Reflection for Trinity Sunday 

“Go…and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Jesus, in today’s Gospel Matthew 28:16-20.

‘Too often the Church has presented the process of a person becoming a Christian as joining the Church and adding Jesus to their team.…. They have gained a heavenly supporters’ club of the Holy Trinity and the angels. This is consumer Christianity but it‘s not discipleship.’ John McGinley in ‘The Church of Tomorrow.’ 

Today, Trinity Sunday, is the beginning of what is often called Ordinary Time after the great festivals that precede it. It’s a time when Christians celebrate the complex mystery of love at the heart of God, three persons and one God of community and in relationship. This is a God of unity who calls his followers to be in relationship and unified where, often, division or separation prevails when allowed to.

Matthew’s Gospel states that, as the eleven disciples go to the mountain in Galilee as Jesus directed, they worshipped Jesus but some doubted. Perhaps it heartens us to realise that even those who were close to him had difficulty in understanding what was happening, just as we may wrestle with faith today. It may also be a comfort to know that nevertheless, in the words of the Great Commission, Jesus tells those same disciples to go and make disciples using a Trinitarian baptism. Jesus does not choose perfect people but people with imperfect pasts and habits – like you and me. 

When this commission happens, Jesus does not tell his followers to make people come to synagogue or go to church – they are to go to make disciples wherever they happen to be. In ordering them to do this, the command is given in the name of God the unseen source of all and reveals Jesus as the missionary God who in turn sends out his followers as witnesses filled with the breath of life that is God the Holy Spirit. Those of us who worship in buildings that may contain the focus of our faith need to remember that love can’t be constrained by them – as well as noting the event in Matthew 28:15. There, the story is told that, after the resurrection, the guards at the tomb were paid off and ordered to say that his disciples had come to steal Jesus’ body during the night. They took the money and kept silent as they were told – with the exception of at least one of them who spoke about this. As a result, ‘This story is still told amongst Jews to this day.’ 

What if that soldier or the disciples had kept quiet then – and what if we do now, when called to share the good news and be the good news today?

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian. 

Reflection for the Day of Pentecost and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is the 50th day after Easter, a time when the Holy Spirit came to the first disciples and when Peter addressed the crowd drawn by what was happening. The event in Acts is a great contrast to what happens in the Gospel of John when Jesus appears to his frightened followers on the day of resurrection, simply breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Jesus also gives them power to forgive sin, an amazing advance for his fallible followers who so often misunderstood, denied and forsaken him.

By contrast, rather than the breath of the Holy Spirit, the noise of a rushing, mighty wind is heard in Acts, a noise so loud it fills the entire house where the disciples are. Tongues, as of fire, confer the Holy Spirit on the disciples who begin to speak in a different language which can be understood by the crowds from many nations who have gathered outside, amazed that they can each understand what is being said.

The effect on the disciples is immediate – they leave their safe place and Peter’s sermon to the crowd testifies that, “Everyone who believes in the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The work of the church has begun!

The account in John’s Gospel spends only four verses in describing the coming of the Holy Spirit with the rest of chapter two being given to Peter’s address. There is no time to ponder what has happened – but now, rather than the disciples who are bewildered, disbelieving and astounded, it’s the crowd that struggles to understand and even thinks the disciples may be drunk. The gift of the Holy Spirit means that the disciples have become witnesses as Jesus had said. They know how much they have been forgiven and now they have the power to forgive others – Peter’s sermon urges those who listen to him to repent and John tells us that many wonders and signs happened, with people sharing their possessions and their food as a new way of life began.

And so it is for us because, whether we have a Christian faith or not, we also have power. Power to make a difference to our own lives and the lives of others. Power to forgive when we could condemn. Power to find common ground rather than look for separation. Or not, as illustrated by the power issues being played out in the ongoing dispute about presenters on ITV’s This Morning.

Melangell, as a woman of her day, didn’t have power – or did she? Being born into a wealthy family conferred status and leaving her family, choosing so different a way of life and living on her own shows a determined mind set, one that took action for change rather than just longed for things to be different. Melangell certainly showed the soft power so often talked about in political circles in the face of possibly escalating conflict with Prince Brochwel and both draw the best from each other as the valley becomes a place of sanctuary, healing and hospitality through Brochwel’s generosity in giving Melangell this part of the valley to build a church and, as sisters join her, a community is established of which she becomes abbess. Power in so many forms making a difference to lives then and today –  the power of love, the power of Pentecost and the breath of life itself.

Thanks be to God for the Holy Spirit, the gift of love, and the power to make a difference for good in our generation as did Melangell and Brochwel in theirs.

With my prayers; pob bendith,
Christine, Guardian.

Reflection for the Sunday after Ascension Day and Rob Burrow.

“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.” Jesus in today’s Gospel, John 17:1-11

‘Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.’ Confucius

One of the most touching images in the media recently was that of two former Rugby League players taking part in a marathon which raised over four million pounds for Motor Neurone Disease. Both had played for Leeds Rhinos and England but now Rob Burrow was being pushed around the course by his former team mate Kevin Sinfield. After 26 miles through Leeds, Kevin stopped the wheelchair and picked up the helpless Rob, raising him up so that they could cross the finishing line together. Rob later used his electronic voice to say that it was the happiest day of his life – what courage, what friendship and what a glorious end to the first Rob Burrows Marathon for MND!

Two thousand years earlier, another glorious ending took place as a broken body was raised up when Jesus was crucified. As he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus declared, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified,” (John 12:23-24) and, as Judas left the Last Supper to betray him, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.” (13:31) These words referring to glory are not before the Ascension but the crucifixion itself, that terrible end which nevertheless reveals divine power through the depths of love. 

The crucifixion led on to resurrection and ascension, when Jesus returned to the heavenly glory whence he came. Both he and his followers had to accept the parting this involved and, to the very end, Jesus was blessing and encouraging the disciples.(Luke 24:51) But Jesus did not just abandon those who had struggled to understand what was happening – he told them to wait for the power from on high which enabled them to return to Jerusalem with great joy (Luke 24:52) as they waited for this. The story is familiar to us, and we know that the Holy Spirit did indeed come to them at Pentecost and transformed those diffident disciples into powerful witnesses to the love and glory of God in the world. But, at the time, those followers had to believe Jesus and wait trustingly for this to happen – as we face loss, uncertainty or the temptation to be downhearted in our lives today, perhaps we have to do the same, trusting that the power from on high will enable us to rise above the challenges that beset us in our generation so that God’s glory and love can be visible in our lives and world today, too. 

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

Reflection for the Sixth Sunday of Easter – Rogation Sunday

‘As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.’ From Genesis 8:22-31, the Old Testament reading for today. 

“Welsh cakes are a symbol of hospitality,” Fr. Counsell said. “So if you meet a far-right, neo-fascist bonehead who looks out of place here, the critical question you must ask that person is: ‘Would you like a Welsh cake?'” Reported in a dispute in Llantwit Major.

Today is Rogation Sunday, from the Latin rogare, to ask, as God’s blessing is sought for the Spring sowing of the crops to be harvested in Autumn. In rural locations such as this, if the crops did not grow well and it was a poor harvest, then hardship and hunger lay ahead. Nowadays, supermarkets and online shopping mean that connections with the land aren’t as strong as they used to be but the gaps on shelves and the shortage of some items due to production difficulties and rising costs make food an issue once again. Allotments and gardens are also being used to grow vegetables and fruit as well as flowers and the sale of seeds has greatly increased, all of which should help to make some difference.

Rogationtide is the Sunday and the three weekdays before Ascension Day and the service is traditionally held outside as God’s creation is celebrated and a blessing is asked for the sowing of the seed and the produce of industry and factory. It’s also a time of being mindful of the neglect and exploitation of the environment and animals entrusted to our care as well as climate change and global warming.

The Rogationtide procession was also used to beat the bounds, teaching the young about the boundaries of their villages and communities. In Llantwit Major, a dispute has developed about the welcome of Ukrainian refugees and food in the form of Welsh cakes is being freely offered to overcome the differences between various social groupings. Food being used to unite and feed those who need and accept it – Jesus did that at the feeding of the five thousand and the Last Supper as loaves and fishes and then bread and wine were taken, blessed, broken and shared. He asked his followers to do the same in His remembrance and, two thousand years later, Holy Eucharist still draws and unites millions of people of different views and lifestyles every Sunday. 

The street parties at the Coronation were also celebrations of food and community spirit as people came together to mark this new beginning. Perhaps ongoing gestures of hospitality and the Welsh cakes being offered in the face of hostility will also help to overcome division and establish greater unity – and not only in Llantwit Major!

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Easter and the Coronation.

“Anything you ask in my name I will do so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” Jesus in today’s Gospel, John 14:1-14.

“I come not to be served but to serve.” King Charles in the Coronation service, based on the words of Jesus in Matthew 20:28.

Yesterday’s Coronation featured glorious music, spectacular regalia and an updated service as 2,300 people came together in Westminster Abbey, with thousands of police and the military ensuring their safety and welfare. One of the events that seemed touching was when his son, Prince William, made the Homage of the Royal Blood to his father the king and, with Prince George being a page boy to his grandfather, the monarchy seemed to be at a point of greater stability after such a time of recent controversy. King Charles promised to serve and, tomorrow, there will be opportunities for others also to serve voluntarily in The Big Help Out, joining work being undertaken in their locality – rain permitting!

Today’s reflection is from Bishop Gregory, who has kindly given his permission for this extract from his recent Ad Clerum to be used. The Coronation, its symbolism and ancient rituals can be hard to understand and, although it is written from a Welsh perspective, this helpful resumé may clarify what is at the heart of the service for those who may otherwise find the service challenging. The Bishop writes:

“Whether we support the monarchy or not, however, this ceremony does represent the inauguration of a new Head of State for the United Kingdom, a present reality even if again there are those who’d prefer a free Welsh Republic. And what is extraordinary is that although we live in a largely secularized family of four nations, this sacred event will be put at the centre of the country’s life. For me, the presentation of the orb to the King will convey a central message, as the archbishop intones: “Receive this orb set under the cross, and remember that the whole world is subject to the Power and Empire of Christ our Redeemer.”

I wonder whether the ceremony would be allowed at all if people realized the extraordinary nature of the statements made in the service. First, this is a Christian event. There have been rumours of tensions between the palaces (Buckingham and Lambeth) about the role of inter-faith representatives in the service, but the symbolism is entirely Christian. It asserts that for all the splendour of the robes, the King and the nation are subject to the supreme authority of Jesus, and all must stand in humility before God’s throne. Then, the crown jewels, for all their glitter and history, are symbolic as lessons about the importance of the values of mercy, responsibility, and service, and all made possible in the human world by the power of Christ as redeemer, the one who offered up his life as a sacrifice for our sins, and who offers us grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4.16)

There is a sense in which the ceremonies of the coronation sought to control, restrict, and direct the power of the mediaeval kings into good channels rather than tyranny. Power may have almost entirely been stripped away from the British monarchy in our modern democracy, but the ceremony remains at its heart as a reminder that everyone needs God’s help, and that Jesus is the true King and source of all that is good. Such a purpose should be supported in our prayers for our country’s life.”

Amen to that!

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter and Wrexham Football Club.

‘Jesus himself came near….. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” From Luke 24:13-35, today’s Gospel.

“It’s a magical thing to have Wrexham on your bucket list!” BBC commentator to an American supporter of the football club, owned by Hollywood stars Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds.

The first appearance of the Risen Christ in Luke’s Gospel is on the road to Emmaus, when he joins two people, Cleopas and possibly his unnamed wife. These are not the fearful disciples who have hidden away according to the other Gospels and they don’t recognise Jesus. They’ve been speaking of the political events that have happened, crucifixion being associated with the Roman occupying power, and they chide Jesus: “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have taken place there?” They seem sure that they don’t know who has joined them and Luke states that ‘their eyes were kept from recognising him.’ If they can’t see who it is who’s come to them, perhaps it’s because they’re sure they know that Jesus is dead: “He was condemned to death and crucified,” they tell their new companion, “But we had hoped that he was the one……“ (v20, 21) The past tense is used, not the present – their hope has vanished as they stand still, looking sad. (v17)

However, after he has spoken to them about what has happened, they invite the stranger to join them because the evening is drawing on and, when bread is taken, blessed, broken and shared by their companion they instantly realise that it’s Jesus who is with them. The literal meaning of ‘com panio’, with bread, shows them who he is, so reminiscent is it of the Last Supper, and the effect on them is instant. Despite the late hour, they go back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples what has happened and the whole passage contains much movement. The two ‘are going’ (24:13), Jesus “came near and went with them” (24:15), they “came near” Emmaus (24:28), Jesus “walked ahead of them (24,28), “he went in to stay with them“ ((24:29), he “vanished from their sight” (24:31) and they “got up and returned to Jerusalem (24:33). Unlike those other disciples who have initially hidden away in the same place, these two become active as the story of the resurrection unfolds and spreads through people on the road.

Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus sets out on a journey from Galilee to Jerusalem (9:51-19:27) where he meets people along the way and in Acts, the second book Luke wrote, the first Christians were called the people of the Way (Acts 9:2, 22:4, 22:14,22). They followed in the footsteps of Jesus and all this unfolded amidst political and economic events that were deeply unpopular. This week has also seen deeply unpopular events  with the resignation of Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister, Justice Secretary and alleged bully at work. There has been much comment on the politics of power whilst the cost of living and economic hardship continues to be a focus for criticism. Today also sees the so-called ‘Armageddon Alert’ when a test will be run on mobile phones for future warnings of emergencies but there are many stories of hope, too. 

One is that of Wrexham Football Club which, with the support of two Hollywood actors, has seen its return to the English Football League although at the cost of the team and supporters from Boreham Wood. Publicity about it has put Wrexham on the map for some Americans and tourism is also beginning to change the fortunes of the locality as well as the club. Who would ever have contemplated a link between Tinseltown and Wrexham, although its fruits can now clearly be seen?! 

However, on the road to Emmaus those two disciples were so convinced that Jesus was dead and all hope in him lost that they couldn’t see him before them. The transformation began with a simple question from what they thought was a stranger: “What are you discussing with each other as you walk along?” On whatever journey we’re on through life, is it possible we’ve been unable to recognise where and when Jesus has been with us because, like those travellers to Emmaus, we’re so sure he’s not part of life today? Have we given up hope or lost our way, were there times when, as the American poet Emily Dickinson suggests, ‘He joined me on my ramble’? (From ‘The blunder is to estimate.’) Or, perhaps we can see where there is fresh hope this Eastertide and we’re able to rejoice despite there being so much gloom and despair?

And so Jesus’ question comes to us today as well as those two followers then on the road to Emmaus: What are you discussing as you walk along?  

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

Reflection for Low Sunday and Eastertide.

‘When it was evening on that day….and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said,

“Peace be with you.”’ From John 20:19-31.

‘Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.’ Martin Luther.

Today is traditionally called Low Sunday after the high point of the Easter celebrations. But, for the first disciples, the time now called Easter Day was itself a low point as they huddled in the place where they had gathered and locked themselves in out of fear. John’s Gospel tells us that they were afraid of the Jews but, being Jews themselves, it’s more likely that it was the religious leaders themselves that they feared. Being followers of Jesus, and believing him to be dead and buried since the events of Good Friday, they would presumably think that his associates would also be sought and that they might be in danger too. It’s also possible that, having betrayed and deserted him, they might be afraid of Jesus himself. So, out of fear they hide away – but no locked doors suffice!

For Jesus meets them in that place of fear, grief and uncertainty, standing with them and telling them to be at peace. He shows them the wounds of his crucifixion that he carries in his resurrected body so that they know it really is him, so great is their fear – understandably. From the perspective of two thousand years later, we know the story but those first disciples had to wrestle with the astonishment of what was happening as events unfolded and the leader they had thought dead now stood before them. 

Easter is a season and not just a day – Eastertide lasts until Ascension Day and is a reminder of the events and circumstances facing those first disciples as they took time to come to terms with what was happening. From Good Friday until Easter Sunday, the time of waiting meant that it must have seemed to those frightened disciples that the death of Jesus had prevailed – and yet it was not so, despite the views of Doubting Thomas!

Today, with so much happening instantly due to such speedy communication in so many forms, perhaps a time of waiting is hard to accept and, when it ends, there may then be events unfolding that are hard to believe. Into it all, the voice of the risen Christ breathes words of peace and hope, with no recrimination despite what had happened. 

Like those first disciples, perhaps we sometimes prefer to hide away or to let fear and guilt prevail – yet Jesus declares, “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” Sinful humanity is commissioned to continue the legacy of resurrection in the world today as then – how astounding is that as Eastertide continues to shows fresh revelations of God’s love at work, in creation as Martin Luther suggested as well as in books. And, if there’s something that’s hard to believe or come to terms with: is it just possible it’s actually true?!

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian. 

Reflection for Easter Day 

Apologies for the late arrival of this, due to technical difficulties.

“Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.” From Matthew 28:1-10.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! From the Easter acclamations.

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” said Jesus as an observant Jew just before his death according to St Luke’s Gospel. This is the prayer said by Orthodox Jews every night, entrusting their souls to God’s care in case they die during the ‘little death’ of sleep. 

“It is finished,” Jesus said in John 19:30, just before he died. All the Gospels tell of Joseph of Arimathea taking the dead body of Jesus, wrapping it in a linen cloth and putting it into his own tomb hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the entrance but the next day, the chief priests and Pharisees asked Pilate to ensure that the tomb was sealed so that Jesus’ disciples were unable to steal his body and deceive people into thinking he was alive again. Matthew tells us that the tomb was sealed and secured by soldiers and that a guard was also mounted. It IS finished, in that Jesus is dead and buried – but it is not over. 

A time of waiting follows during Holy Saturday but on Easter Sunday, as Mary Magdalene and another Mary make their way to the tomb, St Matthew writes of an earthquake and of an angel rolling back the stone, with the guards being so afraid they fall to the ground. How ironic, that the one declared to be dead inside the tomb lives and the guards outside who are supposed to be alive look as if they are dead! Later, Matthew relates that the guards were given a substantial bribe and a guarantee of protection to say that the disciples came during the night to steal the body – the consequences they feared didn’t happen, as can often be the case. 

The women are told by the angel not to be afraid, which indicates that they must have been fearful and understandably so. They are asked to see for themselves that Jesus is not there and then told to go and tell the disciples that he has been raised from the dead and will meet them in Galilee. In other words, Jesus did not raise himself after being buried in the tomb for three days but has been raised from death by God. It’s remarkable that two women are asked to do this as, in those days, women would not be allowed to speak in court or act as witnesses and were treated as second class citizens especially one with the kind of background Mary Magdalene had as a former prostitute. By commissioning them in this way, God chooses the  most unlikely of people to convey his message of hope and new life – and that includes you and me, sinners and unlikely witnesses as we are to God’s saving grace in our world today. 

Just a week ago, on Palm Sunday, the heaving crowds meant that there were many witnesses to what was unfolding but now there are just the two women as the disciples are hiding away for fear of what might happen to them with their leader being crucified. St Matthew tells us that the two women are both fearful and joyful as they hurry away from the tomb and, when Jesus himself then appears to them and is very much alive, he also tells them both not to be afraid. As we hear this story again so many years later, perhaps we too are afraid of what might happen with so much trouble in the world today. Jerusalem is still a battle ground as events this week have shown; events internationally may fill us with alarm as earthquakes in Turkey and Syria cause death and devastation as well as the warfare between Ukraine and Russia rumbling on with little sign of a ceasefire. Corruption in the Metropolitan Police, a woman lying dead in her flat for two and a half years, renewed tensions in Northern Ireland, the great cost of living expenses…….how can these things be? It’s easy to be fearful and a time of waiting will have to continue for a while yet. But there is much to be joyful about too: freedom restored after the pandemic, the beauty of the countryside in Spring, the love of family and friends, the forthcoming Coronation of Charles III….. 

Into it all this Easter steals the whisper of hope and love, the trust that God is part of it too although we may not always realise it or involve him. For death could not contain Jesus then and it need not have the last word now. If we’re both afraid and joyful at what’s unfolding in our lives today, like those two Marys, perhaps we’re closer to those first followers and events than we realise?

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

Reflection for Palm Sunday and the state visit of King Charles to Paris.

‘When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?”’

From Matthew 21:1-11, the Palm Gospel.

‘The state visit of King Charles to Paris and Bordeaux had been due to begin on Sunday. But both cities were caught up in violence on Thursday, some of the worst since demonstrations began.’ BBC news bulletin.

It’s sometimes tempting to use prayer as a means of asking God to remove times of testing or trial from our lives so that hardship, abuse and rejection can be avoided. Palm Sunday, however, focusses on Jesus confronting pain and suffering, riding towards it whereas so many run away. Later, his own disciples will be amongst them but who‘d have thought meanwhile that a carpenter on a donkey and a few fishermen could have such an impact on Jerusalem, the city of peace that is so unrestful? Over two thousand years later, peace still evades that city – as in so many others around the world. 

Paris and Bordeaux are amongst those cities, with France being swept by civil unrest and protests against President Macron’s proposed reforms. At the President’s request, the state visit of King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort, has been delayed until the violence has been resolved so that they can avoid being drawn into the unrest, politics and possible danger of the situation. Their entry into the city, as well as the planned banquet at Versailles with its resonances of the French Revolution and the execution of Louis XVI, was not likely to help matters currently!

By contrast, the arrival of Jesus in the turmoil of Jerusalem has been called the Triumphal Entry, as the cheering crowds welcomed him and laid palm branches on the ground, even though he would be executed just five days later. The simple act of riding into the city on a donkey causes perhaps the most political consequences of Jesus’ ministry, as both the Roman and religious authorities begin to plan how to do away with him with Judas, one of Jesus’ own followers, assisting them. But, despite knowing it holds great dangers for him, Jesus goes ahead and enters the place of invasion and division, of rumours and threats, of poverty and wealth, of religious and political power. The Prince of Peace challenges all this, simply by entering the city on a colt, not the stallion of a warrior or a king. In perplexing and confronting the Pharisees, Herod, the military and the ordinary people of Jerusalem, the King of Kings will eventually be crucified on a throne of wood with a crown of thorns. Yet the betrayal, awful suffering and terrible death to come will eventually lead, after a time of waiting, to resurrection and fresh hope for those who follow in Jesus’ footsteps. But for now, as Holy Week begins and the authorities and institutions of our time are challenged, Saint Matthew’s Gospel speaks of a city in turmoil and the question to be answered, “Who is this?”’

In the turmoil of our world today, as the story then continues now, the same question is asked this Holy Week. What will be our response?

‘Now to the gate of my Jerusalem, The seething holy city of my heart

The Saviour comes. But will I welcome him?’ 

Palm Sunday, from Sounding the Seasons, by Malcolm Guite, Canterbury Press 2012.