The weekend that changed the world

Easter weekend is sometimes referred to as 'The weekend that changed the world', and Christians across the world agree - the love of God shown on Good Friday and the power of God revealed in the empty tomb on Easter Day make an amazing combination, we have so much to thank God for.

 Recently I heard it said that "none of us would even have heard of Jesus if it wasn't for him being raised from the dead".  I agree: the resurrection of Jesus from the grave shows that nothing at all, not even death, is a match for the power of God.  And it's not just wishful thinking - over 500 people saw the risen Jesus (roughly equivalent to the regular crowd at Poole Town FC, where I'm honorary chaplain). 

 Watching a game of football, members of the crowd all see it from different angles around the pitch, but we know what we see and it's not our imagination.  As St Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, his readers didn't have to take his word for it - they could go and check with other people who saw the risen Jesus.

 If we read on in that chapter, we learn that the resurrection is not just amazing history - it has direct personal relevance for all followers of Jesus.  This was brought home to me while talking with a young mum dying of cancer.  I will always remember her quoting the last verse of the hymn 'In Christ alone': "No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me … no power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand".  Thank God for that.

Time for a Treat?

Sunday is Mothering Sunday, and I expect quite a few of us will be seeing our mums, and a few flowers and chocs will be given in celebration.  For many people however, Mothering Sunday is a bittersweet occasion, laden with regret about things including damaged relationships, mothers or children no longer living, inability to conceive and much more. 

The gospel reading set for the day is the harrowing scene where the dying Jesus on the cross sees his mother Mary watching and entrusts the care of his mother to his disciple John.  How hard it is for any parent to watch their child die, we can only imagine how Mary must have felt.  The words Jesus used are reminiscent of the ancient adoption procedure, and it's clear that he had this in mind.

 For parents and children, care goes both ways at different times of life.  As babies, most of us are totally dependent on our mothers for food, clothing, nappy changing, and many other things.  But a few decades later the roles are often reversed as our mothers become dependent on us.  I know that some of you reading this have had that experience, or are going through it at the moment.

 One of the ten commandments is that we should honour our mother and father. Sometimes this is taken to mean that young children should obey their parents, but I think it has more to do with how we behave in adulthood, as we watch our parents' care needs escalate as they age, and indeed with how we treat older people in general.Whatever situation you're in, and whatever you find yourself doing on Sunday, I hope that you'll take the opportunity to treat someone with love, care and respect

Time to Get Back in Touch?

Some recent events in my life prompted me to think of an old friend from years ago, rekindling fond memories of times we shared together.   All of us have memories of past occasions: some going back years to our upbringing; some more recent; some of life's highs; some of its lows.  For many of us, photographs say more than words and so we use photos to nurture memories.  Our family living room is rather like that, with photos on shelves and walls as well as in our growing archive of albums which weigh down the bookshelves.

 One of the things which the Bible records is the followers of God learning to pass on lessons they have learned about life and God's faithfulness.  For example, part of Deuteronomy chapter 6 is the beginning of the Shema, which Jewish people still say every day.   Lent offers us a good chance for reflection.  As I reflect on life and things I have learned about its ups and downs, people, myself and God, I realise that it's often old lessons I need to re-learn and apply, rather than completely new things I'm learning.  And my mistakes and sins are also usually about falling into the same old traps rather than encountering new ones.

 Memories are not just a way to wallow in nostalgia.  The things we experienced yesterday and yesteryear should affect the way we live today.  What lessons have you learned which you still apply today?

 Writing this column is a prompt for me to email my old friend, it's been a long time since we were in touch.  I wonder about you … is there a person, or maybe God himself, that you need to get back in touch with?

Is it Time to Ditch Bad Habits?

This week sees pancake day on Tuesday and the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday.  In school assemblies over the past few days I have been trying (and failing!) to perfect my technique for flipping pancakes, and reflecting on why the tradition of pancakes emerged for 'Mardi Gras' (French for 'fat Tuesday'), the day before the beginning of Lent.

 The idea of pancake day/Shrove Tuesday was to use up the sweet ingredients that people would do without in the six and a half weeks before Easter.  There's a tradition of giving something up for Lent - for me this year it's the fizzy drinks that I have too many of - you may have seen me consuming too many of these!

 Going without things in Lent is for two reasons: first, to remember the temptation of Jesus in the desert, when He drew deeply from his well of knowledge of the Old Testament in resisting three big temptations; and second to recall his willingness to do without even life itself by dying on the cross for the good of people like you and me.

 Giving things up for Lent is about much more than ditching bad habits.  It's about reflecting on the changes that God wants to see in our lives.  Over the weeks before Easter, I hope you'll take time to consider some changes that would be in order, and then have the strength to put these into practice.