Ar Daith – Labyrinth style

IMG_0703Yesterday whilst standing in the middle of a labyrinth looking out over the sea towards a forest of windmills I felt a deep sense of calm, of protection and of safety.  It was midsummer yesterday.  We gathered on the beach for Forest Church, neither in a forest or a church! but still Forest Church – Dyffryn Clwyd style.  At the very end of the dyffryn, where the land meets the sea, the earth meets the sky and at the point of the year where the first half meets the second half.  A liminal space you might say.  Or according to Terry Wogan, “ahh, the nights’ll be drawing in – soon be christmas.”  Of course that is the point of Christmas being at the winter solstice and the birth of John the baptist commemorated at the summer solstice.  It is a turning point, a way of keeping track of ourselves and of our spiritual connectedness to all that is around us.  Another good reason to meet on the beach.  We created, then walked the labyrinth.  Some for the first time, some returning to an old friend, but it was a journey within the journey as it were for all.  Pondering the readings set for today, I find no sense of calm, no sense of peace, in fact we find quite the opposite.  Prophets, teachers and poets being bold, courageous and it seems, perhaps, preparing for battle.  But here is the truth of the matter – notice it is the family who are to be torn apart by this ‘sword’ or division in the gospel reading.  This is the heart of the matter.  It is easier to be in conflict with ones ‘enemies’ those who cannot be seen face to face, those who are often just a ‘they’ or ‘them’.  Have you noticed how often ‘they’ are blamed for this and that and it is ‘them’ who have brought these terrible things upon us.  Don’t worry though, for as Jesus says – to quote out of context ‘have no fear of them’.  It is far harder to be in conflict with ones brother or sister of mother of father.  And yet this is what Jesus is suggesting will happen in this reading from Matthew.  This will be the place of the new conflict, within families, for few will accept the changes that Jesus proposes without a fight.  Why?  Because Jesus proposes the most radical of all.  The transformation of our whole way of being.  Not just a change of leadership, government or council, but the change of our perspective.  That all are our brothers and sisters, that all are our mothers and fathers, that we must first be united to God, then to each other in our family.
We are likely to grumble amongst ourselves when things come to threaten our way of life and the hardest battles are often within the family because that is where the deepest ties are.  There are plans afoot to rethink our deanery and everyone will be invited to have their say in that.  It does make sense to re-evaluate our resources from time to time and if things are not working then it is appropriate to either change them or bring them to an end.  The more interesting part of this work is to search out those things which work well and give life to congregations and communities.  One such thing that appears to have worked very well in the past, and I have – as yet – had no negative feedback, has been the joint services between our parishes.  Building on that strong foundation we have set out a programme of monthly joint services up until December this year – each falls on a significant date or time of year which we will mark appropriately.  It would be folly to suggest that this pattern will not bring some unease and perhaps even a sword of division or two within the family, but if we are to be a true community of Christ, the family of God, gathering together is essential.  As they say, those who eat together, stay together.  So returning to the labyrinth, it is time to walk back, away from the centre calmness along the path which takes you round and back and about.  One must not dwell too long at the centre.  As with walking the labyrinth, our own journey itself is significant, but more importantly, those with whom we share it makes it what it always has the potential to become.

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