Tag Archives: Cross

Wilson’s Nail Factory

Wilson runs a nail factory and decides his business needs a bit of advertising. He has a chat with a friend who works in marketing, and he offers to make a television ad for Wilson’s Nails. “Give me a week,” says the friend, “and I’ll be back with a tape.” A week goes by and the marketing executive comes to see Wilson. He puts a cassette in the video and presses play. A Roman soldier is busy nailing Jesus to the cross. He turns to face the camera and says with a grin, “Use Wilson’s Nails, they’ll hold anything.” Wilson goes mad, shouting, “What is the matter with you? They’ll never show that on television. Give it another try, but no more Romans crucifying Jesus!” Another week goes by and the marketing man comes back to see Wilson with another tape. He puts it in the machine and hits play. This time the camera pans out from a Roman standing with his arms folded to show Jesus on the cross. The Roman looks up at him and says, “Wilson’s Nails, they’ll hold anything.” Wilson is beside himself. “You don’t understand. I don’t want anything with Jesus on the cross! Now listen, I’ll give you one last chance. Come back in a week with an advertisement that I can broadcast.” A week passes and Wilson waits impatiently. The marketing executive arrives and puts on the new video. A naked man with long hair, gasping for breath, is running across a field. About a dozen Roman soldiers come over the hill, hot on his trail. One of them turns to the camera and says, “If only we had used Wilson’s Nails!”

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Tomatoes are Christian (article in Turkish News)

‘Tomatoes are Christian,’ Egyptian Salafi group warns      

 The group's message on Facebook.            


A  Salafi group called the “Popular Egyptian Islamic Association” has warned Muslims against eating tomatoes on the grounds that the fruit is a “Christian food,” NowLebanon.com has reported.    The group based its claim on the fact that a shape resembling a cross is revealed when one cuts a tomato in half.    The association published the warning on its Facebook page with a photo of a tomato cut in half, revealing a cross-shaped interior. 
A message posted on the page read, “Eating tomatoes is forbidden because they are Christian. [The tomato] praises the cross instead of Allah and says that Allah is three [in reference to the Holy Trinity].”   The message went on to say, “I implore you to spread this photo because there is a sister from Palestine who saw the Prophet of Allah in a vision and he was crying, warning his nation against eating [tomatoes]. If you don’t spread this [message], know that it is the devil who stopped you.”   The message caused outrage among Facebook users, which prompted the group to clarify their warning, saying they did not tell people not to eat tomatoes. “We said don’t cut it in [such a way that it reveals] the cross shape.”

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Ruthwell Cross (near Dumfries)

The Ruthwell Cross in its Apse
The Ruthwell Cross in its Apse

The Ruthwell Cross is the most magnificent Anglian cross in Scotland and is an early Christian monument of international importance. It was probably carved some time in the early to mid 700s at a time when this part of Dumfries and Galloway was under the control of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria.

Oblique View of the Cross
Oblique View of the Cross
All that Remains of the Original Cross Beam
All that Remains of the
Original Cross Beam
South Face, Lowest Panels: the Annunciation, with Crucifix Scene Below
South Face, Lowest Panels: 
the Annunciation, 
with Crucifix Scene Below

The Ruthwell Cross is a dramatically imposing piece of stone. It stands some 5.2m or 17ft tall, which in itself presents something of an enigma. The crispness of the surviving original carving on the cross suggests it spent much of its life sheltered from the elements. Yet it is difficult to imagine a cross of this size being seen as a comfortable decoration in anything but an exceptionally large Dark Age building. There is a traditional story that the cross was originally sited on the shore of the Solway Firth at a place called Priestside, a mile and a half south of Ruthwell Church.

It is pure speculation, but it is tempting to tie the traditional location story with the placename and come up with the idea of an early Christian monastery on the shore of the Solway Firth at Priestside, with its location marked by a large cross of the sort that became such a feature ofColumba’s monastery at Iona.

Side View of the Cross
Side View of the Cross
Close Up of Part of Runic Inscription
Close Up of Part of Runic Inscription
Lower Part of Cross, Showing the Recessed Floor Needed to Allow it to Stand in the Church
Lower Part of Cross, Showing the 
Recessed Floor Needed to Allow
it to Stand in the Church

The early Presbyterian Kirk in Scotland took a pretty fundamentalist view of life, and it is of great regret that its major contribution to world art and culture was to destroy as much of it as was within reach. Much that was important and beautiful was lost during the latter half of the 1500s, following the Reformation,and in the 1600s, and succeeding generations in Scotland have been spiritually poorer as a result. In 1640 the General Assembly of the Kirk decreed that the “many idolatrous monuments erected and made for religious worship”should be destroyed. In response to this edict the Ruthwell Cross was defaced and broken up in 1642, its pieces being buried in the clay floor of the church.Ruthwell Parish Church has at its heart a medieval building, and we know for sure that the Ruthwell Cross stood in the church in 1600. It is more speculation, but it seems reasonable to suggest that it had done so since the church was built, perhaps in the 1200s.

The church was extensively remodelled in 1801-3 and it appears that during this process the pieces of the cross were recovered and placed in the churchyard. In 1818 the Parish Minister, theReverend Henry Duncan, collected together all the available pieces of the cross and paid for it to be reassembled, with broken or missing pieces replaced. The most important of these was the cross beam, which was almost entirely absent apart from one fragment now shown beside the cross itself. This has led one modern authority to suggest the Ruthwell Cross was never actually a cross, but on purely aesthetic grounds that seems unlikely. In 1823 Duncan had the restored cross erected at the gateway of the manse.

By 1887 the importance of the Ruthwell Cross, and the need for an indoor location to protect it from the elements, was becoming better recognised. The result was the construction of a new north apse for the church, specially intended to house the cross. The cross is so large it had to be moved to its new home while the apse was being built, and so large that it was necessary to lower the central portion of the floor of the apse by several feet just to allow the cross to fit.

There are a number of reasons why the Ruthwell Cross is such an important monument. The most obvious is the sheer quantity and quality of the carving it carries. The second is that it serves as a scripture in stone, carrying inscriptions in Latin around the carved panels which tie in with the subjects of the panels. Meanwhile the side panels of the shaft carry largely decorative carvings, and their borders contain runic inscriptions. These are thought to have been added some time after the cross was already standing, and may date to as late as the 900s. They set out the text of a well known early Christian poem entitledDream of the Rood.

The many uncertainties, mysteries and academic disputes about aspects of the Ruthwell Cross only add to its fascination. Was it originally a cross or a pillar? Who added the runic inscription, when, and why? How accurate was the reconstruction: is it possible that parts could have been assembled the wrong way round? Why is the stone in the lower part of the actual cross head a redder colour than the rest of the monument? Is some of the carving too crisp to be 1400 years old, however well the cross was protected from the elements? Half the fun is in simply asking the questions in the knowledge that no-one really knows the answers.

North Face Main Panel: Christ Standing on a Pair of Animals
North Face Main Panel: Christ 
Standing on a Pair of Animals
South Face Main Panel: Mary Magdalene Washing Christ's Feet:
South Face Main Panel: Mary 
Magdalene Washing Christ’s Feet:
North Face Lower Panel: St Paul and St Anthony Share Bread
North Face Lower Panel: St Paul 
and St Anthony Share Bread
South Face Lower Panel: Healing the Blind Man
South Face Lower Panel: 
Healing the Blind Man

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The Scorpion

There once was an old Indian man who used to meditate each day be the River Ganges. One morning he saw a scorpion floating on the water. When the scorpion drifted near the old man he reached to rescue it but was stung by the scorpion. A bit later he tried again and was stung again, the bite swelling his hand painfully and giving him much pain.

Another man passing by saw what was happening and yelled at the old man, “Hey, what’s wrong with you? Only a fool would risk his life for sake of an ugly, evil creature. Don’t you know you could kill yourself trying to save that ungrateful scorpion?” The old man calmly replied, “My friend, just it is in the scorpion’s nature to sting, that does not change my nature to save.”

It is in God’s nature to save – because it is in God’s nature to love. God seeks the lost, heals the wounded, forgives the offender, and gives hope to those who are in despair. It is what God does. It matters not that we might be scorpions – that we might hurt him – God has made promises to us – and he keeps them.

That is what the story of the cross is all about. St Paul writing to Timothy says: “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”

Our purpose – the purpose God calls us to – is to save as well: – to change our minds about the destruction we want to bring about when we feel hurt, – to relent of the anger we have, and to work to save others as God has saved us, us who are sinners no less than those whom we are angry at.

Someone once wrote of having been on an ocean liner headed to the Middle East. Nine hundred miles out to sea a sail was sighted on the horizon. As the liner drew closer, the passengers saw that the boat – a small sloop flying a Turkish flag – had run up a distress signal and other flags asking for its position at sea. Through a faulty chronometer or immature navigation, the small vessel had become lost.

For nearly an hour, the liner circled the little boat, giving its crew correct latitude and longitude. Naturally, there was a great deal of interest in all the proceeding among the passengers of the liner. A boy of about 12 standing on the deck and watching all that was taking place remarked aloud to himself – “It’s a big ocean to be lost in.”

It is a big universe to be lost in too. And we do get lost – we get mixed up and turned around. We despair, we make mistakes, we harm each other

But while it is a big universe out there it is not a hostile one – at least not on God’s part. God’s wrath does not last forever – indeed it barely lasts but a moment for God remembers who we are, what we are made of, and whose we are, and it is in his nature – even when dealing with scorpions – to seek the lost, to save the sinner and have compassion on those seek his shelter.

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A Prayer of Reconciliation

Across the barriers that divide race from race

Reconcile us, O Christ, by your cross

Across the barriers that divide rich from poor

Reconcile us, O Christ, by your cross

Across the barriers that divide Christians

Reconcile us, O Christ, by your cross

Across the barriers that divide men and women

Reconcile us, O Christ, by your cross

Across the barriers that divide young and old

Reconcile us, O Christ, by your cross

Across the barriers that divide traditionalists from progressives

Reconcile us, O Christ, by your cross

Across the barriers that divide homophobes from gays.

Reconcile us, O Christ, by your cross 


 Confront us, O Christ, with our hidden prejudices and fears that deny and betray our prayers.

Enable us to see the causes of strife; remove from us all false sense of superiority.

Teach us to grow in unity with all God’s children.

We ask a special blessing and guidance: help us to recognize the gifts you have given each of us.  Grant us patience as well as energy for the tasks ahead.

May it be readily known that we are your disciples and followers – through our words, actions and love



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Road Rage – Christian-style

The light turned yellow, just in front of him. He did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.

The tailgating woman was furious and honked her horn, screaming in frustration, as she missed her chance to get through the intersection, dropping her cell phone and her make-up.

As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up..

He took her to the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding cell.

After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.

He said, ”I’m very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, giving the guy in front of you the finger, and cursing at him. I noticed the ‘What Would Jesus Do’ bumper sticker, the ‘Choose Life’ license plate holder, the ‘Follow Me to Sunday-School’ bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk, so naturally… I assumed you had stolen the car.”




Two nuns, Sister Mary Agnes and Sister Mary Vincent, are travelling through Europe in their car, sightseeing in Transylvania. As they are stopped at a traffic light, out of nowhere, a small vampire jumps onto the hood of the car and hisses at them through the windscreen

Quick, quick! shouts Sister Mary Agnes, What should we do?

Turn the windscreen wipers on. That will get rid of the abomination, says Sister Mary Vincent.

Sister Mary Agnes switches on the wipers, which knock the mini-Dracula around. But, he hangs on and continues hissing at the nuns.

What shall I do now? she shouts.

Try the windscreen washer. I filled it with holy water before we left the Vatican, replies Sister Mary Vincent.

Sister Mary Agnes turns on the windscreen washer. The vampire screams as the water burns his skin, but he hangs on and continues hissing at the nuns.

Now what? shouts Sister Mary Agnes.

Show him your cross, says Sister Mary Vincent.

Now you’re talking, says Sister Mary Agnes. She then opens the window and shouts, Get the fck off our car, you little f****r!

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Do not be afraid

Do not be afraid



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April 17, 2013 · 11:53

The Rose – Some Thoughts for Mothering Sunday (Lent 4)

“Say it with flowers!”   I’m sure florists all over the land have been inundated during the last few days with orders for bouquets, sprays, and posies.

Today, of course, is Mothering Sunday, and what symbolises the love we feel today, and the joy we feel today, than the beautiful gift of a flower….and particularly that of a rose…

“Enough the rose was heaven to smell”  – that’s a fine line….

…yes, there is something special, beautiful, almost heavenly  about a rose.

It is a thing of beauty; a thing of joy.  Roses and rejoicing go well together.

The Prophet Isaiah when talking of the future glory of Zion writes:

The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose

He seems to link the rejoicing of the people with the blossoming of the rose.

The rose – it symbolises fertility, joy, success – it is something to be prized.

It’s not new, however, this giving of a rose to a worthy recipient at this time of year, you know

On the fourth Sunday in Lent,  a Golden Rose, an ornament was given by the Roman Catholic Church to worthy women as well as men as a mark of special favour – rather like the Oscars of their day.

It’s said that the tradition dates back a long way to the time of the betrothal of Mary and Joseph, when, supposedly, a bud or flower sprouted on Joseph’s staff or rod –  an indication that he was the man Mary should become engaged to & a fulfilment of the prophesy:

There shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him

Somewhere along the line, this tale got less concerned with the birth of the Saviour and more with his mother.  Artists in the Middle Ages liked to depict the happy couple, Mary & Joseph, together at the scene of their betrothal – rod, bud, flower and all.   And a caption was often to be found beneath the picture: “She is the flower, she is the rose” referring, of course, to Mary

The Rose….in her were the virtues of the rose – sensitivity, beauty, serenity.

Think of her life – a life of love, a life of piety

Think on these early years – told that she had been chosen to give birth to God’s own son;

then the journey to Bethlehem;

and the flight to Egypt –

–          all done calmly, faithfully – for the love of God and of  her child.

Then think of all the times when Jesus did or said things that she couldn’t comprehend – and on occasion said things that must have hurt her very much

But the love was still there in Mary’s heart

The whole Jesus-story must have seemed like a ghastly riddle to which there was no clue.  But she accepted it all – in love, in faith.

A mother’s love never dies.  It goes on even to the point of death, even when the crowds and the laughter and the support of the people are gone. There she stands at the foot of the Cross, love still blossoming in her heart.

We learn a lot about love from our mothers.  Jesus would learn about love – not only through our Heavenly Father’s Spirit – but also at his mother’s knee From Mary the Rose – Jesus was much indebted…perhaps more than we would credit him for.

And his too was a love that never died just as Mary’s before him.  Love does indeed conquer all.  Love never gives up.

Let me finish with two different pieces of verse.

The first a stanza from a song which was in a movie called ‘The Rose’   It’s talking about love of a different kind, but we may use it for our own purposes here:

“When the night has been too lonely

And the road has been too long;

When you think that love is only

For the lucky and for the strong –

Just remember in the winter

Far beneath the bitter snows

Lies the seed that with the sun’s love

In the spring becomes the rose”

And this – a 16th Century carol:

Lo, how a rose e’er blooming

From tender stem hath sprung!

Of Jesus’ lineage coming

As men of old have sung.

It came a flower-et bright

Amid the cold of winter

When half spent was the night

The Rose    Love It may seemed buried and dead   But the seed is always there, ready to burst forth in blossom, in all its glory.   And after every Good Friday comes Easter morn.


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No PR agency in the world could sell the disturbing message of a broken man on the cross. That’s why we get Jesus-lite

ned flanders

Ned Flanders of The Simpsons giving a fine rendition of the cheesy Christian smile

One thing you learn pretty quickly as a priest taking primary school assemblies is that, according to the under fives, there is no question that cannot be appropriately answered with the word Jesus. Obviously, anything faintly religious must be answered in that way. But other questions too. “What is the capital of France?”, “What is the price of a loaf of bread?”, “What is the name of your sister?”.

In every class there is always some little mite who enthusiastically sticks up their hand, bursting with confidence. Jesus, they say, proudly, when chosen.

After a while, if you say a word enough, over and over again, it loses its meaning. It even begins to sound a little different. Jesus morphs into Cheesus – the es getting steadily elongated. Those who talk about Cheesus do so with a creepy sort of chummyiness. This is what evangelicals call “a personal relationship”, by which they mean that Cheesus has become their boyfriend or best mate.

And when such people speak of Cheesus they have to wear that sickly smile too. It’s that I-know-something-you-don’t smile. Patronising, superior and faux caring all at the same time. And if you disagree with them they will pray for you. It makes you want to bang your head against a brick wall.

Once again, the evangelicals are in the ascendency in the Church of England. Rowan Williams never spoke of Cheesus. He had way too much gravitas. Which was why so many non-Christians respected him. And, to be fair, Justin Welby doesn’t do that either – but I worry that he does have a slight weakness in that direction. After all, that is the stable of the church he hails from. And if he does lapse into Cheesus-speak, heaven save him from Rowan Atkinson, whose Red Nose day satire was a little too close for comfort.

Welby, however, does have one important inoculation against Cheesus. He has personal experience of tragedy and Cheesus cannot deal with tragedy. Which is why, for the worst sort of Cheesus-loving evangelicals, the cross of Good Friday is actually celebrated as a moment of triumph. This is theologically illiterate. Next week, in the run up to Easter, Christianity goes into existential crisis. It fails.

The disciples run away, unable to cope with the impossible demands placed upon them. The hero they gave up everything to follow is exposed to public ridicule and handed over to Roman execution. And the broken man on the cross begins to fear that God is no longer present.

The fact that this is not the end of the story does not take away from the fact that tragedy will always be folded into the experience of faith. Even the resurrected Jesus bears the scars of his suffering. A man who has been through something like that will never smile that cheesy smile or think of faith as some sunny suburban upspeak.

Justin Welby is the theological product of Holy Trinity Brompton, the Old Etonian-run church next to Harrods that brought the world the Alpha Course and doubles up as a posh dating agency for west London singles. They are brilliant at PR and have pots of money. And if Christianity is all about success, then you have it hand it to them.

But the problem with PR Christianity is that it can easily transform Jesus into Cheesus, which is a form of Jesus-lite, a romantic infatuation, a Mills & Boon theology that makes you feel all warm inside. The Gospels, however, tell an altogether more disturbing story. And there is no PR agency in the world that could sell the message of a man who told his followers that they too would have to go the way of the cross. That’s the problem with Cheesus. He won’t really suffer and he doesn’t ever die.

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December 5, 2012 · 23:21