The Gospel According to Mark is the second book of the New Testament and one of the three synoptic gospels in the Bible. Rather than beginning with Jesus’ birth, the Gospel tells of the ministry of Jesus from his baptism to his death and resurrection. Mark keeps Christ’s messianic nature secret, hence no miraculous birth, yet portrays Jesus as a man of action, a miracle worker, a healer and an exorcist. Authorship of the Gospel is unknown, however, it has been dated to around AD 65 - 75, making it the earliest of the four canonical gospels. Originally, scholars attributed the work to Mark the Evangelist, the founder of the Church of Alexandria, who appears in 2 Timothy as Paul’s companion. Another suggestion was John Mark, Paul’s assistant in the Acts of the Apostles. These theories have since been rejected in favour of an anonymous authoritative figure.
The Gospel of Mark was written in Greek for a Gentile audience and contains much of the same contents as the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Since Mark was written first, it is likely the other Gospel writers were influenced by Mark. Whilst there are many similarities between the synoptic gospels, there are also several differences. Mark’s intention was to reveal a message, although it is also considered to be a historical report.
At the time of writing, there were Jewish-Christians, i.e. Jews who had converted, and new Christians, i.e. Gentiles who had come to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. All four gospels were written with the intent to strengthen the faith of those who already believed rather than to convert non-believers, therefore, Mark did not need to express to his readers Jesus’ divinity, but rather emphasise Christ’s suffering for Man.
There is no obvious structure to the Gospel According to Mark, however, it is generally agreed that it consists of three parts: Galilean Ministry (1-9), Journey to Jerusalem (10) and Events in Jerusalem (11-16). A few contemporary scholars suggest the Gospel is characteristic of a three-act play, perhaps influenced by the structure of a Greek tragedy.
Chapter one opens with prophecies written by Malachi and Isaiah that state, “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” (Malachi 1) “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” (Isaiah 40:3) Although the Gospel is essentially about the life of Jesus, Mark begins by focusing on John the Baptist who had been preaching in the wilderness long before Jesus began his ministry. After this introduction, Jesus appeared and was baptised in the Jordan. (1:9-11) This was followed by a brief account of the testing of Jesus by the Devil (1:12-13). Unlike Matthew who went into some detail about these events, Mark glossed over them, not feeling the need to focus on Jesus’ divine status.
Mark records Jesus calling his disciples, beginning with Peter and Andrew in chapter 1:16-20 and ending with Matthew in chapter 2:13-17. Once Jesus had called most of the disciples together, he began to teach about healing and driving out demons. Before Jesus had called Matthew to be his disciple, he had already performed an exorcism (1:32-34), cured a leper (1:35-45) and healed a paralytic (2:1-12).
In chapters two and three, Jesus’ actions began to anger the Jewish lawmakers, who wanted to know why he was “doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath”. This particular verse comes from chapter 2:23-28 when Jesus and the disciples were seen picking heads of grain on the Sabbath, a day of rest. Jesus reminded them that "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”, however, this did not appease them for long. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus of a crime, the Pharisees pounced when Jesus healed a man’s hand on the Sabbath. Once again, Jesus gave reasoning for his actions, asking, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” (3:4) After this, the Pharisees began to plot Jesus’ death with the Herodians.
Chapter 4 records a long discourse in parables that Jesus delivered to a crowd of people. Parables include the Parable of the Sower (4:1-9), Lamp under a Bushel (4:21-23), the Mote and the Beam (4:24-25) and the Parable of the Mustard Seed (4:26-32). Although Jesus tried to explain the purpose of the Parables to the disciples, they, according to Mark, failed to understand Jesus’ true identity. Even at the end of the chapter when Jesus calmed a storm by saying to the wind “Quiet! Be still!”, the disciples still did not recognise Jesus as the Son of God. “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (4:35-41)
Acts of healing continue until chapter nine, which marks the end of Jesus’ Galilean ministry. Three miracles occur one after the other in chapter five, beginning with restoring a demon-possessed man. Whilst an exorcism was not new for Jesus, this instance was different from others because the demon spoke saying, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” (5:10) and begged not to be sent out the area. The demon suggested Jesus send them into a heard of pigs instead and Jesus obliged, however, the pigs, unable to cope with the demons inside them, rushed into a lake and were drowned.
Two miracles immediately follow the restoration of the demon-possessed man, which demonstrate the power of faith. A synagogue leader named Jairus specifically sought out Jesus because his daughter was dying. Whilst Jesus was on his way to see the daughter, a woman who had bled for twelve years reached out and touched Jesus’ cloak, believing it would make her well. Jesus told her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (5:34) Meanwhile, Jairus’ daughter had died but Jesus commanded, “Talitha koum!” (5:41; which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”), and she did. Only Peter, James and John witnessed this resurrection and Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone.
Miracles continued throughout chapter six, including feeding the 5000 (6:30-44), walking on water (6:45-52), and healing many who touched the fringe of Jesus’ coat (6:53-56). Miracles also took place in chapter seven after a discourse on defilement during which Jesus tells the crowd, “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles the.” (7:1-23). Jesus performed another exorcism (7:24-30), healed a deaf-mute (7:31-37), and fed 4000 people (8:1-9).
The narrative of Mark’s Gospel changes during chapter eight when the disciple Peter finally realises that Jesus is the Messiah (8:27-30). Jesus asked Peter not to tell anyone but began to prepare the disciples for his upcoming death. Not having the insight that Peter had, the other disciples did not understand what Jesus meant. Mark records the Transfiguration in chapter nine, which only Peter, James and John witnessed. According to Mark, Jesus told them not to tell anyone until the “Son of Man had risen from the dead”. The disciples did not comprehend what was going to happen and discussed amongst themselves what “rising from the dead” meant.
The unofficial second section of the Gospel According to Mark starts in chapter 10 with the journey to Jerusalem. Along the way, Jesus taught the crowds about divorce (10:2-12), blessed many children (10:13-16), and answered the question “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (10:17). Arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus was hailed as one “who comes in the name of the Lord!” (11:9-10). Notice Mark does not make reference to Jesus being the Son of God, even Jesus does not refer to himself as such. After Jesus had cleared the Temple courts (11:15-19) and given his famous discourse about the Greatest Commandment (12:28-34) Jesus suggested the Messiah was not the Son of David but did not let on that he was the Messiah.
The Olivet Discourse or Sermon on the Mount - although Mark does not refer to it as such - is contained in chapter 13. Jesus informed his disciples about the destruction of the Temple and the end of times, warning them to “Be on guard! Be alert!” (13:33) Straight after preparing the disciples for the end of the world, Jesus started to prepare himself for his crucifixion, beginning with a meal at the house of Simon the Leper. During the meal, a woman anointed Jesus’ head with a jar of expensive perfume. Jesus told his indignant disciples that this act prepared his body for burial. Judas, on the other hand, could only think about the cost of the perfume and was delighted when the chief priests offered him money to betray Jesus. (14:1-10)
Unlike in the Gospel of Matthew, Mark’s account of the Last Supper does not mention the name of the disciple that is going to betray Jesus, although it is already specified earlier in the chapter. “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” (14:18) After the meal, Jesus and his disciples went to a place called Gethsemane to pray. While they were there, Judas arrived with “a crowd armed with swords and clubs” (14:43) who arrested Jesus and took him to the Sanhedrin. Here, Jesus confessed to being the Messiah, however, according to Mark, he continued to refer to himself as the Son of Man, rather than the Son of God. (14:53-65)
When Jesus was questioned by Pilate, Jesus refused to answer the question, “Are you the king of the Jews?” His only response was “You have said so.” With nothing to charge him with, Pilate asked the crowd that had gathered whether he should release Jesus or release a different prisoner, Barabbas. It was customary at Passover to release a prisoner whom the people requested; they chose Barabbas and ordered Jesus to be crucified. (15:1-15) A man from Cyrene called “Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus” was ordered to carry the cross and Jesus was crucified under the banner “the King of the Jews”. (15:21-37)
Watching in the distance on the day Jesus was crucified were some women. This is where Mark’s account of Jesus’ death differs from Matthew’s. Mark records “Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome.” (15:40) Matthew, on the other hand, sites the names “Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.” (Matthew 27:56) This has led to many debates amongst scholars as to the names of Jesus’ brothers, i.e. James and Joseph. Mark 6:3 had already suggested he had brothers called James, Joseph, Judas and Simon, as well as some unnamed sisters. Mark also records that Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council and “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.” (15:42-47)
Chapter 16 records Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome discovering Jesus’ body is no longer in the tomb. A “young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side” told them Jesus the Nazarene had risen and sent them to tell Peter, however, they were afraid and told no one. Again, this differs from Matthew’s angel whose “appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.” (Matthew 28:3)
Early manuscripts of the Gospel According to Mark ended at chapter 16:8. Since then, an additional 11 verses have been added to cover Jesus’ resurrection, the commissioning of the disciples, and his ascension. It is generally accepted that a different author penned these verses since the style is different from the rest of the Gospel. It was likely added to provide a more satisfactory ending to the book. This ending reveals Jesus rose on the first day of the week and met Mary Magdalene in the garden. Although Mary told the disciples that Jesus had risen, they refused to believe her and were subsequently rebuked by Jesus for having little faith. After Jesus commissioned the eleven to go out and preach the gospel to all creation, “he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.” (16:19).
Although Mark was the earliest Gospel, there are many differences in the way the life of Jesus is told. The disciples, for instance, show very little understanding of Jesus’ purpose and suffering, and yet, when things came to pass as Jesus had said, they ran away in denial. There is debate amongst scholars as to if Mark was attacking the Jewish branch of Christianity for their lack of faith. Others say Mark’s purpose was to emphasise Jesus as the “Suffering Messiah”, suffering alone for the world.
Despite Mark’s secrecy about Jesus being the Messiah, almost a third of the Gospel focuses on Jesus’ miracles, which is proportionally more than any of the other gospels. Most of these twenty parables feature in the other Synoptic Gospels, however, the Parable of the Growing Seed (4:26-29) is unique to Mark. The aforementioned verse "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (2:27) appears in neither Matthew nor Luke and Pilates position was never mentioned - other gospels reveal he was Governor. Interestingly, there is no mention of Samaritans, who feature in both Matthew and Luke.
The Gospel According to Mark is the only Gospel that retains the original Aramaic commands Jesus used during acts of healing. Talitha koum, as already mentioned, was used during the raising of Jairus’ daughter. The other Aramaic phrase is “Ephphatha!” (7:34, which means “Be opened!”) said during the healing of a deaf-mute man.
The biggest difference between Mark and the other gospels is, of course, his reluctance to portray Jesus as a “divine man”. Ultimately, Mark did not want Jesus to be mistaken for a Hercules-like figure; Jesus’ mission was one of suffering and pain rather than glory and conquest. Whereas the later gospels record Jesus’ death as victorious, Mark, on the other hand, emphasises the despair and agony. It is potentially for this reason that Mark originally ended at chapter 16:8 rather than rejoicing that Jesus was alive. Christ’s suffering was a fulfilment of the divine plan.
This article was found in the April 1952 copy of Progress, the monthly magazine of the Romford Congregational Church. It was written by Rev. Ronald M. Ward.
I have not had a lively interest in Noah for years. I have been inclined to think of him more as the founder of a remarkably representative zoo than anything else, but the other day I started reading "Ur of the Chaldees" by Sir Leonard Woolley who spent seven years excavating Ur and its suburbs. I suppose that few people who read the Old Testament realise how remarkable was the civilisation which existed at the time of Abraham and even of Noah. Unfriendly critics have tried to make us believe that these ancient peoples were crude and ignorant, and in fact until the excavation of Ur in the thirties there was little evidence to show what they were like.
The archaeologist's description of the reforms or rather religious innovations of Nebuchadnezzar as shown in his alterations of the temples and holy buildings adds to our understanding of the story of the Three Children in the Book of Daniel, and his drawings on the ziggurats or stage-towers of which the Tower of Babel was a type made me think about the Bible story with more interest. If we are sceptical about the account of people building a tower with the idea that it should reach to heaven, the learned comments of Egyptologists on the meaning of pyramids and stage-towers will probably make us change our minds.
Writing about excavations of a suburb of Ur Sir Leonard Woolley describes a small relief in alabaster which he dug up under the foundations of a house attached to a temple. It was a high-prowed boat with a cabin amidships and on one side a man was shown standing in the stern and a cow in the cabin and on the other were two fish and a goose. Apparently this was the type of boat used by marsh dwellers of that period, and it was so like the Ark that it was jokingly called Noah's Ark by the excavators. Having read this I immediately began to imagine Noah as a marshland farmer who spent most of time in the lonely flat country by the river. Probably he was skilled at hunting wildfowl and fishing and was used to handling boats, because that part of Mesopotamia was liable to flood. What better place could there have been for religious contemplation and for observing the signs of the weather and that behaviour of the river. As a countryman Noah probably had definite options about the life of the cities in the plain, and we know that Ur had an advanced civilisation at the time of the Flood. As a man used to working hard and with strong religious feelings he may not have approved of the luxurious life of some of the citizens of Ur. We might imagine him perceiving with a Churchillian grimness the signs of the gathering storm and receiving as a Divine message the warning of coming disaster. Like the man in the alabaster relief he took his domestic animals and his family on board this marsh-boat, and as for the "creeping things of the earth" mentioned in Genesis, they probably came in with the beasts without any organised assistance from Noah. The Kon-Tiki Expedition has shown us what perils a frail craft can endure, and we can imagine Noah's ark weathering the storm which destroyed all the villages over a vast area measuring 400 by 100 miles, and left a few of the cities which were built up high but which must have suffered severely from the flooding of so much agricultural land.
If anyone is inclined to draw an unfavourable comparison between this disaster and the Biblical implication that it was universal, it should be pointed out that the near destruction of the Sumerian civilisation was of the greatest significance because it was from the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates that culture passed to Egypt and so through Crete to Greece and Rome.
It is a pity that the results of these excavations cannot be popularly presented. Many people have not enough imagination to picture the social life of the times from its remains, nor enough patience to follow the detailed accounts of scholars. Perhaps where Noah is concerned my imagination has wandered off in the wrong direction but at any rate it has restored him to reality.
In 2014, ITV broadcasted the first episode of Grantchester, a drama series based on books by British novelist, James Runcie. Although written during the twenty-first century, the story is set in the 1950s in a village on the outskirts of Cambridge. Sidney Chambers, a young Canon in charge of the Church of St Andrew and Mary, is a polite and friendly character who, despite his reluctance, ends up acting as a detective in a variety of crimes.
Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death is the first book of six in The Grantchester Mysteries. Split into six individual baffling cases, the background story of Sidney’s private life continues to develop throughout. Each crime is committed and swiftly solved by the Canon and his friend, Inspector Geordie Keating, although it is Sidney who ultimately resolves the case.
Murder, jewellery theft and art forgery and just some of the felonies Sidney grudgingly gets involved with. In fact, unresolved crimes tend to land in his lap rather than offering his assistance willingly. Up at dawn to work on sermons before rushing off to capture criminals, Sidney is never off duty.
A vicar may seem like an unlikely candidate for a detective, however, people tend to open up to him and unintentionally reveal delitescent information. Listening to suspects and witnesses without pre-judgement allows Sidney to think things through carefully rather than jumping to conclusions. From the moment the crime is committed right up until the story’s denouement, Sidney passionately does everything he can to make sure the correct culprit is discovered.
What makes this series different from other crime novels is the focus on Sidney Chambers’ own life. James Runcie emphasises the loneliness of a bachelor living in a vicarage with only a curate and crotchety housekeeper for company. Readers are drawn into Sidney’s stories and hold onto the hope that his dalliances with the beautiful Amanda turn out to be something more concrete.
Those who have watched the ITV series will be familiar with the stories in this book because the producer has stuck to the exact storyline, not missing a single thing out or adding anything extra. The fact that there were only two years between publishing and screen production goes to show how well written and thought out these stories are. Unlike famous detective novels such as Sherlock Holmes or those by Agatha Christie, The Grantchester Mysteries are not set at the time of writing, so, although they are historically accurate, the prose is suitable for present day readers.
Each story is quick to read and is easy going, making it a relaxing and enjoyable book. It is not a thriller or horror, although some of the crimes are quite terrible. Instead, it is entertaining and often humorous. It is suitable for crime fiction fans as well as those new to the genre.
Regardless of whether you have watched the television series or not, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death is a delight to read. Of course, ITV has given away all the endings, but it is a different experience to read it in print rather than seeing it acted out on screen. Featuring the face of James Norton on the cover so as to work as a TV tie-in, the series will be easy to spot in prime position on bookshelves both in shops and personal collections.
The Gospel According to Matthew is the first book of the New Testament and one of the three synoptic gospels in the Bible. These three gospels often overlap, however, at least 20% of Matthew’s content is unique. It tells the story of Jesus’ life from his birth until his crucifixion and resurrection, encompassing the calling of his disciples, several miracles and many parables. Most scholars believe the Gospel was written between AD 80 and 90, however, other suggestions place it anywhere between AD 70 and 110.
Despite being known as Matthew’s Gospel, the identity of the author is unknown. Originally, the authorship was attributed to Matthew the Apostle, however, this is largely rejected today. What can be ascertained, however, is the author was likely a Jew whose religious beliefs fluctuated between traditional and non-traditional values.
The Gospel was written just after the First Jewish-Roman War (AD 66-73), which saw the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Although Christianity had begun with Jesus, it was more a Jewish messianic movement until after this war, when it gradually evolved into a separate Gentile religion. Matthew was more likely a Jewish Christian, meaning he was a member of a community who had cut itself off from its Jewish roots in order to follow Christ. As a result, the Gospel was written for Greek-speaking Jewish Christians, possibly in Syria, who were already familiar with Jewish customs, therefore, the author did not feel the need to explain them, unlike the Gospel of Mark, for example.
Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus (1:1-17), tracing the descent from Abraham to David and David to Jesus. This is further evidence that Matthew was Jewish because, unlike the Gospel of Luke that provides a genealogy from Adam, the father of the human race, Matthew begins with Abraham, the father of the Jews. Following this, Matthew describes the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, including the visit from the magi (2:1-12) and the massacre of the innocents. The rest of chapter two tells of the flight into Egypt and the return to Nazareth.
Chapter three begins with the baptism of Jesus by his cousin John, during which the Holy Spirit descends upon him. The following chapter describes the period of 40 days that Jesus spent praying and meditating in the Judean desert. During this time Jesus was tempted by Satan on three occasions but the devil had no power over him. After this period, Jesus travelled to Capernaum where he gradually called his disciples. He then moved on to Galilee where he began his ministry.
The Gospel of Matthew is split into five narratives or discourses with the aforementioned chapters being the prologue. The first discourse encompasses chapters 5-7 and is often referred to as Sermon on the Mount. This section is the most quoted part of the New Testament as it includes the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes. The latter is expressed as a series of blessings and presented new ideas about love and humility. Along with mercy, spirituality and compassion, which Jesus also spoke about in this discourse, the Beatitudes present the ethics of the Kingdom of God. Jesus also taught about issues that could result in persecution, such as divorce, lust and materialistic values. He also warned of false prophets and taught the disciples how to pray (The Lord’s Prayer; 6:9-13).
Between the first and second discourse, Jesus performed a series of miracles. Notable ones include the calming of the storm (8:23-27), healing a paralytic (9:1-8), the raising of Jairus’ daughter (9:18-26) and giving sight to the blind (9:27-31). Shortly after the healing of a paralytic, Jesus called Matthew - a potential author of the Gospel - to discipleship. "As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me", he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him." (9:9, NIV). As a tax collector, Matthew would have been an unpopular person and an unusual choice for an apostle - so the Pharisees expressed.
The second discourse has been given different names by various scholars, including the Mission Discourse, the Missionary Discourse, and the Little Commission. The latter is in reference to the Great Commission that occurs later in the Gospel (28:16-20). The discourse spans chapters 10-12 and begins with Jesus’ instructions to his disciples. Jesus commissioned Simon (Peter) Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James of Alphaeus (which mean "changing" in Greek), Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot to travel to Israelite communities to proclaim “the Kingdom of heaven is near”. He encouraged them to “Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, heal those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases, and drive out demons. You have received without paying, so give without being paid.” (10:8, GNT) Jesus also performed three miracles of his own: healing a man with a withered hand (12:9-14), exorcising a blind-mute man (12:22-28) and driving out a demon or unclean spirit (12:43-45).
The third narrative - the Parabolic Discourse - takes place in chapter 13. Divided into 58 verses, this chapter contains seven parables that attempt to explain the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus gave the first four parables on a boat on the Sea of Galilee from which he could address the crowds of people standing on the shore. Matthew records these parables in the following order: Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Tares, Parable of the Mustard Seed and Parable of Leaven. According to Matthew, Jesus only provided explanations for the parables of the Sower and the Tares. The remaining three parables were given to Jesus’ disciples: Parable of the Hidden Treasure, Parable of the Pearl and Parable of Drawing in the Net. Some scholars claim verse 52 as an eighth parable: “Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.” (KJV) At the end of the chapter, Jesus is rejected by his home town of Nazareth. (13:53-58)
Following the death of John the Baptist at the beginning of chapter 14, there are several events and miracles that occur before the fourth discourse. Chapter 14 contains the feeding of the 5000 (14:13-21), walking on water (14:22-33) and the healing of many through the touching of Jesus’ cloak (14:34-36). Miracles continue throughout chapter 15, including the exorcism of a Canaanite woman’s daughter (15:21-28) and the feeding of the 4000 (15:32-39).
Some scholars say the fourth discourse begins in chapter 16, whereas others say it is exclusive to chapter 18. The Discourse on the Church, as it is known, reveals the increasing opposition to Jesus, which prompts Jesus to prepare his disciples for his crucifixion. In chapter 16, Simon declares that Jesus is the Messiah, to which Jesus responds by renaming him Peter, meaning rock - “and on this rock, I will build my church…” (16:18). Peter is given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and is told, “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (16:19). The phrase is repeated to all of the apostles in chapter 18, verse 18, hence why some scholars claim the fourth discourse to have begun in chapter 16.
Jesus predicted his death at the end of chapter 16 and did so twice more in chapter 17. At the beginning of that chapter, however, is Matthew’s version of the Transfiguration, in which Jesus speaks to Moses and Elijah on a mountain (17:1-13). This is followed by the exorcism of a boy possessed by a demon (17:14-21) and the miracle of the coin in the fish’s mouth (17:24-27).
Chapter 18, in which the majority of the Discourse on the Church takes place, focuses on the preparation of the disciples for the post-crucifixion church. It begins with the teaching of Jesus about little children, which is repeated briefly in chapter 19: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (18:3, NIV) Jesus went on to say that anyone who caused someone to “stumble” would never go to heaven. He advised it would be better to chop off the parts that caused you to stray, be it foot, hand or eye than spend eternity in hell. Jesus followed with the Parable of the Lost Sheep (18:10-14) and concluded the chapter with the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (18:23-35).
The final discourse does not begin until chapter 23. Before then, Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem, speaking to people along the way. He gave the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (19:1-16) and healed two unnamed blind men near Jericho (10:29-34) before eventually making his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (21:1-11). Several notable events occur in chapters 21 and 22, starting with the cleansing of the Temple (21:12-17) and the cursing of the fig tree (21:18-22), which lead to Jesus having his authority questioned (21:23-27). Jesus responded to this with three parables: The Two Sons, The Wicked Husbandman, and The Wedding Feast (21:28-22:14).
Jesus was subjected to several debates throughout chapter 22. Firstly, Jesus was asked if he believed in paying taxes to Caesar, which prompted the response: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.” (22:21) Secondly, the Sadducees tried to trick Jesus by asking complicated questions about the resurrection of the dead, to which Jesus reminded them that God was the God of the living. Finally, the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (22:36, NASB) Jesus responded by paraphrasing the Torah: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’” (22:37-39, NASB, see Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 9:17-18)
The fifth and final discourse includes Matthew 23, 24 and 25 and is usually known as the Olivet Discourse because it was given on the Mount of Olives, however, some refer to it as the Discourse on the End Times. Jesus’ disciples were curious about the future, particularly the “end of the age”. Jesus responded by predicting the destruction of the Temple, which sat opposite the Mount of Olives. He warned them about the Antichrist, false prophets and persecution. He warned of earthquakes, famines, pestilence, and fearful events that would lead up to the Second Coming of Christ. Having concluded his final discourse, Jesus turned his attention to his approaching crucifixion.
The events of the final three weeks of Jesus’ life had already begun before the Olivet Discourse with his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the cleansing of the Temple. The next event, after the discourse, was the anointing of Jesus, which is recorded in all four Gospels. Jesus visited the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany and while he was there “a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.” (26:7, NIV) The act was a sign of Jesus’ approaching death - perfume was often used to prepare a body for burial. Following this, Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests and offered to hand Jesus to them in exchange for money - 30 pieces of silver.
The famous Last Supper takes place in Matthew 26 during which Jesus identifies Judas as his betrayer. Jesus also told Peter, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." (26:34) Although Peter protested, before the end of the chapter it had come to pass as Jesus had said. Jesus then went to the Garden of Gethsemane, taking only Peter, James and John, where he prayed to God until Judas arrived with a large crowd who arrested Jesus. He was tried by the Sanhedrin before Pontius Pilate, who symbolically washed his hands of the matter. Chapter 27 details the torture Jesus was subjected to, ending with his death upon the cross.
Chapter 28, the final chapter in the Gospel of Matthew, contains the Great Commission. Mary Magdalene “and the other Mary” had gone to look at the tomb only to discover that Jesus was no longer there. Jesus then appeared to them asked, “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (28:10, NIV) The Great Commission only encompasses verses 16 to 20 but is important, nonetheless. In Matthew’s account, which is considered the most famous version, Jesus gives the disciples the following instructions: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” These are the final words of the Gospel.
The Gospel of Matthew contains approximately 76% of the content of the Gospel of Mark, suggesting the latter was written first. Matthew has appropriated the key Christological texts from Mark - the theological doctrine of Christ - rewriting them from his own understanding. Matthew’s main concern was to preserve Jewish traditions that were gradually being eradicated in the increasingly Gentile church. Quoting or paraphrasing verses from the Old Testament was one method of doing this. Matthew painted Jesus as a new Moses and emphasised that Jesus was fulfilling and not destroying the Law.
Believing in the divine nature of Jesus separated Matthew’s community from the other Jews. Although the Gospel is sometimes considered to be a reinterpretation of Mark, Matthew’s subtle changes specifically emphasised Jesus’ divinity. For instance, Mark writes of “a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe” (Mark 16:5, ESV) by the empty tomb, whereas Matthew describes the figure as an angel of the Lord whose “appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.” (28:3, NIV) Matthew’s record of Jesus’ miracles also expresses his divine nature, whereas Mark writes as though Jesus was an emissary of God. Despite primarily being the story of the life of Jesus, the Gospel of Matthew is a reflection of the struggles between the evangelist communities and the other Jews, particularly the Pharisees.
I would that the loving were loved, and
I would that the weary should sleep,
And that man should hearken to man,
And that he that soweth would reap.
He that is down needs fear no fall;
He that is low, no pride;
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.
I am content with what I have,
Little be it or much;
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
Because Thou savest such.
Fullness to such a burden is
That go on pilgrimage;
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
Is best from age to age.
A little explained, a little endured,
A little forgiven, the quarrel is cured.
C. H. Spurgeon
We must not judge of our worth by our talents, but by the use we make of them.
We cannot always choose our road in life, but we can choose whether we walk along the shady or sunny side of it.
Nothing is easier than fault-finding, no talent, no self-denial, no brains, no character are required to set up in the grumbling business.
A Daily Prayer
Oh God keep me on the path of achieving happiness and success that are real,
Keep my vision always clear to see the goals,
Help me to tap the hidden powers within and above me,
Give me strength to work with all the energies of mind and body,
Help me to practise the love of people and service to others,
Keep me for ever with a smile on my face for the whole human race.
A talk by Mr. P. L. Brown given at the Romford Congregational Church Meeting on October 31st, 1951
In my report of the Annual Assembly meetings I gave details of a resolution passed at the Assembly on the subject of Gambling. I think to begin with I had better read that again. Here it is:-
"That this Assembly of the Congregational Union of England and Wales affirms its strong conviction that gambling from whatever motive or for whatever end is in irreconcilable opposition to Christian principles.
"It notes in particular that gambling destroys the integrity of Christian personality, weakens the sense of personal responsibility, prostitutes the use of money by directing it to wrong ends, involves both economic and moral loss to the community and gravely impairs the happiness and well-being of homes.
"It therefore calls in the strongest terms upon all Congregational Church members, and on all associated in the work of our Congregational Churches, not only to abstain from any such practices and to eliminate from all efforts to raise money for church purposes anything which might be understood as gambling, but also to ensure that the question of gambling is discussed in church meeting, and that young people receive adequate training in the Christian objections to the practice."
About fifteen or so years ago, when I was Captain of the 1st Romford Boys' Brigade Company, I gave a talk to the boys on this subject. I remember I gave it the title of "Are you a sportsman or a mug?" and I commenced by asking the boys to give me a definition of that word "mug."
We thrashed it out together, and this is what we arrived at:
"A person who is easily taken in, one who is an easy prey for someone smarter; the kind of person who can be persuaded in Romford Market to pay 10s. for a 'real solid gold watch' which is not worth more than a few pence. The fellow bookmaker and his touts call 'a real good sport' to his face, and 'an easy mug' behind his back. The lad who thinks it manly to drink, swear and gamble."
Not a bad definition - I hope you agree.
Some years before the war a well-known bookmaker retired and wrote a book on his life. Here is an extract from that book:
"In one single day I made as much as £5,000 - out of mugs - and I am writing to show the so-called sportsman that the odds against him are so tremendous that in the long run it is impossible for him to win. I hope that these words of mine will induce men to give the game up, as I am sure this would be a means of bringing happiness to thousands who now waste their money in a wilful way ... The odds against them are so fearful that success is next to impossible."
That is a frank confession from one inside.
Talking about odds, do you know what the real odds are against getting ten results correct in a football pool? Each match can end in one of three ways (a win for either side or a draw). The odds are therefore three to the power of ten, and if you are mathematically inclined you can work it out for yourself. The answer comes to 59,049, so the odds are 59,048 to one. Yet week after week hundreds of thousands are spending their money on equally fantastic odds.
At this stage I must comment on the argument which I daresay all of you have heard. It runs something like this:
Oh yes, I know all about the odds, but I cannot see that betting, in itself, is a sin. I cannot see anything wrong putting 2s. 6d. on a horse or a football pool. If I lose my half-crown I can afford it, and it's my own look-out."
But surely the answer is this. No act of yours or mine can stand by itself. It must be considered as part of the world in which we live. You cannot shut yourself up and isolated yourself and your actions. You are part of Society, and we are all bound together in this bundle we call life. If, therefore, you know that gambling is getting a stranglehold on the nation, ruining homes, breaking the hearts of loved ones, sending more folk to gaol or remand homes than any other crime; then you as a good citizen, as a Christian man or woman, should do all in your power to discourage, by your example, this practice which is the curse of this country.
I often think that part of the trouble is that we have our moral standards all wrong. Two of the greatest organs of publicity, the press and the cinema, specially the latter, constantly hold up before the world that wealth and luxury are desirable ends in themselves. And are not Christians compromising today on these issues? Compromising with the world and the world's moral standards; is not that why we are failing? The standards of Christ must be accepted or rejected. There is no half-way house. You are either for or against them. You cannot serve God and Mammon.
Do you know that round about one thousand million pounds is spent on gambling every year in this country? Just think of what we, as a nation, could so with that money. And if that does not shake you, what about the utter waste (in these days of man-power shortage) of the thousands of men and women employed by the gambling firms for utterly unproductive work. And if you are not concerned with the waste of money or labour, think of the degradation of national and individual character and loss of efficiency. Some firms have estimated the loss on gambling due to bad work, spoilt material, friction in shop, factory or office, as equivalent to ten per cent of their capital!
The Rt. Hon. Phillip Snowden (later Viscount Snowden) when Chancellor of the Exchequer, said "Gambling is the distinctive vice of our age. It is a national canker which must be stamped out else this country will ultimately sink to a very low level."
Do you know that the Football Association is very concerned about the growth of football pools, and would give a lot to be able to stamp it out? Why? Well here is what one member of the F.A. said about gambling. "In the forty years in which I have been associated with sport I have seen gambling corrupt every sport it touches, and I prophecy it will corrupt and ruin football if it continues."
The following is an extract from The Congregational Quarterly of a few months ago:
"The Epworth Press have just published a book entitled Gambling in English Life (6s.). It is an exhaustive survey of the practical aspects of this problem and gives an account of the efforts of Parliament to discourage and limit practices so socially pernicious. For we Christians, Christ's teaching about the stewardship of wealth is a sufficient condemnation of gambling gains as well as losses. What further guidance we need is found in the simple fact that a tree is judged by its fruit. A tree that bears much evil fruit is something less that good. Few fathers would learn with equanimity that their sons had developed a habit of gambling; and a man in any position of trust who was known to be a habitual gambler would on that account be regarded with justifiable suspicion."
And now let me say what we can do to stop it. First of all, legislation won't stop it; it will only drive it underground. You have probably heard people say that gambling is the natural impulse of the human heart and never will be eradicated. That is where they are wrong. One thing and one thing only will stop it, and when I tell you what it is you will probably laugh because it is so unexciting, so slow in operation. The "one thing" is an educated public opinion. And now I will try to prove it to you.
One hundred or more years ago open and unabashed drunkenness was the rule in all walks of life. Young men were not considered to have grown up until they had managed to get dead drunk - it was the manly thing to do. Today you seldom if ever see a drunken man. What has made the change? An educated public opinion.
What stopped the evils of Child Labour in factories and mines? What stopped duelling in this country and the continent? What stopped cock-fighting? An educated public opinion.
What killed slavery? The force of public opinion created by Wilberforce.
And gambling can go too, Public opinion can win that victory, and in that victory every man and woman here tonight can play a part. Please remember that whenever you show to others that you consider gambling is both a mug's game, a sin, and a source of crime, you are helping a little to create that public opinion.
In his Presidential address to the Congregational Union of England and Wales last May, the Rev. Howard Stanley, M.A., had this to say about gambling, and with his worlds I should like to close -
"Let the Assemblies of our people be the places where Christian comment and judgement are delivered on those social and moral issues about which the men and women of our day are making up their minds and so shaping the character of this nation. If, for example, we take a different view about gambling than do the majority of the Church Assembly, if by observation and experience we are sure that it is the greatest single social evil of our time, a cancer gnawing at the heart of the nation, an irrational and anti-social habit, a negation of the Christian principle of stewardship, let us say so, and be reported as saying so, not only in the pages of the Christian World, but in the provincial and local press, let us say so, not only in this Assembly, but nearer the homes of our people, nearer our lads' clubs and Boys' Brigades and Boy Scouts."
Brian A. Wren, our local hymn writer, was born in Romford, Essex in 1936. His hymns are known throughout the world and have been influential in raising awareness of theology. So far, Wren has written around 250 hymns, many of which are familiar in our church.
Wren initially served in the British army for two years before attending Oxford University where he earned a degree in Modern languages in 1960, followed by a degree in Theology in 1962. After this, Wren studied for a PhD in Theology of the Old Testament, which he was awarded in 1968 after writing a thesis entitled The language of prophetic eschatology in the Old Testament.
Whilst studying for his PhD, Wren was ordained into the Congregational Church (now the URC) and became the minister at Hockley and Hawkwell Congregational Church in Essex. His wife, Susan M. Heafield is a United Methodist pastor.
When Wren left his church in 1970, he briefly served as the Consultant for Adult Education for the Churches’ Committee on World Development and the Coordinator of Third World First (now known as People and Planet). Between 1976 and 1983, he was a member of the Executive Board of the UK Aid Charity, after which he decided to return to ministry. In 2000, Wren became the Conant Professor of Worship at Columbia Theological Seminary, in Georgia, USA, eventually retiring in 2007. During this time, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis.
Wren’s hymns have been published in seven books and appear in almost every hymnal. His hymn Hidden Christ, Alive For Ever was the runner up in the international Millennium Hymn Competition awarded at St Paul’s Cathedral in 2000. Wren believes, “a hymn is a poem, and a poem is a visual art form. The act of reading a hymn aloud helps to recover its poetry and its power to move us—the power of language, image, metaphor, and faith-expression.” He explores this concept in his book Praying Twice: The Music and Words of Congregational Song.
According to Wren, hymns should help people to “know and understand the meaning of God’s creating, self-disclosing and liberating activity centred and uniquely focused in Jesus Christ.” He was also determined to make hymns less male-orientated, removing words like “he” in order to make them more inclusive for women. Many churches have adopted this mindset as a result.
Of Wren’s many hymns, these are the ones in our hymnbook:
Where did religion come from? This is the question Reza Aslan, a scholar of religions, attempts to answer in his latest publication, God: A Human History. To date, Aslan has tackled subjects such as the life of Jesus of Nazareth, and the origins, evolution and future of Islam. In this book, the author journeys back to the earliest evidence of human existence and, using a mix of resources, theories and investigations, tries to determine how our ancestors conceived the idea of gods and souls. Maintaining the idea that the majority of humans think of God as a divine version of ourselves, Aslan also looks at the way our perception of life after death has altered due to the changes in our governments and cultures.
Reza Aslan claims that he, a Muslim-devout-Christian-convert-turned-Sufi, is neither trying to prove or disprove the existence of God or gods. Instead, he is providing readers with a thorough history of religion with a strong suggestion that we, as believers, have fashioned God in our image, and not the other way around.
Insisting that belief systems are inherited from each previous generation, Aslan takes a look at ancient cave drawings where he, and many other theorists, surmise that a form of religion was already well underway. Lack of written word results in a lot of speculation and hypothesis as to what these, usually animal-like, drawings represent, however, many have come to the conclusion that early humans had some form of animistic belief system.
Although not a dig at religion, after all, the author is religious himself, the following chapters bring in to question the authenticity of past and present beliefs. With reference to various psychologists, Aslan poses the theory that ancient humans may have misinterpreted dreams as evidence of a spirit realm. With no one qualified to clarify the things they did not understand, anything without a clear explanation may have been attributed to a god or gods.
As the author describes how religious ideas may have developed from these primitive beliefs to the fully detailed faiths of today, he labels the human race as anthropocentric creatures that have based their religions on human traits and emotions. By reporting in this way, it comes across that the past ideas of the soul, spiritual realms, gods and so forth could not possibly be true, yet, as the final chapters suggest, Aslan is still adamant about the existence of God.
Aslan’s narrative speeds up, finally reaching the recognizable religions of today. Beginning with the Israelites, enslaved by the Egyptians, the author explains, using biblical references, how the first successful monotheistic religion came about. However, researchers have studied the early Bible texts and are inconclusive as to whether the God worshipped by the Jews was the only divine being or whether there were others of a similar standing.
Next, Aslan explores Christianity, posing more questions than he solves, for example, is God one or is God three (i.e. the Holy Trinity)? He defines and compares the definitions of monotheism and pantheism, eventually bringing in Islam and the development of Sufism, which he is not afraid of admitting he agrees with.
God: A Human History is disappointingly short, ending with the feeble conclusion that humans are born with the ability to be convinced of the existence of a divine being and the soul, but it is our own choice to decide whether or not to believe in them. The remaining third of the book is an abundance of notes on the texts, bibliographical references, and Reza Aslan’s personal opinions about the ideas and theories mentioned in his history of religion.
Although an extensive history on the origins of religion, God: A Human History leaves readers none the wiser as to whether their belief is founded in truth or whether it is something that has evolved over time due to lack of understanding about the world. Granted, it was not the aim of the book to prove or disprove the existence of God, however, it may unintentionally sow seeds of doubt or, potentially, anger devout believers. However, there is no attempt at persuading readers to believe one thing or another, thus making it suitable for people of all religion and none.
"You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength."
"Carefully watch you thoughts, for they become your words.
Manage and watch you words, for they become your actions.
Consider and judge your actions, for they have become your habits.
Acknowledge and watch your habits, for they shall become your values.
Understand and embrace your values, for they come your destiny."
"If you're always in a hurry, always trying to get ahead of the other guy, or someone else's performance is what motivates you, then that person is in control of you."
"Never allow anyone to rain on your parade and thus cast a pall of gloom and defeat on the entire day. Remember that no talent, no self-denial, no brains, no character, are required to set up in the fault-finding business. Nothing external can have any power over you unless you permit it. Your time is too precious to be sacrificed in wasted days combating the mental forces of hate, jealousy, and envy. Guard your fragile life carefully. Only God can shape a flower, but any foolish child can pull it to pieces."
"Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is a beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realise it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfil it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is life, fight for it!"
"It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light."
"If you realised how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought."
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
Martin Luther King, Jr.
"What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others."
"Did I offer peace today?
Did I bring a smile to someone's face?
Did I say worlds of healing?
Did I let go of my anger and resentment?
Did I forgive?
Did I love?
These are the real questions.
I must trust that the little bit of love I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come."
"In every day, there are 1,440 minutes. That means we have 1,440 daily opportunities to make a positive impact."
"Be not afraid of life, Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact."
"We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty."
"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves and not twist them to fit in our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflections of ourselves we find in them."
Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island
"Don't be discouraged by a failure. It can be a positive experience. Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterwards carefully avoid."
"Remember, you have been criticising yourself for years and it hasn't worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens."
Louise L. Hay - You Can Heal Your Life
"I hope that you will have a wonderful year, that you'll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you'll make something that didn't exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind."
"If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving."
Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Do or do not. There is no try."
Yoda (George Lucas), Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit."
Will Durant - The Story of Philosophy
"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
"It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters."
"Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can."
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Martin Luther King, Jr.
"In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity."
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for."
"Do what you can with what you have, where you are."
"Success is not getting what you want, it's enjoying what you have."
"Never forget the three powerful resources you always have available to you: love, prayer and forgiveness."
H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Life's Instructions for Wisdom, Success, and Happiness
"There is nothing wrong with men possessing riches. The wrong comes when riches posses people."
"Reflect upon your present blessings - of which every man has many - not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some."
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings
"Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own troubles be sufficient for the day."
"To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it."
"Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later."
"No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself."
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own
"Forgiveness. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody. You are relieved of carrying that burden of resentment. You really are lighter. You feel lighter. You just drop that."
"God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well."
"Be helpful. When you see a person without a smile, give them yours."
"The level of our success is limited only by our imagination and no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted."
Source: 365 Quotes to Live Your Life By: Powerful, Inspiring & Life-Changing Words of Wisdom to Brighten Up Your Days - I. C. Robledo
Everyone knows the hymns All Things Bright and Beautiful and Once in Royal David’s City but how many people know about the woman who wrote them? Cecil Frances Alexander was born in Dublin in 1818 to Major John and Elizabeth Humphreys. She began writing verses at an early age and was later inspired by the Oxford Movement, which combined the Church of England with older teachings of the church to form Anglo-Catholicism. One member of the Oxford Movement, John Keble, later helped Alexander to edit her notable book Hymns for Little Children.
By 1840, Alexander’s hymns were well-known in the Church of Ireland. In 1850, she married the soon-to-be Bishop of Derry and Archbishop of Armagh, William Alexander. Their daughter, Eleanore Jane Alexander, inherited her mother’s gift for words and became a well-known poet.
As a bishop’s wife, Alexander used the proceeds from her hymn books to help several charities. In the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe, her donations assisted in the founding of the Diocesan Institution for the Deaf and Dumb. She was also provided support at the Derry Home for Fallen Women and was an "indefatigable visitor to poor and sick".
After her death in 1913, Alexander was commemorated with a stained glass window at St Columb’s Cathedral in Derry. Comprising of three windows, the memorial references three of her hymns: One in Royal, There is a Green Hill Far Away and The Golden Gates are Lifted Up.
Many of Alexander’s hymns were targeted at children to help them learn the Apostle’s Creed. All Things Bright and Beautiful was based on the opening clause, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”
Once in Royal David’s City, was inspired by the clause “I believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary”. Originally intended to be sung in Sunday Schools, the hymn is now one of our most popular Christmas Carols. The hymn was put to music by Henry John Gauntlett and since 1919, the Kings College Chapel Cambridge has used the carol as their processional hymn at the Nine Lessons and Carols service. The Kings College Choir began the tradition that the first verse should be sung by a soloist and it was also the first song they recorded for public consumption in 1948.
The phrase “Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried,” inspired the hymn There is A Green Hill Far Away. Explaining Jesus’ death to young children has always been a challenge and Alexander wished to pen something that would make it easier. Inspired by a barren green hill near her home, Alexander used the hymn to explain that Jesus died so that we could be forgiven.
Having written so many hymns, it is surprising that Cecil Frances Alexander is not better known. Unfortunately, she lived at a time when women were not considered as important as men, which has resulted in her name being glossed over. Nevertheless, her words live on. Jesus calls us, o'er the tumult is another of her well-known hymns.
We are happy for you to use any material found here, however, please acknowledge the source: www.gantshillurc.co.uk
Rev'd Martin Wheadon