Today I’m doing a reading in church. Just a regular reading. No performing. Nothing special. I’m now on the reading rota at the church we’ve been going to almost since we arrived here. I like the place, I like the people and I like reading. So of course being me I won’t just say it I’ll put inflections into it and make it lively. Not performing but just being me.
And this is why I think this passage, esp the first line is so amazing and I think will be my word for the year. Along with a few others I’m gathering but … what a great start to the year, to sit in church and hear that it is time to Arise and shine. Wow! Especially on this dreary day when the town is shrouded in mist here is God saying “Arise and shine” Wow!
So what does that mean? Well I think it has to come with the second phrase too. “Arise and shine for your light has come.” How can I arise and shine? Because my light has come. How has my light come? Well Isaiah 60 says “and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” What does that mean? Well I think it could mean that actually you have realised who you are and have let the Lord – or wherever you get your strength from – rise upon you.
Without trying to be blasphemous I think you could substitute “Lord” for confidence, for strength, hope, reassurance. Almost anything. I really don’t think that one can let the Lord rise upon and around you unless you have confidence in yourself. I know of a friend who went through an awful tragedy but I can hear her sobbing “Just one touch of the King changes everything” but she had to let herself be touched for Him to be able to change everything.
If we can be willing to believe that, even though it is dark and misty outside, even though 2017 is looking like being a worrying year, we are able to arise and shine and let your light shine then we can be part of changing things. We can let our assurance, confidence, strength, hope rise and so shine light into this year.
The passage goes on to say about how the world is in darkness but that people will come to the light. We are not be inert but by worrying, being anxious, being fearful we hold the darkness in place but if we go with confidence knowing that we can do our bit to bring light to our sphere of influence then those in need will be drawn to us.
It always takes me a while to get into the fact that its a new year. Others around me come with resolutions that they can present at midnight on 2016/17 but I need a run up to it and some thinking time. So for me though I will put aside worry and also put aside false hope and I will arise. I will shine. I will let my light shine in my spheres of influence. This is my resolution for 2017.
“Translations vary, but in our modern day, conversatio morum suorum generally means conversion of manners, a continuing and unsparing assessment and reassessment of one’s self and what is most important and valuable in life. In essence, the individual must continually ask: What is worth living for in this place at this time? And having asked, one must then seek to act in accordance with the answer discerned.”
—Paul Wilkes, Beyond the Walls: Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life
This is something I would like to be plaster as wallpaper all around my home at times – both to remind me, to remind the rest of my family, to remind those who come to our home, but also to remind us to give this to others. So often our world works on this upward spiral, including in church, of getting better and better and of achieving, of reaching the goal. But this says that in fact we should understand where we are and asking what is worth living for in the now. It’s not about getting better, of having a purpose, of achieving, but of being and living.
Richard Rohr says something similar today (28th Dec 2015) :
Both God’s truest identity and our own True Self are Love. So why isn’t it obvious? How do we find what is supposedly already there? Why should we need to awaken our deepest and most profound selves? And how do we do it? By praying and meditating? By more silence, solitude, and sacraments? Yes to all of the above, but the most important way is to live and fully accept our present reality. This solution sounds so simple and innocuous that most of us fabricate all kinds of religious trappings to avoid taking up our own inglorious, mundane, and ever-present cross of the present moment.
I have been working with young people who haven’t made it in the education system and all we seem to do is trying to keep them in that holding pattern until the can leave school, which is now 18 years old. Why are we not teaching them how to make the most of where they are? Many of these kids have amazing gifts and talents, just not recognised in the modern school system, so they’ve been labelled and made to feel like they have nothing to give. Yet if we could get them to live fully in their present reality, which for many is really hard, but also to ask what is worth living for in this present moment? I think we could get them to change. I really do believe not just with these kids but with everyone if we could work out what things in this present moment are worth living fully for and how can be be fully present then things would change.
The reason why we don’t teach this? Because so very few people live it. I know I struggle to. But that is also something I’m learning and am going to take in 2016 – that if I don’t get it right today then I forgive myself and start again. I don’t even have to wait till tomorrow to start again. I can start again the moment I realise that I’ve messed up and am not fully present, not looking at what is worth living fully for at this moment.
I was trying to practise this whilst out walking with the dog this morning. Ok it was helped by the fact that there was the most gorgeous burnt copper sunrise. But I’ve got lots on my mind. Today my mum and her husband are coming to “do Christmas” with us, so there was food stuffs to think of; my son is having an operation and I want to be there for him but he leave 200 miles away; my daughter is off back to uni 100 miles away and I was trying to work out whether I could manage to take her back; and of course the big one – we’re moving. All these thoughts were crowding into my head and taking over often. As was the thing of wondering what life will be like this time next month. But whenever I realised that I was not in the moment I wouldn’t be cross with myself but would just pull myself back and go back to enjoying the sunrise and the lovely day, and watching the dog rushing about. And of course my mind would wander again and again would have to be pulled back.
Again I think this is a place where we aren’t kind to ourselves or others; we don’t cut anyone any slack. If we mess up we’ve failed. If someone does something wrong they are labelled as a certain type of person. Very rarely do we give ourselves or others the grace to just say this is a phase. I am learning with my family, husband and children, to try to just let it be and say this is what it is for now. Do I force them to change? No that would be wrong because what do I know about what is best for them. Many times I’m not sure what is best for me until I’ve tried it, and then sometimes its best of then but not later on. I am a fluid evolving being and so are those around me. To truly accept this growth and change and living in the moment we must trust that all will be well.
Or as it said is Star Wars: The Force Awakens “The Light — It’s always been there. It’ll guide you.” And also “As long as the sun is there we have hope”
What does this mean – “Keeping Sunday Special”? And what does “you must go to church” mean? And how does all this fit in with a “relationship with God”? “Following Jesus”? And “Sabbath rest”? As one who feels very much that God is saying “Rest and wait” and this whole thing of “Cormorant’s Rest” – just being and waiting for me wings to dry, though when my wings do dry I wonder if God will have me in church or elsewhere?
I was talking with someone the other day who was concerned that I had not “been to church” for a long time. I also hadn’t been to their midweek meeting for a while. There was nowhere in the conversation where she asked how my relationship with God
was, or even how I was emotionally or spiritually. I did tell her some but it was hard because her plan was to steer it back to Sunday morning. I wonder if, and I know I’m probably echoing many other blogs, …. I wonder if we judge people’s relationship with God, who we cannot see, by their relationship with a local church? We can see whether someone goes to Sunday morning stuff, is involved on rotas, talks to people, attends weekday meetings, conferences, etc, depending on the denomination raises/doesn’t raise their hands in worship. All this is able to be observed and recorded. Yes is someone isn’t doing the recognised meeting they how can anyone judge where they are.
As the Mindfulness teacher was telling us last week – we are very quick to judge things rather than just experience them. Mindfulness appears to work very much on the principle of experiencing things rather than working out even whether one likes it or not. So often we can look at people who go to church and say “they’re good Christians” and those who use to go and have stopped going as “backslidden” , whatever that word really means! The more I ponder my journey through life and with God the more I have to say it has become about experiencing rather than judging whether I like it or not. I have reached a place where I love God, I trust God as my father who loves me unconditionally, I am trying to follow how I interpret Jesus behaved and yet I really don’t like a lot of what God does. I am moving to a place, like Mindfulness, where I am experiencing what is going on around me, what my senses are telling me, but without judgement. I still get hurt, by people and by God, but I learn to accept that all that is part of the experience.
Going back to “Keeping Sunday Special” and how that is working for me I’m going to use some quotes of friends.
There are some people who don’t get “church”. They see it only in local visible terms – i.e. you have to “go to church” – as if it’s a place. Scripture to some extent supports this – don’t neglect the gathering of yourselves together (Hebrews 10.25). But church “happens” for most of us in multiple locations and with different groups of people. I’m “churching it” every day in different ways.
When people ask me “which church do you go to?” – I say “it depends where I am and who I am with”. When they say “which denomination do you belong to” – I say “all of them” A better question might be “How often do you gather with others to pray, worship and fellowship” – and the answer hopefully to that is “daily” – and for some of us “many times daily”.
The experience of Jesus is worth pointing to. How often was he on His own with His Father? Answer – all the time!
So how does that work for me? Well in the past week I’ve met with 4 other followers of Jesus who live away from me so
we have to make the effort to meet, but when we do it is 3 or 4 hours of chatting, finding out how we really are, talking about Jesus, our walk with Him, the stuff in our lives we struggle with. It is indepth friendship, which involves prayer, worship and fellowship. I email and text other Christian friends who live across the world. I have friend I support in mission across the world that I pray for every day. In fact I do my best to have a chat with God on and off throughout the day. Also if God is really omnipresent then He’s with me always and I just have to remember that. And in fact I have to remember that He is with those who don’t believe in Him too, and there are times when He speaks through them anyway. So I do gather many times daily with other believers; physically and via technology.
I could go on about I won’t. I think it is just wise for all of us as Christians, not to judge but to look at why we go to Sunday church. For some it is a very valid place to be. It is where God wants them. I remember a church I went to in Scotland where the pastor felt that the congregation had began to worship the worship group rather than come to worship (as in sing songs to) God. He asked the worship group to step down for a season, an unspecified length. Most of the group left to go to other churches where their “talents could be used” and many of the congregation went to places where there was “better music”. I think that nicely proved his point. For me at the moment I feel like I am keeping Sunday special. I am having a sabbatical of indeterminate length and I believe, and it has been confirmed by others, that this is what God’s saying for me. But if He does suggest I go back to Sunday church then I will have to make sure I go for the experience not to “make sure my talents are used”, not to “prove I’m not back-slidden” and also not to judge it. I have to go to experience God and others and keep every day as a special day with Him and with my fellow human beings in the here and now.