I get the impression the resurrected Jesus had a lot more fun than the pre-resurrected Jesus.
During his ministry, Jesus frequently retreated to secluded areas in order to pray. He was pulled into wearying disputes, by his disciples and the crowds. Also, by and large, he kept himself within the laws of physics – the notable exception being when he walked on water.
And the whole time he was walking a fine line between concealing and revealing who he was.
Continue reading The strangest part (a poem celebrating the resurrection stories of Jesus)
As if the title didn’t give it away, today’s poem draws on the story of when Jesus walked with two disciples along the road to Emmaus on Easter Sunday. The account is in Luke 24:13-35. They were downcast and somewhat astonished that Jesus didn’t seem to know about the crucifixion, but then Luke says they were prevented from recognising him.
Whilst they walk, Jesus is described as ‘opening’ the scriptures to them so that they could understand that the Messiah ‘had to’ suffer and die. It’s only when they reach Emmaus that they invite Jesus in to stay with them and, over a meal, recognise him for who he is.
Continue reading Looking back from Emmaus (a poem about how we make sense of our experiences)
Today’s poem draws on the story of Jesus reinstating Peter in John 21:15-19. I always found this a strange story growing up, but struggled to put my finger on why. It seemed odd that Jesus would distress Peter by asking him the same question three times, or indeed respond to that distress by telling Peter that Peter would die for him.
There was also the question of the Greek and what that meant. The first two times Jesus asks if Peter loves him, he uses the Greek agape for love, but the third time, he uses philia which doesn’t have such a rich meaning. I was sure there had to be deep significance in all this but I couldn’t see what it was. (Peter responds with philia each time.)
Continue reading Son of Jonah (a poem reflecting on when Jesus reinstated Peter)
Today’s poem draws on the time after Jesus’s resurrection when he had breakfast with seven of the disciples (John 21:1-14). The disciples had been fishing all night and caught nothing, but when Jesus tells them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat, they catch a large number (of large fish).
There are various ways to take this story. You could say the disciples were returning to what was familiar to them, though I’m more inclined to think they were doing it to relax as much as anything else. I also think the large catch was an affirmation of what they were doing.
Continue reading Loneliness in the morning after (a poem for when your faith has been rocked)
The lectionary readings this week include the story of Thomas recorded within John 20:19-31. When Jesus appeared to his disciples, he wasn’t there, and then he wouldn’t believe them until he saw Jesus for himself.
He said he would need to see the marks in Jesus’s hands and side before he believed. What I find remarkable is that when Jesus does appear to Thomas, he offers Thomas his hands and side. Almost as if he wants Thomas to believe.
Continue reading A sonnet from a modern Thomas (reflecting on what it takes to share our faith)
Jesus’s resurrection is the best surprise ending ever. It’s so good, so fitting, so unexpected, so inevitable, so awe-inspiring, so triumphant, so impossible to make up.
The accounts of the resurrection are in Matthew 28:1-15, Mark 16, Luke 24:1-49 and John 20:1-23.
As I read through them this week I was struck by the number of questions that Jesus and the angels ask Jesus’s followers. The most famous is “Woman, why are you weeping?” when Jesus meets Mary Magdalene but she doesn’t recognise him. But there are several others.
Continue reading A question, not a criticism (a poem reflecting on the resurrection accounts)
Two short poems this week, both reflecting on a prayer Jesus made whilst he was on the cross on Good Friday: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
It’s recorded in Luke 23:33-35, though some manuscripts don’t include it. Curiously, the NET footnotes say that “even those who regard the verse as inauthentic literarily often consider it to be authentic historically.”
Continue reading Father, forgive (two poems inspired by Jesus’s words on the cross)
Last week I wrote that I’ve written these poems starting from a blank slate, meaning the end result often surprises me. Again, this one surprised me.
Also, I hope you like Shakespeare.
I wanted to reflect on Pilate’s agency, especially how on Good Friday he tried to wash his hands in public and absolve himself from the guilt of Jesus’s death. The account is in Matthew 27:11-26, Mark 15:1-15, Luke 23:1-25 and John 18:28-19:16.
Continue reading His blood and his body (a poem reflecting on when Pilate washed his hands)
I’ve written these poems starting from a blank slate, meaning the end result often surprises me. This one… this one really surprised me. In short, I started out wanting to write about Maundy Thursday, but ended up writing something peaceful set on Holy Saturday. I also cried a lot while I was writing it (but in a good way, I think?)
I wanted to reflect on Jesus’s agency and will, when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, the night before his crucifixion. He was so overwhelmed with sorrow, knowing what was about to happen, that he asked God (the Father) if it was possible for him not to suffer. But, having prayed this, also prayed that the Father’s will be done, not his own.
The account is in Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42 and Luke 22:39-46.
Continue reading The Longest Sabbath (a poem reflecting on Jesus’s prayer: “Not my will but yours”)
This week I wanted to explore the idea of holding your own in a debate intended to undermine you. I’m looking at it in the context in the week before Jesus’s crucifixion, when he was questioned in the temple. In particular, when he was asked by what authority he said and did the things he did.
Continue reading Don’t ask (a poem about the debates Jesus had)
In this poem I wanted explore the idea of following orders in the context of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, a week before his crucifixion.
When systemic injustice is uncovered, you often hear this point raised: can the rank and file be blamed for complying with unethical instructions from their commanding officers?
Continue reading My neighbour’s colt – a poem inspired by Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem
For lent and Easter 2021, I’m writing a series of poems, each exploring the theme of agency through the lens of stories from Jesus’s passion. This first one is inspired by Mary of Bethany when she poured a pint of spikenard over Jesus’s head.
Actually, the gospel accounts vary.
Continue reading Neutral choice (a poem inspired by Mary of Bethany when she anointed Jesus with spikenard)
Note: While the word ‘cadence’ has a number of meanings, this poem uses it primarily in the sense of a sequence of notes or chords that bring a musical phrase to a close.
Where has the cadence gone?
Continue reading Where has the cadence gone? A lament during times without structure.
The sentence-ending fitting word,
The coda of a rhythmic song?
When inhale, exhale linger – but not too long.
It so happens that the revised common lectionary puts readings from Psalm 51 and 1 Timothy 1:12-17 on the same day. It’s year C, on the 19th Sunday in ordinary time.
In each of them, the authors reflect on their bloodguilt – the guilt of shedding innocent blood.
Below I’ve written a liturgy that congregations can use to pray for forgiveness of any guilt they may bear for shedding blood. First, I’ll give a little context.
Continue reading A liturgy for the forgiveness of bloodguilt (based on Psalm 51)
This is a monologue / narrative sermon based on Matthew 3vv1-12. It’s told from the point of view of an anonymous man.
James and I grew up in Nazareth. We were best friends; inseparable; always getting into scrapes together.
One Sabbath, at the synagogue, we crept up behind Rabbi Cohen and tied the tassels on his shawl together. We nearly got away with it too, but then he leaned forward in his prayers when we weren’t expecting it and he felt the tug from behind. He was furious. Of course we said we were sorry but, the truth be told, we were only sorry that we got caught!
Rabbi Cohen would say, [grandiose] “Repentance is like the sea: one can bathe in it at any time.” [wry] Except that in the case of our sorry sinful state, our repentance had to be there and then. It had to satisfy him. James and I hated him for that.
It seemed that Rabbi Cohen always wanted us turn away from something good, or else face something bad. It felt like a pretty miserable deal so you can guess how much repenting James and I have done since we grew up.
Continue reading Two Boys From Nazareth (a sketch about John the Baptist’s ministry)
The twelfth day of Christmas, Epiphany, was yesterday. We have officially moved beyond the Christmas season. And this devotional series ends today. It is, after all, day 40.
I’m not sure I quite knew what I was biting off when I planned this series. It’s definitely been a stretch assignment, but I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and the skills I’ve learned.
If this series has encouraged you, refreshed you in your faith, or given you new insights, I would simply love to hear. Please use the contact form or message me via Twitter or Facebook.
Continue reading Christmas 2020: Week 6, Day 5: Revelation
Today I want to share two images: one of water and one of fire. But they’re both from the same film. And the plot needs some explaining.
This is your spoiler warning.
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is a children’s fantasy-adventure 3D animated film. It was made in 2010, directed by Zac Snyder, based on a series of books by Kathryn Lasky.
Condensing several books, the film has pacing and tone issues. But it is the most visually beautiful film I have ever seen. So much so, it often took me a while to put my finger on what was resonating with me.
Continue reading Christmas 2020: Week 6, Day 4: Fire
As any consent activist will tell you, boundaries are crucial to your health and wellbeing. Transgressing boundaries is inherently unfaithful. It’s no accident that in the Lord’s Prayer, in its traditional form, we ask God to forgive us our ‘trespasses.’
I’ve long believed it’s important to respect God’s boundaries. If God has set them, then they must be both ethical and important. But whilst I still believe this is true, I don’t act on it in the way I used to.
You see, I used to believe I had stay well within the lines. I’d be nervous not to get anywhere near God’s boundaries. I believed the onus was on me to build up my own little guard rails to stop me from coming close.
But then I wondered: what if I don’t need to be like that?
Continue reading Christmas 2020: Week 6, Day 3: Ways
People say that shame is the feeling you have when you believe something is inherently wrong with who you are. Guilt, on the other hand, is feeling there’s something wrong with your actions.
But actually, shame stems from a fear of exclusion. It’s not just about how you relate to yourself, but how you relate to other people.
I learned about this when I read a definition from a 2003 paper by Thomas Scheff. He wrote that shame is:
“the large family of emotions that includes many cognates and variants most notably embarrassment, guilt, humiliation, and related feelings of shyness that originate in threats to social bond. This definition integrates self (emotional reactions) and society (the social bond).”Scheff, Thomas J. “Shame in Self and Society.” Symbolic Interaction, vol. 26, no. 2, 2003, pp. 239–262. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/si.2003.26.2.239. Accessed 23 Dec. 2020
Suddenly a whole heap of experiences made sense to me. Including those times when I haven’t felt shame.
You see, when I felt no shame, it’s because I had no fear of exclusion – even if I was aware that something I had done wasn’t fabulous.
Continue reading Christmas 2020: Week 6, Day 2: Growth
“I think we’ve found Screwtape’s opposite number.”
In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis imagined the plight of an ordinary Christian man. His story is narrated through letters – written from one demon to another, both trying to ensnare the man’s damnation.
His ‘opposite number’ is a character in a radio play I wrote a few years ago. I hadn’t been thinking of The Screwtape Letters, but then a friend made the comparison. And I loved it. Best of all, my angels had sass and character; the good guys were savvy and wry. They had the best lines and the best laughs.
In 2019, I started work on another script. This time, you could say the themes were closer to those in TheScrewtape Letters. A guardian angel has a supervision meeting about his ‘assignment’ — being a Western, white, middle-class, Christian man. Who’s overwhelmed and teetering on depression.
Continue reading Christmas 2020: Week 6, Day 1: Meeting