Prayer: O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Having criticised ITV2 the other day for showing Contagion, Naomi and I watched it on Netflix last night. The plot is very topical and concerns the spread of a novel virus transmitted by fomites, the attempts by medical researchers and public health officials to identify and contain the disease, the loss of social order in a pandemic, and the introduction of a vaccine to halt its spread.
At times it felt like watching a documentary as well as a narrative story. The movie has several interacting plot lines, making use of the multi-narrative hyperlink cinema style, and finishes with a very thought-provoking ending. I gave the movie 8/10 on IMDb. It would have been higher had the movie better conveyed a sense of fear and dread, but we’ve got plenty of that in real life right now.
The challenges we face at the moment are many and interconnected. They are shared challenges, yet deeply individual at the same time. I believe we’re all trying to do our best, whilst admitting the collective need to lower expectations of ourselves and others. Many things in this crisis are counterintuitive. like desiring human contact but needing to stay apart. It’s OK to admit we’re not OK, whilst at the same time supporting and encouraging others. We need each other more than ever in these hard times, we’re all hurting and struggling.
We’re learning valuable lessons about ourselves and discovering the things that are important for our emotional and mental wellbeing, our relationship values and working lives. I believe we’ll emerge from this stronger people, better able to take our place in a changing society. Stay strong and stay safe.
Social distance with emotional and spiritual connection.
This narrative poem is of an altogether different nature to the ones I’ve been posting here recently. This is sinister and full of intrigue, one that amply repays careful and repeated reading. A favourite poem of mine for many years.
That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said
“Fra Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek; perhaps
Fra Pandolf chanced to say, “Her mantle laps
Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat.” Such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace—all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men—good! but thanked
Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech—which I have not—to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark”—and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse—
E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretense
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!
My online friend Helen Austin (who has previously contributed a guest post) wrote this three years ago. I share it here (with permission). Artwork by another online friend Adam Howie, a piece he chose especially for Helen’s words.
Don’t give up on people. People are complicated. Complex. Don’t give up on them.
We are complicated and complex. Don’t give up on us.
We are all broken. Broken people. But there is hope. Life doesn’t have to stay broken. It can heal. Move forwards. Be different.
It will never be the same again. As it was before we broke. But it can be beautiful again. It really can. Beautiful in its brokenness.
Don’t give up. On people. On us. On you. Don’t give up on yourself. You belong here. You are loved. You are being thought of right now.
It’s exciting to be in a crowd, but it can also be very frightening. The mood of a crowd can rapidly change, the dynamic of the mob can quickly take over. Who knows what the crowd will do next, especially if its expectations are not met?
The crowds surrounding Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem were no different. The emotions and excitement were reaching fever pitch, and the conditions were right for the whole thing to turn nasty.
You can read the story of the first Palm Sunday in Luke 19:28-44.
There would have been thousands of hot, excited, sweaty people all wanting to see Jesus; all wanting to know who he was, all wanting to see what he would do.
Jesus approaches and enters Jerusalem in the full knowledge that both the religious and political leaders were feeling threatened by his teaching and ministry, and that the crowd could easily turn if he didn’t fulfil their expectations and hopes.
The first Palm Sunday was a dramatic and hugely significant day in the life and ministry of Jesus. Prior to this, Jesus had resolutely set his face towards Jerusalem, to very publicly announce the coming of his kingdom.
He carefully chose a time when the people would be gathered in Jerusalem, and he chose a way of proclaiming his kingdom that was unmistakable.
But, as Jesus approached Jerusalem, he wept over it: If you, even you, had only recognised on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
These weren’t the words of a human king, but rather the words of divine Saviour whose heart broke because of the spiritual and moral blindness of the people. He’d come to bring true peace, but they didn’t want it.
The crowd in Jerusalem thought they understood as they cheered, shouted, waved, and threw palm branches, but completely misunderstood Jesus’ identity.
They were full of nationalistic fervour and failed to recognise the true nature of Jesus’ kingship. Palms had been a symbol of Jewish nationalism from the time of the Maccabees and appeared on Jewish coins during their revolutionary struggle against the Romans, and now they were oppressed by them.
Jesus showed the people his true identity by riding on a donkey; a sign, according to the Old Testament, of the Messiah coming in peace. The people expected the Messiah to bring victory by force, but Jesus came to conquer by the Cross. The way of Jesus is not one of hatred, force or violence, rather it’s the way of sacrificial love.
The praise and adulation of the crowd was not the glory Jesus wanted, his glory was to come through self-sacrifice and suffering.
On this Palm Sunday, may we make our own decision to set our face towards Jerusalem; resolving to go God’s way, despite the expectations of the crowds, and live like Jesus.
Having a blog/website allows me to highlight some articles I’ve found helpful in the current pandemic. In this article, Oliver Burkeman advises us to focus on the things we can control, with a reminder that we aren’t as powerless as the coronavirus pandemic makes us feel.
He starts with a sermon given by CS Lewis in 1939: It wasn’t the case, he pointed out, that the outbreak of war had rendered human life suddenly fragile; rather, it was that people were suddenly realising it always had been. “The war creates no absolutely new situation,” Lewis said. “It simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice… We are mistaken when we compare war with ‘normal life’. Life has never been normal.”
I hope you find the article as helpful as I did, click on the link here.
We’re now in the period of the Christian year known as Lent, on the start of a journey towards Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter. It’s a time when we consider the tremendous challenge Jesus experienced in the desert. Forty days when he prepared himself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually for the task he would accomplish on Good Friday; the victory of love over hate, good over evil, peace over violence, life over death.
The temptation to put physical needs or desires before the things of God.
The temptation to use power and influence for our own selfish ends, rather than for the things of God.
The temptation to show off, to imagine that we are better (even spiritually) than others, rather than living a humble life that allows God the glory.
In the desert, Jesus showed us the way of obedience to God.
On the cross, he paid the price that we might know life in its fullness.
So often, we choose the way of imperfection, fuelled by self-interest and pride. How often do we crown our desires as the sovereign of our lives?
Yet Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn us, but to offer us the prospect of salvation and the restored dignity of humankind, a sacred gift of true life.
Once we accept the truth about ourselves and, in humility, reject material goals for spiritual ones, we are walking the way Christ walked for us; and one which, because of the resurrection, he is walking with us today.
Note: You can read the story in the Bible here: Luke 4:1-13