Of rocks and stones and rain and water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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