Longing to be one…

I’m praying not only for them But also for those who will believe in me Because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind – Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.  The same glory you gave me, I gave them, So they’ll be as unified and together as we are  I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, And give the godless world evidence That you’ve sent me and loved them In the same way you’ve loved me. Father, I want those you gave me To be with me, right where I am, So they can see my glory, the splendor you gave me, Having loved me Long before there ever was a world.  Righteous Father, the world has never known you, But I have known you, and these disciples know That you sent me on this mission. I have made your very being known to them – Who you are and what you do – And continue to make it known, So that your love for me Might be in them Exactly as I am in them. (John 17: 20-26 The Message Version)

Do you hear the heartbeat of love longing for connection? Does it resonate with you in the depths of your being? Does it stir a longing for something you know is deeply right , do you dare to reach out for it? Jesus most asked question was “what do you want me to do for you?”

As I read the Gospel passage I am deeply struck by the longing in the heart of Jesus, a longing for connection not only with God who he addresses as Father, but with his followers throughout every age, a longing to be connected intimately and deeply and in love. This is the heartbeat of God.

Maybe being connected, intimately connected is not only our deepest desire, but also our deepest truth, we were made for this connection, for we are all made in the image of God, the divine spark is at work and alive within us. Maybe in the end, we are all simply trying to find our way home, and that home is God. One of my favourite parables is “The Lost Son”, or “The Prodigal Son” which would lead me to another blog post because I love the fact that prodigal could be read as recklessly generous, but I digress…The lost son separates himself from his family and travels to a far country where he lives a life of excess until he is completely spent in every way and abandoned by his false friends ends up destitute, ( you probably know the story well, if not you can find it here )

In his destitution and stripped of connections he listens at last to his inner voice, Jesus tells us “he comes to himself/ his senses”, he knows and connects with a homesickness deep within, and decides at that point to return to his home. He has yet to have a deeper truth revealed to him, for at home there was a loving and holy welcome waiting, not only was he longing for home, but home was longing for him, incomplete without him. Just ponder that for a moment, without you, the God of love who longs to include all, is incomplete, and I am incomplete without you, and you without me…. the call to be one runs deep… and it flows when we find it in and through the whole of creation… we are one!

In the words of Queen (1):

One man, one goal
Ha, one mission
One heart, one soul
Just one solution
One flash of light
Yeah, one god, one vision


One flesh, one bone, one true religion
One voice, one hope, one real decision…

can you hear the longing?

I had a dream when I was young, a dream of sweet illusion, a glimpse of hope and unity, and visions of one sweet union…. ( Queen : One Vision 1985)

Is it a longing in you? I know that within me there is a deep longing, a hunger for belonging that is expressed in so many ways, and sometimes I connect deeply to it and it surprises, delights and terrifies me with equal measure, because it opens me to a fullness of love that is overwhelming.

Then, I have to reflect that in this life sometimes in an effort to belong we create boundaries and barriers that exclude rather than include, we create rules for belonging that demand that we fit, demand that others fit, to belong we say, you must believe the right things, sign up for the cause and behave how we do!

This was not the way of Jesus, his way was the way of inclusion, the way of grace and the way of love, his expressed longing for intimacy and for oneness was a part of his message, his stance was that everyone belongs, and only by excluding yourself were you out. He challenged fiercely the religious elite who were experts and excluding people, and purveyors of guilt and shame in the name of God.

I wonder if what we need to rediscover is what we mean when we say “For God so loved the world” ( John 3: 16), to hear the inclusiveness of it, not just humankind, but the whole of creation, all and everything, which throws into shadow an often encouraged practice of substituting your name for world in order to understand how much God loves you. Western individualism is toxic! God loves, God loves all, God loves everything, and just as the lost sons home was incomplete without him so God is incomplete without us because s/he has chosen to be connected to us and placed a divine spark that cries out for union within us, we find our completeness not only in Christ but also in and through one another.

When fully awake, to love (God) and fully alive, this longing for contentedness should drive me to live openly and generously, and it is the call and commission of Christ who calls us to be the God colours and God flavours in the world, to connect divine spark to divine spark until a flame of love is fanned and burning brightly. When we do we will live differently, as friends with one another and with all of creation, no boundaries, no barriers of creed, race, class, race, sexuality, gender, for all are one. Hills and rocks, rivers, sea and sky come alive, and somehow even in creation we are one.

So how do we break free from our boxes, and particularly in the Western world away from the individualism that drives consumerism and engenders isolation? Perhaps we need to be brave enough to name our condition and connect with our longings, naming the homesickness for what it is, facing it, and the pain of it, for it will show us our brokenness, but it is the way to healing.

I can name it, I am homesick for love, the wonder and the mystery is that love, that is God in triune ( creator , son and spirit) relationship, is homesick for me, and you, and you, and you and you….. and all, and everything

Christena Cleveland (2) says: The primary problem is that our identities are too small. We tend to rely most on our smaller, cultural identities and ignore our larger, common identity as members of the body of Christ. . . . Indeed, adopting a common identity is the key to tearing down cultural divisions and working toward reconciliation. 

Can it be, that even in a far country, yet I am home because I am awakening to loves call to oneness…

A prayer of longing:

May we be one, as you are one,

connected in loves divine flow,

life to life, heart to heart,

skin to skin and deeper than skin,

closer than breath, knowing and known.

+

May we be one, as you are one,

loves fullest expression, delighting in everything… Amen

  1. Queen- British rock band formed 1970
  2. Christena Cleveland, Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart (InterVarsity Press: 2013), 177-178.
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Deeper…. what mystery…

what mystery is this

stirring and yearning

within me,

deep reaching deeper still

into my depths and darkness-es

untapped, unknown,

curling like smoke

into every corner,

every crevasse

of my souls’

most intimate being….

+

what mystery is this ….?

+

do I yield, or fight,

or simply let “it” be,

as “it” takes on the form

of love, whose name is

more ancient than creation,

more present than this moment,

more than life,

more than death,

more, just more than I have ever known…

+

what mystery is this

meeting me in my darkness

meeting me, and making me

calling me out to love….?

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remember- the invitation

remember who you are,

be re-membered,

return,

re-join,

reconnect,

yourself

to your source,

to the life that flows

through all life,

remember,

be re-membered,

made whole,

this is the invitation

that flows deep,

the invitation

running though songs,

and sighs,

the invitation that groans

and aches throughout creation,

remember who you are,

be re-membered,

re-join the dance of love

and life,

be made whole….

( Greatly ought we to rejoice that God dwells in our soul; and more greatly ought we to rejoice that our soul dwells in God. Our soul is created to be God’s dwelling place, and the dwelling of our soul is God. . . . And I saw no difference between God and our substance, but, as it were, all God; and still my understanding accepted that our substance is in God. —Julian of Norwich )

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Dying to live

teach me to die,

so I can live,

to die to my

negative internal chatter

telling me that I am not enough,

where can’t and don’t

are repeated in equal measure

keeping me alive,

but a breath of risk

from life itself…

teach me to die,

to fall,

to fail,

my way into real living,

to take the step beyond

my doubts,

and the grave clothes of my minds

churnings, then help me

to bear my power,

to be the real me,

draw me out if hiding,

teach me to die,

that I might live….


The Raising of Lazarus ~ (Icon from a private collection, Athens. 12-13th century) ~ “Though I lie in bonds, O Savior,” Lazarus cried from below to Thee his Deliverer, “yet shall I not remain forever in the depth of Hell, if Thou wilt only call to me, ‘Lazarus, come out;’ for Thou art my Light and my Life.”
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walking with the black dog…

to know myself

is to know the shadow

I walk with,

to know the subtlety

of her ways,

to recognise euphoria

can plummet

to despair

in a moment, and,

without warning,

that manic tendencies

are a signal,

to slow down,

and stop,

to face the shadow,

to call her by name,

to take stock,

regain control

to walk calmly

with her again….

she is the black dog,

and mostly we are able

to be friends…

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Experiencing Easter…. hope and doubt, glory and shadow…

I have been challenged that 2 of my recent Facebook posts are contradictory, and the truth is that without nuance and reality they are, one was about being blown away by the way God has been working in my life over the last few months, the other indicated that I was having a bad mental health day yesterday. The truth is both of those are true, and one does not contradict the other, it merely reveals my humanity, and reveals the truth that throughout Lent and the whole Holy Week run up to Easter Day I have had wobbly days among the being blown away days, and sometimes those have been one and the same!

So, probably for me rather than for anyone else, I thought I would write a bit about what I have been experiencing. I do so to reclaim in many ways the often forgotten element of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral and that is Experience, which sits alongside Scripture, Tradition and Reason. Whilst it is questioned whether John Wesley himself ever applied the term to his own theological understanding, it has certainly been used by others in order to understand his thinking, and it is clear from his journals, and so his actions and reaction, that experience of God, of the Spirit within and around him was very important to Wesley.

I am not claiming to be Wesley ( I truly would not want to be), but I am working out for myself what the experiences of the last few months particularly have been about, and also to work through for myself a returning to acceptance of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in my life through what I can only describe as charismatic experiences.

It has been a hard time in many ways, work has been challenging, and I have doubted and questioned my calling to ordained ministry, doubted and questioned myself in so many ways. I won’t unpack all of that here, and I suspect it will be ongoing for a while, perhaps it is simply life being life! Into this God stepped powerfully, it began with a challenge to engage with deep spiritual practices, some of which have certainly not been traditional, but they have been a seeking of the strength and presence of God, her love and her wisdom. That said some have been more conventional and I have been surprised to find myself seeking out charismatic worship in a particular context, where simply sitting in the presence of God and his people has been remarkable, I reflect that once Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb that he needed friends to unbind him! I feel a bit like Lazarus, coming blinking into the light, and I have certainly needed friends to help to unbind me, in some ways I am stumbling along tripping over grave clothes still, trailing them behind me.

So what have I rediscovered? I have rediscovered the sense of the power of the Holy Spirit at work in and through me, I have prayed more, sought more, sensed more, I have brought the so long neglected gift of speaking in tongues from my spiritual store house, and found it to be beautiful. I have seen differently, and there is no real way to explain that, other than leaving it out there. Add to all this, I know my preaching has changed, and there has been a lot of kneeling involved, I am literally being called to my knees!

What has all this to do with Easter, and how we proclaim and celebrate Easter, well for me it is about walking with Christ through the now and not quite yet, it is holding the hope of the resurrection with the incompleteness of creation and my own being, and while we have the words of Jesus echoing through our minds as he cried out it is finished ( more accurately completed) from the cross, the truth is that we are still being called from our tombs of doubt, despair, pain and unbelief, yet he is risen and walks gently with us, calling and drawing us into the great dance of life.

Easter reveals to us a possibility and a hope of glory to come, it calls us to a deeper truth that we are not our own and to a deep mystery that God is at work in us and in the world, breaking out and breaking through unexpectedly and calling us to see and join in. I find that very often the triumphalist language that appears in our Easter liturgies and hymns jars with me, it does not sit easy for a broken world, and often carries certain expectations and demands of behaviour that I cannot live up to or into. I can however live into hope, and I can say ( even if I whisper it) I know afresh Christ in me it the hope of glory, on my most awake days, and in my darkest days this remains true.

Will these experiences continue, I don’t know, I am not seeking them, but I am seeking God, my faith has changed, I think I have changed…..

For now I can only let God be God, s/he will still me on the hilltop and hold me in the valley, and gentle me with grace….

I end with the beginning words of the Methodist Covenant Prayers ( tweaked slightly) Loving God, help me to know, this day and every day, “I am not longer my own but yours“, and may all that, that means unfold in my life as I walk and work with you. Amen.

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a muted alleluia

with washed feet

I come,

to the shadow of

your cross

I come,

holding my doubt and confusion

before me, before you…

I see hurt,

I see pain, (again)

as the world cries alleluia.

I cry hope,

and why,

and what if….

I cry alleluia too, but,

may my cries be muted,

please, for all that is

incomplete in me,

for all that is incomplete?

I have doubted and feared,

I have doubts and fears,

I am not yet whole enough

to cry “he is risen”

… while I know it

I don’t yet know it…

so bring Easter softly to me….

may I bring Easter softly to you,

in hope of wholeness?

Across the peaks, Win Hill, Mam Tor ad the Ridge-way, and the Kinder Plateau behind
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