Be Still and Know that I AM God

•November 7, 2017 • Leave a Comment

a prayerful practice 25 minutes

The Jesus Prayer

•November 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

A track from the “Celts” album by Fr Tim and Leslie Sheills, due for release St David’s Day 2018.

KINGS, SAINTS AND GUNPOWDER

•November 4, 2017 • Leave a Comment

 

Gunpowder

Kit Harington (Robert Catesby) in the 2017 BBC serial, Gunpowder

 

THERE IS CERTAINLY irony in the coincidental coming together of three festivals and/or customs this Sunday. Being the closest Sunday to All Saints Day (November 1), we celebrate today the unity in Christ between all saints, known and unknown, between the Church Triumphant (the saints in heaven) and the Church Militant (the material body of Christ on earth now). This Sunday also marks the beginning of the Kingdom Season, four weeks leading up to Advent which focus on the notion that Christ is King of heaven and of earth. The mystical impulse of Cosmic Christ feeds into/from this too. But today is also November 5th, celebrated/remembered by much of the population of the British countries as Guy Fawkes Day, when effigies of an early 17th Century rebel are burned on bonfires, ostensibly in celebration of the triumph of State in foiling the Gunpowder Plot which came so close to literally blowing it up. This moment in European history was deeply fuelled by the struggle between Catholics and Protestants, as the Reformation was gaining momentum across the continent and the persecutions it entailed. In Britain, the contemporary Protestant regime was restricting the freedom of Catholics to celebrate the Mass, torturing, outlawing and executing priests and lay-leaders, while in Spain, the Catholic Inquisition was in full flow, treating Protestants similarly. This was the time of King James I in England and when Guy Fawkes was brought before him (the execution was Jan 31st 1606) the King James Bible (or Authorized Version) was actually being written.
The King James Bible is of course a beautifully written and poetically masterful translation but it is notable also for the slanting of its compositional flow in the direction of the sanctity and blessedness of monarchy and a perception of hierarchy both on earth and in heaven. The State, therefore is seen as righteous and any rebellion un-Godly. There are strands of tradition preserved in the ancient Hebrew and Syriac texts which support “kingly” interpretations but there are also many other, more rebellious strands mixed in there which certainly do not.
When we speak of Christ the King and All Saints we need to be conscious about how all this affects us. How does often unconsciously inherited, Western education programming sit with our ability to meet Christ as Christ is, in the temple of our being – the Christ who looked at the Temple of state religion and said,
‘You see all these (buildings), do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down’? (Matthew 24.2)

TOUCH

•October 30, 2017 • Leave a Comment

 

ogham caldey

So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates — Matthew 24.33

 

ACCORDING TO VATICAN records, October 26th is the Feast of St Gwynno, who seems most likely to be the 6th Century Celtic church leader behind the name given to the church of St Gwynour. Gwynno was a follower of Illtyd and both probably lived for some time on Caldey Island, where they were priest-monks, before travelling between Wales, Ireland, Cornwall and Brittany as missionaries, setting up llan communities and centres of spiritual and philosophical learning.
In the picture above, you can see me putting my hand on a stone known as “The Ogham Stone” which is now on the wall of the ancient abbey chapel on Caldey Island. The stone is marked with the ancient Celtic language along the edges, as well as Latin inscription on the face of it. A cross is carved in there too. The stone is dated from 5th or 6th Century so perhaps Gwynno touched it too; who knows? Anyway, I had gone there in the night while staying on the island with the monks a few years ago. I was a little scared going there alone through the dark woods to the ruined abbey but I wanted to spend some time there in prayer while the tourists weren’t around. I suppose I wanted in some way to connect with the Celtic church of my ancestors and touching the stone was a kind of physical metaphor for that. Imagination and interpretation can be fed by such things but, for me there was more in the touch than just intellectual projection. At deeper levels of my consciousness, there was a dissolving of the centuries, of time and matter, where all time/place becomes one time one place.
This Sunday is, for various parts of today’s church body, Bible Sunday. The Bible can be read as a history book, connecting us with our ancestors in faith, or as a manual to live by, full of moral codes and commandments from God Almighty. It can be the unfolding theology of peoples over millennia. There is of course value in such reading styles but each have a tendency to objectify God and so place God at a distance. The Bible is far more than stimulation for religious or existential theory or judgemental morality. Scripture is alive and it can speak to any and all of us directly and in the moment of reading. It contains the very breath of God, as we do, as does everything and everyone around us. It has the power to connect us with it all. If we contemplate it and let it breathe in us, Scripture brings God closer to us than any sense of touch.

The Unknowing

•October 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

DSCN1769.JPG

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us — Exodus 32.1

I CAN’T REMEMBER a time in my life when I was not grappling with church and church history. As a child, I knew Christ but I often strained to try to see him through the tall legs that seemed to be so many then, stretching up towards the up-turned boat ceilings of St Illtyd’s and St Mary’s churches or the mighty roof of Brecon Cathedral. I didn’t like Sunday School and I hated the smell of fake coffee and lipstick and the loud guffaws of the giant ones. I literally ran from stodgy and dry sermons about some well-dressed, well connected establishment moralist, whom I could not equate with the Galilean vagabond I met in the pages of my Bible and in the daffodil-dreaming prayers of my heart, whom I loved so much and wanted to follow into the light or into the deepest, darkest dark. Either way didn’t matter to me because I simply knew he’d already gone there ahead, though he felt so close.

Later, I travelled with him on the roads and rough-tracks of Europe and then I fought the Romans, the Empire-simpering Reformationers and anyone else who obscured and distorted the Christ I knew in every fibre and cell of my body and being. I wrestled with them in the free-mind University of wild, west Wales…oh I fought and screamed into the mountain wind.

But I heard sweet whisperings of church long ago that moved through this very land, like mist, like beautiful, un-named truth. I read the sparse-word wisdom of desert ones who seemed to know the One whose fire burned in me and they opened doors for me in the mist I hadn’t even noticed were there. I loved them and I love them still. And I know these mothers and fathers of faith were/are church. I still struggle with churchhh. Every day. Sometimes I wake up with the fight nagging on, other times I fall asleep with it. It makes me so restless, until I return to the Peace.

When did the church get tired of waiting for the Christ to come down from the mountain? I don’t know. Maybe I don’t need to know. Because all the time, in the world, in hearts of disciples, within the church and without, there is also and always…the unknowing…

Let the idols of religion fade, and melt and break. Shake their dust from your sandals and behold the Christ Who Is.

When We Are Weak

•October 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment

walking-with-God-Adam-and-Eve

Moses said to the Lord, ‘See, you have said to me, “Bring up this people”; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me… Now if I have found favour in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you…’
JHWH said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’
— Exodus 33.12-14

THIS LAST WEEK, we had the latest Gower Ministry Area Council meeting at Oxwich. Much excellent discussion was had. Personally, I am not good at meetings and, though I always attend them with a desire to stay calm and open to all, there were once again some flashpoints for me in which, invariably, my passion rises and I fail to retain strict meeting etiquette. Fortunately, people, who have experienced such situations, are usually patient with me and they were so this week. Oh, I should say I am certainly not the only one in whom the fire is not easily tamed! After all, we attend such meetings (though most of us probably wouldn’t if we could think of another way to do it) because we love God, love the Church in Wales, love church universal, love Gower.

But after the passion is spent, and the words have fallen to the sand or dispersed into the mystic Gower ether, I am very often left simply conscious of my smallness, my lack of significance, my inability to affect the ministry my head seems to think my heart yearns to effect.
In many walks of life, such confession might precede some kind of letter of resignation. My guess is that Moses, in the quotations above, was contemplating something like it. But church is not “many walks of life”. Church is a response to God’s calling to humanity and to all creation. Church is not even simply a humanly conceived response, but the Christ-bride breath of the Holy Spirit herself.
It is when we feel small and helpless, that God most powerfully reveals God’s Presence to us, covering our eyes with God’s hand so we are not burned up in the brightness, until the radiance has passed and we can see that God just passed by before us. God bless all you do in His Name.
When we are weak by RS Thomas
When we are weak, we are strong.                                                                                           When our eyes close on the world,                                                                                              then somewhere within us the bush burns.
When we are poor and aware
of the inadequacy of our table,
it is to that,
uninvited,
the guest comes.

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.

 
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