Tuesday, 28 February 2012

lectionary leanings: 'who' and 'what'?

Ps 22: 23-31; Mark 8: 31-38

Several juicy themes to wander down for this coming 2nd Sunday of Lent, but the one that pulls most strongly is identity.  So, some identity meanderings...

But first, that pic from the previous post once more:

The verses just before our gospel passage for this upcoming Sunday see Jesus asking the disciples a series of related questions:
'who do people say I am?'
'who do you say I am?'
this, followed by Peter blurting out 'you are the Messiah'

It is only having sifted through the various lenses of identity perception with the disciples, that Jesus can then move from the 'who' to the 'what' - both identity and action marrying together: this is who I am, and therefore, this is what will happen to me.
And after Jesus has stated what will happen - his suffering, his rejection, his death, his rising from death - Peter appears to have a meltdown moment, and rebukes him.
In the Markan text, we are not told exactly what it is that Peter is rebuking - but the Matthean parallel notes that Peter says 'God forbid! That shall never happen to you!'
And in turn, Jesus rebukes Peter.
Peter, although having stated who Jesus is, still misses the point.
He gets the 'who' but not the 'what' of Jesus.

And then we move to more about identity: in a sense, this is our 'who do we say Jesus is?' bit.
And those who identify as his followers will have the 'what' of:  denial, taking up of a cross, following, loss and yet gain, of not being ashamed of being his people in the world.

And making use of the Psalm for this week, Ps 22: 23-31, perhaps helps fill in a little more with regard to who we follow, and whose we are... and how that shapes our actions, how we live our lives, what we do:

The psalmist opens by saying we should:
praise him, glorify him, stand in awe of him.
Why?
He does not despise those who suffer
he does not hide, he listens when we cry.
He feeds the poor,
he rules over nations...
countless generations will remember him.

Monday, 27 February 2012

what I really do...

There have been a number of variations on a theme over in 'spacehook' recently: a poster headed with a job description and then several pictures of what various folk think it is the person doing said job does.  While they've been fun, they were getting a little tired; that is, until the above was posted by friend Blair. 
I particularly liked the nod at Mark Driscoll.... :D

Monday, 13 February 2012

Gladstone's Library and dining rights, old chap...



Am back in one of my favourite working spaces: St Deniol's Library - tho' now known as Gladstone's Library [aka 'Hogwarts']. 
Time to get another thesis chunk written - am here for 12 days.
Sounds like serious business... 

Currently there appears to be some kind of canon law conference going on between some CofE and Catholic folk - all men, and all sounding very Oxbridge with conversation over dinner at one point about 'one really should exercise one's dining rights'. 
Ah, very different world....

Annnd back to the thesis!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

silence actually is golden...

A little incoherent rambling... it is late... but this is a small 'back to basics/ reminder to self' note.

Over at the Revgals blogsite on Monday, there was a book review featuring the title 'Help, thanks, wow' by Ann Lamott.
The book focuses upon the matter of prayer and, happily, takes less of a didactic 'follow these 87 steps to an effective prayer life' and more like a 'so, gang, what the heck are we doing and let's just keep it real, yeah?' approach.
Looks good, and I shall probably acquire it as a handy resource.

Lamott breaks [honest] attempts at prayer into three categories, as per the title of the book...help, thanks, and wow... essentially intercessions on behalf of self and others; thanksgiving for God's good gifts, answered prayer; wow - adoration.
It's a nice and simple approach to what is so often overly-complicated... although saying that... I'd mix it a little and add a couple more:
wow
oops [sorry, stuffed up]
thanks
help
aaaand...breathe [space for silence to listen for the still, small voice of God]

Whether 3, or 5, it's a handy in a nutshell essential guide to what we're basically doing when we pray.
It comes without the baggage of how often, how long, what time of day/night, or where.
Without the time-wasting displacement involved in making sure you pick just the right place, time, or even words.
Without the pointless guilt when you get these bits and pieces somehow 'wrong' or don't follow it in the 'correct' way.
Without that odd competitive spiritual testosterone that can give rise to nonsense conversations such as:
'so, I get up at 6.30am and pray in my bed for an hour before breakfast'
'6.30?  Man, that's late.  I get up at 4am, pray through until 7.30 - on my knees with hands raised to heaven, and spend time crafting specially chosen holy words.'
'Dude? Seriously? My day is just a total loss if I don't wake for prayer at 2am, and stand in a cross-shaped position through until breakfast at 8.  Often I choose to fast until lunch.'

Truly, I have heard conversations a little along those lines...scary biscuits.

What makes for effective prayer?
Bottom line?
That it is ... done.
It is so easy to get tangled up in the methodology and actually spend more time sorting that out, rather than actually just getting on with it.  Well, maybe that's just me....
I suspect it has at least got to be honest - which is what Lamott is trying to point out very gently.
The honest gasp of amazement at the beauty of God's creation, or the small, heartfelt sigh that acknowledges you hurt someone and that you are so utterly sorry for it is authentic prayer as much as long rambling discourses...sometimes, more so.  Although there are those times the long rambles are the way of processing and working through to that 'aha' moment of insight.
Prayer, boiled down, is as simple as breathing...and simultaneously the most profound activity we can do.
Point is: just do it.      

but I don't like it... thoughts on inclusive worship

Teasing out some thoughts once more with regard to matters of inclusivity/ inclusion with regard to worship - more as a 'note to self for future' post.

Can a congregation ever be fully inclusive?
Is a congregation ever completely 'of one mind' in all things?

I'm inclined to think 'no' and 'no' - sometimes not for lack of trying... and sometimes for lack of trying!

I am coming to the opinion that we hang a lot on 'being inclusive' and that we hang an even heavier load on one act of worship. 
We want worship to be:
vibrant and exciting;
a place of quiet contemplation;
filled with children and young people...
or rather that the ones we have were not quite so noisy thanks;
we want symbols - candles, stones, incense: a sensory feast;
we want simplicity and none of this cluttering up the place;
a solid teaching sermon;
a place to hear our shared faith stories;
we want to be entertained...
we want to be doing the entertaining;
we want to be up close and personal to God with us...
we prefer the awesome mystery of God transcendent;
we like the sense of gathering as a community and chatting with and seeing friends;
we'd rather be left to worship in peace, and don't share the peace with me thanks very much.

All this?
All this to try to pack into one hour of worship?
No.  I don't think so.
Let's liberate that one hour in a week consisting of 168,
in a month comprised of c.730,
in a year containing c. 8 766.
Let's shoot for a variety of ways over a period of time in which we gather together to give our focus to God.  And even then:
we want worship to be a consistent experience every time...
we like to mix it up a little.

Let's be a little kinder on ourselves as folk who conduct worship and as people who are led in worship...and recognise the parodox of inclusivity:
inclusivity is not 'one size fits all';
there is no magic formula.
The annoying thing about celebrating diversity is that annoyingly, everyone has different ways/ preferences when it comes to worship.
And maybe focus less on what we're 'getting out of worship' and instead on what we're putting into it? 
Dunno, maybe could work...

Saturday, 4 February 2012

lectionary leanings: Ordinary 5B - disintegration/ reintegration

A note re. 'lectionary leanings'...
Although I'm currently not  preaching regularly given PhD final year need to focus, I'm trying to maintain a discipline of looking up, and engaging with, the upcoming lectionary passages. This to keep me 'in the loop' as it were, but also as a way of reflecting on where I might go if I were preaching...
Thinking on this weeks gospel passage Mark 1: 29-39 -

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, 
and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up.
Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 
And the whole city was gathered around the door. 
And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. 
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 
And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, 
“Everyone is searching for you.” 
He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 
And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Some initial bits n bobs:
healing of Simon/Peter's mother in law:
illness - disintegration
healing means she is able to be reintegrated back

she immediately serves them - enabled to take up her role as providing hospitality and welcome

that evening 'they' brought all the sick and demon-possessed to the door and he cured many - not 'all'?

Jesus, first thing in the morning, goes off to a deserted space and prays...

restoration... to serve
the disciples find him and he states that they are to go to the neighbouring towns so he may proclaim the message... 'what I came to do'

Teasing out a little more:
Having looked at Working Preacher [great resource fellow ministry students], what I began to tease out a little was the idea of disintegration, restoration, and reintegration.

WP highlights Simon's mother in law along these lines, which I quite liked.  Moving with this a little further:
She's ill - in a sense there is a physical disintegration occurring here - she is restored, and then she serves - is reintegrated back into her familial role and enabled to be the provider of hospitality.

In turn, by being able to do so, she plays a part in the restoration of Jesus and the disciples - they are fed and watered and rested so that they too can serve... it prevents a possible 'disintegration' happening?

And so, the disciples bring all the sick, the demon-possessed to be healed - from disintegration, to restoration, to reintegration. [Interesting the text says 'many' not 'all' were healed]

For his own restoration - after giving of himself - Jesus goes off to a deserted place and prays...
before saying to the disciples it's time to go so he can continue with what he came to do.

So the passage could demonstrate a sort of ripple in the pond effect of moving from types of disintegration through to restoration and then reintegration... from a very localised context to a much broader one.
And that last ripple incorporating us as church in the present.