10 Tanda Place, Glenfield Park, Wagga Wagga NSW, 2650 Yvonne 0419 594 633 Pilgrim services are face to face and over Zoom. All welcome. Contact Yvonne for details.

Good Friday: Seven Last Words

A Southern Region Service

Wonderful to share today with people who walk so closely to God and listen so attentively to the Spirit that they can offer God’s word to us right where we’re at – in the midst of our heart ache and struggles. Thank you to all from Lockhart, Culcairn-Henty, Pilgrim, and Tumbarumba (and further afield!) who came together to hold this solemn moment ….

Wednesday: on the verge

I’m spending my time following Easter reading slowly through the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s appearances to his disciples. 

While I have long loved the story of how he travels with two disciples on the road to Emmaus and makes himself known to them in the breaking of bread, I find myself intrigued at the moment by what follows afterwards when those same disciples return to Jerusalem to share the news of their encounter with the eleven who are still behind closed doors. 

As they are recounting this miracle, Jesus appears in their midst – startling and frightening them all.

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

Luke 24:36-48, New International Version

I wonder how often we, desiring God’s presence, pleading for God’s guidance, are actually upset and disturbed when our prayers are answered and we encounter God in a way so real, so tangible that we would tell friends later, “I came face to face with God.” 

Coming face to face with God can be terrifying – especially when it is unexpected, or our lives are in disorder, or we are carrying around within us some secret shame, some “hidden” sin.  Think of Peter still labouring under the burden of having denied his association with Christ, or John’s shame at being unable to stay awake in the garden, or Nathanael’s heartache at not having borne witness to the suffering of his Lord and teacher upon the cross.

Jesus comes into their midst without judgement, speaking words of peace, offering the signs necessary to turn their fear and trembling into joy and amazement, and their joy and amazement into certainty and belief.

A central truth of the Christian life that we often neglect is that every encounter with Jesus places us on the verge of change and invites us into newness.

Often we are looking instead for the presence of God to satisfy an emptiness within us, to bring a little comfort and peace into a difficult day, but the God who puts our lives back together does so with the hope and desire that those lives will be lived in a different way.

It is for this reason that Jesus opens the disciples’ minds to the Scriptures: so that they can bear witness – testify – to the new life that the suffering and resurrection of Christ has made possible.

The Good News that we preach and proclaim over Easter does not stop with Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. The purpose of Jesus’s excruciating suffering is not just that we might claim forgiveness and the assurance of an eternal life in God’s kingdom. We need to fully understand and bear witness to the fact that the resurrected Lord gives us the power and the passion to be different, to turn away from and leave behind those relationships that drain us, those habits that have a hold on us, those mistakes and failures which limit our imagination and rob us of life.

Christ’s resurrection brings us to the brink of change.  All things are possible.  All ways are open. So, which direction will we choose to walk in? And who do we choose to walk with us?

***

May the God of the Easter garden bless you in every season of the heart.
May the God of the mountainside bless this time we’ve spent apart.
May the God of the beach bless you whether tides ebb or flow.
May the God of the upper room bless your doubts that all may know
the deep love of God that is stronger than death.

Amen.

Monday: sanctuary

There is a beautiful song that is usually offered on Easter Sunday evening – a song that is rarely heard after sunrise services and easter egg hunts and roasts with families have left our hearts full and our bodies ready for bed. 

It’s a song that acknowledges the painful history of the people of God – of immigrants, exiles, and slaves. 

It’s a song of the homeless. Of the wanderer. Of the displaced. Of the thirsty – for whom God turns the hard rock into springs of water. 

When Israel came out of Egypt,
Jacob from a people of foreign tongue,
Judah became God’s sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.
The sea looked and fled,
the Jordan turned back;
the mountains leaped like rams,
the hills like lambs.
Why was it, sea, that you fled?
Why, Jordan, did you turn back?
Why, mountains, did you leap like rams,
you hills, like lambs?
Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turned the rock into a pool,
the hard rock into springs of water.

Psalm 114, New International Version

This Easter Monday, we rejoice in the Good News that Christ is risen.

But, for those who still find themselves in the hard place, may you know in that still, small space where hope hesitantly holds on that you are the sanctuary of God. 

May God “split open boulders and bring up bubbling water” day by day as we seek to live as people of the resurrection.

Friday’s photo: ready

Today’s photo is taken in the entrance hall of our home where we have been getting ready for Easter. 

The round table on which everything rests belonged originally to my Mom but when I got married it became mine because it was the just-right size to fit in our little dining room with four chairs around it. Over the years, it has been gnawed upon by puppy dogs and punctured by pencils as the boys did their homework at it. Every time I look at it I smile because it makes me think of Enid Blyton’s “Enchanted Table.” Now retired, it has found new purpose marking the seasons and offering welcome as people come through our door.

In the background are bright symbols that remind me that this is a time of joy. I remember how much fun we had has children hunting Easter eggs in the garden – and the even greater fun I had hiding them for my own. I think of family traditions like Sunday’s roast lamb and hot cross buns at Oudi’s house on Good Friday, and church traditions like gathering together to make hundreds of Palm crosses or huddling beneath Calvary’s cross (yes, that really was the name of a dear community in which I worshipped, and yes, it really did have a beautiful outdoor cross) an hour before sunrise in the gloomy cold as we waited together for the light to dawn. Light. New life. A world made new. I am SO ready for that.

On the left are images from a Godly Play story which hold before me how truly human and how deeply loved Jesus was. The One who suffered alone on the cross was a blessing to the world: a son, a brother, a student, a carpenter, a friend, a teacher before he showed himself to be our Saviour. As I make ready to enter Holy Week, I reflect on the fact this is not some ancient story about some distant God but a word about love and pain and death and hope that so many need to hear … that I need to hear again.

Finally, on the right this year I have added a basin of water and a towel because the story of Pilate washing his hands of Jesus sits heavy within my heart in this time when hand washing has taken on such practical significance. I wonder who I have washed my hands of, kept at a distance, avoided because the personal cost in time and energy might be too much. Yet, as I dip my hands into the cool water, I feel myself washed clean. 

As we get ready to enter into this special season in our homes this year, I would like to encourage you to create a space for the symbols that help you connect with the story, with some of your memories of Easters past, and with the people who have sat with you in the darkness and waited for the light.

Yours in Christ,
Yvonne