Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Thinking outside the box!


I like Easter. Perhaps more than Christmas now that I'm all grown up and have to worry about how much presents cost rather than how quickly I can unwrap them all!

I think what I like best is that I can disentangle in my own mind the whole eggs, chocolate, bunny, chick, daffodil thing from the events just outside Jerusalem at the time of the Jewish Passover sometime around 33AD. At Christmas things get all jumbled up, but for me Easter is clear.

We celebrate the fact that Jesus is alive. That despite the best efforts of many people to put an end to Him, God's love proved to be stronger, stronger even than death.

I know he's alive because I've met him - that might make me sound mad, but it's true, and All Saints Church is full of people who would tell you the same thing.

My views on the alternative Easter images is summed up in the poster below which is produced by CPO

Now is a good time to find out who can!!

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 14, 2006

What's so good about "Good Friday"?

This year more than any other I've been asked this question, mainly by the younger members of our church or those visiting. Why is it "Good" Friday?

The thing to remember is that it is our name, referring to our view of the day. That first Good Friday was not a good day. 3 men executed, one on seemingly trumped up charges, the curtain in the temple torn in two (See here for a reference), a man expected to be the saviour of his people dead and buried, betrayed by one of his own and deserted by everyone except a few weeping women, one close friend and his mother.

There is no easy way to say this - Jesus died in utter agony. Crucifixion was THE most painful way to die, and he had been flogged half to death first. Add to that what we blieve was happening - that all the powers of darkness and hell vented their fury on Him - what was happening in the visible world - the nails, the lash, the pain, the darkness - were echoes of what was happening also in the spiritual world - the whole weight of our sin, our wrongdoing, taken out on Him by the powers of evil.

But why then Good Friday - because of one word Jesus spoke - in english it is rendered "It is finished" - in the original language of Jesus' day known as Koine (Coynay) Greek it is one word "tetelestai" (te-te-less-tay). It was a word written on a bill which had been settled - it can also be rendered "paid in full"

Somehow Jesus paid the price of our sin - he broke down the wall which our wrongdoing had built between us and God, he opened the way for us to know the love of God again.

It wasn't "Good" for Him, it was "Good" for us.

Because of His death we can know forgiveness and a chance for a new start!

Indeed Good Friday!

A towel, a plate, a cup and a Traitor

Well! Finally a chance to reflect on the Easter weekend.

Thursday evening found us sat around a low table set for 13. We remembered Jesus' words and actions as he washed his disciples feet, as they enjoyed God's goodness as they remembered His rescuing His people from Egypt and as Jesus took bread and wine and gave it incredible significance.

What always strikes me on Maundy Thursday is that Jesus did all this BEFORE Judas left to betray him - at least that is the way I read the Gospel accounts. Jesus washed Judas' feet, gave Judas the great signs of God's mercy.

All the disciples ran, Peter's denial was as much a betrayal as Judas. The only difference was Judas decided to take his future into his own hands, Peter stayed long enough to discover Jesus' version of Peter's future!!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Passion of the Christ

What is your image of Jesus?

Is it Robert Powell in "Jesus of Nazareth",
or maybe Max von Sydow in "The Greatest Story ever told"
or maybe it is the wonderful animated version "The Miracle Maker"

Last night we watched Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" at Church.

If you've never seen it I would say it is a "must see".
There are lots of films which show the death of Jesus but none which capture the utter brutality of death by crucifixion. It was meant to be excruciating. Watching a crucifixion was designed to act as a deterrent - you would see the agony of the condemned and so you would toe the line.

When it came to punishment the Romans knew what they were up to!

There are two possibilities to consider when looking at the man Jesus nailed to a cross.

Either he was deluded about himself, in which case he must have been a complete madman to even consider dying in this way (and you have to say looking at the evidence Jesus did nothing to prevent his death by crucifixion)


Maybe he was who he said he was - God himself come to restore the relationship which we had spoilt because of our wrongdoing - to break down the wall which we had built between us and God.

Don't take my word for it. Read some of the things Jesus said and decide for yourself whether you thought he was mad or not - because if he wasn't, if there is just a chance that he was who he said he was - then it changes everything.

Why not watch the film for yourself and then just ponder the idea that he went through all that pain because he wanted you to know just how much God loves you!

Now there's a thought!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Revival in our homes

What a day Palm Sunday was this year. As well as a vicarage birthday we celebrated Jesus entry into Jerusalem and looked to Friday as we took our Palm Crosses.

The music group and singers sang two songs from Roger Jones' musical "Jerusalem Joy" whilst the children paraded around the church waving the palm branches thay had made.

Palm Sunday is a bitter-sweet sort of day - we celebrate Jesus hailed as a king knowing full well that by Friday the crowds will be baying for his blood - and all that without the modern media!!

In our last hymn we sang

"Sometimes they strew his way,
and his sweet praises sing,
resounding all the day hosannas to their King.
Then "Crucify!"
is all their breath,
and for his death
they thirst and cry."

For all the words click here

In the evening we went to the City Celebration in Doncaster - a town wide gathering of Christians of all denominations, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Salvation Army, Free Church, and several other groups I haven't remembered to mention.

The speaker was Rachel Hickson and she was amazing. Very dynamic and very challenging but speaking right to the heart of what Doncaster needs! Her website is here. She spoke of the need to see revival happening first in our homes and then seeing the light spread out onto the streets.

We spent time praying for marriages, for families, for children, for businesses and for those who have no voices to speak out - the marginalised and the outcasts.

Very challenged but very encouraged!

What a start to Holy Week!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Christ in the Passover

Today saw the start of our series of events for Easter.

A young lady from Jews for Jesus came to share with us about the traditions and symbols of the Passover. We were gently taken through the symbols of bitter herbs and salt water, representing the bitter slavery of God's people in Egypt and the tears they shed, on to the symbols of sacrifice (a roast egg!) and the shank bone of a lamb reminding of the passover Lamb which can no longer be eaten as there is no temple in which to sacrifice it.

Our friend showed us how Jesus in his Life, Death and Resurrection was the ultimate fulfillment of all the Passover promises of God!

One thing I found incredible - at one point during the meal a piece of the unleavened bread (caled Matzoh) is taken from a special cloth which has three pieces in it, ceremonially broken and then wrapped in a linen cloth and hidden, later in the meal a child will be sent to find the piece of Matzoh now called the "Afikomen". When it is found the child receives a reward and then the Afikomen is broken into small pieces and eaten in the place of the Passover lamb.

Jesus, part of the Trinity which is how Christians know God, came and he was "broken" on the cross. His body was wrapped in linen and "hidden" in the tomb. He was, three days later, found to be alive and that finding carried a reward - eternal life (and it still does, although really it is Jesus who does the finding!!). In church during communion we eat bread to remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us - eating bread in place of the true Passover lamb who died so that we could be God's friends and enjoy Him forever!

Oh! and just one last thought about the Afikomen - the Rabbis (who make a lot of the rules by which Jewish people live) decided that the Matzoh - the unleavened bread - should be pierced and striped! Hmm! Have a read of Isaiah 53 verse 5 and tell me if you don't think that God is trying to persuade His precious chosen people to believe in the the One who came to be their Messiah - the saviour of the world - Jesus.

More soon about Palm Sunday!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Well, It's a start!


I've been meaning to start a Church blog for a while but I've never got round to it. A friend directed me to Blogger.com and lo and behold here we are.

But who are "we"?

We are All Saints Church, which is based in the village of Woodlands, north of Doncaster, in South Yorkshire in the UK. Our parish covers 2/3 of Woodlands and all of the village of Highfields.

We are part of the Church of England - and our local part of the church is the Diocese of Sheffield.

Our building is quite distinctive - I'll post some more pictures as we go along but here is a nice shot from GenUKi.

Oh! Who am I?

I'm the vicar of All Saints - Rev Stephen Gardner - and we'll talk a bit more about the church family and what we do, and faith, and life as the vicar of a church, and about Jesus - who is reason All Saints exists!

See you soon

The Vicar!