Sunday, March 31, 2024

Easter flashback

The front of our church building in Histon this Easter is really attractive.  Actually its architecture and lawns always appeal and this year's floral Easter's installation gave me a flashback. When my father was pastor in central Gloucester at Brunswick Baptist Church I remember its external appearance lay at the other end of the scale from beautiful.  There's no other way of describing it. It was ugly with its stone work covered in grime TripAdvisor would mark it down, down.  The main church building was set sideways on a busy main street with rows of windows either side of a main door and for the gallery on the second floor.. It was on the same road as some large municipal buildings. None of them attractive. 

I suppose I was 9 or 10 years old when I realized my Dad was building something in our garden outhouse. There was sawing, banging, and eventually I saw that he was making flowerboxes.  He painted them green, filled them with earth and planted some daffodils. I didn't pay much attention to the whole process but a couple of weeks before Easter I saw his cunning plan.  At each window of this grimy building he placed a box and I remember him hoping they would flower bright and beautiful in time for Easter.   

But I hadn't really paid attention.  There were little hooks at the front of each box.  On Easter morning we were at church early for church breakfast and my Dad had some flat pieces of wood, also painted green. Before people arrived he reached up and put these signs up on the little hooks.  He had painted in large yellow letters HE HAS RISEN. On each box where daffodils had flowered in time there was this Easter message for Gloucester to see.  It made an impression on me.  Going public with the message the women told out 2000 years ago Matt. 28:7).

The prayer in my meditation book for today: 

Risen Lord, we rejoice today that you have triumphed over death and that the victory is yours.              Help us to rediscover what it means to be Easter people.                                                                          May we be messengers of hope and heralds of righteousness.                                                                  Deliver us from fear to speak your word of peace as we live your risen life.

Bless you as Easter people!

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Easter garden meditation

On the church front lawn the installation is up! A path leads diagonally across the lawn to the three crosses with their themes for meditation: Gratitude, Grace and Generosity.  Either side of the path are flower boxes, six on each side, with benches to encourage us to sit, meditate and spend time with others.

The vision of Spring flowers is fulfilled. Our planted bulbs have come to life.  That's the message that Kate wanted us to see - that at Easter new life explodes as creation unfolds, revealing a vast array of colours, shapes, and forms.  An explanatory note about the display and its variety of blooms reminds us how we also are all created different and all experience birth, life and death. And how, in the power of Easter - Jesus' death and resurrection - how we can know new life. For Jesus said: I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full

On the main board there's explanation about the straight path between these blooms.  Citing Proverbs 3:5-6 we are encouraged to walk down the path with these words in our minds: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.  We are reminded to take time and reflect: 'Who am I placing my trust in? Whose wisdom do I listen to?'  Easter truth leads to the cross and beyond. As believers in the Risen King we place our trust in Jesus and look to his wisdom in our lives today, with the chosen emphasis of showing gratitude, and generosity in response to his grace.

You have to admit it is different!  Already many people have walked the path as we prepare for the Easter weekend.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Easter crosses

The art installation with its 3 themes Grace, Generosity and Gratitude required some quotes where people with impactful testimony referenced these particular themes.  Kate asked me, with others, whether we could think of anyone.  I had recently been re-reading the so-called spiritual autobiography of E. Stanley Jones titled A Song of Ascents. He is one of my heroes.  Kate liked the quote which she agreed did justice to the theme of Gratitude but she didn't know who he was (and she would be in the majority). So she asked me to give a brief summary.

E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973) was utterly transformed by meeting Jesus when he was 17 years old. He surrendered his gifts .as an extraordinary thinker, imaginative writer and, passionate speaker to serve Jesus, becoming a world-famous Methodist missionary to India. A friend of Ghandi, he had remarkable influence in India and as an evangelist impacted thousands across 6 continents. In his spiritual autobiography A Song of Ascents he tells about how Jesus became his everything The quote below comes from his book and captures the sheer wonder on his knees before Jesus and the difference it made to him and the world.

The actual quote which I offered bubbles with wonder at his conversion.  Its a good testimony about gratitude. The idea as visitors walk past all the flowers to meditate at the crosses they will have an opportunity to sense how others experienced Jesus' death for them. 

How did this happen to me? I felt so undeserving and so unworthy and...yet the wonder has turned into a life wonder. I gaze at him and wonder and wonder until my knees bend in gratitude. But I'm soon up on my feet again with a divine compulsion to share this with everyone, everywhere.

Apparently the installation has now been put in place so tomorrow (Sunday) we shall see how the vision has developed!  Some of it sounds ambitious like the provision of QR codes for visitors to view background details to the quotes, like the E. Stanley Jones stuff above.  I'll let you know how the project  is working out, though it really needs prayer and openness these next days leading up to Easter.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Easter Crosses

Our minister's wife, Kate, is gifted with a highly charged imagination which further takes quantum leaps at Christina festivals.  |Every Christmas and Easter she has visions.  Even as Christmas was just over she had a picture of a fresh Easter installation.  A couple of years ago we had 7 giant painted Easter eggs telling out the Easter story.  I posted about my little part within this display which attracted a huge amount of interest..

This time she envisages three 6ft high crosses set in the corner of the church front lawn with a straight path leading up to them. Flowers in specially made boxes will line the path.  You might expect the crosses to be reminders of Calvary with Jesus central and thieves on either side.  But No.  Each cross is to be a place of meditation. On each will be one of the key words that our minister has stressed this year:  GRACE, GENEROSITY, GRATITUDE

At today's coffee morning I asked Kate how it was all going. She told me how thrilled she is that when she has an idea, people in the church rally round.  In particular, one skillful member has offered his carpentry expertise to make the crosses and another church member, who happens usefully to be a professional sign-writer, has been working on the painting and lettering.  The carpenter has also made flower boxes which will line the walkway up to the crosses.

Several weeks ago, the whole church was invited to plant some bulbs at home and they are to be brought to church this Sunday ready to be planted in the boxes next week.  I bought some tulip and narcissus bulbs.  The picture on the packet looks exotic but their three pots showed no sign of life until very recently.  At least you can see some foliage but Kate assured me that they will be on display for 1 month and she is sure they will blook around Easter.  

And I have been involved in another way too......

Friday, March 1, 2024

Pictures please

One of our church members is on the cusp of publishing her book on telling the Bible in 60 minutes. The title is Telling the Big Story and the publishers (Kevin Mayhew) have given her permission to invite people to draw one of a number of internal small images for the book.  26 of us have been asked across the spectrum from children up to...well I guess I'm one  of the oldest.  The images really are small.  We were asked to draw simple line drawings in boxes no larger than 7.5 cm by 7.5 cm which would then be reduced further to fit in with the text.  

Lucy asked me to draw a queue of exiles in profile and to inspire me she sent a copy of an Assyrian bas  relief sculpture off the internet.  Being an Assyrian sculpture the exiles were dressed in Assyrian helmets and clothes!  I had never pictured how the Israelites might appear in profile on the way to Babylon but I guess they would be carrying some of their essentials.

With hesitation I sketched out a line drawing.  The Assyrian guard brings up the rear behind three laden exiles.

Forgive the reproduction quality with its dark shadow but you get the idea.   It's another first in the rich tapestry of life!