Sarah Bessey recently wrote about what is saving her life right now and invited her blog readers to consider the question for themselves:
* * *
Saving me? Right now? In this loaded tension waiting game?
People. On two sides of the world.
3am emails and four hour phone calls, a hurried text or facebook message: they’re still there, still here, and we are not done yet.
Poached eggs, cups of tea, ironing piles: we’re listening, discerning, sharing and being.
A marathon in a darkened room and a collective hush before the gun: we’re reunited but there’s no need for extravagance, this is how it always was.
Kind words and gentle stories remind me I am not alone and that this is home. They root me in this place and quiet the panic that threatens to errupt in a heart that is not yet settled. They are saving me here. Allowing me to build and grow and live.
Kind words and gentle stories tell me I am not forgotten. They remind me of what was, of that which taught me what is and sustain another life I could forget I lived. They are saving me there. Keeping a part of me until it is time.
Saving me? Right now? On the verge of a spiral, nowhere bound?
The anticipation of things to come.
Of lives changed on both sides of an unspoken, well-known divide. Of a mess made as we stumble through the game. Of tempers flaring and frustration peaking as iron sharpens iron.
Of learning by observation and participation, though the teachers may be unaware and the student unwilling. Of the formation of a family, the creation of a home. Of chaos, beauty and peace.
Of one last lap, one last battle; to win the race and the war. For now. Of new revelation and character formation. Of precious time never to be consumed in this way again.
Saving me? Right now? From weariness and frenzy?
To a silent church where candles burn and incense rises, where ancient lessons are read and words are chanted, where your knees give out on patterned cushions and Christ stares down from on high .
To the lands of Middle Earth where Elves and Dwarves become unlikely friends, Wizards rise from the dead and a Halfling stands by his friend to the bitter end as he saves the world from unending darkness.
Saving me. Right now.
Having exams immediately before Christmas really makes you understand the “waiting” aspect of advent. You’re longing for that moment when you walk out of an exam hall, finally free and able to relax again. And this semester has been so relentless that it genuinely was the first relief I’ve felt from that pressure for almost thirteen weeks. It would be a serious understatement to say that I was happy!
I want to share with you some things I’ve been dwelling on this advent, some things that have made the meaning of it all really come alive for me.
Mamamonk has been posting a series of poems for the season but my favourite is definitely this one: Darkness. I think it captures beautifully the humanity of the birth, the messiness of it that we don’t see in our carols and lessons.
Sarah Bessey has also posted a beautiful piece over at Deeper Story about the messy humanness of the incarnation: Incarnation
But we keep it quiet, the mess of the Incarnation, because it’s just not church-y enough and men don’t quite understand and it’s personal, private, there aren’t words for this and it’s a bit too much. It’s too much pain, too much waiting, too much humanity, too much God, too much work, too much joy, too much love and far too messy…
The guys over at 24/7 Prayer have been posting prayer spaces videos all through advent for daily reflection. I particularly enjoyed last week’s ones on Joy and looking at both Mary and Simeon’s songs of praise in Luke.
And finally, another wee video that beautifully portrays the humanity of this whole Christmas thing.
So there you have my advent-y scrapbook. Somehow the whole thing seems more real to me this year, more mystical and wonderful. Jesus came, he is here still and I love it!
the new covenant is eternal. God’s self-giving on the cross is a consequence of the fact that the convenant is everlasting. And the covenant is everlasting because God is unable to give up the partner who has broken it . . . God’s commitment is irrevocable and God’s covenant indestructible . . . It can be broken, but it cannot be undone. Every breach of such a covenant still takes place within its ongoing life . . .
– Miroslav Volf, “A Theology of Embrace for a World of Exclusion”, in Explorations in Reconciliation, ed. Tombs and Leichty, (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), p29
We must be careful in all our talk about liturgical prayer not to rule out the spontaneous moves of the Spirit. Just as liturgical traditions have much to offer us by way of roots, the charismatic and Pentecostals have much to offer us in zeal and passion. Tradition and innovation go together in God’s kingdom. Jesus was Jewish. He went to synagogue “as was his tradition” and celebrated holy days such as Passover. But Jesus also healed on the Sabbath. Jesus points us to a God who is able to work within the institution and order, a God who is too big to be confined.
God is constantly colouring outside the lines. Jesus challenges structures that oppress and exclude, and busts through any traditions that put limitations on love. Love cannot be harnessed.
Liturgy is public poetry and art. You can make beautiful art by splashing paint on a wall, and you can also make art with the careful diligence of a sculptor. Both can be lovely, and both can be ugly. Both can be marketed and robbed of their original touch, and both have the potential to inspire and move people to do something beautiful for God. So it is with worship. More important than whether something is old or new, winsome or classic is whether it is real. The Scriptures tell us to “test the spirits”, and the true test of the spirit of a thing is whether it moves us closer to God and to our suffering neighbour. Does it have fruit outside of our own good feelings? Beauty must hearken to something beyond us. It should cause us to do something beautiful for God in the world.
– Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Enuma Okoro, Common Prayer, (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2010) p.175-176
But a most pernicious error widely prevails that Scripture has only so much weight as is conceded to it by the consent of the church. As if the eternal and inviolable truth of God depended upon the decision of men!
– Calvin, Institutes, I vii
The Church of God doesn’t have a Mission.
The God of Mission has a Church.
– Rupert Ward, CCE, 16/1/2011
I’ve just started reading Curating Worship by Jonny Baker.
It’s a very interesting look at a different way of leading and doing worship. Continuing on from the previous conversation we had here about worship, in a way, I wanted to share a short quote with you.
In many church circles the only gifts that are valued for worship are musical ones (and even then of a small range of music) or the ability to speak well (preferably in a good English accent). This attitude needs shattering, and opening up so that poets, photographers, ideas people, geeks, theologians, liturgists, designers, writers, cooks, politicians, architects, movie-makers, storytellers, parents, campaigners, children, bloggers, DJs, VJs, craft-makers, or just anybody who comes and is willing to bounce ideas around, can get involved.
So, who’s planning and partaking in you worship this Sunday? How does your worship reflect that?
I’ll let you know more when I finish the book.
The house of God is not the Church but the world. The Church is the servant, and the first characteristic of a servant is that he lives in someone else’s house, not his own
– J.A.T. Robinson, The New Reformation? p.92
I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
Towards the end of the seventh Harry Potter book, when Harry has kind of died but is about to return to consciousness and defeat his nemesis Voldemort, Dumbledore says to Harry, who is having doubts about his ability to lead his friends to victory:
“it’s a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.”
– JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
I like this. And it jumped out a me a bit. I think Dumbledore could be very correct in what he says.
It got me thinking that, if this is the case, perhaps, power-hungry control freaks like me (and I’m not exaggerating as much as some of you might think) ought to take a back seat and, a least for a while, learn to do the following instead of the leading.
You may want to read that again.
I know I had to the first time.
It does indeed say “Thou Shalt Shoplift”.
And it was a BBC News Headline this morning, quoting a Priest in York.
A priest from North Yorkshire has advised his congregation to shoplift if they find themselves in hard times.
Father Tim Jones, the parish priest of St Lawrence and St Hilda in York, said people should steal from big chains rather than small businesses.
He said society’s attitude to those in need “leaves some people little option but crime”.
I don’t know that I’ve heard anything quite so ridiculous in a long time.
Surely, this goes against so many Biblical principles, anyone can see it’s not the way to go about solving peoples money woes!
Jesus said we weren’t to worry about material goods but know that God will provide for us. Maybe he should be telling his congregation to pray.
And isn’t the entire point of the church to support one another in faith but, I would say, materially too. Acts 4 says the believers shared all things in common. If we’re not going to do that we should at least have a system which enables us to support people who need it, whether they be congregation members or not.
Father Jones later said on the radio, “If one has exhausted every legal opportunity to get money and you’re still in a desperate situation it is a better moral thing to do to take absolutely no more than you need for no longer than you need”.
I’m sorry Father but the better thing would be for them to know that they can turn to the church who will make sacrifices in order to love them like God, who made the ultimate sacrifice and gave the ultimate gift.
I feel you’ve missed the point a little.
The modest task of those of us who are theologians is to help contribute to the discussion of what Christians ought to think by thinking as clearly as we can. But the theologian must always remember, as well, that those who are not schooled in theology will often lead the way.
– Stanley Hauerwas
I tend to think that all Christians are called to be theologians – we are, after all, all trying to think clearly about God and his will and how it should affect our lives. Therefore, we must all remember, you don’t have to have a degree to lead the way.
How about this definition?
The church is by nature and commandment an apostolic community which exists for the sake of announcing the Gospel to all nations and of making them disciples of Christ.
H. Richard Niebuhr The Responsibility of the Church for Society