I am a bad sailor sadly, I throw up with only a little bit of motion. I would love to sail or go on boats more but our double kayak is probably about the best for me! This sign caught my eye at a seaside cafe at the weekend. I often hear people talking about how the rough parts of life were the times they learnt most. As I look back that is true of some of my experiences and I had to learn to trust in God in fresh ways and understand faithfulness in deeper ways. However, sometimes the rough times shouldn’t have happened and that requires grace and forgiveness and time to process often.
I am reading a book written by a friend, Ray Simpson, it is called Aidan of Lindisfarne. Ray had been hoping to write a Celtic novel for many years and it was finally published a few years ago.
It is about one of the early Celtic missionaries from Iona to England. In the book Ray retells and imagines Aidan picking a team and getting ready to reach out to people of Northumbria. I am really enjoying the joining and engagement of the historical story with Ray’s knowledge and values of the times. This is one part that particularly struck me:
Spiritual reasons for choosing this different route came more from intuition than logic. Aidan recognised the warriors lost battles because they did not know the enemy, or did not prepare thoroughly, or were outnumbered, outmaneuvered or divided amongst themselves. Was it like this with spiritual initiatives? From his childhood days a new that those who became monks were also known as soldiers of Christ, and that all Christians were supposed to overcome evil with good. But no one… had explained the skills of a spiritual warrior. [Two of them] went off to train as warriors: how did soldiers of Christ train? The brothers did learnt disciplines of body, mind and soul. They learn to pray, to think, to befriend, to create – but was there something more to do with the unseen forces of good and evil? p. 90
This week I am teaching on ministerial formation and hope to share and explore some of these concepts, practical ideas of how we can be God’s skilled servants, to fulfill the tasks and roles God has for us. What can we learn to do, skills, knowledge etc, to build upon what God has already given and made us to be?
Aidan of Lindisfarne, Ray Simpson, Resource Publications 2014
This is one of the busiest weeks if my year and I love it and have had a great time. But I know I also need a day of not being busy to rest and recharge. I love the idea that after creating everything God looked at it, said it was good and took a day of rest! That’s what I will do today, TOIL, time off in lieu for my toil!
At MCYM we started a new academic year on Monday, each one starts with a community week. Today we finish with Communion. At that service we like to present achievement awards to two of our graduating student and we value the two different awards equally. Choosing one is easy – it is the person with the highest average grade. Choosing the other one is much tougher, it is for personal achievement and that can mean all different sorts of things. That it is tough to decide reflects the challenges many of our students go through to get to graduation. We have a very diverse group of students from 18-50 something, some career changers, others who have felt they have always failed in education and some who choose to do a second undergraduate degree because they appreciate the course structures and learning styles. On the first day we have a session on ethos where we talk about our seven strands and they are all important: community, ministerial, spiritual, academic, personal, theological, professional. It reminds me of Paul’s analogy of the body of Christ and his discussion of gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. We are a community of learners, staff included and we bring different gifts but together we are stronger. As one graduating student emailed me, I didn’t do this on my own!
If I ever had a month’s opportunity to study, I would enjoy and benefit from studying what is commonly referred to as the “hard sayings of Jesus”. The story of this blog is the encounter of Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician woman asking him to heal her daughter of possession of an evil spirit. His response…”for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs” (Mark 7. 24- 30).
We can be generous with Jesus, that he is possibly provoking the woman to think, justify her request as a non Jew, wait a minute and I will be with you after I have ministered to God’s chosen people, Jesus being blunt to a foreigner or other possibilities. I have one other for us to consider.
I have always been interested in Jesus’s levels of self understanding. When during his life time, the first 30 years, baptism, transfiguration, 3 years of ministry, on the cross, resurrection, what degree of knowing, certainty, absolute clarity did he have of who he ss, where he had come from and was going back to. I wonder if this response was out of a growing revelation of the who this new Kingdom rule was for? i am not a fan of process theology but it seems reasonable to ask, was this a learning experience for Jesus. As our vicar Al reflected this morning, was this a cultural response?
What ever it is, Jesus responds to faith, to a trust in God’s goodness, to express this new inclusive Kingdom of compassion, love, grace and mercy. Salvation available for all, always.
The name was the least creative thing about this boat for me. We saw it on the sea front in New Brighton last Saturday. It is made of what looks like driftwood and provides so much scope to play and have fun pretending to be a pirate or an explorer or anything you want! My memories of piratea always bring me back to Peter Pan, one of the first pantomimes I ever saw. I love the Spielberg Hook version too with a very feisty Tinkerbell! Happy childhood memories can help sustain or nurture us throughout our lives and I am grateful for those who have the vision to try to create places and things that are special for children to play with.
Why is perhaps the most difficult pastoral question I ever get asked or ponder on for my own life. I found this poem/reflection really helpful, I found it on a chaplaincy discussion list and I am using it here with permission of the author. I don’t think it needs further comment from me.
I know it well.
I’ve kind of got used to it,
my “why?” being around.
I can hold it, contain it,
walk with it,
even run with it,
but mostly sit with it
turning it over and over,
until every bit of goodness
has been absorbed,
or sometimes spit,
but always take another bite,
even if out of habit.
But your “why?” I do not know,
it has grown in a different place.
Even though I may think
and see something of myself in it
it is yours and is a song of gods
and adventures that is yours
Your “why?” is a different fruit?
So I listen
and use my hard earned gifts
to contain, walk,
run and sit.
And together we bring into daylight
a hidden honesty,
take a bite
David Buck (c) 2018.