On returning

On returning

an ancient door

spills light onto the space

within. Quietness envelops

those who tread here. It is a step

back to where no troubles have

occurred. No death only transition.

Mismatched glass seems strangely

unbroken in an alcove eastward window

atop hangs a sacred heart for the love which

moves us beyond our self within and without.

Courage to Love

It’s easier to hate than to love, so they say.  Love takes hard work.  Though I’m not so sure about this for some people put a lot of effort into their hate and some are lazy in Love.  It takes great courage to love. For as we hear from St. Paul, Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Well that’s nice.  Good for love.  Where does it leave us? For often we’re given a vision of Love which is more like the following:

Cruel, intolerant, indignant, restless, hasty, demanding, impetuous, merciless, fearful, and Love, we hear keeps a long and very detailed record of wrong-doing.  Not quite the image of Love in St. Paul’s letter, more likely to be found on some TV show or other – sadly too numerous to mention.

‘Love is a verb’ say messers Mooney and Wroe in ‘Lifelines’ and as every grammar teacher is wont to say that’s a ‘doing word’.

‘The most excellent way’ begins with the one writing. Reminding readers that if one doesn’t act out of love then one is but a clanging cymbal or a sounding brass (if you read the authorised version) which immediately reminds me of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Gareth crying out ‘Good Point’. Then there is the description of the Love Agape, the love of god, where ours might fail god’s does not. 

So here is an exercise in doing Agape Love with the most excellent way.  

Remove the word love and insert the name of the person with whom you’ve just argued or whoever has just been on the other end of the telephone when complaining to the government, bank, or whichever institution it might be this time.  Chances are that the person, yes, we often forget, the voices on the other end of the line are not synonymous with the company and its poorly constructed telephone system, policies or government department seemingly intent on mystifying us as to the correct way to go about whatever it is we are desperately trying to do, but a person, just like us and most probably having as awful a day as well.  So before firing off the email repeat the passage with the recipients name. Inserted instead of ‘Love’. There is one more step though.  Before doing all that, and this is the hardest of all, believe me I’ve tried it, insert your own name instead of the word love, for unless we are able to first love ourselves we will not be able to love others as God has intended…

Giving Ourselves Away

childinbasketLucy Winkett ended thought for the day this past Tuesday with the challenge to ‘give ourselves away’. Lucy is rector of St. James’ Piccadilly. Had I the chance to be in London over Christmas I would make time to go there to see the art installation by Arabella Dorman. It includes a dingy which arrived on the island of Lesbos with 62 refugees on board. St. James’ Piccadilly is no stranger to controversy. One of it’s previous incumbents, whom I met in Bangor, was Donald Reeves, known for being a nuisance to the CofE. Together with his partner Peter Peltz they founded the peace charity Soul of Europe. Based on the words of Mandela: “You don’t make peace by talking to your friends; you have to make peace with your enemies.” They began bringing people together.  So I find myself ill at ease as, unlike the thousands of refugees who will be on the road this December, I have no need to travel and I have a secure home. Today’s Gospel reading tells of Mary journeying to visit Elizabeth, both of them pregnant. Mary makes a second journey with Joseph to Bethlehem. A third journey takes them away into Egypt as refugees fleeing from violence. The first journey was one made out of love, to see a relative. The second out of obligation to the state and the third made in desperation and fear. So little has changed. These journeys will all happen this Christmas. Returning to the words of Lucy Winkett: what does it mean to ‘give ourselves away’?  If I suggested to you that Advent was a time for emptying out in order to be ready for Christmas, what might your initial thoughts be? Emptying cluttered shelves and bookcases, in order to fill the house with this year’s must-reads and best-buys? Maybe. Fasting or more probably dieting through advent in order to make room for twelve days feasting? Maybe not so much these days.  Perhaps it could mean emptying ourselves of our own needs, wants, desires, pride and expectations in order to be filled with the love that comes from being truly open to receive the gift of God in Jesus? How often do we hear, it is in the giving that we receive? Do we really understand this concept? It is not the reciprocal voucher exchange that I and my cousin used to practice for a number of Christmases past! Giving of ourselves to such an extent that we give ourselves up, give ourselves away. Until we do that, there is little room for Jesus or anyone else to make much of an impression upon our hearts. A Christmas film might help us to unpack this idea a little. The Richard Curtis Christmas comedy Love Actually from 2003. The film begins and ends with a scene of travellers reunited with friends and families at an airport. The voice-over from Hugh Grant suggests, contrary to the popular opinion that we live in a world dominated by violence and hatred, Love actually is all around us. But it is not necessarily news worthy or dignified, but it is there.  And so begins the tangled web of stories to make us laugh along the way and prove the point.  In fact it appears that Love can be found in a myriad of unexpected, awkward, and you might well suggest if you have seen the film, inappropriate places.  As the new prime minister meets his household staff.  As someone is caught with his brother’s wife.  Being in love with the bride during a wedding, when you are not the groom.  Being seven and in love with the most popular girl in school.  Or in love with someone with whom you cannot communicate.  Love in the darkest places, where a heart’s desire is beyond grasp.  But the film begins to turn to those true expressions of love that take an effort to cultivate.  Where there is sacrifice, we see a giving away of self to the point where there is nothing left to give.  The invitation is then open for love to enter in.  Not because of inappropriate desires, but because of the selfless giving of one person to another.  And so we see a sister devoted to her brother.  The seven year old gives up everything to learn to play the drums for his girl.  A writer and his housekeeper who cannot say anything meaningful to each other learn each other’s language in the hope that one day there might be a chance for their unspoken affection.  Moments of beauty in a silly Christmas film brings to birth the idea that in order to receive, first we must be prepared not just to give, but to give up our self.  Mary gives up her body, her identity, her home and then her freedom.  Mary gave herself away.  We are asked for the same.  Love is given a chance when we are transparent before the other.  Love will find a way in, often through pain or suffering.  First we must admit that we are broken.  When the moment comes that we have nothing left to give; Christ can then enter in, the transformation can begin and we will truly have given ourselves away.