At, off and why

17 Feb

At.            First I want to say, we should sometimes (surely we do) stop and wonder at something – look at it with amazement. It may be a large complex like a view of some kind, or something more fleeting like a shooting star or a leaping fish. Whatever it is we are told it is made up of microscopic ‘elements’ like atoms and invisible forces – something to wonder at. We are looking at the beauty of what God is – at that very moment – holding in existence! We can wonder at the wonders of nature and beauty of God. Its amazing!

Off.            Next let me assure you that it is quite common to wander off the subject. Our mind (our concentration) will go off at a tangent and we start thinking of something else. This must have happened often when we were at school and supposedly learning a lesson, but even as adults our mind will wander off whatever we ought to be concentrating on. It may be when we are cooking, or working on some project or just attending some ceremony or performance.   Its not always a bad thing because it can lead us to new ideas and new ways of seeing something – ike if you were to wander off the path in a woodland or in a busy town; it can lead you to some new and beneficial experience – but don’t get lost!

Why.            We can find it quite tiresome when younger folk are asking us all the time why. Why do we drive on the left, why do you go to church so often, why does the weather change each day, why are some people quite different from us. It is good to wonder why about some of the things we do and regularly experience or think about. Because when we wonder why, we are looking for a deeper understanding of something, hoping for some reason for common practices, rituals or expectations. God and His creating everything all the time (keeping it in existence) is something to query – but especially to ask ourselves about our own behaviour and customs – why do we do this – whatever – as reasonable beings we ought to have a reason.

So let us wonder at the beauty of everything, but wander off into new thoughts and attitudes and finally wonder why – for we should have a reason for what we think and do!

Exceed to succeed

10 Feb

Imagine someone who has an interest in some activity or the like or who enjoys the company of certain people.  They can get on quite well with these hobbies and friends, but this relationship can sometimes overreach this level of activity or interest.  It can become an overwhelming passion or – in the case of companions – even like falling in love.  When you get to this stage with some hobby or activity then you can become totally engrossed and can excel in the associated activity; but with some interpersonal relationship it becomes love and devotion – we take it to excess.

I hope you may have experienced something like this and understand what I am meaning.  It rsults in a devotion that can, even simultaneously, bring about great devotion and difficulty or even pain.  Think of your understanding of the life of Jesus!  He showed love to all, but also suffered opposition and pain (even eventually accusation, condemnation and death).  We must be prepared to exceed in our devotion/attachment to loving our world and its inhabitants and even expect challenges and apparent failure.  But to get to this level of life (Christi-like) we must exceed in our ‘devotion’ and then we will succeed.

Acts before facts

3 Feb

We Christians say the creed which was formulated centuries ago after the initial struggling for expression in the early church. It is the opening (“we believe”) that still dominates our being Christian; we believe in the Trinity (three persons in one God, the divinity of the person Jesus, of the Father and of His Spirit), and Catholics especially believe in the real presence of Jesus in their celebrations of the Eucharist. We take these facts as what define us as Christians – followers of Christ.  But…

But when you think about it seriously, what really should be of prior importance for us should be the way we live: the way we show kindness and love to all, respect those with different creeds or none, forgive those who have failings and help those who have any need. It is interesting that it is the reading from the Old Testament that seems to make this emphasis that the way you live is (should be) your distinguishing feature. And this gospel passage has a similar vane (be like the salt on food and a light in the dark). I must resolve to get the balance right in my own life – how I am towards others outweighs any importance of doctrines I may hold. Acts are more important than statements of facts!

[I would be pleased to receive comments which you can make below!]

Flesh and blood

27 Jan

It is very easy for many Christians to associate the words flesh and blood with the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper – with the reference to Body and Blood in the accounts of the last supper. But in the Letter to the Hebrews (in the passage read for the feast of the Presentation (Luke 2:14-18) the use of the phrase is different. The Greek phrase used by the author would be better translated as ‘the human race’ or ‘humanity – it would then read “so since children share in the human race, Jesus also shares in this with them…”   This interpretation is confirmed when it goes on to refer to dying as all humans do and to all being the same as the offspring of Abraham, and even further when it refers to the implication for humanity that Jesus’ life has. He was tempted as we all are but the fact that He was a good person for the whole of His life makes the rest of us benefit for it is possible for humanity to be free from sin, and because Jesus has shown this to be the case, He is called by the author a ‘high priest’ i.e. one who indicates and shows the way of life to others.

A light for all

20 Jan

With the low sun at this time of the year, and with my furniture in unusual arrangements for seasonal partying, I saw the dust that had been overlooked for a long time. Without light we cannot see the good never mind the deficient. It is so easy for a ‘good’ Christian to look at the ‘lapsed’ who now don’t go to church, or at the ‘secular’ who generally ignore religion. It even seems to make us more ‘proud’ of ourselves to ‘look down’ on others. Oh we might not do this very openly or obviously, but we can easily think that we church goers are somewhat better than others.

The Jews before and during Jesus’ time were like this – proud that they were the chosen people, that God was their god. But the prophets in due course, tried to overcome this selfishness, to preach against it – as in the readings for today – but only in a limited way – that the chosen might be a light to the Gentiles. We now have to go further than this, for God’s love is for all people and His salvation offered to all. It is not necessarily those who claim to be Christians but rather those who do the very best they can with the ability that they have – it is those who will be ‘first in the Kingdom of Heaven.’   A poem by M D Goulder about the women (of low esteem) – ancestors of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel – ends expressing this in a challenging way:

“And a mother unmarried, it was too that carried

God’s Son, and him laid in a manger of straw,

That the moral might wait at the heavenly gate

While the sinners and publicans go in before,

Who have not earned their place, but received it by grace,

And have found them a righteousness not of the law.

Your calling

13 Jan

Your vocation

The prophet writes of his, and his nation’s vocation and still the Jews are sometimes referred to as the chosen people. We Christians like to think that we are chosen both as individuals and as a group. For any other – secular- vocation, you have to learn whatever is necessary, become skilled not just in the knowledge but in the practice. A person’s vocation often dominates their lives, the friends that they have, the way that they think and talk and the ‘standing’ that they have iin society.

We should apply all this to ourselves as Christians. Do all know that’s what we are, do we practice the skills that this calls on, should we continue our learning about our vocation and develop the skills that it calls us to have – mother, a teacher a bricklayer, a miner, a judge, an actress – whatever. But overall our other positions in society, we have the vocation of being Christilike.

Re-commit!

6 Jan

John the Baptist was something of an extrovert and a dramatic personality.  It is such a person that is both bold enough to attract a crowd and suggest to them total immersion in the river.  I guess crowds would have been drawn to him mostly out of curiosity.  The gospels tell us that Jesus went to where John was and offered himself for baptism to express his commitment to God.  And it was after this dramatic experience of baptism that He began his public life of commitment to helping all to become more the person God wanted them to be.  For some it was a challenge or even a renewal – physically, mentally and spiritually.  But some people would shun this challenge of commitment for a less generous and safely rigid way of life – perhaps like the lives of the Pharisees and Saducees.

Since the earliest forms of Christianity baptism has been used as an expression of an intention and willingness to emulate Jesus’ example of how to live. Some people still use a symbolic baptism (sprinling ony) as an outward sign of the intended renewal but (alas) for many Christians it has been a wish of parents for their babies and so it was done to those unwitting infants unable to make such a commitment. This happened to me so I, as an adult, must trouble to recommit myself – which I have to do it repeatedly.  Maybe we all should seriously do this again and again in some way – re-commiting ourselves.

 

Epiphany

30 Dec

Generally the word epiphany means an unexpected moment of inspiration. Many years ago as a young child I remember Benediction – a ceremony of mystery, blessing, incense and song. I still love to sing to myself (don’t want to disturb others) the last 2 verses of the Pange lingua that we sang at Benediction – Tantum Ergo.  Latin was the language of ceremonies in the Catholic Church before the 1960’s (and Vatican II). My epiphany tells me I must try to treat all nature accordingly since I believe in the whole of creation being God’s and perhaps focus less on the ‘religious’ ceremonies, yet I still like to sing this Latin hymn. This, because after last week’s jotting (scroll down to see it) I have given the words my own understanding. Whereas once for me (and in the author’s mind) sacramentum referred to the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the ‘nove ritui’ meant the rituals of the church, now, as I sing, my epiphany makes me think of the sacredness of all in the universe and of the way each according to its status should be treated. So, as I enjoy singing the Latin I think of my new interpretation (and potential translation) shown here:-

Tantum ergo sacramentum                                 Hence the universal sacredness

Veneremur cernui:                                                Let us reverence with bowing:

Et antiquum documentum                                   And the previous understanding

Nove cedat ritui;                                                     Gives way to new holy actions;

Praestet fides supplementum                              Faith gives this addition

Sensuum defectui.                                                 To the inadequacy of how things seem.

Listen here to the Latin if you like.

God’s family

23 Dec

I like to think of the church as a (extended) family, since we do generally share beliefs and morals in common. In addition I want to take the word ‘church’ to include free churches, Baptist, Methodist, Church of Scotland, Episcopalian, Anglican, and various Orthodox churches as well as Roman Catholics (all Christians). But no – that’s not enough! I want to think of all human beings as God’s people – a group to which I certainly belong. But lest you think that’s enough I really try and would like to include all creatures, all creation, ranging from galaxies to subatomic particles. All are continually being kept in existence by God – the God I believe in is active and present everywhere all the time. Christians believe that God Himself entered this extensive, universal, group in the human, Jewish person of Jesus.

So what? This is what I often want to ask when I hear some new idea. My idea is that in the whole of creation there is a real presence of God actively creating and sustaining. Believing this of all God’s creation, I ought to treat accordingly all its various ingredients, especially myself and other people. So when I celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, I don’t just think of Mary and Joseph, nor even just we Christians – I try to consider all people (and actually even all things) as being sustained even now and every moment by God. Gosh! I feel a New Year Resolution coming on – but best not to aim too high, just starting with something I can attain if I try and persevere!

Patterns

16 Dec

Saint John Henry Newman had an attitude to scripture that was not the enthusiastic, knowledgeable and reverent attitude he was brought up with. Nor was it the dogmatic, literal and superior approach that he experienced in his later years, but it was an acceptance and understanding that the themes running through the bible were more instructive and meaningful than short or isolated quotes.

For example birth indicates the beginning of something new – such as with Abraham’s offspring Isaac and Jacob, or Moses with his youth in the Egyptian context, and royal David, seen as both king and author of psalms. This theme of the Old Testament is from birth to some new and even exciting future era. It’s a pattern and theme.

This is the theme at the beginning of the New Testament in the gospels of Matthew and Luke with regard to the circumstances of the birth of Jesus. It is told as such a unique and transforming event that in some way it brings all previous stories of births to a climax. This aspect of fulfilment indicates a miraculous transformation of humanity – of all creation.

There is an allusion in the Infancy Narratives to the centuries before when the prophet Isaiah announced before the king and court the pregnancy of a young girl as a message of hope for the future (in nine months time). But with the birth of Jesus being the ultimate in dramatic there is contrasted the lowliness of the shepherds, the stable and the circumstances of the birth, but also the singing of angels and wise travellers from the east, as well as the attitudes of Joseph and Elizabeth. We are ourselves, on the verge of celebrating this augur of good times to come – though we have a part to play in the coming.