Friday, 27 February 2009

The Way

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


John 14:28
You've heard me tell you, 'I'm going away, and I'm coming back.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I'm on my way to the Father because the Father is the goal and purpose of my life.


Reflection

If you loved me… How often have we heard that one? Normally just before an unacceptable or unbelievable request that seeks to undermine our place in a relationship.

If you loved me… How could anyone not know that we do love them? What more can we do than we do?

If you loved me… Surely if we loved anyone we would want what was best? We would want that person to be happy, safe, protected, ours.

But there is a love that is stronger than ours. That sees through our need for possession; our need to measure a person’s happiness in comparison to our own; a love that is both freedom and commitment in equal measure.

The love of the disciples asked for reassurance; guidance; availability. It was a childlike, needy love; and there is nothing wrong in that.
But it was focussed on Jesus, and Jesus knew that he was not the focus because he too loved as a child. He loved and looked to the Father; as much as he loved his humanity; as much as he anticipated his suffering and death he desired that Love that is above all others and he left.

At this time of year we try to make our own journey towards the Father, using the pathway Jesus marked out for us.

The Way of Jesus- to love everyone, friends and enemies; those we care about and those we avoid.

The Truth of Jesus – that everything in life – rules and regulations, expectations and limitations are nothing without love.

The Love of Jesus – to love simply, extravagantly, blindly and generously.
If he loved us he would be with us and, because he loves us – he is.


Contemplation
The Way

The forty days of Lent ask us to do several things – to share with Jesus’ time of solitude; to share in the anticipation of his suffering; to make a journey of our own.

What we need to do is to try to forget that we know it all – we have the benefit of hindsight – we’ve read the Book!

But let’s try - try to share the fear and insecurity of the followers.

Let’s try to be the disciples Jesus wants us to be.

In quiet and contemplation let us commit this season to the journey.



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, 17 February 2009

Don't throw stones

Opening Prayer

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


John8:9


Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’



Reflection

There was no other outcome. The evidence was unquestionable;
the condemnation inevitable; judgement carved from the very rock the crowd held ready.

I had all my excuses, I had been taken advantage of; my love was misdirected, I acted out of fear, naivety, foolishness.

But it didn’t matter - no-one asked; no-one would have listened; in any case caught in the crowd’s savage gaze the words were stuck to the roof of my mouth. The truth hurt but was undeniable. I was guilty. And, strangely, there was release in that acceptance; surrender to the will of the people that held me standing there before them.

It must have seemed a strange sight; a Greek tragedy frozen in tableau. Though what tale would have a Rabbi kneeling at the feet of a naked woman? Yet there he was -waiting for the people to consider; to measure their own guilt against mine; for their own conscience to be weighed against the stone in their hand.

I felt Time pause, brooding, as their minds turned; I felt their inner struggles; so simple to see the faults in me; so easy to gawk with righteous indignation and claim desire for justice, and to deal out that justice under the blind eyes of the Law.

The Rabbi gave them no answer; didn’t even look up from his scribbles in the earth. Then Time began to move on - their focus had switched. I could see it - first in the older ones, those who had tried to live with the Law all their lives; who had failed more than once. Looking within they found the reflection of my guilt in their own.

The Rabbi’s hand passed over the letters in the sand turning them back
to dust. Likewise this band of humanity overturned the power of the Law. As sleepwalkers roused to find themselves in a strange place, the people began to move away dazed and in silence, whilst the stones dropped forgetfully from their hands.

I am guilty but not condemned, not by anyone on this earth, not even by God himself. He who wrote the Law yet chooses to brush it aside; who may, yet does not, condemn; who loves those who stand naked and helpless before him, trusting in his Love. And so, I know, I am forgiven.



Contemplation
Those who throw stones

It is simply too easy and too human to find fault; to point the finger; to demand justice; to see the guilty punished. As long as the guilt belongs to others. For how often do we every turn the finger of blame back on ourselves? Is it easier to admit our faults or to find excuses for them?

We give the final judgement to God, and often find fault even with Him. Why do the good suffer? Why do bad things happen?
Why do bad people get away with it? Something should be done.

It is one of the first reasons why people claim that God does not listen, or even does not exist – because, if He did, He would agree with me! Every time we judge another person – we play god, we put ourselves in the place of the One who made us, the only one who can judge and yet chooses not to; who always offers the second chance, and the third, and the…… And, if He can do it, then why can’t we, at least, try?

It is a beautiful thought to contemplate our God of Forgiveness. When we look inside ourselves and see all the faults, all the mistakes, all the brokenness – we can only thank God for His love, His mercy and His grace.

But then we have to continue that grace - to look at others, their faults, their mistakes, their brokenness - and still to treat them with love and forgiveness too.


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

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Who are You?

Opening Prayer

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



Mark6:3 (The Message)
He's just a carpenter—Mary's boy


Reflection

I didn’t ask for this, you know.

Well, maybe I did, in one of my prayers I might have asked God what he wanted me to do; what was the point of my life. Trouble is, so often, when we pray, we don’t really think he’s listening. After all, how many prayers do you think he gets, every day, every minute, every second?

But I did ask him, and, it seems, he was listening and now - here I am- speaking to you. Words coming from nowhere; pouring out of a tiny bit of scripture that I had read and heard over and over again without comment, until today. This is what it is like, every day. Words; not my words – his. That’s why you hear them. That’s why they mean something to you too. I’m just the messenger.

But for people who don’t want to listen; who am I? No even a member of the clergy; just a person in the pew; Joe Public; unqualified; uneducated. Who and what gave me the right to speak? And, as for my background - well everyone knows where I come from – a family reputation no-one would be proud of; wrong side of the tracks; keeping the gossips in business even now. How dare I even stand up here; who do I think I am?

How easy to use the ordinary, damaged, sinful me as the excuse not to hear; not to have to listen; not to believe.

Who do you think God ever chooses? So rarely the ones in authority. Hardly ever the ones with the answers. Never, the ones who think they have the right. How could he? How would they hear him? They don’t really need him; their minds so full of rights and wrongs; so empty of love and forgiveness. I needed him; needed love and forgiveness; that was his way in.

And perhaps I have to accept that that some people will never see beyond the world’s judgement to God’s grace and mercy. And perhaps for that I am, at least, in good company. For my Lord was ‘just a carpenter’.


Contemplation
Judging a book by its cover

It’s a thing that the world does. Uses its own little scales of importance to decide who to give authority to. But those in authority, generally get there through the system, through playing the game, through knowing the rules. They belong to the world that made them.

If that world is a good place, then wonderful. But how often, when we look at the world, do we feel that something is wrong; that something is unfair; that something should be done. And then what – if we feel we are the ones to try to put it right? How easy to be put down, as an amateur, a do-gooder, a busybody. But sometimes we are called, we cannot deny it and we have to do, tell, be – no matter what. Despite the slings and arrows of the critics. Then maybe all you can do is walk away from those that deride you to those who will listen with an open heart.

Take some time to think about what God has asked of you. Are you affected by what others think? Do you try to argue or simply walk away? If there a way God can support you? Have you asked him?



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

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Praying the Scripture - Ask

Opening Prayer

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



Matthew 15:25-28 (New International Version)
"Lord, help me!" she said.
"It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."
"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith!

Reflection

It wouldn’t have been the first time that my mouth had got me into trouble. The other women had been saying that for a long time. That’s why I’m alone. That’s why my only joy, my little girl, is cursed with a demon. Too much attitude; too sure of myself, not knowing my place.

And I am, I am sure of my Self. My Self was not created to give in, to accept less than I could be, to bow down in defeat. My Self has responsibilities that I couldn’t deny; the demon was not just my daughter’s.

I would remember my daughter in her quiet times watching the sunset or a bird bathing in a splash of well water; or we’d sing a rhyme from her babyhood and her chuckles would shake both our bodies and I knew there was something outside this suffering. There was a loving power, a forgiving power, a healing power and it was up to me to find it, to seek it out and make it ours. My daughter is all I have; I am all she has. What else could I do?

I had done everything. Every petition and sacrifice in every temple to every god; pastes and potions from doctors and herbalists; spells and exorcisms from anyone who called themselves a magician or a priest and it has all been no good.

Still I sat in the market place, watching the traveller’s gate for new hopes; new charlatans; new tricks. I was there when he came through; people calling for miracles and healing. I watched and I saw. His words, his eyes, his hands speaking truth and healing – speaking to the place inside me that needed its own truth and healing. He was what I had been looking for; he had what I needed.

Even so, it was the last thing I expected – to be called a dog…But I had been called worse and there was a challenge in the words not insult. I am not so easily turned away. And the answer came, straight from that place within. Is that faith? Knowing? Because I knew I had been answered as soon as the Word was spoken.

I returned home in delight and thankfulness to a child made new. Later, holding her in my arms, looking at a new future for us both, I wondered why people though it was so hard to just know; to just ask; to just believe.

Contemplation
‘Just ask’
There will be a time for everyone when they will suffer, either through their own pain or often the pain of someone close to them. And it is usually then that we return to our prayers, to our church, to our faith.

But who do we return to? To a God that punishes through illness or despair, to a God that gives judgement, to a God that doesn’t care?
If so, why bother?

If we believe God is our loving parent then we return to Love. To a Father that does not want to see us suffer, to a Mother that is saddened by grief or despair.

Should we believe that God will always take the pain away – will create a miracle of healing? Well, yes we should. But it may not be the miracle we expect. Perhaps the healing will be a new attitude, a different perspective, an acceptance of the reality of life. And with that healing, the recognition that we are not alone when we suffer; God is always Emmanuel – God who is with us. Befriending, sharing, carrying, walking the journey.

If we believe in the God of Love then this is no more that what we should expect. When we pray that is the confidence we should show.
Consider times when you have felt in need of God’s Love, of God’s Grace. Did you ask as a confident child of the Father or did you try to make deals, belittle yourself, expect no better? Look again at your relationship with God and see if there is any need, any way of building bridges, making links, becoming closer.

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

Sunday, 1 February 2009

The Single (minded) Life

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Corinthians 7:32-35 (New King James Version)
But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.
Firstly, may I say that I have nothing against celibacy. In fact I am greatly in favour of healthy celibacy that supports a spiritual life. I know there are many reasons for the religious to be celibate, some better than others. Jesus was almost certainly celibate, but not all his his apostles were; there are people who know within themselves that their commitment excludes that sort of relationship with others, other people see it as a complement to their lives. How can you be a father or mother to a few when your calling asks you to be father or mother to many?
Of course, in the Middle Ages they stopped the religious marrying because of the inheritance laws - too many sons making off with the Churches riches.
And certainly Paul's letter will be held up as another reason for the religious to be unmarried. But why? The religious are no holier than the laity. They have no special right to Grace. They really don't. And this doesn't make Paul wrong - it just makes our understanding of Paul suspect.
Paul was clever, probably the most educated author in the New Testament. He wrote with passion; these few letters evidence of his support for communities that he had only spent a few weeks or months with in person. He writes in imagery and metaphor. When he says there are no Jews or Gentiles, man or woman, servant or free because we have put on Christ, nothing has physically changed- but your imagination sees Christ as a mantle of protection wrapped around you, showing that you belong, making us all the same.
When Paul then writes that we should be virgins, he doesn't mean that the ideal Christian is celibate. We wouldn't have lasted very long! We know that there is an equality in Christianity that includes everyone, no matter what. Single or married should take the least of our attention. The family group has always been seen as the first cell in the Christian community. Our relationship with our partner is an expression of holiness, of sacrament, of God's desire for us to be happy and complete. But, for each of us, God's love is just as passionate - he is a God of relationship and he is part of the relationship.
But here Paul is again painting pictures. Our connection with God should be virgin; we should belong only to God, want to be with God, want to do what brings us closer to God. If we finds ourselves distracted by the world, married to ambition, to avarice, to luxury, then we are torn in two - please the world vs please God. It is a quandary many of us find ourselves in, it's a contest that God often loses.
We all need to keep ourselves focussed on God; God is Love, we are called to love others but don't love stuff, don't love the world or it's ways; don't marry ourselves to what will not last. There is something better, worth saving ourselves for.
wordinthehand2009