Incarnation

Christmas morning at the bandstand was accompanied by the most beautiful festive birdsong.

May we…

Liturgy for Christmas Day……….

As the light begins to shift
and a crack appears in heaven.
As stars slide across the darkness
and angels clear their throats.
As an unborn agitates
with the labouring of love

may we…

as incarnation moves from promise
into life.
As words of prophecy
spill into every empty silence.
As you, O Love, shift restlessly
and begin to let go

may we…

as the world turns
and the rumour goes unnoticed.
As grandiose words are spoken
yet never contain the word.
As the longing and waiting and calling
are missed

may we…

may we shift restlessly along with heaven
at the breath-taking vulnerability of hope,
speak  justice into the silence of injustice,
move towards those, others move away from,
may we forgive in order to bring new life to the world,
prepare to change as all of heaven changes now,
live towards what is right and away from what is wrong.

May we pull on the hope of Advent
live on the cusp of incarnation
and proclaim with our lives
the Good News
of promise
of hope in a messy world
of Emmanuel…..

may we…
may you
make way
for birth

for God with us!

(With thanks to abbotsford.org.uk)

 

For God to become a baby he had to
Squeeze himself into a small space
Confine himself into a fallible body
Restrict himself to humanity
Reduce himself to limited movements
Become weak and vulnerable
Rely on humans to take care of him
For Christ to become one of us
He had to be born like us
The light was hidden within the womb
The thirst quencher received refreshment from the breast of Mary
The bread of life had to learn how to eat
The one who holds us, first had to be held
The Lover was loved
The way had to learn to walk
The word had to learn to speak
The creator taught how to create
This is our GOD

James Hawes

 

It was the first Christmas and

God giggled
God farted
God burped
God gurgled
God needed a cuddle
God was a baby

Christmas reminds us:

That we don’t have to find God, he finds us in our humanity
We don’t have to go up – he came down
We find God in the physical, in our bodies, in material, in humanity.
God became one of us!

James Hawes

Our Christmas morning gathering in the park ended with a rendition of ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’.

Arrival

This morning as the rain poured down on a very grey day we were glad to be meeting in the bandstand. Advent which means “arrival” is the beginning of the Christian year.

We believe in a creating and amazing God,

who has been to the depths of despair;

who has risen in splendour to fill the cosmos;

who decorates the universe with clear white light and

sparkling colours, twinkling stars and swirling galaxies,

over and over again.

We believe that Jesus is the light of the world;

that God believes in us and loves us,

even though we make the same mistakes,

over and over again.

We commit ourselves to Jesus and his way of shalom*,

to one another as sisters and brothers,

and to the Creator’s business in the world.

Amen.

*shalom encompasses: harmony, wholeness, well-being, generosity, kindness, non-violence,

peace, justice, equality, completeness, welfare, safety, tranquillity.

 

Sharing Bread and Wine
Long ago our tradition says, Jesus came in the humble birth of a child,
a child of divine love,
a child of Mary’s ‘yes’ to you,
a child of Joseph’s acceptance,
a child of our humanity.
Long ago our tradition says, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and said:
‘This bread is broken, as my body will be’. And he handed it to his friends inviting them to eat.

Long ago our tradition says, Jesus poured a cup of wine, gave thanks for it and said:  ‘This wine is poured out as my life will be poured out’.  And he gave it to his friends inviting them to drink.

May this gathering of this community of faith
be comforted and challenged this Advent season.
And may people see in us the compassion, courage and generosity that characterised the life of Jesus. Amen.

(rexaehuntprogressive.com)

 

Dear God,

As we journey down this Advent road,

Grant us the courage to make peace.

Peace in our hearts,

Peace in our homes,

Peace in our communities,

Peace in our world.

Amen.  (liturgyoutside.net)

Our arrival at Cool River for coffee was a few minutes before the cafe was due to open, but they were kind enough to open up early so we could get inside out of the cold and wet!

 

Advent Hope

On a beautiful but chilly Sunday morning we met by the river in the park.

Lighter of lights – illumine us 
Fire of fires – thaw us 
Power of powers – strengthen us 
Lover of lovers – warm us

Teller of tales – encourage us 
Destroyer of darkness – save us 
Touchstone of truth – examine us 
Summoner of stars – amaze us

Wellspring of wisdom – weather us 
Water of life – refresh us 
Dancer of days – delight in us 
Breath of the universe – bless us

Ruth Burgess

Advent Hope.

In the first 1200 years of Christianity the greatest feast of the year was Easter. But around 1200, Francis of Assisi taught that we didn’t need to wait for Easter for God to love us by the cross and resurrection. He thought it started with God’s  love being demonstrated first and foremost by the incarnation and he popularised Christmas as the greatest Christian feast. The Franciscans realised if God had become flesh, taken on materiality, physicality, humanity, then the problem was solved from the beginning. Francis said, “Every tree should be decorated with lights to show that it’s filled with light anyway.” And that’s exactly what we do 800 years later. But remember when we speak of Advent or waiting for Christmas or preparing for Christmas, we’re not talking about waiting for the baby Jesus to be born. That’s already happened 2000 years ago. We’re in fact welcoming, the Cosmic Christ, the Christ that is for ever being born in the human soul and into history and into the whole cosmos. We do need to make room for that, because right now in our world there is no room at the inn for such mystery. We don’t see the incarnate spirit that is hidden inside of everything material. The dualism of the spiritual and material is precisely what Jesus came to reveal as untrue.  Jesus came to show us that these two seemingly different worlds are and always have been one. The  Western Church – both Catholic and Protestant – has always had difficulty in understanding this truth. The Eastern Church understood that through the incarnation God said yes to the material universe. God said yes to physicality. They understood the mystery of incarnation in a universal sense, and that’s what you and I, I think, are still preparing for. That’s the eternal advent. It’s always advent. We’re always waiting to see spirit revealing itself through matter. We’re always waiting for matter to become a new kind of image in which spirit is revealed. Whenever that happens you’re celebrating Christmas. Christmas became the greatest celebratory feast of Christians because it’s basically saying it’s good to be human, it’s good to be on this earth, it’s good to have flesh and blood bodies, it’s good to have intellect, it’s good to have sexuality. We shouldn’t be ashamed of any of this. This is what God loves.

Richard Rohr.

We ended with the following prayer, and then went to Cool River for Fairtrade coffee and lots of chat!

Bright God of Advent:
Blaze in our darkness.
Incinerate our iniquity.
Light up our road.

Riddle the ashes
of our desires.
Rekindle in us
your justice and love.

Ruth Burgess

 

 

 

 

Bring and share at the bandstand

It was our first rally chilly morning for many months but it was dry and we were happy to meet Jeremy and Sue and to discover several people we have in common – it really is such a small world!

We began with words from Ecclesiastes 3 about time for everything which Fiona had found so pertinent in a very busy and demanding couple of weeks. Wendy read verses from Hebrews 10:19-25 and we reflected on the knowledge that we were able to be in God’s presence here and now and then to encourage us she shared a story of a wonderful answer to prayer. It mirrored the story of Elisha and the widow’s oil – when we do everything we can and can do no more, God can intervene and save the day!

From the bandstand we were sent off with bird seed thinking of Jesus’ words about worrying and remembering that God feeds the birds of the air and cares far more for us. Walking through the park we shared with God our worries and then went to feed the ducks in the pond. It really was very helpful to throw our worries with those seeds and be reminded of the perspective we need in difficult times.

Back at the bandstand we blew bubbles as another symbol of letting those things go and then watched a short film from the Work of the People to lead us into sharing bread and wine.

Thanks to all who brought something for today – as ever it held together and spoke. Next week Soulspace!

The Wonder of Fungi

On a beautiful, but cold autumnal Sunday morning we met in the park for worship:

In the fading of the summer sun,
the shortening of days, cooling breeze,
swallows’ flight and moonlight rays
WE SEE THE CREATOR’S HAND

In the browning of leaves once green,
morning mists, autumn chill,
fruit that falls, frost’s first kiss
WE SEE THE CREATOR’S HAND

Just take a few moments to reflect on creation and in so doing worship the Creator.

Our Generous God

We praise and thank you for:

creation,

for changing seasons,

for life and love,

for incarnation and new life,

for unending undeserved love.

 

We rejoice in your persistent song,

yearning and calling,

waiting and welcoming,

gathering and loving,

making us whole.

 

We thank you for peace promised,

for the hope of kingdom shalom,

here and now

the three in one

God with us.

The wonder of fungi.

Of all life on Earth, there’s something more mysterious and more vital to our survival than anything else. Much of its life is hidden underground. And only at the end of its life cycle does it reveal its identity. The mushroom. They have a secret life so magical, so weird, that it almost defies imagination, to create new medicines and even clean up polluted soils. The  story of fungi is so strange it seems almost alien, yet they are crucial to all life on Earth.

The only place many of us encounter mushrooms is in the supermarket. Cultivated edible varieties like these, are all most of us think about when it comes to mushrooms. We British can’t get enough. It’s a multimillion pound business in the UK.  But there’s so much more to mushrooms than the examples in the vegetable section. The mushroom is just one species from an enormous kingdom, the kingdom of the fungi, and fungi are hidden away in all kinds of food products in ways you wouldn’t expect.

Blue cheese, and the blue is a fungus. A lot of soft drinks and fizzy drinks have citric acid in them, and that’s produced by a fungus in huge quantities. Many detergents also contain citric acid, just like fizzy drinks.  Here’s soy sauce, bread, QuornWild red salmon, the red colour, is sometimes due to a fungus called Phaffia. Some of the protein in pet foods, is actually produced by fungi. Then there’s alcohol. The fermenting activity is due to Saccharomyces, turning sugars into alcohol and CO2. Alcohol is therefore the metabolic product of yeast in beer and wine making.

Our supermarket shop wouldn’t be the same without fungi. They’re hidden away in all sorts of ways in the products, due to them having a  whole series of biochemical tricks up their sleeve. The global trade in edible fungi is worth £32 Billion a year.

 

Some may think they look like any other plant, but in fact, they’re a different organism altogether. Fungi have evolved as a kingdom in their own right, distinct from plants and animals. They evolved into a distinct kingdom over one and a half billion years ago. It’s thought that in variety, they outnumber plants by ten to one.

You may not realise that what we call the mushroom is, in fact, just one type of fungus. It’s the form that we are most familiar with and the easiest to recognise. The head of a mushroom is the cap. This is the stalk. Look underneath the cap, and you’ll find a set of sharp ridges known as gills. And it’s from the gills that the spores are released. A mushroom, is a fruiting body, it is the reproductive structure of a fungus and its sole purpose is to produce spores. Eventually, when the spores are fully ripened, they drop off into that air space between the gills, and fall from the mushroom, they are then carried away by air currents.

We can do something called a spore print. Every mushroom has its own unique spore print. These spores are like the seeds of a mushroom. They do create  a rather beautiful pattern on the paper. They’re just like the silhouettes of a mushroom, and that colour of the spore print is unique to that type of mushroom.

Fungi have the power to affect our lives in unexpected ways. One of the most striking displays of their power to affect our lives is through – the most widely-used type of drug on the planet – antibiotics. Antibiotics are tremendously important in our fight against infection. Up to about 30% of patients in hospital can be on antibiotics at any one time. They’re used to treat things like pneumonias, skin and soft tissue infections and prevent surgical site infections post operatively.

The invention of antibiotics has been a game changer for medicine and humankind. And we owe it all to fungi.

So far we’ve just been thinking about  the fruiting body of the mushroom, most people think that is the mushroom. But it’s only part of the organism. To understand how fungi relate to other organisms on our planet, we have to realise what’s going on underground. You might think that what we see above the ground is the main part of the fungus but the vast majority of the organism is hidden underground. It’s made up of a huge web of tiny threads, hyphae, spreading out in search of food. This network of fungal filaments is called  a mycelium.  A mycelium is the scientific name for the fungus’s feeding network. And the only way many fungi can get what they need, is by attaching themselves to other organisms, and engaging in a two-way exchange of nutrients. Symbiosis. It’s a process that results in one of the most complex, and important relationships in the natural world. It’s estimated that about 90% of all wild plants on Earth will form very special associations with fungi. The fungi will attach themselves to the plant roots, they then form sheaths on the outside, that envelop the root like a kind of glove. This is where the nutrient exchange takes place between the fungus and the root. This nutrient exchange works both ways. The fungus feeds on sugars from the plant that it needs to grow, and in return gives back water and minerals that the plant is unable to absorb enough of itself.

A healthier plant and a healthier fungus mean healthier soil. All this is invisible to us, but it’s all around us. It’s going on in every park and in every field and in every woodland in Britain. Without this relationship, plants wouldn’t thrive so well.

While some fungi are parasitic and feed on living organisms, others only eat things that are dead. These fungi are able to break down and digest organic waste and in doing so, recycle it. These fungi are called saprophytes. They are  vital for the natural world. Every dead leaf and twig and branch in this park is being consumed by fungal mycelia, which break down the cellulose and lignin and other complex compounds. So even dead wood can be digested by fungi. Were it not for the constant activity of fungal mycelia,  the whole planet would be covered with a mass of scrub and leaf. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the fungi  that digests dead plant material. They have successfully recycled the world’s natural waste for hundreds of millions of years, making entire ecosystems habitable for animals and plants.

Another amazing ability of fungi is to break down toxic waste. Fungal mycelia can break down the hydrocarbons present in much chemical waste. It’s a process called bioremediation. The fungi literally eat away the pollutants. As an experiment a heavily polluted petrochemical site in the US  was seeded with an oyster mushroom mycelium, it was later found that the soil had been transformed by the fungal mycelium and was teeming with new life, with lots of worms and insects. The  decomposition process that the fungi started is continued by other soil micro-organisms – bacteria and slime molds, and you eventually end up with soil that’s richer than it was to begin with.  The oyster mushroom mycelium can not only digest chemical waste – it can also create an entirely new soil ecosystem where plants and invertebrates can thrive.

Prayer

Watching a TV programme about fungi a few weeks ago I was amazed at how far the mycelium from a fungi spread under the ground, unseen, unsung and yet doing something absolutely crucial and amazing. It reminded me of the many unsung heroes who bring the love of God to others. Those who feed the hungry, stand up for justice, who are peacemakers, people who work with the unloved, the lonely, the homeless and all others in need. So often we come across organisations or individuals who are working selflessly, often in very difficult circumstances to show the love of God and yet they are usually unrecognised in a world that celebrates the rich and famous.

Using a stone mushroom I made something to represent the mycelium underground and we wrote the names of individuals and organisations that were bringing the love of God to others. We then wrote down the names of places or people who needed to know the love of God at this time.

Sharing bread & wine 

In this bowl with the bread
We place our hopes and dreams:
Those who are closest to us,
Those whose lives are bound up with our lives………….

And with these, we unite those more distant to us:
The whole of anonymous humankind
Scattered in every corner of the globe;
Our distant brothers and sisters remembering you in bread and wine today
A multitude of people, each reflecting your image, each needing your grace……….

And not only the living, but also the dead
We remember those who have loved us and inspired us and gone before us………

The Bread of life…………..

Into these cups of wine we pour

our sorrows and suffering,
our failings and fears,
our pain and sadness………..

The wine poured out…………

May all life – past, present and future, near and far –
Now be brought together  in this sharing of bread and wine,
And in the hope of your coming kingdom of shalom.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of birds and hippos at the bandstand!

Out time together in stunning sunshine and falling leaves and birdsong began with us writing three words describing our week. These were laid on a table – a sign of what was important to us that we had come with. We then focused on what we had come to…

Considering the beauty of our surroundings, we read part of God’s parading of creation to Job from chapter 40:15-24 in the Message – a captivating account for the hippo! With that we had a copy of Ann Lewin’s poem ‘Consider the birds’ from her wonderful book ‘Watching for the kingfisher’. We took it away to read and in search of birds we could hear and ducks in the river or pond to allow a response to the poem and to added words of Jesus – see below:

Consider the birds.

That’s one command
I have no problem with.

I held a swallow once,
Knocked senseless by some accident;
Fragile body, tiny beating heart
Cupped in my hand. The, restored,
With flirt of feathers,
Off to freedom flight.
I who have scarcely
Stirred beyond these shores,
Held one who, twice at least,
Had flown four thousand miles.
No map, no compass,
Only unerring inner certainty
Carrying him over land and ocean.
A moment to treasure.

Then there are sparrows,
So common we don’t notice them;
Eight a penny, or perhaps ten
Since decimalisation.
I wonder why you didn’t tell Job
To look at sparrows, instead of
Parading the juggernauts of your
Creation. After all,
Anyone could make a hippopotamus –
No finesse there, a lump with
Four legs and a great big head –
A child’s production.
But a sparrow, there’s craftsmanship:
Those shades of brown and gold,
Arranged and sculpted into
Subtly beautiful plumage,
Each one different;
The stocky bodies full of energy,
Brisk, going about their business,
Fighting, squabbling,
Caring for their young, chirping
In incessant cheerfulness.

In contrast to the heron,
Standing more still than a
Contemplative, alert,
Waiting for the moment.
And no-one could watch ducks,
Or better still, listen to them,
Without believing in your sense of humour.

Kingfisher’s glory, blackbird’s song,
The marvel of flight itself…
The list is endless.

And we more precious.
A mystery to ponder.

Ann Lewin

Matthew 6 26 Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds…
33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Back at the bandstand we brought those we were carrying to the table, writing their names there too. This led into the sharing of bread and wine with words written by Steve for the occasion:

Noah’s Ark Communion

And the animals came in two by two
Convened and expectant
It had been a harsh journey for sure
They surrounded the table
Who was to be the one?
The Lamb stirred uneasily

“This is all their fault” they agreed
The Hippo – out of kindness – began to make excuses for them
Then silence
We do need a restoration of that which was given
To put right what was wronged
To set right all relationships
They are at war with the very dust out of which they were crafted
The very fabric of what was given and this dispensation has to end.

It was the old Orangutan – so closely related – who spoke
“They have proclaimed themselves Wise when they are so dim; they have wrapped themselves with gold to cover their nakedness; they have destroyed more than they have built; they have despoiled so much of what they have touched. And therefore a willing volunteer from amongst them must come to this table and recompense for their abomination.”
Murmurs of assent in every animal tongue.

“And if this happens – the price paid – the world renewed – the red earth and the blue waters restored, we will welcome them once more at the table to eat and drink with us the gifts given.”

And then another quieter voice: “It is done. Once for all. And behold I shall make all things new.”

And so we come today because we are permitted – to this table – to share the bread within the matrix of God’s created order, with the talkative and the inarticulate, with the noisy and the silent. And we give thanks that we are invited to eat this bread.

EAT BREAD

And so we come today because we are forgiven – to this table – to share the wine within the matrix of God’s created order, with the talkative and the inarticulate, with the noisy and the silent. And we give thanks that we are invited to drink this wine.

DRINK WINE

And in those times the Lion will frolic with the Lamb, and there will be no more sorrow or tears, no more war and no more plunder because the order of the Kingdom and Queendom of God will rule for ever and ever. AMEN

And all this with golden leaves falling and swirling around us… SUCH a pleasure to be out in the midst of nature for our worship!

 

 

Small is Good

After a period when people have been away over the summer, one of us has been in hospital and visits and visitors have made it difficult for us all to be together I came across something that Ian Adams wrote about being in a small group.

We sometimes feel fragile and vulnerable because there are not many of us; just one family not being with us makes a huge hole in our number so it was encouraging to read the following.

Small is good

It may not always feel like it, but I want to suggest that when we start something like a missional community, small is good! I’d go on to suggest that smallness may even be good throughout the life of a community.

Be assured that there are really tough things that go with smallness – fragility, vulnerability, lack of recognition to name just 3 – but these challenges are full of possibility and hope.

Small is good because it opens the way to participation. If the thing is small it requires us to be involved – and when we get involved we both shape and are shaped by the experience.

Small is good because it takes us into relationship. This path can, of course also be hugely uncomfortable. But it’s in relationship with others that some of our rough edges become beautiful shapes, that Christ may be glimpsed as we learn to live, argue, accept and perhaps ultimately love our traveling companions.

Small is good because it has a vitality that cannot be easily defeated by difficulty, let-down or even persecution. The experience of people who attempt this way is that in the exposed state of smallness there can be a rediscovery of the God who is closer than we can imagine.

Perhaps we should not be surprised to discover that small can be good. For 2000 years would-followers of Jesus have banded together in small groups to share the journey. It could be argued that the Church has been at its most vital and authentic when characterised by being small – and that we have struggled to live the way of Christ whenever we have become big, powerful, or the majority. So don’t be afraid of smallness. Work with it, embrace it, love it. Small is good!

Ian Adams

The One and the Many

On a beautiful, warm sunny morning we sat in the park and shared a Richard Rohr meditation:

Perennial Tradition

Richard Rohr

You can call it the collective unconscious; you can call it the One Spirit of God—the question is, why are so many people from different cultures, countries, ethnicities, educations, and religions saying very similar things today? This really is quite amazing and to my knowledge has no precedent in human history.

We are rediscovering the perennial traditiona phrase that points to an idea of a shared universal truth. Some of us called it the “wisdom tradition” which keeps showing itself in all of the world religions throughout history. This wisdom cannot be dismissed as mere syncretism—a word sometimes used to dismiss something unfamiliar or different as merely lightweight thinking, scepticism, or just wrong.

Too many of God’s holy people from other “flocks” keep saying the same or very similar things for them to be false. Hearing the same thing in different language and images helps us see the same reality more clearly.

The One and the Many
RICHARD ROHR

The beauty of the world is Christ’s tender smile for us coming through matter. —Simone Weil

Much of our life we are trying to connect the dots, to pierce the heart of reality to see what is good, true, and beautiful for us. We want something lasting and transcendent.

How we search, however, will determine what we find or even want to find. I suggest that we should be searching primarily in the universal and wise depths of recurring symbols, metaphors, and sacred stories, which is where humans can find deep and lasting meaning—or personal truth. That is what we mean by the Perennial Tradition and why George Bernard Shaw wrote, “There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it.” The best religious metaphors assert not just a truth held by one religion, but a universal truth.

Metaphor is the only possible language available to religion because it alone is honest about Mystery. The underlying messages that different religions and denominations use are often in strong agreement, but they use different metaphors to communicate their own experience of union with God. Jesus says, for example, “There are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and these I have to lead as well. They too listen to my voice” (John 10:16a). He is quite obviously talking metaphorically by calling people sheep. He is also saying that sometimes the outsider of the “flock” hears as well as the insider. Furthermore, he says that he cares about and respects the “other sheep,” which means that we should too. These are crucial points, and those who refuse to mine the metaphors will miss them.

Jesus’ intention here that there be “only one flock” (John 10:16b), and his later prayer “that all may be one” (John 17:21-23), can be achieved only by overcoming all otherness—so Jesus speaks of the “other sheep.” The goal is never to overcome all differences, since God clearly created us different in limitless ways. Differences are not the same as otherness, or at least they need not be. Through clever metaphors such as sheep and flocks, unity and yet differentiation, Jesus resolves what is sometimes called “the first philosophical problem” of the one and the many. How does one reconcile diversity with any underlying unity? To do this, Jesus, himself, uses many metaphors, so it is difficult to say that even he has only one and completely consistent image of God—beyond love itself!

We must never be too tied to our own metaphors as the only possible way to speak the truth. Rather, we must approach all metaphors and symbols humbly and respectfully, keeping all the inner spaces of mind, heart, and body open at the same time. I would call such respectful and non-egocentric attention “prayer.”

After a time of contemplation, we sat in the park with a takeaway coffee (Fairtrade obviously) and continued to enjoy the beauty surrounding us.

Of rocks and stones and rain and water

This last Sunday the weather suddenly broke and we met in the midst of heavy rain and bleak, low cloud – a first in a long time! We thought of those in the world who say rain as a sign of God’s rich blessing and of the Shekinah – the intense presence of God in biblical & Jewish tradition, symbolised as cloud in the Exodus narrative. So we began with thanksgiving for being in a place of blessing – our own thin place. We wrote examples of all we were grateful for and then joined together in our litany of thanksgiving.

Steve spoke about rocks and stone:
We’d just returned from our holiday in our favourite sacred place of North Pembrokeshire and revisited all our special places. We’d climbed Carningli – the rocky place of the angels, where it is believed that St Brynach would escape his monastery in Nevern to the solitude of the mountain to commune with God and be attended by the angels.

In Nevern we’d touched and revered the ancient Celtic Cross over 1000 years old. This is a steadfast reminder of the worship and prayers of the faithful down the years. Jesus himself advised that we build our lives on the solid rock of himself and his teaching. Such solid foundations would enable us to withstand the tempests of life.

In Joshua 4 as the people of Israel enter the Promised Land, Joshua instructs that’s 12 stones are taken from the River Jordan and laid down where they rest that night. These were to be a memorial to the great events that had taken place that day. This building of a cairn or a rock to bear witness to God’s dealings with his chosen people or to an individual is a feature though the Old Testament.

Long before the battles of Modernism and Post-Modernism over the nature of truth, philosophers and theologians speculated as to whether anything “solid and of permanence” could be deduced from a material world in constant process. Surely Perfection or Truth could not be found in the transience of our reality. We must look to some other realm for such a taste of transcendent Truth. This world may contain shadows but nothing more. This dualism claims, “Spirit good and Matter bad!”

However the Biblical affirmation is that God repeatedly calls his creation GOOD! And in the Celtic and Franciscan traditions such a claim is taken seriously and is celebrated. God’s good presence suffuses the created order, transience and permanence, spirit and flesh are not opposites and that God can be found in the very stuff of life. Jesus’ Incarnation – God becoming flesh – affirms this striking idea.
We had brought 12 stones taken from the ever changing estuary landscape of Nevern, which lay in the shape of a cross at our feet. We were invited to take a pebble as a prayer, a mini cairn, a commitment or promise, a memorial of some encounter or epiphany… We were to put it somewhere we might find it again and to build a Bethel (House of God) or a Shiloh (Place of Peace).

Under umbrellas – or not (depending on our lack of care or hair!) we met up again at the weeping beech. There we anointed and blessed each other with water from St Non’s well in St David’s, which is reputed to have healing properties. The rest we poured out on the ground – mindful of the story of David who poured out the water from the well in Bethlehem – and prayed for God’s blessing on others known to us who need Jesus now and for our world.

Using the words of ‘Divine entanglement’ we shared bread and wine…

 

Knowing God

So this morning at the bandstand, in glorious sunshine and warmth, we began with a prayer by David Adam called Veni Creator:

Come Lord
Come down
Come in
Come among us

Come as the wind
To move us
Come as the light
To prove us
Come as the night
To rest us
Come as the storm
To test us
Come as the sun
To warm us
Come as the stillness
To calm us

Come Lord
Come down
Come in
Come among us

Wendy led the time reviewing the past few months and weeks where we have thought about the kingdom of God being at a quantum level and carried within us and wrestled with how we know God. Much was based on her recent reading of David Adam’s book ‘Occasions for Alleluias’.
He points out that there is a problem with dissecting. Whist it is right to want to journey in our faith, to question assumptions and expand our horizons, there is a difficulty in dissecting it as with anything. A dry analysis of poetry or a novel in an English class can kill it and have us miss the spirit of it altogether. Cutting open an eye or a frog may be interesting but is far removed from the power of an eye that sees or a frog that leaps. In the same way, getting caught up with definitions of what we mean or believe can limit and, ironically, reduce, the reality of that which we experience. This linked with something Colin said last week about avoiding definitions of theological positions… (I’ve thought about that and concluded you were right Colin!)
In his book, David Adam points out that the solidity of matter is an illusion. 99.99% of matter is space – between and within cells. God loves space! It maybe links with our recent thinking of the sub-atomic level  Jesus speaking of the kingdom of God being within us?
No wonder we don’t understand God – it’s Flatland all over again! (Edwin A Abbott’s book about not understanding the dimensions beyond ours which must nevertheless exist).
But we can know something of God because God makes herself known! And so we all set out into the park with things to ponder and reflect on.:

God revealed in the world

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:
‘All around us, to right and left, in front and behind, above and below, we have only to go a little beyond the frontier of sensible appearances in order to see the divine welling up and showing through… by means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, moulds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped in its burning layers. In eo vivimus. [We live in it.] As Jacob said, awakening from his dream, the world, this palpable world, which we were wont to treat with the boredom and disrespect with which we habitually regard places with no sacred association for us, is in truth a holy place, and we did not know it. Venite adoremus.’ [Come let us adore him]

The Gospel of Thomas 77 ‘’Jesus said, “Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.”

Exercise: Find a view, a plant, a person, a dog…to look at for a few moments and remind yourself – this is in truth a holy place and we did not know it.

God revealed in hindsight

Exodus 33: 18-23 ‘Moses said, “Please. Let me see your Glory.” GOD said, “I will make my Goodness pass right in front of you; I’ll call out the name, GOD, right before you. I’ll treat well whomever I want to treat well and I’ll be kind to whomever I want to be kind.”
GOD continued, “But you may not see my face. No one can see me and live.” GOD said, “Look, here is a place right beside me. Put yourself on this rock. When my Glory passes by, I’ll put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I’ve passed by. Then I’ll take my hand away and you’ll see my back. But you won’t see my face.”

Exercise: Turn and face the other direction! Often we are only aware of God’s presence in hindsight. We don’t experience him directly but can say later – God was in that, though I didn’t see it at the time… Have you had times you would say that? When? What do you now feel you know of God that you didn’t at the time?

God through journey

At the end of the book of Job, after enormous suffering and isolations and being misunderstood and misrepresented, Job says in Ch 42
‘My ears had heard about you.
But now my own eyes have seen you.’
On what basis did he say this? He had had no revelation, no answers to why his life had taken such a downward turn, no justice. Our only conclusion can be that in the trials of his experience, he had come, eventually, to a knowledge of God’s reality beyond any conception he had had of God before.

David Adam quotes WB Yeats:
“God guard me from the thoughts men think
In the mind alone;
He that sings a lasting song
Thinks in a marrow-bone”

Adam says that knowledge of something is rarely best communicated by words alone, but by a passion or love for the subject. Knowledge transcends facts. ‘Bone-marrow is responsible for creating red blood cells, platelets and white blood cells – approximately 500 billion per day in all- and can be viewed as the very source of life. For Yeats, thinking in the marrow-bone reflects living life in all its fullness. It is holistic, involving not only facts but also reality and our relation to it. Facts alone do not translate into real knowledge: facts can be written down and memorised, but what we know with our whole being cannot.’

Exercise: Have a walk and mull over these ideas: Think, to what degree has the journey our lives have taken – our experiences – led to a reshaping of who God is and what our faith means? What might it mean to know God with our whole being – in the marrow-bone?

God through love

In ‘The Cloud of unknowing’, the author says, “To our intellect God is evermore incomprehensible… By our love he may be gotten and holden: by thought never.”

John 4:12 ‘No one has ever seen God. But if we love one another, God lives in us. His love is made complete in us.’

Exercise: Look at the palm of your hand. The kingdom of God is within us – it is held in our very hands. God inhabits the gaps between and within our very atoms. God’s love is within us. God is not beyond us, not far off and we know God better every time we love. How can we love better in this coming week?

We then returned to the bandstand to pray for those who need to be encompassed by the kingdom of God, held in God’s love, to know and be known by their Creator Mother, Lover and Friend…

Finally we used Steve’s Pentecost Bread and wine words from last Pentecost as

God in bread and wine:

There are advantages to being 1,985 years old. I have always had some advantages even when they weren’t apparent. “The Bride of Christ” is what they called me. Really! And I was barely out of nappies then.
I have carried that with me though – in the difficult times. I have had to. Remember those dear Copts will you?
People ask what the secret is to a long life. I think they’re expecting me to keel over tomorrow. I always reply, “Taking a little wine” and they laugh! Not realising, I suppose, that the blood is that which gives everlasting life. Wine and a little bread.
I suppose that age lends a certain perspective. Highs and lows – leaven leavens unevenly. Some ground is stony. But we march still. Eyes fixed on the Bridegroom – he who laid down his life for us.
So take now the bread – for you it might be us, the body or his body. Let it nurture.
So take now the wine – for you it might be Happy Birthday wine, the wine of renewal and resurrection.
And so in our 1,986th year, let’s now go out with hope as our guide and with faith our firm foundation. May you and yours be entwined in the Trinitarian God. Amen.

And we finished with a blessing from St Augustine, quoted in David Adam’s book:

All shall be Amen and Alleluia.
We shall rest and we shall see.
We shall see and we shall know.
We shall know and we shall love.
We shall love and we shall praise.
Behold our end, which is no end.

Hoorah for searching and stretching faith but hoorah for ultimately knowing God beyond words, in the marrow-bone!