Wednesday, 29 March 2017

A work in progress

1 Peter 1:24 - 2:3
For
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
That word is the good news that was announced to you.
The Living Stone and a Chosen People
Chapter 2
Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Rid yourselves...
Old habits die hard
Salvation is for growing into
It's not instantaneous
We don't suddenly become saints
Growing into the gifts of God
and throwing off old ways
takes time
and practice
and a thirst
for pure, spiritual milk,
the food that will nourish
and sustain
our walk with God
into marvellous light
embracing the word of Gof
that lasts forever.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Do you want to be well?

John 5:2-6
Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

Not one to make assumptions
Jesus asks: Do you want to be made well?
While others might think
that question out of place
or hypothetical
or just daft,
Jesus knows only too well
the complexity of human nature.
Not everything is obvious.
And folk make all sorts of choices
that aren't easily understood.
But Jesus respects choice.
Never one to impose
his notion of what is right and proper
Jesus asks the difficult question:
Do you want to be made well?
Do you?

Monday, 27 March 2017

A vision

Isaiah 65:19-21
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

A vision of healing and wholeness
beyond the war and carnage.
Of peace and planting
beyond the destruction.
Of fruitfulness
beyond the rubble.
A vision of life.
But how can we glimpse God's promise
through the dust of destruction?
How can we imagine God's future
in the burnt out ruins of a city?
How can we envisage longevity
when the lives of children seem so cheap?
How can we glimpse hope
in the midst of desolation?
Gods promise is for a world 
we cannot imagine
in a time we cannot tell.
Our hope is in a God
who delivers on promises.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

What do you say?

John 9:16-17
Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

Rumours
Gossip
Condemnation
Conjecture
Deemed a sabbath breaker
A sinner
But to the man who found sight
- a prophet
We, too, if we are of a mind
can see beyond
the testimony of others
can see beyond the rule breaker
and experience the healing of God
who created sabbath rest
and reveals to us
the things before our eyes
in a new light every day.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Let it be...

Luke 1:38
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Let it be...
Let me do your will
Even though that means
I'll be cast out
Ostracised
Gossiped about
Even though
some will hate and revile me
and others will shake their heads 
and feel sorry for me
Let it be...
For I am God's servant
And one day
when mothers need a song of protest
they will take up my song
One day
when women need strength
to break out of their oppression
they will take courage
from my story
Let it be...
For there is strength in weakness
and courage in obedience
and joy in surrender
Let it be

Friday, 24 March 2017

Transitional Growing Pains


Minister without charge

In June 2015, I felt called to pursue a new role in the Church of Scotland - that of Coordinator of a Pilot Project from the Panel on Review and Reform - Path of Renewal.
I saw, in the description of the Pilot, an opportunity to mentor other ministers and congregations in discerning opportunities and making room for mission in their parishes and communities- something I longed to do where I was then but simply didn't have the capacity to prioritise in a parish of 11,000 with 5 school chaplaincies and 90 funerals a year, where promised, presbytery planned, ministerial assistance didn't ever materialise in my 7 years in the charge.
Path of Renewal offers not another programme for Renewal but participation in a movement, creating space to discern and act on the leading of the Spirit to places in our communities where God is already at work.
Confirmation of the call came when I was offered the post, after interview and, a few hours later, as I conducted one of the local Primary School's end of term service, I knew that, by the time staff and pupils returned after the summer holiday, I would no longer be their school chaplain.
And so began a journey, through demission, into the strange territory of a minister without charge.
Reactions from colleagues were many and varied but mostly, disbelief that I would demit my charge and leave parish ministry.
Reactions from the congregation were mainly expressions of hurt or declarations that they "knew I was destined for higher things" and no reassurance on my part seemed to convince folk that ministering with them was one of those "higher things" but that God had now called me elsewhere.
Demission involves leaving church, leaving home, leaving community - all, on their own, painful experiences.
Although we found a new place to worship, a place of welcome and nurture, it was a full six months before I could manage through the service without tears.
I simply missed the community of which I'd been a part and grieved that loss.
And, after six months grieving, I realised that I was also grieving a loss of status.
Who was I if I was no longer a parish minister? (Ironically, I had been ordained into Hospital Chaplaincy some 20 years before.)
15 years a Parish minister had subsumed my identity.
And then, at Easter, change began.
Archbishop Justin Welby, speaking into the revelations about his paternity, asserted: " My identity does not come from genetics. My identity is in Christ"
Hearing this was a turning point for me.
Post Easter, with these words speaking powerfully into my life, and pondering the post resurrection Jesus feeding his disciples on the beach, I began to emerge from grief to reconsider my identity in Christ.
It ceased to rankle quite as much when consigned to the bottom of a sign in sheet in Presbytery as a minister without charge - or when colleagues were dismissive of me as "a 121 person now". (Staffing the Institutional body)
Although, thankfully, I loved the new tasks in which I'd been involved, the training, the teaching, the mentoring, the travelling, I now felt able to embrace those in the new security of my status as a beloved child of God.
I thank God for conferring that status and for calling me to fulfil a new role in kingdom building.
But, as I moved out of parish ministry, I had no idea how long it would take to get the parish out of me - or how painful that journey would be. I have much more empathy with the Israelites in the wilderness!
Numbers 11:4-6
The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
 One thing is for sure - Demission is not for wimps!
   

Priorities

Mark 12:28-31
The First Commandment
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The first
and the greatest
but also the most difficult
Love
with all your heart
with all your soul 
with all your mind
with all your strength
And 
Love your neighbour 
Heart, soul, mind and strength
consume us.
This command leaves no room
for omission
but demands
wholesale embrace.
For nothing less
will do.
The first
the greatest
demands all.

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