What is in a name? Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva, Frank. These names may not mean anything to you particularly. To me the last does. It was Frank I think who took my greenhouse, though possibly Eva. Frank didn’t take it, it was demolished, flattened, rendered useless. An act of wilful vandalism. One from which I’m (clearly) still recovering Eva and Frank the terrible twosome were the names of the storms that were, it seemed to me, centred on my greenhouse around last Christmas. So we spent the lull before the new year clearing broken glass and splintered wood. Storm Jesus? Jesus has not made it on to the Met office list of approved storm names. Perhaps in time. Though perhaps that storm has already passed over and we are still clearing through the wreckage. What then did storm Jesus look like and have we missed it? The properly American named Walter Wink has written a book titled ‘Naming the Powers’. The powers he describes in the book could be said to be storms. No teacups here. Though perhaps American tea-party politics is one of the powers Wink might name. Walter Wink speaks of Naming powers, speaking directly to their authority and calling them out for what they are. Speaking truth to power is a phrase used by the community organising group TCC – Together Creating Communities. A grass roots community group giving the power back to the ordinary folk, calling those who claim powerful positions to give account. Beware you who stand in their way. So long as they remain part of the community, separate from the established places of power they retain their mandate to speak truth to these powers. Walter Wink suggests in his book that this is what Jesus does. And that we have attempted to domesticated him. The success and failure of Christianity, or The Way as it was named earlier, for me lies in Constantine. A clever move making Christianity the religion of the empire. Domesticate it and take away its cutting edge, remove the critical element. Make it part of the establishment so it is hard to criticise the powerful hand that feeds you. Offer the Ego power and status and it is difficult to refuse. Jesus refused. The naming of Jesus is a calling out of the one who was and is to be a storm in the lives of the comfortable. Joseph, Matthew tells us, names him Jesus. He claims him into his family and gives him the power and the authority to speak truth into that institution. He overturns the plans of the rich and powerful for keeping the poor in their place. He blows through the country reminding all that they owe their loyalty to God, to themselves and not to the authorities. He rains on the parade of the Jewish leaders who have taken advantage of the Roman rule to maintain their powerful position, who are stealing from the ordinary folk in the name of the temple. The Jesus storm has been, but the effects linger on. Jesus himself named the powers of his day, spoke truth, not post-truth, but the old fashioned kind of truth into the places where many feared to tread. Is this our truth? Are we merely defenders of our positions or are we willing to speak truth to the powers to be willing, like Jesus, to give everything we have away, even our own life in order that all might have life. Mine is a position of power, as is every cleric in the church. It is my duty to speak truth to the powers who claim status above me, and to ensure that every voice is heard, not just the loudest. Those of us in positions of authority are the most at risk of being seduced by the power that such positions offer. We must use it as Jesus did, not to merely maintain the container, but to enable all to get to the contents to the true spirituality that Jesus offered that is the vine of life climbing up the trellis of religion. When the religious stands in its way, when the trellis is broken by the storm, the vine sprawls around the garden, but gives life in places it was never able to reach before. We as church have become afraid of the storm. The trellis has been built strong to domesticate and tame the vine. The truth is that the storm of Jesus will be set loose on the community with or without the church to enable his manifesto to come into being. We can be part of the journey, or we can attempt to hold on to what is not ours to hold. We can begin by speaking truth to those who hold power close to us. 500 years ago Luther nailed 95 issues to the door of Wittenberg Church about abuses of power. Reading them now, they make little sense to our situation. Perhaps it is time for another 95…
I have been working on a paper for about six months, I knew that at some point I would have to write the beginning, but have not as yet until this morning found the right words.
Soil, Soul, Society. Alastair McIntosh describes this as the “Tripartite understanding of community”
(For those who are concerned about such things, it matters not, I think, where you begin, with either soul or society or soil. The important thing is to begin where you are.)
This is the perfect beginning as it draws together all the strands which are at the moment hanging by the threads of an idea yet to be born. In this simple framework it all comes together so well.
So we must (re)connect with the earth, realise our interdependence with all life on the planet and learn to tread lightly.
Connect with society, our life and our death is with our [global] neighbours.
Re-congnise the Soul, that which is connected to the source of all life, in the Christian context – God.
With these three in harmony, Soil, Soul, Society it might just be possible to move beyond our current obsessions and live a more balanced and far simpler life.
I have avoided that word for a long time, it has almost become a nothing word to some, speaking of fanciful longings and notions without any depth or heart or soul. ‘Celtic Christianity never really existed’ some say, and to an extent I would agree. The trouble is, it goes deeper than this. “And Celtic Spirituality is only the heart ruling the head” They might go on to say. When I hear some poetry and music quoted as being ‘celtic’ or of celtic influence I always wonder who was the influence to these quaint ditties, some long forgotten saint speaking from beyond the grave perhaps?
Reading Alastair’s book Soil and Soul is illuminating because for once he usurps the general convention of, is there, isn’t there, celtic arguments and says this:
“The issue, I think, is not whether Celtic spirituality ever existed, but the fact that a living spirituality connecting soil, soul and society manifestly can and does exist. This is community in that word’s most holistic sense. … Celticity therefore takes on a meaning that can be bigger than ethnographic and linguistic definitions alone: it becomes code for reconnection with human community, with the natural world and with God. It expresses what I call a ‘metaculture’: a connection at a level of the soul that goes deeper than superficial cultural differences; a connection simply by virtue of our underlying humanity. Such a bedrock of commonality is desperately needed in today’s fragmented world. It arises not from globalisation as a business concept, but from the fact of being ‘one world’ “