Monthly Archives: April 2020

Reflection for Easter 3 – Rev Alison Way

Acts 2.14a,36-41, Luke 24:13-35

To see and hear

In the name of the Living God: Loving Father, Risen Son and ever present Holy Spirit, Amen

Nestling on my bookshelves is this book – Behind the white ball. This is quite unusual because I am not a big reader of biographies or autobiographies (my taste in leisure reading is more thrillers, cookery and craft books!). But it does give a clue to one of my major passions (as do my current felines!) – Watching the snooker. I was not surprised but very sad when this year’s snooker world championship was cancelled.

In recent years I have been going to Alexandra Palace to watch the Snooker Masters in January – and I have tickets for 2021.. Fingers crossed. Back in the year 2000, as a millennium present to myself, I saw snooker live for the first time, at the crucible –  where they hold the world snooker championships. Over 3 very happy days I enjoyed all things associated with snooker. I got to see most of my heroes including the beloved Jimmy….

In case you are wondering what this has got to do with our bible story. All will shortly be revealed. Anyway back in the year 2000 – In one of the matches I was on the front row – down the long side of the table. Watching the legend that is Steve Davis playing a very young and diminutive Graham Dott. I was pretty convinced I was close enough to the action to be clearly visible in the TV coverage…. Various people in my friends and family knew I was there, and were watching out for me, but sadly none of them spotted me in the crowd…..

I was a bit surprised by this after the event – that even in that particular match – when I was right next to the table,  I hadn’t made it into the TV coverage. I just put it down to experience really, and didn’t think any more about it.

However a couple of months later I went to see some friends who I don’t see very often. Friends who I am pretty sure had no idea I really liked watching snooker. One of their children, Daniel looked at me and said  – Did you go to the crucible this year?

I was amazed – Daniel went on to explain how convinced he had been that I was watching the snooker in the audience. Sure enough it was during the match between Steve Davis and Graham Dott. But the other members of his family had told him that they thought it was really unlikely.

Daniel saw me and recognised me (even when others were adamant he was wrong!). Daniel did this – even though others who knew me far better than him and knew I was there didn’t spot me.

These moments of seeing and recognising – really tie into the resurrection appearance we heard as our gospel reading this morning. Clearly when the disciples first met Jesus on the road – They saw him – But they didn’t recognise him. Even when Jesus was teaching them all about what he had said to them before his crucifixion they didn’t recognise him.

When the BBC dramatised the passion in 2008, how they told this particular story really brought it to life. The way they did it had the emmaus 2 storming off in a real huff from the upper room. Leaving all the other disciples there..  This happened just after Mary had come back and said she had seen or more keenly felt it was Jesus – though the person she had seen had not looked like Jesus

After a scene with Caiaphas and Joseph of Arimathea, the action cut back to the Emmaus 2 having a route march, across some barren countryside. They are joined by a character who is serene and calm, but challenging and inspiring. The character is clearly not visually recognisable as Jesus. They discuss the events of the past few days and as they draw close to Emmaus, one of the Emmaus 2 invites the man to share their meal.

At dinner, the man who looked different from Jesus but was him breaks bread and pours out the wine, echoing both the action and the words spoken by Jesus at the Passover meal. When the Emmaus 2 look up, it is now clearly Jesus they see holding the cup of wine.

We then cut to them returning to the other disciples saying what happened (we can only hear this in the clip). This must have been some time later – though you don’t get this impression entirely, but they would have to have walked the tough route march back.

Back with the Emmaus 2 – they recognised Jesus eventually – when he broke bread and shared wine with them. He did something deeply familiar and personal to them, and then they saw and they recognised. We need to think about what we see when we look to Jesus and what we recognise. Seeing that Jesus died and rose again, and remembering the events of the first Good Friday and the first Easter Day is one thing. But as Christians it is much more important that we do more than just see.

We need to recognise that Jesus died and rose again, and apply what that means to us to our lives. Because in recognising we begin to understand how important Jesus is to us and that this world changing act is what the Christian faith is all about. As we understand even more how much God loves us, and how we need to share that love with others.

That must be a priority in our lives. That priority is also clearly shown in Jesus example here. Just think for a moment. What Jesus was wanting to do as the Emmaus 2 stormed away from the upper room? Jesus was wanting to appear to the disciples all together (in the upper room in Jerusalem being an ideal spot!) and then confer the power of the Holy Spirit on them. Yet at this very point the Emmaus 2 had stormed off,  here we have 2 of them going away from Jerusalem, and walking about 8 miles – most of the way from Wincanton to Sherborne for example…

It is really interesting what happens here – Jesus could have told them straight away who he was, and got them to return with him to the other disciples. But he didn’t do that  – He could have saved himself a lot of time and significant effort, – walking and explaining. He took the time and made the effort to get them to understand more clearly for themselves. He walked for miles and miles and in completely the wrong direction, and used energy and time to walk them through his story and his role in it once more.

Some times when we are sharing the good news of our faith with others and are praying for them. It can feel like everything is going in completely the wrong direction. Jesus example, here is very pertinent. These disciples were going in the wrong direction – but Jesus went with them. We need to reflect on his example in how we approach sharing our faith with others. Sometimes when we are sharing the good news of our faith with others, it can also feel like we are not getting anywhere or getting anywhere fast. Jesus again gives an example of patience and determination, and one where he was willing to devote significant time and exert significant energy in getting them to understand better. We would do well to follow this example in how we go about this.

From all of this we can be clear that though seeing Jesus as part of our lives is important. Recognising and acting on his love for us is much more important. It is our actions, which will speak of our love for Jesus. And even when it feels like we are going in the wrong direction, when we share our love of God with others. Jesus example shows us, we must keep going and persevere.

In our lock-downed society which needs meaning and purpose, we need to persevere in sharing the good news of hope. Seeing Jesus, yes and more importantly living lives characterised by deep recognition – recognising his amazing love for us. I am going to end with a prayer – let us pray

 Lord Jesus, as you walked on the road to Emmaus, walk with us on the roads we travel. Help us to know your presence with us, and to be your presence to others. In lockdown or in freedom be the wind in our sails – to share your amazing love with others and help us to persevere. Amen

Prayer adapted – copyright ©

BBC – The Passion


Reflection for Easter 2

Acts 2:14a, 22-32, John 20:19-end

To see and hear —

In the name of God, loving Father, risen Son and ever present Holy Spirit. Amen.

I want to take you back to that first reading we heard today and it may help to have it in front of us whilst we are reading or listening (and particularly if you are looking at it in an actual bible).

This is a reading from near the beginning of Acts. The disciples including Peter, who is speaking to the gathered crowd, have just received the Holy Spirit in power. Most of the reading we heard is from just after the part of this chapter we are more familiar with – which we hear each Pentecost. When everyone has been able to understand in their own language despite there being all kinds of different nationalities present. Peter also referred to the prophet Joel about how our young men will see visions and our old men will dream dreams, and ending ‘And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved – Acts 2:21’

Peter then addresses the Israelites present. But let’s first marvel at how eloquent Peter is being. This is Peter, a rough fisherman not accustomed to being in the spotlight and giving speeches. We will remember him putting his foot in it frequently and frankly getting things rather wrong in his journey with Jesus. (I have to say I have a very soft spot for Peter as I have the capability of putting my foot in it and getting things rather wrong too!) But from those humble and unlikely beginnings we now have quite a gifted speaker. How did that happen?

The simplest answer is the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through Peter made it possible. Just as it is equally possible if we are open to it that the power of the Holy Spirit can work in and through us. We can do things to that frankly amaze us and we would not be capable of by ourselves or in our own strength. Relying on God and God’s love and care for us is a good start for this.

Peter is about 50 days on from Jesus’s rising again, and may be about 10 days on from when Jesus ascended into heaven. He has had time to think about what happened. He then starts to tell it how it is to his own people gathered there. He also is talking to people who are likely to have seen Jesus themselves or at the very least heard of him. He decides to go back to David – always good to use a respected ancestor to give a bit of credibility to what we are saying.

How Peter does this is really clever! As well as telling Jesus story in a few pithy verses – he recognises the importance of David to his fellow Israelites. As he does that he recognises the differences between David and Jesus. He quotes one of David’s psalms (16:8-11) to do this. David he says is in his tomb – but Jesus was raised up. He was freed from death – it was impossible for him to be held in its power. It is not language we would use today in all likelihood – but a really good way of getting it across in terms his contemporaries would have needed.  I am not sure the translation ‘Let your Holy One experience corruption’ (Acts 2: 27) really helps make this very clear – in another version it says ‘you will not let your holy one see decay.’ This is clearer that death did not have its usual effect here.

What I particularly admire here in the likely uneducated Peter, is a targeted communication in terms his ‘fellow israelites’ would have needed to hear. Yes David is great – but Jesus is greater. Yes, David spoke of resurrection but Jesus was raised up. Yes David is a prophet – but Jesus is the son of God who saved us… And we have all seen it…

What can we learn from this – well I think we have to look at scratching where people are itching in our communications with others. Though we are mostly limited to phones and communication aids currently – we can all talk about how we are getting on in the current circumstances. It can be as simple as I am finding my Christian faith helpful in these challenging times. Or maybe, prayer is giving me the strength to take each day as it comes. In our communications, taking time to pray for our friends and families is important, and offering to pray (and of course following through) are good for those moments when we encounter the tough stuff of life too. The message of God’s love could not be more important to share than it is right now.

I don’t know how many of you caught up with the streamed performance with Andrei Bochelli on Easter day, which he so rightly described as prayer.  Here’s a link to it – it does go into frequent adverts (sorry – but they can be clicked away!)

IF you haven’t seen it – I can recommend it warmly. Andrei said at the beginning – I believe in the strength of praying together. I believe in the Christian Easter – a universal symbol of rebirth that everyone whether they are believers of not, truly needs right now.. thanks to music, streamed live, bringing millions of clasped hands across the world we will hug this wounded Earth’s pulsing heart together.

I also believe in the power of prayer, in the Risen Lord Jesus, and in living our lives and hearts hugging our wounded Earth’s pulsing heart – communicating God’s love for everyone. Amen.

Copyright acknowledgements

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 #

New International Version – Holy Bible , copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011

Picture from roots on the – copyright ©

Reflection for Easter Day – Rev Alison Way

Easter Day 2020

Acts 10:34-43, Matthew 28:1-10

In the name of God, loving Father, risen Son and ever present Holy Spirit. Amen.

In the early dawn of Sunday morning, as the sun is rising, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb. Why did they come? To show their love of Jesus, to be near where they thought his body lay and to express their grief according to their cultural norms.

But Jesus wasn’t there – and had already risen from the dead…. As the Marys approached the tomb the responses to this earth changing event started to happen

The first was the response from the earth, the ground we stand on. There was a violent earthquake. This was literally ground-breaking or if we like the earth God had made leaping for joy because Jesus had risen.

The second response was from the heavens, an angel of the Lord was dispatched from heaven and the angel rolls the stone away. It had been difficult for Jesus’ friends to put it in place, but it was easy for the angel to move it out of the way, and then the angel sat down on it!  The risen Jesus is resuming the glory he had before the foundation of the world as the heavens responded to Jesus rising from the dead.

The third response is that of the guards. These are strong  guards – soldiers who had lots of experience of battle that hardened them against fear. They had probably been warned to expect a motley crew of disheartened and fearful followers of Jesus and maybe a few women. Mary and Mary would have been no match for the soldiers, with their armaments and muscle power. The representatives of worldly powers, but as the earth quakes and the angel comes – these soldiers are terrified and pass out in their fearfulness. So what we would view as strong is shown to be weak. In this we see that worldly powers and what the world views as strong are no match for the power of God in the risen Jesus.

The fourth response is from Mary and Mary. They would have also been scared – who wouldn’t have been! The angel started as angels usually do with “Do not be afraid!”. But they were still on their feet and ready to listen and ready to respond. The angel explained what had happened – Jesus is not here – he has been raised. The angel encouraged the Marys to look in the tomb, and again the angel explained why Jesus was not there

 “He has been raised from the dead – He has gone ahead to Galilee where you will see him!”

It was head-spinning stuff for the Marys – fear and joy! Was it possible! Was it true!! Mary and Mary responded by knowing they had to speak to the disciples and they ran full of fear and joy! A heady mix!

This was the initial response from the Marys to Jesus rising from the dead but it doesn’t end there for them. As Mary and Mary are running to tell the disciples – they meet Jesus. Jesus spoke greetings to them. They responded by taking hold of his feet and worshipping. I think the only way to do that is to lay down. There are a number of theories about why the Marys responded like this.

  • The first – with which I am least impressed – is the reality that in those days – people believed ghosts did not have feet. So his feet were proof he had risen from the dead and was alive!!!

  • The second was that this was a natural heartfelt response. This was a one off life changing event – and Mary and Mary felt compelled to show their awe and wonder. Culturally this was one of the ways they would have done that! – Showed humility, praise and adoration – echoes of the servant king washing his disciples feet days before. That their response to these life changing events respects how great God is.

  • The third theory is this is link to an old testament prophecy one we all know from Isaiah (52:7), as Mary and Mary hold on to Jesus feet: – How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces salvation and peace, who says to Zion and beyond, Our God reigns.

This third response from the Marys was to follow what Jesus tells them to do. Again – not to be afraid (echoing the angel from heaven and showing his heavenly glory) and to go and tell his brothers to go to Galilee where they too will meet the risen Jesus. They rushed off to do just that!

So Jesus is risen and we have seen responses from everything and everyone around the tomb that day – from the earth, from the heavens sending an angel, from the guards and three different ones from the Marys.

What is our response to this world changing, life changing truth – that Jesus is risen?

This is important – the question is not do we respond but how do we respond especially in our times separated from each other, socially distanced and in frightening times!

I think the first response must be to hear for ourselves the words of the Angel and Jesus – Do not be afraid. I have to confess to finding the current circumstances frightening for ourselves, our loved ones, our neighbours, our communities and our world. I feel it because it is frightening, but we need not succumb to living fearfully in our hearts. The words of the Lord in Isaiah 43 help us with this.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;  and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

 The waters, rivers and flames of our current strange and challenging coronavirus times do not alter God’s love for us shown in how Jesus rose from the dead for us. If it helps start each morning by saying out loud these words of the Lord – Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you (insert your name), you are mine.

We need to live within the scope set out for us at the moment by our Government, but we can choose how we approach life in our hearts.  God calling us by our names shows God’s deep love for us – God’s care and affection. It is a recognition of how close God is to us in the day to day trials and tribulations of life through the power of his spirit. It is a sign of God’s profound intimacy and love for us, reassurance we need that God is there loving us and calling us by our names.

God’s saving love is present in any danger, for Isaiah from the threat of water and the threat of burning in the flames. Fear not for God has saved you, from all conceivable perils and dangers. Fear not even though things look bad, hopeless and unending. Fear not even though you do not understand it all or at all, or in response to the natural feelings we have of dis-orientation . Fear not – it is not that God will save us, it is that God has saved us already. Through the resurrection of Jesus – God loves each of us intimately, as we are, wholly and completely and calls us by name.

Like all those responses we observed on the first Easter day, we too must respond to the risen Lord Jesus in our hearts and lives. The risen Lord Jesus – who opened out the power of the Spirit to us. In lockdown or not – we can still respond openly and warmly to God’s love for us. Do not be afraid.

Let us pray: –

King of love, we come to lay at your feet the costly offering of all that we have and all that we are. We are empty handed. Meet us here. Give us courage for the week ahead and joy in the everyday hope around us. May we lean on your faithfulness, and rest on a love stronger than death that will never let us go. Amen

We are not people of fear: we are people of courage. We are not people who protect our own safety; we are people who protect our neighbour’s safety. We are not people of greed: we are people of generosity. We are your people God, giving and loving, wherever we are, whatever it costs, for as long as it takes where you call us. Amen.

Copyright acknowledgements

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 

Prayer from Diane Craven copyright © 

Prayer by Barbara Glasson – President of the Methodist Conference – The Church of England – Prayers for use during the coronavirus outbreak.



Reflection for Good Friday – by Rev Alison Way

Isaiah 52:13-53.12 – John 19:17-42

In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen

We cannot gather together in person around the cross today as would be our custom for this Good Friday. Instead we gather as a virtual community. If you have a cross of some sort, it may help to have it in front of us as we reflect on Jesus love for us and the love God has for us – which unites us spiritually as his witnesses on our earth today, even if we cannot be together physically

So as spiritual witnesses let’s look again with eyes wide open and hearts on fire with God’s love at four characters, four witnesses at the original events as described in the gospel of John.

In some instances these are people whose names we know, in others people representing a specific viewpoint or establishment, who were there at the place of the skull and looked on as Jesus was crucified and died.

Our first witness is one of the high priests, arguing over what the sign about Jesus should say. One who has mocked and scorned Jesus. One who wanted him out of the way at any price, and fast before the sabbath set in. One who viewed Jesus as dangerous to the current order of things. Jesus threatened the power and influence that this man had. In the high priest’s heart are a variety of feelings, bitterness and hatred, alongside some significant relief that Jesus was being dealt with. This man thought that Jesus had got what he deserved! He would have been satisfied even pleased with the outcome. The high priest’s views are pretty painful to our ears.

Our second witness is one of the soldiers, representing the Roman occupying force, doing Pilate’s bidding. He was there doing his job, supervising the executions. This activity was matter of fact to him, part of his day to day life. He had probably trodden this path many times before. In John’s gospel the soldiers are gambling over Jesus possessions. Then at the end making sure Jesus is dead, piercing his side but not breaking any bones. In this account we don’t get the centurion’s remark  – Truly this man was God’s Son but we remember it from Mark and Matthews’ account. That makes us wonder what it was in the last breath of Jesus that this soldier saw? What was it that opened his eyes and moved his heart, to proclaim that Jesus was God’s son. He proclaimed this against all the odds (and in significant danger to his livelihood and survival)

Our third witness is Mary Jesus’ mother standing nearby to the cross supported by Mary Magdalene along with the beloved disciple. We can only imagine her heart breaking at the sight of her son at this point. Yet we admire her determination in being there, seeing it through and showing her love for Jesus through her presence. We feel her confusion, her grief, her sorrow, and as witnesses that also love Jesus we can touch on Mary’s pain. This is probably only the tip of the iceberg of how it was for her. In her pain we also feel echoes today of those unable to be with dying loved ones in hospital in our current circumstances.

Jesus’ compassion to the very end of his earthly life is concerned with Mary’s welfare from the cross. Making sure she is cared for and cherished after his death by his closest disciple. This is so typical of his heart, and his love for others. Even from the depths of his own anguish he is reaching out to those in need.  Jesus’ compassion is also there for those who are dying and those who can’t be there in our current circumstances by his saving love for us.

Our fourth witness is Joseph of Arimathea. We cannot be sure he was there at the crucifixion in a way.  But if he hadn’t been near how could he have known when to go to Pilate to ask for the body when he did. Even if he wasn’t there as Jesus died, he certainly was with Nicodemus and took loving care of Jesus’ body, not everyone’s calling to this day. Joseph had kept his faith in Jesus secret, because he was frightened by the religious authorities (and what that would mean for him). We can’t be entirely clear on Joseph’s part in the story, recent dramatizations (like the BBC1 in 2008) have seen Joseph clearly wanting no part in getting rid of Jesus, but he was not openly supportive either. John’s gospel describes him as a secret disciple of Jesus, participating in laying Jesus body to rest was going to throw the spotlight onto him and reveal this secret. Did he feel he had done to little, to late to support Jesus? Did he feel now in this the darkest hour he needed to stand up to be counted?

We have heard the story of these four different witnesses A High Priest, A Soldier, Mary and Joseph of Arimathea. Each had a different perspective on the events of the First Good Friday. As Christian disciples united in our love of Jesus, what can we learn and apply to our Christian witness from them – What these people standing before us witnessed at the crucifixion and in Jesus death and how they witnessed it

What can we learn from the High Priest’s perspective? – The high priests were the face of religion of his day and his perspective challenges us to look at our use and abuse of power. Speaks to us in our acts of hypocrisy – when our words and our deeds don’t match up.

Jesus love for the High Priest and for us shown through his cross speaks to our hearts – Asks us to be aware that what we do for God should not be tainted by our own self-interest. We need to live lives worthy of Jesus.  Jesus love asks us to use any power we have responsibly and to show his love and compassion for those around us. People looking at us should know we are Christians by our love and by our capacity to show God’s love for others.

What can we learn from the soldier’s perspective? – For the soldiers undertaking executions was  part of their day to day job, and yet in Mark’s and Matthew’s gospel we hear that what one soldier saw  in Jesus’ death, was enough for him to believe passionately.

Jesus love for the soldier and for us shown through his cross speaks to our hearts – About how unexpected and surprising God’s love for us and those around us can be. How God can speak to us through our circumstances, this very day in the events we witness, through those we speak to and our words to others even in the most routine, day to day task in our lockdown circumstances. Let’s remember to ‘tune in’ to the mystery and wonder of God’s love for us and be open to the many ways in which God guides us. This allows ourselves to be channels of that mystery and wonder to others as the spirit guides us.

What we can learn from Mary’s perspective? – Mary looked on as her son, her beloved son died.
Jesus love for Mary and for us shown through his cross speaks to our hearts – About the challenge we all face in those times when the going gets tough. It couldn’t have been much tougher than it was for Mary on this day. Mary loved Jesus with all she had and put her love for him first as any mother does. We are called in our witness as Christians today to put our love of Jesus first in our lives too no matter how tough it gets and it doesn’t get much tougher than Mary’s experience. We need to put our love of Jesus first based on the hope Jesus has set before us and the love that Jesus has for us shown through his cross. We also need to pray for and support those not able to be with ill and dying loved ones, knowing Jesus’ love for them and compassion for them too.

What we can learn from Joseph of Arimathea’s perspective? – Joseph looked on and knew as an influential figure in jewish society, he should move to give Jesus dignity in death, and enable his body to be buried according to their custom.

Jesus love for Joseph and for us shown through his cross speaks to our hearts – About the need not to keep our faith secret. Joseph sacrificed the anonymity and secrecy of his faith that day. Christianity is not a faith to be hid or locked away. We are called in our witness as Christians today to share our love of Jesus with others. This should be as natural to us as breathing – Jesus through his love shown in the cross has saved us and that is the best news we have ever had.

These four different witnesses speak to us as the available Christian witnesses – separated by social distancing today but together in Jesus love for us. They speak of the need for us to

  • Use power responsibly and live lives worthy of our calling.

  • Be open to the breathtaking and surprising work of the spirit.

  • To have our love of Jesus at the centre of our being no matter how tough it gets.

  • And to take our part in sharing the good news of Jesus love for us with others, which has saved us.

These witnesses to events of the first good Friday reminded us of all what we have and share in our love of God and of Jesus Christ his son. These reflections reminded me of the powerful words of the prayer of St Teresa of Avila. This prayer in its simple and powerful words, shows the love of Jesus we have been remembering and have been experiencing through the cross. It also reminds us of our calling as witnesses united together in our love of Jesus this day

Let us pray

Christ has no body on earth but ours, no hands but ours, no feet but ours; ours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; ours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;  and ours are the hands with which He is to bless us now. Amen

Copyright acknowledgements New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 


A Reflection for Maundy Thursday by The Revd Ken Masters

Who would have guessed that Lent 2020 would be like this?  These 40 days have been sombre and unsociable, but there has also been quietness and even creativity.  I hope we have all found some helpful ways of reflecting on our Christian journey towards Good Friday and Easter.

We are now almost there.  But before we come to Maundy Thursday, we can remember that this year Jewish Passover started Wednesday evening.  Their ritual goes back to between 1300 and 1250 bc, when Moses led the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt.  And they were told to remember this at the special meal they have each Passover.  As Exodus (138) puts it: ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt’.  And as Jewish tradition instructs: ‘In every single generation it is a man’s duty to regard himself as if he had gone forth from Egypt’.  [Cecil Roth: The Haggadah, p.36.]  A Jewish family goes through the ritual of this special meal, as if they were there at the original Passover – and are reminded of God’s covenant that Moses voiced at Mount Sinai.  Like us all, however, this year their celebration will be muted and different.  As it has been through history – in the Middle Ages, the Spanish Inquisition and, of course, in the Holocaust.  And yet still the Jewish People praise God for the miracle of Passover, for the Exodus and its long journey, with the covenant relationship, and the promise of freedom.

As Christians we follow Jesus’ way from Palm Sunday to Easter.  And we bear in mind that Jesus was a faithful Jew.  According to the Gospels of Mathew (chapter 26), Mark (14) and Luke (22) he and his apostles had a Passover Supper on the Thursday.  (John’s Gospel takes a different approach – which we’ll come to later.)  Jesus ensured that proper preparation was made.  And then he and his disciples reclined around the table set out for the order of celebrating Passover.  Few details are provided, as the Gospels were more concerned with what was new – and to be remembered.

Luke’s Gospel has a preliminary cup of wine – perhaps as an element of the Passover meal, in which by custom four cups of wine are taken during the meal.  But all three Gospels are agreed on the new and central feature.  Jesus took bread – which would have been unleavened – broke it, gave thanks to God (which is the same as blessing it), and gave it to his disciples.  Jesus then said: ‘This is my body’   And Luke adds: ‘which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  The three Gospels have almost the same words for what happened next.  Jesus took the cup into which the wine had been poured, gave thanks, and gave it to his disciples to drink.  And Jesus said (in Luke’s version): ‘‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’  And St Paul (in 1 Corinthians 11), who accepted this same tradition, adds: ‘Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’

So, if we share the Jewish approach to Passover, then we may think of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples as if we were there.  And we give thanks for this new type of Exodus – as well as the new covenant it initiated.

Christian tradition suggests that we take a further step.  As we faithfully do this in remembrance – not only are we taken back as if we were there with Jesus and his disciples – but also in the here and now we have the risen Lord Jesus with us.  I am not going to go into how or when exactly this happens, but simply say that this is the belief and experience of many Christians – that in breaking bread and sharing a cup of wine the Lord Jesus is present among us.

Except, except – this year we cannot share in our usual way in the Lord’s Supper.  However, even though it is different, but we can still think about the Last Supper.  And whatever we are doing, we can trust in the words of Jesus: ‘And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’  So, we can be with him and he is still with us.

As a little aside, my mind takes me back to many times on holiday in France, when enjoying a bit of baguette and a glass of red wine, my thoughts have turned to thinking of the Last Supper.  And if under present circumstances you should happen to be eating some bread and drinking some wine, then there’s no reason why you should not think of Jesus at the Last Supper.  (And it does not have to be bread and wine.  Bishop Wilson in a prisoner of war camp in Singapore shared a little cold rice and weak tea with his fellow prisoners.  We can be creative.)

John’s Gospel (chapter 13) has a different approach.  He writes that it was ‘before the festival of the Passover’ that Jesus had (what we might call) a Farewell Supper with his disciples.  During supper he got up and went around his disciples, washing their feet.  After which, he said to them: ‘Do you know what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.’

If Matthew, Mark and Luke were describing the new Passover covenant, then John (in his usual reflective way) was describing the new way of behaving.  As John reports Jesus as saying: ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.’  (It is from the Latin for these words, ‘mandatum novum’, that we get the title Maundy Thursday.)  So, with Matthew, Mark and Luke we are called to remember Jesus and rejoice in his presence – and with John we are called to love like Jesus.

Mention of washing and caring immediately takes our minds to the dedicated and courageous work of all the NHS and Care staffs – as well as those working in essential services – not forgetting the kindness of neighbours.  And if it is our part to have our feet washed, then like Peter we need to accept that gracefully.  Just as when we have an opportunity to serve others – by prayer, kindness, action or whatever is possible – then this is part of loving one another.

The Last Supper finished with a hymn (perhaps a Passover Psalm) and then as Luke records, Jesus ‘went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him.’  Then followed Gethsemane, betrayal, arrest, trials, Crucifixion – and the miracle of Easter Sunday.

Two prayers to conclude this Reflection.

The Collect for Maundy Thursday:

God our Father, you have invited us to share in the supper which your Son gave to his Church to proclaim his death until he comes: may he nourish us by his presence, and unite us in his love; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

From George Appleton’s One Man’s Prayers:

O Christ, my Lord, I thank you that in the hour of danger you thought of me and all your followers down the ages; and in this sacrament left us a memorial of your love, a sharing of your life, and part in your sacrifice to your Father and our Father.  I come, Lord, in loving remembrance and in grateful participation, in company with all who love you, in every place and every generation.  O Eternal Saviour, O Source of life.  Amen.

May God be with you all, in all the strangeness of this time, through Good Friday and then as we rejoice on Easter Day in the faith and love of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ.


Reflection for Palm Sunday – 5th April

Penny Ashton has written this week’s reflection..

Ps 118: 1 – 2, 19 – end,  Matthew 21: 1-11

I once heard it said that Jesus must have had wonderful hands – a thought that anyone familiar with stories of healing would agree with, but this person was not thinking of healing but of horsemanship.  Anyone who knows horses at all will be aware that they can be startled by a leaf turning over in the hedge, and completely terrified by a flapping poster or carrier bag being blown by the wind – and yet a never ridden, unbroken colt of a donkey was content to be ridden by Jesus through the sort of crowd that it takes many months of training to persuade a police horse to approach.  The hands and voice of the rider give confidence and the hands and voice of Jesus were like none other that the colt had experienced before.  A scene from the film Jesus Christ Superstar that gives an idea of what that day must have been like can be found here:

The words of our psalm must surely have been in the minds of many who were in the crowd, rejoicing at the coming of the promised messiah as they shouted praise and welcome to the coming king.

It seems odd at this time of empty streets and deserted cities to be thinking of a day when it was almost impossible to move for the crowd, and certainly impossible to hear anything that was said at less than a shout.  It seems even worse to think of an Easter that we will be unable to celebrate anywhere but in our own homes and with those who live with us – or alone if that is how we live.  This would surely be a day when we say with the psalmist in v 24 of today’s psalm ‘This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it’.  A day as the psalm describes for coming together to celebrate.

It has been our custom in recent years to read the full Passion Story as our gospel on Palm Sunday, usually in a dramatised form using different voices for the people involved, and while I welcome this opportunity to hear and feel the whole story of the Passion, I also miss the chance to read the story of Palm Sunday that we are reading today, and all that happened then to set the events from Thursday onwards in train.

I do not think for a moment that the conditions we are currently living under, or the cause of them have been sent by God, but I do believe that God has a lesson for each of us to learn in every circumstance that we find ourselves in.   I also know that Facebook is an unlikely place to find sound Christian teaching, but I was impressed by post I recently saw from San Romero Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas regarding the closure of places of worship: –

Churches are not being closed.  You are the church.  You are to remain active and open.

God has a challenge for us in these difficult times.  It is not what we expected, and it might not be what we would have chosen.  It will certainly not be one that we will find easy, but I am convinced that in the long run it will be one that improves our walk with Him and with each other, and makes us a stronger fellowship, more able to share our faith and serve our community.  I believe that God is calling us more than ever before to prayer.  I was struck by the following sentence which I found on the website of the Order of St Benedict, or Benedictines. ‘Our main work is our prayer – what Benedict calls the “Work of God” – and this balance between prayer and work punctuates the rhythm of our day.’

Many of us have admired the work of Mother, now Saint Teresa among the poorest of Calcutta.  I remember hearing her say many years ago in an interview that God had not called her to serve the poor but that her primary calling was to prayer.  These quotes are attributed to her:

“My secret is quite simple.  I pray.”

“Everything starts from prayer. Without asking God for love, we cannot possess love and still less are we able to give it to others.” – Mother Teresa

In the busyness of our normal lives, we have perhaps forgotten that God first created us to be with Him.  We cannot be obedient to Him, do his will, if we have not spent time with Him, learned about Him, and listened to Him, before finding out what it is that he really wants us to do.  And time is the one thing that we all have plenty of at the moment.  Time, they say is money – how are we spending ours?  The need for prayer has never been greater – for ourselves, our friends and families, our town, our country and our world.

We may all feel at times that our prayer achieves nothing, and is not heard.  We find it easy to forget that there is nothing that gives our heavenly Father more joy than when we turn to Him in prayer.  We do not see pebbles being moved by our faith, let alone mountains as we were promised.  But we forget that we do not live on the same timescale as God – although we are happy to sing:

‘A thousand ages in thy sight, are like an evening gone’

we still look for instant answers.

I read the following in a meditation that was sent to me for Lent by Tear Fund:

‘There will be mountains in our lives that do not move.  But we can take heart from the fact that one day, out of the pain, something brand new may come to life.’  Gideon Heugh.

During this Holy week let us all do what we can to be faithful to our calling and spend time with our loving heavenly Father.  Time spent in that way is never wasted.

I wish you a blessed and joyful Palm Sunday, and leave you with a song of praise that is based on Psalm 103.  May you too find 10,000 reasons to bless and praise God this Easter.


Reflection for 22nd March

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Readings for the day: 1 Samuel 1:20-28 and John 19:25-27

In the sermon I had begun to write on Monday for Mothering Sunday, I talked about the importance of giving thanks for those who care for us, particularly our mothers. This is easy when we have had a good experience of being mothered and mothering in our lives, but much more challenging if we have not. In person, I would have focussed in on thanking God for those who care for us, those we care for and being thankful for God’s care for us all. But as I am writing these thoughts in unprecedented times I will be taking a different tack.

Interestingly both the readings set for today, indicate the more challenging times of life we can experience in caring for others. The first reading is an account of Hannah taking her much wished for toddler to the temple, and Hannah giving to God her longed for and prayed for child. Then we have Mary, the mother of Jesus at the foot of the cross of her son. We can almost feel her pain and anguish. As his last moments ebbed away on the cross, Jesus told Mary that his beloved disciple was to be her son, and the disciple took her into his own home. Even to the last and in extremis Jesus was loving and caring.

I don’t think I have ever known a week in my lifetime like the one we have just experienced. Definitely a time to go back to first principles, and I was reminded on Wednesday’s morning prayer readings of this verse – Hebrews 6:19-20a.

19 We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, 

This takes us back to where our hope comes from, and in this Lenten season, as we prepare for Easter it reminds us of what Jesus’ love for us on the cross is all about. I read this verse and a hymn I learnt when I went to Theological College in Wales also came to mind – the stirring – Will you anchor hold (By Priscilla Jane Owens). If you were associated with the boys brigade you will know it… It is in our hymnbooks – but I am so new that I have no idea if it is ever sung here (No 569) I attach a link so you can listen to it

There are a number of things I find helpful about this hymn:-

  • It returns again and again to the us being “fastened to the rock and grounded firm and deep” in Jesus our saviour’s love for us. This is so important in our current times.
  • It addresses feeling stressed and fearful, and reminds us of the love beyond us – the love of God that sent Jesus to us. Love that is for yesterday, today and forever.
  • Somehow too the tune matches the words and has an air of the waves of the sea. Looking to the horizon and watching the waves on the shore is something I have always loved and brings me great comfort. It reminds me of another hymn that begins – There’s wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea. (Frederick Faber – number 501 in our hymn book). Here is one of my many pictures of the sea to help us ponder God’s mercy and love for us. (It is from the seafront in Sidmouth in December 2019 in the wintery sunshine).

Resting on God’s love for us is important at these times, as is praying. As I was saying in our worship last Sunday, there are loads of ways to worship God in our day to day lives. As a part of this the most important thing we can do (and we can always do) no matter what is pray. There are lots of resources out there to help and I commend what is available on the Church of England Website – and to use the daily prayer resources I have already sent out electronically –

As we pray we may want to intersperse our prayers with the traditional comfortable words. A source of strength and steadfastness to Anglicans over the years.

“Hear the words of comfort our Saviour Christ says to all who truly turn to him:

Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11.28

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3.16

Hear what Saint Paul says:
This saying is true, and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
1 Timothy 1.15

Hear what Saint John says: If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins.”
1 John 2.1,2

I am so grateful to those who have been ringing me to check I am OK. Let’s keep strongly connected in ways in keeping with the current social isolating guidelines. It is my hope in our phone conversations, emails, webposts and the like we can share the anchor we have in God’s love for us – “fastened to the rock and grounded firm and deep” in Jesus our saviour’s love for us –  to encourage each other in the days and weeks ahead whatever that brings..

And some final words of heartfelt blessing for us all

The Lord bless us and watch over us, the Lord make his face shine upon us and be gracious to us, the Lord look kindly on us and give us peace; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among us and remain with us always. Amen.

 With Love in Christ, Alison Way

Copyright acknowledgements

Some material included is copyright: ©  The Archbishops’ Council 2000

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995