Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Eve

Matthew 1:18-23
The Birth of Jesus the Messiah
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.”

Are you ready?
asked the checkout operator
as she scanned the last minute gifts we remembered
Are you ready?
A question posed numerous times
in myriad ways
this past few days.
Are you ready?
Our response to that will vary greatly
There is always the fear that we have overlooked something
forgotten something vital
had a senior moment
left things too late.
But the good news of Christmas
For all of us 
Is that it doesn't matter
how ready we are.
God is born.
Emmanuel - God with us
happens over and over again.
Ready or not.
Emmanuel - God with us
comes to those who grieve
to those who worry and fret
to those who feel unprepared
to those who feel calm and ready
to those who are excited
to those who dread
to those who feel that Christmas 
has already been snatched from them
and to those who are waiting to see
what tomorrow brings.
The good news, for all, is
we do not make Christmas 
we do not have to be ready
In every circumstance,
God is born
Emmanuel - God with us.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Fathering God

Matthew 1:24
When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife,

Joseph
These past few months have been the most demanding of my life
the most emotionally draining
I've known the fierceness of love and anger
The depths of despair, the unravelling of joy.
But I'm a man
I'm supposed to be hard
Demanding
Unforgiving
I'm not supposed to be turned to mush
by watching the woman I love suffer
She looks so beautiful carrying my child
And it is my child
I may not have planted the seed that grows within her
But I have watched her body change
I have rubbed her swollen flesh
in the night when she aches
I have felt our baby move and grow
I have felt the kicks and the hiccoughs
And I have felt her pain
as our friends have shunned us
No cosy chats with the other women for Mary
Swapping stories, normalising pregnancy
And no back slapping congratulations for me
Or even leery comments
Just menacing silence
sizzling with reproach
Little do they know, my former so called friends
If they had stuck with me instead of cutting me off
They might, just might, have brought me to my senses
But Mary and I, pushed together in our adversity
Have learned resilience 
And grown together, forced into maturity
It's not just us
We have a little life to care for
And we will prove them wrong
Those who think we'll never manage.
We will show them
That we are the people God calls us to be
Parents for the Son of God.
Liz Crumlish 2014

Monday, 22 December 2014

Piercing truth

Luke 2:34-35
Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

It was a long time in coming
A lifetime and more
But even though he'd waited a lifetime
to greet the Messiah
Simeon could not temper his words
The old prophet could not keep silent 
about what he saw.
This baby, brought to the temple
to fulfil tradition and custom
was recognised by Simeon
as the Messiah on whom he waited.
A Messiah who was destined 
to shake up the institutions 
to challenge a way of life
and to bring searing pain
to the woman who had borne him.
And, having waited so long to greet him.
he could not keep quiet
about the future he saw
in the face of the Son of God.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

You are the story


Luke 2:20
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

They came to worship.
knowing that
on this last Sunday in Advent
we'd be ready
to break out the Christmas Carols
and  to unfold the Christmas story.
The star that had been making its way
through the sanctuary
as Advent progressed 
was placed over the choir at the front.
As the children processed
dropping glitter in their wake
there was a buzz of expectation.
Children and adults dressed up
and took part
Angels, shepherds, wise men too.
Mary was a single mum for a time
until one of the shepherds 
stepped into the breach.
One angel was well into his 70s
The three kings were four
And the baby God?
Was there the whole time
from beginning to end
Not asleep on the hay
but coorying in beside
the widower chilled with grief
Embracing the young mother
worn out working all hours to make ends meet
Lifting the spirits of the gran
whose family are all far away
And heading home
with all who were entranced
by the beauty and simplicity
of the story 
of Emmanuel
God with us.

It's all about the story

Matthew 1:18
The Birth of Jesus the Messiah
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

The Day of the Nativity Play
There's a buzz in the air
The adults arrive early
intent on snagging the best seats,
the best viewpoint
from which to see their charges re-enact
the greatest story ever told.
The children too seem extra fidgety
They won't stand still
while tea towels are affixed to shepherds
and tinsel to glittery angels
Even the Kings seem electrified
though they are older
and supposedly more jaded
But with their crowns perched atop slicked back hair
and their gifts clutched tightly in their hands
they too seem ruffled by the moment.
Only Mary seems calm and serene.
Although I don't know how, since Joseph is tearing around
pretend fighting with the shepherds
Just as well those staffs are foam and not wood!
Those tea towels are off again!
And who put the camels, the donkey and the sheep
in those ridiculous positions?
Someone has been messing with the manger!
And the baby Jesus is nowhere to be seen.
But it's time to go.
The choir have finished singing.
The angel Gabriel is making her way down the aisle
Oops - Mary was supposed to go first.
Never mind - the Angel's message will be delivered
Mary and Joseph will carry the donkey 
all the way across the chancel to Bethlehem,
The baby will be born.
The angels will tell the shepherds
who will hurry down to Bethlehem.
And the wise men will make an entrance
with their gifts, hopefully not tripping over their curtains
on the way up the chancel steps.
Someone will find the baby Jesus
and place him in the manger
just in time.
And everyone will say
"What a lovely story"
And, in all the cuteness of the re-telling,
maybe, just maybe,
we will glimpse the greatest gift ever given
and see God born in our midst today.

(To be continued)

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Mothering God

Luke 1v 42
Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

Mary
God, you pick your moments
and your people.
Talk about a big fat Jewish wedding?
Well, the big, fat part came true
as I swelled with the weight of the Son of God.
People thought Joseph was a fool
But I knew differently
It took guts to stick with me
and not run from God
and the crazy plans
he'd racked
up for us.
Once he'd set his mind to it
like everything else he did,
Joseph made a great job
of caring for me
the mother of God's child. 
What other man
would be there at the birth
and not leave it to the women.
Mind you, Joseph had no choice.
No one else would speak to us
disgracing them as we had.
It wasn't really until the birth
that I missed the other women folk
Because Joseph was so loving and caring
He saw the hurt I felt
and tried to make it up to me.
And, for a time, he did.
But, when the time came
to push this fragile life
out into the world
that was when I needed another woman
One who knew what to expect
One who could talk me through the pain
and reassure me
that this was how it had to be
to bring a new life to birth.
I couldn't even blame Joseph
He hadn't planted this seed in me
But I cursed him anyway
with every profanity I knew.
He had to stay
and take it
There was no one else
to catch the Son of God
as he was delivered
onto a straw covered floor
in a place hidden from sight.
No one else to bring him to my breast
so that I could nurture God's Son
the Light of the world.
Liz Crumlish 2014

Friday, 19 December 2014

Beloved child of the light

John 1:9-12
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.

Today we bade farewell
and celebrated the life
of one of God's saints.
A child of God.
Even in the darkness of grief
or maybe even especially in that darkness
the light was visible.
The light that came into the world
in the form of a baby.
We celebrated the hope, love joy and peace of Advent
all rolled up in a life of faith
that pointed others to the light 
that cannot be extinguished. 
We gave thanks not just for the light
but for one in whom light shone
one who claimed her power
as a child of God.
And the darkness was pierced
with the light of love
that lasts forever.
Thanks be to God.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Doing Advent

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Good intentions
To"do"Advent properly
To avoid getting caught up in the rush
To take time to contemplate
the miracle of birth
and the miracle of love
But preparation
as an act of love
is exhausting.
Remaining alert
to all the signs 
of God born among us
is challenging
and, quite frankly,
draining.
Rooting for that glimmer of light
in all the darkness of the world
is hard work.
Proclaiming the light
is exhausting .
Advent becomes
a bone wearying
energy sapping slog.
Just like that third trimester
of pregnancy.
Hope is high
But there is still so much anxiety.
And other chores
and other concerns
are not diminished
but heightened
as the days move on.
The need for God
to get here already
trumps everything else
and puts paid
to good intentions
of waiting patiently
and preparing well.
Thankfully, God arrives
ready or not
and the calmness 
we tried to create
is forever disrupted
by God among us.
The calm
AND the storm.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Unwitting accomplices

Matthew 2:19-20
The Return from Egypt
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.”

We think of the Angels singing:"Peace on earth"
We imagine the shepherds hurrying to Bethlehem
We romanticise the notion of the stable 
complete with a little donkey
and other assorted animals keeping the baby warm.
In our mind's eye is a blissful mother
and a bursting with pride father.
We conveniently overlook the fear
and the poverty
the political unrest
the brutality of occupying forces
and the desperation of folk in that time.
And we try to do the same today.
To make Christmas idyllic
a time of indulgence and goodwill.
A season to deny reality -
be it the harsh reality of today
or of that first Christmas world.
And even when we are confronted
by inescapable inhumanity:
The murder of children
The abuse of power 
The sleaze of politics
The race to consume
Still we hope and pray for a different world.
But the Advent of hope, love, peace and joy
of which we speak and sing and for which we pray
demands that we get real
that we open our eyes
that we are affected
and move to change a world
where weapons are more valued than health care
and where oil revenue is so tightly held
that none can be spared to provide clean water for all.
Where food mountains and arms dumps grow
while people starve and are moved from their lands.
Those who sought the child's life
are still to the fore
and we have become accomplices.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Beyond the door

P

John 1:14
And the Word became flesh and lived among us

Passing the church door
on a cold and stormy night
And seeing the light and the noise
spill out across the wet cobbles
The light shimmering in the puddles
The noise carrying through the air
The doors are closed against the winter chill
and there's no one in sight
to encourage or repel
A moments hesitation
And then the thought of entering passes
Fleeing as quickly as it came
And I am assaulted again by the thought
that though it is good
to make a joyful noise
with those of like mind
Though God loves and honours our praise
God also nudges - even chases us
out of our buildings
To embrace those who pass by
Those who long for the light
and the warmth
Those who yearn to be loved,
not for what they might become
but for who they are
Cherished children of God
with whom God dwells

Monday, 15 December 2014

Hurrying on

Matthew 2:6
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
Barely half way through Advent
but feeling the pressure
to rush on towards Christmas
To sing the Carols
To place the baby in the crib
To hurry the wise men on
To get there already
But the Advent of God among us
was a long, slow journey
Promised by prophets
through centuries of longing for light
Hoped for by folk
through years of yearning for justice
Watched for by nations
walking in darkness
Who are we
to be impatient today?
Yet we, too, 
long for light,
yearn for justice
and need God
to be born among us
Now.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Justice unearthed

Isaiah 42:1-4
The Servant, a Light to the Nations
​Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

The Servant
Bringing justice
Not by force
Or by power
But by gentle persistence
Stealth
that creeps in
Undoing centuries of wrong
Overturning layers of tradition
Unearthing goodness
buried deep
Ground down by harshness
Lost in the depths of holiness
But there for the finding
And ready to be brought to the surface
Grasped and gently nourished
Coddled into fullness of life
Unable to resist
the pull of love
that elicits the response
of justice held out
Fragile
Vulnerable
Life giving
Life changing.
Justice wrought 
not by force
but by love.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Asleep on the hay?


Luke 2:7
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Not calm and bright
Not sleeping peacefully
Not surrounded 
by boy shepherds
with fluffy lambs
Or ox and ass huddled around
To keep warm
Not cosy and serene
that baby in a manger
More like a lion
surrounded by his pride
More like the cyclogenesis
by which we've been assaulted of late.
This baby
and those parents
And the visitors and onlookers
are not naive well wishers
But fierce political extremists
Determined to bring about change
And the only chink in their militant armour
Is that they are pinning their hopes
on a baby
And all these years later, we too,
longing for change
dreaming of equality
weary of political posturing
and failed promises
pin our hopes 
on a baby in a manger
knowing that the stable
is not a benign shelter
but the birthplace of revolution
And we, today's onlookers
are charged with fulfilling promises
creating justice
and exploding love
on an unsuspecting world.

Friday, 12 December 2014

After the storm

Luke 2:13-14
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

After the storm
there's an eerie stillness
when every sound is magnified
And if we stop just for a moment
we will hear sounds 
that we haven't heard in a while
Not because they weren't there
But because we didn't pause to listen
Like bells on the still night air
And the song of angels
And children's voices
arguing to make sense of it all
It's like the ferocity of the storm
clears the way
for the gentle sounds 
too fragile to be heard
in the normal daily rush
But waiting to be discovered
when we take time
to listen.
And once we've heard them 
They remain
bringing depth to our hearing
bringing awareness
of another world.
A world that is ours to inhabit.
Filled with the mysteries of God.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Travellers

Not a good time for a journey
Battling against the elements
Hunched against the wind
Battered by the rain
Nowhere to shelter
Just the relentless plodding on
with a deadline to meet
carrying the weight of anxiety
that precludes the hope
of discoveries along the way
And no certainty of welcome
at journey's end,
hoping, at best
for a brief respite
from the weariness
and the opportunity
to draw breath
and gather the resources
to continue the journey.
A common plight for many today
- and little different to the predicament
of those who journeyed
to encounter
the son of God.
2000 years ago.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Love carved out


Isaiah 49:15-16
Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.

Loved before birth
Cherished through life
with the unconditional love
of a mother bearing the joys
and sorrow of birth
Releasing her child
into the harshness of life
out of the womb of protection
Suckling, sustaining
Continuing to nourish
and nurture growth
Affirming love
that knows no end
A love that comes unbidden
and is never exhausted
or withheld
A love carved
on the palm
of God's hand.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

In the wilderness

Luke 1:80
The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

In the wilderness
John the Baptist
Cousin of Jesus
who leapt in the womb
when Mary came to visit Elizabeth
In the wilderness
Until the time was right
to prepare the way
for the son of God
In the wilderness
preparing for the task that was his
to call folk to repentance
And all the while growing 
strong in spirit
Strong enough to play his part
as the herald 
of the one who was to come
Strong enough
to play second fiddle
to God's chosen Messiah
Perhaps the hardest task of all
is to stay out of sight
preparing for one
whose Advent dawns
In the wilderness
Growing strong in Spirit
Preparing to welcome 
God among us.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Messenger of God

Luke 1:26
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,

The Angel
I do not float on a cloud
Strumming a golden harp
I do not appear in a rush of air
and a Carol of bells
I am much more gritty 
and down to earth
I am the woman in the next street
deheading rose bushes
or sweeping up leaves
who shares a sympathetic look
as you struggle with your brolly on a windy day
I am the man you passed
on the station platform
with the backpack
and the laptop bag
Who raises an eyebrow
as the man across the aisle shares 
too much information on his mobile phone.
Often I smile
or cry
I try to create beauty
or bring light.
Once in a lifetime I will have
a special commission - or two
I told Mary of the seed that was within her
And then persuaded Joseph
to go ahead and marry her. 
On those assignments I carried
a frisson of fear
and left in my wake
a trail of chaos
but also wonder
and promise
Folk are free to reject me
or ignore my message
or blank me completely.
But Mary and Joseph
listened
And, if not exactly welcoming
they did not write me off
but spent the rest of their lives
pondering my words
along with their import.
And, even if they didn't ever fully appreciate
their uniqueness
They changed the face of history
by listening to me
an angel sent by God.
Liz Crumlish 2014

Sunday, 7 December 2014

For such a time as this

Esther 4:14
For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”

For such a time as this
We are called
Not to keep silent
But to speak up
For the poor
For the vulnerable
For the homeless
For the hungry
For those persecuted
because of race or religion or colour
For those whose voices are not heard
Whose suffering goes unheeded
Whose rights are violated
For such a time as this
We are called to take risks
To stand alongside God's children
In Missouri ,
in New York, 
in the Ukraine,
in Yemin,
in Israel
in Palestine
in all those places 
where voices are silenced
and where hatred kills.
For such a time as this
We are called
To keep the hope alive
That light shines in the darkness
A light that cannot be extinguished
The light of love
The light of God with us 
For such a time as this.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Prelude

Luke 1:76
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

The Advance Party
Called to prepare the way
Not the one
But called to make the road smooth
What an awesome responsibility
To lay the groundwork
To blaze the trail
And then to step back
Slink into the shadows
Out of sight
There are few of us with grace enough
to be fore runners
Few of us who are skilled
at keeping out of the way
when the time comes
for another to step up
and continue the work that we have begun
We give thanks for prophets
For fore runners
For trailblazers
And pray for the grace
to be more like them
as we prepare the way
for Incarnation.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Blessed

Luke 1:46-48
Mary’s Song of Praise
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

How could Mary sing such a song of praise?
when responding to God's call
meant that she was ostracised by her community,
shunned by her peers,
the subject of gossip and slander?
When responding to God's call
brought isolation, anxiety and overwhelming responsibility?
When responding to God's call 
brought a swollen belly
and the pain of labour and childbirth?
How could Mary sing: "My soul magnifies the Lord."
as her body changed
and weariness settled in her bones.
Could it be that the peace in her heart,
the knowledge of responding to God,
of making God's will, hers
was so momentous
that joy overrode apprehension
and love overcame fear
giving way to the knowledge
of true blessedness.
Mary, mother of God, blessed art thou among women.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

The little things


Matthew 2:6
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

"By no means least"
God has a way
of raising the lowly
Of bringing import
to the things considered insignificant
Of creating surprises
Catching folk unawares
It's startling
Discomfiting
It throws us off kilter 
But God continues to reach into 
the ordinary
the commonplace
the everyday
and extract the extraordinary
or create something spectacular
skewing our perspective forever.
May our daily journey through Advent
be filled with God interrupting
changing the landscape
before our eyes
until we wake up everyday
expecting the unexpected.
The Advent of God.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Lineage


Matthew 1:17
So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

Slotted in there
A place to belong
Kith and kin established
But cutting a new mould
Refusing to conform
Impossible to peg or label
Needing no human credentials
or heritage to bring authenticity
But at home nonetheless
At home in every time and place
Welcoming the stranger
On the road with the refugee
Tagging along with the outcast
Standing out with the stigmatised
That's my boy!
The Son of God
The Son of Mary
Stepping out of that noble line
To stand with all of humanity
The Christ - born for us.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Dream on


Matthew 1:18-21
The Birth of Jesus the Messiah
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Joseph dreamed
and married Mary
The Magi dreamed
and went home by another way
Zechariah dreamed
and named his son John
Joseph's dreams were invaded by angels
warning him to flee to safety
and telling him when it was safe to return
A story built on dreams
that revealed the will of God.
And what of your dreams?
Are they incredible too?
Are they inhabited by angels
revealing their message of love
encouraging the embracing of hope?
There is nothing that is out of reach
when our dreams become a vision 
of the indescribable love of God.

Monday, 1 December 2014

The star


Matthew 2:1-2
The Visit of the Wise Men
​Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

The star formed billions of years ago
making its way through the Universe
light age by light age
Singled out
to be the compass point
by which the magi navigated.
Singled out
to light up a dingy corner
in an out of the way place
Singled out 
to confirm good news
told to weary shepherds
Singled out
to lift the ordinary
to the realms of the spectacular
A cosmic accident
born in the collision of gas and clouds
already burning itself out
and in its dying throes
Heralding the birth
of the Son of God.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

The dawn of Advent

Still, quiet, subdued
That early morning hush
The blanket of darkness
muffles the sound 
of coughs and splutters
of groans of pain
of silent weeping
Like a thick fog
it covers up
stark features
and masks reality for a while.
But soon it must lift
dissipated by the dawn.
Sound gradually returns
along with the light
such as it is.
Light and sound together
herald the beginning
of a new day.
And somewhere in that mix
the tenacious tendrils of hope
are interwoven
with the harsh reality
of a darkness that persists through the dawn
and a pain that is not eased by the daylight.
Hope has its work cut out
in a world gripped by fear and despair
But hope has been there before
and knows the value of waiting.
Hope possesses the skill 
and the stamina
to play a long game
to hold on 
And with patience and persistence
to break through
the darkness of pain
and the chill of loss
and the terrifying silence.
This Advent
our world waits with hope.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

When hope is extinguished

Jeremiah 31:15-17
Thus says the Lord:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.
Thus says the Lord:
Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears;
for there is a reward for your work,
says the Lord:
they shall come back from the land of the enemy;
there is hope for your future,
says the Lord:
your children shall come back to their own country.

A mother weeping for her children
Is there a sound more anguished?
The dry, hacking sobs
Or the full throated wail
Piercing the blackness
And rippling on
Breaching every barrier
Pulsing in every wavelength
Shaking the foundations
Of democracy and justice
There is no justice
For a mother whose arms are empty
No justice for a family and community in mourning
There is no justice for law enforcement
Charged with power 
Yet broken to the core
And all the splinters
And all the fragments
Cannot rise up and be healed
For the victims slain alongside a mother's child
Are hope and integrity and truth.
Today - refuse to be comforted
For justice is no more.
Maybe, just maybe tomorrow
We can look towards healing the brokenness
And salvaging some kind of peace 
But today let the noise of that wailing
Seep into your very fibre
And convict you
Of the travesty
That is a life not valued 
And justice broken beyond repair

Monday, 10 November 2014

Re-inventing Christmas?

As this year's Christmas Ads are released, I'm musing again on the elements required to create a perfect Christmas as portrayed by the bigger stores' advertising campaigns. 
I love the Magic and Sparkle fairies for M and S, though I wish they'd made them Angels instead of fairies. And the pair of penguins in the John Lewis Ad are heart-warming. I'm not so sure about all the kids searching for just the right thing in the Debenhams Ad.
But all of these - and others beside- portray the essential perfect Christmas elements variously as: Finding the right significant other, finding just the right gift, enjoying domestic harmony, if not bliss, a gift laden tree and a food laden table.
We know that that picture of Christmas is so far removed from the experience of many in our communities, far less across the world.
I confess that I wait with excitement each year to see what these big store ads will reveal. I track the journey of the Christmas Coca Cola truck too.
But somehow, this year, the millions spent on these advertising campaigns and the images portrayed cause me to stop and wonder.
How far we have moved from the starkness of an unmarried mother giving birth in a stable and, from such unlikely surroundings, giving hope to a people oppressed by the harshness of life.
The images portrayed today surely cause pain, not hope, for all sorts of reasons, for folk, whether in positions of privilege but knowing loss or for folk struggling to cope with the demands of everyday life, exacerbated by the pressures that a media fuelled Christmas applies.
It seems to me that we in the church must work all the harder to be simply inclusive this Christmas, embracing all with that simple message of hope backed up with love in action.


Sunday, 9 November 2014

Remembrance Service


Looking out over the congregation 
gathered today
to remember.
Youngsters who have grown up in our midst
no older than those killed in war
Older folks who grew up with stories
of family members lost in war
Or with a silence from those
who found it too painful to speak
of all that they had seen and experienced
Or with the stigma of those who returned
forever damaged by doing their duty.
And then those for whom 
the loss and the memories
are very personal and still wound
Those who can picture
the lost and the maimed.
Alongside those that bit removed
but still scarred by the knock on effects
Noticing, too, the gaps in the congregation
of the ones who were not there today
who would rather remain at home 
on this Remembrance Day
Alone with their thoughts
Alone with their tears.
But each one
the young
the old
the absent
United in remembering
And in their remembering
pledging 
to find a way to peace.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Poetic Pastor

L

"Halloween is over - let Christmas begin!" Is just one of the comments I've seen on Facebook this week. This, along with today's release of the new John Lewis Christmas Ad, makes me long to "do" Advent properly. I try to be more intentional during Advent in taking time out to reflect and to get ready to celebrate God with us anew. This year, I've put together some of my reflections in a book so that others might share in moving through the season with a little space in their day.
From the wise men setting off on a contemplative mission long before the birth of Jesus, to the chaos of the infants' Nativity play, to the mess of the stable, these reflections take us on a journey - to meet God born among us - and then beyond, to pose the question: "What now?"
If you'd like to ponder these reflections as you "do" Advent, the book costs £5 including postage in the UK and $5 postage to US - just click on the Buy Now button at the top of the page and get ready for Advent!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Communion of Saints

Earlier this week, I attended the ordination of a friend to the ministry of word and sacrament. Nikki is part of the community of RevGalBlogPals, a supportive online network for women in ministry - and some men. The community has members across the world. To mark the occasion of Nikki's ordination, we decided to post pictures of ourselves in a red stole, the colour that symbolises the work of the Holy Spirit in the discernment of vocation. And so, for several hours, the RevGals facebook Admin team showered Nikki with good wishes and blessings - and lots of red.
Being able to attend the ordination in real life, I was moved, not just by the proceedings taking place in a rural Scottish Kirk but by the knowledge of that vast community of saints across the world who were there in spirit with us that night. While I have always been sensitive to the presence of saints, in heaven and on earth, there was something extra special about the virtual community of RevGal saints joining us from all airts and pairts, bringing an added dimension to an awesome occasion.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Panning for gold

I've come to believe that, when writing or planning it is often necessary to clear the detritus that floats on the surface in order to reach the more valuable nuggets that lie underneath. I'm hoping that that was what was playing out this week in a Ministries Council Consultation planning for a Decade for Ministry, an initiative being undertaken to encourage vocations and re-imagine ministry for the future. None of the "starters for ten" showed any imagination or any indication of a willingness to take risks in order to resource the church to serve neighbourhoods and to build new ecclesial communities for the future. Paradoxically, a session that talked of "The Threshold of Death" and other such grave like symbolism was the most animated and life giving as we considered the trajectory of change.
Another aspect that was sadly lacking - and has been for some time, was consideration of how to build up, equip and support ministers who are currently engaged in serving the church, some of whom, contrary to assumed national intelligence, serve healthy, growing communities, effective in their neighbourhoods and some of whom serve in less encouraging ministries that nonetheless require faithfulness and perseverance. Of course it is important to look to and try to re-imagine the future but that does not have to be at the expense of nurturing those whose calling is to serve what may well become "the remnant" in an age of exile and change.
An element that tends to be overlooked and underestimated is the ministry of encouragement. Such a ministry is entirely possible and, I would contend, necessary, even as we grapple with new horizons.
So, having spent 24 hours putting to rest the unimaginative, uninspired, lifeless suggestions currently in play, can we now get down to the business of harnessing the unpredictable, life giving Spirit of God, following her lead as she nudges and cajoles and maybe even shoves us onto unfamiliar dirt tracks, all the while weaving her restless energy, encouragement and healing balm to the blisters and weariness encountered on the journey? And, in that Spirit of discernment, can we catch too,the excitement and privilege it is to be at such a liminal point on the journey of faith and in the Decade for ministry. Liminal places are creative places.
Already, I believe, the disappointment of the last 24 hours, is a potentially fruitful place from which to continue the journey  with renewed purpose and increasing awareness of the presence of the God of death and resurrection who calls us today to step out in faith and in service to a land we have not seen but for which we hope and pray.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Rekindling the flame

As the sun rose on the day after the Referendum
I made my way to the beach.
Not all the results had been declared
But it was clear that dreams of an Independent Scotland
were not to be realised 
My heart was heavy
My spirit subdued.
But as I trudged along the sand
the stillness of an unseasonably warm autumn morning
bathed my soul
as surely as the ebbing tide
bathed the shore.
The sense of the Creator's presence all around-
In the sun creeping over the horizon
In the waves gently lapping the sand
In the quiet and the calm
reminded me
that grief too is a part of life
and broken dreams
are preceded by the spirit of hope.
Hope that cannot be snuffed out
but that continues to burn.
And when part of the dream dies
or is extinguished
the flicker that is left
must work harder
to illuminate the darkness. 
We are not defeated.
People of all hues
The yes and the no
have glimpsed the promised land
albeit from different perspectives.
It is now that, together,
they can step out in faith
to claim that promise
for themselves
and for generations to come.
Hope has not died
but has been rekindled
in ways we would never have imagined.
The fight is not over
but has only just begun.
All is not lost
and there is everything to gain.
And the tasks of grieving
for those who mourn involves 
acknowledging the dream
that we have lost,
gathering up the passion
that remains,
Moving on with renewed energy
and new friendships
to achieve that promised land
that we envisaged
where all are valued,
and where we share resources
with the poor and the vulnerable.
Together we can fan the flicker
of our wavering hope
into the flame
of love and justice
and peace in our land.
We have it in us
to realise the dream 
The work has only just begun.


(Liz Crumlish 19th September 2014)

No - and yes!


Scotland has voted No to Independence at this time. It was a fairly close run thing. I believe it would be more difficult to move to Independence without a much bigger majority. Healing in a country retaining the Status Quo is probably more achievable than healing in a country where there was only a small majority for independence. I believe that Change requires a bigger mandate although the freedom of democracy decrees otherwise. But what of the future? With the energy of the campaign and the unprecedented level of engagement in the democratic process, can we really hope for change? There are claims that Scottish politics has been changed forever. I would like to think that this is the case. But there are no guarantees and there is no clear pathway to harness the energy that the Referendum has garnered. Promises of change have been made. Declarations of enhanced devolution have been articulated. Time will tell whether those hopes of the Scottish people will be honoured by politicians and by the Westminster government. I do, however, have faith in the people of Scotland to dust themselves down. I have faith that those who hoped that the result would be otherwise will soon return to the level of good humoured banter that is so characteristic of our Nation. Those outcomes are not in doubt.
Throughout the campaign the National Church has called for folk to move forward together whatever the outcome. I know that this is entirely possible in this country that I love. More than that, I believe that people of faith have had a wake up call in this Referendum process. We have been made more aware than ever of the needs and aspirations of our neighbours. We have been incensed at the level of injustice and poverty that sits on our doorstep. And we have been reminded of our call to work alongside and to serve the poor and vulnerable and the marginalised in our own communities. I have faith that we can and will address that with or without a mandate for Independence. Referendum - a wake up call for the government. A wake up call for the church. A wake up call for the people of Scotland and the United Kingdom. In the words of our usual Sunday morning benediction: " We move on from here to love and serve God by loving and serving one another."

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