Tag Archive: paradox


love seeks love

IMAG1460 copy

love seeks love
love seeks
love finds
love finds love
love holds love
love holds
love lets go
love goes

 

Talitha Fraser

you give

IMG_4048

you give
and you give
the emptying
is what fills you
you give
and you give
stretched and
outstretched and
enfolded
you give
and you give
and there is more
there is always more

Talitha Fraser

img_1116

 

Yes, “the truth will set you free” as Jesus says (John 8:32) but first it tends to make you miserable. The medieval spiritual writers called it compunction, the necessary sadness and humiliation that comes from seeing one’s own failures and weaknesses.  Without confidence in a Greater Love, none of us will have the courage to go inside, nor should we… People only come to deeper consciousness by intentional struggle with contradictions, conflicts, inconsistencies, inner confusions, and what the biblical tradition calls “sin” or moral failure… God actually relishes the vacuum, which God knows God alone can fill… in other words, the goal is actually not the perfect avoidance of all sin, which is not possible anyway (1 John 1:8-9 and Romans 5:12) but the struggle itself, and the encounter and wisdom that comes from it. Law and failure create the foil, which creates the conflict, which leads to a very different kind of victory, not moral superiority but just luminosity of awareness and compassion for the world.

p.31-32

offwego[A short paper presented to the Spiritual Reading Group 21 July 2015 on Michael Leunig]

So… Leunig… one of the questions he is most often asked and is always baffled by, is what does a particular cartoon mean? “People will say, ‘I don’t know what it means but I like it.’ Leunig replies… “I don’t know either but I like it too. I’m not trying to say anything but I hope it awakens something in you.”

Michael Leunig was raised listening to Oscar Wilde stories on the radio. He read Enid Blyton, Biggles and Childrens Encyclopaedias… he went to Sunday  school and always said he found it, “not full of God but full of stories.” It was lyrical and what was lyrical made him happy – Leunig heard Psalms and asked of himself “What can I do like that?”

Though born in East Melbourne in 1945, Leunig grew up in Footscray going to Footscray North Primary School and Maribyrnong High School. Many of Leunigs friends, and many of his teachers when he grew up in the 1950s were war refugees or were the children of people from Germany, Russia, Poland. It was a very industrial area –ammunitions factory with machine guns firing, meat works, cannery… it smelt awful and drained into the river… for Leunig this wasn’t bleak but held lots of peace and space. Not a lot of nature around, but then you appreciate and give more significance to what you have… a duck and the moon.

A duck bought from the market while doing the family shop imprinted on Leunig following him around everywhere, coming home from school he’d turn the corner and the duck would see him and come running. So he always got ducks after that considering them playful and good-humoured and innocent with those rounded beaks.

A formative misadventure at eight years, occurred while playing at the rubbish tip Leunig stepped up to his thighs in hot coals and wires – receiving horrible and incredibly painful burns with fear of gangrene and amputation – for five months he couldn’t walk and had long periods of feeling cut off from others and lost.

From paper boy to making sausages at butchers on Barkley St, Leunig didn’t do well at school, repeating his last year, and came to work in the meatworks himself. This was great thinking time and Leunig advocates manual work that keeps your hands moving and your mind free. He said: “Working in such places either toughens or sensitises you” and it sensitised Leunig… he became a humanist (is now nearly vegan) and finely honed his earthy working class sense of humour. Leunig was conscripted for the Vietnam war in 1965 – he was going to fight it, a conscientious objector, but was rejected regardless when found to be deaf in one ear.

In Curly Stories, Leunig talks about it “Being an advantage to grow up without art consciousness… nothing to aspire to but things to find and create”. Homeschooling his own four children would have allowed him to foster a similar environment for them believing “Natural ideas exist within children… their play should be “utterly free” and they must be allowed to be bored – they feel free to explore and discover and the world is new to them and there’s this sense of wonder” Leunig refers to childrens ability to ‘blank out’ looking at a teapot spout or light through a window being present to what is right in front of them, commenting: “The loss of that beauty is appalling… how do I address that as a communicator? How can I express what everyone is feeling?” The prophet expresses the grief of the people. The artist expresses what is repressed.

maxresdefaultWalking out of his 3rd year at Swinburne Film and Television School, it was 1969 when Leunig first began to work as a political cartoonist at Newsday, while the factories might have taught him to use humour – intellectual, witty, cynical – to deflect serious things, Leunig says “I was sung sentimental songs. Part of my first language. Fluent in that emotional language” His Grandma used to tell him: ‘All the world is bad, except for you and me, but even you’re a little strange.’ …perhaps this is where we meet The Creature… The Holy Fool– scribbled in the margins since school – amusing to his slightly hungover Editor, with a teapot on his head and riding a duck into the sunset, the image was put to print. Subhuman, primal, foetal, without gender. Leunig is somehow able to speak to our soul. To take small things and make them large, domestic things and make them sacred. For his own discipline he talks about the paradox of art theory – rules to follow, teachers to emulate >> how this stifles creativity. It’s about earning money, systematic success, built for efficiency, for velocity but you lose much, Leunig believes: “[You] cannot love or appreciate beauty at speed. How do you talk about it in ways that are unsuppressed and real? Might make a bridge with love, make a sandwich with love – it’s passed on to others. Love is what we go to bed thinking about.”the kiss by leunig

Since his first book in 1974, Leunig has produced 23 more – books of newspaper columns, poetry and prayer in addition to his prints, paintings and drawings. Leunig shares intimacy with us, personal and confessional – e.g. The Kiss. We are invited into the privacy of his love life, his soul searching… Leunig makes the private public. He takes the small dark fearful things and brings them out where we can look at them “crying with the angels for a world that is different – this is not fatalistic but hopeful”. Perhaps it is because he has offered his own soul first that we are willing to listen to him expound on many themes:

>> loneliness >> the 9 to 5 grind >> war >> sex >> consumption >> love >> god >> media >> religion >> politics

It was being asked to contribute a cartoon to a new paper in 1989, The Age, that Leunig started writing prayers to the horror of his friends… Rather than born-again Christian Leunig’s interpretation lay in the realm of John Keats’s “negative capability”, a word for the unsayable and profound in life. He wanted to say the words publicly as another way of addressing the problems of our time, of our society, of our psyche, of people’s personal suffering {1998} His friends reactions sort of egged Leunig on, wanting to see how much he could push believing that “until a man discovers his emotional life and his gentle, vulnerable side, until he gives it expression, he never will find his women or his soul, and until he does find his soul he will be tortured and depressed and miserable underneath a fair bit of bullshit”.

From Archbishops to Presidents, the Opera House, Australian Chamber Orchestra, National Theatre in London to clay figure animations for SBS and remote communities in northern and central Australia – Leunig has Gone Places and Done Things. Declared a national living treasure by the National Trust in 1999 and awarded honorary degrees by 3 universities for his unique contribution to Australian culture.

094The ‘war on terror’ following 9/11 was a watershed moment in Leunig’s cartooning work where, opposing the war and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, he was at odds with many editors, commentators and members of Australian society – there became less gentle and lyrical themes and he stopped drawing the whimsical characters Mr Curly and Vasco Pyjama as often although the duck and the moon have still faithfully remained. Adding curls arose out of Leunig’s desire to communicate that “What makes you feel so alone and strange is in fact normal. There’s a lot of curliness in life and you can have a homecoming – there is a place for you and for that aloneness, that eccentricity, and there’s a fulfilment of it eventually, it’s no longer the cause of your outcastness. So that’s the curl. It’s the curious, unique self and, if you find that, you find the connection to the whole world because the world is curious and unique and authentic at its best level.” You might say the war, not understanding how people can fight other people this way, has been a breach to Leunigs sense of connection to Australian society and thereby rest of the world.

These days, Michael Leunig has 3 small dogs but no ducks. He enjoys talking to strangers and going to bed at night. He is a devout nature lover and spends his time between the solitude of the bush in Northern Victoria and a home in Melbourne where he enjoys walking in the local park, morning coffee in the café, chamber music in the concert hall, and attending to work in his studio .

When asked: “What is the meaning of life?” Leunig replied: “For humans as for all the plants and creatures: know yourself, grow yourself, feel yourself, heal yourself, be yourself, express yourself”… “I want to be a voice of liberation”. Leunig speaks not only for the wealthy or the poor but both, not only those armed and those without weapons but both, not only the pretty people or only the ugly people but both – he enjoys this inconsistency and variety. As Barry Humphries says “through the vein of his compassion and humanity and his humour – illuminating many a darkling theme”

Like Jesus with his parables and questions – Leunig doesn’t present us with solutions or easy answers but an invitation. He sees his vocation as cracking what is stoic and cold in society – to make us feel anger, grief, joy, sadness… Leunig believes we have something to discover in the wrongness… “Live without ‘knowing’, in mystery. Find things. Unlearn. Get lost. Get primal, getinfantile. When you have lost all hope – start to play. You have nothing to lose. Stay with it and don’t take it too seriously…”

I hope maybe it awakens something in you.”

054sml

[Earlier this year I had the great privilege and profoundly impacting experience of attending the BCM Kinsler Institute in Oak View, California – a.k.a a clusterfest: part birthday party, part conference, part church, part action planning meeting… – it’s worth noting that I can/am only speaking to my own notes from those sessions I attended and there were generally 5-6 options for every devotional and workshop spot so this is not conclusive coverage and the mistakes are my own. If you’re interested in this kind of reading there’s many more resources, articles and stories at the Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries (BCM) and Radical Discipleship websites]

 

Bible Study: Jesus, Disciple of the Story – Ched Myers

Need to be literate in the story.

Jesus underwent formation and had to discern call. Jesus was shaped in/knew his tradition – quoting, embodying, referencing… informs his consciousness and animates his imagination. “As it is written…” rooted in the story.

I will tell you something about stories,
[he said]
They aren’t just for entertainment.
Don’t be fooled
They are all we have, you see,
all we have to fight off illness and death.
You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories.
Their evil is mighty
but it can’t stand up to our stories.
So they try to destroy the stories
let the stories be confused or forgotten
They would like that
They would be happy
Because we would be defenseless then.

Silko, Ceremonies

If we forget the stories, we are defenceless. If you aren’t grounded in this story, what are you grounded in? Land you are on is filled with stories – do you know them? Conquest, pain, animals… to be part of restorative justice in that place, need to know the stories.

Jordan is a river of stories (Red Sea) Exodus, Joshua 304. River is flooding, ford to cross. Israelites/Canaanites – Semitic tribes politically, socially and economically aligned with Egypt > tribute to pharaoh. Much as America don’t rule South America but control it through strategic leaders politically, socially and economically. Israel just got free, trying to be free of empire, the land they want is under empire/occupied.   This is why they go the long way round. Main roads controlled by Egyptians – undocumented immigrants finding another way >> old story. US Border Patrol, “boat people” in Australia. Chasing them or keeping them out. “The Man” holds the roads, bridges, fords…believe in a God who troubles the water. Ch.3 full chapter of ritual. The ark has to go first – carrier of the tablets. Instructions on how to be non-Egyptian. We are following a Way. Symbol – religious, social, cultural… Cherubim holding up a seat, empty, un-king. Manna economics, non-hierarchal structure of mutual aid. Ritual. Dip feet. Pick up stones, 12 stones, take them to the other side and build a cairn, 12 tribes. Alternative body politic with no king. Build a cairn on the Jericho side. Statement > attack Jericho. Dancing in the teeth of empire – started with going down to the river and getting stones. When Jesus goes down to the river – he dives down into the river – diving for stones. Lost the symbols because we’ve forgotten the stories or gotten confused about them. Elijah passing the mantle to Elisha (discipling) > first thing Jesus does is call disciples like Elisha did.

Apprentice of kingdom, land and story. Need to go into the left side of our bible to make sense of the right side – which constantly references the first half. New Testament stories are re-placed and re-grounded in the Old Testament.

Invites us as disciples to do the same. Let us be disciples of the kingdom as Jesus was, of land as Jesus was, of story as Jesus was. Scripture study informing out political and theological practice.

 

Walking Meditation: Charletta Erb & Todd Wynward

Mayra 11016722_10153155574714715_3033034683319964493_n (4)

 

Artist Manuel Cisneros, a native of Guanajuato, Mexico, came to California 12 years ago. The physical labor of moving large boulders around was satisfying, and the contemplative nature of balancing and composing his sculptures fed his soul. Often, he doesn’t know what a sculpture is going to look like until it’s finished; he enjoys the way the rocks, wind and ocean waves work their own magic on him. (quote from the Ventura County Reporter, 12/24/2014)

 

(photo credit: Mayra Stark)

 

 

Song:
Siyahamba (Zulu, we are walking in the light of God)
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos yoyo’,
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’.
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’,
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’.
[ekukhanyeni kwenkos’]
Siyahamba… ooh
[Siyahamba, hamba, Siyahamba, hamba]
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’.
[ekukhanyeni kwenkos’]
Siyahamba… ooh
[Siyahamba, hamba, Siyahamba, hamba]
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’.

 

Song:
Christ came down that we might have love x 3 (hope, peace, joy…)
Hallelujah forever more

 

Song:
We shall not give up the peace
We have only started x3
Together we can work it out
If we only listen
Together we find victory
Hand holding hand

 

Song:
You shall be like a garden
Like a deep spring
Whose waters never fail
        (Isaiah)

 

Preacher: Rev. Jin Kim -“Wasting our life for Christ’s sake”

Mark 14: wasted ointment – waste/efficiency/frugality – breaking in with intimacy?

‘To waste’ and ‘to lose’ come from the same word…
whoever loses their life…
“wastes” their life.

birdThink about making something of ourselves or making ourselves nothing. Called to “be a loser”. Exodus: survival – significance – justifies the risk. I am now privileged. Christian domain – homeless, penniless… What are we leaving for our children that matters? Can’t crap in the living room, that will affect the whole house. We’re all dirt. All full of shit. Good soil or bad? Loving God and loving neighbour – generosity and hospitality.

Seriousness is a symptom of empire. Unless you have lightness, levity, joy, self-deprecating humour… your software has taken on the operating system of empire > fruits of the spirit (live in THAT!). Need to detoxify ourselves of empire. THEN reach out – physically, emotionally, spiritually… was Jesus a great prophet but failed evangelist? Message of surrender that no one wants to hear.

 

Song:
Guide my feet while I win this race x3
Oh I don’t want to run this race in vain
Light my path…
Hold my hand…
Set my feet…

(Kinsler Institute photo essay)
This emphemeral art piece was created by Ted
Lyddon Hatten:”…when you are looking at something
you know isn’t going to last from bud to bloom or a
baby that will grow… you appreciate it differently”

 

Plenary panel: Radical and Integrative Theological Education – Eric Brown and Ndume Olatushani (Proctor Institute); Jin Kim (Underground Seminary); Dee Dee Risher (Alternative Seminary); Solveig Nilsen-Goodin (EcoFaith Recovery); Kate Foran (Word & World); Rebecca Stelle (Church of the Savior)

Opportunity to hear from a variety of grassroots theological education initiative practitioners – use/addiction recovery model, small mission-minded groups, mentors + mission with intensives…

Seminary – comes from the word ‘seed’

Borders – places of convergence.

There’s a higher degree of diversity
and richness at the edges.

If we do our job properly then we should not be sure if we are in church or a classroom or at an organising meeting or in a field. Welcome to the “clusterfest”. Planting, reaping, harvesting > movement building, church renewal or social uprising?

  • Alternative publishing and seminary
  • Can’t learn the new construct from the old construct. What is full immersion? Enter into what is new.
  • Freedom Circle (12 steps) addict to the worlds sick way of being. Theological reflection happens later. Surrender is counter-cultural: full disclosure of finances, surrender authority to one another e.g. can I attend this conference?
  • Dorothy Day wasn’t just sitting around talking. Alternative Seminary: Credo (belief) and contextualisation of that is important, met in a homeless shelter, had a sliding pay scale, connect ecumenically – progressives from each tradition, can’t feel like school (competitive) or be disparaging of one another.
  • Word and World – how do you read? Learned in Greensboro (at the Beloved Community). Understand t agenda of people trying to preserve power > then hear stories and perspectives of others re-placing the stories. Be the student/intern – change the conversation. Too religious for political people and vice versa.
  • In cell – started to paint the things I wanted to see. Listen to what was within – I was fortunate. Chose not to have a TV for the first 10 years in prison (a lot of inmates live in/through that).

Knowledge makes us responsible

(cont.) …I had to educate others. Survival – keep getting up and moving forward. Always a chance to change the world around us. I couldn’t say that to others if I wasn’t doing – want to disrupt the system have to allow my voice at the table to describe what it looked like from the inside. Have to do everything I can so it doesn’t happen to anyone else. ‘Children’s Defence Fund’.

  • Poverty not only economic but internalised. Need to work on both generationally. First African American lawyer and founder of the Children’s Defence Fund. Civil rights pedagogy – not just talking but singing and preaching it and erupting and disrupting onto the streets.
  • Underground seminary: Took graduates – do an internship to undo/detoxing from professionalism. Between 20-40 years old, in debt, over-leveraged – everyone paid what they could afford. Made them live together 8-9 houses. Interns live 4 doors from church intentional. Philosophical and ideological text polluted by smog – if you don’t go to the mountains or fly above it then you can see/don’t know there is smog. As much about unlearning as learning. This way of understanding is integrated into my church and family life. It’s a natural part of our lifestyle – would happen even there were no students. Invigorating. Church gives time to it but holds it lightly. Like a flash mob. When needed, will happen; when not needed, won’t. Traditional in Asian culture to go to a school of “{person}” – personalised authority rather than a school.
  • People and churches going into “recovery”. Individualised recovery vs. communal. Have a grant that funds interns and mentors. Learn from students/cycles. Ecofaith recovery asks “what can we do?” Grief work. Part worship, part movement, self-work… A lot of people might think “I can’t give up my car so I can’t criticise petrol companies” – what are other ways we can engage with the environment?

Imagination lies underneath our grief.

Teach leadership development that is spiritually grounded and organisational skills.

 

conf

Workshop V: Immigrant Rights Organising – Guillermo Torres

We do advocacy. When undocumented people are picked up they are held by the police and then turned over to Immigration. Police are not qualified to make decisions about immigration.   Principles like these get used to abuse day labourers: utilise them then don’t pay them – they have no protection or right of redress.

What is the faith response to the crisis of children coming from South America? Have a vigil. Visit them and check the conditions where they are being held. Want to do more than pray… got together key faith leaders, politicians, service provision stakeholders and a refugee to tell her story. People that came to the US and were arrested for crimes then were sent home to Honduras and El Salvador – her house was in the middle of a gang shoot out… hunger… coldness… two days on a bus… rash… boy fell off the raft she was on and a another woman went into the water to get him… family were separated… father sent back to Honduras, they had no money and he is the main provider for their family… makes no sense? Kids who arrive in the US under 18 years of age get fast tracked and are given 7 days to make a case for why they should be allowed to stay.  Waves of immigration during the wars > became gangs in LA (shared language and friends) > deported back to El Salvador and keep gang structure.

 

(Kinsler Institute photo essay)

How do we connect to the children who have arrived? To their faith? To lawyers? To supplies? What if we created a collective network?

How do we find out where the kids are when this is confidential? Invited the people who might have that information to come to the meeting. What are the biggest needs?

  • Legal protection/services > Guardian Angels
  • Mental health services that can be used to build a case for asylum: violence, poverty, abandonment, sex trafficking (give me your daughter r we will kill the entire family)
  • Chaplaincy: sponsor, hospitality, integration into community, links to food/clothes/transportation, navigation.

250 kids were funded to get legal support, only operating at 40% because couldn’t reach more kids/families.

  • Accompany-er who is screened and trained who is with them through the whole process. Calls weekly. Moral and spiritual support.
  • Distribution centres for pallets of shoes, clothing, food, grant for $25K, vouchers for school uniforms.
  • Welcome centers/congregations – food, clothes, school supplies
  • Serving supplies (re job skill training)
  • Raise funds for legal aid
  • Skill/job training – sewing, welding…
  • New furniture

Doing all these things and haven’t
even named the coalition.

What can the church offer as special/unique gifts?

Love, compassion, justice – what moves you? …need to know what motivates groups.

Moral authority “self-interest” motivated by love and call of God on hearts – how are we awakened to our deepest connections? John 17:21 strategy > hope and compassion. Eph 2 implicit and explicit – explain and if you have to, use words. Immigrants become involved in advocacy and non-immigrant partners. Some politicians identify as religious – an interfaith response might canvas that, clergy bring influence and members bring influence.

Anyone plus God is a majority

Further reading on the Faith Communities Contribution to Unaccompanied Migrant Children see: Guardian Angels, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice of Los Angeles (CLUE-LA).
See also Our God is Undocumented – Ched Myers

 

Workshop VI: Messianism vs. Christology – Jim Perkinson

025

heidelberg project
Christianity needs to be redefined, transformed, reframed…

Make desperation yield beauty
in spite of itself

Google image search “The Heidelberg Project” – economic decline saw many factories closing and abandoned housing > lots of rubbish. This project using refuse as art attracts 2000 people a year – a community art project that is constantly evolving. Step out of art protocols – make people and places speak beauty. Utilises non-human actors: stones, water, clouds, doves, snakes… what is indigenous to the area. Detroit taught me to speak in tongues – use a difference vocab than your cognisance recognises. An African dance has motion/rhythm/call and response/exchange and a heightening of energy – they are learning how to speak the land, let them have space inside our bodies. The totem animal/plant has been there longer and knows how to survive. What voice is speaking in you? Big question. We are what we eat – is my ancestor my grandfather or possum or grubs? More honest to tell the story that way.

Domesticating ecology and dominating… 10,000 years domesticated plants, 500 years later domesticated animals to help with domesticating plants, now mostly metal technologies through fossil fuels. Functioned in band societies of c.150 people or less (most of us still only engage with about that number of people). We are not hardwired to violence – when have we lived not destructively? What do we have to learn from that period? Pastoral nomadism as resistance… Genesis 1-2-3… domestication happened as a result of the Fall not “advancement”, Cain and Abel – the farmer kills the pastoral nomad then builds the first city. Replacement for Abel is Seth (replacement), Inosh (vulnerable one) and Inoch (full metal jacket) > two lines out of Eve. Son of Man/Human One not Christ or Rabbi. Kibor Inosh in Daniel (one like the vulnerable one)… history of empire and kingship – Samuel – you will come to regret this… Saul, David, Solomon… 1&2 Samuel/1&2 Kings = forced labour of men and harems of women. Pastoral nomadism has counter imperial values. Abram first thing, leave the city, take animals, become herder, trees of Moray…

hospitality is how you hear
what’s going on in the next watershed

3 angels visit. Urban Sodom is degrading visitors.

David/Daniel/Isaiah – how does Jesus talk about them? Messianism

Abraham – hospitality
Moses – lives off the land
Elijah – fed by ravens > hunting
David – on the run renegade shepherds, playing the lyre, shamanic tradition
Paul – Galilean movement

We have enslaved matter.

Indigenous people are calling us to return not for in a forward spiral. To them space – organic life and everything else – squirrel and a rock have the same vitality.

Further reading: Principalities and Powers – Walter Wink

Building in cities represent the harnessed energy of animals, minerals, humans – they are still energised but they are warped. Bloated and starving. Hungry ghosts. “I am Legion” complexity of singular and plural. Internalised scribal principalities. Exorcises the people and the first thing that happens is people start asking “What was that? Haven’t seen that before!” >start asking questions.

Me. You. God has hundreds of faces. Return wild vitality to them. Jesus puts mud and spit on blind eyes and asks: “Can you see?”. Artists take mud caps and paint and ask us “Can you see?” The project was bulldozed twice and burned nine times – not everyone thinks it’s beautiful. Folk art marking it out as beautiful – as vital. Shocks you into recognition of where you are. Ethnic cleansing is happening through tax/mortgage/water cut offs. Detroit is seen as a blight and a problem. A deep weapon for surviving is codifying beauty out of pain: spirituals/blues/jazz/R&B/gospel/soul/funk/techno/hiphop… old school and underground forms… tagging, breakdancing, turntabling…Pain made into beauty.

 

Reflections from our chaplains

Lots of tensions/paradoxes:

Take seriously – not too seriously
Local – global
Find voice – listen
Be still – dance
Articulate – sit in silence
Doing a lot – not doing enough

 Isaiah 37:31 root downwards, fruit upwards.

Sometimes find ourselves with less time, less money, less love, less support than we would want. Not called to imitate as they did but the way they incarnated the Word/Spirit of God in their lives.

Digging down deeper – public acts of liturgy might encourage someone to go a little further.

Imaginative capacity – how do we expand this for ourselves and our imaginations. Easier to imagine another world than our own neighbourhood being radically different, incarnating a deeper imagination.

Moving from strength to strength:

  • Gifts of young ‘uns: new ways of seeing, energy, acontextual, less baggage
  • Keeping it real
  • Connections: art, music, cross denominations, people, creativity
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Manifestation of spirit
  • Ched’s jokes

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing – fuel, safe space, fresh air, spark rekindled.

Celebrate and nurture faithfulness.  Courageous is the loving thing to be.

We share with you
what we have received.

Movement – called to shine light not be stars, workers not heroes, move justly and lightly on the earth. “The world seen clearly, not sharp eyes but eyes moistened with tears…” Margaret Atwood.

Passion and compassion that leads us. Themes: touch my wound, leave sorrow behind >go to lead and feed.

We are enough.
Scattered but not alone.

Pick up seed and carrying it away – store, feed family, drop… grow

Communion at FCOC

[Hand out both bread and wine so that they are in our hands]

Yesterday I was in my car and had a little Christmas tantrum “I HATE Christmas!” thumped the steering wheel… “I can’t wait for it to be over…”

Every day I feel like I’m running from thing to thing and doing them all badly, traffic’s terrible – don’t get me started on Highpoint and there’s so many social things to do, I’m barely overlapping with my housemates… I’m stressed out. Yesterday in my car I asked myself the question, “Where is God in this?” How can I engage with the deeper meaning of Christmas when I get swept up in the commercialness and busyness of it?

I’m going to read a poem by Peter Rollins called “In the name…” in an attempt to answer that – invite you to hold the elements and reflect on where you yourself are at at this point of the season… and where God is in the mix. Some of the language may be a bit confronting but it captures some of the missed feelings I have around this time of year and I trust that while we won’t identify with all of it, we will all identify with some of it.

The Lord be with you… and also with you.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

In the name of goodness and love and broken community.

In the name of meaning and feeling and I hope you don’t screw me…

In the name of darkness and light and ungraspable twilight

In the name of meal times and sharing and caring by firelight

In the name of action and peace and human redemption

In the name of eating, and drinking and table confession

In the name of sadness, regret, and holy obsession, the holy name of anger, the spirit of aggression…

In the name of forgive and forget and I hope I get over this…

In the name of the Father, and Son and the Holy Spirit

In the name of beauty and beaten and broken down daily.

In the name of seeing our creeds and believing in maybe, we gather here, a table of strangers, and speak of our hopeland and talk of our danger…

to make sense of our thinking to authenticate lives to humanise feeling and stop telling lies.

In the name of philosophy, theology and who gives a damn?

In the name of employment and study and finding new family.

In the name of our passion, our loving and indecent obsessions

In the name of prayer and of worship and of demon possession.

In the name of solitude, and quiet and holy reflection.

In the name of the lost, and the lonely and the withered direction

In the name of efficiency, stupidity and the wholly ineffectual

In the name of the straight, the queer, transgender and bisexual

In the name of boot clogs, and boob jobs and erectile dysfunction. Schizophrenia, hysteria and obsessive compulsion.

In the name of Mary and Jesus and the mostly silent Joseph.

In the name of speaking to ourselves, saying this is more than I can cope with…

In the name of touch up and break up, and break down and weeping

In the name of therapy, and prozac and full-hearted breathing.

In the name of sadness and madness and years since I’ve smiled.

In the name of the unknown, alien and the holy in exile

In the name of goodness and kindness and intentionality. 

In the name of harbor and shelter and family.

(like telling an exciting secret…)

Christ is coming!

Christ is coming!

Christ is coming!

The Lord be with you… and also with you.

Let’s eat and drink.

This week, the second of advent, we light the candle of peace. We light it knowing full well that peace is elusive, and in some parts of the world almost completely absent – but God is never absent from us. God is always preparing something new. And even where there is war and discord, whether between countries, within families or within our own hearts, God is present, leading us to new possibilities. Loving God, in this time of preparation and planning, we thank you for the hope and peace you unfailingly offer us. Show us the creative power of hope. The us the peace that comes from justice. Prepare our hearts to be transformed by You – that we might walk in Your light. Amen.

When Mother Teresa was asked why she worked for the destitute and dying, she shocked the interviewer with the answer, “I do this to combat the Hitler in me.”

Mahatma Ghandi was speaking about much the same thing when he said, “When I see a man doing good, I seek to be like that man. When I see a man doing evil, I look to my own heart.”

Wise words. Unless we know and own, our own potential for evil, we are working with a grave handicap, for in the mystery of paradox, what is shadow in our lives, is the point of potential growth. Darkness is light unborn. Winter is preparation for Spring. Fear is always ready to be sacrificed to love. That is at the heart of the mystery that took Jesus to the cross and through to the resurrection.

It’s probably true that the poetry of metaphor and parable can make journey seem complex. I love story “sign posts” because I’m a writer, a dreamer. But the reality of our journey with Jesus is very simple. The tool of journey is love. The inhibitor is fear. The writer of the first letter of John put it succinctly. There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out all fear.

We know fear but as our capacity for love increases, so does the fear diminish. I find it useful to gauge my own actions and reactions with that measure. Does this come from love? Or does it come from fear? It’s a simple test and it usually works.

Here is an old Hassidic story about fear, which is a personal favourite. Some of you may have heard it before, but it is worth repeating. I find it very powerful.

There was once a holy man who went on a long journey. Unfortunately, he left his house open and while he was away a band of monsters moved in and made themselves at home. The man came back. He opened the front door and at once the monsters rushed at him. Quickly, he slammed the door shut. He prayed to God, took a deep breath and opened the door again. Once more the monsters came at him. As they did so, he bowed and acknowledged their presence. When he did that, half the monsters disappeared but the half that was left were the biggest. They snarled, showed their teeth and pounced on the man. He offered them hospitality, asked if he could get them food and drink. At that, all the monsters disappeared except the chief. Now this monster was huge, with enormous jaws and great sharp teeth. Moreover, it was not going to be put off. It lunged at the man, it’s mouth open wide. As it came close, the man put his head in the monster’s mouth. The chief of the monsters also vanished, and the man had his house back.

From time to time I sit with that story in order to find my chief fear and put my head in its mouth. It’s an ongoing exercise.

There is no perfection for us in life school. Thank God for that. Perfection has very little room for growth. We claim our errors and try to learn from them and our frailty, far from being a source of concern, is reason for gratitude. It is our God-given growing space.

We can summarise the stages of the personal journey more or less like this:

1. In early stages we can experience chaos as we are called to step into a larger space. 2. We can feel aloneness, vulnerability. 3. We become aware of remarkable God incidence, teachers, guidance, learning patterns, everything is there at the time when we need it. 4. We enter into the mystery of paradox. 5. We become aware that God’s word is all around us. We discover the parables of nature. 6. We have an overwhelming sense of the interconnectedness of everything. 7. There us a peace that comes with simplicity, a freedom, a lightness and enhanced sense of humour. 8. We have a knowing without words. 9. There is awareness that the foundation of the universe, is love. 10. We know that separation from God is an illusion.

The journey into paradox is one of true freedom and rejoicing. It is well expressed in this verse by American poet Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.


Joy Cowley