WHO AM I?

dietrich_bonhoeffer

TWELVE AROUND TABLE this morning, as of long ago, gathered for burning bush encounter the rabbi said all could and should know. With genius insistence on open hospitality, Jesus gathered people around – thankfully, eucharistically, speaking of God in the midst of them, in-their-flesh, in 'adamah, earthed and in touch, breathing ruach, God-breath, communion, in and through and for and all around them – in and on and of Genesis ground.

There are times, many times, when it seems that God's message for all of us is, as Fr Richard Rohr often reminds us: “Don't get rid of the pain until you have learned its lessons.” Hard though it be for us to grasp, desperately disinclined to undergo it, brokenness heals us into wholeness.

Unfortunately, Fr Richard goes on to reflect, “we have the natural instinct to fix pain, to control it, or even, foolishly, to try to understand it. The ego always insists on understanding. That’s why Jesus praises a certain quality even more than love, and he calls it faith. It is the ability to stand in liminal space, to stand on the threshold, to hold the contraries, until you move to a deeper level where it all eventually makes sense in the great scheme of God and grace.” (Adapted from The Authority of Those Who Have Suffered)

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And, of course, some of us have no other choice available to us than lonely grace and space into which to speak our prayers and our questions. For some, some of the time, as for Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred in 1945, there's no other option available. But the life and witness of this pastor called our attention to the Jesus who calls people to round table, to pray and to stay and to question together – breathing the life of communion: a higher, lower, deeper, broader, wider dispensation, the kingdom of heaven.

WHO AM I? – Bonhoeffer asked … Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine!

Annunciation2014

WHO AM I? They often tell me I stepped from my cell’s confinement calmly, cheerfully, firmly, like a Squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me I used to speak to my warders freely and friendly and clearly, as though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me I bore the days of misfortune equally, smilingly, proudly, like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of? Or am I only what I myself know of myself? Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage, struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat, yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds, thirsting for words of kindness, for neighbourliness, tossing in expectation of great events, powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance, weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making, faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other? Am I one person to-day and to-morrow another? Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling? Or is something within me still like a beaten army, fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Church remembers Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pastor & Martyr on 9th April

 

EYE TO EYE

TOWARDS THE END OF THE DAY I watched three or four squirrels at play. We live in their garden – the one they share with five or six wood pigeons who are so liberally supplied with scraps from the table that I sometimes wonder, as I watch them waddling around the lawn, whether they could take off in a hurry if need be. But I digress.

The squirrels spend much of the day chasing each other up and down the oak tree and round and round the perimeter fence that marks out their territory. Until early evening when, apparently certain of their safe space, they’re often to be found sitting up quietly, as though at prayer. Tonight one of them met my watching eyes – and it’s happened, by the grace of God, before – and we meditated, contemplated one another. And I had a gentle sense that the little fellow was probably rather better at it than I.

And then, at 8pm, our monthly Meditation gathering assembled over in the church. The gentle sound of others’ quiet breathing soothes my soul. Shared silence and stillness. Balm. And I realise that my encounter with God here, the One silently contemplating the other, happened only a little space before with a reflective grey squirrel as we, he and me, were able to encounter each other eye to eye.

the golden evening brightens in the west …

NATURE?

CAN’T SLEEP. Watched Rev which helped the winding down process after the Annual Parochial Church Meeting. Ate pizza with friends – for which oh so many thanks. But can’t sleep – again – and the diary’s full tomorrow, and pretty much for the rest of the week. And actually it’s not the church meeting itself that’s keeping me awake – not this particular one, anyway! But I’ve been haunted all weekend by a photo-piece under “World” in the Times.

The full horror of nature: A heavily pregnant zebra shows dignity in her final moments as she is eaten alive by spotted hyenas in Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya … she remained stoic and dignified to the end – photographer Marc Mol

I cried. Her beautiful eyes looking straight ahead – as though directly into mine – whilst being savaged to death. Oh, dear God, I cried. And I cannot erase the photograph from my mind. And the trouble is that the mind’s eye picture is a flickering one. Sometimes the eyes are those of a beautiful, beautiful zebra. Sometimes the stoic dignity is to be seen in the eyes of a young Syrian mother in a hospital bed – recovering (?) from having set herself alight, a living beacon of human distress at her enforced inability to provide for the children who stood by her whilst she burned – being savaged. Sometimes they’re the eyes of beautiful people, deeply in love – being savaged by an institution that preaches about love like there’s no tomorrow.

How’re ya doin’ Vicarage?

Well: wide awake actually. Again. And wondering how on earth I find myself spending hour after hour listening to debates about hymn books and service papers when we live in a world that’s crying out – looking me dead in the eye, whilst being savaged – stoically crying out for mercy.

I cannot bear to share these pictures here. Better to share a raindrop, a tear, if you like, reflecting a whole wide world. And I don’t want to hear that it’s not a vicar’s job to keep innocent zebras free from the threat of hyenas. They taught me that in the seminary a long, long time ago. But it is the vicar’s job, and everybody’s job, to keep persons protected from savagery – and at any rate I’ll never stop longing for the day when “the lion shall lie down with the lamb”.

Pray, pray, pray. Let’s leave the hymn book on the shelf for a day or two. No more beating people over the head with the Bible (anyone’s Bible) – lest some sad day we ourselves be knocked dead by our own crude and blunt weapons. Couldn’t we have a few days off spouting badly-understood creeds and misused sacred scriptures? – Reflect a bit upon our terrifyingly destructive ignorance? – Try to get a handle on the richness, the unity in diversity, the poetry of life?

And ACT. Gird up our loins. Speak up. Speak out for an end to each and every act of human savagery and self-centred, self-satisfied, religious obsequiousness. In God’s “dispensation” either everyone’s in or everyone’s out. And anyone reading this is called to be human and humane – and not a spotted hyena.

LORD OF LIFE, help me never to stop reflecting upon the grace with which zebras – and you alone know how many beautiful humans – “remained stoic and dignified to the end.”

Kyrie eleison. Lord have mercy. And thank you. Thank you that Jesus wept. And for that resounding and tomb-shattering clarion call – LAZARUS! COME OUT!

BLOSSOMING

BLESSED BE GOD for the gift of another blue-skied blossoming day – in flowers, in trees; in people young and beautiful and reaching; in wide-open-minded educators, giving, learning, receptive and teaching; in the mid-life laughter, and poetry, and wisdom, wonderment, weeping and working; in compassion, forgiveness, healing and recollecting; in pause and in poise; in pastors faithful and praying;  in people patiently waiting, sighing, dying. All these I have encountered in just one blossoming day. And there’ll be more on the way, until Eternal Day.

Blessed be God!

OVER ALL

2014-01-03 Gitanjali - Tagore

THE LOST AND THE FOUND – this is the stuff of the stories we’ve heard and we’ve lived from our earliest infancy. And all that we’ve “lost” terrifies and sickens us. And we somehow forget all the “found” that, remembered, we might be healed by. Such are the constraints of TIME. But not forever. Not forever. Over all there is “the deepest silence of the night” and a smiling there, and a whispering. And perhaps a somehow familiar song on the wind: “rejoice with me! – for that which was lost is found”. Again and again and again … whispering, smiling …

When the creation was new and all the stars shone in their first splendour, the gods held their assembly in the sky and sang ‘Oh, the picture of perfection! the joy unalloyed!’

But one cried of a sudden – ‘It seems that somewhere there is a break in the chain of light and one of the stars has been lost.’

The golden string of the harp snapped, their song stopped, and they cried in dismay – ‘Yes, that lost star was the best, she was the glory of all heavens!’

From that day the search is unceasing for her, and the cry goes on from one to the other that in her the world has lost its one joy!

Only in the deepest silence of the night the stars smile and whisper among themselves – ‘Vain is this seeking! Unbroken perfection is over all!’

Rabindranath Tagore
Gitanjali – the 78th Song Offering

COLOUR AND THE ABSTRACT

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I’M NUTS ABOUT COLOUR and the abstract, even as I’m dotty, too, about poetry and the precise. Both, in quite different ways, leave plenty of room for liberality, for openness to life’s gifts in oneself and in others, for generosity of spirit. I wonder how many images will present themselves to you “out of” the abstract blending above? I enjoyed creating them – but that enjoyment is almost as nothing compared to the enjoyment I’ll gain from returning, and from the never-ending procession of “new” works that will arise therefrom.

I shall try to carve out time in 2014 for a bit more artwork than has been afforded in the past year. In like fashion I’ve embarked upon a new handwritten journalling project for the year. I’m resolved (how effectively remains to be seen, of course) to hand-write a pondered poem-a-day into a specially purchased journal. I hope that the act will facilitate a daily pondering and contemplation. And there’ll be the benefit, in the future, of a slightly more personal than usual returning.

And all this “returning” helps maintain a constant communion with loved ones and with friends near and far, known and unknown, in this world and in other worlds. This returning, this abiding remembering, brings me daily to the constant prayer – a cantus firmus in my life for an end to a few more of the harsher divisions and judgments still insisted upon by some members of our humankind – even whilst being thankful for progress made in the past year. If I’m nuts about colour, and dotty about poetry, I’m absolutely besotted with my conviction that the “will” of God the Source of Life is to draw all persons, all created things, always and everywhere into Unity. Tomorrow I’m hoping to see “Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom” – so doubtless there’ll be more from me on all of the above thereafter.

Meanwhile, my Alice Meynell post of New Year’s Eve has touched something in my soul several dozen times since then:

… in the eternities,
Doubtless we shall compare together, hear
A million alien Gospels, in what guise
He trod the Pleiades, the Lyre, the Bear.

O, be prepared, my soul!
To read the inconceivable, to scan
The myriad forms of God those stars unroll
When, in our turn, we show to them a Man.

SCATTERING DARKNESSES

I LOVE TO PRAY an advent blessing …

Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you
and scatter the darknesses from before your paths

… and I also love Mary Oliver’s poetry, that knows the Sun so very intimately. “Why I wake early” speaks to the Eternal Warmth:

dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light –

Here’s the Advent message! ha, ha! – intended for every living, breathing product of Divine Love:

Good morning, good morning, good morning

Thank God for the poets. Thank God for the poets. Thank God for the poets! And read them, and hear them, and be present with them, and pray with them, that every other living thing, whosoever they may be, and wheresoever they may be, and whatsoever their present circumstances – they may thrive both after and Before The Sun Rises (Stay put, just for a moment; click this link to share a good morning with one of my friends).

Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Thank God for the poets in every time, and in every tradition, and in every place.

Jesus of Nazareth came to be known by some as Christos or “Anointed” – because God breathed in him, and because he both knew and prayed for dawning and good morning, for everyone, always, “on earth as it is in heaven”. The Life of the Life-Giver breathes in you and me too, we, the anointed in our day, who sing in every tongue to the sun of righteousness and –  learning to breathe as one – say and pray

Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ the true, the only Light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise!
Triumph o’er the shades of night:
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Daystar, in my heart appear.

Dark and cheerless is the morn
unaccompanied by thee;
joyless is the day’s return,
till thy mercy’s beams I see,
till they inward light impart,
glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

Visit then this soul of mine!
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief!
Fill me, Radiancy Divine;
scatter all my unbelief;
more and more thyself display,
shining to the perfect day.

Charles Wesley