Tag Archives: Genesis

5 September: On looking inside the window.

For more than thirty years we have resisted hanging net curtains in the bay window of our front room. We all, from visiting grandchildren to the oldest inhabitant, like to look out and wave to our neighbours and friends. Only yesterday Melvyn told me he always looks in case I’m there to exchange waves. But the other day brought something different. We spotted this damselfly on a loosely woven blanket by the window. The colours did not make for a good photograph, but black and white enhanced it all, especially the veins of the wings.

I wonder if the creature came from our pond? We soon opened the window and gently sent her on her way to snap up a few mosquitoes. It was encouraging to see a big dragonfly this morning by the river, but too high for a photo unless we get a drone! We would almost certainly crash it into the trees if we did.

Are dragonflies or damselflies mentioned by name in the Bible? I fancy not, but just look at Genesis 1:22, almost an exact description! And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. That sounds like a dragonfly or damselfly to me, coming forth from the waters to fly above the earth in the open firmamnet of heaven. LAUDATO SI!

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30 August: The Train has come and I’m on my way

Northern Ireland Railways, July 1969.

Here is a recent sermon by Rev Jo Richards of Canterbury, from the texts: Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16. Luke 12:32-40. It makes for another reflection on life, death and what faith means.

Bill’s poem….

The Train has come and I’m on my way, 
I didn’t need a ticket 
And there was nothing to pay. 

My lass will be waiting, on that I am sure 
What a wonderful meeting 
With a future that will endure.

On Thursday I took a funeral of a local man; Bill and he wrote poems; he asked that The Last Poem, be read at his funeral, which was read in full just before the commendation: I have read to you with the family’s permission the opening verses.

I knew Bill, and in his writing, there is such a sense of moving from this mortal life to the next, that is eternal life. For Bill was assured of things hoped, for the conviction of things not seen. Bill had a deep Christian faith

Bill had a sense of the hope, of knowing that one day the train would stop, he would get on board and continue his onward journey to eternal life.

Abraham was also a man of deep faith and also on a journey. Here we have someone in his mid-seventies, who heard a call from God to up sticks with his barren wife Sarah and leave home. Obedient to God’s call they became nomads, setting off from Harran, which is in modern day Iraq, travelling through Syria, down to Egypt, and then up to the land of Canaan, which is in the present-day West Bank, in Palestine.

During this time, directed by God, Abraham gazes at the night sky trying in vain to imagine his descendants as numerous as the stars, whilst Sarah, his wife remains heartbreakingly barren.

I wonder what Abraham and Sarah must have been thinking; surely they must have had doubts along the way, of perhaps being cross with God, who has taken them out of what has been familiar and comfortable and sent them on this journey into the unknown, and then telling them they will have children, but despite this they had faith in what God said and set off and set off.

I want us to think for a moment what does our faith mean to us? Would we have done what Abraham and Sarah did?

Perhaps like Bill and Abraham we are on a journey of faith; assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen; but that is not always easy to describe when asked what your faith means to you.

Some might describe their faith in terms of creeds and as we do when we recite the creed; From a doctrinal or theological perspective. At baptism either the godparents or those who speak for themselves are asked about their faith and what they believe.

How do you describe your faith?

Faith is perhaps turning our heads and looking at the stars that sense of awe and wonder, that sense that there is something far greater than what we can see, feel or hear, yet we are still loved and cherished by God our creator.

Faith is perhaps that sense of knowing deep within ourselves knowing that we are not alone, that there is a greater presence of which we get glimpses of from time to time;

Faith is perhaps that longing for the eternal home – that place of peace, love and joy where there are no more suffering or tears. That place we call heaven, eternal life. That feeling of longing, and desire; for Abraham and Sarah their faith took them on a perilous journey, to take them where God was leading, not that they knew where they were going or how they would get there.

Faith is not a destination, more like a journey, and we often say we are all on a journey of faith, with each of us on a different point of that journey; some are just setting out whilst others more established but we can all sometimes be thrown off course, just as Peter was when he was walking on water. He took his eyes off Jesus and sank in the sea, but Jesus put his arm out and caught him.

But I am sure like Peter and doubting Thomas, our faith may have wobbled, and we may have had doubts. Thomas was with Jesus for three years and yet he doubted that he had been raised from the dead, which perhaps gives us permission to question or even doubt at times.

And perhaps when we do question or doubt then something might happen that reaffirms our faith; just this week I heard of how someone had their faith restored by an act of kindness; it is often the little things that we do or say that can have such a big impact on others. Time and time again we hear of people saying I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have my faith.

Perhaps the opposite of faith is not doubt, but apathy – of not being alert and awake, as our Gospel suggests, of staying put and not willing to journey forth; Faith in a way is a response to an invitation to a journey of adventure; it’s not blind faith. We nurture our faith through worship, scripture, talking to other people, praying and for those small what I call God moments – moments when we sense God’s promptings and act on them.

Twice in this week’s readings we hear the words do not be afraid, by nurturing our faith it gives us the strength to face things that may frighten us or make us anxious. We can draw on these moments of remembering that God is with us in the everyday stuff as well as the ups and downs of life. As did the servants in our gospel reading, who were faithful doing the everyday mundane things, and ended up as the master’s guests at the great celebration.

Faith is perhaps a knowledge of God and a deep rooted heart felt desire to want to know God better – to find out what God is doing and join in, just as Bill did, Abraham and Sarah did, and the master’s slaves did.

So, we venture forward on our journey of faith may we give thanks for what we have already experienced of God’s love for us and what is still to come…and give thanks for the gift of faith, as we reflect upon what our faith means to us.

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9 July: Against the destructive power.

Pope Francis embraces a child as he meets the disabled during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 13, 2016. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Here are a couple of paragraphs from Pope Francis’s Laudato si’, his teaching on the environment, and how we can care for it or destroy it. Humankind, he warns, has abandoned trust in God, in each other, and in the earth we inhabit. We need to acknowledge the harm we have done and continue to do, although we are much more aware of it than just a few years ago.

Sadly, the pandemic over, it seems people are scrambling to ‘get back to normal’ when our previous way of life was definitely not normal. It lacked respect: for God and his laws, which are the laws of true human living; for our neighbours, and for our mother earth and all that lives on her. But let’s read Francis’s own words. (The footnote links lead to the original document.)

66. The creation accounts in the book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality. They suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself. According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. This rupture is sin. The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. This in turn distorted our mandate to “have dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), to “till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). As a result, the originally harmonious relationship between human beings and nature became conflictual (cf. Gen 3:17-19). It is significant that the harmony which Saint Francis of Assisi experienced with all creatures was seen as a healing of that rupture. Saint Bonaventure held that, through universal reconciliation with every creature, Saint Francis in some way returned to the state of original innocence.[40] This is a far cry from our situation today, where sin is manifest in all its destructive power in wars, the various forms of violence and abuse, the abandonment of the most vulnerable, and attacks on nature.Ex 23:12). Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.

69. Together with our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly, we are called to recognize that other living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes: “by their mere existence they bless him and give him glory”,[41] and indeed, “the Lord rejoices in all his works” (Ps 104:31). By virtue of our unique dignity and our gift of intelligence, we are called to respect creation and its inherent laws, for “the Lord by wisdom founded the earth” (Prov 3:19). In our time, the Church does not simply state that other creatures are completely subordinated to the good of human beings, as if they have no worth in themselves and can be treated as we wish. The German bishops have taught that, where other creatures are concerned, “we can speak of the priority of being over that of being useful”.[42] The Catechism clearly and forcefully criticizes a distorted anthropocentrism: “Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection… Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things”.[43]

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28 September, Season of Creation XXIX: Respecting the rhythms; Laudato Si’ XIII.

Ploughing in Sussex

Pope Francis describes how God and Creation, creation and humanity, and humanity and God are all intimately connected, and a breakdown in one relationship jeopardises the other two. We humans, of course, also undermine what should be loving relationships with each other. Is there one good person on God’s Earth?

70. In the story of Cain and Abel, we see how envy led Cain to commit the ultimate injustice against his brother, which in turn ruptured the relationship between Cain and God, and between Cain and the earth from which he was banished. This is seen clearly in the dramatic exchange between God and Cain. God asks: “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain answers that he does not know, and God persists: “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground” (Genesis 4:9-11). Disregard for a proper relationship with my neighbour, for whose care and custody I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with others, with God and with the earth. When all these relationships are neglected, when justice no longer dwells in the land, the Bible tells us that life itself is endangered. We see this in the story of Noah, where God threatens to do away with humanity because of its constant failure to fulfil the requirements of justice and peace: “I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them” (Genesis 6:13). These ancient stories, bear witness to a conviction which we today share, that everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others.

71. Although “the wickedness of man was great in the earth” (Genesis 6:5) and the Lord “was sorry that he had made man on the earth” (Genesis 6:6), nonetheless, through Noah, who remained innocent and just, God decided to open a path of salvation. In this way he gave humanity the chance of a new beginning. All it takes is one good person to restore hope! The biblical tradition clearly shows that this renewal entails recovering and respecting the rhythms inscribed in nature by the hand of the Creator. We see this, for example, in the law of the Sabbath. On the seventh day, God rested from all his work. He commanded Israel to set aside each seventh day as a day of rest, a Sabbath, (cf. Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 16:23; 20:10). Similarly, every seven years, a sabbatical year was set aside for Israel, a complete rest for the land (cf. Leviticus 25:1-4), when sowing was forbidden and one reaped only what was necessary to live on and to feed one’s household (cf. Leviticus 25:4-6). Finally, after seven weeks of years, which is to say forty-nine years, the Jubilee was celebrated as a year of general forgiveness and “liberty throughout the land for all its inhabitants” (cf. Leviticus 25:10). This law came about as an attempt to ensure balance and fairness in their relationships with others and with the land on which they lived and worked. “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field to its very border, neither shall you gather the gleanings after the harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner” (Leviticus 19:9-10).

72. The Psalms frequently exhort us to praise God the Creator, “who spread out the earth on the waters, for his steadfast love endures for ever” (Psalm 136:6). They also invite other creatures to join us in this praise: “Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created” (Psalm 148:3-5). We do not only exist by God’s mighty power; we also live with him and beside him. This is why we adore him.

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5 May: Jacob and the Gate of Heaven, Gates XI

From God’s presence with Samuel Johnson in a dreadful storm to his presence in a ‘dreadful place’. Jacob called it Beth-el, the House-of-God, after the dream of the ladder, or staircase, between Heaven and Earth. William Blake has shown Jacob with arms outstretched, feet crossed, head to one side, reminiscent of the Crucified One, his descendant. So the Cross, our daily cross, is the Gate of Heaven, as shown in the weather vane of the former Holy Cross Church in Canterbury (now the Guildhall). Certainly the hill of Calvary was a dreadful place, but the opening of the Tomb completed its work and opened the Gate of Heaven.

The Cross is the Gate to Heaven

And when Jacob was come to a certain place, and would rest in it after sunset, he took of the stones that lay there, and putting under his head, slept in the same place. And he saw in his sleep a ladder standing upon the earth, and the top thereof touching heaven: the angels also of God ascending and descending by it;  And the Lord leaning upon the ladder, saying to him: I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac; the land, wherein thou sleepest, I will give to thee and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth: thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and IN THEE and thy seed all the tribes of the earth SHALL BE BLESSED. And I will be thy keeper whithersoever thou goest, and will bring thee back into this land: neither will I leave thee, till I shall have accomplished all that I have said.

And when Jacob awaked out of sleep, he said: Indeed the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not. And trembling he said: How terrible is this place! this is no other but the house of God, and the gate of heaven.

And Jacob, arising in the morning, took the stone, which he had laid under his head, and set it up for a title, pouring oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of the city Bethel, which before was called Luza. And he made a vow, saying: If God shall be with me, and shall keep me in the way by which I walk, and shall give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, And I shall return prosperously to my father’s house: the Lord shall be my God: And this stone, which I have set up for a title, shall be called the house of God: and of all things that thou shalt give to me, I will offer tithes to thee.

Genesis 28:10-22.

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27 April: Into endless spaces, Traherne XXXVII

Thomas Traherne invites us to live eternal life now through reading the Bible and regarding all of creation with all our faculties, including the imagination, a faculty, he would argue, of the soul.

The contemplation of Eternity maketh the Soul immortal. It can see before and after its existence into endless spaces. O what glorious creatures should we be could we be present in spirit with all Eternity! How wise, would we esteem this presence of the understanding, to be more real than that of our bodies! When my soul is in Eden with our first parents, I myself am there in a blessed manner. When I walk with Enoch*, and see his translation, I am transported with him.

The present age is too little to contain [my soul]. I can visit Noah in his ark, and swim upon the waters of the deluge. I can see Moses with his rod, and the children of Israel passing through the sea; I can enter into Aaron’s Tabernacle, and admire the mysteries of the holy place. I can travel over the Land of Canaan, and see it overflowing with milk and honey; I can visit Solomon in his glory, and go into his temple, and view the sitting of his servants, and admire the magnificence and glory of his kingdom.

No creature but one like unto the Holy Angels can see into all ages. Sure this power was not given in vain, but for some wonderful purpose; worthy of itself to enjoy and fathom. Would men consider what God hath done, they would be ravished in spirit with the glory of His doings. For Heaven and Earth are full of the majesty of His glory. And how happy would men be could they see and enjoy it! But above all these our Saviour’s cross is the throne of delights. That Centre of Eternity, that Tree of Life in the midst of the Paradise of God.

* Enoch ‘walked with God’ and was taken, or translated, into heaven and seen no more on earth, see Genesis 5:21-24.

+ Ark from Shrewsbury Cathedral, Margaret Rope. = The Tree of Life: Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge.

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17 February, Ash Wednesday: Just say no.

Adam and Eve, serpent centre stage. Dryburgh Abbey, Scotland.

Matthew 4:1-11, the Temptation of Jesus

In the war-against-drugs campaign, a popular slogan was used in commercials and billboards:
“Just say no.” That is precisely the lesson the gospel reading today urges upon us.
With each temptation the devil proposes, Jesus says no. What is suggested to us in this passage
from Matthew is that we have the power to keep a lot of trouble out of our lives by the use of a very
simple word.
However, many of us tend to discount the power we have to resist temptation. We prefer to believe
we are “victims” of circumstances, genetics, upbringing, or hormones. When we find ourselves
beset with problems, we look for someone or something else to blame, like Adam and Eve in Genesis
claiming, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate” – like saying “the devil made me do it”.
The reason we don’t like to face our power to say no is that if we can say no, then saying yes is an
admission of guilt. And not many of us like to admit that.
The lesson we learn in today’s readings is not that there is serious temptation awaiting us in the
world; we already know that. It is not, as Paul reminds us, that sin has serious consequences for
ourselves and others; we already have experience of that.
What we are hearing is a reminder that we are responsible for most of what goes on in our lives,
and we can say no – to our bad habits, our laziness, our inclination to lay blame on others for our
failings, our small-mindedness, our waste of time and energy in fruitless worry, our impulse to bring others
down.
We humans can be as resistant and stubborn as we want to be. We can say no to anything we want,
and stick to it. Think about it! We have the power; we use it all the time with things we don’t like.
The devil in today’s gospel displayed seductiveness by trying to get Jesus to consider values that
were not in his best interests, but the greatest seduction of all is to make us believe that we are
powerless over temptation, victimised by our weakness and failings.
It is the ultimate deceit. Effective adult living will always require that we refrain from making
excuses and blaming others and take full responsibility for what goes on in our lives.
We are what we are, and face what we face today because of the decisions we made yesterday.
Tomorrow will be what it will because of decisions we make today. All because of a simple yes or
no.
Lent has traditionally been a season of penance and self-denial. We mustn’t deny ourselves some
good, but something bad – something that is preventing us from being the best we can be,
something that is putting our spiritual growth on hold.
It will come as a pleasant surprise how much freedom awaits us and how more productive life
becomes when we learn to “just say no”.

Chris Shorrock, OFM Conv

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23 January: Week of Prayer for Church Unity, Day VI, Welcoming Others.

Strasbourg Cathedral

“Go and bear fruit, fruit that will last” John 15:16

Genesis 18:1-5 Abraham hosts the angels at the Oak of Mamre

Mark 6:30-44 Jesus’ compassion for the crowds

Meditation

When we let ourselves be transformed by Christ, his love in us grows and bears fruit. Welcoming the other is a concrete way of sharing the love that is within us. Throughout his life, Jesus welcomed those he met. He listened to them and let himself be touched by them without being afraid of their suffering.

In the gospel account of the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus is moved with compassion after seeing the hungry crowd. He knows that the entire human person must be nourished, and that he alone can truly satisfy the hunger for bread and the thirst for life. But he does not wish to do this without his disciples, without that little something they can give him: five loaves and two fish.

Even today he draws us to be co-workers in his unconditional care. Sometimes something as small as a kind look, an open ear, or our presence is enough to make a person feel welcome. When we offer our poor abilities to Jesus, he uses them in a surprising way. We then experience what Abraham did, for it is by giving that we receive, and when we welcome others, we are blessed in abundance.

“It is Christ himself whom we receive in a guest.”

[The rule of Taizé in French and English (2012) p. 103]

“Will the people we welcome day after day find in us men and women radiant with Christ, our peace?”

[The Sources of Taizé (2000) p. 60]

Prayer

Jesus Christ, we desire to welcome fully
 the brothers and sisters who are with us. 
You know how often we feel helpless in the face of their suffering, 
yet you are always there ahead of us 
and you have already received them in your compassion. 
Speak to them through our words, 
support them through our actions, 
and let your blessing rest on us all.

Questions

  • When you meet new people do they find you “radiant with Christ”?
  • As we pray together for greater unity how are we showing Christ’s welcome to other Christians?
  • What are people hungry for in your community?

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18 March, Desert XXI: travelling with Pope Francis 2: I want it all and I want it now!

Buy, buy, buy!

Continuing Pope Francis’s 2019 Lenten Message

2. The destructive power of sin

When we fail to live as children of God, we often behave in a destructive way towards our neighbours and other creatures – and ourselves as well – since we begin to think more or less consciously that we can use them as we will. Intemperance then takes the upper hand: we start to live a life that exceeds those limits imposed by our human condition and nature itself. We yield to those untrammelled desires that the Book of Wisdom sees as typical of the ungodly, those who act without thought for God or hope for the future (2:1-11).

Unless we tend constantly towards Easter, towards the horizon of the Resurrection, the mentality expressed in the slogans “I want it all and I want it now!” and “Too much is never enough”, gains the upper hand.

The root of all evil, as we know, is sin, which from its first appearance has disrupted our communion with God, with others and with creation itself, to which we are linked in a particular way by our body.

This rupture of communion with God likewise undermines our harmonious relationship with the environment in which we are called to live, so that the garden has become a wilderness (Genesis3:17-18). Sin leads man to consider himself the god of creation, to see himself as its absolute master and to use it, not for the purpose willed by the Creator but for his own interests, to the detriment of other creatures.

Once God’s law, the law of love, is forsaken, then the law of the strong over the weak takes over. It leads to the exploitation of creation, both persons and the environment, due to that insatiable covetousness which sees every desire as a right and sooner or later destroys all those in its grip.

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16 January: Thomas Traherne XXV, a little Heaven in the creatures.

earthnasa

Entering thus far into the nature of the sun, we may see a little Heaven in the creatures.

Were all the earth filthy mires, or devouring quicksands, firm land would be an unspeakable treasure. Were it all beaten gold it would be of no value. It is a treasure therefore of far greater value to a noble spirit than if the globe of the earth were all gold. A noble spirit being only that which can survey it all, and comprehend its uses.

The air is better being a living miracle as it now is than if it were crammed and filled with crowns and sceptres. The mountains are better than solid diamonds, and those things which scarcity maketh jewels (when you enjoy these) are yours in their places. Why should you not render thanks to God for them all?

You are the Adam or the Eve that enjoy them. Why should you not exult and triumph in His love who hath done so great things for you? Why should you not rejoice and sing His praises? Learn Adam&Eve (391x640)to enjoy what you have first, and covet more if you can afterwards.

Meditations 2:12

Adam and Eve had been given all that was in the garden, except that they might not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, covetable though it was.

How long does the pleasure last when we get hold of the riches or other things we desire? 

We like the idea of the living air, so we’ll return to Thomas Traherne, since his reflections challenge as well as please us; apologies that we left it so long since last time.

Will T

Images: NASA; stone at Dryburgh Abbey, Scottish Borders, MMB.

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