Creation

Our God and Father, you have revealed to us the secrets of the earth, the sea and the sky.
You have enabled us to discover the animal, vegetable and mineral resources of this planet.
Teach us now to use them wisely, effectively and to the benefit of us all, so that we may in unity enjoy the riches which you have provided, in justice, peace and prosperity; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Gordon McPhate, Dean of Chester Cathedral.

>Excuse the repetition

>

Seams like repetition
SEAMS LIKE REPETITION
a photo of a baseball from thesussman

I can’t remember where I saw it, but … I can’t remember where I saw it. It was a blog post reminding me that repetition is no bad thing, but, I am sorry that I can’t remember where. My repeating myself may be boring.

But repetition may be of a totally different order. Repetition may be re-petition, signifying the return to a subject (any subject) petitioning them to be …. subject and agent. Repeating a subject is re-petitioning that subject for fresh meaning, or insight, or a bit more give. Young children often pester grandparents and parents to repeat the same story. They want to re-petition the story, re-questing the comfort, excitement, romance …… Couples repeat the story of how they first met. Communities and families re-mind themselves of who they are by re-petitioning their past stories to yield something to re-store their memory and identity. I want to repeat reading some books (East of Eden, Wild), some films (Dogville), some music (always Paul Simon or Leonard Cohen) because I am confident that they will reveal new things for me.

But the repetitive strain of meaninglessness that saps our vitality I can well do without – or is there some special grace (or love) which allows people to cheerfully and tirelessly repeat the same routine and tasks time and time again?

Repetition is fundamental to prayer. Repetitive rhythms (the prayer wheel), rosaries, postures and words are all reminders of our re-petitioning. Some give themselves to re-petitioning God through one line prayers for their whole lives. The Jesus Prayer – “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner” – is a one line prayer repeated over and over again. For some it is a life long re-petition. It is lifted from the story of the Pharisee and the Publican. According to the 19th century Russian spiritual writer, Theophan the Recluse, the prayer’s repetition begins as something on the lips and external to us, travels inwards by focusing the mind till it becomes the heart of who we are.

I wonder. Does genuine and sincere re-petitioning result in us taking the person, the thing, the story to heart? Is that how we come to care so much that we can bear the repetition?

>New Year

> It was an Edinburgh New Year for us with our son and partner. It was good to relax with them – though it wasn’t so relaxing at the Princes Street party. What was moving was New Year’s Day at St John’s Church where we were all invited to confess/dispose of our shame of ’08. Everyone had something to dispose of in the liturgical waste basket – which was then set alight (I bet the Church Council hadn’t discussed that!) and did its dance as the most perfectly formed flame – then drenched in water (?baptism) – and the consequential smoke rising in prayer for a new beginning.

We sang words from Desmond Tutu.

We prayed:

Come Father,
Come Mother,
Come Lord Jesus
Come Holy Spirit of God
Give us for our hallowing
thoughts that pass into prayer
Prayer that passes into love,
and love that passes into action.

And we prayed:

May the blessed sun shine on us and warm each heart till it glows like a great fire, so that strangers and friends may come in and warm themselves. May the light shine out from our eyes, like a candle set in the windows of a house, and may the risen Lord bless us and bless us kindly.

But most of all, we were quiet – enjoying this public space of Edinburgh into which some people had had the care to invite us.

Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with DISCOMFORT …
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with ANGER …
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless you with TEARS …
To shed for those who suffer from pain,
rejection, starvation and war.
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them
And to turn their pain into JOY.
And may God bless you with enough FOOLISHNESS…
To believe that you can make a difference in this world,
So that you can DO what others claim cannot be done. Amen
A Franciscan Benediction

Strangers

We have heard it said “beware of strangers” – usually because of what they are liable to take – our jobs, our women, our money.

The Bible encourages us to welcome the stranger. Many are mentioned in the Bible as people who are welcomed as gifts from God (like Melchizedek, Pharoah, Ruth, Queen of Sheba, the Canaanite woman – and many others). Jesus himself is seen as a stranger and sees himself as a stranger – he sees himself in the outsider, the poor, the prisoner and the sick and teaches his disciples to recognise him in the stranger and outsider. (Matthew 25)

We have much to learn about entertaining strangers. Here’s one story which Sam Wells tells in his book, God’s Companions. It is about a couple who go on holiday and take a lift to a scenic viewpoint. They had a Muslim guide. They rushed off to take some photographs, and then realised that they had not seen their guide for some time. Walking around a corner they saw him, semi-prostrate, praying to God. They were humbled realising how they and he had spent the last 15 minutes. They talked about this when they got home and shared this prayer with their congregation:

“If I love thee for hope of heaven, then deny me heaven;
If I love thee for fear of hell, then deny me hell;
But if I love thee for thyself alone, then give me thyself alone.”

People were confused when they discovered it was a Muslim prayer, but the couple who had been on the holiday pointed out that just as the guide had been a gift to them in jolting their spiritual complacency, so this prayer could also be a gift – perhaps dispelling some ignorance and prejudice about Islam.

>Awards

>For a bit of fun, every month we publish the “Editor’s Award” in our parish magazine. I am puzzled this month and can’t decide. I think I will spray the awards round.
So – drum roll –

The prize goes to all those who are highly regarded in their communities – for all the integrity and service of their lives, because rarely is such regard given for nothing.

But the more than equal first prize goes to those who in spite of great integrity and service are dis-regarded and unnoticed. Their communities and families would be much the poorer without them.

 
And the prize for creative prayer goes to friend Jenny – who rarely attends public worship – for her presentation of bouquets to brothers and sisters at a recent healing service. By binding sprigs of lavender (for healing) and rosemary (for remembrance) she captured the essence of intercessory prayer with one simple twist of rafia binding.

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>Blessing

>It is easy to believe we are ‘cursed’ – naturally, not supernaturally, I mean.

The media messages pick on our personal, social and institutional points of vulnerability. All these voices leave us with a deep sense of unease.

If we feel cursed ourselves the likelihood is that we will curse others.
However, if we know we are blessed the likelihood is that we will bless others. I know how much I curse others, and I know how much I bless others – and can draw my own conclusion that I haven’t been doing enough listening to the voices that call me blessed. I know I am not alone in finding it hard to accept blessing and to treasure the blessings people give.

Blessing comes from the Latin word “benediction” meaning “speaking well”. Jesus has a warning for us when too many speak well of us (Luke 6:26) that means we might have become too powerful, boastful and corruptible – but all of us need to be affirmed.

Nouwen points out that this is the way to “a sense of well-being and true belonging” and was moved by the blessing given to a 13 year old at his bar-mitzvah by his parents: “Son, whatever will happen to you in your life, whether you will have success or not, become important or not, will be healthy or not, always remember how much your mother and I love you.”

For Nouwen, prayer is about listening to that voice of blessing – to hear with the “ear of faith” the persistent voice of love saying “You are my beloved child – on you my favour rests.”

The blessings are there for us to receive.

“the blessings of the poor who stop us on the road, the blessings of the blossoming trees and fresh flowers that tell us about new life, the blessings of music, painting sculpture, and architecture – all of that – but most of all the blessings that come to us through words of gratitude, encouragement, affection and love. These many blessings do not have to be invented. They are there, surrounding us on all sides. But we have to be present to them and receive them. They don’t force themselves on us. They are gentle reminders of that beautiful, strong, but hidden voice of the one who calls us by name and speaks good things about us.”