From Father Gavin Berriman
I hope you are having a blessed lent and are following our Lenten booklet: “Love Life, Live Lent.” Don’t forget that as well as the Lenten Reflections at various times each week you can also follow our Lenten Blog on firstname.lastname@example.org. Lent only just seems to have begun and we are looking towards Easter which will be with us by the end of this month.
The pattern of worship for Holy Week and Easter can be found elsewhere in this magazine but just to draw your attention to a couple of things. Firstly that we shall have our usual Easter workshop for children on Holy Saturday, March 30th, at 11am. This will include the very competitive Egg Rolling Contest!; and soup and roll lunch thanks to the Mothers Union. I hope you will be able to join us for that.
The other thing I want to mention is the Procession of Witness on Good Friday morning. This year instead of beginning at St Augustine’s and ending in Lee, it will begin at the Good Shepherd in Handen Road and end at St Augustine’s. Instead of a short service at the end, which we have done in previous years, there will be a short stop outside each church on route for a reading from the Good Friday Gospel and a prayer. The rest of our worship for Holy Week and Easter will follow the normal pattern.
Until then I invite you to make the most of this Lenten season. Each week there will be Lenten reflections at the Wednesday Eucharist at 10am and Saturday Eucharist at 9.30am; also at Compline on a Wednesday evening and during a short time of silent prayer on one other day in the week. Details of these can be found on the calendar for March elsewhere in the magazine. On top of this there will be a short reflection for children each week during or our Sunday worship.
Someone made the comment to me this week that this is the best lent they have ever had! If we can make lent something we look forward to and something that inspires us in our faith, then at last we are getting somewhere.
Snippets from the Lenten Blog: email@example.com
The secondary title of the Lenten booklet Love Life, Live Lent is: “Be the Change”. It is a title inspired by a famous quote from Gandhi:
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
It is about each of us taking responsibility for the ills of our world and society and not merely standing there pointing the finger at others.
Taking responsibility does not mean we begin to blame ourselves; there is nothing positive to be gained from that. Taking responsibility means that we acknowledge that we all contribute to society’s ills. Our attitudes; the things we say and do; the way we live our lives – all have a bigger impact than we can imagine.
Let us make a commitment to this Lenten journey and to allow the changes to take place in us that will bring benefit to our world.
A commitment to love and to allow ourselves to be loved. Gavin
This week we’ll be looking at our capacities for imagination and intuition, even our emotions, and how they echo the creativity of God and his generous care and love. Above all we’ll be asking ourselves how we can reclaim a sense of creative wonder in our lives.
If we think back we can remember times when our sense of wonder overflowed. I must have been eight or nine when I first saw a sea anemone gently opening and closing with the waves as it clung to a rock. The wonder of that has stayed with me and reoccurs every time I see one, even now nearly half a century on.
Two of God’s greatest gifts to us are our innate capacities for creativity and wonder. Like all gifts we can leave them unwrapped, discarded and unused. Or we can use them as they are intended; to build up the common good, to craft more beautiful, more loving, deeper relationships with each other, with this parish, the world, and supremely with God. Richard
Today’s Lenten theme is “Be More Creative”. It suggests make something: A cake; a picture; a model; a poem; a story. I would like to add another suggestion for this day, something we might try out during lent; that is to be more creative in the way we pray for people.
For example, we could carry a small stone in our pocket for the person we are praying for; a symbol that we are carrying them in our prayers, in our love. Once a day we could place that stone, or stones, on a table next to a candle, which we light on their behalf.
Or how about the next time you receive holy communion, you receive it on behalf of that person or situation.
You could even take a short walk around the block simply as an offering of prayer for someone. We make various journeys during the day and have so many routines we could use. Waiting for a bus can seem less a waste of time if we offer that waiting as a prayer for something. Gavin
Paula Gooder encourages us to go back to the book of Ruth. I’m jolly glad it did because by reading the whole Book of Ruth straight through in a sitting I’ve seen things which might be very useful for us all.
Ruth is actually a very strong person. She learns to be a practical, down to earth country woman and has a very earthy spirituality to go with it as she reacts to the simple tasks which get her through the day as best she can. So often we don’t do that.
For about five hundred years now we’ve thought that belief is one thing and action quite another. So we often fail to react to the ordinary, everyday events of life in the light of our Love of God and what we believe. We separate them and struggle to reunite them. But Ruth shows us that it really doesn’t have to be this way. Instead we need to look at our faith through practical eyes and ask ourselves how, why and in what ways what we believe impacts on our lives and on those around us. Lent is the best time for doing just that. Richard
We are so lucky living in Grove Park, we have so much green space around us. But when was the last time we set out on an adventure, to explore our community, and simply notice the world around us?
“The world is filled with the grandeur of God”
wrote the poet Gerald Manley Hopkins
“The eternal word of God is written in every plant and insect;
in every bird and animal; in every man and woman.”
Wrote the Celtic saint, Ninian.
The Franciscan writer St Bonaventure calls nature the divine footprints of God. And he beautifully tells us that our sacred journey begins by following those divine footsteps back to the source. For him, having a deep connection with nature is a vital part of our Christian journey.
Lets take a little time this lent to spend time in, and notice, the world around us; and follow those divine footsteps back to their source.
The problem is that as we get older we tend to think that creativity and wonder belong only to children and young people. Or we think that it is a very grand thing indeed, the preserve to an elite group of the gifted and talented – but not people like us.
In these days when most of
us are busy being busy we tell ourselves that it might have been all right for
the poet W.H. Davies to ask “What is this life if full of care/we have no
time to stand and stare..?”, but that was then this is now. We can’t find
the space for any of that.
Actions speak louder than words we are told and, on a whole, that is a very true statement. The words: “I love you”, “I care for you”, slip off the tongue so easily, they can be said without even thinking about what we are saying, just a cause of habit.
We know we are loved, not so much by what people say than by what they do, the way they act towards us. But, you know, we humans are a pretty insecure lot, we like to hear it said as well; we like to hear it said not as a cause of habit, but with real meaning.
Yes words have their limitations but they also have their magic; sometimes we simply need to hear what is obvious, said with feeling. God loves us beyond compare, we know that, but we still like to have it spelt out to us in such moments as when we are baptised; when we are admitted to holy communion; when we are confirmed; when we receive holy communion; when we are anointed; when we receive a blessing. These are ways that God uses to tell us: “I love you”.
Our Lenten booklet suggests that we tell someone how much we love them.Why don’t we make an effort to do that to a friend; a spouse; a child, and yes, God? Actions speak louder than words, but sometimes words just hit the spot. Gavin
There was once a great spiritual teacher whose followers would go miles to hear; They loyally followed him for years, hanging on his every word. One day he said he was going to reveal to them the great spiritual secret of his life. Everyone waited with baited breath for his great pronouncement. He simply said: “I have learned over the years to be thankful in everything that happens.”
William Wordsworth sums up what I’m driving at in his poem “Tintern Abbey” when he wrote:
“The best portion (notice that, the “best” portion) of a good man’s life/ his little, nameless, unremembered acts/of kindness and of love.”
The book of Ruth teaches us that we need to have a practical theology, that we need to be faithful to each other and to God, and that above all, we need to love the so-called “outsider” in tangible ways, through simple acts of kindness. And when we do that we leave a lasting legacy that transforms us and the whole world. Richard
The Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, wrote:
“How necessary it is”, he said, “to work, or walk or sit in the fields; in the rain, in the mud, in the sun, in the soil, in the wind.”
These things, he tells us, are our best spiritual teachers and guides. He writes of God working in, playing in, and simply enjoying, the garden of his creation; and says that we need to relearn how to join God there; and be one with God there.
Gratitude and thankfulness is at the very heart of worship – it is Eucharist. The key to our relationship with God, our relationship to life, and to each other, is thankfulness. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist; every time we work or walk or play with God in the garden of his creation; we are reminded of this.
The key to happiness is not about having things our own way, but living with an open, awakened and thankful heart. Gavin
A Buddhist teacher, tells a story of a time he was living in India. He went to the market one day to buy some fruit and vegetables, and, as always, was besieged by beggars.
A young boy looked pleadingly at him so he gave him one of the oranges he had just bought. What happened next was a life changing experience for him. The boy simply walked off without offering any thanks, smile or acknowledgement. The teacher realised then that in this small act of giving he had expected something in return – even if it was a simple nod of the head. He learned from that experience that true generosity expects nothing in return. Gavin
The mystic Meister Eckhart wrote:
“if the only prayer we ever uttered was “Thank you”,
that would be enough
JULIAN OF NORWICH ON SPIRITUAL THIRST
In previous articles designed to prepare us for the celebration of the 64Oth anniversary of the Revelations of Divine Love to Mother Julian of Norwich later this year, we have looked at what she had to say about Christian Communities, Sin, and how True Knowledge of ourselves can lead to True Knowledge of God. For Julian, these things should eventually combine somewhere deep in our souls to produce an unquenchable thirst for God: “As my soul longs for the springs of waters, so my soul longs for you, O God.” (Ps 42:1)
This image from the Psalms is central to what Julian has to say. Not only does it extend what she had to say about self-knowledge, it also allows her to write about what we are longing for – God. More surprisingly and importantly still it allows her to write about God’s longing and desire to become known to us. For Julian the paradox of entering the divine presence is that while God wishes to be known, our knowledge is partial and fragmentary. That is why God sometimes seems so elusive even at those times of crisis in our lives when we need his presence most. So Julian asks how such an elusive God can be always known. According to Julian:
“It is God’s will that we believe that we see him continually, though it seems to us that the sight be only partial; and through this belief he makes us always gain more Grace, for God wishes to be expected, and he wishes to be trusted”. (Same edition of Showings as noted in article 3, pg 194)
Although our experience suggests only a fleeting encounter with the divine presence in our lives, faith leads us to desire a more unconstrained and continual experience of God. While, on the one hand, Julian writes of a God who “wishes to be seen…and wishes to be sought” on the other she makes it clear that it is of the nature of God to elude our sincerest attempts to achieve full awareness of divinity.
Since our experience of God is only fleeting and fragmentary (Julian’s visions themselves witness to this truth) we are left with a yearning for a more complete Knowledge. But this quest itself, regardless of its outcome, contains meaning. One of Julian’s visions teaches her that “…the soul’s constant search pleases God greatly. For it cannot do more than seek, suffer, and trust.” (pg 195) Out of God’s will to be known and our desire to encounter a gap is created, one that can only be closed by Grace. Julian explained that “It is God’s will that we seek on until we see him for it is through this that he will show himself to us, of his special grace, when it is his will” (pg 195)
So, while our desire for divine encounter is infinite in its longing, the object of this desire (God) only reveals itself, if at all, “when it is his will.” Longing alone is no guarantee at all that we will encounter the presence of God. What is needed is complete surrender to God and the doing of his will - and we will look at that in more detail next time.