Author Archives: supersutton

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling!

Sunday should have been a very special Sunday, for Wesley Day – 24th May, fell on Aldersgate Sunday this year. But as with most things at present our celebrations are somewhat muted. Both days commemorate and celebrate the famous conversion experience of John Wesley, Aldersgate Sunday is the Sunday nearest 24th May. Charles had a similar experience a few days before, but John being the bossy elder brother is the one we always remember.

“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

Wesley Day is always a time to remember what Methodism has contributed to the ecumenical life of the church in our world today. Fortunately, the Wesleyan tradition is ecumenical, itself the child of other streams of Christianity, and one which invites us to be formed in relation to the depth and breadth of Christian thought. All this to say, the theology of love found in the Wesleyan tradition is the culmination of previous theologies in the Roman, Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican traditions. Wesleyan theology not only draws from the ecumenism of the past, but has also informed the theology of love in the ecumenical movement of today.

In addition to the breadth of its theology of love, we also find a depth such that many rightly describe Wesleyan theology as a theology of love. In demonstrable ways we see this.

First, with respect to theology itself. The fact that neither John nor Charles Wesley spent their lives in the academic circles of Oxford University has caused some to discount them as theologians, but that is a both a bogus claim, and one which reveals a too narrow view of the word theologian. Their media were different (e.g. sermons, hymns, treatises and letters) but their message has theological substance (As an aside I believe they would have relished engaging in the social media of today. Zoom , Skype, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, all would have been grist to the Wesley’s evangelical mill!)  And their message was rooted in the two great commandments — the love of God and the love of your neighbour as your self.

Second, love is seen with respect to the ministries that characterized Methodism. One of the guiding mantras for John and Charles (and other Methodists) was “faith working by love,” a conviction akin to St. James, who wrote that “faith when not accompanied by actions is dead.” (James 2:17). John Wesley called it “practical divinity,” — what we (and the larger Christian tradition) now refer to as social holiness.

The study of Wesleyan spirituality has shown how much John and Charles (and the Methodist movement) connected with, benefitted from and expressed the many theologies of love which preceded them. A number of academic studies have come to believe that they see Methodism as a ‘Third Order’, akin to what we have seen in the Franciscan order — a movement rooted in and expressive of love.

Love as the cornerstone of faith and life has generated this principle throughout the Wesleyan world, J. Kenneth Grider has stated that “Methodists move toward people who need help.”  The help given is not generated solely or primarily by a sense of obligation or duty, but rather from compassion born of love — a sense of love rooted in the person and work of God, who in the Holy Trinity loves the whole world (John 3:16).

God bless and stay safe,

Alan.

Wednesday is the new Sunday … or is it Thursday?

Star spotted with spirograph orbit around supermassive black hole

I suspect many of you like me often stop in the middle of what you are doing and think, ‘What day is it today?’ Lockdown has changed our concepts of time and we are no longer governed by watch or calendar but by mealtimes and bedtimes.

Most of us have been living a different normal for several weeks and time now has become a construct with fuzzy boundaries.

One of the books I am reading in lock down, apart from those weighty theological tomes that ministers read everyday (!) is a book by popular TV science presenter Brian Cox and his colleague Jeff Forshaw. The book is entitled ‘Why does E=mc2? (and why should we care?)’ In the book they aim to explain how Albert Einstein developed the Theory of General Relativity and his famous equation in terms that non Research Physicist can understand.

In April scientists from NASA and The Max Plank Institute discovered more evidence to support Einstein’s theory. A star called S2 orbits a black hole (Sagittarius A*) at the centre of our galaxy, The Milky Way, at speeds of 11,000,000mph making it the fastest known ballistic object in the universe. But it was the motion of the star in orbit that intrigued them. It orbits in a classic Keplerian elliptical and forward motion, but rotates over time to form a rosette shape. (If you are of a certain generation you may have had a Spirograph as a birthday or Christmas present so you know the type of pattern I am talking about.)

Einstein introduced the concept of the space-time continuum in his theory, linking the three dimensions of space with time which had been thought to be independent of each other. For Einstein, the larger the mass of the object, the more it bends the fabric of the space-time continuum and the stronger its effects on nearby objects. So the slower you move through space the faster you move through time. (Trust me on this one, the maths is fiendishly difficult. Well not that difficult but it is still maths and so is still fiendish!)

Interesting you may say, or perhaps not, but what has this got to do with our faith today? S2 orbits around the black hole much like our faith orbits around God. The closer we are to God the greater effect He has on our faith, sending us off in a forward motion until we are drawn back to him again and like S2 our path to and from God is never the same. For our experience of God and our experience of life will change us.

Today’s lockdown serves to remind us that the God we worship not only created time but created ‘our’ time. The writer of Ecclesiastes sums up the concept of time with God beautifuly in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up; 
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Time is not a device we measure the length of our lives by but is a gift from God to use in His service. We should not ask how long did somebody live but how well did they live.

In these days of ‘fuzzy’ time where March lasted an eternity and April zipped by, rather than try and count the days until things get back to normal, ask God to guide you in using this time wisely.

God bless and stay safe,

Alan.

There is a Balm.

The death toll in the UK from the COVID-19 virus has topped 32,000. Worldwide the number is approaching 300,000. A tsunami of suffering, grief, and anxiety is crashing over us.

Thousands have been furloughed from their jobs. Businesses have closed down. Families face shortages of life’s essentials. Those with the fewest resources at the beginning of the pandemic have been hardest hit.

We are all feeling the strain, especially since none of us can see clearly when this will end and what the new normal will be like. And yet some refuse to take even simple measures to protect their vulnerable neighbours from infection.

My heart is troubled. But I am not disheartened.

White vigilantes shot Ahmaud Arbery to death. He was a 25-year-old unarmed black man jogging through their neighbourhood in Georgia, USA. Viewing Arbery through the lens of their own prejudice, they presumed that a running black man must be a criminal.

My heart is troubled. But I am not disheartened.

When I dwell on what is happening in the world and in our society I become sad, appaled, anxious and angry. I know there will be some of you who will want to share a Jesus-y bit of wisdom with me. John 14:1 springs to mind “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” So, let me just be straight up here: If you’re telling me that Jesus is telling me that having faith means that the world won’t break my heart, give me a migraine, and sometimes send me running for the hills, then I’ll never be faithful. Count me out. Because I don’t see how you can love in the midst of this beautiful, horrifying, electrifying, messy place called Earth without being shattered.

Now I don’t mean that life on this planet is crushingly depressing. My spirit soars at the everyday heroism of NHS staff and care workers. Sunrises and starry nights leave me amazed. Our dog Rolo… well, don’t get me started.

And yet, greed, selfishness, violence, prejudice, oppression, and poverty stir something deep within me. These ways of being—and the carnage they leave in their wake—cannot stand. We must resist them. We must persevere in our pursuit of a world in which every human being is treated with the dignity they deserve as the beloved children of God, a world where no one is expendable, no one is replaceable. Where the elderly in care homes are as valued as a few billionaire businessman desperate to boost their profits. In other words, we cannot allow ourselves to be disheartened even if our hearts are troubled.

I think that’s what Jesus was telling his friends on the night before he died. Here’s my version of the passage I mentioned above:

‘Things are going to get worse before they get better, life will be messy, and loving others will leave its mark- scar tissue on your soul. But, but always remember I’m with you in all of this. Sometimes it won’t seem like we are getting any where, trust me love wins out and in a few days I will prove it to you!’ (John14:1 Totally Unauthorised Version)

Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA who famously preached at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markel and left most of the Royal Family looking like they had been hit in the face with a wet Haddock, frequently draws on the text of Spirituals to make a Jesus’ point. One he often quotes is -“Sometimes I feel discouraged/ And think my life in vain/ But then the Holy Spirit/ Revives my soul again./ There is a balm in Gilead.

I admit. At the moment, my heart is troubled. Maybe yours is, too. But I am not disheartened. For there is a balm if you seek it.

God bless and stay safe

Alan.

Who do you think you are?

Personality indicator types has been used by many organisations over the years when appointing new personnel. The Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator is perhaps the best known. When thinking about Christian Discipleship Michelle Morris of the UMC uses the four gospels to speak of four different ‘disciple types’ we find in church. (Michelle J. Morris – ‘Gospel Discipleship’, Abingdon Press, 2020.) 

These types may also help us to understand how many of our church members are coping, or not in the current lockdown. 

1. Mattheans. Mattheans are characterised by Matthew 28:19a – “Go therefor…” Mattheans love a tick list, concrete action. They want to know where they are going and how they are going to get there. Mattheans are the ones who will rip a hole in the roof and lower their friend to see Jesus. Methodist Committees are full of Mattheans. 

But now they are told stop! Mattheans have become anxious for they have nothing to do. This is a time for them to take a sabbath from work and focus on God. 

2. Markeans. Markeans are characterised 2Corinthians 3:17 – “The Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit is there is freedom.” Mark’s gospel is characterised by the word immediately. Mark has Jesus and his disciple rushing from place to place, village to village. Markeans are often on project or evangelism committees, they are great starters but they are not always finishers.  

But now they have to slow down. Markeans are feeling exhausted even though they have nothing to do. Now is the time to breath, take stock and tie up some loose ends. 

3. Lukeans. Lukeans are characterised by Luke 10:25-29 – “Love your neighbour…” Lukeans should wear a badge that says ‘Happy to Help’. They are the huggers in the church, they pull people together. They are great in organising the lunch club or drop in time. 

But now they are told keep your distance. Social distancing, and worse, self isolation are an anathema for the Lukean, they are feeling helpless at this time. they have to discover the worth of the internet , Skype and Zoom. 

4. Johanians. Johanians are characterised by John13:15 -“I have set you and example..” These are often the thinkers and ponderers of the church. Great at leading study groups, but they look to others for authority before giving leadership. 

But now leadership looks different, there is no example to follow. Johanians are feeling lost. Now is the time to observe and pay attention, where does love break out and where does it fail? Then plan for the ‘new’ church in the post lockdown world. 

Now before you start looking at others in the congregation and say “I know what type you are!” take a look in the mirror and ask who am I and what you can do to help the church in the new post lockdown world. 

Banishing the shadows

As Christians we believe that out of death has come new life. This is what we are celebrating during these easter weeks. However due to Coronavirus our celebrations have been very different, we have not been ‘in Church’. However I would comment that you have been ‘in church’ it’s just that you have not been in a church building.

At the beginning of the current lockdown we would have been hard-pressed to believe that out of this terrible pandemic new life could arise for churches. Yet that’s exactly what’s happened. Take church buildings, for example. Their size, shape and cost have shaped worship, ministry and mindsets for millennia. They have been both a blessing and a burden.

But once church buildings had to shut down, congregations found something quite surprising. People were suddenly freed of the constraints of their buildings, and the nature and scope of worship changed.

Throughout my ministry I have found that the most powerful group in any church has been the Property Committee and with its close friend, the Finance Committee, the maintenance of a building has become the de facto ministry the church, a concept Bishop Robert Schnase of the UMC calls a shadow mission. (‘Just Say Yes’ – Robert Schnase, Cokebury Press, 2016). When our buildings control our ministry, it can be difficult to break free of historical precedents. The ghosts of worshippers past (and present!), as much as the structure of the building, play a part in reinforcing the ‘we always do it this way’ attitude of many congregations.

But the coronavirus has done for many churches what they could not do for themselves. Not only have congregations been forced out of their buildings, the size and scope of worship has changed. Congregations are now moving from building-based worship to relationship-based worship.

Worship has become a distributed experience, and is no longer centralised in one building, worship is being reinvented. Whether we are worshipping with, emailed orders of worship, pre-recorded videos, Facebook Live, or in some other fashion, worship takes on a new feel. Instead of being solely building-based, worship can become both more intimate, more immediate and more geographically dispersed.

All of a sudden, it’s no longer the building that gives shape to worship, but the relationships. Those relationships include both person-to-person and person-to-divine relationships. 

Worship has become more interactive. Often there will be a comments screen alongside the live link where people share greetings, comment on the message, offer prayers as the service progresses and they share them with all attending not just mutter to those next to them.

Worship is more authentic. When you livestream worship, gone is the distance between the pulpit and the pew. The immediacy of a camera means the message must be more authentic, and more relevant, to connect with people. Especially people whose experience of accessing and processing information is based around technology.

The shutdown of churches has forced rapid changes on congregational life. There is no guarantee that these changes will automatically translate into permanat culture changes in the life of the church. In fact when the lockdown is lifted there will be a major pushback from those who feel they have lost control of ‘their’ church during this period. How do we intentionally transform these quick shifts into positive, sustainable culture changes? 

First, we must speak of the online experience in positive terms. Yes, there have been issues and glitches along the way. Yes, we may be missing each other greatly. Yes, we may miss our building. Yes, we may miss the freedoms the pandemic has momentarily taken from us. However, framing the online experience with gratitude will help us keep this option alive once social distancing has been safely eased.

Second, we must expand our options. Once people have online options, they treasure them. Online worship means that people can participate in worship while traveling, indisposed, sick or even feeling lazy. Even when face-to-face worship is once again available we must consider live-streaming worship or prerecording a simpler act of worship for those unable to attend.

Thirdly, we must extend our options. Unlike starting an additional worship service in church, which depends on a certain number of people to attend to be considered viable, recorded online worship has a completely different shelf life. It can be experienced hours or months later and still be fresh.

For many of us who are leading worship most Sundays the expansion of online worship has been amazing. I now ‘go to church’ every day as I access worship from many different sources and am greatly blessed.

May you find blessings wherever they are to be found at this time

God bless and stay safe,

Alan.

Let’s plant Sequoias!

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it…

Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed…

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest. 

These are just a few lines taken from a much longer poem Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from The Country of Marriage, © 1973 by Wendell Berry.  It made me think of the upside down world we are living in at the moment. The whole poem is a political critique of the world we normally live in, with the demand for an ever expanding standard of living no matter what the cost or who ultimately bears that cost. As followers of Jesus Christ we are challenged not to live by worldly standards.

We follow a leader who was not powerful or wealthy and has been reflected in the lives of Christian saints throughout the ages. From John Wesley’s comments about not owning “silver spoons whist there are those in want of bread”* to Pope Francis who wears a simple Soutane rather than the rich silk robes of his office. 

I particularly like the phrases about planting sequoias (the oldest sequoia is around 3,200 years old). It brings to mind the words of St. Paul, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered, but God made it grow.” (1Cor. 3:6, NIV). In the quiet moments of this lock down think about those aspects of church life you enjoy and have benefited from but were not of your making or control and give thanks. But also think about what you are planting, what kind of church will you leave to future generations? Do we need to give thanks or seek God’s forgiveness!?

God bless and stay safe,

Alan. 

*(In 1776  the Tax Commissioners  investigated him insisting that for a man of his income he must have silver dishes that he was not paying excise tax on. He wrote them,

“I have two silver spoons at London and two at Bristol. This is all the plate I have at present, and I shall not buy any more while so many round me want bread.”)

Jesus Worship

As Christians we worship Jesus, that’s a given, but we need to remember that Jesus was a worshiper too. Sounds obvious, read the gospels and it is very clear that worship was a central part of the life of Jesus.

We know that Jesus went to Temple and synagogue to engage in formal acts of worship that were part and parcel of his Jewish faith. When he climbed the Temple steps to participate in the liturgy of the day, he did so surrounded by throngs of other God-honoring Jews singing their psalms of ascent; when he attended synagogue, he participated with other Jewish males (the females were behind a screen and watched the proceedings. Sorry ladies!) who each took up their role in the creeds, lectionary scripture readings, sermons, discussions, and appointed prayers.

Jewish worship was largely communal worship. The community was gathered as God’s chosen people to meet God as it fulfilled the Law. There was the sound of the greeting of friends, the chanting of the priests, the bleating of the animals poised for sacrifice, the noise and chatter of little children, the trumpet blasts, mournful prayers of those wailing their intercessions, the beggars’ cries for alms. When Jesus faithfully kept the Sabbath and the vital feast days of his heritage, he did so in community. Jesus was a worshipper as one in a crowd. True, life-affirming worship.

But there is another side to Jesus the worshiper. He also worshipped in isolation. He worshipped remotely. He had no Internet or digital screen, no laptop or tablet. When he worshipped remotely, it was remote. Private prayer times were a priority for Jesus. He sought out these times of worship. There he engaged in solitude, silence, listening, stillness. He actually frequently sought out such occasions. Sometimes it was before dawn: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35, NIV). Sometimes it was mid-afternoon: “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone…” (Matthew 14:23, NIV). He left the crowds; the crowds didn’t leave him. He was not alone in worship simply because there was no other option; he wasn’t alone because there was a lockdown order. He was alone intentionally. Jesus knew well the benefit—even the necessity—of one-on-one worship, face to face with God remotely.

The thing about Jesus the worshipper is this: His public worship side was nourished by his private worship side, and vice versa. Worship is not going to church or private devotions. Worship consists of going to church and one’s private prayer life. When believers come from their remote places of worship to gather as God’s chosen people to meet the Triune God, our worship is richer, deeper, truer, far more robust for having been nourished by the quiet of the desert.

Sadly in our modern busy world we feel it is OK to skip the remote bit, the daily prayer, the daily reading of the bible and simply turn up to church on Sunday. It is like joining a choir and skipping the rehearsals and only turning up for the concert. You are out of tune and time with the rest of the choir.

It may be providential that the pandemic we are experiencing coincided with the season of Lent. During Lent we embrace the opportunities provided for us in the desert. We come face to face alone with God and let God’s Spirit penetrate our protective layers to re-fashion us into the divine image of Jesus Christ. Yet as austere as the desert is, there is hope there, for we discover that the greater we identify with the suffering of our Lord, the more joyful the Alleluias on Easter.

For now, all of worship is private worship. We find ourselves exclaiming with the psalmist, “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Ps. 84:2, NIV). How long the yearning? How long the fainting and crying out? We don’t know for how long. Perhaps as long as it takes to understand that as it was for Jesus, the consistent rhythm of public and private worship is critical to our spiritual lives. The wonderful day of reuniting for corporate worship did not happen on Easter Day this year, but whenever it happens— May 10th, June 7th even some time in August—that will be Easter Sunday! We will feel like God’s people returning from Babylon to worship in Jerusalem: “When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion…Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The LORD has done great things for them.’ The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Ps. 126:1-2, NIV).

On that day we will find that the greeting of friends will never be more precious, the hymns and songs never more beautiful, the sound of worship never more profound, our prayers never more full of faith. Worshiping remotely will once again be joined with worshiping together in person. We will have sung the songs of Lent and be ready to sing the song of Easter: “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!”

God bless and stay safe,

Alan.

Easter Sunday – A quiet acclamation

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

These are the words that ring out at the beginning of our Easter Day services, but not this year, this year is very different.

When it comes to the retelling of that first Easter morning we like the image of Mary Magdalen meeting the risen Christ in the garden, surrounded by spring flowers with the light of dawn filtering through the trees, but there is another story to be told.

‘On the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” ‘ (John 20:19)

If John wanted to tell of the resurrection in a time of lockdown he could not have done a better job. No romantic vision of stained-glass Jesus in the garden. No triumphalist ‘we have won’. Just a group of tired scared disciples wondering what will become of them.

Yet in the midst of them is the risen Christ. In their pain and confusion Jesus brings His peace. And John tells us they were overjoyed. He does not say they rushed out in fact they seem to stay just as they were until the time was ready to go out into the world.

In our lockdown situation we too can find Jesus in the midst of us. In our pain and confusion of these days we can know the peace of Jesus.

“Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, should die for me?” (Charles Wesley)

God bless and stay safe,

Alan.

Holy Saturday – Reclaiming the Silence

Holy Saturday is a pause in the Church’s Easter celebrations. There are no services planned for the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Some churches are open for a vigil (although not this year!), but there are no words, no music just silence.

Since the start of the reporting of the Coronavirus pandemic the airwaves and the internet have been filled with noise, some of it helpful much of it not so. May be today, Holy Saturday, is a day to stop listening, reading and viewing.

So with that in mind no more words only the deep, profound silence that is God.

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)

God bless and stay safe,

Alan.

Good Friday – Reclaiming Lament

As we enter the second great day of the Easter season again we are faced with a curtailment of our much loved traditions.

No walk around our town centres or visiting each local church in turn. No sharing with a nice cup of tea and a Hot Cross Bun. No singing of ‘There is a green hill far away”, we will miss them all.

One of the themes that has been stressed this easter season is that of Lament. Unfortunately in our western world lament has become associated with a particular style of church music or a self-entered “poor me” attitude. We need more than either these pictures give us. We need to recover the biblical tradition of lament. Lament is what happens when people ask, “Why?” and don’t get an answer. It’s where we get to when we move beyond our self-centered worry about our sins and failings and look more broadly at the suffering of the world. 

At this point the Psalms, the Bible’s own hymnbook, come back into their own, just when some churches seem to have given them up. “Be gracious to me, Lord,” prays the sixth Psalm, “for I am languishing; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.” “Why do you stand far off, O Lord?” asks the 10th Psalm plaintively. “Why do you hide yourself in time of trouble?” And so it goes on: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?” (Psalm 13). And, all the more terrifying because Jesus himself quoted it in his agony on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22).

These Psalms of lament often bring us from darkness into light by the end, they do not explain the trouble but provide some reassurance within it. They give us a fresh sense of God’s presence and hope. But sometimes they go the other way. Psalm 89 starts off by celebrating God’s goodness and promises, and then suddenly switches and declares that it’s all gone horribly wrong. And Psalm 88 starts in misery and ends in darkness: “You have caused friend and neighbour to shun me; my companions are in darkness.” A Psalm for our self-isolated times if ever one was needed.

N.T. Wright in an article in Time Magazine points out that lament, as woven into the fabric of the biblical tradition, is not just an outlet for our frustration, sorrow, loneliness and sheer inability to understand what is happening or why. They reminded that much of scripture tell us that  God also laments.

I know that for some Christians this may be difficult to understand. Those who believe that God ‘is in charge’. Some of my friends are surprised when they tell me that the Coronavirus is part of God’s plan and I tell them that if that’s the case then God needs a better plan!

Genesis declares, over the violent wickedness of his human creatures, God was grieved to his heart. The prophets tell us that YHWH was devastated when his own bride, the people of Israel, turned away from him.

Jesus – God in full humanity – also laments. He is angry with the slowness of his disciple and the stubbornness of the people. He weeps at the tomb of his friend. And on this most poignant of days he quotes the most disquietening of the Psalms “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22).

It is not part of the Christian vocation, then, to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead. And in our lament share with the world the God and the Saviour who laments with us.

God bless and stay safe

Alan.