Lentern Reflections - Simon Stewart

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Confession
Living God, more than ever, we stand in need of your healing power. We confess that we have taken your gifts for granted and not trusted in your promises.
Forgive us for not nurturing and caring for the gift of your creation.
Forgive us when we have put our needs before those of others.
Forgive us for our greed and our desire always to have more.
Forgive us for thinking we can manage without you.

Living God, send your healing Spirit through the whole world. Awaken us all to the needs of others and particularly to the needs of the most vulnerable: the elderly, the sick, the isolated.
In this time of fear and anxiety, send us your peace.
In this time of self-isolation, make us more aware of the needs of others.
In this time of withdrawal, draw us close to you.
We make these prayers in Jesus' name. Amen

Psalm 130
In praying this Psalm, like the Psalmist, offer God your frailty and anxiety — and bathe in God's tender mercy...

Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD; Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.

If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel (Lancaster!), put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

Worship and thanksgiving
Take a moment to let God look at you.
Breathe in God's love.

With your hand on your heart, ask Jesus to bring to your heart the moment today for which you feel most grateful.

Recall what was said and done in that moment. Enjoy the gratitude you feel again now. Breathe in its life.

Give thanks to God for your day. Give thanks for all the gifts in your life.

Gospel: The Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-45)
'This sickness will not end in death.'
This rich Gospel, like so many of the brilliant set-pieces in John's Gospel, is full of meaning and significance. If I were exploring it on Sunday night, I might split it into 3 parts:
1. Jesus hears the news but delays responding — why do you think he does this?
2. Jesus arrives in Bethany and interacts with Martha and Mary, reminding us of the extraordinary role women had in Jesus' ministry — ponder/pray the astonishing statement, 'I am the resurrection and the life'.
3. Jesus orders the removal of the stone and Martha gives the very human and mundane response about the smell of decay. This might be a big leap but, in these times of sickness and death, what rottenness is being revealed in our world?
But don't stay here! The whole story moves us to this final scene of resurrection. There are many different translations for Jesus' final order but the one I like best is: 'Unbind him and let him go!'
Some final questions to ponder:
 What do you need to be unbound from or freed from?
 What does our world need to be unbound from?

Some final reflections (covering all the Lenten themes we had been looking to cover)

Jesus — 'self-portrait by God' — reveals his full humanity as he is moved by the grief of others to weep at the death of his friend. And yet, this same Jesus demonstrates his divine power as he calmly commands Lazarus to shake off the curse of death.

The healer, so confident of His Father's power, allows arrogant death to get his clutches on Lazarus then plucks them off like just so many twigs. And so he breaks the final and absolute taboo. His healing then is not just of Lazarus but of all who fear death.

Like any great teacher he knows words are best understood through action and delivers the most stunning lesson to his disciples about the real meaning of Resurrection. It is not a vain future hope but the power of life within him.

In the run-up to this moment of revelation, it is 2 women who are drawn more deeply into the reality of who Jesus is. Firstly, Martha draws from Jesus his 'I am' statement (the 7th and the most complete in this Gospel) and responds with her own confession of faith: 'I believe that you are the Christ'. And it is Mary who first boldly reproaches Jesus for not having arrived sooner, and then reduces him to tears with her own tears of loss.

Death is the ultimate violence that human beings experience. It is the ultimate violence that Jesus himself accepts. It is how God chooses to remove violence from our world. That it still exists is because we have made God in our own image and decided that God is actually capable of eternal violence. But Jesus' loving, life-giving presence gives the lie to this.

His prayer to bring about this eclipsing of death is so simple and trusting — 'Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer.' For Jesus, prayer is just acknowledgement of the intimate relationship that already exists.
We don't have to ask God to be who God is — we just have to be thankful that God is who God is! (This may take reading a few times!)
We don't pray to change God but to change ourselves.

The Lord's Prayer
Jesus taught us to pray 'Our Father' because he knew we need each other. As you pray his prayer, bring to mind our Sunday night community and all at The Cornerstone.

We greet each other with a remote hug/handshake of peace!

Closing Prayer
Living God, thank you for the signs of spring that lift our spirits. May they herald the death of what afflicts us and the emergence of new life, all across our world.
In Jesus' name, amen.

The grace

Over the page is a further reflection on what is going on, inspired by the Gospel story — something to read at another time.

Please let me/Steve know if you need anything...shopping, a phone call, a Skype conversation (if you are really up-to-date!)

Sending lots of love, Simon

Simon Stewart (Cornerstone Chaplain)

Simon Stewart

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