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Holy Week

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for about 40 minutes…

  • Monday 15th April – 6.30 pm – Witnesham Church
  • Tuesday 16th April – 6.30 pm – Westerfield Church
  • Wednesday 17th April 6.30 pm – Tuddenham Church

then on…

Maundy Thursday 18th April – Witnesham Church at 6.30pm:

Foot Washing, Holy Communion, and The stripping of the Altar.

Good Friday 19th April:

10.00am A ‘Walk of Witness’ from Witnesham St Mary’s Church to Witnesham Baptist Church (where refreshments will be served).

12 noon – 2.00pm The Vigil. Westerfield Church.

3.00 – 4.00pm ‘The Last Hour’. Westerfield Church.

Lent Day 40

Day 40: Saturday, 20 April

Psalm 119: Lamedh

89 Your word, Lord, is eternal;
      it stands firm in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
      you established the earth, and it endures.
91 Your laws endure to this day,
      for all things serve you.
92 If your law had not been my delight,
      I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
      for by them you have preserved my life.
94 Save me, for I am yours;
      I have sought out your precepts.
95 The wicked are waiting to destroy me,
      but I will ponder your statutes.
96 To all perfection I see a limit,
      but your commands are boundless.


We return to Psalm 119. The section where each line in the Hebrew starts with the letter lamedh is found above. I have mentioned that learning words is a good thing, and it is not so difficult if you take the time. What would be better: to look it up in a web browser on your mobile or to recite it instantly?

These are words of encouragement. Repeat to yourself the opening verse until something of its truth touches your heart. The three verses are powerful statements about God. It might seem a little odd to delight in God’s law, for to me the Ten Commandments carry a lot of “thou shalt not” in them, and the ‘thou shalt’s’ might not seem that exciting, either. But I’d be missing much if I did not peer more closely into the text and ask myself why God gave these words to Moses. They speak of long life, of blessings passing directly and free of charge through generations of families, and you will take a day off each week. Jesus added a layer of truth to the words of the law and summed it up in a few words, and he himself paid in his blood the price of our sin. As the Temple veil was torn, so the tablets of stone became redundant to those who follow Jesus.

The Law exists today, and everyone who is not in Christ remains under it, whether they believe that or not. Anyone who loves the law and follows it will be like the young psalmist above, who follows God with excitement, fervour and outright commitment. Even better for those who follow Christ.

What has a Christian got that surpasses the joy of the psalmist?

If you have found these reflections useful, how might you develop your understanding of them or respond artistically to their content? How about keeping favourite verses in a journal, drawing designs or pictures to colour in, learning a psalm or two?

Father God, I commit myself to you. Commit me to meditating upon your word that it may enlighten my thoughts and actions and set my spirit to rise in worship. Amen.

For the pure joy of it:

If you like that, then–UABwqW9Sg

Journaling and colouring in Bible:

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised Edition) Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, a Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. "NIV" is a registered trademark of Biblica – UK trademark number 1448790.


Lent Day 39

Day 39: Friday, 19 April

Psalm 134

Praise in the Night

A Song of Ascents.

1 Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
      who stand by night in the house of the Lord!
2 Lift up your hands to the holy place,
      and bless the Lord.

3 May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth,
      bless you from Zion.


This is not the shortest psalm, though as a psalm of ascents I’d imagine you wouldn’t get far up the hill on one iteration on these words. The psalm is initially addressed to the Levites, the ones

Our corporate praise is predominantly morning praise. Wake up and praise the Lord!

When morning gilds the sky,
my heart, awakening, cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Our night time hymns can be a little less exciting

The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at thy behest,
To thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

This hymn is actually quite popular at funerals. I think it has been misunderstood a little, as it does hint at constant praise of God, though by others across the world in their various daylight hours. Of course, there is ‘Come bless the Lord’, which is based on these words, but evening worship has become an opt-out in most churches. We might want to settle down at home, to batten up the hatches as Sunday evening approaches, but God is to be worshiped at any time.

Our morning worship is probably more seat-based than upstanding. We’ll stand to sing, possibly for a Gospel reading in a communion service and that ninth lesson in the carol service, but not for many other readings. Prayers are not often recited in a standing position, and so this psalm’s call to bless God as we stand before him and raise our hands up towards his presence is not universally taken up.

Are we slipping away from ‘physical’ worship as expressed in the psalms?

Father God, set my hands to move at the impulse of Your love. Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee. Amen. – a gentle evening song.

Scripture quotations are from The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicised) of the Bible copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches in the USA. Used by permission. All Rights Reserved. 


Lent Day 38

Day 38: Thursday, 18 April

Psalm 128

A Song of degrees.

1 Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord;
that walketh in his ways.
2 For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands:
happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.
3 Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house:
thy children like olive plants round about thy table.
4 Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed
that feareth the Lord.
5 The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion:
and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life.
6 Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children,
and peace upon Israel.


A short psalm that is packed with content. Fear means respect, honour and reverence, knowing your place. God is an awesome god. He is the only God. He demands the bowing of our knees before him. Stay in his shadow, learn his ways, get close, and you will understand them better. Your life and labour will be blessed, as will your home and family.

The journey to Jerusalem is important to the great number of pilgrims who make their way there from all across the world (see the list of countries mentioned in Acts 2:7-11). Blessing from God could only come through the priests who worked in the Temple. This could not be obtained in the local synagogue.

Pilgrimage was a central part of life. We may wonder at pilgrimage today, as the veil of the Temple was split at Jesus’ death, and blessing comes directly from God in Jesus, who lives in us where we are by his Holy Spirit. Certainly, the appropriation of pilgrimage as a money tool to hit people with was evident in Jesus’ day (the Temple money-changers), common in medieval times, and still continues in largely Catholic countries.

There is still something to be said for committing to making a journey to a special place of significance as an outward act of seeking renewal (I avoid including penitence, as repentance trumps penitence). Though not particularly to my taste, there are sites that commemorate an event or hold some mortal remains of past brothers and sisters in faith, and the connection they offer may help strengthen faith.

Our nearest place of pilgrimage is Walsingham, which has both a Catholic and an Anglican shrine. It’s an interesting place. That the Lord does and shall bless us in Christ through his Holy Spirit reminds me that I do not need to go on pilgrimages to find God. I may, however, wish along with others to make a public pronouncement of my faith in, say, walking around the area the church is situated.

How ready is your church to do a walk of witness in its neighbourhood?

How would you prepare the ground?

Father God, I know that I am called to share my faith. It would be easier if it already overflowed from me. Join my spirit with your Holy Spirit that I may cry out, ‘Abba, Father’ in response to knowing your love, your grace, your mercy, your fatherhood. Amen. Sons of Korah

From The Authorized (King James) Version. Rights in the Authorized Version are vested in the Crown. Reproduced by permission of the Crown’s patentee, Cambridge University Press. 


Lent Day 37

Day 37: Wednesday, 17 April

Tehillim 122

122 (Shir HaMa’alot, [Song of Ascents] of Dovid). I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the Bais Hashem.

2 Our feet shall stand within thy she’arim, O Yerushalayim.

3 Yerushalayim is built as an Ir bound firmly together;

4 That is where the Shevatim (tribes) go up, the Shivtei Hashem, according to the edut l’Yisroel (the statute to Yisroel), to give thanks unto the Shem of Hashem.

5 For there are set kise’ot l’mishpat (thrones of judgment), the kise’ot of the Bais Dovid.

6 Sha’alu shalom Yerushalayim (pray for the peace of Jerusalem); they shall prosper that love thee.

7 Shalom be within thy wall, and security within thy citadels.

8 L’ma’an (for the sake of) my achim and companions, I will now say, Shalom be within thee.

9 L’ma’an the Bais Hashem Eloheinu I will seek thy tov.

Orthodox Jewish Bible

This is an English language version that employs Yiddish and Hasidic cultural expressions. Most of the words I suspect you can figure out. If not, open up your Bible to Psalm 122 and compare.

Come, on, let’s go up to Jerusalem! One translation I have loved for many years doesn’t quite hit the mark on this psalm: I was glad for the suggestion of going to Jerusalem. Whether you go down to London, or up to it, it’s always up to Jerusalem.

This is more than a daytrip to Freeport, or a day out in London with a show thrown in. This is a pilgrimage to a festival. People coming to Jerusalem for its various festivals could be taking a week or two out of their lives to travel there, to stay for the festival, and to travel back home. Remember that it took a few days before Mary and Joseph actually missed young Jesus as they journeyed home after a festival.

This journey will end in Jerusalem, within the gates, upon the hill of Zion, in the Temple. Jerusalem is a city at unity in itself – if only that were true today. When we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we may be praying more for peace between the different religious groups that inhabit the city, rather than peace for Jerusalem and Israel in the wider world setting. However, we can still love the city, and I suggest we do, for they shall prosper that love Jerusalem. Pray for peace for all those who live there, and, by extension of the microcosm, who share lives and space in Israel/Palestine.

Peace, Jerusalem, be within your walls.

What is the nearest we do to a pilgrim journey?

Father God, I pray for Jerusalem, shalom Yerushalayim. I pray for peace among people of differing faiths, and that those who carry the name of Jesus may stand for his light and truth in this dark world. Amen.–I8 pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

The Orthodox Jewish Bible fourth edition, OJB. Copyright 2002,2003,2008,2010, 2011 by Artists for Israel International. All rights reserved.


Lent Day 36

Day 36: Tuesday, 16 April

Psalm 121

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

1 I look up to the mountains—
      does my help come from there?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
      who made heaven and earth!

3 He will not let you stumble;
      the one who watches over you will not slumber.
4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel
      never slumbers or sleeps.

5 The Lord himself watches over you!
      The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
6 The sun will not harm you by day,
      nor the moon at night.

7 The Lord keeps you from all harm
      and watches over your life.
8 The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
      both now and forever.


As a counter to yesterday’s psalm. We’re going up to the Holy City, to Mount Zion. The writer pours out his confidence in the Lord God’s ability and readiness to help, protect and watch over him in all conditions of life. Where does my help come from? The Lord, of course!

God is able and ready to watch over each one of us day and night. He watches in the mundane things, our going out, our coming in, our visit to the supermarket, at the hairdresser’s, walking in town, driving to work, on the bus. Every common task of our daily lives is covered.

There is a caveat. In order for God to take care of us in the commonplace, we need to commit ourselves to Him in the commonplace. I’m not saying that God will only respond to those who ask, but if we are to see the truth of this psalm evident in our lives we need to consider and rejoice in God’s goodness to us in the commonplace as well as in the spectacular. God’s watching over us in the small events of life are no less important to him than watching in the big events. We may easily forget that, and can easily fail to give God the honour for the way he preserves us from all harm, and checks our movements day in, day out.

Do you commit your car journeys to God before you turn the ignition key or press the start button?

Do you pray on the bus for a safe journey for everyone?

Do you uphold the supermarket cashier in prayer as you queue up with your trolley?

Father God, you care for me in a way that goes beyond my understanding. What am I, that you should care for me! I commit to you my goings out and my returns from this day forward. Amen. – a positive, confirming confessional acknowledgement of God’s providence. – Hebrew with subtitles

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


Psalm readings on Radio 4 this week

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
You might like to make a note of a series of four episodes over the coming weekend of readings from the book of Psalms, using the Authorised Version, read by Jeremy Irons.
This weblink gives you some more information:
On Good Friday on Radio 4 at 3.00 Bishop James Jones will offer a meditation based on Psalm 22:
With Blessings,


Lent Day 35

Day 35: Monday, 15 April

Psalm 42

For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.

1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
      so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
      When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food
      day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
      “Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember
      as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
      under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
      among the festive throng.

5 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
      Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
      for I will yet praise him,
      my Saviour and my God.

6 My soul is downcast within me;
      therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
      the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
      in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
      have swept over me.

8 By day the Lord directs his love,
      at night his song is with me—
      a prayer to the God of my life.

9 I say to God my Rock,
      “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
      oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
      as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
      “Where is your God?”

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
      Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
      for I will yet praise him,
      my Saviour and my God.


We enter Holy week. Intense activity in a short space of time. Over the next seven days we see the expectation of triumph turn to abject defeat, but with a glorious and unexpected twist a short time after. I think we can get quite maudlin over Holy Week, as commemoration can turn so easily into rather solemn ritual. The psalms over the following days are psalms of ascent – more about that tomorrow.

Today’s psalm speaks of the desire and longing of the worshipper to be where God is. Hymns like ‘As the deer longs for the water, so my soul longs after you’ can possibly hit a positive note of desire and confirmation, but the psalm itself is a little darker than that.

The writer laments for the presence of God. There are times when God seems far away. I’ve not suffered with depression, but I wonder if the sentiments being expressed here have any resonance with that condition. The writer is lamenting the loss of the good times when he would joyfully go to God’s house, but now it seems as if he can’t bring himself out of his own house. Verse 3 suggests that the writer is fasting as a penitential response.

Verses 5 and 11 are like a refrain of hope to the verses of despair. Why are you upset, my soul? Put your hope in God! For many people in the dumps, a cheer up call might not be what they want to hear. The writer does not switch from lament to rejoicing just like that, but God calls his people to rejoice. A second reminder is needed at the end. Perhaps rejoicing even when you do not feel like it can still make a difference to your state. If God hears your rejoicing might he not want to come closer to hear some more?

How would you describe your spiritual walk with God? Is it a walk in the park, a roller-coaster ride, submerging and surfacing, or something else?

How close is your walk with God?

Father God, despite my condition, You are constant, ever ready to listen, to guide, to admonish and ever-present through your Holy Spirit within me. It’s probably in my dark times that I see You least, but You are closer than ever. Amen.

Two contemplative takes on Psalm 42:

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised Edition) Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, a Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. "NIV" is a registered trademark of Biblica – UK trademark number 1448790.


Lent Day 34

Day 34: Saturday, 13 April

Psalm 139:19-end

19 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
      Get out of my life, you murderers!
20 They blaspheme you;
      your enemies misuse your name.
21 O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
      Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
22 Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
      for your enemies are my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
      test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
      and lead me along the path of everlasting life.


It’s not surprising that this some may consider this psalm better if this section were not included. We are jolted from the reverie of a warm embrace in the arms of Father God by this trumpet-blast call for vengeance.

For us who purport to follow and share a message of God’s love with the world the thought of hating seems rather barbaric. We should be careful, however, that while we are called to spread the Good News of a God who loves the world so much, we are not called to be nice to those who stand in opposition to God. Those who oppose God oppose his work and therefore oppose His Church. They are in conflict, and whether it’s by ideology or activity there is no difference. The Church brings to the world the Son who called light into being, who fought and defeated Satan, who acted in anger at those who distorted the truth of the Kingdom. We, too, must be ready to react strongly not only to injustice and unrighteousness in our world, but also to powers, authorities, forces of evil in heavenly realms that surface in our world.

We may act with meekness, but when the Kingdom is being attacked, we have to take a stand. It is not wrong to hate the evil in this world.

The Psalm concludes with a prayer for personal purity. You may find it rewarding to learn and store them for current or future use.

Should we also hate the perpetrators of evil in this world?

Search my heart, Father God, and surface anything that is not of you. Take my fears, my anxieties and replace them with perfect love. Amen. – not quite sure about the dancing, but a lovely song.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


Lent Day 33

Day 33: Friday, 12 April

Psalm 139:1-18

For the choir director: A psalm of David.

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
      and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
      Your workmanship is marvellous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
      as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
      Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
      before a single day had passed.


1 O Lord, you have examined my heart
      and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
      You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel
      and when I rest at home.
      You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say
      even before I say it, Lord.
5 You go before me and follow me.
      You place your hand of blessing on my head.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
      too great for me to understand!

7 I can never escape from your Spirit!
      I can never get away from your presence!
8 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
      if I go down to the grave, you are there.
9 If I ride the wings of the morning,
      if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
      and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
      and the light around me to become night—
12  but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
      Darkness and light are the same to you.

And when I wake up,
      you are still with me!


17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
      They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
      they outnumber the grains of sand!

Who am I? Where do I come from? This psalm supplies answers, and I’ve re-arranged the verses accordingly.

God knows me. He knows me in a way I cannot fathom – my beginning to my end. The psalmist restricts his meditations to the span of his life, but God planned us from the very beginning, before time, before Creation. I was there at the beginning, though I did not know it. Nor did I know about the time I was conceived, growing secretly, coming into the light at my birth, or my very early days. My first memories were not of the God who created me. And yet his hand was upon me.

The opening verses tell of a God who knows us intimately. He knows more about me than I know myself. As David says, such knowledge is too much for me to handle! As God inhabits all that He has made, it is impossible for me to find a place in the cosmos where He cannot see me. I cannot hide. When God said, ‘Where are you?’ to Adam and Eve, he already knew. There has been only one moment on earth where God in heaven was not to be found, and that was when Jesus was on the cross, for Father God was not able to look upon the sin that Jesus became for us.

Where am I going?

Is a child that does not make it to birth a separate case?

How far ahead does God know what I will be saying? Is there a script of my words?

Father God, I can only repeat the words above. You have examined my heart, and You know me. Show me how I can know You more. Amen. Far too wonderful.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


Lent Day 32

Day 32: Thursday, 11 April

Psalm 22:22-end

22-24 Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship,
      and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
      give glory, you sons of Jacob;
      adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
      never looked the other way
      when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
      he has been right there, listening.

25-26 Here in this great gathering for worship
      I have discovered this praise-life.
And I’ll do what I promised right here
      in front of the God-worshipers.
Down-and-outers sit at God’s table
      and eat their fill.
Everyone on the hunt for God
      is here, praising him.
“Live it up, from head to toe.
      Don’t ever quit!”

27-28 From the four corners of the earth
      people are coming to their senses,
      are running back to God.
Long-lost families
      are falling on their faces before him.
God has taken charge;
      from now on he has the last word.

29 All the power-mongers are before him
All the poor and powerless, too
Along with those who never got it together

30-31 Our children and their children
      will get in on this
As the word is passed along
      from parent to child.
Babies not yet conceived
      will hear the good news—
      that God does what he says.


What has happened to David?! From worm and no man to one who is re-energised in the company of worshippers! What do you say to friends when you come to worship? It always fascinates me that the space before the ‘official’ worship starts can be a hubbub of conversation, which invariably cuts itself short when a minister or the choir turn up. We come in to worship with an ounce or two of joy, and then we go solemn, work through a liturgy that allots time to be joyful, penitent, forgiven, peace-sharing and so on, until we get to the end of the service, and we start doing what we did before it started.

It may be that a worship band is playing away before the service and there’s perhaps a bit of worship and a bit of noise going on.

I’m not criticising worship services or liturgies, as long as they allow us both to cover what God desires of us at the particular point we stand in our corporate journey as Church and allow us to meet with Him. I do wonder, however, whether we can fall into the trap of letting the service carry us through on its own wave, and that we avoid the difficulties (personal relationships that need sorting, arguments that need settling, encouragement that a faint-of-heart is desperate to receive, support for the weak, correction, and the direction that God is taking us all) implied in the call on us not to give up meeting together. Can an organised form of worship cover all that?

Perhaps we need more than just one hour on a Sunday.

How can my church/fellowship be a place where verse 29 is evident in its fullness?

How will babies not yet even conceived get to hear the Good News?

Father God, I want to enter my place of worship with both joy and a longing to share something of your goodness in my life. I might not always feel like it; I might prefer to chatter and gossip; I might not have left stuff at the door. Revive me, Father, and make the leaving of my house the start of the procession. Amen.

Psalm 22 set to Anglican Chant (7 mins):

All Scripture quotations are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.