Tag Archives: prayer

From the old year into the new.

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Photo by Sonja Langford on Unsplash

Moving from the season of darkness into the promise of the returning spring, the lengthening days, gives us a prod to consider the old and contemplate the new, enriching the present. In our small, chapel meeting we contemplated what we had been doing and what we might do. The conversation started from an idea that examining the year was a good practice, just as examining our day in an Ignatian contemplation is.

The practice of being present in our lives, grounds itself in the truth that we are loved and blessed in God and asks the Spirit to reveal to us, firstly, a time of consolation; to enrich our imaginations with the source of this consolation. The practice moves on to invite the Spirit to reveal a time of desolation, to enlighten our imaginations with wisdom grounded in love and consolation. Then, routed in blessing, we allow the light of Christ to show us the way and rest in prayer, imagining the good.

The lengthening of the days and the promise of life and abundant light, calls us to hope. A practice that was shared amongst those gathered, was of putting a pebble in a jar when we felt particularly blessed so that on the days we felt that all was desolation we could look at the jar and draw comfort. What if on the days when we received a word of hope we were to write it on one of the stones? We could then pour out the pebbles when we were feeling low and search for the words of hope and allow them to kindle hope. What if we were to fill the jar to the brim with water so that every time we added a pebble the water flowed over?

For some of us the thought of this practice might appear exhausting. Maybe we could just make a practice of lighting a candle at the same time at the end of the day. In the dark times there is a light shining. There is a light within us and we can see the light shining all around us. We are gifted with creation and the mystery of goodness draws out of us a sense of the power of love; compassion, mercy, steadfastness. The light of creation and our creative looking embodies hope in our hearts. Our faith is that God is good; he is love. Just light a candle.

Yet, look at me; look at my lived life. Look around. Is there hope? Do not be overcome. Breath. Yes, hope is in the breath that I breathe, in the glimmer on the edge of the horizon. Beyond and very near; a gust of wind. The presence of God. Be lead. In this I can rest; God is good. He is calling me to peace, to joy. He is calling me to love.

Joy to the world? Looking within I discover dark places.

But some of those dark places are quiet and comforting, places of birth, places of security where God is knitting me together. Wherever each of us is, whatever the present darkness, there is also a darkness that comforts, a place of intimacy and secure solitude. Find joy in the comfort of solitude, in the silence of a lover, and allow the light to bring you to new birth, calling you out, grounded in security, to walk in faith. Be kind, be fully human just as Jesus our Lord is fully human, not ruled by world but in the world. Become joy in the world.

Put out the candle.

Think into this time of new beginnings. In the beginning, Eve was formed in Adam. The whole of humanity taken from one humanity sharing the breath of life with all life, from a humble micro-organism to the majestic ant. Jesus is the second Adam, formed in Mary, taking his full humanity from her. The created is God, and draws breath in humanity. In this age of reason, here is the challenge, God forms God in the dark, secure womb of a vulnerable woman, Mary. God Almighty formed baby Jesus, as he did us.

Jesus was formed, a man from a woman. Does this mean Jesus is not like us? None of us were formed in this way. How then is Jesus fully human? Is this just a story? The message is that Jesus is fully human and fully God and calls us to partake in his divinity and become fully human. The questions about Jesus conception are unsettling. Don’t walk away from them, explore the mothering of God.

Indifference to the challenge of Jesus is as deathly as a bluster that can’t allow questioning. Embrace doubt. Don’t try to come up with an answer. Truth has many dimensions and layers and is bound up in the person of Jesus. Live with the uncertainty and discover that dark place of solitude where the light might shine. Find yourself shining the light of the God of Love. Be fully human; be the hands, feet and mouth of God. You are a child of God, a little one, the word become flesh, as Jesus is in the Father so are you in Jesus.

Allow the light to challenge your assumptions of power and entitlement to respect, your sense of importance; allow those dark places of fear and loss of control to be exposed. Sin is lodged in your fear. It closes the door on the divine. Our sense of entitlement, our attachment to the world, our sense of status is our rebellion. Prideful entitlement to respect and selfish attachment to our own certainties is the path to rage. Breathe. Let go. Embrace the challenge of not knowing if you are right.

Watch the smoke of the extinguished candle rise.

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Photo by Marko Blažević on Unsplash

If your reactions are more visceral, putting pebbles in water, or lighting candles might not do!

Ian Adams in his book, Running over Rocks, Spiritual practices to transform tough times, suggests doing as the title indicates. The danger involved in running over rocks might be a better practice for you than gazing at water running over rocks!

This is my version of Ian Adam’s practice of Discovering Your Thankfulness.

Firstly, breathe in the joy of the day, reflecting on God’s providence, how at each moment there was a good choice to make; in an act of worship open your arms to accept God’s approval as you recall each moment. Take time to feel the times of wrong choices in the pit of your stomach, the fear or the hurt ego and clasp it. Clasp it tight as the wrong done to you or to others surfaces. Clasp it tight as you face up to problems in your family or with health, times of weakness, judging, unkindness. Feel the pull to despair and name it with groans. Acknowledge your anger then breathe and listen, letting go and asking God to enter in. He may answer in a whisper, and he may bring to mind the good Let your arms drop and open them up in an attitude of receiving, circling up to a cruciform shape receiving the silence and the comfort then run, walk, move out and live. This can be a momentary practice, done in one movement, a prayer to begin a time of activity, adding meaning to a work out. Even if you feel nothing you have turned to the light.

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Photo by Rita Morais on Unsplash

In all your practices, even if everything remains as it was, you have put yourself in that place of humility. Christ is born into the mess of poverty and dies a messy death at the hands of authority. Jesus is at home in the mess.

Jesus brings us from the darkness into the light.

 

Psalm 43:3

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!

http://esv.to/Ps43.3

This verse spoke to me at the start of my journey and is my prayer for today.

The days are growing shorter and the celebrations nearer. A time when being together matters; where the two or three gathered to the Light, Jesus, God’s own Son, the Truth, are a beacon for life. Light and truth!

Dear Pupils,

IMG_1877We love it when you succeed. But this isn’t who you are: you are who you were made to be by God who loves you in every twist and turn of your lives. Whether you do well in the eyes of people or whether you really mess up, the Father loves you. Whether your efforts succeed or fail, you are of infinite value in the eyes of the Son.

When you are with us, often you have been hurt and often you struggle. School at its best is like a family. The best we can, we nurture you and help you with the resources we have, with our own failings. But God in his mercy makes this good.

Sometimes as you grow into adulthood you experience deep sadness as the attachments of childhood slip away and you grow up into an increasingly complex world. Your emotions work against you and it hurts. Pain is the way of new life. Through this we work with you as best we can, as near as we can in the transforming power of the Spirit. Sometimes it doesn’t look good and living daily in forgiveness is good news.

As you live your lives now, learn to love who you were and who we were. Build your lives on love not bitterness or regrets. Success isn’t accolades: success is peace and contentment, success is others being blessed by who you have become.

IMG_1875You aren’t the letters after your name. You are the one praying alone, the one visiting the sick, the one caring for the vulnerable. You are the one living victorious in the mess of humanity. You are the light in the darkness. Be who you are.

Philippians 4:8 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Philippians+4%3A8&version=NRSVA

Fully alive

Prayer can become a seeking after experience; just another high and of no earthly good; lots of words or no words at all.

Ways of praying being idols is a real issue in our times. Prayer methods becoming sacred is a danger. We have to pray somehow, but the how brings quarrels and disappointments. Jesus teaches a place for prayer and a pattern for prayer. His ministry heralds a revelation that worship is in spirit and truth. Repeatedly, Jesus encourages us to ask for what we need in our prayers. But, in my experience we come to worship the manner of prayer not the substance and prayer becomes a way of controlling people. The truth of prayer is important as it makes us fully alive.

The Jesus culture I discern is one where we rest in the knowledge that all things, good and bad are in God’s hands and that there is an enemy that opposes this faith. The attitude is seeking God in all circumstances, in hope. Seeking God in the good and the bad; seeking God in the moments of our lives; knowing God to be near; knowing that we are loved and forgiven, is the foundation of prayer.

To avoid just talking to ourselves, we need to be present and listening in our practice. Jesus sets our relationship with him firmly in love. He commands love.  Only through forgiving are we forgiven and in loving our neighbour we know God. Our abiding in him and who he is becomes his abiding in us. The truth is, whatever our practice, God is there waiting. Prayer opens our eyes to this ever-present reality. In a blink of an eye we become aware of this reality (Kierkegaard’s Instant).

This mystical experience is available to all. Suddenly we know beyond words, beyond understanding. This is a ground for our faith that God’s light shines in everyone. From this light we draw faith. In this light we know Jesus and become his presence in creation as we listen and are transformed.

This transformation can lead us to difficult places. Jesus’s frustration with the disciples’ little faith and lack of realisation of who was amongst them, serves as a warning. It is a rebuke we may need to take. The mystical experience is there for reason; it answers a human need. We are here to walk in the coolness of the evening with God yes but we are also here to tend his garden. We are here to serve and follow the leading of the Spirit. Prayer isn’t an end in itself.

“The glory of God is us being fully alive,” says Irenaeus (3rd Century). We are to be fully alive as God created us.

Could this mean, navigating the inevitable wounding that is life; from conception, to birth, growth and death? Does the reality of a free world where we can be free mean we will continually fall from grace and be separated from life? God gazed on what he had made and declared it good; it was all very good. Is this path of woundedness a source of glory? Light is born out of darkness; the new day begins with the morning. Our pool of darkness, the chaos of life, is the reservoir of transformation in us (Bourgeault, p106)  that brings transformation in the world. Just as God creates out of the void our glory is to take our brokenness into new life through prayer.

Heaven is the perfecting of who we are. It is the transforming of our woundedness into us being fully alive. The more we know our sin, the more we know our separation from God and the depth of his continuing love. The more we forgive, the more we know forgiveness and the deeper our love.

We see with the eyes of the wounded healer, Jesus. Jesus heals us by his wounds. In suffering our wounds and transcending the assault of the enemy on our lives we are able to bring healing in Christ; bring new life. The greatest healing is the life transformed by forgiveness and abiding love. Jesus says that those who mourn are blessed because they are comforted. It is the blessing of the poor in spirit, that it is they who receive the kingdom of heaven.

Life hurts. Life faces us with a messy reality and God’s heart is to bring blessing out of this. God’s glory is us being fully alive in all circumstances; to live a life of abundance. This is where prayer leads us, why God teaches us to ask in order to receive.

Through prayer we come to know that the life that is in Jesus is our life. We are found in him. We are to do works greater than his as we live in the fulness of the cross, knowing him to be seated at the right hand of the Father. We are found in the mess of the cross and the beauty of the resurrected Christ.

Christ is not physically amongst us and we can’t touch him, yet he is fully present to us in the Spirit. It is the work of the Spirit that is the greater work. The wounds of Christ are still there, his scars remain. It is these wounds that heal us. We are to heal through our wounds. The glory of our wounds, inflicted by others or inflicted by ourselves, inflicted by circumstances, the collateral damage of life, bring glory to God as we bring healing through them. It is prayer that enables this bringing of the presence of Christ to the world.

Jesus calls us to himself to be comforted and to find rest. We are to dwell in the kingdom of heaven in all its vital, visceral glory knowing peace. Jesus shows us in our prayer the fullness of being alive. Jesus heals the afflicted; the lame walk, the blind see and the deaf hear. Today, we are saved through the earthly good of prayer not its form or practice.

Psalm 29

… May the LORD give strength to his people!

May the LORD bless his people with peace!

 

Romans 8:12-17

… For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.

When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ–if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

 

John 3:1-17

… The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

…God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

 

Ref:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Centering-Prayer-Awakening-Cynthia- Bourgeault /dp/1561012629

 

Fully Human: a reflection for Sunday 20th May 2018

In Jesus, God gets his hands dirty. Jesus is fully human; he is fully God. We have an amazing path to follow, to navigate. God’s essential nature is love; God is love. God responds to us with compassion and steadfastness. God is faithful. Paul teaches that love does not grasp or insist on its own way and does not keep an account of wrongs. Jesus shows us that love is perfected in self-denial; in losing your life to gain life. Paul tells us again that love is humble and pours itself out for others.

How are we to understand God, if love is ever serving and never controlling? We see the cross where the extravagant love of God was poured out in Christ. Jesus was not a dam, a wall of righteousness, but his life showed a gushing torrent of grace.

Being a Christian is to live out Christ within us so that grace spills out to those around us. The Kingdom heaven is where God is present: Jesus living through us. Jesus inhabits our troubles and suffering, living through our disappointments, toils and trials. Jesus gets his hands dirty. It is Christ who lives in us and we are confronted with the potential there is in being fully human. We are not God – our essential nature is different; only God is good.

Jesus shows us our capacity as humans with God in us and amongst us. All sickness, tears and suffering are not from God but God is present in them as we walk together. We as believers in Jesus make God present in them and are able as humans to express divinity in humanity as Jesus showed us. Jesus’s word is for us to love and he teaches us to forgive. Through his death in our place he shows us the end of love; what love leads to. We are to love our enemies. Through his resurrection life, we are to know abundant life, in the knowledge that we are forgiven- justified in Christ and through faith receiving salvation and life.

We are to love God with our whole being. The Father and the Son dwell within us and through the Spirit we know all truth. Our eyes are opened as single-minded we seek God through love and forgiveness.

Jesus healed, he delivered and he fed; miracles of nature and the spiritual. Jesus provided a material way to abundant life and calls us to do greater works. He says we are to ask and we will receive. Jesus, rebuking the storm, rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith. In showing his disciples who he was and who they were on the mount of transfiguration, Jesus rebukes the disciples for not being able to deliver and heal a child. Where do we stand in this rebuke?

How are we to realise the power of what we have within? Are we to create apologies and philosophies to excuse our ineptitude or declare long and powerful prayers to cover the fact that nothing happens? To get around what is supposedly made real in faith – Christ within, the power of God?

We are not God- God is love beyond our understanding and any understanding will fall short of the truth. The Spirit reveals the truth and Jesus is God poured out in humanity and humanity filled with God. Jesus was no more than human, no less than fully human. Jesus shows us how to be fully human. Jesus’s miracles are works of his humanity. In this season, we need to navigate a pathway through what we are called to and what we are.

Acts 2:1-21

…All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” …

Romans 8:22-27

…But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

…”I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…

 

Blessed are the pure in heart

As we hold people in our hearts for prayer, we experience love. Our humanity reaches out to them as we want all to be well. Held in our hearts, we are moved to ask God for their wellbeing. As we encounter the world in all its troubles and strife, we experience love as we hold everything in our hearts and struggle to overcome anxiety. Prayer opens our eyes to hope and faith and, in the wrestling, our faith is deepened.

In our wrestling, we are confronted with the messiness of life; the ever-present darkness and suffering. Our hearts speak of the affront to humanity of suffering and tell us it is wrong, sad and needs changing. Our measure is the joy we feel. Helplessness transforms to joy as we imagine the good; there is a better way. Maybe our hope is felt by those we pray for as we struggle for them.

Faith opens our eyes in that transforming moment to the vision of God holding us in the same way we hold others. In our act of faith, we sense God’s faithfulness. We see that we are held by God who is only good and find a way to rest in him. In the abiding in his presence we discover that whatever we ask in this moment, he gives. It is in the abiding we find answers; in the struggling we find the way.

It is a moment by moment practice to allow the lives of others, their joys and their troubles to rest in our hearts; to give thanks for grace, to wrestle with anxiety and suffering and imagine the good; to acknowledge peace and to ask for peace and transformation. This is not the endless repetition of words or the exalted declaring of great truths, but a holding in the heart, to be truly be broken for the needs we hold and enlivened by the vibrancy of God. If this is from God, we will ask and find peace.

Experience might deny our faith; the brokenness we hold in our hearts may continue; those we pray for may even die and situations not change. Sometimes we even find our-selves rejected in our seeking, rejected by those we seek to serve and found to be ridiculous. In my experience we may also feel a profound rejection and the peace you thought you had evaporates. Sometimes things do change; often they don’t. It is hard to see convincingly where involving faith and God has made any difference. Our peace might seem a little hollow.

We want our eyes to be opened so that we can see God. We want to see Jesus revealed in the story of our lives; in our brokenness and joy.

If we accept God as being the author of these moments; moments when we blink and our eyes are opened to truth and our hearts are kindled with joy; if we acknowledge God in our deep sense of being valued and loved, the sense of their being another story; if the inclination of our hearts in the face of suffering is compassion, as this is how we know God to be; if we know freedom in being detached from power and the drawings of wealth, and we are lead to God, is this knowing the limit of God’s blessing? Is this as far as God is involved: giving us a peace beyond understanding?

Is our vision of God of one, perfectly at one with himself- complete? Do we encounter God in a relationship together, in the twos and threes of Jesus’ presence? Do we find ourselves moving with others to experience him, formed as a community of blessing, the body of Christ? Are we deluded?

Our faith is that we are not deceived in our walk and the insight, compassion and detachment that brings peace is being in the presence of God, who is intimately involve amongst us and is the giver of peace.

God’s essential nature is that God is good, steadfast, truth and compassion.  God is humble and un-controlling in his love and comes to live in us. His presence in us means that as he is present to us and we are empowered to be his presence to others. We may be present to others as he is present to us. As we seek abundant life for others, we find abundant life in him. Our faith becomes action and is action. We get our hands dirty.

Is this all there is? Is this our faith? What of signs and wonders; healing and deliverance? To what extent does God get his hands dirty and work miracles?

Jesus as Jew of his time, would have prayed blessings on God’s people each day. We see in his life how these blessings taught him and transformed peoples’ lives, physically, mentally and spiritually. Jesus in the beatitudes teaches, “Blessed are the pure in heart, they will see God.” This is the reward; this is how we see God.

Jesus turns the prayers for blessings into a rallying call to action. This is the promise; from our holding of others in our hearts, he will wash us clean, give us hearts of flesh where there were hearts of stone and we will see God. Our eyes will be opened to his world. In our awakening, in seeing, in our holding of others in our hearts, God abides in us. Jesus shows us that God does get his hands dirty and we are called to greater works than he did. And so, we have the confidence to ask.

In our reasoning this might bring us to silence and the most powerful thing we might do is be silent. From the place of peace groanings might come as we see how small our faith is. From the darkness life comes. We have no answers, but in faith we ask that the imaginations of heart become real.

Psalm 98

…Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

1 John 5:1-6

… whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? …

John 15:9-17

… I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. … I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Fire and Brimstone

“It is worth noting that the ‘fire and brimstone’ school of theology who revel in ideas such as that Christ was made a sacrifice to appease an angry God, or that the cross was a legal transaction in which an innocent victim was made to pay the penalty for the crimes of others, a propitiation of a stern God, find no support in Paul. These notions come into Christian theology by way of the legalistic minds of the medieval churchmen; they are not biblical Christianity.”
(William Neil in The Cross of Christ by John Stott, p202)

“The cross was not a commercial bargain with the devil, let alone one which tricked and trapped him; nor an exact equivalent…to satisfy a code of honour or technical point of law; nor a compulsory submission by God to some moral authority above him from which he could not otherwise escape; nor a punishment of a meek Christ by a harsh and punitive Father; nor a procurement of salvation by a loving Christ from a mean and reluctant Father; nor an action of the Father which bypassed Christ as Mediator. Instead, the righteous, loving Father humbled himself to become in and through his only Son flesh, sin and curse for us, in order to redeem us without compromising his own character… The biblical gospel of atonement is God satisfying himself by substituting himself for us.”
(The Cross of Christ by John Stott, p188)

The biblical gospel is one that promises peace with God and a life of holiness. This is a gift of God; faith. Knowing God and his peace is our rock and foundation in good times and in troubled times. The gift is precious and it breaks our hard hearts so that we might receive grace to live in the knowledge of our own forgiveness.

Our lives so often are at odds with this truth, as we live as part of the world. Through the message of the cross we discover God is above all, through all and in all; a redeeming presence in our lives to free us from the bonds of sin. We find a calling to live as the redeemed in the world, as those not of the world.

We are forgiven, is a sweet sustaining truth that anchors us in the storms of the day. God is good. As we feed on this truth it enters us, we digest it and we are formed by it. Yes, God is good. Our hearts are stirred by it but, how often do our stomachs churn as we encounter our own failings, our own culpability in the injustice and cruelty of our times? What was sweet to the taste becomes bitter in our stomachs. Our hearts cry out for justice and mercy. As we dwell in the truth and listen to our hearts, the voice of Christ becomes clearer. Being saved is not being self-satisfied and inward looking.

This is what the life of faith looks like. We are given the truth, it sets us free and then we live the truth and grow in the truth. The truth is at odds with the daily life we live. Outwardly, we live and breathe and have our being in a world in bondage to sin, subject to chance and time, but inwardly we carry the presence of God however fragile. Living out the truth and persevering in it forms us.

This life becomes our blessing; strength for the day and hope for tomorrow. As we draw near to God he draws near to us and we are kindled into a life of blessing. However useless we feel, weak in our humanity, it is enough to live by our revelation in our heart.

This is becomes the power of our testimony. It doesn’t look like much of a victory. Is this how we proclaim that God is alive and active a counter narrative whispers? We can think that in the face of martyrdom we might stand and it would be glorious. But standing in the onslaughts of the day is a testimony?

How many times does the accuser parade our failings before us and the Father? How many times does the accuser, our adversary, parade our failings before God? My pitiful failings paraded before my Father in heaven? Surely they deny the truth of my salvation Satan insinuates.

To be martyred is to be wondered at, but the daily onslaught of stress, emotional vulnerability and the expectations of life- the daily grind of troubles is poisonous. What can we do? What can we say? We proclaim Christ crucified. His death has saved me from sin. The cross is the victory. As we gaze on the cross are we healed?

We live this life of hope in contrition; brokenness in the face of our own fallibility and find victory in the knowledge of the Holy. It is enough. This is God’s grace to us and his peace in us.

Look at Revelation 14: 18 – 20

 …“Swing your sickle now to gather the clusters of grapes from the vines of the earth, for they are ripe for judgement.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and loaded the grapes into the great wine-press of God’s wrath. 20 The grapes were trampled in the wine-press outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine-press in a stream about 180 miles[d]long and as high as a horse’s bridle.

Here it is, fire and brimstone to shock you. Not in the Old Testament but at the end of the New. Having taken the message so far set before us, we might have hoped that John’s long journey of faith might have resulted in a gentler gospel. Have we been led astray by our own sentimentalism so far? Am I speaking peace where there is no peace and we should be more fearful that our actual condition is that God is holding on to us as we dangle over the abyss, only to let go of our hands to let us slip at the last in to the pit where we deserve to be as some have suggested?

The grapes are fully ripe and are being piled up into the winepress of God’s wrath where holy feet trample on them, releasing their juice. The blood of the evil ones rises as high as a horse’s bridle for miles. The fruitfulness of the grapes is their evil. The whole event takes place outside the gates of the city. The image is of God treading to a pulp those who have not repented and are evil and their blood is a symbol of death.

God has allowed the fruit to ripen; evil comes to its full fruition by God’s will. God allows it to flourish. This is the reality- the real world. Hope calls in the face of daily evil and together we are taught to pray for deliverance from evil. Hope is that, in the end, God’s wrath wreaks vengeance on evil and treads out the life of all evil. God’s goodness is satisfied as, in wrath he at the last treads out the life of the evil. Vengeance belongs to God but none the less there is vengeance, fulfilling a visceral need in our being.

Maybe we recoil at the monster God portrayed, and wonder how we can trust him when he teaches us to love our enemies then tramples to death his enemies. Where has the message of the gospel gone that enables us to forgive? Are we fearful that we have not forgiven enough to be forgiven and we will find ourselves in the winepress? Or is our comfort, there is no winepress? Silly John!

The story of the cross tells us Jesus was taken outside the city gates and he took the wrath of God in our place. Jesus’ blood flowed outside the city gates. God in Christ gave himself so that we are not crushed. God is satisfied in substituting himself for us so that in Christ he is crushed. The blood of Christ was shed for all men; it was a mighty flow.

The blood that flows, I see as the blood of Christ. Can this gruesome picture awaken in us the scale of what Christ has achieved? Do we come closer to understanding what Christ has achieved by looking at the violent portrayals of God and realise they have achieved their fullness on the cross? In the disgust, can we feel wonder? How is this good is rational question? As it lays bare our doubt, can we find reassurance?

Jesus gave himself for our sins, for now, for today. The evil, present age has an end and God is good. I hold there is a hell for the evil, but that where Jesus finds life, it is his nature to redeem life. What is God like? Look at the cross. As to what hell looks like, look at the cross. And as has been said by another, heaven is not yesterday or tomorrow but here and now, the ever-present age revealed in Christ.

Galatians 1:3-5

May God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ[b] give you grace and peace. 4 Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. 5 All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.