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
to find a way to peace.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Poetic Pastor


"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.

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