QUICK SHADOWS

pisgah-chapel-in-swansea-600312629-1995757

AUTHENTIC FAITH? – where is it to be found? What makes for authenticity? – the kind that children instinctively understand when it’s present, and shrink from when it’s not. Is the worship we’re offering today authentic? Does what we do religiously represent what we believe truly? Does our worship give worth-ship – honoured recognition of “the place” of the Source of All Life in our lives? Does our church community strike others as genuinely Godly? As Real?

This is the stuff with which Kaleidoscope – a kind of theological think-tank, a Breathing Space, a round-the-table-home-seminary is engaging in our parish. How do we shape our offering of Worship to God in ways that make it possible for ALL people (everyone, female and male, of all ages) truly to offer themselves – in Church and in daily life.

kaleidoscope

The word authentic features again and again in our discussions. The word authentic invites us, over and over, to an honest assessment of the way things actually are in the Church and the world of the twenty-first century so that we can even begin to get a handle on the shape of things to come.

The word authentic invites us to ask why many shrink from the “life and witness” of the contemporary Church. And this involves some hard thinking, together with vigorous appeal to our imaginations. This in turn leads to the stirrings of worth-ship, to an as-yet rather nebulous, shapeless but nevertheless-Real excitement.

This grappling “in the Spirit” with Word and Sacrament brings us into company with the very first disciples of Jesus of Nazareth – bewildered, even stupefied sometimes, like them, in the company of parables we can’t quite grasp the meaning of but recognise are important somehow and which, invited or not, echo repeatedly, somewhere in the depths of us. Why do you speak in parables? – we ask, like frustrated disciples before us. And Jesus smiles. Silently. Calling us home to a new authenticity, to a new (blessed relief!) un-knowing, un-doing.

The Welsh priest and poet R S Thomas was certainly authentic – sometimes even to the point of seeming brutal, harsh, even hopeless. Tonight we shared a bit of the truth that he found himself up against in his lifetime and we know that this, too, will echo and challenge and plead with us to persevere …

The Chapel

A little aside from the main road,
becalmed in a last-century greyness,
there is the chapel, ugly without the appeal
to the tourist to stop his car
and visit it. The traffic goes by,
and the river goes by, and quick shadows
of clouds, too, and the chapel settles
a little deeper into the grass.

But here once on an evening like this,
in the darkness that was about
his hearers, a preacher caught fire
and burned steadily before them
with a strange light, so that they saw
the splendour of the barren mountains
about them and sang their amens
fiercely, narrow but saved
in a way that men are not now.

R S Thomas
Collected Poems, page 276

THE COMPASSION QUEST

CompassionQuest

TRYSTAN OWAIN HUGHES opens chapter 3 of his The Compassion Quest with this exquisite quote from Rilke

Only one space extends
Through all beings: innerworldspace.
Silently, the birds fly within us.
and I, who wants to grow, I look outside,
But find within me grows the tree.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Nearly everything calls us to connect

What a joy and a relief to me, and a challenge too, that Trystan Owain Hughes has offered the world what Tony Campolo calls “a book that was waiting to be written”. Some books baptise us with both tears and smiles. And make us stop, look, listen. And make us turn around.

Pope Francis, thank God, calls humanity to “go out into the world”. Yes! Absolutely. But with what?

Rilke, Francis  and Trystan Owain Hughes bring something OUT into the world that has grown, and is forever growing, WITHIN them and us.

Interconnectedness. Thank God. There’s God. There’s the future.

LIGHT & PRAYER

Prayer photo/simonmarsh

HERE’S ONE OF MY MANY (thousands of) photos, this one dating back to April 2008, that I love and return to as much as almost any other photo I can think of. I’m not much of a horticulturalist so cannot, I’m afraid, give an account of what is growing before the camera lens, but what I saw through the lens that Spring day is, for me, an image of prayer, my kind of prayer.

Here is a tender shoot, tentatively reaching beyond itself, (though its origins lie in a space, a place, a heart perhaps, before time began) opening slowly, rising out of dark, moist earth. Past, present and future. Here are (tiny) “hands together, eyes closed” all suffused in liquid light, like the newly baptised, yesterday’s and everyday’s.

Here – in tiny, precious hair, and arteries and veins, and nuanced colours, and exquisitely petite majesty – is testimony to the care and the call of a life Source beyond the limited capacity of any one of us fully to comprehend. Here is tenderness. Here is openness. Here is extra-ordinary beauty. Here is a call to life. Here is something precious being graced, and honoured, and sustained by love – before its rising from the earth, throughout its rising and its temporary temporal glory, and after its return to ‘adamah, to dust.

And this is prayer. My kind of prayer. The kind of love I live for, and in and with. Like you do.

ALL WAYS. NEW LIFE!

FROM TIME TO TIME somebody seeks to assure me that there’s “no future for the dear old C of E”. And I recall reading the authors who, at the beginning of the 20th century, found it hard to imagine the Church of England surviving much beyond the next ten years or so. But we’re still here! In the early and exciting years of the 21st century. And that’s the point, isn’t it? Here we are still. And wherever people are to be found, even if the entire edifice we’ve known and loved as the “dear old Church of England” has been razed to the ground, yet will the Church of England survive and thrive, in our inner lives, the home – as Jesus taught us – or the temple of the Holy Spirit, in hearts and souls and minds and bodies that have discovered the joy of resurrection, in human and in humane persons anointed by a knowledge of The Anointed—the Christ—who has displayed a consistent habit of showing up quite simply all over the place, before as well as throughout time, as St John puts it so eloquently

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.  John 1.1

All God’s people today live in the light—and amidst the evidence—of daily resurrection. And Jesus assured his disciples that it would be so. “Today you will be with me in paradise” said Jesus to the thief who was crucified alongside him. Today. Luke 23:43. Now the world is full of cynics about Church and Nation let alone the concept of paradise. The difference between cynic and saint however is just a little one, just a question of which direction you’re looking in. And once you’ve found the resurrection, the ‘paradise’ right there in the heart of your own inner life, you can’t help but to join in the glorious task of co-creating. Prayer—inner life—empowers, informs and directs our moving outwards. All ways. New life. Happy resurrection days!

 

for Bramhall Parish News, April 2011