Bringing Nazareth home

I didn’t bring any souvenirs home with me this time from the Holy land. To be honest I have bought a great amount of stuff over the years and in almost every one of my cupboards there are things from the Holy Land – many lovely things. But as we now think about moving from Southwark and the Deanery – the advert for Dean of Southwark will be in the Church Times next Friday – we know that we are going to have to offload a great many of our possessions. So there was no point in buying more. I was given something that I will treasure. It was from L’Arche in Bethlehem. There the members of that community use local wool to create felt and out of that felt they make the most beautiful things, including some very cute nativity scenes. As we left, having visited the project and seen some of the members of the community making felt, I was given a soft, felt crib. Absolutely charming.

You don’t need to bring physical things home when you have been on pilgrimage, although over the centuries that is what pilgrims have done. On this, as on every occasion, I have brought home memories and impressions, happy memories and powerful impressions. One of the places that I always love visiting is the basilica at Nazareth. With its downturned lily roof over the centre of the church and the remains of Mary’s House at the lowest of three levels in the church it is absolutely lovely. There is a sense of stillness in the place as pilgrims enter into quite a dark ground floor level, the walls punctuated with windows made of coloured abstract glass. Above is the main church, below are the remains. There is always a queue of people waiting to file past, to see the place where, perhaps, maybe, Gabriel visited Mary, and the most wonderful ‘Yes’ was heard to God’s gracious invitation.

The image of Our Lady from the people of Japan

Yesterday was the Feast of the Annunciation, a moment of joy poking into the austerity of Lent and giving a chance for a celebration before the veiling for Passiontide took place. We had a Choral Eucharist on the eve of the feast and that gave me an opportunity to preach, not on the day but looking forward to the day. But it took me straight to Nazareth and what I had experienced with the pilgrims, what I had really brought home with me. These were the readings for the Mass, Isaiah 7.10-14 and
Luke 1.26-38 and this is what I said.

It was evening; the day was almost over. Just an ordinary day, just an ordinary evening like any other. And tomorrow? Well, tomorrow would be another ordinary day, doing what every day involved, collecting water, preparing food, mending clothes, learning to be a woman, learning to be a woman who would soon be a bride. Today and tomorrow and the next day she would be alongside her mother, watching how she lived, cared for her husband, lived according to the law as women were required to do. Tomorrow would be another day.

But as we know, gathered as we are on this eve of the Feast of the Annunciation, tomorrow would be no ordinary day for Mary, or her mother, or the man to whom she was betrothed, or their neighbours, or the other women at the well, or you, or me, or the world. Into Mary’s tomorrow God’s angel steps with good news for every day and all time. Her tomorrow would be the day to which the prophets had looked, as we heard in our First Reading, her tomorrow would be the day for which humanity, creation waited, with breath-holding anticipation.

Look at the image of Mary on the cover of the order of service. There are so many images of Mary, this is just one of countless depictions of her.

A couple of weeks ago seventy of us where in Nazareth at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. The great church stands over the remains of Mary’s House but in the cloister around the church, and on the walls within it, are depictions of Mary from around the world. From Japan, to Nigeria, from Mexico to Ukraine, from Spain to England, Mary has been shown as a woman from that tradition, from that heritage, representing in herself womanhood, motherhood, the second Eve, the mother of all that is.

But in our picture the artist has caught her in a moment of surprise. Whilst the western church thinks of Mary at home, in private, in her room, encountering the angel as intruder into her space, the orthodox tradition is that she was at the well, collecting water, with the other women, when the angel appeared when the annunciation occured. In the midst of the everyday Mary is surprised by God.

But her look is not one of fear but of gentle, benign acceptance, ‘Let it be with me according to your word’ – ‘and the word was made flesh and dwelt among us’, the word spoken to her became the Word which was born of her.

In his sonnet for the Feast of the Annunciation, Malcolm Guite says this

But on this day a young girl stopped to see
With open eyes and heart. She heard the voice;
The promise of His glory yet to be,
As time stood still for her to make a choice;
Gabriel knelt and not a feather stirred,
The Word himself was waiting on her word.

She was open to the surprise of God, which would take her from the ordinary routine into an extraordinary place. That moment as she looks at the kneeling angel, by the well, in her home, passing stranger or unannounced intruder, is when time stops and all creation waits for her yes.

But for this evening she simply blows out the lamp and lays down to sleep and maybe hears in the distance the flutter of angel’s wings. Be ready to be surprised by God.

This time last year I was promoting my book for Passiontide and Holy Week – ‘The Hour is Come’. It is still available and is as applicable to your keeping of this season now as then. So if you haven’t read it, please do. We have copies in the Cathedral Shop and you can buy it online here

I will be preaching Holy Week at the Cathedral – my last opportunity to do so – so please do join us in person or online, every day from Palm Sunday onwards and ‘Lift High the Cross’ with me.

We beseech you, O Lord,
pour your grace into our hearts,
that as we have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ
by the message of an angel,
so by his cross and passion
we may be brought to the glory of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Passion in our time

This is the third in the series of three Passiontide talks that I have been giving at the Cathedral. They have each developed some of the themes in my book ‘The Hour Is Come’.

The whole conceit of my book for Passiontide ‘The Hour Is come’ was that in some way I could help myself, and I hope others, to enter into the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. That after all is the purpose of all the liturgy that we will share in together from Palm Sunday onwards and the purpose of all liturgy itself.

I was always terribly excited as a child when today, Palm Sunday, arrived and we gathered down the street from our church for the Palm procession. Palm crosses in hand and ‘Ride on ride on’ on our lips we made our way into church like a little version of the throng that gathered around Jesus as he began his journey down the Mount of Olives – and I was transported. I was a romantic child and I am a romantic adult. I love musicals, I love the whole way in which song and action stir my spirit and cause my emotions to rise and I become fully engaged with what is going on.

It is the stuff of the beginning of the film version of the ‘Sound of Music’. Love it or loathe it, there is nothing quite like that moment when the focus moves from the soaring mountains to the slight figure running through the green swards and, casting her arms round, turns and sings those first words ‘The hills are alive’ and we are alive too.

The whole business of Holy Week is to get us to immerse ourselves in what happened to Jesus. That is why the liturgies are so different, so memorable. Even the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday evening feels so different, forget the foot washing, forget the Watch that follows, there is something monumentally powerful when the priest says ‘On the same night that he was betrayed’ and you suddenly realise, it is this night, this is the night he was betrayed, the night they are talking about is this night I am living – and in a moment we are in the Upper Room. We are at the table and we are where the bowl is brought and the water poured and the towel wipes us dry.

When I was at Mirfield studying liturgy and experiencing liturgy I loved reading the writings of J D Crichton. He is perhaps old hat now, a bit too much post-Vatican II which we all loved then – but I still love him and one book in particular comes to mind ‘The once and the future liturgy’. Crichton writes about how the liturgy brings the past into the present and the present into the past. And at the heart of the Eucharist that is what it is all about.

‘On the same night that he was betrayed…’ we enter into the reality of the passion which happened in real time then and happens in real time, our time, now, It is once and future, the historical event that is played out and played out and played out in the life of the church.

I wanted to spend this final session with you thinking about ‘Passion in our time’ how we experience now the passion of Jesus that happened then. You can imagine that part of what I would want to say to you is that it is in the Eucharist, the Mass, the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, call it what you will, that we most fully experience those past events now. Catholics speak of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. What is often being talked about here is the manner in which we believe that through the sacramental act, divine action, the bread, the wine, become the body and blood of Christ not in some figurative memorial sense but in a real sense as real as any reality and with a reality that remains, that can be returned to in devotions, can be found residing at the heart of the church.

But it is not just in the Eucharist that I think we experience Christ’s passion in our own reality, in our own time.

As I said I am something of a romantic and anyone who has heard me preach knows that to be true. It seems to me that as a preacher I need to touch the hearts of those who are listening to me so that they are enabled to make some passionate response to God. We should never be unmoved by the experience of church, of reading the Bible, of saying our prayers, of sharing the Peace, of being with people, of listening to their stories, of serving their needs.

The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote this poem, which I am sure you know well. It’s called ‘God’s Grandeur’.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

It is that charging of the world with the grandeur of God that I am thinking about – the way the passion suffuses all things, ‘like shining from shook foil’ – it is about that warming that the Holy Ghost brings brooding over us, as a mother hen broods over her chicks. It is all passion, it is all pain, but it is also all grace and loveliness.

John Donne wrote a series of seven poems ‘Divine Poems’ as he calls them, starting from one called La Corona, followed by the Annunciation and right through the tent pegs of our faith – as I like to call them – to the Ascension. They link, in that the last line of the previous poem becomes the first line of the next. This is one called ‘Crucifying’

By miracles exceeding power of man,
He faith in some, envy in some begat,
For, what weak spirits admire, ambitious hate;
In both affections many to Him ran.
But O! the worst are most, they will and can,
Alas! and do, unto th’ Immaculate,
Whose creature Fate is, now prescribe a fate,
Measuring self-life’s infinity to span,
Nay to an inch. Lo! where condemned He
Bears His own cross, with pain, yet by and by
When it bears him, He must bear more and die.
Now Thou art lifted up, draw me to Thee,
And at Thy death giving such liberal dole,
Moist with one drop of Thy blood my dry soul.

The line ‘Now Thou art lifted up, draw me to Thee’ reminds me so much of what Jesus says in St John’s Gospel

‘I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ (John 12.32)

He said this just after his triumphal entry, to some Greeks, who wanted to see Jesus and who had asked Philip to make it possible. And Jesus in the time of preparation of the greatest Jewish festival at the heart of the Jewish nation makes this statement of total inclusion, he will draw all people to himself, these Greeks, and you and me, we will all be drawn to the cross, all be drawn into the passion, all be drawn to Jesus, regardless of who or what we are.

I love Donne’s work. We know that he was a man of tremendous passion, and not just in the religious sense. Some of his poems, his sonnets are passionate and almost shocking. Batter my heart ends with those lines which I find it hard to read in a more woke world

Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

But Donne couldn’t seem to separate his passionate, romantic feelings from his quest for God and his desire for the experience of God, the full experience. Another of his Holy Sonnets is this one, entitled “Wilt thou love God as He thee?”

WILT thou love God as He thee? then digest,
My soul, this wholesome meditation,
How God the Spirit, by angels waited on
In heaven, doth make His temple in thy breast.
The Father having begot a Son most blest,
And still begetting—for he ne’er begun—
Hath deign’d to choose thee by adoption,
Co-heir to His glory, and Sabbath’s endless rest.
And as a robb’d man, which by search doth find
His stolen stuff sold, must lose or buy it again,
The Sun of glory came down, and was slain,
Us whom He had made, and Satan stole, to unbind.
’Twas much, that man was made like God before,
But, that God should be made like man, much more.

In my mind it is the most sublime description of the truth of the incarnation

’Twas much, that man was made like God before,
But, that God should be made like man, much more.

And it is that incarnation, that taking of our flesh then that enables us to experience Christ’s passion now, in our own time.

Listen to this. It is Crucifixus by Lotti. The text comes from the Creed

Crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato:
Passus, et sepultus est.

He was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate:
He suffered and was buried.

The image we shall see is the Crucifixion by Graham Sutherland.

St Paul writing to the Christians in Corinth says this

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11.26)

It is always now, however often, wherever, we proclaim the Lord’s death, we make it known, we live it and God lives it in us, suffuses the world with the once and the future, like shook foil, God in our image, we in the image of God.

When I have been talking about my book I have started by describing my experience of the first Gulf war. The war began on 2 August 1990 and it was covered by CNN in a rolling 24 hours breaking news style that were now experiencing again in this war waged by Russia against the people of Ukraine. It was new then, new to us. Now we are used to it and indeed expect it. What it enabled us to do was to watch in the comfort of our own living rooms the horrors that others were living through. It was that experience of being drawn into the experience of the war in real time that made me want to see whether I could create something of the same experience with the Passion.

What we cannot choose is not to know what suffering looks like.

But what news coverage of this type has meant is that the suffering of the world is brought to us with an immediacy as never before. We know what suffering looks like because we see it all the time – from the Yemen, to Ukraine, from Zimbabwe to Tonga, from Sudan to the Weiger Muslims, from a Covid ward to a man being beaten to death, starved of breath on the streets of the United States, played out in real time for us to see. And we can look in real time or turn away. The choice is ours. But what we cannot choose is not to know what suffering looks like.

In Elie Wiesel’s memoir, ‘Night’, Wiesel tells of his experiences during the Holocaust at a young age, mainly exploring his time in Auschwitz. In ‘Night’, Wiesel uses Eliezer’s struggle in keeping his faith to show that even the strongest believers could lose their faith in such hard times but that faith is also often necessary for survival.

The first day Elie arrived at Auschwitz was also one of his most traumatic. Elie witnesses a young boy being hanged after being accused of sabotage against the concentration camp’s power plant. Because of how little the boy weighed, it took thirty minutes for the noose to kill him meaning the boy suffered, on the edge of death for a horribly long amount of time. Behind Elie, multiple prisoners questioned where God was. Elie responds in his mind with, “‘Where is he? Here he is. He is hanging here on this gallows…’”

In all those places we see, in our own lives, in the lives of those we love, in those we don’t know in person only in their suffering, we see reflections of the passion, hear echoes of the passion, feel the power of the passion – the once and the future, the then and the now.

But this is not some terrible spiral of suffering that we are drawn into from which we cannot escape, not some awful prison in which we are locked. For it is impossible to separate the passion and death of Jesus from his resurrection.

When I am hearing a confession and after giving absolution I say this to the penitent. It was said to me by a monk at Mirfield as he heard my confession and I say it still

‘The passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of Our Lady and all the saints, whatever good you have done or evil you have suffered be to you for the remission of sin, the increase of grace and the reward of everlasting life’

And then I say

‘Go in peace; the Lord has put away all your sin and pray for me a sinner also.’

If it was just for then I wouldn’t be able to live the passion now, and be saved by the passion now, and share in the passion now. Then and now and tomorrow. Christ yesterday and today and for ever.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. Amen.

Passion in Jesus’ time

This is the second of my three sessions for Passiontide. They develop the themes of my book ‘The Hour Is Come’.

You don’t need to have seen Monty Python’s Flying Circus to know what people mean when they say ‘No one expected the Spanish Inquisition.’ Heresy is a funny thing isn’t it. Not a ha-ha funny thing but a strange funny thing. The church has been plagued with heresy right from the beginning. St Paul was always trying to drag the Christian communities he had had a hand in founding back onto the straight and narrow; John in his Letters is attempting to deal with gnostic tendencies that were beginning to emerge. But still we get dogged by the tendency we have to try and correct what we think is incorrect in the way that we think about God or about Jesus or whatever. The truth may set us free but heresy is always with us.

The English heresy is of course Pelagianism, the belief, to put it in its most simplest form, that we can do it ourselves, pull ourselves up by own boot straps, without the help of God. Pelagius was of course a British monk and so it was natural that he should come up with a way of understanding sin, and free will and grace according to the character that exists in our national makeup, then and now.

The heresy that I could be found guilty of, however, is not so much that but one that goes by the lovely title – patripassianism. This is the view that the Father suffers on the Cross. It’s easy to see how we get here. The Son suffers on the Cross. The Son is God. The Father is God, ergo the Father suffers on the Cross. But Christian orthodoxy says no to this. We’re permitted to say that God died on the cross (in fact, it’s rather important that we do) but not the Father. If we can say so at all, it’s the Son who we say suffers on the cross.

Christian worries about how much we can say God suffers go deeper than worries about the heresy of ‘patripassianism’. A tenet of the Christian doctrine of God is that he does not suffer. The technical term for this is ‘impassible’, the impassibility of God – the ‘unmoved mover’ a term used by Aristotle and picked up by St Thomas Aquinas. We read of this divine impassibility in Scripture – in God ‘there is no variation or shadow due to change’ (James 1.17) If he suffers, he is liable to change. For God to be passible is impossible.

I was reading a very good piece on this whole heresy and way of thinking by Fr Simon Cuff. He concludes by saying

God doesn’t suffer suffering. He transforms it. He doesn’t consider impassibility a thing to be grasped, but empties himself taking the form of a slave. And he asks us to do likewise, to transform and put an end to all the suffering we see – except as human beings we’re often more likely to be the cause of suffering than to cure it.

As human beings we cling to power, God sheds it. As human beings we flee suffering, God transforms it. As human beings we cause suffering, God endures it. Christ is his last word on the matter. God suffers with us, but more important, for us – so in that last word we too might be fully alive, and free from the suffering this life brings.

I wanted to begin our thinking in this session with this whole debate about the suffering of God because it seems to be to be a vital place to begin when we are thinking about the passion and death of Jesus – not the shadow of it, not how it impacts on us now, but the events themselves, the historical events for the historical Jesus, which is what was interesting me when I wrote the book published for this Passiontide about entering it in real time.

We are so surrounded in church and in the tradition with images of the suffering Jesus that we can forget at times the reality of it. At the same time we need, or at least I need, to know that God knows what it is to suffer, that the actual suffering of Jesus, his death and therefore God’s death moves God and moves me. I need a God who can be with me, alongside me in my condition because they have been there transforming suffering from the inside and not just as some unmoved, impassive observer, looking on from a distance like an Olympian God.

Gloucester in King Lear sees so much suffering and injustice going on, until he can see no longer as his own eyes are ripped out, wanders, blinded on the heath and exclaims

As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods,
They kill us for their sport.

This is not the God we believe in, this is not the God of the incarnation. We have a god who does not toy with us, but lives alongside us in the joy and in the pain and knows both from the inside out, from lived experience. God, instead of killing us for divine sport, becomes the sport, the chased game of manipulative humanity.

But each age sees these things so differently. Our Anglo Saxon forbears on these islands had a very different view of the reality of the passion as we find expressed in the epic poem, ‘The Dream of the Rood’. We remake God in our own image and here God, Jesus, is remade in the image of the Anglo Saxon warrior hero. This part of the poem in a modern translation

He stripped himself then, young hero – that was God almighty –
strong and resolute; he ascended on the high gallows,
brave in the sight of many, when he wanted to ransom mankind.
I trembled when the warrior embraced me; even then I did not
dare to bow to earth,
fall to the corners of the earth, but I had to stand fast.
I was reared a cross. I raised up the powerful King,
the Lord of heaven; I did not dare to bend.
They pierced me with dark nails; on me are the wounds visible,
the open wounds of malice; I did not dare to injure any of them.
They mocked us both together. I was all drenched with blood
poured out from that man’s side after he had sent forth his spirit.

In this view of the passion, Jesus is the protagonist, running to the cross, ascending it, embracing the wood and the pain, mocked but still in control, able to send his own spirit forth. He is the muscular Jesus that even Holman Hunt depicted in his painting ‘The Shadow of Death’ we were looking at in the first of these sessions.

Contrast that with R S Thomas’ poem ‘The Coming’

And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows: a bright
Serpent, A river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.
On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. many People
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.

This is a moved, not unmoved God.

One of the greatest images of the Crucifixion must be The Isenheim Altarpiece created by Matthias Grünewald and others in 1512–1516. It is Grünewald’s largest work, and is regarded by most people as his masterpiece. It was painted for the Monastery of St. Anthony in the town which specialized in hospital work especially for the care of plague sufferers as well as the treatment of skin diseases. The image of the crucified Christ is pitted with plague-type sores, showing patients who would look at this huge altarpiece that Jesus understood and shared their afflictions.

Sunday is Passion Sunday and we will have veiled the statues and the images in many of our churches, in order that we can enter even more deeply into the events that will lead to Good Friday. Because the passion is more than the crucifixion. The passion is about all that will lead up to those final events – it incudes a triumphal welcome and a harsh rejection; it combines anointing in a friends house whilst at their table, as much as the anointing for burial in a borrowed tomb; it is about a cup of wine passed among friends as much as sour wine on a sponge lifted to the lips of a dying man; it is as much about riding down the hill on the donkey, as walking up a hill bearing the wood of the cross. The passion is that emotional entry of God into the human condition and all of it is here in what we will see in the next couple of weeks.

Christians have always wanted to get as close to the actual events as they possibly could. That is why Stations of the Cross are so popular, whether people are following them in their own church, or walking the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, or simply using a text in their own home. Every time I follow them I discover something new about what is on many levels a very familiar journey. It was the crusaders who brought the whole idea back with them from the Holy Land. There they had experienced for themselves the power of the holy places, found by St Helena and her team of excavators and bishops, and cared for by the local Christian community. They wanted others to experience it even if they couldn’t travel to the Holy Land themselves.

But it isn’t just in words and images and places that people have attempted to experience the passion, not just by carrying a cross through the streets, kneeling in the dirt, weeping at the stations as the full force of what happened comes home to them. Marcel Dupré’ decided to enter into it in a most particular way.

‘Le Chemin de la Croix’ is Dupré’s most ambitious organ work – a set of musical illustrations of the 14 Stations of the Cross, tracing the story of the Passion in music of astonishing originality, sincerity and intensity. It had its origins in an imaginative collaboration between Professors of Literature and Music at the Conservatoire in Brussels in February 1931.

The literary element was a recitation of Le Chemin de la Croix by the fervent Catholic dramatist, poet and diplomat Paul Claudel. In between the 14 poems, Dupré improvised a musical commentary or meditation on each station. The definitive written version was completed a year later, and he gave the premiere in Paris in March 1932, a few days before Palm Sunday.

Dupré described this monumental work as “a vast symphonic poem in which several leading themes recur, but each station has its own musical conception… All the themes are not only symbolic, but also traditional, one might say.”

I want us to listen to his music for the 11th Station. That is the station at which we remember Jesus is nailed to the Cross. The music helps us enter the experience. The organ is transformed here into a grinding, apocalyptic machine driven by the inexorable ostinato of the hammer in the bass. The tragic Theme of Suffering soars above the tumult.

This is Claudel’s uncompromising text in translation to accompany what we hear. The image is from the Stations of the Cross in the Anglican Cathedral in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Now God is no longer with us.
He lies on the ground.
The mob has taken him by the throat as dogs take a stag.
So you did come! You are truly among us Lord!
You have been sat upon; your heart has been knelt upon.
This hand forced by the executioner is the right hand of the Almighty.
The Lamb has been tied by the feet, the Omnipresent is bound.
His height and span have been marked on the cross.
When he feels our nails, we’ll watch his expression.
Eternal Son, limited only by the bounds of Infinity,
marked here among us by that narrow space which you have coveted!
Here in his body Elijah stretches out in death,
here lies David’s throne and Solomon’s glory,
here is the bed of our cruel, powerful passion with You!
It is difficult for God to assume our stature.
They tug, and the half-dislocated body snaps and cries aloud.
Drawn with the tension of a wine press, he is hideously quartered.
So that the prophecy might be fulfilled that:
“They have pierced my hands and feet, they have numbered each of my bones.”
You are captured Lord, and can no longer escape.
You are nailed on the cross, hand and foot.
Like a heretic or a lunatic, I seek nothing more from heaven.
This God held by four nails is enough for me.

Like a heretic or a lunatic. What am I when faced with our Suffering God, this Suffering Servant, this Passionate Jesus, this God who moves into the world of human experience, your and mine experience?

Lord Jesus, your passion then is my passion now; save and bless me through your cross and precious blood. Amen.

The clock is ticking

I can’t quite believe that we are half way through Lent and that next week will be Mothering Sunday, after which our attention begins to turn very much towards Passiontide and Holy Week. The enforced isolation – or rather the isolation I chose now that we don’t legally have to isolate when we are positive – meant that I had the time to get on with some tasks that took some time that I don’t always have.

When I was having the various book launches of my book for Passiontide and holy Week, ‘The Hour Is Come’, one of the people at the talks asked whether I might put out Tweets to remind people that it was time to read a chapter of the book. It sounded like an excellent idea, but at the back of my mind I was thinking, ‘I don’t quite know how to do that and will I have time?’ Well, in the ten days at home I learnt how to do it and I did have time. So there are now a whole series of Tweets scheduled to go out to help people engage with the book and more importantly with the events of Holy Week.

The reason for mentioning this today is that the book actually begins on Lent 4, Mothering Sunday, next Sunday, and so I just wanted to take this opportunity to warn you and to encourage you to buy the book if you have not yet done so. You can get a copy of the book by visiting here – although I know there are many other booksellers!

Hopefully it will be a way in which together we can accompany Jesus as the clock ticks and time moves towards the events of Good Friday and all that lies beyond.

In addition to the book and the Tweets there are three sessions to be held at Southwark Cathedral to develop the theme of the book. You can find details of all of these here and if you can’t get to the Cathedral it will all be live-streamed so that you can participate from wherever you are.

In the midst of a busy world,
we wait, Lord,
with you
and for you.

The Hour is Come

I have to admit that this is something of an exciting week for me. No, I’m not talking about another General Synod, although that will hold excitement I am sure and I will be sharing some of that on my blog! For me the real excitement is being able to attend various events around the book I have written which has recently been published – ‘The Hour is Come’.

I am grateful to the encouragement of people at the Cathedral to get stuff published and to Canterbury Press for taking the book on. The process was fascinating. As readers of the blog will know I love quoting passages from a number of sources. That isn’t possible in a book that will be sold, well, not without paying huge royalties. So that all needed some working around. Getting the title right, the images, checking for typos and sense – all of that takes so much time. But when the books finally arrived it was suddenly all worthwhile.

Those who have regularly followed my blogs may well recognise the basis of the book as being an online retreat I led a number of years ago. I decided the time was right to update it, dust it off and get it out to people in a different format, and for some in a much more accessible way.

Last week I had the joy of going to Church House Bookshop to sign lots of copies of the book in preparation for General Synod. There was something thrilling about walking past the shop later on and seeing ‘Signed Copies’ in the window. It really was one of those ‘Pinch me’ moments.

So this rather unusual blog is more of an advert. If you would like a copy of the book which is designed to take you through Passiontide to Easter and beyond, they are available from the Cathedral Shop and online shop here. It is also available from other good booksellers. There are events in the Cathedral and online when we can have the opportunity to talk about the passion and the approach I take to the events and how scripture speaks of them. You can find more details about them here.

So, thank you for your support. Thanks to Paula Gooder for her endorsement and for all those who have encouraged me to get into print. I just hope it is helpful as together we enter with Jesus into the reality of Holy Week. This is the first prayer I wrote for the book – it seems appropriate for such a new venture!

some paths are familiar to me,
I have travelled them many times before.
Other paths are new
and the terrain is unfamiliar.
Wherever I go,
give me the confidence that it is with you that I travel.

Holy Land

A pilgrimage for returning pilgrims

My Lent Diary

A journey from ashes to a garden

In the Steps of Martin Luther

A Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage 2017

Canda, Jerusalem, Mucknall

Southwark Diocesan Pilgrimage 2016

Hearts on Fire - Pilgrims in the Holy Land

A good city for all

A good city for all

In the Steps of St Paul

Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage June 2015


Reflections from the Dean of Southwark

Andrew Nunn's reflections from General Synod

the personal views of the Dean of Southwark