The middle way

I imagine you
walking the opposite way
arriving at the marker post from
the other direction. Disappearing
into tussocks, sunk deep into the sodden
landscape. Swallowed up or sucked down.
Visible for a brief moment then gone.  Like
signposts in life. A brief moment of brightness
that leaves an image greying into the mists of memory.
Thoughts cloud and change what was once clear and sharp.
Your way ahead the path I’ve walked and your past mine
for the future. Our gift to each other.

Roots and leaves

Discarded leaf litter decays into nutrients feeding the trees that gave them life in a process so ancient, so simple, so interconnected. It ought to be held in higher esteem. Autumn comes and will go again. We are here for but a season.  As we came together this past week to remember a good friend and to commend her into our hearts as a community and as we say it in the funeral prayers into the hands of God.  Roots and leaves. She had an awful lot to be commended on.  Her legacy rooted in deep faith, true friendship and vivacity for life. Those which have gone give new life to those who remain. So how do we become A Good Ancestor?  The book by Roman Krznaric The Good Ancestor asks how we might want to be remembered and first suggests that in order to be a good ancestor for those who come after us it would be a good idea to look back and know our own better. This isn’t always a comfortable task. Call to mind your connection to your parents, and through them, as best you can, your grandparents, and the great-grandparents whose names you know or do not know. And so on. What do you know about your own ancestral heritage? What do you not know? . . .What parts [of this story] have been hidden, denied, buried, or left out? Examine what you know and do not know about these aspects of your place in the social world. James Rebanks  new book English Pastoral delves into his past and recalls his grandfather’s relationship with his farm, with this knowledge he is able to rebuild for the future.  Roman Krznaric suggests that in order to give forward to the generations to come we need to stand knowing our place. Knowing who we are from where we have come. Comfortable with who we are. Or at least understanding. What we can do, what we can’t do, knowing the difference and being honest about it. Knowing that we are one drop. Even one drop in a bucket will send ripples out that will reach the edges and back to the centre again.  Today 18th October the feast of St. Luke the evangelist. One drop whose ripples continue to be felt.  Often called the physician, so St Luke’s day has become synonymous with prayers for healing. Autumn begins nature’s healing process. So it is natural for us to think on these things at this time, especially with All saints and All souls around the corner followed closely by our annual remembrance.  Winter and spring tidy up what autumn begins.  Roots and leaves.  It’s a messy process.  It might seem strange to think of the beginning of death as part of the healing process, but taken in a global context standing at this one point and looking both back and forward we can see that it is necessary. When death comes do we greet her as an old friend or do we begin to use the language of warfare against our own bodies. In our community an evolving exhibition of community art, music poetry called begins Cyfnod Cof…  (Remembrance Time) The project, including a reciprocal roofed structure to emphasise how much we need to lean on each other, is to help us to stand in our place and reflect this year on all the lives that have gone before and those that are yet to come. Another tool of the good ancestor is cathedral thinking. They were never built in one generation. Those who laid the foundations would not see the pinnacle of the spire. The kingdom of God is such a project and we commend to it what we can.

Speechless

Speechless – Welcomed and Rejected.

You might think that the Parable of the wedding banquet affirms the boundless generosity and inclusive reach of God’s grace. There is the small matter of the destruction of villages of those first invited. After that though we can invite everyone. Celebrate the inclusivity, diversity of God’s kingdom shown in this parable. But then it gets awkward again. One person here is not in the right attire. There is one person not wearing their Sunday Best. As with all people who come inappropriately attired they get banished to the outer darkness (with weeping and gnashing of teeth). Doesn’t turn out very inclusive or welcoming. The traditional explanation is that Matthew says once we’ve been invited and included, to fully accept the gift we have been offered requires of us nothing less than our whole life. This is what is represented by the wedding garment: righteousness. This person has obviously just snuck in for the drinks and nibbles (Coffee and Chocolate biscuits) without realising there was a bigger agenda. The same commentators also link the earlier village destruction to the rejection of God’s plan by Israel. All of that is useful to a certain extent but it’s just information, it’s not going to aid us on our spiritual journey. I could say instead there is a real difference between going to church – out of duty, tradition, being dragged there as a child/ adolescent/ parent/ grandparent /grandchild *delete as appropriate.  There is a great deal of difference between the going to church to – Being Church, a community of faith of prayerful people. I could say that, but then we’d have to do something about it.  Let’s go back to the man who was speechless for a moment. Who is he? Here he was invited to the feast. One of the uninvited. Now invited. He comes along. He’s pulled out of the crowd for not wearing the right thing. The reaction of the man wearing inappropriate clothing is silence. Silence because he thought he’d been invited. Silence because he thought everyone was welcome from wherever and whatever their means. Silence because he couldn’t justify his position. Silence because he didn’t know what to say or how to react or what to do. Silence because there were no words he knew to describe the feeling of, in the same moment, being welcome and rejected. Is this man in the parable The welcomed and rejected Jesus? Welcomed into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.  Rejected, handed over to be crucified.  Silent before pilate. This parable makes sense if the one who is pulled out of the crowd represents Jesus.  Many are called but few are chosen is the final line. Not because the kingdom of God is an exclusive club, but because being chosen in this way means suffering – going to the places that only those who follow Jesus closely are going to be able to go.  Discipleship was not for everyone.  Going to Church the many, the feast, the wedding banquet – everyone is welcome.  Being Church – the few who gather to struggle and suffer alongside God in the community of faith.  Let me give you an example of what I mean.  Have you been in a church building to welcome visitors?  Gosh what a lovely church they say. Then they say, and I’m waiting for it, because I know it’s their very next question: When was it built? We need some creative answers to this because often mine is speechlessness. Why might I be speechless?  Because I don’t know how to respond? Because I’ve lost the art of conversation? More likely because the language of spirituality is difficult. And I suspect that is why they ask such questions – they don’t know quite what to ask or say. But being speechless is a good first response to allow the God space to develop, but we need to be able to teach others this art too – the art of Jesus welcomed but rejected going to the places we’d rather not go to be with the other rejected ones. So how do we help folk to go away with more than a few photos. It’s hard work rebuilding, but necessary. But we’re going to try anyway. A group of pray-ers are gathering this week to look at how we pray and worship in our area – in effect to look at that moment of speechlessness and say what is our response going to be.  One of those responses might be practicing the art of being still. (You don’t need to do this in a building by the way – but you do need a place with few distractions – so a church is probably quite a good option.) The point is that there is a wealth of spirituality that this place represents, we need to be offering to those who come in.  And in our days of difficulty, adjustment of fast change there are plenty of folk who need help and if we don’t offer it… Let’s begin again. Gosh what a lovely church building you’ve got here. They say. All the better to pray in we could reply. And then we smile, tell them the history And invite them to spend a few moments practicing the art of being still – speechless.