The only thing to remember about prayer is to begin where you are. (Thomas Merton)

Deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can't pray a lie - I found that out. (Mark Twain)

If governments knew how subversive contemplative prayer is, they would ban it. (Desmond Tutu)

Pray as you can, not as you can't. (Father Ted King, Dean Emeritus of Cape Town)

So this is how you swim inward. So this is how you flow outwards. So this is how you pray. (Mary Oliver)

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Allowing Pentecost to challenge our assumptions

When you think about it, the celebration of Pentecost is the ultimate antidote against discouragement. And so I like this excerpt from a Pentecost sermon very much:
[W]e have a call, a “stunning vocation,” Walter Brueggemann says, “to stand free and hope-filled in a world gone fearful…and to think, imagine, dream, vision a future that God will yet enact.” Mind you, we are not in charge, God is in charge, but we are called to imagine this future, to trust in it, and to live into it, participate in it, and to share it with all of God’s children. We might be tempted at times to give in to those same impulses we see around us – to build up our defenses, look out for ourselves, find security in our “stuff” and in our sure knowledge that we know best, but this wind of the Spirit – it blows through our lives and it turns things upside down. We want a faith that only consoles us, and instead, God challenges our assumptions, blows them over, and opens up our eyes to see things in a new way, opens our hearts to a new creation of possibility and hope.
I may well have quoted Kate Huey on this blog before. I'm starting to like her preaching very much indeed. She is a United Church of Christ minister, by the way.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Ascension of Our Lord

The following is an excerpt from an Ascensiontide sermon by The Rev. Dr. Barbara K. Lundblad:
Not long ago I saw a wonderful picture of Jesus' ascension. It was a black and white woodcut print finely etched. In the picture Jesus is rising up as the disciples watch him disappear into the clouds. If you look closely at the picture, not in the clouds, but on the ground, you can see footprints on the earth. The artist has carefully etched Jesus' footprints down on the level where the disciples are standing with their mouths open. Perhaps the artist was simply imagining a homey detail that isn't in the text. Or, perhaps, the artist is pressing us with the old question, "Why do you stand looking up into heaven? Look at these footprints here on the earth." Jesus' muddy footprints are all over the pages of the gospels.

* Can you see Jesus' footprints in the wilderness? Each time he was tempted to claim earthly power and glory, he reached up and touched the words of Torah. One does not live by bread alone. Worship the Lord your God and serve only God.
* Can you see Jesus walking on the wrong side of the street with the wrong people?
* Can you see Jesus walking up to a sycamore tree, then looking up at Zachaeus, the tax collector, perched in the branches? "Come down, Zachaeus," Jesus said, "let's walk over to your house for dinner."
* Can you see Jesus walking, then riding, into Jerusalem?
* Can you see him stumbling toward Golgotha, loving us to the very end?
The book of Ephesians poses an interesting question: "What does it mean that Christ is ascended but that he also descended... and now fills the whole universe?" So this doctrine is really a teaching about the ubiquity of Christ. Christ is everywhere at all times. Christ cannot be limited. Ever. That's what this day is all about.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A helpful weariness

This was quoted on the Spirituality and Practice website today. I think it's quite wonderful:
Maybe one day we'll grow weary of whining and celebrate the rain, the manna, the half-filled glass of water, the little gifts from heaven that make each day bearable. Instead of cloaking ourselves in the armor of pessimism, maybe we'll concede that we are who we are: capricious, unfortune, wonderful, delicate, alive. Forgiven. 
— Mark Collins in On the Road to Emmaus

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Friday, 4 May 2012

Beyond the self

Photo by Cynthia Burgess
I lay on the bowsprit, facing astern, with the water foaming into spume under me, the masts with every sail white in the moonlight, towering high above me. I became drunk with the beauty and singing rhythm of it , and for a moment I lost myself - actually lost my life. I was set free! I dissolved in the sea, became white sails and flying spray, became beauty and rhythm, became moonlight and the ship and the high dim-starred sky! I belonged, without past or future, within peace and unity and a wild joy, within something greater than my own life, or the life of Man, to Life itself! To God, if you want to put it that way.
And several other times in my life, when I was swimming far out, or lying alone on a beach, I have had the same experience. Become the sun, the hot sand, green seaweed anchored to a rock, swaying in the tide. Like a saint's vision of beatitude. Like the veil of things as they seem drawn back by an unseen hand. For a second you see - and seeing the secret, are the secret. For a second there is meaning! 
- from Long Days Journey into Night, Eugene O'Neill
O'Neill is attempting to give words to the mystical experience which is, of course, ineffable. But still there is this painting, as it were, this struggle to offer a picture of what it is like. And, to the very great blessing of humankind, many saints and artists have tried to show us - and not only to show us but to draw us in. Deo gratias!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

So simple...

And yet so easily overlooked, ignored and minimized.
"You explore the spirit of God the same way you explore the spirit of another person: you spend time in God's presence, you examine your own heart and mind with respect to God. You watch the world for signs of the spirit." 

What would happen - really - if we truly were to watch in this manner?

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)