Welcome to the Cathedral Church of Saints Peter & Paul, Clifton.


Sunday 14th April 2019
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, Year C
Isaiah 50: 4-7     Philippians 2: 6-11     Luke 22:14 - 23:56

The Loss Adjuster.

Christ seemed to lose so much. We know the story well… how he was falsely accused, how the crowd quickly turned from praise to pursuit, how he became a scapegoat, suffered torture and was eventually executed in the brutal fashion of the day. On the face of it there’s nothing but failure and loss. So near and yet so far… so close to being accepted as Messiah, and yet it all ended in tears and mockery.

It would be easy to see today as a commemoration of misery. But we are not play-acting at our worship, pretending that we don’t know the ending of the Holy Week story. Every Christian knows that to celebrate Passion Sunday is to proclaim a victory. This is the triumph over suffering and death that was to be revealed in the resurrection.

Despite this, Christ’s suffering was entirely real. His sense of loss, his physical agony and his feeling of abandonment were not made any easier just because he was to triumph on the cross. Indeed, if he had not felt all these emotions he would have been nothing more than a fraud, a ghostly actor sent from heaven to play the part of a human, but with no real involvement in the lot which we all share.

What is distinctive about Jesus’s suffering is his deep sense of trust in God. No matter what was to happen he trusted that his Father had a purpose to it all. And even though at times he might have wondered whether God was still listening to him, he never let go of this trust.

Our own problems, sufferings and losses are not taken away just because we believe in God. Our losses are sometimes the thread in God’s weaving. But Jesus’s Passion adjusts our own understanding of suffering, loss and death. What our faith in Jesus does tell us, and what Passion Sunday proclaims from the mountain tops, is that we are not alone. As Jesus’s death makes sense of ours, so too does his trust.


Sunday 21st April 2019
Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord, Year C
Acts 10: 34, 37-43     Colossians 3: 1-4     John 20: 1-9

Empty Tomb, Open Secret.

One of the strangest phrases to describe the events of Easter was the one coined by the early Church. They spoke of the ‘Paschal Mystery’. When applied to Easter the word mystery does not mean something which cannot be solved. Rather, it means a ‘hidden plan’ which has been brought to fulfilment. So the Paschal Mystery is God’s plan for the world, God’s desire that all should be saved through the death and resurrection of Jesus. St Paul speaks of the mystery as “God’s plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in Jesus”.

This mystery is what we pray about in our public worship. Christians speak of celebrating the ‘sacred mysteries’ whenever they gather for the Eucharist. Anglicans call Matrimony a ‘holy mystery’, something Catholics call a sacrament. So it comes as no surprise that our liturgy is always rooted in Easter: Funerals proclaim the deceased’s share in Christ’s victory over death; Penance calls on the reconciling work of Jesus; Ordination invites people to that life of service which drew Christ to Calvary.

Hence the Easter or Paschal Mystery is at the heart of our Christian lives. It is that plan of God for our well-being which was known only to God in the beginning but was fully revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Every time we engage in worship we celebrate the Paschal Mystery. We don’t just recall it; we make it really present. We summon up the powerful presence of Christ by calling on the Holy Spirit to transform this bread and wine, to seal this person in Confirmation, to wash clean this baby in Baptism etc. Worship is all about Easter, about God’s decision to save humanity through the death of Jesus.

The empty tomb made God’s hidden plan into an open secret. Once the women had reached the tomb, and found it empty, the secret was out. And today we join in the chorus of voices which cannot keep silent about the God we call our own: a God who did not abandon us even when we drifted away, who sent his only Son to show us how to live life to the full, to conquer sin and death and make sense of our human existence. Easter may be about a Mystery – but the secret’s out!




Scripture Reflections (below) © Peter J Harrison 2019