Monday, 29 June 2009

Feast of Peter and Paul

Depending on where you are in the world you will have celebrated this feastday yesterday or today - so whichever - happy feast day.

Peter and Paul - the brains and the brawn of the church, and they would probably say that themselves. Two people who were so very sure of themselves and who they were until Jesus came along, threw one out of his boat and another into a ditch. Only then did they find out who they really were. They may have been as opposite in culture, status and religious attitude as it was possible to be; as dogmatic within their own beliefs as many are even today but once Christ caught their eye, they came together in love. Not that they ever personally got on; chalk and cheese, as I say. But both in love with the same person; our Saviour, our Lord.

It is astonishing how God works with people. Peter and Paul are just two examples of turning your life around but the Gospels are full of people who do it; and no two are the same. Every person, made by God - therefore unique. And the gift that is the Holy Spirit; that is God's Grace does not move in and create clones. We do not become a master race through our faith. We become what God imagines for us; and we all do it in our individual ways; a challenge across the campfire or a smack on the head when we least expect it.

You may or may not know that, scientifically, elementally, coal and diamonds are the same - made from carbon. As unlikely a pairing as you might imagine yet both known for their light - a light that shines in different ways.

Both have to be sought. They hide in the ground, part of the great creation and need to be mined for; men living and dying underground to bring treasure to the surface. For they both are precious; coal for its heat and energy giving light, diamond for it's unmatched brilliance. The light is not immediately apparent or easy to get to. The diamond needs to studied, mathematically evaluated to find the exact cut and facets; the coal is sorted, crushed and burnt; all to release their light.

That light is within each of us; as it was within Peter and Paul. They may be giants of the church - go to St Peters in Rome and see them standing 40 or 50 feet tall - but they started off just like us; with all the faults and failings that humanity has to offer and then they were sorted and tempered to find their light. They were never perfect - which gives us all hope. In fact it was their failings that saved them - which gives us more hope and it was eventually through Jesus that they found their hilltop, their lampstand and their light.

wordinthehand2009

Pay the piper

Opening Prayer

Here I am Lord,
Listening
Speak to me
within my heart and soul.
I am listening.

Matthew 22:21


‘give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his’

Reflection

How much do you give to God?

I only ask because I know that all of us have a busy life, a really busy life.

My life is so full of priorities that when I am advised to list them from 1 to 10 they are all a one, I don’t even have time to think about the 2’s, 3’s and 4’s. Can’t imagine what a 10 would be – washing my hair?

And then what am I supposed to do? Except dash from one to the other and spend the last minutes before sleep trying to plan a tomorrow that will get it all done. Trying to keep everyone happy. Trying to live in this world. Trying to give Ceasar what is his.

And where is God?

Sitting at home like a maiden aunt who is always forgotten in the Christmas visits, looking at photos of us and reading old letters. Of course we make time to visit on Sundays and maybe when He can do us a fovour but otherwise….And we tell ourselves that that’s ok really because God doesn’t really need us to give Him anything. He’s got everything He needs.

Except He hasn’t. He longs for those visits, letters phone calls. He longs for us to give Him what is really his – which is us. He’s just too polite to say, to ask, to intrude.

So what do we do while we are giving to Caesar? Well, how about getting a fold up chair and taking God with us. To work, to the shops, to the demands of our everyday life. Letting God sit with us, read the map in the car, hold the screwdriver, sing to the baby, not answer the phone, lie down on the pillow next to us, include Him in the minutiae of our lives. Give God all of the day, give Him all that we are; all that we do.

Then we can have no guilt about what we are giving Caesar because we will be giving it through God and to God.

After all, in the end- it all, we all, belong to God.


Contemplation
Spending Time

So often we get into a habit of having God time and world time. We think having that hour on a Sunday is a good idea – we set it aside – so we won’t forget. We give God one hour in the 168 He gives us and we think that that’s fine.

Because it is better than nothing.

Of course it is better than nothing – but we have to say it isn’t enough. What sort of job would it be if we worked just one hour, what sort of mother, father, friend, partner – if we decided the cost of that relationship was an hour a week?

God is not hard to get hold of; we just have to remember to bring Him along. Even if He has to sit in the background or in the car in between other things.

Our lives demand a lot from us; paying Caesar is a full time job!
God does not demand because He has us anyway and maybe the simple realisation of that should mean that we are able to fold into him now and again. To treat him like the friend who ‘really doesn’t mind’.

Caesar judges what we give him; there is a worldly value; but God doesn’t – give Him everything – it’s all good.



Closing Prayer
May the blessing of the Sacred Three
The Father who gave us the Word
The Son who is the Word
The Spirit who opens the Word within us
Be with us today and evermore.

Amen

Stand up



Opening Prayer

Here I am Lord,
Listening
Speak to me
within my heart and soul.
I am listening.



Acts 2:14


‘Then Peter stood up’


Reflection
The crowd thought we had been drinking - it was an easy mistake to make- in fact it wouldn’t have been totally out of the question.

It was festival after all. We had been cooped up in hiding for so long
a drink would have been welcome; and we did have a reputation
for drinking and enjoying ourselves even when the Lord was with us. And Peter was always in the thick of that.

And that’s it really – that’s what gives it away – Peter was thick. Not stupid, just one of those practical men who talks with his hands – wants to do stuff not talk about it - puts his foot in it when he does. Fishermen don’t do too much talking, don’t go to Temple, don’t know scripture - don’t like crowds or people much.

And Peter was still like that, never liked the Lord being surrounded by the crowds, couldn’t cope with miracles and had barely forgiven himself for what had happened at the trial. He knew he was supposed to be the leader now – ok – as long as it’s the practical stuff. But he couldn’t do the ‘inspiring’ bit – couldn’t imagine how. Maybe he though Andrew would be the spokesman, or James or John? All better at it than he was.

But when the Spirit came down on all of us we knew that we were transformed; that the breath in us was like fire freeing our hearts.
And we all spoke; but the voice that came from us was not ours but the Lord’s. Everything he had told us before and after the Resurrection, even the things we had forgotten; now made sense, had a rhythm -had a need to be told.

And we did speak, without fear, to everyone – the feeling was fantastic.

And I knew when Peter stood up, that that was it. No fear, no trembling voice; full of authority; the voice of a witness. This was for real; the next part of the journey started here. It was up to us to make the difference - we all had to stand up.




ContemplationNow what?

I lit the Paschal candle today in church, and discovered I was not supposed to. The Feasts are over, Really?

Pentecost can seem like the end of the road, the Great Adventure has come to its climax – Lent, Easter and the Resurrection journey has brought us to the Holy Spirit and back into Ordinary Time.

What a strange phrase really. If we have followed the Great Adventure, then this is not ordinary but Extraordinary Time –
now that the Holy Spirit has breathed into us, now that we travel in the shadow of Her wings - this time, surely, is all about the journey to the Kingdom.

This is when we should know that we are community; that we should all be standing up to be witnesses; that we should be trying to make a difference - and if we think we can’t be like that, we should know we can because we are not on our own.

Today is Trinity Sunday – the Gospels have brought together all the aspects of God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit to be with us.
To invite us to be with, through and in Him.

To be so full of God that we need to pass Him on, share Her out, in what we say and, more importantly, in what we do.
So stand up.

Closing Prayer
May the blessing of the Sacred Three
The Father who gave us the Word
The Son who is the Word
The Spirit who opens the Word within us
Be with us today and evermore.Amen

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Wow



Opening Prayer

Here I am Lord,
Listening
Speak to me
within my heart and soul.
I am listening.

Acts 2:4


filled with the Holy Spirit

Reflection

Fifty days later and the disciples who are left are huddled together in room. Doors and windows barred against dangers real and imagined.

But there is nowhere left to go. Everyone here is an outcast; from family; community; Temple. All those who imagined themselves saved; who saw a vision of a new future; and now cannot bear the thought of another day.

The Lord had promised to send another; but in truth, they only wanted him.

Outside the Spirit paces the air, Breath of God, of Life. Why were their hearts and minds so closed when the promise of the Lord’s last kiss was waiting?

It is simple, they are children; afraid of the unknown; afraid for their lives; afraid of the might of the world; but they cannot be afraid no longer.

The Spirit roars - she has had enough of waiting – the children have work to do. Nature’s force surrounds the house howling and rattling at the shutters and with a heartbeat moves within. The disciples cower believing truly that this is the end - demons have come for their very souls.

The Spirit presses down on them; holding them tightly, until they open their mouths for one last gasp – and she is in - overcoming them with the power of Grace which drives out all other fears. A blaze of celebratory fire fills their hearts and explodes into the room.

The disciples are transformed, burning from within they speak in tongues of every nation and not only their tongues but their eyes, hearts and minds are witnesses to the Word.
No longer afraid or alone they stride out to carry the message of the Kingdom to all those who will listen.




Contemplation
Wow

There is really not another word for it is there. The Holy Spirit moves at her own pace. Certainly, at this time of the disciples lives it was a ‘hit the ground running’ sort of pace. From today many of the apostles and disciples never had a day’s rest.

We talk about life in the Spirit as a desirable part of our faith journey but we should be prepared for what we are saying ‘yes’ to ; because once you have accepted the Spirit’s influence it is
Her life that you are living. And you may prefer to be hiding in an upper room than take the challenge that she offers.

But she is with you; as is the Christ; as is the Father.

In contemplation, the presence of the Spirit can be a powerful and emotive experience; as a snowstorm on a mountain or a hot desert wind. It is a cleansing power; a driving energy;
she moves us out of our boxes and no box can contain her.

But in a time when, like the disciples, we may feel that we are not surrounded by friends, the Spirit’s energy is needed more than ever as the gift and guiding hand of our Lord.


Closing Prayer
May the blessing of the Sacred Three
The Father who gave us the Word
The Son who is the Word
The Spirit who opens the Word within us
Be with us today and evermore.
Amen

Pass it on

Opening Prayer

Here I am Lord,
Listening
Speak to me
within my heart and soul.
I am listening.



John 16:27


the Father himself loves you for loving me

Reflection

You often hear of strained relationships between fathers and sons. I don’t mean ‘bad’ relationships, just sometimes it is hard for both sides to show their feelings as, perhaps, you imagine women do; and I know that this is quoting stereotypes but we all know stereotypes.

Jesus and his Father obviously do not fall into this stereotype. Jesus lives his life swathed in the Father’s love for him, which is why he cries out in bereavement at the end ‘Why have you forsaken me’.

Jesus’ childlike adoration for his Father is never questioned, not once, no matter what his Father asked of him and that is astonishing because Jesus, the human man, was asked to make some awful sacrifices. Sacrifices where, as a human man, it would have been more than acceptable to say ‘No’.

That we could all have that relationship with God the Father; but He is so Big, so Unimaginable, so Unknowable, that it is hard. Respect and devotion, awe and wonder is an easier route than love, even when you know God is Love, even when you say the prayer that Jesus teaches us.

When Jesus comes to us, he comes as one of us, making human connections through physical signs –washing, walking, cooking, eating and drinking. When the translations say he ‘breathes on them’ he kisses them, in love, as a brother and friend. We can love Jesus with a love that we know how to express; that we know what it feels like; that fills us so much that the whole world needs to share it. We can want to be like him and we can want that relationship with the Father because we are his children too. It all makes sense to our ways of understanding.
We are Christians because we feel this love for Jesus and it makes us want to follow him. This is a new and deeper relationship than we may have known with God and it is the fruits of this relationship that Jesus takes with him when he goes to the Father. He is not going ‘back’ – there is no ‘back’. He takes us to a future where the Kingdom is just that little bit closer and we can trust in the love of the Father because we know we love his Son.


Contemplation
Pass it on

I wonder, so many thousand years after the physical presence of the Lord walked the planet, how hard is it to think of Jesus as a man?

As a man who would be a brother, a friend – as you know and love a brother or a friend. Or how much is it like trying to love a ‘concept’ an imagining, even a movie star.

Does it, should it, matter that we don’t know what he looks like?
When we think of those we love ‘that much’ do we really think of their physical appearance first or all those other qualities that we love; are we not most aware of all those feelings that they stir in us? And does it matter if they are here with us or on the other side of the world; love is love.

Contemplation allows us to move beyond the surface to the place where these feelings and emotions can speak. Use the knowing of your love for others as a way of expressing your love for the Lord. To work towards a relationship that is more and more real.


Closing Prayer
May the blessing of the Sacred Three
The Father who gave us the Word
The Son who is the Word
The Spirit who opens the Word within us
Be with us today and evermore.Amen

I am what I am

Opening Prayer

Here I am Lord,
Listening
Speak to me
within my heart and soul.
I am listening.

1 Corinthians 15:10


‘By the grace of God I am what I am’

Reflection

I have a friend, who having read this, would probably burst into song.

‘I am what I am’, a song from the musical La Cage aux Folles’ has become a bit of an anthem for marginalised communities, people declaring themselves proud of who they are – exactly as they are - warts and all – despite the criticism of others.

In a world of stereotypes and peer pressure it is not easy to be the odd one out; even if there is a few of you! The pain of being outcast has never changed over the thousands of years that humanity has existed - in fact it has always been the most severe punishment you could suffer, worse than death – a living death.

So why did those early followers do it?

Why did Paul; who had seen and been deeply involved in the ‘casting out’? Why did all the other named and nameless disciples.

Tiny communities living right across the continent; different religions by this time; different cultures: people outcast by their families and communities because of Jesus and yet these people had never met Jesus; never heard his message until Paul and the other evangelists spoke to them – and then – they were transformed.

The practicalities of being God made Man, meant that Jesus was never going to get far – physically. But his message was for the world and that message was spread through the outpouring of Grace that Jesus gave his life for and that he sent out on the wings of the Holy Spirit. Grace that travelled through the mouths of the disciples; that sent them spinning across the country to those that had ears to hear and brought them to the Father; to the Kingdom; away from the world. We are nearing the feast of Pentecost; a feast closely associated with the Sacrament of Confirmation – a time, perhaps, for all of us to stand up and say ‘By the grace of God I am what I am’


Contemplation
Who made you?

This is one of the questions from the catechism (God made me).
Next question is ‘why did God make you?’ and the long answer is very lovely but the short answer, I think, is better:
‘Because He wanted to.’

We always think of the best bits of us as being by the ‘Grace of God’, but it is all Grace, there is no judgement from God. As the Creation story says – God gets to the end of His week and sees that it is ‘Very Good’. We are all very good.

If you have problems looking in a mirror and saying that to yourself then you are looking at the world’s version of you.

Try closing your eyes and taking the quiet and contemplative path to the Sacred Space within –
the place of Grace and Blessing –
to see the child that God holds in the palm of his hand.
‘Very good’

With the knowledge that because of that Grace we are able
to be a part of God’s own Holy Name
I am what I am


Closing Prayer
May the blessing of the Sacred Three
The Father who gave us the Word
The Son who is the Word
The Spirit who opens the Word within us
Be with us today and evermore.
Amen