Tag Archives: easter

Easter 2020 sermon

‘Early in the morning, on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and others came to the tomb while it was still dark’ and every year for over twenty years, I have risen at daybreak – not a natural act for me – and gone outside to a special place to commemorate those women’s silent bravery and the first hope of Easter. This year I am on hill overlooking my city.

Usually, I replay my 7 Sayings compositions for Good Friday and add my Easter Day piece, and then later join with other Christians. But of course, I can’t attend worship with others this year – and it seems incredible that churches have been told not to open on their most holy day, the fulcrum of our faith.

This year, more than ever, I felt the need to speak about the meaning of Easter, and this year it will be physically, visibly felt. We are still in the tomb, for most of us round the world can’t meet to celebrate this feast, but we can prepare for the bursting forth in subversive victory by planning for it in our collective cocoon, doing the inner work until the outer can physically manifest.

I’m proud that there are Particular Baptists and Priestesses listening to this, and I’m glad to have brought you together, for this is a common purpose that we need to work towards.

Whether we recognise the phrase, we are all Lightworkers, here to usher in a new kingdom.

God has especially intervened in his – or her – relationship with humans three times: when he first made us; when he sent Jesus; and…now. The New Age isn’t a ducky hippy fantasy – it is here. I believe there are three covenants that God made with us: one with a particular people, although I think God has always been broader than that; and then he opened to the door to the Gentiles in the new testament, so that inclusion was through belief in Jesus… and now I think God is saying: open the door.

Perhaps the Particulars will particularly flinch at the suggestion, or I think assertion, that there is but one God; and whatever we call Her, that we are using different dialling codes to the same exchange.

I have come to understand that God’s essence isn’t judgement and exclusion. His prime attribute isn’t holiness, or even power… it’s love, Love with a capital L. And today we don’t proclaim good news because you have to accept serious bad news first. It’s not – believe or else; feel guilty and let that dictate your acceptance of God’s gift with not just strings attached, but thick cords. That cannot be grace – or a healthy relationship.

Today, the temple curtain in our sadly empty churches is rent in two: God isn’t held in the Holy of Holies for priests – or priestesses – alone. She’s not even in buildings, beautiful as they often are, which can be shows of strength and privilege, and doors that can exclude as well as give sanctuary. God is out in the world, within our walls and yet beyond them.

And God is birthing, through us, not 5G – the next level of technological connectivity, which very much concerns me – but 5D, the 5th dimension. For me, higher D is about living in a consciously soulful place, seeing one’s story arc from an authorial point of view, more and more in tune with what SARK calls “your inner wise self”, or Spirit, and not what traditional Christians would call ‘worldly values.’ It is a greater focus on the unseen and immeasurable.

Events over the last year have started to push me out of the 3D world, the ‘lower energies’ as those card carriers of the woo woo community (like me) would say. I’ve discovered that even having a lifelong faith doesn’t mean you’re always living at a higher level, just as those who don’t consciously have a faith, especially not my faith, can walk a higher path.

I believe, with many others, that this is the time when our old structures will fall, to be replaced by ones which are rooted in different values.

I was asking myself what I would do if I was tasked with responding to the virus. And my first thought was: breathe, then pray. I don’t know how many world leaders did that, but it’s something we’re not encouraged to talk about. We’re also not expected to talk about feelings, especially not love, in politics or business or education or health. We disregard the nonquantitive, non empirical, the non corporeal. And I think this is where we have gone wrong.

I was first drawn to the Green Party – of which I now consider myself ‘a candid friend’ – because the first policy document of theirs I read 10 years ago hinted at spirituality, and it also began by asserting the equality and value of all living things.

We’re so used to systems where not everyone matters and not everyone wins. We are run by wanting money in one way or the other, by what we own and who owns us.

This time has brought up the issue of personal sovereignty versus the executive powers of the state – even to close the churches on this most holy holiday. Although it is largely voluntarily to stop the spread of the virus, I am mindful that there are times when churches have been closed on government orders purely because they were disapproved of. I am not advocating selfishness and lack of responsibility, but I vociferously believe in our own agency especially over our own bodies, homes, and the healthcare we choose, and our right to worship, our right to think for ourselves, and I do advocate doubting until personally satisfied.

I think it’s vital that we remain aware and that what emerges out of this cocoon time is not a new normal where we no longer meet in person, mingle in groups or crowds, that everything we do is electronic which can be traced, with even greater reliance on technologies that are harmful to our health; that we remain compliant out of fear, and even begin to fear each other.

I want there to be an openness to ancient ways as well as new, to diversity and divergence. I’m reminded of that film and book trilogy by Veronica Roth about a dystopian post traumatic city which is divided into factions, according to personal traits. The leaders are desperate to keep everyone in their factions, and despise and fear those who live outside the neat systems put in place by the city fathers. But – plot spoiler alert – our heroine, who is one of the dreaded Divergents who don’t fit, discovers that the city fathers designed this system so that society matured when it realised that Divergents were the key, not the enemy.

Those who didn’t fit the system didn’t threaten it, they completed it.

I think this is a lesson our world needs, for it is in the throes of hoiking out our divergents for fear of the new world that they especially might midwife. But we need to celebrate those we formerly thought of as aberrations, not fix and suppress them.

In traditional Easter theology, this is a time for overcoming the Enemy, and this year, more than ever, it’s a time to remember that our God has overcome death, fear, illness, and evil.

In Tom Robbins’ novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, he says that the enemy is not all the ‘others’ – other nations and ethnicities, the other sex, the other class, the other sexualities, the other faiths, and whatever else we may divide ourselves into and want to blame and set ourselves against. He says ‘the enemy is the tyranny of the dull mind’.

Philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote of ‘the banality of evil’ – that the ultimate darkness is not often charismatic or potent, but simply dull conformity. For her, it was the inability to think which made the execution of evil possible. And I would argue, to feel…. Outrage at injustice, but also love, a love that can’t allow injustice but that can still love those who do it, and have so much love that it pulls perpetrators out of their actions into wholeness, out of our own dullness into awareness.

I began by mentioning Mary Magdalene – and I’m almost done. Mary has become more and more important to me over the years, especially when I began embracing the Priestess path along side the Christian one. Elayne Kalila Doughty calls the priestess path ‘the vow to walk as love’. I have taken that, and realise I can live that without a dog collar or a torque.

I’ve learned, or am learning, that the telos of love is to love without needing a response; that love can take many forms, and at this time of ascension, that we are especially called to expand our expressions of love beyond the factions laid out for us by old paradigms – for perhaps those who laid them out also had the notion that the ultimate maturity was when we learned to live beyond them. Much of our love, like our law, is possessive, exclusive, right and wrong, win and lose; it requires permission, it has territories, it’s proprietary.

I believe that today we celebrate the rising of the One who burst all that. I think his relationship with Mary Magdalene was one that defied categories. Jesus isn’t to me just the Christ Conscious one; for me, he is God, who rose in physical form, and what he embodied and taught is something we can share in, as Mary did – for she best understood him and preached his message. I see her as a special messenger, perhaps being to the Trinity what the RAC claimed to be to the emergency services. (Yes I did just say that the Trinity is a 4 leaf clover).

I’ve been watching Xena: Warrior Princess. I see myself as Warrior Priestess. Xena and her companion Gabrielle – whose love also defies categorisation – commit to following the Way of love and light, overcoming darkness in the world and themselves. They knowingly go to their crucifixon, followed by an incredible act of love and forgiveness, transformation and resurrection – just as we remember at Easter. I’m more convinced than ever that death is not the end and that and Love goes on, not just for Jesus, but all of us.

The Easter sermon that I best remember is from Durham Cathedral in 2005: that when Mary asked Jesus if he was the gardener, she was kind of right. Jesus is making a new creation and asking us to be part of landscaping, planting, weeding, watering and hoeing… for soon we shall be picking. I know I’ve barely quoted the Bible – and I enjoy biblical exposition – but I’m seeing that we’re called now to a faith beyond just the Book, beyond the words we call God. So as we awaken this Easter Day 2020, let us awaken in all senses, and have clear vision, and courage to love, to be the change in the world we seek, and with Jesus and Mary, be bringers of a new age.

Listen at https://yourlisten.com/BetweenTheStools/easter-2020-with-music and https://artradio.tv/elspeth-rushbrook (yes this site is safe but a warning comes up if you click this link direct from WordPress)

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7 Sayings – new music and words for Good Friday

Between The Stools launches here

This year we remember that not only will Sunday come for us in all senses, but that it has already come

Here are links to the service. Imagine me on a hill overlooking a city….

https://www.artradio.tv/elspeth-rushbrook/ 

It’s the audio (headphones symbol) under Artwork called 7 Sayings, also on the site’s home page – there is sometimes a security warning but I believe the site is safe (it is better when not accessed direct from this page)

or http://yourlisten.com/BetweenTheStools/7-sayings-2020

Easter image

(Any tech issues please email the above. There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over these…!!)

There’ll be another link early on Sunday morning

 

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Elspeth’s Easter message 2019

Why we should have Table Turning Tuesday

When Christians – especially of a more Catholic bent – celebrate Easter, the focus is on the cross. Yet if Holy Week is about recalling and re-enacting the run up to Easter events in real time, why do we spend nearly all the week on the being crucified part?

I’ve seen Palm Sunday processions – even with a donkey. And I’ve seen Passion plays – even in shopping centres. Yet have you ever heard of an al fresco Stone Rolling enactment? Ever seen those angels or those terrified guards? The Emmaus Road couple, or the Upper Room? We think of the Last Supper – every day, if you’re high church – but not the next gathering of the disciples with the Risen Jesus.

I also noted that the traditional events of Holy Week involve turning of temple tables, and much preaching and speaking out. Before he’s arrested, Jesus is busy in the capital.

I note some call the Weds Spy Wednesday, but we don’t have Table Monday or Temple Tuesday.

Why do we miss the parts which question structures, the bits not so passion orientated – but they are of, course. These are as much part of the message as the dying part – plenty of passion here! His ire at the temple’s abuses. Healing. He also spent his not quite last week telling parables, predicting his return, and outwitting Pharisees.

There is often much about suffering – Christ’s and our own – and the whole week can feel a dour one. Lots of prostration, kneeling – and repetition. But less about justice – and that doesn’t count your church’s lent appeal.  And less about joy.

My reason for having a faith isn’t to wallow in sorrow, pain, guilt…

Today, Easter day, is one of joy. It’s celebrating the turning point of history, the reason for being. Jesus came ‘so that we may have life to the full’. But I hear that proclaimed far too seldom.  As well as the Resurrection, I’d like to see more of a focus on Jesus’ response to the temple authorities, and for that to be appropriated to modern times.

Another year, I want to see those doves scattered…

 

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Hail, Caesar – he is Risen

This week I saw two new films, each featuring a Fiennes brother, about a Roman tribune (senior soldier) who encounters Jesus at the end of his life.

I bet I’m one of few to have seen both, because Risen, starring Joseph Fiennes, hardly got any theatrical release. In my city, only one cinema had it, for one week, only twice a day at awkward times, pulling it before the Easter weekend it is all about. Thus its low audience numbers were self fulfilled. And it’s gone before, like the disciples at the tomb, I could go and tell anyone else to come and see it.

I am also one of the few drawing a comparison between these films, because the subtitle of the film within film, Hail Caesar, is not mentioned in any cinema brochure I’ve read. Along with other inaccuracies, it is called “a sword and sandal” epic. But there’s no sword fights and no George Clooney is not Caesar – he encounters a more paradoxical alien leader. There’s a scene where the religious leaders whom the studio is trying to placate discuss the nature of the incarnation (interesting for Jewish film makers), a beautiful closing speech at the foot of the cross (for which scene the crucified actors received “hardship pay”) and confusingly, a section featuring Saul of Tarsus with a title card “Divine Intervention to Be Inserted”.

Risen also consulted with Christians to avoid upsets, and likewise, found them happy – though I was not at the depiction of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute. This is not in the Bible and even Catholics – who pretended she was – have officially un-tarted her now. Hasn’t the writers heard of even the Di Vinci Code and who Mary is believed to be by many? She’s Jesus’ no 2, covered up by Peter ‘I want the Keys just for Me’ and friends.

Both films had powerful and profound moments, but the tones were very different. Hail Caesar was often funny, though most of my laughs were at the points described above; the studio debacles often did little for me. I am not a proponent of the multiple storyline and so I wished we spent more time with Rome and Jerusalem, and less (or none) in aquariums, deserts, drawing rooms and bars filled with sailors who sang about the lack of dames at sea, by by their antics (some dance moves were suggestive of a number just before 70) they were not sorry. Not all the characters really fitted together, and I found were by some rather conspicuous sewing.

Risen had no humour and was for the first part often brutal, opening as a high budget and adrenaline thriller, just incase you thought this was for church halls. I think it is a film for church halls, though not for families or sensitive people of any age. The usually doe eyed, gentle and sensitive Joseph Fiennes is harsh, interrogative and even murderous as Tribune Clavius. I found it hard to watch him being so unjust and bullying. He is one of a few well known actors in the film, such as Peter Firth from Spooks as Pilate, who pushes Clavius to find Jesus’ missing body because Pilate fears the next tier of the chain – his emperor.

The brutality in the Coen’s film – some of which was verbal threat – was from film studio producer Eddie Mannix, fixer of any legal and publicity embarrassments. I hated Eddie (Josh Brolin) for hitting Baird (that’s Clooney) and silencing his communist sympathies. Eddie becomes the tribune, the old kind of God – telling people what to do, what to think, and what they can know; judging by narrow standards, being non-negotiable and using perceived virtue to guide those in his care; and of course, money.

Both tribunes alter at the experience of Jesus, yet Joseph’s conversion feels more like a Christian Union mission film. I am trying to work out why. Did I feel the disciples too spacey and squeaky good? Was I angry that they never fought back? Was it the snippets of their sermons on the beach? But wouldn’t frightened, crushed followers feel exonerated and empowered and impervious to threat if they thought their leader was truly alive again?

The Coen brothers leave us, as so many Jesus films and plays, with him on the cross – yet for George’s tribune, even then, it is enough to change him. The makers of Risen (and Waterworld) let us see Jesus to the end of his earthly life (I was going to say, off the premises), but the ascension is more of a disappearance into the sunset – ET had a more memorable and convincing take off. They obviously didn’t have the budget to show us what the guards at the tomb saw either – shame as modern film is wonderful for bringing such stories to us visually.

The Coen’s Jesus is a back of a rather strawberry blond head and a pair of feet on a maximum comfort cross. Risen features Cliff Curtis – is this the first Maori Christ? – whose face has have the expected unnerving quality, but his less conventional Messiah looks and Tears For Fears hairstyle also slightly beguile and unsettle. However, he behaved like we like to think of Jesus – in the imaginary last miracle where he truly saw and loved the person he healed.

What was hardest for me was reconciling the kind of Jesus we want to believe in – like this – to the one who actually appears to be in the gospel. I’ve been at a study group where we heard that one writer thinks that Jesus snorts in fury at his healees; a Jesus whose first line in John’s gospel is a snap at would-be followers; a Jesus who is incredibly rude to that Gentile lady seeking healing for her son… Commentators let him off by saying, he must have meant…ah, but really he knew…   Is this disciples and early church fathers scribbling in, or…? I’ve written an article on this before. I nearly entitled it “Going off Jesus.” It doesn’t affect my relationship with God, but this is the central person who makes Christians distinct. So where does that take me…?

It’s a search I continue. Meanwhile, I found these films as worthwhile as any church service and yet not exclusive of those not seeking a spiritual message this Easter.

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Good Friday

As we’re close to the Easter season, I’d like to share what I wrote last year on my new take on this day

http://relijournal.com/christianity/good-friday-2/

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