Exploring the way of blessing and healing together with my friends at Takeley Chapel.
…He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, … he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father…
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
… And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
Through Israel, God teaches about holiness and how the life we live in the here and now is a consecrated life, a life made holy by God’s presence in their practices. This was for the blessing of the nations and God’s way of showing how each life matters as does…
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Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you…
…O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
…Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
For we do not proclaim ourselves;
we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. …
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. ….
… “The sabbath was made for people, and not people for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
…He (Jesus) looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart …
The readings today carry us through that narrow place between the absolutes of the law and the freedom we have as people to show compassion; the way the world should be and the way it is.
For most of us, life throws perplexing circumstances and we find we cannot know what to do; there is no answer. Jesus commands us to be obedient to his word and his word is that we are to love God and love our neighbour. The high calling for us is to come to Jesus with the decisions we have in life and know peace as his teaching is not a burden; God from the beginning calls us to choose life.
So where do we stand when people celebrate the freedom to abort babies? We are told it is a human right that women are able control their fertility. We are told that the right to life is a human right. The UK has amongst the most liberal abortion laws in Europe. Abortion is available up to 24 weeks and beyond if necessary. The foetus has no human rights until it is born; up to this point it is only the life of the mother that is considered to have human rights. As a follower of Jesus, the truth is we know the reality of hardship and its ability to crush us; we look around and we see people despairing and abandoned.
Personally, I stand with new life being life from the beginning. I have known people tormented by the power of nature to abort. I have accepted as natural babies being lost through miscarriage and been saddened by hearing of babies being born dead, alive till the moment of birth. I have communed and rejoiced with those desperate for children who in conceiving one life have destroyed the remaining embryos. I have grieved with those whose babies have been born disabled. Am I conflicted?
Abortion will happen: John Wesley in his book Primitive Physick opens with how an abortion could be done. His heart was to see health care extended to the poor. The tragic stories of the lengths women would go to abort a baby remain in our folk memory. John Wesley’s response was to make this safe. To some of us this may be horrifying.
For the Jews, controlling fertility was at the heart of the story of Moses; his abandonment under order of the authorities resulted in him becoming a prince in Egypt. In our time the Chinese have tried to control fertility as have the Russians and the government of Peru to destroy the native population.
At the time of Jesus and into the first 300 years of Christianity, child exposure was practised by the Romans to get rid of unwanted infants, but not by the Jews. Two abandoned babies were said to have been the founders of Rome, brought up by wolves. Babies were left out to die or be claimed as slaves. Many were disabled and most were girls.
What was the Christian response, but to collect these babies and care for them. This has to be my response; my path between law and human freedom. Life sucks for some people and we need to care for all. Yes, the rejoicing over abortion sickens me but what I need to do is show compassion.
The ideal is that life starts at conception, the reality is that every birth is a miracle. This has been my own experience being at the birth of my own children; life is fragile. The world is mucked up.
Given the widespread practice of infant exposure, the Christian practice was to care for the poor and the abandoned, not condemn the poor. By 374 BC they had shown the way and the practice was made illegal. Our weapon is to love, not condemn.
I know it is wrong to argue from silence, but nothing in the scriptures condemns the practice of infant exposure, but we know it is wrong. We do have the wonderful story of John the Baptist recognising his saviour whilst in the womb of Elizabeth and our heart tells us that life is precious from conception.
Conception and birth are redeemed in Christ. Being in Christ, our practice is to care for the afflicted, the crushed; those abused and abandoned. Through our being true to love we can work to create a world around us where there is no abortion only hope.
Prayer can become a seeking after experience; just another high and of no earthly good; lots of words or no words at all.
Ways of praying being idols is a real issue in our times. Prayer methods becoming sacred is a danger. We have to pray somehow, but the how brings quarrels and disappointments. Jesus teaches a place for prayer and a pattern for prayer. His ministry heralds a revelation that worship is in spirit and truth. Repeatedly, Jesus encourages us to ask for what we need in our prayers. But, in my experience we come to worship the manner of prayer not the substance and prayer becomes a way of controlling people. The truth of prayer is important as it makes us fully alive.
The Jesus culture I discern is one where we rest in the knowledge that all things, good and bad are in God’s hands and that there is an enemy that opposes this faith. The attitude is seeking God in all circumstances, in hope. Seeking God in the good and the bad; seeking God in the moments of our lives; knowing God to be near; knowing that we are loved and forgiven, is the foundation of prayer.
To avoid just talking to ourselves, we need to be present and listening in our practice. Jesus sets our relationship with him firmly in love. He commands love. Only through forgiving are we forgiven and in loving our neighbour we know God. Our abiding in him and who he is becomes his abiding in us. The truth is, whatever our practice, God is there waiting. Prayer opens our eyes to this ever-present reality. In a blink of an eye we become aware of this reality (Kierkegaard’s Instant).
This mystical experience is available to all. Suddenly we know beyond words, beyond understanding. This is a ground for our faith that God’s light shines in everyone. From this light we draw faith. In this light we know Jesus and become his presence in creation as we listen and are transformed.
This transformation can lead us to difficult places. Jesus’s frustration with the disciples’ little faith and lack of realisation of who was amongst them, serves as a warning. It is a rebuke we may need to take. The mystical experience is there for reason; it answers a human need. We are here to walk in the coolness of the evening with God yes but we are also here to tend his garden. We are here to serve and follow the leading of the Spirit. Prayer isn’t an end in itself.
“The glory of God is us being fully alive,” says Irenaeus (3rd Century). We are to be fully alive as God created us.
Could this mean, navigating the inevitable wounding that is life; from conception, to birth, growth and death? Does the reality of a free world where we can be free mean we will continually fall from grace and be separated from life? God gazed on what he had made and declared it good; it was all very good. Is this path of woundedness a source of glory? Light is born out of darkness; the new day begins with the morning. Our pool of darkness, the chaos of life, is the reservoir of transformation in us (Bourgeault, p106) that brings transformation in the world. Just as God creates out of the void our glory is to take our brokenness into new life through prayer.
Heaven is the perfecting of who we are. It is the transforming of our woundedness into us being fully alive. The more we know our sin, the more we know our separation from God and the depth of his continuing love. The more we forgive, the more we know forgiveness and the deeper our love.
We see with the eyes of the wounded healer, Jesus. Jesus heals us by his wounds. In suffering our wounds and transcending the assault of the enemy on our lives we are able to bring healing in Christ; bring new life. The greatest healing is the life transformed by forgiveness and abiding love. Jesus says that those who mourn are blessed because they are comforted. It is the blessing of the poor in spirit, that it is they who receive the kingdom of heaven.
Life hurts. Life faces us with a messy reality and God’s heart is to bring blessing out of this. God’s glory is us being fully alive in all circumstances; to live a life of abundance. This is where prayer leads us, why God teaches us to ask in order to receive.
Through prayer we come to know that the life that is in Jesus is our life. We are found in him. We are to do works greater than his as we live in the fulness of the cross, knowing him to be seated at the right hand of the Father. We are found in the mess of the cross and the beauty of the resurrected Christ.
Christ is not physically amongst us and we can’t touch him, yet he is fully present to us in the Spirit. It is the work of the Spirit that is the greater work. The wounds of Christ are still there, his scars remain. It is these wounds that heal us. We are to heal through our wounds. The glory of our wounds, inflicted by others or inflicted by ourselves, inflicted by circumstances, the collateral damage of life, bring glory to God as we bring healing through them. It is prayer that enables this bringing of the presence of Christ to the world.
Jesus calls us to himself to be comforted and to find rest. We are to dwell in the kingdom of heaven in all its vital, visceral glory knowing peace. Jesus shows us in our prayer the fullness of being alive. Jesus heals the afflicted; the lame walk, the blind see and the deaf hear. Today, we are saved through the earthly good of prayer not its form or practice.
… May the LORD give strength to his people!
May the LORD bless his people with peace!
… For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.
When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ–if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
… The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
…God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
In Jesus, God gets his hands dirty. Jesus is fully human; he is fully God. We have an amazing path to follow, to navigate. God’s essential nature is love; God is love. God responds to us with compassion and steadfastness. God is faithful. Paul teaches that love does not grasp or insist on its own way and does not keep an account of wrongs. Jesus shows us that love is perfected in self-denial; in losing your life to gain life. Paul tells us again that love is humble and pours itself out for others.
How are we to understand God, if love is ever serving and never controlling? We see the cross where the extravagant love of God was poured out in Christ. Jesus was not a dam, a wall of righteousness, but his life showed a gushing torrent of grace.
Being a Christian is to live out Christ within us so that grace spills out to those around us. The Kingdom heaven is where God is present: Jesus living through us. Jesus inhabits our troubles and suffering, living through our disappointments, toils and trials. Jesus gets his hands dirty. It is Christ who lives in us and we are confronted with the potential there is in being fully human. We are not God – our essential nature is different; only God is good.
Jesus shows us our capacity as humans with God in us and amongst us. All sickness, tears and suffering are not from God but God is present in them as we walk together. We as believers in Jesus make God present in them and are able as humans to express divinity in humanity as Jesus showed us. Jesus’s word is for us to love and he teaches us to forgive. Through his death in our place he shows us the end of love; what love leads to. We are to love our enemies. Through his resurrection life, we are to know abundant life, in the knowledge that we are forgiven- justified in Christ and through faith receiving salvation and life.
We are to love God with our whole being. The Father and the Son dwell within us and through the Spirit we know all truth. Our eyes are opened as single-minded we seek God through love and forgiveness.
Jesus healed, he delivered and he fed; miracles of nature and the spiritual. Jesus provided a material way to abundant life and calls us to do greater works. He says we are to ask and we will receive. Jesus, rebuking the storm, rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith. In showing his disciples who he was and who they were on the mount of transfiguration, Jesus rebukes the disciples for not being able to deliver and heal a child. Where do we stand in this rebuke?
How are we to realise the power of what we have within? Are we to create apologies and philosophies to excuse our ineptitude or declare long and powerful prayers to cover the fact that nothing happens? To get around what is supposedly made real in faith – Christ within, the power of God?
We are not God- God is love beyond our understanding and any understanding will fall short of the truth. The Spirit reveals the truth and Jesus is God poured out in humanity and humanity filled with God. Jesus was no more than human, no less than fully human. Jesus shows us how to be fully human. Jesus’s miracles are works of his humanity. In this season, we need to navigate a pathway through what we are called to and what we are.
…All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” …
…But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
…”I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…
As we hold people in our hearts for prayer, we experience love. Our humanity reaches out to them as we want all to be well. Held in our hearts, we are moved to ask God for their wellbeing. As we encounter the world in all its troubles and strife, we experience love as we hold everything in our hearts and struggle to overcome anxiety. Prayer opens our eyes to hope and faith and, in the wrestling, our faith is deepened.
In our wrestling, we are confronted with the messiness of life; the ever-present darkness and suffering. Our hearts speak of the affront to humanity of suffering and tell us it is wrong, sad and needs changing. Our measure is the joy we feel. Helplessness transforms to joy as we imagine the good; there is a better way. Maybe our hope is felt by those we pray for as we struggle for them.
Faith opens our eyes in that transforming moment to the vision of God holding us in the same way we hold others. In our act of faith, we sense God’s faithfulness. We see that we are held by God who is only good and find a way to rest in him. In the abiding in his presence we discover that whatever we ask in this moment, he gives. It is in the abiding we find answers; in the struggling we find the way.
It is a moment by moment practice to allow the lives of others, their joys and their troubles to rest in our hearts; to give thanks for grace, to wrestle with anxiety and suffering and imagine the good; to acknowledge peace and to ask for peace and transformation. This is not the endless repetition of words or the exalted declaring of great truths, but a holding in the heart, to be truly be broken for the needs we hold and enlivened by the vibrancy of God. If this is from God, we will ask and find peace.
Experience might deny our faith; the brokenness we hold in our hearts may continue; those we pray for may even die and situations not change. Sometimes we even find our-selves rejected in our seeking, rejected by those we seek to serve and found to be ridiculous. In my experience we may also feel a profound rejection and the peace you thought you had evaporates. Sometimes things do change; often they don’t. It is hard to see convincingly where involving faith and God has made any difference. Our peace might seem a little hollow.
We want our eyes to be opened so that we can see God. We want to see Jesus revealed in the story of our lives; in our brokenness and joy.
If we accept God as being the author of these moments; moments when we blink and our eyes are opened to truth and our hearts are kindled with joy; if we acknowledge God in our deep sense of being valued and loved, the sense of their being another story; if the inclination of our hearts in the face of suffering is compassion, as this is how we know God to be; if we know freedom in being detached from power and the drawings of wealth, and we are lead to God, is this knowing the limit of God’s blessing? Is this as far as God is involved: giving us a peace beyond understanding?
Is our vision of God of one, perfectly at one with himself- complete? Do we encounter God in a relationship together, in the twos and threes of Jesus’ presence? Do we find ourselves moving with others to experience him, formed as a community of blessing, the body of Christ? Are we deluded?
Our faith is that we are not deceived in our walk and the insight, compassion and detachment that brings peace is being in the presence of God, who is intimately involve amongst us and is the giver of peace.
God’s essential nature is that God is good, steadfast, truth and compassion. God is humble and un-controlling in his love and comes to live in us. His presence in us means that as he is present to us and we are empowered to be his presence to others. We may be present to others as he is present to us. As we seek abundant life for others, we find abundant life in him. Our faith becomes action and is action. We get our hands dirty.
Is this all there is? Is this our faith? What of signs and wonders; healing and deliverance? To what extent does God get his hands dirty and work miracles?
Jesus as Jew of his time, would have prayed blessings on God’s people each day. We see in his life how these blessings taught him and transformed peoples’ lives, physically, mentally and spiritually. Jesus in the beatitudes teaches, “Blessed are the pure in heart, they will see God.” This is the reward; this is how we see God.
Jesus turns the prayers for blessings into a rallying call to action. This is the promise; from our holding of others in our hearts, he will wash us clean, give us hearts of flesh where there were hearts of stone and we will see God. Our eyes will be opened to his world. In our awakening, in seeing, in our holding of others in our hearts, God abides in us. Jesus shows us that God does get his hands dirty and we are called to greater works than he did. And so, we have the confidence to ask.
In our reasoning this might bring us to silence and the most powerful thing we might do is be silent. From the place of peace groanings might come as we see how small our faith is. From the darkness life comes. We have no answers, but in faith we ask that the imaginations of heart become real.
…Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
1 John 5:1-6
… whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? …
… I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. … I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
Malcolm Guite leads us through the Passion through his Sonnets on Nomad Podcast.
Poet and priest Malcolm Guite helps us mark the death and resurrection of Jesus with poems from his series on the stations of the cross, and with his reflections on the Messianic Event. Nomad’s David Blower responds to Malcolm’s poetry and thought in sound and song, and Kate Blower brings the Easter readings.
what a delight to listen to these genuine people discussing culture worth discussing.
Amol Rajan discusses faith and doubt. Religion is a recurrent theme in Naomi Alderman’s novels. Her first book, Disobedience, explored a Jewish girl’s split with orthodox religion, while in Liar’s Gospel she told multiple stories of Jesus through the eyes of those around him.
Obedience was a virtue for the nuns of sixteenth-century Italy, but the music they wrote and sang was far less virtuous. Music professor and performer Laurie Stras has unearthed sensual and experimental works by nuns including the daughter of Lucrezia Borgia. And while many flocked to the nunneries to hear these women perform, others accused them of irreligious vanity.
Historian and Anglican priest Malcolm Guite tells the life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and finds religious imagery permeating Coleridge’s most famous work, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
And the writer and former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway, asks how spiritual belief can help us face our mortality, in his new book Waiting for the Last Bus.
A series worth following from Woodland Hills Church, MN:
© 2018 Woodland Hills Church, St Paul, MN. All Rights Reserved.
Last week we enjoyed the poem by Malcolm Guite: the Singing Bowl
And this week as we studied the Ten commandments, the question was asked whether we could kill to protect another.
As usual there was a lot of community wisdom and the following resource was mentioned.
Greg Boyd discusses the answer to the questions: “What if violence is necessary to protect a loved one and how we as Christians can respond in a Christ-like manner?” for the Reknew.org blog.