Sunday, 16 April 2017

Holy Week Hut - 15th April

The final hut of this years Holy Week event captured the moment of Jesus' death when a mighty storm covered the land, the veil of the temple was torn in two and Jesus yielded up his spirit to God.

"Darkness came over the whole land, the sun stopped shining.  The veil of the Temple was torn in two.  Jesus called out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last."

The curtain in the temple separated the holy of holies from the rest of the temple and where you could be closest to God.  The only person who was allowed to enter that place was the high priest who would offer sacrifices on behalf of the people.  

The tearing of the veil in two symbolically destroyed the barrier between God and humanity.  From this moment onwards we all have direct access to God through Jesus' death on the cross and don't have to rely on others to intercede for us.  We can now all experience the presence of God.

May you know God's presence with you this Easter and beyond.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Holy Week Hut - 14th April

It seemed very appropriate on this Good Friday to have some of Jesus' words from the cross at the heart of the art in the Holy Week Hut this evening.  
"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me", is the anguished cry that Jesus utters from the cross and is recorded in the accounts of the crucifixion in both Mark and Matthew.

From noon until three o’clock, the whole land was covered with darkness. 46 About three o’clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice. He said, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” This means “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” (Psalm 22:1)

In saying this Jesus is quoting from the Psalms so it's not a new thought unique to him, but something common to human existence.

It's such an extraordinary statement from the Son of God and it's somehow comforting to know that Jesus echoes the thoughts of so many who suffer and wonder where God is in the midst of their pain.  
Paradoxically it gives us hope to think of God who experiences the absence of the divine and who understands that we too question God's presence, especially during times of suffering and distress.

The art in the hut was a beautiful collage of Jesus with head bowed as he contemplated his situation. The rips of the paper echoed the wounds of the whips and the thorns in the crown that tore Jesus' flesh and added to the pain of crucifixion.

In the background was a soundtrack of rain and rolling thunder as the gospels describe the land being dark and a storm rising as Jesus came to the end of his life.  This hut speaks to us of a God who accompanies us through all the storms of life, even when it seems that he is absent.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Holy Week Hut - 13th April

Tonight was rather grey and cold with quite a strong wind blowing along the seafront which deterred all but a few hardy souls down to the beach.

We were still there though with the fourth instalment of our artistic Easter story,  Tonight we were focussing on Pilate and his abdication of responsibility for Jesus even though he suspected he was innocent.

Matthew tells this part of the story in some detail:

Jesus was placed before the governor, who questioned him: “Are you the ‘King of the Jews’?”
Jesus said, “If you say so.”
But when the accusations rained down hot and heavy from the high priests and religious leaders, he said nothing. Pilate asked him, “Do you hear that long list of accusations? Aren’t you going to say something?” Jesus kept silence—not a word from his mouth. The governor was impressed, really impressed.

It was an old custom during the Feast for the governor to pardon a single prisoner named by the crowd. At the time, they had the infamous Jesus Barabbas in prison. With the crowd before him, Pilate said, “Which prisoner do you want me to pardon: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus the so-called Christ?” He knew it was through sheer spite that they had turned Jesus over to him.

While court was still in session, Pilate’s wife sent him a message: “Don’t get mixed up in judging this noble man. I’ve just been through a long and troubled night because of a dream about him.”
Meanwhile, the high priests and religious leaders had talked the crowd into asking for the pardon of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus.
The governor asked, “Which of the two do you want me to pardon?”
They said, “Barabbas!”
“Then what do I do with Jesus, the so-called Christ?”
They all shouted, “Nail him to a cross!”
He objected, “But for what crime?”
But they yelled all the louder, “Nail him to a cross!”
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere and that a riot was imminent, he took a basin of water and washed his hands in full sight of the crowd, saying, “I’m washing my hands of responsibility for this man’s death. From now on, it’s in your hands. You’re judge and jury.”
The crowd answered, “We’ll take the blame, we and our children after us.”
Then he pardoned Barabbas. But he had Jesus whipped, and then handed over for crucifixion.
The installation was made of fabrics which were drenched in the colours of blood and night, with banners hanging down quoting some of Pilates own words to a figure who stood in the middle with his back turned to us.  This represented Pilate turning his back on Jesus but asked us the question, "what do we turn our backs on, and what responsibilities do we wash our hands of.

There was a bowl of water, stained red, for attendees to wash their hands in but the cold and wind was a strong disincentive for this activity.

The question still stands for us all though - what do we abdicate responsibility for?

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Holy Week Hut - 12th April

The next episode in our journey with Jesus is where things begin to go wrong - his betrayal by Judas.

It can seem odd that the symbol of Jesus' betrayal is a kiss, even given the custom in the Middle East of greeting with a kiss.  It seems such an intimate and friendly thing to do, which is how we can find a way to connect with this part of the story.

Sadly many relationships are destroyed when one of the partners betrays the other with a third party.
Jesus had just finished speaking when Judas (the one from the Twelve) showed up, and with him a gang from the high priests and religious leaders brandishing swords and clubs. The betrayer had worked out a sign with them: “The one I kiss, that’s the one—seize him.” He went straight to Jesus, greeted him, “How are you, Rabbi?” and kissed him.

Jesus said, “Friend, why this charade?”
Then they came on him—grabbed him and roughed him up.

In many cases this betrayal begins with an illicit kiss.  Judas' kiss was much more public than most adulterous betrayals but it was still an act that began the disintegration of all of the relationships between Jesus, Judas and the other disciples.  Unfortunately infidelity often breaks a wide ring of relationships, not just those directly involved.

The artwork featured a cross dressed in a shirt covered in kisses.  Mounted at the 'head' of the cross was an image of a sculpture of Judas kissing Jesus which can be found on the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona.

The artwork was interactive and attendees were invited to think about a time that they were betrayed or an instance when they betrayed someone and to write about this on a S.W.A.L.K. (Sealed With A Loving Kiss).  These were then posted in the Betrayal Box to be prayed over on Good Friday and absolved at the foot of the cross.

All the while a soundtrack was playing Desree's Kissing You along with a voiceover recounting the story of Judas and his kiss.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Holy Week Hut - 11th April

Tonight we visited the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus who went there to pray with his disciples.

According to the gospel writer Luke, Jesus wrestled with the path that was set before him to such an extent that he sweated blood as he prayed for God to take this cup from him.

Leaving there, Jesus went, as he so often did, to the Mount Olives. The disciples followed him. When they arrived at the place, he said, “Pray that you don’t give in to temptation.”

He pulled away from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, remove this cup from me. But please, not what I want. What do you want?” At once an angel from heaven was at his side, strengthening him. He prayed on all the harder. Sweat, wrung from him like drops of blood, poured off his face.

He got up from prayer, went back to the disciples and found them asleep, drugged by grief. He said, “What business do you have sleeping? Get up. Pray so you won’t give in to temptation.”

The installation tonight was an ingenious contraption which had a print of Van Gogh's Olive Grove at its heart.  This sat on a frame which was surrounded with tubes which constantly trickled drops of red wine down the face of the image.

This painting had particular resonance for the artist as it brought her to tears when she saw it in real life.

The whole installation sat outside the hut where it caught the light from a beautiful sunset.  

Monday, 10 April 2017

Holy Week Hut - 10th April

The first Holy Week Hut of 2017 launched today.

Every evening this week we will be at Beach Hut 11 from 6.30pm-7.30pm as we mark Holy Week together.  Each night a different artist will create an installation themed around an aspect of the Easter story.

Tonight we began with the Last Supper.

Here is that part of the narrative from the gospel of Matthew.
After sunset, Jesus and the Twelve were sitting around the table. During the meal, he said, “I have something hard but important to say to you: One of you is going to hand me over to the conspirators.”

They were stunned, and then began to ask, one after another, “It isn’t me, is it, Master?”
Jesus answered, “The one who hands me over is someone I eat with daily, one who passes me food at the table. In one sense the Son of Man is entering into a way of treachery well-marked by the Scriptures—no surprises here. In another sense that man who turns him in, turns traitor to the Son of Man—better never to have been born than do this!”

Then Judas, already turned traitor, said, “It isn’t me, is it, Rabbi?”
Jesus said, “Don’t play games with me, Judas.”

During the meal, Jesus took and blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples:
Take, eat.  This is my body.
Taking the cup and thanking God, he gave it to them:

Drink this, all of you. This is my blood,
God’s new covenant poured out for many people
    for the forgiveness of sins.
“I’ll not be drinking wine from this cup again until that new day when I’ll drink with you in the kingdom of my Father.”
They sang a hymn and went directly to Mount Olives.

The installation had wine spilt in a shape that pre-figured the end of the story.

At the mid-point of the hour we broke bread and shared wine together as Jesus had asked us to during that first communion meal.

It became more poignant as we drew towards sunset and the time when Jesus and his disciples would have been eating together.

Sally Hitchiner - 2nd April

Revd. Sally Hitchiner is chaplain at Brunel University and the founder of Diverse church which supports LGBT+ Christians all over the UK.  She is also a frequent media commentator and often appears on national TV reviewing the papers or being interviewed about church news.

She talked about the many issues which the church faces currently which can be seen as creating a crisis for the institution.  It is helpful to view this in terms of liminal space and therefore becomes an opportunity rather than a threat.  Liminal comes from the latin for threshold and can be seen as a creative opportunity to step out, rather than a defensive retreat.  Living in a liminal space can be uncomfortable but is often a place where God can work.

You can listen to her talk HERE and you can download a pdf of her slides HERE.