Sunday, 30 March 2008

Low Sunday

I just love the idea that some folk celebrate this as joy or laughter Sunday. But I'm glad that we weren't on that track. We call it Low Sunday - and I know that that comes from Laus - meaning praise, but, given that we lost an hour due to Daylight saving clock changes and given the fact that church was really quiet this morning, I wouldn't have much relished the thought of laughter Sunday. Besides, its definitely not in tune with things here at present. Instead, I was struck by a phrase from Theolog's Blogging towards Sunday that "Peace and wounds dine together at Easter". So we encouraged folk to reflect on their woundedness and then, hopefully, enabled them to feel the Risen Christ breathing peace into those wounds. Folk seemed to appreciate it anyway. 
Isn't it strange that, no matter what we've had to face during the week, no matter how many folk have dissed us, we're still expected to get up there on a Sunday and "Preach to these people". Just as well there's a higher power at work. And thank the Lord for Grace! 

Friday, 28 March 2008

Fears, tears and breath

When sorrow is too deep for tears
When its more of an ache deep inside
When its something that catches in the windpipe and refuses to go any further, allowing neither release nor relief
When there's a burning behind the eyes, that makes the cheekbones hurt and temples throb
That's grief.
Grief promulgated by disappointment and the searing pain of hurt - the kind one only experiences in the betrayal of friends, in the dissolution of trust.
Its a grief that cannot be integrated as other griefs might, accepted as a part of the cost of life and of love. Its edges are far too jagged to be buffed down and held close. 
Its not natural as loss is natural.
The element of betrayal just doesn't allow a coming to terms.
The disciples knew this grief.
The grief of losing something that held such promise and brought such pain.
The risen Lord appeared beside them and breathed into that grief.
Showed them a way forward - out of their locked room into a whole new enterprise.
Praying for just a whiff of that same Spirit.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Some things never change

"That's an excellent suggestion, Miss Triggs. Perhaps one of the men would like to make it"

Life in the parish right now. They just can't help themselves.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Messy church

Our family Easter celebration yesterday felt very messy, very bitty and yet seemed to be enjoyed by all who were there. We had an Easter egg hunt, shooed away the Easter bunny and somehow managed to get Jesus back as the focal point of Easter. We celebrated baptism and shared communion. Oh - and we also had an Easter bonnet parade and lots of the children brought beautifully dyed and decorated eggs. After the service, I just wanted to lie down in a darkened room to recover. But that may have been as much just the culmination of a week filled with moving services. 
This year, I've been conscious of how much more we could offer to allow folk to really get to grips with Christ's passion but I think we've reached saturation point for this small community. Another time, another place perhaps.
There is no evidence that the first Easter was all neat and tidy. Maybe we have to be content with just touching base with the drama and allow faith to unfold like those linen grave clothes as time goes on. The impact of death and resurrection is maybe more akin to lighting a slow burning fuse, whose progress we can keep on fanning into flame.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

He is risen indeed

Just got back from our Early morning Easter celebration, followed by bacon and black pudding rolls. Not sure what draws folk - the service or the breakfast! But its always good to stand around in the fresh morning air with folk who have got up especially early to welcome the risen Christ anew. By the time the light dawned on that first Easter day, Christ had already risen, death had been conquered. Its worth celebrating new every morning. A blessed Easter to you and yours.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Blood on the street

We took communion onto the streets again this Good Friday. Just reminding folk what day it was and offering them communion. Folk were more engaging this year than last and it was wonderful to be able to offer Christ to our community in such a powerful way. I'm sure we could get into all sorts of theological discussions about what we were doing and what we were offering but I love the simplicity of the love of Christ this Good Friday at work on the streets of Inverkip.
And, the snow stayed away until we were packing up. How good was that?!

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Tongue in cheek

I had a rather important meeting this morning about an hour's drive away. However, when I got to the car, my rear tyre was completely flat. It wasn't possible to even drive to the garage to charm the mechanic into fixing it. So I did that thing for which I despise other women - I called my husband to come and sort it. Well, it had one of those complicated locking wheel nut things and I had no idea what the required tool even looked like far less being able to find it!
As I said the meeting was quite important. I managed to get a message relayed so there was no real harm done - I arrived just a little late. But, sometimes, when things like that happen I find myself asking - Is this the work of God or the work of the devil? - Upbringing always comes out! And the answer is - there really isn't much to choose between them. It could be an obstacle placed in my path by the devil because I'm doing the right thing or an obstacle placed in my path by God because I'm doing the wrong thing. Get my drift? How does one determine which it is? Or is it best just to forget it and put it down to the law of averages, sod's law or whatever? Does it really matter? The end result was a hefty bill for two new tyres by the day's end. Now that definitely is the work of the devil!!!

Monday, 17 March 2008

Journey into love

I had a meeting at the Church headquarters in Edinburgh at the end of last week. Instead of driving there, I decided to take the train. Its amazing how much work I got done as the train sped me to my destination. Most of the Palm Sunday liturgy was written by the time I got there.
When I arrived, I had a short wait before the meeting and, already tense, I waited with some trepidation.
But then a wonderful thing happened. A few friendly faces passed through the waiting area, colleagues I knew and with whom it was good to catch up.
Working out in the sticks, it is easy to forget that we are part of something much bigger and that there is a whole body of support all around us, there for our asking.
And, in the seemingly relentless work of the parish, its easy to lose sight of God who wants so much more for us, not from us, and who watched his son journey to the cross to show that there are no limits to love.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

An offering for Palm Sunday

Did you know?
When you sent your disciples to borrow that colt, did you know? Did you know that, as you rode on its back, the crowds would line the streets to greet you? Did you know the children would wave branches? You said that, if the crowds hadn’t shouted their welcome, the stones along the way would have called out in praise? So what was it all about? Some giant ego trip? A display of your popularity? Or did you have in your mind all along that prophecy that said that the king would ride on a donkey? Was it a giant political statement? A king without all the paraphernalia?
Or were you just plain stupid? I mean it couldn’t have escaped your notice that you’d really ticked off the authorities. Doing the kinds of things you did. Healing on the sabbath, encouraging folk to question their rulers. Even upsetting the economy by questioning their taxes. Why, if you had to be in the city - why didn’t you just skulk in quietly? Why the entourage? What part of - “they’re out to get you” did you not understand? Or was it that you’d played their game long enough. Now it was time to get the inevitable over with. If you were going to die, then let’s get on with it.
And as those crowds greeted you like a hero, were you able to enjoy it? Were you able to bask in their praises and forget, just for a while, that by the end of the week those same voices would be baying for your blood - and those same hands, palms raised in welcome and salute, would become clenched fists, demanding your execution?

And don’t you know, Jesus, that we would never do that?
We would never sing your praises one minute and call for your demise the next.
Not us who gather week in week out, in our Sunday best, singing your praise, reading your word.
No fickleness in us.
None of that going with the flow, following the crowd, saving our own necks.
Not us.
While that crowd were gunning for you, we would have been defending you, challenging them.
We would have been just as vehement in our defence of you.
We would have put our heads above the parapet and stuck up for you.
We would!
We would!
Well, Ok then, maybe we would have calmed our jets a bit.
I mean there would be no point in us all coming to a sad end.
It would be daft to follow you that far, stick our necks out so much that we lost them.
But we would at least have whispered “Leave him alone”.
Or, to be on the safe side, we would have kept quiet.
Stood in silence, while all around us, your fate was being sealed.
We would have stood our ground, quietly, as your execution papers were drawn up.
Ours would have been a silent protest.
That’s effective you know - standing quiet while there is raging all around us.
We would have stuck it out, quietly.
Don’t we make you proud.
Isn’t our loyalty and bravery just what you need?

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Conspiracy theory

I'm having one of those manic weeks just running from one thing to the next. Tonight there was the opportunity for a bit of space but something else cropped up. However, in the midst of all the turbulence, something slow and subtle but nonetheless relentless is happening. Things are afoot. There's an excitement in knowing that its beyond my control but also an apprehension. Although I'm so caught up in it all, I somehow feel like an onlooker, standing back, observing, waiting to see how things pan out.
In this run up to Holy Week I'm conscious of the disciples journeying with Jesus, caught up in his slip stream, not understanding, but tagging along for the ride. Maybe not the most helpful analogy when you consider how that all turned out but somehow fitting for the events cascading around me right now. Fasten your seatbelts. Its going to be a bumpy ride.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Incontinence and decadence

A couple of girl friends took me to Mar Hall for afternoon tea at the weekend. It was lovely. This old country house was last used as a kind of annexe for Erskine Hospital - a facility for disabled ex servicemen and women. I worked for a time at the parish church there and conducted services in the hall. I was intrigued to see how it had been refurbished, given that it was very beautiful then. I'm pleased to say that the great hall and reception rooms with their lovely ceilings and wood panelling and fire places haven't changed greatly although the smell of incontinence is now absent! But it felt so decadent to nibble tiny smoked salmon sandwiches and all manner of pastries in a place in which I had formerly conducted worship. And then it got me wondering - couldn't we do much more of that with our beautiful church buildings - maybe not the multi-million pound makeovers but the inviting folk in, spoiling them a little, allowing them to relax and enjoy the surroundings, a real ministry of welcome and hospitality. There are times when we should encourage decadence!

Saturday, 8 March 2008

That's what its all about!

Members at Avalon Baptist church were angered to discover that the soap used for years in the church restrooms was replaced by a new, economical foaming soap. "You get this bubbly mound that disappears once you rub it in your hands," one man complained as he exited the restroom. "It’s all show, this new soap." Others agree. "What happened to the thick, slimy stuff?" one man asked. "That really worked." Last Sunday was supposed to be the kick-off of the church’s annual Missions Week. But the buzz in the foyer was about the soap change. Some suggested taking a special offering to restore the original liquid soap. "You have to wonder about the leadership’s judgment, if they’re willing to make a poor decision like this," says one woman. "It signals weakness at the top." The pastor and custodian released a joint statement on Monday saying they believe people will get used to "the new foaming action soap, and appreciate its many benefits for our church going forward."
We like to think that we are not as strange as some of our brothers and sisters across the pond but, I have to say, we're getting much closer. I guess churches are just the same all over?

Friday, 7 March 2008

Majesty and minutiae

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

Your glory is higher than the heavens.

You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you.
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place— what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honour. You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority— the flocks and the herds and all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and everything that swims the ocean currents.
O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

Psalm 8

Often, especially in realtionships, the small things really do matter. And so the creator of all the universe values each of his creatures and gets involved in the small stuff as well as the big picture. Humbling and uplifting. Scary and awe inspiring. Challenging and reassuring.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Ring any bells?

CINCINNATI — Rolling Hills Christian Church has spent fifty years diligently cultivating a good neighbor image, and this week they celebrated their spiritual irrelevance and moral acquiescence with a Sunday morning festival. "We get along perfectly with everybody in the community," said pastor James Doheny before climbing into the dunk tank. "Peace is our value of choice." During the celebration the mayor lauded the church for being "a friend of the entire city." "There's not one negative thing that could be said about this church, and the citizens of Cincinnati appreciate that," he said. Doheny thanked the congregation through tears, and promised to lead the church toward "fifty more years of benign accommodation." •

Life in the gaps

If you look carefully you will see a squirrel and a bunny in this pic - both trying to get out of shot. They were companions on an unexpected interlude in my day yesterday. Looking at the day filled me with dread - meeting after meeting after meeting. But, as it happened, there was a short gap which I used to catch some fresh air and admire the snowy surrounds - and the wildlife.

If only there were space in every day to do that. But life is about making the most of the gaps when they do occur and giving thanks for any space we can carve out of the busyness.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Too nice

A colleague recently told me that I was "far too nice". I don't think it was meant as a complement. Right now I'm being criticised for not being confrontational enough. I don't think we can - or should- change our natural styles. It is possible to use other styles on occasion to achieve desired movement. But, in a long term game plan, striving to become something we aren't simply isn't an effective tool. So I will continue to be nice. I will continue, through subtlety and cajoling and the simplicity of love to effect change. I will use my God given femininity and not try to mirror the aggressivenes of some of my male - and female- colleagues. I reserve the right to be nice!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Battling the elements

The Glen through which I walk in the morning is, for me, a place of refuge, a place of calm in the storm. And there has been a lot of stormy weather around these parts - outside and inside. The glen offers shelter and, climbing gently beside the burn coursing down through the trees, allows processing of thoughts. Quite a few trees have fallen this winter but most of those are being supported by their neighbours. There's a closing of ranks as the strong trees hold up the fallen and even those trees uprooted by the weather begin to serve a different purpose. They take on a new life, their trunks offer new opportunities for growth of fungi and lichen and their branches continue to provide shelter for wildlife. I love walking in the glen when there's a hooly outside. It feels like a real battling of the elements. It chimes in with the tenor of life in ministry at present. I hope and pray that I too can find new life and new purpose and strength to keep on weathering the storm.

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