Monday, April 28, 2008

Stood Standing

This is late - apologies, sometimes life gets in the way!

Yesterday my little congregation had 'Vision Day Part Deux' or something to that general effect. It was hard work, but I think it was, overall, quite useful.

In the next couple of days I have to concoct a sermon for Ascension day, and if I'm honest, energy and inspiration are in short supply.

Somehow I can hold these two thoughts together by thinking about resurrection - or anastasis, which can apparently mean 'standing up' or 'getting up' (I think Jesus "anastasis-ed ek necron" in at least one gospel, but I'm too lazy to check right now).

At the beginning of Acts the disciples (and others?) are 'stood standing' (to use a Midlands expression) as Jesus disappears from view. They are, it seems transfixed, mesmerised, paralysed even, stood standing, staring into the sky like some kind of automatons. It takes the mysterious messenger from God to wake them up and move things along.

I think that, maybe, we can be a bit like this in churches - Easter and all it means for us can become where we stop, when things move on we are left 'stood standing' rooted to the spot, anastasis becomes static standing. Too readily we are staring heavenwards waiting for Jesus to return, rather than getting on with what we are commissioned to do here and now.

Nearing the end of 'Eastertide' it is good, for me anyway, to be reminded that resurrection isn't 'just' about Easter and the defeat of death and sin, or even about what will maybe happen at the end of time, rather it is about standing up, rising up and heeding God's call in the here and now. To be stood, standing maybe isn't merely being stuck staring into the blue yonder, but rather to have risen from sleep/death and to be ready for action?

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Scandal of Forgiveness

Yesterday, over at Per Crucem ad Lucem, I posted on forgiveness, noting how all human life is constituted by it, that it is both costly and difficult, that it relates to issues of memory and justice, and that its source is always the crucified God. This morning, I read Rowan Williams’ delightful essay Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2007) wherein Williams offers some poignant and insightful observations about this same theme. (I did wonder if God is trying to tell me something!)

Williams notes that ‘one of the oddest things in our culture is that we seem to be tolerant of all sorts of behaviour, yet are deeply unforgiving. The popular media mercilessly display the failings of politicians and celebrities; attitudes to prisoners and ex-prisoners are often harsh; people demand legal redress for human errors and oversights. We shouldn't be misled by an easy-going atmosphere in manners and morals; under the surface there is a hardness that ought to worry us. And this means that when the Church in the Creed and (we hope) in its practice points us to the possibility of forgiveness, it is being pretty counter-cultural’ (p. 152).

I still wonder if God is trying to tell me (us) something about the scandal of forgiveness ...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Still Her Little Child

My thoughts at Easter this year have very much turned towards understanding the death of Jesus from Mary's point of view, as Jesus' mother. Can we even begin to imagine what it was like to see the child that you carried and gave birth to, to be scourged and mocked and sentenced to die in the most horrific and demeaning way?

Mary was truly a remarkable woman in that she was prepared for whatever God had for her (it took me long enough to become accustomed to the idea that I was going to become a mum a few years ago!) She praised God, experiencing joy and a deep sense of honour. Yet she also heard words from Simeon which hinted at an ominous future....she no doubt remembered these words and still nurtured and raised her little boy into a man.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, God incarnate, was still her little child.

Still Her Little Child

(Words and music by Ray Boltz and Steve Millikan)

When she laid him in a manger
He was still her little child
In a city filled with strangers
He was still her little child
Though the inn was full
And the night was cold
She held Him close and smiled
When she laid Him in a manger
He was still her little child

When the angels called Him Savior
He was still her little child
When the wise men gave Him treasures
He was still her little child
When the shepherds bowed before Him
A star shone all the while
When the angels called Him Savior
He was still her little child

When He grew in strength and wisdom
He was still her little child
When He spoke the people listened
He was still her little child
When He healed the lame and dying
They would follow Him for miles
And when he grew
In strength and wisdom
He was still her little child

When the people turned against Him
He was still her little child
When they shouted crucify Him
He was still her little child
And when they nailed Him
To a wooden cross
Then we were reconciled
When she held His broken body
He was still her little child
He was still her little child

Easter Us

Easter us

You God who terrified the waters,

who crashed your thunder,

who shook the earth, and

scared the wits out of chaos.

You God who with strong arm saved your people

by miracle and wonder and majestic act.

You are the same God to whom we turn,

we turn in our days of trouble,

and in our weary nights;

we look for steadfast love and are dismayed,

we wait for your promises, but wait in fatigue,

we ponder your forgetfulness and lack of compassion,

and we grow silent.

Our lives, addressed to you,

have this bitter-sweet taste of

loud-clashing miracles and weak-kneed doubt.

So we come in our bewilderment and wonderment,

deeply trusting, almost afraid to trust much,

passionately insisting, too timid to insist much,

fervently hoping, exhausted for hoping too much.

Look upon us in our deep need,

mark the wounds of our brothers and sisters just here,

notice the turmoil in our lives, and the lives of our families,

credit the incongruity of the rich and the poor in our very city,

and the staggering injustices abroad in our land,

tend to the rage out of control, rage justified by displacement,

rage gone crazy by absence, silence, and deprivation,

measure the suffering,

count the sufferers,

number the wounds.

You tamer of chaos and mender of all tears in the canvas of creation,

we ponder your suffering,

your crown of thorns,

your garment taken in lottery,

your mocked life,

and now we throw upon your suffering humiliation,

the suffering of the world.

You defeater of death, whose power could not hold you,

come in your Easter,

come in your sweeping victory,

come in your glorious new life.

Easter us,

salve wounds,

break injustice,

bring peace,

guarantee neighbor,

Easter us in joy and strength.

Be our God, be your true self, lord of life,

massively turn our life toward your life

and away from our anti-neighbor, anti-self deathliness.

Hear our thankful, grateful, unashamed Hallelujah! Amen.

- Walter Brueggemann, ‘Easter Us’, in Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann (ed. Edwin Searcy; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), 165–6.