Good Friday: My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Part of the Communion In Times Of Coronavirus series of gentle reflections
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Inderjit Bhogal, 2020
Updated May 2020

He was awake.

Didn’t sleep.

It was his time of prayer, around five in the morning, it was still dark.

“Father not my will, but yours”, his constant mantra, and all through the night.

No time for ablutions, not even a wash, and no morning drink.

He is bound, and handed over for trial.

He stands, bound, thirsty, hungry, before blokes who hope they will not be kept long from coffee.

There are false accusations, and inquisition.

There is no charge.

Only the derision of “Crucify him”.

No “Hosanna” here.

The Holy City is trapped in “Jealousy”.

He is no King!

He may be their Saviour, but he is not our King.

End his reign quickly.

Born in a Stable, he is bullied in a Palace;

mocked in fun behind closed doors;

No reassuring hand, no word in his favour;

alone, with witnesses who willed an end to the madness, helpless.

Pilate washes his hands of the whole business, and leaves.

The dictator unable to handle obvious mistakes.

“Then they led him out to crucify him”.

Exhausted, breathing but out of breath,

he needs help to carry the cross.

Witnesses stand around, some look away.

Simeon, just passing by, is “compelled” to share the pain, carry the cross.

Veronica wipes his brow.

Jesus alone will carry the weight and meaning of the moment, every step of the way.

“And they crucified him”, on a hill, for all to see, amid criminals,

and stole and divided his clothes without shame.

It is only nine in the morning.

Others passed by, and mocked him.

“He saved others he cannot save himself”.

A slow six hours of torture, hanging on a gibbet.

“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”

 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” his only utterance.

Absorbed, never forgotten prayer of the Son of God.

Then a loud wordless cry, and he “breathed his last” breath.

Pierced and broke his mother’s heart.

She wept and held him at his birth, and now at his death, always her baby.

Joseph of Arimathea, “a respected member of the council” comes forward.

He stood and witnessed this whole tale, helpless,

“he was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God”.

Joseph, his father’s namesake, “asked for the body of Jesus”, and buried him.

Son of God or not, no lavish funeral for Jesus.

Buried with dignity, the evening he died.

Obscure birth and then burial in a cave,

in the company of his mother Mary.

True mother, Jesus was always her son.

Gospel writers mention names of four others who were present at the burial.

No Priest for prayers.

Jesus’ prayer continues.

Your Kingdom come.

Your will be done.

The Kingdom and the Will of God is symbolised in the cross of Christ,

The power that gives life and liberates is the power given away.

Jesus and his Way will live and will give life and direction to others for ever.

Inderjit Bhogal

10 April 2020 GOOD FRIDAY (Updated May 2020)

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A Creed for Our Times

Part of the Communion in Times of Coronavirus series of gentle reflections
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Inderjit Bhogal, 2020

We believe God dwells in our midst

The refuge and shelter of our souls,

In whom is our sanctuary and in whom we live and have our being, and eternal life.

We believe the life of God flows in us and restores our soul.

We believe that the Spirit of God is upon us,

In darkness, and light, storms and stirrings,

In which God weaves with darkness and the “deep” to make life and love,

and calls us to protect all creation and life with carefulness, and to do all things with wisdom.

We believe Christ reveals the life of God, and how we can share in it,

By being fully human, embracing beauty and brokenness in life,

By seeking wholeness and the fulness of life for all,

Bearing the cost of suffering, and always keeping hope alive. 

We commit ourselves to so live our lives in God that we reflect the likeness of Christ,

See the image of God in all people, those like us and those different from us,

Love ourselves that we may love our neighbour as our self, and,

Always act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

Inderjit Bhogal, 29 March 2020

NOTE: You can use the word “mercy” or “tenderly” in the final line, which ever works best for you.

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Be a Santuary to Yourself

Part of the Communion in Times of Coronavirus series of gentle reflections
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Inderjit Bhogal, 2020

I am beginning to think we are all in our Noah’s Ark in our own homes with our families (and pets if we have them), our sanctuaries.

“And there were other boats”

Mark 4:36

Life away from others is a daily reality to people who have been housebound for years. Religious communities have developed spiritualities that have required the need to “come away” for a while. We are familiar with the value of “retreat”.

Every household, every individual, in their own “cacoon” is a new place for us all, and requires us to come to ourselves, and imagine a new world.    

Noah and his wife Naamah were in the Ark, with their family, and the animals with them, when it rained for forty days and forty nights. They were in the stormy rain and turbulent waters of the flood which eventually did subside (Genesis 6:14-7:12). They did not have a garden they could take a walk in, or social media for entertainment and communication. The story gives us the beautiful image of the Dove with an Olive leaf in the beak as a sign of cessation of conflict (Genesis 7:11), and then the rainbow (Genesis 9:13), with a spectrum of colours in an arch, as a symbol of hope for all creation. I like the image of a rainbow, insisting that there are many colours, not just one. And it looks like a bigger roof providing a more inclusive shelter.    

The next Ark we come across in the Bible is the Ark as a “sanctuary” for God (Exodus 25:8) to symbolise God dwelling in the midst of people. This is image we have to hold in our mind when we read the words of John 1:14 “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”, a development of the words of Exodus 25:8.

The Ark represents a sanctuary for its inhabitants. Noah’s Ark is a sanctuary for all those in a safe space with him.

This image grows into the Biblical vision that everyone will have their own Ark, a house in fact, with their own garden (see for example Isaiah 65:21), so that no one is without a roof over their head; and no one is afraid that their house will be destroyed or their livelihood plundered.

This ideal remains a dream that has not been achieved. History is littered with stories of exactly the opposite. Homes and gardens destroyed.

The shameful fact is that today there are 70 million refugees, a new all-time high, an unprecedented global situation. This includes 28 million people who are internally displaced, trapped in their own countries (of these 11 million are conflict related, and 17 million are disaster related. Disasters include storms, floods, landslides, droughts, wild fires and extreme temperatures). Their homes and gardens have been destroyed.

People who have lost their homes and the protection of their countries value sanctuary and safety expressed in welcome and hospitality and shelter. The global image that has been before us has been of refugees in boats in sea waters, and at border fences and walls, desperately seeking sanctuary. All people with names and families, and histories. There are heart breaking images of children whose lives are in danger, and many people in the water. A traumatic situation for anyone to be in.  

In Mark 4:35-39 is recorded the story of Jesus in a small boat with his disciples. They are caught in a storm. In this storm we read that there were “other boats” with him. There was not just one boat as in the Noah story. They were not all in the same boat. There were other boats, carrying other people, all in the same storm. They all went through the fears expressed by Jesus’ disciples.

Now, in the deep and choppy waters of the coronavirus, we are all seeking or taking sanctuary in homes and rooms and apartments. We all have fears and anxiety about the wellbeing and safety of ourselves, and our families.  Others are going through a similar situation to us. No one is immune to the virus, from rulers to the ruled, rich and poor, women and men, whatever our nationality or ethnicity. Our equality in our humanity, and frailty, and desire to be safe is clear.

The reality of our world is that there are those who have “homes” and many who do not. There are those with lovely gardens, and those without gardens. There are those for whom being in a confined environment will be difficult, and for others this will hold dangers of intimidation and abuse from oppressive others.

The rain stopped in the Noah story. Coronavirus will pass. But as we take sanctuary ourselves, we will keep in our hearts and minds all those in their own other sanctuaries now, with all the surrounding concerns. And we will not forget those who are without homes, or away from homes, and refugees who continue to be “the least important” internationally, and uphold them in our work and prayers. The poorest communities will be the hardest hit by all the circumstances surrounding coronavirus. We will maintain our solidarity with those who feel most excluded and vulnerable. I hope we will not allow enforced social distancing to lead to social division.

Sanctuary in our homes is bringing us to ourselves. We have time to reflect on ourselves, and how we are with others, and to explore our spirituality. In what ways are we individually a home and a garden to ourselves? What are the points at which we are a stranger to ourselves? Where does our deepest nourishment lie? What wells do we drink from?

I love the very first line of Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali.

“Thou hast made me endless, such is thy great pleasure”.

Rabindranath Tagore

Each one of us is immense. We grow even more in our relationships with others.

Acknowledge the gift and treasure you are. We are to love ourselves, if we are to love our neighbour and the stranger as ourselves, and in so doing to discover what it is to truly love God. Look after yourself. Your wellbeing is a gift to yourself and to others. Care for your body for it is the Temple, the Sanctuary of God.

This is what it is to be a sanctuary to yourself. Model sanctuary in yourself. Be a wholesome, calm, healing and hospitable presence. So:

Allow yourself space to be. Allow others space to be.

Be compassionate towards yourself. Be compassionate towards others.

Be forgiving to yourself. Be forgiving to others.

Do not be afraid. Help others to not be afraid.

Be safe and non-violent in your words and ways. Support such non-violence in others.

When you do this, you can better support others in being and building sanctuary.

Noah’s time in the Ark with his family concludes with God’s universal covenant embracing all people, plants, animals and the environment around him (Genesis 9:12).

The gift of coronavirus may be to call us back to the insight of this covenant and God’s call to human beings again to commit ourselves to each other and all creation, to imagine and build a rainbow future with each other, as the “oikumene”, the household of God, and not least in terms of an ecumenism embracing all faiths, economic equality, and ecological justice, modelling an over-arching sanctuary for all.   

Inderjit Bhogal

27 March 2020

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Where is God in All This?

Part of the Communion In Times Of Coronavirus series of gentle reflections
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Inderjit Bhogal, 2020

In my view the first two verses of the Bible are the key to unlock the rest of it. These two verses are a summary, and what follows in the rest of the Bible illustrates this summary.

Use the wisdom of these two verses to reflect on where you find yourself now. I offer a few thoughts.

“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, and the spirit of God swept over the face of the waters”

Genesis 1:1-2

This is the beginning, not the end.

There is a formless void, darkness, and what is termed “the deep”. God does not create this. It is just there. But God dwells in the midst of it all. This is where the spirit of God is, creating something new.

The “deep” is described elsewhere in the Bible as a trembling, a disturbance, a stirring, or a storm within a person, in the mind, in circumstances or in the environment around us. It is a stirring, which can also be scary, but in which new things happen. See for example, Jeremiah 23:9, Daniel 7:2 and John 5:2.

In Sanskrit the word is “vritti”, which signifies a whirlpool. 

This is what is being described in the two opening verses of the Bible. And such scenarios are real throughout the Bible.

The stories of the Bible are reflections of a people, their journeys in life, and how they experienced and interpreted God in the midst of the harsh realities of their meanderings and troubles, conflicts and hurts, and the points at which they found meaning and hope.

The Word of God is discerned by the people of the Bible as they reflect on their often terrifying and troubling experiences. Their reflections reveal God who is with them in their travel and travail as the still and secure and creative presence at the heart of it all. Biblical witness illuminates and unfolds this insight.

The life of God flows in the “deep”, and is the ground of all creation. God weaves darkness and the deep into all creation, makes new things, and calls human beings to share in this work, to protect and take good care of life and all created things, and to do all things with wisdom (Genesis 1:26-28).

A true devotee of God (a disciple of Christ, a guru) will reflect the nature and likeness of God: staying without fear and serving in the midst of darkness and the “deep”, interpreting this as a place of sacredness, not scaredness, being creative not destructive, healing not hurting, hospitable not hostile, holding out hope not despair, modelling holiness.

In Christ we see how we too can reflect and share in the life of the divine by being fully human and embracing immersion in life (incarnation), seeking healing, hospitality and the fulness of life for all (ministry), bearing the costs of suffering (crucifixion), and always keeping hope alive (resurrection).

In life we discover God, in our humanity we embrace divinity, and in our time on earth we touch eternity.

Live confidently and help others to do so.

Inderjit Bhogal, 24 March 2020 (Fortieth Anniversary of the Assassination of Saint Oscar Romero)

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Just an Hour a Day

Part of the Communion In Times Of Coronavirus series of gentle reflections
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Inderjit Bhogal, 2020
Construct one hour a day like this. This is your hour. After this, you can spend time as you wish to, and with others to support them.

TEN MINUTES: SIT IN SILENCE

Silence. This does not mean no noise. It means you sit comfortably and just listen to yourself, and in all that is happening to you discern the voice and word of God. It doesn’t matter if your mind wanders or goes off in a tangent. Note what comes in to your mind

TEN MINUTES: WRITE

Write down some of your thoughts from the moments of silence, or other words. Just write. This is not to share with others, it is for you.

TEN MINUTES: READ

Read something. It could be a few pages of a book…your Newspaper…

TEN MINUTES: REFLECT AND PRAY

Read a short passage from the Bible. It could just be one verse. Reflect on this. What does this portion of scripture say to you? You may wish to write down a sentence or two to capture your reflection. Pause for a prayer. This could simply be to say the “Lord’s Prayer” with full attention

TEN MINUTES: LISTEN TO MUSIC

Listen to your favourite music. Or tune in to your favourite music station on radio, e.g Classic FM or whatever

TEN MINUTES: GARDENING

Just ten minutes to complete this special hour. A bit of weeding. Or as Jesus suggested, “consider the flowers and the birds” in your Garden. If you don’t have a Garden, tend indoor plants, or just “consider” them

Eat and drink in moderation. Reduce consumption generally.

Live radiantly.

Inderjit Bhogal

20 March 2020

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Holy Communion

Part of the Communion in Times of Coronavirus series of gentle reflections
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Inderjit Bhogal, 2020
NOTE: While it is not safe to gather physically, use phones and social media to stay connected and in communion.

I dislike the term “self-isolate“. We don’t want anyone to isolate or exclude anyone. Of course we want everyone to take care of themselves and others. We are all used to the idea of staying at home for the sake of health.

We want to watch over one another with love. The commandment to love God, and your neighbour as yourself is best practised in reverse order. Love yourself first. You are number one.

Be a sanctuary to yourself.

Be a sanctuary to yourself. This is not a selfish thought. If you can love yourself and be gentle with yourself you will better be able to love and look after and provide sanctuary to your neighbour. As we are advised on aeroplanes, in case of emergency put your own mask on first before you assist others. If you don’t you will not be able to help others. If you love yourself and your neighbour, you are expressing your love of and for God. This is true spiritual devotion.

And remember that Jesus only ever mentioned one number. He said “where two or three are gathered together in my name I am there in the midst of them”. Be in touch and in communion with two or three. This is the beginning and deepest form of Church and communion and community. Such contact is manageable. Worship centres are closing. Organise your congregation/community/group to be in conversation and communion with each other in 2s and 3s. Do not practice isolation. And live in the confidence that God is with us and desires fulness of life for all. Do not doubt that you have communion and sanctuary in God. Blessings and Peace.

Inderjit Bhogal

17 March 2020 

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Greeting and Sharing Peace

Part of the Communion In Times Of Coronavirus series of gentle reflections
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Inderjit Bhogal, 2020

There are a number of ways to greet being suggested in the context of Coronavirus. Most Indians use the traditional folded hands greeting.

To greet anyone, if you are able to do this, fold old your hands together at chest level, and bow gently. This action says “I honour you” and that of God in you with deep respect. This action can be used to share peace in the context of worship and prayer. You can greet male and female, young and old like this. This greeting also acknowledges different cultures.

Inderjit Bhogal

11 March 2020

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Documents & Resources – Communion in Times of Coronavirus

Part of the Communion in Times of Coronavirus series of gentle reflections
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Here are short reflections for personal reflection and consideration regarding Communion in Times of Coronavirus.

  1. Greeting and sharing peace – 11/03/2020
  2. Don’t Isolate – 17/03/2020
  3. Just an Hour a Day – 29/03/2020
  4. Where is God in all this – 24/03/2020
  5. Be a Sanctuary to Yourself – 27/03/2020
  6. A Creed and Confirmation of Faith – 29/03/2020
  7. He Restores My Soul (Psalm 23:3) – 06/04/2020
  8. Live Your Life in a Manner Worthy of The Gospel (Philippians 1:27) – 10/04/2020
  9. Good Friday – 10/04/2020
  10. Easter Meditation – 12/04/2020
  11. Virtual Sanctuary – Building Welcome, Maintaining Connection with Refugees – 29/04/2020
  12. Three Pieces of Ancient Wisdom Still Relevant Today – 30/04/2020
  13. Wisdom for Anxious Days – 03/05/2020
  14. Lessons from Ray Davey: Corrymeela Reflection and Prayer – 08/05/2020
  15. Wisdom of Breath – 10/05/2020
  16. Stillness – 17/05/2020
  17. Attention – 24/05/2020
  18. Wisdom of Hope – 28/05/2020
  19. Six Words to Live By – 14/06/2020