This past Sunday, over Zoom, we took a fresh look at the parable of the Good Samaritan through the “wondering” questions typical of a Godly Play story. Some of the ideas that have been developing in my further reflections this week have been around …
… how quickly we identify with the people who passed by the man who had been beaten, had everything taken from him, and was left on the side of the road half-dead or with the notion that Christ calls us to be a community who stops and takes care of the wounded and needy; yet how seldom we acknowledge that we can, in fact, be that half-dead person or one of the attackers who took, by force and for reasons that we do not know, that which did not belong to them …
… how gender, race, and age would impact the story in different ways: most of us would be willing to rush to the aid of a child who lay hurt on the side of the road; yet, as a woman, I would feel distinctly vulnerable stopping on my own to approach a man on the street – even if he was clearly in need …
… how the one who had mercy is identified in Scripture as being the neighbour of the one in need in accordance with what God requires of us – but, in fact, all in the story are in need of mercy, of a neighbour, of the touch of God upon their lives as they journey.
As I wrestle today with what this parable teaches me about the kin-dom of God, I find myself wondering as I enter into prayer:
What have I done to hurt another? To rob them of their joy, their peace, their voice, their confidence, their dream, their energy, their passion? What do I need to apologise for? And what pain am I carrying from others doing the same to me? What do I need to forgive?
Who am I comfortable caring for and reaching out to? Who have I simply walked past – and why? What would it take for me to make myself vulnerable?
What might it mean to be a neighbour to those too busy to stop, to those too fearful to get involved, to those who survive/prosper through violence, to those from a different culture or religion or with a completely foreign perspective on life, to those trying to keep a small business alive at this particular time, to those on a journey, to those stuck in a place of shadow and pain, to those who have been beaten and had everything taken for them and been left lying on the side of the road half-dead?
Blessings to you in where this day takes you and on all you may meet on the way.
This Sunday, we hear the parable of the leaven and share in the sacrament of Holy Communion (with the elements of bread and wine or with empty hands). Feel free to get in touch if you would like more details on how to join our conversation. x Yvonne.
As I continue to reflect on how we all journey together in this “time warp” time towards Christ’s kin-dom, I’d simply like to share today a prayer by Karl Barth from Sunday’s worship.
O Lord our God! You who know who we are; men (and women) with good consciences and with bad, persons who are content and those who are discontent, the certain and the uncertain, Christians by conviction and Christians by convention, those who believe, those who half-believe, those who disbelieve.
And you know where we have come from: from the circle of relatives, acquaintances and friends or from the greatest loneliness, from a life of quiet prosperity or from manifold confusion and distress, from family relationships that are well ordered or from those disordered or under stress, from the inner circle of the Christian community or from its outer edge.
But now we all stand before you, in all our differences, yet alike in that we are all in the wrong with you and with one another, that we must all one day die, that we would all be lost without your grace, but also in that your grace is promised and made available to us all in your dear Son Jesus Christ.
We are here together in order to praise you through letting you speak to us. We beseech you to grant that this may take place in this [day], in the name of your Son, our Lord.
Over the past few weeks, I – like many others – have become increasingly aware of the significance of constraints or boundaries or limitations in our lives. In the movement from death to life to life in its fullness, I am deeply challenged (again) by the identity of the Church as the pilgrim people of God and inspired by the imagery of God’s Spirit as breath or wind – invisible but tangible, uncontainable.
The gathering for Pentecost Sunday defies some of those constraints as technology enables some to meet beyond traditional sacred space and geographical boundaries for a time of conversation and contemplation through poetry, prayer, music, silence, and nature.
This week, the service will not be recorded but I share some of the curated elements here for you to be drawn into this time in your own time and way through different voices, traditions, and experiences. If you would like to be part of the gathering, it takes place on Sunday from 9:30a.m. (with 30 minutes of opening music) to 11a.m. (G.M.T +10) and you are welcome to comment here so that I can send you an invitation to Zoom (requires computer with microphone and camera or smartphone).
May the Spirit of God with and within you, move you.
I share and share and share again sometimes with a new language which, if you are so open will take you behind the sky and award you cartwheels across the sun I give and give and give again not restricted by the church calendar nor concocted ritual I have no need of anniversaries for I have always been I speak and speak and speak again with the sting of purity that can only be Me causing joyous earthquakes in the mourning soul of [hu]man I am and am and am again.
Stewart Henderson, The Lion Book of Christian Poetry
Featuring names for the Holy Spirit from Richard Rohr’s book The Divine Dance. During this time, it is recommended that you move your body in some way in response to what you feel happening within you e.g. stretch, hold out your hands, follow the moving images on the screen with your finger, sway etc. Pay attention to which words or images really move you.
Prayer of presence (progressive)
We gather today mindful of a creative, energising magnificence at work in all places: – in the vastness of the universe, – in the evolutionary development of life on earth, – and in every breath we take.
In this Great Mystery we are one with everything and everyone.
We open our hearts and minds to this creative Presence, this energising Power in the depths of our own being, knowing that we need not ask it to “Come,” but rather knowing it has always been here with us in life, in being, in spirit, in love.
We gather in memory of Jesus who knew this Presence in his own life, who recognised its presence in the lives of others and who urged his listeners to call upon this Presence within them to transform a world of sorrow, a world of pain, into a world of joy, a world of promise and hope.
Today we give thanks for the Jewish men and women who took up the challenge of transforming their world, who kept the dream of Jesus alive.
Michael Morwood, Prayers for Progressive Christians
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
John 20:19-23, New International Version
Questions to reflect on:
I wonder which of these signs of the Spirit you like best.
I wonder which of these signs you think is the most important sign.
I wonder if there are any other signs we could have to have all the signs of the Spirit that we need.
I wonder where we see these signs in the world around us.
I wonder how we can be a sign of the Spirit in the world.
Signs of the Spirit
As we pray for others, I invite you to pick up your pen/pencil and paper if you have one close at hand. As the words of the prayer are offered, without lifting your pen from the paper scribble an unfurling, unfolding, moving line in whatever way you are moved to. Alternatively, after the time of worship, tie pieces of string or ribbon outside in a spot where the wind will move them this week and you will be reminded of what you have prayed for.
Praise to you Gentle breeze of the Spirit For you blow where you will. I hear the sound of you but know not where you come from or where you go. Let me be aware of your presence as your breathe across my life this day, though I can never grasp you.
Be still in the silence and aware of the Love with and within ……
By your breath of life which infuses all living things, as I inhale the spirit of the people I meet, may I exhale your love. As I inhale the news of today, may I exhale prayer like incense rising. As I inhale rumours of war, may I exhale supplications for peace. As I inhale the air which the leaves of the trees give to me, may I exhale care for all that bears leaves. As I inhale the same air of the creatures around me may I exhale freedom from all that causes suffering.
Inspirer of the Universe, by your grace, may we breathe your loving purpose this day.
Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel of the Year.
May the God of creation warm your heart like the campfires of old Bring wisdom and peace as shown to the first peoples of this land Shake off the dust from the desert plains by the refreshing rains Followed by the glow and warmth of the sun Let the light of God show us the right path and stand tall like the big River gums drawing life from the ever flowing waters.
Blessings to each and every one of you as we continue to gather in a way that moves us beyond the physical boundaries of time and place and seek to use our gifts – together – to build up our faith and community.
For me, poetry goes beyond my daily bread; it is a sumptuous feast for my soul that invites me to sit a while and savour the deep mystery that is the Divine, to revel in the rich textures and scents and flavours of a world that cannot be contained in only language or logic, to feel full yet reach still – with longing – for one last delicious mouthful knowing too well that it is probably not my last ….
So, today, I want to share three poems that I keep returning to at present – knowing full well that few people share this love and many, quite frankly, find poetry intimidating.
Still, I invite you to skim through them and find the one that speaks to you in some way: that captures your attention with a word or image, that provokes questions, that plonks you in the deep end with an exasperated “I can’t make any sense of this” ….
Read through it, slowly.
Read through it again – out loud if possible – capturing the rhythm of each line; noting where there is a pause (comma), a break (full stop), or a breathless running on of one thought into another.
Highlight two or three words that seem important to you. What do they mean in the poem? What do they mean in your own life?
Read it one last time – not seeking to make sense of it or find the lesson but allowing yourself to be full of what it is that you are feeling: gratitude, joy, confusion, wonder, frustration etc. Let that be the starting point of your prayer today ….
God, I feel ….
You place a resurrection Flower on my desk, an explosion Of yellow blossom from a green Stem. All winter it was buried In the dirt, covered with snow, Soaked by rains, companion to Earthworms. Easter in a Daffodil: Christ leaps up In your green laughter and light embrace.
Eugene Peterson, Holy Luck
It doesn’t have to be the blue iris, it could be weeds in a vacant lot, or a few small stones; just pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate, this isn’t a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which another voice may speak.
Mary Oliver, Thirst
There is this thing that sits just out of reach so that whenever I stretch out for it I am left with my fingers dancing in the wind and the feelings of being exposed. So, instead, I curl myself up again and shimmer inside, enough to be satisfied. I stop grasping and let something grasp me.
It’s been wonderful to have a week away from the “work” of ministry – to spend time in my studies with the likes of Mallory and Chaucer, to enjoy the sunshine after the rain, to indulge in long baths and pyjama days, to feel energy and creativity and vision unfolding again from the resting place ….
a special word of thanks to the elders from Pilgrim who have shared their own stories, thoughts, and reflections with us in this space to make that time possible. We truly are a community that is being led and fed and built as we deepen our connection with Christ and seek to offer the gifts that we receive to one another and the world.
An acrostic prayer/poem based on Psalm 23
Sing songs of blessing and devotion to the shepherd of our souls! He is our constant companion, our protector, our friend. Each of us is known by name; led by his footsteps into the open way. Peace and plenty are the gifts we will find in his resting place; His goodness and love, the assurance that our future is safe in his hands. Even when the day is dark and difficulties distress us, Remember that you are not alone – he is near. Delight in the table set before you and and drink deeply of his Spirit!
Today’s song has long spoken into the very depths of my heart of the presence of God in the high and low places of my life.
When I am down, and, oh, my soul, so weary When troubles come, and my heart burdened be Then, I am still and wait here in the silence Until you come and sit awhile with me
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains You raise me up to walk on stormy seas I am strong when I am on your shoulders You raise me up to more than I can be ….
You raise me up, today’s version performed by Josh Groban
It evokes, particularly, memories of many trips down from the inland plateau of the Highveld in which Johannesburg is located to the southern coast of Kwa-zulu Natal – for family holidays (both as a child and as a parent), formation for ministry, and silent retreat.
The long drive alone was often a wonderful time of contemplation and quiet as I watched the rolling plains give way to flat fields of wheat and sunflowers to the steep and winding pass through the mountains.
Always, I would stop for a cup of coffee and to stretch my legs just off of Van Reenen’s Pass … and to get my playlist ready for the next part of the journey. Always this song would play (very, very loudly and on repeat) as my eyes took in the wondrous beauty of God’s good creation in its green and browns and the play of light and dark on the open hills and leafy valleys.
Always, the words of the Psalmist would come to mind:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2, New International Version
As you listen, may you feel the hands of God enfold you gently, offering you sufficient help for this day, and leading you into life in the wide open spaces of mercy and grace.
As I sat down to write this morning, I was quite convinced that I would offer in this space today something meaningful and important around the practice of silence in centering our lives around the wellspring of God’s Spirit.
Instead, Rory – my very adorable, very neurotic border collie-kelpie cross -rushed up the stairs to find me and ask what we were doing next. She was delighted to discover that I was about to settle down to work and promptly rushed off to find something of her own to occupy herself with ….
… a much loved half-chewed green squeaky toy that has lost its head but not, miraculously unfortunately, its ability to squeak.
As she threw it into the air and pounced upon it as it landed, I noted the irritation rising within me at each “squeak, squeak. SQUEAK SQUEAK!” I was trying to start my day off right. I was trying to have a quiet moment. I was trying to draw near to God.
As her toy flew in yet another wild arch across the bedroom, I heard deep within me the words “But I’m already here” and felt a sense of wonder and relief suffuse my spirit.
In trying to orchestrate a meaningful encounter with God, I was missing out on a special moment of companionship and unconditional love, of spontaneity and simple laughter.
As she lies quietly at my feet right now, I take a moment to appreciate how the light streams in through the bay windows. To listen to the birds singing just outside in the branches of a jacaranda tree. To smile at the mother walking past with two little ones on bicycles. And to see the presence of God in them all.
There is nothing that I need to do to make God draw near for God is here. This is what resurrection means.
So … the invitation today, the discipline for us to cultivate as we seek to live the resurrection life: be attentive. God is with you. Open your senses to what is happening in the world around you in this very moment and let that be the basis of your prayer – with or without words.