Friday, December 28, 2007

Facebook Theology

On Christmas night after the family celebration was over and the little people were in bed, I came home to join some friends for a cup of tea and a bit of late night chat. In the midst of the banter an argument developed between two friends relating to the midnight mass we had been too the previous evening. One person was dogmatically stating that it was wrong to talk in church and that if you were not taking part in the service, then the only thing you were allowed to do in the sacred space was sit quietly and pray. And the other who is well known for his capacity to talk disagreed. I wasn’t sure why everything in me disagreed with the silence argument, partly because it was being made so dogmatically, but now on reflection I realise I disagree with it, with every fibre of my being.

For two reasons ; firstly I believe church is or should be community and therefore should reflect every aspect of community. Hence there has to be space for everything in church. For talking , laughing , weeping , singing , shouting and yes also for silence.

But secondly I’ve realised that at the core of my theology I reject the sacred / secular argument. As I was thinking of a line on my facebook profile to reflect my belief, I was reminded of something a friend in Nashville said to me a long time ago, and it was simply this. “ There isn’t a secular molecule in the universe.”
And that’s why I found this idea that church is sacred and you can only be silent there so oppressive. I believe all of us were created in the image of God and that creation itself bears Gods fingerprints. Hopkins puts it well when he says,

”The world is charged with the grandeur of God/
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil”

What a fantastic image, and for me I find the sacred everywhere, in walks by the ever restless sea , sitting in contemplation in the old monastic sites of Ireland. Watching the West Wing, gathering with friends round a dinner table to break bread, drink wine, lean in and listen to each other’s lives. Even two friends sitting by a fire with a cup of herbal tea can be sacramental. I don’t always or even often find it in church. But that’s fine. The older I get the more I find God in unexpected places – sometimes even in my own life.

Right now after 4 days of sickness I've had a piece of toast and am sitting by the fire, listening to the soundtrack from Once. Feels pretty good to me.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Leaping back from the mockingbird

I'm back from the mockingbird and simply wanted to say - Have a blessed Christmas wherever and whoever you celebrate it with. Heres a little seasonal Buechner.

Pax Christi Tecum


So hallowed and Gracious is the time - these lines from the first scene of Hamlet in a sense say it all. Marcellus is walking on the cold battlements of Elsinore speaking to his companions of the time of Jesus Birth - its a hallowed time he says - a holy time - a time in which life grows still like the surface of a river so that we can look down into it and see glimmering in its depths something precious , timeless , other. And also a gracious time - a time we cannot bring about it is a time that comes upon us as grace - as a free and unbidden gift from God as we celebrate his presence amongst us. At Christmas time it is hard for even the unbeliever not to believe in something. Peace on earth , goodwill to men ; a dream of innocence that is good to hold onto even if it is only a dream ; the mystery of being a child ; the possibility of hope.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The end of a Journey

I’m sitting by a fire in old London town. The temperature outside is officially below freezing and O Brother Where art thou, is on TV. This stage of the journey comes to an end though the future is as yet unwritten. I look forward to being home and lighting a fire and having a few friends round. We will lean in, with a glass of wine and listen to our lives and the stories they hold. But for a brief taster the last 4 months have included ……….

27000 miles by airplane (I have a forest to plant)
4000 miles by train, bus, taxi, Tuk-Tuk, motorbike, elephant, bicycle and foot.
4 Continents, 9 countries, 16 Books, 945 photographs,

Lots of people and cultural joy including;

Paris Je t’aime. Le Coup de Monde, fresh croissants, Versailles, Buddha Bar, Bastille food markets, museums that make an impression, Notre Dame, St Sulpice, Canard au miel, good wine and cycling through the Bois de Boulogne laughing like children with the mullingtons …… oh yeah

Nashvegas, city and people of my heart – if it was near the sea it would be damned near perfect. But anytime spent there is always a blessing and it can still surprise you and offer new possibilities and friendships to explore.

New Zealand – breaking bread with Mike and Rose Riddell. Remove your shoes because this is holy ground where both body and soul are nourished and loved. And the Coromandel peninsula wasn’t bad either, not forgetting the Good Dr when he finally made it from Tahiti.

Australia – Catching up with friends and family, Manly Beach, the ferry, drinks on the Opera House terrace.

Vietnam. The pollution and motorbikes of Hanoi, the glory of spending a night on a boat in Halong Bay. The charm of Hoi An, Ancient Cham Palaces and then Jungle Beach – a week in my own private heaven reading the Psalms and finding prayer as natural as breathing. Saigon, Vietnam war relics and tunnels. Mekong Delta Trip – coconut candy, floating markets, eating snake and crossing into Cambodia.
Cambodia, the water festival in Phnom Penh, the royal palaces. The horror of The Killing fields chills you to the bone and then the glory of Angkor Wat leaves you breathless. That first morning walking across the causeway to the temple, still water with lilies floating on either side and the suns first rays giving shape to the ancient stone walls. Unforgettable. As was the road to Thailand, the boulevard of broken backsides.

Thailand – chilling out in Bangkok and then heading to Chiang Mai. Bookshops, Cookery courses, fantastic foot massage, markets and falafel. Trekking into the villages on the hills, elephant riding and white-water bamboo rafting. I wrote this in the van on the way back

Elephants and Waterfalls.

This morning

Riding on elephants in the dappled green sunlight of a tropical forest.

The Mahout starts to sing quietly,

and the elephant trumpets softly and then walks on .

Stillness falls and it is a holy sacramental moment.

In the afternoon I see a rainbow in a waterfall.

On days like this I believe.

Singapore – Shiny shopping centres and afternoon tea at Raffles – well its gotta be done.

And that is just a few of the highlights. I’ve been privileged to meet many amazing people, learn new perspectives on the world, been amazed by the kindness of strangers and the prevalence of wireless internet. I’ve seen more sunrises than in the previous year put together, prayed more, read more, been surrounded by Grace and had some great food (even the snake wasn’t bad).

At the end of it I’m happier, relaxed and comfortable in my own skin than I’ve been for a long time. I am who I am and I’m happy with that. Whatever I do next the job will not define me and that is a strangely comforting notion. I’m thankful for home and friends – coming back to old friends and new life and long walks on the beach, turf fires, red wine and frosty mornings.

I’m glad to know you all and look forward to sharing our lives and stories in person very soon. In the meantime no missive would be complete without a quote from Mr Frederick Buechner, indeed the motto I try to live my life by.

LISTEN to your life. SEE it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: TOUCH, TASTE, SMELL your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace. Frederick Buechner

All is well and all is well and all manner of things shall be well.

May Blessing surround you at this hallowed and gracious time of year.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Leaping with the Mockingbird till Christmas

As explained below I'm taking part in the advent Blog below ..... I don't really have the time and energy while traveling to keep 2 blogs going so for the next few weeks I will be appearing only at the mockingbird (click on the title above or below to go straight there) . But in one and only act of duplication - my friends at Moot in their service this past Sunday ended it with an extract from T.S.Elliots 4 Quartets and it seemed somehow appropriate to the season.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always�
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Blessings of the Season Upon Y'all