On the Road, St Luke

•October 17, 2020 • Leave a Comment

   LUKE’S GOSPEL and its sequel The Acts of the Apostles are books of the road. They are about stepping out to take the message and teachings of Christ to those who have ears to hear them and the heart to absorb and live by them. These writings are no pious workings of an idealist sitting at his desk in some library far removed from the action he describes. Luke travelled with Paul and, though famous as the physician and healer evangelist, he is clearly a man of the road. It is Luke to whom the liberation theologians and activists look. In his Gospel is seen God’s “preferential option for the poor” (South American liberationists Gutiérrez, Boff, Segundo etc) and the subverting of worldly hierarchical schemata to “turn the world back the right way up” (eg Magnificat, Beatitudes, Nunc Dimitis).

   Luke was writing around the 80s AD from and into a community displaced from the synagogues and outcast from both Jewish and Gentile societies. Life for his community was raw and dangerous. Jesus sends out disciples to evangelise and heal, announcing the imminence of the kingdom of God for all who will receive it. “Go on your way”, he says, just get out there and don’t take anything you don’t need. Travel light. You are like lambs among wolves so don’t get side-tracked or sucked into any negative debates, just go in faith. If they won’t listen, kick off the dust and move on. Of course our Celtic ancestors in the faith were inspired by this and that is how they did their ministry. We are called to be just as brave in bringing the Gospel in our time.

  I am not saying that, however young, old, fit or unfit we might be, we should all leave everything and start walking and hitch-hiking into the distance! I am saying, however, that we must be bold in sharing our faith in Christ and our belief that his Way is the only way to live authentically and peacefully where we are and/or where we go. Shed the irrelevant bits and so be God’s “labourer” clearly and simply. God bless you always. Tim

THE RELUCTANT PROPHET

•September 19, 2020 • Leave a Comment

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry (Jonah 4.4)

And when they received it, they grumbled’ (Matthew20.11)

THE RELUCTANT PROPHET Jonah has long inspired empathy in me. When I experienced, during teenage tramping years through Europe, what seemed clearly at the time  to be my “calling”, I wrestled and argued with God. I didn’t want to have anything to do with any “church”, let alone be priest in one. “Leave me alone, let me travel and experience your world,” was my response. Ha ha! The irony of it seems immense now. What “world” was I even talking about? God’s Creation, the current political world, the world projected by my child/man imagination and culturized beliefs, what world? Anyway, later when I read about Jonah trying to run in the opposite direction to God’s calling to Nineveh, I had no problem relating! The futility of trying to evade all responsibility was equally clear.

      In today’s reading, Jonah, like the disgruntled labourers in the Matthean parable, models our very human tendency to judge our lives or aspects of them in relation to other people’s lives as fair or unfair, just or unjust. We all, to a greater or lesser extent, give credence to our internal judgement schemes and structures of belief and morality. In Western culture, we have been brought up to do things to achieve “right” outcomes, privileges, rewards etc.  When we work hard, we expect to be paid accordingly; when we excel at something, we expect recognition, praise or at least some kind of notoriety or promotion. Conversely, we expect people who behave to our judgement badly or lazily to be punished and not rewarded. The Book of Jonah, Matthew’s Gospel, the entire Bible, Nature and our lives keep on coming back to us, hold up their mirrors to us and ask repeatedly, “Who are you to judge what is right and what is wrong? Have you eaten of ‘the tree of knowledge of good and evil’? Oh you have? So do you know the mind of God yet?”

       But, thank God, God is gracious, God is merciful. Let’s come to the stillness in us. We are work in progress. Great is the Lord and highly to be praised (Psalm 145).

Less News, Less Social Media, More Prayer

•July 10, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach  

Matthew 13.2

THE IDEA of a crowd of any kind gathering at the moment seems a subversive one. Just meeting the ten or eleven people who had come to Llangennith last Sunday for a few minutes of private prayer inside one of our North Gower churches seemed a rare treat. Hopefully, we will be able to hold a formal act of worship before very much longer! Of course we can’t take that for granted. We know we must be patient.

     When Matthew wrote his Gospel, he was writing it for a community who had completely lost their place of worship. The Temple had recently been destroyed by the Romans and the priests all put to death. So when Jesus’ teachings are recounted by Matthew they are directed into that situation. The Jewish people were split, even down the middle of families, cities and villages. Remember Jesus’ words a few Sundays ago about bringing the sword rather than peace. Many people wanted to rebuild the Temple and re-instate a priesthood as quickly as possible and were putting their energy into planning and agitation for that. Matthew’s community, however, were not supportive of that. They followed Jesus and had come to understand his teaching as bringing them to the Temple within themselves. It was here they were to worship, here they would find the kingdom of heaven already present.

      The sower in the parable does not dig over the soil before he sows the seeds of the kingdom. He simply throws the seeds indiscriminately; they fall everywhere. The kingdom of God is everywhere. The kingdom of heaven is available to everyone. But it is up to each one of us to turn over the soil in us that we may open ourselves to what the Spirit is saying to us in this time. Watching the News and listening for government instruction is one thing but it is the Spirit of God that will tell you the truth and it is Christ and Christ only in whom you will find the security your soul cries for. Try taking less news, less social media, and more prayer.

Cut Yourself Free

•June 19, 2020 • 1 Comment

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  

Matthew 10.34

WHEN JESUS OF NAZARETH speaks the message of Christ to us through the Gospels, he speaks with Hebrew and Aramaic poetry and story-telling techniques and nuances. He wastes no words and every word he does use has the power to reverberate in the heart of the listener, and enter the soul before the brain even begins its limited and laborious attempts to catch up and quantify what it thinks it has heard. It is for this reason that we must come to Scripture first with the heart, in contemplation, letting ourselves be steeped in small portions of it at a time, like in the ancient Christian practice of Lectio Divina.

    Jesus does not expect to be taken literally. All words are metaphors. They are never actually the thing or idea they point towards. Of course, we are not to “hate” our mother or father or sister or brother, as Luke puts it even more forcefully than Matthew’s version. However, our parents, teachers, ancestors, friends, colleagues etc, though they may love us and value us unreservedly, have passed on to us their own unconscious, semi-conscious and undealt with fears, prejudices, sadnesses and false beliefs as well as some of the potentially wise things they would like to have imparted.

     As we continue to climb within ourselves the metaphorical holy mountain of Matthew’s Gospel, there necessarily comes a time when we have to cut the cord that holds us to those inherited and assimilated influences. Only in returning to the Source, to discover the holy temple on the holy mountain of our true selves can we find the Wisdom we really need, in which Love can flow like living water in and through us, and so out into the world.

     Christ does not hold out to us a soporific, religious image of meek and mild niceness to plaster over our wounds. Christ brings us the sword we need to cut our true self free from the cowering ego that pretends to be “me”.

Go first to the deepest places in you…

•June 11, 2020 • Leave a Comment

        

Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Matthew 10.5-7

LUKE’s GOSPEL is all about Apostleship being lived and worked out on the road, taking the Way of Christ to the people, but Matthew is about, in the words of Alexander John Shaia, “climbing the great mountain” and the transformation within that is necessary for the mission on the road to be effective. We can dream up strategies and concepts that might pass for mission on levels of philosophy, politics or social engagement, but without climbing the mountain to dwell in and from the Holy Temple in us, that mission will not be the Missio Dei, God’s Mission. We will not have the strength or stamina to sustain the mission and it will ultimately fail those to whom it is directed and exhaust the missionary physically, mentally and spiritually, often leading to collapse and nervous breakdown. Of course, the mountain may appear at this point but Matthew’s Gospel is a calling and an equipping for us to climb the mountain before we speak, act and teach. It should be said that we must continue to come to the mountain after the first climbing. The Way of Christ is not a straight line but rather a spiral of returning and growing, learning and teaching.

     Matthew’s version of Jesus’ instruction to “Go… Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons” is a call to first go to the deep and dark places within ourselves. The Gentiles and Samaritans of the external are to be let go of for now, all the thoughts and programmes, even the charitable and noble ones. Travel inside and find the “lost sheep of Ish (human) ra’ah (who sees) el (God)” and bring them home. Matthew’s is a Gospel of waking up: “Cure the sick…that which is sick in you…wake up!.. raise the dead…that which is not alive in you…wake up!.. cleanse the lepers, cast out demons…in you…wake up!”

Go and Practice. And from your Practice, Teach.

•June 11, 2020 • Leave a Comment

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.

Matthew 28.19 (From the Gosepel reading, Trinity Sunday 2020)

THERE IS NO WAY, in earth or heaven, that when Jesus gave this instruction on the top of a mountain to his Apostles, or the churches they were about to found and teach,he meant them to go and command people to obey doctrines and concepts about any “Holy Trinity” godhead held on some philosophical or actual pedestal, majestic and separate, and so themselves be counted in or out of any religion! Yet such has too often been the way of both institutionalised churches and less formalised “free” churches. Why? Well we only need to look at the language of standard English translations to see how it seems to claim both the high doctrinal and moral ground, and the authority to impose this on whomsoever the “Great Commission” is meted out to. All the concepts in such language come from Western Empire cultures, not from Jesus.

      Jesus spoke Aramaic. There isn’t space for much here but I just offer you a couple of words and perhaps you would like to contemplate what this saying then means for you over some time.

      The Greek word translated “commandment” if reimagined on the Aramaic lips of Jesus is puaqdana from the verb paqad, to visit, review, inquire or entreat repeatedly over time. So it refers to a fundamental or source teaching repeatedly given. “Father” comes from ab, the parenting, creative, infusing, loving, outpouring essence of the cosmos/all. Sh’ma does not carry the English connotations of “obey” or “comply with” but is closer to something like “listen in the heart deeply and respond from there in the wisdom that comes to you”. If we continue like this we soon come back to the teachings in John where Jesus speaks of the indwelling relationship of the “ab, the “son/child” and the “spirit/breath/wind”. Deep Peace of the Christ in you to you. God bless.

The Music of The One Breath

•May 29, 2020 • Leave a Comment

But Moses said to him, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!’ (Numbers 11.29)

The Christ breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit…  (John 20.22)

  I LOVE A POEM by the 14th Century Persian mystic , Hafiz, titled in English The Christ’s Breath. It is only three lines and yet it opens a door in my mind and heart. Here it is.

I am a hole in a flute

that the Christ’s breath moves through-

listen to this music.

    In the Hebrew story about Moses and the Israelites we read this morning, the young man and Joshua are thinking of Moses like he is the flute through which God’s breath flows. More than this, for them he is ‘The Flute.’ Only Moses is Prophet. Eldad and Medad then must be imposters, false prophets, and so they reasonably expect Moses to be furious and put a stop to the fake prophesying. But Moses knows he is not ‘The Flute’ but a hole in a flute, through which The One Breath moves. Moses is not jealous of the two prophets and expresses his longing that all God’s people would receive The Breath. Moses does not attract attention to himself, he points to God. The prophet is not substance like the wood of a flute, nor is he or she the beautifully or roughly crafted instrument itself. He or she is a hole – a dark space in the wood, one of four, five, six or eight perhaps, depending on the scale of the flute. The hole has no substance, yet without it, the music simply wouldn’t play.

    Today we celebrate Pentecost, the outpouring of God’s Breath for “all flesh”. Let us contemplate Hafiz’s flute and know that we are all holes in a flute, each to be played through by God’s breath. Through us the music of Christ plays, the music that opens the hearts and frees the souls of whomsoever will listen. Listen to this music.

GOD’S BREATH

•May 27, 2020 • Leave a Comment

WHAT WE PRAY in the Collect today doesn’t need to be prayed and yet it does. It is unnecessary because Christ has prayed it already for us and what Christ prays simply is. He is in the Father and the father is in him and… However, it is helpful for us to pray it still because in the praying we can begin to know what we are praying and so live the prayer/being of Christ here, now, in this life, not just in some future hope of “heaven”, which if we think about it too much just gives us philosophical headaches.

     So what are we praying? That through the Holy Spirit, which we want God to send us to make us strong, we will be exalted to wherever Christ has gone before us. What? Does that actually mean anything? Then what about the quotation from the psalm? Let God arise? And who are these enemies and haters? Oh and then Peter, the Acts, John’s Gospel? What are we praying for? What is Jesus asking for?

     We have inherited a hierarchical religion and the  English language placed on the lips of Jesus reflects it and confuses us. Jesus is not stuck inside of this religion!

     When Jesus says “Father” he speaks of the source of being, whom he knows is his, our, everything’s loving origin. The Spirit is the breath, life force, of and from the Source. We come from the Source and the Source is in us. To know this is to be awake to the kingdom (Way of Love) in us. To be awake is to “Let God arise” in us. The “enemies” are the thoughts and programmes that keep us living scared, asleep. Christ knows who Christ is and who we really are. Jesus is aware of what is real and what isn’t and he wants us to know it too. So Christ prays.

ALL IS ONE, ONE IS ALL

•May 17, 2020 • 1 Comment

Easter 6_Moment(3)

This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. (John 14.17)

“ON THAT DAY  (when you receive the One Breath in you) you will know that I am in my Father/Mother, and you in me, and I in you.”

Separation is something human beings have made up, imagined. Quantum Physicists have been teaching for some years now the interconnectedness of everything in the universe. If there is one thing this COVID-19 event is teaching us it is that we are all inter-reliant and inextricably related. Well something like this is at the centre of Christ’s teaching. More than that, God lives in us and we live in God. Separation is an illusion.

The Book of Genesis is a metaphor for how the illusion manifests in us. We want to know our destiny and take control of it – we want to know the mind of God. Throughout the  rest of the Bible and through all our lives, God calls us back to know and experience the truth that we are not orphaned; God is always with us. This truth, we call Christ. Jesus is the Christ because he knows the One Breath that is in him and in all being. Christ breathes the One Breath in us so that we can know it too. When early Christians were baptised, they came up out of the water to hear their name in Christ: “This is Phillip, a Christ; this is Joanna, a Christ” and so on. Christ calls us back to the Source, back to the Garden.

We are all in a situation now and we don’t know when it will end. But we can be certain that it will end. Forest fires burn out, wild winds become calm and however extreme a situation may be, it will change. Wise people are patient, whatever the circumstance, because they know this. If everything were always in perfect balance, nothing would move, all would merely hang in suspended animation. Life could not be. Humanity has been complacent. This moment is necessary. Peace will come.

 

 

March 1/Lent 1: Return to the Way

•March 7, 2020 • Leave a Comment

tao

DEWI DŴR (David of the Water – St David) in wild west Wales, Jesus across the Jordan and every woman, man, child of God is led and must be led by the Spirit, from time to time, into the wilderness. This is not to retreat from life or to escape the responsibilities of our calling to be church among the people. On the contrary, without this being led, this submission to the will of the Spirit, we can do nothing of any true consequence in our societies, church or anywhere else. In the wilderness we are all tested, all tempted. But the devil who tempts us is not some wicked fairy with horns, whom we might safely dismiss as not being real because science and reason tell us so. The devil who tempts us is our own programme or strategy for self-worth, importance, relevance, happiness etc. In the wilderness of intentional contemplation, we are faced with all these and more. That’s why many people avoid or give up contemplative practice. The agitation of our programmes is uncomfortable, even excruciating to our ego. Ironically, it is easier to bury ourselves in the illusion of action, illusive because the action cannot be effective if rooted in ego rather than Spirit. Be brave. Go where the Spirit leads. This is the meaning and the gift of Lent.

 
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