Each day throughout Lent, we will be using guided reflections to focus our thoughts on renewal.
Having spent a week at the cross, reflecting on the same few verses each day, it may feel like a wrench backwards to focus on this week’s gospel reading. We may feel we have gone back in time as we read through the story of the raising of Lazarus.
However, in some ways Lazarus prepares us for the climax of the whole gospel. Through the first part of John’s gospel are seven signs, culminating in the greatest miracle when Lazarus is raised from the dead. Lazarus’ rising is a sign of Christ’s resurrection: to read of it after we have thought about his crucifixion gives us hope.
Once again, we are back with the disciples: once again, they are the ones who get it wrong and allow us to find expression for our doubt and confusion. But we can also spend time with the wonderful characters of Martha, Mary and Lazarus this week. They have not featured at all yet in John’s gospel, though they make an appearance in Luke. After chapter 12, they disappear once again. However, whilst they are with us, they offer great riches and insight.
This will be the final week of the Ignatian style meditations. I have personally found it a powerful way into the Scriptures, which allows for my imagination to interact with the text as I relive the Bible stories. However, my imagination is not your imagination, and if you find yourself drawing very different conclusions about the characters, spend time with those conclusions and ask how they deepen your faith and understanding.
Sunday April 2: Martha Part I
Read: John 11.1 – 6
‘Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus’ (v5)
I have given my heart to few people. My late husband had it and when he died I wondered if I could bear the grief. Day after day, I woke and found it such an effort just to remember to breathe. There are days still when I cannot bear it, but I have gone on.
I have only ever loved two other men and I fear the same thing will happen to one of them. Lazarus is dying and I cannot bear the thought of going through that grief again. It is different for a brother, they say, but grief is grief. How will I endure its pain a second time?
The third man I have loved is this man Jesus. Of course each is a different kind of love but there is no doubt I love him. I have seen the way my sister Mary looks at him and that reminds me of what I felt for my husband, but I feel something different. But still love. Still admiration, wonder, devotion. All those things. I know he inspires that in many.
I have called him. He can help. Why does he not come?
To ponder: Remember the different people you have loved.
DAY TWO: Ian and Julie Arnold; Richard and Jane Ashby; Paul and Rosemary Badman; Jill Bailey; Terry and Jan Baker; Stephen and Harriet, Allie, James and Lizzie Baldwin; Diana Balmforth; Margaret Barber; Suzie Barbour-Smith; Kathleen Barnes
The clergy at St Mary’s – Jeremy and Dorothy Brooks, Carolynn Croisdale-Appleby;
All Christians of all denominations throughout the world and all Christians persecuted and imprisoned for their faith
Monday April 3: Martha Part II
Read: John 11. 20 – 27
‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God’ (v27)
He has come and there is hope. Hope for Mary and me, and strangely I feel hope for Lazarus. Although my brother is dead, I find that I do not despair. It is strange and I cannot fathom it, but Jesus inspires hope in us.
He had my heart already, but now he has my mind too. We women are not supposed to worry too much about our minds: leave that to the men, we are told. I learnt the hard way. Mary and Lazarus had sat taking in his teaching and I felt my place was in the kitchen. But Jesus made it clear women could learn too. So I have. I have thought about who Jesus is and could be, determined I will not let men give me answers I have not worked out for myself.
And suddenly I realised. He is the one. The one for whom Israel waited so long. And I know him and love him. Even in the midst of my grief, I am not afraid now to show that I too have learnt and can declare to all who he is. You are the Messiah, the Son of God.
To ponder: Who do you believe Jesus to be?
DAY THREE: Chris and Naomi, Lydia, Jemima and Thomas Barson-Cain; Elsie Barton; Tim Baynes; Clifford Beebee; Gary and Marcia, Ghillian, Christian and Betsy Bell; Don and Ann Bennett; Ann Benstock; Gayle Berrington; Sue Biggs; Julian and Laura, Ross, Duncan and Lisa Birkinshaw;
The Beaconsfield Team Ministry – Camilla Walton, Vicar of St Michael’s, Narinder Tegally, Vicar of St Thomas’, Hazel Chow, Licensed Lay Minister; the Team PCC;
Families large and small; foster carers and social workers; Children in care; Teachers and all who work in schools; youth and children’s workers
Tuesday April 4: Mary Part I
Read: John 11.28 – 33
‘Lord if you had been here’ (v32)
Why did he let us down? We asked him to come days ago and he ignored us. Jesus has always cared for us, always been part of the family and I know how much he cared for Lazarus too. So why did he not come? Even just to be there when Lazarus died and say his goodbyes. But nothing.
And now four days since my brother died, Jesus has arrived. Almost a week after we first asked him to come. And in those four days, I have been left wondering if he really is the sort of man I thought he was. He has always shown kindness, and compassion, stood up for me when I was in trouble, been gentle when I have needed him to be gentle. And this time I just needed him to be there and he wasn’t.
So when Martha told me he wanted to speak to me, all my anger, all my hurt came to the surface. I didn’t care that everybody followed me, I just needed to say it to him. Why weren’t you here? I even believed you could have healed him, but even if you hadn’t, just having you here was enough. But you weren’t here. And now he is dead.
To ponder: what does Jesus’ absence feel like?
DAY FOUR: Colin and Sue Blackwell; Neil and Janet Boggon; Sue Bottomley; Diana Bovey; Russell and Jane Bowler; Philip and Veronica Bradfield; Tony and Mary Bristow; Adrienne Britton; Diane Brode; Jeremy and Dorothy, Ethan and Dana Brooks
People living with mental illness and all who care for them.
Wednesday April 5: Mary Part II
Read: John 11.34 – 37
‘Jesus began to weep’ (v35)
Strangely my anger did not make him respond in similar fashion. I thought he would rebuke me or give me good reason why he couldn’t have come any earlier. If I had thought about it properly, I’m sure I could have seen that Jesus must have had a reason for the delay.
But he didn’t see my anger. He only saw my sorrow. So he began to cry too. Wept the sort of tears that we had all wept because we all loved Lazarus. The onlookers who had come after me to see what would happen with Jesus saw him weep. They commented that it showed how much he loved Lazarus. And I think that is true. But I think it also showed how much he loved me – because he could see how much I was hurting too.
Martha told me afterwards she had had an amazing conversation with Jesus about being the Resurrection and the Life. Full of high theology which she was very excited about. But I didn’t want that. I just wanted him to show that he loved me and that he loved Lazarus. That is what he did.
To ponder: how does Jesus respond to your need?
DAY FIVE: Kelly, Shanice, Rowan, Faith, Viola, Samuelle, Noah John-Brown; John and Jennifer Brown; Jim and Sylvia Brown; Jenny Bruce-Mitford; Ian Burgess; Chris and Delia Burley; Hilary Burnham; John Burton; Peter Caithness; Geraldine Calabrese
Deborah Forrest and Helen White, our Office Managers
People living in poverty and people without access to food or clean water
Thursday April 6: The disciples part I
Read: John 11.7 – 13
‘Those who walk at night stumble’ (v9)
It is like that with him. We stumble about and we just don’t understand. First, he hears that a close friend is dying and he doesn’t go to be with him. In a way, we understood that – we were all frightened to go anywhere near Jerusalem and Bethany was much too close for comfort.
But now he has decided that we are all to go. Two days after we heard the news. And it will take a couple of days to get there. Either Lazarus will be better, or he will be dead. Neither seems a good reason to put our lives at risk.
We have followed Jesus for three years now and there are times when we feel we are no nearer understanding how he will respond to a situation than when we first met. Even those of us who have known him all our lives get caught out.
So his lines about walking during the day and not walking at night leave us mystified. Are we walking at night? Are we the people who see the light of the world? Is Jesus the light of the world? He said so somewhere else. But at the moment we just find him bewildering. We long for answers.
To ponder: when does Jesus seem mysterious to you?
DAY SIX: Claire Campbell-Jones; Granville and Maureen Camsey; John and Sally Carter; Marilynn, Melissa and Michelle Cathcart; Ronan and Amanda, Madeleine and Lavinia Champion; John and Irmgard Churchill; Lee and Emma, Sophia and Louis Clifton
The Church musicians – David Hackett, the organist, Debbie Ivens, the choir-mistress, all who sing in the choir
All who live with illness or disability; doctors, nurses, medical professionals; hospitals and hospices; people living without access to healthcare
Friday April 7: The disciples part II
Read: John 11.14 – 19
‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’ (v16)
You could rely on Thomas to be gloomy. But we were all thinking it. It wasn’t just Jesus in danger of being so near Jerusalem: crowds could be goaded to attack anyone who was seen as a supporter of a wrongdoer. And that would certainly mean us.
When Jesus heard what Thomas had said, he didn’t contradict him, didn’t say everything would be fine. It was as though death was part of the journey. After we left Bethany and headed towards Jerusalem, he talked about a grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying. As though that was the way to life for all of us too.
Are we going to have to die in order to live? We saw what happened to Lazarus and that he died and then lived again. Suddenly Thomas’ words didn’t seem too gloomy after all: perhaps Jesus would raise each of us to life as well. Somehow that didn’t seem to be what he was talking about. But now he is talking much about death. Death as being the pathway to life. What does it mean?
To ponder: If a grain dies, Jesus says, it bears much fruit.
DAY SEVEN: Hilary, Charlotte Coales; Brenda Coleman; Audrey Connell; Nikki and Will, Oliver, Liam and Eliza Cooke; Richard and Becca, Rachel, George & Emma Cornford; George and Anita Cranmer; Pam Crawford and Chris Meredith; Kathleen Crichton; Carolynn and David Croisdale-Appleby
Our parent and toddler group – Ann Benstock as co-ordinator and all those who help and attend;
For St Mary & All Saints’ School; for its Head Elaine Kilner, who has just retired and the new Head, Jenny Barnett.
Saturday 8 April 2017: Lazarus
Read: John 11.38 – 44
‘Unbind him and let him go’ (v44)
I was dead and now am alive. They tell me I had been dead four days before I was brought back to life. Four days for my body to start to rot in the heat of the day. Martha said she had been most worried about the smell: I told her she had spent my life worrying about that!
I don’t remember much about the days leading up to my death: only that I felt that I was bound by something that was slowly choking me. So when I walked out of the tomb wrapped in the grave clothes, it seemed right for Jesus to say to people to unbind me. Because I had felt bound for some time now. Not by the grave clothes: I was only now aware of them. But by the illness that had reduced me to a dying man.
Now I am alive. Now I am unbound. Strangely that feels just as important – not just alive, but free from the things that constrained me. I know that one day I will die again, but I know I will never be bound by anything in the same way. For the rest of my life, I will be free.
To ponder: from what would you like Jesus to unbind you?
DAY EIGHT: John and Nicki, James and Stephen Crowther; Elwin and Wilhelmina Cummings – Palmer; Sue and Steve Cuthbert; Bridget Daines; Jamie and Sophie, Jake Dale; Joan and Tom Dark; Ken and Angela Darvill; Chris and Vanessa Daubney; Robert and Ayan, Katie and Harriet Davidson; Jane Davies
For all who work in Junior Church and help lead our Family Services; for Lighthouse and all our outreach amongst young families in the town
The other schools in town: Butler’s Court, Holtspur School, Davenies, High March, Beaconsfield Secondary School, the High School
Palm Sunday: The Stones
Read: Luke 19.28 – 40
‘If these were silent, the stones would shout out’ (v40)
The Jerusalem guide solemnly picked up a stone from the ground to show to the pilgrims. ‘This’, he declared, ‘this is the very stone that would have cried out for Jesus if the crowds had remained silent.’
Think of the stones beneath your feet. They have been there for centuries: they may well be the same stones that our forebears who walked the same way that we have gone saw beneath their feet.
In this Holy Week, I want to consider some of the non-human participants in the Easter Story. For too long, we humans have not recognised any kinship with the earth and the non-human occupants of it. This has led to abuse and ecological disasters. Care for our planet is as much a responsibility of the Christian as love for our neighbour.
St Paul says that the whole of creation is waiting eagerly for the revelation of God’s kingdom (Rom 8.19). Including the stones.
To ponder: How do I relate to the stones?
DAY NINE: Jonathan and Laura, Henry, Alice and Holly Dayer-Smith; Stephen and Judy Dillon; Kari Dorme; Paul and Steph Dreelan; Gavin & Laura Dove; Len and Audrey Dunn; Jenny Earp; Tony and Sue Ebbutt; Nicki and Dylan, Owen and Ben Edwards; Tony and Pat Edwards
For the work of the Beaconsfield Advisory Centre;
Your neighbours and local community
Monday of Holy Week: The Perfume
Read: John 12.1 – 11
‘Mary took a pound of costly perfume…anointed Jesus’ feet’ (v3)
Perfume is poured all over his feet, getting in between his toes and round underneath onto the soles of his feet. Her hair falling down as she bends down and slowly and attentively wipes it around his feet using her fingers to get in between the toes with it. The aroma of the perfume filling the room, so now everyone is affected by it, not just with their eyes at the shocking scene unfolding but with their nose as nard fills their nostrils.
In another image, oil is poured over the head and drips down the face, seeping into the man’s collar round his neck, the warm trickle making its way down the man’s beard. A description of Christian unity according to Psalm 133.
Oil. Perfume. Candles. Means to enable us to draw close to God. This is worship. Not with words, but with the senses.
To ponder: allow the scene with Mary to unfold before you again.
DAY TEN: Bill and Margaret Edwards, Ellie and Ben Scott; Jonathan and Fiona, Katie Elder; Chris Elder & Ashley McCabe, Olivia, Claudia, William & Florence; Evangeline Evans; Janet Evans; Andrew and Jenefer, Freddie and Joanna Farncombe; Barbara Ferris; Rosalie Field; Linda Fossel; Norman Francis; Shirley Francis; Michael Frazer; John Fricker; Anthea Fyler;
All the St Mary’s House Groups and their leaders, and Henry Hutchinson as co-ordinator; The Evening Group and its leader, Adrienne Britton;
All who work in Beaconsfield and the retail trade
Tuesday of Holy Week: The grain of wheat
Read: John 12.20 – 36
‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain’ (v24)
Wheat shows us the way. A small insignificant grain goes down into the dark earth, scarcely to be noticed. It has been buried and is entombed in the soil. Only then can it fulfil its Maker’s intentions. Now it has the chance to grow, to put forth shoots and leaves and ears of wheat. A grain of wheat on its own is no use: it must be buried in order to live.
Perhaps the grain of wheat would prefer to remain in a bowl on display with other grains of wheat, a particularly shiny example of what a good grain of wheat can look like. But it is no use there. It must die in the ground before it can live.
This is too obvious to state like this. But we struggle to apply the same thinking to our own lives. In order to live – really live – we have to have the courage to bury who we think we are, based as it so often is on our own selfish desires. In order to live, we need to recognise that what is left when we have put to death our desire, is love. It is love that will rebuild us and cause fruit to sprout from our lives.
To ponder: Can I put to death all except love in my life?
DAY ELEVEN: Miriam Galloway; Colin and Julie, Harry and Katie Gard; Matthew Garrett; Gillian Gau; Cindy Gibson; Jamie and Wendy, Jeremy Godrich; Mark and Lai-Kuan, Tansy and Harvey Golledge; Charles and Kelly, George and Freddie Goodwin;
The bell-ringers and their Tower Captain, Geoff Hopkinson;
All who are unemployed and all those burdened by debt
Wednesday of Holy Week: The Darkness
Read: John 13.21 – 32
‘And it was night’ (v30)
Darkness dominates over the next few days. The Last Supper takes place at night. It is in the darkness that Jesus prays in Gethsemane, is arrested and tried, and the darkness overcomes the light for three hours on Good Friday. It is hard not to see Holy Saturday as a day of darkness.
Light is always stronger than darkness. But for these days of Holy Week, darkness plays a significant role and cannot be hurried away.
Jesus tells Judas to go quickly to do what he needs to do. He initiates this move into darkness by allowing Judas to act and precipitate the events of the next few days. In the darkness, Jesus remains present.
Our lives contain times of darkness as much as light. But darkness is part of the spiritual journey as much as light is: only when Jesus had been through the darkness of the Passion did he reach resurrection. The glory of Easter is made more real by the pain of Lent.
To ponder: Where is Jesus in the darkness of my life?
DAY TWELVE: Margaret Goodyer; Sandra and Andrew Gosling; Peter and Dilys Grey; Geoff and Deborah Gudgion; Shirley Gudgion; David Hackett; Nancy Hagger; Andrew and Julia, Benjamin Halford; Reg Hall; Tim and Natasha, Charles, Louis and Freya Ham; Alistair and Moira Hamilton
The work of sidesmen and welcomers in our Sunday services;
Lawyers, police, probation and prison officers, and those working in the justice system; Those who are denied access to justice
Maundy Thursday: The Water
Read: John 13.1 – 17
‘He poured water into a basin’ (v5)
Water for washing. And so Jesus washed his disciples’ feet.
Water for drinking. The basic element of life. The base liquid which Jesus turns into glorious wine through his message of love and fulfilment. ‘If anyone is thirsty, come to the waters’
Water for life. There from before the beginning of time according to Genesis 1.2 and without water, life is unsustainable. Jesus describes his gift as living water and those who drink will never thirst again (John 4.13)
Water for death. The source of life, but also in Christian thought the means of death too through drowning. Transformed through baptism as the gateway to life.
Water for filling the earth. About 70% of the earth’s surface is covered in water.
Water for filling us. About 60% of the adult person is water.
Water for service. Jesus takes this most fundamental of substances and uses it to show us the way of the Christian life. It is all about service. Jesus takes a towel and serves.
To ponder: How will water refresh me, refresh my faith?
DAY THIRTEEN: Margaret and Philip Hanscombe; Fiona Harman; Rachel and Aidan, Flynn, Joe and Louis Harmen; Audrey Harrison; Amanda, Cameron and Caroline Hatter; Bryan and Anne Hatter; David and Liz, Jessica and Sophie Hawkins; Alan and Pam Heal; Ann and David Heath; David and Carole Heeley;
All those who participate in our Sunday worship through reading the lesson and leading intercessions;
All who are affected by war; people who live in the midst of conflict; members of the armed forces and their families
Good Friday: The Cross
Read: John 19.17 – 25
‘Carrying the cross by himself’ (v17)
If anyone would follow me, he said, let them take up their cross. Jesus is united with his cross, not at the place of execution when he is nailed onto it, but at the bottom of the hill where he must walk with it on his back. He feels the weight of the wood, the rough sides cutting into the wounds inflicted by the soldiers. We are called to follow.
The weight is too much and he is separated for a while from his gallows. Simon is the true disciple in carrying Jesus’ cross.
The iron nails are hammered into Jesus’ wrists and ankles, pinning him to the wood till he dies. Now the rough wood is joined by cold iron, piercing the bone, causing agonies every time he moves. And move he must, pushing up against his feet in order to breathe and prevent suffocation on the cross.
The cross attacks Jesus’ body in a most brutal way. We cannot think about the cross without recognising the sheer physical assault it launches against its victims.
To ponder: Sit with the physicality of the cross.
DAY FOURTEEN: Daphne Hemley; Charlene Hemmingson; Ulrike Heyworth; Christopher and Caron, Scarlett Hiley-Payne; Anthony and Kira, Liya and Alyssia Holland; Chris and Lorraine Horne; Graham Huggins; Barbara Hughes; Henry and Gill Hutchinson; Linda Irwin; Debbie Ivens; Sue Jenkins;
All who arrange flowers in church: Angela Shepherd and Sally Carter as co-ordinators;
For our MP, Dominic Grieve; the Mayor, Patrick Hogan and all who serve in local and national government
Holy Saturday: The garden
Read: John 19.38 – 42
‘In the garden, there was a new tomb’ (v41)
The garden, we are told, is in the place where Jesus is crucified. It seems an incongruous image, a jarring juxtaposition of horror and tranquillity. It is a new tomb, a place where Jesus can be lain and attended to by those who love him. The tomb offers no hope, but does offer peace.
After the horror of crucifixion comes the peace of death. But for Jesus, the horror is still there. The shadow of the cross falls literally on the tomb. He cries out on the cross that God has forsaken him and the God forsakenness continues as he descends to the place of the dead. The distance between the Father and Son is greatest on Holy Saturday.
We long for this day to be a day of peace, when Jesus lies in the tomb freed from the horrors of death he endured. The possibility of rest for Jesus in death is certainly there in this tranquil garden scene. But the fact that the garden is in the same place as the cross reminds us that pain continues through separation from God.
To ponder: what do you feel as you picture the garden tomb?
DAY FIFTEEN: Gordon and Estelle Jewkes; Susan Job; Gareth John and Louise Davidson, Steffi and Sam; Frances Johnson; Sue Johnson; Eve Jones; Ann Jones; Pat Jones; Richard and Sylvia Jones; Carolyn Jordan; Brian and Betty Kehoe; Denise and John Kelly; David and Angela Kendall; John and Janet King;
Those who clean the church and polish the brasses: George Mardall as co-ordinator;
All people in need of rest and retreat
Easter Sunday: The empty tomb
Read: John 20.1 – 18
‘The stone had been removed’ (v1)
The stone is a physical barrier to Jesus. Mary wishes to anoint Jesus’ body, but she would have to have moved the stone first. She cannot do this. Mary’s love for Jesus is not enough to unite her with him: there is a physical barrier.
But love cannot be inhibited by physical barriers. The love of God overcomes them all. Love bursts out of the tomb and in doing so obliterates the stone that held Jesus in.
Since love has pushed the stone aside, the tomb is empty. Love is no longer confined in that space, it has moved back into the garden. So the first encounter that anyone has with the Risen Christ is still in the garden: the garden where the cross of Jesus is also situated. The place is no longer the place of death and burial: it is the place of encounter with hope and life. The beauty of the garden now reveals itself.
Stones, perfume, darkness, water – all these physical things have pointed to Jesus. Today it is the empty space of the tomb. But into that empty space steps the Risen Lord.
To ponder: Feel the joy of encounter with Jesus
DAY SIXTEEN: David and Valerie Knowles; Savvas & Imogen Koufou; Effie Koutrouza; Virginia Kramer; Stavros and Zara, Xenia Kyris; Akiko and Hugh Lacey; Barbara Lamb; Dorothy Langmore; Ronnie and Liz Lewin; Jonathan and Rosa Lewis; Johnny and Helen, Josef, Mia and Billy Lindsay; Brian and Caroline Livingston;
The Pastoral Team and its co-ordinators, Denise Kelly and Christine Phillips; The Healing prayer team and the monthly healing eucharists;
All those who are bereaved