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!

Parables

We met in the bandstand as usual for our Sunday morning worship:

welcome

to what you cannot see
to what you cannot control
to what you cannot ignore
to what you cannot hide from

welcome

the welcome is universal
the entrance is free
the invitation is open
the hand is extended
the time is now…..

welcome

to overflowing generosity
to gentle nourishment
to unspoken prayer
to inarticulate longing

welcome

to actions beyond words
to help without asking
to provision without measure
to hospitality without price
welcome

take hold of the unknown
accept the unconditional
let go of limitation
trust what you cannot question

god welcomes you

welcome

whether you deserve it or not
whether you think you deserve it or not

you are welcome
they welcome you to their mystery
their depth from which all creation springs

god welcomes you

the creator of everything….
the word that no-one recognised….
the spirit bringing tenderness without words….

they welcome you……

adapted from jonny baker –  worship trick 67 in series 4

PARABLES

A parable is a succinct story that makes an important point or teaches an important lesson. It differs from a fable in that fables employ animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature as characters, whereas parables always have human characters. The word for parable, mashal, translates literally as “side by side” (parallel explanations).

Sometimes parables have been used to say “hidden things”. Jesus often taught his disciples and the crowds who followed him this way and often expected them to work out the meaning.  When doing this it is essential that each parable is viewed as a whole rather than allegorising the parts.

A parable is often a type of analogy. Jesus also used metaphor, irony, exaggeration, satire and humour to make his point.

Jesus parables often involved:

  • stories from everyday life,
  • repeating traditional stories,
  • provocative statements,
  • oft repeated phrases.

Through parables Jesus invited his hearers to act on the truth of his vision for society.

His parables almost always shattered some kind of misconception about the world, about God, and about how we should act towards others.

He never used personal confession.

Sometimes he used parables in order to answer questions asked by a disciple or a Pharisee, Sadducee or lawyer. Jesus parables were about everyday life and he used them to show what God is really like, to reveal the values of the kingdom of God, and to shine a light on the many injustices in society.

 

Mark 4:1,2.

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered round him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge.  He taught them many things by parables………………..

Then we spent a few minutes around the park reading the following parables:

The parable of the persistent cleaner.

There was a woman who travelled from a far away country to a big city. She found work as a cleaner in a venerable institute of learning.  She soon  learned that she was not employed by the venerable institute of learning, but by a large multinational company.

One day while waiting for a bus she tells a fellow cleaner that her hours of work have been reduced contrary to what is stated in her contract of employment.  She worries about how her family will cope with even less money.  Her companion gives her a card with the name and address of a trade union.  But her friend says: “Don’t tell anyone that I gave you this”.

At first she is fearful because her employer will have no truck with unions.  She eventually found the courage to go to the union.  The union intervened on her behalf and sorted out her hours and missing back pay, she was so pleased she agreed to become an organiser for the union in her place of work.

Sometime later the woman thought it would be a good idea if the cleaners were actually employed by the venerable institute of learning.  The woman wanted access to sick pay, holiday pay, the minimum wage and all the rights afforded to the teaching and admin staff.  Everyone said it was impossible and when the woman approached the multinational company for these rights she was ignored.

So the woman approached the Student’s Union and the teaching staff for support.  They then badgered the venerable institute of learning’s management to take some responsibility for the “outsourced” workers.  With this help they eventually got the company to recognise the union.  Then after more pressure from the union, the teaching staff and the Student’s Union the institute’s management persuaded the multinational company to agree to pay some sick pay, some holiday pay and the minimum wage.

The woman was persistent and kept plugging away for changes with both the company and the venerable institute of learning. The company continued to mismanage the workforce causing outrage and forcing the venerable institute of learning to intervene.

Her persistence exhausted  both. And so the management of the venerable institute of learning brought all facilities; cleaners, catering staff and security staff back in-house.

The woman fought harder and longer than a multinational outsourcing company and eventually got better pay, plus full sick pay and paid holidays for 120 workers at the venerable institute of learning.

The Businessman and The Fisherman.

A wealthy businessman travelled to a distant island to relax and feel the sun on his face. One day he walked down to the quayside. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked and inside the boat was the morning’s catch.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” he asked.
“Just this morning” the fisherman replied.
“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” he asked.
“I have enough to support my family and give a few to neighbours,”

the fisherman said as he unloaded his catch.
“But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The fisherman looked up and smiled,  “I sleep in the heat of the day, play with my children, chat to  my wife and stroll into the village in the evening, where

I drink wine and sing with my friends”.

The wealthy businessman laughed, “I can help you. You should fish more, and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat. In no time you could have several boats with the increase in catches. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Then instead of selling your catch to the middleman, you could sell directly to consumers. You could control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small village and move to the city to run your expanding business.”
The fisherman asked “But, sir, how long will all this take?”
“15- 20 years.” said the businessman.
“But what then?” asked the fisherman.

The businessman laughed and said “That’s the best part, when the time is right, you sell your company and become rich”.
Then what do I do?” asked the fisherman.
The wealthy businessman replied, “Then you could retire and move to a small coastal village, where you could sleep late, fish a little, play with your grandchildren, take a nap with your wife during the heat of the day, and stroll in to the village in the evenings where you could drink wine and sing with your friends.”

“Which is exactly what I do now!” replied the fisherman.

Everyone had been asked to bring along a copy of one of Jesus’s parables and a notepad and pen.

We again went and sat in the park and tried to answer one of the following questions:

Parables?

Either:

  1. Write a modern version of the parable you have brought?

OR

  1. How might you relate the parable to Britain today? Who would be the key players in the story?

OR

  1. Apply the parable to your own life. How are you like _____ in the story?

OR

  1. Imagine yourself in the crowd listening to Jesus, how would you react to the story? How would you apply the challenge of the parable to life today?

 

People returned to the bandstand and shared the thoughts they had come up with.

We next shared bread and wine before retiring to Cool River for Fairtrade coffee and hot chocolate.

sharing bread and wine:

In this place, through bread and wine,

we renew our journey with Jesus.

In this place, through bread and wine,

we renew our community with each another,

and with all who have worshipped with us.

In this place, through bread and wine,

we renew our communion with the earth and all living things.

 

We who have so much and are so blessed

give thanks for life and love,

for human relationships,

for good food and warm shelter,

and for all nature which surrounds us.

 

But especially we give thanks for Jesus of Nazareth:

story teller,

social vision weaver,

jubilee proclaimer,

justice demander,

violence rejecter,

power confronter,

price payer,

god revealer,

bread breaker,

wine pourer.

 

Long ago, on the night of his arrest,

Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and broke it:

‘This bread is broken, as my body will be’.

And he handed it to his friends, and invited them to eat:

 

Long ago, on that same night,

Jesus poured wine into a cup, offered thanks:

This wine is poured out, as my life will be.

He gave it to his friends, and invited them to drink:

 

 

Constantine the Great

On Wednesday, 6th of June we met at Moca. Since it was a pleasant evening we sat outside to look at the life of Constantine and how his conversion to Christianity changed both the history of the world and the history of the church.

The World of Constantine – power and empire.

Constantine was born in 272 in Naissus, modern day Nis in Serbia. His father was Constantius, an ambitious army officer, his mother was Helena, a woman of lowly birth. After about 20 years together Constantius divorced Helena in about 290 in order to marry a woman from the Roman elite, he did this in order to further his political ambitions. In 293 Constantius was appointed Caesar (junior emperor) of the west with responsibility for Britain and France. Helena became a Christian – we do not know when, but she seems to have been a very keen and pious Christian, and no doubt had some influence with Constantine, particularly after he became emperor, in matters of Christianity.

Even the tetrarchy was unable to do away with hereditary privilege and so Constantine went to Diocletian’s court at Nicomedia to be educated as a candidate for future appointment as Caesar. During this time Constantine also campaigned with the army on the eastern front of the empire. He returned to Nicomedia from the eastern front in the spring of 303, just in time to witness the start of Diocletian’s Great Persecution (303 – 305), regarded by many historians as the most severe persecution of Christians in Roman history. (It is important to note that emperors varied greatly in their reaction to Christianity, from outright hostility to total indifference. Another factor was how zealously local governors implemented imperial decrees.)  The persecution seems to have been worse in the eastern part of the empire, Constantius enforced without much enthusiasm only the initial anti-Christian decrees in Britain and France.

Due to severe illness Diocletian abdicated in May 305, in a parallel ceremony in Milan, Maximian also resigned as Augustus. Galerius who was Caesar in the east persuaded Diocletian to appoint him to Augustus. Constantine expected to become Caesar, but was overlooked because he wasn’t an ally of Galerius. Thereafter Constantine was kept at court in Nicomedia so Galerius could keep an eye on him – he was in effect under house arrest

His future depended on being rescued by his father and escaping to the west. In the summer of 305, Constantius visited Galerius and requested that Constantine be allowed to join him to help his campaign in Britain. Galerius initially refused, but after a long night of heavy drinking agreed to let Constantine leave. Constantine claims that he was ready to leave as soon as his father obtained permission, he immediately fled from the court at night with his guard (probably a group of his father’s cavalry troops), before Galerius could change his mind. They rode away at high speed so that when Galerius awoke the next day Constantine would be too far away to be caught and brought back. Constantine joined his father in northern France before crossing the channel to Britain and on to York (Eboracum), home to the largest military garrison in Britain. Constantine spent the next year in northern Britain (the future Scotland) campaigning against the Picts. It is thought that the campaign penetrated as far north as Inverness. Constantine had been a popular officer with the eastern army, in Britain he was equally popular with the western army. They returned to York in the summer of 306, where Constantius died in July. Before his death he declared that Constantine should become Augustus of the west. Upon Constantius’s  death the York garrison proclaimed Constantine emperor. this was followed by troops throughout both Britain and France proclaiming him emperor. Constantine, was very astute, he did not travel to Rome but instead sent a portrait of himself dressed as an Augustus and wreathed in bay. He requested recognition as heir of his father and blames the army for his claim to the throne, saying that it had been forced upon him. Galerius apparently went into a rage and wanted to set the portrait on fire, while Maxentius, a claimant to power who feels he has been overlooked, mocks the portrait’s subject as the son of a whore!

Galerius’s advisers calm him down and persuade him to offer Constantine the position of Caesar in the west in order to avert civil war. He makes clear that he alone grants Constantine this position and sends him the emperor’s purple robes. Constantine accepted the decision knowing that it removed all doubts as to his legitimacy.

For the next six years Constantine remains in Britain and France campaigning against Rome’s enemies, and keeping well out of the way of political machinations in Rome, Milan and Nicomedia.

In the autumn of 306 Maxentius seized power in Rome by deposing Galerius’s appointee as Augustus, Severus. In the east Galerius became very ill in 311, his final act before his death was to send out letters to governors proclaiming an end to the persecution of Christians. He died soon afterwards, and Licinius became Augustus of the east.

Maxentius and Constantine both try to form alliances with Licinius. Constantine managed to forge an alliance by offering his sister, Constantia, in marriage to Licinius.

Maxentius’s rule was never popular outside Italy and by 312, Constantine, Licinius and Maxentius were all preparing for war. It was a time of which Bishop and historian Eusebius, claimed that “not a day went by when people did not expect the onset of hostilities”.

In the autumn of 312 Constantine invaded Italy, won battles at Turin and Verona and marched on Rome. The day before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (a bridge over the Tiber into Rome) Constantine claimed he saw a cross in the sky above the sun with the words in Greek that are usually translated: “in this sign conquer”. The special significance of the vision was that Constantine, a pagan, was a worshipper of Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun.

Constantine had his troops mark their shields with the sign of the cross before the battle.

Maxentius made several blunders before and during the battle. He did not need to leave the city to engage Constantine, having very large reserves of food and water, and monumental defences. He had also partially demolished the Milvian Bridge to block Constantine’s entry into Rome and built a temporary pontoon bridge over the Tiber for his troops to leave the city in order to engage Constantine’s army.  There is no doubt that Constantine was a very accomplished and skilful general, but Maxentius lined his troops up too close to the Tiber. Constantine reacted by ordering his cavalry to charge into the opposing cavalry. He then ordered his infantry to charge. Because Maxentius had set his troops too close to the Tiber, when they were driven back by the initial onslaught they had no room in which to regroup and so panic ensued.  Maxentius’s decision to order his troops to retreat was catastrophic.

His intention was to make a strategic withdrawal, protecting his army so that he would be able to mount a successful defence of Rome from the city walls. But with only a narrow strip of stone bridge and a rocking, heaving wooden pontoon as a crossing, the retreat across the Tiber became a rout as Constantine’s men continued to surge forward. A large number of troops drowned and others were slaughtered trying to climb out of the river. Maxentius himself drowned. Constantine had his body recovered from the Tiber, ordered that his head be cut off and then rode into Rome holding Maxentius’s head impaled on a spear. The other decisive factor in the battle was that Maxentius’s troops were used to a relatively easy life in Italy, while Constantine’s troops were battle hardened from campaigning  in Britain, France and holding back the Germanic tribes along the empire’s northern border.

In 315 the Senate dedicated a triumphal arch in Rome to honour Constantine, with an inscription praising him because “with divine instigation” he and his army had won the victory. Interestingly it did not say which god had provided the “instigation” for victory and so people could credit it to Sol Invictus, the Christian God, Jupiter, Mars, Apollo, Mithras, Hercules  or whichever god they chose!

In early 313 Constantine and Licinius met in Milan. They produced the Edict of Milan, a very important decree which provided freedom of religion to Christians, but also to Jews and Pagans – “to Christians and to all others full authority to follow whatever worship each person has desired”.  It required that the wrongs done to Christians in the recent persecutions be righted, including the restoration of confiscated items. It also stopped Jews from being able to stone to death Christian converts from Judaism. This Edict is not about human rights – ideas totally alien to Roman Emperors. It is about stability, stability within the empire, “to secure public order” and avoid social unrest. Constantine was very superstitious and so it’s also about placating the Christian God – who after Constantine’s victory is regarded as being very powerful, while at the same time trying to keep the many pagan gods happy.

The Edict did not make Christianity the official religion of the empire. This was done by Emperor Theodosius I in 380.

Constantine and Licinius ruled the west and east of the empire until 324. Licinius was accused of reneging on the Edict of Milan by sacking Christians from important positions and by confiscations. This is regarded by many historians as exaggerated in order to justify war and allow Constantine to take control of the whole empire. Licinius was a lot less supportive of Christianity and he probably saw the Church as being far more loyal to Constantine.

After a series of battles Constantine eventually prevailed at the Battle of Chrysopolis in September 324. Licinius surrendered at Nicomedia on condition that he would be spared. He was sent to live as a private citizen in Thessalonica, but in 325 Constantine accused Licinius of plotting against him and had him hanged. Constantine was now sole emperor of the Roman Empire.

In the summer of 326 Constantine had his eldest son put to death, and later that summer he had the Empress Fausta, killed in “an over-heated bath”. Their names were wiped from inscriptions, references to their lives in the literary record were eradicated, and the memory of both was condemned.

After 324 Constantine decided to move his capital to the Greek city of Byzantium, he carried out extensive rebuilding, which included the Church of the Holy Apostles. The city was dedicated in May 330, and renamed  Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). The western part of the empire was more difficult to control than the east, with serious threats of invasion from barbarian tribes to the north, Constantine therefore saw it as prudent to move his capitol to the eastern part of his empire. He was proved correct as the Byzantine Empire continued in the east for over a thousand years.

Constantine died in Constantinople in 337 having changed history, and the history of the church.

 

Constantine and Christianity – the church after 312.

 Constantine’s “conversion” to Christianity in 312 changed both the history of the world and the history of the church.

Recovering from a time of persecution it’s perfectly understandable that  church leaders welcomed Constantine’s reign with his adoption of the Christian cult alongside paganism. But unfortunately they were willing to make compromises, particularly about Jesus of Nazareth, so as not to offend the Emperor,  which proved detrimental to Christianity.

Constantine like every other King from every ancient civilisation from China to Peru would have regarded himself as divine. The bishops had to be careful how they portrayed Jesus – he could not be more divine than the emperor, so the answer was to play down Jesus and emphasis the cosmic Christ. This also involved spiritualising Jesus teaching so that it offered little or no challenge to the powers that be, and emphasising the virgin birth and his death and resurrection.

As the church absorbed Roman culture this was reflected in art. The Christian God began to be depicted as Jupiter/Zeus and Christ as the emperor with all the trappings of imperial power.

Philippa Adrych writes: Zeus on his throne was replaced by the new Christian God, ruler of heaven and earth, and the emperor, long associated with a variety of divinities, now imparted his image onto the figure of Christ.

When Constantine came to power Christians were still a minority, but a large minority. The recent persecution, which had just ended, did not stop the faith growing. Up to this point Christianity had been largely popular among slaves, soldiers and the lower orders of Roman society.

After 312 Christianity gained legal toleration and imperial approval which helped the church to grow rapidly. Bishop and church historian Eusebius, wrote of “the hypocrisy of people who crept into the church” hoping for the emperor’s favour. Adopting the Christian religion suddenly became a way to enhance one’s prospects in society.

Robert Markus writes: There had been rich Christians before Constantine, but rarely can their Christianity have contributed to their standing in society, their wealth or power. But from now on, their religion could itself become a source of prestige, and did so to the dismay of bishops who, like Eusebius, were sometimes inclined to look for less worldly motives for conversion to Christianity.

Markus continues: As it rose to dominance, Christianity had seamlessly absorbed Roman culture, and the lifestyle of these urban elite Christians was almost identical to that of their pagan peers except that Christians went to church. The lack of a distinctive Christian lifestyle troubled many thoughtful believers. Many committed Christians reacted by embracing asceticism, esteeming virginity, poverty and self-denial. Thus monastic communities came into being.

In 325 Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea to iron out theological questions. Most centred around the idea of the Trinity, and the relationship between the Father and the Son in terms of equality. They formulated the Nicene Creed, affirming the concept of the Trinity, that the three persons were co-equal and co-eternal and that Jesus Christ was ‘of the same substance’ as the Father. This laid the foundations for only one kind of Christianity –

Nicene, Trinitarian, Substitutionary Atonement Christianity.  All other forms of Christianity were from now on heretical.

These changes during Constantine’s rule opened the way for the most shameful behaviour, the coming decades and centuries were marked by violent persecutions against pagans and other Christians, particularly Arians.  Emperor Theodosius I in 380 made Christianity the official religion of the empire. He was a zealous persecutor of pagans and Christians, whom he regarded as heretics. In the coming centuries Byzantine emperors passed laws which forbade any form of Christianity which was not orthodox (Nicene Trinitarian), forbade many pagan practices and harshly discriminated against Jews and Samaritans.

It is a sad fact that almost as soon as religious liberty was granted for Christians in the Roman Empire, Christian on Christian  and Christian on pagan persecution and violence began, and accelerated when Christianity became the official religion of the empire. It is greatly to the dishonour of Christians that this took place.

During the third century AD, the church changed from poor to rich, from despised to respectable, from persecuted to persecutor, from shame to honour, from the cross to the sword, from non-violence to imperial power, from the Kingdom to Christendom, from Jesus the radical, non-violent preacher to Christ triumphant – depicted as the emperor whose servants weald great power.

Thus Christendom was created, an empire where every citizen must be subservient  to a sovereign lord crowned as a Christian ruler, and where laws were created to harass, exile, torture or kill all who disagree with state orthodoxy, whether Christian heretic, pagan or Jew.

Centuries of warfare between Christians followed, initially Trinitarian against Arian.

These changes which left Christians divided and self-absorbed paved the way for the rapid advance of Islam in the Middle East and North Africa. This lead to the crusades, which of course were mostly targeted at Muslims, but Roman Catholics also took the opportunity along the way to massacre Orthodox Christians and Jews. Doctrinal differences continued to the Reformation and beyond as Protestants and Roman Catholics burned each other at the stake in sixteenth century England, and fought religious wars across northern Europe. In southern Europe and Latin America the Inquisition tortured and murdered many thousands of “heretics”. Christianity had largely parted ways with the Kingdom and became firmly embedded in nation and empire.

 

Constantine – a personal viewpoint.

Constantine was  very ambitious, astute and when deemed necessary ruthless.  Without these qualities he wouldn’t have become emperor nor been able to hold on to power . He was also a very skilled and formidable general who was able to inspire great loyalty from the  troops he commanded.

There are many varying opinions about his reaction to Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. I don’t believe Constantine would have been in  favour of persecution simply because it would have led to less social stability rather than more, and why unnecessarily alienate a sizable minority when you want to become emperor? On the other hand I don’t believe that he would have opposed the persecution as some contemporary Christian writers claimed. Diocletian was  second only to his father in sponsoring him to become either Caesar or Augustus in the Tetrarchy.  So there is no way that he would have risked losing Diocletian’s favour.

He was not afraid to make radical changes when circumstances dictated, on coming to power he immediately disbanded the Praetorian Guard.  Constantine believed that they were a threat to his safety as they had been loyal to Maxentius. By this time the Praetorian Guard had become a formidable force of 15,000 troops. Disbanding the Guard was presumably made easier because many had died in the battle for Rome. Constantine formed his own personal bodyguard made up of the most loyal and able troops who had accompanied him from Britain.

Constantine was very shrewd and calculating. He had a knack of not rushing into things, but seems to have been able to bide his time and strike at the right moment.  He waited six years before invading Italy and attacking Rome to become Augustus of the west. He waited another twelve years before attacking Licinius, to fulfil his ambition of becoming the empire’s sole emperor. There are a couple of old fashioned sayings that are most apt with regard to Constantine: “never bite off more than you can chew” – he never did; and “strike while the iron’s hot” – he always seems to have done so.

Constantine’s conversion to Christianity causes problems for historians and leads to almost as many opinions as there are writers.  Up until 312 emperors had always been either hostile or indifferent to Christianity. Look at it from their point of view. How could an emperor subscribe to a religion that involved the worship of a Jewish criminal that the empire’s agents had executed by crucifixion? Emperors would also have had a huge problem in accepting that this Jewish criminal was more divine than they were. That’s why I believe church leaders played down Jesus and his teaching and emphasised Christ so as not to offend the new emperor.

From the point of view of contemporary Christians his “conversion”  must have seemed miraculous.  This is unsurprising as within two years Christians went from suffering persecution to being able to worship freely.

I’m sure Constantine had some sort of spiritual experience, possibly a dream or a vision of some kind. He interpreted this as being from the Christian God and when he defeated Maxentius the next day he truly believed that this god must be very powerful, and that he needed to placate him.

His understanding of Christianity must have been very unsophisticated, and I can’t believe that he grasped the implications of what it really meant to be a Christian, for example how its converts were required to devote themselves exclusively to Christianity. His mother, Helena, a pious Christian must have had some influence over him with regard to Christianity, particularly after he became emperor.

Along with Licinius, Constantine produced the Edict of Milan, in 313, which must rank as one of his greatest achievements.  The Edict stated that Christians should be allowed to practice their faith without persecution. It cancelled penalties for professing Christianity and  decreed that confiscated property must be returned to both the Church and individual Christians.  The Edict also protected all other religions from persecution, allowing anyone to worship whichever god they chose. This was not about human rights, but about social stability and about placating the Christian God to whom he believed he owed his success.

This however did not lead to a totally “Christian” style of rule. Some of his actions were definitely still pagan. Throughout his life he held the title of Pontifex Maximus,  a position Roman Emperors held as head of the Roman State Cult. At the time of the dedication of the Arch of Constantine, in 315, sacrifices were made to Sol Invictus, Apollo, Diana, Victoria and Hercules.  When he founded his new capitol of Constantinople, as well as building churches, Constantine erected some pagan temples and statues.

Throughout his rule, Constantine supported the Church, built basilicas such as Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople. He also granted certain tax exemptions to clergy and promoted Christians to high office. Emperors had always favoured a particular cult, Constantine was different in that his favoured cult was the Christ-cult. Throughout his reign he appears to have gradually increased his favour of  the Christian cult over pagan ones.

In order to gain power and to hold on to it he had to be ruthless, this was borne out by the murder of his wife, the Empress Fausta, and the executions of his oldest son, Crispus and his defeated rival, Licinius.

He was also very ambitious and desired to be sole Emperor.  He was ambitious and ruthless enough to brand Licinius as anti-Christian in order to start a war with the aim of becoming sole emperor. Licinius seems to have been far less supportive of  Christianity than Constantine, and probably saw the church as being much more loyal to Constantine.

Constantine  was clearly very astute and foresighted. He seems to have thought that Christianity was the future for the empire, and had the foresight to move the capitol  east to Constantinople because the western part of the empire was more difficult to control, with serious threats of invasion from barbarian tribes to the north. He was proved correct as the Byzantine Empire continued in the east for more than a thousand years.

The greatest achievements of his reign must surely have been the Edict of Milan, and moving the empire’s capital east to Constantinople.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your God is too small. Your God is too male!

So, this morning at the bandstand we started to look at the metaphors we use for God and whether they limit God / us. We all acknowledge in theory that God is neither male nor female – God is Spirit and both male and female equally reflect God’s image (Genesis 1:27). We know in theory that terms used for God like ‘Father’ Lord’ ‘King’ Son’ are metaphors and not literal and we know that Jesus used female imagery for God – the woman working the yeast into the dough, the woman searching for the lost coin, the hen wanting to gather her chicks under her wings… We know that in Isaiah God uses imagery of being a mother nursing and being loyal to her children and yet, the prevailing view of God is male and pretty much exclusively our language is of Him and He is male in practice!

We live in an age where we have realised that some language we use needs to be changed. We need to be sensitised to  language we have used in the past without thought for the implications of it – think of racial terms, words used about sexual orientation, people with disabilities… So is it high time we challenged the limited terms we actually use for God to begin to match what we say we believe with our practice? Am I fair in saying that if we say we believe something but don’t do anything about it, we don’t really believe it?

So, we read some of Isaiah 40 without the male pronouns and occasionally ‘Mother’ inserted next to God too. See where the change in metaphor leads you – what new ideas / feelings come to light with that one shift:

Isaiah 40

9-11 Climb a high mountain, Zion.
You’re the preacher of good news.
Raise your voice. Make it good and loud, Jerusalem.
You’re the preacher of good news.
Speak loud and clear. Don’t be timid!
Tell the cities of Judah,
“Look! Your Mother God!”

Like a shepherd, she will care for her flock,
gathering the lambs in her arms,
Hugging them as she carries them,
leading the nursing ewes to good pasture.

12-17 Who has scooped up the ocean
in her two hands,
or measured the sky between her thumb and little finger,
Who has put all the earth’s dirt in one of her baskets,
weighed each mountain and hill?
Who could ever have told Mother GOD what to do
or taught her her business?
What expert would she have gone to for advice,
what school would she attend to learn justice?
What god do you suppose might have taught her what she knows,
showed her how things work?
Why, the nations are but a drop in a bucket,
a mere smudge on a window.
Watch her sweep up the islands
like so much dust off the floor!

All the nations add up to simply nothing before her—
less than nothing is more like it. ‘A’ minus.
18-20 So who even comes close to being like God?
To whom or what can you compare her?

21-24 Have you not been paying attention?
Have you not been listening?
Haven’t you heard these stories all your life?
Don’t you understand the foundation of all things?
Mother God sits high above the round ball of earth.
The people look like mere ants.
She stretches out the skies like a canvas—
yes, like a tent canvas to live under.

25-26 “So—who is like me?
Who holds a candle to me?” says The Holy.

27-31 Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
or, whine, Israel, saying,
“Mother GOD has lost track of me.
She doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything Haven’t you been listening?
MOTHER GOD doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
She’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
She doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch her breath.
And she knows everything, inside and out.
She energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon Mother GOD get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind.

We discussed our responses and read Psalm 100 & Psalm 98 in the same vein before considering the problems with metaphors for the Trinity – Father and Son so clearly male and Holy Spirit genderless in theory but ‘he’ nevertheless. The Theologian Sallie McFague suggests using Mother (relating to Creation, justice and agape love), Lover (relating to salvation, healing and eros love) and Friend (relating to eschatology, companionship and philia love). It’s hard to argue that the doctrine is unsound, so what difference might it make to bless someone in the name of the Mother, Lover and Friend? What do these metaphors open us up to of the reality of all that God is and more?

So we prayed to God our Mother for justice in the world and to God our lover for healing for those in need and to God our Friend to be companion to those we named…

We shared bread and wine with these words (bearing in mind that whilst Jesus of Nazareth was a man, the pre-existent second person of the Trinity is neither male nor female)

This is the great mystery.
God the Lover emptied herself to become human and give herself for us.
As Jesus, she/he broke bread and said ‘This is my body broken for you. Eat this in remembrance of me.
The body of Christ
In the same way, God the Lover as Jesus, took wine, and spoke of it as a new covenant sealed with blood.
The blood of Christ.

And yes – it does feel odd to use female terms – but didn’t it feel odd to change other language we have changed before we got used to it? And if we balk at using ‘herself’ doesn’t that mean we believe God to be male after all? Really?

Our homework is to practice using such terms for God in our prayers. Whenever I find myself saying ‘Father’ or ‘Lord’ I add ‘Mother’ or ‘Sister’ to redress the balance. None of these terms are wrong but none are literally true and perhaps we get a bigger God when we expand our vision of her!

Our closing blessing:

So may God our Mother inspire us to love justice and to love selflessly

may God the Lover inspire us to heal the hurting and rescue the needy

And may God the Friend inspire us to know how to welcome others to journey with us.

Amen.

Franciscan Incarnational Theology

ThirdSpace met yesterday (Wednesday) evening at Holly House to learn about Franciscan Incarnational Theology.

A member of our community introduced the subject, followed by questions and discussion.

Incarnation instead of atonement. (Richard Rohr).

Franciscans never believed that “blood atonement” was required for God to love us. Our teacher, John Duns Scotus (1266-1308), said Christ was Plan A from the very beginning (Colossians 1:15-20, Ephesians 1:3-14). Christ wasn’t a mere Plan B after the first humans sinned, which is the way most people seem to understand the significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Great Mystery of Incarnation could not be a mere mop-up exercise, a problem solving technique, or dependent on human beings messing up.

Scotus taught that the Enfleshment of God had to proceed from God’s perfect love and God’s perfect and absolute freedom (John 1:1-18), rather than from any mistake of ours. Did God intend no meaning or purpose for creation during the first 14.8 billion years? Was it all just empty, waiting for sinful humans to set the only real drama into motion? Did the sun, moon, and galaxies have no divine significance? The fish, the birds, the animals were just waiting for humans to appear? Was there no Divine Blueprint (“Logos”) from the beginning? Surely this is the extreme hubris and anthropomorphism of the human species!

The substitutionary atonement “theory” (and that’s all it is) seems to imply that the Eternal Christ’s epiphany in Jesus is a mere afterthought when the first plan did not work out. I know there are many temple metaphors of atonement, satisfaction, ransom, “paying the price,” and “opening the gates”; but do know they are just that—metaphors of transformation and transitioning. Too many Christians understood these in a transactional way instead of a transformational way.

How and why would God need a “blood sacrifice” before God could love what God had created? Is God that needy, unfree, unloving, rule-bound, and unable to forgive? Once you say it, you see it creates a nonsensical theological notion that is very hard to defend. Many rightly or wrongly wondered, “What will God ask of me if God demands violent blood sacrifice from his only Son?” Particularly if they had a rageaholic or abusive parent, they were already programmed to believe in punishment as the shape of the universe. A violent theory of redemption legitimated punitive and violent problem solving all the way down—from papacy to parenting. There eventually emerged a disconnect between the founding story of necessary punishment and Jesus’ message. If God uses and needs violence to attain God’s purposes, maybe Jesus did not really mean what he said in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), and violent means are really good and necessary. Thus our history.

In Franciscan parlance, Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity; Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God. This grounds Christianity in pure love and perfect freedom from the very beginning. It creates a very coherent and utterly positive spirituality, which draws people toward lives of inner depth, prayer, reconciliation, healing, and even universal “at-one-ment,” instead of mere sacrificial atonement. Nothing changed on Calvary, but everything was revealed as God’s suffering love—so that we could change! (Please read that again.)

Jesus was precisely the “once and for all” (Hebrews 7:27) sacrifice given to reveal the lie and absurdity of the very notion and necessity of “sacrificial” religion itself. Heroic sacrifices to earn God’s love are over! That’s much of the point of Hebrews 10 if you are willing to read it with new eyes. But we perpetuated such regressive and sacrificial patterns by making God the Father into the Chief Sacrificer, and Jesus into the necessary victim. Is that the only reason to love Jesus?

This perspective allowed us to ignore Jesus’ lifestyle and preaching, because all we really needed Jesus for was the last three days or three hours of his life. This is no exaggeration. The irony is that Jesus undoes, undercuts, and defeats the sacrificial game. Stop counting, measuring, deserving, judging, and punishing, which many Christians are very well trained in—because they believe that was the way God operated too. This is no small thing. It makes the abundant world of grace largely inaccessible—which is, of course, the whole point.

It is and has always been about love from the very beginning.

 

THISNESS

I have the immense joy of being a [human being], a member of a race in which God became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. —Thomas Merton [1]

You are the light of the world. . . . Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. —Matthew 5:14, 16

A mystic—like Merton, Francis of Assisi, Julian of Norwich, John Duns Scotus, and many others—is one who recognizes God’s image and likeness in this human being, in this creature, in this moment, and from that encounter with the sacred comes to see God everywhere and always. The mystic cannot help but love and have compassion for what is right in front of them. God’s indwelling presence—in every created thing—is inherent and cannot be earned or destroyed.

In her book, Scotus for Dunces, Mary Beth Ingham writes:

Haecceitas points to the ineffable within each being. . . . According to Scotus, the created order is not best understood as a transparent medium through which divine light [from the outside] shines (as Aquinas taught), but is itself endowed with an inner light that shines forth from within. [This is like the] difference between a window (Aquinas) and a lamp (Scotus). Both give light, but the source of light for Scotus has already been given to the being by the creator. Each being . . . possesses an immanent dignity; it is already gifted by the loving Creator with a sanctity beyond our ability to understand. . . .

Once we recognize the value of nature, of others, and of ourselves, we are called to act in imago Christi, as images of Christ who embodied divine love. [2]

At a CAC conference many years ago, Ingham reflected:

In the most concrete we discover the most ultimate. That is what it means for God to become one of us. The concrete individual who lived in the Middle East 2000 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth, was both divine and human.

And so, what does this mean for us? We are called to see the greatness of God in the smallest of things. We see divinity within humanity. We discover in ourselves a light within, and we discover in every human being, and as Scotus teaches, in everything that exists, an inner light that is a gift from God. [3]

When we become open and receptive to the ordinary, we discover:

The one is the way to the many.
The specific is the way to the spacious.
The now is the way to always.
The here is the way to the everywhere.
The material is the way to the spiritual.
The visible is the way to the invisible.

REFERENCES:

1              Incarnation instead of atonement

Richard Rohr, OFM

Daily meditations

12.02.2016

Printed verso

https://cac.org

2              Revisiting the Franciscan Doctrine of Christ

Ilia Delio, OSF

Theological Studies 64 (2003)

3              Incarnation in Franciscan Spirituality

Seamus Mulholland, OFM

The Franciscan, January 2001

4              St Francis and the incarnation

John Quigley, OFM

www.franciscanmedia.org

December 2012

5              Things hidden

Richard Rohr, OFM

SPCK, 2016

See especially Chapter 9 and most especially pp 195-200

 

Bible references:

John 1: 1-18; 3:13; 8:28; 12:31; 15:15; 19:37

1 Corinthians: 1:8; 2:8; 2:16: 2 Corinthians 5:21

Colossians 1: 15-20; Galatians 6:16

Ephesians 1: 3-14; 20-23

Hebrews 7: 27; 10

52 Ways to improve your Carbon Footprint

We had an interesting discussion in the pub about being more green – the challenge was, could we think up 52 simple ways to lighten our carbon footprint.

This is what we came up with – you might be able to add more. We would love to hear your suggestions

  1. Avoid food waste try not to buy or make too much food
  2. Buy fruit and vegetables when they are in season rather than those that have to be flown in from miles away
  3. Compost peelings, and any cooked food scraps (not meat or fish)
  4. Avoid the temptation of “Buy one Get one Free” if it makes you buy more than you need
  5. Shop carefully – look at labels and consider which product is most environmentally friendly to buy
  6. Cook things from scratch rather than buying readymade food
  7. Eat less meat and try to buy ethically sourced fish
  8. Sort your recycling carefully – check the labels of things as you throw away to see if they can be recycled
  9. Check any cosmetic products to make sure they do not contain micro beads
  10. Recycle batteries and ink cartridges or use refillable cartridges and rechargeable batteries
  11. Use peat free compost
  12. Plant bee friendly flowers and encourage other wild life through careful planting
  13. Feed birds and wild life
  14. Grow some vegetables if you have a garden, balcony or window box
  15. Resist the temptation of using chemicals in the garden. Use nematodes, egg shells, coffee grinds and wool pellets etc to prevent slug and snail damage and spray plants with dilute washing up liquid to keep away other garden pests.
  16. Have a pond – even a small amount of water in a garden encourages and helps wild life
  17. Buy a reusable take away cup rather than using the throw away ones you purchase hot drinks in
  18. Insulate your loft
  19. See if your property is suitable for cavity wall insulation
  20. Investigate buying power from ECO friendly energy suppliers
  21. Can you get solar panels for your property?
  22. Can you use wind power for your home?
  23. Avoid using Amazon – a company that has put many local firms out of business and uses large amounts of packing and fuel to ship goods to your home
  24. Look for more ECO friendly materials as alternatives to concrete in building projects
  25. If you don’t have a duel flush toilet – put a brick in your cistern
  26. Keep wearing your clothes until they wear out rather than always buying new ones
  27. Pick up rubbish left lying around when you are out and bin it – try to recycle it if possible. Many towns now have recycle bins for plastic, cans, paper etc.
  28. Use the correct amount of water in your kettle. A kettle uses a huge amount of power to heat water.
  29. Switch off your tap when you are cleaning your teeth rather than leaving it running
  30. Ask for goods to be wrapped in paper bags that can be recycled
  31. Recycle carrier bags – most super markets have a recycle bin for carriers and will replace those reusable plastic bags when they get damaged and then will then recycle old ones for you
  32. Buy food not wrapped in plastic if possible – be prepared to leave plastic wrapping in the place you have purchased from to show your dislike of the excess use of the material. Campaign where you do your shopping and ask / email / sign petitions or write to say you do not want goods wrapped in plastic
  33. Buy glass bottles of liquids where possible and recycle them
  34. If you buy a product and have a choice about the colour of the plastic container buy the white one – it can usually be more easily recycled
  35. Use Freegle (Freecycle) or charity shops as this saves lots of things going to landfill
  36. Think carefully about holidays, can you use public transport, stay in the UK or travel abroad without flying?
  37. If you use HRT patches be careful how you dispose of them as they are hazardous to the environment
  38. Always carry a bag when going shopping
  39. Conserve energy (switch off)
  40. Switch on heating for less time – use a timer for switching on and off
  41. Turn heating and hot water down or off when you are away
  42. Put on an extra layer rather than the heating
  43. Use low energy light bulbs
  44. Put thermostats on radiators adjust heating in each room rather than have all rooms at the same temperature
  45. Turn your heating down a degree or two
  46. Is there a way you can cut down on junk mail sent to your home if not make sure you recycle paper correctly
  47. Travel light it uses less fuel
  48. Support local food growers, markets and farmers markets
  49. Share, borrow and lend or think about hiring rather than buying something you might seldom use or never use again
  50. Resist advertising and the lure of “new and improved”- ask yourself – is what you have perfectly adequate?
  51. Tell your MP that the environment matters to you. That clean air, water, national parks, habitats and resources need to be protected for those who come after us
  52. “The lads” spent the time discussing the virtues (or not) of electric cars – something not quite so easy but all of us should consider how we replace our vehicles when the time comes.

That is one for every week of the year – best of luck!

Walking lightly on God’s Earth


The best thing about meeting out of doors is when the season changes and the best season change is when spring reveals all it’s newness.

Before we met together this morning a roll of paper was laid up the steps and spread on the floor of the bandstand. It was quite amusing watching people trying to avoid stepping on it.

This morning we were thinking about our footprint on the earth and how we might step more lightly.

Walk lightly

Each leaf, each petal,

each grain, each person,

sings your praises,

Creator God.

Each creature on the earth,

all the mountains and great sea

show your glory,

Spirit of love.

And yet the hand of greed

has patented and plundered

your splendour,

has taken and not shared your gift,

has lived as owner of the earth,

not guest.

And so the ice is cracked

the rivers dry,

the valleys flooded

and the snow caps melt.

God our Father, show us

how to step gently,

how to live simply,

how to walk lightly

with respect and love

for all that you have made.

Amen

Linda Jones/CAFOD

 

Psalm 104 1-5The Message

 ” O my soul, bless God!

God, my God, how great you are!
beautifully, gloriously robed,
Dressed up in sunshine,
and all heaven stretched out for your tent.
You built your palace on the ocean deeps,
made a chariot out of clouds and took off on wind-wings.
You commandeered winds as messengers,
appointed fire and flame as ambassadors.
You set earth on a firm foundation
so that nothing can shake it, ever…

24-30 What a wildly wonderful world, God!
    You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
    made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.”

Our activity was to walk in the park for a few minutes and see what we could glimpse of our “wildly wonderful world”

We praised God for the sun shine, the birdsong, for butterflies, for magnolia blossom, for tulips, for fresh new leaves and for the beauty and colour of the spring flowers.

Writing the things that inspired us on the roll of paper we were invited to step onto it (to make our footprints if you like).

Looking at our Ecological Footprint! Our impact on the planet’s resources is our “footprint”, and in the UK we use the resources of 1.3 planet earths. We can’t go on like this! If we really value this world as God’s creation, we should take a long hard look at our consumption of resources, our means of travel, our expectations of “more”. Rather than being overwhelmed with guilt, the result needs to be small achievable steps …

We were given another task to complete sitting on the benches in the sunshine

We had to think of ways were were trying already to leave a lighter footprint those we thought we were doing well were:

Avoiding waste, careful shopping, using solar power in our homes, throwing away less food, grow your own veg, watching air miles. not leaving taps running, not over filling the kettle, using paper bags that can be recycled, feeding birds and wild life, eating less meat, being more frugal with clothes, wear things out or if not give to Freegle or charity shops, holidaying in G.B. carefully destroying HRT patches, not using pesticides in the garden, bee friendly flowers, always taking bags when going shopping, composting food waste, encourage wild life through careful planting, conserve energy (switch off), only travel if necessary, switching on heating for less time, putting on a layer rather than the heating, low energy light bulbs, sorting and recycling carefully and never have heating set higher than 18C.

Many of us were doing these things already and should not to feel overwhelmed by the task of preserving our world for those who come in the future.

We were also tasked to think about things we are trying to achieve. These included:

Travelling by train where ever possible, using public transport, using less chemicals in home and garden, meat consumption minimised, buying a smaller engine/electric car, flying less often, trying to walk more often, avoiding buying things in plastic and shopping at the local market where food can be taken away in paper bags.

Our final task was to think of a real challenge for ourselves to achieve. We came up with the following:

Live in a carbon neutral house, use solar and wind power to be energy neutral, no air travel, , use minimal plastic, be less car reliant, be part of protecting forests and endangered species, save the pangolin and buy an electric car.

So we have something to aim at…

                        Confession

God our Creator and Healer
We confess that we have sinned:
We have used creation not cherished it;
We have lived selfishly; not watched the balance of life;
We have been greedy – not sharing earth’s gifts;
And our footprints are heavy not gentle.
Forgive us the damage that disturbs our planet.
Grant to us to live for the world’s healing and our own.
In you lies our hope for transformation                     Lent Challenge 2008, Lichfield Diocese

The Be-Attitudes

Blessed are those who use low energy light bulbs
for theirs is the light of God’s wisdom.

Blessed are those who travel by train (and other public transport)
for their lives are on God’s track.

Blessed are those who chose a car with low fuel consumption
for they are in God’s fast lane.

Blessed are those who insulate their homes
for theirs is the warmth of God’s love.

Blessed are those who put themselves out
to use energy from renewable sources,
for they have kindled the flame of the future.

Adapted from John Polhill, © Eggs and Ashes, WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow. 

Bread and wine

Jesus, teacher, healer, leader, story teller and friend,

We meet together to remember you.

Your life and example,

Your words of guidance,

Your sacrifice as a gift of love.

We remember with bread

 

Jesus wedding guest, table sharer, foot washer and affirmer,

We drink wine together to remember you.

Your actions and relationships,

Your wisdom and compassion,

Your death and resurrection.

We remember with wine 

 

All that remains for us to do now is to go and sit in the sun together and enjoy our beverages (Fairtrade naturally)