Sunday, 29 July 2018

Answering Christ's call

Confirmation is a time of rejoicing as young people accept the call of Christ for themselves. Yet, we are often blase about this liturgical event. We tend to see it as a "Church leaving certificate" because so often this is when regular attendees at the parish no longer see the youth. They disappear from the worshipping lives of the "regulars" and so are assumed to have left the "Church". Is this true, is this reality or is it the story that is told to make excuses for the fact that we are no longer relevant to the generation that comes for confirmation? If it is the former than we are in a very bleak place and only have ourselves to blame for not inculcating Christ into the lives of the youth. If it is the latter than we are even more to blame, for we have not turned our lives to Christ and lived those lives in the presence of our children and those who come for confirmation.

Young people today are very quick to pick up on the incredibly hypocritical way in which we portray the Christian life. We have perhaps become much like David (1 Sam. 11.1-15). Our thoughts and minds are permanently placed on the pleasures of our hearts rather than on the life that God gives us in Christ. It is no wonder that we do not have young people as part of our faith journey when we ourselves cannot and fail to live to the heart of the Christian message in our parishes, dioceses and denominations. We only have to look at the last few years to see this truth with the Royal Commission and the stories that are told of faith groups and their leaders / followers. If they or any other who feels themselves outside the community are not allowed their voice then they will not be found within the established community. Rather they will become lost pilgrims looking for reliable guides in the wild places but finding only ephemeral links to solace. Only when we begin to find Christ in our lives and move to the fringes will we find those that have received their leaving certificates. The deep roots of Christ-likeness need to settle into our hearts so that we can truly mirror Christ to those who come to us and those we go out to (Eph 3.17).

Hear the fringe voices not the voices of the brainwashed (from Fake Tattoos) 

In baptism we are called to ministry in the community, we are called to bring the light of Christ into the hearts and minds of those around us. In doing so we are called to live as Christ and in so doing we preach the word of God. Unfortunately, some believe we are asked to preach the word and everything will be alright. This is not God speaking this is human brainwashing to sustain power and authority. If we are unable to learn from and hear God speak in the tongues of the youth who are confirmed and then leave the organised Church then we are truly unable to hear God's word. If we are unable to listen to dissenting voices on the fringes of our societies that are embedded in the hearts of those who are confirmed and leave then we are doing God and our faith an injustice. If we want to hear the true voice of the young we need to listen to those who feel themselves marginalised by the church and not those who are brainwashed by organised religion.

Christ found himself among the poorest and reached out with an open heart to succour them (Jn 6.1-13). He did not turn his heart away from them he listened and fed them. Too often we organise ourselves in accordance with what we like as "adults" in faith. We are loath to hear discontent and angst. We want to hear what is good not what is wrong. Unlike Christ we are not prepared to hear the voices from the fringes of society that live in our own families and our own homes. We sometimes look to far to bring Christ home. Christ is in our midst in the tortured voices of our missing youth and we often act as yr 8 classroom children in response.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Love is....

How many of us remember the cartoon series "Love is..."? Really some very simple laughter giving and refreshingly naive cartoons that told the simple truth of love. Something that we tend to brush aside. Human love in all of its glory, human love that we have come to shun and place in the darker corners of society. The taboo subject that cannot be spoken about. Human love should not be divorced from its physical relationship. No matter what we think about the subject it is a foregone conclusion that any human being has some knowledge of physical love in their adult years. Whether this love is manifested as an appropriate response or as a misguided attempt to utilise another person we are incomplete without our physicality. If this is true than it stands to reason that this human side of love, the physicality of love cannot have escaped Jesus as he was fully human,

In looking at Mary of Magdala's story we can see the intimacy and eroticism inherent in the biblical story. The problem is is that early in the Christian history we have placed this side of our humanity in darkness. The result has been that women and especially women of note have been denigrated and used as commodities rather than as objects of glory and praise being the image of God. We just need to look at the reported interaction between Christ and Mary at the site of the tomb. John 20 gives the account but the intimacy displayed in the interaction as Christ reveals himself to one who mourns and her response is revealing. This is not a moment to be denigrated, it is not a moment to concoct stories and myths but rather a moment to understand the intimacy between man and woman that leads to the presence of God in love. It does not matter what the words are it matters the tone in which they are said and if we do not believe that there is an intimate tone at this point then we have missed the understanding (john 20.16).
Kim Grove's series of cartoons let us know what love us including the physical.

We also only need realise the crucial eroticism that is complained about when Mary washes Jesus' feet at the supper with the tax collector. How can we not see this moment as being an erotic expression of a woman's love for a man no less than the Song of Songs? The latter a book that is not read or not studied or not realised as being an intimate part of the story of ourselves and God. we lose all perspective if we do not understand the hold that love has on ourselves as we interact and form relationship with the other. Our Christian forefathers denigrated the physical in place of promoting the spiritual. Today having been released from the prudish bonds of sexuality we suddenly find ourselves in the midst of hidden sexual appropriation and using sexuality as a means (financial, power, or otherwise) to manipulate and denigrate. This is not surprising. Yet we still have not fathomed that it is the mixture of both that is required for our growth in understanding.

We are physical we cannot turn our backs on the physicality of love in the human. It is after all a part of nature. It is how we embrace that physicality that matters. Embracing the good and the ability to just sit with our partners, the ability to let go when our partner's die so that we can move on into new life (John 20.17a), the ability to embrace the other in wounded compassion and outward love when everyone else rejects us (the story of the Magdalene) this is what love is. Every physical aching moment of humanity not the disastrous monstrosity that we have created through exploitation, secrecy and malicious damage to other human beings. If we cannot embrace our wholeness and ability to love in the physical then how can we demonstrate the love of God to our neighbour as all we will do is seek to exploit, damage or seek power rather than love.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Unintended consequences

So often we make our decisions having formulated what it is we intend. Thus, we make plans for a fundraiser or an event to enhance our understanding of the scriptures or even an event to harmonise relationships between religions.In putting the event, whatever it may be, on we think to ourselves what a wonderful opportunity and when everything goes smoothly we congratulate ourselves on a wonderful event. Sometimes unbeknownst to us our event causes a ripple in the life of someone or a group to the extent that we eventually find ourselves at odds with those around us. The event drags up memories / old arguments / discomfort and sows confusion and doubt rather than bringing harmony and acceptance. The consequence which was unintended. We can see these unintended consequences play out in the story of John the Baptist and David (Mk.6-14-29; 2 Sam 6.12b-19).

Dancing expresses God's Spirit but how often do we frown and seek our own view

Often the result of the unintended consequence is that we actually cut of our heads as opposed to creating new life. Our intentions are good but the result is the opposite to what we would think. God creates through the chaos of our lives forming newness in community. In laying our plans we often times make unintentional slips which cause continued angst with those around us, an unintended consequence. However, let us look at it from a slightly different perspective. When slip ups occur what is our immediate reaction and perhaps this gives us an idea as to where we are. If our immediate reaction is to agonise over it and want to rectify how we do things, does this say something to us. In trying to rectify every small thing that nags at our attention because we are offended, discombobulated, prefer perfection are we missing the presence of God and ignoring the opportunity for laughter and joy. Do we look at only the shortsightedness of human sight rather than the long sight of God's presence in the chaos of our lives.

Herod's intention was to reward a dance but the unintended consequence was the death of John. If we are so focused on what we intend perhaps it will lead to the disruption of what we actually desire in God's presence. By creating our own individual sight and focus we ignore what may be happening around us. John's death reverberated through the community also something unintended but something that in all probability opened the community up to hear God's presence in Christ's teaching. David's dance before the ark of God was inspired by the Spirit but frowned on by his wife. Something that would have long repercussions on the life of David. Yet, is this the message or rather that we need to examine the pettiness of the wife as she focuses on her own image rather than the image of God that brings laughter and dance into our midst.

In organising ourselves and our life as the body of Christ we all have responsibilities to that life. If we begin to believe that our insights are greater than God's then we will begin to find some unintended consequences crossing our path. Is it not God's will to bring peace and yet we forge war and discord. We focus on our own needs rather than the needs of the God of peace in doing so the seeds of unintended consequences are sown in such a manner that we find our selves not with peace but with discord. Following God means expressing the truth in the world, until we can accept God into our lives we cannot deem to speak as an agent for God. Our agency becomes for ourselves with the resultant chaos out of which God will renew life. Let us rather listen to God and not judge what we perceive to be right or the road to perfection. Our judgements will tend to lead us to unintended consequences in the lives around us, sowing discord rather than the peace of God that passes all understanding.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Acceptance - Whats the big deal?

I wonder if we actually realise how obstructive we can be when it comes to our own insights as opposed to others who are as insightful but not quite the way we want. We are very quick to criticise and oppose what we consider to be something that is contrary to our ingrained beliefs. Just as Christ was rejected from his home town (Mk 6.1-6) so we reject those whose point of view or actual insight appears to challenge ours. We are always right, whether it is in a worldly sense or in a faith sense we are never averse to challenge rather than accepting what God has chosen. Acceptance is not rolling over and submitting it is acknowledging God and moving our lives to accord with God, seeing with God's eyes and behaving accordingly. We are often prone to jump on the smallest details that do not accord with our sight to obstruct what God asks what we do not want to hear.

Even David when he is crowned king of Israel (2 Sam. 5. 1-10) does not start out as the best but makes mistakes as he goes against God. It is something that the greatest amongst us does but then understands the mistakes and reconciles themselves with God to renew and regenerate God's people. Paul writing to the Corinthians freely admits his own weaknesses (2 Cor. 12.7-10). It is through the acknowledgement and acceptance of that weakness Paul is able to tell of his journey with God. This is where we need to find our strength and were we create our challenges. Paul states that it is through his weakness that he is strong. His strength is his acceptance of God's challenge to him in his weakness not his ability to boast of his own endeavours and strength. By acceptance Paul has demonstrated his strength not by his fighting that weakness. We see weakness as a disabling thing, our inabilities are looked for and used against us so that those who are looking for power and authority may find ways to undermine and overthrow. It is in weakness that we are able to show love.

It is only when we can accept ourselves that we can accept Christ

Strength looks for weakness to exploit, it gives us leverage to move us on in life and we are always looking for weakness so that we can exploit it to gain more power. This is not the Gospel way as the Gospel shows us the way of love not exploitation. Walking alongside Christ we can see his astonishment as he is rejected because it would be ours as well when we are also rejected from those we think love us. The home community, the originary place are places which are supposed to be loving and safe. We also reject and do not love as Christ did. Our commission is to be as Christ to the world bringing people into discipleship. Once we start thinking about things for ourselves we begin to loose our acceptance of Christ as part of our lives. Once we take on crusades which are not those of Christ we begin not to walk with Christ and accept him in our lives. We become like his own village people who scorn and reject knowing that Christ walks with us.

Christ never said it was easy even Paul recognises that sometimes it is really hard especially when you have someone close who is a detractor. A thorn in the side is sometimes a reminder to us that we need to be more accepting of Christ and his love for the other. We cannot just continue rejecting the fact that God and Christ enjoins us to love and live with all of humanity not just those we think we like. If we have truly accepted Christ we truly accept the rest of humanity. We do not have to like them, we have to love them and form community with them as Christ has formed community with us. Loving us for our failings and not for our good qualities only. Let us get over ourselves and begin to accept that Christ is with us and that means all of humanity not just the ones we think we like..

Sunday, 1 July 2018

What follows lament?

We all know that it is sometimes extremely cathartic to lament as David did over the death of Jonathan (2 Sam 18-27). Indeed the whole of lamentations is an extreme moment of cathartic liberation. But what comes afterwards? Once we have finished our moment of lament how do we get back into the moment and begin again or rather continue doing that which we have discerned as being the forward movement of the Church. Sometimes it seems that as an organisation we tend to live in the moment of lament and ask all of those around us to be there with us rather than moving on into the light of Christ in the community.

Paul in his encouragement to the Corinthians speaks about our willingness to begin anew and start something but then comes his most important words "Now go on and finish it" (2 Cor 8.11a). We are just as likely to fall back into the moment of Lament as we are to move forward with the understanding of Christ is by our side. Even in the most inauspicious moments in our lives when we believe there is no hope Christ is there to bring hope. Once we have begun something we need to finish it. We began at baptism with our lives in Christ and as soon as we begin to move into the world we tend to forget our commitment and lament our loses rather than continue on in the commitment to Christ. This falling away is both institutional and personal as we swirl in the crowds of everyday life forgetting that Christ is close to us. It takes courage to reach out in the midst of our despair to try and touch the fringes of the Christic presence. We become discouraged and loose ourselves rather than finding the courage to stretch out and touch to be made whole. Just like the hemorrhagic woman in Mark's gospel (5.25-34) we need the courage of our convictions and not the voice of the crowd.

Have we the faith to reach out from the midst of lament?

In or institutions what happens is that we are set on a way forward onto a path and then when our leader / inspiration moves into another role / life / place we look for another to take their place. Yet, what happens is that another comes and replaces our visions with new ones so that we have to begin again lamenting once more the past. What we are failing to do is grab hold of our vision and running with that vision of Christ by our side to the fulfilment of God's design. Its not you or me it is all of us collectively as Christians. We are like the leader of the synagogue in Mark's gospel that the hemorrhagic woman's story interrupts. We see the death of something we have given birth to or rather we see its imminent demise and believe that that is the end. What if it is not, what if like the daughter in the story the idea is just sleeping deeply only to be woken by Christ;s presence (Mk 5.39-43)? So often we believe the professional mourners and do not have the courage to see the spark of life that is Christ in our midst.

We have a tendency to laugh at the ideas of others that would like to take on the path that Christ has walked rather than join with Christ in the walk and be lights along the way. Hope is so easily besmirched and its light hidden by the callousness of modern society. This is especially the case when we involve ourselves in lament. There is a time and place just as David understood but then we must re-visualise the hope that Christ gives us by standing within our midst and healing the old injuries and bring back into the light and joy of love the dead dreams that we put to the side to lament.