The Aroma of Christ at the Bandstand

Last Sunday Jeremy led us, kicking off with a quiz to identify 10 different essential oils. Alas, we were all hopeless but for Kez who beat us all hands down (though it turned out that she owned the oils!!!)

Jeremy spoke of writing a poem beginning: “Heaven, for me, it will smell like…” and we shared our own ideas on that before walking with 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 and trying to interrogate it / see it anew.

2 Corinthians 2, 14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 

It isn’t entirely easy as a passage. Here are some things ew were sent to mull over: This image reflects a triumphal procession – celebration of war victory and of its leader. Captives at front – sometimes to be executed. [We Christians have the unmistakeable “scent” of Christ, discernible alike to those who are being saved and to those who are heading for death. To the latter it seems like the very smell of doom.(JBPhillips) But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.(Message) ]. Really?

We are to spread an aroma – what, how?

We are this aroma to God and to people– how does God find us an aroma?

Where have you smelt that aroma this last week?

Tune in to your sense of smell as you walk – what is out there on the breeze?

Saved and perishing, bringing life, bringing death…

We returned to the bandstand to share thoughts – of which there were many – and to share bread and wine, focusing on these words:

Luke 9  23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross [b]daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 

Breaking of bread:

The cup – I deny self

The bread – I live in him

Gal 2.  20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God;

Lots to think about and to consider for the following week. Thanks Jeremy!!!

Plough Sunday and crossing thresholds

It was a crisp sunny morning at the bandstand and everything I had was from or inspired by ‘The Celtic Wheel of the Year’ by Tess Ward. We took a moment to be still and began with the words:

Blessed be you, Keeper of our past, Guider of our stories, Holder of our future.

The first Sunday after Epiphany in the Celtic year was known as Plough Sunday, when priests blessed ploughs. The next day, Plough Monday was a day of rowdy celebrations with men dressing up, performing plays and asking for donations towards a feast.  A refusal could lead to damage to property by the plough! The ploughing season began then and, just as now, people return to work after the Christmas break. Some of us were in that place of having returned to work – others of us were not – so what might this new start mean for all of us?

On the handouts we considered the following words:

January is seen as a time of journeys – of crossing over boundaries into new places. We meet in the “now and not yet” and at the crossing point of our hope and our present reality. It is a season of reflection on the past and discerning the future, of placing trust, of following our longing and taking the first footstep from the known and familiar into unchartered territory. The Epiphany story reminds us that God’s love is revealed when people cross the threshold from known places and follow a star to who knows what.

We read the story of the visiting Magi, crossing the threshold to encounter Christ and then walked with some questions and a prayer and an image of a threshold, with the invitation to write about situations and people who are facing uncertain futures on the left of the threshold and pray about the as yet unknown side.

  • What threshold may be in front of me at the start of this year?
  • What new things might await me this year that I long for or fear?
  • What would be good for me to leave behind and what new things to embrace?

Spirit Weaver go before me to be my guide

And with the gentlest fingers

Untangle the old and the unfinished

and weave their ends into the next step

As directions change

And the cloth feels new and strange.

We returned to pray – for those in Gaza, held hostage by Hamas, for the people of Yemen and Middle East in geberal, for the people of Taiwan post election and for the UK and US facing elections this year, as well as for one another and those known to us. We recognised that we cannot influence world affairs in the main but are called to be the body of Christ where we are placed…

Embodied God,

On the ladder between the home of heaven and earth’s dwelling place,

The crack between the worlds,

A baby journeyed,

Belonging to both.

Come embodied love:

To our hands that our touch might soothe;

To our ears that we might receive words of kindness;

To our bellies that we might have courage to go beyond;

To our journeys that we might be aware of a purpose;

To our feet that we might always treasure the earth that supports us;

To our hearts that we might live for more than ourselves.

Come embodied love

Walk with us in our travelling this year.

***

Steve had written words for the sharing of bread and wine:

This Epiphany, as we meet around bread and wine,

Untangle that which is old and unfinished and that which is frayed and broken,

And reconfigure our faith-threads so that we might journey across this threshold with purpose.

Bring Peace to the world and make us peace-makers.

Bring Justice to the world and make us justice-workers.

Bring light to the world and make us artists and prophets.

Bring the embodied Love of Jesus to our world day by day.

For our story concerns the refugee baby, the immigrant Jesus, the vulnerable traveller,

 Who died for us.

The Bread of the Kingdom.

The Wine of the Kingdom.

***

We finsished with this blessing:

May the God who hangs her star over unexpected places

Lure us to the place we need to be,

Where new things happen

And we have to return home by a different way.

Thanks to Tess Ward for the inspiration for everyone for joining forces to cross those thresholds together in faith and hope.

New Year at the Bandstand

This morning was our start to the new year. Julie began by sharing an Epiphany meditation:

Prayer

“Jesus, you are the light of the world. In your holiness and your earthliness, you display the truth about who God is and God’s desire to be present with us. You open our eyes, ears and hearts to the ways in which you continue to reveal yourself to us today—through word , communion,  creation, and through the relationship we have with others. By your light, may we truly see. Amen.

Meditation

Over and over in the gospels, the majesty and truth of God with us, Immanuel, is made known, mostly in small moments with everyday people.

Jesus is taken  to the temple, and Simeon and Anna proclaim his divinity.
As a child, Jesus reads the Torah and explains it to those listening
Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding in Cana.
He gathers a handful of the ordinary and the unlikely and calls them to follow him.
Jesus heals.
He feeds crowds.
Then, in front of just three of his closest friends, Jesus meets on a mountaintop with Moses and Elijah and is transfigured right before their eyes.

There are so many more moments that could be named and counted, each revealing just a little more of Jesus’ ability to meet people right where they are. No big production, just humble, real,  encounters that provide hope to all.

Activity

We believe in a living God, the revelation of Jesus is not over and done in this world but continues. . Where do you need Jesus to show up? And what do you need from him in that space? This week have a go at writing a prayer, asking to be open to new revelations God and how God is at work in our world.

These thoughts were inspired by words from a reflection on Ephiphany written but Amanda Berger

Jeremy read the following poem:

Winter Now – Samuel Longfellow

‘Tis winter now; the fallen snow
Has left the heav’ns all coldly clear.
Through leafless boughs the sharp winds blow,
And all the earth lies dead and drear;

And yet God’s love is not withdrawn:
His life within the keen air breathes;
His beauty paints the crimson dawn,
And clothes the boughs with glitt’ring wreaths.

And though abroad the sharp winds blow,
And skies are chill and frosts are keen,
Home closer draws her circle now,
And warmer glows her light within.

O God, Who gives the winter’s cold,
As well as summer’s joyous rays,
Us warmly in Thy love enfold,
And keep us through life’s wint’ry days.



And Fiona W shared this poem:

New Every Morning – Susan Coolidge

Every morn is the world made new.
You who are weary of sorrow and sinning,
Here is a beautiful hope for you,—
A hope for me and a hope for you.

All the past things are past and over;
The tasks are done and the tears are shed.
Yesterday’s errors let yesterday cover;
Yesterday’s wounds, which smarted and bled,
Are healed with the healing which night has shed.

Yesterday now is a part of forever,
Bound up in a sheaf, which God holds tight,
With glad days, and sad days, and bad days, which never
Shall visit us more with their bloom and their blight,
Their fulness of sunshine or sorrowful night.

Let them go, since we cannot re-live them,
Cannot undo and cannot atone;
God in his mercy receive, forgive them!
Only the new days are our own;
To-day is ours, and to-day alone.

Here are the skies all burnished brightly,
Here is the spent earth all re-born,
Here are the tired limbs springing lightly
To face the sun and to share with the morn
In the chrism of dew and the cool of dawn.

Every day is a fresh beginning;
Listen, my soul, to the glad refrain,
And, spite of old sorrow and older sinning,
And puzzles forecasted and possible pain,
Take heart with the day, and begin again.

Then we walked with words from Romans 8:18-end (From The Message) as we reflected on those in relation to the year ahead. We returned to burn our luggage labels, with our prayers, that had been attached to the shepherd’s crook last year and wrote new prayers for the things most important to us in the year ahead. They will hang over a doorway at Holly House, keeping our prayers always present there till next year.

Steve B led us, then, in the sharing of bread and wine before we headed to Ostello Lounge for much needed hot drinks! Chilly at the bandstand but a good time together!

Peace on Christmas Eve

Julie and Steve led us in a very special time of being together with family members joining us. The following was in our handouts:

 “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (and women) Luke 2:14 (King James)

The story of Jesus begins and ends in peace. The angels  proclaim peace to Mary, mother of Jesus (Luke 1:28) and  to the Shepherds (Luke 2:8-14). And upon his resurrection, Jesus himself proclaims peace to his disciples after he endured great pain and death (Luke 24:36). The  peace of Christ is very different from any worldly peace.  It is not something we can create or obtain by mastering  our own lives. The peace of Christ comes from an otherworldly love and grace: a love that sends God’s son to  earth as a vulnerable baby to show the world what love  feels like.

How in our broken world and our complicated lives do we find authentic and meaningful peace as opposed to manufactured and sugar-coated peace, both  for ourselves and for others?

Image by Julie Barber – A Gaza Nativity

“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared. It is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security.  To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself.  Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s  commandment’’. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Opening prayer “Blessed are we, the fearful, though we long to be people of peace. We can’t lie: we are afraid.  Afraid there won’t be enough:enough resources, enough time, enough memories.  Blessed are we who ask you for wisdom,  show us what to turn from, what to set aside.  Come Lord, that we might  see you,  move with you,  keep pace with you.  Blessed are we who ask that this Advent  we might dwell together quietly in our homes. Come, Lord, that we might be for others  the peace they cannot find. Blessed are we who look to you and say, God, truly, we are troubled and afraid. Come govern our hearts and calm our fears.  Oh Prince of Peace, still our restless selves, calm our anxious hearts, quiet our busy minds.’

Peace for ourselves

The above prayer echos  the same wisdom of the ancients who, in  the decades after Jesus lived on earth, saw that when we  bring it all to God there is a mysterious “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The former  Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams says that  the good life “is honest about where it lives.” From that  place of honesty, all our instinctual and reactive selves  can be brought to God whose loving gaze is the beginning of the healing we seek. Williams says that it is a  place of both prospect and refuge, “where my rhythm is  echoed, my speech is understood. My face is seen…To be  recognised and recognisable, lifts from me the burden of making myself up.”

So with the apostle Peter we can invite our worried and  anxious selves into the presence of God. This is the intimate space where peace-making within oneself begins.

  “So, humble yourselves under God’s strong hand, and in his  own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal  concern.”  1 Peter 5:6-7 (Phillips)

‘Peace Be With You’. While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be  with you.” They were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to  them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and  my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. Yet for all their  joy they were still disbelieving and wondering, and he said to them, “Have you anything here to  eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence”.    LUKE 24:36-43 (NRSV) 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  —JOHN 14:27 (NIV

What are we to make of Jesus’ words when he  says to his disciples, “Don’t be afraid.” Easy for him to say.  God is God after all. But maybe that’s actually the point.  Maybe Jesus knows that something-else-that-is-also-happening too. He understands the bigger picture and has knowledge that all will be well and all manner of things will be well. This is the meaning-making Jesus offers: His  presence at Christmas as God-in-human-flesh, God  with us. As the “Easter risen saviour” who says, “Don’t be  afraid. It’s me!” And then as the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth to be with us even into death and the end of the age. A story far bigger than our fear or anxiety.

Five minutes private reflection

  1. What are some ways you can offer the gift of peace to yourself, showing yourself love and grace? 
  2.  How can you offer others the promise and hope of peace by “passing the peace” this Advent season?  
  3. When talking about peace, Jesus said, “I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27). What do you think he meant? What is the peace of the world? What is the peace of Christ? We sometimes try to console ourselves or others by trying to make sense of our troubles. Do explanations work  for you? Always, sometimes, never? If not, what works better?  Imagine Jesus was sitting with you right now. What would you say to him? What troubling doubts or awkward  questions might arise? What comforts or consolations?

Some thoughts  

Too often peace is something we have half-heartedly prayed for because we are so limited in our ability to dream of peace in a world of pain and chaos. Peace isn’t dependent on outside circumstances and peace isn’t dependent on whether you like or enjoy someone’s presence. Peace is much deeper than  like or dislike. Peace is much broader than getting along. Peace is a promise.

Peace for others

In many Christian traditions, there is a part of the service that includes a time for the congregation to pass the  peace. We leave the comfort of our regular pew (don’t  you dare sit in my seat) to turn to our neighbours and  speak the words, “peace be with you,” and receive the  words, “and also with you.” This tradition is more than a  simple exchange or greeting. It is a covenant, a promise,  shared between believers that they are living towards  the ever-expanding peace of Christ. The act of passing  the peace is one of extending unfathomable grace and  unconditional love to our neighbours, to the stranger, to  the one standing next to us. And often that person is not  one we would necessarily choose (they might not prefer us either). No matter how broken or smelly or don’t-have-it-all-together we might be, we are invited to join in the chorus of those who come in peace, just as Christ taught us.

Sharing of the peace and sharing bread and wine

Ending Prayer

Blessed are we remembering that you hold all things together. You are the invisible scaffolding that supports us, the canopy of love that covers us in the present, the stable pillars, sunk deep into our past and the sparrow that flies confidently toward the future,  bearing for us the peace we could never have attained for ourselves.

With thanks to Kate Bowler

And huge thanks to Julie and Steve – it felt very special, led to touching exchanges in the sharing of the Peace and felt very pertinent to many.

Advent and waiting

This morning we looked at the concept of waiting for and waiting upon, influenced by a wonderful Advent read – see image below – and Lectio 365 recently.

After a moment of stilling ourselves and opening liturgy, we walked with words from Carys Walsh and R S Thomas and returned to share our responses to them. This is what we read:

Frequencies of God – Walking through Advent with R S Thomas – Carys Walsh

The qualities of waiting in Advent are different to that of Lent. We look forward to the incarnation, that has, paradoxically, already happened, as well as to Christ’s coming again, but also to God coming to us now – it is a time of hope with the possibility of joy.

Walsh suggests that it is also a time to ‘recognise those ways in which the heart’s muscle closes and atrophies in the busyness of the year, or in the familiarity of faith forged in a lifetime’s patterning but made almost invisible, through its ubiquity.’

Advent is a time of an ‘expectant waiting with hearts open, hopeful of a richer encounter with God, and uncertain of what this might mean for us. This kind of waiting… may take the whole season of Advent to arrive at a kind of waiting that is more than “waiting for”, that is also a “waiting upon”… This kind of attentive, surrendered waiting may also be the work of a lifetime. Michael Ramsey (the Archbishop of Canterbury 1961-74) is said to have declared that he prayed for two minutes – “but it takes me twenty-eight minutes to get there”.

‘Our experience of waiting may be transformed by the Advent journey, as waiting itself becomes a place of God’s action, and the apparent emptiness in which we sit hums with the presence of God upon whom we wait… This may be a time of learning the contours of waiting, and recognising that as we put ourselves in the way of God, we begin to see in the dark, and discover a presence so profound that we cannot escape it. And as we focus on God’s presence, we may notice the breath of God who breathes in and through us.’

In a country church – R S Thomas

To one kneeling down no word came,

Only the wind’s song, saddening the lips

Of the grave saints, rigid in glass;

Or the dry whisper of unseen wings,

Bats not angels, in the high roof.

Was he balked by silence? He kneeled long,

And saw love in a dark crown

Of thorns blazing, and a winter tree

Golden with the fruit of a man’s body.

After this we had a reading from the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel where Hannah returns with a thank offering after giving birth to Samuel. Two weeks ago the commentator on Lectio 365 wrote:

‘When I experience an answer to prayer, I have a head-on encounter with the reality of God in my life. No matter what other difficulties I face, these miraculous moments act as markers for me, securing my faith. They are reminders that God is powerful, that he loves me and that he will look after me’ (Lectio 365)

So we considered the questions:

What answers to prayers do I look back to that secure my faith?

Is there a thank offering I could make for an answer to prayer?

What do I need to hear from this story about waiting today?

We shared names and situations where people are waiting, in limbo, powerless, yearning and prayed for them:

For those living in fear, under attack or displaced in Ukraine, Gaza, Israel, South Sudan, Yemen and so many other places

Jesus be close

For those living as refugees in foreign lands having left loved ones or all they had held dear

Jesus comfort and restore

For those harried by injustice and threat

Jesus save

For those whose marriages or home lives are the source of distress and pain

Jesus help

For those suffering grief and loss

Jesus heal

For those struggling with mental health

Jesus come to them

For those awaiting medical findings, who are afraid

Jesus en-courage

For those dependent on others to bring justice and safety

Jesus advocate

For ourselves with the mission to be salt and light and good-news-bearers

Jesus inspire

Amen Amen Amen

Then we share bread and wine, taking a time to be still, to wait upon God before closing by pointing to one another, as we often do, conferring blessing on one another with these words:

So, in our waiting and yearning and trusting and in gratitude, may the blessing of God, Mother, lover and friend, be upon you and you and you and…

Reflections on a changing season

Sarah H led us this Sunday, challenging us to take a spiritual health audit. Below are some notes from our time together:

As we enter ‘Sweater-weather’ do last year’s clothes still fit? Suit us? What is the state of our wardrobe? Do we always wear the same outfit, or do we like to mix it up? As life seasons change do our spiritual practices or disciplines suit the season we are in? Some practices are comfortable, yet others can feel awkward and just not our style. This season we are encouraging each other to slip on something new, to allow these ways to transform who we are and how God’s image in us is seen by our families and communities. 

Christian Spiritual Practices change us from the inside out. Like a good buffet, tuck in and try a little of something – Taste and See that the Lord is Good. We pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you to pick a practice or two for this season of your life.

Bible Study 

Lectio 365, Read through the Bible in a year, study themes, characters, a book or words using a plan from Bible.com, or Bible Hub. Read a different translation. Study a book using a commentary from a different church tradition.  Watch videos from www.thebibleproject.com listen to a podcast. Dig deeper by learning Learn Biblical Greek | Daily Dose of Greek or Daily Dose of Hebrew – Free Hebrew Video Lessons  

Bible Meditation 
Chew over a text, memorise it, rewrite it. Ignatian spiritual exercises, Examen.  Lectio 365 – 24-7 Prayer International, devotional readings. 

Prayer  
Silent, Breath prayers, intercession (praying for others) www.Prayercast.com, visit a prayer room, attend an online prayer meeting, liturgical prayer (Northumbria community, Anglican, Ionian Franciscan, Orthodox) the Lord’s prayer.  

Posture 
Stand, sit, kneel, dance, raise your hands, open your hands, lie face down.  

Music and the Arts 

Sung or danced liturgy, songwriting, prophetic painting, spontaneous song singing, storytelling, story writing, journalling, film making, meditation on nature, images, films. 

Pilgrimage & Retreat 

Walking to a Church or Sacred site. Stay in a monastery, nunnery, or retreat centre such as Waverley Abbey. Attend a large festival gathering. (Greenbelt) or Scargill Movement.  

Liturgical Year – Decoration of the home for Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Ordinary Time. Celebrating Saints Days, Solstices, Equinox and Biblical Jewish festivals  
Passover, Feast Unleavened Bread: April 23-29, 2024 Pentecost: June 16, 2024 Feast of Trumpets: October 3, 2024 Day of Atonement: October 12, 2024 Feast of Tabernacles: October 17-23, 2024 
The Eighth Day: October 24, 2024 

I have to say that not only was it good to be challenged to get out of our inevitable ruts but I particularly oved the reading Sarah shared from the Book of Wisdom Chapter 7:

15May God grant me to speak with judgement,

and to have thoughts worthy of what I have received;

for he is the guide even of wisdom

and the corrector of the wise.

16For both we and our words are in his hand,

as are all understanding and skill in crafts.

17For it is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists,

to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements;

18the beginning and end and middle of times,

the alternations of the solstices and the changes of the seasons,

19the cycles of the year and the constellations of the stars,

20the natures of animals and the tempers of wild animals,

the powers of spirits and the thoughts of human beings,

the varieties of plants and the virtues of roots;

21I learned both what is secret and what is manifest,

22for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me.

There is in her a spirit that is intelligent, holy,

unique, manifold, subtle,

mobile, clear, unpolluted,

distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen,

irresistible, 23beneficent, humane,

steadfast, sure, free from anxiety,

all-powerful, overseeing all,

and penetrating through all spirits

that are intelligent, pure, and altogether subtle.

24For wisdom is more mobile than any motion;

because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things.

25For she is a breath of the power of God,

and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;

therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.

26For she is a reflection of eternal light,

a spotless mirror of the working of God,

and an image of his goodness.

27Although she is but one, she can do all things,

and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;

in every generation she passes into holy souls

and makes them friends of God, and prophets;

28for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.

When I think about the theological links between Wisdom and the pre-existenet Word of God – Christ – this reading is all the more wonderful! Thanks Sarah – lots to think about!

Gene Robinson teaching us about Grace and Justice

Last night we had the privilege of watching a 15 minute address given by Bishop Gene Robinson at The University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, on receiving his honorary doctorate. We knew of it as Parker was there (currently teaching there) with Kitty and both were blown away by it. Gene Robinson is an alumnus of the university. Ordinarily, alumni becoming bishops are automatically conferred with this award, but in his case it has come 20 years later. The grace with which he receives it and what he has to say is both inspiring and touching. We shared responses for the rest of the evening and also prayed for all suffering injustice and a lack of peace, using the Northumbria Community’s evening prayer. The link to hear the address is here:

https://new.sewanee.edu/news/convocation-kicks-off-family-weekend-2023/convocation-address/

Third Space Little Fishes

This Sunday was led by Sarah B. This was her content:

On the theme of fishing, fishing, fisherman. As a youngster I fished a lot, ocean fishing of the back of boat for mackerel. Some days we caught nothing, other times we went through vast shoals and could pull up 4 or five at a time from one line. The most we caught was around 30, we gave them away when we reached shore. The rest we grilled on a bar-b-que on the cliff top There are no lightening strike thoughts or insights, so just to leave each bit with you to contemplate for yourself.

The parable of the Mexican fisherman and the banker

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.” The American offered, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You could spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you could then sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would then control the product, processing, and distribution. You would get to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “Ah but, how long might this all take?”

To which the American replied, “around 15 – 20 years.”

The American laughed and said, “And here is the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions eh? Hmm well and then what?”

The American said, “Why then you would retire! Move to a pretty seashore coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

Turning to Scripture

Here are two stories, one from the start of Jesus ministry and once after the Crucifixion. Their similarity and repetition embodies the resonance of the Jewish story telling traditions. Fishermen fish at night as the time for the best chance of catching fish, these people who had fished all their lives, who lived at the lake’s edge knew in their bones how to fish. A stranger tells them to do something against all their instincts. For some reason they do listen.

https://www.thework-fso.org/faith-and-life/the-miraculous-catch-of-fish-and-the-calling-of-peter-acting-in-faith-1#:~:text=The%20evangelist%20tells%20us%20the,5%3A4b%2D5a).

We read two accounts of Jesus helping his disciples to catch fish – from Luke 5 and John 21. Nigel shared that the Greek word used for the fire in John’s account denotes a specific type of fire – a charcoal fire, which would have given off a very particular scent. It is used in only one other place in the Gospel, that is, for the fire where Peter warmed his hands on the night he denied knowing Jesus.

Ain’t no fish

We wandered around the park with the words of those stories and all we had shared before returning for a communion of bread, grilled fish and wine. Finally we looked at images from the book Of Kells where fish interweve words…

Book of Kells

The imagery of fishes woven through the text… scholars have argued over the meaning of fish as Christian symbolism. Perhaps we look for meaning where there is none, fish were an everyday thing in Palestine and in Iona, they were visible in the waters, they were food. They are colourful like flowers and leaves, and weave through reeds and seaweed, as they weave through the words. The were used to hide mistakes, or to act as hypens. As Sarah said, sometimes thre is no greater meaning to things – sometimes it’s ‘just life’ and we don’t need to try to make sense of everything! Much to mull over – a good time together!

Jesus the man, ordinary and extraordinary.

We met surrounded by puddles after the recent floods in the park, but this morning the sun was shining and there were treated to glorious autumn colours all around.

Jesus the ordinary

I started the think about what Jesus’s life would have been like growing up the son of a carpenter in Nazareth after we discussed Jesus / Christ as part of looking again at our values a few weeks ago.

We know of his very early years as a refugee in Egypt fleeing the powers that be. A reminder of those in Gaza wanting the border with Egypt to be opened right now.

Jesus would have received an education from 5 years old when boys and girls were given a basic scriptural grounding.

At the age of 10 boys were given a grounding in how to live as a good citizen in Jewish society, learning the Oral Torah which gave them direction, guidance, teaching and knowledge of the Law.

By 13 boys typically started learning a trade as an apprentice. By this age they had learned to fulfil the commandments.

However for those who were extraordinary study could be continued. Those who were gifted and dedicated would study at the bet midrash (house of study) which was a rabbis’ school.

Adults from the age of 15 could study here and both men and women could come along to these sessions and listen in to what was taught and discussed. People could also come and learn without becoming Rabbis and would be called disciples even into their old age.

  • I had a few of my own thoughts at this stage. Was it here that Jesus impressed the adults in his knowledge and understanding when his parents lost him as a child?
  • Was it here where Mary studied at the feet of Jesus while Martha bustled at home?
  • Was it here Jesus first came across his disciples before he recruited them?

Those who were exceptional students and who studied hard enough and dedicating years to training could become rabbinic teachers themselves.

Although marriage was strongly encouraged in men at around 20 there were those so dedicated to their studies that they delayed marriage to give their full attention to their education. Those who continued their studies until the age of 30 had the authority to teach others.

So we can conclude that up the age of 30 when Jesus began the ministry we read about in the gospels that he led the life of an ordinary but exceptional student.

Even among those who continued to study there were Rabbis and RABBIS. The later taught with authority. In Matthew 7:28 we read following the Sermon on the Mount:

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowd were amazed at his teaching because he taught as one who had authority and not as their teachers of the law.”

The three years of ministry marked Jesus out as extraordinary, he worked miracles, was a brilliant storyteller, he taught with authority and often challenged the religious leaders of the day. So extraordinary were those three years that his story and teachings have lasted 2,000 years and founded a world religion.

Poverty or Riches?

So how would Jesus provide for himself and his disciples? Women often supported their men whilst they taught or studied. Women helped run the family farm or manage a business, giving the husband time to study. (Think of Proverbs 31, where the wife ran the business, and the husband “sat in the gate” – either in government affairs or in intellectual discussions.) Proverbs, of course, is from an earlier time, but the same thing was true in later Judaism – in pious families, the wife often would earn the money so that the man could spend his time in religious study. Extended families would also support a brother or son who was engaged in study too.

Often disciples would travel together with a rabbi, and they would take weeks away to go on a teaching trip. A disciple had to ask his wife’s permission to be away from home to study longer than 30 days. When they travelled, rabbis and disciples would pool their money to buy food, etc. Jesus received contributions from wealthy women, and they were known for supporting other rabbis too. When they travelled, the villages they taught in were expected to extend hospitality, giving them food and shelter.

Prayers
And so we come to Israel, Palestine and Gaza, and focus on what is happening.
Pray for those in power in Israel, in the Gaza strip and those trying to broker peace that they will be influenced by the words of Jesus.
Jesus said love your enemies …
Jesus lived in a land occupied by the Romans, and he taught that we should pray for those who persecute and oppress us.
He commended peace makers, reconcilers, generosity, forgiveness, comforters and those who were merciful. …
Pray for those who have lost loved ones, homes and their community, may your spirit bring comfort and an urge to reconcile not revenge. …
We pray for Christians living in the area to be salt and light and not suffer persecution for their beliefs and actions….
Heavenly Father, we remind ourselves of the miracles Jesus performed and we ask something of you that seems impossible. ,,,
We ask for Peace with Justice. Shalom
Amen

Some Thoughts on Sharing Bread and Wine

At the most basic level, bread and wine sustained the life of God’s people. Both were staples of Israel’s diet — bread because of the simplicity and reliability of grain, and wine because water could be so scarce and contaminated in the ancient Near East.

For that reason, bread and wine were also valuable gifts of friendship and hospitality.

A bit of musing – I wondered if Jesus had lived in different cultures whether he would have used tea and rice (China) tea and poppadum (Indian subcontinent) coffee and potato or here in Britain bread and watered down beer?

In Judaism, however bread and wine are often used as symbols of important concepts. For example, bread may be seen as a symbol of the basic sustenance that God provides, while wine may represent the joy and abundance that come from following God’s laws.

As Christians we see use bread and wine to remember what Jesus has done for us.

A symbol of the promise of the coming feast in the new heaven and renewed earth.

When Jesus took up the bread and the cup of the Last Supper, he was handling objects thick with associations from Israel’s past. Bread and wine appear regularly, together and apart, throughout the Old Testament and Jesus’s own ministry. Here was bread long baked, and wine well aged.

Why did Jesus use bread and wine at the last supper?

I wonder if Jesus used these basic common foods not just because they were thick with symbolism to Jewish culture, but because he was poor and he knew those who followed him would be able to obtain these basic food stuffs in remembrance of him whatever their circumstances. Jesus stood with the poor and needy.

As a symbol of standing with those doing without today we are taking bread and water not bread and wine. We stand with the poor as Jesus did.

Bread and Wine
Life sustainer, healer, forgiver, reconciler, gift giver, covenant maker, Jesus is Israel’s God made flesh. Sharer of  bread


Miracle worker, carpenter, itinerant teacher, story teller, wine blesser.
 

Simple meal at Holly House

This new season of ThirdSpace we have decided that alternate meals together should be truly simple meals with donations for a charity chosen by someone different each time. We shared soup, bread, cheese and water with Mary’s Meals the designated recipient of our privilege.

We began our meal reading the following words:

Psalm 41:1  says:

Dignify those who are down on their luck;
    you’ll feel good—that’s what God does.

Luke 14:12-14 says:

12-14 Then Jesus turned to the host. “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbours, the kind of people who will return the favour. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favour, but the favour will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.”

We are called to advocacy. We all know that there is a highly uneven distribution of opportunity and resources.

Proverbs 14:20 says:

The poor are shunned even by their neighbours,
    but the rich have many friends.

Being born into privilege automatically brings friends and connections with people who have power or influence, who can advocate for us or offer advice.

We acknowledge that we are called to make a measurable difference in the lives of the poor, leveraging our privilege to meet individual needs and empower people towards self-sufficiency as well as challenging unjust systems and structures that disadvantage certain groups.

What privileges do I enjoy? What opportunities and resources have been made available to me in the course of my life?

Pause…

Lord show us how we should use our privileges for the sake of others.

(influenced by Jill Weber – Lectio 365)

Mary’s Meals was founded in 2002 when Magnus McFarlane Barrow visited Malawi during a famine and met a mother dying from AIDS. When Magnus asked her eldest son Edward what his dreams were in life, he replied simply: “I want to have enough food to eat and to go to school one day.

Magnus realised that by providing a meal a day in a place of education, several problems were solved at once: Children could attend school and become literate as parents would not need them to beg or work in order to be fed, children who attended school would be able to concentrate through lack of hunger and attend more regularly due to better health and strength, local peasant farmers could thrive by being the ones that Mary’s Meals bought staple food from and a generation of children would have a better chance to raise themselves and even their country out of poverty…   Mary’s Meals began in Malawi, feeding 200 children.

The charity is named in honour of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who brought up her own child in poverty.

By 2010, eight years later, 400,000 children were receiving Mary’s meal in a place of education every day. In 2015 one million children were being fed each day. By 2021 the numbers exceeded 2 million.

Today, 2,538,918 hungry children are fed by Mary’s Meals every school day across 18 countries. Impressively, for ANY charity, 93.8% of donations are spent on their charitable activities.

It costs just £19.15 to feed a child for a whole year.

Between us, we will invite at least two children to our table tonight – and for the next year. I will round up whatever contributions there are this evening.

For those interested, the brilliant book ‘The Shed that fed a million children’ has been updated. And the moving ‘Child 31’ film is still available on Youtube in its shortened 30-minute form.

Let us give thanks for the privileges we enjoy and the call to give to those who do not have these things. Let us give thanks and pray for the continuing work of Mary’s Meals, and let us give thanks for this food and each other. Amen.

It was a very good evening together, as always, and we are glad that 3 more children will be fed in a place of education in the coming year from our table, as it were.