Tag Archives: prayer

17 November: The King, 1.

 

At the end of the Church’s year we celebrate Christ’s Kingship, and the Gospel reading is either of the last Judgement or the Passion: Luke’s account of the crucifixion or John’s report of the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate, which Sister Johanna will be talking about this week. A challenging reading, as she states from the start.

Introduction

Toward the end of the Gospel of John, Jesus undergoes a question and answer session with Pontius Pilate that ends with Pilate sentencing Jesus to death (see John 18:1 – 19:30). I must confess that I tend to read this dialogue too quickly because it is always painful. But, I recently read John’s account of the Pilate-Jesus dialogue again, this time more slowly and more prayerfully. I found that the text opened up and some new realisations occurred to me.

I would like to share my findings with you in this week’s posts.

  1. Power

In the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate in John’s gospel, an impasse is quickly reached around the central theme of power. Problems around the theme of power were nothing new to Jesus; they had been rumbling along beside nearly every experience of Jesus’ life and they were addressed in many of his teachings. Yet few – if any – of Jesus’ followers were able to grasp Jesus’ teaching on power and powerlessness. Perhaps we cannot blame them; Jesus asks us to absorb a profound paradox here. He would have us lose our life to find it, be great by being truly small, be powerful by being the most powerless servant of all. This seems to go against our instincts, which lead us to seek self-preservation through control and dominance, even if over only a few people. The apostles themselves were forever getting this wrong, arguing often about who was the greatest. To detail the way the theme of power is present in Jesus’ whole life and in his teachings goes far beyond the scope of these posts, but in looking closely at how the two personalities of Jesus and Pontius Pilate are revealed in their dialogue in John’s gospel, I found that one thread in this complex weave-structure can be examined. As we approach the Solemnity of Christ the King next Sunday, I hope these reflections will shed light on the true power of Jesus, our King.

Pontius Pilate is a well-known name to readers of the New Testament, but as a historical figure little is known about him. What is known is very telling, however. He was the Roman Procurator in Judea from about the year 26 to 36. The Procurator’s job combined several offices: governor, judge, tax collector, and commander of a band of soldiers that functioned a bit like a police force. A lot of power was concentrated in the Procurator. Yet, for this reason, the job was an awkward one.

The Procurator was caught in the middle. He needed to garner support from the Jews in order to please his own authorities in the Roman government. At the same time, he needed to be seen to stand for the official line in order to further his own career – a factor that made it more difficult to please the Jewish community in the area he governed. There is historical evidence that he clashed with both sides and pleased no one. Finally, around the year 36, he was deposed as Procurator of Judea and recalled to Rome.

It is tempting to feel a bit sorry for Pilate in the situation that developed with Jesus and the Jews, and to see him as the harassed middle-man caught in a strange and violent drama that he neither caused nor fully understood. There is certainly an element of that in the story. And perhaps Jesus, too, gave him the benefit of that doubt. But we are looking at something much more profound here. We will begin our exploration tomorrow.

SJC.

Not the sort of King that Pilate expected: Shrine of St Thomas, Canterbury.

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15 November: Light on the Christian Way.

Luminaries: Rowan Williams (author)

Luminaries: twenty lives that illuminate the Christian way.

by Rowan Williams

Published by SPCK 2, London 2019

ISBN 10: 0281082952

A review.

 

 

How do you choose just twenty shining saints for a little book like this? Dr Williams offers us four of his predecessors as Archbishop of Canterbury – Augustine, Anselm, Cranmer and Michael Ramsey – in this selection of sermons and other extracts.

Williams is especially compassionate regarding his first predecessor, the reluctant and blundering Augustine in whom fear and humility grind together painfully. He never wanted to come to Kent, he tried to turn back; he was ‘almost endearingly nervous and  anxious’ (p23), but he stuck at it and made a difference. 

Doctor Williams himself is remembered in Canterbury with great affection too: ad multos annos!

An interesting juxtaposition occurs because the subjects are listed in chronological order, William Tyndale, whom we met yesterday, rubs shoulders with Saint Teresa of Avila. a man and a woman from very different backgrounds, both determined to bring about church reform.

it is possible to draw out similarities between them. Here is Tyndale: ‘Look, what thou owest to Christ, that thou owest to thy neighbour’s need. To thy neighbour owest thou thy heart, thyself and al that thou hast and canst do. The love that springest out of Christ, excludeth  no man, neither putteth difference between one and another.’ (p56-57)

Teresa was conscious that her Jewish ancestry put a difference between her and some others, but in the convent where she lived there were differences between sisters due to wealth and social standing of their families. This made her more and more uneasy: it was not true community life! True community life excluded no woman, but was based on friendship in shared poverty, which allowed Jesus to be present in friendship with each one. Friendship with Jesus is a big claim, but that friendship is to be cultivated in prayer; and Williams sketches out Teresa’s experience of the prayer of friendship with Jesus. A chapter to read and re-read.

Every subject is interesting and human, so the whole book is to be read and re-read. And since it is that time of year, a book to buy for a friend, since it may be some time before you get it back if you lend it out. Not that it will be gathering dust and forgotten: it will be read and re-read.

 

 

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8 November: Praying with Pope Francis: Dialogue and Reconciliation

flat.pebbles

Pope Francis’s Missionary Intention this month is:

Let us pray that a spirit of dialogue, encounter, and reconciliation may emerge in the Middle East, where diverse religious communities share their lives together.

What can I do with these stones? I could throw them at anyone who got too close to me or my possessions or my part of the beach.

I could use them to make a pathway in my garden, or across country for people to walk over. I could use them as filler in a drystone or concrete wall, providing shelter for people or beasts.

I could go down to the tideline and start a game of ducks and drakes, skimming them across the surface of the sea, splashing over the waves. People would hardly need an invitation to join in, the game is infectious. Like football (soccer) on a smaller scale. Every nation wants to be involved in the football World Cup even if they can barely hope to win one game.

Playing games, playing music, sharing meals together can help bring about a spirit of dialogue, encounter and reconciliation as much as high level talks between politicians who barely trust one another.

But even sport can be tainted by spectators’ hatred and racist abuse, when they could be admiring the beauty of the players’ skills, sharing the thrills of the game.

Is there room for God’s Spirit somewhere in there?

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7 November: Threading a yarn.

See the source image

 

As part of their Week of Retreat in Daily Life the L’Arche Kent Community asked me to  read a Hans Christian Andersen story: I chose the Darning Needle which you can read by following the link. It’s a story with a few morals to it which we talked about afterwards, including the dangers of pride and the fact that we all need each other.

We also talked about darning and mending rather than throwing away. I had with me a coat that was coming apart at the seams. G and E suggested in Makaton that I could sew it, which I did when the story was told, but the needle had been threaded and passed around during the telling. J showed his tailoring skills and awoke a memory, which I shared, of my mother doing as he did, measuring the working length of thread from nose to extended fingertips.

G suggested using a machine, which led to my telling about my wife’s machine – hand turned, not treadle as he signed. This had been given to her 40 years ago from the community’s surplus. It had belonged to a friend of L’Arche in those early days, who was glad to see it in a good home. She could never use it; it was all that remained of her own home, which was destroyed in the Blitz, her family within it.

When I got home I realised another story could have been told. The yarn J threaded was branded ‘winfield’ – in lower case. It had come from Woolworth’s, via my wife’s mother’s mending basket, purchased perhaps in the 1970s. But thereby would hang yet another tale.

No man, or woman, is an island!

 

 

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November 2: Solitude

sjc. solitude hanging

The room is still but for the ticking clock
and like a snowfall stillness settles round,
and in come presences that needn’t knock,
familiar, homing souls, without a sound.

It isn’t always so – so calm, so quiet,
but now the gentle spirits take their ease
as afternoon melts into shadowed night
and birds seek shelter in the darkening trees.

As night advances, sky turns indigo
and slate-grey clouds in bundles fill the east.
I watch. I seem alone, but I’m with you –
my brothers, sisters summoned to the feast.

In solitude I know that we are one.
In solitude I hear the bridegroom come.

SJC

Definitely a poem for All Saints’ Tide. Thank you Sister Johanna! 

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October 28, Month of Mission: the Humble Godparent

baptist.zako (480x640)

Actually, I’m also a proud godparent: proud to be sked, humble that I’m trusted with an unglamorous task. In the past week or so I’ve seen or heard from three of my godchildren, so I asked myself, what is the mission of the godparent? It’s one may of us undertake, usually out of friendship with a child’s parents.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:

1253 Baptism is the sacrament of faith, but faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. When the catechumen or the godparent is asked: “What do you ask of God’s Church?” the response is: “Faith!”

somers.town. holy spirit

1255 For the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents’ help is important. So too is the role of the godfather and godmother, who must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized – child or adult – on the road of Christian life. Their task is a truly ecclesial function. The whole ecclesial community bears some responsibility for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at Baptism.

Most of the time I see very little of these young people whose families have moved away from Kent, so I can do nothing much from week to week, or even month to month, except remember their names in my prayers. It’s not for me to tell the Lord what they need in detail, but to raise them up to him, into his care.

Am I to regret that one godson is working part-time developing skincare products? Not when he is doing so, rather than ‘using’ his degree, so that he can share the care of his ailing mother. And after hearing from him, I was able to tell our parish priest who was this person, unknown to him, who is still remembered on our sick list; still part of our ‘ecclesial community’.

Do I miss the god-daughter who is too embarrassed to get in touch, after a broken promise? Of course, but perhaps she’ll believe her brother when he tells her I’d like to see her.

Was I glad to see my other two god-daughters, looking well, and playing nicely with young Abel? Need I ask?

But it’s not about me, except that I must be a firm believer (challenge No 1) able (challenge No 2) and ready (challenge No 3) to help on the road of Christian life.

Let’s ray for all godparents that we may perceive where our help is needed; may we remember our young protegés in our thoughts and prayers.

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27 October, Month of Mission: Prayer of Blessing.

hands pray dove.JPG

My catechism told me that: ‘prayer is the raising of the heart and mind to God.’ Short and sweet, but insufficient. This prayer from USPG, the Anglican missionary society, shows that we should raise all our being and the whole of creation to God – and let our prayer work within us to discern and carry out our mission of forgiveness and healing to all people, all creation. And as Saint Paul tells us, it is the Spirit that prays in us.

Blessed be God in the joy of creation.
Blessed be God in the sending of Jesus.
Blessed be God in the work of the Spirit.
Blessed be God in martyr and saint.
Blessed be God in the spread of the gospel
to every race
and every land.
Blessed be God in the church of our day
in its preaching and witness
and its treasures of grace.
Blessed be God who has called us to mission
who forgives and who heals
and is strength in our weakness.
USPG

Carving from Saint David’s Cathedral, Pembroke.

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October 23. Month of Mission: Thoughts from my cell.

Another example of Mission is the Irish Chaplaincy. Here Eddie shares some thoughts on the prison ministry side of that work. Enough to read his article to know how important it is.

I awoke in my cell having had an interesting dream in which I was in a kind of social club with my guitar (the one mentioned in the last blog) playing ‘Country roads’ with lots of people singing along.

                 

It’s one of the songs I’d sung at a prison event a couple of days before, after one of the guys said he liked American country songs and sang a couple himself. He had a really good voice and wasn’t at all shy. None of the others, though, seemed too interested in singing and were happy to sit and chat with one another and with those of us from the Irish Chaplaincy, away from their cells for a blessed couple of hours.

I should explain that the cell I was in was at a monastery where I go regularly to spend 24 hours in silence, and I was particularly curious on that occasion why the monastic tradition gives the same name to the room of the monk as that used in prisons for the place of confinement. It was an interesting link to our Traveller event at Wormwood Scrubs, so too the dream.

Our event at Scrubs was surprisingly relaxed, especially considering that it was one of the hottest days of the year, when the tiny, airless cells must be like infernos. We were in the multi-faith room, with doors wide open (exceptionally) and fans whirring, and the space was laid out café style, with tables and easy chairs. There was a lot of pleasant conversation, a little bit of singing (not too much, and that was fine). And then there was the food: a feast of bacon and cabbage and potatoes, with lots left over for the guys to take back to their mates who hadn’t been able to attend (or to eat again themselves in their cells!). And after the meal there was chocolate and other treats that Breda and Ellena had brought. Several of the prisons staff came along, for they also enjoy and value our events, and it’s probably a bit of light relief for them too from the major challenges in running a prison today. Sarah the governor was there, with several of her senior staff, plus Zahid the head of Chaplaincy and Fr. Chima the RC chaplain. They’re all good people doing a good job, and I was a little sad to read in the news the following day that Wormwood Scrubs is on a list of 16 prisons judged by the MOJ to be of ‘serious concern’ (the Irish Chaplaincy has a presence in a few of those on the list). Years of under-investment and over-crowding have taken their toll; and when availability to drugs is thrown into the mix and prisoners locked in their cells for large parts of the day then there are some very dangerous and volatile situations created.

Following the food there was a group photo outside with everybody in great spirits, and then there was time to help people with a questionnaire about our ‘Travelling Forward Resettlement Project’. I was struck that in answer to the question about previous education most of the guys ticked ‘1’ (the lowest score), whilst for the questions about interest in training and in being helped to get a post-release job most ticked ‘5’ (the highest). And the majority of the guys needed somebody to write down the answers for them.

I don’t know what these men have done to end up in prison, and I don’t need to know. I simply enjoy the time with them; to share a meal together and a bit of craic. And they’re so appreciative of these events. For Travellers (people who are used to moving around and being out of doors) being confined to a small cell for prolonged periods must be a particular hardship.

As time was called on the gathering (the two hours having flown by) there were multiple handshakes and ‘thank you’ was said repeatedly. And then it was back to the cell. In my monastic cell, from which I could hear the gentle sound of rain through the open window and look out at the woods surrounding the monastery (and from which I could leave whenever I wished), I thought of those guys.

Eddie Gilmore

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21 October: Mandela and Mission

File:Nelson Mandela (cropped).jpg

Reflections on the Legacy of Nelson Mandela  by Rhine Phillip Tsobotsi Koloti, the Anglican Students Federation’s Gender, Education and Transformation officer in South Africa.

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”.

I leave this quote as unknown because the origin of this thought is highly contested, nonetheless it is often received positively as a general principle for alleviating poverty by facilitating self-sufficiency instead of instant dependency. However, I wish to add a line to this adage, a line that will best reflect the situation in South Africa post-1994: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime, but remember to remove the ‘No fishing’ signs!”

In Mandela’s country, my country, economic bondage and poverty are maintained by structural injustices which prevent the poor from achieving economic freedom. Apartheid ideology is indeed over but the legacy thereof remains in institutional racism and ‘no fishing’ signs. Thus we plead for prayers that will guide our leaders to see the need to remove those signs so that Mandela’s totality of freedom will be achieved.

Loving God, we give you thanks for the life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
May we be inspired by his never-ending struggle for justice, peace and reconciliation in the face of unimaginable suffering; and may we continue in the quest to bring the hallmarks of heaven to earth. Amen.

Source: USPG

Picture from Wikipedia

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20 October: Sustainable development.

COFFEE - a young coffee plant in Maray - Peru - banner

Planting out a young coffee bush in Peru.

Another story from USPG, demonstrating once again that we are vessels of clay, and depend on the health of our planet to survive and thrive, as one people around the world.

The Revd Bonnie Evans-Hills has worked with USPG promoting the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN in the UK and beyond.

The nature of crises in the world has changed significantly in recent generations. We have reached a point where natural disasters and violent conflict present long-term concerns. Those currently displaced from their homes remain so for an average of 17 years or longer.

Environmental disaster demands longer term solutions in which the whole world must engage. We cannot clean our oceans of plastic unless nations work together. This affects fishing and other industries on which whole populations depend. When these livelihoods disappear, they won’t easily return.

The breadth of challenge facing us is unprecedented, and the choices we make today affect not only our present but generations to come. The Sustainable Development Goals seek to bring together a range of expertise working in collaboration. But while solutions to much of our environmental and social challenges are developed, it will come to nothing if we haven’t the will to implement them, which is why each nation is asked to commit to taking action.

Self-giving God, who in Christ gave yourself for our salvation, thank you that you call us into your mission for the world.
Inspire us, who are partners in the gospel, to follow in your steps, in the way that leads to fullness of life in you. Amen.

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