Honest Christianity: Celebrating brief lives

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Many of us have been to funerals and memorial services of those who have died after a reasonably long life. They are sad events but often times of celebrating a life well lived, many achievements, too many memories to mention.

Today I went to our Women’s hospital’s annual new borns memorial service. I am always impressed by the courage of the families that attend such events. What they have in common is the passion, significance in which families refer to the child / ren that have died, sometimes after only a few minutes. The shortness of the time they had with them is a factor but not a limiting one to the affection that their name is said, character recalled, the significant place they hold in their families. Pain has been joined with the joy of affection. We talk about not judging a book by its cover nor can it be judged on its impact by its length. All are loved.

This week we remember baby loss in all its facets, miscarriage, still births, neonatal, many of these no matter where they lived, in or outside the body, the potential to celebrate the brief gift of life cannot and should not be diminished.

This is the gift we can all offer these families, and perhaps ourselves, safe places and people to name names.

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Honest Christianity: God blame and credit

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We are relaunching our “Doubting Aloud” group at Church next month. One of the issues that has been suggested is “if we give God credit, thanks and praise when things go right, well is it not logical that we give God the credit, blame when things go wrong?”

On the surface, it seems a reasonable, logical question. I am sure many of us have similar questions, I know I have continually engaged with this question, issue, hypothesis especially since I have been in chaplaincy at the Children’s hospital. Personally I want to ensure I want to praise God, give thanks to God, for God’s blessing upon my life. It has not always been clear that I have been able to discern past the obvious, what is direct, indirect, natural, consequential, good and evil. If i thank God for healing my child, then surely I hold God directly responsible for when my child is not healed or dies. Where is God, how is God involved? Good honest questions.

We are keen to engage with this issue in our first evening, but I have feeling, it could take up the next year, at least! We will keep you posted with how we get on.

For anyone local to us 7.30 11th October 2018 Old Rectory, Hodge Hill – all welcome

Honest Christianity: Ok to call someone a dog?

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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.

Honest Christianity: How do we help bring in the reign of God?

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As some of our regular readers will know, Sally buys me an annual daily reading notes book every Christmas. I often refer to my readings for these blogs. A few weeks ago this has an idea and one particular line, that struck me.

We may begin to be aware that God, the Word made flesh, is dwelling at the very centre of our being. In any case, the movement towards interior silence triggers a phenomenon that might be called centering. St John of the cross …says we are attracted to God as to our centre, like a stone towards the centre of the earth. If we remove the obstacles, the ego-self with all its paraphernalia, and surrender to God, we penetrate through the various layers of our psyche until we reach the very centre or core of our being. At that point there remains one more centre to which we may advance. This centre is the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who dwell at the inmost centre of our being. It is out of that Presence that our whole being emerges at every moment. To be at this centre is eternal life. To remain at this centre in the midst of activity is what Christ called the reign of God.

This last line i really found helpful as we often refer to the glory and reign of God, and I am not sure we really can explain what we mean by these terms. Being joined to the Trinity is conceptual, but I think I know what some of that means, and if doing this, through knowing I am a child of God, in relationship with God,by prayer, seeking and asking to be refilled with the Holy Spirit etc. If this is what it means to see the reign of God, I am a little less mystified and a little more encouraged.

The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living Father Thomas Keating August 21st

Honest Christianity: What is worse than sin?

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A dumb question? Surely nothing, right? Sin is not great, not the way to live, treat others, our planet? When I first heard this question asked about 30 years ago, I did not think there was anything, I was in a Church that took sin very seriously.

The answer the speaker gave was a positive one, there was something worse than sin, grieving God, humanity, yourself. The answer they gave was yes, “lying about sin”.

The uncovering of the pandemic around the world of the various forms of abuse by religious leaders is too atrocious for words. Lying about it, covering up these sins, may not be worse than the abuse, but it does make it much, much worse. Both are inexcusable. From reports of survivors and others, this has not been good enough. How can we disagree?

What did we think Jesus meant when he said, it would be better for those to be thrown into the sea if we sinned against children?

To say something is unforgivable in an insult to the will power, generosity, graciousness of humanity, even if understandable. But this is not ours to ask or expect. Our response is to continue to bring transparency, honesty, no excuses, full unequivocal apology, action and commitment to never sin or lie, cover up about such sins ever again. No matter what motives.

To all victims of any kind of abuse by any adult in responsibility, we are sorry for the sins of all generations.

Honest Christianity – more in common

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Just back from holiday. Meeting people who seem very similar to me, but some who were very different in so many ways. This t shirt is a good reminder of some of our commonalities although as with most slogans I would want to nuance it a bit more but perhaps that can be left until after we are over jetlag! We had quite a few cultural experiences we want to reflect a little more about but certainly had some amazing experiences in the natural world.

Honest Christianity – known by the scars

Reflecting on this at the moment, lots of resonances in my job as paediatric hospital chaplain…
Grant then Lord, that I may conform to thy will, just as I am, that, being sick as I am, I may glorify thee in my sufferings. Without them I cannot attain to glory, without them, my saviour, even thou wouldst not have risen to glory. By the marks of thy suffering thou wert recognised by thy disciples, and like wise by their sufferings thou dost recognise those who are thy disciples.
Blaise Pascal