Many heartfelt words are written across the world on this day.
I do not intend to add many more…

Many people have gathered to reflect on the events of Good Friday – the day when those who just days before cried ‘Hosanna’ had turned to crying ‘Crucify’…

Instead, please take the time to watch the video I have linked to. It is Psalm 22 by The Psalms Project. I was in the audience at this performance, where this song entered my ears and my heart and never left…

May the Lord be with you as we close this long and emotional week. May we reflect on what we have shared, what we have learned and what we want to take with us as we prepare to celebrate our risen Lord.

Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you left me here?
Where are you now, when I need you near
to rescue me, deliver me from fear?
Please, don’t forsake me.

LORD, answer me; do you not hear my sighing?
All day and night, my eyes are sore from crying?
I long for you, to keep my hope from dying.
I find no rest.

My God, my God, why have you left me here?
Where are you now, when I need you near
to rescue me, deliver me from fear?
Please don’t forsake me, my God.

See, O my God, that I am poor and weak.
I have no voice, I have no strength to speak.
They scoff and stare, have pierced my hands and feet.
My heart is melting

O LORD, my God, my enemies despise me.
They steal my clothes;
they mock and compromise me.
“Where is your God?” they taunt and terrorise me.
Don’t stay away.

My God, my God, why have you left me here?
Where are you now, when I need you near
to rescue me, to deliver me from fear?
Please don’t forsake me, my God.

Words: Lee Ann Vermeulen-Roberts 2010.
Music: Eelco Vos, based on the tune for Psalm 22 in the Genevan Psalter, 1542/1543.
© 2010, The Psalm Project
Note: The Psalm Project are from the Netherlands so the words alternate from English to Dutch. 

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Before people move house or before they are going on a long trip many like to gather with family and friends. Having been to a number of these gatherings over the years, I always love how they end up at the kitchen table or the dining table – looking around at the smiling faces, the looks of those reflecting on a memory being talked about, the couples giving each other a look, a smile, a kiss… Of course, such nights are always documented in photographs and books of messages – both embarrassing and some that bring a tear to your eye…

It is such memories that firm the bond between friends and loved ones – something symbolic so our love and friendship will be remembered and our life will be recalled and cherished.

Jesus left no such mementoes by which to be remembered.  Instead He left something greater; He left Himself present to all. The meal of bread and wine, The Last Supper, is much more than a farewell party, more than a sacrament; even more than a religious obligation – it’s a unique spiritual event through which Christians experience His presence and during which the redemption of humankind that He brought about by his life, death and resurrection is re-enacted and renewed.

Through faith in Jesus Christ we become one. As the bread is broken and the cup is shared, we celebrate this and commit ourselves to imitate Him and continue His mission to transform the world – a world where all are welcome to share in the feast…

When my father was growing up as a boy of the Manse he spoke fondly of the tradition that Grandma Fleming used to have. She always set a seventh place at the table for dinner for the unexpected guest. I loved the idea of this. What came to mind soon after thinking about this was the memories that this table must have had – the expected and the unexpected… sadness and joy… prayers, laughter and tears…

We live in a time where fewer families are eating together around the table. The opportunities to share these memories are reducing. So tonight, I wanted to do something with everyone present as part of a family – part of Christ’s family while we had a chance to retain some of the memories we had.

I invited everyone to take a pen and write on a tablecloth; to think of a memory that they treasured from a time at the table – a bit of news, a special meal, that project they helped with that took all night, but was worth it to see the look on a child’s face as they took it into school the next day…

This evening we took a moment to fill two tablecloths with the memories we have created around the table so that they may be immortalised in the fabric.

Whatever your memories are of a night around the table, may you cherish them forever just as the disciples cherished that last supper…

Mary’s heart began to overflow in love for Jesus.
Soon an entire jar of very precious ointment was being used to anoint the feet of Jesus.
A fragrance soon filled the room.
A sweet and rich scent tantalising each nostril.
She used her long hair as a towel…

This sense-heightening experience presents us with two very different views of what is going on in this house – on one hand we have the love bring expressed for Jesus by Mary, a powerful, extravagant love beyond measure and without thought of cost and on the other hand, we see people complaining about the amount of money that Mary is wasting on Jesus instead of using the proceeds of its sale to help the poor.

Now let’s be honest for a moment. Who do we see as being the most sensible in this series of events? Is the objection being made not valid? The money made from selling this luxury item would have fed a lot of hungry mouths. In John’s gospel, Judas is the one who complains. The author goes to extreme lengths to show Judas as a thief who would not be caring about the wellbeing of the poor in this situation but what he had missed getting his thieving hands on. Whether the authors’ comments are valid or not, what Judas or the people present in Mark’s account say is a fair remark.

But we have a piece of information that no one knew of before this intimate encounter began – Mary, without even knowing it, had just prepared Jesus for His burial. Mary may have known that Jesus was in serious trouble, but she did not know that He was to die in a matter of days! Suddenly, what the people were complaining about, has become appropriate for Mary to have done. Burials are to be treated with respect. On the occasion of somebody’s funeral, do we not do things in grander fashion than on other days? When Mary did this however, she did not know this. Yet, she took the most precious thing she possessed and spent it all on Jesus.

William Barclay, writes that “Love is not love if it nicely calculates the cost. Love gives its all, and love’s only regret is that it has not still more to give.” How would Mary have felt if she had been economical with her ointment only to discover that Jesus was to die just days later and she had not prepared him as well as she could have? By that point it would have been too late…
Do we count the cost of our love too much and too often? Love does not have to come in monetary form – we can love in the giving of our time, in the sharing of our knowledge, in the offering of our God-given talents and skills. Martha too loved Jesus, but she did not have a jar of ointment. She was however, a practical woman – she showed her love for Jesus by the work of her hands as she served Him at the table.
Love is when we know of no other way to give…

The widow gave it all.

While others didn’t pay any attention to what they were giving, the widow knew what would tumble into the offering vessel…
Did they think that it was as simple as that? Did they think that God would love them more than those less fortunate?

For two days now, the temple has been the scene of commerce as the foundation to credo. For many, if the coins clinked in the pots they assumed that all was well If you were seen doing the right things at the right time in the right amounts then you were ‘safe’.

We are all children of God. We have different skills, stories and situations which result in us giving different amounts of ourselves when we can.

May the puffed-up barriers created by the pompous in religion be deflated. May we all journey through Holy Week knowing that we all have something to give. What are you being called to offer?

 

 

 

 

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 ‘Do you think God will accept that?!
Look at the bruise on this wing… Is that all God is worth to you?
You expect God to listen to you when all you can offer is a second class sacrifice?’

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Sorry, we only accept shekels. The money changers are over there…’

 

 

 

 

The Temple – a place of exclusion and extortion.
A place where you had to pay to pray.
A place which called for commerce to communicate with God.
A place where people thought that poverty prevented prayers from being accepted.
A place where people thought that poverty prevented people from being eligible of God’s grace.

 Enter Jesus…

‘Do you think God wants this?
Look at the bruises on the hearts of these people… Is that what God means to you?
You expect God to like the fact that you are treating people like second class?!

God doesn’t take bribes. God is not taxable. The money changing stops now…

You have turned my Father’s house into a bazaar. You have deceived God’s people.

It stops now…’

2000 years on and yet people still feel excluded from the Father’s house
People are still made to feel that they are unworthy.
People are still made to think that they won’t be heard.
People still think they have the right to say who gets in and who doesn’t.

There is only one person who can make these decisions and his son is days away from death on a Cross…

In the words of the wonderful hymn by Carol R. Ikeler :
(Hymn 522 of Church Hymnary [Fourth Edition])

The Church is wherever God’s people are praising,
knowing they’re wanted and loved by their Lord.
The Church is wherever Christ’s followers are trying
to live and to share out the good news of God.

The Church is wherever God’s people are loving,
where all are forgiven and start once again,
where all are accepted, whatever their background,
whatever their past and whatever their pain.

The Church is wherever God’s people are seeking
to reach out and touch folk wherever they are —
conveying the Gospel, its joy and its comfort,
to challenge, refresh, and excite and inspire.

This is his Father’s house.
So be it…