WAIT, BE STILL

•December 1, 2018 • Leave a Comment
stay awake

“Be alert at all times…stand before the Son of Man”. (Luke 21.36)

SIGNS IN THE SUN, moon and stars, trouble among nations, rising sea levels, storms and wars… Our apocalyptic introduction to the gospel for a new Christian Year is physically and politically timely! Global warming, would-be empire proxy-warfare, melting ice caps, petrol/plastic poisoned planet, Brexit and Donald Trump vs Vlad Putin (or any available posturing tyrant with a Twitter account) could so easily be written into a footnote to the passage we’re reading from St Luke’s gospel this first Sunday of Advent.
So is this it then? End of Days? Second Coming of Christ? Could this really be the time? Apocalypse finally now?
Yes of course it could! No, of course it isn’t! Yes. No. I don’t know. Who knows? It seems pretty much every generation spawns those, sometimes many, who think they are living in the Last Days.
Perhaps it is a facet of human personality to think that of course it’s all going to end in ‘my’ life time. After all, ‘I’ am the one who is trying to make sense of all this, looking out at time and space through these eyes, in this head, with this brain…well you know what I’m saying. It’s ego thinking. Ego is driven by the instinct to survive. Ego is helpful to us in life threatening situations, fight or flight, ‘should I stay or should I go now’ moments. But ego ceases to be helpful when its survival at all costs mentality takes control of our whole thinking, feeling consciousness. When we believe we actually are our brain, body or ego, then we lose sight of our true being, our eternal existence in the true Oneness of being that we name God. This is how we let the ‘storms’ and ‘wild seas’ that Jesus spoke about overwhelm us.
But the Word of God (Christ, Christ’s self, according to the Prologue in John’s gospel) is within each one of us, to be found in the centre of our being, dug in like treasure in a field of grace by God. Advent is a time to reconnect with the treasure, the kingdom of God in us, with the Christ who comes like a baby, saying, “Wait, be still, see, HERE I AM.”

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SEE THESE GREAT BUILDINGS?

•November 17, 2018 • Leave a Comment
pob clense

“…grant that we, having this hope (faith/eternal Life in Christ)
may purify ourselves even as he is pure” (today’s Collect)
‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down’ (Mark 13.2)

WHEN JESUS pointed to the finely built walls of the Jerusalem Temple and told his followers that it would all fall down, he may have been speaking literally, in prophecy, about the destruction that would happen there some 40 years later when the might of Rome would crush their nation’s rebellions, striking at the heart of Judaic consciousness, obliterating their religious place along with their ‘holy’ city. Many scholars and religious people have argued the case for this. No doubt there is truth in this and Jesus foresaw the physicality of it. Mark’s gospel moves quickly on from this moment, as Mark’s gospel always does. However, when John’s gospel reports this saying, the narrative doesn’t jump quite so quickly. John adds, “But when Jesus said ‘this temple,’ he meant his own body”.
The writer of John’s gospel wrote decades later than Mark (probably, incidentally, after the literal destruction of the Temple). John’s gospel is theologically much more advanced. It was written after many years of contemplation, prayer and reflection on the life and ministry of Jesus by someone who traveled with him, slept rough with him, lived hand to mouth with him, ministered with him and sat as a student daily at his feet. John’s is a mystical gospel, with a spirituality more east than west. John’s gospel understands Jesus not as a moralistic indoctrinator of Greek influenced philosophic but as a wisdom master, more Tao Te Ching than Athenian Academy.
John reads Jesus’ actions and teachings as “signs” or teachings about the nature of the kingdom of heaven, which , as Jesus taught all who had “ears” and “eyes”, is among us, within us, now, always. They are signs about our own eternal nature, unseparated from the Oneness that is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Christ is Son but he came to teach us that we are all Son/Daughter/Child of the Oneness. Mark gives us the action, John gives us the meaning. Contemplating all this opens us, as it did St John, to the purification of our souls we have asked for in our Collect this Sunday. We don’t do the purifying, God does it. But we have to provide the intention. Be still. Know God.

NOT FAR FROM THE EVER AND EVER

•November 5, 2018 • 1 Comment
Vitruvian Man

“Almighty and eternal God, you have kindled the flame of love
in the hearts of the saints: grant to us the same faith and power of love…” (today’s Collect)
“One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ (Mark 12.28)

THE SCHOLAR approaches Jesus in this morning’s Gospel reading with a testing question about the Torrah. It is a test of orthodoxy perhaps and is legalistic with moralistic undertones. Religion to this day is often seen in such a way, like a scaffold of ‘correct’ beliefs and rules designed to help ‘believers’ join the dots to salvation and so be worthy to enter some variously prescribed version of after-life eternal bliss. For Christians, largely because of words often found in the gospels on the lips of Jesus, this is often thought about in terms of kingdom of God, kingdom of heaven or just heaven. Due to political dominance through the ages of empire versions of Christianity, earthly kingdom type imagery has often been efficacious, leaving many generations spiritually groaning under the weight of impossible morality. Of course, this is not surprising; people whose default setting is an inherent sense of failure to live up to pre-programmed ideals, are susceptible to authoritarian control.
But Jesus says the scholar is not far from the kingdom of God. This law-scribe has shown Jesus that actually he can perceive the love of God beneath his own religious and social programming. For Jesus, this kingdom has nothing to do with earthly kings or political leaders. Malkuthach, central to Jesus’ message and normally translated “kingdom,” is really about what guides us in our souls; it is that which empowers us to go forward in the face of all difficulties, a creative potential aching to be realised. Malkuthach is linked in Aramaic to shamayin – heavens – less a place than a movement of being, like “light and sound shining through all creation” (Dr Neil Douglas-Klotz).
Jesus was never a teacher of morality but rather he opened the consciousness of whoever had ears to listen, so that they might see God within themselves, timeless, eternal, and so be able to enter in this life the kingdom state, consciousness or guiding principle of God. In doing this a person becomes ripe to inherit oneness, completeness in the ‘world to come’.

THE LIVING WORD (BIBLE SUNDAY)

•October 27, 2018 • Leave a Comment

kells

BY THE FINAL SCENE in the Book of Job, the title character has been stripped to the core. Everything he thought he knew about life and God, religion and morality, righteousness and just rewards, politics and philosophy, has been ripped away from him, along with his family, his wealth, social standing and everything else. Finally he is able to come to God and simply let God be God. Similarly the blind beggar in Mark’s gospel came to Jesus in the street, simply knowing God being God in Christ and asking Christ to open his eyes. All is restored and more to Job and to the blind beggar the moment they let go all sense of self-righteousness and instead trust completely in God. This is the meaning too of the psalm, where the ‘poor soul’ of the singer-poet cries from the depth of her/his being and is heard.
There is much to interest us and teach us in reading the Bible. But to keep it only on the level of mind and intellect would be tragic, stifling to our life’s walk with God. No doubt, this Bible Sunday there will be enough debate in churches and outside them about Scripture and which translations are best and what we can learn about being a Christian, living a ‘good life’ etc. Fine. But if it ends there, then it won’t bring anyone any closer to the living God. You have heard the Bible described as the ‘living word’ and for sure it has the power to give us life. So let’s make an intention from today, if it’s not already done, to read a little every day, not just with the brain and its questions but with our ‘poor souls’. Read a few sentences, not too much, 3 or 4 times, slowly, letting go the need to know, just asking God to open the eyes of our souls.

MINDS OF THUNDER, BE STILL

•October 20, 2018 • Leave a Comment
Ignatius_of_Antiochie

“Grant, we beseech you, merciful Lord, to your faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins and serve you with a quiet mind” (from today’s collect)
“And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your
right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’” (Mark 10.37)

THERE WAS much noise in the minds of James and John, whom Jesus nicknamed ‘Boanerges’ (Sons of Thunder). Jesus loved these fishermen for their passion and rawness but in our reading from Mark today they mirror some of the noises in all our minds – the conscious/unconscious programmes of competitive societies, the conscious/unconscious neediness for attention, security, notoriety, recognition, acceptance, wealth, power and so much more.
James and John have been with Jesus some time now and experienced the highs and lows of life on the road with the charismatic Christ, loved by outcasts, opposed by the rich and powerful. They have come to understand deep inside that the power of God is with them in this Christ, though their minds struggle hopelessly to make sense of how and why. But their guts and hearts sense without doubt that the religious and secular powers that rule their material lives are nothing in relation to the power this Jesus of Nazareth embodies and their minds can only equate that with his inevitable coming into recognized dominion as king of the world. James and John simply want to claim their reward and be sure of prime seats when the kingdom comes to pass, as it surely soon will. Jesus quietens the thundering minds of his students and gives them hochma, Wisdom, just like Yahweh speaking silence out of the whirlwind in Job’s mind in our OT reading this morning.
In today’s collect we ask God to give us “quiet mind” and so be able to serve God. Our minds are assaulted now more than ever by incessant, demanding media even before the noises of our own egos kick in. But God is the same now as God was in First Century Galilee, 1st/2nd Century BC when Job was written or any other time in history. Beneath the thunder and the whirlwind, when we make the space and stop, breathe, be still, pray without words, there is a still small voice in each one of us. It is the voice of Christ, Jahweh, All That Is, and it says, “Do not be afraid. I love you. Despite all the programmes that distract you, I AM.”

yew.jpg

THE HIDDEN GOD AND THE HARVEST

•October 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment
looking for God

‘If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him…” (Job)
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me from the words of my groaning?” (Ps 22)

THE LEAD character in the Book of Job and the voice of the Twenty Second Psalm are united in one thing, their sense of loneliness and abandonment by God in their hour of need. Of course, it is the opening phrase of Psalm 22 that the gospels of Matthew and Mark place on the lips of Jesus as he hangs on the cross, dying (“əlahí əlahí ləmáh šəvaqtáni?”).
If we are honest with ourselves, perhaps most of us can recognize moments of doubt and pain in our lives where such words well describe the way we felt. Have you called out from the night of your pain and wondered, is there really anyone listening? Does the universe really care? Similarly, in our prayer life, however disciplined we might be in making the spaces in our lives for prayer, probably more so in this case, there are times of dryness, when it might seem that God is hiding from us or has simply absented Godself from our lives. The harder we pray, the further away Christ seems to get. For some, this can be the end of the road as far as faith is concerned. For others it is really the beginning.
What should we do in the dryness? Pray more. Let the humility that comes with feeling abandoned teach us, seed us, nourish and re-birth us. The temptation is to pray less, stop even. But the dryness is a gift. God is closer than our own breath. In humility, we can seek God for God’s sake, let God be God. Be still. Be patient. As Brother Titus told some of us on Caldey Island a couple of weeks ago, “Just let it be”. Let it be and let the words of prayer dissolve into a wordless gazing, with awe and wonder, as God tills the soil of your soul for the harvest he will reap in you and through you. It will come soon.

The Name of love

•September 29, 2018 • Leave a Comment
building-bridges

But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.’

THE FAMOUS Cistersian monk, Fr Thomas Merton wrote, “… when one breaks through the limits of cultural and structural religion – or irreligion – one is liable to end up, by ‘birth in the Spirit,’ or just by intellectual awakening, in a simple void where all is liberty because all is the actionless action, called by the Chinese Wu-wei and by the New Testament the ‘freedom of the Sons of God.” The Zen he had found in his Vitnamese “brother” in the peace movement of the mid-twentieth century, Tich Nhat Hanh, was, he said, “beyond the formulations of Buddhism”, just as Merton’s own faith had long left behind the structures and restrictions of Roman Catholic doctrine. Though theologically different, the Zen path and the Christian path, when followed with depth and integrity, lead to “the same kind of limitless, the same lack of inhibition, the same psychic fullness of creativity, which mark the fully integrated maturity of the enlightened self” (Zen and the Birds of Appetite p 8).
When Jesus told his disciples not to interfere with those who were not part of their group but who did things of power in his name, what did he mean? For Ancient Hebrews, including at the time of Jesus of Nazareth, the name of someone contained not just meaning but the essence of the person; the name pointed to the true being of a person. God has no name in the Bible because God is limitless; how then could what is limitless be given a name? Any name would imply limitedness. But if someone acts in the name of Jesus or Christ, they are acting in the Name of the One who in his very incarnate being points to and embodies the limitless God. They are acting through the limitless love of the infinite Cosmos, which is the meaning of the names, Jesus Christ.

 
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