Friday, August 31, 2007

Loin chops

I listen to a great daily devotional on the internet that is run by the Jesuits called ‘pray-as-you-go.’ It is not verbose or evangelical but a soothing meditation that causes one to stop and meditate on a section of scripture and then to dialogue this within oneself. You can download it on your ipod and take it wherever you go. This morning I was listening to a part of Jeremiah that spoke of God telling him to ‘gird up his loins.’ Although sounding rather odd to the post modern, post liberal, post existential (whatever) ear, this phrase literally means to get dressed and face your challenge. Sometimes we are called out of our sleepy eyed stupor and stand before this world’s darkness and oppression. Now, before I start sounding like George Bush junior, heaven help me, let me clarify that girding up ones loins does not mean to pack your lunch box with plastic explosives and surprise the ‘infidel’ at school with your combustible sandwich. It is rather a call for the faithful to bring judgment upon all that degrades life, the environment and human freedom onto which is added the gracious ointment of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Walk the dog

Yesterday I fumed so, enough to pop an artery. Thinking it gone I marched off into the day with many a visit and encounter. Alas, the same red fury stormed into my heart and lungs and had to be leashed each time it jumped for a bite. This dog called anger caged and snarling with saliva stained fangs and throaty growl is chained behind civility and decorum. It runs the hardened fence path to and fro looking for a gap, a hole to escape. Oh how I pity the stranger and those unaware of it fury. The beast is taught its tricks from long ago lessons, its an old dog with little penchant for learning. I wonder how those yellow stained eyes might soften if gently spoken, kindly stroked and a bone thrown for easy distraction. Today, the night has passed and the pillow has spoken. I push the dog away as it licks my face and barks for my attention. Another day, another chance at playing fetch and walking in the park.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Caught fishing

Traveled to a little dam called “Broomy” near Rosetta yesterday. It was a gusty day and the prospects of catching a slippery predator were slight. My little PFD short for “Personal floating device,” bobbed up and down in the windy South Westerly. I paddled like a duck with flippers into a quieter corner of the dam where the face of an Otter kept me company as he foraged for his recommended daily allowance. The reeds lanced through the water all around me like soldiers of the lake. The Spur-wing goose took flight, indignant of the intrusion in its sacred precinct. Up on the farm land the full moon stood buoyant between two irrigation water jets as if balanced like a beach ball. The Willows dipped thirsty into the water with their long green straws. The fly-line doing its figure of eight casting neatly between the banks in hope of a tug. These are my off days, my Sabbath, my time, my intimate moments of reverence, my Cathedral. Creation a sacrament around me imbibed with each breath, each sighting, each bird call. It doesn’t have to sing words from a hymnal or preach to convince. The silent whispering of wind, the whistle of a duck, and the splash of the Otter are the unpracticed choir that moves the soul.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Alternative party plans

The Christian gathering is unique in that it does not posture with social ranking and competitive elegance. The banquet we are called to is strange in that the host sits at the table which is least adorned. The speeches are given by those who are not dressed to impress and get their grammar muddled. This is the party I like to be invited to. Not where the top tables of banquets are officiated with fine cloth, shiny edge and always get to eat first. The Christian revolution happens when we invite strangers and reprobates to the party. When we acknowledge that life is given to the least as well as the great. The most acclaimed academic may find wisdom in the company of the HIV infested gardener. The rich magnate is drawn by the reflections of the widowed mother of five. The highly moral are stumped by the cries of a young teenagers pregnancy. I wish we would throw more of these kind of parties in the Church.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The inward face

It is not often I have a chance to sit and reflect on a Sunday morning. I am preaching tonight and Ian Webster is preaching in the morning service. There is no rush to get the sermon inside my head. I am at the moment feeling rather dry inside. Not much going on down there. The emotions are not all revved up. I don’t feel like jumping on tables and dancing. The method of prayer is vague and I am wanting opportunities to distract my soul. The core is so important in our spiritual development. When the inside is not in communion with life it starts to rot. The purpose of things become superfluous and void when attention to the core is left to waste. The outside luster, its pressure and texture are determined by the inward pressure, its nutrients and water. That place we cannot see, but when we stop we hear it speak. The inner sanctum that bursts out in tear or flame if pressed too hard. That place we cannot avoid even though we do with one hundred and one things to hide its presence. The deeper one that speaks our heart, our reality, lies buried either a bomb to surprise or if discovered an honest resting place. The joy of connecting from time to time is to know oneself in every day. How important it is to learn the strings of the inward face.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The others

Faith by example. Vicarious learning. If he can do it, well, so can I. They are rooting for you. The perfect example in Christ. These are the thoughts that surround the Hebrews reading for this Sunday. The community that encourages. The community who persevered for Love, the community who knows your name when cheering on the sidelines of your life. I have thought it quite scary to think that there is this cloud of witnesses gawking on at my life. I usually think, “What would they think if they saw me now?” I had a grandfather who was a Methodist minister. I have a box of his sermons and a few bits and pieces of his prayers still with me. To be honest, I am not sure what he would be saying to me now. I did not know him that well. All I know was that he married off a number of people in my congregation in the 1950’s and that he was a typical minister of the early 20th century, still Victorian in moral stature and autocratic in nature. Would he be encouraging me or would he be making clicking noises with his mouth? On further reflection I think 'Gamps', the man I once spilt coffee on at a drive-in would be very proud to have a grandson in the Methodist ministry. It is a great pity we did not have the time to talk and share things. If we did he would have had the chance to share how he had persevered and how he had sacrificed much to bring the Gospel to this country. Oh, how I wish he had had a diary, a journal from which I could have gleaned something from. That would have encouraged me greatly. The cloud of witnesses stands ever before us to encourage and empower us by their example. We can still read the journals, the autobiographies, the biographies, and history books that tell us much about this cloud of witnesses. Not only do our examples lie buried in history. There are currently in our times people who are burning examples of the faith. In our confirmation class this year the one exercise was for the confirmation candidates to find somebody who they regarded as a ‘saint’ and go and interview them. They asked about their lives and how they lived out their Christian example. It is good to look around and be encouraged by so many who have shown us the way.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Small & Strong

I am busy reading Kennon L. Callahan's book titled "Small Strong Congregations." I am finding it a very interesting read. It helps the smaller church loose its guilt of not being able to accomplish all things but to rather focus itself within its strength areas. You will no doubt hear more about it in the next few days. It is a joy to move away from the mega-church mentality that keeps placing the emphasis on bigger is better. No, bigger is bigger not necessarily better. If anybody has read this book, I would love your comments.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Hilton College Chapel Service

Last night I preached at Hilton College. I was underdressed in my tweed jacket and green vestments. The attire of scholar and master was black as bats in robes reminiscent of years gone by. They filed in like robots programmed from burrows this way and that. The occasional hum of 'sir' was heard but little else as they turned left and right, filed up and down to their hard worn seats to sit another chapel service out. The hidden pulse propelled us forward, tradition, the clock that brought the zombies in. We raised our hymnals to chant not sing, the governmental rule. Up came one the prayer to recite, another the scriptures to announce. No telling who was next that queue invisibly pronounced. I moved in step, the high lectern to adorn with all my Methodist attire. Lets pray I said, and as if the roof fell down they collapsed on knee to pray. One small command the power was felt like turning the light switch ‘on’ then ‘off’ and ‘on’ again. There I stood suspended in hallowed air on stilts it felt before a passage of inward looking benches all squeezed with blazers black and white. My left and right two tiers on each the eyes around me bore. Round one, I thought I heard as I began to share, a message that would go out and find an ever hopeful ear. Like a green leaf I felt, blown in from somewhere else, I felt the eyes of centuries exchange. It was glorious, most glorious to stand within the futures powers and humbly blow the wind.

(Click here for the Hilton College web page)

Friday, August 03, 2007

A Truth called Wonder

Prophets are without honour in their home town. This was Jesus’ experience when he returned to teach in his home town. They could not get past the fact that his father was a carpenter, his brothers and sisters were living amongst them and how could one of their own kind bring anything significantly life altering to them. The traveling preachers usually get the fame and glory whilst the faithful pastor living with his flock is soon regarded as family and found wanting. We love the unusual, expecting the ways of enlightenment to come from outside the familiar. But lets be honest, is it not our closest partner who speaks the greater truth? We love to pick the flowered words of those outside, the guest speaker, the rhetorical giants, and take from them snippets of wisdom to boost our sagging morale. They fix the headache but not the root, the truth lies deeper, the one who knows us knows the cause. The one who loves us, stays with us, covenants with us, abides with us, they are the healers, the truth tellers, the preachers, the wonder workers.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Mandela on living tall

Thought I would share this quote from Nelson Mandela:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Used by Nelson Mandela in his 1994 inaugural speech