Happy Advent!

 

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 Last night we had our Advent Soulspace and it looked spectacular with Richard’s  fantastic  lighting, a star-path candle-lit labyrinth and vast tent – or was it a tabernacle (?) amongst other prayer stations.

Our theme was ‘Star-gazing’ and areas for reflection were certainly varied.

The star path included quotes from John O’ Donohue amongst others and images from space that had us considering our own journeys and meaning…

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The tent allowed us to sit amidst the most awe-inspiring images  of the universe we inhabit from the Hubble spacecraft …

 

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A rolling powerpoint fused poetry from Steve Goan with thought-provoking images…

And we had  another go at creating an on-line advent calendar. This time we picked up on our theme of ‘star-gazing’ and focussed on how to give Jesus the same level of attention that our culture gives to the stars (celebrities). So this year, if you care to join us, you can open a door at a time to see a star with a name or title given to Jesus, sometimes with a thought, challenge or prayer for the day.

Ages and gifting of contributors vary – but we hope the simple theme enables a more Christ-centred build-up to the Christmas season.

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War and Peace

Outside it is wet and as we shelter under the bandstand we look out onto a grey autumn scene.  Many of the trees now bare of leaves and the floor a glorious carpet of bronze and orange soggy leaves. It seems an appropriately sombre morning for Remembrance Sunday.

Leader

Lord God the source of all good things we pause in your presence and hold our day before you. Still us, calm us, guide us as we enter this day

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Pause and use your senses to listen, smell, see how the park feels on a wet morning.

 Leader – May Jesus the Son inspire you with new energies each day.

May you find his peace to give you rest each night.

May the rain symbolise the cleansing forgiveness of the Father

And the refreshment of the Holy Spirit pouring new strength into your being

So that today we may walk as Jesus through the world and carry the beauty of his Kingdom.

Remembrance

Some thoughts on Remembrance 

I was born just 6 years after the end of WW2.  Many members of my family took part in the conflict.

My dad was in the Royal Artillery, my wife’s dad was in the Royal Signals, an uncle was also in the army, and another uncle was in the RAF and came home from Burma with malaria.  My maternal grandfather was in the Royal Navy, on a warship in the North Atlantic. A great uncle was taken prisoner at Dunkirk and spent 4 years in a prisoner of war camp in Austria. Another great uncle was away for 5 years in the army serving in North Africa and Italy.

The only casualty of war from my family as far as I am aware was that my grandfather’s oldest brother was killed in action in the WW1 aged 19.

I have recollections of Remembrance Sunday from the mid 1950’s, and it was meaningful for me from the late 50’s onwards.

At that time most of the WW2 generation and many of the WW1 generation were still alive, and remembrance was a very sombre and deeply sad occasion as people remembered the sacrifice and loss and suffering of war. The nearest way that I can describe it was like being at a funeral.

60 years on I’d just like to share 3 brief thoughts on Remembrance.

Now that most of the WW2 generation are dead, has there been a loss from our corporate memories of the horrors of war?  I think it’s very telling that politicians from all parties in the 1960’s, who had taken part in WW2, to name two – Denis Healey and Edward Heath, resisted US invitations to go to war in Vietnam, in contrast to more recent politicians who have rushed to get involved in wars.  Around 1500 Erasmus said, “war is sweet to those who have not tried it.”

I do dislike the political correctness that everyone on TV has to wear a poppy for at least 3 weeks leading up to Remembrance Sunday, even the dancers on Strictly Come Dancing and Premier League footballers have to wear them!  Around Remembrance Sunday people should feel able to wear a red poppy, or a white poppy, or both or neither. Surely to have that freedom is part of why people suffered and died in WW2.

Remembrance should be personal, voluntary and informed, and always involve much reflection and empathy for all the victims of war.

In early 1916 Alan Seeger wrote the poem I have a rendezvous with death, he was an American postgraduate student studying in Paris at the outbreak of WW1, who volunteered for the French Army, below are 2 verses from his poem:

I have a rendezvous with Death

On some scarred slope or battered hill,

When Spring comes round again this year

And the first meadow-flowers appear.

 

But I’ve a rendezvous with Death

At midnight in some flaming town,

When Spring trips north again this year,

And I to my pledged word am true,

I shall not fail that rendezvous.

 

Seeger was killed at the Somme in July 1916.

 

We then observed 2 minutes silence.

 

The wisdom from God is first pure, then 
peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of 
mercy and good fruits, without a trace of 
partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of
righteousness is sown in peace for those 
who make peace. 
James 3:17-18

Prayers

We look at the red poppies and they help us to remember those who have died in the forces during war or those who returned home never to be the same again whether through physical or emotional injury. There are many others who are affected by war, those who have lost their loved ones, their homes, their security, those civilians who have been killed or maimed, taken into captivity those who have lost peace.

Pick up a white peace poppy as we pray for peace.

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We pray for all of those areas in our world today that have lost peace and ask that Peace Makers, Negotiators and Visionaries will be raised up to bring peace, justice and reconciliation. Amen

Sharing bread and wine and remembering 

We have been told that, on the night before he was taken to be
tortured to death on a cross, Jesus sat with his disciples,
and ate with them, in a meal of remembrance.
Jesus took a loaf of bread,
asked your blessing upon it, broke it,
and gave it to his disciples saying:
Take this – all of you – and eat it.
This is me. My Body. Given for you.
Each time you eat it, remember me.
Close to the meal’s end,
he took a cup filled with wine,
asked your blessing upon it,
and gave it to his disciples saying:
Take this – all of you – and drink it.
This is me. This is my promise in my life’s blood –
poured out for you and for the world.
Each time you drink it, remember me.
So we Jesus’ disciples, eat bread and drink wine – and remember.

(from Richard Bott )

Rooted and Grounded

Autumn colours and mists pervaded the park as we met this week.  We were really aware of the change in the season.

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As Wend had said she felt more connected with the earth by meeting outside I thought we should continue what we started discussing on Wednesday evening in Moca  – Ian Adams “Reconnecting with the Earth”

Ian Adams questions were:

  • How are you reconnecting with the earth and her creatures?

  • How might your mission venture reflect the need to love the earth and to learn from her?

I thought it might be useful to do a little exercise to focus our minds on what is of value in God’s Kingdom. We often miss the minute` and look at the bigger things.

Imagine you are the Creator of the Park – you have made it for your pleasure and to share with others. Look around your kingdom and ask yourself:

What is of value?

What are the resources at your disposal?

What is beautiful?

What would you change or remove?

What would you protect if it was threatened?

What did we say;

“Everything is beautiful here today. Soil, trees, flowers, river, birds, for us, for all, space, trees, river, views, leisure, all ages, reminder of seasons, trees for good air and branches for birds, people, space, beauty, water, soil, the river:- constant, but changing, flowing – life giving, God’s planned evolving and good place – for us to participate in – to take our place and to give thanks. I thought the resource of most value was the soil beneath our feet. All that we see around us, all that we need comes from such stuff. Most of what we see around us all that we are will eventually become this stuff. The earth is a living, renewing, dynamic mass acting as a massive recycling depot.”

Reading – Ephesians 3: 14 -17 (NIV)

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Looking at the trees that surround us imagine the roots growing and spreading under the soil – the love of Christ reaches deep into our being, but how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ for the rest of the earth and its creatures? As the Ephesians reading says this love “surpasses knowledge” – so who can say?October 2014 autumn 020

Share bread and wine 

For this bread, made from grain harvested from the good soil, we thank you.

For the Bread of Life broken for us, we thank you.

 

For this wine, made from sun ripened grapes, and nourished by the good soil, we thank you.

For the Wine of the Kingdom poured out for us, we thank you.

 

Blessing – Ephesians 3: 14 – 19 (The Message)

14-19 My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

 

 

 

A pilgrimage, an apple and a hazlenut

 

This morning was based on a number of things buzzing around my head in recent times.

On Wednesday, Julie inspired us with images and stories and musings on her journey to Santiago de Compostella and I was left, particularly, with her words ‘My faith wasn’t fit for purpose’ and the quote from C S Lewis:

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Secondly, I have been carrying with me our excellent bandstand session last week, led by Fiona on apples! We had explored all sorts of things, not least the erroneous tradition that this had been the forbidden fruit and we had focussed in on the Fall of Adam and Eve. This had reminded me of a terrific book lent to me this summer called ‘The Preaching life’ by Barbara Brown Taylor. This has an inspirational first half contemplating what church is and does and is for and the second half is a collection of her sermons. The last of these is a reflection on the crisis experienced by Adam and Eve – and how we tend to deal with life when things fall apart. She outlines a Jewish legend about the pair, east of Eden, after the Fall. For me it is a poignant exposition on how we cope – or don’t – when things fall apart. It’s too long to write up here – but do look it up or get the book – can really recommend it!

The third reflection was upon our vulnerability as ThirdSpace – we are very small and as friends move on, we are left feeling very fragile. This is a perennial problem for us. Here, I thought back to the wonderful words of Julian of Norwich:

He showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, in the palm of my hand, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with my mind’s eye and I thought, ‘What can this be?’  And the answer came, ‘It is all that is made.’  I marvelled that it could last, for I thought it might have crumbled to nothing, it was so small.  And the answer came into mind, ‘It lasts and ever shall because God loves it.’  And all things have being through the love of God.

In this little thing I saw three truths. The first is that God made it.  The second is that God loves it.  The third is that God keeps it.

What is he indeed that is maker and lover and keeper? I cannot find words to tell.  For until I am one with him I can never have true rest nor peace.  I can never know it until am held so close to him that there is nothing in between.

 

With these 3 themes we read and walked along the river and up through the trees to the clearing where a war memorial stands over Matlock. We prayed and reflected and meditated around these issues on the way, prayed our version of the Lord’s prayer and shared bread and wine, remembering that the God who came to be broken, promises wholeness one day and companionship while we are, as yet, east of Eden.

Our blessing – for one another, for those in our prayers and for all you who read this blog:

May the God who became broken heal us.

And may he who is Maker, Lover and Keeper, make his face to shine upon us and hold us, until there is nothing in between. Amen.

 

 

 

Keys to the Kingdom

To introduce the theme of the morning we started with a bit of a puzzle. We had to find a set of keys that were hidden in the park. They were hanging in the branches of a tree that we had once used as a Joshua Tree. Hilarity arose around a “spot the deliberate mistake in the clue”. I am not telling about that it is too embarrassing.

The clue

I    Joshua    was    what    you    is    branches    am    evergreen   and   in    my    seek    once

Hidden somewhere around the bandstand is a bunch of keys rearrange these words to make sense of the clue… 

The Keys

When we were in Provence we visited some very interesting cloisters next to the Cathedral at Aix en Provence. We were shown round this beautiful and tranquil place by a volunteer. Each column was decorated differently with the comment from our guide that no two columns could be decorated the same as nothing could represent the perfection of God.

20150918_154933One of the columns had a carving of Peter with the Keys of the Kingdom and it started me thinking about the keys of the kingdom and what it means. A perplexing question, interpretations vary widely on the internet from the evangelical interpretation that Jesus is the key to the kingdom and without him we cannot access the kingdom, a more popularist interpretation is that the keys were given to Peter to the Kingdom of Heaven so that he is in charge of who enters (through the pearly gates) and the Catholic interpretation that the Keys of the Kingdom were given to Peter as a symbol of authority and that apostolic authority has passed to the Catholic Church.

Philosophical question

What do you think are the Keys of the Kingdom?

Have we lost these keys?

Our thoughts on this subject were very interesting;

Jesus is saying because you understand who I am you’ll be able to lock out that which is not of God and unlock that which blocks the rule of God in this world.

You will have the tools to be involved in the coming of the Kingdom. This is true for all who realise who Jesus is.

The Keys to God’s Kingdom are love, forgiveness, peace and justice.

Jesus’ inspiration comes from the Old Testament prophets, so the Keys of the Kingdom could be, to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

Good News to the Poor i.e. God is on your side.

The Year of the Lord’s Favour (Jubilee) – fair shares for all.

Release and restoration.

Spiritual authority – Jesus was giving Peter the leadership of the group of disciples.

Revelation, separation, participation, authority.

It was interesting that our ideas fitted in well with the most helpful interpretations that I had come across. These were ideas put forward on the internet which took into consideration the cultural and historical understanding in Jesus’ time.

Peter is given the authority to bind and free when Jesus says he has the keys of the kingdom. This authority was something the Jews at the time would understand a Rabbi having. Was Jesus passing on the leadership of the disciples to Peter?

The other was from Jonny Baker’s website which talked about what the people of Jesus’ time would have understood as the Kingdom of God from the Old Testament.

  • Deliverance
  • Righteousness and Justice
  • Peace
  • Joy
  • God’s presence
  • Healing
  • Returning from Exile

 Confession

Forgive us Lord when we are closed and locked up with negative acts, thoughts and emotions. Help us not to be imprisoned by fear, hatred, prejudice, unforgiveness, pride, greed, anger and selfishness, but open our hearts to the values of Your Kingdom.

Open our eyes to see Your Kingdom and help us to be an active part of it.

Open our ears to those who cry for help and justice.

 We prayed for refugees using the prayer from www.24-7.com/blog

We continued discussion about the Keys to the Kingdom on the way to coffee before our thoughts turned to more mundane things like the rugby world cup (ouch!), dogs (?) and hospitality plans for Wednesday.

Journey

This last Sunday at the bandstand it was a ‘bring and share’ – i.e. anyone could bring any contribution to our time together.

Wendy kicked off with the theme of pilgrimage, having been at Nevern in Pembrokeshire on the ancient pilgrimage route to St David’s, where there is a very old Celtic cross. With an eye to a new term / new academic year / new beginning, everyone was invited to reflect on their own pilgrimage (a journey to and with God). With an image of the cross at Nevern, we were all able to wander in the park with 3 questions regarding the coming year: What concerns me most? What do I yearn for? What am I called to? We also had the final words of St David to inspire us on: Be joyful. Keep the faith. Do the little things.

Celtic cross

 

Back in the bandstand we commissioned one another for the journey ahead by praying our own version of the Lord’s prayer (See previous entries!)

 

Barbara writes: I had been reading a novel by Tim Severin and noticed he had written a book called the Brendan Voyage – Across the Atlantic in a leather boat, this I thought I must investigate. St. Brendan has always held an interest for me ever since Michael Mitton likened those of us in Third Space to the early Celtic monks who set sails on their boats and went where God the Holy Spirit was blowing them.

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I started reading this fascinating story which I felt was full of creativity, commitment, authenticity, design, research, hospitality and community, (very like Third Space really) and I have only got to the part where they launch the modern day curragh named Brendan in an endeavour to cross the Atlantic in a leather boat.  I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book which gives an account of the voyage.

Taking the symbol of The Cross of St. Brendan that I found reproduced in the photographs of the sails on the boat I asked people to draw a red Celtic Cross on a white background. Whilst colouring each of the four quarters of the circle as it intersected the cross I suggested people pray;

  • for their own journey with and to God,
  • the journey of those of us in Third Space,
  • the journey of family, friends and those we love,
  • for those refugees we hear about who are fleeing war and desperately trying to find a place of peace and sanctuary.

 

Fiona then led us in prayer for the refugees and asylum-seekers, so much in our thoughts, in a situation so troubling. The prayer can be found at www.24-7prayer.com We loved the tag ‘the-refugee-crisis-we-don’t-know-the-answer-but-we-know-we-have-to-pray.

 

Grayden wrote us a creed which we used to complete our worship along with sharing  bread and wine:

This is our community, this is our faith.

We are a community of faith. We share a vision of God: a God whose Spirit is love, accessible to all and yet beyond our knowing. We seek God in pray, through creation, and in the many stories which have been handed down to us:

Of God the Creator, who made everything that is, who is the source of all being, and the one who fills the cosmos.

Of Jesus of Nazareth, who lived among us, healed, taught, suffered and died, and how in the mystery of the resurrection Jesus continues to be present in the world. He shows us the Way, which is leading to the reconciliation of all things. It is the Way of love, compassion, justice, forgiveness and peace. 

Of the Spirit, the Breath of God, the Giver of Life, who inspires the people of God to cry out for justice for the powerless and oppressed, and to see the presence of God in every created thing.

We are followers of the Way shown by Jesus: to love God with our whole being; to love our neighbours as ourselves; to treat others as we would have them treat us; to strive for justice and peace; to have respect and compassion for every person and for the whole of creation. We journey together in the Way of Jesus towards the reconciliation of all things. 

We break bread together and drink wine together.  This is our community. This is our faith.