Process of beginnings

Book with work Baptism highlighted

Dear Friends

Sometimes it’s good to go back to see how it all started. Just to refresh the memory… to get a nudge as to how it all came to be… so we have the passion for history and the stories of long ago… we have the curiosities of family trees and how the generations connect with stories mundane and extraordinary.

As we know, the bible begins with a couple of stories of how the world began. Genesis begins with the evocative cadences known only too well : ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…’ We are told the earth was ‘formless and empty, darkness over the surface of the deep’. In these words we have a picture of chaos without sense or meaning, and we are then told ‘the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters’.

From this beginning God spoke – in the Spirit over and into the chaos of no meaning and substance. And in the speaking creation was formed. God said ‘This is good!’
We are blessed in church to host many baptisms, or christenings for families across our parish. These times are gatherings of celebration as new life is held, cherished and blessed. Usually the baptisms are with young children, but not always as each year we baptize some adults as well.  In the service of baptism we have a bowl (font) of water. The Holy Spirit ‘hovers’ over the water and the water is blessed. The names of the child/adult to be christened are spoken and something new takes shape as God’s promise of a love which never ends is proclaimed. The newly baptized enters the family of the church, and so the household of heaven is enlarged and made new.

For many of us, life can often seem as though it has little meaning or purpose. It can sometimes seem a bit ‘formless’. Yet, in these times the Spirit of God is near. The Spirit of God is what gives the energy and impetus for something remarkable to be formed out of the ‘formless’. Often a word is spoken, maybe a word of encouragement, or a word of gratitude or even a word of correction – and from the word spoken ‘in the Spirit’ something new is created.

In many ways this ‘process of beginnings’ sums up the ministry of the church. The society we live in – even though it is policy driven, regulated and scrutinised from every angle – is scarily formless and chaotic. So much of existence is simply getting through the day, with so many petty arguments and rivalries. The connecting thread which provides meaning and purpose is rarely visible, and so for many the idea of being ‘happy’ is living in dreamland.

Yet, over society, the Spirit of God hovers. The Spirit is uniquely present and waits for the word to be spoken. And this time the word is spoken through our lips, from our hearts and out of the overflow of the blessings of God in heaven. We as members of the church, hear God’s word into our hearts, we speak this word (through what we do, say and always in who we are) – and then something wonderfully new takes place – a heart is enlarged, a life is blessed, a possibility becomes real, a promise is fulfilled…
And God in heaven acclaims over and over again, ‘This is good!’

The family of God is called to be near the formless, chaotic bits of life, to sense the presence of the Spirit, to hear the word of the Lord and to speak it from the abundance of a heart of love. And always, always, it will be good…

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.