Saturday, 16 July 2016

Called for this time

Luke 10:38-42

Jesus Visits Martha and Mary
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Martha and Mary

Martha and Mary
Sisters who welcomed Jesus
Martha by offering hospitality,
working tirelessly to ensure he had everything he needed
Martha - Distracted by all her tasks, the text tells us.
Yet wasn't it Mary who was the distracted one?
Distracted from all that she'd been brought up to do
by what the hour demanded.
Mary distracted by seeing before her
a man with angst and passion written all over him
A man whose course was steering him inexorably
into the hands of the authorities
who were already out to get him
Authorities, violent and corrupt
who couldn't risk Jesus
being let loose any longer.
Martha did what she knew.
Mary did what she saw
and took the opportunity
to cherish him
and be cherished by him
while there was still time.
And perhaps today
we are called
from what we know
from what is socially acceptable
to do what is right for this time -
To fly in the face of convention
To welcome the stranger
To speak up for the oppressed 
To act irrationally in our compassion 
And to bring about
the justice of God.


Friday, 15 July 2016

Eyes of the heart

Ephesians 1:17-19
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know God, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which God has called you, what are the riches of God's glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of God's power for us who believe, according to the working of God's great power.

What is the hope?
What are the riches?
Where is the greatness of God's power?
Gifts not discerned by human sight but by the eyes of the heart being opened?
For me, right now, that feels like the morning after the night before, when you've had one too many, and you find yourself opening your eyes really gingerly, trying to limit the onslaught of pain you know you are about to experience.
Or that feeling, some time after the onset of a migraine. When you've taken all the medication that you can and you've managed to catch some sleep in a darkened room. And then you begin to awaken, frightened to open your eyes to the light in case your head reacts with more vicious pounding.
Or the pain that comes and settles on your chest, like a scheming cat, refusing to move, refusing to be cast aside. Just sitting there, a dead weight, restricting breathing, refusing to be ignored.
It actually feels much more like grief than any enlightenment.
What is this physical and spiritual pain assaulting my senses, refusing to be ignored? Bubbling up in inconvenient times and places?
How can I unlock it's mystery and relieve the relentless pressure it exerts - a pressure that, for stretches of time, can be contained - until it can't. 
What I have perceived - and I think it's helpful - is that this grief or ache or longing, or whatever I choose to call it, is not subject to a quick fix. And it won't just slope away. It is demanding attention,claiming space and time and discernment. And, while it is sore, it is not something to be feared, rather something by which, in some strange way to be excited. For it promises growth.
And enlightenment, when it comes, promises a glimpse, beyond the veil, a glimpse of the Unknown.
And I am impatient to get there. Impatient for the next stage of the journey. For the not yet to become the now.
But neither frustration nor impatience will impinge on God's timing or the Spirit's wisdom which is always just right.
And so I sit with the heaviness, that one dead weight in the midst of so much light. I sit and wait on the eyes of my heart being fully opened to properly see the hope, the riches and the greatness of God's power. 
And I give thanks for those who sit awhile with me, bearing the weight, sharing the load, praying for the good timing and wisdom of God in the things of the Kingdom.
Open the eyes of my heart.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Path or Rollercoaster?

Matthew 10:1
Jesus called twelve of his followers and sent them into the ripe fields. He gave them power to kick out the evil spirits and to tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives.

A year ago today, I was offered the post of Path of Renewal Coordinator in the Church of Scotland, a pilot project that is being undertaken as just one of the experiments happening around the edges of the institution, attempting to discover how to be church in today's ever changing landscape and culture.
From the moment I said Yes, I embarked on the most exciting, fearful, spine tingling, heart-plummeting, soaring, diving, explosive adventure in faith.
I knew it would be vastly different from parish ministry but I totally underestimated the impact of demission from a charge which was the only route available to take up the appointment. On top of the act of demission, there was also the separation from a community I had grown to know and to love and the moving out of that space to make way for another: leaving home, leaving neighbourhood, leaving church. I struggled with my sense of identity until, through the Easter season, I was reminded of my identity in Christ - a reminder to which I've often had cause to return when I have succumbed to allowing others to define who I am.
The work itself terrifies and enthrals, stretches me from any comfort zone I have ever inhabited, brings out my insecurity and fear of messing up, but also provides a generous affirmation of call and a tremendous knowledge of the grace and the presence of God.
This has been a year filled with the hard work of transition but also filled with inspiring colleagues, lighting the way ahead, colleagues who have been open and vulnerable, encouraging and affirming - and fun, so much fun.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Something in the air

Last week, I spent a few days away at a conference. When I returned, as soon as I stepped out of the car, I could smell the sea and knew I was home. The next few days proved busy with little time to process all that had taken place at Going for Growth, the conference I attended. And so, tonight, it was to the smell of the sea that I returned, to walk the beach, to listen to waves lapping on the shore and gulls crying overhead and to allow my jumbled thoughts to find a measure of order.
And I find myself more able to begin to name some of the blessings that I experienced in community with others who are exploring together how to be part of God's Missional communities in our neighbourhoods today.
One of those blessings was that I was surrounded by folk who don't have all the answers but who, together, are asking important questions.
I was surrounded by folk who don't have it all sorted but who, in their brokenness are seeking healing and renewal of spirit.
I was surrounded by folk who didn't take themselves too seriously but who, with humour are facing hard truths.
I was surrounded by folk with the courage to say: "This isn't working", but who are discovering resilience to try other ways and walk unfamiliar paths.
I was surrounded by folk willing to share their stories, willing to share their vulnerability, willing to listen, willing to recognise and commit to the journey we make together.   
And I am encouraged that God is doing a new thing and invites us to take part.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Daily examen


I was called out today
Called out for being a peacemaker
Called out for owning a wrong 
that wasn't mine to own
in order to make someone else feel better
And I would do it again in a heartbeat
for the sake of the kingdom.

I was enabled to grow today
To push beyond the barrier 
I wouldn't normally cross
To step up from default mode
to push and learn and grow

In many ways, 
it is easy to be a peacemaker
The cost can be painlessly borne
But growth takes energy
Stepping up
calls for courage
and for risk.
It feels good to reach a new edge
But the effort required
leaves weariness and elation
in equal measure.

It's been a good day
learning and growing in God.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Disarmed

Jesus asked them: What were you speaking of as you walked along....?
(Luke 24:17)
On the train this morning, I was doing my usual - catching up on emails, facebooking, tweeting...
The guy opposite propositioned me: Do you fancy... (I wondered what was coming next.)
He said: "Do you fancy putting down your tablet and having a conversation?"
I immediately complied - because I've been well brought up 😇.
And so ensued a fascinating conversation.
He is Nepalese, married to a Scot, living in Edinburgh while his son finishes school, when he hopes to return to Nepal and help to rebuild community there.
He is a dancer - and, having noticed that I placed my violin on the overhead rack, we had a wonderful conversation about music and movement and rhythm.

I was sharing this encounter with friends, one of whom asked: "So, what happened when he discovered that you're a minister?" I was almost embarrassed to confess that we didn't get to that. It simply didn't arise.
We talked about the Spirituality of music, how it offers wholeness and healing. He told me of his work using dance to aid expression in children with special needs, among other projects. I shared with him the experience of playing sacred music with an orchestra in a cathedral last night. He shared the hope that a few short term contracts in Scotland would help to resource his longing to heal his community back in Nepal.
It felt like an intense encounter with someone whom I'm unlikely to meet again.
So, did I miss an opportunity to share faith?
Or is it enough to listen and affirm. Enough to put down my tablet and engage?

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Where is the love?

Christians should be revolutionaries. Our entire faith starts with a change of mind and a change of path to a new direction. We are new creations; old things have passed away and new things have come (2 Cor. 5: 17). The gospel itself is all about transformation—change. We should be the ones bringing a revolution of heart to the world. Instead, we spend our time debating theological stances, moral codes, and political issues.(Neil Cole: One Thing: A Revolution to Change the World with Love)

Recently, at a conference on Re-imagining the Reformation, I felt shallow when asked to define the most important element for reformation in the church today. Most folk made profound theological statements while I said, simply, that reformation arose out of love - when we love folk enough to want to change, beginning with ourselves.
Today, as I listened to a debate on future patterns of ministry in the Church of Scotland, I was again struck by the necessity and vitality of love. Until we love one another we cannot grow together. Love is what will see us through the difficult work of changing patterns and mindsets that are no longer serving God's kingdom
Yes, it calls for radical action.
Yes it calls for a review of education and ministry formation.
Yes it calls for new ways of working together, with God in God's mission.
But if we do not first learn to love one another, we cannot move forward with whatever new ways God reveals.
Often the most wounding encounters in ministry are with colleagues.
If stating the obvious and stripping things down to basics makes me shallow or makes me sound like a hippy, then those are charges I will gladly accept.
We've also heard a lot about getting back to basics and rediscovering ancient paths.
Form Jesus' command to love one another to Paul's pronouncement that the greatest of these is love, we have a gospel imperative and an apostolic encouragement to seek out love - in all things. Even in reshaping church for today.

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