Saturday, 26 August 2017

Subversive persistence


May you be strengthened in your inner being with power through God's Spirit, so that Christ may dwell in your heart through faith as you are being rooted and grounded in love. (Ephesians 3:16,17)

All summer long, I've walked with these words. As I've traipsed various beaches I've let them percolate  from my head to my heart, let them become a part of me.
That's been a fairly easy task over the summer, when there's space, space to walk on beaches, space to contemplate the power of the Spirit, space to soak up healing and sustenance. I always knew the test would come when work kicked up a gear again, when I was forced, once more, to engage with the structures of an institution that, contrary to everything it represents and flying in the face of the love on which it is founded, succumbs to the abuse of power and fails to honour the divine spark that resides in all.
What I've discovered, however, back in the fray, is not that the structures with which I have to engage have changed - the glass ceiling has not suddenly been lowered, those who are quick to judge and condemn and those who are so quick to put others down rather than build up the body of Christ, have not miraculously disappeared. But what has changed is my rootedness in love, my security in the power of the Spirit of Christ strengthening me. It's quite a small thing and probably pretty fragile, but it makes a difference. 
Two of my biblical heroes are the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who countered abuse of power - they went against the order of Pharaoh to kill Hebrew children. Out of their subversion, Moses was born and a whole nation was led to freedom.
With the power of the Spirit of God dwelling within us, rooted and grounded in love, we are called to be subversive - for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Resilience

Resilience has become a bit of a buzz word just now. Educators want to see our young people develop resilience. Politicians must acquire  resilience in the face of a rapidly changing world. Even the church is concerned with ensuring (or at least measuring) the resilience of its ministers.
Psychologists assure us that resilience can be learned: the ability to adapt and overcome challenge or to perceive trauma as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than be defeated by it help us develop resilience.
While there is comfort in the knowledge that stressors don't have to define us, that we can rise above the things that might drag us down, that we can learn to change our perception and react with less negative emotion, it concerns me that it then becomes possible to accept things that are plainly wrong simply because we know that we can rise above their impact. This is of particular concern in the church. Recently, grappling with an issue of bullying, I was advised by colleagues to "let it go", "to forgive", "to be the bigger person", all well-meant advice but advice that nonetheless exacerbates the problem and perpetuates the injustice. It is conceivable that developing resilience merely papers over the cracks of a system that is rotting at its core. In my finer moments, I can take on a different, more positive perspective but that doesn't alter the fact that there are those in power, who should know better, who will carry on abusing that power unchallenged while those around them will merely become more resilient. That kind of resilience we don't need!

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Blessed and Broken


And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. Luke 24:30

How blessed it is
to break bread with friends
around the table 
or at the altar rail 
in the local coffee shop
or the pub
Indoors,in the warmth
or outdoors, on the street,
sharing bread just as blessed
with the homeless
and the hungry
or with late night revellers.
How blessed it is to break bread
- so much more than sharing food:
Breaking bread
signals careful regard
one for the other,
Breaking bread
involves generosity, 
acceptance,
compassion
grace
How blessed it is 
to break bread
when strangers become friends
And food becomes
a sacrament shared.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Making peace with the silence

Mark 15:40-41
There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

Holy Week has been strangely jarring this year
I've been hyper conscious of the preoccupation of others
Those who have been busy preparing services
Those who have been taking part in worship
Those who have been getting ready to welcome family
or have been catching up with friends.
Preoccupation has been tangible
God, too, seems preoccupied
Perhaps unsurprisingly
Preoccupied by the plight of countless victims of violence
Preoccupied by war and rumours of war
Preoccupied by history repeating itself
as those who seek to bring peace
or to live in love with others
are scapegoated
Preoccupied by the sight of those who call out injustice
being subjected to persecution and death.
Today, I walked the beach
in a preoccupied but easy silence with God
and I was grateful for the companionship
in this week of preoccupation
and on this day of silent waiting.

The silence of death

John 19:38-42
The Burial of Jesus
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

The silence
Of sabbath
Of burial
Of death
The agony
Of betrayal
Of abandonment
Of separation
The severing
Of Trinity
The hiatus
Of Holy Saturday
A broken body
laid in a tomb

Friday, 14 April 2017

We Crucified Jesus


John 19:16-20
So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.

The place where Jesus was crucified
was near the city
In the midst of life
where people went about their business
A spectacle
that many beheld
yet were powerless to prevent
Jesus was crucified
by the authorities
who act on behalf of the people
even when some of those people object
Still today
we become complicit
in acts of violence
perpetrated in our name
Our complicity is not negated
by our objection
or by our cries of outrage.
Even when we cry
Not in my name
we still end up
with blood on our hands.
We crucified Jesus
We dropped the biggest non nuclear bomb
on Afghanistan
We retaliated to chemical warfare in Syria
while turning our backs on migrants and refugees
We looked on while people died of hunger
in a world rich in resources
The place where Jesus was crucified 
was near the city
in the midst of life
And still today
violence goes on
in the midst of life
where people go about their business
We crucified Jesus.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

The Servant

ON THE THURSDAY

John 13:1-7
Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

Nothing makes sense
when cast in the light
of the unfathomable love of Christ
The Creator of the Universe
stoops to wash our feet
And we, who find such selfless giving
hard to witness or bear
are simply asked
to accept 
the wonderful grace of God
served up
in service
for us.
What a gift!

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