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

 

TEACHING THE WORLD TO LISTEN

MANY THE MUSICAL INSPIRATIONS that bowl me over. But few that I return to as frequently as to Dame Evelyn Glennie’s “teaching the world to listen”. Here is passion, here is excellence, here is an invitation to take notice … every day. There’s Gospel in here, not least because Dame Evelyn “hears” the beat, the rhythm, the soaring melodies of life (in a New York subway train clattering over a bridge, in street sirens, in a crowd of people on the move, for example) though she is profoundly deaf.

Would that I were able to take delighted notice of the music of life every day. I try, of course – that’s what prayer’s about: taking notice – of breath, of strength, of weakness, of vulnerability, of faith, of hope, of love, of joy, of gladness, of badness and sadness, of sounds and of silence, of the “still, small voice of calm”. And yet I know that my life would be immeasurably changed for the better if I didn’t constantly forget the reasoned reminder of Jesus: “he who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

There’s a balance to be struck between listening to our own inner voice and the wisdom and direction of the voices around us – what the Church might usefully call “body language” or “collaborative living” (a fuller extension of the more usual “collaborative ministry”). When my parish was looking for a new parish priest the Profile that the Parochial Church Council and other parish representatives drew up requested of the bishop a priest who would function like the conductor of an orchestra – not trying to play every instrument him / herself but, rather, noticing the music that emanated from the lives of those around him / her and encouraging a bringing together of these voices, encouraging harmony, encouraging what I myself think of as a kind of musical Shalom. And that’s a vision that has always spoken to my soul. Benjamin Zander, the charismatic conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, writes and speaks with passion of how fundamentally necessary it is for an individual player to listen out for the “voices” around her – in order to have a proper sense of the direction of a piece, of its life.

So we need breathing space. Listening space. Attention giving space. And we have to practice night and day. Dame Evelyn draws our attention to the spaces between sounds and she shows us that it’s possible to believe both in the music of life, and in the spaces, and in ourselves. Dame Evelyn’s vibrant life and example gives me courage and hope; she is living embodiment of what one of our more glorious Common Worship Eucharistic prefaces fabulously calls “the silent music of [God’s] praise”; with the breath of God in her, with divine rhythm, she inspires. I aspire.

See also: Teaching the world to listen

THE IN-BETWEEN TIMES

MUCH TO OUR GREAT DELIGHT about 35 of us sat down “with” Maggi Dawn this morning. Others are readying themselves in-between times for a gathering tomorrow evening. Someone said at the end of the session this morning how struck they’d been by the musicality in most all of our beginnings and endings. Certainly it was true that a large gathering of friends hearing and telling “our story” brought to mind many a song; and a spot of liturgy:

Blessed are you, Lord God, our light and our salvation; to you be glory and praise for ever. From the beginning you have created all things and all your works echo the silent music of your praise …

Common Worship on the subject of common worship … and the possibility of just that, and of wondrous story-telling, and of beginnings and endings to be perceived and known and heard in oceans of wondering, creative silence …

Hey, Maggi, we’re enjoying this Adventing … and we haven’t really got started properly yet! xx