William Morgan – Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant

Will Tŷ Mawr, not William Morgan but the former custodian of the house that saw William Morgan (Esgob) to birth: As we sat in his kitchen at Wybrnant he recalls ‘they keep bringing us bibles – what do we want with them here? And I’m, taken to the old parlor where a large cupboard stands; it is full of bibles.  Family bibles, and bibles in all languages.  When Will says he doesn’t want their old bible they often say “Well, what should I do with it then?” To which he would reply “Read it.”  And so it begins. 

“O Deuwch i’r dyfroedd, bob un y mae syched arno, ie, yr hwn nid oes arian ganddo; deuwch, prynwch, a bwytewch; ie, deuwch, prynwch win a llaeth, heb arian, ac heb werth.”  Eseia 55:1 yn ôl y BWM

 

William Morgan. Neither first nor last of his trade

Like a drop in the ocean, the one drop that starts 

the overflow from the Wybrnant to the sea

of the institution, the establishment and yet

Independent at heart.   Time to rise up.

Can any good come out of Penmachno?

Deuwch i’r dyfroedd a gweld.

And the waters continue to flow from the hills into the sea.

 

Those waters overflowed the bowl on our inauguration day – Bro Gwydyr Ministry Area of the forest, rivers, valleys and hills.  The waters we poured into a bowl, brought and poured by members of each community, overflowed and tumbled to the ground symbolic of the overflowing grace poured out for us, for our communities laid up by those on whose shoulders we stood that day at Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant reading from the book in the language of the common folk. A language set down creates a new beginning and a new place of departure.  A humble beginning. But what beginning is not.  And so we walk humbly in pilgrimage each year from St. Tudclud, sacred home of ancient stones to wybrnant, nestled in the quiet valley between Penmachno and Dolwyddelan a place of birth, of baptism for us for William Morgan whose name would become an icon behind which the people of Cymru would rally. Icon of independence, language, culture, society.  With the language they (the monarchy) tried to break and tame those difficult folk in the west, yet the poetic language of the William Morgan bible became the call to rise to stand apart, we will not conform. The establishment always underestimated, always, what a bible could do in the language finally understood of its hearers a book heady with dissent with liberation for those who are oppressed and the Cymru heard the voice of salvation in their mother tongue and rallied to its cry.  They say it began the revolution, but the real moment, the catalyst: a cross, generations before had waited out its revelation.  Morgan’s contribution of the saying of the sages and the wisdom of the prophets laid bare for all to read and hear.  No longer cloaked in a hidden language, now voiced as a new birth, as an overflowing of the waters.

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.

The twisted tree is me

twisted treeAt first glance this tree looks quite ordinary.  Almost dead, but quite ordinary.  Perhaps a slightly more charitable assessment would be to suggest that it is clinging on to life.  It is, I hope still there, on a footpath above Trefriw up towards Llyn Geirionydd, for it is worth going to see.  There are countless thousands of trees around us but this one in particular caught my attention, caused me to turn aside for a moment.  On closer inspection the trunk of the tree is twisted beyond all reasonable expectation.  The trunktwisting continues up through the branches as they reach for the skies.  The twist is always anti-clockwise as it runs up the tree.  It looks as if it is continually turning to find the sun, but never succeeding.  A perpetual corkscrew of bark and wood.  Perhaps once the tree had a glorious canopy, but not today.    It is the teenager of trees, the Ash – late to rise into leaf!  Today they are bare branches holding themselves out to the sky as if in hope for one final flourishing.  The temptation to personify the tree is strong.  To imagine the tree as a person with wounds and scars of life bared for all to see.  One who opens out their arms, as if to say ‘Here I am this is who I am and it is all there is’ in some sort of public confession.  Daring those who see to condemn rather than to accept.  To turn away rather than seek understanding.  To see deformity rather than elegance.  What has happened to cause the tree to twist like this perhaps we will never know.  There are the usual scars where a branch has been taken or fallen but nothing to suggest why it has contorted so.  The list of reasons suggested why trees grow like this drift quickly to mythology and folklore.  Twisted trees are said to be a sign of a spring nearby.  In the Welsh Mabinogion it is an Ash staff that Gwyddion bears.  A symbol of healing and transformation.  Physician, heal thyself!  More down to earth suggestions are that it has been struck by lightening.  The resultant twist coming from a contraction of the fibres in the tree which naturally grow in a spiral.  Trees in the open as this one is are prone to the wind and sun bending branches one way, then pulling them another.  However the tree came to be like this doesn’t take away from its peculiarity.  It is a thing of beauty in all its contortions.
It is possible to see this tree as a mirror of life as we struggle through continually seeking that which nourishes us.  Accepting the blows and difficulties turning continually away from them and in search of something brighter.  These are the things which make us who we are.  We would not be the same without them, we, like every other tree I passed that day, would not stand out.   Lutheran Pastor Nadia Bolz Webber has written a great book called ‘Accidental Saints: Finding God in all the wrong people.’  The book is part of the story of her life.  From stand up comic, alcoholic, tattoo canvas and more she is perhaps an unlikely suspect for Pastor of a church.  Yet, it is in her brokenness that the wholeness becomes visible.  Nadia has exposed the darkest parts of her life for public scrutiny and has come through it all.  She is who she is before God.  Her honesty is enough.  It has been said of her that she preaches to herself and lets other people overhear.  If you think you are not good enough to be part of the kingdom of God, read her books, you’ll soon find yourself right at home.  We are all wounded in some way or other.  Acknowledging it and bearing it gives us our strength.  A twisted tree trunk gives incredibly strong timber, though often overlooked by the timber miller who looks for consistent grain.  Psalm 118 – the stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.  In the words of the deuteronomist:  ‘I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.’  Or in the words of the Gospel of Luke:  ‘Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.’  We each carry our cross.  In baptism we are marked with the sign of the cross, a reminder to bear our weaknesses, failures and be proud of who we are before God.