I’m reposting in time for Pentecost Sunday.
Why did Judas do what he did?
We can’t know, of course.
Can we seek to imagine what motivated something so terrible?
Might it help to do so?
It is a truly terrible thing to betray a friend, but maybe Judas was expecting a very different outcome. Maybe.
Maybe he thought there was a good to be served by doing what he did. He must have felt he had a reason. Maybe he was trying to force Jesus’ hand, make him reveal and initiate the Kingdom in a dramatic burst. Maybe, an idealist, he was disillusioned with small progress, maybe the way things were turning out was not what he expected or felt he signed up for.
Having wondered this, having thought, too, how well Jesus knew Judas, and that he knew what Judas was intending to do, I imagined that instead. I wrote a response.
Here it is.
Jesus washes Judas’ feet.
That moment, when you knelt before him,
took off his sandals, readied the water,
did you look up? Search his eyes?
Find in them some love, some trace
of all that had passed between you?
As you washed his feet, holding them in your hand,
watching the cool water soak away the dirt,
feeling bones through hard skin,
you knew he would leave the lit room,
and slip out into the dark night.
And yet, with these small daily things –
with washing, with breaking and sharing bread,
you reached out your hand, touched, fed.
Look, the kingdom is like this:
as small as a mustard seed, as yeast,
a box of treasure hidden away beneath the dirt.
See how such things become charged,
mighty, when so full of love. This is the way.
In that moment, when silence ebbed between you,
and you wrapped a towel around your waist;
when you knew, and he knew, what would be,
you knelt before him, even so, and took off
his sandals, and gently washed his feet.
This is a picture that was in display at the Chapel of the Holy Innocents, Norwich Cathedral. It shows the Jesus being betrayed, and healing, at the same moment.
I write about it in the last chapter of Jesus said, I am – finding life in the everyday
You might like to read the gospel story in John 13
Thank you Poem Elf for this tribute to a poet whose poems are “fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry”
To the mountain of tributes to the great Mary Oliver, I add this little pebble.
In a world with so many hysterical people running loose, shouting and fighting and festering outrage, I miss her. Or I miss the idea of her, the poet walking along the shore in her barn jacket, quiet and alone, observing. This wise chronicler of grief and joy, confusion and discovery, this plain-dressing, plain-spoken witness to the extravagant beauty of the natural world, this translator of the unvoiced spiritual impulse, this New England gal, our very own American Rumi—is gone, alas. Fortunately her poems are here to stay. She’ll be read for ages.
The poem below is not one of her greatest hits, but I’ve been thinking about it since I came across it. Like so many of her poems, it’s planted a seed in my soul that has taken root.
by Mary Oliver
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Amazon have a few more copies – they seem to be keeping just ahead of demand. Other booksellers also have copies for Christmas.
Just in case some of you are beginning to think of buying or ordering books for Christmas, I thought I’d let you know that there are copies of my first book, The Little Christmas Tree, available. You can order it from Lion, the publishers, as well as other online places like Waterstones and Amazon, if you like to order things online.
Of course, if you have a local bookshop, you can always give them a ring and ask them to get it for you, if they don’t have it in stock.
It is always a pleasure to hear people say that their children have really enjoyed the book, and that it is part of their Christmas. That’s such a privilege.
Here is another of the beautiful illustrations by Lorna Hussey – this one is the endpapers, of the wood after the storm.
And a photo of the woods near where…
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Sharing a reading and prayers for this Sunday – Pentecost.
Peace and Joy to you!
Picture Source: Jyoti Sahi
We celebrate Pentecost this weekend, and the story continues its extraordinary movement outwards. Last week, it was Ascension, when Jesus left the disciples. They were still thinking in terms of their own people, and Jesus showed them an ever widening perspective (Acts 1:6-9)
Now, we see how God continues to open and include. It seems that all those gathered together (1:14-15) were part of the great outpouring of the Spirit, and the impact on the listeners suggests God was at work beyond even those. The barriers between us of race, gender, nationality, language, youth and age, are being broken down, moving us towards a deep unity (Col 1:17, Gal 3:28). No wonder the whole house was filled with a great sound! This is powerful and much needed work.
We notice how the barrier of language is overcome. We notice that God’s priority is not to change…
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In honour of Coleridge’s birthday today!
The Ancient Mariner, at Watchet harbour, where the poem unfolded in Coleridge’s mind. The rope is particularly powerful.
On our Somerset holiday, we visited Coleridge Cottage. I was not expecting to be so overcome by the place. Each room was full of connections to his life and work. Each room echoed with the poems – they flowed across the walls, they came out of the earphones by easy chairs, they whispered to me out of the leaves of books. To be in the room where he wrote Frost at Midnight and to sit in the Lime Tree Bower were deeply moving experiences. I still remember my marvelous English teacher, Miss Rowlat, talking to us about the Lyrical Ballads, with its paradigm shift of a Prologue, and then to be in the place where Coleridge and Wordsworth met and talked and where these…
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I used to walk by our river most days, with a notebook. I don’t know why I fell out of the habit, as it was a good one, but this week, I knew I needed to begin again.
So I walked along the lane, along the quiet creek, towards the bench where I used to sit and write, when, just behind me, my attention was caught by an ungainly black shape moving fast.
Startled, I felt the emotions I had been seeking to keep under the surface.
The experience reminded me of the last line of Seamus Heaney’s wonderful Postscript
“And catch the heart off guard and blow it open ”
Like the white swans in their wild landscape in Heaney’s sonnet, this dark bird on my river was some kind of liberation, revelation.
So I sat down on the bench where I used to sit, and wrote this:
Why is it, this bright morning,
that the sudden sight
of the cormorant
coming to land on the water
takes me unawares,
startles me open?
The tattered black wings,
the rangy sticks of feet,
the head, sharp as a
It lands in a single
fluid act, graceful upon
the slippery shining water,
but for a moment
and then the bird
pierces the brightness
with that fine head
September – such a rich month. You can feel the year turning. I love the golden light, and the fruit and berries everywhere. I love the mornings when spider webs are strung with dew, and there is a nip in the air, waking you up.
Spiders – where are they, the rest of the year?
They seem to be everywhere now, including in the house. I keep reminding myself of the sterling work they are doing eating the flies, which were bothering me last month….
This is a small poem about the ways of spiders, and the power of waiting. At this time of year, so much slow ripening is coming to fruition. I find I have forgotten I watched the bees on the raspberries and the apple trees, wondering what the harvest would be. I have moved on, thinking of something else.
I forget that much I have wondered about, worried about, prayed about, has turned out all right, after all – not everything, but enough. I am learning the patience of spiders.
Spiders – September
Now is the time of spiders –
their silver webs spun between
leaves, and twigs, and blades of grass.
Each one has its weaver,
resting its legs
on fine threads,
its many eyes watching.
For now, warm fat insects
drift dreamily on
the September breeze.
The hedges hang
with berries, I cannot
pick the plums fast enough,
first apples bend branches,
and beans lengthen on their vines.
I am learning the patience
It comes. What you need
comes to you. Gently,
when you have almost
forgotten that you ever asked,
or wanted, or longed for it –
here, and here, and here..
I have this on my computer desktop. It helps me remember the power of patience endurance, of not giving up.
We are in the “Season of Creation” – a time when we remember the good gift of Earth, and our responsibilities for it. I am sharing this story with you again, as I refocus my thoughts and efforts on caring for our common home – and they do need to be refocused!
Today is Earth Day, when we remember the great gift and joy of our common home. I am sharing with you again a story I wrote in response to the anger and grief I was feeling at the way we so often despoil and desecrate it, with no thought beyond our immediate gains.
The good news is that another way is possible, a way of gentleness, inventiveness, the pursuit of our mutual flourishing. The rapid growth of clean technologies, the identification of the benefits of being in a natural environment for body and mind and spirit alike, are just two ways in which this hope is coming to be realised.
However you are marking Earth Day, may it be a day of joy for all the good things we have received.
The parable of the good craftsman
Once there was a craftsman who had two children. As you might expect…
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