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All Shall Be Well


Going through the current trouble times, we can be reminded from those that came before us, how their example through their Christian lives, shows us the way forward.

There can be few better examples of this than one of the most contemplative of Christians, a woman, a Christian mystic known as ‘Julian of Norwich’.  We may never know her real name (she is named by her association with St Julian’s church in Norwich), but we know that she was in her 30’s and she lived in the 14th century.

Julian lived through the most fatal pandemic in human history – the ‘Black Death’- which like COVID-19 originated in China, but which it is believed killed up to 200 million people from 1347-1351 and around a third of the population of Europe died from it.

Like us, Julian self-isolated but she had become an ‘anchoress’, that is someone who withdraws from society and leads an intensely prayer-oriented life – a religious hermit if you will. In fact, it is believed that she lived much of her adult life in a room next to her church which would not have been much more than 10-foot square. She had a window in which people would seek spiritual guidance from her, but apart from that she lived in what was little more than a cell, so she could be alone with God.

Why though is Julian so important to us some 600+ years later?

Well, during her life she became seriously ill, so much so that the last rites were administered to her as she waited to die. However she held a crucifix in front of her and as she gazed at it, she saw the figure of Jesus beginning to bleed, and over a number of hours she had a series of visions that affected her gently but profoundly, and she recovered.

Julian, after great prayer, contemplation and understanding, wrote these experiences down in what is regarded as the first ever book written by a woman in the English language, entitled Revelations of Divine Love, and what she saw are as relevant today as they were then.

She spoke about seeing in her visions not an angry masculine God, but revelations revealed to her “very tenderly, indicating no kind of blame for me or for anyone who will be saved”. Her most famous passage in the book is when she says “And it seems to me, this suffering is something that exists for a while, because it purges us and makes us know ourselves and ask for mercy. For the Passion of our Lord is a comfort to us against all this and that it is His blessed will for all who shall be saved. He comforts us readily and sweetly by His words and says, “But all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”.

These are familiar, well known and comforting words indeed. We all want the current situation to come to an end, for us to see our loved ones again and to smell ‘freedom’ once more- although that is likely to still take more time in self isolation.

What Julian continues to show to us today, is that God loves us, that He delights in us and He “will make all things well”. Yes, there will be times like now (and in the future) when we will be “perturbed, troubled and distressed by things”, but God’s promise to us is “You shall not be overcome”.

Through her revelations, Julian was shown a fundamental and profound Truth. That God made us, that God loves us, and that God cares for us. He will not let us down and right now we need to stick with Him. He will get us through this difficult time.

Find and follow your calling..........


I am sure like so many others Thursday night at 8pm is when we all give a round of applause and thanks for health and care workers for their tireless work during this difficult time we are going through. It is also a huge testament to the NHS and their Army colleagues that in a matter of just a few days they were able to create from scratch their first pop up critical care facility, naming it the ‘NHS Nightingale Hospital’ in London.

It is very fitting that the hospital was named after one of the greatest female Christians, the founder of modern nursing and one of my personal heroines.

From a very early age Florence, born in Italy and growing up in Derbyshire, visited the local poor, read her Bible and loved collecting things and statistics. Being brought up in the 19th century though, as a young woman Florence was expected to find herself a husband and be a good wife and mother.

However, Florence, for whom her Christian faith was her driving force (“I promise to go to Church, to read, write and do the Bible”), felt from a young age that God had a specific Calling for her. Just before her 17th birthday she heard God telling her that she should be a nurse – something that middle-class women frankly did not do then.

She had several proposals of marriage from eligible men but she felt sure that God meant for her to be single but her family were dead set against that and Florence was forced to study nursing in secret and eventually she ‘trained’ in a religious community in Germany. There whilst learning about medicines, dressing wounds, amputations and how to care for the sick and dying she said that she never felt happier “Now I know what it is to love life”. This is what happens when you follow on the true path that God has for us.

Florence’s calling though became even clearer when the Crimean war (against the Tsar’ Russian army) took place and horrific reports came back that solders were dying in agony. Florence knew she had to go and help, so she bought together a team of 38 brave female nurses who sailed to the Crimea, and then like now, there were complaints of in efficiencies and lack of supplies, but undeterred Florence and her nurses acts of compassion, care and love made a huge difference to soldiers’ lives and the British public were in awe of what she had done.

Newspapers called her a “ministering angel” and reported that “as her slender form glides quietly along each corridor, every poor fellow’s face softens with gratitude at the sight of her”. For good reason was Florence Nightingale known as the “Lady with the Lamp”.

What she discovered at the army hospital at Scutari was that 90% of soldiers died not from their war wounds but from poor sanitation and hygiene at the hospital. She implemented handwashing and other clean practices that are still such a Godsend today in the current outbreak. Her actions it is believed reduced the death rate at Scutari from 42% to just 2%.

But even after the end of the war, Florence was not finished. She realised that hospitals needed to be healthy places to minister to the sick. She introduced what is known as “pavilion style” hospital wings and full-length windows on wards to allow better light and ventilation. With huge public support, she opened the Nightingale School of Nursing at St Thomas’ Hospital in London (it is still there) which led to the creation of nursing as a formal profession.

Florence died at the age of 90 in 1910- within 50 years the NHS was born. Florence’s contribution to the NHS that we now have cannot be understated. Her Christian calling about looking after a person’s mental as well as physical wellbeing, and to be sensitive to their needs is part of its cornerstones. She helped make nursing a respectable profession for women and to ensure healthcare for all -rich or poor.

Florence listened carefully and soulfully to God’s word and what He was calling her to do, and despite the difficulties of parental disapproval, and going against what society expected of her at that time, she persisted, and all of our lives have been affected by her Christian faith as a result.

We all make a difference. What is God calling you to do?


To be a Christian

Now it is Easter. As a Christian you go through different rites of passage at this time of the year. From the lows of ‘Good’ Friday where Jesus was crucified and all hope of his mission seemed to have come to a dreadful End. But Easter of course has the happiest of endings. Three days later as Jesus predicted he was raised to life so you rejoice and say Hallelujah-it is the happiest of times.

But at this time of the year in an increasingly secular world that we live in, people may ask “but why do you think Easter is true, what is the proof that Jesus is the Son of God, where is the evidence that Jesus was who he said he was?”

Let me give you just one reason why I am a Christian and see if that helps:

Probably my favourite character in Christendom is a little known 3rd century martyr said only to be in her early 20’s by the name of Perpetua. She lived in what is now Tunis and was due to be baptised as a Christian when the Roman emperor at that time tried to quash Christianity and took her and others like her. Imprisoned prior to being butchered, her father visited her to plead for her to renounce Jesus so she could live. Her response was simple: “Father, do you see this vase here? Could it be called by any other name than what it is? Well, neither can I be called anything other than what I am, a Christian”.

She and her Christian sisters became admired by their prison guards and allowed them to baptise each other. When they entered the arena to be killed they robustly refused to wear the sashes and clothes of the pagan gods and awaited the wild animals who were to gore them, but they refused to approach them and instead attacked her captors. A Gladiator then struck the first blow into Perpetua but he was so shaken by what he was doing that he could not finish the act so Perpetua took his sword and finished the job herself.

Prior to her martyrdom, she wrote a diary of what had happened to encourage others to faith and 18 centuries on, it continues to do that.

When I first heard of Perpetua, I was greatly moved and I can still recall watching a theologian trying to tell the story but eventually she just broke down, so moved was she by the sacrifice made. My argument is why would a young woman in the peak of her life, who had a young daughter, give all that up when all she had to do was to deny who Jesus was? She and her sisters believed and they could not deny who they were and who Jesus is.

I still get moved by the example set by Perpetua and her friends, and there are numerous others who have given their lives or made huge sacrafices rather than deny Jesus. That is just one of the reasons why I remain a Christian. Happy Easter!

Mary Magdalene- oh no Mary!

If we are approaching Easter than it must be time for another film of the Passion. Mary Magdalene is that film for 2018 and in a nutshell it is a real disappointment.

Written for the #MeToo times that we are currently living through, it is a revisionist view of the Gospel stories and especially the role and character of Mary Magdalene herself.

Written by Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett it goes back to the Gospels and especially what are known as the Gnostic (unauthorised to you and me) writings that indicated that Mary was a major and senior Disciple of Jesus- and not the Prostitute or ‘fallen woman’ that Christians had been brought up to believe down the generations. As a Christian myself, I have no difficulty over these twin arguments although her role as a senior disciple can be over stated – see Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code to see the ultimate heresy!

As Mary, Rooney Mara (The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo) is the stand out performer playing the Magdalene as an independent and forceful young woman who is trying to find her place in the world.  People (mostly men) interpret her wishes and actions as a sign of madness and in a scene which is not that far from abuse they try and drown the Devil out of her. The Gospels of Luke & Mark refer to her having “seven demons” cast out of her of course. Mary withstands this brutal treatment and goes to find her future by leaving her family.

This leads to her meeting Jesus and his Disciples. Now in this tale, Jesus is played by real life boyfriend of Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix- who is better known for his performance as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. And this is the problem. As Jesus, Phoenix plays him as a kind of drifting philosopher who is reliant on his disciples to tell him what to believe, think and do- rather than as the Son of God who was on a critical mission for mankind. You wonder why people would follow him as Phoenix’s Jesus is so insipid and uninspiring. His disciples include Chiwetel Ejifor as Peter and a very impressive Tahar Rahim as Judas- playing him as much as an Agent of God than as pure traitor.

Mary Magdalene does not loyally follow the biblical texts and cuts out major parts of the story to tell its own tale, so for example we have a scene where Mary is asked by other women whether they should obey their husbands or God.

Overall, I found the movie a disappointment. There is a big film waiting to be made about Mary but to understand her you need to understand Jesus, and you cannot see why she did what she did for Phoenix’s Jesus. The photography in the film is though splendid and you see some great views in Southern Italy where the movie was largely filmed, but that apart it is quite drab and it may instead be worth waiting for Mel Gibson’s sequel to his Passion of the Christ which is in the works….

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