Blessed are the pure in heart

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.

Psalm 98

…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? …

John 15:9-17

… 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.

Easter reflection

itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/nomad-podcast/id301419170

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.

Certainty and doubt

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09xcs9h

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.

Follow up to the last two meetings

Takeley Chapel

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.

View original post

Reflection for 11th February on transfiguration and the church.

Takeley Chapel

IMG_1555
God is the Lord of abundance, he forgives us freely and pours out his grace into creation. He himself comes to us and in Jesus takes creation into himself. Jesus becoming man, reveals that all things are spiritual, not in the sense of being sacred for us to worship, but in the sense that all things matter. Everything has its being in him and he becomes human. All things are held together in Christ and in him, from the beginning, there is an outpouring of grace and a call to love.
The begottenness of the Son is revealed in Jesus. What it is to be begotten of the Father from the beginning is made plain in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. He is the Christ. In his death and resurrection, we find life. This life is a life of love.
The fall of humanity in Adam was in…

View original post 689 more words

Reflection for Sunday 21st January 2018

Takeley Chapel

This morning’s readings focused on repentance and following after God. We saw how the disciples left their fishing nets to become fishers of people and how Jesus gave them a new identity in him (Mark 1). We also saw how even the most evil nation on earth was not beyond God’s salvation and how repentance changed God’s mind about their fate (Jonah 3),

The psalm reminded us that

Psalm 62:5
For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.

But what of those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? What of those who acquire a neurological dysfunction or are born with one? How are they to respond? How are they to belong? Where does our theology reach them in an age where the solution appears to be to end life or not even allow it to start?

I believe our hope is in silent waiting, in…

View original post 136 more words

Sunday Reflection for 7th January 2018

Takeley Chapel

Ephesians 3:6

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

…the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

The creation story teaches that we are all like God, made in his image, not divided, all one equal before God. It shows how good is the free will choice to walk in God’s good and perfect will. Evil is a choice that binds us to a cycle of self-love and self-will; it ensnares us and makes us slaves to it. To choose good is to choose life. We know that God’s heart is to be with us, there in every moment, in every choice, working with us for good.

Scripture leads us to understand that we are to be redeemed, brought back to this good and perfect state. Sin leads to death and God calls us to walk in new…

View original post 1,005 more words

Reflection for Sunday 31st December 2017

Exploring forgiveness.

Takeley Chapel

IMG_1554

Jesus teaches that those who are forgiven much, love much (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus teaches that we are to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves. Moreover, he teaches us that our neighbour includes our enemy (Luke 6:35, 10:25).

Jesus was teaching the remnant of the people of Israel, sons and daughters of Abraham. His disciples were Jews; a covenant people, redeemed from slavery out of Egypt and brought to a promised land. Their confidence was in the Law and the system of worship and sacrifice ordained by God. They lived knowing God’s love for them and in the light of his promises to them.

As a nation Israel had been faithless and experienced deportation and subjugation but lived in the expectation of being restored through a Saviour to their former glory. In the time of Jesus, they lived in the expectation of deliverance from their cruel oppressors, the…

View original post 749 more words

Incarnation?

The Nicene Creed, a touchstone of Christian orthodoxy states of Jesus,

For us men and for our salvation,

he came down from heaven:

by the power of the Holy Spirit

he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

Having a science background, this has been an article of faith for me and I have written of my position elsewhere[1]. But recently I have become aware that some recite this creed but believe that the Virgin Mary is an historical title, a tradition, not a fact about Mary of Nazareth[2].

This in mind, I decided to buy a book that would let me understand the full argument and was from a perspective I would not hold to be true. The book I chose was a recent publication by Kyle Roberts which he has summarised through the blog post, Virgin Birth or Incarnation? Why You Can’t Have Both (December 23, 2017)[3].

I found the book very informative. I realised that yes, historically we have a problem with philosophy invading our faith, with extra scriptural traditions based on pagan thought, and an inability to accept the humanity of Jesus. I understand the reason for Greg Boyd’s podcast which recommends us to think more of Jesus,

…from the perspective of “God as Human” rather than “God and Human.”[4]Do we struggle with Jesus eating and defecating, vomiting, feeling ill, experiencing sexual attraction and basically being human? Do we hold true to the Gospel of Jesus?

… we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. (Hebrews 4, GNB)[5]If we do, then we are at that point where we too join with the Fathers and Mothers of the church who created traditions to cover up the subversive nature of the historical birth of Christ.

We might build ideas that include the perpetual virginity of Mary who was not only a virgin at conception, was also preserved as a virgin through the birth of Christ and remained a virgin after the birth of Christ. The Virgin Mary’s birth canal becomes so important to some, Mary is believed to have been impregnated by the Holy Spirit through her ear[6]. Some have decided it is best to side-line Mary all together and avoid the questions.[7]

I have looked at all of this and, despite all, I still hold that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Surprisingly what I wrote at Easter 2017, I still hold to.

[1]https://memlynhumphries.me.uk/2017/05/03/easter-2017/

[2]https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/24/story-virgin-birth-christianity-mary-sex-femininity

[3]http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unsystematictheology/2017/12/virgin-birth-incarnation-cant/

[4]http://reknew.org/2017/12/podcast-jesus-god-human/

[5]https://www.biblesociety.org.uk/explore-the-bible/read/eng/GNB/Heb/4/

[6]https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2017/22-december/comment/columnists/angela-tilby-letting-the-virgin-birth-mystery-be

[7]http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/2017/12/22/protestants-dont-know-mary/