Monday, 20 April 2009

Take the long way home

Gospel
John 3:1-8
There was one of the Pharisees called Nicodemus, a leading Jew, who came to Jesus by night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who comes from God; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him.’ Jesus answered:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born from above,
he cannot see the kingdom of God.’
Nicodemus said, ‘How can a grown man be born? Can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?’ Jesus replied:


‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born through water and the Spirit,
he cannot enter the kingdom of God:
what is born of the flesh is flesh;
what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Do not be surprised when I say:
You must be born from above.
The wind blows wherever it pleases;
you hear its sound,
but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.
That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.’


And here is a Before the Resurrection, Resurrection story. The Lord telling us what happens when the Spirit is added to flesh and blood. The rebirth, the resurrection of who we are. Yet we are all born of God, aren't we? All held in His Hand, known before we were in our mother's womb. So what else happens? What does the promise of Pentecost bring us that we didn't already have?

As part of my prayer and meditation group I often use two images;- one, Paul's lesson that we do not need buildings because we ourselves are temples, in us is God-in-Us. People of course have different ideas about where this is -heart, mind, gut, all the spaces in between.

For the meditation I also use the idea of the labyrinth -the winding path that leads deeper and more inward, without danger or the risk of getting lost - it is our own journey that takes the time it takes.

If you are able to make the journey then, in some form, you do encounter the Divine, it may be for a second, you may experience whole conversations , it may be a peace that you have never know before. No-one has ever felt nothing. And this is wonderful.

I suppose that what can then happen is that this place becomes a secure site - a tabernacle within yourself for you to go to when you need that time, that peace, that space. That is God space but that is not how the Spirit works.

The Holy Spirit, the Breath of God, is not containable. If you meet her in your inner space, then you are blessed and you will have opened something much bigger than a genii from a bottle. You do not get to leave the Spirit behind. When you make the journey back through the labyrinth she will come with you and you will be different, as the disciples were different. It is part of the tranformation, as Jesus moves on into his Cosmic presence, the Spirit encourages us to be more, in fact I sometimes think that this was why Jesus left; we got too comfortable, in a way so did he, with his humanity - we were meant to become something more; to be driven by the Spirit as Jesus himself was.

And also

The labyrinth brought another idea to mind, particularly for anyone still not getting the Resurrection euphoria. Deliberately or otherwise, Lent is very much like the labyrinth, leading us in, encouraging the descent, the journey into the darkness. Not sinister, because we know where we are going and we have prayed for the journey but nevertheless it can be a unique experience sitting in the centre clearing, saddened beyond hope, waiting in the dark, feeling the stone cool and the damp of the night as we wait through the Vigil. And when the morning come and He is Risen, we are there alone, wondering maybe like Thomas and the journeyers from Emmaus what it was all about.

If we are lucky maybe we get the Mary Magdalen experience and the Lord comes to us first.

That hasn't happened to me very often. Usually it is the wondering - I believe He is Risen, so where is He then? And you then have to leave the waiting space to find the place of encounter. If the descent has been hard, if you really 'got' it, can I please suggest that you go carefully in your seeking. Because a labyrinth is a simple path of twists it can be tempting to jump the walls. To go for the 'crow flies' route, rather than the meandering that brought you there. But this can be much too disorientating, how can a forty day journey be reversed in a few days? There are fifty days to Pentecost, with plenty of time for small encounters, for prayer, for thinking, for going back over the steps we took and seeing the changes that have been wrought.

Please, take the time, take the journey.

wordinthehand2009

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