown of thorns onto his head, bowing before him and in pretence regaling him again and again with “Hail King of the Jews”.
Even on the cross Jesus was taunted and ridiculed. The chief priests, the mob and the thieves mocked that, the Christ, the Saviour of Israel – Could not save himself!
Little did his persecutors know that Jesus could have retaliated and utterly humiliated them by turning them into toads or worse. But Jesus knew that humiliation like pain and suffering is temporary and he was going to his Glory.
If ever you are humiliated for your faith, remember Jesus himself was unmercifully humiliated, and that through your bearing of humiliation , you stand tall to him and someday will be comforted and rewarded by him.

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