by Carol Dixon
When my youngest granddaughter first started school she loved to play cards with me to help with her numbers and her favourite game was ‘Clocks’ as she called it (Clock patience). We used to take it in turns to turn over the next number and if one of us turned over a king she got very excited and nervous in case the kings won, as she put it. For some reason she didn’t mind the King of Hearts winning and when I asked her why she said that he was her favourite as he had a nice face. She went on to say ‘Granny, what kind of king do you like?’. I agreed that as far as the cards went I liked the King of Hearts too but told her that my favourite King of Hearts was Jesus and taught her one of my favourite songs from Mission Praise – ‘I love the name of Jesus, King of my heart, he is everything to me’.
[words in YouTube video below]
‘What kind of king are you?’ is a question often asked of Jesus. It was asked by Pilate on Good Friday and the disciples, too, pondered the question. A few years ago I wrote an imaginative reflection based on Simon Peter’s thoughts on the matter which led to me writing a song to describe what kind of king I thought the answer might be.
It was an embarrassing moment; piling into the upper room,
Only to discover the door servant wasn’t there
– he’s the one who usually washes feet.
We threw off our cloaks on the cushioned couches
and sat, awkwardly, preferring not to recline –
no-one wants to rest his head next to his neighbour’s hot and dusty feet.
We knew that one of us should have got up and served the others;
but on the way here we’d all grandly put our case for which of us
would be the greatest, would sit in the highest seat in his coming kingdom –
menial tasks weren’t on our menu.
And so He took the basin and the towel, stripped himself of all but his humanity,
knelt on the floor in front of each one of us, and gently bathed our feet.
He wasn’t even acting out the duties of a slave; in that moment
he became the lowest of the low.
There was no way I’d let him touch my feet, abase himself before me!
He was my Master and my Lord, for God’s sake.
I couldn’t comprehend why he should do this when it should have been me,
their so-called leader – or one of us at least.
‘Never!’ I said, recoiling away from him. I remember his reply to this day.
‘If I don’t, then you won’t belong to me.’
I thought back to the time on the boat, that very first day when I fell at his feet.
‘Then, Lord, wash me all over,’ I said. ‘Bathe me, in your beauty, and your love.’
I told him I’d die for him, you know,
that night in the upper room,
and I meant it. He just looked at me
with that knowing smile of his,
and slightly shook his head, while his eyes
bored into my soul with such love
as he said he knew I wouldn’t.
I didn’t believe him, of course –
none of us did – we were all so sure
of ourselves, our faith in him,
in the future.
Even later on, standing in the courtyard
by the flickering firelight, when I denied
I knew him, it was like someone else
speaking, it couldn’t be me.
Or so I thought, until he looked at me
as they brought him out, battered, bruised,
draped in the purple robe, with that cruel crown
on his bleeding head, like a parody
of a puppet king.
They say Pilate asked him if he was a king.
I wouldn’t know. I don’t speak Latin or Greek,
but John knew the interpreter –
John has quite a few friends in high places
which was how we came to be in the courtyard
in the first place, standing by the charcoal fire.
Every time I smell one now, I remember.
I told him I’d die for him, yet, when it came to it,
I suppose he died for me – for all of us.
What kind of king does that?
© Carol Dixon
What kind of King?
1. What kind of king is this,
who gave his life for me,
to show me how to live
and died to set me free?
What kind of king is this
who came from heav’n above
to live among us here
and show God’s love.
2. He rescued us from death,
part of God’s mighty plan
to save humanity
through this one perfect man.
I cannot comprehend
a love so great, so strong,
that gives itself away
to right all wrong.
3. What kind of king is this
who walks the way of pain
that humankind may be
brought back to God again?
He is our sovereign Lord,
the one whom we adore,
and praise his holy name
4. Behold the Man of love!
Behold the Crucified!
He is our God’s own son
who came to earth and died
and rose again with power;
He is our king divine,
he lives and reigns with God,
Lord of all time.
5. Behold the Man of love,
Behold the king divine,
accept his sacrifice,
his love sublime.
© Carol Dixon
Nowadays kings & kingship is seen as old fashioned in many places and many people don’t like the idea of someone ‘lording over them’. In the UK we are fortunate that our monarch has always seen her role as one of service rather than privilege. Jesus exemplifies the idea of a Servant King and took it one step further when he not only lived to serve but also laid down his life for friends and enemies alike. One of my favourite hymns is ‘You are the King of glory’.
When our folk group sang it in church we added some extra verses which described for us the kind of king we follow.
2. You touched the broken hearted,
You made the blind man see,
You made the lame to walk again,
You set the prisoners free;
You bring us joy in sadness,
Fill our hearts with hope, for
You give us joy and peace from heaven:
You are Jesus Christ, the Lord.
Chorus: Hosanna to the son of David,
Hosanna to the king of Kings,
Glory in the highest heaven,
For Jesus the messiah reigns.
3. You set aside your greatness,
Humbly were born on earth,
Laid in a stable rough and bare
You shared our human birth,
Lived as a man among us,
Died upon a cross, so
We now can live your risen life:
You are Jesus Christ, the Lord. Chorus:
4. You are the Lord victorious,
Conquering sin and pain,
Triumphing over Satan’s power,
You rose to life again.
Now Lord, you sit in heaven,
Reigning with the Father,
All knees shall bow in praise and worship
You are Jesus Christ the Lord. Chorus:
Xtr vs Carol Dixon & St George’s Folk, Morpeth URC
This Easter season you might like to ask yourself ‘What kind of king is Jesus for you?’
by Christine Sine
It’s the day after Easter. We have all rejoiced in the wonder of the risen Christ and vowed to follow him through the rest of the year, but where do we go from here? Fortunately, Easter is not just a day, it is a season, a season that stretches from now until Pentecost. That gives us plenty of time to think about and act on our resolve to follow Christ with all that is within us.
As I think about this today, I find myself returning to the Last Supper where he says to his disciples in John 15:1-8:
15 “I am a true sprouting vine, and the farmer who tends the vine is my Father.2 He cares for the branches connected to me by lifting and propping up the fruitless branches and pruning every fruitful branch to yield a greater harvest.3 The words I have spoken over you have already cleansed you.4 So you must remain in life-union with me, for I remain in life-union with you. For as a branch severed from the vine will not bear fruit, so your life will be fruitless unless you live your life intimately joined to mine.
5 “I am the sprouting vine and you’re my branches.[e]As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you—but when you live separated from me you are powerless.6 If a person is separated from me, he is discarded; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire to be burned.7 But if you live in life-union with me and if my words[f]live powerfully[g]within you—then you can ask[h]whatever you desire and it will be done.8 When your lives bear abundant fruit, you demonstrate that you are my mature disciples who glorify my Father! (John 15:1-8 TPT)
This story, though told on Maundy Thursday is in many ways an Easter story. In fact in The Voice translation, is the comment:
At a time when all of His disciples are feeling as if they are about to be uprooted, Jesus sketches a picture of this new life as a flourishing vineyard—a labyrinth of vines and strong branches steeped in rich soil, abundant grapes hanging from their vines ripening in the sun. Jesus sculpts a new garden of Eden in their imaginations—one that is bustling with fruit, sustenance, and satisfying aromas. This is the Kingdom life. It is all about connection, sustenance, and beauty. But within this promise of life is the warning that people must be in Christ or they will not experience these blessings. (The Voice John 15)
I have actually been thinking a lot about this over the last week. First because of the image above which is one of the illustrations in The Art of Holy Week and Easter by Sister Wendy Beckett but also because I have been watching Gardener’s World with Monty Don on Amazon Prime and last week he was talking about pruning his grape vines.
I was amazed to hear Monty Don say that the purpose of pruning is not so that we get as many bunches of grapes as possible, but rather so that we end up with a few large bunches of grapes from each vine. In other words, we prune so that there are less grapes not more. If we do this, the fruit will be bigger and tastier.
Wow, I thought. No wonder Jesus talks about pruning the fruitful branches not the fruitless ones. Fruitfulness is not about spreading our energy far and wide so that we produce as many bunches of grapes as possible. Rather, it is about producing a few large bunches of grapes that are healthy and sweet in flavour. I am sure this is something that Jesus’ disciples were well aware of. Some of them might even have kept grape vines. And this is definitely kingdom work. We have entered the new Eden, whose flourishing is dependent on us being fruitful members of Christ’s body.
So as we enter this Easter season full of ideas of how we want to see the life of Christ lived out in the future, this is important to remember – Jesus only prunes fruitful vines and Jesus does not want us to produce lots of little and probably tasteless, grapes but rather a few big tasty bunches of fruit.
Jesus goes on to say:
“I love each of you with the same love that the Father loves me. You must continually let my love nourish your hearts. 10 If you keep my commands, you will live in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands, for I continually live nourished and empowered by his love. 11 My purpose for telling you these things is so that the joy that I experience will fill your hearts with overflowing gladness!
12 “So this is my command: Love each other deeply, as much as I have loved you. 13 For the greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. And this great love is demonstrated when a person sacrifices his life for his friends. (John 15:9-13)
Here on Godspace, we are starting a new theme for the Easter season Time for Love, and as I read this I realize how appropriate thinking about pruning is as a way to begin our new theme. We are pruned so that the sweetness of our fruit is the sweetness of love. We are pruned so that we are more effectively able to love each other deeply in the same way that Jesus has loved us.
So let’s begin this Easter season asking ourselves:
- Where am I most likely to bear fruit like big bunches of grapes, over the next year?
- What are the branches that Jesus wants to prune away so that they do not sap energy from what will become big, tasty fruit?
- In what ways would Jesus like to prune me so that the sweetness of his love flows more effectively from me out into the broken world in which we live.
Check out our Creation Spirituality Resource Page as we prepare for Earth Day on April 22nd.
It’s Easter Sunday Hallelujah Christ has Risen. Enjoy the wonder of this day with me as I read through these prayers I have written in past years.
Hold your head high, Christ has risen.
Rejoice and shout,
Christ has come calling us home.
Home to the heart of God,
Home to God’s living presence,
Home to God’s banquet feast.
Hold your head high, Christ has risen.
Death has been conquered,
Christ has come calling us home.
All that was broken has been made whole,
All that was dislocated has been set right,
All that was oppressed has been set free.
Hold your head high, Christ has risen,
Bringing God’s healing,
Christ has come calling us home.
Redemption is complete,
God’s eternal world has begun,
Love reigns over all,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Christ has risen calling us home.
For more prayers and Easter resources check out this post.
Pondering the first Easter Saturday, I wonder what those first disciples must have felt. All their hope was gone, brutally murdered and now hidden in a tomb to rot. For following Jesus they were now rejected by the synagogue leaders and also being watched carefully by the Roman authorities. We know the end of the story we so often forget what that first Saturday after Jesus was crucified was truly like.
I wrote this poem not only pondering Easter Saturday but also as I was dealing with the grief over the untimely deaths of friends and family I had been praying for God to heal; emotionally, physically and mentally. Pondering Easter Saturday isa good time to think about those prayers we pray that don’t appear to get answered.
The First Easter Saturday
How? What had happened?
What is wrong with the world?
Why is it continuing?
God why can you not make it stop?
Just give us time to grieve.
This is too much.
There was so much promise.
So much expectation.
And now he’s dead.
All hope of promise is gone.
All that we gave our lives for.
All that we gave up.
It is finished.
And who cares?
Us few that’s who.
The Passover continues
The people celebrate
They are free at last.
How? Why? Who could have let this happen?
God how could you have let this happen?
You should have stopped it.
He claimed to be your son.
We believed him.
We are walking dead now.
They will come to get us soon.
It is finished!
So much of our own stories we are in that middle place between God promising and it coming to pass. Even before the pandemic hit most of us had experienced friends and family dying too soon and too painfully. Or of things we hoped would happen not working out as we had desired, or not working out at all. .
How do we feel when we are grieving, when we are scared and yet other people are celebrating? The Passover was about being free from oppression but the followers of Jesus were under the weight of grief. And grief is a heavy cloak to wear.
I believe God allowed Easter Saturday to remind us all that we need space to think, to grieve, to wonder. I believe, too, that the church calendar has stolen something from us. When you read what Jesus says it is that he’ll be in the earth three days and nights, not the two nights and one day that our church calendars allow.
Easter is a time for healing, as has been the focus for Godspace. My prayer for us all is that we take some Easter Saturday time and grieve for what we have lost and cope with our uncertainty about the future. I believe taking time out to acknowledge our grief before we move forward is one of the keys to healing and not just brushing things under the carpet. Let’s use Easter Saturday for, what I believe, God intended it.
Poem first published on 31st March 2018 on Aspirational Adventures.
For another Easter Poem for 2021, please see Jenneth Graser’s Easter Poem.
Liminal space. It’s a concept that Fr. Richard Rohr OFM first brought to my attention.
It’s that phenomenon in life when we appear for a time to be stuck in the in-between. What do I mean by ‘the in-between’?
Rohr says that it is a graced time, but that it feels anything other than graced: God is inherently part of it — our becoming — but we can be left wondering, “How on earth could this be happening to me, God?”
Those who are in it or have been there know this liminal space instinctually.
It is the disordered place, the place where life makes little or no sense, the place of death and of grief. It is the place where dreams go to die — at least for a time, but sometimes indefinitely.
It may seem callous to talk of dreams dying but talk to a person whose dreams have died and they’ll often be encouraged to know they’re not the only ones afflicted.
The empathy within the community of the suffering is life for the afflicted in the in-between.
This in-between time, this liminal space place,
is where there is no hope,
and certainly where there is no vision of resurrection.
But hope must die before faith comes alive.
For Jesus’ disciples, the concept of the resurrection could not have been contemplated. Scattered, they were in disarray, not knowing what to think of what had just happened. Jesus was dead. Could they have hoped that it was all just a bad dream or that the Father might raise him as Jesus had raised Lazarus?
For those of us who have lost homes, children, partners, marriages, careers, livelihoods, security, etc — when we’ve been forced into change through grief especially — that heart wrenching time of loss is the liminal space where hope feels as if it’s evaporated into the ether. Death.
But hope’s a funny thing. Faith can only begin to germinate and flourish and thrive when it’s stuck in the in-between. Faith comes alive when a former hope has died. Faith is the antecedent of a more resilient latter hope, the purpose of God.
The in-between liminal space place, then, comes into our lives for a purpose: a purpose in excruciating soul pain. It’s the metaphor of Holy Saturday in our lives when death threatens, swarms, overwhelms. But death has not the victory. Sunday is coming.
Faith is unconquerable when it refuses to give up when the night of hope is still pitch-dark, hours before dawn emerges as a minute crack of light on the horizon. Faith is an invisible bridge, appearing visible one step at a time, only as we step forward each step.
It’s like, if you’re going through the most hellish time in your life, somehow you just need to keep going in blind faith that the journey will be traversed. Somehow God works it out.
This is actually the gospel hope operative in your life. It’s when Jesus comes alive to you. It’s when he says, “I’ve been there… and I’m there with you now… keep stepping, I am with you,” and you hear him!
And like with Lazarus, Jesus promises to lift us, to raise us at the right time. Until then, we have nothing less than the inimitable presence of the Lord with us.
As we face the truth that Jesus was resurrected and not just resuscitated, we come to understand that death must occur before resurrection can — there is no resurrection without death.
We face this truth most of all when we’re in that deathly place. There is a hope beyond it.
Liminal space is paradoxically the making of our faith.
Even as you are the author of creation,
you also author for us narratives that seem so foreign and ghastly.
We often wonder what you’re doing,
and our trust in you fails.
Thank you that you authored the concept of life after death.
Thank you that we have hope even when life feels like death.
Thank you that the gospel hope actually activates at this deathly time.
Grace us with the capacity to understand your plan when we’re in pain.
And lead us in your way, everlasting.
Your hand on the hem of the robe,
on the cloth.
Your voice on the air of baked sun.
Your words of dew on the cracked soil of death,
calling for life,
Your feet in the clay,
Your face in the hands of your Mother.
Your back to the whip,
Your tears to the ground,
Your hands pierced through
With a nail, with a nail.
Your blood seeping wounds,
Your hands stretched out,
Your feet splayed.
Your side opened to water, to blood,
Your words poured out.
Your body to cold, dark stone.
Your body enwrapped, perfumed.
Your body imbibed and atoning all sin,
Awake on a moment of time.
Your hands unwrapping the layers,
Your body enclothed in white.
Your hand on the hem of your robe,
Your voice on the air of a garden of dew,
Your voice on the air of an emptied tomb,
Your light, your light.
Photo is a public domain painting by Odilon Redon, Sacred Heart
by Lilly Lewin
We have made it to the end of Lent. We have made it through a year of a global pandemic. So much loss and so much suffering. Today is the day we remember the suffering and death of Jesus. We remember his betrayal, his trial, the torture before the cross, and his agony and death on the cross.
One of my prayer practices this week is using my coffee cup to pray with and today’s cup is the CUP of SUFFERING.
TODAY we pick up the Cup of Suffering. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that God would remove the cup of suffering from him. But Jesus was willing to take the cup for each of us. And Jesus is with us in our suffering. As you drink from your up today, is there anything in your life you wish God would remove? Talk to God about this. Any areas of suffering where you need healing? Ask Jesus to heal you.
As you drink from your cup today, take time to pray for those friends & family who are suffering.
Pray for people around the world who are suffering.
Pray for those who drink from cups of suffering on a daily basis. Places like Syria, and the US southern border. Places still in war and conflict, like Sudan, Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Venezuela.
Another way to remember what Jesus did on Good Friday is to Pray the interactive Stations of the Cross HERE . This interactive digital experience was created last year by my friend, Pastor Edward Goode, of Cincinnati. It took the experiential stations that I created years ago for in person prayer and made them better!
Each station follows a similar pattern. There is a video to watch that includes a reflective activity for you. Please scroll down on each page for further notes, questions, and activities including sharing comments. Several stations invite you to share in the comments section about what comes to your heart.
Take your time in this journey. It is designed to be experienced in one sitting but if you need to leave and come back, you can just return to whatever step you left. To do it in one sitting will likely take at least 45 minutes.
As you heard in the video, there are some supplies to gather before you begin.
- A blank piece of paper
- A marker or pen
- A piece of scrap paper or scrap cloth
- A piece of string or ribbon at least 8″ long (but longer might be helpful)
- A band-aid
- A place to wash your hands
- A bottle of vinegar and a small glass
- A nail, a toothpick, or a pin
- A seed and a place to plant it
Ed Goode also created an amazing new experience for Holy Week this year using a different Labyrinth to walk and pray with each day. Each day there is a printable finger labyrinth to use and a guided video reflection walking that labyrinth. Pray the interactive Holy Week with Labyrinths HERE.
Finally, I love to experience scripture through art! Vanderbilt Divinity School has a beautiful slide show with amazing art that goes with the lectionary for this Good Friday. Check that out HERE.