Be Still In The Presence of the Lord- Lent

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Feeling the tug at his elbow, he moved forward. His heart pounding hard, he stood there, hesitating on the threshold of the cathedral sanctuary.

“Come on!” Looking up to see where the voice came from, he caught a glimpse of a figure darting through the doorway opposite him.

He closed his eyes and leaped forwards,  plunging into the darkness. Eyes squeezed tight shut, he could smell the tang of sea air. Gentle fingers of breeze eased their way across his forehead. Counting to ten, he opened his eyes and gasped. It was the most beautiful sight to behold. Inches before his eyes a shimmering wall of water danced its way downwards, light sparkling and gleaming like bright jewels in the sun. Stepping sideways from behind the cascading wall of water, he climbed down and onto the hot sand. Eyes darting to and fro, he thought he heard the sound of laughter and singing. Or was that the waterfall? Then silence.

“Who are you?” he asked. No response. After wandering around for what seemed like an age, a tingle of fear crackled down his spine. The view was stunning and the breeze welcoming. But he realised that there was no sound. It was though the world was mute; he was mute. Rocks that should be home to puffins, herons, ducks, geese- all were empty. No birds sang from the trees or bushes. No music being played by the wind.

“Who are you?” He called out again into the shimmering horizon. “Why have you lead me here?” Silence.

Sitting on the edge of a steep cliff, he put his head into his hands. Without warning, thoughts and memories trickled into his mind, slowly at first, then faster and faster, beginning like snowflakes; building into an avalanche of the past. The weight of it was unbearable. Looking around him, there was nothing but the silence.

Then it came to him. That soft and gentle voice, caressing and soothing.

“Be patient, my beloved. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Be patient.”

The young man shivered uncontrollably in the hot sunshine. He could wait. He must wait.

And he began to pray.

In the Hands of an Angel

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He had been visiting the cathedral every day for as long as he could remember. The hush spoke to him as a whisper. He could hear the urgent whispering of sounds but no words, reminiscent of a multitude of choirs communicating the strains of a Tallis masterpiece. Sound formed meaning as voices burst through the surface of his consciousness, the cacophony of noises swirling and weaving as patterns emerged. The very stones were breathing in rhythm to his own.

Butterflies fluttered in the pit of his tummy. A familiar sensation as this time of year approached. Moving between the mighty pillars of this ancient worship space, the light grew brighter as the shadows lengthened.

To begin the inner journey.  To put one’s trust- one’s life- in the hands of God.  Pausing at the sanctuary he bowed his head.  It is a long journey, challenging and often uncertain.  Foxes have holes, and the swallows their nest, but the Son of God and those who follow have no place to lie down.

Faltering as he turned around, something brushed against his arm. Looking up at the magnificent east window, he could hear them.  A song of the saints.  Stepping into that inner space, he saw the wilderness of his fears and weaknesses. Before, he had not known what to expect. Suddenly, dazzling light flashed across the sanctuary, cleaving the shadow in half. He smiled. This time, he was ready.

The Voice of the Lamb- The Harrowing of Hell

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Will you be there for me,
To walk with me hand in hand?
Will you wait for me,
Or forsake me for the agony of death’s dark grip?

There lie your hopes,
Ensnared like the words of your mouths and the meditations of your hearts,
Your words and deeds are measured and weave a cloth around you,
Strangling you from the day you cried your first breath.

There lies pharaoh’s crown,
Devoured in the deepest tomb,
There lie the dreams of the innocents,
Murdered as they now clutch at their mother’s womb.

Will you arise with me,
There, towards the light?
Or will your hearts remain hardened,
Will you then forever dwell with the serpent of the night?

The Eve of Battle

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“The Rt Reverend James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool, broke ranks with the official church line to call for it to consider offering weddings in all but name for same sex weddings… He questioned whether the current prohibition was a Christian approach, asking whether it was tenable for the Church to ‘deny any blessing of God to that which is just’ any longer.”   (www.telegraph.co.uk/news 16 March 2013)

“Once there are women bishops… Anglo-Catholic opponents will not be able to recognise bishops as true bishops…sacramental assurance will be lost.”  (www.fulcram-anglican.org.uk accessed 22 March 2013)

He looks first at his mother, then at Mary and the others.  Glancing down the road from the Mount of Olives he hears the distant shouting and the sound of a great body of people making ready for the morrow. The anticipatory sense of release of tension in the air is palpable.  The journey from Jericho had tested his companions, in mind and body. But not to their limits; that ordeal was yet to come. They were exhausted and nervous. The preceding days had seen the rumours flying thick and fast from all over the region. Haven’t you heard? There is to be a great battle! He will be triumphant, victorious! With a navy he will control the seas… with an army and war horses he will cut off our enemies… law and order will be restored… things will go back to just the way they were before the occupation…

He watches  Peter closely, listening as his gruff voice rumbles through the late evening air. He is arguing, as usual. Rough and ready, clumsy but to the point.

Jesus smiles.  He sees Peter in the days and weeks and years to come. There he is- standing with his companions, his voice booming confidently above the cacophony of  sound coming from the large crowd gathered from every nation under heaven. Peter knows. A language for all peoples. A language for all men and women. He remembers the words of the prophets as he booms above the crowd’s head. Through the Holy Spirit the sons and daughters of God’s people will prophesy. Everyone who calls on His name shall be saved.

Noticing Mary watching him, Jesus steps out from his reverie. She moves closer towards him. Tomorrow the colt will be ready. He stares into her eyes and recalls teaching in the synagogue the words and teachings of the prophets. He looks across towards Peter, whose voice has risen clearly above those arguing with him. Jesus’ mind once again casts to the future as he hears Peter’s voice addressing that large crowd.

“For what goodness and beauty are His!

Grain shall make the young men flourish,

and new wine the young women.”

God’s love and God’s redemption, for all women and all men of all nations. Mary stretches out her hand towards Jesus. Together, they walk back to where the others are waiting.

I will follow

My heart is hammering like a piston as I stand still, the grey cloud swirling around me. Silent white wraiths are blocking my vision, the fine mist forming dancing banshees, confusing me and disorienting my sense of direction. I started the day in good spirits. I waved goodbye to my friends full of laughter and excitement. I had been looking forward to wandering the plateau of this distant mountain tucked away in the remote west Highlands.

But here I am, where I thought I wanted to be- but the memory of this morning’s confident conversation and laughter is now so faint. It is nearly dark now. I look all around me. No horizon. No outlines. I feel dizzy and nauseous, as though I’ve danced an Orkney Strip the Willow with a blindfold. I know there are cliffs all around me, frozen jaws displaying razor sharp teeth. They wait for me patiently, hiding behind the swirling, dancing clouds. Waiting for the final embrace. The ridge is narrow and I am lost.

Suddenly, the mist in front of me parts. It is cleaved in two by a man. Grasping his crozier he strides past me, smiling to acknowledge my presence as he descends the steep hillside to hearth and home in the glen below. I glimpse the twinkling lights in the glen far below. I hear the sound of dogs barking as the sheep sweep by me on all sides, down towards the figure even before he is swallowed up in the gathering gloom. The mist closes in as quickly as it parted.

My heart leaps for the love of life. Eagerly, I follow.