so I don't think I got beyond day 34... I feel a bit like Lucy, finding herself at the back of a wardrobe, where she thought she was simply playing among old fur coats, only to find her feet walking on snow in another world. For now church has walked through a door into another world of practice: the foreign place of social media, videotography, morning and evening prayers live on face book, this has become home. How we inhabit church, How we care for one another the way we can say goodbye is a door into a world unrecognizable from what we've known before. Come Monday I'll be joining the chaplaincy team at the Louisa Jordan hospital in Glasgow, working two days a week. So I'm not sue when I'll get back here regularly. until I do, this is what I'm travelling with this Easter. The whole direction of reality is about the Fathers love for the Son and the Son's love for the Father, and everything that is, is an emanation of that love, a redemption towards that love, a joyful participation in that love which as we give ourselves to it makes us more ourselves and not less. I can only joyfully discover who I am when who I am is completely given over to that love - this the losing of ourselves to find ourselves, that allows talk of love being stronger than death to be more than just fanciful rhetoric, but the blissful truth it actually is. Keep well everyone. Go in the knowledge you are known by God and God can only know by loving.
For today’s reflection I invite you to watch the Old Testament Theologian Walter Bruggemann describe the kind of difference we need to begin to make, if we are serious about following Jesus. There is a lot of conversation right now about what Church is about and needs to become. I think Brueggemann’s mandate is exactly right.
It lasts 6 minutes… just click on link below
So when the journey started my slippers closely resembled the large picture you see. The thumbnail above is their sad state now. Mind you, on the way they had to endure a dogs chops...several times
(the guilty party)
So how is your journey going? What's changed? What have you seen for the first time or realized afresh? Where do you still need to go? What do you want? Why do you want that? What now do you need to relinquish?
Carrying on from yesterday... Thomas Merton beautifully describes what God is doing in the constant action we call creation (note: creation isn't past tense God is always in the act of creating who we are - even this breath we are taking). Merton writes: He alone is the gentlest of loves: whose pure flame respects all things. God, who owns all things, leaves them to themselves. He never takes them for His own, the way we take them for our own and destroy them. He leaves them to themselves. He keeps giving to them, giving them all they are, asking no thanks of them save that they should receive from Him and be loved and nurtured by Him, and that they should increase and multiply, and so praise him. The gentleness of God's love hasn't a drop of possessiveness in it. There's no hint of "that's not yours - that's mine". There's no-demanding recognition - " you better be grateful - you'd be nothing without me - Get worshiping me pronto!" Instead, the gratitude God seeks is that creation is nurtured and loved becoming more and more itself. That for me is in part what it means to allow ourselves to be known, We get to know how God knows us. That's not easy and can feel like a narrow road: it can feel like putting something to death in us- putting to death the self we idolize: our ego self. Relinquishing our “persona” then is to do with giving up our attachment to and our investment in the self that's focused on what I've achieved, what I've not been polluted by, what I've accumulated, how clever I am, how holy I am, how successful I am, the self I'm happy to put on show and can create some kind of legacy out of. We take too seriously a self that is nothing like the God Merton describes above. Learning that I am more than my ego self takes time, effort, discovery, epiphany and grace – it’s a narrow road - where we get to know our true self the self God brings us to be, The self that is pure gift: my life, my consciousness, my love, and being loved, All gift. It turns out I'm a beloved creature. My ego self wants to be the creator. This breath, and the next one - gift, sheer gift I am a gift. Let me say that again, I am a gift; loved into existence. The self we develop in school, work, relationships, that’s gifted, and stable, isn’t bad - but it isn’t enough. Deep down we know that. Don't we recognize our complexity, and contradiction. The self-that’s the self I want to justify. The self-that’s in competition for attention. The self-that’s slighted when not recognized. The self that wants to be someone, so others will value who I am – is an idol. It can't be know by God - because it's not real. What does a human life look like when completely inhabited by God? Listen to Dietrich Bonhoeffer: "Jesus is there only for others. His being there for others is his experience of transcendence. It is only his freedom from himself, this being there for others, even to death, that is the source of his omnipotence, and omnipresence. Faith is participation in this being there for others...our relation to God is a new life in being there for others." One of the safest ways human beings avoid the narrow road and hide themselves from what it's like to become our true self is by being "religious." I think much of the rhetoric from the European and American (North and South) political/religious right, proffers a "Christianity" that's the complete antithesis of Bonhoeffer's words.
Thinking some more about what it means to be known by God. Will that not be about shedding our false identity, the identity that is a persona which we show to the world that is not bad in itself, but not who we really are either. To be be known is to experience the excavation of our true self, to be given who we truly are. That's not easy, or always comfortable - because it's also about learning the truth about who we are, in a negative way, identifying the shadow self we each have for what it is, a cuckoo in the souls nest. What does Jesus have to say about that self? Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. To travel into God's knowing us will strip away what isn't really who we are: we lose that in order to find who we truly are. I don't see how it can be any other way if we are to receive the kind of love we are loved with. Thomas Merton gives a brilliant description of what that love is like, untainted by the devices and desires of our shadow selves: The Lord is present where the new day shines in the moisture of the young grasses. The Lord is present where the small wildflowers are known to him alone. The Lord God suddenly passes in the wind, at the moment when night ebbs into the ground. He who is infinitely great has given His children a share in His own innocence. He alone is the gentlest of loves: whose pure flame respects all things. God, who owns all things, leaves them to themselves. He never takes them for His own, the way we take them for our own and destroy them. He leaves them to themselves. He keeps giving to them, giving them all they are, asking no thanks of them save that they should receive from Him and be loved and nurtured by Him, and that they should increase and multiply, and so praise him. He saw that all things were beautiful and he did not want them. His love is not like ours. His love is unpossessive. His love is pure because it needs nothing.
So, the entry for tonight is an old song to a new tune. It’s a rough sketch of a song, but the words are known and trusted companions. Sound quality not great. But enough for tonight... The king of love my shepherd is, Whose goodness faileth never; I nothing lack if I am his And he is mine for ever. Where streams of living water flow My ransomed soul he leadeth, And where the verdant pastures grow With food celestial feedeth. Perverse and foolish oft I strayed, But yet in love he sought me, And on his shoulder gently laid, And home rejoicing brought me. In death's dark vale I fear no ill With thee, dear Lord, beside me; Thy rod and staff my comfort still, Thy cross before to guide me. Thou spread'st a table in my sight; Thy unction grace bestoweth; And O what transport of delight From thy pure chalice floweth! And so through all the length of days Thy goodness faileth never: Good shepherd, may I sing thy praise Within thy house for ever.
Apologies for the multi- plex size image. It should turn around the right way when played.
What is becoming more and more important to me? Being known by God. It's not that I have to struggle to discover God, But that I am invited into his knowing of me. That's what I hear in these words of Cistertian Monk, Thomas Merton: "Our freedom from the prison of our own illusions comes in realizing that in the end everything is gift. Above all we ourselves are gifts that we first must accept before we can become who we are by returning who we are to the Father." Isn't that exactly what we see Jesus live out? God wills us to discover who we are in his knowing of us - remembering that in scripture to know is a shared intimacy. Who is the God that knows us? I trust it's the God Rowan Williams describes that he believes in: "God is not an item in the universe, not a being among others. The energy, action and intelligence of love that saturates everything, sustains everything, moment by moment. Always in the depth of every situation capable of turning things round and making a difference - precisely because God is not just part of the system, but the context of it all." Lets discover the gift of who we are that is embedded in our being, uniquely know by God and therefore not threatened by anyone else's being. What does that mean? Our doing never has to compete - we are already fully known by a love that never ends.
What are you doing with your time? Got a fair bit more on your hands lately? The first time pieces in Europe were created to help those following a monastic way, time would tell them to make a space to meet with God at different points in the day: Morning prayer (Lauds) Midday prayer Evening prayer (Vespers) night prayer (compline) time beat a rhythm for prayer, song, work, eating, rest. Time was in the service of meeting with God. Then merchants and business took over the clock and well, we know what time became... But for who knows how long many of us have the chance to befriend time in a different way. From tomorrow morning I will make a space on face book live for morning and evening prayers, offering what we are living to the presence of God. Morning prayers will be @ 9:30 am and evening prayers @ 9:30 pm. There will be a short meditation then a prayer. A simple reclamation of time for the company of God. I went to see Gregory Alan Isakov @ St Luke's last year. Below is a beautiful song about time.
Yesterday folks found ways of worshiping that were largely untried and rarely imagined in the way are church. Was it just a wee gaggle of people desperately doing their own thing, hanging out their Sunday best on the cyber washing line? I wonder if we (particularly Presbyterians) need to widen our spiritual imagination: look up - see who you are worshiping with. What we sing and pray and recite flies like a little bird to and from the cracks of our hearts nest; but where does our fledgling praise fly to? The little bird of our worship carries us into the worship we can't see... ...with the saints and angels in the nearer presence of God. We don't create worship here so much as we join in with the true worship there. If we think of worship there as some holy individuals, or crowd surrounding a bigger, superior individual then our spiritual imagination needs to grow. The saints and angels are persons endlessly travelling into God's knowing them, a personal knowing that endlessly gives of itself to the saints and angels as they know God as they are known: a knowing that never comes to an end. Worship is a wonder and mystery with the everlasting pulse of love running through it all. When we meet to worship however we manage to do that whether alone, one or two of us or with the help of technology, we become part of the worship that in the nearer presence of God is endless, blissful joy. As we find new ways of worshiping together May our spiritual imagination look up and on that journey May the saints and angels watch over you...