Sunday, 22 April 2018

Making space to connect

We are now well into the Easter Season, but I want to look back and reflect on Lent. There are years when I have found a way to do Lent well. There are years when I haven't.

I think this time of fasting is important ... not because I see fasting as being valuable in its own right ... rather I think its value is found in creating the space to encounter God more fully, and having a time of the year set aside to at least attempt to do that feels important. There are years when a traditional form of fasting from food has helped me, and times when creating space for silence has been an important addition to our routine. This year I was looking for something different.

I encounter God in prayer, but I also encounter God in the encounter with others. I really believe in this "created in God's image" thing and that there is something of God in each of those we meet. This year I decided I would make space for God by making space for people.

I set myself the target of writing one card a day, to somebody. Real cards, written with a pen, with envelopes and stamps and everything! Sometimes for events or occasions but mostly just to say "hello, I am thinking of you today". 

It was a way of setting aside time to think about somebody, to stop and remember them, to maybe think about what part they had played or do play in my life, to wonder about what their life looks like right now, their joys and their struggles, the things I know and the things I don't. It proved a different way of engaging to snatched conversations, to a Christmas card written when I have neither the time nor the energy to really think about it, to scrolling past people's lives on social media ... It was a good thing to do.

I wasn't entirely successful. I didn't quite manage every single day but during the 46 days I wrote almost 40 cards which in the midst of everything else feels like a reasonable attempt.

And I know there is no chance I am going to keep up writing to someone every day: I'm not even going to pretend I'm going to try. But something in this discipline has been extremely valuable and maybe there's a chance I will make more time for continuing this than I would have done otherwise.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Holding on to the song (2)

During this year's Student Cross, I wrote this poem.
Like a lot of poetry, it is, I guess, designed as much to be heard as to be read, so here is the spoken word version (with thanks to Ahmed for the photos).

Thursday, 12 April 2018

And there was wine

During our Maundy Thursday liturgy at Carrs Lane we reflected on the different elements of the communion service and why they are important.

I was given "Why wine?" to speak about, and offered the following thoughts:

I am aware there is a huge amount of significance and symbolism in the different cups of wine drunk during the Passover celebration, and therefore at the Last Supper ... Symbolism I know to be deeply important in our understanding of how Jesus enters into, and then transforms his community’s experience of their ongoing journey with God. But I don’t really feel qualified really to explain it, nor did I, if I'm honest have time to do the necessary research ... so I decided I would speak about something else instead.

For me, when I think of wine in the New Testament there is, other than the Last Supper, one main story which comes to mind, and which also has, I think, something important to offer to our understanding of why wine might be an important symbol in our worship. (Well actually there are two: the other being the Good Samaritan, but I decided I didn’t have time to talk about that one as well) So I want to speak about the Wedding at Cana, that celebration at the very beginning of Jesus ministry where Jesus performs his first miracle. Interesting, first of all perhaps, that Jesus ministry (if you don't mind mixing your gospels which is always a bit of a risk) both begins and ends with the sharing of wine.

Weddings in first century Palestine didn’t have guest lists and seating plans. Anyone who considered themselves to be part of your community was invited.  So while it is possible, I guess, that the guests at this wedding were particularly heavy drinkers, it seems to me a more likely explanation is that this family had underestimated just how many people might count themselves as part of their circle.

When there are more people than you expect, you have to make a decision: to turn some of them away or to make what you have stretch. It is a question that is as alive for us today in our current cultural context as it was for the family hosting a wedding feast 2000 years ago. It plays a part in decisions we make as individuals, families, communities and as a country.

My understanding of Jesus’ action in this miracle is that it is not about telling a limited group of people that they can get as drunk as they like ... rather it is about calling us to push back the limits on who we count as “in”, of who belongs to our community. Jesus creates more wine, so that no one has to be turned away. He reminds us that even if all you have left is washing water, you can create a beautiful feast with the doors flung wide to all who want to come. He invites us to trust, and when those in the story dare to do so, a miracle is made possible.

When we drink wine together, it holds, I think, an inherent challenge to extend the boundaries of those we call our community. It is a call that says when you have more than you need, or even when you don’t: build a bigger table, not a higher fence.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

A People's Weapons Inspection

Yesterday morning involved a very early start to be here, outside the gates of the Roxel factory near Kidderminster. This "People's Weapons Inspection" set out to investigate the suspicion that propulsion technology for missiles built here, not so very far from where we live, will, in coming weeks and months, be used to power death and destruction in the deadly conflict in Yemen; where there are well documented reports of war crimes and the breaking of international humanitarian law.

Easter is the Season of Light. The Resurrection is about bringing into the light that which is hidden and about bringing light and life into places of darkness and death.

The energy of yesterday felt like a witness to both of those things: in the making visible of the turning of the wheels of war which is happening, hidden in plain sight, virtually on our doorstep; and in the beautiful creativity of people of good conscious offering time and energy to stand against the powers of darkness.

This is Easter. And this was exactly the right place to be.