Post Sansomite

Reflections using the hashtag cLectio are reflections posted primarily to Twitter with the necessary limitations of that platform. I am copying the posts here as an experiment. The posts are reflections on the Old Testament reading for the day. Today’s reading from Judges 17 is post-Sansom and rather pre-Trump (other populist leaders are readily available).

What is to become of this country
if the governing principle is
we don’t want to be rule takers
but rule makers and breakers,
if the leaders are unruly
and people are left to please themselves
and if the priests are also domesticated?
It sounds so careless. #Judges17 #cLectio

Laban and Jacob have their say on the folly of borders and their control

A cairn marking the boundary between Norway and Sweden in a remote area of the Arctic. Photo by Bjorn Christian Torrissen

The UK Government has announced plans to take “full control” of borders unveiling an Australian-style points system to overhaul immigration law and close our borders to unskilled workers and those who can’t speak English. When we talk about taking “full control of our borders” aren’t we just allowing fear and anxiety to take control of our borders? Are we forgetting border controls escalate and will be reciprocated? Have we given any thought to who in the end will wipe our bums?

This is all part of the deceit of government. I have been intrigued by the stories about Jacob and Laban from Genesis 29-31. Jacob is the “leg-puller”, the “supplanter”, the “deceiver”. Laban is the “white man”. Laban means white. The story of Laban and Jacob is a saga of deception – the white man deceiving the deceiver. Was Jacob the outsmarter of the two?) They come to terms with each other by building a witness heap of stones laid by their families as a commitment to peace. It marked the first bilingual place name recorded in the Bible – Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha and Jacob called it Galeed – the translations of “witness heap” in their respective languages.

Galeed, (we would perhaps call it a cairn) stood as a landmarked prayer. It provided a boundary to their hostility, an end to it. Significantly both Jacob and Laban refuse to take control of their new border. Instead they pray: “The Lord watch between you and me”. The Lord is the one they want to control their border and to watch their limits so that they never cross for harm but only cross for peace.

I wonder when we pray, when we put or hands together, whether we are building a cairn – a knuckle-boned physical structure to mark the limits of our hostility and anxiety, to say “beyond this only peace, beyond this only love”. Are our churches also cairn like landscaped prayers – places to confess our hostility, to find better ways to deal with our differences and markers within our communities beyond which we commit to “go in peace”? “This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me.” (Genesis 31:51f)

Borders are worse for our control when our export is fear. The boundaries of our Brexit mindset become brickset – walls built against others deconstructing differences, obstructing relationships, restricting trade and exchange.

Where are we building our witness heaps and our places of commitment? How are we replacing walls with cairns? How do we lament our nationalism?

#cLectio – David’s counter culture

52029310_10218201991904229_4334449603207233536_nWho counts counts? Counts count numbers,‬
‪overpower them, reducing them, demeaning them‬
‪making them number, dumber, cannon fodder,‬
‪forced labour, numbers & counters who don’t count,
won’t count.‬ Beware those who count
counter to those God counts dear.

#1Chronicles21 #cLectio #morningprayer

A reflection for Twitter on 1 Chronicles 21 – the set reading for Morning Prayer today.

Ox-faced Luke: a poem for St Luke’s Day

44231259_10217343419320451_8457308505865453568_nOx-faced Luke,
his gospel yoked
to that load bearing
beast of burden
ploughing on
through life’s muddied field

Ox-bowed Luke,
his gospel bulging
muscle of sacrifice
for the lost, the poor
and stranger still
their inheritance of earth

 

Luke, author of the third gospel, is often symbolised by a winged ox, one of the “four living creatures” of Ezekiel 1 (and Revelation 4). The ox represents domesticated animals. Symbols for the other evangelists are: (m)an(gel) for Matthew, lion for Mark and eagle for John.

 

I need to go to Specksavers

My poetweet this morning responds to a reading of Genesis 3

It’s also the serpent
that opens the eyes of the blind.
And when they saw they sewed,
dressing their nakedness,
hiding their very selves
behind blinds of honesty
from one another,
from God, forever,
till another one with love
opens the eyes of the blind.

Since the dawn of time we have been wanting to help one another to see. “Now, can you see?”, we ask. “Why can’t you see?”, we accuse. I am really grateful for those who have opened my own eyes, for those who have coloured my life with love, those who have helped me to be more open and more confident. I am not so grateful for those who have been more serpentine, those who have insinuated shame into my life.

How can I help others to see? What if I am not careful in the way that I am? What if all I did was bring shame and destroy self-confidence? What if I am serpent like in my feedback and suggestion? What if all I achieved was to force people back into their shell? What if I poisoned their view of the world and themselves?

The serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw [through the eyes of the serpent] that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight for the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. Genesis 3

How can I help others to see unless someone with love opens my eyes? Until then, I am a blind guide, even blind to the damage I do to the eyes of others.

First Steps

The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn
which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
Proverbs 4:18

Who knows where first steps lead?
We feel our way through death’s vale,
beyond the pale to dark corners,
blind alleys, a way hardly taken,
through dark nights of the soul.
This is the path of the righteous,
the path of Missio Dei,
the path of light to dawn.

This week’s clection: a community gathered round a hashtag

JobTo make some of us who say Morning Prayer on our own accountable, we gather our thoughts using Twitter #cLectio – some are now using Facebook too. It is a company I find helpful. I look forward to our daily posts, some of which are quite challenging. Hashtag cLectio was the brainchild of friend and colleague @theosoc Christopher Burkett. #cLectio stands for the (Revised) Common Lectionary – that’s the “c”, see? The lectionary lists readings for worship for each day of the year.  (There’s an app for daily prayer using the lectionary readings.)

Posts are often our first thoughts, sometimes our only thoughts, and other times they’re more thoughtful. Anyone can join in, either daily or occasional. At the moment we are reading through the book of Job. This is an amazing piece of ancient literature which is a sustained reflection on suffering, faith and friendship: questions which remain contemporary through the ages.

In this week’s clection we’ve been gobsmacked by Job’s friend, Eliphaz. Alan Jewell, @VicarAlan, scoffed: “With friends like Eliphaz ….” while Christopher complained “Eliphaz really gets to me, I so dislike what he says”. Eliphaz’s windy words and miserable comfort have made us reflect on what we say and how we respond to suffering and grief – thoughts made more urgent with events at Grenfell Tower and Finsbury Park.

We’re not meant to like Eliphaz and his words warn us off from being a friend like him. My “clection of the day” yesterday arose from some of Eliphaz’s words from the appointed reading, Job 15.

Your sin prompts your mouth;
you adopt the tongue of the crafty.
Your own mouth condemns you, not mine;
your own lips testify against you.

How very dare he? In fact, it’s these windy, wounding words that condemns Eliphaz to the readers’ ridicule. But there is a truth in what Eliphaz says. Our “sin” does prompt our mouths and we do utter our attitudes. We have a proverb that says that eyes are the windows of the soul. But if we speak from the heart what we say is also a reflection of our heart and soul.

So I got to pray:

Job15

And I remembered the question raised by Malcolm Guite in a poem from his Singing Bowl:

What if every word we say
Never ends or fades away,
Gathers volume gathers weigh,
Drums and dins us with dismay
Surges on some dreadful day
When we cannot get away
Whelms us till we drown?

What if not a word is lost,
What if every word we cast
Cruel, cunning, cold, accurst,
Every word we cut and paste
Echoes to us from the past
Fares and finds us first and last
Haunts and hunts us down?

What if every murmuration,
Every otiose oration
Every oath and imprecation,
Insidious insinuation,
Every blogger’s aberration,
Every facebook fabrication
Every twittered titivation,
Unexamined asservation
Idiotic iteration,
Every facile explanation,
Drags us to the ground?

What if each polite evasion
Every word of defamation,
Insults made by implication,
Querulous prevarication,
Compromise in convocation,
Propaganda for the nation
False or flattering peruasion,
Blackmail and manipulation
Simulated desparation
Grows to such reverberation
That it shakes our own foundation,
Shakes and brings us down?

Better that some words be lost,
Better that they should not last,
Tongues of fire and violence.
O Word through whom the world is blessed,
Word in whom all words are graced,
Do not bring us to the test,
Give our clamant voices rest,
And the rest is silence.

I am so grateful for the #cLectio community.