I have just been to a talk entitled Social Inequality with the Anglican Diocesan Bishop ~ He is an inspiring preacher even if humility is his weaker characteristic.
He began his talk with the adamant instruction “Only answer this question if you are absolutely confident of the answer”
He then proceeded to ask us “What were the first words of the Risen Lord?”
New Hall school is an imposing building ~ as you take the long drive up to the beautifully bricked building ~ you suddenly have a sense of your own imposing humility and working-class invisibility and unworthiness. This alone is a Grace sublime. Its renders you of ultimate worthiness in the name of Jesus who turns everything upon its head. It’s a humility that the Canonesses couldn’t ever perceive or recognise (even the working class ones, who are somewhat now desensitized to their privileges.)
I knew the answer to Bishop Stephen Cottrell’s question ~ but I held my tongue. I sensed a question posed to trip us up, should we be too confident of our own confidence. I kept quite ~ knowing that I knew the answer ~ however the more-knowing-confident ageing mixed denominational congregation called out their answers one after the other ~ wrong wrong ~ wrong! I held my tongue longer ~ almost till bursting point ~ then longer still. I looked and listened and resented it when the Anglican Bishop accused us All of not knowing the most important words of the Gospel ~ me still holding my tongue tight before one elderly Canoness came up with the line from the Gospel According to John ~ ‘Woman why are you weeping?’
“The Correct answer would have course of been, it depends on what Gospel account you are reading.” grinned Bishop Cottrell. ~ I was glad I sat still silently observing it all, in the imposing red bricked theatre inside the imposing red bricked building. Confident in my silent confidence.
“Sticking with The Gospel of John” Bishop Stephen said “what were the 2nd, 3rd and 4th lines that our Lord said?” I remained quiet ~ allowing the Canonesses to believe that I of all peoples really had no idea what so ever of the answers. At this point the Bishop had me suspended between being on the edge of my seat intrigued, and being on the edge of my seat in lieu of leaving.
But he is a brilliant evangelical captivating confident preacher who could teach some of our Catholic priests a thing or Seventy Seven about preaching. I am so glad that I stayed for the duration of the talk. It was in many parts inspiring ~ at one point brilliant ~ but his over-confident lack of humility grated on me from time to time ~ we all after-all have an experience ~ and his is of course only one experience of many. And then he turned it all upon its head when he said ~ despite being different members of the body of Christ ‘We are a discipleship of equals’!
I came home and reflected upon the lecture.
‘Woman why are you weeping?’
Imagine if in our Christian discipleship, we turned towards All whom we saw with sorrow in their hearts ~ (namely everyone at some point in their lives) ~ and asked, ‘why are you weeping?’ ~ I can hear the compassion with which Jesus breathes those beautiful tender caring words. Words that care about dialogue. Words that care to see and listen. Words that care to share in the response whatever it may be. Words that touch our soul.
‘Who are you looking for?’
How beautiful to be so present ~ instead of the all to often keeping quiet, looking away, not going there to meet someone in their unknowing, searching, confusion or sadness. ~ What a ministry to ask someone ‘Who is it you are looking for?’
What is in a name? ~ or the way we say that name? ~ So much is in a name ~ familiarity ~ compassion ~ Love ~ recognition ~ Home is in a name. ~ What a ministry to call people by their name ~ and to know and Love them by that name ~ and welcome and accompany them by it ~ with Love. Mary ~ I name you ~ I call you ~ I know you ~ I Love you.
The bishop gave us his personal opinion of our Lords ‘Do not cling to me’ phrase
saying that “we shouldn’t ever cling to God because the nature of God is that he will forever be just out of our grasp, and is not for the clinging & that Mary Magdalene was told not to cling for this reason. He said Just as soon as we think we have caught Him, then no sooner do we realise that this is the time that we are further from Him”. ~ However I believe he took this out of context, by leaving off the ‘because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’.
For me this whole dialogue of ‘do not cling to me’ was not about God being forever beyond our grasp, neither was it an unfavourable rejection of Magdalene’s touch, and the earthly Love that she expressed toward him, (as overly insinuated by the many). But rather it was a gentle instruction about not clinging to Jesus’ earthly existence (as an end in himself) before the point that he had truly risen, and shown us the way from the reality of his earthly appearance, to the extraordinary reality of His Risen Existence with his and our God ~ with his and our Father ~ in Heaven for all Eternity.
Without this take of leave, we would have set our spiritual vision on Jesus the Son of Man upon earth alone ~ Instead He offers us something even GREATER ~ the Son of God The Father ~ in Heaven.
And that is just M A S S I V E.
This is what I was inspired to explore and ponder and then try to articulate it here based on some of the things which Bishop Cottrell said ~ some of which I felt great resistance towards ~ and some of which I felt so encouraged and inspired by.
Bishop Cottrell says all the really important things happen in the dark or the half-light ~ ie Christ appearing as The Gardener in His new creation ~ as the New Adam ~ As opposed to the Old Testament image of Adam in the garden of Eden creation story.
Bishop Stephen concluded his talk by saying that Church is a community of communities in which we find our destiny in God. The Bishop’s ministry being pivotal to the central point of that community ~ at which point I sensed an elicit sadness wash over me ~ where finding my destiny in God (who is Love and Spirit) happened not in the heart of the community or centre of the Church (the place where Love and Spirit have been denied me) both locally and on diocesan level, ~ but rather alone ~ in solitude ~ in my sanctuary ~ in individuals ~ in strangers ~ within and beyond myself ~ and in those dear people who have Loved me in Truth.
How can we expect our communities to thrive when people in pastoral care ministry have not yet learnt to say to those who are hurting, those beautiful words ~ ‘why are you weeping?’ ~ ‘who are you looking for?’ Instead I have latterly on so many occasions encountered awkward stifled silence ~ lack of eye contact ~ avoidance ~ and diversion. Bishop Stephen said our prayer has to be about asking God for the Grace to change us in our ministry and outreach, so that we can serve others better ~ and not simply about us praying for God to intercede ~ nor for us to leave God with all the responsibility.
When Bishop Stephen said “To be in the presence of Christ is to already be dwelling in Gods kingdom” ~ I absolutely knew That Truth. ‘Thy will be done’ ‘on earth as it is in Heaven’ ~ This is no more about dying and rising at the end of our life ~ but about living the risen life now. He talked about the Mass of peaceful protest outside the Scottish Trident Nuclear Missile base ~ and that people said how brave he was for putting his head above the parapet ~ and speaking up for what was of good and of God, regardless of whether or not we are arrested. (Knowing full well he wouldn’t be, as the police asked his request as to whether he wanted to be or not) 🙂 ~ At that point I smiled at God and I smiled quietly to myself ~ Coincedental images that Echo last week ~ and the very true fear of flashing blue lights upon my exit from the Cathedral ~ which turned out to be nothing other than an ambulance, and not police cars to arrest me. Bishop Stephen said that putting ones head above the parapet for what is right and good, is the only place to put ones head ~ as the air is fresh and lovely up there. And that is living our life risen in Christ.
And now I am taken straight back to my Spiritual Directors question this week. When I was casually talking to her about God speaking with me ~ and that ‘He doesn’t speak out loud with His voice as we do’ ~ she unexpectedly turned to me and said ‘How does God speak to you?’ ~ and I said ‘He speaks through thoughts ~ not my thoughts ~ His thoughts ~ even when I try to ignore them, or disagree with them. He says the same things over and over again in different ways, until I acknowledge what it is that He is saying. In scripture, in hindsight, in thoughts, in inspiration, in prayer etc. He also speaks to me through unbelievable coincidences ~ and often He startles me loud and clear in miracles. I explained the story below and she looked at me and nodded her head gently Yes, and smiled. And for the first time in so long I felt . . . met and safe and warm.
For instance this Lent I did a project which was a completely Holy Spirit led project. It wasn’t about me ~ it wasn’t about my photographic skills ~ it wasn’t about acknowledgement. It was about helping my children to help others who are less fortunate than themselves, when they know that someone needs help. Had my son not have come home from a Scouts hike shocked and frightened by the deprivation in Jaywick, the project would never have happened.
I decided to take them out one sunny sky-blue day and between us we took a series of photos on my iphone, of the deprivation and character of Jaywick (10 too many photos) in just one short visit ~ in order to do a Jaywick Stations of the Cross Facebook exhibition, to make the local people aware of the poverty of their neighbours. It was only back home when we compiled them into possible Stations that each photo (as if God were staring out from it) looked as if hours had been spent searching for the precise symbolism and composition of the shot. But it hadn’t been ~ These photos were all taken completely randomly only with the broader Stations of the Cross project in mind.
I was absolutely blown away after I posted ‘Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem’ for Station number 8 ~ I hadn’t noticed when I first posted them up (neither when I had taken the photos) any of the door numbers. The only door numbers visible on each of the many dilapidated properties that we took photos of, were the numbers 67 and 69. And I only noticed these numbers a few days after I had posted the enlarged photos on the blog ~ IT BLEW ME AWAY ~ 67-69 is my door number.
I never told anyone but Maria ~ Its just one of those things that is UNBELIEVABLE ~ that you know others wouldn’t believe, and would just presume you had contrived it ~ planned it ~ ordered it ~ and manipulated it. But I hadn’t ~ and it left me shocked ~ in awe ~ and wonder ~ and so happy that God chooses me again and again and again ~ and so so perplexed ~ Why me? ~ What for? ~ Who knows? ~ Does anyone have the insight to see from the outside why this is happening to me? ~ I don’t! ~ But nobody says a word.
And I feel frustrated with the spiritual form of communication that spiritual human others use ~ because no-one talks ~ no-one excites ~ or shares the wonder ~ or tries to get a handle on it with me ~ everything is always forever left undiscussed ~ unspoken in words. Everyone that is, but for an hour or so with my very special Spiritual Director ~ when I could take a lifetime of sharing the wonder ~ and not only one single hour every two weeks ~ and then silence until the next meeting.
Why don’t spiritual people talk and share with many words?
. . . . . . ?
This Lent was so difficult in so many ways ~ I buried my dear spiritual sister and close friend Dr Claire Maher, 3 days before my birthday. I had hoped that she had left me a letter and that I would be given it at her funeral ~ a saying goodbye. I was never given a letter ~ and although we texted each other up until a few days before the end, just X’s ~ she never once said goodbye ~ or shared in Truth her parting in words. And I was left hurting at the parting ~ for since her diagnosis, to her death 10 weeks later, she wouldn’t see anyone other than those nursing her and looking after her affairs. We had shared so many evenings sitting, sharing, talking in honesty about everything, our lives, our hurts, our hopes, our strong faith etc ~ and then after her death I found out a truth that explained the hindsight feeling of an-unspoken-Truth unshared. Complex ~ but so uncomplex. Claire was one of only two friends that actually spoke in detail about our spiritual lives in words ~ many words ~ and It all feels a little surreal that she is no longer alive.
Anyway on Easter Sunday one email appeared in my Spam account addressed to ‘Claire’
It said ‘Claire’ = Now = Easy = Fast. I’ve saved it. It made me smile. Claire Risen ~ In Heaven . . . Now = Easy = Fast. 🙂
Easter Sunday is my birthday. I was born on Easter Sunday in 1970 at 5.40am ~ For Claire to be so present was a blessing. xxx God I’m gonna miss her. xxx
How does God speak to me?
In Spirit and in Love †
. . . . and I just want to share it all in person ~ with my living beloved sacred other.
Tonight I went back to Mass in my sacred little church ~ something is diminished.