Christmas is coming

So this has been a very Christmassy weekend. It began with messy church on Saturday at Tewkesbury Methodist Church  when we heared about the angels in the Christmas story and went on to make lots of different ones in our craft activities.

On Sunday I led morning worship at St Mary’s, Newent where the Christmas Tree festival was underway. This meant that the church was adorned with all sorts of bright an beautifully decorated trees  and though it made for a slightly tight space for serving communion it all looked very lovely.

Remembrance

red flowers on garden during daytimeMatthew 6:5-15

So today we honour all those who gave their lives – the ultimate sacrifice – that we might have hope for the future that all may live in peace. Yet Peace in our world today remains a hope yet to be fulfilled. Increasing tensions in the world make us wonder if we have leant anything at all.

The problem is of course that in our fallen state there is yet a part in all of us that from time to time adopts that which we might call a warring mindset…the one that basically says ‘It’s my way or no way’. It is black or white, yes or no, there is no room for compromise or negotiation and it seeks only for the self to win and the other to lose. And try as hard as we might to tame this part of ourselves, when the right buttons are pushed we can be quite uncompromising in demanding our own way.

When we watch conflicts played out on our TV’s and dictatorial world leaders playing brinkmanship it is so easy to distance ourselves and our own patterns of wanting our own way (all be they on a smaller scale) but we have them. They are played out in families and churches in neighbourly disputes and in the workplace. Sometimes such behaviour comes out as bullying or intimidating, or oppressing people, other times it comes out as power struggling and it is most likely that we  have all, at sometime in our lives, either inflicted or been afflicted by this warring mindset.  And you know we don’t have to do very much at all to inflict or impose our rule over others….we can reject or exclude people merely by our body language inflicting huge damage to another’s sense of self worth and all because they don’t see the world the way we think they should!

Right now we see some very extreme examples of the my way or no way mindset  in very current world leadership. We recoil in fear and horror every time an ill thought out Tweet goes out  almost goading an aggressive response and we wonder why such leaders can’t negotiate for peaceful outcomes…but I always think peace will never come until we learn to take the plank out of our own eye first.

The spiritual task for the  Christian soul is surely  to raise our consciousness above this self centered mind set.  And if we don’t then we shouldn’t be surprised if our prayers for peace are too weak for God to even hear – never mind answer!!!

You see, you cannot ask God for something in prayer which you are not prepared to model within yourself – that sort of prayer doesn’t really work.  It’s the  law and  I don’t mean law in a legalistic sense, but in the same sense that gravity is a law – a universal law – which cannot be broken without utter chaos ensuing.

Gandhi put it this way – Be the change you want to see in the world

In other words shift the problem in your own being, before you expect the world around you to change….

In our reading from Matthew’s gospel we hear Jesus teaching on prayer – Several points spring out at us from this passage.

In verse 7 we hear don’t use lots of words that are repetitious our empty. In verse 12 we here – forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. And in verse 14 and 15 we hear if you do not do this then God cannot forgive you.

Put these verses together and what we have is a principle, ie ‘don’t waste your words in prayer asking God for things in the world that you don’t intend to address in yourself’. It is a deep universal law of how God works with the human soul. When you live the change you are praying for you open the door for real transformation.

You can’t pray for world peace and at the same time be at loggerheads with your next door neighbour. You can’t pray for forgiveness for yourself and bear a grudge against someone else.  and You can’t pray for nations to be released from oppressive dictators and at the same time believe that only your way is the right way…It simply doesn’t work like that in the Kingdom.  This was the teaching that Jesus lived and taught us to live. If you really want this world to know lasting peace and freedom from oppression then be that in all your dealings with others.

One theologian who addresses this deep flaw in the human consciousness is Koyama who gives us the idea of the crucified mind. The Crucified mind is in essence the  opposite of the my way or no way world view. He depicts the crucified mind as

A humble mind, expressing a love that does not insist on its own way. A mind that expresses a love that seeks the benefit of other. A mind that does not bulldoze or crusade through history, culture or  peoples lives demanding conformation and a mind that accepts people as they are and does not demand that they change in order to become  acceptable….indeed it welcomes diversity. So then the crucified mind is the very antithesis of the egocentric path.

So if we are truly to honour those who gave their lives for our freedom and for the hope of future peace – we can only do so by addressing the the my way or no way mindset within ourselves.

Do you really aspire to live the state of the crucified mind because if you do then you are opening the to door to a consciousness that will give rise to a lasting peace. When we are in alignment with the qualities of peace and humility then Christ will shine through the darkness of the warring paradigm – transforming, healing and bringing us to a glorious vision where we shall know the peace that passes all understanding.

So let us remember and  honour those who died not just with our thoughts and remembrances but  also with our intentions and actions so that our own lives model the message of the kingdom that the whole world  might see. There is no clearer proclamation of the good news than that.

 

Desert Soul

IMG_4437So as you become more familiar with my ministry you are beginning to see that it is a ministry of the heart and soul. I am passionate about our inner relationship with God and the changes that happen within us as we allow God’s presence to emerge in the inmost parts of our being. This underpins a new group called Desert Soul, which will  begin on January 3rd at 3.00 thereafter  on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month.

The group is rooted in desert spirituality which has inspired many through the centuries to discover within themselves a deep sense of the ever present God. Whether this be through its deep contemplative practice and approaches to prayer, through the searing clarity of the psychospiritual insights, or the pattern of life rooted scripture, community and solitude – in both eastern and western Christianity, desert spirituality has formed the basis of a rich and fruitful underpinning of faith in every generation since it’s formation in the Egyptian deserts beginning in third century.

In particular we might note that John Wesley was profoundly influenced by the desert fathers and in his life and works we see that all pervading, rich inner spirituality, which was such a vital and energetic part of the development of Methodism. Sadly we seem to have all but lost touch with that essential part of our narrative which was such a glorious gift to the world in those early days.

Desert Soul seeks to rediscover such treasures which were never truly lost but have rather got become hidden through the ages, yet preserved. As the world yearns for spiritual encounter, it is surely time for that which lies deep in the soul of Methodism to resurface and to once again revive deep encounter with the indwelling God.

If you study the history or the spiritual life of the Church, you will find that each time  there is a spiritual renewal in the church, the desert fathers are present.” Irenaeus Hausherr