Tuesday, 25 November 2014

When hope is extinguished

Jeremiah 31:15-17
Thus says the Lord:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.
Thus says the Lord:
Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears;
for there is a reward for your work,
says the Lord:
they shall come back from the land of the enemy;
there is hope for your future,
says the Lord:
your children shall come back to their own country.

A mother weeping for her children
Is there a sound more anguished?
The dry, hacking sobs
Or the full throated wail
Piercing the blackness
And rippling on
Breaching every barrier
Pulsing in every wavelength
Shaking the foundations
Of democracy and justice
There is no justice
For a mother whose arms are empty
No justice for a family and community in mourning
There is no justice for law enforcement
Charged with power 
Yet broken to the core
And all the splinters
And all the fragments
Cannot rise up and be healed
For the victims slain alongside a mother's child
Are hope and integrity and truth.
Today - refuse to be comforted
For justice is no more.
Maybe, just maybe tomorrow
We can look towards healing the brokenness
And salvaging some kind of peace 
But today let the noise of that wailing
Seep into your very fibre
And convict you
Of the travesty
That is a life not valued 
And justice broken beyond repair

Monday, 10 November 2014

Re-inventing Christmas?

As this year's Christmas Ads are released, I'm musing again on the elements required to create a perfect Christmas as portrayed by the bigger stores' advertising campaigns. 
I love the Magic and Sparkle fairies for M and S, though I wish they'd made them Angels instead of fairies. And the pair of penguins in the John Lewis Ad are heart-warming. I'm not so sure about all the kids searching for just the right thing in the Debenhams Ad.
But all of these - and others beside- portray the essential perfect Christmas elements variously as: Finding the right significant other, finding just the right gift, enjoying domestic harmony, if not bliss, a gift laden tree and a food laden table.
We know that that picture of Christmas is so far removed from the experience of many in our communities, far less across the world.
I confess that I wait with excitement each year to see what these big store ads will reveal. I track the journey of the Christmas Coca Cola truck too.
But somehow, this year, the millions spent on these advertising campaigns and the images portrayed cause me to stop and wonder.
How far we have moved from the starkness of an unmarried mother giving birth in a stable and, from such unlikely surroundings, giving hope to a people oppressed by the harshness of life.
The images portrayed today surely cause pain, not hope, for all sorts of reasons, for folk, whether in positions of privilege but knowing loss or for folk struggling to cope with the demands of everyday life, exacerbated by the pressures that a media fuelled Christmas applies.
It seems to me that we in the church must work all the harder to be simply inclusive this Christmas, embracing all with that simple message of hope backed up with love in action.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Remembrance Service

Looking out over the congregation 
gathered today
to remember.
Youngsters who have grown up in our midst
no older than those killed in war
Older folks who grew up with stories
of family members lost in war
Or with a silence from those
who found it too painful to speak
of all that they had seen and experienced
Or with the stigma of those who returned
forever damaged by doing their duty.
And then those for whom 
the loss and the memories
are very personal and still wound
Those who can picture
the lost and the maimed.
Alongside those that bit removed
but still scarred by the knock on effects
Noticing, too, the gaps in the congregation
of the ones who were not there today
who would rather remain at home 
on this Remembrance Day
Alone with their thoughts
Alone with their tears.
But each one
the young
the old
the absent
United in remembering
And in their remembering
to find a way to peace.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Poetic Pastor


"Halloween is over - let Christmas begin!" Is just one of the comments I've seen on Facebook this week. This, along with today's release of the new John Lewis Christmas Ad, makes me long to "do" Advent properly. I try to be more intentional during Advent in taking time out to reflect and to get ready to celebrate God with us anew. This year, I've put together some of my reflections in a book so that others might share in moving through the season with a little space in their day.
From the wise men setting off on a contemplative mission long before the birth of Jesus, to the chaos of the infants' Nativity play, to the mess of the stable, these reflections take us on a journey - to meet God born among us - and then beyond, to pose the question: "What now?"
If you'd like to ponder these reflections as you "do" Advent, the book costs £5 including postage in the UK and $5 postage to US - just click on the Buy Now button at the top of the page and get ready for Advent!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Communion of Saints

Earlier this week, I attended the ordination of a friend to the ministry of word and sacrament. Nikki is part of the community of RevGalBlogPals, a supportive online network for women in ministry - and some men. The community has members across the world. To mark the occasion of Nikki's ordination, we decided to post pictures of ourselves in a red stole, the colour that symbolises the work of the Holy Spirit in the discernment of vocation. And so, for several hours, the RevGals facebook Admin team showered Nikki with good wishes and blessings - and lots of red.
Being able to attend the ordination in real life, I was moved, not just by the proceedings taking place in a rural Scottish Kirk but by the knowledge of that vast community of saints across the world who were there in spirit with us that night. While I have always been sensitive to the presence of saints, in heaven and on earth, there was something extra special about the virtual community of RevGal saints joining us from all airts and pairts, bringing an added dimension to an awesome occasion.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Panning for gold

I've come to believe that, when writing or planning it is often necessary to clear the detritus that floats on the surface in order to reach the more valuable nuggets that lie underneath. I'm hoping that that was what was playing out this week in a Ministries Council Consultation planning for a Decade for Ministry, an initiative being undertaken to encourage vocations and re-imagine ministry for the future. None of the "starters for ten" showed any imagination or any indication of a willingness to take risks in order to resource the church to serve neighbourhoods and to build new ecclesial communities for the future. Paradoxically, a session that talked of "The Threshold of Death" and other such grave like symbolism was the most animated and life giving as we considered the trajectory of change.
Another aspect that was sadly lacking - and has been for some time, was consideration of how to build up, equip and support ministers who are currently engaged in serving the church, some of whom, contrary to assumed national intelligence, serve healthy, growing communities, effective in their neighbourhoods and some of whom serve in less encouraging ministries that nonetheless require faithfulness and perseverance. Of course it is important to look to and try to re-imagine the future but that does not have to be at the expense of nurturing those whose calling is to serve what may well become "the remnant" in an age of exile and change.
An element that tends to be overlooked and underestimated is the ministry of encouragement. Such a ministry is entirely possible and, I would contend, necessary, even as we grapple with new horizons.
So, having spent 24 hours putting to rest the unimaginative, uninspired, lifeless suggestions currently in play, can we now get down to the business of harnessing the unpredictable, life giving Spirit of God, following her lead as she nudges and cajoles and maybe even shoves us onto unfamiliar dirt tracks, all the while weaving her restless energy, encouragement and healing balm to the blisters and weariness encountered on the journey? And, in that Spirit of discernment, can we catch too,the excitement and privilege it is to be at such a liminal point on the journey of faith and in the Decade for ministry. Liminal places are creative places.
Already, I believe, the disappointment of the last 24 hours, is a potentially fruitful place from which to continue the journey  with renewed purpose and increasing awareness of the presence of the God of death and resurrection who calls us today to step out in faith and in service to a land we have not seen but for which we hope and pray.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Rekindling the flame

As the sun rose on the day after the Referendum
I made my way to the beach.
Not all the results had been declared
But it was clear that dreams of an Independent Scotland
were not to be realised 
My heart was heavy
My spirit subdued.
But as I trudged along the sand
the stillness of an unseasonably warm autumn morning
bathed my soul
as surely as the ebbing tide
bathed the shore.
The sense of the Creator's presence all around-
In the sun creeping over the horizon
In the waves gently lapping the sand
In the quiet and the calm
reminded me
that grief too is a part of life
and broken dreams
are preceded by the spirit of hope.
Hope that cannot be snuffed out
but that continues to burn.
And when part of the dream dies
or is extinguished
the flicker that is left
must work harder
to illuminate the darkness. 
We are not defeated.
People of all hues
The yes and the no
have glimpsed the promised land
albeit from different perspectives.
It is now that, together,
they can step out in faith
to claim that promise
for themselves
and for generations to come.
Hope has not died
but has been rekindled
in ways we would never have imagined.
The fight is not over
but has only just begun.
All is not lost
and there is everything to gain.
And the tasks of grieving
for those who mourn involves 
acknowledging the dream
that we have lost,
gathering up the passion
that remains,
Moving on with renewed energy
and new friendships
to achieve that promised land
that we envisaged
where all are valued,
and where we share resources
with the poor and the vulnerable.
Together we can fan the flicker
of our wavering hope
into the flame
of love and justice
and peace in our land.
We have it in us
to realise the dream 
The work has only just begun.

(Liz Crumlish 19th September 2014)

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