CONSIDER

candle-in-the-darknessFOR YEARS I’VE RETURNED, at some time in the course of cold and windy Advent evenings, to the same poem. I’m not usually expecting the remembrance. It’s something that just turns up, sometime, every year. William Stafford’s “inviting the quiet by turning the face” moves something in me deeply – over the beckoning hue and cry of the “last opportunity” cash registers. I’m waiting, the world – the whole world – is waiting for something to “touch us too from that other place.”

Listening

My father could hear a little animal step,
or a moth in the dark against the screen,
and every far sound called the listening out
into places where the rest of us had never been.

More spoke to him from the soft wild night
than came to our porch for us on the wind;
we would watch him look up and his face go keen
till the walls of the world flared, widened.

My father heard so much that we still stand
inviting the quiet by turning the face,
waiting for a time when something in the night
will touch us too from that other place.

William Stafford

Beneath the dome of the firmament, I consider.

AN ABSOLUTE JOY

Philip with Dareena (i)

photo/simonmarsh

GLORIOUS WEDDING – the “house team” at St Michael’s are all still glowing with the warmth of it all, even on a cold day. Today’s was a simply wonderful bringing together of Buddhist, Christian and Hindu traditions from Mauritius, Greece and England.

THE PRAYER from the Hindu tradition used in the celebration is here

Listen to the salutation of the dawn.
Look to this day;
in its brief course lie all the verities
and realities of our existence:
The bliss of growth, the glory of action,
the splendour of beauty.
For every yesterday is but a dream
and every tomorrow is only a vision,
but today well lived
makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
and every tomorrow a dream of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day,
for such is the salutation of the dawn.

THE GROOM’S MOTHER read from 1 Corinthians 13.1-13

The Gift of Love

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

THE BRIDE’S MOTHER offered the following readings

The four immeasurables, also known as the Brahma Viharas (Sanskrit) are found in one brief and beautiful prayer

May all sentient beings
have happiness and its causes,
May all sentient beings
be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never
be separated from bliss without suffering,
May all sentient beings
be in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger.

The Buddha taught the following to his son Rahula 

Rahula, practice loving kindness to overcome anger. Loving kindness has the capacity to bring happiness to others without demanding anything in return. Practice compassion to overcome cruelty. Compassion has the capacity to remove the suffering of others without expecting anything in return. Practice sympathetic joy to overcome hatred. Sympathetic joy arises when one rejoices over the happiness of others and wishes others well-being and success. Practice non-attachment to overcome prejudice. Non-attachment is the way of looking at all things openly and equally. This is because that is. Myself and others are not separate. Do not reject one thing only to chase after another. I call these the four immeasurables. Practice them and you will become a refreshing source of vitality and happiness for others.

LOVE

The definition of love in Buddhism is “wanting others to be happy. This love is unconditional and it requires a lot of courage and acceptance – including self-acceptance”

What a joy! What an absolute joy.

Philip with Dareena ii

photo/simonmarsh

ROYAL WISDOM

Screen Shot 2013-05-30 at 20.48.34

ROYAL WISDOM

King Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication

Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven. He said,

‘O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, ‘Likewise when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name — for they shall hear of your great name, your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm—when a foreigner comes and prays towards this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling-place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and love you, as do your people Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built – 1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43

Sixty years ago Queen Elizabeth the Second received her Coronation, and amongst the roles she assumed was that of Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith. Having served her office, full-time, for longer than any bishop, priest or deacon, I think it may be said of Her Majesty that she has fulfilled her royal task with a wisdom and grace comparable to that of the great King Solomon. That great King had a concern that human persons all over the earth should come to know the greatness of one God. What a marvellous, extraordinary and gracious prayer:

then hear in heaven your dwelling-place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and love you

Queen Elizabeth’s Address at Lambeth Palace

And at Lambeth Palace, on the 15th February 2012, our own great Queen addressed her Archbishop of Canterbury and other religious leaders thus:

Prince Philip and I are delighted to be with you today to pay tribute to the particular mission of Christianity and the general value of faith in this country. This gathering is a reminder of how much we owe the nine major religious traditions represented here. They are sources of a rich cultural heritage and have given rise to beautiful sacred objects and holy texts, as we have seen today.

Yet these traditions are also contemporary families of faith. Our religions provide critical guidance for the way we live our lives, and for the way in which we treat each other. Many of the values and ideas we take for granted in this and other countries originate in the ancient wisdom of our traditions. Even the concept of a Jubilee is rooted in the Bible.

Here at Lambeth Palace we should remind ourselves of the significant position of the Church of England in our nation’s life. The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated. Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.

It certainly provides an identity and spiritual dimension for its own many adherents. But also, gently and assuredly, the Church of England has created an environment for other faith communities and indeed people of no faith to live freely. Woven into the fabric of this country, the Church has helped to build a better society – more and more in active co-operation for the common good with those of other faiths.

This occasion is thus an opportunity to reflect on the importance of faith in creating and sustaining communities all over the United Kingdom. Faith plays a key role in the identity of many millions of people, providing not only a system of belief but also a sense of belonging. It can act as a spur for social action. Indeed, religious groups have a proud track record of helping those in the greatest need, including the sick, the elderly, the lonely and the disadvantaged. They remind us of the responsibilities we have beyond ourselves.

Your Grace, the presence of your fellow distinguished religious leaders and the objects on display demonstrate how each of these traditions has contributed distinctively to the history and development of the United Kingdom. Prince Philip and I wish to send our good wishes, through you, to each of your communities, in the hope that – with the assurance of the protection of our established Church – you will continue to flourish and display strength and vision in your relations with each other and the rest of society.

Wisdom is to be found in the heart, at the very centre, of the lives of every child, woman and man upon earth. But it’s a Wisdom that need uncovering. It’s a Wisdom that requires stillness. It’s a Wisdom that requires a silencing of our little thoughts – in order that we may recognise the presence of something far, far greater than we ourselves at the heart of every living thing.

This is the Wisdom Solomon celebrated in his life and royal task:

when a foreigner comes and prays towards this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling-place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you

This is the Wisdom that was in Jesus of Nazareth and is in Jesus, and will forever be in Jesus. Having heard the prayer of a centurion who humbly sought healing for his slave Jesus was amazed and said:

“I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

This is the Wisdom Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second has celebrated in her royal task and witness across these past sixty years:

may you continue to flourish and display strength and vision in your relations with each other and the rest of society

This is the Wisdom that you and I must look to and gladly call upon, and it is a Wisdom, THE WISDOM, that reminds us all of our smallness in the scheme of all Creation – even whilst giving us cause for the most profound joy – for along with King Solomon, with Jesus Christ and with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, we, all humankind, are called to turn, to recognise with delight that we’re each and every one called and made to be vessels of the immortal, the invisible, the only Wise God: to whom we ascribe all glory and majesty – together with most marvellous and promise-filled Creativity, now and for ever. Amen.

LIFE OF PI

PI IS RAISED A HINDU, but as a fourteen-year-old he is introduced to Christianity and Islam, and starts to follow all three religions as he “just wants to love God.” He tries to understand God through the lens of each religion and comes to recognize benefits in each one.

Breathtaking cinematography. Yann Martel the novelist must be delighted. I was and am.

HOLY, HOLY, HOLY

FR RICHARD ROHR is one of the great inspirations of my life and I’m grateful to my friend Ivon Prefontaine for reminding me recently of Richard’s Daily Meditations.

In a series of Meditations on his “lineage”, whilst planning the opening of a new Living School for Action and Contemplation Fr Richard’s meditation on Sunday read

Orthopraxy in much of Buddhism and Hinduism

Orthopraxy is usually distinguished from orthodoxy. Orthodoxy refers to doctrinal correctness, whereas orthopraxy refers to right practice. What we see in many of the Eastern religions is not an emphasis upon verbal orthodoxy, but instead upon practices and lifestyles that, if you do them (not think about them, but do them), end up changing your consciousness.

This was summed up in the Eighth Core Principle of the Center for Action and Contemplation: We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking. I hope that can be a central building block of the Living School.

And – joyfully – today I’ve been chestily croaking ALLELUIA! upon reading today’s thoughts about the witness of art

Unique witness of mythology, poetry, and art

My earliest recordings often included mythological stories, poetry, or art to make the point. Many people are more right-brained learners than left-brained. When you bring in a story, or a poem, or refer to a piece of art, you can see people’s interest triple: “Wow, I’m with you!” Whereas, if you stay on the verbal level all the time, their eyes glaze over, they lose interest, they lose fascination and identification with the message.

I don’t think Western preachers and teachers have really understood the importance of art in general. Until people can “catch” the message with an inner image, it usually does not go deep. We’ve also been afraid of myths that weren’t Christian. In fact, we were afraid of the very word “myth.” We thought it meant something that wasn’t true when, in fact, it’s something that’s always true—if it’s a true myth. This will be a very important substratum of the Living School curriculum.

One of the things I most love and admire about Richard Rohr is his generosity of heart, mind, soul and body. He’s open to seeing the Divine all around us, open to contemplation and to receiving the Wisdom from traditions other – though as he shows us, not always so very “other” – from his own. I love that Fr Richard balances the importance of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy; that he both thinks deeply and feels profoundly. That, it seems to me, is what the call of Jesus Christ – and of other great spiritual masters and teachers – is really all about. As Richard has it, “living ourselves into a new way of thinking”. That’s something all of us can do, all of the time, with or without particular religious frameworks – though many, in the living, will thrive in the kind of religious environment that seeks – as the word religion intends (from Latin religare – “to reconnect, to bind together”) – to bind up the whole.

My friend Mimi is a generous contemplative – Between Night And Day; as is the marvellous Rebecca Koo – Heads or Tails; and Bill Wooten’s – The Present Moment brings a wonderful word from Thomas Merton – and a stunning photo; Francesca Zelnick is as special as her Today’s Special; David Herbert is one of my diocesan friends and I love his latest post (and we share affection for Parker Palmer); and Rachael Elizabeth’s been having a good time doing Christology and incense-sampling ( ! ) in Durham; James Fielden – always showing us “The Way Home” – meditates exquisitely upon Time; Ginny at “Chasing the Perfect Moment” writes about Re-creation; Ria Gandhi has been wondering about who and what’s Beautiful and has flagged up one answer here; Jenni has been Watching the Symphony here.

What are we looking at in all these human “works of art”. What do I see as I reflect upon the colours, upon the wide spectrum that arches over the whole of my life?

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus

Holy, Holy, Holy

Multi-coloured and blessed sanctity – God’s art: whether we’re always aware of it – or not …

LIBERAL / RADICAL

BISHOP ROBERT ATWELL and I touched on the convergence of the words ‘liberal’ and ‘radical’ in a stimulating conversation the other day. Both of us were speaking of inclusiveness, accessibility, direction, purpose, of a church’s special charism or gift of grace – of getting back to grass roots. And “the Spirit is moving” it seems, because ‘liberal’ and ‘radical’ featured frequently and prominently in our excellent Church Council deliberations about Growth Action Planning here last night. (Where are we? What are we? Why are we? Where are we heading? Where could we be in 5 years? Where do we want to be in 5 years?)

Sandcastles and temples

It doesn’t take much effort to enumerate some of the ways in which church and society are changing before our very eyes, and at a rate of knots. Frenetic building (or perpetual ‘repairing’) of even our strongest sandcastles is – history shows us time and again – sooner or later to be inundated. Baptism. The ocean prevails. The proud are scattered “in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek”. (Magnificat – Luke 1)

Justice and peace

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that foll’west all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

George Matheson

It’s no accident that ocean breeze and flow keeps blowing the words ‘justice’ and ‘peace’ back into the faces of a Church comprised of many who lived through the human turmoil of the twentieth century – during which more human beings killed members of their own species than at any other point in history. We simply MUST aspire to richer, fuller, brighter, fairer, tearless promise. And our Growth Action Planning last night had the current atrocities in Syria as a backdrop to concentrate the mind, whilst one of our Council reps teaches in a school in which over 35 languages are spoken amongst the small children.

Open plan … and the old glass ceilings

Oceans level sandcastles and temples and leave beaches washed clean. And golden. An invitation. Like fresh snow the shoreline swept clean invites new footprints. “And we therefore will not fear, though the earth be moved and the hills be carried into the midst of the sea” (Psalm 46). And we ask the question, “so where are we headed now?” Levelled, shaken up a bit and cleaned, both the ocean and the land are still here. Shall we build the same old castles or shall we have a rethink? Shall we go for a bit more “open plan”? Shall we leave out the old glass ceilings? Shall we thank God that all the Synodical and Parliamentary minutes about the difference between men and women, and straight and gay, and the world’s faith traditions, and political ideologies, and representation rules – got washed out to sea, whilst the ocean and the land and the better memories – one might almost say the “divine memories” – are still here.

Parables

Once again there’s a fabulous little parable in this week’s UK Church Times. The visionary and prophetic Bishop Kelvin Wright of Dunedin, New Zealand, is reported as saying

my diocese faces extinction … but I’m not losing any sleep over this. I think several other dioceses will be watching what we do with interest

We are. And thankfully Kelvin will be as familiar as I am with an older parable

unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. – John 12.24

What will it mean for the Church – “the Body of Christ now on earth” – and for the World of the future to be both liberal and radical? Bring on the ocean – an inundation worth learning to swim in, and that right early.

Jerusalem the golden with milk and honey blest beneath thy contemplation sink heart and voice oppressed. I know not, O, I know not what joys await us there, what radiancy of glory, what bliss beyond compare

THE GREATEST JOY

loveforallhatredfornone.org – please click photo to enlarge

WHAT DID YOU ENJOY MOST? – I asked one of our congregation here after the midweek Eucharist on Wednesday – we’d all been trying to spot her at the Jubilee Celebrations in London on the tv. “Oh”, said Eunice, “the atmosphere, the pomp and ceremony, the camaraderie, the colour … but nothing touched me more than the banner congratulations carried by the London Buses: Congratulations Your Majesty! – Muslims for Peace“. Eunice’s report received a heartfelt round of the warmest applause.