Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Magazine Article for April 2018

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reminded how a lot of days of celebration have sad associations for some people. Christmas is well-known for being a time which people can find difficult, particularly for people who have been bereaved, or have experienced the breakdown of a relationship. If this is ignored, it can leave people excluded, and the celebrations can be very insensitive.

More recently, we acknowledged similar issues in our worship on Mothering Sunday. It can be a mix of emotions for people who have no children, have a difficult relationship with their mother (or with their children) or whose mother has died. By moving the focus back to Mothering Sunday, rather than ‘Mothers Day’, we concentrated on how the church community can share in the love of God together, regardless of our human circumstances.

However, as we look forward to Holy Week and Easter, we may be conscious of situations of suffering around our world. Over the last few months we have witnessed conflict in Syria and other locations, natural disasters, and the ongoing struggle to feed people in parts of the world affected by drought or conflict. Many might ask where is God, and what can we celebrate in such circumstances?

When Christians observe Good Friday, they are entering into another tragic story, which has affected millions of people. As people think and pray about Jesus' death, they often have a strong sense of identifying with the pain Jesus knew. But a much greater identification is taking place. Good Friday tells us that God is not watching the events of this world like a news broadcast from a far away place. In Jesus he shows us that he is involved - present with us. The mystery of human suffering is that we are not cushioned from all harm; we can hurt each other and we can hurt ourselves. The promise of Good Friday is that our God is one who is with us, who knows our experiences first hand, and can be the inspiration by which lives can be healed and rebuilt.

Of course, Easter brings its joy and celebration of death defeated and suffering overcome. But what goes before is neither forgotten, nor is it there to spoil the party; it is all part of a bigger picture. Through Jesus, God shares our sorrows and our joys, and depending on our recent experiences, different parts of that story will make their connections with us. The important thing is that whatever you are feeling, you are not excluded.

Mike Peatman

Monday, 26 March 2018

Meditation for Palm Sunday 2018

Matthew 21:1-17 

"I Was Only A Child"

He was good with children.

It’s a few years ago now, but I remember him as vividly as if it was yesterday.

The first time I saw him was early on – everyone seemed to be talking about him. It was very exciting. Then, one day, my parents took me to see Jesus. I had been ill as a young child, apparently, and they wanted Jesus to bless me. I guess they thought it might protect me from any further problems. We got quite close. There was a little group of us who were kids, and I expect we were making a little bit of noise. He looked at us, and there was a delight in his eyes to see us, and I trusted him completely. We were so happy, we were laughing and giggling, but a few of his followers told us to be quiet and go away. “The teacher isn’t here for children”, they said.

That’s when I first heard his voice. It was strong and clear, but with a kindness I can’t quite describe. “No!” he said in a loud voice that made everyone jump. “Let the children come to me, and don’t you dare stop them. My father’s kingdom belongs to people who follow me and trust me like children do. Learn from them”. After that, I’m sure he took an extra amount of time to talk to each of us and bless us. His disciples looked really shamefaced.

When we heard that Jesus was coming in to Jerusalem just before the Passover Festival, we had to be there. My dad took me early in the day to the road into the city, quite near the gate. And we waited with great anticipation – I think my dad was as excited as I was.

You could hear the crowd coming a mile off. “Hosanna! Hosanna!”, people were shouting. They had cut down palm leaves and had put branches and even their cloaks on the road. People were singing and dancing and celebrating, and we all got carried away with the atmosphere. My dad and I managed to slip in to the procession just a little bit behind Jesus and we followed him up into the city. It was as if Jesus was my hero – I felt like I would have done anything for him at that moment.

The first thing Jesus did was head up to the Temple, and the next thing we knew all these people were rushing out – carrying bags of money and cages of birds. “They’re all crooks”, said my dad “about time they were taught a lesson.” Jesus was looking angry – a bit like he did when he told off his disciples about the children. “This should be a place for prayer, but you’ve turned it into a place to steal from people who are seeking my Father”, he shouted. But I wasn’t scared, because I trusted him. In fact, I thought he was brilliant.

We sneaked in, and there were some more children there, and we soon made up a song and sang it about Jesus. The grown-ups in the Temple were a bit like the other ones – they complained about us. But Jesus spoke up for us again. “These children are singing the truth”, he said. “Sometimes children can hear God much more clearly than you who think you know so much. Silence them and the stones will sing!"

While he was saying this, he caught my eye for a moment. I saw the kindness I had known before, even a little of the delight, but I was shocked to see something else. There was a sadness in his eyes too - a pained look that meant I knew something was wrong. Something bad was going to happen. It was the look people have when they say goodbye to go on a long journey, not knowing if – or when - they will return. I had no idea then what would lie ahead – how could I? I was just a child. But I could see what he was feeling, and for the first and only time it made me a little bit scared. Not of him, but for him.

He needed his friends more than ever, but despite all the people round him, he seemed lonelier than I had ever seen him. He was starting something only he could do, and all I could do was treasure the memories I had and watch and wait to see what would happen.

“Come on”, said Dad, “we’ve a Passover to prepare”. It would be one I would never forget.

- Mike Peatman