In the crowd

Chi-Rho Penmachno Stone

There in the crowd.
A half smile, world weary but
with gestures of warmth.

There again.
soft words a voice of
understanding amidst pain.

A slow pace.
walking with empathy
alongside broken hearts
and damaged lives.

Vulnerable, humble.

For Pax Christi Peace Sunday 15th Jan 2017  Jn.1:29, 36

A light and a fear

High above the gloom of a valley
shrouded in the orange glow of neon
a misty halo surrounds an old light.
Captivating, white with its bright against
black skies no others dare invade
light enough for now. To lead.

She rises over the distant hill.
Drawing the wonder
Is it brighter on the other side?
The chasm between gapes
as she moves step by step
and we roll ever eastward
her path different.

Stars return to their place
so many, more than before.
She has gone her way
and I missed the chance to follow yet
like the skies that night I am brighter.
I carry her with me.

Herod, why are you afraid of her?  This light that heralds the New King.  And all Jerusalem with you.  All Jerusalem, are you sure?  Is this a modern majority, or the old sort?  All, dear gospel writer, I suppose you mean in the sense of political life.  Those who hold power who matter when it comes to the court.  The scribes and leaders who would have much to lose and more to gain by lying in the same bed as Herod, standing side by side on the platform of persecution looking out for every new threat.  For that is the fate of the powerful when they abuse their position.  The minority voice of fear shouts louder than the rest because it is armed and has much to lose, and yet tries to hold something it never really had.  And the New King Comes.  The fearful are not the everyday folk.  This is not the all, as in the poor and the lame and the leper, the sinners and the prostitutes and those rejected by the system because their face is the wrong colour or they have loved someone they say they ought not or their name does not sound right or they have travelled from a distant land.  No.  Not that all, for these are the all that the New King will raise up.  And that is why they are afraid.  The New King.  No fixed abode.  Will we give him room?

Riding the storm named Jesus

spineWhat is in a name? Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva, Frank. These names may not mean anything to you particularly. To me the last does. It was Frank I think who took my greenhouse, though possibly Eva. Frank didn’t take it, it was demolished, flattened, rendered useless. An act of wilful vandalism. One from which I’m (clearly) still recovering Eva and Frank the terrible twosome were the names of the storms that were, it seemed to me, centred on my greenhouse around last Christmas. So we spent the lull before the new year clearing broken glass and splintered wood. Storm Jesus? Jesus has not made it on to the Met office list of approved storm names. Perhaps in time. Though perhaps that storm has already passed over and we are still clearing through the wreckage. What then did storm Jesus look like and have we missed it? The properly American named Walter Wink has written a book titled ‘Naming the Powers’. The powers he describes in the book could be said to be storms. No teacups here. Though perhaps American tea-party politics is one of the powers Wink might name. Walter Wink speaks of Naming powers, speaking directly to their authority and calling them out for what they are. Speaking truth to power is a phrase used by the community organising group TCC – Together Creating Communities. A grass roots community group giving the power back to the ordinary folk, calling those who claim powerful positions to give account. Beware you who stand in their way. So long as they remain part of the community, separate from the established places of power they retain their mandate to speak truth to these powers. Walter Wink suggests in his book that this is what Jesus does. And that we have attempted to domesticated him. The success and failure of Christianity, or The Way as it was named earlier, for me lies in Constantine. A clever move making Christianity the religion of the empire. Domesticate it and take away its cutting edge, remove the critical element. Make it part of the establishment so it is hard to criticise the powerful hand that feeds you. Offer the Ego power and status and it is difficult to refuse. Jesus refused. The naming of Jesus is a calling out of the one who was and is to be a storm in the lives of the comfortable. Joseph, Matthew tells us, names him Jesus. He claims him into his family and gives him the power and the authority to speak truth into that institution. He overturns the plans of the rich and powerful for keeping the poor in their place. He blows through the country reminding all that they owe their loyalty to God, to themselves and not to the authorities. He rains on the parade of the Jewish leaders who have taken advantage of the Roman rule to maintain their powerful position, who are stealing from the ordinary folk in the name of the temple. The Jesus storm has been, but the effects linger on. Jesus himself named the powers of his day, spoke truth, not post-truth, but the old fashioned kind of truth into the places where many feared to tread. Is this our truth? Are we merely defenders of our positions or are we willing to speak truth to the powers to be willing, like Jesus, to give everything we have away, even our own life in order that all might have life. Mine is a position of power, as is every cleric in the church. It is my duty to speak truth to the powers who claim status above me, and to ensure that every voice is heard, not just the loudest. Those of us in positions of authority are the most at risk of being seduced by the power that such positions offer. We must use it as Jesus did, not to merely maintain the container, but to enable all to get to the contents to the true spirituality that Jesus offered that is the vine of life climbing up the trellis of religion. When the religious stands in its way, when the trellis is broken by the storm, the vine sprawls around the garden, but gives life in places it was never able to reach before. We as church have become afraid of the storm. The trellis has been built strong to domesticate and tame the vine. The truth is that the storm of Jesus will be set loose on the community with or without the church to enable his manifesto to come into being. We can be part of the journey, or we can attempt to hold on to what is not ours to hold. We can begin by speaking truth to those who hold power close to us. 500 years ago Luther nailed 95 issues to the door of Wittenberg Church about abuses of power. Reading them now, they make little sense to our situation. Perhaps it is time for another 95…