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  • Nothing I Planned...

    Today I have done nothing I planned to do, but feel that I have, after all, achieved more than I hoped for (even in sabbaticals, the interruptions can be the most meaningful, it seems).

    All of which reminded me of this prayer:

    I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.

    I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.

    I asked for health, that I might do greater things.

    I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

    I asked for riches, that I might be happy.

    I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

    I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.

    I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

    I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.

    I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

    I got nothing that I asked for but got everything I had hoped for.

    Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

    I am, among all people, most richly blessed.

  • Rubbish?

    I am getting back into the swing of starting my day with PAYG... how easy it is to let 'spiritual disciplines' slide, especially in an age of instant everyhting.  Anyhow, today's passage was part of Philippians 3, including Paul's assertion that:

     

    For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him (Phil 3:8b NRSV)

     

    Oh dear, sorry Paul, I cannot regard all things as rubbish, not even if I restrict that to the material, and absolutely not if I allow the more abstract things that delight...

     

    Thank you, God, for Pauline rubbish:

    For the warm, soft fur of pussy-cat cuddles

    The sunlight playing on the chimney stacks of Victorian houses

    The summer breeze tousling hair and tickling skin

    The soaring crescendo of birdsong, and pop-song, and symphonic works

     

    Thank you, God, for Pauline rubbish

    For the laughter of a shared ridiclous experience

    The 'aha' moments of new knowledge or insight

    The heartaching privilege of sharing others' pain

    The gentle silence of contentment

     

    Thank you, God, for Pauline rubbish

    Your outrageously geneous gifts of grace

    Physical

    Emotional

    Spiritual

     

    Better is one day lived in a Pauline rubbish dump, than a thousand elsewhere.

  • Wheat, Tares and the Inner World

    This morning PAYG centred on Jesus' explanation of the parable usually referred to as 'wheat and weeds' as found in Matthew's gospel (ch 13).  It's a parable I have preached on a few times, drawing out the justification for leaving the weeds/darnel in place until harvest (pulling them out would risk uprooting 'good' plants) and the divine acceptance that pulling them out has consequences ('good' plants may be choked or their growth inhibited, the 'good harvest' is less than it might otherwise be). 

    What PAYG offered today was another angle, that, as well as referring to the world as that which is 'out there', the parable could refer to our own 'inner world', our hearts and minds.

    This inner focus is, I think, both helpful and challenging.  It is helpful because it precludes any kind of 'us and them' attitude - it is not simply the case of 'Christians (my kind) = good; everyone else = bad', rather it recognises the inner blend of good and evil within each one of us.  This must surely force us to be a little more humble and a little less judgemental.

    Reading the parable this way offers a more gentle counterpoint to the extreme approach of amputation mooted in Matt 5 (hands, eyes etc. to be removed to prevent sin) suggesting instead that we are all a complex blend of intellectual and emotional factros, that we are influenced and shaped by our context and our epxeriences.  As a result, it isn't straight forward to 'dig out' that which may be 'bad'; indeed it may be preferrable to allow the 'good' to be less than it might be rather than risk losing it all together.

    When bad things happen in the world - as they do all too often - the cry goes up 'if there is a God why doens't he do something' or 'I can't believe in a God who would allow this to happen.'  But this parable, understood personally or corporately offers us a hint of a response.  It's not that good needs bad in order to flourish (that would be crazy), but that routing out bad as soon as it popped up might take with it actual, or potential good.  This does not mean. lest anyone wonders, that bad doesn't matter nor that we should adopt a fatalisitic attitude towards evil.  On the contrary, evil needs to be named, injustice addressed, lessons learned.

    What it does mean is that we acknowledge that in our broken and disordered world, and in our frail and finite lives, the two can be so closely intertwined, and sometimes so similar in appearance, that identifying and dealing with sin is not always so easy.

    This feels like a clumsy reflection, one very open to the 'ah but' type questions... I think what I am mindful of is that at a personal level, it may be that God allows my 'tares' to remain in place for now because to excise them might damage or uproot the 'seedlings' of hope or good that coexist.  Rather than complacent, or lazy, that makes me look at myself more realistically and perhaps a little more kindly -  and that's no bad thing.