Easter Season Alleluia!

yellow flowers on treeIt’s the season of Easter and we miss the daffodils. Still we’ve got this tree outside our windows just where we eat so we can hardly complain about the lack of yellow flowers! I’ve had a short spell in the garden this morning which has been therapeutic. The lack of sleep the last few days is still to catch me up I think as I was up before the alarm this morning – unusual on a school day!

I found that in Holy Week I was able to enter into the story of Jesus’ last week a little. I like having the ability to make enough time to enter into these things – what gives me the ability is that it’s part of my job to do it so I make the effort because I aspire to do my job well, but of course I would recommend it for anyone who wishes to follow Christ. Easter Day seems to me so much more joyful and more meaningful somehow when you’ve taken the time to go through Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. In the same way, Pentecost seems more fulfilling and meaningful when you’ve taken the journey with the early disciples through the shock of repeated appearances of Jesus after Easter, accompanied them to Jesus’ Ascension, and then hung about waiting for his Spirit for a week and a half. We’re with Thomas behind locked doors next weekend, then my favourite, on the Emmaus road, before we turn to readings thinking about who Jesus is, before he is taken from us, lifted up into heaven. Accompanying these readings we have a series from Acts, launching straight in, funnily enough, with three weeks of readings from the events on the day of Pentecost before we get the stoning of Stephen – a poignant reading for me, and then Paul preaching in Athens using as his sermon illustration an altar he’d seen dedicated to ‘An Unknown God’. By this time the gospel readings have come round to looking forward to the Spirit coming.

In order for that to happen Jesus must go.

The ressurection could not happen except Jesus first die and the disciples be left in disarray. The Spirit will not come until Jesus in physical manifestation is taken away. They seem to take the second removal of their saviour a little better than the first. One can get accustomed to disarray – come and work in the church and see! No. I mean that it’s possible to understand and trust God in such a depth that when he feels far away our hearts are no longer as troubled as we were earlier on in our journey with him. Take it steady. Walk with him. God runs when he rushes out to welcome you home but the normal way of faith is to walk with God.

Easter Crowds Warning!

You have already seen the Holy Week schedule of services and we are almost half way through them now. It must have been a real pain getting into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday with all the crowds and so on but hey, we didn’t mind because the main event was Jesus anyway! I hope you will feel the same way this Maundy Thursday and Good Friday as we celebrate the feast, not with the old leaven of traffic rage and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of patience and truth, leaving our cars perhaps a little further away than normal, not blocking anyone’s way, and walking the last bit to church if need be. Remember, you could be in your home country lamenting that so few people go to church these days! Jerusalem that first Easter was a crowded city – use the experience of getting to church as part of the meditation and entering into the practice of Passover and crowd at crucifixions!

This year is busier than normal partly because both Western and Eastern churches celebrate the feast on the same weekend this year (a rare occurrence as we follow slightly different calendars), but also because the Sikh community celebrate Vaisakhi Day on Friday too so expect heavier than normal traffic on Friday! I don’t reveal this to give you and excuse not to come to church – please don’t give in, but rather take the advance warning as something to give you patience in the traffic jams (having come prepared with water to drink on the way if necessary), and so show the world that Dubai’s Christian Community is so devout that in our twelfth year the RTA must surely build a proper road to the churches complex in Jebel Ali! We are part of the fabric of what makes this city a good place – we should gather to pray at this special season and in due course, on Sunday morning (no traffic trouble then!) shout our Alleluias!

Thursday 17th April: 7.30pm
Maundy Thursday

Friday 18th April: 9.30am
Good Friday

Saturday 19th: 9.30am
Special Service at our Academic City Church

Easter Sunday, 20th April

4.30am Easter Vigil Readings

5.30am Easter Dawn Service – the beginning’s the best bit so arrive on time – no traffic problems then!

9.30am Easter Morning Service with visting Glory Kids choir  😆

7.30pm The Late Comers’ Mass

Traffic Tip: for those coming from the Sheikh Mo road with 4x4s, turn off the E77 behind the churches and come in that way – it’s fairly straighforward (in a very zig zag way). It’s fine for 2×4’s too but the unadventurous should not try it in case you gum it up for others. I recommend you do it by daylight before trying it at night.

Patience Tip: for that selfish idiot driver who zooms round the whole queue to push in further down spitting the desert dust in your face – Jesus says, bless those who persecute you. I’m sorry. Just do it. You could I suppose pray that the police may be lenient (i.e. that they catch them! LOL).

Holy Week Services

Join us in Holy Week

Friday 11th April: 9.30am
Palm Friday bring your palm leaves to wave

Saturday 12th April: 9.30am
Palm Saturday in our Academic City Church

Sunday 13th April: 7.30pm Bishop Michael presiding
Palm Sunday bring your palm leaves to wave

Monday 14th April: 7.30pm
Bystander Lazarus – Holy Communion

Tuesday 15th April: 7.30pm
Bystander Philip – Holy Communion

Wednesday 16th April: 7.30pm
Bystander Peter – Evening Prayers with Bishop Michael

Thursday 17th April: 7.30pm
Maundy Thursday – Bystanders Included

Friday 18th April: 9.30am
Good Friday – Bystanders Involved

Saturday 19th: 9.30am
Special Service at our Academic City Church

Easter Sunday, 20th April

4.30am Easter Vigil Readings

5.30am Easter Dawn Service

9.30am Easter Morning Service

7.30pm The Late Comers’ Mass

Holy Week Services

Devil in the details

Obama antchrist
Last week Abraham and Nicodemus, this week the woman at the well, all of them in their own way getting misdirected by details. Charlie reminded us in the sermons last weekend that Abraham needed calling several times, which gives us hope when we feel  that  God was trying to get us to go somewhere in our lives but we ignored  it. Now we return to him we are afraid we might have missed the boat to get the blessing he planned. We might have done of course, but Abraham’s story is reminder that it may still be open and to hope, trust, have faith in God, to walk with him, is the main thing. Nicodemus, an intelligent and able man, was floored by some plain speaking by Jesus, and the woman at the well has the  same experience. They thought they heard it right, but somehow were on the wrong level to really hear what Jesus was saying. Missing just one letter,  missing  just one assumption, missing just one point, and the devil can come in and mislead in an amazing way. We see this often at Council meetings, and sometimes in prayer and bible study groups.

For those who are seeking God, rather than justification that they are right,  there is hope for the future. Abraham could have said to God, Now look here, I came all the way to Haran and all the way you gave me assurance that I was on the right track! Yes, it was right, but God wanted to teach more and take him to a new and different place and digging in would have led to disaster. Abraham walked with God and because of him, we are blessed. Nicodemus could have said to Jesus, Now look here young man, I’m a Pharisee and a man of experience, you listen to me! Nicodemus puzzled and questioned and listened to Jesus, and because of him we have one of the most famous verses in the bible, John 3.16. The woman at the well, who is so unimportant that we don’t  even know her name, she was ‘just’ a Samaritan, said to Jesus, Who do you think you are with no bucket to draw water? Are you greater than our father Jacob who gave us this well? (Jacob was a known man of God despite his devious ways!).  Because of her we have a story of the Word of God speaking mercy, grace,  and yet truth, in such a beautiful way that her story has been a traditional reading in this season of Lent since the very early days of the Christian Church. In this season of Lent I hope you have taken up my challenge in the last post to spend some time in self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting and self denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word.  If you haven’t it still isn’t too late to start. If you have, but you have become bogged down in legalism and slavish obedience to the detail of your chosen discipline and no longer see in it any freedom developing, well,  forget the detail and open your heart to the bigger perspective of where God  is in all  that. Keep the discipline by all means, but remember that the goal is  that Christ set you free.   Listen and hear that word of mercy, grace and yet truth,  applied to your heart. Turning to God and away from slavish detail, follow Jesus Christ and you will hear him.

We will soon enter Holy Week. This year our Bishop, Rt. Revd Michael Lewis, will be with us at our services on  the Saturday before Holy Week,  in Academic City, April  5th, and on Palm Sunday evening, and the Wednesday of  Holy Week in the evening. The full programme for Holy Week is here.

But don’t wait until then, come sooner! On Fridays, or Saturdays at 9.30am, or on Sundays at 7.30pm.  Walk with God.

Holy Week almost ended

20130326_131257A few years ago I was converted to the idea of Holy Week – I wrote of it here and here. This year’s Holy Week has been interesting so far. The diary blocked out, fixed events and appointments banned, I found time to wander off to Abu Dhabi to visit a few folk I’d wanted to call in on for ages – some pictured here. We’ve been having an interesting series of services too each evening where I’ve been accusing my congregation of being thieves – and none of them have denied it! Having had my trusty helpers Kent (our ordinand) and Charlie (our Reader) assisting in allowing time to brainstorm ideas and arrange practicalities together, I’ve got myself 140 metres of metal car park chain – I’ve never arrested an entire congregation before but think it will be enough. Don’t tell them, but I plan to do it tomorrow on Good Friday. Thieves, the lot of them. I expect someone will set the blackguards free though. Jesus Christ. Cuh!

Of course there is the Maundy Thursday service still to go tonight and then of course the big day, Easter Day – service times here. If you’ve got something to hide, I won’t be arresting anyone on Easter Day so you’ll be safe then. Come to church. You need some good news.

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