Sunday, 16 June 2019

Dancing with God

Rublev’s Icon of the Holy Trinity
An offering for Trinity Sunday

In the beginning
God gathered God’s self together
to create the universe
Fashioning with goodness the sky
with its galaxies and constellations
its suns and moons
its  light and darkness.
And there was some fun and mischief along the way
as God messed about with incredible light shows
and sent the planets into orbit
and played around with tides and seasons 
and day and night.
And then God created the earth
with its mountains and valleys
its oceans and streams
its continents separated by vast seas and deserts
its forests and ice caps
and plains of fertile land.
And God enjoyed attending to detail - 
the bumps and the curves
the flow from one landscape to the next
the separation of water from land
and earth from sky.
And God loved that beautiful world and wanted to share it.
So God created animals
For the hills and the plains
for the sky and the sea
for above and below the earth.
Each with a place and, largely, a purpose.
And then, with a flourish, 
involving dust and breath,
God created human beings
who would care for all of creation
for all that God had made
and who would be co- workers with God 
in nurturing and sustaining creation.
God saw that it was good and delighted in all of creation.
As it was in the beginning, so it is now.
God delights in us.
Desiring nothing more than relationship 
Inviting us to be part of
the divine dance
The dance of Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer
God invites us to be caught up
in the mystery that is God...
Instead, we spend our time 
trying to unravel that mystery
We tie ourselves in knots
instead of enjoying the different kind of knowing
that is offered by God
We distance ourselves
rather than entering into relationship
We ponder how we can change the world
when God’s invitation is simply to dance....
In that dance we discover compassion
that moves us to care for creation.
In that dance we discover anger
that fuels us to root out injustice.
And, in that dance
we discover freedom
made up of Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, 
Faithfulness, Gentleness, 
the fruits of God-control,
the elements of the dance
that sustain the world.
God’s laughter and delight 
and tears and compassion 
form the rhythm that draws us in
and sends us out 
to dance.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Angels today


A conversation (more of a monologue - no space was left for responding!) on the 13:00 train to Ayr

Everything changes
Coffee shops are now gin boutiques
Tea rooms are Prosecco bars
And the Italian’s on the corner
is now a wine bistro
Rail tickets are stored on plastic
that the machine reads with a tap
And there’s a piano player in the station.
The train windows don’ t open
The aircon is either too hot or too cold
And, the announcement “ We are now approaching...”
wakes you up before you miss your station.
Do you believe in angels?
(Without waiting for an answer)
Well, they’ve changed too
Mostly, they’re not scary
Although they might be dressed all in black
rather than in white
And they might have long hair, tattoos or piercing 
And sometimes they’re virtual
They appear as an email, a text message
or in a Facebook or twitter post
They’re visible when a stranger smiles
or when someone puts down their phone
long enough to have a conversation.
They show up when someone
notices you could do with a wee hand
Aye, everything changes 
but still
God sends angels.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Not far from the kingdom


Mark 12:32-34
Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

Not far from the kingdom
How often are these words preached
as words of rejection
rather than words of hope?
Not far from the kingdom
How often are they turned into 
words of condemnation
rather than words of encouragement?
Not far from the kingdom
How often is this interpreted
as missed opportunity
rather than glorious potential?
Not far from the kingdom
Words focusing not on my sinfulness
but on the amazing grace of God.
Not far from the kingdom
Today I choose
to hear these words
and to focus
not on the ways that  I disappoint
but on the ways that I bring joy
Not far from the kingdom
Today I choose 
to hear these words
as words of love
and to experience them
as light
as hope 
as blessing
Not far from the kingdom
A wonderful place to be!

Friday, 7 June 2019

Feed my sheep


John 21:15
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

When I’m too busy squabbling with the wolves and the goats
that I neglect the sheep you place in my path
Lord, forgive
When I’m consumed with chewing over words not said, hurts unacknowledged
Lord, forgive
When I’m choking on self righteousness
that blocks the way for compassion
Lord, forgive
When I’m too full of my own importance
to recognise the struggle of another
Lord, forgive
When I’m distracted by hopes and dreams
and fail to be open to this day’s gifts
Lord, forgive
Lord, you know that I love you
Help me to feed your lambs
Not with bread that is contaminated by my self absorption
spoiled by my lack of leaven 
but with the bread of life
that you give in abundance daily
In every day may I stay close enough to you
so that I can inhale the fragrance
of sweet,fresh bread,
still warm from the making.
May I feed on that
and share it with others.
Lord, you know that I love you...

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

The Temerity of God



How often does our writing - be it poems, prayers, sermons or reflections convict us. Especially when we think we have written them for another.  I’ve always been aware in my preaching practice that I’m speaking into the areas that are itching in my life, into the struggles that I own, into the places that I need to grow. If the words I use also speak into the struggle of others, especially those with whom I share community and faith, I am grateful. In parish ministry, this happened more often because I was engaged in listening and walking alongside folk and, together, we were able to articulate where we experienced God and what constituted good news for our community.
On other occasions the words that we offer to others arise from the unconscious or unacknowledged in ourselves and it may take some time before we become aware of that and have the opportunity of addressing it.
I’m not sure that I think out loud - perhaps I do. But I know that I process out loud, by writing.
It’s not the first time that my writing has caused offence - and on the whole I’ve been largely unapologetic about that. If my processing offends you, touching a nerve, exposing a wound, then perhaps you have some work of your own to do.

Recently, however, wanting to find a way of expressing concern for and appreciation of a friend, I penned some words that have, in fact, found their way back to me, confronting me, challenging me, mostly in a good way but I have been surprised by their incisiveness in revealing things of which I was blissfully unaware or perhaps skilfully denying - wounds buried deep, well scabbed over. And while that means I have some work to do, I can’t help smiling at the temerity of God, who never lets us off the hook but who will always find a way in, a way to breach whatever armour we have embraced. As the saying goes:”Be careful what you wish for!”
In the Spirit of God’s temerity I look forward to grasping hold of a thread and seeing what unravels or where it leads.


Tuesday, 4 June 2019

What is mine to do?

John 17:4
I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.

Lord, what is mine to do?
And who will be my accomplices?
I want to glorify you
I want to do the work that you have given me
I want to be faithful, obedient,
and  - I want to know joy.
But, Lord,
What if discernment
takes me to somewhere I’d rather not go?
What if the work you reveal
means that I must conform
to expectations 
and navigate old territory
in which I feel subdued.
Lord, will you give me other outlets
where I can be fully me?
Will you show me those places
where I needn’t tread so carefully
and where I can find sustenance
for the work you need me to do?
Lord, I want to glorify you
and I want to be
fully alive in you.
I’m just not terribly convinced
that those desires
are wholly compatible.
Teach me, O Lord,
how to grow
how to delight
how to glorify you
in finishing the work
you give me to do.

Monday, 3 June 2019

There’s more


Acts 19:4
Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.”

More
There’s always more...
Perhaps a comfort
for our restlessness
Or a challenge
when we dare to settle for less
More
There’s always more...
Even as the disciples
took their heads out of the clouds
after Ascension
there was the promise of
The Holy Spirit
More
There’s always more...
What will that look like for us today?
Are we ready to confront it?
Or are we still too busy
licking the wounds of the past
to meet head on
the more
that is promised?
More 
There’s always more...

Friday, 31 May 2019

The Visit

Luke 1:39-45
Mary Visits Elizabeth
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Two women
One older
One younger
Sharing the moment
and the miracle of life.
Bearing within them
joy and delight
dread and foreboding 
the heights and depths
of mothering.
And sensing, in their joy and wonder
the portent of grief and despair 
as the child each is carefully nurturing
escapes the confines of the protective womb
and grows to adulthood
released into a world
that is cruel and uncaring
harsh and unfeeling
to be used and abused
by those whose cause needs evil
for its fulfilment.
Two mothers
who stand with all mothers
who witness the wounding of their children
and who bear those wounds
deep in their souls.
Wounds that will never be healed
never be eased
because they strike at the heart
of the essence of love
they cut to the core
of what gives life
they leave a gaping hole
that will never be filled.
Two women
Sharing the joy of the moment
Anticipating the grief that is to come.


Thursday, 30 May 2019

Ascension Day


Acts 1:6-11

The Ascension of Jesus
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

40 days since Easter
40 days since we applauded Jesus’ sacrifice
then hauled him out of the tomb
and got on with our lives
40 days that Jesus has walked beside us
offering us myriad glimpses 
of his Risen presence
It was the Risen Christ who sat on the bridge
holding out his cup for a coin
and then took our hand
and looked into our eyes 
and said thank you
as we glanced his way
and gave him some change.
It was the Risen Christ
who sat between us
as a colleague unloaded 
and processed
the costliness of her work
and rediscovered her inner wisdom 
and strength
to carry on serving.
It was the Risen Christ 
who dried our tears
and stoked our anger
and determination
as we tramped the beach
imploring, beseeching God
to show us how
to serve authentically
in an institution
that is besieged 
by power struggles
and injustice.
It was the Risen Christ...
It IS the Risen Christ
The Risen, Ascended Christ
who continues to penetrate
our consciousness
in our every day
looking into our eyes
through the eyes of all whom we encounter
reminding us of his teaching
imploring us to love
and willing us
to go and be disciples.

(Liz Crumlish Ascension 2019)




Wednesday, 22 May 2019

The elephant in the room?


As the Church of Scotland meets in General Assembly this week, it is clear that reform is on the cards. And we take pride in our call, as a Presbyterian Church in the reformed tradition to be constantly reforming.
As we seek to be engaged in the mission of God today, however, there seems to be a reluctance for the Church of Scotland as an institution to own mistakes of the past and attitudes in fact that continue to affect its present and future. Just today, the Church of Scotland was commended by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, for its ”highly valued” role in the life of the nation. However the Kirk, like many of our institutions, continues to model insidious gender injustice.
In particular I am concerned by the church’s paternalistic attitude and its contribution to a patriarchal culture.
As one who’s role within the Church of Scotland is about changing the culture to better enable engagement with the mission of God in our communities, it is excruciating to be employed within an institution that not only glosses over the past but continues to exert a patriarchal ethos that is so ingrained that many fail to notice it any longer.
I don’t believe there is time to wait until we have put our own house in order before we engage with God’s mission but I long for us to at least attempt to start paying more than lip service to inclusion and to enabling of the role of women fully within the Kirk.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Known

Psalms 139:11-14
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.

Known
Known and loved
This, O God,
Creator
Redeemer
This is your promise
That we are known 
and loved
Even in our darkness
you hold out
the promise of light
In a world in which
that which you created
goes unvalued 
uncherished 
where human life itself
rests on the whim
of an Instagram poll,
your will, O God
is for so much more.
Your love knows no limits
Show us how to value life - 
our own
and others’
May we know
and may we share
your love
beyond our wildest imagination
Known
Known and loved

A reflective prayer written after hearing of the death of a Malaysian teenager by suicide after asking her Instagram followers to vote on whether she should live or die.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Seen


Seen
Like Zaccheus in the sycamore tree
Like the woman at the well
Like the woman caught in adultery
Like the blind man on the road to Jericho
Like the woman who touched the hem of his garment
Like Levi son of Alphaeus sitting by his booth
Like James and John mending their nets
Like Mary sitting by his feet
And Martha busy being host
Like the women at the cross
Like Mary at the tomb
Like the disciples on the Emmaus Road
Some named
Some unnamed
All seen
Seen
Not for their potential
But for their unique created being
Made in the image of God
Seen
by the one who sees beyond
by the one who sees and loves
May you know the wonder
of being seen today.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Post Conference


The melancholy 
of the empty conference space
When folk have left
and the buzz of voices
raised in debate 
and encouragement
in bewilderment 
and aha moments
is silent for now.
The screen is blank
and the room settles back
into its inanimate state.
When the adrenaline rush has subsided
and the rapidly firing brain cells
striving to ensure
that everything is covered
and that no one
is left behind
slowly begin to rest
and recover..
And there is time to breathe
and gain some equilibrium
for just a moment
before it’s time
to turn around
and do it all again.
This is mostly
Living the dream!

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Come and have breakfast

John 21:12
Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”

“Come and have breakfast.”
Really, Lord?
You invite me for breakfast?
In the early morning
When I’m not altogether.
When I have serious bed head going on
- not to mention morning breath...
“Come and have breakfast.”
When I’m still coming to
Thinking of all that the day holds
Fearing that I’m not up to the task...
“Come and have breakfast.”
In that fragile hour
between sleeping and waking
You bring intimacy
into my vulnerability
You sit with me
Minister to me
Materially and spiritually
- one and the same for you...
“Come and have breakfast.”
And in that shared moment
You breathe peace
You breathe forgiveness
You breathe identity
Life itself
Calling me
your disciple
Calling me
to feed your sheep.
“Come and have breakfast.”

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Rejoice in the Lord

Philippians 3:1
Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.

The temptation proved too much
Early morning
A deserted play park
- a family of bunnies the only audience
and a zip slide
inviting play.
I grabbed the swing
hauled it up onto the platform
climbed on
whizzed down the hill
and experienced joy.
Joy that comes 
from breaking free 
and from the assurance
of  belovedness
Joy that bubbles up
and cannot be contained.
Joy that overspills
into the day ahead.
Joy that continues
to break forth
at odd moments of the day
in the midst of sacred work.
Joy that leads to thanksgiving
for opportunity
for impulsiveness
and for the freeing
life-giving
Spirit of God.

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