Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Beauty and the Beast

So yes,  I went to a seaside panto this Christmas. Oh yes I did.....in fact it was Snow White and the 7 dwarfs.  And so as Eric Metaxas writes,
The old fairy tales confirm that what everyone in their hearts knows to be true is true.  That there are such things as goodness and beauty and truth-and even though in this life they are often hidden and obscured altogether, a time will come when the truth will be revealed, when dragons are slain and bewitched captives will be set free forever.
Maranatha! And a very happy new year

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The power and glory of the manger

'For the great and powerful of this world, there are only two places in which their courage fails them, of which they are afraid deep down in their souls, from which they shy away. These are the manger and the cross of Christ. No powerful person dares to approach the manger, and this even includes King Herod. For this is where thrones shake, the  mighty fall, the prominent perish, because God is with the poor and lowly.'

So speaks Dietrich Bonhoeffer quoted in his lovely advent book, God is in the mangerThe manger and the cross. Two anchor points.. The manger takes us by surprise, since we are used to those who shout loudest getting their own way. We are impressed by status and station in life. The manger shatters our illusions. The cross of Christ humbles us. It insists that everyone needs a substitute, and someone to take their place. We are 'needy' whatever our attainments and emotional strength.

Thanks be to God for the manger and the cross.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Morissey versus Merton

Dear 'old' Morissey is quite the poet and dare I say 'mystic'. His self esteem is bordering on the malignant with his insistence upon his recently released autobiography coming out under the imprint of Penguin Classics. He certainly takes himsef and life seriously. So when he appeared on Desert Island Discs a couple of years ago, in response to Kirsty Youngs', "Who do you feel yourself to be?"
"..I have absolutely no idea. I really do not. Life leads me...I follow it...I think I see poetry in everything and I see sadness in everything, and I take that and I carry it with me and that's quite difficult......life is terribly serious and I think it's much better if you face it head on."

At first reading one might expect a Christian believer like me to agree with him. But I have to say that I find his words just a little unbalanced. A more nuanced and helpful comment comes from the most unlikely source of Thomas Merton, who was somewhat of a Christian mystic himself. Writing about the relationship between a believer and his or her spiritual director (I guess I would call it , 'pastor'),  he writes,

'It often happens as a matter of fact, that so called 'pious' persons take their 'spiritual life' with a certain kind of seriousness. We should certainly be serious in our search for God-nothing is more serious than that. But we ought not to be constantly observing our own efforts at progress and paying exaggerated attention to 'our spiritual life'......The danger is to want a spiritual director who will confirm our hope of finding pleasure in ourselves and in our virtue, rather than finding one who will strip us of our self-love and show us how to get free from pre-occupation with ourselves and our own petty concerns, and  give themselves to God and to the church.'

Tim Keller talks about the blessing of self-forgetfulness in a great sermon here. As Tim says,
Few things in this world are as self-focused as the human ego. Every triumph and every slight has the potential to send us either into pride or despondency. Yet, in this passage from 1 Corinthians (3.21-4.7), the Apostle Paul shows us another way: a way where we forget ourselves to the point where we not only cease caring what others think, but where we even fail to care what we think of ourselves. Instead, we rest and rejoice in what God thinks of us in Christ.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Shivering at Christmas

'We have become so accustomed to idea of divine love and of God's coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God's coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out if it and forgetting the the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim on us.'
                                Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Monday, 2 December 2013

God is in the manger

Writing to his fiancée Maria von Wedemeyer from his prison cell in December 1943, Dietrich Bonhoeffer expresses confidence in God's ability to 'make all things work together for good to those who love God'.
When everything is bearing down on us such that we can hardly bare it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succour in abandonment. No evil can befall us whatever man may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Advent waiting

Waiting is not a concept much in evidence. And more especially as the Christmas adverts dominate our screens, with their promises of have it now and pay for it later. Fast food, instant downloads, speed dating and instant dieting, do not encourage a culture of patience nor gratitude.

Today is the first Sunday in Advent. In the lovely advent book of readings by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, called God is in the manger, we are reminded of the necessity and value of waiting,
Through all the Advents of our life that we celebrate runs the longing for the last Advent when the word will be , 'See, I am making all things new' (Rev 21.5)
The Advent season is a season of waiting, but our whole life is an Advent season, that is, a season of waiting for the last Advent, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth. 
I'm not sure that I have seen this so clearly before. Sure, there is much that God has promised us in this life, but it's folly to expect heaven on earth. Sad to say that us Christians (and many Christian groups I suspect), swing from one extreme to the other. Either never expecting God to intervene in life's affairs at one end, or anticipating daily miracles of healing, advantageous circumstances and wealth at the other.

Yep, waiting is built into this fallen world. Waiting for that answered prayer, that perfect job, that ideal spouse, that perfect church and on and on. But waiting keeps us dependant and expectant at one and the same time.

They that wait on the Lord shall indeed renew their strength (Isaiah 40.31)

A message from the other side

No, not that side! But thank God got through surgery ok yesterday. And thanks to all for love support and prayer.