Archive for March, 2016

Easter Sunday

Posted: March 28, 2016 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

First of all, an apology that this is a day late. I was so busy doing Easter that I ran out of time to write about it, but having finished our Lenten journey with silence, it felt right that we should return for the celebration.

But of course if it is a celebration it is a bittersweet one. Last night I was involved in a reflective worship event, and half way through we got news of the bomb attack in Lahore. Such tragedy doesn’t fit with the triumphant picture of Easter Sunday we want to paint, but we cannot close our eyes to it and so Simon spoke about the truth that we still live in the whole of Easter.

The resurrection did not and does not mean that everything is okay, but it does mean that one day everything will be. It does mean that we can pray for Lahore and Brussels and Ankara and our neighbour who is slowly dying from cancer in the faith that there is life and hope beyond death and suffering.

The son has risen as a promise that the sun will rise. That is the Easter story.

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Lent Day 40 – Silence

Posted: March 26, 2016 by leighannegreenwood in Lent

We know what comes next, and so it is easy for us to jump from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, but on Holy Saturday we are confronted by the silence of the tomb. Take a moment to sit with the desolation of today, so that you may feel the full power of tomorrow.

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40thoughts: hold a cross

40acts:give up to give away

Leeds Prayer Diary: Abigail Housing

Lent Day 39 – The Cross

Posted: March 25, 2016 by leighannegreenwood in Lent

As we come to the cross I want to leave you with a poem called Ecce Homo by David Gascoyne, and a painting called The White Crucifixion by Marc Chagall. I don’t know what Gascoyne believed, and Chagall was a Jewish artist so he had a quite different understanding of the cross, but these images of Jesus suffering among the horrors of the world remind me that the story isn’t quite finished yet. We still need the tree of human pain to remind us that we do not suffer alone and give us hope that we may not suffer in vain.


Ecce Homo

Whose is this horrifying face,
This putrid flesh, discouloured, flayed,
Fed on by flies, scorched by the sun?
Whose are these hollow red-filmed eyes
And thorn-spiked head and spear-stuck side?
Behold the Man: He is Man’s Son.

Forget the legend, tear the decent veil
That cowardice or interest devised
To make their mortal enemy a friend,
To hide the bitter truth all His wounds tell,
Lest the great scandal be no more disguised:
He is in agony till the world’s end,

And we must never sleep during that time!
He is suspended on the cross-tree now
And we are onlookers at the crime,
Callous contemporaries of the slow
Torture of God.  Here is the hill
Made ghastly by His spattered blood

Whereon He hangs and suffers still:
See, the centurions wear riding-boots,
Black shirts and badges and peaked caps,
Greet one another with raised-arm salutes;
They have cold eyes, unsmiling lips;
Yet these His brothers know not what they do.

And on his either side hang dead
A labourer and a factory hand,
Or one is maybe a lynched Jew
And one a Negro or a Red,
Coolie or Ethiopian, Irishman,
Spaniard or German democrat.

Behind his lolling head the sky
Glares like a fiery cataract
Red with the murders of two thousand years
Committed in His name and by
Crusaders, Christian warriors
Defending faith and property.

Amid the plain beneath His transfixed hands,
Exuding darkness as indelible
As guilty stains, fanned by funereal
And lurid airs, besieged by drifting sands
And clefted landslides our about-to-tbe
Bombed and abandoned cities stand.

He who wept for Jersualem
Now sees His prophecy extend
Across the greatest cities of the world,
A guilty panic reason cannot stem
Rising to raze them all as He foretold;
And He must watch this drama to the end.

Though often named, He is unknown
To the dark kingdoms at His feet
Where everything disparages His words,
And each man bears the common guilt alone
And goes blindfolded to his fate,
And fear and greed are sovereign lords.

The turning point of history
Must come.  Yet the complacent and the proud
And who exploit and kill, may be denied–
Christ of Revolution and of Poetry-
The resurrection and the life
Wrought by your spirit’s blood.

Involved in their own sophistry
The black priest and the upright man
Faced by subversive truth shall be struck dumb,
Christ of Revolution and of Poetry,
While the rejected and condemned become
Agents of the divine.

Not from a monstrance silver-wrought
But from the tree of human pain
Redeem our sterile misery,
Christ of Revolution and of Poetry,
That man’s long journey
May not have been in vain.

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40thoughts: question your beliefs

40acts: cut your ego down to size

Lent Day 38 – The Last Supper

Posted: March 24, 2016 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

Today is Maundy Thursday, when we normally look to the the Synoptic Gospels to remember the bread and the wine of the Last Supper, but I want instead to look to the Fourth Gospel to offer the words and the prayers of the Last Supper. It think these five chapters are among the most incredible and important in the gospels, and I would encourage you to find time to read and reflect on them.

John 13-17

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

13 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfill the scripture, ‘The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he. 20 Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.”

Jesus Foretells His Betrayal

21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23 One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. 27 After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

The New Commandment

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial

36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.

Jesus the Way to the Father

14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? ]And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.

Jesus the True Vine

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

The World’s Hatred

18 “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

16 “I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.

The Work of the Spirit

“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Sorrow Will Turn into Joy

16 “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying to us, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They said, “What does he mean by this ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? 20 Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. 22 So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

Peace for the Disciples

25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. 26 On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.”

29 His disciples said, “Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.”31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33 I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

Jesus Prays for His Disciples

17 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

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40thoughts: remember times when you have felt cradled in the love of another

40acts: don’t you scrub up well?!

Leeds Prayer Diary: Caring for Life and Spacious Places

Lent Day 37 – Anointing

Posted: March 23, 2016 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

Today’s reflection comes from this blog post by Rachel Held Evans.

Just days before his betrayal and death, Jesus and his disciples were eating at the home of Simon the Leper in Bethany. While they were reclining at the table, a woman, who John identifies as Mary of Bethany, approached Jesus with an alabaster jar of expensive perfume, worth about a year’s wages. Mary broke the jar, pouring the perfume on Jesus’ body.

While John writes that Mary anointed Jesus’ feet, wiping them with her hair, Matthew and Mark report that the woman of Bethany anointed Jesus’ head.  Both actions carry important symbolic meaning.

In the ancient Near East, the act of anointing signified selection for some special role or task. Kings were often anointed with oil as part of their coronation ceremony, often by a prophet or priest. The Greek word Christos, Christ,” is a translation of the Hebrew word for Messiah, which means “the anointed one.”  And so this anonymous woman finds herself in the untraditional position of priest and prophet. In the upside-down Kingdom of Jesus, it makes perfect sense.

Anointing the feet, however, models service, discipleship, and love. In this sense, John’s account is more personal and raw.  In a culture in which a woman’s touch was often forbidden, Mary dares to cradle  the feet of Jesus in her  hands and spread the oil across his ankles and toes with the ends of her hair. Rather than measuring out a small amount of oil, Mary breaks the jar lets it all pour out.  She’s all-in, fully committed, sparing no expense. The oil she may have been reserving for her own burial, or the burial of a loved one, has been poured out generously, without thought of the future. The humility of this action foreshadows the footwahsing that is to come. Later, Jesus would imitate Mary by washing the feet of the Twelve, telling them to do the same.

But in the midst of all this symbolism and foreshadowing, Jesus sees something else at work. He interprets the woman’s act of worship as preparation for his burial. When the disciples rebuke the woman for what they see as a  waste of money, Jesus responds by saying, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial.”

Jesus had been speaking of his impending death for a while, but the Twelve were having none of it. When Jesus told Peter that “the Messiah must be rejected, suffer, and die; then he will be raised,” Peter responded with such an impassioned protest that Jesus rebuked him with “get behind me Satan!” In another instance, Jesus spoke ominously of his death, and the disciples respond by debating who will be the greatest in the coming kingdom. And in another, James and John miss the point entirely by responding to Jesus’ prediction with requests to sit at his right and left hand. Clearly, the Twelve struggled to conceive of a kingdom that would begin not with the death of their enemies, but with the death of their friend. I suspect this is why they complained about the “waste” of money exhibited by the anointing. They imagined that their ministry with Jesus would continue for months and years to come. You can sense the sadness in Jesus’ words when he reminds them, yet again, that he will not always be with them, that he is preparing for the most difficult days of his life.

We cannot know for sure whether the woman who anointed Jesus saw her actions as a prelude to her teacher’s upcoming death and burial.  I suspect she knew instinctively, the way that women know these things, that a man who dines at a leper’s house, who allows a woman to touch him with her hair, who rebukes Pharisees and befriends prostitutes, would not survive for long in the world in which she lived. 

Surely a woman in this society would understand this better than a man.

Perhaps this is why the women stayed by Jesus’ side after so many of the Twelve betrayed him, denied him, and fled from him in fear. This was the course of things, the women knew. They would see it through to the end.

And so the woman of Bethany becomes the first of Christ’s disciples to acknowledge his impending death. For this, Jesus praises her in unparalleled terms. “Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

What a remarkable thought—that at every communion, every Easter service, every cathedral and every tent revival, from Israel to Africa, to Europe to China, this woman’s story should be on our lips, right along with Christ’s.

And yet, while we break the bread and drink the wine, we rarely pour out the oil.

Jesus wanted us to remember, but we have forgotten. We aren’t even sure of this woman’s name.

Perhaps we should bring back this oil, this costly perfume, and make it part of our Eucharist.  Perhaps, with the help of the Spirit, the scent of it might trigger our memory.

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40thoughts: host

40acts: abandon the perfect story for the one that matters

Leeds Prayer Diary: CODESA and Street Pastors

Lent Day 36 – The Fig Tree

Posted: March 22, 2016 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

The cursing of the fig tree is an odd little story. Mark and Matthew both recount that Jesus sees a fig tree in leaf, and curses it when he sees that it has no fruit, even though it is not the right season for it. When the tree withers, and the disciples wonder about what they have witnessed, Jesus tells them to have faith because anything they pray for will be theirs if they believe.

It sounds bizarre, but there are two things you should know about fig trees. The first is that they normally put out their fruit before their leaves, and the second is that they were commonly used as  a symbol for Israel in the Old Testament.

If the fig tree was in leaf, it would not have been unreasonable for Jesus to have expected it to also be bearing fruit, and so the fact that it wasn’t meant that its appearance was deceptive. It was giving the impression of fruitfulness, but in fact there was nothing there.

Jesus knew his scriptures and so he would have known that the fig tree would resonate as an image of Israel, and given that Matthew also places the ‘woes to the pharisees’ in Holy Week, it may be that he had in view the religious leaders who in some way represented the nation.

So perhaps Jesus wasn’t just having a bad day and taking it out on the poor fig tree. Maybe he was using it as a symbol for the hypocrisy of those who appear to do the right thing but largely miss the point. The fact that he curses the tree indicates his frustration with empty religious observance, and the withering is a reminder that unless our faith puts forth good fruit it is good for nothing and nobody.

But what of Jesus’ words to the disciples? We will all have experienced unanswered prayer, and so it is difficult to take them at face value. Perhaps then we must put them in context.

If Jesus was cautioning against hollow religion, then his appeal to faith was perhaps intended to remedy that. And if he was thinking about the failure of the religious leaders to bear fruit, then his promise of answered prayer was perhaps intended as a promise of fruitfulness for the church that kept on believing.

We have given thanks for the fruit of Revive and prayed for where else it may be planted, and so perhaps we may take this story as an encouragement to keep cultivating that fruit so that we do not become like the fig tree.

 

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40thoughts: try a rhythm with others

40acts: it’s a mystery

Leeds Prayer Diary: Hope for the Nations

Lent Day 35 – Turning Over The Tables

Posted: March 21, 2016 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

The exact timeline of Holy Week is a little hard to figure out, but the Synoptic Gospels (that’s Matthew Mark and Luke) all agree that at some point after arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus walks into the temple and turns over the tables of the moneylenders and those selling animals for sacrifices, declaring that they have turned the house of God from a place of prayer into a den of thieves.

Jesus is angry, really angry, and it seems to be because worship has lost its focus. It has become about maintaining the cult and turning a profit, even in the midst of great social inequality, which we know was visible in the temple because the story of the poor widow who gives all she has comes just a day or two later.

The people have forgotten the words of Micah, who said:

With what shall I come before the Lord,
    and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God? (6:6-8)

And of Isaiah, who said:

Is such the fast that I choose,
    a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
    and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of injustice,
    to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
    and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
    and not to hide yourself from your own kin? (58:5-7)

We too live in a time of great social inequality, when so much worship has become about ritual and gain, and so perhaps we might think today about what tables we need to turn over, who we need to challenge, where the words of Jesus and the prophets need to be heard afresh…

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