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Encouragement for the Journey 27 /5/ 2012

Encouragement for the Journey

Greetings Fellow Traveller,

I am writing this week’s Encouragement for the Journey in one of my favourite cafes. A cafe is an interesting and fascinating place in which to write. I admit I would like to have been around in the 1920’s and spent time in the cafes of Paris, Berlin or Vienna. Alas, that will never be, for time travel is not yet quite perfected.

Back to the cafe I am currently in, I like it for various reasons one of which is that it is one of the few cafes around that has a beautiful gas fired log fire. So imagine on these cooler mornings the warmth that greets you upon entering. It feels welcoming and embraces you into its presence.

Cafes are extraordinary places, offering all kinds of mouth watering delicacies and tasty morsels. Of course I am not forgetting good coffee and tea. The heart of a cafe is not the barista or the kitchen; it is the table at which human beings may sit sometimes alone or with another person and have conversation. Hold that thought of being with another person in a cafe for a moment.

Today we celebrate Pentecost, the giving of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. If we perceive the Holy Spirit to be just for us who are in the Church, we do immense injustice to the Spirit’s presence in the whole of creation.

I WANT TO STATE VERY CLEARLY IT IS MY BELIEF; GOD’S SPIRIT IS THE SPIRIT OF THE COSMOS. IT IS THE VERY BREATH OF LIFE IN EVERY APECT OF CREATION AND WITHIN EVERY PERSON. THERE IS NO BOUNDARY BETWEEN RELIGIOUS AND NON – RELIGIOUS. ALL ARE EMBRACED WITHIN THE MYSTERY OF SPIRIT- THE DIVINE RUACH (The feminine life force at the heart of all life)

So the next time you enter a cafe, alone or with another human being, spare a thought for a moment, that the Divine Ruach or breath of God has already gone before you and is already present in every person, in every conversation that may take place at your table or the one next to you.

What a wonderful thought!

No wonder cafes are such amazing and extraordinary places.

Meanwhile Peace in the eternal embrace

Alf

 

 

May 29, 2012 in Ministry Team's Blog by

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Encouragement for the Journey 22 / 5/ 2012

 

Encouragement for the Journey

Greetings Fellow Traveller,

Over recent weeks I have had the privilege of taking two funerals. To compare the two services is nigh impossible. Naturally, each was very so different, the location for one was a Rugby Club, and the other was here at St Aidans. The service format and style for each was appropriate to the person who had died and our remembrance in honouring them.

However, what was present in both funeral services was the presence of loss and grief. There was mourning and grieving for the one who had died. When grief is present, we experience a ‘gap’, for someone’s presence is absent. I want to suggest that nothing or no one can fill the gap that has been created within our life when someone we love dies or is absent.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian, pastor, prisoner of the Nazis executed 6.00 am 9 April 1945 at Flossenburg Concentration camp by the Gestapo. In his various writings, he wrote about the ‘Gaps’ in our lives. In his book Letters and papers from Prison he has this poem:

 The Unfilled Gap

Nothing can fill the gap

When we are away from those we love and it would be

Wrong to try to find anything

 Since leaving the gap unfilled preserves the bond between

Us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap.

He does not fill it but keeps it empty, so that our communion

With another may be kept alive even at the cost of pain

 Bonhoeffer writing in his prison cell and separated from his family is deeply aware of the ‘gap’ in his life, produced through enforced separation.

At various times we too experience ‘Gap’ moments in our lives. These ‘Gaps’ are generated by loss of various kinds, for each of our ‘Gaps’ will be a different shape, depth and presence, it is impossible to compare one with the other as it to attempt to fill the ‘Gap.’

May God give us strength to live courageously and compassionately with the pain of our ‘Unfilled Gaps.’

Meanwhile Peace

Alf

 

 

May 23, 2012 in Ministry Team's Blog by

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Encouragement for the Journey 15 / 5 / 2012

Encouragement for the Journey

Greetings fellow traveller

Today, we celebrate, another mother’s day. The word mother evokes all kinds of thoughts and images, which flood into our awareness and consciousness. A trend in recent years is the commercialism of Mother’s day, this can ever so subtly turn our focus away from the precious gift and unique place that a mother has within a family and indeed within our society. By this I mean, there is a modern advertising ploy that portrays the value of a mother, being determined by the value of the gift bought and then given. There will be some mothers who will not be remembered by a gift today, are they any less important and precious. NO.

Being a man writing this, I do acknowledge I can never fully understand or appreciate the special bond that exists between a mother and her child. A mother who carries her child in her womb, feels it moving then goes through the pains of childbirth, indeed, I say a resounding, YES, a mother is a very special and unique person.

An often forgotten aspect of mother’s day is that for some mothers, on this day, it is a time to remember a child whose physical presence is no longer in their lives, yet is alive within the memory banks of their heart. Then there are the mothers who when young, gave their child up for adoption and have never seen nor touched their child again. Within these mothers, grief and loss has made their presence felt, touching the heart with sorrow and sadness, leaving a void, which can never be filled.

Mother’s day for me means different things, and one aspect, that I find helpful, is that it reminds me, of the motherhood of God metaphor. I appreciate that the word ‘God’ is filled with all kinds of negative and positive imagery, for ultimately we come face to face with unknowingness and mystery. This day offers an opportunity to bring balance into our conversations and imagery about the divine mystery we name as God. We can attempt to describe and perceive for God in terms of feminine descriptions rather than solely masculine ones. When we take this approach we may well find ourselves becoming more loving, compassionate and following in the footsteps of Jesus.

I leave you with this poem from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,

Nature

As a fond mother, when the day is o’er,

Leads by the hand her little child to bed,

Half willing, half reluctant to be led,

And leave his broken playthings on the floor,

Still gazing at them through the open door,

Nor wholly reassured and comforted

By promises of others in their stead,

Which, though more splendid, may not please him more;

So Nature deals with us, and takes away

Our playthings one by one, and by the hand

Leads us to rest so gently, that we go

Scarce knowing if we wish to go or stay,

Being too full of sleep to understand

How far the unknown transcends the what we know.

Meanwhile Peace in the Dignity of Difference

Alf

 

May 23, 2012 in Ministry Team's Blog by

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Encouragement for the Journey 6 / 5 / 2012

Encouragement for the Journey

Greetings Fellow Traveller,

Once more, we participate in our Kids N All Service experience. The theme for today is ‘Belonging.’

The longer I journey through this life, ‘is there another one you may well ask’. I am discovering there is a universality of human experiences which transcends the diversities of race, religion, ethnicity and gender.

At the very heart of our humanity, is the basic human need to belong. This has its seeds in our sacred formation, embraced by the darkness of our mother’s womb. Within the rhythmic sound of our mothers heart beat we each learn what it is, to belong to another human being.

In our growing years outside the womb, we learn and unlearn what it is like to ‘not belong’ and ‘belong’ through the various experiences of our lives. We instinctively know and experience when we belong of being accepted for who we are ‘warts and all.’

The journey of our lives, brings us to another sacred place, once more we are at St Aidans. Here we are seeking to be the people of God, the body of Christ,

The church being like the human body is a metaphor of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 – 14.

I recall when my daughter was undertaking her nursing training she had to learn about the various systems within the human body i.e. digestive, respiratory, circulatory, musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Each of these is a separate system and yet each is interdependent upon the other for the body to function in healthy ways.

So too, within our congregation, we each are independent human beings, along with being inter-dependent and interconnected with each other, we belong and need each other for the body of Christ to function healthily. I readily accept that we form closer relationships with some than others. Yet this does not prevent us from warmly welcoming and embracing those who are new among us or visit us from time to time as is our practice. I leave you with a poem from NZ poet Anne Powell:

Here

Over cups of tea and coffee

The sacred becomes gathered warmth

In low – fenced backyards and playgrounds

The sacred chatters and laughs.

In conflicts and misunderstandings

The sacred waits to be revealed

The pot of the world simmers with the sacred.

Take off the lid.

Meanwhile Peace in the Dignity of Difference

Alf

 

May 9, 2012 in Ministry Team's Blog by

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Encouragement for the Journey 29 /4/ 2012

 

Greetings Fellow traveller,

Today in our morning worship, we have an opportunity to sing some favourite hymns. Even though we are living through significant changes in Church life, hymns still have an important place in our Christian tradition and practice.

Naturally, there have been significant changes in hymn style, language and music over the centuries. Yet, for each generation hymns continue to reach a place within our inner being.

From time to time, a comment is offered to me like; that hymn brought back memories of ………… The person would then share a period in their life when they were going through a particular vulnerable time, a hymn was sung and it touched them. Sometimes that hymn brought comfort, while at other times whenever it is heard, a tender memory is evoked, and they are once more transported to another time and place.

I readily accept the theology portrayed in some hymns is questionable and at times I cringe when I read or attempt to sing the words. Yet, despite this, I acknowledge that for another traveller on the faith journey, that hymn I found questionable is what sustains and strengthens them. One size certainly does not fit all.

Sometimes, we may sing or read a hymn on our own, this may offer us some pleasure, however, hymns are meant to be sung with others. It is when we sing with others, within community, that we experience a mutual uplifting and maybe, for a moment, we are lost in wonder, love and grace. I leave you with these words of an ancient hymn:

 God be in my head,

and in my understanding;

God be in mine eyes,

and in my looking;

God be in my mouth,

and in my speaking;

God be in my heart,

and in my thinking;

God be at mine end,

and at my departing.

                              (With One Voice Hymnbook no. 456)

Meanwhile Peace

Alf

 

May 1, 2012 in Ministry Team's Blog by

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