IT WAS hardly a hotbed of faith which Jesus invaded when he
bypassed the locked door that expressed the disciples' fear. No
wonder his first words were the Jewish greeting of peace. Only when
he showed them his hands and side did the disciples rejoice at
Each Good Friday, Isaiah, Hebrews, and John leave us marvelling
at God's wisdom in bringing victory out of horrific cruelty,
destroying the power of death. Isaiah's litany of the servant's
suffering ends with his making many righteous, and dividing the
spoil with the strong. He prospers and is exalted, startling the
powerful with the scars of his suffering.
WHAT happened at dawn on the first day of the week was not
instant and overwhelming joy for those involved. It provoked yet
more perplexity. Mary Magdalene and another Mary went to see the
tomb. Suddenly, there was the second earthquake in three days, and
an angel, looking like lightning and snow at the same time,
descended from heaven and sat on the stone. It was holy commotion
A VISITOR at Durham Cathedral recently asked for directions to
the 12.30 service of "holy commotion". It seems a rather apt phrase
when we hear the Passion narrative read, since we take bread and
wine in the name of one who, according to Matthew, triggered
commotions: his birth caused Jerusalem to be frightened, and his
riding into Jerusalem threw the whole city into turmoil.
When working as a hospital chaplain, I will never forget the
screams of a young girl, taken by her family to see her father who
had just died from a horrible cancer. For people who had seen his
suffering, death was a relief, but, for her, a scream of anguish
was the only appropriate response. Death is real.
YEARS ago, visiting the Mount of Beatitudes, our peace was
suddenly and rudely interrupted, as a screaming, diminutive nun
waving a broomstick chased a woman from the church. Her offence?
Wearing a sleeveless dress. Someone commented ironically: "The Lord
looks on the outward appearance, not on the heart."
We all face situations that seem interminable, and threaten to
be the death of us. Whether it is the depression that will not
lift, the family whom we dread facing, the addiction we cannot
break, the relationship that traps us, or the grief that overwhelms
us, at times we end up in the desert. The question is: how do we
It is never clear how certain or public Nicodemus's following of
Jesus was. Perhaps he never committed himself wholeheartedly, or
perhaps, like many people around the world today, his commitment
was secure, but he had to be cautious about how public he made it.
Whatever the ultimate outcome, Jesus tried to nurture and enlarge
that faith rather than condemn him.
How did Jesus resist temptation? Where is the hope for us as we
ON THIS final Sunday before Lent, the collect prays us into a
world where suffering and glory belong together, both for Jesus and
for us. We pray to be conformed to the image of Christ; to become
EACH passage this week asks to be read out loud rather than
silently, because hearing it helps to articulate its repeated