Easter Day

Easter

Rainbow Cross

Suffocating night 
smothering, 
obliterating
the broken bloody body 
hammered hard, 
staining scarlet 
that cross 
of rough-cut wood

and thunder crashed 
the doom of death.

Then darkness fractured, 
light splintered, 
fragments of colour 
shot out into the brilliance 
of a multi-coloured Easter morning 
in a green garden.

And an empty cross 
rainbow-wrapped, 
images the promise 
of the death-defying dawn 
of new hope.

Marjorie Dobson © 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@stainer.co.uk. Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
From Unravelling the Mysteries, Stainer & Bell Ltd., 2019.

Quite early one morning © Andrew Pratt

A strange new day 

This is the day 
when perfume remained unopened, 
spices were no longer needed, 
cloths and sponges were unused.

This is the day 
when stone was no barrier, 
soldiers abandoned guard duty, 
grave clothes and tomb were empty. 

This is the day 
when the unexpected became reality, 
a man asked awkward questions, 
uttered unlikely proclamations.

This is the day 
when bewilderment ruled, 
fear was ever-present, 
obedience the only option.

This is the day
when women left hurriedly,
uncertain and warily,
to tell a strange story 
to an unbelieving audience, 

For they did not know it,
but this is the day 
when everything changed:
death was defeated, 
new life was beginning, 
hope overwhelming despair.

This is the day 
of resurrection.

Marjorie Dobson © 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@stainer.co.uk. Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
From Unravelling the Mysteries, Stainer & Bell Ltd., 2019.

Come in the morning

Come in the morning.
Come see the dawning.
Come to the garden –
life has broken through.

Jesus, dead and buried. 
To his grave they hurried. 
Anxious women found that 
life had broken through.
Chorus

Soldiers could not keep him 
for they were found sleepiing 
and the tomb was open – 
life had broken through.
Chorus

Peter, unbelieving, 
left, still full of grieving. 
Nothing would convince him 
life had broken through.
Chorus

Mary, greatly shaken, 
thought he had been taken.
Heard his voice that told her 
life had broken through.
Chorus

Where there was despairing, 
grief and horror sharing, 
now there is a rumour 
life has broken through.
Chorus

So God’s word is spoken, 
when our hearts are broken 
there will come a time when 
new life will break through.
Chorus

Marjorie Dobson © 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@stainer.co.uk. Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
From Unravelling the Mysteries, Stainer & Bell Ltd., 2019.
Metre: 6 6 6 5 and chorus 5 5 5 5 
Tune: Dance to thi’ Daddy (When the boat comes in)

Mary Magdalene

My name is Mary,
common enough in my time 
to need to be identified by place, or family.
Mine is such a name.
They call me the Magdalene.

People call me other names.
Some claim I was a prostitute, 
perhaps because the town whose name I bear 
is famous for that trade.

Others question my sanity 
and ask why it was necessary for that exorcism 
of troubling devils to be performed.
They probably call me mad.

The other followers, male, of course, 
know me as ‘one of the women’, 
useful for everyday tasks, but mainly disregarded.

So on that day -
when all hope had drained after his execution, 
the future seemed bleak and empty
and even the tomb appeared to have been raided 
and his body stolen – 
it was hardly surprising that the men ignored me,
ran back to the city and left me to weep alone.

The voice was kind and questioning 
and I sobbed my story, not expecting help.
But it came, in one word.
 ‘Mary,’ 
from one who spoke my name as if it mattered.

My name is Mary.
His name was and is and always will be, 
Jesus.

Marjorie Dobson © 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@stainer.co.uk. Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
From Unravelling the Mysteries, Stainer & Bell Ltd., 2019.

Safe, locked inside that upper room 

Safe, locked inside that upper room, 
too scared to let the truth be known, 
disciples had to see their Lord 
before that truth could be their own.

And Thomas, still so full of doubt, 
would not believe the tales they told 
till Christ appeared, to show his wounds -
then his conviction made him bold.

Yet doubts and fears returned again.
Once more they locked themselves away 
until the Holy Spirit came 
on that inspiring, vital day.

The truth is now a living fact.
The love of God can never die.
So bold apostles stood their ground – 
their living Lord is not a lie.

We have not seen, but we believe 
and we must witness by our faith 
to living truth we have received, 
awakened by the Spirit’s breath.

Marjorie Dobson © 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@stainer.co.uk. Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
From Unravelling the Mysteries, Stainer & Bell Ltd., 2019.
Metre: LM  
Tune: NIAGARA 

Poem: When what we thought was mystery

When what we thought was mystery
is rooted in the common place,
and God is found in those who love,
and those we love by grace;
then we have grasped the Christmas story,
reached its heart, beheld its glory.
	
When scourge and cross are recognised
in images from round the earth.
When we admit complicity
and gauge compassions' dearth;
then we have grasped the Easter story,
reached its heart, and felt its glory.
	
When love and justice magnify
and even mercy has no end;
when hostages find liberty
and enemies are friends;
then we have grasped the Spirit's story,
reached its heart, expressed its glory.

Andrew Pratt © 2004 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@stainer.co.uk. Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

Easter Eve – Saturday – Vigil

Easter Eve – Saturday
Grey skies like molten lead… © Andrew Pratt
Infinite disappointment? 

Infinite disappointment 
for only rain comes 
from grey skies 
like molten lead. 
And it seems 
that hope is dead 
until that metal, 
soft, 
is knife-cut 
and a sheen shines out, 
like light 
slant through cloud 
making it seem 
that hope might 
just 
be 
possible…

© Andrew Pratt 28/3/2021

Poem: On that day

On that day, 
between death 
and the dawn of new hope, 
there was despair and dread 
from those who had heard his predictions, 
but discarded them 
as doom-laden prophecies 
not to be fulfilled in their time.

On that day, 
between victory 
and defeat, 
there was triumph and rejoicing 
from those who had plotted to kill 
another dangerous, psuedo-Messiah, 
and no premonition 
that they could possibly be wrong.

On that day, 
between the burial 
and the anointing, 
the women wept 
because they had been prevented 
from performing their ritual caring 
for the body of a Son, 
a Master and a Lord., 
by those who feared 
that the body would be taken 
and the authorities made to look like fools.

On that day, 
creation held its breath 
and all was still.

But, the next morning … 
what a difference!

©Marjorie Dobson

How can God, condemned, be hanging?

How can God, condemned, be hanging?
False messiahs meet such ends, 
and the ones then testifying, 
have no need to make amends.
Educated folk were laughing, 
they foresaw what was to come, 
saw disciples hiding, crying, 
feeling both distraught and numb.
	
But that early Easter morning 
brought another scene to bear, 
Jesus mission had not ended, 
he was risen, standing there.
Still the story, more than foolish 
soon gave rise to talk and doubt. 
'Surely God could never suffer?' 
taunting people tease and shout.
	
Signs and wisdom are confounded 
by that stumbling block, the cross. 
Things that we once saw as wisdom 
now dismissed as foolish dross.
God had shown such strength in weakness. 
Those who shared Christ's dying breath
now at last could claim dominion, 
love defeating hate and death.

Words: Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) © 2012 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@stainer.co.uk . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Metre: 8 7 8 7 D
Tune: CALON LAN

Good Friday to Easter

(commissioned for the Mid-Cheshire Circuit of the Methodist Church in the UK, for March 31st 2021 - Humanity into eternity or Death into Life - this is a personal reflection of the author)

Read by Andrew Pratt - click here

This week leads us up to the excitement of Easter Sunday, but to get there we need to get through Good Friday. Far from the hymn language of ‘glorious scars’ and a ‘wondrous cross’ this day is almost impossible for me. You see, I do not believe in a vindictive God who sacrifices his Son. I do trust, through faith, in the incarnation – God being human. The language we use to explain this enigma is taut, strained – a baby in a manger, ‘the Word made flesh’. But if this is our starting point then it is God who hung on a cross on that first ‘good Friday’. I cannot cope with some vast plan of salvation that requires the sacrifice of a child, even an adult child. What I can understand is a God of love, from whom we can never be separated (Romans 8, 38).

So where does that leave us? For me Jesus embodies God’s love completely. 

Such love has to be totally selfless and this is what I see in Jesus. It is the sort of love that challenges all hypocrisy, injustice and indignity to which we are exposed, and which we still experience. But there is a problem here. The moment we start to love those whom others do not, or cannot, love we become a threat to them. We either have to acknowledge that love and ally ourselves with it, or ignore it, oppose it. We are inherently selfish. Humanly we seek our own preservation. That is a biological imperative. So when Jesus challenged the powers, those around him by challenging their economy, their culture it was threatening. You remember the story of Jesus turning over the tables of the money-changers? But they were only going about their normal business. Or his emphasis on the importance of the widow’s tiny gift; surely the gifts of the rich were more important? Or again, when he paused to heal a woman, whom religion said was unclean, who had touched him in the crowd. And he had been called to heal the daughter of a leader of the synagogue! His priorities seemed all wrong. In all these ways it felt as if he was a threat to the culture and religion, the very economy of the people. He was a threat to their way of life. How they behaved was no different from how we, in similar situations, behave today. They and we behave, literally, naturally. 

And Jesus response was the only possible response of complete and utter, unconditional, all-inclusive love: that is forgiveness – ‘forgive them for they literally don’t know what they’re doing’! And we, for all our protestations, are so often no different.

And the cross becomes wondrous, not as some great theological bargain, or the culmination of a cosmic plan of sacrifice, but in the revelation of the nature of total love that we are called to follow. And the human response to this call to love, because of all the sacrifice it requires us to make, is at best half-hearted, at worst vicious, for here, in our neighbour ‘spurned, derided God is dying…

Tortured, beaten, scarred and tainted,            
not a picture deftly painted,
more a tattered, battered being,
torn, disfigured, stark, unseeing.

Muscles twisted, strained, contorted,
body dangling, bruised, distorted.
Life blood drying, sun-baked, stinging,
hatred, bitter hatred, flinging.

Crowds insensate, tempers vented,
full of anger, discontented.
Curses scattered, insults flying,
spurned, derided, God is dying.



And the world is shrouded in darkness, inevitably for in darkness we cannot see. If God is dead this really is the end. And this is why theologians, then and now, you and I, seek to explain away this horror. Yet Jurgen Moltmann, some years ago in a book which still deserves to be read, The Crucified God, sees the cross as the test of all that deserves to be called Christian, rather than the resurrection. Here we see God’s utter love and willingness to be vulnerable, even unto death in order to be one with us, in order not to deny love even for those who killed him. And the scandal and uniqueness is that gods are not meant to die! Wondrous love! Wondrous God, indeed! Love divine, all loves excelling!

*********************

So where does that leave us on that wonderful dawn of Easter Sunday, when round the world people will greet the sunrise with hallelujahs? Firstly, that death is not the end! NOT THE END OF LOVE! An empty tomb was not, in the first instance, assuring. Read what Mark says: ‘Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid’ (Mark 16, 8). In another gospel Jesus, mistaken for a gardener speaks:
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” (John 20: 15-16)

Jesus continues …’Do not hold on to me...’ (John 20: 17). The language is that of leaving and, for the moment we put aside the stories of Jesus appearing to other disciples, women and men, the ongoing message is one of ‘what next’? And the answer of the gospels and Acts is not the recollection of a dead God but the continuing active living out in humanity of the sort of life that Jesus showed was possible for every human being, that risky life of utter love of neighbour of every race or creed, of those like us and unlike us so that as Brian Wren wrote, ‘there’s a Spirit in the air…when a hungry child is fed’. And yet in this past year it has taken those outside of government and the church to prompt those of power to remember that simple message. Resurrection was not a one off theological ‘thing’ but comes about every time someone Christian, or other, offers a simple gift of love. For me this reality came about after an operation when, in its aftermath, a nurse, whose name I do not know, put her hand on my shoulder saying, ‘it will pass’…and the sun streamed in the window:

Each hour marks a mighty resurrection, 
a time of overcoming fate and fear, 
the dawning of a common understanding 
in which the grace of God is drawing near.
	
Each morning brings a sense of new creation.
New life, new love, encompasses the earth.
New time, new light illuminates the distance,
as though the world is coming, fresh, to birth. 
	
Each evening brings a stunning revelation, 
as stars and planets hove into our view, 
beyond imagination and reflection, 
these scattered bangles flung against the blue.
	
Each season brings a sense of co-existence, 
relatedness of heartbeat, rhythm, rhyme;
and every year the cycle goes on spinning, 
affirming faith and love through endless time.
Reflection, text and audio: Andrew Pratt; Poems: Andrew E Pratt © Stainer & Bell Ltd; Paintings: © Andrew Pratt from Words, Images and Imagination.

Holy Week – from Sunday to Friday

Holy Week from Sunday to Friday – 
see also separate posts for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday - appearing soon

SUNDAY - From Birth to Pentecost…

When Jesus came to Bethlehem there was no harsh a day, 
they say a census had been called, there was no place to stay;
this baby who would shake the world, would first lay down his head, 
not in a royal house or hall, but in a manger bed.
	
When Jesus went to Nazareth his father had a trade, 
a carpenter now had a son and business plans were laid;
but soon within the temple courts, this lad would have his way, 
dissenting from his parents' wish, they'd looked for him all day.
	
The path that he set out to tread from Jordan's crowded bank
would take him him through a wilderness with neither power nor rank; 
returning he would scourge the ones and verbally deride
a viper's brood, these hypocrites, who dressed themselves in pride.
	
Returning to Jerusalem, but not in regal dress, 
he's seated on a donkey's back, not here to rule or bless;
the temple tables were upturned, but more disturbing still, 
his challenge to authority would cause the air to chill.
	
That chill was in Gethsemane when he knelt down to pray, 
and all the pain of all the world  seared through him on that day; 
the time of crisis had arrived to turn from what was right,
or walk with soldiers on to what now looked like endless night.

The trial came and ones that he had scourged with words scourged him, 
and this was brutal vengeance now, not wondrous, simply grim:
his flesh was ripped, his sinews torn, his body hung to dry, 
and as the darkness gathered round the whole world seemed to sigh.
	
That ragged child that Mary bore was taken from the tree, 
the women waited through three days, covertly went to see:
they found the tomb was empty now, the one they sought had gone, 
and as they raced in fear away, the mystery lingered on.  
	
Yet through two thousand years and more the influence of that man
has rippled down through history from where it first began; 
his spirit stills inspires a faith that trusts to what is right, 
to seek for truth, to live in love, keep justice burning bright.

Metre: 14 14 14 14 
Tune: THE LINCOLNSHIRE POACHER
Words: Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) © 2015 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@stainer.co.uk . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
From: More than hymns Stainer Bell Ltd., Stainer & Bell Ltd., 2015.

MONDAY - If he had come …

If he had come as a king with a robe and jewels 
and a crown of gold, 
he would have been impressive.
But there would have been those 
who envied him his wealth, 
tried to steal his jewels, 
or attempted to rob him of his crown.

If he had come with a sword and shield 
and a following army, 
he would have demanded obedience.
But there would have been those 
who feared his sword, 
claimed he was hiding behind his shield, 
or accused him of using military force to conquer them.

If he had come as a priest with elaborate vestments, 
sanctimonious speeches and zealous religious rituals, 
he would have commanded respect.
But there would have been those 
who found his vestments ostentatious, 
suspected him of hypocrisy in his speeches, 
or felt unable to live up to 
the impossible regulation of his religion.

So, when Jesus came as a vulnerable baby, 
grew up in a carpenter’s workshop 
and walked around in everyday clothes, 
meeting and talking to people about God, 
it really was a revelation.

Jesus brought no threat of wealth, or force of might, 
or blocking of the pathway to God.
He was a man and of the people 
and though his robe was stained with blood, 
his crown made of thorns 
and his death an ignominious execution, 
the power of his life has everlasting authority. 

Words: Marjorie Dobson - © Stainer & Bell Ltd 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@stainer.co.uk . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd ©  Stainer & Bell Ltd., From Unravelling the Mysteries, Stainer & Bell Ltd., 2019

TUESDAY - Crowd control

Flag-waving crowds 
prefer winners to losers; 
feel cheated when their heroes are defeated; 
lose heart when officialdom tears them apart; 
drift away at the end of the day, 
when there seems no reason to stay.

Palm-waving crowds 
greeted their king, 
who said that even the stones would sing 
if the people were silent. 
But authority was defiant and jeering, 
even while the crowds were cheering. 
And by the end of the week, 
very few would speak in support 
of the king the crowds had sought.

©Marjorie Dobson

WEDNESAY - Poem: Crowds are fickle - Mark 11:1-11 and 15: 1-39

Crowds are fickle – 
singing, shouting, 
clapping, waving, 
chanting, cheering, 
wildly blindly enthusiastic, 
brave and fearless, 
happy, noisy – 
on the winning side.

Crowds are fickle – 
shouting, swearing, 
spitting, screaming, 
chanting, boo-ing, 
wildly blindly condemnatory, 
fierce and fearless, 
spewing hatred – 
on the losing side.

Faced with judgement, 
weary, weakened, 
Jesus hearing 
chanting, cheering, 
blindly led by enemy action, 
knew the fickle crowd 
had failed him, 
by their verdict, 
‘Crucify!’

Words: Marjorie Dobson - © Stainer & Bell Ltd 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@stainer.co.uk . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd ©  Stainer & Bell Ltd., from Unravelling the Mysteries, Stainer & Bell Ltd., 2019

THURSDAY - Each groan of pain from tortured lips 

Each groan of pain from tortured lips,
each tear that falls from anguished eyes,
the slightest murmur of a sigh,
as yet another victim dies,
are nails into the hands of Christ
counting against the tyrant’s lies.

Each agony of starving death,
each haunted look of gaunt despair;
the scrabbling hands that search the dirt
although the earth is cracked and bare,
are echoes in the mind of Christ
of his last agonising prayer.

Each home destroyed by missile blast,
each terror of a war-torn land,
the crying of a frightened child
alone without a loving hand,
are spears pierced in the side of Christ
and pain which he can understand.

Each empty mind which sees no pain,
each ignorance of crying need,
the pleas of those who go unheard
while others wallow in their greed,
are thorns upon the brow of Christ
and open wounds that tear and bleed.

Each healing touch relieving pain,
each voice which speaks aloud for peace,
the giving hearts and willing hands 
working so poverty may cease
are living out the words of Christ,
striving to give his love release.

Metre – 8.8.8.8.8.8. – Suggested tunes – ABINGDON or VENI IMMANUEL
Words: Marjorie Dobson © Stainer & Bell Ltd 2004 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@stainer.co.uk . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd © Stainer & Bell Ltd., From Multicoloured Maze, Stainer & Bell Ltd., 2004

FRIDAY - Afraid and alone and worn out with his praying 

Afraid and alone and worn out with his praying, 
his friends sleeping soundly and all unaware 
that out in the darkness arrest was approaching, 
and Jesus was frightened and full of despair.

Accused and alone and awaiting the judgement, 
surrounded by enemies out for the kill, 
with none to defend him and friends who’d betrayed him; 
yet Jesus stood resolute, silent and still.

Abandoned, alone and in agony dying, 
the torture and pain brought a cry of despair.
For then, as the crisis of death was approaching 
for Jesus, it felt as if God wasn’t there.

Now dead and alone, they would bury his body, 
those friends who found courage to deal with his death.
A stone sealed the tomb and with soldiers to guard it, 
his enemies thought they’d seen Jesus’ last breath.

Alone in a garden, a woman was weeping.
In spite of precautions, the body was gone.
But then through her tears, she could hear her name spoken 
and Jesus is living. The story goes on!

Metre: 12 11 12 11
Suggested tune: STREETS OF LAREDO
Words: Marjorie Dobson - © Stainer & Bell Ltd 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England copyright@stainer.co.uk . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd ©  Stainer & Bell Ltd., from Unravelling the Mysteries, Stainer & Bell Ltd., 2019