Monday, 15 July 2019

Good intentions

Acts 9:3-5
Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

As I read the story of Paul’s conversion, his Damascus Road Confrontation, I am reminded that Paul was not some crazy anti-God crusader - he was engaged in a mission to which he fully believed he had been called. He was a defender of the faith that he saw being bastardised by a new sect, known as Christians. In Paul’s eyes, these new kids on the block were taking the notion of God that had upheld and sustained people for centuries, giving credence to a new form of deity in the person of Jesus, and worshiping a martyred itinerant preacher and prophet.
I believe that just one of the challenges facing the church today, as we discern God’s mission and our place in that, is to avoid demonising those defenders of the faith who operate in our institutions and in our congregations, at best being ineffective and, at worst, stifling and inhibiting growth. If our energy is focused on fighting opposition we are in danger of missing out on opportunity. That’s not an easy place to be but perhaps subversion rather than energy sapping confrontation is called for - hearing the “no” and doing it anyway, letting actions and results speak louder than words. God has a way of acting through us and in spite of us! Perhaps the call is to fight less and be more - be kind, be compassionate, be love, be hope, be Christ ... Be the reason that others discover their place in the subversive economy that is the kingdom of God, where the last shall be first, the weak shall be strong and the poor shall be rich. Let’s enable that rather than fight the structures that conspire against all that God desires for creation. As beloved of God, we are required to befriend the power that God bestows on us and, embracing that power, to change lives, communities, institutions, the world. For the love of God.


Saturday, 13 July 2019

Running from...

Jonah 1:1-3
Jonah Tries to Run Away from God
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.

Often, God
I think I know how Jonah felt
Wanting to run away
Anywhere - out of your sight
Away from the tasks to which you call
Avoiding the challenges you present
Cast adrift in a boat
in the vastness of the sea (any sea)
seems quite appealing right now
It’s not that I don’t love you (I do)
It’s not that I don’t want to serve (I do)
But sometimes the love and the service
are simply not enough
Sometimes even owning my identity-
beloved of God
doesn’t ease the churning in my gut
as I strive to follow your call
speaking truth to power 
dismantling patriarchy
constantly being an irritant 
(and other assorted small endeavours!)
God, why do these tasks seem futile
and isolating?
How, in the midst of these
might I find hope?
Where, in the sea of opposition
might I find allies?
How can I be convinced 
that I am enough for all that you ask?
And where might I discover once more
your divine humour
laughing at my attempts to run
reminding me
that you are God
and I am not!!!
Show me again
how to take myself less seriously
and chill 
as you wrap your arms around me
until I feel the shaking of your mirth
holding me close
keeping me from running
then setting me free
to walk closer to you.
And not to run.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Peripheral

Matthew 9:20-22
Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.

On his way elsewhere
At the edge of his vision
A woman took her chances,
reached out to touch him 
and stopped him in his tracks.
Though his course was set
his intention clear
still he made space
for the unforeseen
noticing the unexpressed
bringing front and centre
the courage mustered 
and naming the faith enacted.
Displaying compassion
Calling forth wisdom
and pride
Rewarding the risk taken
Honouring the meeting of souls
that happens on the edges
yet, when afforded space
makes healing a possibility.
A peripheral encounter
becomes centre stage.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Promises

My God daughter Charlotte whose son Samuel was baptised today
Numbers 6:24-26
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Acts 2:38-39
Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”


Promises made in faith
kept in prayer
fulfilled and passed on
with all the room in the world
for the grace of God
to get to work.
Celebrating the faithfulness of God
from generation to generation 
whose Spirit delivers
 more than we can ask for
or even imagine
whose grace works miracles.
Baptised in the name
of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
As those familiar words were spoken
and promises were made
for a new child of God
loved not for his potential 
but because of who he already is
it brought to mind
all the promises that I’ve made
and witnessed
and been part of
in maternity wards
in hospital chapels
in homes
and in churches.
Promises made
in anguish and in heart break
in hope and in joy
Marking life snuffed out too soon
Anticipating the abundant life God offers
Celebrating a life well lived
All marked with the promise of God
Whether at the beginning 
or at the end.
And, in the remembering 
the promise is renewed
and God’s grace is recognised.
God is present 
Honouring beginnings
and endings
and all the in-betweens
And the sacrament declares anew
that we are called
Beloved of God.
Thanks be to God.





Saturday, 29 June 2019

Spooning with God


Song of Songs 2:4
He brought me to the banqueting house, 
and his intention toward me was love.


I’ve always loved Julian of Norwich, one of the first writers I encountered who brought into focus, for me, a mothering God and a feminine Christ. Last year I had the opportunity, while visiting a clergy colleague in Norwich Diocese, to receive mass in her cell and, often, since then, as I’ve revisited that experience and read again some of her writings, I’m aware of a deep longing in me to have that intimacy with God that allowed her to see far beyond the binary notions that we so often attribute to the Trinity. The intimacy was not merely in her head or in her visions but a whole body, whole life experience.
I’ve always been pretty restless in my Rule of Life. After a time, I inevitably become bored with specific spiritual practices and have to revise and revisit. And that’s not about avoidance but about being as vigorous and as vital in connecting with God and creation as possible. In my prayer time and space I desire much more than a head and heart connection if I am to be strengthened to withstand the vagaries of working in an angst filled institution. I need a deep sense and source of calm that I can embody as I seek to be a loving non anxious presence in the midst of the loss and yearning and sometimes rage that afflicts the church at present. Visualisation plays a big part in that. If I can recall the sensation of sitting back to back with Jesus, like two kids in a play park, or imagine the Spirit enjoying sitting on the swings next to me, or snuggling up, spooning with God, my body a familiar fit in God’s embrace, there is always a place for me to run when I feel the challenge and weight of expectations and confrontation becoming oppressive. And, while that prayer time in and of itself is sacred, so too are those moments when I can briefly retreat and recapture the intimacy that God offers. God’s intention is love. So often, our conventional ways of accessing that love create distance rather than intimacy. Indeed, intimacy has become repressed. Today, I give thanks for saints like Mother Julian who gave us a new way to speak of and to relate to God with all our senses and who draw us once more into intimacy with God and all of creation.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Running away

Genesis 16:7-8
The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”...


Where have you come from?
And where are you going?
And what about this moment?
What, in this encounter, might make sense
of what has gone before
not explaining
not diminishing
but simply holding
the cup that has passed.
And what might enable
the unpacking of insight
unconsciously accumulated along the way
to bear witness to the future?
What vessel
might withstand
the anguish
and the searching
the sifting through
of hurt and disillusionment 
and be able
not only to hold
but contain
and in the containing
create space
for wisdom
to emerge?
What might hold
the tears and the rage
that will chart a course
to the healing and wholeness
that seems so remote at present
yet remains
a dream worth pursuing?
Where have you come from?
And where are you going?
And where, along the way, 
have you encountered
the disturbing Spirit of God?

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Keeping it real


When our children were small, they had a favourite CD of nursery rhymes that they played seemingly non stop in the car. One of the rhymes was Humpty Dumpty - but it was an edited version, with a verse added that said:
Humpty Dumpty counted to 10
Humpty Dumpty got up again
All the kings horses and all the kings men
Were happy to see him together again.

I didn’t like that the producers of that nursery rhyme collection gave Humpty Dumpty a happy ending. Because that simply is not real life!
Not all broken things can be fixed.
There may be the possibility of transformation through brokenness but that is not guaranteed and certainly not without a lot of painstaking work.
There are some in the church at present who seem to prefer tinkering with truth and editing the facts to secure a happy ending rather than engage with the real possibility that the church, as an institution, is broken.
And, until the systems that contribute to that brokenness are addressed, there will be no transformation. Addressing those systems, however, is hard work and resurrection is not guaranteed. So we just keep on patching things - and people - up and expecting them to achieve different results. And we do that by distracting ourselves with doing what we know rather than questioning how, together, we might be different. 
It may be easier to sweep the broken pieces under the rug - radical change and healing demand courage and are not for the faint hearted but the pain and the cost of denial have been borne for too long, their scattered debris testimony to our tendency to take the easy way out. It is time to align ourselves with Christ who sits and weeps amidst the brokenness while holding in his hands the shards of hope.

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