A couple of years ago Tom & I had the opportunity to spend Holy Week on the island of Iona off the West Coast of Scotland. Because of our interest in Celtic Christianity this was an very special time for us. It was one of the most wonderful retreat times we have ever had. We were able to participate in the Stations of the Cross through the little village, walk across to Columba’s Bay and enjoy the Easter Sunday service in the Abbey. I thought that you might enjoy some of the photos from that time. I love this first photo which looks from the Iona Abbey toward the Bishop’s guesthouse but my favourite is the spring flowers in the Iona Abbey.
This last Sunday our pastor Carla Pryne gave an incredibly powerful sermon about Palm Sunday and I wanted to share some of her thoughts. She quoted from Thomas Aquinas “The universe is made not of atoms but of stories” then told the story of a family who were imprisoned in Morocco for 20 years. The author, Mellita, gave the children, one of whom was only 3 when they were imprisoned, hope by making up a story about the world outside. “It was this story that kept us alive” the Mellita comments.
Carla then went on to elaborate about the great story of God which keeps us alive because it brings all of us hope and salvation in the midst of the many horrors that fill our world. She reminded us that this story helps us to hold fast to what we know is true. Without the great story of Easter the horror of human suffering would be unbearable but because of the suffering of God a new order could be born. As the scriptures affirm “By his wounds we are healed.”
The power of Easter is that God’s story frees us from the prisons of our lives – the prisons of pain and suffering over which we have no control as well as from those which we have created ourselves. The death and resurrection of Christ frees us to live in love, in wonder and in praise.
Easter is still a week away but maybe because the spring flowers are all pushing there sunny heads out of the earth, I cannot wait until next week to add this video. The contrast between the emotions that Good Friday evokes and those of Easter Sunday is incredible. We are so fortunate that we know the end from the beginning yet because of this we rarely enter into the full experience of Easter with the despair of the crucifixion and the death of Christ turning to such incredible joy just a few days later.
There is another reason too that I want to focus beyond Good Friday today. A couple of days ago I heard that a good friend of ours in England is dying of cancer. She is now in her final days. She has 2 little kids. The agony of that for her and her family is devastating and for them the hope of resurrection is as intangible as it must have been for the disciples 2 thousand years ago. May this Easter season for all of us be a time of hope and anticipation even in the midst of the dispair and pain that fills our world.
This Good Friday video was sent to me by our good friend Tom Balke. While in Quito, Ecuador he toured the Capilla del Hombre (Chapel of Man). It is a huge building which houses some of the works of Oswaldo Guayasamin. The original paintings range from 4 ft. x 7 ft. to 25 ft. x 35 ft. Reading this blog and watching the reflection videos inspired him to take the se powerful photos and add the words of the hymn “Were You There?” There is no sound though I think that you will find as I did that just watching the video makes the words of the song reverberate in your mind. Thanks Tom for this wonderful contribution.
Last Saturday I conducted a Rhythms of Grace retreat for my church. It was a wonderful day spent with godly women at a beautiful retreat center near Seattle. My most impacting impressions came from a discussion that developed around the transformative power of pain. Pain and death bring about changes in our lives that most of us would like to ignore. But often it is these difficult transitions that bring us closer to God and so we spent a lot of time talking about how we should celebrate these difficult times. One participant shared about how her business held a hat party for a woman who was having chemotherapy. What a neat idea! Another shared about how while a close friend was dying she had sat around with other close friends singing the woman’s favourite hymns. As she commented “I hope someone will do that for me.” Celebration is not just about the fun things of life. Evidently the Jews celebrated everything good and everything bad that happened to them and I think that we need to as well.
My reflections this last week have been a little scattered as I have been extremely busy getting ready for a Rhythms of Grace workshop at St Albans Episcopal church as well as finishing the liturgy for the MSA Seed Sampler and entertaining guests. And this morning we discovered there were ants in the printer out in our office – not something I wanted to deal with this morning & I hate to think what it did to my blood pressure.
I am reminded of how easily busyness can distract me from God’s pace for my life as I have run from place to place without time for thought or breathing space. It is relaxing just to sit down and write this (and get my mind off the ants).
In my morning Lenten reflections from Henri Nouwen I was impacted by the thought “We act as though we were just dropped down into creation and have to entertain ourselves until we die. But we are sent into the world by God, just as Jesus was.” All of us have a God given purpose and that purpose is not to please ourselves or to to fill in the empty hours of each day with busy activity, like I sometimes feel I am doing. Our purpose is to further God’s work in the world, to take the example of how Jesus lived and use it as a model for how we should live our own lives. The busier I am the harder it is for me to remember this and the more difficult it is to focus on what God wants me to do.
I best reminder of this over the last few days has come through the visit of my good friends Dennis and Heather Choate who were on the Mercy Ship with me back in the 1980s. About 3 years ago they moved to Pingliang, in Gansu province, China (near Mongolia) and are running a school for young people to learn English and computer skills. Their example has really impressed me. The way they have literally gone into the unknown reaches of China and through prayer and hard work started a school that is giving opportunity to people that would not have had a hope of getting a good job is remarkable. Their faith and commitment has been a great inspiration to me this week and has made me aware of how God is able to use all of us to make a difference in the world. We really do serve an incredible God.
I am not sure how it happened but the video that I uploaded the first week of lent for people to use as a tool for meditation seems to have disappeared. I love computers except when they drive me crazy.
So here so here is the video again. For those that may be looking at it for the first time let me assure you that this is a silent reflection so don’t expect music .
If you are interested in more reflections on lent you may want to visit the mustard seed journey blog if you have not already discovered it. This was set up specifically to reflect on lent and the brokenness of our world. Holy week (the week before Easter) we intend to put up some photos, reflections & other offerings that are contributed by those of you who read these blogs. We want to reflect on the last week of Jesus life in pictures and reflections so would welcome any contributions that you would like to make to help make this a meaningful season.