Friday 26 April 2019

Sunday 21 April 2019

Joanna at the empty tomb

Only in Luke’s Gospel do we come across Joanna, and he mentions her twice.

Is this because, when he was preparing his ‘orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us’, she was one of the ‘eye witnesses and servants off the word’ whose story had been ‘handed on’ to him (1.1,2)?

She is there with Mary Magdalene, Susanna ‘and many others’ at 8.2: ‘some women who [Jesus] had cured of evil spirits and infirmities... who provided for [Jesus and the twelve] out of their resources’; a group the nature of which we would not have had any idea were it not for this verse. 

She is ‘the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza’, which makes her a plausible source for the inside information about Herod’s involvement with and attitude to Jesus trial (23.8-11), something which Luke alone records.

She seems likely to be among ‘all [Jesus] acquaintances including the women who had followed him from Galilee [who] stood at a distance, watching these things’ at the crucifixion (23.49) and who ‘saw the tomb and how his body was laid’ (23.54), in which case, in a position to provide further first hand details.

And she is definitely there again in this morning’s Easter Gospel, at the empty tomb with Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and other women, who ‘told all this to the eleven and to all the rest’ - which those they told 'took for an idle tale' (24.9-11).

So, I spoke this morning about feeling in touching distance of these first reports, and of what seems the importance of these first reports having come from those who had been mentally and physically damaged in the past, those whose witness also seemed so easy to dismiss or overlook.  They already knew, of course, that encounter with Jesus could be transformative.

And, although I didn’t explore this, perhaps Luke learns of Joanna and of Herod’s court from Manean, one ‘brought up with Herod’, part of the earliest church at Antioch, and one of those who commissions Barnabas and Saul for ministry (Acts 13.1-3), a ministry in which Luke appears to have shared.

Meanwhile, the photographs show decorations ready at St James’ and at home first thing today.  

Thursday 18 April 2019

Go on loving

When a dictator strikes, he is quick and efficient.  A troublesome journalist steps inside his country’s embassy and finds it is already equipped with bone saws to dispose of his body.  The nun quietly opposing logging companies and championing the rain forest and those who live in it is found with a bullet in her head.  The political exile touches a nerve agent smeared on the door handle of his safe house.  And others in the media, in the church and in political dissent get the message.

So the story for today (Maundy Thursday).  

It is the sensitive time of year when the mob in any big city could easily be whipped up against the occupying forces.  A religious radical from the north has needed watching for some time.  Now he is in the capital attracting attention and crowds.  There is intelligence about where he will be late in the evening.  He will be picked up during the night.  An initial trial will take place in the dark.  The authorities will rubber stamp the conviction at dawn.  The public execution will be under way tomorrow (Good Friday) before most of the crowds even know he had been taken.

Next week, there will be Easter Day to write about.  The finality of death unfinalised.  The tyrant’s effective swift victory nullified.  The religious radical loose again.   

But that news isn’t here in time for this week’s paper.  We are still in the days when God-made-human is alongside those whose hope seems least secure.  He awaits the fate of those whose lives and ideas seem so easy for power to stamp out.  As he washes their feet tonight, he has puzzling final words with his fearful closest friends and collaborators – ‘go on loving whatever happens’. 

Then power strikes and thinks it has won.

 The picture is of Brookhouse Beck only a few hundred yards from our house, near the Railway Children tunnel.  The three hundred words are my piece for the Thought for the Week column in today's Keighley News (I only get asked about once a year). 

Monday 15 April 2019

War Horses and mirror writing

Time in Haworth churchyard today with those developing a simple guide for the Bronte Society.  The Bronte Parsonage Museum is in the back of this first picture.

We found the new Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) sign in freshly in place.  The intention to install a sign alerting visitors to the presence of war graves was one of the motivations for developing the guide.  Both war graves are marked by family headstones and we feared people setting off on a fruitless search for distinctive CWGC headstones.

We found the tree which obscured the inscription on Frederick Carr’s grave had helpfully been cut down, we hope by Bradford Council which maintains the churchyard.  Carr joined the Army Veterinary Corps in 1897 and served first on the North West Frontier of India and then in South Africa during the Boer War (being seriously wounded).  The rate of the loss of horses became a scandal and he became involved in seeking to tackle this problem travelling widely with what was called the Remount Commission.  He saw service in northern Nigeria and in Egypt before going to France at the outbreak of the First World War (where he was again wounded).  Back in Egypt, he was seeking to tackle a cattle plague epidemic when bitten by an infected mule.  He was brought home to England and died in hospital in 1917.  He had been mentioned in despatches, awarded the Order of the Nile and an insignia in the Ottoman Order of the Osmanich.

We also pulled back the matted earth on one grave to find that roots had followed the lines of the inscription beneath and now represented a mirror image of it. 

Friday 5 April 2019

Autism Awareness Week

We got to the launch of Saima Kaur’s Autism: This is me at Kala Sangam (the intercultural arts hub in St Peter’s house next door to Bradford Cathedral) last night: beautiful, imaginative, important and moving.

She has used the phulkari shawl embroidery tradition from the Punjab – pieces of which have been handed down to her from her mother and grandmother – a tradition she knows she will not be able to pass down to her profoundly autistic daughter.

Her shawls represent interaction with stages of her daughter’s life.  Her hopes in the gift of a child about to be drawn down to her.  Herself in a spin amidst the things people said to her when her baby’s development seemed at first to be delayed.  The sounds her growing daughter made.  The way her daughter is overwhelmed by senses.  Experiences of anger.  Fears for the grown daughter she will one day leave behind.

And she spoke of the what a difference it had made to her to express all this, and how she had been able to draw some other mothers with children at the same Special School into expressing other aspects of their own, a few of which were also on display.   

It continues during the Centre’s normal opening times until 23rd May.