Thursday, December 28, 2006

No limits!

Jesus seemed to anticipate that as he said that while "among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God" -- including a prostitutes or tax collector who had received John's Baptism -- is greater than he" (Luke 7:28). And even in saying that, Jesus' ministry issues an invitation in profound continuity with the one John issued to all those who would hear -- an invitation to repentance and conversion.

We need to hear that invitation. It isn't about getting in to God's good graces or avoiding God's judgment -- in Jesus' ministry, God is already extending grace and suspending judgment before we ask. It's about living into the fullness of that grace. We are invited to make our decision to follow Jesus, and that invitation comes not just once for a lifetime but in every moment we live. Jesus is born anew among us whenever two or three gather in his name. Jesus is at work among us wherever the poor, the sick, and the marginalized are received and find healing and power for new life. And when we keep our eyes, ears, mind, and heart open to receive God's good news, we see it finding flesh in our world in places and in ways as surprising and challenging as they are joyous.

Let's not begin to talk to ourselves about our impressive spiritual pedigree when the very one for whom our ancestors longed and hoped is coming again among us. Let's not presume to draw limits around what God can accomplish and with whom. Let's not measure God's good news of peace according to our own preconceptions when the most certain word we have of it is that it "surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). Our conversion didn't end with Baptism; that's just where it began, and it ends only where God's love for us does. In other words, it doesn't end. Expect God's coming; expect the unexpected!

And thanks be to God!

So writes Sarah Dylan Breuer in her wonderful Lectionary Blog, reminding me so clearly, as we come up to the New Year, how profoundly grateful I am to be in a church where this kind of thinking is taken seriously. We are all of us Christians so prone to "draw limits around what God can accomplish and with whom." Truly we must stop it, now: if we are not careful this is where the division in the Church of God will occur, not between Anglicans who do or do not accept bishops of a particular variety. The real danger is of a split between law and grace, with a political extension (seen so clearly in the "War on Terror" and its ramifications) into the triumph of judgement over mercy. As an aside, it grieves me to see the UK Labour Party going down the same road as the US Republican Party over these things, and attempting (albeit feebly, compared with the US Religious Right) to shanghai the Church in support of policies of international intolerance and what could all too easily grow into domestic oppression and the restriction of civil liberties.

Grace is not limited. Mercy is not limited. Only our response is limited - and we must pray that God will wash away those limitations with the living water of his Holy Spirit, and leave us free to respond to God, and to our fellow humans, as Jesus did: directly and openly, his love clean, without the limitations of fear and self-defence, given as freely as the sun and rain.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Eremos - new music for Christmas!

Happy (nearly) Christmas!

To celebrate, there's a new track, "And Be Led Back in Peace" on the Eremos download site - enjoy!

In case I forget to post something more seasonal here nearer the time, every blessing for Christmas & the New Year...


Monday, December 18, 2006

How Long We Wait

How Long We Wait

How long we wait, with minds as quiet as time,
Like sentries on a tower.
How long we watch, by night, like the astronomers.

Heaven, when will we hear you sing,
Arising from our grassy hills,
And say: “The dark is done, and Day
Laughs like a Bridegroom in His tent, the lovely sun,
His tent the sun, His tent the smiling sky!”?

How long we wait with minds as dim as ponds
While stars swim slowly homeward in the water of
our west!
Heaven, when will we hear you sing?

Thomas Merton. Collected Poems.
New York: New Directions Press, 1977: 89-90.

Just came home from hospital yesterday (scary, but OK now!) to find this wonderful Merton poem, so central to Advent, the Advent time we all live in, and have lived in for all the generations since that first Christmas, "long, long ago..."

I sense a new seriousness, and a new light-heartedness, in what I must do from now on in. God has been trying for some time, I think, to get me to prioritise what I do, and don't do. I think he is calling me to concentrate on him, and on what he gives me, rather than on what I think I ought to be doing for him. I've known this, in a kind of a way, for a long time; but I've tried to give lip-service to it, rather than admit my deep need.

Hmm. Lots to think about. With your permission, you readers, I'll try and think some of this through with you in the next few posts... After all, we're in this together, somehow!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I'm not a heretic!

This is so cool - I'm really truly not a heretic! Hat tip to reverend mommy - whose ear infection I pray will soon be gone - for this excellent link!

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant.
Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly
God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially
approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant




























Are you a heretic?
created with

The dangerous memory of Francis

This from Reflections of a Secular Franciscan:

I came across this prayer at the website of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany. They are the ladies responsible for my initial formation as a Franciscan nearly 50 years ago.

May this day remind us of our call and desire to follow Christ.
May the Spirit of the Lord find its dwelling place in us, that the Gospel may come to life in us.
May we live in the overflowing goodness of the Most High.
May crucified love mark our lives this day.
May we forgive our debtors as we have been forgiven our debts.
May we see the leper in our midst and taste their the goodness of the Lord.
May we live in the dangerous memory of Francis!
Pax et Bonum!

-- author unknown

"Live in the dangerous memory of Francis!" Dangerous memory - memories...

I find it so easy to live in safe places, in the comfortable patterns and the cosy locations. Sometimes I look back and wonder how on earth I came to make some of the dangerous choices I did make. It almost seems like someone else. Perhaps that's it, though: perhaps those were the times (few enough, I have to admit) when I just for a moment took my hands off the wheel, and let the Holy Spirit drive. Oh, Lord, as David prayed, don't take your Spirit away from me, even though I so often am too pig-headed to hear his voice in the quiet places, or just too noisy...

Lord, give me too dangerous memories - while I've the foolishness to ask it - this very Advent, when waiting itself becomes dangerous, when the Simeons of this broken world find, against all odds, their consolation right in front of them, in the last form they could ever have expected, and dare to recognise him...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Do we need Superman at Advent?

The certainty of Christian hope lies beyond passion and beyond knowledge. Therefore we must sometimes expect our hope to come in conflict with darkness, desperation and ignorance. Therefore, too, we must remember that Christian optimism is not a perpetual sense of euphoria, an indefectible comfort in whose presence neither anguish nor tragedy can possibly exist. We must not strive to maintain a climate of optimism by the mere suppression of tragic realities. Christian optimism lies in a hope of victory that transcends all tragedy: a victory in which we pass beyond tragedy to glory with Christ crucified and risen...

But the Church in preparing us for the birth of a "great prophet," a Savior and a King of Peace, has more in mind than seasonal cheer. The Advent mystery focuses the light of faith upon the very meaning of life, of history, of man, of the world and of our own being. In Advent we celebrate the coming and indeed the presence of Christ in our world. We witness to His presence even in the midst of all its inscrutable problems and tragedies. Our Advent faith is not an escape from the world to a misty realm of slogans and comforts which declare our problems to be unreal, our tragedies nonexistent.

Thomas Merton. Seasons of Celebration. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1950: 88-89

Recently I've been thinking a lot about our "hope... that transcends all tragedies," and about the immense tragedies that face humanity at every turn. I look at the faces on TV, of refugees, of those who have lost everything to war, famine, disease, and now at Advent most poignantly I find myself asking, with the psalmists and the prophets
, "O Lord, how long? How much more can we take?"

And yet as Christians we do witness to our Saviour's presence even in the renewed shadow of the nuclear threat, with locations across London contaminated with radiation, and a Prime Minister committing to mortgage the future of our communities' health, education and policing to buy brand new capabilities for thermonuclear war. We do witness to his presence even as concerns over levels of immigration threaten to open the door to institutionalised racism, and "buy to let" fever takes even more houses forever out of the reach of young couples setting up home together for the first time. We do witness to his presence even in the devastated streets of Baghdad, in the refugee camps of Dharfur and the flood plains of Somalia.

"Jesus saves!" crowed the old bumper stickers - and he does, still, save in the most astonishing and immeasurable way the lost and the hungry, the sick and the dispossessed, the rich and the disillusioned, across all this broken, weeping world. Sometimes our faith comes right down to this wire, to the bare truth of Romans 8:28, that "... all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9) and his salvation is sometimes radically different from the kind offered by caped individuals who wear their underpants on the outside.

After all, why would the expected Messiah, King of Kings, be conceived out of wedlock, be born in poverty and obscurity, and freely give himself to die in
agony and disgrace, if God did things our way? What would a superhero have to say to a blind beggar, shouting in the crowd, or a broken woman whose illness made her forever unclean? What would he have to say to me?