Thursday, 9 March 2017

#Share40 week 1

As part of the "Holy Habits" programme, based on the description of the life of the early Christian communities in Acts 2, the Methodist Church in Birmingham came up with the idea of "Share 40": 40 tasks, each of which was designed to encourage us to enter into a deeper relationship with someone else: with a friend or a stranger, with our neighbours and with the wider world.

So for lent, I have taken up this challenge. Some are things I would generally do anyway, so there is perhaps a question of working out what it is the next step, beyond the ordinary; or perhaps it is simply a reminder to appreciate those things in my life, those points of sharing, a little more.

Here's a brief summary of week 1.

Wednesday: "help someone with washing up" I always think of washing up as an integral part of our community life together. If I chose to tick this off first on my share40 list it was because after a particularly washing-up-creation-intensive meal I made a conscious decision to celebrate how good the food was and not to be irritated by how long the washing-up was going to take afterwards!

Thursday: "spend some time in silence with someone else" We have gone through phases of spending an evening each week in silence in the community, and while it hasn't always proved possible to maintain this tradition, it is something I love and value. We have put it in place again on Thursdays during lent.

Friday - "go out for a meal with friends" An enjoyable evening in the Balti triangle: good food, good wine, good company: hardly felt like a Lenten penance! But, you know, any excuse for a good curry.

Saturday - "share a favourite recipe with someone" There are many challenges to a community life in which there are many arrivals and departures, but there are also many joys. More people on the cooking rota is definitely one of them, and each newcomer has added interesting variety to our diet and it is good to introduce others to some of our own favourite dishes too.

Sunday - "Have lunch with friends" Lunch with friends/family, and afternoon tea (via the pub) with another friend is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon and certainly something I should do more often. It was a valuable way to take time out from a busy schedule and a reminder that in between everything else that fills my time, these moments are also very important. I could even pretend I took a photo ... but I didn't.

Monday - "Pray with someone else" Prayer remains the centre of the life we have chosen here, and I recognise both the privilege and the challenge of being in a place where it is possible to make that such a priority. It is not uncommon for someone we have never met before comes and prays with us. Some become regular or occasional visitors, some we see only once and never again ... we can only hope that, however people choose to engage with the prayer, it offers them what they seek in that moment. I hope that was true for the young woman who joined us on Monday evening.

Tuesday - "Read the bible with someone else" On the first Tuesday of the month our Taize prayer is always followed by a bring and share meal and a discussion around a bible text. It was good to be able to gather and share with friends old and new, to not only read a bible text with others but also to explore what it might mean for us in our context.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

This is our world - a Lenten reflection

Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Your country is desolate, your cities burn with fire; your fields are being stripped right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. Daughter Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a field, like a city under siege. (Isaiah 1:4,7-8)

This is our world. 
The world we have chosen. The world we have made.

We have forsaken the Lord: as paralysed by fear we have forgotten to seek the costly grace of the gospel promise.
Our country is desolate: with the desperation and disillusionment of poverty and inequality, of exclusion and isolation, of all who have nowhere left to turn. 
Our cities burn with fire: with the burning pain of all those who suffer in body, mind or spirit.
Our fields are stripped right before us: by the environmental degradation of our unquenchable thirst for resources.
We are like cities under siege: hidden behind barbed wire and state surveillance and the teetering walls and weaponry our fear has erected around us.

This is our world.
The world we read about. The world we blame on someone else.
The world which we accept because we don’t believe we can change it.
The world we accept because of the comforts it affords us if we just keep our eyes closed.
This is the world we have chosen. The world we have made.

This is our world. 
This is our choice. The world we will make and remake.
To repent. 
To turn around.
To begin again.
To choose a different path.
To live by love and step out in faith;
To promote justice and equality, friendship and inclusivity;
To seek healing for all who suffer;
To act as stewards of all of creation;
To build bridges instead of barriers.

This is our world.
This is our choice.

Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land. (Isaiah 1:16-19)