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Baking through Lent: Palm Sunday

It seems strange to think of it these days…but can you imagine standing in a crowd…packed tight up against the people all around you…a bit like being in a football stadium at a football match…everyone cheering and singing…That’s just what it was like on Palm Sunday; crowds lined the streets on the way into Jerusalem. Why? Because Jesus was coming into Jerusalem riding on a donkey: this was the man they’d heard about. The man who made sick people well; who gave hungry people food; who stuck up for those who were looked down upon; they said he’d even brought people back from the dead. This was someone everyone wanted to see. And so they gathered as if to welcome a King; someone they hoped would make a difference to everyone’s lives…
Who would you line up on a street to see?
Why do you think the people were so excited to see Jesus?
Thinking of all those people made me think of Gingerbread people…have a look at some of the gingerbread people that I have made.
Why not have a go yourself and see if you can make some gingerbread people for our Palm Sunday crowd.
Follow this link for the recipe and to find out a bit more about what happened on the first Palm Sunday.

Gingerbread People

350g flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cinnamon 100 g butter
175g brown sugar 1 egg, beaten
4 tbsp golden syrup
Icing and decorations (optional)

First set the temperature for your oven to 180°C and prepare a baking sheet with baking paper.
o Cut up the butter and melt in a saucepan over a low heat.
o Add the brown sugar and golden syrup and stir into the butter until the mixture is smooth.
o Remove from heat to cool.
o In a large bowl, sift the flour and add the ginger, cinnamon and baking soda. I like my gingerbread people really gingery so I add 4 tsps!!!
o Stir in the beaten egg to the dry mix.
o Add in the buttery mixture and stir until combined.
o Knead it gently until it forms a dough.
o Roll out the dough to ¼ inch thick. Cut out the gingerbread people with a cookie cutter and place on the prepared baking sheets.
o Bake for 8-12 minutes.
o Allow to cool thoroughly (they harden as they cool) before adding any decorations.

A Palm Sunday Story By Linda Sue Pochodzay Edwards

The dusty roads leading into Jerusalem were anything but quiet. A buzz of excitement filled the air as preparations for Passover, the biggest holiday of the year, were being made. It seemed that everyone from everywhere was trying to get to Jerusalem to celebrate. But it wasn’t only people . . .
The roads were crowded with donkeys and camels which was the common form of transportation, and not only that, most people also brought other animals with them. The bleating of sheep, the mooing of cows and the cooing of doves could all be heard, as well as the laughing and singing of children. The mood was boisterous and joyous as people greeted old friends and family members they hadn’t seen since the previous year.
In a field on the outskirts of Jerusalem there was a donkey and it’s colt. Two of Jesus disciples went to see the owner.
“The Lord needs these animals,”they said and without a fuss the owner didn’t ask any questions but let the two men take the animals.
Just outside the town, the friends of Jesus found their master. They took off their overcoats and laid them on the little colt. And then Jesus got up on the colt and started riding it into town.
“How can he do that?” someone from the crowd asked. “How can he get on and ride a little colt that has never been trained?”

As Jesus rode towards the town, a strange thing happened, the people watching took their cloaks off and laid them on the ground
Most of the people in the crowd recognized the man who was riding the little colt. They had heard his teachings, and many had seen at least one miracle. “It’s Jesus! It’s Jesus!” they loudly proclaimed. Other people had brought palm branches on their trip to fan themselves, and they laid those on the ground. Some of them used their palm branch fans to wave in the air, causing a breeze to keep Jesus cool and comfortable.
Even the children joined in! They made a long carpet out of clothing and palm branches, reaching all the way down the road and into town for the donkey and the colt carrying Jesus to walk on. All the while they were laying garments and palm branches on the ground, they were waving and shouting, “HOSANNA! HOSANNA! Blessed be the King that comes in the name of the Lord! BLESSED BE THE KING! HOSANNA!”
The people in the crowd had recognized that day that JESUS is the KING of all the earth. They recognized Him as their Messiah who would one day rule over everything. But there were a few people that were not happy about all this. Some of the Pharisees (teachers in the temple) told Jesus to tell the people to stop shouting and to stop calling Him the King, and to stop worshipping Him.
Some of the Pharisees told Jesus to tell the people to stop shouting and to stop calling Him the King. Jesus responded to the Pharisees saying: “If these people were to be quiet and not worship Me as their King, then the rocks would cry out in worship.” Jesus and the donkey, and the colt continued on their way into the city of Jerusalem, as the shouts of the people continued. “HOSANNA! HOSANNA! Blessed be the King that comes in the name of the Lord! BLESSED BE THE KING! HOSANNA!”
And so Jesus entered Jerusalem…and the people wondered…what was going to happen next?

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Morning Prayer on 25th October

The world now is too dangerous and too beautiful
for anything but love.
May your eyes be so blessed you see God in everyone.
Your ears, so you hear the cry of the poor.
May your hands be so blessed
that everything you touch is a sacrament.
Your lips, so you speak nothing but the truth with love.
May your feet be so blessed you run to those who need you.
And may your heart be so opened, so set on fire,
that your love, your love, changes everything.
And may the blessing of the God who created you, loves you,
and sustains you, be with you now and always.
May it be so. Amen

A Prayer of Blessing from the Black Rock Prayer book

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Life After Brexit

The Summer seems to have flown by and now we are in September with all that that entails as far as new beginnings, returning to school and work after holidays. And it is also the time when Parliament return to the debating table, hopefully refreshed and reinvigorated after the summer recess. This forthcoming parliamentary sitting seems so momentous knowing that within its span key decisions will be taken about the future of this country.

Before you stop reading, let me hasten to assure you, this is not a Party Political broadside, but it is political in so far as I attempt to reflect upon the question in all of our minds … what will life be like post Brexit? Given the divisive public discourse, the divisions evident in family, neighbourhood and society at large, how can we move beyond what divides and embrace again what unites?

There is an old Irish proverb that is written in the halls of Stormont: “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” If there were any society that has grappled with the challenge of coming together after years and years of entrenched and bloody conflict then it is Northern Ireland. The Corrymeela Community, a Christian community who sought to work for peace and reconciliation in the midst of ‘the troubles’, has a lot of wisdom to share with us as we seek to look beyond our differences and unite around what can build and strengthen community.

Pádraig Ó Tuama, former leader of the community, has recently commented on the state of the Brexit negotiations and public discourse.

One of the interesting things about the Brexit project in Britain is that it is people in Britain having civic discussions, the likes of which they haven’t had to have. We’ve had to have this for 100 years … so we know that here. And actually I think that Northern Ireland does have a key to providing something about what civic discourse looks like … what will save us … is the capacity for a community to hold itself together and to speak to each other rather than ripping each other apart.

So how can we foster that capacity in our families, our neighbourhoods, our towns and villages? Could we begin to view difference as an opportunity to understand a different perspective? How can we embrace the other as made in the image of God? How can we find common ground that provides a firm foundation for the common good? How can we discover together that love can go beyond the border of similarity, entering the places where we are strange and foreign to each other and there discover something of the possibility of being human with each other?

In the gospel reading this week, Jesus shares with his friends the costly conflictual path of peace (Luke 12:49-56). When we seek a Kingdom that is based on mutual flourishing, on wholeness and fullness of life for all, then we will find that we differ from those whose kingdoms are less roomy and welcoming than the one God is growing here on earth. When we find we are invested in different futures, the way ahead is not to retreat in our silos and throw stones but to reach out to the other in an attempt to share, to connect and transform.

Life after Brexit offers us an opportunity to transform divisions with human encounter. It invites us to cultivate the art of good conversation which makes space for difference and transformation. I came across these guidelines for the art of dialogue that we may find helpful in the days to come:

Say what you actually think and say it to them, looking at them in the face. Talk, talk to them. Tell them how you feel, describe what it’s like in the space that you inhabit. And then sit back and listen.

Life after Brexit is a future that is only just emerging and we are co-creators of this new reality. So let’s embrace all the opportunities available and engage in powerful, courageous, brave, risky conversations in the present that might create the very future we say we want.

On the 22nd November at 7:30 Dr Anna Rowlands will be coming to Keswick Methodist Church to talk to us and facilitate a public conversation on ‘Brexit, a Christian vision of the common good’. Suggested donations £5. This is an Engaging Theology in Cumbria event. Further details are available from Nicki.

A Fractured Nation

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Somewhere over a Rainbow

In these uncertain times, our nation is spending a lot of time attempting to predict what the future might look like, under a new Prime Minister, outside or semi-detached from the European Union. And different folks are attempting to promote their particular vision of what this future might be like. As with any predictions, it’s hard to know with any degree of certainty what might happen.

And yet vision is important. It gives direction, it shapes the way we live in the here and now. The Bible warns that without a vision people perish. So what kind of vision can we put our faith in?

The classic film, Wizard of Oz and its bestselling single, ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow,’ connects strongly with the hope we all have for a better future, a future where all have what they need to live and thrive, where people can know joy and delight…’where lemon drops grow on trees.’  In what seems to me to be a grown-up version of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’, John Lennon imagines a future where there is no war, where people live at peace, in contentment. It seems to me that both of these visions are a bit like wish fulfilment,  detached from the real world, a world where we all from time to time make poor choices, choices that can damage ourselves and others and the natural world.

In the Bible we find a different vision, a vision of the future that accepts and encompasses all the frailty and brokenness that we find in ourselves, that we see in others and in the natural world and yet a vision that in spite of this seeks the fullness of life that a life lived in relationship with God can bring. The Bible calls it the Kingdom of God, a state of being where in God’s strength, we learn how to live in ways that bring peace and hope and joy into our world, that safeguard and support the most vulnerable, that includes all enabling all to flourish. It’s a vision which is as much about how we live in relationship to the natural world as it is about society of humankind. This is a realistic vision because God knows our capacity to bring pain and suffering to ourselves and others. And yet through God’s forgiveness and in God’s strength, God shows us how to be reconciled with those we have hurt, how to open our lives to God’s love and to be transformed so that we can live in ways that restore and renew the broken places in our lives and in our world.

In the county of Cumbria, Churches across the denominations have attempted to encapsulate that vision in three words, God for all. It communicates our faith in a God who understands and accepts that life is hard, a God who longs to offer us a rich and fulfilled life lived in connection with God and in harmony with our neighbours and the planet we live on. A life that is filled with the joy and peace that comes from knowing we are loved and accepted and cherished by our loving maker. And that vision is realisable in your life now…you don’t need to search for the land which lies over the rainbow.

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Say one for me….

It often happens to me, I get into a conversation with someone in a shop or out on the street and they tell me their troubles and as we prepare to take our leave of each other they often ask, ‘Say one for me, won’t you.’

What are they talking about? They’re talking about prayer. In spite of the dramatic reduction in numbers of folks attending church, a recent study found that 6 out of 7 people still believe that prayers can be answered. And, surprisingly, it’s the young who are more inclined to pray than the older generation. Just over half of all adults in the UK pray, and just under half of those who pray said they believed God hears their prayers. Four out of ten go further, saying prayer changes the world.

So what are people praying about and when do we do it? For those who would not profess to have a faith, it is an instinctive response to a crisis: “Please, God.” Personal crisis or tragedy is the most common reason for praying, with one in four saying they pray to gain comfort or feel less lonely. When not in a crisis, praying for our family tops the list of subjects of prayers at 71%, followed by thanking God (42%), praying for healing (40%) and for friends (40%).

“We should not be surprised by these recent findings,” says Rachel Treweek, bishop of Gloucester, because prayer, “reflects human longing for the mystery and love of God amid experiences of daily life.”

And apparently prayer is good for you. A study conducted by Lisa Miller, professor and director of Clinical Psychology and director of the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Teachers College, Columbia University, found that people who pray regularly had a changed physiological structure to their brains; they had thicker cortices. The thinning of the cortice, especially in certain areas of the brain is an indicator of impending ill health, particularly due to depression. Thicker cortices indicated a lesser chance of suffering from depression, suggesting that prayer and spirituality really does yield some stunning benefits to the human brain. Other benefits have also emerged including strengthening our resistance to stress, depression and anxiety, building resilience in everyday challenges, improved recovery rates after physical illness, a healthier heart and a greater sense of well-being.

So what is prayer? According to Isabelle Hamley, chaplain to the archbishop of Canterbury, prayer is “primarily a line of communication with God – thinking, reflecting, bringing one’s concerns and worries into a bigger picture.”

Prayer is a mysterious thing but time and again, I hear folks saying that they know instinctively that something is happening when they pray….maybe that is why I am asked to pray for those I meet so often.

This is how Padraig O’Tuoma describes prayer:

“Prayer is a cry…prayer is a small fire lit to keep cold hands warm. Prayer is a practice that flourishes with faith and doubt. Prayer is asking and prayer is sitting. Prayer can be a rhythm that helps us make sense in times of senselessness, not offering solutions, always, but speaking to and from the mystery of humanity…’

To pray is to imagine and in imagining, we may reach something that is bigger than our imaginings, a wideness, an embrace in which we and all for whom we have prayed are held.

From the 30th May to the 9th June, (10-3pm every day apart from Mondays) we are opening a prayer room in St Paul’s Church Frizington. We are inviting you all to come and be; you can just sit and take in the silence or spend some time listening, wondering, and expressing your deepest longings. The choice is yours. Let us pray.

Ó Tuama, P., Corrymeela Community, 2017. Daily prayer with the Corrymeela Community.

Link to research on prayer survey

Tearfund – Prayer Survey

Link to research findings on prayer makes us healthier

https://www.thehealthsite.com/diseases-conditions/10-ways-praying-actually-benefits-your-health-p114-112613/