Thursday, 13 August 2015

Communities of Rest

So often it seems as though what is important is to be busy.  Most of us seem to have lots to do most of the time.  Of course, there are tasks there for each one of us, things that God is calling us on do.  There is a need for activity - and there are times when we should be getting on with things.  

However we need also to hold on to the sabbath principle.  One of the other problems of our day is burnout.  The church that is trying to achieve too much won't even achieve what it ought.  I like my friend Michael Jagessar's idea of ' communities of rest' (suggested in 'Fresh from the Word 2015').  

Churches need to be places of action. when that is relevant, but they need also to be communities of rest.  As Michael asks: "As communities of rest, what are spaces for rest that churches create/offer?"

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Present Moment

In "Travelling Light" Daniel O'Leary reminds us how "Three hundred years ago, Jean Pierre de Caussade SJ reminded his students that no moment is trivial since every moment contains 'a divine kingdom and heavenly sustenance' within it."  It is all too easy to get unduly caught up in the past.  Of course the past matters.  We should honour it.  We should learn from it.  It is also tempting to worry too much about the future.  We wonder what might happen, and that is not surprising.  It is sensible to make appropriate plans for the future.

However, it is always the case that we are in the present.  We ought to make the most of that.  I fear that too often the past and/or the future get in your way and we just don't do as we should. 

Sometimes, in particular, we are too impatient and we really need to learn that God's picture is bigger than ours - and that we are called to live in God's present for us.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Psalm 139

Psalm 139 is a great psalm that expressively describes God's knowledge of and commitment to us.  Verse 14a - "I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made (NRSV).  It reminds us that we are part of God's big picture.  Carla Grosch-Miller puts it like this in her version of Psalm 139 (in "Psalms Redux") - "We are a wonder, a miracle in flesh and blood: bodies that bruise and heal, minds that grasp and grow, hands that care, craft and create."

It is an amazing expression of God's concern with us - and we ought to take it seriously.  As Michael Jagessar says, when commenting on this psalm (in "Fresh from the Word 2015"), "The psalm proclaims a relationship with God that is profoundly personal (not private).  God knows me, cares about me, seeks me out."

How do we respond when God finds us and calls us to a particular task?  As Michael Jagessar asks of us: "How does the knowledge of the all-attentive God who loves each of us intensely, shape your relationship and response to what you may be currently wrestling with?"

Monday, 10 August 2015

Suffering, Fractious & Unboundaried

I recently read Sara Miles "Take This Bread", the fascinating and moving account of how Christian commitment crept up on her from nowhere.  She was brought up as an atheist, her parents having rebelled against the missionary upbringing that they had both received.  They passed on their atheism to their daughter, which she happily pursued, until one day she wandered into a church near where she lived and found herself taking Communion.  She had wandered into the church out of interest - and found herself becoming part of the community there.  As she herself puts it:   "... and then something outrageous and terrifying happened.  Jesus happened to me. "

I particularly like the comment she makes in the book's preface about what I would want to refer to as 'real church'.  She writes - and I find this both helpful and challenging - "Faith for me didn't provide a set of easy answers or certainties.  It raised more questions than I was ever comfortable with.  The bits of my past - family, work, war, love - came apart as I stumbled into church, then reassembled, through the works communion inspired me to do, into a new life centred on feeding strangers: food and bodies, transformed.  I wound up not in what church people like to call "a community of believers" - which tends to be code for "a like-minded club" - but in something huger and wilder than I had ever expected: the suffering, fractious, and unboundaried body of Christ."

I worry that too often we let our churches become those clubs for the like-minded - and I am absolutely convinced that God has a much bigger vision that includes some pretty challenging stuff.  We really need to discover those 'huger and wilder' things that God has in store for the church.  That will include suffering, just as Jesus went the way of the Cross.  It involves unity, but also diversity.  The Church can, and ought to, be fractured (fractious) in more ways than one.  And in the Church we really must cross all sorts of boundaries.  We are the 'unboundaried body of Christ.'  

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Being Found

I really like the little story that Daniel O'Leary tells in his book "Travelling Light".  He writes: "It was a dull, flat, February morning.  Susan, the teacher, had gathered the reception-class around me.  We had just watched the acting-out of the Parable of the Lost Sheep in the school hall.  Now, back in the classroom, they were telling me, in turn, why they had chosen the various parts they played - the ninety-nine who stayed secure in the sheep-fold, the brave shepherds who went out searching, the readers of the Parable, and so on.  Finally it was Laura's turn, the little girl who had volunteered to play the part of the lost sheep.  'I wanted to be lost,' she said with a small smile, 'so that somebody would come and find me.'"
For all of us there are days when we feel a bit lost.  If you do, just remember that there is a Good Shepherd out there, looking for lost sheep.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

We Are The Gospel

Martin Wroe, in "The Gospel According To Everyone", comments on how, on Iona a few years ago, someone suggested that the Church is the fifth Gospel.  There have, of course, been other contenders for that accolade.  Some suggest it should be given to Thomas, perhaps the best-known of the gospels that didn't make it into the New Testament.  Others suggest it belongs to the people of Palestine, the community in which Jesus lived and taught.  There have been other suggestions, such as Isaiah, suggested by Karl Barth, but, like Wroe, I like the thought of it being the Church in every age.  So, today, we are the Gospel.  The Gospel is lived out through what we do.  Wroe goes on to write about the people of his church, with all their gifts and failings, all their different backgrounds and identities.  It's a fascinating account and a useful reminder that God uses us as we are.  In his church they started, every couple of months or so, including in the Sunday service, telling the story of a member of the congregation, viewed as an extra Gospel reading.   As you look at your congregation, what are the Gospel stories you could tell because you see them being lived out?