Epiphany celebrated at the bandstand

We met this morning mindful of those who could not join us for differing reasons but grateful to be back after what seemed a prolonged absence.

Julie led us with the following words, linked to Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

Here is a man who embodied the seemingly contradictory qualities we must bring even to the hardest and most heartbreaking of circumstances. The healing depths of attention and compassion that he was able to bring to the horrific suffering of his country, in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, were made possible yes by wisdom, yes by courage, yes by brilliance — but also, by a wicked sense of humour and an alertness to the exhilaration — “thefun” — that can be wrested amidst the hardest of struggles.

I sometimes forget that I was created for Joy. My mind is too busy. My Heart is too heavy for me to rememberthat I have beencalled to dancethe Sacred dance of life. I was created to smile To Love To be lifted up And to lift others up. O’ Sacred One Untangle my feetfrom all that ensnares. Free my soul. That we might Danceand that our dancing might be contagious.~Hafiz

Lord in all and every occasion fill us with your love ,set our heart onfire, fill us with your Joy, and humour, and with a desire dance intoand through all that this world brings to us

Then it was time for us to burn our prayers from last year and attach new ones for the year ahead to the shepherd’s crook- safe in our Good Shepherd’s care. This year we added 3key words on the back of the labels that summed up our concerns / hopes for the year ahead.

Fiona shared a blessing, that quite wonderfully echoed the theme of Julie’s contribution:

“May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.”

The we went for coffee together and shared bread and wine – only it was chocolate and wine in the end (!) to words written by Steve:

E – PIF – FAN – Y

those flowers need to go

the tat taken down

the lights packed away

a hard journey awaits – exile – the ray-al-lit-tay will not be denied.

E – PIF – FAN – Y

Rev-a-lay-shon – for which we yearn, seek after, clutch at, mindfully meditate for is…

quixotic, capricious, not to be managed, ordered up, down-loaded, owned or controlled

that twin sense of knowing and being known

of existing between the here and the there, the now and the somehow else

that liminal third-space

of being cradled awesomely – hay-zel-nut-ted

the veil rent asunder just for a moment.

Old wise women and old wise men wait and wait and journey and defiantly hope that the ray-al-lit-tay is merely my-as-mat-tic

a pea-souper

an atmosphere that obscures

a heavy corrupting vapour which will not endure

that dark glass which needs to be seen through.

Simeon and Anna on an ordinary transformed day – “this child shall be a light, a redemption for Jerusalem and all humankind. This is the child-Christ, the Christ-child whose kingdom shall not end.”

And so to bread – an ordinary fare transformed

“the body res-ur-rek-ted”

and to wine – standard plonk newly wine-skinned

“the wine of res-ur-rek-shon”

So companioned together, we wait and journey and defiantly hope. AMEN

Stir up Sunday

This morning we met in bright sunshine – but it was COLD! We had planned for that! Everyone had a sheet witht eh ThirdSpace version of the Canticle of the Sun and walked around the park, using it, visiting the river and trees etc. Then we continued to walk and to pray what came to us using the concept of being stirred up. The sheet read as follows:

Stir up Sunday – the last Sunday before advent

Stir up Sunday is so-called as a result of the opening words of a collect (prayer) in the Church of England on the last Sunday before Advent. It reads:

‘STIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’


STIR up in World leaders …

STIR up in leaders of this country…

STIR up Your Church to…

STIR up in my community…

STIR up ThirdSpace to…

STIR up in me…

After that everyone retreated to Holly House, where in the warmth of the sun beating into the sitting room we wrote up our prayers on the sheets. Around the table then, we voiced our prayers for the world and so on. These prayers will be compiled and put into the resources page so that we have a ThirdSpace version for future Stir up Sundays. Instead of reading out loud our personal prayers, we prayed these silently whilst stirring a Christamas pudding – the bowl being passed round the table to enable this. The pudding will be one used at our Christmas meal together next month.

Bread and wine followed, with folks mentioned that we are carrying, to be ncluded as we ate and drank.

Finally, names of ThirdSpace members were allocated for each person to pray and be prayed for over the coming Advent season.

Thereafter, warm croissants and bacon baps with coffees were accompanied by sharing of stories and the like. Not a bad way of doing church!


Meeting virtually today due to Covid and other seasonal viral infections amongst us, we concentrated our thoughts on God’s provision,  our beautiful planet and the responsibility we have to take care of it. 

Look at Today with Gratitude

Give thanks for the gifts of this day. Simple things – the first cup of tea of the day; the smell of fresh coffee; a good nights sleep; a good breakfast; a smile from a friend or stranger; the beauty of the world around us. Look at these things as God’s gifts to you.                         

Stay with the moment, giving thanks for today and recognising God’s presence with you.


Today delegates and negotiators start to meet for COP26. The next 12 days of the conference are crucial for the survival of the planet for humans. 

What is COP26

In November 2021 the Conference of the Parties (COP) are meeting for the 26th time to discuss what climate action is needed to prevent devastating climate change. COP26 is said to be a pivotal moment in which we can fight against the worst results of climate change. Meeting in Glasgow, with the UK taking the role of president, it is thought to be the 11th hour in which action can be taken.

  • Can the leaders of the countries, along with their negotiators agree and work together to make a difference for our planet?
  • Can they plan for the long term and not for short term political gain?

We must pray that they are able to commit to effective change.

Goals COP26

  1. Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach

Countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century.

To deliver on these stretching targets, countries will need to:

  • accelerate the phase-out of coal                                  
  • curtail deforestation
  • speed up the switch to electric vehicles
  • encourage investment in renewables.
  1. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats

The climate is already changing, and it will continue to change even as we reduce emissions, with devastating effects.

At Cop26 we need to work together to:

  • protect and restore ecosystems
  • build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives
  1. Mobilise finance

To deliver on our first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year. 

International financial institutions must play their part and we need work towards unleashing the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.

  1. Work together to deliver

We can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together. At Cop26 we must:

  • finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational)
  • accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.

Some scary facts for Halloween

  • Speakers Warn during General Assembly High-Level Meeting UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY on 28 MARCH 2019

“Only 11 Years Left to Prevent Irreversible Damage from Climate Change

  • Within the next 2 decades, global temperatures are likely to rise by at least 1.5 degrees Celsius
  • Our children and grandchildren will suffer (or not) from the mistakes made in the past and  decisions made today
  • The last 7 years have been the warmest on record and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at record breaking levels
  • More than 1 million species are at risk of extinction by climate change
  • Climate change is already happening, and it’s detrimental to human life tooFood shortages, crop failures, warming seas, dwindling fish stocks, desertification, Extreme weather patterns, rising sea levels, pollution etc.
  • Many leaders still aren’t taking it seriously

We need to pray for those involved in the conference

We need to pray about what we can do as individuals

All of this can make us feel overwhelmed and hopeless so here is something to make you smile.

The Be-Attitudes

Blessed are those who use low energy light bulbs

For theirs is the light of God’s wisdom.

Blessed are those who travel by train (and other public transport) wearing a mask

For their lives are on God’s track.

Blessed are those who chose a car with low fuel consumption

For they are in God’s fast lane.

Blessed are those who insulate their homes

For theirs is the warmth of God’s love.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after meat free meals

For theirs is the bounty of God.

Blessed are those who put themselves out to use energy from renewable sources,

For they have kindled the flame of the future.

Adapted from John Polhill copyright: Eggs and Ashes, WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow

Bread and Wine

Our liturgy will talk of both bread and wine but we will only share bread and leave the wine as a symbol that the fruits of creation are not fully shared with everyone, where so much is taken by the rich and powerful everywhere that there isn’t enough left for the poor, both in the developing world and in the rich north. Due to the greed, denial and short-sightedness of the rich and powerful we seem incapable of tackling inequality and climate change, and appear to be determined to leave a desert for our children’s children’s children.

Should I deny people the wine this morning?

One of the great things about ThirdSpace is that the bread and wine is offered to all unconditionally. Not sharing wine this morning is meant to be both a prophecy and a picture of what happens to much of the abundance of God’s creation.

Jesus took bread                                      

grown from the earth

and broke it and said:

This is my body

when you eat of it

share it with all.

And Jesus took a cup of wine

pressed from the fruit of the land

and said:

This is a sign of my promise                                                 

when you drink

drink it with all.

We will share only bread for still the world does not fully share what creation offers. Some take so much others have little or nothing, and through denial and greed a desert is being created for future generations. The wine will remain here as a symbol that the full promise of God is not yet shared by all.

Let us share bread together and the longing for justice and mercy and compassion.

Let us share this gift of the earth that is filled with Jesus.

Reflections from Idsworth Church.

St Hubert's Church - Visit Hampshire

Jeremy led us this morning, using images and a prayer to be found in this 1000-year old church, which has outlasted its village and now sits alone in a field in Hampshire. The prayer gave the structure of our time together as we sheltered in the bandstand from drizzle and cascading autumn leaves…

The prayer begins:

Dear God, The day is before me to do with as I will but, because without Thy help I am as frail as a cotton flower in a summer storm, support and strengthen me so that I find it less difficult to walk in Thy ways.

We then read Psalm 103 that mirrors some of these ideas – and so much of that resonated with needs of one another known to us…

Let not the evening pass into night, nor dawn into day, without my giving thanks to Thee for all Thy blessings: for my eyes that feed my spirit, my ears that guard my conscience, and my mouth which I must not abuse. Make me grateful for these gifts so that, when my eyes survey the great mystery of Creation, my ears accept the wisdom of Thy teachings and my mouth speaks of Thy divine love.

After this we took time to wander the park and to give thanks for our many blessings, using another stimulus image and thankful again for the beauty of the changing seasons as the backdrop to our worship.

In quietness let me praise Thee for the changing seasons, for the great love I feel for the birds of the air and the beasts of the field, for the gift of friends, for the comfort of loving and being loved. Make me always aware of Thy favours so that when I am at peace with myself my thoughts turn outwards  towards the hungry, the sick and the unwanted.

O God, I entreat you to foster an awareness in people’s hearts so that cruelty an avarice are no more. Protect and comfort the aged, guide and help the young, save our humbler creation from those that torture and destroy them so that they may live without fear. Help those that are dear to me, give them courage to meet adversity and faith to sustain them in their hours of darkness.

At this point we took it in turns to light candles as we prayed silently for just those people – the needy, the sick, the oppressed…

Image preview

Teach me to be more acceptable in Thy sight, so that I may know the peace that falls on the spirit that aspires to keep company with Thee. Let me learn the philosophy of acceptance, so that I may be more patient, more thoughtful for others and less concerned with myself. When the days come that are hard to live through, and temporarily I forget to count my blessings, be Thou beside me to chide and point the way.

Here we took bread and wine for sustenance… And the final paragraph became our blessing:

Dear Father, bestow on each one of us that inspired faith which enriches the spirit and gives purpose to this our earthly life, so that we may know the Peace that passeth all understanding. Amen.

Thanks Jeremy – a very special morning.

Prayer of Thanks

With signs of healing and words of justice,

You revealed that another world is possible.

You proclaimed news of another kingdom,

You chose a life of nonviolent confrontation with the powers of your time.

You restored wholeness to the sick and to those called impure.

You tore down the boundaries of tribe, gender and sexuality

of black and brown and white,

All the walls we build to exclude those whose difference makes us uncomfortable.

You overturned the tables of status and honour,

insider and outsider.

We know patriarchy, slavery and racism have no place in your world.

All are made in the divine image.

Everyone included, where the last are first.

In that great reversal of history,

on the cross we believe you overcame the powers of this world

and broke the power of death.

When we lose sight of your way, guide us.

When we despair and are overwhelmed,

may your Spirit comfort us.

You call us to a conversion of heart and mind,

to turn away from the seductions of empire,

to be a community of resistance and healing and justice.

God of life,

lighten our path as we strive to live by the values of your kingdom,

may the good earth breathe easy again, and violence and greed be made history.

May our homes be open, our tables welcoming.

May we live in love and compassion.

May you arise every morning

Knowing God’s peace embracing you,

Feeling the Spirit strengthening you,

Filled with the goodness of Christ.

In all you do and in all you say

May your life this day and all days

Reflect the beauty of Christ.

With thanks to Jonny Baker. Edited and remixed by Grayden Daniels.


Here’s what Steve did with us this morning!

  1. Welcome to nowness. We are invited by Jesus into the NOW – where the past is fixed and forgiven and the future hope yet to be fully realised. We are invited to this day. To NOW. We breath with our God-given breathe – YAH – WEH – each breathe an inhaled capturing and exhaled expression of the creator herself. And with thanks.

Psalm 18 v 24

“This is the very day God acted – let’s celebrate and be festive.” The Message

“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” AV

  • JONATHAN DANIELS 1939 – 1965

He was born into a white middle class New Hampshire home, went to the Virginia Military Institute and then to Harvard University to study English Literature. During an Easter service in 1962 he felt a renewed call to serve God and decided to pursue ordination at the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts starting his studies in 1963 and expecting to graduate in 1966.

In the summer of 1965 he answered the call of MLK to take part in the march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama. He had anticipated spending just the weekend there. When he returned to his theological college, he requested permission to spend the rest of the semester working in Selma. There he stayed with the Wests – a local African-American family. He returned to take his exams and then went back to Alabama for the summer vacation. He tutored local children, helped provide assistance to those in need, worked to register voters etc.

August 14th 1965 he went to picket white-only stores. All 29 protestors were arrested and transported in a garbage truck to jail in the nearby town of Hayneville. On August 20th the prisoners were released. Whilst waiting near the courthouse for transport, Jonathan Daniels, together with a RC priest and two female black activists, walked to get a cold soft drink. Blocking the door to Varner’s Cash Store was an unpaid special deputy holding a shotgun. He threatened the group and levelled his shotgun at 17 year old Ruby Sales. Jonathan pushed Ruby down and caught the full force of the blast. He died instantly.

MLK said that “one of the most heroic Christian deeds of which I have ever heard in my entire ministry was performed by Jonathan Daniels.”

The special deputy was tried and found not guilty of manslaughter by an all-white jury. The RC priest who was also shot and badly injured was not allowed to testify at the trial.

His death shocked the Episcopalian Church into confronting the violent reality of racial inequality in the South.

In 1991 the Episcopalian Church designated Jonathan Daniels as a martyr.

August 14th is the day set aside to commemorate Jonathan Daniels and other martyrs of the Civil Rights movement in the Episcopalian Church.

  • RUBY SALES 1948 – 

She was born in Alabama and was educated at segregated schools. Aged 17 she took part in the Selma to Montgomery marches. She was one of 29 people who were involved in the demonstration against white-only stores in Fort Deposit on 14th August 1965. She was arrested along with Jonathan Daniels and imprisoned. On August 20th upon their release, Ruby walked with Jonathan and two others to buy a cold soft drink.

She is a social justice activist, scholar and public theologian. She has been described as a “legendary civil rights activist” and is one of 50 civil rights leaders showcased in the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. She has multiple degrees and is the founder of the “Spirit House Project” (in honour of Jonathan Daniels). Starting in 2007 this has documented over 2,000 state-sanctioned deaths against black people – 98% were unarmed.

  • Ponderwalk:
  • In honour of Jonathan Daniels. To the river to acknowledge those who have laid down their lives – for us – for Jesus – for God – for Truth – for Justice and Mercy – for others. We are living and breathing on the shoulders of giants. We give thanks for those people and their witness which surrounds us now. Pick leaves to throw into the waters in remembrance.
  • Ruby Sales – 3 oncepts to ponder, crunch and chew on.
  1. Ruby Sales speaks of “a spiritual crisis of white America. What is it that public theology can say to the white person in Massachusetts who’s heroin addicted? I don’t hear anyone speaking to the 45 year old (white) person in Appalachia who feels that they have been eradicated, because whiteness is so much smaller today than it was yesterday. Because there’s nothing wrong with being European-American; that’s not the problem. It’s almost like white people don’t believe other white people are worthy of being redeemed.”

A fascinating and compassionate comment on the Trump supporter, the white supremacist, the neo-Nazi, the Klansman. (See point 3.)

  • Ruby Sales makes the distinction between “black folk religion” and black churches. Black folk religion is a combination of the ideals of US democracy and a theological sense of justice. It was a religion that said that people who were considered property and disposable, were essential in the eyes of God. “I grew up believing that I was a first class person…our parents were spiritual geniuses who were able to shape a counterculture of black folk religion which raised us from disposability to being essential players in society…and it’s about love for everybody. Never hate – it was not a word in our vocabulary.” Black folk religion grew up in the bush and on plantations – no buildings – no institution. Outdoors in a sanctuary – trees – a secret meeting. All participated. The black spirituals arose in this environment. It was ordinary people – not black preachers. And in that context non-violence developed.

I am reminded of Bonhoeffer’s “religionless religion”, of the “base communities” of Liberation Theology, of Spirit movements throughout Church history…of Third Space perhaps?

  • Ruby Sales on the USA today. “The whole business of demonization, I’ve been deeply concerned about it because it does not locate good in people. It gives up on people. And you see it in the right and the left…so at the heart of this business of finding something good in people…not giving up on people…not writing someone’s obituary…it’s very problematic today. I have deep problems with the anger and the vitriolic rage that has come out of the right and the left – and I never thought I would say this – the only safe landing space seems to be in the middle.”

Ruby Sales is somebody who has looked into the heart of darkness very directly and knows what it is to be despised and abused and shot at because of her colour. She has campaigned for Civil Rights and social justice her entire life. And yet she speaks of “the middle”.

I am reminded of the Quaker insight that there is something of God in each person. Perhaps our “ZEAL” should be for love of the other whatever their political/social position.

There is increasing talk of “culture wars” in our country – a phrase taken from America and used initially, I think, by the right and then by the left. The right want to take on the BBC and the Universities and Education more generally and woke-ism and the middle class liberal left in their patronising moral superiority towards others. The left want to take on the selfish, grasping right with their entrenched privilege and wealth and their unconcern for the poor and for social justice.

Where should a follower of Jesus position him/herself in this increasingly hate-filled and polarised society?


PRAYERS and The NOW liturgy: People and places named.

We are caught in NOW. We have no option. We wrestle to change the past and mould the future. But we know you call us to NOW; you gift us NOW. This NOW moment is for us alone and we give thanks.

We thank you for past faithfulness – for the created order in which we live and breathe, for our journeys of discovery to this point, for your enduring love expressed in Jesus who first took bread and transformed it in his self-giving on the cross.

We thank you for our future hope of all things renewed. A future free of anxiety and fear and tears, where the Kingdom of Justice and Righteousness shall reign, the Lion and the Lamb shall sit together and on the throne: King Jesus dispensing renewed wine.

And NOW we take and eat bread together – our common fellowship transformed. AMEN!

And NOW we take and drink wine together – our little fellowship joined with those around the world into eternity. AMEN!

A NOW may all be blessed, freed from past regrets and future worries. Send us out into new NOWNESS to join Jesus who is of course already there. Hold tightly and wait for the LORD. AMEN!

Blessings and being part of it all

We had a very special time on Sunday morning – not least due to seeing Jo after the traumatic premature arrival of Esme (along with Simon and Evie) and Suzi with Polly (our first chace to congratulate Poll onher engagement!

We used our litany of thanksgiving to start. Julie shared some words from Richard Rohr that were terrific and Grayden shared a story of 3 folk who had been real blessings to him on his last day of Chemo and then some words of blessing and about blessings. Here are the words given out for us to keep and use:

Being part of it all

Before conversion, we tend to think that God is out there. After transformation, God is not out there and we don’t look at reality. We look from reality. We’re in the middle of it now; we’re a part of it. This whole thing is what I call the mystery of participation. Paul is obsessed by the idea that we’re all already participating in something. I’m not writing the story by myself. I’m a character inside of a story that is being written in cooperation with God and the rest of humanity. This changes everything about how we see our lives. If we’re writing the story on our own, we think we’ve got to write it right. We’ve got to be clever, we’ve got to figure it out. If anything goes wrong, we’ve only got ourselves to blame. That’s a terrible way to live, even though a high degree of Christians do. And I would call that bad news.

The good news is a completely different experience of life. A participatory theology says, “I am being used, I am actively being chosen, I am being led.” It is not about joining a new denomination or having an ecstatic moment. After authentic conversion, you know that your life is not about you; you are about life! You’re an instance in this agony and ecstasy of God that is already happening inside you, and all you can do is say yes to it. That’s all. That’s conversion and it changes everything.

This idea of participating in the goodness and continual unfolding of God’s creation reminds me of the prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi that begins, “Make me a channel (or instrument) of your peace.”  I remember being so delighted when I learned my last name, “Rohr,” is the German word for “conduit” or “pipe”! As I’ve often said, I’m just a mouth in the Body of Christ. That’s my only gift. Before talks I try to pray that God will get me out of the way so God’s message will get through.

Looking back on my life, I can see that God did everything. God even used my mistakes to bring me to God and God’s wisdom to others! I hope this week will inspire you to look at what has happened when you also said yes to participating as God’s instrument in the world.


I arise today:

Blessed by all things,

Delight of eyes,

Embrace of love,

Intimacy of touch,

Wonder of creation,

Nourishment of Earth,

Miracle of life,

Eternity of soul,

Urgency of thought,

Presence of Christ.

May I live this day:

Compassionate of heart,

Gracious in word,

Courageous in thought,

Generous in love.

John O’Donohue.

How can we bless?

In Celtic tradition blessings were given at rites of passage such as at the birth of a child, a journey, marriage, new home, a special calling, death and bereavement.

The Bible teaches us that we are blessed not just so that we can feel good, not just so we can be happy and comfortable, but so that we can bless others. The first law of blessing is that it must flow to other people.

Some thoughts on blessing from John O’Dononhue.

  • There is a quiet light that shines in every heart; it draws no attention to itself. It is what illuminates our minds to see beauty, and our hearts to love life. This inner light is what enables us to recognise and receive our very presence here as blessing.
  • The gift of the world is our first blessing. Blessing invokes a sense of warmth and protection, though suffering befalls us, it can never quench that inner light.
  • Blessing is invocation, a calling forth. In the invocation of blessing the ’may’ is the spring through which the Spirit is invoked, the Spirit is the presence behind every blessing.
  • Each of us can bless. When we bless it changes the very atmosphere.
  • Always bless in the name of Christ. May we all receive blessing upon blessing. And may we realise our power to bless and encourage each other.

May the nourishment of the Earth be yours,

May the clarity of light be yours,

May the fluency of the ocean be yours,

May the presence of Christ be yours.

And so may a gentle breeze work these words of love around you,

An invisible cloak to mind your life.

A Blessing for Life.

May you arise every morning

Knowing God’s peace embracing you,

Feeling the Spirit strengthening you,

Hearing his whisper encouraging you.

In all you do

And in all you say

may your life

this day and all days

reflect the beauty of Christ.

The Crucifixion of Jesus.

Richard Rohr writes: Two theologians I deeply respect, Marcus Borg (1942-2015) and John Dominic Crossan (b. 1934), offer important historical and symbolic context for the crucifixion of Jesus. The theory of “substitutionary atonement” only became dominant in recent centuries.

This common Christian understanding goes far beyond what the New Testament says. Of course, sacrificial imagery is used there, but the language of sacrifice is only one of several different ways that the authors of the New Testament articulate the meaning of Jesus’s execution. They also see it as the domination system’s “no” to Jesus (and God), as the defeat of the powers that rule this world by disclosing their moral bankruptcy, as revelation of the path of transformation [dying and rising], and as disclosure of the depth of God’s love for us. . . .

Though Mark provides the earliest story of Good Friday . . . Mark’s narrative combines retrospective interpretation with history remembered. . . .

Mark tells us that Jesus was crucified between two “bandits.” The Greek word translated “bandits” is commonly used for guerrilla fighters against Rome, who were either “terrorists” or “freedom fighters,” depending upon one’s point of view. Their presence in the story reminds us that crucifixion was used specifically for people who systematically refused to accept Roman imperial authority. Ordinary criminals were not crucified. Jesus is executed as a rebel against Rome between two other rebels against Rome. . . .

[When Jesus died,] “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38). As with the darkness from noon to 3 PM, this event is best understood symbolically and not as history remembered. . . .

To say. . . that the curtain was torn in two has a twofold meaning. On the one hand, it is a judgment upon the temple and the temple authorities . . . who colluded with imperial Rome to condemn Jesus to death. On the other hand, . . . [it] is to affirm that the execution of Jesus means that access to God is now open. This affirmation underlines Mark’s presentation of Jesus earlier in the gospel: Jesus mediated access to God apart from the temple and the domination system that it had come to represent in the first century.

Then Mark narrates a second event contemporaneous with Jesus’s death. The imperial centurion in command of the soldiers who had crucified Jesus exclaims, “Truly this man was God’s Son” (15:30). . . .

That this exclamation comes from a centurion is very significant. According to Roman imperial theology, the emperor was “Son of God”—the revelation of God’s power and will for the earth. According to the same theology, the emperor was Lord, Saviour, and the one who had brought peace on earth. But now a representative of

Rome affirms that this man, Jesus, executed by the empire, is the Son of God. Thus the emperor is not.

Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan continue reflecting on the meaning of Jesus’ death:

Jesus was not simply an unfortunate victim of a domination system’s brutality. He was also a protagonist filled with passion. His passion, his message, was about the kingdom of God. He spoke to peasants as a voice of peasant religious protest against the central economic and political institutions of his day. He attracted a following and took his movement to Jerusalem at the season of Passover. There he challenged the authorities with public acts and public debates. All of this was his passion, what he was passionate about: God and the kingdom of God, God and God’s passion for justice.

Jesus’s passion got him killed. . . . Jesus’s passion for the kingdom of God led to what is often called his passion, namely his suffering and death. But to restrict Jesus’s passion to his suffering and death is to ignore the passion that brought him to Jerusalem. To think of Jesus’s passion as simply what happened on Good Friday is to separate his death from the passion that animated his life. . . .

According to Mark, Jesus did not die for the sins of the world. The language of substitutionary sacrifice for sin is absent from his story. But in an important sense, he was killed because of the sin of the world. It was the injustice of domination systems that killed him, injustice so routine that it is part of the normalcy of civilization. Though sin means more than this, it includes this. And thus Jesus was crucified because of the sin of the world. . . .

Was Jesus guilty or innocent? Because language familiar to Christians speaks of Jesus as sinless, perfect, righteous, spotless, and without blemish, the question will seem surprising to some. But it is worth reflecting about.

As Mark tells the story, Jesus was not only executed by the method used to execute violent insurrectionists; he was physically executed between two insurrectionists. Was Jesus guilty of advocating violent revolution against the empire and its local collaborators? No.

As Mark tells the story, was Jesus guilty of claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed? Perhaps. Why perhaps and not a simple yes? Mark does not report that Jesus taught this, and his account of Jesus’s response to the high priest’s question about this is at least a bit ambiguous. [Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus replies, “You say so” (Mark 15:2).]

As Mark tells the story, was Jesus guilty of nonviolent resistance to imperial Roman oppression and local Jewish collaboration? Oh, yes. Mark’s story of Jesus’s final week is a sequence of public demonstrations against and confrontations with the domination system. And, as we all know, it killed him.

Richard Rohr

Surely God is in this place!

On Wednesday evening when we met, those words came into my mind as we shared real sadnesses and yet found laughter quick to follow. The words are from Jacob’s encounter with God at Bethel and that was our them this morning in a very rainy day in the park! After some deep silence we read the account:

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above itstood the Lord, and he said: ‘I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’ He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.’ Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God andthis stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.’          Genesis 28

The following was given as background:

Jacob was the younger of twins, losing out on the firstborn’s inheritance rights to brother Esau. He took matters into his own hands to bribe and to cheat his way into usurping those rights. Not having thought it through, he was now fleeing his home in fear for his life. He was alone and afraid and instead of having gained everything, he had now had lost it all. This dream was a gift from God to assure him that despite all his mistakes and faults, God would never abandon him. Moreover, God would bless him, protect him and provide for his future that was yet unclear and precarious. Jacob’s faith is still, potentially, limited, with his commitment to God being dependent on these things proving to be true! Is he making a wager with God here?

We are all ‘Jacobs’ at times. Many of us in ThirdSpace are currently wrestling with things beyond our control that are deeply challenging (and all of us have done and will do, if this is not our reality now). Wanting to have control over our present circumstances and futures is innate. We hate to feel powerless and vulnerable and uncertain. When things go wrong, in our own lives or in the lives of others’ that we love, we scramble to fix them as we see best in order to gain control. And sometimes, like Jacob, we are not aware of God’s presence with us in the midst of the turmoil. Yet this can be the time when we find ourselves in a thin place – where, in our weakness, God meets with us.

This morning we will take time to pray quietly and individually about the things troubling us and later for the people who we are most troubled about. Sometimes we find it easier to pray for others than ourselves. Initially, this is a time to acknowledge our own fears and concerns and to consciously engage with the presence and promise of God. We will pray together for each other and for others we are concerned for when we return to the bandstand. But, for now, take the time you need for yourself for once!

These ideas then led to the following suggestions:

Take a stone and hold it. It will be a witness to your thoughts, feelings and prayers and will be yours to keep. You can hold onto that stone when you need to hold on to those same promises made to Jacob.

Walk up towards the bridge where the river is more turbulent, talk to God about what is weighing you down – your greatest fears and anxieties. Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you (1Peter 5:7) Then hear the words Surely God is in this place (not just here but in your situation) and hear God’s promises to you I am with you… I will watch over you wherever you go… I will not leave you…

Walk down the river to where the water is calm. Remember past times when you have been rescued from previous worries, when troubles have passed. You lead me beside still waters, you restore my soul… Surely God is in this place… Hear God’s promises to you – I am with you… I will watch over you wherever you go… I will not leave you…

Return to the bandstand to pray for others and to take bread and wine when you are ready – there is no rush.

Once back at the bandstand we shared our greatest concerns for others, praying for others as we shared bread and wine using these words:

As we gather around the bread and wine, we pray for our community…

May Jesus who transforms all things, leavens all situations, heals damaged reeds, tends the broken hearted, be the bread and wine for all we have named in our hearts.

And for the world…

May Jesus who brings his Kingdom to this world, its leaders, its peoples, its problems, be the bread and wine for all we have named in our hearts.

May God the Creator, Jesus the Shepherd and the Holy rock pigeon meet with you in this bread.

May God the life -breather, Jesus the friend of the poor and the ubiquitous Holy rock pigeon meet with you in this wine.

Kingdom blessings on you…and you…and you…


Last Wednesday evening Gary Neville was working as a football pundit for ITV during the England v Denmark semi-final. Neville played 400 matches for Manchester United at right-back and 85 times for England.  He is one of the shrewdest and most eloquent football pundits.  During the celebrations after England’s victory Neville dismantled any attempt by this government to cash in on the success of the England football team. Neville said: “The standard of leaders in this country over the last couple of years has been poor. Looking at Gareth Southgate, he’s everything a leader should be – he’s respectful, humble, tells the truth, and genuine.”

Neville’s brave and timely comments inspired me to think about leadership.

Here’s a list of people that I think have been or are brilliant leaders:

Jesus of Nazareth,

Alfred the Great,

Millicent Fawcett, (Suffragist leader & feminist who campaigned for women’s suffrage through non-violence).

Franklin D. Roosevelt,


Martin Niemoller & Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (Leaders of the Confessing Church in Nazi- Germany).

Don Robbins, (Vicar of St George’s, Leeds who founded St George’s Crypt in 1930).

Martin Luther King,



Jim Wallis, (Radical evangelical theologian, writer, political activist and leader of Sojourners Community in Washington D.C.).

Gareth Southgate, (England football manager).

Caroline Lucas (The UK’s only Green Party MP).

Jacinda Ardern (Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand since 2017. [Without doubt the world’s best Prime Minister/President of the last four or five years]).

Who do you rate as good leaders?

Here are some qualities that I think are vital for good leadership:

Integrity, truth-telling, compassion, competence, kindness, vision, empathy,

inclusivity, hard-working, being cooperative, being willing to listen to others.

(The first three are essential, the next five are very necessary.)

What qualities/values do you think are essential for good leadership?

What does Jesus say about leadership?

MARK 10: 35-45.

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

39 “We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”

41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

It seems to me that Jesus’ leadership involved:

1 Always speaking the truth

2 His motivation was always love and compassion.

3 Jesus always acted as a servant.

4 Jesus encouraged people to grasp a vision of the Kingdom that was about equality and inclusivity.

5 Jesus always treated women as equals.

6 Jesus frequently offered a challenge.

7 He valued the outcast, the marginalised and the poor.

8 Jesus vision always included action, action that would make the world more just.

9 Jesus leadership required great courage and fortitude.