Monday, 26 October 2015

Psalm prayers: Psalm 3 meets Bartimaeus

On Sunday, we were exploring the meeting between Bartimaeus and Jesus on the outskirts of Jericho.
A few pages back in the Gospel of Mark, the disciples try to stop the children approaching Jesus. This time, as they leave the town of Jericho, the disciples and a large crowd try to shut down someone they believe should stay in darkness... Picking up on those themes, as I was reading Psalm 3 today...

A Psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom...
O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me; 
many are saying to me,
‘There is no help for you in God.’

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. 
I cry aloud to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy hill.

I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, for the Lord sustains me. 
I am not afraid of tens of thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around. 

Rise up, O Lord!
Deliver me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked. 

Deliverance belongs to the Lord;
may your blessing be on your people!

Bless the ones, O Lord, who are told 'no, he is not your God,'
the ones, like Bartimaeus, who sit at the side of the road
and who are told 'Shhhh!' by those who call themselves your followers.
But bless also the ones who are fearful that your grace is limited -
that there's not enough to share with all -
the ones who would deny that grace to others;
overcome fear with loving-kindness,
the desire for power with self-giving.
Teach us anew that there are different ways of seeing,
of being in the light;
and different ways of choosing darkness,
of remaining in the night.

Give strength to those whose heads are bent low from exclusion;
instil hope in hearts grown heavy with despair
in the face of a host of nay-sayers.
Sustain those grown weary from the doctrine wars,
and challenge those who would try to micro-manage
who you would allow into your kin-dom.
Shine light onto the pathways of peace and reconciliation -
that your love be shared with all,
that in your love, all are valued,
that through your love, all are delivered safely home to you -
for deliverance belongs to you, and no other.
Bless us and challenge us,
this day and always.  Amen

Friday, 23 October 2015

Picture prayers: Sieger Köder - Peter, Jesus, waves...

painting by Sieger Köder 
Sometimes, when there are no words, other ways of communicating can speak the more profoundly. The art work of Sieger Köder has often been that wordless well from which to drink in my own life. There's a deceptive simplicity to his paintings, but, I've found as I've sat awhile, reflecting on one or other of his works, that they both draw me in - deeper - and draw me out. Over the years, different paintings have provided a window through which to regain perspective, given a gentle reminder of where comfort and consolation can be found, or made me smile and be at peace. Father Köder's paintings have been a real gift, as well as helping me continually widen my understanding of how wide a word 'ministry' is; here, a ministry with brush, canvas, paint.

The painting here is very possibly my favourite of all Köder's art work. Peter has stepped out of the boat. 
How many steps before the initial enthusiasm that has propelled him above the water wears off, is replaced by a conscious 'oh my word, this can't be possible' thought, that sends him sinking below the waves? 
Stepping out in faith, he finds himself very quickly in over his head. 
The hand reaches up out of the water: 'save me'.
Another, stronger hand, reaches down into the water and does just that. 
In the background, the disciples look on.
Sometimes, I'm Peter.
Sometimes, I'm in the boat, looking on.

However, the times when I feel overwhelmed, sinking under, are the times when this particular painting wanders into my head. As I see it in my mind's-eye, I also notice that I'm somehow breathing again - and hear the thought, with a smile, that 'it's always good to breathe.' 
Echoing Ps 23: I find my soul restored. 
Sometimes, a picture prayer is worth a thousand words...

Friday, 9 October 2015

'A voice is heard in Ramah': a prayer

Helpless, near-speechless horror and again as I hear the news...
2 campus shootings on the same day.
The ever-present questions:
How many more?
How long until preventative action is taken
not repetitive excuses given?
And so, tired, and angry, and helpless prayer:

'A voice is heard in Ramah,
mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because her children are no more.' Jer, 31:15

How many more?
How many sacrificed on the altar of violence,
of obsessive fetishistic gun idolatry
that puts 'my right to carry'
before a child's right to live?
How many hopes and dreams,
how many cherished ones
will perish
on campuses,
in high schools,
in kindergartens
while the endless circle of debate
and statistical manipulations
and justifications
are trotted out once more?
Even one life is one too many.

How long?
What does it take to break
the cycle of violence
and hate?
But more so:
to break into an apathy
so inured into the psyche?
We are tired from weeping.
We are bent with grief
and sorrow and hopeless despair.

Teach us again
and again
and again
- until we get it -
of the preciousness of life;
to champion grace and kindness,
to seek your perfect love
that casts out every fear -
those fears that create a fortress mentality,
a neighbourhood arms-race in miniature.
Comfort the newest members
of a club not willingly joined:
the mothers, fathers,
sisters, brothers,
lovers, and friends
who mourn
and cry out
like Rachel.
in your mercy...
hear this prayer. Amen.

Of devilish breakfasts and good intentions

Late this afternoon I took time out to have a wee daunder up the
road to Small Country Toun [c.2 000] to catch up with a pal.
We settled into our usual seats in the pub, and the landlord
wandered across with some Rather Impressive Tomes.
Of the Improving Kind produced by stern Victorian gentlemen
of the Presbyterian persuasion.
'Given your trade, thought you might be interested in what I
rescued from the skip during the museum merger,' said the landlord.
[I take my 'minister being out and about in the community' role seriously -
friend of publicans, that's me. He and I have had guid blethers.]
One of the books contained some serious attempts at moral
improvement indeed. Two essays caught my eye...
In answer to that burning question we've always wanted to have answered...
Mind, the devil can have All Bran...I want Cornflakes or Fruit Loops.
*other brands are available*
...well, so they say - whoever 'they' are.
Look forward to wandering back in again to see what other rescued treasures the friendly 
landlord has found.