reflecting my eclectic (and sometimes erratic) life
Author: John Ager
Salvation Army Officer (in retirement) who likes technology, Radiohead and F1. Married to Naomi. Runner. Christian with an open heart and mind. Left of centre. Freedom, justice and equality. Feminism. LGBTQ ally. Interfaith dialogue with those of all faiths and none. Geek. Personal views.
One of the main things which sent the first disciples out into the world with the message of salvation was the conviction embodied in the first Christian creed: Jesus is Lord!
It’s found in Acts 2 in one of the first sermons ever preached…let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, who you crucified, both Lord and Christ.
For those first disciples, this Lordship of Jesus was at the heart of everything.
For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.2 Corinthians 4:5
Belief and theology can get very complicated. The Church of England has 39 Articles of Belief, the Salvation Army has 11 Doctrines. The early church had just three words: Jesus is Lord!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:9-11
Of course, it was only after the Resurrection that Jesus was called LORD as the highest title for him. When the word was used in the gospels, its meaning was nearer to ‘Sir’ or ‘Master’, it was only later that Jesus was distinctively and characteristically called ‘The Lord’.
There are so many names for Jesus, ‘Saviour’ being especially associated with Good Friday, and ‘Lord’ with Easter Sunday. Saviour and Lord are both important. Just like Good Friday and Easter, they go together. Accepting Jesus as Saviour implies crowning him as Lord.
We accept Jesus as Saviour on Good Friday and crown him as Lord on Easter Sunday. The two go together. On this Easter Sunday, let’s humbly bow before him and crown him Lord of all.
Today is Holy Saturday, not Easter Saturday. Easter starts with the resurrection of Jesus when darkness is turned to light. In stillness, earth awaits the resurrection.
For Holy Saturday this year, I simply share some of the German libretto with an English translation (as I did yesterday for Good Friday).
67 Recitative [Bass, Tenor, Alto, Soprano] and Chorus
Bass: Nun ist der Herr zur Ruh gebracht. Now is the Lord brought to peace. Mein Jesu, gute Nacht! My Jesus, goodnight!
Evangelist: Die Müh ist aus, die unsre Sünden ihm gemacht. The trouble is over, which our sins caused for him. Mein Jesu, gute Nacht! My Jesus, goodnight!
Alto: O selige Gebeine, O sacred bones, Seht, wie ich euch mit Buß und Reu beweine, See how I weep for you with penance and remorse, Dass euch mein Fall in solche Not gebracht! That my fall has brought you into such distress! Mein Jesu, gute Nacht! My Jesus, goodnight!
Soprano: Habt lebenslang, As long as life lasts, Vor euer Leiden tausend Dank, Have a thousand thanks for your sufferings, Dass ihr mein Seelenheil so wert geacht’. For having valued so highly the salvation of my soul Mein Jesu, gute Nacht! My Jesus, goodnight!
Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder We sit down with tears Und rufen dir im Grabe zu: And call to you in your tomb: Ruhe sanfte, sanfte ruh! Rest gently, gently rest! Ruht, ihr ausgesognen Glieder! Rest, you exhausted limbs! Euer Grab und Leichenstein Your grave and tombstone Soll dem ängstlichen Gewissen For our anguished conscience shall be Ein bequemes Ruhekissen A pillow that gives peace and comfort Und der Seelen Ruhstatt sein. And the place where our souls find rest. Höchst vergnügt schlummern da die Augen ein. With the greatest content there our eyes will close in sleep.
For Good Friday this year, I simply share some of the German libretto with an English translation. See also here.
Bin ich gleich von dir gewichen, Although I have strayed from you, Stell ich mich doch wieder ein; Yet I turn back once again; Hat uns doch dein Sohn verglichen Your son has settled the account for us Durch sein’ Angst und Todespein. Through his anguish and death agony. Ich verleugne nicht die Schuld; I do not deny my guilt; Aber deine Gnad und Huld But your grace and favour Ist viel größer als die Sünde, is much greater than the sins Die ich stets in mir befinde. I find constantly in myself.
51 Recitative [Alto]
Erbarm es Gott! Have mercy, God! Hier steht der Heiland angebunden. Here stands the saviour, bound, O Geißelung, o Schläg, o Wunden! O scourging,o blows, o wounds! Ihr Henker, haltet ein! You executioners, stop! Erweichet euch Are you not softened by Der Seelen Schmerz, The soul’s agony, Der Anblick solches Jammers nicht? The sight of such misery? Ach ja! ihr habt ein Herz, Ah yes! You have a heart Das muss der Martersäule gleich That must be like the post used for torture Und noch viel härter sein. And even far harder still. Erbarmt euch, haltet ein! Have mercy, stop!
65 Aria [Bass]
Mache dich, mein Herze, rein, Make yourself pure, my heart Ich will Jesum selbst begraben, I want to bury Jesus himself within me, Denn er soll nunmehr in mir For he now within me Für und für Forever Seine süße Ruhe haben. Shall have his sweet rest. Welt, geh aus, lass Jesum ein! World, depart from my heart, let Jesus enter!
But let’s go back to Palm Sunday as Jesus rode into Jerusalem in defiance of the people’s expectations, they misunderstood the nature of his coming and purpose. He came as the Prince of Peace, having previously set his face towards Jerusalem, resolved to go the way of the cross.
Jesus never took the easy way out of a situation; he wasn’t going to be turned from this final challenge. He knew the direction his life was taking, he wasn’t a weak-minded person overtaken by events, he was in full command of what was happening. This resolve was thoroughly tested in Gethsemane, but his mind had already been made up.
Holy Week is not just about the victory of Easter morning, but the victory Jesus secured when he set his face towards Jerusalem.
In Gethsemane we see both his humanity and divinity; his humanity telling him to escape the situation, his divinity telling him to obey. Luke tells us that Jesus, being in anguish, prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
We can’t attempt to fathom the depths of his suffering at this time, as the hymn says, ‘We do not know, we cannot tell, what pains he had to bear’.
My music of choice on Good Friday is Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. It selects itself, and still has the power to shock and move the human spirit. This moment is powerfully expressed:
He is ready to taste the bitterness of death, to drink the cup into which the sins of this world, hideously stinking, have been poured.
Here we have the paradox of a loving God and a suffering Christ, something we can’t fully explain, yet:
We believe it was for us, he hung and suffered there.
Jesus quoted Psalm 22 on the cross: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Sin separates us from God. As Jesus took on our sin it separated him from his heavenly Father, a moment of true abandonment. But the psalm has a positive ending, it’s victorious. It foreshadows the Resurrection, and this was why Jesus was able to say ‘your will be done’ in Gethsemane.
NEVER rely on only ONE important file (or files) on only ONE laptop or device. Just in case you didn’t get that, I’ll repeat it – NEVER rely on only ONE important file (or files) on only ONE laptop or device!
World Backup Day is a very special day, and the focus is to showcase the significance of the role of data in our everyday life. It’s important to take regular backups so that you don’t miss out on anything crucial. It’s celebrated on the 31 March every year.
We occasionally hear stories of someone has written a book on a laptop, and that laptop has broken or been stolen. There are some very easy ways of backing up files, of ensuring you have a copy somewhere else. This can be in the cloud or on a USB flash drive, for example. I’ll post in more detail later on.
Remember: NEVER rely on only ONE important file (or files) on only ONE laptop or device. Happy World Backup Day!
Like as the waves make towards the pebbl’d shore, So do our minutes hasten to their end; Each changing place with that which goes before, In sequent toil all forwards do contend. Nativity, once in the main of light, Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d, Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight, And Time that gave doth now his gift confound. Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow, Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth, And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow: And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand, Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.
My heart leaps up when I behold A rainbow in the sky: So was it when my life began; So is it now I am a man; So be it when I shall grow old, Or let me die! The Child is father of the Man; And I could wish my days to be Bound each to each by natural piety.
This week’s Sunday devotional is a reworking from part of a previous online worship service in preparation for Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter. Bible Reading: Luke 19:28-44
Palm Sunday is traditionally the day in the Christian calendar when we think about peace, and especially the peace that Jesus came to bring. Jesus rode into Jerusalem fulfilling the words of the prophet Zechariah:
See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9b
He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. Zechariah 9:10b
Similarly, both Isaiah and Micah looked forward to a day when the nations would beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and look to God and walk in his ways.
Jesus came bringing a message of peace, but the people were so accustomed to war and strife that they rejected it. The people expected him to lead them in military victory over their enemies and vanquish their oppressors. Instead, Jesus offered something far more profound, peace to the human heart.
So Jesus and the crowd were at cross-purposes! They misunderstood that Jesus had come for a CROSS PURPOSE! That was not their purpose, that was the last thing on their minds.
They didn’t understand, their minds were closed to the real purpose of his coming. So when it became apparent that Jesus wasn’t going to fulfil their short-sighted ambitions, they turned against him and he was crucified on Good Friday.
In Luke’s account of these events we see that Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem. Indeed, it was the very nationalism that motivated the people on Palm Sunday that ultimately led to their downfall years later.
In today’s world, we need to be so careful that national pride doesn’t become narrow prejudice. Nationalism and prejudice are so often at the roots of conflict, and they take root first in the human heart.
It’s a troubled world out there, and God needs Christian soldiers who bring his message of peace to others. All manner of conflict starts with us. It comes from within, and that’s the very place Jesus wants to come and bring peace.
On this Palm Sunday we need to recognise that true peace can only be built on a right relationship with God. That’s both the foundation and source of all peace; peace with ourselves, peace with others, and peace with God.
The whole of the Bible testifies to this truth. Psalm 29, for instance, starts by calling us to worship: Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name; worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness.
The Psalmist speaks of God’s greatness, which inspires our worship, and concludes with a wonderful promise of peace when we’re in a right relationship with him: The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.
Similarly, Isaiah speaks of promised peace given to the one who seeks after God: You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.Isaiah 26:3
Our human nature often wants to run away from the very thing that can bring our peace. Jesus said, if you had only known on this day what would bring you peace.
We have freedom as individuals, but there’s part of us that desires us to act selfishly, to do what we want rather than what God wants. This tendency to think we know best and do what we want is very powerful, unfortunately it separates us from God.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem to announce the possibility of reconciliation with God and the resulting peace it brings. As we approach Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter, we see very clearly the cost of peace-making. The cost for Jesus was the way of the cross; he died that we might live.
Peace is not something that just happens, it requires action. The very word for peace is active rather than passive. ‘Shalom’ carries the idea of wholeness, well-being and harmony, rather than merely the absence of strife or tension. It’s what God wants for each and every one of us.
It’s astonishing that with the cross looming before him, Jesus was able to speak of peace, and that through the events of Holy Week he was able to demonstrate such confidence and poise. With his betrayal, his agony in the garden, his trial and death so near, he promised peace; peace that the world cannot give, a peace that passes all understanding.
He promised those who follow him an inner confidence and serenity that can overcome any situation life can throw across our path. Our security in the world can be very fragile, but our spiritual security is of an altogether different nature. It comes from God himself; it’s strong and we can rely on it.
It was won for us on the cross. Peace and security can be ours as we enthrone Jesus at the very centre of our lives. Not at cross-purposes with him, but embracing the CROSS PURPOSE for our lives.
Home schooling and Zoom classes have been a regular part of our home life for many weeks during the coronavirus lockdown, but yesterday I had the new experience of actually teaching a primary school lesson from our dining room table by video call.
Going into schools as a Salvation Army Officer is something I’ve always enjoyed; either leading an assembly, taking a class, or simply attending an event. Fortunately, it’s something I can continue now I’m retired. So I was pleased to be invited by a friend to teach a Reception Class at Morgans Primary School, Hertford.
I spoke about the Salvation Army and Easter, answering questions such as: Is it a real fighting army? Why are there so many celebrations and holidays around Easter? Is the Easter bunny a Christian thing?
It seemed to go well and I look forward to further opportunities in the future, and hopefully in person at Freddy and Matilda’s school when life returns to normal.
Note: It was the first time I’d used Google Meet and I preferred it to Zoom.