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A Skinny Fairtrade Latte in the Food Court of Life - Page 5

  • Lent Reflections - 4

    So much for regular posting in Lent!  A mix of reasons, partly, and, more significantly, I am not really finding either of the Lent books 'scratches where I am itching' so, rather than inspiration or contemplation, they are leading to irritation and disappointment.  There was a time when I'd have plodded on, stoicly working my way through, determined to find something - but not this time.  If the past year of strangeness has taught me anything, it's not to spend my time on things that don't, in some small measure, bring me life, energy, joy, fun, challenge or some other active and positive response.  As the saying goes 'life's too short.'

    To be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong or inadequate about the books, they just don't 'do it' for me.

    A week since Lent began, a lot has happened to occupy my thoughts and my time, and I feel that I have been playing catch-up after my short break. 

    In the nine days since I posted this  the friend with a new prmary diagnosis has been rediagnosed with secondaries, the person newly diagnosed with secondaries is really struggling, and the person with progression died very suddenly and after a positive Covid 19 test.  Each of these remind me of the fragility and preciousness of life, that we really do need to live each moment.

    Some days of course, just getting through is as a good as it gets, but giving ourselves permission to abandon things that don't give life seems healthy.

    So, apologies to anyone who was looking forward to me sharing Lenten thoughts with you based on these books, it isn't going to happen.  I will keep reflecting and posting during Lent, just not every day, and not in a systematic way.

    Take good care of yourselves, and stay safe - the spring is coming!

  • Hope

    This week, I spent a couple of hours prayerfully stuffing envelopes.  Or at least, holding before God the people whose names I wrote on the envelopes.

    Having recently completed a preaching series on the topic of 'hope' it seemed right to offer something tangible.  The stones are delightfully smooth to the touch, and the words from Jeremiah an important reminder of God's faithfulness.

    In these ongoing times of challenge, may our hope be active and may our hope be strong. 

  • Lent Reflections - 3

    Sacred Space today focussed on Matthew 9:14-15, where John's disicples ask Jesus why his followers don't fast when eveeryone else does.  It's a curious thing to ponder at the start of the principle fast practised (in theory anyway) within Christianity.

    This year, I am struck by the, completely understandable, reluctance of people to abstain from chocolate or alcohol or social media at a time when life is hard and monotonous.  Similarly, whilst there are any number of creative and interesting Lent resources and groups to connect with, there is a degree of fatigue and fedupness that makes them less attractive.

    The last time I abstained for Lent was 2010 (something I had done every year since 1978!) because, arriving at the start of Lent 2011 having just come through chemo etc., I felt I had done quite enough abstaining, thank you all the same. I think that this year, other people are discovering the same.

    Why aren't (some/many) of Jesus' disicples fasting/abstaining?  Because, frankly, the abstentions begun last Lent are still going on, and we really don't need any self flagellation to add to the mix. 

    ~

    Thy Will be Done moves swiftly from patriachal language to the inadequacy of all language to describe God or to express prayer.  We know that, we've heard it countless times before.  But sometimes we also need to be freed from the (self-imposed?) tyranny of getting the words right and allow ourselves to concentrate on the mystery of this God who seeks relationship with us.

    ~

    Can I hold the two together? Can I weave a thread between them?

    Perhaps it's simply this - that the God who loves us is more interested in keeping relationship with us than whether or not our spiritual disciplines and practices are perfectly honed.  Perhaps we should allow ourselves to snuggle up on God's lap (as per Psalm 131) and simply to enjoy being held safe for a while. 

  • Lent Reflections - 2

    Today's chapter of 'Thy Will Be Done' almost perfectly explored the ideas I played with yesterday... so I won't repeat them today!

    'Sacred Space' focused on the idea of 'Take up your Cross' which it interpreted as a call to martyrdom, to suffering with and for Christ.  The text used, Luke 9:22 - 25 makes for scary reading, potentially linking salvation with this denial of self for the sake of Christ.  This seems to go further than anything I've heard preached, but is definitely a valid reading of the text.

    For Arminian/Wesleyan Christians, who lean towards universal or are universalist, all can be saved, all will be saved, and all will be saved to the uttermost.

    For Calvinist Christians, who adhere to the TULIP doctrine, only the elect can be saved (limited atonement) but they cannot then be unsaved again (perseverance of the saints).

    So what do we do with passages that suggest that salvation can be lost?  Is it the case (and I think it may be) that 'once saved, always saved' ideas open the way to 'abundance of grace' views, and life styles that don't align with professed beliefs? It's not, I want to suggest, that our eternal salvation is, or may be, forfeited, but that the quality of our life is directly linked with the choices we make.

    If we lose our 'life' - of self determination, ambition, success, wealth, happiness -  in order to follow Jesus, then we discover a more abundantly fulfilling life.

    If we cling to the life we can build for ourselves, fulfillment will only ever be partial, fleeting... our lives will lack fullness, even if we don't know what is missing.

    If I read this passage as a temporal rather than an eternal truth, then I can separate life here from life hereafter.

    For the record, I have an Arminian-ish theology that verges on Universalism but allows for the possibility that someone might encounter God and say 'no thanks'.  I do not believe in a hell that is eternal conscious torment, though I do have a sense that evil itself needs to be consigned to a 'place' of destruction - perhaps what some have termed 'an empty hell'.  I certainly hope God's a universalist, and that, in the end everyone, Judas included, is OK.    

     

  • Lent Reflections - 1

    Lent begins today, and so I am beginning a fairly gentle reading schedule with a couple of very simple resources.

    Sacred Space for Lent 2021 is produced by the Irish Jesuit network and provides a daily Bible passage (printed in full) and a couple of questions to ponder

    Thy Will be Done - The 2021 Lent Book by Stephen Cherry is a gentle amble through Matthew's version of the Lord's Prayer.

    In a nice synchronicity, serendipity, Holy Spirit hmm moment, whatever it was, today's Sacred Space reading was the context of Matthew's Lord's Prayer (Matt 6).

    Over the days ahead, I will endeavour to keep up to date with the reading, and to share anything that I think might be of interest to others.

    For today, it's the literal translation of Matthew's Lord's Prayer from Thy Will Be Done that gives me pause for thought...

    Father of us, the one in the heavens,

    Let be revered the name of you,

    Let come the kingdom of you,

    Let be done the will of you,

    as in heaven, also on earth.

    The bread of us us daily give us today.

    And forgive us the debts of us,

    As also we have forgiven the debtors of us.

    And do not bring us into temptation,

    but rescue us from the evil one.

    Father of us... means the same as Our Father, but the unfamiliar form perhaps helps me (or us) to notice new nuances... not 'our possession' but 'the one who fathers us'...  or maybe it invites us to ponder just who is the 'us' and how broad or narrow that definition might be. Neither of these, I might add, is where the book goes!

    The Jesusit book begins with the stern reminder about 'practising your piety before people', with emphases on alms giving, prayer and fasting, all of which are often associated with Lent.  Curious challenge then, to share things that might be interesting/resonant without falling into the trap of hypocrisy along the way.

    Whatever you are or aren't taking on as a Lent discipline (and none is required) I do hope you find blessing.