Enigma

We gathered at the bandstand with the music (Nimrod (Enigma Variation 9) (Elgar 1889) playing.  

Jesus being one of our values we have decided over the coming weeks to look more closely at his words.

Who was Jesus? – Two-thousand years ago, a carpenter left his home to preach in ancient Israel. His message changed the world and has shaped every corner of the globe.

Meditation

We thought about who Jesus is to us while continuing to listen to the musicEnigma Variations music

Matthew 16:13-20 New International Version (NIV)

” 13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” ”

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Enigma why enigma?

I have always considered Jesus as a bit of an enigma, some of his teachings and parables are hard to understand, are a puzzle, a conundrum or a paradox.

Sometimes the traditional teaching of the church is a bit unsatisfactory and it leaves you thinking what did Jesus really mean by that. For example is God really like the unjust judge (Luke 18: 1-8) and does Jesus really endorse fraud in the parable of the shrewd manager (Luke 16: 1-13)

Now in my musings I came across Amy – Jill Levine and her book “The Enigmatic Parables of a controversial Rabbi”. One of the things Amy Levine said was that parables being a rabbinic tradition would mean that Jesus like other rabbis would use stories more than once in different locations, with different audiences, and with small changes to suit the context to challenge or convict his audience.

I want to tell you how a very familiar parable hit me between the eyes and really challenged me following the Brexit vote.

I was very upset and angry about the result of the referendum and on one of the Sunday morning services following the vote I listened to this parable and a sermon about it.

READING – Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37)

I had always taken this parable as a straight forward story encouraging us to make neighbours of those who society might reject and indeed the sermon preached on that Sunday morning was challenging peoples xenophobia and racism. At first I was thinking; “Yeah that’s right! We should always try to be accepting and not to be racist (and feeling a bit self righteous thinking that’s just what I try to do!)

It was then that I was struck, and I mean forcibly struck and deeply challenged about the anger and resentment I felt towards people who wanted out of Europe. I realised that they were my neighbours too and that whatever their reasons for voting out I had to accept that it was a majority vote. My response should be not be the anger or grief I was feeling but a willingness to work alongside all my neighbours to make the future work for us.

Allowing the parable to speak to me it changed it from a comfortable, well known story to one that challenged me to my very being and the change has lasted not just in my feelings towards those who thought differently about the referendum vote, but towards other people too.

It is hard to explain but just hearing the parable which I thought I understood anew and afresh had such a profound effect on my outlook and restored some of my commitment to follow Jesus with new determination.

This is what Jesus’ parables are meant to do and as we look at them in the coming weeks I hope they speak deeply to us and help us to become better disciples.

enigma-machine

The word enigma brings to mind the Enigma Code Machine used at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.

Can you crack this code?

c pgy eqoocpfogpv k ikxg vq aqw, vjcv aqw nqxg qpg cpqvjgt: lwuv cu k jcxg nqxgf aqw, aqw ctg cnuq vq nqxg qpg cpqvjgt. da vjku cnn rgqrng yknn mpqy vjcv aqw ctg oa fkuekrngu, kh aqw jcxg nqxg hqt qpg cpqvjgt.

There was a prize for the first one of us who managed it.

Harry’s baptism

Harry's baptism

 

What a joyful, joy-filled day! ThirdSpace’s first baptism: a momentous day for us all but particularly for Harry of course! Almost 30 of us met at the bandstand where we began with these words:
We gather this morning in the name of the Creator,
who creates time and space,
galaxies and stars and planets.
In the name of Jesus Christ, born on planet Earth,
and in the name of the Spirit who fills Earth with his presence.
Creator God,
in this time we call ‘now’
in this space we call ‘here’
we worship you.
Make your presence felt among us.

Steve then reminded us of words spoken at Harry’s dedication some 18 years ago.

Looking at the fast-moving clouds and leaf-laden trees and listening to birdsong, we heard selected verses from The Message’s version of Psalm 104 before slow-walking to the weeping beech with words ringing in our ears ‘ What a wildly wonderful world, God! O my soul, bless God!’
There we looked up at the interwoven branches and listened to Steve’s words that we have used before – ‘Divine Entanglement’ – before Harry spoke of why he had chosen to be baptised at this time and what it had meant to him to belong to ThirdSpace, thanking fellow members and god-parents for their encouragement and inspiration over the years.

Christine led us in sharing bread and wine using our Companions liturgy which was followed by a reading from Luke 3 (The Message again) after which we walked across the river pondering on the following questions:

What is green and blossoming in your life at this time?
What needs to change?                                                                                                                                                                                                         To what might this passage be calling you to? To Jesus? To justice? To daughter-ship and son-ship in God?

At our next stop, above the river, we laid hands on Harry and prayed for him. Then it was down to the beech by the river. Steve, Keith and Harry waded in and in the name of God – Father Son and Holy Spirit – Harry was baptised.

Grayden finished proceedings with a blessing:

Harry, the blessing of the three-in-one God be yours.

May the Spirit bless you with hope poured out like water and flowing as the river.

May Jesus bless you with discomfort at injustice and oppression.

May the Creator who holds the Earth as an artist holds brush and palette fill your imagination so that you always find the world inspiring and wonderful.

May God in whose being beauty shines on you and journey with you.

God says to you, you are my beloved,

Be blessed this day and always.

 

A blessing for the community followed and then we were all off to Holly House for brunch – bacon rolls, hot pastries, slices of melon and pineapple, juice and tea and copious amounts of coffee but more specially, the sharing of much joy, fun, caught up conversations and appreciation of God-given friendship. Thanks from all the Kenyons to all who came to share in and make this day so special, for your kind words to Harry, thoughtful cards and gifts. We love you all!

Search YouTube for First River Baptism for Third Space

 

Book swap at Moca

Last night we had a good evening together swapping books or at least book titles that we have each discovered and thoroughly enjoyed. So these are the things that  we brought this time:

Robert Galbraith’s 3 ‘Whodunnits’ beginning with ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ – grizzly and captivating!
Victoria Hyslop’s ‘The Island’ – great story-telling and an extraordinary insight into a leper colony in Europe in such recent times.
Robin Schneider’s ‘Extraordinary Means’ – stories within a T.B. Sanatorium
Barbara Nadel’s ‘A Private Business’ – another cracking detective novel
Nicci French’s ‘Blue Monday’ and ensuing books following the days of the week
Tan Twan Eng’s ‘The Garden of Evening Mists’ – poetic and poignant
Claire Mackintosh’s ‘I let you go’ –easy holiday reading that you can’t put down
Sarah Winman’s ‘A year of Marvellous Ways’ – touching book about love and loss and death through magical realism.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s ‘Gift from the sea’ – which influenced Celtic prayers of the Northumbria Community – beautiful and deep
A DVD (!) the French film ‘Untouchable’ – along the lines of ‘Me before you’ – funny and sad and thought-provoking.

Eça de Queirós’ ‘The Crime of Father Amaro’ – in translation! A satire of the Church – thought-provoking and a favourite book.
Why not join us in giving someone else’s discovery a try?

Wake up and smell the….

If you had to lose one of your 5 senses which would you choose?

A couple of weeks ago, due to a rather nasty virus, I completely lost my sense of smell – something that apparently in rare cases can be knocked out permanently. For a couple of weeks, the prospect of never being able to smell fresh coffee, newly laundered sheets or the herb basil (my favourite smell of all) ever again, was a disheartening thought.

Smell – hardly one of the most dynamic senses; it just sort of ‘hangs around’…yet, it’s the sense that’s most strongly connected to memory and can have a profound effect on our emotions and actions. Folks this morning talked of childhood memories, anticipation and exhilaration – all triggered by different smells.

We went for a sensory walk and we breathed deep and slow allowing the sights, sounds and of course, the smells of creation, to speak to us of God’s Grace. After a shape-shifting torrid week of political change it was good to step out of the mayhem.

2 Corinthians 2 14-16 says: “Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life.”

Two people who have appeared in the newspapers seemed to me to be a perfect example of this. Jo Cox – the Labour MP recently murdered and Bob Holman – a Christian who, as a successful academic, left status and lifestyle to live among the severely disadvantaged in Glasgow.
“Enthusiasm, kindness, love of life, fierce advocacy in her work and unwavering belief in the goodness of everyone she met.”
“He would help to fill in benefit forms, speak on people’s behalf at tribunals, find money for a new washing machine, or accompany a youngster to court.”

That’s a scent to bottle.

Our prayers for reconciliation, healing and those who are in turmoil or suffering, drifted up on Frankincense incense sticks and we continued to carry them in our walk until we shared bread and wine where we said these words together:

In this God-breathed bread and wine
everyone can receive – no one is out – everyone is in
In this God-touched bread and wine
our bondage is broken and we are reconciled
In this God –blessed bread and wine
we have a symbol of hope and a foretaste of kingdom freedom
feel it
smell it
taste it
take it in
and know it does you good.

Do we bring ‘an aroma redolent with life’ to people? Perhaps it might not be anything more dramatic than the way smell seems to operate – by just hanging around – but what a profound effect that aroma can have.

The Shipping Forecast

We began our worship by reading some verses from Psalm 65:5-9

You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,
God our Saviour,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas,

 who formed the mountains by your power,
having armed yourself with strength,

 who stilled the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
and the turmoil of the nations.
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy.

You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it.

We focused on being in God’s presence and giving thanks for the gifts of this day. Simple things – the first cup of tea of the day; the smell of fresh coffee; a good night’s sleep; a good breakfast; a smile from friend or stranger; the beauty of the world around us. We thought of  these things as God’s gifts to us.

 

“Attention All Shipping.” I’ve always found this a very dramatic announcement. Even though I’m not involved in shipping I still listen, fascinated, intrigued.

I’ve been fascinated by the shipping forecast since I was a child. For me it conjures up images of ships on stormy seas. The shipping forecast has all the qualities of the sea itself –unfathomable, mysterious, fascinating, intriguing, even lulling.  It has a poetry all of its own. Carol Ann Duffy in her poem Prayer, wrote: “Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer – Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.”  (Finisterre was renamed FitzRoy in 2002.)

Every day on LW we can hear the familiar liturgy of the names for each shipping area, with its weather information, announced in the same order with the same deliberate delivery – rhythmical, hypnotic, almost prayerful. There is on the one hand a loneliness and a bleakness about it, but it’s also reassuring and familiar – Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Fair Isle. Irish Sea.’

Amazingly it seems to hold our attention even if it doesn’t directly apply to us. So we keep listening to the soothingly monotonous delivery, perhaps engrossed and fascinated:  Moderate, occasionally slight later, showers or rain, good, occasionally moderate…………

Origin of the names of Shipping Forecast areas:

 

The story of the stilling of the storm was read from Mark 4:

35 That day when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”

Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Mark’s gospel gives us a very graphic description of the storm, with the waves breaking over the boat so it began to fill with water, and the contrast between the calmness of Jesus and the terror of the disciples.

What’s the seas significance in Jewish though?
The Jews were not great seafarers and regarded the sea with fear, as it symbolised chaos and evil – that’s why in Rev 21 when the new heaven and earth are described v1 says “there was no longer any sea.” It does not mean there will be no sea in the new earth, but is picture language saying evil will not be present.

What’s the significance of the geography? The Sea of Galilee is 680 ft below sea level and therefore prone to sudden storms sweeping down off the surrounding hills. The storms could appear very quickly and cease just as quickly!

I have a problem with nature miracles – the stilling of the storm and walking on water. ‘Did they really happen? Some Christians understand them as the proof of Jesus’ divinity. From my understanding of the gospels Jesus did not perform miracles to prove his divinity or to cause people to be amazed at his actions. I think Jesus miracles were primarily acts of compassion towards those in need; and also signs of a new age breaking through, the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Perhaps the storm in Mark 4 was just a normal Sea of Galilee storm event which sprung up in just a few minutes and died down just as quickly.

What might my post-evangelical understanding of storms and earthquakes be?

I reject any idea that God sends storms or earthquakes. I also reject the idea that they are manifestations of evil – for me they are just how the world works. If the Earth wasn’t dynamic and ever changing then it would not be able to support life.

So where is God in the storms of life?
I believe God is present in every aspect of nature, in every aspect of life. God therefore is present with those who suffer; he is present even in deadly storms.

God is all and in all, not as cause but as presence.
 

The Shipping forecast and the Arts.

The forecast sounds poetic, it has a rhythm of its own, it’s eccentric, it’s unique, it’s mysterious and it’s very, very British. It is a litany of the sea; it somehow reinforces our sense of being islanders, and fires our imaginations.

The Shipping Forecast has a history of sparking the imagination and creativity in people – all kinds of music and poetry have been inspired by it.

From the poetry of Seamus Heaney, Sean Street and Carol Ann Duffy to the music of Radiohead, Blur, Jethro Tull, folk singer Lisa Knapp, and classical composer Cecilia McDowall the forecast has ignited their imaginations and inspired their creativity. They have used the Shipping Forecast’s natural rhythm to conjure up feelings of familiarity and strangeness, of safety and danger, of loneliness and mystery.

We then had a poetry and prayer activity around the park – we each had copies of Seamus Heaney’s and Sean Street’s poems on the Shipping Forecast to read and enjoy. We used them to encourage a sense of thanksgiving and prayer. Then we prayed for people whose lives are “all at sea”, particularly individuals known to us, the family of Jo Cox and refugees fleeing war and persecution.

On returning to the Bandstand we shared bread and wine with the following words:

Life giver, blame taker, scroll reader, truth wielder,

Temple clearer, mask exposer, sea calmer, crowd amazer,

Life enhancer, party prancer, drinker, dancer…..

Cross bearer, sight restorer, sin forgiver, wine renewer,

Story weaver, hurt healer, death drinker, God revealer….

Justice speaker, bondage breaker, bone straightener, peacemaker….

Death defeater, grace ladler, spirit breather, heart burner,

Tempest husher, bread breaker, wine sharer, table turner…..

tina hodgett

As usual we retired to Cool River for Fairtade coffee and much discussion.

Alfred the Great

On a beautiful, warm and sunny Sunday morning we met under the beech tree by the bend in the River Derwent in the park.  Our worship was inspired by a man who was perhaps the greatest Briton and who possessed a very real Christian faith.

Statue of Alfred the Great in Winchester

 

Michael Wood describes a man who was ‘not just the greatest Briton, but one of the greatest rulers of any time or any place’.

Neil Oliver describes someone who “brought in a new age of learning. This was more than just a love of learning, but the belief that leadership entails the responsibility to be mindful of the wellbeing of the people.”

Winston Churchill wrote of Alfred: ‘In war, resolute; in defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimous; in peace, good will’.

Alfred the Great (871–899) is  the best-known Anglo-Saxon king. The son of King Aethelwulf of Wessex, Alfred succeeded his four older brothers to the throne in 871. At that time, Viking invaders had conquered much of England, and Alfred struggled to prevent Wessex from succumbing to the same fate. In January 878 as Wessex was being overrun by Viking invaders Alfred withdrew to the Somerset levels with  his royal bodyguard, a small army of thegns (the king’s followers).  From there he fights a desperate guerrilla war until his victory over the Vikings at the Battle of Edington in May 878.  After the  victory he offers Guthrun and his men mercy if they will convert to Christianity and then leave Wessex.

As part of our worship we meditated on Psalm 51 and had John’s Gospel ch1 read to us. These passages were chosen because they were often used in Anglo-Saxon Christian worship.

Alfred’s achievements and qualities as king were many:

Warrior, General & military tactician.

Pragmatic, willing to compromise and pay tribute when necessary.

Guerrilla leader

Devout Christian with a very real Christian faith.

He believes himself responsible for the secular and spiritual welfare of his people.

Willingness to show mercy and compassion.

Peacemaker – makes peace treaty with Guthrun.

Makes treaties with Welsh princes.

Skilled negotiator – gets Kent and west Mercia back under Saxon rule and negotiates a partition treaty – a frontier was drawn along the Roman Watling Street, with northern and eastern England under Viking control and southern and western England under Saxon control.

Reforms the coinage.

Revives learning and literacy and education.

Makes it obligatory for all nobles and their children to learn to read and write Anglo-Saxon.

Encourages noblewomen to learn to read and write and be educated.

Set up schools so that future generations of priests and secular administrators would be better trained and educated.

Education is in Anglo-Saxon and only those going forward into holy orders are required to learn Latin.

Set up a network of fortified towns – burghs – that were no more than 20-25 miles apart and constantly garrisoned.

Reformed the fyrd, the army, made it more organised and efficient and developed a navy, along with a programme of shipbuilding.

Lawmaker – reforms Anglo-Saxon laws to make them more just, issues new laws  and incorporates some laws from the Old  Testament.

Anxious to rule his people justly, thinks judicial fairness is important and so appoints people to be judges who will apply laws justly.

Encourages trade with other parts of the British Isles and with Flanders and France.

Politically shrewd – arranges for his daughter – Aethelflaed – to marry the Ealdorman of Mercia, she becomes the Lady of Mercia and is the real power in Mercia.

Generous to the Church.

Founds monasteries.

Appoints pious, learned and trustworthy bishops and abbots to oversee the spiritual revival of Wessex and Mercia.

Orders that important Latin works are translated into Anglo-Saxon.

Patron of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

Scholar and linguist – learns Latin so that he can translate Pope Gregory’s “Pastoral Care” document from Latin into Anglo-Saxon. It instructs bishops on how to teach their priests to nurture their people in the Christian faith.

It is for his valiant defence of his kingdom against a stronger enemy, for securing peace with the Vikings and for his farsighted reforms in the reconstruction of Wessex and west Mercia, that Alfred is known as ‘the Great’.

King Alfred dies in 899 aged 50; he is an old man, worn out through fighting for over 30 years to defend Wessex from the Vikings.

Here are Alfred’s own words written in his last year of life:

‘What I set out to do was to virtuously and justly administer the authority given to me, and to do it with wisdom, for without wisdom nothing is worthwhile. It has always been my desire to live honourably, and after my death to leave my descendants my memory in good works, for each man according to his measure of intelligence must speak what he can speak and do what he can do.’

Do you find this statement impressive – especially considering the time of writing? (AD898)

What does it mean to live virtuously?  In Philippians 4:8  Paul writes: “Finally, brothers [and sisters], whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think on such things.“  With the implication in verse 9 to “put it into practice.”

What is wisdom?  Here are two dictionary definitions:  “The ability to discern or judge what is true and right.”  “To think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, and common sense.”

Consider the statement you could write about your life?

We ended our worship by sharing bread and wine using some Anglo-Saxon liturgy: bread and wine

The Priest, Deacons and Sub-Deacons, standing abreast before the Altar then take THREE STEPS BACKWARD, then THREE STEPS FORWARD,  in remembrance of the sins of thought, word and deed and of the thoughts, words and deeds which return us to grace.

And to us sinners who are your servants, grant confidence in the multitude of your mercies, and some lot and part with your Holy Apostles, Saints and Martyrs;

Paul, Peter, Patrick, John, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, Ignatius, David, Columba, Cuthbert, Aidan, Swithun, Brendan ………..  

The invitation to receive bread and wine:

Come forth you blessed of my Father, Alleluia. 

Inherit the kingdom, prepared for you from the foundation of the world, Alleluia. 

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. 

Come forth and receive! 

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end.  Amen.  Come forth and receive! 

Share bread and wine. 

The Blessing:

May the God of Alfred

enable us

to act justly,

love mercy

and walk humbly.

AMEN.

We then adjourned to Cool River Cafe for Fairtrade tea and coffee, it was such a beautiful morning that we sat outside in for our drinks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change and Continuity

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This morning was chilly but sunny and fresh green leaves are starting to emerge on some of the bare branches of the trees now. Our focus was on living in a world where everything changes and the good news that there is one on whom we can depend who is unchanging… Steve had written the following affirmation of faith for us:

God never changes…
The flowers of the field will fade, the grass will whither
BUT GOD NEVER CHANGES
The seasons will revolve, the years pass
BUT GOD NEVER CHANGES
From childhood to pensionhood
GOD NEVER CHANGES
From innocence to wisdom, from arrogance to humility
GOD NEVER CHANGES
In the midst of calm waters and in the storms
GOD CHANGES NOT
In trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword
GOD CHANGES NOT
When perplexed or dimly mirrored or when treasuring epiphany
GOD REALLY DOES NOT CHANGE
When we reach out and when we sulk
GOD REALLY DOES NOT CHANGE
His love is faithful, steadfast, constant
AND GOD DOES NOT CHANGE
And God has promised that no-one and nothing can separate us
AND GOD DOES NOT CHANGE. AMEN! AMEN! AMEN!

I think it is a post here from 2010 when I led a Palm Sunday session on all creation praising the Creator. I’d come across an article on the net about how scientists at Sheffield University believe they had recorded the Sun singing! They had shown that there are specific frequencies that resonate from the Sun’s atmosphere. The sun emits acoustic waves in exactly the same sense as a plucked guitar string. They went on to say that when the Sun sets off flares and such, there are even more sounds that are emitted. The frequency at which the Sun is “singing”, is too low for the human ear to hear. It has always intrigued me since then to think that the Sun is singing for its creator and no one else.
On top of that, in the last decade or so, scientists discovered that the earth gives off a relentless hum of countless notes completely imperceptible to the human ear, like a giant, exceptionally quiet symphony, whilst the origin of this sound remains a mystery. They also say that unexpected powerful tunes have been discovered in this hum. It is known as ‘Earth’s Hum’.

At this time of year, I can’t help but gaze at the trumpeting daffodils and imagine the unheard tunes they might be playing. In the lectionary, the psalm for today was Psalm 148 which is all about stars and earth and creation singing God’s praise. Could it be that this is not merely poetic but true?! We took 10 minutes to reflect on  the words of the psalm and to walk around the park to join with the river and trees and sky in worshipping our constant God.

We  prayed by name for those in the midst of change and shared bread and wine to these words:

Rock solid God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, we give you thanks that in you we are secure and treasured. Your love is assured, your promises enduring; you will not fail.

God of wind who blows us from the known to the unknown , we give you thanks that the future in unwritten and that you invite us to be the change your kingdom demands.

We took copies of words of Teresa of Avila with us – to learn and to share with others

Let nothing disturb you

Let nothing frighten you

All things are passing

God never changes

Those who have God find they lack nothing

God alone suffices.

 

And we finished with this blessing, also written by Steve:

May blessings of the dynamically unchanging Trinity be ours! May the Father’s enduring love accompany us in our lives; may Jesus himself strengthen us to be co-builders of his kingdom; and may the Spirit indwell and inspire us on our journey. Amen.

Who are you?

I was struck by the grace-filled words from the Archbishop of Canterbury when he reacted to the discovery that the man who had raised him was not his genetic father.
“There is no existential crisis, and no resentment against anyone. My identity is founded in who I am in Christ.”
Our identity: so easily and quickly defined by where we come from, what we do; the pigeon-holes we put ourselves and others into.
J Philip Newell in his book “Echo of the Soul” explores what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God.
“The dimensions of us that defy definition are closer to the essence of our being than any outward characteristics of our lives. The known and the unknown are like the two sides of a crescent moon. Our inner self is the dark and hidden side. Our deepest identity is found in these unknown dimensions of our being.
Our inwardness is absolutely unique. It is to these inner depths that we are being recalled.”
I am still not entirely sure what this means for me, (and for some of us, this was too much of a nod to dualistic thinking) but the words we used as part of our liturgy this morning went some way to enabling that recalling. (apologies that I can’t give a link for this – please let us know if you wrote it!)

This is who I am –
Image of God –
Born of God’s breath –
Vessel of divine Love –
After his likeness –
Dwelling of God-
Capacity for the infinite –
Eternally known –
Chosen of God –
Home of the infinite majesty –
Abiding in the Son –
Called from eternity –
Life in the Lord –
Temple of the Holy Spirit –
Branch of Christ –
Receptacle of the Most High
Wellspring of Living Water –
Heir of the kingdom –
The glory of God –
Abode of the Trinity –
eternally in his Word –
This is who I am

Beauty.

On a cold, misty morning we met at the bandstand for worship.

The beauty of creation is a symbol of God’s beauty and a demonstration of his creativity. We were encouraged to be in awe and wonder at God’s creation and to thank him for beauty.

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The following  verses from Psalms 8, 19 & 50 were read out:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
in the heavens. 

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to where it sets.
From Zion, perfect in beauty,
God shines forth.

 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

 

By this time the sun was breaking through the mist, and the morning was beginning to warm.

We thought about “What is beauty?” with help from several quotes:

“Beauty is that which pleases and delights.”  Wilfred Owen.

“Beauty is the illumination of your soul.”  John O’Donohue.

“…..the beauty in God’s universe is intended to fill us with joy and inspiration.”  Michael Abbate.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11

“Beauty is a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.”  Khalil Gibran.

“You’re so beautiful, my love, so beautiful!.. your smile is generous and full….our lips are jewel red, your mouth elegant and inviting… my love you are beautiful beyond compare!” Song of Songs

“Outer beauty pleases the eye, inner beauty captivates the heart.”  Mandy Hale.

“Nothing can make the lives of people more beautiful than constant kindness.”  Tolstoy.

“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.”  John Keats.

“Beauty is the way you think, beauty is the way you act, beauty is what you are.”  Brianna Kimball.

“Think of all the beauty still around you and be happy.”  Anne Frank.

Consider:

Does beauty necessarily go hand in hand with pleasure?

Do we love beauty because it gives us pleasure?

Or is it other way round, do we see beauty through pleasure?

Is the appreciation of beauty something that is worthwhile just in itself?

How does inner beauty feature in all this?

Is it still possible to see beauty in the face of great suffering?

(In the film “The Pianist” the Jewish-Polish musician temporarily escapes the desolation and suffering of Warsaw in WWII by playing Chopin.)

 

When we are creative we participate with God’s creativity, beauty and mystery. So we were asked to create something beautiful – a piece of writing, a poem, a drawing, a photograph, a prayer or a piece of liturgy.

Here are some of our attempts at being creative:

Leaves beautiful on their own made into a beautiful wave.

A Blessing for Friends

May you know the peace that comes with inner beauty,

and may the Lord inspire beauty in your life and works.

May you be inspired every day with the beauty that you see,

and not be blinded to the artistry of God that surrounds you.

May God’s beauty illuminate your soul and influence the way you think, the way you act and the way you are.

IMG_0824

Beauty in death of a seed head.

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Beauty in the changed of the seasons. New growth showing signs of spring.

A creative way of using language in a famous Spanish saying. This is a play on words for those who are linguists !!

“Hacer lo que quieres es libertad, querer lo que haces, felicidad”

(translation “To do what you want is freedom; to love what you do, happiness”)

sunshine epiphany

Greyness banished.

The Word spoken.

The sunshine illumines.

We hunger for more reality of that which we clutch at.

 

The dalliance of dogs,

running, playing, living for the sheer heaven of it.

 

The bread and the wine,

Prepared and at the centre.

Jesus community now.

Rubbings made of beautiful patterns on tree bark.

 

We ended our worship by sharing bread and wine using the words of sunshine epiphany.

 

By this time it was so warm and sunny that we had our Fairtrade coffees sat outside at Cool River!

 

 

 

Easter Sunday

 It was grand to meet with our friends on Easter Sunday morning. What followed was a time of worship in which several of us brought a contribution.

 sunrise

John 20
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen.8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realise that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

resurrection

Mary of the Tower.
1. When Jesus rises from the dead on the first Easter Day the first person he reveals himself to is Mary Magdalene.
2. Mary and Jesus were very close friends – although I am not inferring a sexual relationship.
3. Mary is a disciple with equal status to the male disciples.
4. In Jewish society women would have been the property of their father, husband or brother. Mary is very unusual for the time – in travelling around the country with Jesus – obviously she is independent, and a woman of means – and therefore of relatively high status.
5. Her name Mary Magdalene or Mary of Magdala could be translated as Mary of the Tower. Perhaps this is associated with fishing? Towers were used as lighthouses on the lakeside because of night fishing. Small tower-like structures were used for drying fish. Perhaps Mary was a successful business woman?
6. Luke ch8 records that Mary had seven evil spirits cast out. Does that mean she had suffered from a mental illness? Or does it suggest a physical illness and the seven demons represent a particularly severe illness?
7. In the Luke 8 passage Mary is mentioned along with Joanna, Suzanna and other women who support Jesus and the disciples financially. They are all well to do, independent women of means, and have all been cured of illnesses.
8. Mary is named as present at the crucifixion. All four gospels name her present. John names her as the first person that Jesus revealed himself to after his resurrection.
9. In the early church she would have had a position of status, probably an apostle because she was a close friend and disciple of Jesus and a witness to his resurrection.
10. Then comes the slow but deliberate downgrading of Mary in particular and women in general in the Christian church. At the same time there is the gradual deification of Mary, Jesus’ mother. She becomes the Virgin and eventually the perpetual Virgin, whereas by the late 500’s AD Mary Magdalene is identified as a whore. This all comes about because the church becomes obsessed with sexuality as the root of all evil. This is used to subordinate and disempower women, and to justify an all male clergy which traces its authority back to the all male twelve disciples, so only men can be priests/ministers. These changes are also linked to the branding of theological differences as heresy, making orthodoxy very narrow. Mary Magdalene came to represent the repentant fallen woman, the repentant whore. She can then be represented in Renaissance art naked!!!
11. So let’s dish all this invented rubbish about Mary, about prostitution and sex. Instead let’s see her as an independent woman of means who supported Jesus financially and who became a special friend, a disciple, and later an apostle, who was there with him at his death, and who was the first person to whom he appeared when he rose from the dead on that first Easter Day.

 We shared a liturgy from Cheryl Laurie  holdthisspace.org

The resurrection was first discovered by the friends of Jesus who stood in grief outside his tomb.

Resurrection turned despair into life. It was discovered again by a group of Jesus’ disciples who had known the loss of all they had known.

Resurrection turned fear into hope. It was discovered again by black South Africans when apartheid was dismantled.

Resurrection turned injustice into liberation. It was discovered again by the people of East Timor who fought for independence.

Resurrection turned oppression into freedom. It’s been discovered again whenever someone has found the space to love after being hurt, has found the courage to begin again when it seems life has ended. And that gives us faith to believe resurrection will happen in Palestine and Israel.

We have faith to believe resurrection will happen in Iraq, Syria and Guantanamo Bay. We have faith to believe resurrection will happen in refugee camps in Europe, in Laos and detention centres in Maribyrnong.

We have faith to believe resurrection will happen in the systems that crumple and oppress.

We have faith to believe resurrection will happen in the lives we know are shattered and the hearts we know are broken.

may the resurrection come.

may the resurrection come.

Amen.

Easter activity easter

What is the Easter story all about? Forgiveness, grace, love and resurrection.

Many people, places and situations require some or all of the above.

Write an Easter message or prayer for them in an Easter card.