BORNE IN CHRIST

•September 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment
Truth

Truly I tell you…

TELLING THE TRUTH is seldom easy. Appeasement, turning a blind eye, blaming circumstance or another, and more so if that other is not present; these are easier. But the truth, however avoided or suppressed never goes away. When Jesus speaks to us, whether through Scripture, through prayer or nature, through the eyes or voice of stranger or companion, he looks into our very soul, “Truly, I tell you…” And he calls us, who would be “Followers of the Way”, to do the same.

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault”

Sin and fault are English translations of Jesus’ words and they carry a judgementalism alien to their intention. Hurt might be better. Go and tell her/him how you are hurting because of something they have said or done or are doing. Start with the pain. Ask why. Beyond that, “I see that you are hurting too. Have I done something to hurt you?” Be prepared to listen. Let the direction be reconciliation not retribution, and certainly not “comp”!

“…if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector”

Humility is necessary for reconciliation. Humility is not backing down because conflict has not been averted by gentle directness. If the offender has not yet found the humility to listen even to the church (ecclesia, Matthew’s term, does not refer to church hierarchy but to the people of the church community), then they place themselves at this moment outside that community. However, Gentile and tax collector are far from lost causes to Jesus! It is to the outsider he goes. And when he goes, he says, “Truly I tell you…” And he encourages us, “The first will be last, and the last will be first…” Pick up your cross. Tell the truth. Take the pain and you will find that the pain is already borne.

Advertisements

IMPEDING THE FLOW

•September 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment

slave forgive   

… the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” (Matthew 18.27-28)

        JESUS WAS/IS NOT a teacher of morality, offering a code of conduct that, if adhered to step by step, leads to righteousness. Jesus is a teacher of wisdom (Greek σοφία sophia; Hebrew חָכְמָה chochmah). The aim of Jesus’ wisdom teaching is to unblock in us and in the world that which impedes the flow of God’s grace.

Through God’s grace, WHAT IS is. According to the prologue of John’s Gospel, Christ is himself the eternal word/logos/being through which all being came, comes and will come. But for God’s grace to be God’s grace, free will is a given. Absolute love might conceivably be poured out from the centre of the cosmos and travel through all space and time, all being and every being, unimpeded. At least, per human logic it might. However, the receiving of such unimpeded flow would, without free will, be wholly passive and thus rendered unconscious, soul-less even. Without free will (and with it the seemingly boundless capacity to use it destructively!) ‘human being’ would be better described ‘android being’.

OK, this might be getting complicated and there’s only a little space left. Look. Jesus’ story this morning, the slaves and forgiveness of debts, is about the divine flow of God’s unconditional love. The first slave seems to have repented and his master has forgiven him. Forgiveness has unblocked the divine flow for the slave because the debt has been eased and made possible to remove. THAT DOESN’T MEAN HE CAN JUST GO AND DO WHAT HE WANTS NOW! But it does mean the block has gone and he can stand once more in the full flow of God’s grace. However, the slave has learned nothing. No wisdom has replaced that which was impeding his life (sin and debt have their roots here), and straight away he grabs his own debtor by the throat!

The slave has thrown back into the flow a giant rock in the place of the earlier impediment. The flow is blocked. The slave has disrespected his new-found freedom and handed himself over ‘to be tortured.’

 

 

DON’T WASTE YOUR WILDNESS

•August 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment

wildness

Now…Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain (to be alone) to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed… (Matthew 17.1-2)

        “WE ARE ANIMAL in our blood and in our skin,” wrote Jay Griffiths in her book, Wild: An Elemental Journey. “We were not born,” according to her way of feeling or thinking, “for pavements and escalators but for thunder and mud…What is wild cannot be bought or sold, borrowed or copied. It is. Unmistakeable, unforgettable, unshamable, elemental as earth and ice, water, fire and air, a quintessence, pure spirit, resolving into no constituents. Don’t waste your wildness: it is precious and necessary. Wildness is the universal songline…”

It is no coincidence that Peter, John and James are  in the wild when they experience Christ transfigured, when they catch a glimpse of their familiar, yet enigmatic spiritual leader, Jeshua, as he really is. Jesus has taken them away from the crowds, up into the wilderness, where so often he goes alone to pray. He shows them his own spiritual path and the wilderness paths of the prophets and mystics from before and after their own allotted time on this earth.

Many of our churches in Gower are built on the sites of the cells of the earliest Celtic saints, who came here because it was a wild place. As far as European cultures were concerned, Gŵyr was a near-island sticking out from the edge of the world into the unknown, untameable sea. Like the Desert Fathers, with whom it seems the early Celtic church was in communion, our mystic ancestors learned to read the beautiful, dangerous land-seascape, not as consumers, extracting what is useful, informative or entertaining, but as lovers, desiring to taste and smell its material/spiritual secrets, lingering over it, drinking it into the soul, until Christ in them be transfigured and made bright white in wild, holy Light.

It’s holiday time now and some of us will, quite ironically, go way from this place to seek solitude and so be refreshed; may the time be deeply blessed. But there will also be many coming to Gower seeking what for most of them isn’t even consciously known. In Christ, may we be conscious of their hunger and may we seek to help whoever we can, quietly and gently, connect with this wild, holy place and, through this, may Christ awaken to them the Christ in them.

Bendith Duw i chi.   Fr Tim

 

 

The Soil And The Seed And The Light

•July 15, 2017 • Leave a Comment

“…hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,

that in their vocation and ministry they may serve you in holiness and truth to the glory of your name (from today’s Collect)

lampto-feet-2       TODAY, WE WILL hear again Jesus’ famous parable of the sewer and the seeds, as well as a story about the early descendants (grandsons) of Abraham, to whom the three major Middle Eastern faiths trace their roots, and some Pauline teaching about flesh and spirit. We will praise God in hymns and psalm, whose word we will acclaim, “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” So how do we deal with this word? How can we approach it? How do we apprehend it, let it take root in us? How can we learn from it and move on, wiser, more in touch with God and creation, with ourselves and our fellow beings, the earth, our lives, history, more able to serve God “in holiness and truth?”

Well, to be simply asking these questions is a beginning, because to actually want to ask them is indicative of our intention. While I was praying with someone this week, focusing the prayer on some tough things going on in their life and in the lives of their loved ones, it struck me afresh that our faith is not in a God that manipulates the circumstances of our lives and makes this or that happen (this is an Ancient Grecian type of belief; I’ve said enough about that recently) but in the “ground of all being”, I AM, one true God who loves all and who gives all free choice. So, if our intention then is to exercise our free will to ask the deep questions, we are already working the soil into which the seeds of the sewer, Jesus Christ, are all the time falling.

Intention is a key to allowing the word, freely given and without coercion, to enlighten our path. This intention, once raised to our consciousness, will move us on through the layers of our existence, exposing to that which we really are, the eternal part of us, our true nature and that which is false or misguided. The word, be it embedded in our Bibles, our surroundings, the events of our lives, music, art, science…everything… will expose these things but our intention removes the veil. Each one of us is a field of good soil. But we also have places in that field which are barren, rocky and which provide easy pickings for the birds. If our intention leads us to contemplate the word openly and in truth, we will soon realise this. But as soon as we do, we begin, in the light of that same word, to till the soil.

CHOOSE LIFE

•June 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment
nazi

“Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

          IN THE PICTURE, Jesus is speaking to a Nazi soldier, whom it seems he has caught up with on a wilderness road. The idea of a Nazi soldier is of course a strong metaphor but it could easily be transferred to any other symbol of political, nationalist, religious or philosophical identification. At the deeper, spiritual levels, the conversation might parody the conversations of our inner lives, between our received and conceived egoic, worldly consciousness and the eternal divine in us. The soldier seems to have been marching, alone on this road. His steps still suggest the remnant of the march; there is still the vestige of the quickness of step, the straightness of direction and the largely unconscious, programmed adherence to its impetus. Contrast this with the openness and unhurriedness of Jesus’ movement. Christ has already disarmed the soldier and is carrying the burden of both gun and survival pack, the very things the soldier is programmed to believe he needs for his own survival and the propagation of his perceived cause, the mission of his programmers. There is now a slowing of the march, the right foot is drawn toward the Christ. He is listening to the Teacher, or confessing, or both. He is on the road to Life now, still in the wilderness for sure but there is yet light before sunset, or perhaps the new dawn is rising…

The weapon and the survival pack have been relinquished for now. Ahh… What relief… Bliss. But will the soldier ask for them back? Though Jesus will carry them and relieve the burden of them, he has not confiscated them. Will the soldier trust this newfound or re-experienced lightness of being, or will he wake in fear, like St Peter out of the boat on the Sea of Galilee, and snatch them back for fear of his life?

Christ’s offer of Life is open. Free. To accept the offer is to know love unconditional, cosmic, material, spiritual harmony. Do you trust it? Do you believe Him? Can such beautiful freedom really be what you, yes tiny little you, be made for? Can you give Christ your gun and your survival pack? Give it over, take it back, give it over… Huh?

TRINITY SUNDAY (The Dance Goes On)

•June 11, 2017 • Leave a Comment

dancing feet

…but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40.13)

 

ISAIAH IS such a poetic prophet (or two, even three prophets as literary theologians have suggested). But this is beautiful. The prophet has been telling of the dust-like nature of the nations, of human existence and history, in comparison to the greatness and vastness of the Creator, in whom all being, material, cosmic, spiritual, political, substantial, non-substantial, eternal, is held in perfect balance. The mountains, the sea and stars, wind and rain and all creatures commune with, in and through the Creator God, God beyond naming, whom just to speak of with any integrity requires poetry, art, myth and metaphor. Even these are not themselves sufficient but they open doors for the mind to pass through to a deeper awareness of what Is. In truth, great nations, kings, political leaders, rich or educated people all run out of steam and collapse, return to dust, under their own efforts. Even young, athletic men and women, in their physical prime, lose their strength and collapse after running, let’s face it, not very far. Even Usain Bolt is going to retire this year! No one can keep going long if they just rely on their own strength, their plans, schemes, training, personal or corporate expertise. But those who wait for the Lord, these will rise up like eagles on a warm thermal in the sky. Once again, the Bible teaches us the power of waiting for the Lord, contemplative prayer.

 

But this is Trinity Sunday, so a little theology might be helpful. Often, before a silent contemplation, I find it helpful to read some Scripture and think about it theologically for a while. I might then relate the reflection to something going on in the world or in my life, before letting all this go and falling into contemplation. Like music, painting or poetry, this kind of thinking often leads me to the door Christ speaks of in Revelation 3: “Behold I have left an open door before you, which no one can close”. That door, may we go through in our holy communion in a little while. May a little reflecting aid our path now.

 

The Great Commission – Matthew: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

 

Again, with poetic and beautiful language, Jesus gives his final instruction to his Apostles before Ascension. One of the biggest problems through the Christian era, has, I think, been the failure to understand the poetic and mystical nature of Jesus’ words and the teachings of the Hebrew Prophets. Instead, Christians, apart from the mystics, have almost always thought and taught in literalistic ways. Father, Son and Holy Spirit have been separated from each other and given delineated personification. This really misses the point of Jesus’ teaching and invents something completely different. So, what has been transmitted usually is a kind of hierarchical faith in an all-powerful, king-like man with a long white beard sitting on a throne, who sends his son to earth and blows some kind of strange creative and spiritual wind around the place, which the church has never quite managed to get a theology for. This has more to do with the almighty Zeus and the gods and goddesses of Ancient Greece and Rome than anything Jesus said or illustrated! Much of Western theology has been based on Greek and Roman philosophy, not on Jesus Christ or even the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth.

 

So, if Jesus did not mean that the church should go out and baptise people in the name of Zeus, Apollo and the Holy Musai (muses), then what was this Trinity he spoke about and which we celebrate together today?

 

The inheritance of Greek philosophy, through which religion has been lensed in the Western world, has led to an inherent dualism in Western conditioning. Something is right or it’s wrong, dark or light, good or bad and so on. This informs capitalism, competitive outlooks, hierarchical politics, nationalism, religion and just about everything else. But Jesus’ teaching and the parables and histories of the Bible are non-dualistic. There is much human dualistic thought recorded and parodied in the Scriptures but the flow is non-dualistic. The Divine which emerges through below the surface reading is non-dualistic. Jesus is inclusive, universal, cosmic.

 

The Creation story in Genesis gives us a clue from the outset by using plural pronouns: “Let us create in our image” (Genesis 1:26-27). Of course, this is problematic for monotheistic Judaism and Christianity and it took centuries to work out the doctrine of the Trinity. The Church Fathers (eg Gregory of Nyssa, Basil of Caesarea, and Gregory Nazianzen) of fourth century eastern Turkey finally turned to a word from Greek theatre, perichoresis—circle dance—to describe God’s character, God’s being: relationship and communion. In the beginning was relationship.

 

Richard Rohr has written, “God is not the dancer but the dance itself! God is much more a dynamic verb than a static noun. God is constant flow. You don’t even need to understand it intellectually or theologically to participate in the flow of God. You are already there. Within your heart, body, and mind is an implanted flow toward life, goodness, love, communion, and connection. “Sin” is quite simply any resistance to that flow.

 

Trinity Sunday, then is not about any complicated formula for baptism or for literally describing how God is three and yet one, for the sake of monotheistic integrity. It is about dance and flow, communion and connection.

 

We are never separate from God or from each other, even from life or death, not ever, though we often twist our minds to think that we are, or else we have them twisted for us!

 

Let’s go now to our Eucharist, Holy Communion, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of time…” Oh, and, by the way, time that begins and ends, that’s just an illusion imagined by linear-thinking historians…The dance goes on…

St Patrick knew the dance very well. Let’s imagine a moment St Patrick and the Gower saints, who slept with their heads on the grass or in a bed of leaves, on the cliff edge or under a tree, who moved with nature’s dance to take the gospel of truth so all with feet to dance may…dance…

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

 

dance in peace

 

RETURN TO JESUS MOVEMENT (a contemplation on the Highlights of Church in Wales Governing Body Synod)

•June 7, 2017 • Leave a Comment

fire-wind

You can see “Highlights” here: http://cinw.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Highlights-April-2017-English-ONLINE-FINAL.pdf

Post Easter Highlights – Governing Body of the Church in Wales – sub title – ‘Put Evangelism at the heart of your ministry’. Various members of C in W governing body are quoted then as to what they think this means. Like any group of quotations, you might find some of them insightful, others less so. Personally, I don’t find much of interest here at all but I notice Bishop John has been given the front page and there is one moment in what he says that explodes in me like light – “We need to become, afresh, a Jesus movement. But – and this is a big ‘but’ – we have to begin with ourselves, we have to re-evangelise our life – because unless we really know what we are about…there is little point in trying to reach out to others and to invite them in.”

Look, the rest of this document is just discussions among church leaders, basically buzz-wording about how to reach out to others and invite them in. But Bishop John has cut through the strategies and imaginings and pontifications to the core of what the church is supposed to be about and hopefully what the church is on her sometimes beautiful, often ugly journey toward becoming, what she started out as being when she received the breath of Christ, Christ’s-self, a Jesus movement. That is, a church which moves absolutely in the flow of Christ’s being, Christ’s consciousness, and offers to carry the whole of humanity, the whole of creation, the world and the universe, right into the very heart of God. And Christ has told and Christ reveals to us everywhere, that that flow to the heart of God leads right into the heart of our own being, into the atomic micro-element, if you like, of being. We are whom we are becoming.

 

So how do we return to being Jesus Movement? Well I am sure it is not about converting anyone to our religion. Many people in the world, many in our villages here in North Gower, say they are interested in the spiritual but not in religion. There is a growing awareness, a rising from the unconscious to the conscious minds of people, that the programmes for material success and fulfilment that we have been taught to follow, do not lead to happiness or any kind of profound fulfilment. Western capitalism forgot about the spiritual nature of human being, but human being is waking up and beginning to remember. We can see evidence of this in the breaking down of political and institutional allegiances and the questioning of their motives and honesty. But there is danger here and I believe the church, though, institutionally, might quite rightly be being brushed aside, has a crucial role to play. And I believe the church can play this role and will play this role. But it has nothing to do with converting people into anything, which is the basic precept of evangelism. It has, instead, everything to do with teaching the people to pray. It’s that simple. Teach people to pray, so that they may know God, not through any theories or laws but through direct experience. It’s simple and it’s beautiful. It requires no strategies or tactics, no politics, no stressful administration.

 

It’s right here in our readings today. It is right here in any reading, any Sunday, any morning or evening prayer, anytime we use Scripture. But here as we celebrate Pentecost, it’s the outpouring fire on the Apostles and indiscriminately on the people of Jerusalem, the Paracletic breath of Christ in John’s Gospel, the gifts of the Spirit described in 1 Corinthians, the creative Wisdom, Hochma, Sophia, in Psalm 104. What puts us in touch with all of it, is prayer, contemplative prayer. Between Ascension and Pentecost, Acts tells us the Apostles and the women who followed Jesus, the very Jesus Movement itself, spent their time, in the upper room in Jerusalem, “praying constantly”.

How were they praying? Well, Jesus had taught them how. They’d witnessed him going alone to pray in the morning early and in the evening late and they’d asked him to teach them ~ Matthew 6: When you pray, go into your room. Close the door and pray to your Father, who can’t be seen. Your Father will reward you, because he sees what you do secretly. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: Abba… Intimate, loving, simple, he is teaching them contemplative prayer. There is nothing we can experience on this earth more beautiful and more fulfilling than to pray like this. If we can pass this on to people, then we are doing the most beautiful thing we can do, we are taking our place in the flow; we are quite simply being the Jesus Movement. We are artists. Great art is great because it touches the soul, leads you into contemplation, the deepest prayer. By the grace of God, we can teach many people to pray.

Let’s practice a little now and then let us receive together God’s body, God’s blood, God’s life, God’s consciousness…remember who you are and who’s you are…

You can practice this just about anywhere, any time.

Be still and know that I am God – (silence – 2 mins? – you decide)

Be still and know that I am – (silence)

Be still and know that I

Be still and know that

(reduce each time until just ‘Be’)

longer silence – just Be – be conscious but try not to think, about anything, just be. You are wth God always. God is closer to you than your own breath.

 

 
%d bloggers like this: