Speak Lord: Lord and Saviour

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People who are interested only in unspiritual things can never be pleasing to God. Your interests, however, are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you. In fact, unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him. Though your body may be dead it is because of sin, but if Christ is in you then your spirit is life itself because you have been justified; and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.

Romans 8:8-11

The second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Lent, reminds us of hte multi-dimensionality of human life – body/spirit; life limited by death and life that continues beyond death; life ‘alone’ and life lived in communion with Christ.

  • Choose the flourishing of the spirit even now in our world and in our bodies and in Christ!
  • Accept the gift of life in the spirit even now in our world and in our bodies and in Christ!

Roof Boss, Tewkesbury Abbey. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

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Speak Lord: Call us to life

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There was a man named Lazarus who lived in the village of Bethany with the two sisters, Mary and Martha, and he was ill. It was the same Mary, the sister of the sick man Lazarus, who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. The sisters sent this message to Jesus, ‘Lord, the man you love is ill.’ On receiving the message, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.’

Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet when he heard that Lazarus was ill he stayed where he was for two more days before saying to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judaea.’ The disciples said, ‘Rabbi, it is not long since the Jews wanted to stone you; are you going back again?’ Jesus replied:

‘Are there not twelve hours in the day?
A man can walk in the daytime without stumbling
because he has the light of this world to see by;
but if he walks at night he stumbles,
because there is no light to guide him.’

He said that and then added, ‘Our friend Lazarus is resting, I am going to wake him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he is able to rest he is sure to get better.’ The phrase Jesus used referred to the death of Lazarus, but they thought that by ‘rest’ he meant ‘sleep’, so Jesus put it plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad I was not there because now you will believe. But let us go to him.’ Then Thomas – known as the Twin – said to the other disciples, ‘Let us go too, and die with him.’

On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already. Bethany is only about two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to sympathise with them over their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus had come she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.’ ‘Your brother’ said Jesus to her ‘will rise again.’ Martha said, ‘I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said:

‘I am the resurrection and the life.
If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live,
and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ she said ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’
When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in a low voice, ‘The Master is here and wants to see you.’ Hearing this, Mary got up quickly and went to him. Jesus had not yet come into the village; he was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were in the house sympathising with Mary saw her get up so quickly and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

Mary went to Jesus, and as soon as she saw him she threw herself at his feet, saying, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ At the sight of her tears, and those of the Jews who followed her, Jesus said in great distress, with a sigh that came straight from the heart, ‘Where have you put him?’ They said, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept; and the Jews said, ‘See how much he loved him!’ But there were some who remarked, ‘He opened the eyes of the blind man, could he not have prevented this man’s death?’ Still sighing, Jesus reached the tomb: it was a cave with a stone to close the opening. Jesus said, ‘Take the stone away.’ Martha said to him, ‘Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day.’ Jesus replied, ‘Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said:

‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer.
I knew indeed that you always hear me,
but I speak for the sake of all these who stand round me,
so that they may believe it was you who sent me.’

When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, here! Come out!’ The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with bands of stuff and a cloth round his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, let him go free.’

Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what he did believed in him.

John 11:1-45

Over the past Sundays the Gospel reading has dealt with themes of thirst, blindness, and this week – the week of the 5th Sunday of Lent – death. All of these limit-experiences Jesus addresses and overcomes for the sake of those who need his help.

Who is there who does not need that help?

Lent is a season given us to help us know our need of Jesus more deeply, and turn to the Lord and his life-giving love more readily.

  • What leads you to death?
  • How might the Lord be calling you back to life?

Raising of Lazarus: detail of sarcophagus carving. Vatican Museum. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Light for us, as we need

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Look upon those who call to you, O Lord,
and sustain the weak;
give life by your unfailing light
to those who walk in the shadow of death,
and bring those rescued by your mercy from every evil
to reach the highest good.
Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Prayer over the People for the 4th Sunday of Lent

The optional Prayer over the People provided for Sunday reminds that the light of the Lord is to help us to life – to give life, to raise us up  and to help us journey onward.

Sometimes, though, doing anything more can seem (can be) beyond us. And in that case how wonderful it is even if ‘all that God is able to do, or all we are able to allow him to do, is to ‘sustain’ us. Sometimes to rest in the Lord is what we most need, and that we are able to chieve this is itself a miracle of sorts.

  • How does the grace of God seem to connect with your life at present?
  • And to what effect?

Olafur Eliasson: The Weather Project. Installation at the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London. (c) 2003, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Secure, even in our dying?

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The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Psalm 22:1-6

The Responsorial Psalm at Mass on Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Lent, expresses faith and trust.

Sometimes we rely on these qualities as we deal with teh familiar things of life – but as the psalm acknowledges there are also experiences with which we are less than familiar, which test and strech us in ways that we are not comfortable with. Death, darkness, depresson are but three of these: experiences in life where faith and trust are greatly needed but we often find ourselves bereft of them.

The story of Gethesemene reminds us that in his humanity Jesus himself experienced this want and lack, and yet he found thestrength of will to turn to his Father again and cry of, praying that all should be as God wills. In that will, in that desire he found the way back to faith, to trust…

Pere Lachaise cemetery, Paris. (c) 2004, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Lighten our way

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O God, who enlighten everyone who comes into this world,
illuminate our hearts, we pray,
with the splendour of your grace,
that we may always ponder
what is worthy and pleasing to your majesty
and love you in all sincerity.
Through Christ our Lord.

Prayer after Communion on the 4th Sunday of Lent

The Prayer after Communion at Mass yesterday had us pray for God to be God and us to be us, fully us, truly us.

God is love, light, truth, and God seeks to share all that is good.

All that is good helps us to fulfilment – for our own benefit and that of otheres, and yet so often we progress by half measures, and retreat into the shadows.

But we pray for things to be as best they might be.

Sometimes to pray for this is all that we are able to do, but God has ways of answering our prayers beyond what we can imagine.

Steps at St Trophime, Arles, France. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Help us on…

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The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Fill your horn with oil and go. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen myself a king among his sons.’

When Samuel arrived, he caught sight of Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed stands there before him,’ but the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Take no notice of his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him: God does not see as man sees: man looks at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.’ Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’

He then asked Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’ He answered, ‘There is still one left, the youngest; he is out looking after the sheep.’ Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send for him; we will not sit down to eat until he comes.’ Jesse had him sent for, a boy of fresh complexion, with fine eyes and pleasant bearing. The Lord said, ‘Come, anoint him, for this is the one.’

At this, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him where he stood with his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord seized on David and stayed with him from that day on.

1 Samuel 16:1,6-7,10-13

The First reading at Mass today draws us into the narrative of monarchy in Israel.

That narrative depcits Israel as rejecting at least something of the kingship of God in choosing to have a king such as the nations have. It leads to the collapse of the community brought from Egypt, and to exile in Babylon. When Israel returns from Babylon it is a chastened community.

But in this passage we are presented with a new start, and with hope…

 

  • How do you seek to ensure that your new starts have firm foundations?

Stained Glass. All Saints, Leamington Spa. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Shepherd Lord

 

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The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Psalm 22:1-6

The Responsorial Psalm sung at Mass tomorrow, the 4th Sunday of Lent, is perhaps the best known psalm in the English-speaking world, at any rate, and the one most commonly requested at funerals and weddings. It is a psalm that speaks of confidence and trust in the Lord in good times and bad, hard, sad times.

We sing it tomorrow after hearing of the shepherd by chosen to be Israel’s king. Kingship is a troubled concept in the Old Testament. For Israel has its king – the Lord – but it hankers after kings such as the other nations have… and though God allows them their kings they often enough turn out to bring disaster on the people.

The Bible denotes Psalm 22 as a Psalm of David. Whether this means he worte it, no-one knows. But the account of David – despite its ups and downs and tragedies – does reveal him to be a person who knew God to be his Lord, his king, and who placed his trust in him. The psalm expressed just such a faith.

And  today, still, not least by this psalm, David’s faith continues to inform ours.

Mosiac of the Good Shepherd, The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, 425 C.E., Ravenna, Italy. (c) 2004, Allen Morris