Sunday reflection

Reflection for Rogation  Sunday.

“The earth has yielded its increase and God, our God, has blessed us. May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him.” From Psalm 67.
The conflict, combined with climate change and the pandemic, “threatens to tip tens of millions of people over the edge into food insecurity followed by malnutrition, mass hunger and famine…. There is enough food in our world now if we act together. But unless we solve this problem today, we face the spectre of global food shortage in the coming months,” Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations.
The Sunday before the Rogation Days is Rogation Sunday, from the Latin ‘rogare’ meaning ‘to ask’. It’s an ancient church festival, asking for the blessing of crops and communities and for safety at a time when hardship might follow if the harvest failed. Traditionally, the boundaries of the parish were walked so that youngsters might learn to know their ‘patch’ as the beating of the bounds took place. Fences and walls along the way were repaired at this time to keep the boundaries secure and it was a time of prayer and hope as God’s blessing was asked on the seed time and the harvest, whether the crop was agricultural or industrial. It involved all ages in the care and wellbeing of the people as well as the crops and their provision, at a time when they were dependent upon their land and its produce. 
Today, with the worldwide shortage of wheat, oil, fuel due to the war in Ukraine, climate change and the rising cost of living, many people are having to think again about their relationship with the land and use of it. Recently, I bought some cheese biscuits under the impression from their labelling that they were Cornish but, when I read it later, the packaging stated they were actually made abroad using milk from the Netherlands and only the cheese topping was from Cornwall. The complexity of food production today as well as the air or sea miles travelled now that fuel costs are rising so dramatically is creating change which will have lasting effects as we reassess what is important and how costs can be reduced. The recent scenes of the awful waste of Ukrainian grain unable to be exported to people who need it is causing concern about possible famine and the risk that it will soon grow mouldy before it can be used – already, the UN has warned of 20 million tonnes of garnered Ukrainian grain being unable to be accessed and a worldwide food crisis possibly resulting.
Global food prices are almost 30% higher than this time last year and the stark contrast of what is faced now with the Psalmist’s comments of the earth’s bounty increasing is a sharp reminder to us all that action has to be taken. The World Bank has created £9.7bn of extra funding to address food insecurity caused by the war between Russia and Ukraine which previously produced 30% of the world’s wheat supply. However, as Secretary Guterres also said, “The complex security, economic and financial implications require goodwill on all sides.” 
We may think that there is little we can do as individuals in the face of such complexity but, at the birth of Jesus, the angels sang of peace and goodwill on earth. Perhaps, this Rogation Sunday, we can begin by doing what we can to show goodwill, care for the people and land where we are, repair what is broken, assess the boundaries and ask for God’s blessing that the earth may be enabled to bring forth its increase?
With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

Sunday reflection

Reflection for Christian Aid Week  
Today’s reflection is from one for Christian Aid Week, which begins today. It’s published with the people of Zimbabwe in mind as their already challenging circumstances are made even worse by the ongoing global tensions. One answer is seeds that grow well despite drought conditions and, as we read what follows, perhaps we are more fortunate than we realise? 

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

We have all seen the news of the devastating war in Ukraine. We’ve heard heartbreaking stories of people fleeing violence, not knowing when they’ll see their loved ones again. In Zimbabwe, another crisis – the climate crisis – is causing aching hunger for families who already struggle to find food. Even though it’s 7,000 miles away, the war in Ukraine will drive up food prices in Zimbabwe and around the globe. Ukraine and Russia produce large amounts of the world’s fertiliser and food, like wheat and cooking oil. Without them, vulnerable families will be pushed even deeper into hunger.
Are you hungry? What’s for dinner tonight? Maybe you’re looking forward to fish and chips, pasta, or your favourite family meal around the table. Jessica Mwedzi, a loving mum in Zimbabwe, fears her family won’t eat tonight. When food is scarce, she can only give her children one bowl of porridge a day. She shares her heartbreak: ‘My children crave a decent meal, but I can’t provide. It pains me to send them to bed hungry.’
For Jessica, drought means every day is a struggle for survival. Like many women in Zimbabwe, she toils on her farm, but no food can grow on her ashen dry land. ‘One year, we had no rain. The scorching sun burnt my crops just as they were about to bloom. It was so painful and disheartening.’
It’s unjust that drought robs Jessica of the power to provide for her family. Her husband is unwell, so she is the only breadwinner. She says: ‘Women are at the mercy of climate change and hunger.’ Once before, when things were desperate, Jessica asked her neighbours for food. But she came home with nothing. Jessica is hungry. Hungry for a good meal. Hungry to earn a decent living. Hungry to provide a more hopeful future for her family.
Christian Aid Is helping Jessica grow seeds that thrive in the drought. In the months to come, she’ll turn these seeds into fresh food like tomatoes, beans and cucumbers to sell and feed her family. She’ll have the joy of seeing her children grow up happy and healthy. Jessica’s love for her family gives her courage to stand strong against the threat of drought. ‘My children give me the power to go ahead,’ she says. ‘I pray they have a better future.’
This Christian Aid Week, as you sit down to eat your favourite family meal around the table, please pray for Jessica and her family – may families like hers find that action brings hope to people facing disaster, from conflict to climate chaos. This Christian Aid Week, we celebrate and share hope with our sisters and brothers facing crisis around the world, from Ukraine to Zimbabwe.
May that hope be fulfilled.

Sunday reflection

Reflection for Good Shepherd Sunday
”My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me.” Jesus, in today’s gospel, John 10:22-30.
“With the smell of the sheep.” Pope Francis’ hope for good shepherds, 2013.
“In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha…. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died…..they laid her in an upper room.” From Acts 9:36-end.
Today’s Gospel continues the Good Shepherd teaching which begins earlier in John, chapter 10. In this part, Jesus is walking in the temple when some of the leaders of the Jews encircle him, trying to trap him as they question him yet again about who he is. When they ask him, “How long will you keep us in suspense?” (v24) it’s clear that it‘s frustration rather than suspense that is bothering them and Jesus speaks plainly to them as they question him – but not in the way they anticipate. Jesus spoke plainly to the Samaritan woman (4:25-26) and the man born blind (9:5, 35-37) but these leaders are not seeking the truth of who Jesus is as they look for ways to trap and convict him. So, Jesus tells them directly that they do not believe because they don’t belong to his sheep, who know his voice and follow him because he knows them, not because they know him. This so infuriates the leaders that they begin to attempt to stone him and then have him arrested – but Jesus escapes and leaves the temple. 
Jesus is called the lamb of God by his second cousin, John the Baptist (1:29) and he refers to himself the good shepherd (v11) but, despite their years of study and ministry, these religious leaders choose not to hear or see the reality before them. They are free to make their choice and do not want to be sheep of his flock – like many religious people, they prefer to keep God at a convenient distance and pay him lip service to ensure that he does not make too many demands on their practice and comfort.
All this contrasts with Tabitha, also called Dorcas, in the Acts reading for today. Both her names mean gazelle, a fleet creature known for its speed and grace. Tabitha is the first woman in the New Testament to be noted as a disciple and she has clearly done much as a follower who has chosen to respond whole heartedly to helping those in need around her. When she dies, her body is taken to an upper room whilst her friends weep outside for her and show the many things she has made for those in need. As in the upper room at Easter, wonder-ful things happen as new life comes to Tabitha and those grieving her when Peter prays for her and God’s grace is shared by the disciples who continue Jesus’ work of love and practical care for others. They have been given power from the Holy Spirit that they can use – and they do.
This passage is not just about those Jews then but our response to Jesus today as we, too, have the free choice about who we think he is and what impact he has on our lives.Pope Francis referred in the early days of his papacy to the need for shepherds who smell of the sheep because they spend so much time with their flock. That’s not necessarily a pleasant aroma but many shepherds have soft hands because of the lanolin in the wool they so often touch. Whether as shepherds or part of the flock, do we perhaps need to soften our views and actions towards ourselves and others as we consider our response to the good shepherd who knows us and calls us to follow him, actively using the power of the Holy Spirit rather than just being a woolly thinker?!  The challenge for each of us is to, “Let Him Easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east.” Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Wreck of the Deutschland. 
With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

Sunday reflection

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter

“After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples… and he showed himself in this way.” From John 21:1-19
“Everything is destroyed. The house is…..uninhabitable. So, we are holding on. The Lord will help us and we will win.” Resident in the Donetsk region of Ukraine after being shelled, interviewed on BBC News.

In today’s Gospel reading, John writes that the presence of Jesus at the Sea of Tiberius is the third time that he has appeared to the disciples – but it’s actually the fourth if Mary Magdalene’s experience early on Easter Day is also counted. The disciples have left Jerusalem and returned to a familiar location, the Sea of Galilee also being named after Emperor Tiberius. The men have resumed their fishing, taking up again their previous lives before the time spent with Jesus. But it’s a fruitless exercise – they toil all night and catch nothing and, by daybreak, they are presumably tired, fed up and hungry. And it’s at that point, at their lowest, that they encounter Jesus on the shoreline – although they don’t realise who it is.
At first, he simply tells them to cast their net once more, which could have met with a sharp rebuff after trying for a catch all night. However, the disciples do as Jesus asks and perhaps, from the shore, it’s more obvious where the shoals of fish are as the net is then filled with a huge catch of fish. Now, in being obedient to what he asks of them, the efforts of the disciples are transformed as they encounter their living Lord and, as John writes, Jesus showed himself in this way. John, the beloved disciple, is the first to recognise him, closely followed by Simon Peter who jumps into the sea leaving the others to drag the net back to shore.
What happens resonates with the miracle at Cana, where Mary simply says, “They have no wine,” just as Jesus says, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” At Cana, the water turned into wine is plentiful and good quality and the net, too, is full and the fish large. 
The hungry disciples then find that, first, their physical needs are answered as Jesus has prepared fish and bread for them to eat their fill. Then, their spiritual needs are met and Jesus commissions Simon Peter three times just as he denied Jesus thrice before his crucifixion. Simon Peter was physically naked in the boat and perhaps emotionally stripped back by grief and regret too but, as Jesus talks with him, he is commissioned to feed and tend the flock that Jesus entrusts to him. It’s a mark of the effect that this encounter with Jesus has on him that Peter goes on to fulfil this without future denial, even to the point of eventual martyrdom.
Like those first disciples, there are also times for all of us when we fail others or ourselves, when we are afraid or utterly exhausted, or when we want to return to the familiar past because the present or future is so threatening. Just as Jesus met the needs of those disciples then, so he will meet and renew us too today if we allow him to. That is the Easter hope as we face the challenges before us and as warfare continues to rage in Ukraine with those caught up in it facing suffering, displacement, death and destruction. As the resident of Donetsk said what he did (above) he held up an icon of Jesus and crossed himself. The battle for faith, hope, healing and courage will not easily be snuffed out as he personifies and as Simon Peter and the disciples now begin to discover – but, when he first meets them by the shore, Jesus calls these grown men Children because they still have so much to learn. 
Don’t we, too?
With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

Sunday reflection

Reflection for Low Sunday

“The doors of the house were locked for fear… Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”…. Then the disciples rejoiced.” From John 20:19-29.

A small part of the ceiling at St. Melangell’s church fell into the aisle and a pew recently, in Holy Week. It seems this was due to unseen damage caused by Storm Eunice and it meant that, with pilgrim groups arriving as well as increasing numbers of visitors after Covid and the special services for that Week, some of the nave had to be closed. It wasn’t the best of times for this to happen!
In a way, it’s ironic, as it’s thirty years this May since the church reopened with a service of thanksgiving after its restoration. So much planning, fund raising and sheer hard work went into this and many different people were involved, often wearing hard hats and protective work clothes. The fall of plaster this year meant that, in the Easter Day service, the Guardian wore a hard hat (appropriately bearing the brand Centurion!) for part of the service as a humourous reminder that there is always risk around us and that we need to expect the unexpected. 
It’s significant that some of the ceiling collapsed at this time, when so much of our national and international lives and values are also under such pressure from the  ongoing war in Ukraine, the consequences of the pandemic, Partygate, the huge rise in living costs and the fear of having to choose between eating and heating. The roof has now been checked and it’s clear that there are further problems with it. However, we‘ll be able to trust the experience of the architect, the insurance company and the skilled plasterer to put matters right in due course so that the building here may continue for generations to come. 
Trust was clearly an issue for those frightened disciples locked away in the upper room. Having thought that Jesus had been killed, they fled at his crucifixion rather than face the risk that the same might happen to them. In the Gospel today, they are gathered in the upper room, shut in by fear as well as locks as they struggle to come to terms with what has happened. However, when they see Jesus and he shows them the marks of what he’s been through, they recognise him because of the peace he brings to them and the scars of his wounds. They begin to rejoice that they have seen him and Jesus both confers the Holy Spirit upon them and gives them authority to forgive sins. Yet, as the disciples are in the same room a week later, it seems they may have difficulty with overcoming their fear and actually accepting what has happened. The disciples have been given power and authority but are not yet able to accept this or use it as they – understandably! –  struggle to come to terms with all this. They are called to do what they are not yet able to and it is when doubting Thomas wants to not only see but touch the wounds of Jesus and calls him not just Lord but God that belief begins to emerge – and the disciples also begin to emerge from their risk aversion. In wrestling to accept what has happened, their experience eventually leads to the rebuilding of faith and the emergence of the early church through overcoming their fear which leads to them being willing to take risks for the sake of the Gospel, creating the heritage we now have in our generation. Although so much around us seems to be crumbling and disintegrating under the pressure, the example of those disciples then may enable us, today, to find resurrection hope beginning to emerge despite the circumstances and doubts we face. 
Today is Easter Sunday in the Orthodox Churches and, in the midst of warfare, fear and suffering, the brave words of Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, may echo in hearts seeking emergent resurrection hope:“In the light of the resurrection, Pasch is the feast of the victory of love over hatred, of joy over sorrow, of peace over war, of patience over panic, of kindness over anger, of faithfulness over betrayal, of gentleness over unrest, of self control over verosity….of the spirit over flesh, of truth over mendacity, of life over death.”
With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

Palm Sunday reflection

Reflection for Palm Sunday
“They brought the colt…. and set Jesus on it…. The whole multitude….. began to praise God joyfully….. saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”From today’s Gospel, Luke 19:28-40. 
 “Our musicians wear body armour – instead of tuxedos they sing to the wounded. In hospitals. Even to those who can’t hear them. But the music will break through anyway. President Zelensky at the Grammys.Today’s reflection is the work of Rev’d Christopher (Kit) Carter, whose ashes were interred yesterday in Llangadwaladr Churchyard which was one of the places where he served. Kit had many gifts, not least as a poet, and this is one of poems he wrote for Passiontide and Easter. Today, Palm Sunday, with the war in Ukraine still raging and peace talks as yet unsuccessful, his words are appropriate as the city is entered and the Via Dolorosa draws near. Firstly, there must be this way of suffering and death but it will eventually lead on to resurrection hope and life restored. As Kit writes of Jesus:….naked high upon a cross,You shared our sorrow, pain and loss. We for whom you gave everything Still cry, “Hosanna to the King!”
Despite all he and his people are suffering, if President Zelensky can speak at the Grammys of the music breaking through anyway, then we too can sing “Hosanna” as a sign of trust. As Holy Week begins, may it bring its blessings, despite the Via Dolorosa and the grave of which Kit speaks, because of the later empty tomb. That enables us, despite it all, to trust that hope will eventually break through so that, in the end, “All’s well! Hosanna to the King!”
With my prayers, pob bendith,Christine, Guardian.

A Prayer for Passiontide and Easter

Lord Jesus, when in state you rode

No snorting warhorse you bestrode

But jolted down the stony track

Upon a humble donkey’s back.

Yet like the children then we sing

And cry, “Hosanna to the King.”
When once within the city gate

You were not robed in royal state

But seized and bound by cruel foes.

Your naked back was black with blows.

We for whom you endured the sting

Yet cry, “Hosanna to the King“
When you paraded through the town,

You did not wear a golden crown.

They plaited sprigs of cruel thorn

To crown you with in spiteful scorn.

To shame the mindless taunts they fling

We cry, “Hosanna to the King!”
Not raised upon a lofty throne

In splendid majesty alone

But naked high upon a cross

You shared our sorrow, pain and loss.

We for whom you gave everything

Still cry, “Hosanna to the King!”
After you’d struggled and won through

No stately palace welcomed you

Only the grave we all must share.

But like a sown seed sleeping there

You sprang up and brought back the Spring. 

All’s well! Hosanna to the King!

Rev’d Kit Carter. Rest in peace, Kit. 

Sunday reflection

Reflection for Passion Sunday

”Mary took a pound of costly perfume….anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” From St John 12:1-8.

”Smells are surer than sounds or sights

To make your heart-strings crack….

I have forgotten a hundred fights 

But one I shall not forget…..

Through the crack and the stink of cordite(Ah Christ! My country again!)

The smell of the wattle by Lichtenberg

Riding in, in the rain!” From ‘Lichtenberg’, by Rudyard Kipling. 

The fragrance filling the house when Jesus’ feet were anointed by Mary is in sharp contrast with her sister Martha’s earlier comment when the grave of their brother Lazarus is opened: “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” (John 11:39) On Jesus’ command , Lazarus emerges still wearing his grave clothes and this is so controversial that, from that day, there are plans afoot to have Jesus put to death (John 11:53). Later, those plans are extended to have Lazarus killed too (John 12:10) though it’s not known whether this happened or not.
After what he’s been through, it may seem astonishing that Lazarus is present at this meal, six days before Passover, when Jesus comes to stay with them all in Bethany and the costly nard is used. This is Spikenard, aromatic honeysuckle oil, and the generous outpouring of such expensive perfume would have cost about the yearly wage of a labourer in those days. Its use is also in sharp contrast with the indignation of Judas, the treasurer and thief, who protests that the money could and should have been given to the poor. Jesus tells him to leave Mary alone, that she has bought it for his burial and that the poor will always be with them although he won’t. Was it this that began Judas’ later betrayal and led to the death of them both? 
Stench and fragrance – it was so in Rudyard Kipling’s poem about the evocative stink of cordite and the fragrance of wattle, or mimosa, written in the context of the Second Boer War in South Africa. So it is today in the war in Ukraine with evidence of atrocities being committed and implications not just for the starving but for world supplies of wheat, sunflower oil and fuel, next year as well as now. The road to the city led to terrible suffering and death for Jesus as he was apparently killed by violence and hatred, but it also led on to resurrection, when love and hope could not be defeated. This Passion Sunday, amidst the stench of corruption and what has been called the sweet smell of some success in the fighting for the cities of Ukraine, love, hope and peace talks are also battling on. May John Newton’s hymn bring words of hope that, in our own lives as well as in the ongoing warfare, grace, mercy and justice may overcome and the victory of new life eventually prevail: “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…..‘Tis grace that brought me safe this far and grace will lead me home.” 
With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

Sunday reflection

Reflection for Mothering Sunday“The daughter of Pharoah came down to bathe at the river….. She saw the basket …[and] …. the child. He was crying and she took pity on him.” From Exodus 2:5-10.
“Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister…… Jesus said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From John 19:25-27.
“People opened their homes and they opened their hearts.” Kamyl, a resident in Radymno, Poland, welcoming Ukrainian refugees.  
Today’s Old Testament reading and the Gospel bring some hope as the war between Ukraine and Russia continues. The story of Moses in the bulrushes is well-known: even though her own father has ordered all new-born Hebrew babies to be killed, the daughter of the Egyptian Pharoah has pity on this hidden Hebrew child and gives shelter to him. The baby isn’t abandoned – his sister is watching from a distance and she enables Moses’ own mother to act as his wet nurse until he is handed back to be raised amongst those who want him killed. Pity enables his life to be spared and so compassion overcomes enmity. Mary, Jesus’ mother, also finds it in her heart to remain at the cross with her son in his terrible suffering – and even in his agony, Jesus gives his mother and John, the beloved disciple with her, into each other’s care. The love of a mother for her child and a son for his mother……..
In the chaos of the ongoing warfare, these accounts may bring hope, especially to people like Irina, a Mariupol librarian living in a basement, who spoke of the conditions in which she is living: “We hope for the best, to live as humans…..  Everything is broken. In a week we shall have nothing, no food at all. What shall we do?” – BBC news. So many have fled, so many have been displaced, so many are eking out an existence in the midst of terrible suffering and death – and as a son took care of his mother even as his own life ebbed away, so a daughter has brought hope to the Ukrainian people as their struggle exhausts them. Amelia, aged seven, was videoed singing the theme from the film Frozen to cheer those around her in a Kiev shelter and she recently opened a charity concert in Poland by singing the Ukrainian national anthem. Shy in the shelter, she was brave singing alone in front of many people at the concert – Ukraine has not yet perished and still there is hope, fragile though it may be. 
The word Homeland is often used to describe the country of birth with Motherland or Fatherland indicating the place ancestors come from. As the land continues to be disputed, and efforts to find a just peace intensify, the country sometimes called Mother Russia and the family of nations directly affected by what is happening are still poles apart. This Mothering Sunday, may the stories of hope, courage and shelter that are also emerging enable a way to be found for frozen hearts to be melted by love’s warmth – and in our own lives and families too.
With my prayers; pob bendith

,Christine, Guardian.