Sunday, 29 March 2020

Coming out

John 11:38-44
Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Coming out
Not an end -
there is still a great unravelling
to be encountered
Unravelling that can only be completed
in stages
in community
Nor is it a beginning -
All that has gone before remains
craving attention
imploring sifting
demanding confrontation
Neither an ending
nor a beginning
but a stage
on the road to healing
And the miracle in healing
is the capacity
the temerity
and the resilience
to examine the past
to greet the future
and to stay well in the present.
Coming out
one stage
on the road to wholeness.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

In the right place

I have prepared a place for you
says the Lord, a place that is for you,
and only you to fill.
Approach my table,
asking first that you might serve.
Look even for the lowest tasks.
Then, the work of service done,
you may look for your own place at the table.
But do not seek the most important seat
which may be reserved for someone else.
In the place of My appointing will be
your joy.
Lord, show me the right seat;
find me the fitting task;
give me the willing heart.
(Words from the Hild Liturgy from the Northumbria Community)

God, as I wrestle with your call
in this time and place
give me humility
Humility to lay aside
all that I think I know 
and have learned
in years of service
Humility to see what it is
that you are revealing 
in this season
Humility to take up my place
as a novice
willing to learn new things.
God, as I wrestle with your call
in this day and hour
give me grace
Grace to listen to wisdom
that comes from unlikely sources
Grace to acknowledge
and amplify others
Grace to grow
in reliance on you.
God, as I wrestle with your call
in this wilderness season
give me courage
Courage to be reshaped by you
Courage to be redirected
Courage simply to be
God, as I wrestle with your call
in darkness 
and in light
may humility, grace and courage
be travelling companions
that lead me
to your healing presence
and the gift
of a seat 
at your table.
where your joy awaits.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Pandemic Easter

John 20:1
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.

That first Easter
came without fanfare
in the midst of brutal occupation
in the midst of recession and oppression 
It snuck in
And the first to observe it
were those who were up and about early
The women
who kept vigil
The news was whispered
from graveyard to village
from village to town
picking up speed
gathering momentum
in all its gobsmacking glory
the reality of resurrection
was realised.
And light dawned
not in one stupendous burst
but slowly
and gently
dispelling darkness nonetheless.
This Easter
Resurrection will still come
Heralded by angels:
Key workers on their way to early shifts
Or heading home after a night shift
And the good news will be gossiped  
by those who keep vigil today
We do not need to gather in person
Even in the distancing
we can bear witness
to the light of Christ 
that shines in the darkness
and is not overcome
Love is not defeated.
We may leave the Alleluias
buried for now
and stay by the empty tomb
for a bit longer
But this we believe
Christ will still rise
The darkness will not last forever 
Light will surely dawn.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Signs of love

1 Corinthians 13:13
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

This is what love looks like...
Empty streets
Empty beaches
Notes pushed through letter boxes
offering  help
Staying home
so that key workers
can travel to work
and shop for food
(or we can shop for them)
Making phone calls
Putting lights
and teddy bears
and rainbows in our windows
expressions of connection
and of hope.
and strengthening 
relationships virtually
Meeting online
finding new ways
to be creative
new ways to notice
and draw attention to
the love of God
in myriad acts of love.
Love is also
noticing the signs of spring
that refuse to be shushed
even through pandemic
Welcoming the progress
of the seasons,
the buds that are awakening
the blossom bursting forth
the birdsong that heralds the morning
the growth that continues regardless
promising something beyond,
that awaits our emergence
from the storm
and mirrors the growth of love
worked out in practices 
that transform communities 
as, together, we face our fears
and weather them in love.
This is what love looks like.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Be not afraid... The Annunciation

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

In the midst of fear
Swamped by powerful emotions
who became mother of God
took courage in both hands
and offered:
Here I am
Mary acceded
not out of meekness
or naïveté 
but in boldness
and the fierceness
of love
On this day when we observe
the Annunciation
in the midst of pandemic
with fear all around
and emotions overwhelming
how can we offer our:
Here I am
not by repressing our fear
or denying our emotion
but, in the midst of those
dredging up a vestige
of faith
Faith that acknowledges
wherever we are
whoever we are
God’s invitation to us
is generous
and grace filled:
to be midwives of God 
for this day
In the midst of the trauma
in which we live
may we muster 
Fierce love
offering to God:
Here I am

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

A question of identity

For clergy and church workers:

Ecclesiastes 3:9-11
The God-Given Task
What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Who are we?
Without our buildings
Without the paraphernalia
and trappings
of our role,
Who are we?
Without the ceaseless round 
of meetings
and admin,
of services
and visits
Who are we?
Without the busyness
and the status
we are often conferred?
Who are we? 
When we have to stay home.
When we are not in control
When everything is being done remotely
or not at all?
Who are we?
Without touch
With relationships maintained
at a distance
Maybe... just maybe
we are simply 
who God created us to be
Fearfully and wonderfully made
Vulnerable beings
with whom God craves intimacy
Such knowledge
might save us the agony
of trying to fill the space
with work created
out of fear and uncertainty
and enable us
to be enfolded in God
Who are we?
Beloved of God
created, loved and called
for such a time as this.

Monday, 23 March 2020

A bigger God

Psalms 22:1-5

Psalm 22
Plea for Deliverance from Suffering and Hostility
To the leader: according to The Deer of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

Sometimes we need permission 
Permission to put aside
our Sunday School faith
and our stoic acceptance that 
“All shall be well
and all manner of things shall be well”
Some times we need permission
to stop downplaying 
our personal grief
to stop 
“putting things in perspective”
to refrain from
“seeing the bigger picture”
For our losses are cumulative
The missed events
of joy and celebration
or of sorrow and commiseration
The missed hugs
and company 
the physical distancing
We know they are vital
Nonetheless, they hurt
They matter
They do not deserve to be shaken off
as unimportant
or as insignificant
Loss is loss.
Our fears are real
We may believe 
that love will triumph
but only when we face our fears
only when we acknowledge our loss
To cry
“My God, my God
why have you forsaken me”
is not betraying faith
it is embracing honest humanity 
And until we acknowledge that
for ourselves
we withhold permission
from those we love
and care for
to be real and honest
in their journey of faith.
The God to whom we cry
stands with us in our complaint
for however long it takes
to express our 
anger, grief and sorrow.
And then the same God
sits with us
as we glimpse 
the smallest vestige
of hope and trust 
crouching beside us
as we rekindle the embers
of a tender flame
and the same God
walks with us
as we learn how to be,
in our woundedness,
people of faith 
for today.
We have permission
to be real.

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