Formed

20 The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people,
21 the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise. http://esv.to/Isa43.20-21

We are free to live and breathe and have our being and to choose life. This is God’s gift to us all. We are free to walk into God’s arms or to turn our backs and walk away. God is here to receive us, be with us and if necessary bring us back. This is his overflowing love in the face of our sin. We experience this abundance despite the wilderness we sometimes create.

Sin is ravaging creation but blessing restores: prayer forms a people in the midst of the devastation. Beauty rises from ashes. Prayer forms us together as a people of praise and God acts to bring blessing and salvation. This work is revealed fully on the cross.

The cross is the place and the time where the depths of God’s love and the means of his forgiveness are glorified. This happens in the midst of sin; in the mess of human evil, the One who knew no sin becomes sin for us. By faith in the One on the cross to save us from sin, we receive grace upon grace and walk free in resurrection life. Jesus is alive and death is defeated; the sting of death, its power, is destroyed.

In a dying world we become light as he is the light and the darkness does not overcome. We pray, Lord as you lead us, save us from our selves and deliver us from the evil one. Form us into a people for your praise.

Known

O LORD, you have searched me and known me! http://esv.to/Ps139.1

In the good news of Jesus we see the faith of the Church that Jesus is Lord. Jesus is the Son of God, One with the Father and the Spirit. In Jesus humanity has seen, heard and touched God.

The Church is those gathered as witnesses to this truth that Jesus is Lord and are a people who embody this truth. All come to know the Father through this mystery. It is a work of the Spirit; its foundation is the work on the cross wrought in Jesus made sin who knew no sin. The life of Jesus is the revelation that forgiveness is found in Jesus and through him we are restored to righteousness before God.

Our Faith is in Jesus who is the Kingdom of God made present: the message that God is the One who saves and restores. This is now, always has been and always will be true.

This faith transforms us. In the knowledge of the Holy we become wise.

Our ever word and thought is known by God and he has prepared a way for us. He has known us from before our formation from the dust of the Earth. In every moment of the day, in every choice we make, God goes before us calling us to choose life. Even in the depths of our running from him he calls. Even in the fury of the assault of the evil one God has formed a path of blessing leading us to calm.

God knows and has purposed that there is life in every choice made in Christ. We are in Christ as we proclaim Jesus is Lord.

Psalm 104

33 I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.
35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more! Bless the LORD, O my soul! Praise the LORD! http://esv.to/Ps104.33-35

Beauty calls us out to wonder at the works of the Creator. As we rest, still on the presence of the one who formed us in the womb we know our needs. For a moment we can push these away and allow space for the LORD to breath his Spirit into us, to take us to a place of Light and Life. Then we are awakened to the world, beacons of peace and gentleness, in imitation of Christ.

Bless the LORD for our bodies and our voices to proclaim his holiness.

Bless the LORD who provides enough for each day.

Bless the LORD who is almighty and humble of spirit.

Bless the LORD who heals all flesh and does wondrous works.

May we be protected from ourselves and delivered from the evil one. We long to see sin consumed from the earth and sinners transformed to become worshippers of the Living God so that wickedness ceases. Begin with us first LORD!

In Jesus we have seen the proud scattered in their thoughts and the mighty brought down from their thrones.

Bless the LORD who fills us with good things.

Having nothing, yet possessing everything.

The Spirit of God invites us into a body. Together we become the body of Christ. Us allowing the presence of God space in our own stillness and silence teaches submission one to the other. In submitting to one another, love is born.

We are transformed as our prideful hearts are emptied and learn humility. We seek first the Kingdom of God’s rule and walk together in the Way of Christ. In us Christ is born.

(2 Corinthians 6:10)

From the old year into the new.

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Photo by Sonja Langford on Unsplash

Moving from the season of darkness into the promise of the returning spring, the lengthening days, gives us a prod to consider the old and contemplate the new, enriching the present. In our small, chapel meeting we contemplated what we had been doing and what we might do. The conversation started from an idea that examining the year was a good practice, just as examining our day in an Ignatian contemplation is.

The practice of being present in our lives, grounds itself in the truth that we are loved and blessed in God and asks the Spirit to reveal to us, firstly, a time of consolation; to enrich our imaginations with the source of this consolation. The practice moves on to invite the Spirit to reveal a time of desolation, to enlighten our imaginations with wisdom grounded in love and consolation. Then, routed in blessing, we allow the light of Christ to show us the way and rest in prayer, imagining the good.

The lengthening of the days and the promise of life and abundant light, calls us to hope. A practice that was shared amongst those gathered, was of putting a pebble in a jar when we felt particularly blessed so that on the days we felt that all was desolation we could look at the jar and draw comfort. What if on the days when we received a word of hope we were to write it on one of the stones? We could then pour out the pebbles when we were feeling low and search for the words of hope and allow them to kindle hope. What if we were to fill the jar to the brim with water so that every time we added a pebble the water flowed over?

For some of us the thought of this practice might appear exhausting. Maybe we could just make a practice of lighting a candle at the same time at the end of the day. In the dark times there is a light shining. There is a light within us and we can see the light shining all around us. We are gifted with creation and the mystery of goodness draws out of us a sense of the power of love; compassion, mercy, steadfastness. The light of creation and our creative looking embodies hope in our hearts. Our faith is that God is good; he is love. Just light a candle.

Yet, look at me; look at my lived life. Look around. Is there hope? Do not be overcome. Breath. Yes, hope is in the breath that I breathe, in the glimmer on the edge of the horizon. Beyond and very near; a gust of wind. The presence of God. Be lead. In this I can rest; God is good. He is calling me to peace, to joy. He is calling me to love.

Joy to the world? Looking within I discover dark places.

But some of those dark places are quiet and comforting, places of birth, places of security where God is knitting me together. Wherever each of us is, whatever the present darkness, there is also a darkness that comforts, a place of intimacy and secure solitude. Find joy in the comfort of solitude, in the silence of a lover, and allow the light to bring you to new birth, calling you out, grounded in security, to walk in faith. Be kind, be fully human just as Jesus our Lord is fully human, not ruled by world but in the world. Become joy in the world.

Put out the candle.

Think into this time of new beginnings. In the beginning, Eve was formed in Adam. The whole of humanity taken from one humanity sharing the breath of life with all life, from a humble micro-organism to the majestic ant. Jesus is the second Adam, formed in Mary, taking his full humanity from her. The created is God, and draws breath in humanity. In this age of reason, here is the challenge, God forms God in the dark, secure womb of a vulnerable woman, Mary. God Almighty formed baby Jesus, as he did us.

Jesus was formed, a man from a woman. Does this mean Jesus is not like us? None of us were formed in this way. How then is Jesus fully human? Is this just a story? The message is that Jesus is fully human and fully God and calls us to partake in his divinity and become fully human. The questions about Jesus conception are unsettling. Don’t walk away from them, explore the mothering of God.

Indifference to the challenge of Jesus is as deathly as a bluster that can’t allow questioning. Embrace doubt. Don’t try to come up with an answer. Truth has many dimensions and layers and is bound up in the person of Jesus. Live with the uncertainty and discover that dark place of solitude where the light might shine. Find yourself shining the light of the God of Love. Be fully human; be the hands, feet and mouth of God. You are a child of God, a little one, the word become flesh, as Jesus is in the Father so are you in Jesus.

Allow the light to challenge your assumptions of power and entitlement to respect, your sense of importance; allow those dark places of fear and loss of control to be exposed. Sin is lodged in your fear. It closes the door on the divine. Our sense of entitlement, our attachment to the world, our sense of status is our rebellion. Prideful entitlement to respect and selfish attachment to our own certainties is the path to rage. Breathe. Let go. Embrace the challenge of not knowing if you are right.

Watch the smoke of the extinguished candle rise.

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Photo by Marko Blažević on Unsplash

If your reactions are more visceral, putting pebbles in water, or lighting candles might not do!

Ian Adams in his book, Running over Rocks, Spiritual practices to transform tough times, suggests doing as the title indicates. The danger involved in running over rocks might be a better practice for you than gazing at water running over rocks!

This is my version of Ian Adam’s practice of Discovering Your Thankfulness.

Firstly, breathe in the joy of the day, reflecting on God’s providence, how at each moment there was a good choice to make; in an act of worship open your arms to accept God’s approval as you recall each moment. Take time to feel the times of wrong choices in the pit of your stomach, the fear or the hurt ego and clasp it. Clasp it tight as the wrong done to you or to others surfaces. Clasp it tight as you face up to problems in your family or with health, times of weakness, judging, unkindness. Feel the pull to despair and name it with groans. Acknowledge your anger then breathe and listen, letting go and asking God to enter in. He may answer in a whisper, and he may bring to mind the good Let your arms drop and open them up in an attitude of receiving, circling up to a cruciform shape receiving the silence and the comfort then run, walk, move out and live. This can be a momentary practice, done in one movement, a prayer to begin a time of activity, adding meaning to a work out. Even if you feel nothing you have turned to the light.

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Photo by Rita Morais on Unsplash

In all your practices, even if everything remains as it was, you have put yourself in that place of humility. Christ is born into the mess of poverty and dies a messy death at the hands of authority. Jesus is at home in the mess.

Jesus brings us from the darkness into the light.

 

Luke 1:38

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. http://esv.to/Luke1.38

In the garden, the Lord called and the answer came, they were hidden, afraid. The Lord called to Moses twice from the burning bush and Moses answered, “Here I am.” Abraham had his name called once as he moved to slaughter Isaac and twice as the Lord stayed his hand. Both times he answered, “Here I am.” God redeems us through each.

In Mary, daughter of Abraham, under the covenant of Moses, the curse of the garden is healed. In Mary the Lord redeems the womb and from one flesh forms a body, Jesus, wholly of her flesh.

Mary becomes the mother of God. Mary, on receiving the news of what was to become true in and through her, the redemption of all humanity, declares, “Here I am,” and says, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord.”

Here I am, moving from promise, the truth, to the way, to life all redeemed in Christ, who is Lord and God, the second Adam, born of Mary, Son of Abraham, fulfilling the law given to Moses.

Jesus, from the darkness of the womb of Mary, is the light that conquers death in the darkness of his slaughter on the cross. Death is conquered in the conception of Christ, his life, death and resurrection. It is finished; the mystery from the beginning is revealed and we walk free in victory, saved from sin and the consequences of sin, so that in the midst of this realm of darkness the light of the Lord shines.

Here I am.