Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Praying the Scripture - Daddy

Opening Prayer

Here I am Lord,
Listening
Speak to me
within my heart and soul.
I am listening.



Romans 8:16 (The Message)
We know who he is,
and we know who we are:
Father and children.


Reflection

God’s desire is for us, all of us, to be with Him.
The only thing we need to do is believe it too.

We don’t have to listen to the man rules –
we don’t have to make ourselves bad, guilty, ashamed –
that is our judgement;

not God’s.

God knows we are human –
we do human things –
He made us –
He loves us.

With love,
what parent has a child so perfect that they never make a mistake?

With love,
what parent disowns a child for a childish mistake?

With love,
what child does not learn from his mistakes?

With love,
what child does not expect to be forgiven?

It is not making the mistake that is sinful,
but the inability to admit our flaws or to ask for help.

Because it is the helplessness,
hopelessness
of being in the wrong place
that allows us to become that lost child who waits for God,
our loving Father,
to pick us up and take us Home.


Contemplation
‘Daddy’
We are pretty comfortable these days with the phrase Children of God. It is a comforting phrase – suggesting protection, belonging and perhaps a little exclusivity.
But often we are guilty of acting -not like the innocent, loving, open-hearted toddler that Jesus so often points to -but rather as a child going through the ‘Kevin the teenager’ stage- how familiar is this?

Only going to the Father when you want something:
Convinced that he doesn’t understand;
Accusing him of not caring:
Telling him what he should do;
Knowing that you know better:
Convinced that you are old enough to make your own mind up:
But – still needing him around to blame when things go wrong’
?

In contemplation, take some time to think about where you are in your relationship with God the Father.
What sort of parent is he – what sort of child are you?
Are you thankful for the relationship just as it is?
Can it be made better?
Spend this time sharing how you feel with God, speaking with the confidence of a little child.
Give thanks for this time as you make your way a little further along your journey of faith.

Closing Prayer
May the blessing of the Sacred Three
The Father who gave us the Word
The Son who is the Word
The Spirit who opens the Word within us
Be with us today and evermore.
Amen

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Praying the Scripture - Come and See

Opening Prayer

Here I am Lord,
Listening
Speak to me
within my heart and soul.
I am listening.



John 1:36
‘Come and See.’


Reflection

I suppose I could have just answered the question but this is much more interesting. It’s a teaching method I picked up. My Father does it too.

You are such curious children, so demanding, so full of questions. But there’s no point in giving you the answers because, lets be honest, most of the time you only want the answer that suits you. And I am not here just to suit you; to give you the higher ground; to make you feel superior. But I am here for you; to be your guide; your companion; your brother on the road.

This invitation to come and see - it’s not like a travel programme on the television; filmed through a soft focus lens; a filtered blue sky; full of gorgeous images with a veneer of luxury to entice the eye. It’s not like a holiday brochure, photographed from the perfect angle; colour tinted to perfection. It’s not about image or imagery – pretending to be something it’s not; creating an assumption of the ideal lifestyle. It’s not loaded down with other people’s expectations, values and prejudices.

Come and see the life you were born for; the life I have bought with my life; the life everlasting.

When I say ‘come’ I don’t mean for the weekend, I don’t mean ‘if you have nothing better to do’; I mean surrender yourself to the journey; to me; to the Father and the Spirit.

When I say ‘see’ I don’t mean just with your eyes, in fact your eyes are the last things I want you to rely on. I really want the scales to fall from your eyes, to see past the veneer. When I say ‘see’ I mean with every atom of your being; fully experience; submerse into; open up to.

So it may be three words but it’s as much as I offer; it is everything I can offer; it is everything you will ever need. I want you to be with me, all of you, each and every one of you.
Will you accept the invitation – will you come and see?


Contemplation
‘Come and See’
There are statistics. The theologians have counted the number of questions Jesus was asked in the Gospels – A couple of hundred. How many did he answer? Three. In almost every case he turned the question back on the questioner, invited the people to work it out for themselves.

This was a simple question ‘Where do you live?’ But the simple reply ‘Come and See’ was more than a sociable invitation – it was an invitation to a new life, a new experience.

We have been listening for the call of God, the call of the Lord. Holding our breath for that whisper of our name. Waiting for that connection, that relationship to be made more real; but then what? Just like the morning alarm, once it goes off there’s no real point in lying there. The opening of the door is the invitation to go on, to continue the journey of faith. A journey that lasts our whole life and beyond.

In a time of quiet prayer imagine our Lord standing at the door of his home, at the gate to a garden or a woodland walk. Imagine the invitation to ‘Come and See’. Will you make that initial step into the unknown? Will you stay in the comfort of where you are now? Maybe take a few steps to the threshold to share your concerns, your expectations, to hear what he has to say.


Closing Prayer
May the blessing of the Sacred Three
The Father who gave us the Word
The Son who is the Word
The Spirit who opens the Word within us
Be with us today and evermore.

Amen

wordinthehand2009

Friday, 16 January 2009

Healing the Hidden

Gospel 16th January 2009
Mark 2:1-12

After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around that he was back home. A crowd gathered, jamming the entrance so no one could get in or out. He was teaching the Word. They brought a paraplegic to him, carried by four men. When they weren't able to get in because of the crowd, they removed part of the roof and lowered the paraplegic on his stretcher. Impressed by their bold belief, Jesus said to the paraplegic, "Son, I forgive your sins."
Some religion scholars sitting there started whispering among themselves, "He can't talk that way! That's blasphemy! God and only God can forgive sins."
Jesus knew right away what they were thinking, and said, "Why are you so sceptical? Which is simpler: to say to the paraplegic, 'I forgive your sins,' or say, 'Get up, take your stretcher, and start walking'? Well, just so it's clear that I'm the Son of Man and authorised to do either, or both . . ." (he looked now at the paraplegic), "Get up. Pick up your stretcher and go home." And the man did it—got up, grabbed his stretcher, and walked out, with everyone there watching him. They rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then praised God, saying, "We've never seen anything like this!"


Don't ever think that Jesus was that unique in his time. There were prophets; there were magicians; there were healers. And, because the world was looking for all of these, the people flocked to the latest, the greatest; the most outrageous as people today flock around a football player or musician.

And then, in a way yes, Jesus was unique, because he played to the wrong crowd. He played not simply to the ordinary man, who was happy to listen to the Temple folk being brought down a peg or two, but to the extraordinary man - the outcast, unclean, unwanted faces of the community.

Believe it, that when the paraplegic man was lowered into the house, the people present would have flung themselves out of the way; not wishing to be 'infected' by his uncleanliness before God. Because, if you were in such a state, it was a physical statement that God had passed judgement on you or your kin for some misdemeanour in your or your ancestors' past.
But Jesus doesn't even see the exterior disability at first, he looks into the man's heart and forgives the sins that are within. Perhaps sins of envy, despair, resentment -understandable but nevertheless- sins that are part of suffering, of being set apart, of being the unclean and the outcast. And they are forgiven.

Maybe, if this was as far as it went, the man will have returned to his home with a still-fractured body but a healed soul. Perhaps, in this healing, his new found peace would have been an example to others, a sign that whatever happens to the body does not have to be mirrored in the soul. Maybe this would have been the greater miracle?

But this was not enough for the critics. 'Only God can forgive sins'. Anyone can say it, anyone can believe it. But where is the evidence? Except perhaps the the forgiven feels the weight lifted , no-one can prove it. That's not really the point. The point is that Jesus is claiming God's power in a hidden and unprovable way. Blasphemy may be the claim but really they are disappointed - where's the big show; the grand gesture; Jesus is the toast of the town but he's not acting like it.

Realising that he needs to fulfill their expectations he submits - you don't know how to recognise a healing of spirit so I will give you a physical healing to rave over and be astounded at - and he does and they are.

Because we do, we like to be impressed; we want the grand gesture; the 'magic'. When we pray we want to be answered, when we meditate we want to feel that burning light of God, when we ask for God's blessing we want to feel it change our lives - we want proof. Yet we just have to look around us. There is the proof - in the minutae of nature; the tiny gestures of love; the invisible acts of healing; the moments of connection and reconciliation that are taking place all the time around us. And, whatever may be wrong on the outside, it is in noticing this that we know we are loved and forgiven.

Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know
Be still
Be

wordinthehand2009

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Praying the Scripture - Called by Name

Opening Prayer
Here I am Lord,
Listening
Speak to me
within my heart and soul.
I am listening.



John 20:15-16 (The Message)

Jesus spoke to her, "Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?"
She, thinking that he was the gardener, said, "Mister, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him."
Jesus said, "Mary."
Reflection

Why was I weeping? It seems ridiculous. A person like me, supposedly adult, seemingly sensible, seemingly ‘together’, crying like a love-sick teenager.

But that’s what it felt like Lord; Love-sickness; sick of being in love with an image; an ideal; a vision of a God who is supposed to love me too. But it never seemed like you were there; not really there.

Who says that love is a two-way thing?

Sometimes it isn’t – sometimes it’s sitting on the stairs at parties waiting for ‘the one’ to walk by, sometimes it’s pretending to be interested in football or music so that you can join in the conversation; sometimes it’s hanging around to get a lift just to be in the same space. And the worst thing is that ‘the one’ is so out of reach that they don’t even realise, don’t know, they are absolutely oblivious. People like me can understand why. We think - who am I anyway? What do I have that will attract attention? What do I have to offer?

If that’s what loving another human being can be like, then what hope is there with you Lord? Why would you notice me? You who called the universe into being, who created night and day, who are so far above me that I must barely exist except as a footnote to a footnote?

But I have done my best. I have prayed, I have hoped, I have studied, I have tried to follow your teaching, I have tried to love my neighbour, I have searched my heart for a God who is not just an image, not just a few minutes on a Sunday, not just a 2000 year old fairy story. And I have sat ‘on the stairs’ in meditation seeking that place, that moment of ‘contact’.

And today I heard my name; clearly, lovingly, as deep within and as true as my heartbeat. I heard you Lord and I knew; I knew I had your love. I knew that you knew me as a Mother knows her child’s cry in playground full of children; that I was held in your eye, in your hand and in your heart. And if I never heard your voice again I would still know. And the joy of that made me weep – just like a love-sick teenager.
Contemplation
‘Called by name’

In all religious cultures there are people known as mystics. People who have a ‘real’, physical knowledge and awareness of the presence of God. Teresa of Avila was one, as was the Little Flower. It is a state of spirituality that seems to belong to the saints, to holy people. It seems too much for us ordinary folk. We can just about cope with our learned ritualised and cherished faith. Real contact with God is not really for us.

But why not? God knows all our names. He called Abraham and Samuel – he harassed Moses and Jeremiah. Jesus didn’t pick the good and holy to sit and eat with. He called Levi, Peter, Lazarus and Mary – all by name – all to be with him.

Our community of faith is important – we are the Body of Christ. But the Lord wants to spend time with each one of us as well. The relationship is personal not organisational. He knows us all, every hair on our heads, and he calls to us from our hearts.

From that place deep within he doesn’t need to shout – but we need to listen. Sometimes we have to be quiet, to be attentive. To feel that connection with a God who loves us, who wants us for himself.

In prayer and quiet contemplation call out to this God of love, of relationship, and then – just listen. And pay attention, expect the unexpected. As Mary thought she saw a gardener, God can come in many guises, you may not trust your eyes but you will know him in your heart.

Closing Prayer
May the blessing of the Sacred Three
The Father who gave us the Word
The Son who is the Word
The Spirit who opens the Word within us
Be with us today and evermore.
Amen
wordinthehand2009

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Praying the Scripture - Leaving the World behind

Opening Prayer

Here I am Lord,
Listening
Speak to me
within my heart and soul.
I am listening.


1 John 2:14-17
I have written to you who are God’s children
because you know the Father.
I have written to you who are mature in the faith
because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning.
I have written to you who are young in the faith
because you are strong.
God’s word lives in your hearts,
and you have won your battle with the evil one.

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

Reflection

I was an art student in the nineties, a mature student, but nevertheless…One of our trips to London involved a visit to an exhibition by the YBA – Young British Artists – which included Damien Hurst and Tracey Emin and other equally outrageous young artists. The exhibition was called ‘Live Fast, Die Pretty’, a barely concealed reference to the famous line - ‘Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse’. A motto followed (but, for all you movie buffs, not quoted) by James Dean who died at the age of just 24. I remember thinking, as a late-thirty-something, surrounded by all these twenty-something students ‘Do you even know what you are saying?’

Living fast is a young thing to do. It is a selfish time with often just one thing to focus on – you. The only way to get anywhere is fast, the fastest way is a straight line. You have come this far – school, GCSE’s, A levels, the Degree, the good job. And along the way you grab at every opportunity that steps into the road. Some good, some bad, some indifferent - you try everything - because, at this speed, you are not going to get another chance, you are racing to a finish but it is the race that is important; where you are at each checkpoint; you haven’t ever sat still long enough to imagine what comes after the checker flag is waved.

We can, I suppose, blame this on ourselves. We live, mostly, in Khronos time, which the world invented, involving marking off seconds, hours, months and years. It is transient, fleeting, neglectful. Time that travels in straight lines – you can’t go back, you can’t skip forward – it marches inexorably on –tick, tick, tick. You step on at birth and off again when you die. You will leave people behind - you may never meet your grandchildren. There is no logical explanation for before or after – so it doesn’t happen. Like ripping off the pages of a desk-top calendar – it all becomes so much ‘rubbish’.

Time can also be thought of Kairos time – God time. This is the way time moves on a sunny Sunday afternoon, or at a hospital bedside. It is the time that our ancestors lived in. The circle of the seasons; the phases of the Moon that brings time around and around; the links in time that means that both the dead and the yet-unborn can influence the actions of the living. It is the time that is within each of us – the time that we were brought from and the next great step through the darkened mirror. It is not the future; it is the Always - the gift and promise from God. So it does matter; what we do and what we believe; there are connections. But these are the connections of a spider’s web or an intricate labyrinth and to cross these requires attention, faith and trust. You can’t travel driven with ambition, heavily laden with ‘stuff’ or pandering to a worldly-wise ego. But then, why should you? With the confidence of the Always love of the Father for you, you can step forward with an open heart and a mature faith and you will always be Pretty – in fact you will be beautiful.


Contemplation


‘Passing Time’


It is truer now, more than ever before, that we race headlong through life. The technology that promised us so much ‘free’ time now seems to have us tied within its clutches – 24 hour TV, mobile phones that can ‘get’ you wherever you are, the car that means you are always available, the computer that means you can work from home.

Our lives become more and more harassed. And yet, we feel sorry for those who do not have our technology – who go to bed when the sun goes down, who walk to work, who wash by hand, who walk five miles for water and who farm the land and cook only freshly harvested foods. Yet these people have time – they have the ‘time’ to spend with God, to form the relationship that we have forgotten about. Their minds are not filled with the distractions and necessities of our modern life. Those things that are so important, or are they?

We often imagine that, in our society, only the religious orders have the time to meditate, to contemplate, to sit and daydream, to sit and do nothing.
But why? We all have some time in the day to offer. A programme that we usually stare blankly at, twenty minutes in the bathroom, a walk with the dog, the New Year’s resolution of a jog around the park.

For this week, give those twenty minutes to God. Don’t make a fuss about it. Don’t ritualise it. Don’t get stressed about it. Just invite God to take up some space in your consciousness for a chat. Don’t worry that He won’t hear you; He doesn’t have to come far, He’s always been close inside you – just waiting for the invitation.

If you are able to do this – what has been the result? Does this have an effect on the priorities in your life? Does the ‘world’ view seem less important as you move closer to God? Does this encourage you to find a quieter time, a still place to be with God. How can you do this?

Closing Prayer
May the blessing of the Sacred Three
The Father who gave us the Word
The Son who is the Word
The Spirit who opens the Word within us
Be with us today and evermore.
Amen


wordinthehand2008