Friday, 20 October 2017

Calling it out

"Mission will only happen when clergymen get back to preaching from their pulpits and go out knocking on doors." Those were the words of an elderly colleague in a meeting I was recently part of.
His words were applauded and no one called him out.
I was stunned into silence.
It triggered in me a return to an incident I'd had with two other male colleagues over the summer who decided to take me to task on my use of social media. On that occasion, too, I was silenced by their complete lack of awareness of their inappropriate and bullying approach.
In many ways, 25 years into ministry, I shouldn't be surprised by the shocking gender injustice that is all too common in the church but I feel no better equipped to deal with it than I did when I started out.
It seems to me that, if I am always the one who calls it out, that will diminish the other important work that I do. If, however, I remain silent, the stupidity and discrimination continues.
I have in fact lost a number of friendships with male colleagues since following God's call out of the parish and into a new role in the church. It would seem that I've climbed out of the box in which they deemed I belong.
What's more - I find it hard to tell if the gender discrimination is getting worse or if it's my tolerance that has decreased. But what I do know is that life is too short to be considered as anything other than a beloved child of God, called and commissioned by one who created and celebrates my gender, one who honours all created in the image of God as unique, gifted, loved.
Think of all those stories in the gospels of Jesus and the women around him : the woman at the well; the woman with the alabaster jar; the Syrophonecian woman, the haemorrhaging woman; the woman caught in adultery; the women at the cross; the women at the tomb. In the gospels, Jesus' encounters with women are transformative for him, for the women and for those around. Those, often nameless women are the saints I celebrate and whose stories encourage me when others seek to diminish. Those are the saints whose stories encourage me to persist when others would prefer I remain silent.
Thanks be to God for all the faithful women on whose shoulders I stand and may I make the path a little easier for those who follow behind.

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!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Betrayer

ON THE WEDNESDAY

John 13:21-32
Jesus Foretells His Betrayal
After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
The New Commandment
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.

The betrayer
is always another
We rarely see in ourselves
the capacity for evil
that we ascribe to others
We prefer not to consider
how little it might take
for us to succumb
and sell our souls
for fleeting reward
Yet, when the night comes
and shadows fall
which of us
can stand firm in the light?







Tuesday, 11 April 2017

My soul is troubled


ON THE TUESDAY

John 12:20-36
Some Greeks Wish to See Jesus
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
Jesus Speaks about His Death
“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”
The Unbelief of the People
After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

The light of the world walked among us
And we did not recognise him
His soul was troubled
And we did not offer any comfort
God spoke
And our ears were deaf
And even when all was revealed
Even today, with the gift of hindsight
We choose not to see
Love laid bare
We refuse to hear
God's voice telling us
You are my beloved children of the light


Monday, 10 April 2017

Where is the love?


Psalms 36:5-9
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your judgments are like the great deep;
you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

Where is the Love 
Where is the Light
Where is the Faithfulness of God
whose wings provide refuge
whose provision sustains life?
When terror comes
and evil stalks the earth
where might justice be found?
We cry to you, O God
out of the depths of our fear
and brokenness.
In a world where children are poisoned
or used as pawns in power games
where presidents pontificate
and rulers ride roughshod over those 
unable to fight back
we cry out
for your justice
and your compassion
and your peace
that binds the broken hearted
and lifts those weary of suffering
Gives us eyes to see
and wisdom to perceive
how to bring about justice
how to bring peace
how to transform our world
by being transformed
by the light of your love
that shines in every darkness.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Which crowd?


Matthew 21:6-9
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

So which crowd will I be in
The one that shouts Hosanna
Or the one that cries Crucify?
Or will I, like so many others
Be caught up in the fervour of the day
and just go along with the others for safety's sake
Good rarely comes of rocking the boat
Those who go against the crowd 
are often crushed
But, every once in a while,
we have to stand alone
We cannot always hide among the crowd
So what will I stand for
Shall I have the courage of my convictions
Or will I succumb yet again
to the energy and safety of the crowd.
Hosanna?
Or Crucify?
The choice is mine.
The consequence His.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Let the light in

John 12:36-40
While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”
The Unbelief of the People
After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him.
This was to fulfill the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
“Lord, who has believed our message,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said,
“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them.”

The miracle of belief
in those whose hearts are hardened
those who have succumbed
to the harshness of life
whose sympathies have given way
to cynical unbelief
erected as a protection
for tender hearts
tired of being broken.
The miracle of sight
for those who no longer see
the good and the kind and the noble
because too many times
their eyes have been wounded
with the pain of the world
The miracle of light
for those who prefer
the gentleness of darkness
in which is found retreat
from the pain of the day
and rest for souls wearied
by the gaudy colours
of passing pleasures
The miracle of healing
for all who believe
for all who look to the light
and find there balm for their souls
and hope, faith and love.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Entertaining Angels

Hebrews 13:1-2
Service Well-Pleasing to God
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Simply going about
the business of loving others
Seeking to care for another
serving their needs
holding them in high regard
Getting on with
the tasks of love
that need no fanfare
but are whispered
in every action
that brightens the day
for another
in every deed 
that eases another's burden.
Showing hospitality
by opening our hearts
and our homes
to friends and strangers
to angels in disguise
Blessed to be a blessing.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Still more to do...

Luke 13:31-35
The Lament over Jerusalem
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”

No slacking for Jesus
Even with the end in sight
he took no prisoners
refused to divert his course
but ploughed on
delivering, healing
accomplishing
all that he came to do
before setting his face toward Jerusalem
the city that lay in wait
to dispatch him
as it dispatched others .
And, even though he had a notion
of the fate that awaited him there
Jesus was moved with compassion
over a city
and a people
who had lost their way.
Compassion that saw beyond his own dire straits
to go on caring for others.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Fragrance of love

John 12:1-3
Mary Anoints Jesus
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

As the fragrance of the costly oil
spread its tendrils around the room
assaulting the senses
and sensibilities
of those gathered
As they breathed in its perfume
and witnessed the unfiltered act
of sheer love
each was assaulted
by their own reaction
each drawn in to wonder
about the extravagance
about the spectacle
about the urge that drove Mary
to indulge in such a gesture.
And might their discomfort
have been more about 
their hardness of heart
their inability to let go
their envy of one
who bared her soul
than about Mary's 
unadulterated
expression of love?

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Promised


Hebrews 11:39 - 12:2
Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Not complete
without one another
Each of us
has a part
and a place
in the race of life
Hobblers
Walkers
Joggers
Sprinters
Runners
The race waits for us
to find our pace
and take our space
in that great company
where all are accommodated
embraced
enfolded
welcomed
and carried along
by a tidal wave of love
to where Christ waits
to greet us 
and to make us whole.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Turn

Joel 2:12-13
Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.

Never too late
Always a way back
A way back to the God
of grace
and mercy
and love.
Even now
God waits
for our return
with arms open wide
in welcome.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Compassion

Matthew 20:29-34
Jesus Heals Two Blind Men
As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. There were two blind men sitting by the roadside. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd sternly ordered them to be quiet; but they shouted even more loudly, “Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David!” Jesus stood still and called them, saying, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him.
Compassion
Noticing others
In tune with their distress
Listening to what they want
Filtering out the noise of the crowd
to hear the cries of those in need
and responding
with faith
and love
Pausing 
to make a difference
by reaching out
with a healing touch.
Jesus - 
Ministering to the crowd
Ministering to individuals
Changing lives
at every turn.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Being prepared

Hebrews 11:13-15
All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return.
Looking back
causes us to stumble
to think of what might have been
Following God
along a path unknown
but made clear
leads toward the promise
And though we may not see
The Promised Land
we can know
the joy
the trial
the frustration
and the resilience
of journeying
with the One who goes before us
and yet is behind us
all the way.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Almost time...

John 7:1
After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him.
A man condemned.
Already marked out
for persecution
and death.
Forced to continue his work
in secret
under the radar
out of the light.
But pushing on
with more to teach
and more to do
and more to witness.
Condemned
but unstoppable
in doing the will
of the one who sent him.
Condemned
but engaged with humanity
living in love and compassion
until the end.
A man condemned
Son of God.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Provocative

Hebrews 10:23-25
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Being provocative...
Not half hearted
Or ineffectually polite
but prodding
and encouraging
one another
to act in love.
And ever hopeful
of making a difference
Of causing a stir
Of pointing others 
to the God
who delivers promises
and who is worthy
of our worship and praise.
Provoke one another...

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

A work in progress

1 Peter 1:24 - 2:3
For
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
That word is the good news that was announced to you.
The Living Stone and a Chosen People
Chapter 2
Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Rid yourselves...
Old habits die hard
Salvation is for growing into
It's not instantaneous
We don't suddenly become saints
Growing into the gifts of God
and throwing off old ways
takes time
and practice
and a thirst
for pure, spiritual milk,
the food that will nourish
and sustain
our walk with God
into marvellous light
embracing the word of Gof
that lasts forever.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Do you want to be well?

John 5:2-6
Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

Not one to make assumptions
Jesus asks: Do you want to be made well?
While others might think
that question out of place
or hypothetical
or just daft,
Jesus knows only too well
the complexity of human nature.
Not everything is obvious.
And folk make all sorts of choices
that aren't easily understood.
But Jesus respects choice.
Never one to impose
his notion of what is right and proper
Jesus asks the difficult question:
Do you want to be made well?
Do you?

Monday, 27 March 2017

A vision

Isaiah 65:19-21
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

A vision of healing and wholeness
beyond the war and carnage.
Of peace and planting
beyond the destruction.
Of fruitfulness
beyond the rubble.
A vision of life.
But how can we glimpse God's promise
through the dust of destruction?
How can we imagine God's future
in the burnt out ruins of a city?
How can we envisage longevity
when the lives of children seem so cheap?
How can we glimpse hope
in the midst of desolation?
Gods promise is for a world 
we cannot imagine
in a time we cannot tell.
Our hope is in a God
who delivers on promises.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

What do you say?

John 9:16-17
Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

Rumours
Gossip
Condemnation
Conjecture
Deemed a sabbath breaker
A sinner
But to the man who found sight
- a prophet
We, too, if we are of a mind
can see beyond
the testimony of others
can see beyond the rule breaker
and experience the healing of God
who created sabbath rest
and reveals to us
the things before our eyes
in a new light every day.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Let it be...

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

Let it be...
Let me do your will
Even though that means
I'll be cast out
Ostracised
Gossiped about
Even though
some will hate and revile me
and others will shake their heads 
and feel sorry for me
Let it be...
For I am God's servant
And one day
when mothers need a song of protest
they will take up my song
One day
when women need strength
to break out of their oppression
they will take courage
from my story
Let it be...
For there is strength in weakness
and courage in obedience
and joy in surrender
Let it be

Friday, 24 March 2017

Transitional Growing Pains


Minister without charge

In June 2015, I felt called to pursue a new role in the Church of Scotland - that of Coordinator of a Pilot Project from the Panel on Review and Reform - Path of Renewal.
I saw, in the description of the Pilot, an opportunity to mentor other ministers and congregations in discerning opportunities and making room for mission in their parishes and communities- something I longed to do where I was then but simply didn't have the capacity to prioritise in a parish of 11,000 with 5 school chaplaincies and 90 funerals a year, where promised, presbytery planned, ministerial assistance didn't ever materialise in my 7 years in the charge.
Path of Renewal offers not another programme for Renewal but participation in a movement, creating space to discern and act on the leading of the Spirit to places in our communities where God is already at work.
Confirmation of the call came when I was offered the post, after interview and, a few hours later, as I conducted one of the local Primary School's end of term service, I knew that, by the time staff and pupils returned after the summer holiday, I would no longer be their school chaplain.
And so began a journey, through demission, into the strange territory of a minister without charge.
Reactions from colleagues were many and varied but mostly, disbelief that I would demit my charge and leave parish ministry.
Reactions from the congregation were mainly expressions of hurt or declarations that they "knew I was destined for higher things" and no reassurance on my part seemed to convince folk that ministering with them was one of those "higher things" but that God had now called me elsewhere.
Demission involves leaving church, leaving home, leaving community - all, on their own, painful experiences.
Although we found a new place to worship, a place of welcome and nurture, it was a full six months before I could manage through the service without tears.
I simply missed the community of which I'd been a part and grieved that loss.
And, after six months grieving, I realised that I was also grieving a loss of status.
Who was I if I was no longer a parish minister? (Ironically, I had been ordained into Hospital Chaplaincy some 20 years before.)
15 years a Parish minister had subsumed my identity.
And then, at Easter, change began.
Archbishop Justin Welby, speaking into the revelations about his paternity, asserted: " My identity does not come from genetics. My identity is in Christ"
Hearing this was a turning point for me.
Post Easter, with these words speaking powerfully into my life, and pondering the post resurrection Jesus feeding his disciples on the beach, I began to emerge from grief to reconsider my identity in Christ.
It ceased to rankle quite as much when consigned to the bottom of a sign in sheet in Presbytery as a minister without charge - or when colleagues were dismissive of me as "a 121 person now". (Staffing the Institutional body)
Although, thankfully, I loved the new tasks in which I'd been involved, the training, the teaching, the mentoring, the travelling, I now felt able to embrace those in the new security of my status as a beloved child of God.
I thank God for conferring that status and for calling me to fulfil a new role in kingdom building.
But, as I moved out of parish ministry, I had no idea how long it would take to get the parish out of me - or how painful that journey would be. I have much more empathy with the Israelites in the wilderness!
Numbers 11:4-6
The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
 One thing is for sure - Demission is not for wimps!
   

Priorities

Mark 12:28-31
The First Commandment
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The first
and the greatest
but also the most difficult
Love
with all your heart
with all your soul 
with all your mind
with all your strength
And 
Love your neighbour 
Heart, soul, mind and strength
consume us.
This command leaves no room
for omission
but demands
wholesale embrace.
For nothing less
will do.
The first
the greatest
demands all.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Free?

John 8:31-32
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Simple words...
Simple message...
But a concept that sends folk off
into an unending spiral
of conflict
and doubt
and worry
and concern
and question
and debate...
Words that are used
for inclusion
and exclusion
for acceptance 
and rejection
So much for... and the truth will make you free.”

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Pass it on...

Deuteronomy 4:9
But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children

The things we have seen
The truths we have heard
The difference we have known
are all for sharing
for giving away
for making known
for bearing witness
to the amazing love
and boundless grace
of God
Faithful
for all generations.
We are tasked
with passing it on.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Cold comfort

Jeremiah 12:5-6
God Replies to Jeremiah
If you have raced with foot-runners and they have wearied you,
how will you compete with horses?
And if in a safe land you fall down,
how will you fare in the thickets of the Jordan?
For even your kinsfolk and your own family,
even they have dealt treacherously with you;
they are in full cry after you;
do not believe them,
though they speak friendly words to you.

Sometimes
in our meandering through life
we need to hear
the voice of those
who do not agree with us
who will not readily encourage
or go along with
our wallowing 
or self pity.
Those who challenge
and incite us to do better
to "up our game"
those who provoke us
into becoming
better versions of ourselves
more courageous
more daring
the people we need to be
fuelled by the wisdom
of critical friends
and a God who demands
that, occasionally,
we bring our best selves
into the fray.

Monday, 20 March 2017

One of us


Matthew 13:54-58
The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth
He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house.” And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.

Rejected
as one of their own
Written off
because "They kent his faither"
Restricted
Overlooked
Seen as an irritant
An offence
An upstart
Disempowered
by assumptions
and lack of expectation
Not so different today
and all the ways
we manage
intentionally
or unintentionally
to play down
to write off
to dishonour
and disempower
the Son of God
born among us.



Sunday, 19 March 2017

Step by step

Exodus 17:1
From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.
Journeying by stages
Learning along the way
all the lessons
they did not even know
they needed.
Resisting at every turn
Longing for the safe and the familiar
- even the slavery and oppression
preferable over a changed landscape.
The effort of changing mindsets
of adapting to a new culture
deemed too difficult
too demanding
requiring more energy
than they were prepared to expend.
And so the wilderness stretched on
for generations
until there was the will
to embrace the Unknown
and to follow
the way of God
and God's faithfulness 
for every generation.

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