March

Dear Friends,

The late Donald English was one of my tutors at theological college in Bristol. He had a wonderful way of creating images with words. He wrote a small book which some have used as the basis of Lenten studies and others have used for personal devotion. The book is called ‘Windows on the Passion’. The title comes from the opening image which he created. He describes a family outing to a stately home when unfortunately they had not checked the opening times before travelling. When they arrived they were disappointed to find that though the gardens were open to the public the house itself was closed and so the best that they could do was to explore the gardens and peep into some of the ground floor rooms through the windows. Some of the grand rooms had more than one window and Donald describes how interesting it was to look into the same room through different windows, to see the same room from different angles and perspectives. This was an experience not unlike reading the four Gospels, each looking at the life, teaching and ministry of Jesus. Sometimes more than one of the Gospel writers describes the same event, but they describe it as though they were looking at it through rather different windows and so the light and shade, the perspective and relationship between the particular action and the bigger picture is different.

This year the Gospel passages we shall be hearing through Lent come from Mark and John’s Gospels. Mark’s Gospel was the earliest of our four Gospel’s to be written and most Bible scholars believe that John’s Gospel was the last. On the second Sunday in Lent the set passage from Mark’s Gospel (Mark 8:31-38) describes the time when Jesus really challenges his followers, after speaking quite harshly to Peter he says that those who follow his way, both then and now, should never be ashamed of their faith. The Jesus presented in this passage is often not the Jesus people feel most comfortable with. He is blunt, speaking openly (Verse 32) and he’s harsh to Peter after Peter’s rebuke of him (Verse 33). While Matthew also includes this story, Jesus’ language and actions here are especially characteristic of Mark’s gospel. Mark is known for presenting a less “cuddly” Jesus than many would like to find. All in all, this Passion prediction challenged the people of Jesus’ time, and it continues to challenge 21st Century Christians in uncomfortable ways today.

What’s your reaction to the actions and speech of Jesus in this passage?

Is this a familiar image of the Jesus you’ve been taught about in your faith life?

Read verse 38. Have you ever been ashamed of your faith and hidden it from your friends or family? What caused you to do this? Are you seeking to strengthen your faith and relationships so that this does not have to be the case again?

Yours in Christ

David G. Vale