Friday, 26 December 2014

On the 2nd Day of Christmas ...

I can't help feeling there is something somewhat sad about the fact that in Birmingham city centre Christmas was pretty much already over before it had even really begun, Having been trying to cultivate an artificial Christmassy-feel from long before anyone in their right mind should have wanted to be thinking about Christmas; by the time it actually arrived, there was a sense it was already all over. With the dismantling of the Christmas markets at the beginning of the week, and preparations for boxing day sales well under way before the end of Wednesday, it seems we may have forgotten what all this build up was actually for ... 

But in my book it is still very definitely Christmas... in fact, it's only just begun! So here it is, this year's Christmas poem, (with thanks to my students at  St Chad's Sanctuary for the inspiration).



A scared and tired father
A woman pregnant and in pain
An uncertain future for an unborn child
Who’ll face anger, exclusion, and disdain

Behind a census of statistics
We still hide the human face
Of a desperation that dares to dream -
That begs of another, grace.

But that one who said he had nothing,
There’s nothing here left to give
Was it in putting a face to a number he knew
You deserved not just to survive but to live?

And when he stretched an open hand
Did God’s kingdom touch this earth?
And is this still an incarnation moment
When we dare believe in the other’s worth?

When we smile ‘come in and welcome’
To those whose lives are tattered and torn
In these the tiniest glimmers of hope – 
Each day anew the Messiah is born.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Remembering Advent

Although Birmingham city centre would have you believe that Christmas has already arrived, we are currently in the much-overlooked season of advent, and my latest post is in honour of a season in danger of being squeezed out of our calendars by the premature celebration of Christmas

The song sung by Zachariah at the birth of his son John the Baptist talks of this baby as a symbol of hope and a foreteller of the coming of the kingdom. It is perhaps a song we could sing at the birth of every child. The following reflection is based on his words in Luke 1:68-79.

68 ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. 69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David

Blessed be God
Coming among us
Dwelling with us
Dwelling in us

We are redeemed and set free
A freedom which calls for action
A freedom that inspires new hope
A freedom lived and shared
The freedom of love

70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us – 72 to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham: 74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,

Blessed be God
Who remembers the forgotten
Who remains with the abandoned
Always
From all time
For all time
Eternity encompassing today

Rescuing us from our enemies
Giving us energy in the face of apathy
Giving us purpose in the midst of emptiness
Giving us life in all its fullness

Rescued and called
To use our love to care for the loveless
And our voice to speak for the voiceless

and to enable us to serve him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

Called to have no fear
No fear of condemnation and criticism
No fear of standing up and standing out
Perfect God, perfect love
Drives out all fear

The knowledge we are loved
This is our holiness
To go and share that love
This is our righteousness
To stand with the unloved and the unlovely and the seemingly unlovable
This is our service

76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,

And you, the little children,
Prophets of God and messengers of the Kingdom
Your innocence prepares the way of the Lord
His light shines in you

In your curiosity and wonder at the world
In your trusting and in your hope
In your joy and the delight of being alive

77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,

Give us knowledge of our salvation,
The opening wide of a kingdom where all are welcome,
A kingdom for such as these

In your suffering we see our sin
In war we have damaged your trusting love
In hunger we have hidden your inquisitive wonder
In poverty we have trampled on your joyful hope

Your tears call us to repentance,
Forgiveness,
Change
And new life.

78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.

New life lit up by the faithful love of our God
Coming from on high
Dwelling with the humble
Dwelling alongside the forgotten ones
Dwelling in the children

Giving light
The light of a smile
The light of love
Calling us from darkness

From despondency and despair
From apathy and inactivity
From comfort and continuity

To walk in the light of a new way of peace

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

A (Mainly) Patriotic Song



As part of the Birmingham Literature Festival, I saw a poetry writing workshop at the library advertised with the theme of conflict, peace and reconciliation. Bringing together as it did two passions of mine, I decided to give it a go.

Poetry has always been something I have done both alone and untaught, so I was excited but also somewhat apprehensive about what it might entail. In reality it involved a few people who were interested in writing poetry doing so together, sharing words and ideas with some guidance from a couple of "real poets" (whatever that might mean!). Below is the poem which I began on that day and have added to and tinkered with since. I think it is now finished. It probably requires something of an explanation, so here goes:

The workshop began with a visit to the library's Voices of War exhibition as a source of inspiration. This poem was inspired by the front cover of a Patriotic Song, "Britannia's Glorious Flag". Musical references, then, run throughout the poem. When I looked at it, my eye was immediately (and probably slightly illogically) drawn to the top corner where there were some musical notes showing this was a piece of music written in a flat key, not what you would usually choose for an upbeat piece of music. Coupled with the stories in the exhibition of those who took a courageously anti-war stance, I wondered whether this could have been a tiny act of resistance, or at least a recognition that all was not joyful and triumphant. More normal for this kind of music would be a major key which lends itself nicely to a play on a double meaning.


The other thing that struck me about the propaganda items, including this one, is how we look at them and smile at the naivety in which people were taken in by them. We recognise them for what they are ...  but somehow cannot apply that same good sense to current military propaganda, and so 100 years on we fall for the same myths, just dressed up in different language and imagery.

Hopefully some, or all of that is portrayed in the poem below:



Mouths yawning wide
Eyes closed
We sing
Of patriotic duty
And naive hopes of victory
For flag and mother country

But
From somewhere in their midst
This one foresaw
There was a sombre note
And shared his voice
In this the choice
Of a B flat key
Unlocking
Some semblance
Of creativity

Perhaps he saw in his mind’s eye
On these dark lines
Which never meet
Too many
Sharps
Already
Cutting deep in flesh
And painted red

Perhaps he had already heard
What staccato beats
reverberate
Through shattered minds
And resonate
In yearning hearts
Frozen
In a silent fear
That dares no longer sing

And this his song
His only way
To say
He would not dance to the Major’s key

As looking back
With eyes made wise
With knowing smiles
We sagely nod
To this the tune
We say
We would not tap our feet to

And yet
The orchestra plays on
As still we listen
And close our eyes
To the murmur of these lullabies
A gentle drone
We hear as truth

As one white poppy
Still flutters
Unnoticed
In a sprawling sea of red

Monday, 27 October 2014

I always dreamt of flight

In an immediate sense I have my mother to thank for the inspiration for the poem below. It was her mention of the theme "flight" for a poetry group that set me to thinking about different meanings of the word flight and putting pen to paper (or more accurately cursor to screen) to create this.

I am sure she won't mind me saying though, that beyond that initial word, the real inspiration for this comes from my contact with my students at St Chad's Sanctuary: people who, have known the worst nightmares of flight, but who, I hope, can still dream of soaring with the birds. Once again, I trust that they will excuse my attempts to speak of an experience I can not begin to imagine.

I always dreamt of flight

Lying
On grass, or concrete, or sandy beach
Pressed
Against the solid ground beneath
But
Eyes open
Squinting from the sun
Or closed
Turned inwards on a dream
I always dreamt of flight

I knew
That I could soar and circle with the birds
And drift like wispy clouds
Across a bright blue sky

Laughing
In childhood games of fantasy
Gazing skywards
Dreaming of infinity
If I could ask
A granted wish of just one thing
My chosen super power
I would not hesitate
Because
I always dreamt of flight

I knew
That I would swoop and swerve and dive
And glide with silent majesty
Across a deep blue sky

And as I grew
I knew
Never would I soar and circle
Like the birds
Nor swoop and swerve and dive
But Still
Alone in quiet moments
Looking up
To the endless realm of skies
I sometimes dreamt
Of flight

To drift like wispy clouds
And glide with silent majesty
To hide from this reality
In an infinity of blue

Until
As skies flare red
And thick black smoke
Obscures
The fragile wings of birds
Their hallowed, haunting song
Replaced
By metal monsters
Who hum a tune of
Death

The longed-for, dreamt-of, promised
Flight
Discovered
In the urgency of anguish
Amid the acrid fear which clings
With unforgiving tenacity
To bloodied feet 
And to hidden memories

No soaring wings or deep blue skies
In this my flight
Which did not match
The patterns 
which not so very long ago
Had swirled before 
My childish eyes

No swooping free, no swirling dives
No soaring, circling paradise
No hiding
From this
The harsh reality of our lives

Flight
This childhood dream
Which found a strange fulfilment
In a living nightmare
As huddled, shivering,
I cannot help but wonder
Is this some kind of irony?
When

I had always dreamt of flight

Sunday, 19 October 2014

A Question of Audience

So once again my blog has sat neglected for almost a month. Amongst other distractions, this time round, are several blog posts for another blog to which I contribute. http://putdownthesword.wordpress.com/blog/

I call them blog posts, but the one I wish to reflect on was not originally written as such. It started life as a letter.  I was against military action in Iraq (no surprise there, then) and horrified that Archbishop Justin Welby spoke out in favour in the House of Lords. So I wrote to him.

As an afterthought, (and partly because it said on his website that he probably wouldn't read it), I posted it online. I was initially unsure whether it was a good idea but have since decided it was probably more effective as a blog post than as a letter. It certainly generated more reflective responses; and with something like 18 shares on facebook, it was the closest I have ever come to going viral.

It created an interesting perspective for the ongoing correspondence.

My original letter was definitely written with the Archbishop, or at the very least his secretaries, in mind. It was addressed to him and intended for him. The reply, from his secretary was also written without a wider audience in mind: but having shared the letter, it seemed only fair to share the reply.

But that isn't the end of the story: I knew I wanted to challenge the reply: but in writing back, this time I was acutely aware of a dual audience. Yes, I was addressing the correspondence secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury, but I could no longer pretend that I wasn't also writing to those who had read my first letter. Even if by now, they had drifted off to other concerns, theoretically at least I was writing for an audience other than the one I was directly addressing. Whether or not they read it, is secondary to my knowing that they might.

It left me reflecting on the question of audience: who do we write and speak for, and how often is there a duality in our intended audience? What changes when the message we are writing / speaking is not intended for those we are addressing directly, but for others who might overhear? Is there a difference if the wider audience is intended at the time of writing, or only thought about afterwards? What happens when something that is genuinely intended for one audience is read or heard out of context by another?

Is writing a blog post about writing blog posts a bit weird? Probably. But this experience also left me thinking about this blog, about what I write and why I write it.

I think, primarily, I write it for me. I have never been any good at keeping a diary, but since beginning this venture I have found it a useful way to distil some of my thoughts, to reflect on experiences in a way I think is both helpful and healthy.

But to say it is entirely personal wouldn't be completely honest. The knowledge of its potentially public nature certainly effects some of what I write and how I write it; and although I think I am mainly doing it for myself, I have to admit I would be disappointed if I knew I was my own only reader and I genuinely appreciate occasional comments which suggest it is not just for me. This blog has a dual audience too.

So please keep reading. It is written for me, but also for you.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Continuing Adventures in Community


As the condensation on the windows suggests that autumn is approaching and thoughts of the summer holidays are fast-fading into the recesses of memory, our adventure in community here in Birmingham continues apace and it feels like it is probably high-time for an update on life.

While I have studiously tried to avoid this blog becoming a mere recount of experiences which are fun to be lived but probably rather dull to read about, perhaps there are times when it is right to share and celebrate some of the realities as well as the reflections they inspire.

So the Carrs Lane Lived Community is now one year old, and after a much-needed summer break the routine is firmly re-established once more, with days shaped around morning and evening prayer and a shared evening meal. The twitter and facebook feeds are (so far ... it's still only September) being kept up to date, and the website has lots of new pages including some photos of year 1.

The most significant recent development in the life of the community is that, well, its really a community these days! The flat is now home to four resident members (shown in the photo, along with Giuliano, who joined us for a couple of weeks), and we have plenty of plans to welcome others for shorter periods of time.

From the beginning, we made a conscious choice not to actively advertise for members but rather to wait and allow the community to grow organically. We knew this was the right choice, but I have to admit to times last year when I began to wonder how long we could continue to sustain "community" as only two. As is often the way, it was into that space of uncertainty that signs of growth began to appear.

While we didn't know how the community would grow, our prediction that it would happen in ways we didn't expect certainly proved true when our third community member turned out to be a ninety-year old nun. Whatever else we thought might happen, that one was certainly not on our radar and appeared as an unexpected gift. With 70 years experience of community life, Sr Mary-Joseph certainly adds a different dynamic to our community. I find her presence hugely inspiring and hope that when I am ninety I will both still be seeking to live a life of community shaped around a routine of prayer ... and also still open enough to find it in very new and different ways that I couldn't possibly have imagined when I started out on this adventure.

The end of August saw the arrival of member number 4, a friend from university days taking up our year in community invitation and coming to live, pray and volunteer alongside us for the next year. While this, in some ways, follows a less unexpected path, it will nonetheless be a source of newness as we find ways to grow and deepen a friendship which will look very different lived out together than kept up by facebook and occasional visits.

Community continues to stretch wider than just those living in the flat, with both occasional and regular faces sharing with us in the prayers as well as several people signed up to come and spend a couple of weeks or longer living the routine with us. It is sometimes good (and probably important) to remind ourselves from where we have come. If at times things have seemed to move slowly; looking back over the last year; from the nothing we started with to what we have now is a reminder of life, and growth and hope.

And so begins the second year of this latest adventure. I am sure it will look and feel very different from the first. There will be challenges, of that I have no doubt. There will be struggles and there will be sacrifice. But I reckon it will all be worth it. Because I am fairly sure there will be life, abundantly!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Magic Box

As is probably fairly obvious for readers of this blog, I quite like poetry. Creating it, more than reading it, actually. I have no idea whether any of the poetry I write is "good" by objective literary standards; but at least sometimes I find there are ideas, reflections and emotions which can be explored in poetry in ways that are impossible in prose. 

Almost all the poetry on my blog so far has been of my own composition, but today is a departure from that. During the St Chad's Summer School this year I had the privilege of sharing my love of playing with words and allowing them to delve deep into our human experience with two small groups of refugees and asylum seekers. Their English levels ranged from virtually none to virtually fluent .. and their life-experiences ranged far beyond anything I can possibly imagine.

I forgot to keep a copy of the results of the first session, but below is the collective effort of one Turkmen-Russian, two Syrians, one Sudanese, and an Eritrean one Friday morning in July ... with a little bit of help from a certain Kit Wright (google it if you want to see the original)

The Magic Box
(Inspired by Kit Wright’s Magic Box)
By Murad, Hamid, Nasradin, Adel and Fadi

I will put in the box
The fresh sea air blowing across the beach
The joyful sounds of splashing and laughter
The taste of salty sea water on the tip of my tongue

I will put in the box
My first innocent idea when I wake up in the morning sunlight
The glorious adventure of a wonderful childhood
The happy memory of the days of my past where there were no cloudy skies

I will put in the box
The journey to discover a world I have never seen before
The sound of new languages when I travel the world
A carnival atmosphere where everyone understands the language of dancing and music

I will put in the box
My first kiss, my first sadness, my first forgiveness, my first goodbye
A rainbow of emotions over which I fly with bird-like wings
A celebration of the memory of the first day of a new life

My box is fashioned from dreams becoming a new reality,
with smiles on the lid and laughter in the corners.
Its hinges are the innocent kisses of children.

I shall surf in my box
On the great high-rolling breakers of the wild Atlantic
Then wash ashore on a yellow beach
The colour of the sun.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The challenge of campaigning


Looking back over the year's photos in order to update our community website, it looks like going on protests has been a major part of my year. In reality, it is partly, maybe even mostly, because those are the moments when we have taken photographs whilst many more significant parts of my life have taken place out of camera-shot.
  
But there have been protests. Most recently in Shenstone, just outside Birmingham, to show my support for the activists who shut down an Israeli-owned factory making engines for drones by camping out on the roof. I was not on the roof. In fact, due to a perhaps slightly over-zealous local police force, I was not even close enough to see those who were.
 
Nevertheless, I wanted to be there. I wanted to be in that sleepy small town, outside an inoffensive looking industrial unit, to stand in solidarity with the suffering people of Gaza; and, more concretely to say that yes, I wanted this Israeli drones factory closed down. To say, in fact, I want all drones factories closed down.

This protest, like the march through Birmingham in solidarity with the people of Gaza a couple of weeks earlier brought into sharp focus one of the challenges of joining with others to campaign against injustice, to speak for peace. It is a challenge it is important to be aware of and acknowledge, because by doing so, we free ourselves to be true to what we think and believe.

I wanted to be there, to be counted among those calling for an end to the bombing of Gaza, calling for an end to the building of drones, calling for an end to the export of arms made here to commit atrocities around the world. I wanted to stand with others who cared, deeply, passionately about these issues too. But some of what was said and chanted, some of what was thought and felt and expressed, these were not things I wanted to add my name to.

The building of drones engines by UAV systems in Shenstone is not ok. But to my mind, some of the views expressed by those supposedly on the same side were also not ok.

It has, of course, a wider relevance. A choice to associate oneself to a campaign can always subtly, or not so subtly, be twisted into suggesting associations with other issues; or be accidentally or deliberately misunderstood as meaning something slightly, or even completely, different.

But perhaps because the Palestine question provokes particularly  heightened emotions, and because it is a cause whose complexity attracts people who approach it from very different perspectives, it was more immediately evident that whilst there was certainly some common ground among those who felt the suffering of the people of Gaza was unacceptable, there were also a range of views being expressed which didn't all have either the same starting point, or the same final aims.

And thus it served as a reminder of the challenge of every campaign: the challenge of finding common ground and solidarity with others to build a mass movement which can effect real change, balanced against the need to be true to the essence of my own vision and faith.

Because for me the theory, at least, is very simple (even if putting it in to practice is infinitely complicated): To campaign for peace is to say no to the violence that pervades every level of our society and our world. To say no to the aggression, hostility and fear which feed our economy and our education, our relationships with those close to us and those far away. To campaign for peace is about much more than just an end to warfare and weaponry (although that would be nice), it is about changing our words, our actions, our mindsets. To campaign for peace cannot mean calling out in vitriolic language imbued with the same violence that the drones manufacturers espouse.

To campaign for peace and justice is to also seek those virtues within ourselves, and, little by little, to allow them to fill our hearts and imbue our words with a different vision.

This is what I wanted to speak for in Shenstone. If I do so with those around me, so much the better, but even if I do so alone, I hope I have the strength to acknowledge my differences from those by my side as well as our shared understanding and to be true to that message, the message of peace.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

A faith in the possible

It seems this blog has been somewhat neglected recently, with three blissful, internet-less weeks in Taize only providing a partial excuse. It certainly isn't because life has not provided plenty of potential material either, so it is high time I put pen to paper (metaphorically speaking, but cursor to screen doesn't have quite the same ring) and return to the blogosphere.

Although it is already nearly a month since we returned, and ignoring the potential danger of sounding like a stuck record, I can't help but write once more about Taize. But I'll try and keep it brief(ish). I do not want to write about what we did or who we met, about the conversations or the themes of the bible introductions, about the hail stones the size of ice cubes (yes, really) nor even about the joy of being carried by a routine of prayer for which someone else was responsible.

I want to try and express something of the life-giving dynamic of being in a place where somehow more seems possible. A place which dares to believe that more is possible and which, in that faith, is able to make it happen. A place where the first answer is yes, and the how can be figured out later. I realised, perhaps more than ever this year, that one of the (many) things I love about Taize is that it is a place of possibility and hope.

It is a refreshing change from the all too common response to, well, almost anything really: that of a sharp intake of breath followed by a "well it would be nice but ...". Ideas which never get off the ground, projects which never make it past committee stage, plans which remain on the drawing board, all because we prefer to imagine so many things are just not possible, always assuming we even get to the imagining stage at all. All too often, it seems we are tempted to expect problems before they arise rather than dream possibilities before they exist. Taize served as a timely reminder that things can work the other way round. Can, and more often than not, when we dare to step out of what we know into the unknown possibilities beyond, do. And life is richer, fuller and more beautiful as a result. It is a lesson I hope I did not leave behind in the Burgundy countryside.

Coming back out of the bubble I hit the earth with quite a bump, and the first day was, to be honest, tough. It seemed I was instantly surrounded by too many barriers, too many limitations, too many "well it would be nice but ..."s: from both without, and probably, from within.

Fortunately life is rich enough, and exciting enough that I didn't need to stay in the rut: I picked myself up, dusted myself down and remembered that here too can be a place of possibility. Here too a place of exciting adventures and new journeys into the unknown. Here too a place of saying yes and diving in feet first to all that is to come.

Monday, 2 June 2014

To be a pilgrim

As the end of the Easter season fast approaches, Holy Week already feels quite a long time ago and writing about it perhaps a little out of place. But Student Cross was and is a sufficiently significant part of my year that I feel it merits some reflection.

Setting off on this year's pilgrimage I already felt utterly exhausted. I am aware this was probably not the best start to a week of long walks interspersed with considerable sleep deprivation: that's how you are supposed to feel at the end, right, not before even beginning? For brief moments, I even questioned the wisdom of adding yet another layer of tiredness to that which had already accumulated over the preceding weeks and months.

But only for fleeting moments. Because most of the time I knew that walking 120 miles across England, carrying a wooden cross, talking sense, talking nonsense, listening, singing, staying up too late, sleeping on hard church floors, eating, drinking, praying, belonging ... this was exactly what I wanted to be doing during Holy Week.

When it comes to encouraging others to join, Student Cross is a hard sell. We walk most of the day, carrying heavy wooden crosses. In between we stay up late and sleep on hard church floors. Showers are rare; blisters frequent. And yet it successfully encapsulates something of the community I crave and, I suspect, holds important lessons for the wider church.

We have chosen a challenge which no individual can complete alone, forcing us to become a mutually-interdependent community, united by what we do together, not by what we say, think or believe. We find strength in the willingness to push ourselves because we care enough for the rest of the group to do so, and in the knowledge that when we think we can’t continue, others are carrying us who affirm that we can. There is also a paradoxical importance in walking towards a shared destination while knowing that we are here for the pilgrimage, not the arrival.

The sun shone. There were warm and friendly welcomes waiting for us all along the way. There was a lot of laughter and a lot of fun. Anyone who shared the week with me, though, will know there were also some tough, emotional moments. There were a few tears (actually, quite a lot of tears). But that was OK. In fact, more than that, it served as a reminder of what I think this is all about.


This was the fourth time I had walked Northern Leg since first walking in 2004. At least some of those I walked with this year weren't present on any or all of the previous occasions. On one level, then, these are people I hardly know. And yet these are people I know well enough to cry with as well as laugh with. To share hopes and dreams and fears and frustrations with. To be silent with as well as to talk with. To be real with. To be me.

On Student Cross a combination of physical exertion and sleep deprivation quickly leaves everyone exhausted to the point where we do not have the energy to put on the masks we so carefully construct to protect our vulnerable true identities. We become a community that is too tired to pretend its emotions aren’t real, its faults can be hidden, its uglier sides concealed. We become a community that sees each other in our moments of weakness and vulnerability: and quickly discovers that we are able to love and be loved anyway.

This is, I believe, what we, as church, are called to. To walk towards a shared vision, not of belief but of action for which we are all equally responsible. To be mutually supportive communities where we depend on each other and dare to be vulnerable to one another. To be spaces where we can be who we really are and be loved regardless. This is where we discover glimpses of the Christ-like love we are called to offer to one another, in order to be able to offer it to the world around us.

But perhaps the church has become too easy, too comfortable, too safe. Because too often, in my experience, churches, like society, are places where we neither need to, nor dare to take off the masks behind which we hide. They are places where we continue to conceal our precious true identities from one another. Places where we present to God the ‘me’ we would like to be.

Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is, I acknowledge, a scary prospect. Society has taught us to hide our true selves from the fear of ridicule and rejection, to shy away from admissions of weakness or guilt. And I am not going to deny that vulnerability almost inevitably invites pain. I felt some of that during Holy Week. 

But I suspect that if we dared to be who we really are a little bit more, to acknowledge our vulnerability to one another; then yes, we will find pain, but that in its midst the love we would discover just might empower us to create something truly beautiful as the co-creators with God we are called to be. I felt some of that during Hoy Week too.

This, perhaps, is the cross that allows the new life of resurrection. 

This, for me, is Easter.


Thursday, 29 May 2014

A story of rising, a story of descending

Generally, I try to avoid posting two blog posts in as many days, but today is ascension day, so if I don't post this today I'll have to wait a whole year by which time I might have mislaid it / forgotten about it / decided it wasn't worth posting anyway ... all of which may be a good thing, I guess, but anyway, here it is!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Stations of Light

During Lent I published some pictures and words to accompany the Stations of the Cross. It seems the 'Stations of Light', or 'Stations of the Resurrection' are much less well known. It strikes me that often, as church, despite our words affirming we are people of the resurrection, we are much more comfortable with struggles and sadness than joy and celebration. We fast during Lent with much greater diligence than we feast during Easter. We often seem more at ease with the horrors of crucifixion, than the mystery of Easter morning. We find it easier to believe in incomprehensible suffering and hatred, than incomprehensible life and love.

Of course, it would be equally wrong to celebrate the explosion of Easter joy without acknowledging the place of challenge and suffering in our world and in our faith; but I can't help feeling that generally, we might not have got the balance quite right yet.

In the name of balance, then, I offer these "Stations of the Resurrection", for your reflection:

The First Station: Jesus is Raised from the Dead
A man
Who walked this dust of ours
Now raised from death
Earthquakes and stillness
Force the question
Where now is Holy Ground?

The Second Station: Finding the Empty Tomb
An empty place
Where hope once lay
And fear now seeps
Darkness and confusion
As we seek
Our longed for Holy Ground

The Third Station: Mary Magdalene meets the Risen Jesus
A soft-spoken name
The call to our deepest self
Which speaks
Identity and Love
And sends us out
across familiar Holy Ground

The Fourth Station: Meeting the disciples on the Road to Emmaus
A journey
To walk away
From what might have been
Wondering and lost
Was this audacious hope
Such fragile Holy Ground?

The Fifth Station: Jesus is made known in the breaking of Bread
A simple meal
An invitation to the other
To share this bread
Feasting and companionship
Offers a gift of recognition
In this now Holy Ground



The Sixth Station: Jesus appears to the Disciples in Jerusalem
An upper room
A once so familiar face
An unexpected guest
Uncertainty and excitement
This place, a reminder
Of another Holy Ground

The Seventh Station: Jesus gives his peace
A blessing
With hands outstretched
In inclusive love
Forgiveness and peace
Trusted to create for others
A way into Holy Ground

The Eighth Station: Jesus strengthens the faith of Thomas
A scarred hand
Holding memories of pain
Offered freely but not cheaply
My Lord and My God
Passed through agony
That this might be Holy Ground




The Ninth Station: Jesus appears by the sea of Tiberius
A boat by the shore
Comfort in the familiar
Knowing everything is new
What was and what will be
Sent out into the normality
Of our everyday Holy Ground

The Tenth Station: Jesus forgives Peter and commands him to feed his sheep
A friendship restored
An intimate moment shared
Forgiveness offered freely
Repentance and restoration
Still welcome
To tread this Holy Ground

The Eleventh Station: Jesus commissions the disciples on the mountainside
A mountainside
The place of meeting
Of shared visions of what might be
Promise and challenge
Sent out
To create this Holy Ground

The Twelfth Station: Jesus Ascends into Heaven
A cloud of glory
The promised time has come
To find a new way of being
Ending and beginning
Leave the mountainside
To find your own Holy Ground

The Thirteenth Station: The disciples wait in prayer
A silent waiting
In prayerful contemplation
With God and with each other
Expectancy and hope
Knowing
This is already Holy Ground

The Fourteenth Station: The day of Pentecost
A new beginning
A precious gift
The confidence of trusting
Wind and fire
Confirming
No limits to our Holy Ground

In the silence
We stand on holy ground
Be still and watch
But not for long
It is time
To step out
And walk on.