Covenant Faith

One of my favourite quotes from John Wesley is  about preaching:

“Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.” 

As I write this I am stuck at JFK Airport in New York after a week of teaching in Yakima, Washington State. Apparently the aircraft is not fit to go so they’re putting us up in a hotel for the night. This unexpected day of doing nothing has given me an opportunity to chill a little in the relaxing sense which is a whole lot better than chilling in the snow — which I have also done on this trip. And no matter how often I travel I am never able to pack suitably for the cold when it is hot at home. It is difficult to dress for another climate. As it is difficult to live in the world and not of the world. As it is to live the Covenant Prayer we will pray today in a world of fearful selfishness.

On this day of “doing nothing” I have been reading a beautiful book of poetry by Mary Oliver called Thirst, and through her poems I am reminded again of what it means to live out our covenantal faith. She writes in

The Messenger:
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished…
Which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth
and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all,
over and over, how it is that we live forever.

Another called, Musical Notation 1:
The physicality of the religious poets should not be taken idly. He or she, who loves God, will look most deeply into His works. Clouds are not only vapour, but shape, mobility, silky sacks of nourishing rain. The pear orchard is not only profit, but a paradise of light. The luna moth, who lives but a few days, sometimes only a few hours, has a pale green wing whose rim is like a musical notation. Have you noticed?

Another Mary Oliver poem called, When the Roses Speak, I Pay Attention:
“As long as we are able to
be extravagant we will be
hugely and damply
extravagant.  Then we will drop
foil by foil to the ground.  This
is our unalterable task, joyfully.”
And they went on, “Listen,
the heart-shackles are not as you think,
death, illness, pain,
unrequited hope, not loneliness, but
lassitude, rue, vainglory, fear, anxiety,
selfishness.”
Their fragrance all the while rising
from their blind bodies, making me
spin with joy.

A Pretty Song:
From the complications of loving you
I think there is no end or return.
No answer, no coming out of it.
Which is the only way to love, isn’t it?
This isn’t a playground, this is
earth, our heaven, for a while.
Therefore I have given precedence
to all my sudden, sullen, dark moods
that hold you in the center of my world.
And I say to my body: grow thinner still.
And I say to my fingers, type me a pretty song.
And I say to my heart: rave on.

Prayer:
It doesn’t have to be the blue iris, it could be weeds in a vacant lot, or a few stones; just pay attention, then patch a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate, this isn’t a contest but a doorway into thanks, and a silence in which another voice may speak.

___________________________________________

To live out our covenantal faith we need the poet’s gift of attentiveness. To pay attention to the miracle of life that is saturated with holiness. “Our [covenant] work is to love the world … it’s mostly standing still and learning to be astonished…”

With gratitude, Alan

Follow where Jesus leads

This is one of the remembrance stones on the sanctuary wall.
In memory of Rev. Ernest Titcomb.
“His was a life of duty transfigured into love.”

Today we celebrate Tess Petersen confirming her faith, hope and love for Jesus. In so doing she confirms her trust in Jesus. To trust enough to follow him where he leads. To trust that the way of life Jesus calls us to live really is a life that leads to LIFE – eternal life – meaning, new life now. New life now that (by the way) death is powerless to destroy.

Today Tess confirms the way of life she desires to live. She does so before us as a community who promises to continue to share the journey with her. We promise to keep faithful practice of all means of grace from which Tess can drink and into which Tess can contribute.

I want to borrow the words of Craig Holdrege who when speaking about school/education said the following to young graduates:

My hope is not that school has prepared you well for college or for life.

My hope is not that school has prepared you for present-day culture and its existing forms and processes.

Rather, my hope is that you have been educated in such a way that the world is not prepared for you.

I hope you have not been hindered and that you may even have been nurtured and encouraged to develop ideas and to do things that no one expects – not in order to be different, but because you sense what needs to happen.

Don’t listen to people who tell you, when you are following a yearning or birthing an idea, that it can’t be done.

Tess, when you follow the yearning and birthing of Jesus, may you be graced with courage to persevere. I am grateful to Jane Lawrence for the mentorship she has generously offered Tess throughout this confirming journey.

Grace, Alan

We are already one

Last week we heard the piercing question from the letter of James asking us: “Do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?” (James 2:1). James was referring to the different ways his congregation treated the rich from the poor. It made James question whether they really believed in Jesus or not. That is heavy stuff!

James is correct to connect his congregation’s behaviour to his congregation’s beliefs — because ultimately it is our behaviour that reveals what we truly believe — not the songs we sing or sermons we preach.

One of the areas we have struggled with as a congregation is how we can share tea/coffee after worship with one another — and with the homeless that visit. Many of us feel overwhelmed, inadequate and uncomfortable. We leave rather than stay. We “hand-out” rather than share. In so doing we miss an opportunity to imitate God’s free welcome and undeserved hospitality of us. We also miss attending to Jesus who comes to us in those who society says are the “least”. How we behave around the tea/coffee table is probably more important to God than what we do around the Holy Communion table. In fact, the tea/coffee table is the real Holy Communion table that we should “do in remembrance of Jesus”.

I know this stuff is not easy — but we must wrestle with it as a community if we are to try to hold Christ at the centre. The truth is that we are all family. No one is a guest. No one is a visitor. No one is a stranger. We are one. Maybe this is the great underlying sin — that leads to so many other sins, and that is the belief that we are separate from God and others when the truth is we are all ONE. We do not have to become one — we are one already.

When we resume tea/coffee again let us accept Jesus’ invitation to live out our oneness.

Fast and Pray

The Presiding Bishop, Rev. Zipho Siwe has called on the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to fast and pray during September to “push the frontiers of evil back, especially in the area of education” and violence in our land. There are many different ways to fast. Here are some options for us to consider. With each option we would have to decide how long we would implement the fast for — a day or month.

• A complete fast, going without food and drink
• A liquid fast
• A fruit-only fast, or raw food only
• A sunrise to sunset fast
• A one-meal-a-day-fast
• A fast from certain foods and drink.

Substitute the time for eating with a time for prayer as well as an extra generosity in sharing with others.

Lord have mercy on us, Alan.

Our Deepest Fear

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
Nelson Mandela

Each year at this time we are reminded of the fact that one person can indeed make a difference. To me, this poem by Marianne Williamson (and often quoted by Dr Nelson Mandela), clearly encourages us to have faith in the faithfulness of God and become the person Jesus longs for each one of us to be.

I am grateful that Madiba had the courage to stand up and shine and manifest the glory of God that is within him, regardless of the consequences.

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the
glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

May each one of us be liberated from our deepest fear!

Grace & Peace, Adrienne