May is Mental Health Awareness month. Being ill is never fun and is often scary because things are out of control. For many people, mental illness adds more layers of distress. Not being able to think straight, perhaps not knowing what we are doing and not remembering afterwards. Each disorder brings its own challenges.

On top of this there is the stigma. Most of us do not like to admit to having mental health problems. It seems that, every so often, some diagnosis become more acceptable, perhaps almost fashionable and it is easier to talk about things. But then, all too soon we are forced back into our cocoon of silence and a cocoon is the worst place to be when you need help.

It would be good to think we are a Church where we could talk openly about mental health issues but, I have to admit, even I feel reticent. I know, even if you have a diagnosis of a mental health problem, it is still all too easy to judge others. We should be listening and exploring but, because of the way most of us have been brought up that can be hard. I was certainly instilled with a fear of “odd” or “strange” people. People "like that" were dangerous, not to be trusted and to be avoided. If you had any of the same, it is no wonder that we do not want to be thought of us "those sorts of people" who we were taught to avoid at all costs. I am sure a lot of you had different experiences but the whole subject is still wrapped in secrecy and shame.

Perhaps, at Redeemer, we can commit to working towards being a more open community when it comes to Mental Health. I am not inviting, or expecting, a whole load of dumping of problems. We are not a counselling service or therapy group. But we do need to develop a kindness and gentleness to ourselves and each other. Let's aim to find an openness which reflects the openness of Christ who receives us as we are. Labels can be devastating, but, if we let them, they can also open doors to conversation and a deeper understanding of ourselves and those around us.


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This evening (Saturday evening) we will celebrate the Easter Vigil. If you have never heard of this you are not alone. Although it has been around since the early days of Christianity it has fallen out of use in many Christian denominations.

It starts with reading passaged from the Bible - a lot of passages - which remind us of the stories which surround God's creation and protection of the people of Israel in the Old Testament. These stories are told, rather like stories are told at a family gathering, reminding us of where things started - not always because they were good things, but because it is important to understand and own our history and heritage.

Then we light a fire outside. From it a special candle is lit, called the Paschal Candle (Paschal just means Easter). Think of it a bit like the story of a phoenix who bursts into flame and from that flame comes new life. Everyone lights their own candle and the Paschal Candle is carried into Church and an ancient hymn called the "Exsultat" is sung.

Then we celebrate the Eucharist (Holy Communion) with lots of music and Alleluias.

At Redeemer we know that the readings plus the Eucharistic part of the service are just too long for some folk - the readings take about an hour and the next part a little over an hour - so we offer the option to turn up at seven for the readings and at 8 for the rest of the service. We might start a little after 8, depending on how long the readings take.

Curious? Come along and see.

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A Meditation for Maundy Thursday

Many of the things which most impact us in life are on ordinary kinds of days, things which we do not expect - good things, bad things - ordinary days - that is jeans and t-shirt days.

According to John’s timeline for the meal which we have heard about tonight was a jeans and t-shirt kind of thing. Friends having dinner, friends looking forward to a party the next day which would be the Passover. Remember, when Judas leaves, that is what they think he is going to do - buy things for the party. This, of course, is a different timeline to the other three Gospels who have the Last Supper on the party day, the day of Passover.

John has this chronology, we think, because that way he can tell us that Jesus is killed at the same time as the Passover lambs are being killed. He makes it clear then that Jesus death is not a sin offering but rather sacrifice which will sustain and protect. Jesus death is not contractual - it is not to remove our blame - rather designates the people of God as they begin a journey.

But travel with me, as we return to the very ordinary, jeans and T-Shirt day.

“I’m hungry,” complained Peter.

“You are always hungry,” replied Andy, “how about the rest of you?” People nodded around the van, Jesus was driving, as usual. "Hey Jesus," Andy shouted, "do you mind if we stop and grab some food". Jesus replied,

“What are you thinking? Can we take it back to the house - I don’t feel like eating out.”

“Sure,” said Peter. Jesus must be really tired, he rarely turned down the opportunity to be around people and Jerusalem was heaving with folk to preach to. “Whatever you say boss.”

Andy pulled out his phone,

“I’ll order ahead,” he said, “everyone up for their usual?” He stared menacingly at Nathaneal who nodded meekly, the joke about wanting bacon on his burger last time had not gone down well.

Everyone was glad that Andy had been so organized as the drive thru line stretched all the way around the building. It was so busy. Andy hung on to the food until they got to the house, despite Peter’s protestations,

“You have to wash your hands, at least pretend to care. Those pharisees are all over us and that is all we need, you eating with unclean hands, we have already been in trouble for that.”

Peter did as he was told.

“Want to watch something?” asked Nate. Jesus shook his head no. Peter took a breath to protest that the Nazareth Narwhals were playing in half an hour but thought better of it - he had a feeling that today was not the day. Jesus did not seem hungry, he was picking at his food. He waved a fry in front of his face,

“You know,” he said, “one of you is going to betray me.” All the friends looked at each other around the room. Peter whispered to John who was next to Jesus,

“Is he alright? Ask him what he is on about.” John needed no further urging. Jesus looked really sad then,

“Whoever I pass this fry to,” he said, “that person will betray me.” He dipped a fry in the tub of ketchup and handed it to Judas who immediately disappeared - wow, it had got dark quickly.

Jesus got up and grabbed a towel and a basin and filled it with water. Now they were all looking, what on earth was he up to.

“I need to wash your feet,” he said to them. They shot glances at each other, no way - this was the job of a slave, the place of a poor person, a person they did not want to hang out with, to deal with dirty feet.

“Don’t be silly,” said Peter, “hand me the bowl and I will wash yours, otherwise it is backwards”

“No,” said Jesus,” it isn’t backwards at all, “I have to do this for you and you have to do it for others. One by one around the room jean legs were rolled up and feet readied for washing.

When Jesus finished the room had a silence in it which was both wonderful and unnerving, no one knew what to say or even what to think.

So what do we say or think? What do we say when jeans and t-shirt days turn into something else? Do we allow these days in Holy Week to enter into the ordinary and the ordinary enter into them.

It is very easy to put this story in a bubble where it makes sense, where we understand it. But when we try to make it neat and tidy, we lose its power. If it is scandalous to suggest Jesus wore jeans and a t-shirt, ate fast food and watched TV - then the scandal is on is - we have not understood.

John gives an ordinary meal, and ordinary meal which is colored with the hope and a great party the next day, a place where emotion is not running high and where expectation is for something so different to what happens. Perhaps we should accept the invitation to come to this place again but with fresh eyes, we just don’t know. I love the T.S.Eliot line in Little Gidding which says (the end of our exploring) Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time

I wonder whether we dare to take that route this Holy Week - to have no expectations and to understand that the ordinary and extra-ordinary can both be places of familiarity and wonderful new discovery.

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