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

 

ROUND TABLE

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please click once to enlarge Round Table photos: twice to enlarge further

MANY OF US speak of “round table conversations” easily and routinely. With great delight we've received the “hardware” to facilitate precisely such conversations into the wonderfully remodelled Reception at Bramhall St Michael & All Angels today. Treske of Thirsk have fabricated a strikingly beautiful round table in oak (photo slides), to comfortably seat 12. It's deliberately placed and illuminated in the centre of our parish office / Reception – the day to day business hub of our parish life.

There's room for weekday masses – Tuesday mornings at 9.15am and Thursdays at 6.15pm. Here we encounter and nourish our lives with God's gift of the “lehem” – the “bread” and / or the “understanding” of life, in the midst of the daily business; and respond joyfully to the subsequent “sending out”Ite, missa est – dismissed for the apostolic mission, the apostolic loving and healing, in, and to, and for, the ordinary, everyday hearts and lives of ourselves, and of all people, at all times, and in all places. When we're at table with, and as, members of “the Body of Christ”, we learn, and rejoice in the fact that holy communion, the eucharist, the mass – is not so much about calling people into the churches, as about sending people out of churches, into the glorious wide world – the “Barque of Peter”, if you like, sailing, with enthusiasm (from-God-ness), upon the oceans of life. Have a look at the inspirational and inspirited story of the Edward King Chapel at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Oxford – pdf here

And there's room here, too, for folding pew sheets and newsletters, and for soup and bread and cheese, and for the real-deal business of discipling, communion, conversation, eucharistia, or “thanksgiving”, learning, prose and poetry – accessible space, inviting Grace. And there's a cross – a positive sign – engraved in the very centre …

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The life of the Spirit in 5 American Poets is to be the subject of an address I will give, at Bramhall Methodist Church, on Wednesday 9th April from 2.30-4pm. The life of the Spirit in the poetry of St Michael & All Angels, (already written, already published, prayed, loved, or yet-to-be-written-in-us, or on paper), will be celebrated, I hope, in dozens of different ways, and on dozens of different days, as months and years roll by, in these exciting years of renewal in the life of the Church in the World. In the midst of many and great causes for frustration, disappointment, and sometimes even despair, in our building up God's liberating reign in the world (all experienced by Jesus of Nazareth and his own band of disciples, learners, like us) – we can celebrate God's art, at one and the same time – in poetry and in prose, in silence and in song, in a million different craftsmanships, in human growth and development, and in what the Church, the Body of Christ, is really here for, what we exist and pray for: nudging God's entire creation towards finding its most authentic voice.

Canon Professor Martyn Percy's hope-filled piece in the Church Times last week has stayed with me. It will doubtless be read, and re-read, at our new round table. Here's the final paragraph, something we'd do well to emblazon, I propose, at the masthead of every parish Growth Action Plan:

By welcoming some teachers, poets, and prophets among our leadership, who point us imaginatively and compellingly, to Christ, we might yet discover an even richer, more effective purpose in our mission. And, in so doing, we might find some other routes to numerical growth along the way.

Canon Professor Martyn Percy is the Principal of Ripon College, Cud­desdon

What would you bring along to such conversations – to this or to any “round table conversation”?

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