One of the big challenges at the moment for us is the amount of distractions that we have in our daily lives. In addition to whatever task is before us we now have constant connection to phones, email, and a million other notifications of various apps working in the background of our lives. It’s increasingly recognised that this often has a negative impact on our relationships, because it is hard to pay attention to our families and friends in the way that they need. In being so ‘connected’ we become disconnected. But the same is true in our relationship with God, that the distractions of life make it hard to hear his voice and to pay attention to him. Particularly because God often speaks to us in the ‘quiet whisper’ that Elijah heard (1 Kings 19), allowing us the freedom to ignore him if we choose. This week in our series on the Song of Songs we think about the reality that God is calling out to our hearts, calling us to pay attention to him and follow him into a new life. This experience is often buried under many distractions, but it is always there, and our job is to listen and be ready. Where do you hear God speaking to you right at the moment?

– Andrew –

One of the big issues in our culture is that we tend to separate our ‘head’ and our ‘heart’. We exercise our reason in trying to figure out the world, and often ignore the place that our emotions play in how we live. That can lead to a sense of imbalance in how we live and work, and that something is missing in our lives. The same can be true for our faith in God. It’s easy to think a lot about God and about what we believe, but miss the deeper experiences that come from the presence of God in our hearts. If we miss this, we miss the joy that comes from this relationship, the joy that we were made for.

This Term at St. Mark’s we are working through the ‘Song of Songs’, one of the most interesting books in the Old Testament. The Songs are a series of love poems between a young Israelite couple, where they describe their admiration and delight in each other, as well as the highs and lows of their romance. This book may seem strange to be in the Bible, but over the years it has been seen as an inspired window into the kind of passionate love that God has for his people. This is how we will explore it, and allow the Songs to open up for us some of the amazing experiences of love that God offers those who seek him with all their heart.

– Andrew –

This weekend we are celebrating Easter, alongside Christians from all around the world. This is the high point of our church calendar and the greatest celebration of our faith, because it is centred on the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was these events that showed who he really was and what he came to do, to save the world from our slavery to sin and to death. At St. Mark’s we are thinking about what it meant to experience the cross for those who were there – on Good Friday the experience that Jesus himself went through of giving over everything in his obedience to God, and on Easter Sunday the apostle Peter, who missed the Cross but was invited to a new and challenging life after the Resurrection. For us today this is still the challenge, to take on and understand the Cross of Jesus and his Resurrection, the way it challenges and changes our world and our attitude to everything in it. I pray that during Easter this year you would be able to place yourself at the Cross, and the empty tomb, and see what God has done for us. – Andrew –

Next week we will be celebrating ‘Holy Week’, which is the end of the season of Easter that finishes with Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. This Sunday is traditionally called ‘Palm Sunday’, because we remember that when Jesus came into Jerusalem before he was arrested and crucified, he was hailed as a king by many of the people of the city. They were excited about his ministry, his teaching and healings, and they lay down palm leaves in front of him as he rode in. What this sets us up for is a recognition that while Jesus was a king, he was not the kind that people expected. So when he disappointed them, they had him killed. But in going to the Cross he established what a true king really is, willing to suffer and die for his people. The Cross acts as an ‘inverter’ that turns upside-down many of our understandings about how the world works. This week at St. Mark’s we are thinking about the way that the apostle John, the ‘disciple Jesus loved’, experienced the Cross as he watched his Master die before him. John became known as a the great teacher of the love of God, and we see in his later writings in the New Testament that on the Cross he saw not a violent death, but a loving sacrifice that confirms God’s saving power for everyone in the world.

-Andrew-

Christianity is a funny religion, because it has a number of ‘rough edges’ in it that can’t be smoothed away without ruining the whole thing. These tend to get brought up at our major festivals, Christmas and Easter, where we are confronted with ideas like the virgin birth, the Cross, and the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It would be a lot easier to sell the Christian faith as a sensible philosophy of life without these things, but then without them there wouldn’t be much to sell except telling people to ‘be nicer to each other’. So, if we are serious about exploring what Jesus taught and who he was we need to grapple with these rough edges. We are coming up to Easter in two weeks, and thinking about what it means for Jesus to die on the Cross. This is a huge topic that can be approached many ways. We are thinking particularly at St. Mark’s about the personal significance of the Cross for those who were closest to Jesus at the time – his mother Mary and his friends John and Peter, as well as what it meant for Jesus himself. The Cross actually holds great depths to help us understand the experience of God in our lives and what it means to follow Jesus and his Way. So I invite you to join us on this Easter journey.

-Andrew-