Lost in wonder, love and praise

Last Supper

Dear Friends,

There is a famous hymn which ends with the beautifully evocative cadence ‘lost in wonder, love and praise’. This line prompts our hearts into a response to the Jesus story which connects with our deepest longings.

The Passiontide gospel readings draw us into the journey Jesus walks as he makes his way into Calvary and resurrection. We see Jesus at the dinner table, his feet anointed with the most expensive of perfumes, we watch Jesus share a simple meal with his friends,  we see Jesus wash his disciples feet, we see Jesus betrayed with a kiss, arrested and bound. We watch the unfolding lies of the Kangaroo court Jesus is submitted to, and we watch the brutality of crucifixion. It is a mesmerising journey – full of questions and at times simply bewildering. Yes – we are lost in ‘wonder’ at these events – Jesus, who previously had been the protagonist in healings and teaching, now simply surrenders and enters into the events without protest or justification.

We are told in John 3: 16 that God demonstrates his love for the world by this action of Jesus. Jesus so identifies with us in our weakness and powerlessness – and in doing so God’s love is revealed. It is something real and true – and our only response can be one of love. I love because I am loved. Loved by a ‘love divine, all loves excelling’.

As love tugs at our hearts, as love spills into our thinking, as love washes our guilt we can only ‘praise’ the God who gives us Jesus. Even when the worst of life is lived – God is in the midst. Perhaps especially then, the divine presence is revealed with a clarity and transparency not found anywhere else. We ‘praise’ through the singing of hymns, by lifting our heads, by allowing our thinking to be centred on the goodness which abounds – even when circumstances appear so challenging and bewildering.

In Mark’s gospel we are told that the Roman centurion, a gentile, recognised the full reality of Jesus at the moment of death – at the point of utter weakness Jesus’ identity is laid bare. When he ‘surveys the wondrous cross’ his eyes are opened to what is really true.

This is one of the distinctives of the Christian community – when life simply doesn’t seem to add up, when life events seem to conspire against us, when there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel – it is then we are ‘lost in wonder, love and praise’. This is truly amazing – defies our seasoned logic, but yet is the call of our worship week by week.

We then become a people of ‘praise’ – a ‘praise’ found in every detail of life, no matter how small, inconsequential or bewildering.

 

Sanctuary

the cross on the rock over the sea

Dear Friends

The stone rolled away … the tomb empty, except for the grave clothes

We are told Simon Peter entered the tomb to see for himself, as did the ‘other disciple’ who also went in ‘and he saw and believed’. There was intense anxiety, fear and bewilderment… yet in entering the tomb something was made manifest – a truth not easily understood was seen and caught in the heart… there is resurrection, death is not the end!
Here begins the journey of the Christian community.

The resurrection experience … it’s an experience which contradicts the logic of stuff as we think we know it… it’s an experience known and attested in the ‘guts’ of who we are. Recent scientific research has affirmed the real psychological basis for ‘gut knowing’ or ‘knowing of the heart’ – this research has identified three major neuronal networks in the body : the largest is in the brain, and the two other major clusters of neurons are in the intestinal track and the cardial sack – the guts and heart. It’s how we know what is important (just remember how we choose which house to buy…)

This experience for these two disciples took place in the tomb. Jesus appears to Mary in the quietness of the garden. Thomas touches the open wounds in the locked room. Jesus appears to the disciples walking to Emmaus in the intimacy of bread being broken round a table. Jesus prepares a meal for his friends on the beach. The environment for each of these experiences is set apart from the toxic cultures of society – they are simple, quiet, safe places – almost like a sanctuary or a cocoon.

The caterpillar experiences transformation within the safety of the cocoon. A foetus grows and becomes formed within the security of the womb. The transformation of base metals into gold requires the interaction of elements within a closed, transparent container in relation to a carefully tended fire.

And we too can create these ‘sanctuary’ spaces whenever we allow ourselves to be attentive to the moment. When we give attention, totally to what is in front of us, we immediately enter an energised and vibrant space. These spaces become passageways or doorways into truth which blesses and enlarges our experience. This means we can be in such a space wherever and whenever we choose – and it is in such a sanctuary space where we see from the heart and know in our ‘guts’ what is true and important.

The building and structure of a church, such as at St. Mary’s, acts as such a sanctuary space. This is why many people say the ‘feeling’ they get in the church (whether on a Sunday or for another service) is something very special. The church space is separate from the culture of our times, it is removed, and we can feel/know important things in both times of celebration and sadness. From this sanctuary space we learn to be fully in the world rather than being overwhelmed or lost in it.

It is vital we allow ourselves daily opportunity for our true selves to connect with such truth. This truth enables us to grow into generous, confident human beings… leaving behind petty anxieties and frustrations. So the practice of ‘attentiveness to the moment’ gives us a doorway into belief in the resurrection…

The Christian experience of resurrection defines the company of the church. So it really is important to enter our own ‘empty tomb’, our own ‘sanctuary space’- every day – and find the truth of God’s resurrection Spirit in the ‘guts’ and ‘hearts’ of our lives.