Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Feast of the Archangels

Circle of Protection

I call on the mercy of the
Sacred Three
To send circles of angels
To protect me.
And the mighty Archangels
To stand over me
To shield me with their wings.
To the North, stand Michael, Prince and Warrior
To the South, stand Gabriel, Speaker of Truth
To the West, stand Raphael, Healer and Defender
To the East, stand Uriel, Lightbearer.
May they be comrades in arms
Guardians of faith
Beacons against the darkness
Sentinels of God's Love

Amen

wordinthehand2010

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Night Prayer - Psalm 142

I stretch out my arms to you
I stretch out my soul, like a land without water.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Togetherness

 Matthew 10
Don't be afraid. Aren't two sparrows sold for only a penny? But your Father knows when any one of them falls to the ground. Even the hairs on your head are counted.


At the crossroads on Holy Island there is a cafe, Massie's, an islander cafe; family-run for generations. The menu recognises the needs of the traveller; comfortable, warm, not too posh;  with hot drinks in mugs, tasty sandwiches and toasted teacakes. For the good weather, the hardened pilgrim or those with dogs there is a garden area with with a thick privet hedge on one side. In the hedge live the Massie sparrows; hundreds of them; generations of them from the palest fluffy grey of the fluttering fledglings to the striking bronze filigree of the patriarch males.

These feathered families live just as the human islanders do; out of season gathering together for warmth, finding food where they can, holding onto reserves of energy to survive the ceaseless easterly winds and salty rain. No doubt losing brothers and sisters to the unforgiving cold and the hungry raptors that marshall the grey skies. Wild, wild creatures in a wild, wild world.


Late Spring brings a changeabout, as the tides become more predictable and the bite goes out of the easterlies. The pilgrims, birdwatchers and seaside lovers chance the causeway to walk the island and visit its sacred and ecological sites. The businesses on the island follow the lengthening of the days; opening more often and longer as the sun invites the visitors to stay a little longer; a little longer.


During these times; the sparrows at the cafe are as astute as the islanders seeking their own livelihood; gathering under tables; gaining confidence to perch on spare chairs and even developing the barefaced cheek to stand on the table and watch every bite that you take. All in the knowledge that at some point, someone is going to throw them a crumb 0r toss the remains of a sandwich into the waiting crowd to laugh and take pictures of the pandemonium that ensues.


I have sat outside hundreds of cafes and always the sparrows come to gather around; but what is different here is that hardly anyone complains; no-one mentions the germs and diseases; no-one says that something should be done. Here the sparrows are the residents - living only through togetherness; only through being part of a community that understands survival; they are the ones that will still be here when we have gone home to the comfort of central heating and 24 hour supermarkets. All the visitors seem to recognise this; and give in to the charm; the cheek; the downright piracy that earns the sparrow families another day of life.

wordinthehand2010
response to round robin challenge http://outmavarin.blogspot.com/

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Who's in control?


Gospel Luke 16:19-31



Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.


‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”


‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them.” “Ah no, Father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’




My students love discussion about God and forgiveness - ’But really – if you were the horriblest person who ever lived and never believed in God and then you said sorry the minute you died – you would go to Heaven!!!!’

Well, the truth is – our faith tells us that is exactly what we have to believe – but then again – why wait so long?


But there are some people who like to live life on the edge.


Whether it is because they don’t understand the rules; whether they think the rules don’t apply to them; whether they think that every rule has a get out clause; they will live a life they call their own and expect the world to fall into place around them or there will always be time to make amends.


Luke has been telling us that there is a certain discipline involved in living a faithful life; that there are expectations of what we do; how we do it and even why we do it. We are meant to be following in the footsteps of Jesus; we are meant to be trying to be ‘Christ-like’.


The rules involved in this are very few, but undeniable. To love God; to love others; to treat others even better than you treat yourself; to make the most of who you are and what God have given you as your gift. These rules open you up to other people; to their needs; make you attentive of the lives they live and how you – you – can help them.


Being Christ-like isn’t going to be easy – in fact …….. we manage it in only moments of time. Most of the time our life is a struggle between how we are and how we know we should be.


We are assured of the Father’s forgiveness even when we have turned away and made an absolute mess of things He will be there with open arms to welcome us back. God asks a lot but He gives more; but there comes a time when the choice you have made – is made.


The Rich Man, and he is a very rich man, may claim to believe in God – but there is little evidence. He uses whatever faith he has to bend the rules; to allow him to ignore the pile of rags sitting outside his very front door; he may even use him to assert his status - this unclean man is obviously the one God has turned His back on – after all where are his rewards?


We should know now that that is not the way God thinks; God is generous; God is concerned with saving the soul of the Rich Man. God has actually made it very easy for him; giving him just one thing to do - placing just one man in need of help in a place where to help would be so simple – a few scraps of food; a length of cloth; someone to chase away the dogs and not a break required in his living; in his lifestyle. But; no – so, no remorse; no need for forgiveness; no understanding of the need for forgiveness.
Even in death, the Rich Man retains his misguided belief in his status. He cannot even bring himself to address Lazarus directly and talks to his father Abraham, as an equal. Tell Lazarus to look after me; tell Lazarus to go and warn my brothers as if he cannot believe or accept how Lazarus has come to be sitting in the lap of Abraham. His worldview is unaltered; his continued lack of humility means he cannot ask for forgiveness; he cannot see the need for forgiveness even now. He blames the system; He simply believes that he has misread the rules.
The gulf that the Rich Man cannot cross is the belief that he continues to be in charge; even to the point of changing the rules of life and death to allow Lazarus to go to his brothers. Just do this one more thing and I will believe you; I will be saved. How much more do we want God to do?
It isn’t just about being rich; Jesus has rich friends but, it seems, he worries about them. Being rich in this world puts you in charge of your life and of others. The privilege of wealth should bring an awareness of the responsibility of having it; sometimes it does but often it doesn’t. We get used to the idea that we can buy our way out of things and we can’t.
And then, at the end, if we expect someone else to save us – why should they?


After all, what will we have done to deserve it?

Friday, 24 September 2010

Night Prayer -Psalm 87

And so I have called out to you, Lord,
and in the morning my prayer will come before you.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Night Prayer - Psalm 15


You will show me the paths of life,the fullness of joy before your face,


Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Good Night Blessing - Psalm 30

You will lead me out of the trap that they laid for me –for you are my strength.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Night Prayer - Psalm 142

Tell me the way I should follow,for I lift up my soul towards you.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Evening Prayer - Psalm 10


The Lord is in his holy temple;the Lord’s throne is in heaven.


Sunday, 19 September 2010

Sunday Gospel - It's not what you do....

Luke 16:1-13



Jesus said to his disciples, ‘There was a rich man and he had a steward denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.” Then the steward said to himself, “Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”


Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” “One hundred measures of oil” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty.” To another he said, “And you, sir, how much do you owe?” “One hundred measures of wheat” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond and write eighty.”


‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.


‘And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?


‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’


I’m sure that many of us will share with the disciples in scratching our heads at the images that Jesus has confronted us with. A steward; who is already wasteful cheats his master out of more money to make his own life easier and gets praised for it.

How does that make sense?


We all believe that an important part of our character is how honest we are; how good we are at what we do and how well we can be trusted to do it. And rightly so, but at what cost?


If your expertise as a tax collector allows you to wind through loopholes to help the wealthy protect their assets, that is one thing. If you use that same expertise to help a charity find funding and tax exemptions; is that another?

Does your honesty allow you to point the finger at those who don’t measure up, or, stand aside for someone who is a better person for the task.


We all have gifts that we have developed during our lives; because of these gifts we can achieve our ambitions; make something of ourselves. But is that the only reason these gifts were give to us? How much of the talents that we have do we use for the better life now; rather than the eternal life to come?


These gifts and talents are simply tools given to us by God. In Luke, Jesus shows us the plan, how these tools are to be used; in discipleship and love. And the Spirit speaks to us in conscience and inspiration as we travel through our lives.

But it’s always about free will; our talents can feed our ambitions to take us to where we want to go; to build our own castles in the sky.


God’s desire is that we use these tools to build his Kingdom; loving our neighbour; generosity of spirit; caring for those who need our help.


It’s only once the threat of losing his comfortable lifestyle that the steward realises he has no contingency plan, no future. He knows his limits, he’s no labourer, so he works within the world he knows but changes his strategies to buy friends and influence people. A different strategy – the same gift; and with such expertise that the Master has to appreciate how the steward provides for his future.


God has the same appreciation – knowing that we live in a world of status and achievement it is natural for us to use what we have to make a good life for ourselves but we have to learn that it is not just about what we want. As they say ‘you can’t take it with you’.


We do live in this world but we don’t have to be dictated to by it; we don’t have to be part of the exploitation. In our everyday life we can use what we have, what we know, what we do and we can make change. We can choose where our time is spent, where our money is spent.

We can use the system to question the system. There are so many things you can only change from the inside. Use your gifts and be the change.

wordinthehand2010

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Night Prayer - Psalm 4

Let your face shine on us, Lord,let the light of your face be a sign.
You have given me joy,

Friday, 17 September 2010

Night Prayer - Jeremiah 14:9


Lord, you are in our midst, we are called by your name.
 Do not desert us, O Lord our God!


Thursday, 16 September 2010

Night Prayer - 1 Thessalonians 5:23

May the God of peace make you perfect and holy;
and may you all be kept safe and blameless,
 spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Feast - Our Lady of Sorrows

and a sword will pierce your own soul too 
Gathered into my arms
As bloody and helpless as the first day.
The warmth of your mortality leaching away
Into the ungrateful earth.
I glean my treasure trove from all that remains.
The smell of skin, a childhood scar,
Calloused hands,
Earnest dark eyes
Fading now.

Rememberings
Of your cheek against my breast,
Arms around my neck,
hands entwined in hair.
Not this remnant of humanity
But my heart’s pride,
My Son.


wordinthehand2010

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Feast - The Exaltation of the Cross

A strange faith - that wears an instrument of torture around its neck. And celebrates a Feast Day in its honour.

The Crucifix of San Damiano (Assisi)


What is this?
A work of art rescued from an abandoned church by a madman?
A delight of medieval symbolism and Iconography?
What are you looking at?
The goldwork; the brushstrokes; the artistry; the form; the perfect proportion?
What am I looking at ?
I am looking at you.

Shrugging off the imagery and artifice
to stand before you naked, vulnerable, scarred, human.
Asking you to be with me- to be my body in a world that needs me –

and you say you are not worthy.

Look at me – I am the Christ
Born in the gutter, a refugee, an outcast.
Illegitimate, impoverished, faceless.
Do I remind you of anyone


Look at me – I am the Christ, the Son of the Living God
Abandoned by my friends, betrayed, denied.
Mocked, tormented, condemned by those I came to save.
Have you been here?


Look at me – I am the Christ, Son of the Living God, Saviour of the World
Tormented and abused, my blood running to water.
Wanting this to be over, wanting to die.

Have you known this?

And you say you are not worthy?
For this is the triumph of the Cross–
that that stake of wood on a charnel pile is my throne: my battle standard: my coat of arms:

that wherever you have been, wherever you go; no matter how dark or deep or terrible – I was there before, I was with you, I will be with you:

that I am the Christ, Son of the Living God, Saviour of the World and you are my people; faceless, sinners, outcasts; your unworthiness outmatched by my love for you – people of the Cross.

wordinthehand2010

Monday, 13 September 2010

Night Prayer - Psalm 85

O Lord, teach me your paths,


and I will come to your truth.


Make my heart simple and guileless,


so that it honours your name.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Night Prayer - Psalm 90

“You are my shelter and my strength,my God, in whom I trust.”

Saturday, 11 September 2010

(Re) Emerging Church

Assisi - Walk from San Damiano to Rivo Torto

The afternoon sun raises a shimmering heat haze through the parched olive groves. Conspiring old hags, the ancient groves reveal their own vision in answer at my musings.
Ancient? We are ancient; twisted arthritic creatures, old even when Francis walked this way with his brothers; old when Chiara left through the door of the dead for a life much less ordinary.

Some of us kin to the groves of Gethsemane; to that garden where the Christ found a refuge for his tears; where the treachery began; in faith, our lives spanning your faith. And in our lives  -a parable.

Across the ages, from Christ to Francis to the present – we have been a birthplace for life; for sunlit  sustenance; for the food of angels, Olives, a treasure and a fundamental part of  life in this place; food and drink; a bowl of olives, good bread – virgin oil – a feast for the senses.

Each year, where does this harvest come from? For us new life comes from the newly alive. The olives ripen only on this season’s wood. And we are mad with the power of fertility. Left to ourselves in the delight of sun and rain; we sprout and shoot and become a riot of fecundity, overgrown, entangled, unmanageable – until our branches collapse from lack of water and weight of the fruit – until the winter winds tear our hearts out.

It is through need that we submit to the shears and pruning knife; branches that are cut hard, cut back into our lichen covered, ancient, seemingly decrepit torsos, wherein lies the taproot of memory, of truth, of rebirth. And there we begin again.

And here is the crux of our tale.

Your faith, childlike, seeks attention, new experience. Prosperity puts authority before service. You are meant to be poor but desire riches; you are meant to be vulnerable but want power. You become blinded by the immediacy and judgement of the flesh. You think 'if there was only another path' but there is only one path.  

That is why you need such a place; you also need the sharp reminder of the knife; to stir the roots ; to be taken back to the Word; to loose the trappings of Man; to begin again.  As Chiara and Francis did, as your Celtic brothers and sisters did. To rebuild a church of souls. Our words to you – return to the source, walk in their footsteps, follow the Way.

Darling Grace


Salt-laden breezes carry gulls' cries and seals' songs
Mermaid lullabyes in a seathrift cradle
Storm built walls of foamy ocean
Seahome calls.


Tucked against the length of her, the coble’s oar shivers
Remembering the thrum of the waves; windblown hair
Tension of muscle over bone; wood against iron
Boat; body - one.


Spectral sailors cry and call in vain; whilst in the graveyard
The wild sea woman cast in stone, can do no more
trapped now, in Gothic grandeur
‘Save Our Souls’.







Grace Horsley Darling (24 November 1815 – 20 October 1842)  the daughter of a lighthouse keeper who,aged just 23, along with her father, saved 13 people from the wreck of the SS Forfarshire.
Buried, within yards of the sea, in St Aidan's Churchyard, Bamburgh, Northumberland -
we can all be heroes
response to the Round Robin Photo Challenge
http://roundrobinphoto.blogspot.com/2010/08/round-robin-challenge-fenced-in.html

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Night Prayer: Psalm 15

my heart rejoices,heart and soul together;
while my body rests in calm hope.


Lindisfarne Abbey;Holy Island

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Night Prayer

Keep us safe, Lord, while we are awake, and guard us as we sleep

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Morning Prayer - Isaiah 11:1-3


A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse, a scion thrusts from his roots:
on him the spirit of the Lord rests, a spirit of wisdom and insight,
 a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
 The fear of the Lord is his delight.

Morning Prayer - Isaiah 26

Lord, you will give us peace,


for all you have done, you did for us.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Morning Prayer - James 2:12

behave like people who are going to be judged by the law of freedom

Saturday, 4 September 2010

The King's Shilling

 Luke 14:25-33
Great crowds accompanied Jesus on his way and he turned and spoke to them. If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
‘And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, “ Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish.” Or again, what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who advanced against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace. So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.’

The continuing hard line according to Luke’s Jesus.

I am reminded of those films where a band of handpicked, although not altogether respectable,  fighting men are given an impossible mission; and the talk given by the ‘harsh but patriotic’ sergeant major before they send their ramshackle troops ‘over the top’. And despite being promised the worst of scenarios –the warriors shoulder arms and do it anyway.

Great crowds,thousands, follow Jesus on his travels; the disciples at the end fill no more than an upper room. Was it something he said? Perhaps it was; perhaps it was this.

The people who come to listen to Jesus are, more or less, split into two – those who listen and those who pay attention; those who think his vision is  a good idea and those who believe it is the way to live; those who believe ‘someone’ should do something and those who believe that 'someone' is them. There are those who will wave Jesus off with maybe some new thoughts in their hearts and those whose hearts are called to follow; the disciples.

If these disciples have been paying attention, then they will be realising what it is Jesus expects from them; and what he expects is a total turnaround on worldly priorities.

But surely not family; not love? And not ‘hate’?

 Jesus teaches a certain type of love; agape love is a love that seeks to bring healing no matter who or what the situation. It is an unconditional and driving love; where there may be a cost and you will be the one who pays. 

We love as if love is something to be rationed, gifted, given to the chosen few. That we love those who love us – that there is a rationale that tells us when people fit or don’t fit.
When Jesus says ‘Love your neighbour’ this is the love he means – this love is not defined by family loyalty; affection; romance or desire; except the desire that the ‘neighbour’ receives the love, care and respect that we would want for ourselves.

The opposite of this kind of love is not hate – but indifference; to look the other way because we have no connection with those who need our help; that there are no ties that bind; that there is nothing in it for us.

 So when Jesus says ‘hate’ this is not about acting against your family in a cruel or malicious way. Jesus wants us to remove the limits about who we love. He wants us to accept that a wider, more important,more godly love exists outside these limits.

 

This love has it's own paradox - that if it were possible for us to love as Jesus wishes us to love then our friends, our families would be just as loved as they are now; and equally so would everyone else. It would be the sense of possession or exclusion that would be removed.  Jesus asks us to remove these limitations –there is only love.

Love that is ’ wide open’ to all, for all.

We are listening to Jesus' dream for us here - his vision of the Kingdom. And that he is eager enough to teach us is testimony to his faith in our humanity. His belief that there are some of us who are ready  to make the journey.

But Jesus also knows how hard it will be to live this life. He has been the model; it's nothing he hasn't lived through himself. Discipleship is putting your head above the parapet; walking the rocky road; being the odd one out. Unlike whatever we think now, Jesus knows that being a Christian will not be nice, not comfortable and not easy. So he warns us – and the whole of this part of Luke has been warning us – ‘know what you are letting yourself in for’.

 
The journey is going to be difficult enough – if you make your commitment and burn your bridges; if you leave your family; your field and your fortune then what will happen when things go wrong; when it’s not downhill all the way; when your own cross gets too much to bear? Where do you turn when the doubts set in and you decide it’s not for you?

There are some journeys it is better not to take than to turn back when there is nothing to turn back to.What if? What if?

We all belong to God, each and every one of us, but we live with the belief that our free will allows us to follow or ignore the paths that God suggests for us.And we should believe this - God is no puppet-master.

But if you are called and you answer; if you consciously make the decision to turn your 'self' over to God then this is no longer true – your life is ‘lost’. You have taken the King’s shilling and the path before you offers no buy-out clause.

Because now you’re on Kingdom business and God’s in charge.

wordinthehand2010






Friday, 3 September 2010

Morning Prayer - Romans 12:14-16

Bless those who persecute you:
rejoice with those who rejoice and be sad with those in sorrow.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Morning Prayer - Romans 14:17-19



The kingdom of God  means  peace and joy brought by the Holy Spirit