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!

GOD OR THE BOOK?

rainbow

Rainbow – Oxbridge Biotech

I’VE SQUARED UP TO A BIT OF A CRISIS about words in recent months. Does humankind sometimes (too often?) mistake humanly shaped words and phrases for GOD? Does the Bible take precedence over the “still, small voice of calm” or “the breath of life” [come] “sweeping through us”?

I’ve loved the Bible for as long as I can remember. The words about God between its covers have guided my life, provided comfort and sustenance, and the proper chastisement that we may “hear” when we company with Wisdom.  Words about God fill my bookshelves, my contemplation and my writings. Words about God fill the silent poetry and prayer of my heart and soul and mind and body. But at the end of 21 chapters St John needed to report that

… there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written – John 21.25

Much the same might apply to the lived lives of any and all of the human race. Life is an ongoing, perpetually unfolding project.

Poets amongst my friends will understand my very great love for the (Anglican Common Worship) phrase in one of our eucharistic prayers, a line that speaks, eloquently, of

the silent music of your praise …

Silence is golden

Latterly I’ve found myself disinclined to heap the contents of my febrile mind upon people of goodwill. Especially when I’m depressed about the painful, tangled machinations of the Church I love, and the world I love, and have loved long.

Sometimes, and more frequently with every year’s passing, I yearn for silence in my own soul – even whilst loving, needing, and recognising the importance of words. Would that we could make a better poetry of words together: humankind, I mean. Co-creators with GOD THE WORD. Would that we could make a better poetry, a living poetry, a better creativity, of our words.

Religious machinations – like The House of Bishops Working Group on human sexuality – the Pilling Report – continue to leave me gasping for air. Even whilst there are pages and pages of great stuff in this one it’s the implications of church-crafted power over other people’s lives and loves that troubles me. Two of Jesus’ own apostles once asked “shall we call down fire upon their heads, Lord?” (wrong-thinking Samaritans in this case) and then spent the rest of their lives reflecting upon their Lord’s rebuking them! (Luke 9.54).

I’m trying hard to bring a bit of order to the thousands of loose words flying around in my head – because I need, and always and everywhere really do NEED, to ask just one question of contemporary Christianity, and it’s this

WHO’S THE LIFE and hope of the world? Is it GOD – the “still small voice” who “praises” in Creation silently? Or is it the Bible – humanly set down words – however poetic or inspired?

To be clear – I believe that the Christian tradition (or any faith-in-God tradition) is on a hiding to nothing if by GOD (or worse – “what GOD wants”, or “GOD longs for”, or “GOD says”), is meant a BOOK – even a world-bestseller of a book.

Salve in silence 

The silent Shalom of GOD is where salve for the world’s wounds is to be found: in faith and hope and love. And faith and hope and love are uniting facets of the breath of God in every human person – indeed in every living thing – without exception.

That, surely, was and is the message of “the anointed”, the Christ, the Living Word, whose Body now on earth we’re each and every one of us – the knowing and the unknowing – made to be. I believe that the Church needs to be encouraging silence enough, often enough, that the inner Word at the heart of all life be heard and lived. If GOD’S every word, on every subject, for all of life, for all of time is to be found only in the Bible (and particularly, according to some, the “Christian Bible”) then I’m dumbfounded. Why would Jesus of Nazareth ever have needed to encourage the people of God to pray?

How dearly I thank God for the millions that make an altogether better job of being God’s anointed in the world, ministering to the lives of the world’s forgotten people, living and loving in ordinary and unsung ways, than some who have claimed for themselves, as though it were a medal, the description “Christian” – catholic or evangelical. God is not absent where the Church’s pursuit of power and control over others finds no foothold.

Prophetic retort! 

For GOD’S creative sake, let us put an end to these weighted reports and pronouncements and LIVE the gift of life’s spectrum – softer, rounder, wider, more generous, more glorious, more grateful. Some of the world’s imaginative youngsters speak just exactly the kind of concise and prophetic word the Church needs most to hear today:

“get a life!”

GOD is not a book. The Bible is not inerrant. GOD is the Source of life’s spectrum – of every thing that is. And God the Eternal, silent, unwritten Word – is not disappointing.

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

Nelson Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom

LIGHT A CANDLE

LightACandle

FOR OUR DEARLY LOVED ONES or people further afield – Afghanistan, perhaps, or Myanmar or Syria. The bereft and the blessed. The faraway and those having fun. The going and the coming. The hopeless and the fulfilled. The lonely and those revelling in relationship. The sad and the glad. The sick and the healthy. The suffering and the rejoicing. The wondering and the knowing. The wishful and the satisfied. The weeping and the laughing.

All we long for …

And sometimes we just don’t know what to say, or what to pray, or what to do – and it’s then that we wind up thanking God for the little miracle, the tiny gift that is lighting a candle, or maybe a small table lamp at home, the gift that lies in God’s inviting us, in the very act of the lighting and the remembering, to

Let go. Let God

It’s highly likely that I’ll have lit a candle in recent times for YOU. Thank you for your light and love and prayers for me, too.

LOOK AT THE WORLD

PHOTOGRAPHY is sometimes happy accident. Here, looking up and toward the horizon, a tranquil sunset moment, towards the close of a good and fruitful day, and a prayer of the heart arising, in deep, deep gratitude for heartfelt connection. In the foreground, the flying stripes of a moment propelled at seventy miles an hour. This is a gospel, painted in just a fraction of a second, inviting me to look up, beyond the foreground’s white noise, to the eternal music of praise – to look at the world …
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MATTHEW – POSTSCRIPT

MARY OLIVER just “gets it” doesn’t she? That’s why we keep coming back to her, again and again, when we long to make real prayer, when we long to make love. For Wisdom dwells in her – in the longing, that’s to say. And in the poet.

And today, for reasons that are obvious enough – my “soft animal body” having been intensely connected with Matthew’s this morning – Mary’s “Wild Geese” plays in my head and heart, over and over and over. Mary Oliver just gets it. Life, I mean. And love. Mary Oliver just gets it. And gives it – like all the poets do – to us …

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.

Mary Oliver

ANOTHER VOICE

windytrees

WILD AND HOWLING winds swirling around the College of the Resurrection in Mirfield made for a reflective, elemental sort of a night. I’m a bit ambivalent about strong wind generally, on the one hand slightly fearful of its power and a tad resentful about its uninvited imposition, and on the other sometimes willing simply to “let go, let fly” – and the encounter with raw nature brings a fleeting sense of oneness with the swirling. With life.

Morning prayer in a gloriously quiet monastic environment lends the soul an opportunity to hear “another voice” – and oh what blessings are to be heard in the silent voices within – whether Divine or divine. Whether Love or loved ones. Connecting. Connected. Silently. Here in this moment. And in eternity.

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak

Mary Oliver

Just pay attention Simon Robert. Only pay attention. The word of the angels is near. Breathe is the word. Breathe

SURREXIT

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THE RESURRECTION LIFE – loving and living and dying and rising …

Happy Easter