What are you looking for?

Jesus said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. (John 1:29-42)
What are you looking for? Well, I could write a list and it would probably be quite mundane. My keys. (Always my keys.) The pen that I just had. That piece of paper I just put down.  It might even be funny if it wasn’t so often that I’m now half convinced there isn’t a conspiracy of some sort to move what I just had when I step out of a room. What are you looking for?  Not an easy question to answer once you’ve exhausted the immediate.

Did Andrew and his companion know what they were looking for? We are not told, but they ask: Where are you staying? It’s one of those questions you ask, it’s an everyday question, benign, redundant and fills an awkward silence. I find myself asking it of visitors, silently criticising myself for not being more original in the asking. I ask it along with Where are you from? and What are you doing here?, (in terms of activity, not why on earth did you come to this place.) They are the empty questions. Useful for Jesus as it turns out as he filled the space with an invitation. Because if Jesus had replied like most visitors reply, oh we’re staying at such and such a place. Oh that’s a lovely place. Good food, great view of the lake. Have a good stay, bye… No, Jesus turns the superficial question into an invitation, come and see. Always the invitation. It cuts through the simple question and invites the beginning of a relationship based not on a few words spoken in passing, seldom to be met again, but with the prospect of getting beyond the superficial.

Sometimes we forget what we’re looking for.
Sometimes we forget we’re looking.

Every act, a bold venture or a mindless chore, is seeking something, expecting something. What? What are you hoping for? What do you need?
Are you looking in the right place?
What is it that you want? (No not that)  What is it that you want more than that? And now once more, even more than that, what is it that you are looking for? Search for that and let the rest go. (Steve Garnaas-Holmes www.unfoldinglight.net)

So, what am I looking for? This January during Epiphany. I’m looking for moments of beauty, for love for hope, depth. For that which draws us as a nation and as a church community together. For the words to express that which words cannot express. Looking for those rare moments that speak of that of which we cannot speak, and to find the words to share them. For the experience of that which is beyond our ordinary experience. I’m looking, this epiphany time for a moment in the company of Jesus to be able to recognise the Christ and I’m looking, still looking to understand what that might mean. And I’m Failing magnificently at it.  But I’m always looking and waiting for the invitation once again to come and see and to find the courage to ask the question, What are you looking for? And to offer that invitation, come and see. And then in company to take the first steps to begin anew to discover something of the depth of love, and of hope and of beauty of which the gospels speak so timelessly.

Solstice Pilgrims

Emmanuel, come.
Mary. Emmanuel. This fourth Sunday of Advent at the solstice, the shortest of days in the year when we yearn for the the light to return as others suffer the dire consequences of too much heat. The injustice of it all. And I feel like switching it all off and not knowing, but then I too become disconnected. And we yearn for connection. We bear each others pain in the knowing and the sharing. Who bore your pain Mary? Did Joseph? Encouraged by the angel in the gospel of Matthew to not ‘do the righteous thing’ but to do the dangerous thing to stand by her. Yes. She’s pregnant. And no, Joseph, It isn’t yours. What would we do? How many women will we stand by who are like Mary this Advent. How many women will we empower this advent as we support Christian Aid to enable them to help themselves out of poverty? What did Joseph do? He offered a gift of legitimacy. In a culture of shame upon women who were pregnant out of marriage he offered a home and a place for Mary to be secure. Will we do the same to those who are branded as illegitimate or foreign or different in some way. What would we give for such security for those women around the world who live in fear of tomorrow because of the situation they find themselves in. And yet, Mary chose her path, knowing it was more than her own life. Mary, Jospeh, then Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. Our companion on the way. Knowing that somehow perhaps those choices and actions, however small at that moment would change things for the future. In that moment of knowing, the light begins to shine out of the darkness. It works so well in the northern hemisphere. Where the nights are long and light is at a premium. So yesterday in the meagre short hours of light we walked, unhurried along a path. Squandering those precious hours of light simply walking in the company of others, offering ourselves to each other as companions on the way carrying each other for a time. At this darkest moment of the year our expectation grows and our Advent waiting is almost done.

As the light fades on this shortest of days
May we who have walked to the turn of the earth
dwell in the company of brightness
With winter’s shrouded colours born of waiting
in anticipation of the light that is to come.
May we return to this moment when the darkness
closes in and be cradled as in candlelight
encouraged as by bird song
a haunting vespers which invades
our inner silence and calls companions
and friends together out towards the light.

Time to let go

“Pour out, I will pour out my Spirit.
Earth shall be much more that it seems.
Both sons and daughters shall prophesy.
Young and old shall dream dreams.”
Arrangement by John Bell of the Prophet Joel, quoted in Acts

Pentecost is when the church story suddenly gets messy. Our church year has been very ordered so far recounting the stories of birth, through the life and teaching of Jesus to the last week up to the cross, resurrection and ascension. But pentecost is when the church story gets messy I’m sorry to say, well, not that sorry because… Pentecost is messy, as it is a time to let go and let God take the reins, the initiative. To let go and let God. That means our carefully crafted plans for mission and ministry might not come to fruition in the ways that we were expecting them, or in ways that fit neatly into the boxes that the diocese or province has for us to tick. God doesn’t tick boxes, God gets the job done, and if we’re willing, we can be a part of that. All of this is only possible for us to be part of if we are first able and courageous enough to let go our control. We’ve begun that journey and process of letting go with the help of Tim Curtis this weekend. We’ve begun the process of letting go of our own plans, assumptions, prejudices and beginning to allow God to speak to us through all that we encounter by walking, listening, seeing and feeling our way around our villages. We need to continue that momentum and do more of it, but beware, if we do we may end up loosing, letting go our control and letting God. I once wrote a chapter for the book ‘Earthed’ called “Loosing Control.” It was about thin places, places much like some of our own area where the veil between heaven and earth is thin, where it is much easier to experience the divine, silencing our minds to the continuous noise and rush of the world around us, if, of course we are open to such a proposition. We began at a ‘thin place’ trying to map the spiritual sense of Llanrhychwyn with Rich Pictures describing our sense of that spiritual place. So I wrote on these this so called ‘thin places’ and where we might find them. An abbey, a pilgrim church, a graveyard, and an un-inspiring place on the corner of a hill, but one of particular significance for one family. It was titled Loosing control. When the proof reader returned my copy, all the times I had used the word loose, they had in their place a spelling correction – dropping and o to make it lose. Perhaps I should not have used the old word to loose, it is too close in speech, let along in writing and very far from the meaning of lose. To loose is to let go, to untie, loosen our grip, our control – but not lose anything at all, in fact quite the opposite for if we are able to loose, let go, relax our grip, our control and let God then the spirit, and especially when we pray at Pentecost, might just come upon us. If we do, we are liable to gain rather than lose. The Rich Picturing process can help us to let go. As we see the pictures of others and the perspectives of other people our own view gets widened so that we are able to appreciate a far broader understanding of the place in which we live. Then, letting go of our own assumptions we might just be ready for the spirit of God to come upon us. But beware for what you pray. Remember that Pentecost is messy. The spirit of God comes to disturb our quiet, ordered life, comes not to comfort as we might understand the word in English as epitomised in the fluffy towels of fabric softener adverts, but Con Fortis with strength. The spirit comes to strengthen greatly our efforts but if only we would allow such to happen. Today is the day when we remember, not the first outpouring of the spirit, but a moment when those gathered as church were open and ready to receive the spirit, and that there was a purpose for the spirit to be on them, for the story of God in Jesus was being shared. We too need a new language in order to take out the message afresh for the places in which we live, interpreting what is going on around us and engaging creatively allowing God’s plan to unfold before us. This will only happen if we let go our control and let the spirit of God lead us. Pentecost is the time to let go and let God.