Wisdom cries out from the street

The events in Manchester have shocked me deeply. I visit the City centre twice a week using Victoria train station. If I come back from uni late I watch the joy filled people making their way to their much awaited concerts and events. In the winter they have ice shows at the arena and the streets are filled with little ones dressed as their favourite Disney characters with light up wands and headbands. 

Watching the scenes from the bombing made me weep. A place that is used to hosting so much joy, is now a scene of terrible loss and injury. Many of my friends shared a disbelief that this could happen in Manchester, a place where I spent the day on a red hot afternoon watching the live play of the crucifixion of Christ. During the Manchester passion, cathedral gardens was a hive of a wonderful multi faith, multi cultural, vibe. We stood in circles praying and members of the public joined us, we sat on the grass with people, we walked through the town centre waving palm leaves.

This is the Manchester I know and love. A place for everyone, a welcome for everyone. Every person in the Greater Manchester area and beyond is devastated by this evil act that has killed innocent people, injured innocent people, and the shockwaves of that bomb has rocked every person in this area.

Watching the vigil in Manchester last night made me think of a verse in Proverbs,

“Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the City gates she speaks.”  Proverbs1.20

Seeing all the crowds standing up to fear and hatred, seeing them showing the world that love, peace, and unity is the only answer to this terrible event, showed a great wisdom, a great united front to terrorism and what to do next. Manchester showed a strong light, a light that will not be hidden by terrorism and fear. The shouts of support, the acts of those who helped in anyway they could, this was the voice that was the loudest. A wisdom, a knowledge of love and loving others.

Vigils are still being carried out, there is one in my home town Ashton tonight, and we shall cry out that light is stronger than darkness, that love is stronger than hate, and that we will all stand together as one community.

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The Shepherd of the sheep

A talk for the Patronal service of The Parish of The Good Shepherd 

Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Last year my husband took me and our children to his friend’s farm. I was really excited. Not only were we going to have a bit of an adventure, we were going to see his brand new lambs that had just been born. I hadn’t met a real life shepherd before. I’d only seen the glossy ones that they show on BBC1’s country file.

The weather was typically British, the wind was whistling, the rain was coming down but my family and I were so excited to be on the tuffty Saddleworth hills we didn’t feel the rain or the wind. We squelched up a soggy hill and met Dave the shepherd. 
He was rosy cheeked with his crook in his hand. He was well weathered, his clothes were accessorised with the landscape, grass stuck out of his boots, hay on his jumper, dried mud was his sunscreen. It seemed like the weather had no impact on him, he was there to do his duty and look after his beloved sheep and their new lambs.

As we entered the first field Dave called out to his sheep, the sheep recognised his voice immediately. They trotted up to us and mulled around their feeding trough. He fed them and they were a blur of chocolate and white noise. After they were distracted with the food, Dave led us to see the lambs. They were beautiful, it was amazing to watch them trot around on wobbly legs.
Dave the shepherd had a great system of identifying the new born lambs. As soon as a lamb was born he would put a plastic red coat on them. He explained that by identifying the lambs he could see if any had become separated from the flock and their mothers.

Whilst we were walking around his farm we saw a bright speck of red. The little plastic coat of the small lamb was blowing in the increasingly rough weather. Dave suddenly changed his walking pace and made the uneven, beveled ground look like freshly laid tarmac. He effortlessly scaled the hill until he reached the tiny lamb tucked down low in the long grass sheltering from the wind. He softly scooped up the lamb, tucked it under his arm and located the mother and reunited them. The mum and lamb baared at each other in acknowledgement and relief. 

In today’s readings we heard Jesus saying that he is the gate for the sheep, he is the leader, the good shepherd. Jesus says that whoever enters the gate through him is saved and will find the pasture that is laid out for us. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and he loves us deeply and cares for us like a devoted shepherd to his flock.

Like Dave the saddleworth shepherd, who’s sheep recognised him by his voice, Jesus says to us, “I know my own, and my own know me”. When we hear Jesus’s voice we follow him, when he calls us by name, when he calls us to know him, we are placed in the best friendship we could ever have, a love from a shepherd who can withstand any weather, any terrain, and any situation.
Jesus also searches for us when we become lost, like Dave the shepherd who marked his lambs with little jackets, Jesus can find us easily when we become distant, when we have left the pasture. Jesus actively looks for those who have gone astray, or those who are indeed lost. 

In the parable of the lost sheep, where Jesus again says he is the Good shepherd, he looks for his sheep that who are lost and lays them on his shoulders, his shoulders that bore the weight of our sins as he carried his cross.

The act of laying the sheep on his shoulders and carrying it back is one of complete love and devotion. Maybe we can reflect on the time that Jesus had found us when we were lost?

Here in Ashton, we are the parish of the Good Shepherd so what does that mean for us? 

Children, could you help me please? 

What is a Good Shepherd like?

Caring, devoted, kind, resilient, committed, strong, loving, patient, selfless, 
By being like Jesus, the Good Shepherd, this is how we tend to God’s people, this is how we keep going in times of trial, this is how we stay faithful as a flock to our Good Shepherd, so that others can see him through us.

Jesus has an unconditional, equal love for every person. Jesus spreads a message of love, not just for the holy, but for everyone, regardless of their sins and their past. Jesus calls us by name so we can follow his voice through the gate into his kingdom. Jesus calls us to his table where we can share in the Eucharistic gifts his gave us. There is always an empty seat at his table waiting for those who are lost, who are yet to be found, who have wandered away from the flock. And like dave the saddleworth shepherd, Jesus searches in any weather, at any time of the day to find those who are in need of his fatherly care, our good shepherd the guardian of our souls.

Amen 

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognised him

I’ve been thinking about how Jesus can break through into lives and situations over the past couple of weeks. Last week we shared in the story of Thomas having doubts of Jesus’s resurrection. I love how Jesus appears to the disciples in a locked room. Jesus breaking through the boundaries, the walls put up by ourselves through fear and doubt. There is no situation that Jesus cannot bring his peace into. There are times where I have felt dispair and anguish, my self protective boundaries lept up to protect my heart. But there in the stillness was Jesus, patiently lovingly appearing to me as I, like Thomas proclaimed “My Lord and my God”.

This week we see Jesus becoming visible to the disciples on the road to Emmaus through the breaking of the bread. The disciples broken with sadness, witness the meeting of their brokeness and Jesus’s broken body symbolised as the bread in his hands. Their eyes are opened to Jesus through the breaking of bread and this shows the power of meeting Jesus face to face through communion. 

When we kneel down at the rail with all our worries and pain and brokenness, there in that moment our stories meet face to face with Jesus’s story. Here we see the power of the cross, the beauty of the ressurection, and the gift of God’s kingdom we receive through Jesus. We take into us the outward symbol of the internal Grace that is given to us by our Heavenly Father, his Son guiding and calling us to follow him, the Holy spirit fanning the flames of love within us.

The road to Emmaus is a road we all walk down during our faith journey. But there is one thing we can count on, that Jesus is there with us whether we recognise him or not, and he makes himself known to us in the breaking of the bread. Communion is this place where we can see him face to face, where our broken lives meet his broken body and we are ressurected in glory with the risen Christ, transforming our lives and hearts as we walk with him through this lifelong faith journey together.

I have seen the Lord 


I have a deep respect and love for the women in the bible. Every time I read over their stories, whether it is Ruth or Hagar, Mary the Mother of God or Mary Magdalene I see parts of them in my own faith journey. 

When I feel like I’m an outsider, I think about Ruth. I think about her determination and her whole hearted trust in God to provide for her and Naomi. I think about Hagar when I feel excluded by other women, I think about when she was expelled into the desert and God protected her and her son.

I think about Mary Magdalene when I cast my thoughts back to my own past, how she became so close to Jesus because of who she is and not let her past define her or hinder her relationship with Jesus. Her own humble love for Jesus is a wonderful thing to witness through the Gospels, how I wish we could see a version of her own Gospel! 

I think about Mary, the Mother of God, when I am challenged as a mother. Her steadfast faith through her annunciation and the knowledge of what horror was to come with the crucifixion of her dear Son. Her resilience, her mother’s resilience keeps my patience strong when I am overcome and overrun by my children.

Sharing in the joy of the resurrection today highlights to me the power of women, not only in the bible but those who minister today. Jesus entrusted his first appearance from the tomb to Mary and she was the one to tell the men of the Good News. Mary, a true strong female evangelist, Mary the mother of God another strong tangible witness to the Lord, the woman who grew our saviour.

I find comfort from the biblical women especially when I feel lost and confused, hurt or troubled. On Holy Saturday I sat at the tomb with the women, I found everything challenging. The children were arguing, my endless cold was causing a huge headache and I felt exhausted. As I felt low an image flashed into my mind of what life used to be like when my parents were still together. I would have gone round to their house, my Mum and I would have cooked dinner, my Dad and my husband would be watching some sort of sports and watching the children as they ran around the garden. 

Those days are long gone and I had an overwhelming feeling of loneliness. I felt cut off, confused, angry, upset and I realised I felt these things on a day where the disciples would be facing a similar situation after the death of Jesus.

I started to think about the women sitting opposite the tomb watching as the great stone was rolled over the entrance. Were they thinking about the joy they shared with Jesus as he lay lifeless in that tomb. Were they confused and angry about what had happened, and did they feel like they didn’t know what to do next?

Yesterday I sat with them in front of the tomb, and I waited for a space to come where there wasn’t any sadness. We know that Jesus rose again and the women had that hope in their hearts, I imagined they clung onto every word that he had said to them. I found peace reflecting on their faith and slowly I left the grief I felt for the family life I once knew disappear. 

Seeing the transformation of life provided by our risen Lord is amazing and witnessing the biblical women’s transformations is such a powerful testimony that leaps from the pages. 

I have seen the risen Lord, and he takes me by the hand with my Christian sisters for us to tell the world of his good news. He strengthens our faith when we feel like we are exhausted, he resurrects our lives from the pit, he sits with us where we are, he writes in the sand when people threaten to judge us.

I have seen the Lord, and he is risen today, Alleluia Alleluia.  

Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another

Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord

Today it is Maundy Thursday, when we remember one of the most powerful and challenging lessons that Jesus set for us, the washing the feet of his disciples to show them how they are to serve others and how to serve each other. 

The word “maundy” comes from a Latin word mandatum. Which means mandate or commandment. Tonight we remember the commandments set out for us to do as Christ’s disciples. We will re-enact the symbol of peaceful, humble, patient love that Jesus showed to his disciples by washing their feet. We will share in the last supper, and we will remember how Jesus commands us to use love to break down boundaries and barriers for all.

I’d like to think about what we do when one of our friends is in need? What do we do? 

I don’t think that going around to wash their feet would be one of the top choices to do. 

Nowadays if we have a friend who needs support or a listening ear, we would invite them round, put the kettle on, maybe offer a biscuit. These simple acts of hospitality and love not only say that we are interested in that person but that we love and care for them.

This is exactly what Jesus was doing for his disciples. By washing their feet he showed them hospitality, he showed them love, and he showed them what service really means. By being their leader and then serving them by washing their feet, Jesus opened their eyes with his humble love. 

But it can be hard to receive such an act of humble love, Peter certainly felt that he couldn’t possibly let Jesus wash his feet. “You shall never wash my feet” he says. 
However, many of us may feel the same when it comes to people offering us help, perhaps we answer too quickly when help is offered, perhaps we don’t want to raise a suggestion that we can’t cope, or that it may show weakness to accept help. “I can do this myself” “no I’ll be fine” “no I don’t need your help” “honestly I’ll be fine” 

In fact we all need our feet washing and we need to be a church that is willing to wash feet. We need to let our barriers down and let ourselves be served to so we can serve to others. This is what Jesus was doing as he washed the feet of his disciples, he was breaking down barriers with love, his never ending love, the peaceful patient grace of our lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus says at the end of the foot washing,
“I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”

By serving each other we are channeling the love of Jesus through ourselves. Every time we show love to others we are bringing the light of Christ with us, that light which brightens the darkest of situations.

On this night, when Jesus knew he was about to be betrayed, when he knew that this would be his last supper with his friends, he still showed love. 

This is what we remember tonight, that love is an important commandment of Jesus, that we remember that Jesus is our friend and he longs to sit with us and wash our feet, so we in turn can have the love to wash others. 

We remember that we are Jesus’s friends. By following his commandments, his mandate of love, we show everyone we meet that he is in us and we, following his lead are in him.

“Everyone will know that you are my disciples , if you have love for one another.”

Amen

I am he, the one who is speaking to you

Today’s gospel is the reason why I named this blog “sitting at the well”. When I was thinking about how I would share my thoughts and writings, I had a vision of sitting at the well with Jesus, just like the Samaritan women did. 

I often think about that moment that they met. I think of all the different emotions that were felt as they spoke. I believe that not only was the woman transformed by their meeting but Jesus also took away learnings about human ways and feelings. There is such a powerful emotional connection to our Lord, he burns with love inside of us because he knows exactly how that feels. He knows the agony of when we are lost and on our knees, and he feels the joy and love that we feel through community and friendship. 

I keep thinking about my meeting with Jesus at the well. He would tell me about my life and I would squirm uncomfortably, but then we would talk in the sunshine. The water would shimmer in the well, the birds would sing from their branches. I think about him taking my hand and twirling me around in dance, I love thinking about him as the “Lord of the dance” how he would share our joy through music and movement. There’s a intimacy about dancing, you have to move together, you have to work together to keep up the flow and movement. This is why I love the idea of dancing with our Lord, because we have to move with his leadership but he also likes to see what we can do with his guidance too. 

Dancing around the well bends the gospel story a bit, but it’s the encounter that changes us, even if we sat there too scared to talk and nothing comes out of mouths, Jesus waits patiently for us waiting to offer him a drink, inviting him into our lives, breaking down the barriers and boundaries around us so we can sit and eat with him in his kingdom one day.