So he started to write down his prayers. At first no more than a few lines – big issues and real problems. He still heard nothing. Yet he wrote on, enjoying the confidence of pen and paper. Page after page, notebook after notebook were filled with the intimacies of his deepest thoughts and desires. But yet he sensed no answer.
In the height of summer sitting outside my caravan under a tree in Oxford, the chill of Easter seems far away. Yet a few days ago those balmy days came back me when I found a book given to me by my cousin over that holiday. More to the point, it’s heart rending story reminded me also of why this season can be dark and cold. Because it is a story of suffering and this is the week of suffering.
Jimmy Mizen was a member of a large Christian family living in Lewisham, London. We can imagine his excitement that morning. It was his 16th birthday and he was popping out on the 10th May 2008 to buy his first lottery ticket. After the newsagents, he stopped to get his usual snack at the bakery. A few minutes later he would be lying dying in his own blood after being stabbed. Shortly after, his family arrived, his mother fainted at the sight as a young brother said – Jimmy’s gone to heaven.
His assailant had a long criminal record and had several times tried to mug Jimmy’s brother. That day he came into the shop and demanded that Jimmy move aside using foul language. Jimmy asked for the word – please and was assaulted for his trouble. This attack resulted in him being dying as from a cut to his neck. At the subsequent trial, the Judge didn’t believe the story of Jimmy’s killer that he had been provoked and jailed him for 14 years. During the trial Jimmy’s family had to suffer the taunts and sneers of the defendant and his family.
Here then is suffering; suffering of Jimmy who was said to have looked scared even in death, suffering of his family and even if we are reluctant to accept it – suffering of the killer for he was to be attacked himself and stabbed in prison.
How then did the suffering of Christ help with the suffering of Jimmy’s family? How did the suffering of Christ bring a form of hope to Jimmy’s family? How indeed did the suffering of Christ bring some fruit from from the suffering in this story?
Well, despite the bleakness of the days, weeks and years ahead, Jimmy’s mother, Margaret, said they were held by a strength outside themselves. This was need shown at the church door on that first Sunday when she said that she was thinking of the suffering of the killer’s parents.
It was the strength given to the family when 16 candles were brought forward at Jimmy’s funeral as they could ask – did their flame fix Jimmy in eternal memory or did their flame call on the story of Jimmy’s life to fix what is broken – to fix us?
It certainly gave Danny, one of Jimmy’s brothers, the strength to say to Kay Burley on Sky News – I have tried to hate Jimmy’s killer – but I can’t.
Ultimately this inner power allowed the Mizen family to set up the Jimmy Mizen Foundation. Now it has the aim of giving teenagers a sense of being part of a community, of having a role to play and be responsible for their actions. To that end they have fostered a number of programmes including a drop-in cafe that can be a place of advice and safety. However, it is their talks that have really made a change. These are given everywhere including prisons. One such gained this letter from an inmate.
I’m writing this letter to thank you for the touch you placed on my life. I am currently in prison for murder and serving 16 years. You advised us to write a sorry letter to my victims parents. No matter how much I twist and turn and ask God to rewind time, I cannot make up for a life lost.
My mind has been at battle for a long time over the existence of God, but today you have shown me who will win the war.
Today God showed me you.
And today you showed me God.
So where did this strength and power come from?
The day after Jimmy’s death, his father Barry was due to act as a Eucharistic Minister at his local Catholic church. He could of got out of it, but he chose to serve the chalice. As he did – he of course said the words ‘blood of Christ’. As he did people cried and cuddled him. He felt that he had the strength to comfort them as he became literally soaked in their tears.
It seems then it is in contemplation of Jesus suffering we not only put our own in context but know, that through him, God knows suffering. Moreover, it is through his suffering this week we find the the power to bear our own even transcend it into making it a place of hope and reconciliation.
Since it is only through not looking away from Christ on the cross can we find meaning and inspiration in the song that Tommy sang at Jimmy’s funeral:
Brother I feel weak
Feels like his and seek
Now you are gone.
The directions you give
Are all that I love for but I’m lost.
So come on and find me
I know you’re behind me
Cause you sparkle.
I’ll never lose your sparkle
I’ll never lose your sparkle
It brightened up the darkest day
And cheered up the saddest face
No, I’ll never look away
No, I’ll never look away
From your life.
This Sunday we are thinking about meeting two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They were dispirited after Jesus’ crucifixion. And although they had heard about his resurrection, they just didn’t believe it! But now a stranger hurries after them and explains God’s whole plot.
They invite him in to eat and what do you the stranger turns into Jesus.
Please then walk along the Emmaus road see who you could meet………….
Not able to go to church this Sunday – don’t worry. Here is a short act of worship.
Firstly still your minds, concentrate on breathing slowly and letting go of the future.
Focussing on the ‘now’ by relaxing into the music clip below.
Read the story of Christ appearing to disciples articularly Thomas who doubted that Jesus had risen.
If you don’t have a Bible hand, please click here.
Imagine yourself as being in the story.
Remember how quickly you bolted the doors
against the authorities
that were roaming the streets outside.
Feel the fearful anxiety of all
that seems to oppress you
at the moment.
Now see Jesus just standing there.
Do you believe?
Do you believe he is real?
Do you believe that he can help?
Tell him what you need help with in your life.
Then think yourself into being Doubting Thomas.
Bring to the surface all your doubts
about the risen Jesus
and his ability to help you.
Tell him about them
and give him time to reassure and to promise.
Hear him say ‘stop doubting and believe’!
When you are ready – whisper
‘My Lord and my God’
Slowly return to the world that waits you
but keep in your heart the thought – I believe.
Please now pray:
I lay my head to rest
and in doing so
lay at your feet
the faces I have seen
the voices I have heard
the words I have spoken
the hands I have shaken
the service I have given
the joys I have shared
the sorrows revealed
I lay them at your feet
and in doing so
lay my head to rest
Read more at: http://www.faithandworship.com/Celtic_Blessings_and_Prayers.htm#ixzz3000DiONT
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If you feel that doors are closed to you or you cannot open some in your life, read this week’ sermon;
Want to meditate while you commute?
If you have enjoyed the Christian imaginative meditations on this blog, why not listen to the daily meditations available at the Catholic Jesuit’s site – Pray as you go.
You can either listen online or download an mp3 file for use on the train, bus or in the park at lunchtime.
Either way, a few moments in meditation makes you feel refreshed spiritually for the world that awaits.
Easter is not like Christmas! Since, over Easter we encounter all that is good and bad about being human. For we see cruelty, corruption and pain. But we also see compassion, accompaniment and sacrifice. Above all, we see God in the unbelievable acceptance of human nastiness and His ability to defeat the worst of all evils – death itself.
Please then walk with me into the Easter Morning Experience.
Take time to still the mind, slow your breathing and find quiet in your heart. You may want to contemplate the picture to the right.
Read about Jesus’ resurrection in Matthew’s Gospel (28.1-10)
You are walking towards the tomb in the very early morning.
- Do you feel the earthquake?
- Are you frightened of the guards or still just numb from the murder of your friend Jesus?
- You see the now open tomb – what are you thinking?
- Now imagine what the angel and listen to his unbelievable news
- Rushing back to tell the others – are you joyful, perplexed or still scared?
- Suddenly, Jesus is in front of you – think what the meeting is like.
- You are holding on to him for all you are worth – then he tells you to do something.
What is it?
Slowly return to the waiting world and think about what Jesus asked.
Start by praying
Jesus is risen!
He is risen indeed!
May this declaration
resound not only in these walls
but touch the lives
of all we meet
and forever be
the truth of which we speak.
once sown within a garden,
tended for your own people,
neglected and rejected,
now spreads its sweet perfume
in this place
and wherever it is shown.
Jesus is risen!
He is risen indeed!
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We laughed and laughed and laughed. How indeed did we laugh!
It was at that classic British sitcom – Fawlty Towers. Set in a chaotic hotel in some English seaside resort, it was run by the manic Basil Fawlty who got into also sort of scrapes. Take the time his car wouldn’t start. So he took a hairy fit and thrashing it with a tree branch. He would butter up aristocratic guests only to find out they were con artists. Miguel the long suffering Spanish waiter was Basil’s foil, regularly getting bashed on the head with a frying pan. Yet Basil’s nemesis was that shrew of a wife – Sybil. She always summoned her ludicrous husband with an ear drum stabbing shriek of – Basil!
Yes we laughed and laughed and laughed.
Well Sybil was played by Prunella Scales. Recently, she appeared on TV as herself. For, with her husband, the actor Timothy West,
she presented a documentary series on their common love of canal boating. At each episode’s start, Tim explains Pru is having problems with her memory. In fact, her son tells the camera that his dad is seeing the person he loves slipping away from him. In a way, it is a slow even gentle but inevitable crucifixion.
Nevertheless, we are all surrounded by crucifixions in our own circle; the young father dying of cancer, the mother fearing an abusive father and the old man now widowed trying to find some companionship even purpose in living.
Where then on Good Friday is there a clue to coping with crucifixions?
Well, some ideas come from those who were there for Christ
at his passion those Good and ordinary people who stood at the foot of the cross. Since, the passion journey is not just about the suffering of the son of God – supreme as that might be –
it is also a story of accompaniment.
In fact, it is very much the story of those who loved Jesus as his community of friends and family. And so it is about the disciples who had been with him for three years.It is about the women who followed Jesus from Galilee and provided for him, who anointed him for death and who accompanied him on the way of the cross and watched from a distance as he suffered his terrible agony and death. It’s about John, the beloved disciple, and Mary the mother of Jesus giving comfort to one another. It’s about Mary Magdalene, watching and waiting.
The passion story then is very much about the accompaniment in suffering, of just being there and doing small, ordinary and important practical things.
Therefore, it is really about being alongside people in compassion and care; watching through long nights with them, preparing food for those too weary or ill or despairing to do it themselves, looking after the children for a while or just offering a hug or shoulder to lean on.
Ultimately, this ministry of presence and compassion is not the particular preserve of Christians, or of any one nationality or culture, but it is at the heart of each and every one of our responses to our risen Lord.
Let us try to respond this way, today.
If church is out for this Sunday, here is a short act of worship that can keep the spiritual tanks topped up!
Next read Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in Matthew 21.1-11
Now see the scene in your imagination; think about the heat, the press of the crowd and the overpowering feeling of excitement. Ask yourself – how close are you standing to Jesus on the donkey?
Notice out the corner of your eye the secret police and informers taking note of who is there. Do you want to stay or get away fast?
Suddenly, Jesus looks straight at you, what do you ask from him?
What does he want you to do in return?
Take a few moments having a last look at the scene, then pray:
Lord, sometimes I find it very hard to do the right thing as I know it to be in Your eyes.
I know it will hurt or disadvantage me, destroy my reputation or impoverish me, and I am afraid.
Strengthen me by the example of my fellow Christians of old who have been true to You to the end, and show me, as You showed them, that You will never leave me nor forsake me.
Where is the book section for New Christians asked Gene Edwards when he walked into a huge Christian bookshop filled to the rafters with volumes. He got the reply – there wasn’t one! He goes on got say that the few books he did eventually find were inane, useless, shallow or cursed by scholarship!
Maybe you have had the same experience. Certainly starting out on your personal journey with Jesus can seem daunting. However, it need not be – certainly, he doesn’t want it to be that way.
In fact, the first step is the easiest – and that is to do nothing. By that I mean the best way to encounter God is to be still and quiet and let him speak to you.
For whether we’re sitting at our desks, relaxing at home or waiting in queue, we all have the opportunity from time to time to pause and adjust our perspective even for a few moments.
Specifically, Barbara Ann Kipfer advises we need to take a break occasionally so as to be kinder — both to ourselves and others. That also means being kinder to Christ who is chasing you round your diary.
- Just “become a human still life.” Don’t do anything. Just breathe.
- Focus solely on the experience of living at peace.
- Listen for the quietest sound.
Maybe then we will hear something else – the voice of a searching God. If so, you have been found.