Living in a Field of Hats

some ramblings and reflections on working with students in Herts and Beds.

Strange Spanish Easter Celebrations April 21, 2011

Filed under: Christian Life — Sarah @ 4:19 pm
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Earlier this week I was in Spain visiting family, and on Monday evening when we were heading home from our disatrous attempt at a pub quiz (in English and we were still poor!) we quite literally bumped into a procession. Below are some pictures from it, do bear in mind that this was 11.30pm and it was very dark!

What looks  like the grim reaper carrying a statue of who we assumed is Mary

Ku Klux Klan look-a-likes!

part of the procession followed by one of three independent bands!

This to us all seemed so bizarre and a little bit scary, like walking into the chamber of secrets or somewhere else a bit freaky, so we asked around it it turns out that this is part of the Spanish celebration of Holy Week (Semana Santa) and each town will do something different to commerate Holy Week. The town we were in had processions like this pretty much every evening this week and of the two we saw I was really shocked by the number of people who turned out and were involved (basically the whole town) and that it was taken so solemnly.

I did some internet research and found out that the pictures above are from the Procesión de los Escapularios which according to google translate means Procession of the scapulars. That didn’t help me too much…so wikipedia … which says “scapular typically consists of two small (usually rectangular) pieces of cloth, wood or laminated paper, a few inches in size which may bear religious images or text. These are joined by two bands of cloth and the wearer places one square on the chest, rests the bands one on each shoulder and lets the second square drop down the back”. Basically it appears to be a variation on a necklace in some ways, but one which the wearer will benefit from certain promises when they die if they are wearing it.

The second procession we saw (Tuesday, after hanging around the town square trying to work out what was happening!) was called Procesión del Traslado, the procession of the transfer. This makes slightly more sense to me as the statues (or more accurately floats as they reminded me of carnival floats we used to have when I was a child!) represented the risen Jesus, Jesus carrying the cross and Jesus on the cross. Being a Catholic celebration there were also two statues of Mary which I don’t fully understand the significance of.

Jesus being carried towards the Roman guards who you can’t quite make out in this picture

people in pointy hats!

Jesus carrying the cross

Mary (AKA Queen Victoria!) on a huge float


It really was amazing to see the whole town come out to celebrate the message of Easter together – in someways it felt like a huge Nativity play but without words – just music and with young and old participating. The real sadness for me though was that there was so much emphasis on Mary. Her statues and the attention paid to her were so much more than to Jesus. Jesus is the one that has dealt with our sin, it is him who has given us the chance to be back in relationship with God – not Mary. She wasn’t God, so wasn’t sinless, she was just another human being used in a very special way by God. In the same way, the preoccupation with scapular and other religious objects is really sad especially in the light of the glory of the gospel – why be tied to a piece of fabric your whole life in the hope of dying whilst wearing it, when we can know right now that through the blood of Jesus on the cross we can be right with God. Because he rose from the dead we can be sure that all he promised is true and have complete certainty – that is so much more better news than anything else the world has to offer!

So, this Easter let’s focus on Him – maybe you never have. Well why not have a look into some of the evidence etc here.

Happy Easter





Good news at Easter April 10, 2009

Filed under: Christian Life — Sarah @ 10:33 am
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Have been reading a lot recently of Jade Goody and the sermon that was preached at her funeral. Thought it would be appropiate today as we remember Jesus’ death on the cross to post that sermon here. What an amazing hope we can have if we trust in Jesus because of what he did on the cross though we didn’t deserve it in any way.

We don’t expect, do we, to be celebrating a wedding and then to be saying farewell to the bride just six weeks later. We don’t expect to have to bury our children, whatever age they are. We don’t expect those who are so young, and so full of life and love to be taken from us.
And yet that is life – that is the reality we face today.

Reality’s a word that’s often been linked to Jade: a star, possibly the greatest star of what we call reality TV. But we know, don’t we, that her life was far from free of some of the harsher realities of life. She had her fair share, possibly more than her fair share of life’s hardships.
But as we’ve seen, particularly over the past months, she’s inspired so many with her courage in fighting cancer and her dignity in facing death.

And yet we still don’t expect to find ourselves here today.

And maybe there’s one more thing we don’t expect to find as we come to bury this vibrant 27 year old mother, daughter, wife and friend – HOPE. Even when we’re faced with the harsh reality of death, hope is what is offered by the Christian faith, the Christian faith into which Jade herself was baptised just four weeks ago today. And that hope is not found in the rules or rituals of an ancient religion, but in a living person, Jesus Christ, whose name Jade wasn’t afraid to take on her lips: not as a swear word but as the name of the person she wanted Bobby & Freddy to get to know for themselves.

I know that Jade liked reading the gospel of Luke in the New Testament. Why not read it for yourselves? It’s interesting that Jade liked Luke’s gospel in particular as it’s the one that highlights God’s love for unlikely people. She will have read there, in Luke’s gospel, how Jesus welcomed those who weren’t particularly religious, and how Jesus spent time with people like herself: down to earth people whose lives, like Jade’s, were at times flawed and difficult, but whose lives were precious to God. And she will have read there, in Luke’s gospel of Jesus bringing the hope that we all need.

Jade discovered that turning to Jesus brought comfort and peace for herself and her children.
She discovered it late on, but she discovered it in time. Why not discover it for yourselves now?

You see, we don’t have all the answers to our questions of suffering and pain. But we do have Jesus who shares what we’re going through, and who shows infinite compassion and care. We don’t have the guarantee of a pain-free life, but we do have Jesus, who can walk with us through illness, grief and everything else life may throw at us. We don’t have a way of finally escaping death, but we do have Jesus, who died for us and then defeated death itself at Easter, giving us hope of life beyond the grave.

And that life is not just a continuation of what we have now, but a life that is finally free from sickness, from pain, from grief, and from all that spoils our lives and our world here. How true are Jade’s words that heaven is a place where sick people go to be made well, because heaven is where we finally meet face to face Jesus, the greatest healer of all, who alone is able to make our broken lives whole.

Jade’s baptism symbolised that she had made a choice, a choice that we can – that we must – all make: to trust in the Jesus that we find, not only in Luke’s gospel, but in the whole of the Bible.

I had the privilege last week of being able to see the Bible Jade read from. Here it is, and here is possibly the most significant thing about it. She’s underlined one chapter more fully than any other. It’s one of the most momentous passages of the whole Bible. And it’s actually in the Old Testament, in a book of the Bible called Isaiah and chapter 53. The words were written 700 years before Jesus, but speak of him and describe exactly what He came to do. They’re words that lie at the heart of the Christian faith and describe the events of Good Friday that Christians will remember this coming week. Here are some of the words that Jade underlined:

“All of us were like sheep that were lost,
Each of us going his own way.
But the Lord made the punishment fall on him,
The punishment all of us deserve”

These words explain that it is possible to be confident about heaven, even though our lives are flawed. You see none of us – not you, not me, not Jade – can stand before a holy God with lives free from mistakes, from faults, from things that we regret. As these verses that Jade has unlined tell us, we don’t have perfect lives. But we do have Jesus, who opened heaven’s doors: not for great achievers, not for those who think they are better than others, but for people like Jade, who simply reach out to Jesus and trust in him, even when all else seems hopeless.

To me, the fact these verses are underlined means that Jade understood this incredible good news about Jesus. It means that Jade has only completed the first chapter of a life that continues in his loving presence. It means that when the last column inches have been written about Jade’s unforgettable life, then that in no way is the end of her story.

Praise God that this is not the end of any of our stories!