I heard the voice…

visual hunt
I heard the voice
Paul and Fiona

I am losing my hearing. What can I hear in that? The sound of growing older. The disharmony of life reminding me that I am no different from the crimson leaf that parachutes down to the silent applause of the other fallen leaves, gathering around the roots of the mother tree. No different from the amber light of sundown, burnishing the gable wall of next door, like a reflection from another world, then shrinking to leave nothing but white pebble dash.

Deafness. It’s the music of me happening to the beat of entropy. Out of the silence, a voice that for a moment finds other voices that weave in melody and cacophony, some rising, some finding a crescendo, some hardly heard at all until each one, ready or not, slips back into silence.

What is the gift inside my deafness: I am here. Soon I won’t be. A reminder of the event that has my name, my experiences, my gift, my flaw. My song.

Where does the song go? What happens at the other side of silence?

I was in a hospital ward as old as the Edwardian era that had built it. Surrounded by men in their illness and the harassed toing and froing around them that is the necessity of care. I sat with a man who sang back to me the song that was his.

From his hospital bed it sounded like grief, anticipating separation from others who sang along – some he had taught to sing- it also sounded notes of disappointment and improvisations he gladly made; but mostly it was gratitude for having this voice to sing this song.

With tears he recited the lines from a poem:

Since I am coming to that holy room,

         Where, with thy choir of saints for evermore,

I shall be made thy music; as I come

         I tune the instrument here at the door,

         And what I must do then, think here before.

John Donne, Hymn to my God, my God in sickness

Tears fell, like little boats, rowing from the heartlands to the world outside.

This is my grief, they said, and my gratitude.  

What he needed most was someone who’d never heard him sing, someone he could trust just to listen back with him to hear what his song had sounded like. Not to add new notes, or try and bring it to a different resolution. Just to let the listening be a space when the singer can hear for himself the sound of his own voice and the song he has been singing.

Is that not what Jesus does with our song. Does he not carry it into the heart of the father, and say, I’ve brought you a song. let’s listen.  

Beza’s song

Photo: Nick Kenrick Visual hunt
Beza’s song
Paul, Brandy, Sarah Jane, Fiona, Craig

I never intended to become a Christian. Not long after I did I took great encouragement from C.S. Lewis who wrote of his own conversion to Christianity

You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.

C.S. Lewis, surprised by joy

Most Christians I knew told stories were their life was joyously transformed. I felt miserable. I think I know why.

I began to go to Church and the Christians I met there were good and loving human beings. They were kind and thoughtful. They were serious about prayer and worship. They tried to convince me I was loved by God. They also believed Calvin was right. Right about what? listen to what he writes in the Institutes:

All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.

John Calvin, the Institutes, book 3

Double predestination it’s called. It holds that you and I – before we ever existed – have been destined for eternal joy or eternal punishment. And that destiny is based on nothing more than god’s choice. The odds aren’t great for most of humanity – given most human beings aren’t Calvinists. So I tried to love this god like trying to love a monster.

Because I knew in my heart of hearts such a god couldn’t inspire anything other than fearful prudence. The god of double predestination is nothing more than a capricious, sadistic, tyrant -like a 16th Century despot (which is probably were Calvin got the image from) Such a tyrant is no more worthy of affection than Stalin, Hitler or any other dictator. At least human monsters can only torture you for a life time. The monster god Calvin gives us can (and will) torture you forever- as and when and who he capriciously decides. How can we love a monster? We can’t and we shouldn’t – not if we have any moral sensibility.

It took me a L O N G time to realize that Calvin’s despotic sovereign wasn’t God – a god maybe – one of the god’s no different from any other petty deity that human beings invent- but not the God and father of our Lord Jesus. It took God a long time to patiently open my eyes to who God actually is. But none of that time was wasted.

Long story short, over time in prayer and worship, fellowship and caring, by flaw and gift, suffering and gratitude, I slowly realized the wonder of knowing who God is, the kind of God C.S. Lewis (who wasn’t a Calvinist) came to know. He continues the story of giving in that night of his conversion, to the reality of a God who welcomes a reluctant and dejected convert.

 I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words…compel them to come in, have been so abused be wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”

C.S.Lewis, surprised by joy

The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of human beings. He compels us all towards his son, to invite us into the joyous freedom of being in Christ, who takes us to the heart of his father.

On Sunday we explored the great commission from Matthews gospel; “go and Make disciples“. That commission is good news, because we go on behalf of a God who is infinitely good, infinitely merciful, infinitely loving, in a way that doesn’t render these words meaningless.

Jesus will bring home ALL the lost sheep, like me, who kept trying to jump out of his arms and run away. What he won’t do is deliberately abandon the lost sheep out in the wilderness because he always intended to desert them, so he could demonstrate how he has the power to do so.

Why do you share the good news? I share it because it’s true. Because it is good news. God is the love that comes looking for us in the incarnation, cross and resurrection of Jesus – a love that is for us. Amazingly, we also have a love to give back to God that no one else in the universe can. Unrepeatable, irreplaceable, we carry the glory of God when we receive his love and return it. We show God’s glory when we become that love happening in the world.

The song above I wrote is called Beza’s song. It’s named after a contemporary of Calvin, Theodore Beza, who was another friend of the doctrine of double predestination. As far as I’m aware it’s the only anti – double predestination song around.

για τον Θεό τόσο αγαπούσε τον κόσμο

A tremendous powerlessness

Matthias Grünewald  (1512–1516 )
Letter from the Caucuses
Paul, Sarah Jane, Fiona

Last week I watched footage of Donald Trump directing the Chinese government to investigate a political rival. He said: “If they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous, power.”

The power to make something happen in the human world. We are well acquainted with power in these terms. So much of human history is a wrestling match to try to gain or limit this kind of power.

In the wrong hands power turns against truth and the unimaginable is given terrible form. As Joseph Stalin remarked: “One death is a tragedy, one million is a statistic.”

 “We have tremendous power.”

How does such expressions of human power compare with the power of God?

There are ways of speaking about God that sound like “We have tremendous power.” Usually when the sovereignty of God is put at odds with what we understand and experience as love. But I don’t think that voice is authentic – no more than a bit of theological ventriloquism.   

So what does the power of God look like in the world?

…like a child born in a basement where animals are sheltered. like a family seeking asylum in Egypt to escape a deadly tin-pot tyrant. Like a hand reaching into the isolation of a leper. Like a beggar at a well, asking for a drink from a woman no one else wanted anything from. Like a man staggering under the weight of a cross beam.

God’s power shows up in an abandoned, rejected life that is crucified. A man who might have said: “I have tremendous powerlessness.”

God lets himself be pushed out of the world onto the cross. He is weak and powerless in the world and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us...

…Christ helps us, not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering.”

Letters and papers from prison, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I remember one morning listening to an interview on Radio 4. An Jewish man was recounting his experience as a child imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. He described the day that the SS guards dragged out a group of failed escapees. They were to be executed in front of the whole camp. However, the executioners wouldn’t come from among the guards; it would be friends of the condemned men who were forced to execute them.

He described how the hands of one man shook and shook as he held the executioner’s noose. His condemned friend bent low, put his own head through the noose and kissed the trembling hands of his friend.

A tremendous powerlessness.

The Nazi guard was furious. he kicked away the condemned man’s chair.

I wrote the song Letter from the Caucuses after reading an article in the Guardian about trophy war photo’s many years ago. It tries to catch something Hanna Arendt wrote about Eichmann, one of the engineers of the holocaust.

“The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.”

Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil , Hannah Arendt

The banality of evil she called it. I try to voice that banality in the letter writer who even refers to St Christopher without any irony.

The Cello piece (played beautifully by Sarah Jane) are the growing voices of the silenced.

Cartography of a human heart…

Visual hunt
Own the world’s disgrace
Paul, Brandy, Sarah Jane, Fiona

There are home towns and ghost towns. Some of it I’m afraid to pass through. Some of it I love to revisit. There are places I won’t go but need to. That land sits like a diamond on black velvet or a single light wooing the distance surrounded by dark.

There are highlands I want to climb, but never seem to get beyond the foothills. Or they get shrouded by cloud or I turn a corner and find myself somewhere else.

The journey of becoming a person needs the cartography of a human heart and no one is born with a map.

I’m thinking about Sunday and asking what is the world of a human heart like?

It’s pleasure and sadness. It’s gift and loss. It’s discovering and forgetting. It is answered and unanswered question. It’s chaos and peace, loneliness and laughter, sorrow and solace.

This is some of the landscape in our worlds. The worlds we inhabit. The worlds beneath our skin. That mostly we fear showing or admitting even to ourselves, until we try to tidy bits of it away- like hiding dirty washing behind the couch where our guest is seated – and hope to God they don’t find it there.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world but people loved darkness… and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 

Johns gospel

How often do we allow the light to reach into the darkness of self-reproach. To fall on the the harm we do ourselves. The harsh judgments we make on our living, or the excuses we wear like dark glasses over all we fear admitting. We are afraid and get angry at the thought of being exposed.

Sometimes we trust others with a glimpse of our world, but not too much because we suspect there’s too much that won’t be accepted for what it is, and will be met with condemnation rather than love.

Not pure daylight or shapless midnight dark – our inner world is shadowed, complex, capable of great tenderness and cruelty. It’s warped and wounded, needy and illusory, selfish and selfless, hungry and hurt in ways we are too embarrassed for others to see.

And we try to find our way through it without a map.

Into this world comes the light of God. Is God’s light a prison searchlight? Is it the bare bulb of an inquisitor in your face? Is it as the harsh unblinking stare of neon?

No. It’s not.

To have God’s light search your hidden and secret life is to let gentleness touch were we are angry, kindness fold around our failure, forgiveness clothe our naked shame. To be searched by God’s light is to be loved exactly at the point you thought you were unlovable – if we won’t move away.

Let this light search for us in the shadowed backstreets of who we are, inviting us out into the open, like the dawn slowly and gently giving shape to what is there, attuning our eyes to see.

Jesus is the light of the world who gently, honestly, with great tenderness wants to show us who we truly are. Jesus is the cartographer of every human heart.

I wrote the song above about my parents generation. Born in the mid 1930’s just before the second world war. it’s the cartography of their world. And part of it echoes with a story my gran told me. A true story. It happened during the second world war, on a winters day, at Garscube road in Glasgow.

Mary Fisher was making her way through the snow on an errand to the butchers for her gran. What happened to her is in the song. The song is called own the world’s disgrace.

Light and shadow and where we linger, uncertain in between. Come, light of Christ, and find us.

found in translation…

Between the stars
Paul, brandy, Fiona & Davie

I found this while clearing out my parents house. It’s an old Latin jotter from school (complete with it’s eye watering wallpaper cover). These days the only Latin I can translate is Caecilius est Pater, which answers the question: whose the daddy? Nothing else in the world of Latin makes any sense to me.

Who isn’t trying to make sense of their life? Who isn’t in some way translating what happens, what we do or is done to us, into a meaningful story – even if for some the meaning becomes there is no meaning, which is a pretty dark wood to enter. The human world without God, without Jesus, has a darkness that we run out of matches to light.

Deciphering life into a meaningful story. How do you make sense of yours?

I was thinking this morning how my life only makes sense if God is who Jesus shows God to be in his life, through his death and by his resurrection. My life makes no sense outside of the truth of all this rippling through my experience. The story of my hope, my joy, with its love and loss and flaw doesn’t make sense without Jesus.

To say I’ve decided to live this way feels a bit misleading. As though I’ve chosen between 2 items, both of which are pretty much the same and I just happen to have opted for this one: living as if the world is shot through with the presence of God.

It’s feels more like an ongoing and growing commitment to someone I’ve encountered, that offers shape, gives meaning to whatever else happens in my life.

My life only makes sense as I receive and return the love of God that comes to me in Jesus. That makes the pages of my story. The beautiful thing is how this love has more and more to reveal. It’s a story that never ends. There’s always another chapter to surprise and enjoy. Always more to come after the full stop of a sad sentence.

Evangelism for me is now an entirely positive action: inviting others to step inside the love that God has for them and to live out a loving response to that love.

What is your story? How might God help you know and tell it differently.

The song above again is an older song I wrote and recorded ages ago. It’s a question mark of a song.

words made flesh…

Otto Dix: sermon on the mount
the Judas tree
Paul, brandy, Fiona & Davy

Jesus kneels in the midnight garden under the Passover stars, waiting to flesh out what he once told a crowd from a Galilean hillside: “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

His friends won’t hang around long enough to test those words for themselves, not least Judas, kissing the cheek of Jesus and the bloodless lips of despair.

have you noticed that friendship with Jesus isn’t well received by everyone. In fact, to become a friend of Jesus will make us an easy target for some…

…Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness sake, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

How does that happen in our experience? Do we even know what persecution is? In Scotland Christians are routinely dismissed by secular culture, sometimes mocked, mostly ignored – but persecuted?

Rowan Williams described true persecution as:

(the) “systematic brutality and often murderous hostility that means that every morning you wonder if you and your children are going to live through the day”.

Rowan Williams, the Guardian,

On that count the church in Scotland is very definitely not suffering persecution for being Christian.

one body…

Does that mean this beatitude of Jesus falls silent before our experience? No, I think it does way more than that. The blessing of the persecuted becomes an invitation to us. An invitation to what?

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,”

The book of Acts chapter 9

Whatever happens to church happens to Jesus. That is what Jesus is telling Saul here. Whatever you do to that little posse of poor and weary folk you are chasing through Damascus, you do to me. After he became Paul, Saul put it like this: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

Whatever happens to one part of the church affects the whole, because we are all a part of Christ’s body. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.

It was a school show and she watched her son arrive in a group of 3 other boys from his year. They were talking and laughing with one another as they sat down. Her son was there, listening and laughing as if a part of it all. But she knew by their body language he was not. None of the other 3 boys cared if her son was there or not. She knew that her son understood this too as he pretended he was part of the group. Invisible to others, but as real as anything or anyone in the hall, the unspoken sadness shared between them.

To love other people is to suffer when they suffer. What is happening to Christians around the world shouldn’t be ignored simply because of distance. We are more connected than geography. We are family; closer than that – we are part of one body.

The persecution of Christians in other parts of the world summons us to respond. Persecution is an invitation to act: What can we give? What can we say? What can we do? We have something to gift to the persecuted church.

friendship with God…

The persecuted church needs our help. But they have a gift for us. We need their wisdom. We need their witness.

He taught her how to make soup when she was a girl. Good soup. Shirley looked after him as he grew older. She never told him, but he had been the gravity that pulled her out of a destructive orbit.

She took him on holiday. They would fly to Spain. Great. But what he didn’t know was the money Shirley put away each week was how she’d decided to kick her long standing habit. She knew she wouldn’t get any gear through customs. Week on week Shirley put the money away and not in a dealers hands until she and her father caught the plane as spent two weeks in the sun. On that holiday Shirley got clean.

That was some time back. Here he was in a hospital bed. Unconscious. No more than 24 hours left. The most important thing in her whole world was being here with him. There was nothing more important: No pleasure, no sorrow, no ambition, no fear, nothing else mattered more than being here, now.

Sometimes we are set free to live towards what matters most to us. Sometimes we find the freedom to let go of what we like, prefer, don’t have much time for – all that becomes unimportant as we grasp what really matters to us, matters so much nothing else can take its place.

That is a gift of the persecuted church to us. The gift of their faithful sorting out between what matters and what does not. The gift of finding your true self. And for a Christian who we are is a friend and brother of Jesus and a child of God: a beloved child of God. No pleasure, no sorrow, no ambition, no fear, nothing else matters more, nothing else is more real than the truth of that.

The persecuted Church know that truth in their daily living. That truth is setting them free. Not setting them free from pain, or suffering. But free to know who they truly are, free to know what really matters and what does not, free to let God be God, free to find themselves held and journeying towards their hearts desire. Their witness is a gift for us.

blessed are those persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The persecuted church are already touching the kingdom of heaven: palm to palm. For what is the kingdom of heaven if it’s not friendship with the king? Jesus takes the persecuted into the living room of God the father’s mercy, healing and love.

Is that not a gift we need? to learn in the stupor of consumerism, with it’s plethora of choices, false promises of satisfaction, capricious generosity – how to be put back in touch with what really matters.

The gift the of the persecuted church is the gift of lived freedom. Their witness wants to free us from the chains of ambitions and fears and distractions we’ve given center stage in our story. To know instead God as the center of our joy and peace, God as the relentless hope refusing to be pushed out of our life by pain and suffering.

That’s a gift the persecuted church gifts to us: The gift of seeing clearly and letting go of what doesn’t matter. The gift of entering the living room of God. Learning to trust God to be God for us. Learning to praise God for being God for us. The gift described by the novelist Frederick Buechner:

…trust him. And praise him too. Praise him for all we leave behind us in our traveling. Praise him for all we lose that lightens our feet, for all that the long road of the years bears off like a river. Praise him for stillness in the wake of pain. But praise him too for the knowledge that what’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and that all the dark there ever was, set next to the light, would scarcely fill a cup.

Frederick Buechner, novelist, Minister

the Judas tree

The song above is a few years old now. I think it wants to recognize that the process of learning what matters most and letting go what doesn’t is never going to be painless or easy. Sometimes, waiting for the in breaking of joy leaves us in a vulnerable place of lament. So the song is a prayer of lament. Asking that even when we are tempted to despair (on the Judas tree) God will find us even there.

come down from the tree…

Soiche Watanabe
paul & Sarah Jane

(thoughts for sunday…)

It was the kind of day no different from the one before… as familiar as your mother’s face. And yet before the sun had set, for some in this town, everything taken for granted would be turned upside down.

Jericho wasn’t the place he was going. It was just somewhere to pass through on his way to Jerusalem. Had it been here Jesus passed through can you imagine?

The shutters coming down on Scot-Mid; people spilling out of the Tom Craig; children freed from the classrooms at primary, as the regulars at the auld store bar finished up their pint and joined the length of the village to catch a glimpse of Jesus passing through.

That’s how it was the day Jesus came through Jericho. People Lining the streets and wondering if he’d do something, something that might take your breath away. People of Jericho- be careful what you wish for.

And here’s wee Zacchaeus trying to squeeze in, find some space to see – but nobody will make room for him. Had it been in Law do you think folks would have said of him: Aye We knew his father…he was a wean when he came to this village…he’s an incomer – the way small places sometimes see the world through parochial eyes.

When the bible calls Zacchaeus Chief tax collector and rich man, these are not descriptions – they are terms of abuse.

A tax collector – he should have a mask on…

A tax collector – he doesn’t care how he makes his money…

A tax collector – I don’t know how he can sleep at night…

And Zacchaeus is the chief tax collector.

Rich: he’s just take, take, take…

Rich: his clothes cost weans their bread…

his house was paid for by evicting widows…

In Jericho Zacchaeus was the scraping of a shoe.

reasons for attendance…

So why is the wee man here in the company a crowd who read his character? He wanted to see Jesus. But if he is the town villain why did he bother turning out to see Jesus?What was he expecting to see? What do we expect to see? Jesus: a character from a story like an image in the scrap book of history…

Or Jesus: the presence of God in flesh and blood, passing alongside wherever we are in doubt and struggle; beside our frustration and pain; Jesus in the back streets of our secret heart and hidden selves, where the sundried parts of our failure leave us for dead.

Maybe Zacchaeus wants to see for himself if the rumours about what Jesus said were true:

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus, Marks gospel

Call them what…call them names? Call them out? Call them for what they should have done but haven’t? Call what they have done but shouldn’t?

Or call like a mother when her children have wandered too far away; call beyond the prison yard of our unstable self-esteem; call out of our being something more than we ever imagined was there.

what’s in the way?

But all that was immaterial because Zacchaeus couldn’t see, because the crowd was in the way…

I wonder what blocks our view of seeing Jesus as the presence of God:

Passing through our hurts with mending…

Passing through our loneliness with welcome…

Passing through our frustration with patience…

Challenging our shame with the gift of forgiveness.

I reckon we all have distractions and fears that crowd our view and obscure what we can see of Jesus. I also reckon Jesus comes to the place where our vison is overcrowded by fears of the future and guilt from the past. Jesus meets us where we struggle like shouting Zacchaeus down from a tree, surprising us by wanting to come where we live.

And in that shout the story turns as Jesus is no longer passing through – he is staying: I must stay at your house today.

The story is no longer about Zacchaeus wanting to see who Jesus was but about Jesus coming to where Zacchaeus lives.

Are we ready to come down from the tree? Or are we afraid of the voices inside us as much as outside that question our friendship with Jesus.

little voice…

“It’s no right”…go the mumbles and moans…Whatever surprises the crowd hoped to see it wasn’t ready for this: Jesus do you have any idea who he is!

He’s the wee guy that lines his pockets with what we’ve not got…he’s the wee guy who works the area for the Romans…he’s not got an ounce of humanity it in him…

And from somewhere inside himself Zacchaeus finds the strength to challenge those voices: that’s not who I am…

What?

Zacchaeus finds a voice…

Sometimes what Zacchaeus says next is translated as something he will do from now on. As if Jesus calling him down the tree changes how Zaccheus will behave. But that’s not what Zacchaeus says, in the original New testament Greek what Zacchaeus says next is in the present tense:

Listen:  

I give half of what I make back to the poor

Not I will give – but I already do…

And if someone pays too much

 they get four times as much back…

Not they will get – but they already do..

Zacchaeus finds a voice to say I am not who the crowd say I am. Yes I work with the Herodians. Yes I work with the Romans. Yes I manage the whole thing and I more than get by, but I’m not who the crowd say I am.

I give half of what I make back to the poor and if someone pays too much they get four times as much back…

It turns out that Zacchaeus is as good as his name: Righteous…

And Jesus has a choice. He can listen to the crowd’s opinion: tax collectors are tax collectors after all or he can take Zacchaeus at his word…What’s it going to be Jesus?

who do you say I am?

Wee man, Jesus says, or the Aramaic equivalent, You are a son of Abraham, You belong, You are part of God’s family, You are in, welcome, You have a place beyond the crowds prejudice, beyond their resentment – You Zacchaeus are more than they think and your heart is somewhere God can make a home in – welcome back to the people of God.

That’s some of what it means when Jesus says: Salvation is coming to your house today. Jesus acts out how Zaccheus belongs to the people of God- reconcilled – an act of making peace. Coming to where he lives.

To the prejudice of the crowd he is a tax collector. He Works for the enemy – So the people of Jericho took for granted he was a thief and cheat- they made him an outsider. Jesus says – no – not in my eyes.

I imagine the wee guy walking back home with Jesus feels like he’s the tallest man in the village. He was at peace with who he was, at peace with the God who met him in Jesus. At peace with his community? They had no reason left to treat him as an outsider anymore, but if our troubled times tell us anything it tells us how people sometimes cherish their own warped version of reality. They can’t bring themselves to acknowledge what’s true.

peacemaking…

One of the things this story says to me is: peace making will always involve seeing more than lazy prejudice, seeing beyond the labels people are given. Law parish church should be somewhere in the village where we learn how to see goodness in someone and reflect that back to them…

Where we learn to see the uniqueness in each life, the beauty that has been wounded or crushed…seeing with patience…seeing with understanding…Seeing someone until they see reflected back in our gaze, not as a category but as someone God loves.

Peace-making gives someone a chance to tell their story even when everyone presumes they know it already. Peace-making gives room for more than what we all take for granted about people: migrant, asylum seeker, disabled, gay, pensioner, youngster, socialist, lesbian, nationalist, Tory, brexiter, remainer…whatever the label is: Peace won’t happen until we get to know the person behind the category – until like Jericho, we are surprised how what we took for granted turned out to be wrong -turned out to be ignorance masquerading as truth.

Peace making embraces the words of Rowan Williams:

The world is more than you ever thought. You are more than you ever thought. God is more than you can ever think. And you are not trapped in the story you tell yourself about yourself. That’s a vision worth sharing.

Rowan Williams (Luminaries)

come down from the tree…

Something else catches the sleeve of my thoughts. Jesus says: come down from the tree Zaccheus. Why?

Because I must climb up the tree…the tree they plant outside the city walls of Jerusalem; a barren tree, dead tree, where I shall be pinned by three roman nails.

And they shall call up: loser, sinner, chancer, god-forsaken also ran…and they will say come down from the tree- if your the son of god – if you think you can…

But I won’t come down, not until there’s room for everyone to find they are more than the story others tell of them, more than the story they tell themselves, more than we think or imagine, until the doors are unlocked on human heart where I long to come home: it’s called salvation.

postscript…

I wrote the song above some time ago. It’s called diving for stars. It imagines the aftermath of a village that’s been visited by those who cannot see human beings any more, only categories. It jumps between the aftermath of a vist by “cleansers”, and the time before troubles began when people saw one another as neighbours.