politics in the pulpit

echoes of RomeroThis man has been a hero of mine for some time.
I have blogged thoughts and stuff a number of times.
I’m not sure what I think about canonisation; but of it is deserved by anyone then Oscar Romero is up their with them!

There are many quotes, many sayings, that could be held as amazing. I have no favourites, as in a sense  lot of what he wrote or said may be classified as ‘favourites.’ But, at the moment, in this time, I resonate most strongly with this quote of challenge:

A Gospel that doesn’t take into account the rights of human beings, a Christianity that doesn’t make a positive contribution to the history of the world, is not the authentic doctrine of Christ, but rather simply an instrument of power. We . . . don’t want to be a plaything of the worldly powers, rather we want to be the Church that carries the authentic, courageous Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, even when it might become necessary to die like he did, on a cross.

At a period in this country when we see people victimised or ridiculed for their faith or race, or legislated against in their desperate poverty, where the ‘elite’ give themselves 20% pay rises while those on benefits receive a devastating cut …. and all at a time when we are told ‘austerity is over’, the words of Romero hit home really hard. I have been told more than once in the last few months to not be so political … a fellow Christian who happens to be a Tory telling me to keep politics out of the pulpit.

Well … I can’t!
You see Christian faith is about politics, its about bringing in the Kingdom now, it’s about seeing justice and compassion and love bursting onto our streets, communities and homes. It’s about people feeling safe, secure, accepted and knowing that God stands with them. It is about us being a transforming presence wherever we find ourselves to be.

And yes I’m going to make a judgement.
I know its wrong to jusdge, but hey …
I say to my ‘keep politics out of the pulpit’ friends and colleagues … you are missing the point …. that is exactly where it should be!
If we, the church, don’t shout out the authentic, courageous (political) gospel …. then who on earth will!

 

Waite on Solitude

IMG_0458On Tuesday evening I attended an amazing Sion College event which, this time, was held at the East India Club. The subject of the evening was ‘Solitude’ with the speaker being Terry Waite.

Wow is all I can say.

Terry spoke amazingly without notes for 10 to 15 mins. He was humorous in sharing some stories, humble when sharing of his 5 years from 1987-1991 held as a hostage and deeply profound when reflecting on how that 5 years , most of being in solitary confinement, had affected his ongoing life and work.

Two of the simply most awesome comments he shared were that although he would never wish to repeat the experience that he was ‘the better for it’ and that he found no problem forgiving his captors. The latter he said was due to being able to take the time to understand the reason for their actions (he then digressed a little on to the current Middle East situation and the West response … maybe I’ll blog about that at a later date) … I would hope I would be able to do the same in such circumstances but am not sure I would be as bold as this man who not only forgave but has been back on a number of occasions and has continued in his work of hostage relief even offering to go to Iran in 2007 to negotiate with those holding hostage British sailors.

I jotted down a few other notes which hit me …

When engrossed in rough times he made some suggestions of outlooks to get though the experience:
have no regrets about what you did to get there
avoid self pity
don’t oversentimalise your situation
take the experience as an opportunity to get to know yourself better

Those are incredible words coming from a person held and deprived from all human communication for 5 years. I’ve reflected on them for a few days and it seems to be that they comprise some pretty good advice for most of the stuff life can throw at us, particularly the using of the opportunity to learn more about yourself rather than be pitiful and descend spiralling into a victim mindset that is particularly quite common for the who suffer from the imposter syndrome.

Thank you Terry for an amazing evening .. and thank you to the new people I met around the table for adding to what was just a great all round evening.

naieve optimism?

shapeThe Richard Rohr daily thought today ends with these words:

Without connectedness and communion, we don’t exist fully as our truest selves. Becoming who we really are is a matter of learning how to become more and more deeply connected. No one can possibly go to heaven alone—or it would not be heaven.

Inherent Goodness can always uphold you if you can trust it. I call that goodness “God,” but you don’t have to use that word at all. God does not care. It is the trusting that is important. When we fall into Primal Love, we realize that everything is foundationally okay—and we are a part of that everything!

I’ve been pondering these words all day.
I’m asking myself ‘how do we trust?’
For some it can be a tall and seemingly unachievable challenge.
Today I was pretty humbled after doing a pastoral visit to a family living here on the peninsula. This family are living in the midst of a real challenge in their lives; the outcomes could be quite scary and yet the faith and trust of these people is outstanding. It’s unwavering. There have been tears and confusion, but the trust has never lacked. I walked away from their home fully believing I had been welcomed into a holy space. I went to pray and bless as the parish priest, and I did, but I returned much more blessed, much more conscious of God,  than I could ever have hoped to have left them with.
I get the connectedness thing of Richard Rohr. Just yesterday I was talking with a good friend, whilst tasting a nice malt, around how we are all connected and if we could only just realise that how the world would be full of people who loved and cared for each other. I guess that as we trust more we become more connected and as we become more connected we trust more …. the opposite is that we become less connected and less trusting which is how I see the direction going in the communities and the world I inhabit. Rather than connectedness this results in suspicion or fear.
I rote an essay recently as part of my MA around the subject of the beautiful film of The Shape of Water. (If you’ve not seen it …. go see!) I quoted these words from an interview about the film with Guillermo del Tor, the director:

‘We live in a time of fear, and hatred and rage. Every day on the news, and every day in social media and every day in our lives,  we’re told to fear something, fear the other, fear the other religion, the other immigrant, the other gender; and it is a time to embrace the fact that there is no us and them, but only us, and that’s what we have.’

 
That’s a powerful and quite horrible image of fear that breeds when we are disconnected. It results in suspicion, brokenness and a sense of needing to achieve alone. In such a climate people will always put themselves first and neglect the other.
All we have is each other says del Toro. I think that connects strongly with the words of Rohr today.
We are meant to connect.
I get that.
but … and there is always a but ….
How do we work that out in the world?
What is the secret … how do we love … how do we trust as a default?
Can we or is that a simple naieve optimism?

You are Enough

enoughTonight at HTGP I led a meditation rater than shared a homily. I was inspired by a photo from a friend, Tracey Affleck, who kindly gave me permission too use it tonight in our worship (its the one I’ve pasted next to the icon in this post). Thank you Tracey!

The photo has profound and important words and I have placed it next to the icon that shows Jesus with a disciple resting their head on Jesus’ shoulder. I think that disciple realised they were enough. I wonder if meany of us are able to realise that truth?

Tonight I wanted people to leave knowing they were approved of, that they are enough… not because I say that they are … but simply because I think God and Christian theology says so and that tonights reading in John 15:9-17 says so. I feel quite strongly that we hear too often that we need to improve, that we need to do better, that we will only be acceptable when we do something, or achieve something, or look or sound a particular way. We have taken on board a lie that says we will be more acceptable to God when …..

There is no when.
We are all acceptable to God.
More than.
Jesus says ‘You did not choose me, I chose you!’.
You can’t get much clearer.
As we are …. we are enough
You are enough.

Anyway you can hear the meditation here … and I’ve printed the text below for those who like to read as well.

Meditation John 15: 9-17   You are enough 

‘As the father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.’

Abide in my love
Abide …. meaning: accept, acknowledge, consent, 

concede, submit or live with

Accept you are loved by God

acknowledge God loves you

consent to receive God’s love

concede that you don’t have to earn God’s love

submit to knowing you are great in God’s eyes

live with the knowledge that you are enough

How does the sit with you?

can you believe it?

Being enough

not having to change to be loved

loved as you are

because

you are enough

How do you view your relationship with God?

a servant?

a subject?

God watching and waiting to catch you out?

or a friend

a friend willing to lay down a life

for you

Is that strange?

undeserving?

difficult to embrace?

uncomfortable to hear?

but hear 

‘as the father loved me, so I have loved you’

because

you are enough

God knows you

totally

the good and the bad

as well as the ugly

the habits and stuff you hide

embarrassed over

bathes in God’s light 

It’s easy to love someone at the start of a relationship

in that idealism and infatuation

but then it becomes more difficult

as you notice stuff

different views

different niggles

harder to turn a blind eye to those irritations

God knows you

totally

all of you

even the stuff you hide from yourself

and yet

God still chooses to love you

You did not choose me but I chose you’ says Jesus

Jesus chose you with eyes wide open

knowing everything

there is about you to know

embrace that thought

tell yourself

in your mind

that God loves you

God loves you

God loves you

Because 

you

are 

enough

Amen. 

life with tears

mark2-20180412155052320_webI was moved to tears when I read this article from the Church Times on Saturday morning. Mark Edwards is interviewed on his book ‘Life After care: From Lost Cause to MBA’. The title makes it obvious this is a story about the struggle that continues into adult life when you experience rejection from parents, or in Mark’s case, being taken into care away from his parents.

Mark shows courage in his sharing his story and there are some lines that particularly resonate …
“I have experienced the dark night of the soul. And sometimes I haven’t felt worthy of being a priest‘, and experiencing “bouts of depression that left him curled up like a baby’ as well as outlining childhood ‘fear when locked in a cupboard by foster carers’.

It’s hard to imagine, I think, if you’ve not been there what the effect of such experiences can be in a persons ongoing life. Mark sums this up, I believe, in a really truthful statement … when he admits that even today being asked to trust someone causes him to ‘bristle’.

I get this because when people who should naturally love you (in my case both parents) let you down and, worse, hurt you then trust for anyone and anything can be a real challenge. In fact I find sometimes that it can be near to impossible …. despite the overwhelming evidence that is there of love or approval and support from that  person, trusting in them or it seems a chasmous step. So much so that often when in a  ‘trust situation’, I have heard in my head  the words ‘well if my own mum couldn’t …. then why would I expect you too?!’

I think we can easily overlook this in church, believing that a faith in Jesus heals this and therefore should allow the person to move on …. it does, but not instantly, not completely, and not always. The image I have found most helpful and light giving in my darkest times are of the scarred Christ … the Christ in heaven with the open wounds in his hands, feet and side.

I believe I am healed, I am risen, but I also know that I still carry the scars … and if the scabs on those injuries are knocked or picked they can start to bleed again.

For Mark, as with others, he talks of people that believed in him, of people that gave time to him, of people thats saw the potential and saw what he could be if given some space, trust and support. I relate strongly to that and have many people that have been those time and permission givers to me.

As tears rolled down my cheeks reading through the article one of Mark’s statements jumped out and hit me …

Today, as Team Vicar of Christ the King, comprising Brunswick, Brunton Park, Dinnington, and North Gosforth, in the diocese of Newcastle, he considers himself to be in recovery, and determined to live in the present.

This is central to his prescription, as is taking responsibility for one’s actions. “I played the victim so long, I didn’t know how to be anything else,” he reflects. “There came a point when I had to stop blaming my past for bad decisions I was making in the present.”

It is a daily choice to make.
It is a difficult one.
It’s the right and necessary one.

Reading the article, wondering on my own situation has brought a few bubbling questions …

As church, as people, how do we allow people to make that step from victim?
How do we support those inside and outside our churches who don’t have that firm solid bedrock of loving parents that were supposed to look after them and give them that sure start?
Are there things that we do that actually make it worse, that keep people as victims?
Do we expect people to ‘move on’ when they have ‘found’ Jesus?
Do we support our leaders who struggle?
Are there people we should be giving time to?
Do we look for potential or for perfection?Do … are … how …can …what …

Lots of questions … and I’m sure lots more …. discuss …

wonderment?

IMG_0414Sometimes I find myself in some incredibly diverse places which causes me to ponder life, where I am, what I am doing and how I got there. Sometimes those spaces stretch my mind to some limits …

So earlier in the week, as you know, I was at a seminar day considering mission and poverty. I found the day hard hitting and challenging and came away with a refreshed vision to serve in new ways.  I got angry over statistics of the mistreatment of people. I remember scenes growing up on my council estate in the early Thatcher years … but that poverty I was part of was nothing to what I was hearing on that day.

Then came last night …. as I attended the 386th Annual Feast of Sion College, held in the amazing surroundings of Clothworkers’ Hall. We had amazing company and speakers, glorious food and wonderful wine. It was a black tie event and I dressed accordingly. I did think about the comments I would have from my childhood friends! How on earth did a council estate boy from Weymouth end up here sitting next to a wonderful guy with ‘Sir’ at the start of his name?!

It was a painful contrast to the subject matter of Tuesday. I thoroughly enjoyed the night and seem to be able to hold the two extremes in some tension … but I am not sure I should be able to? Is it that I am missing something here? It’s true to say that in what has been quite a tough year, Sion College itself, and new friends I have found within it have been immensely supportive and encouraging. And as I said, I thoroughly enjoy being part of this college and having my mind stretched by the quality of our speakers.

How can I get so angry at the injustice of the need for food banks and homeless shelters while sipping wine and eating amazing food in the plush surroundings of the hall we were in last night? I want to say that the conversations we have, the links we make, the things we learn encourage and enable us to step out from those places to make a difference in our individual parts of the world …. but am I kidding myself?

healing hurts

IMG_0352Today I was required to talk.
With a counsellor I decided today was the day to talk about the stuff of my childhood, to revisit the pain of a pretty crap upbringing. An upbringing where the people that should have loved me never seemed to be able to have the capacity to do so. In fact this person did a very good job of telling my brother and myself what horrible, poor, evil individuals we were. Sadly, we were to alone as two little boys, then and others now, who grow/grew up believing that to be true.

So why do I share a little here?
As well s a cathartic exercise I simply hope it is of support to some.
Today I was heard but talking about actual stuff that happened was still incredibly painful. You would think that after so many years, 40 or there about, that the pain would be less and easier to cope with.
It isn’t.

Today was exhausting but helpful.
I shared and heard no comments and received just a listening ear. An ear that passed no judgement, a person that didn’t offer solutions …. because there are no words or solutions that can make any difference. My biggest wish as a child, and even now, was that I could have had parents who cared, who loved, who put me first … just once. That will never happen and no word can comfort that wish away. Friends and wider family members have tried to be helpful by explaining that God is the perfect parent … and yes that is true … but it isn’t the same, and it doesn’t help.
It really doesn’t.
Neither do scripture verses of hope and God working through all things for good purpose.

I guess I am sharing this now because today helped ….. for the first time in ages it helped … and I guess I was reminded that when talking or listening to people that carry stuff …. then when it is re-spoken of it can be helpful to acknowledge that the pain all comes rushing back, as if it is being done again, fresh, just like it was … not even ‘like it was yesterday’ … but very much today. It may be uncomfortable for us to sit without comment, and we may have an urge to help with words, but sometimes a response does  not help.

Healing hurts … but it can really help if we just have time to listen, to accept, and to sit with … without the need to share, or empathise, or solutionise (my new word!) … but just sit and rest with the person for a little while.

I am being healed … as the overwhelming majority of people are …. quite often slowly … and today I have been reminded that as we sit together, with each other, we can in some mysterious way sit with each others pain … passing no comment …. breaking through the awkwardness of the vacuous silence ,,,,, and that is alright …. very alright. It is truly divinely human

Throughout all of this I have found this from Malling Abbey to be a connection

In the stilled silence
mind heart and soul
wait upon God
reach out God
not thinking
not asking
not doing
just waiting
stilled upon
God

I have also been following the CMS #missionis 40 day retreat. The very first one spoke of mission being ‘the healing of everything’ Maybe one way some of us can all be involved in this aspect is by sharing and holding together … maybe.

Anyway … to those that have sat with me …. thank you … loads.