Tag Archives: earth

Gazing heavenward is missing the point

I was allowed to preach again. It gave me great joy and some measure of struggle. These were the readings (I used an inclusive language version prepared by the liturgists for the week and the Ephesians option for second reading) and here is the reflection I ended up coming up with…

Men of Galilee! Why do you stand there looking up toward heaven? A valid question for them but also I would suggest for the women and men of the church in Adelaide in 2016. For us.

Why do we stand looking up toward heaven? Is it that we want to catch Jesus by the ankles and pull him back down to earth, to make him a king by force as was tried at one point in the gospels?

Let’s remember that the human person we call Jesus, was an embodiment of a person of the Trinity that existed in the beginning creating all things with God. In the Old Testament this same character is often called Sophia. In the person of Jesus we see the courage and the strength of will, the utter commitment to liberation that characterises Sophia, Wisdom.  In Jesus, also called “the Word” or Logos in John’s gospel we see a good news that cannot be stopped, cannot be suppressed, can be killed but springs up again and continues to love and liberate beyond what for a human would be possible.

This essence of who Jesus always was, and continues to be; becomes accessible to us through the Holy Spirit. Jesus has finished the embodied ministry, which was confined to one place and one time. He can no longer walk on the earth, can no longer sit and eat with one small group of friends. Now the meaning and power of Jesus needs to be diffused to all creation. We can no longer look inward solely to those we belong with, to feel the cosiness of a Jesus clique or a church, we can no longer gaze to an escapist heaven as though the ministry of Sophia were finished and Jesus left us nothing to do but act religiously happy.

Even in the Old Testament Sophia always avoided being caught, controlled or domesticated. She goes out everywhere at all hours. In the same way, if we want Jesus we stop gazing upward, wishing the ascending Jesus would pluck us out of the dilemmas and headaches of everyday life and human politics and drag us into the clouds.

We still find Jesus where the disciples always found him, on the road, in their homes, sending them out, breaking their bread, receiving their hospitality and modelling foot washing. We still find Sophia speaking loudly on street corners and opening up her home to all sorts of people for hospitality; always causing an upset of the ordinary and a broadening out of the exclusive ways of being church. We look forward to Pentecost, to being infused within our own bodies and lives with the same Spirit that emanates from God, from Jesus/Sophia.

Church often gets re-imagined as a sort of posse of Jesus’ home-boys who are the clergy and can tell the rest of us what to do. Or even if we have a broader idea of grace and vocation, we still in some way might think of insiders and outsiders and who has “met Christ” and who hasn’t and we might feel superior to others who do not understand or follow Christian values. But that is not our true vocation- to feel superior or comfy within our faith, nor to draw a line between earth and heaven and allow faith to be nothing more than a once a week or few minutes a day gazing upward.

The “glorious inheritance” that we are promised in the second reading will include work and pain and struggle if we look at the realities of Holy Week that we celebrated so recently, or the lives of the saints that (within that inheritance) we aspire to. The hopes that we have are hopes for a world infused with the Spirit of God, guided by Wisdom and honouring its creation and recreation in the image of God. The good news is not a news of escapism upward, it is that Jesus, having ascended, is also still the eternal God that is constantly with us giving meaning to our lives, to the joys and loves as well as the struggles and feelings of inadequacy. This life here is what has meaning and importance. The Spirit is always coming to us to reignite our vocation. The kingdom of God is where we are, wherever we choose to bring it about together with others.

We don’t control Sophia, we cannot chain Jesus to our small section of earth.  In the Spirit of wisdom and perception we come to know her, we come to sense the good news in the possibilities of our own life and relationships. To paraphrase the conclusion of the gospel reading:

And they loved her and returned into ordinary life with great joy and hope, and they were constantly in amongst God’s beloved- healing, working, bringing love to all they met.

Please take a few minutes of silence, knowing Jesus/Sophia in these readings and in your own life and then you may like to talk them over with the people sitting near you.

 

Fix You

Trigger warning: There are some awful themes in this story which some people might find unhelpful to think about (PTSD, rape, torture, depression) Please look after yourself in your choice whether to read on. I think I steer clear of anything graphic

After it happened I was alone in the dark and felt nothing but my wounds. I wondered if I was weeping tears, or maybe blood. I wondered if the thing that had been taken from me was my soul. There was an emptiness, soulless…something was missing.

“I am a worm and no human,” I knew the words. Suffering was meant to bring me closer to God. I heard them laughing, feasting, the hum of their machines and the clink of their coins but I was spent. I had no energy. I was dryer than the most barren wasteland. I lay there, trembling with anger and disgust, unable even to swoon into a sleep. They kept the lights on all night.

The doctor of course tried to help me. He said I needed to stop talking about it, or thinking about it. I was dramatising instead of forgiving and healing. I had to give the tablets a chance to work, after they had fixed me so that I could speak without all the hysterical crying then he would let me talk – in a controlled and therapeutic way that didn’t encourage all these self-indulgent tears.

“This’ll do the trick!” he cheerfull prescribed six of the gigantic, lavender coloured tablets, “This is much more than an ordinary dose, but sometimes if a patient is very resistant to the therapeutic effect, that is what we need to do. I will just ring up to get permission to prescribe the overdose.” My stomach felt like it sunk into my feet. Even for a deeply depressed person I was “abnormal” and difficult.

Even though I wasn’t to talk about “the event”, the doctor did ask me a lot of questions and drew charts about my parents, my children, my relationships to the ones who had raped me. All my history came out – that time in Pompeii… “Sounds like anger management might be a good idea once the medication kicks in..” he pondered.

I really didn’t enjoy his manner, but what I hated more was the determinedly cheerful and infantilising television shows I had to endure in the waiting room, especially once the medication made me too dizzy to read. It was unfortunate that I hated the experience so much, because I founf I had to come back even before my three week appointment was due.

“The pills give me a stomach pain,” I explained

“You’ll get used to it,” he said heartily, “it’s worth it to feel better!” It was easy for him to deem my pain “worth it” for his goal. I sourly told him I would not continue on the pills. He talked section 2, said I could be detained for 28 days if I didn’t comply. I nodded obediently, intending to do the opposite in the privacy of my own home. He must have guessed because he talked me into trying another medication to minimise side effects.

I left with a prescription for 2 small, round, white tablets to stop the stomach pain caused by the 6 large purple ones.

I did try going off the purple tablets, but I found I couldn’t do it without support- the voices came back and the intense fear. I couldn’t sleep. I took the purple ones again although under them I felt dull, drowsy as if I had to fight even the simplest movements through a heavy ocean of cotton wool. I took the white tablets to control (not completely eliminate) the gut pain. I felt like I wanted to die, but now I was so drowsy that I lacked the willpower to act on it I guess that is how these things save lives.

I lacked willpower for other things too, like answering the phone. My beloved called but I was heavy and apathetic and distantly felt an anger for her anyway. Where was she when it all happened? But I didn’t want to talk about my anger, the purple pills had dulled it into a distant feeling of complacent despair. Whatever. Hives broke out on my dry and colourless skin. Whatever. But they were pretty itchy so I realised I better make another appointment with the cheerful poisoner, my doctor.

He prescribed three yellow tablets to counteract the side-effects for the two small, round, white tablets which I was taking to manage the pain from the six purple tablets. Even with government subsidies, the pharmacist demanded nearly all my measly pension. I had to give up breakfast and just eat toast for lunch and dinner (I had to have two meals as the purple tablets needed to be taken with food or I was told I wouldn’t keep them down.

I couldn’t sleep now. The yellow tablets seemed to get my mind stuck on a repeating track that kept me awake. Seeing the bags under my eyes and hearing my monosyllabic answers, the doctor prescribed two long white capsules.

These gave me an intense headache so he prescribed two green little tablets.

He kept asking impertinent questions, such as how was my sex drive. I told him impatiently that even though I didn’t have one, I didn’t want one that I was more concerned that I couldn’t even summon up the energy to answer the phone. He was angry, said I was being unfair to my husband by not having or wanting a sex-drive. I told him to look at his stupid little charts of my relationships. I didn’t have a husband. He said no wonder I couldn’t get a husband if I didn’t even take my lack of a sex drive seriously.

He tried to write a prescription. I tore it in half and shoved it in his not-any-longer-cheerful mouth, gave him a glass of water and patted him on the back gently to help him swallow.

Of course he had me detained for that and God only knows what they medicated me with when I was “away”. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t cry. I had nightmares, reliving the rape…or did that actually happen?

I am told I was loud and badly behaved and that they “had to” sedate me. I remember cruel voices and even the odd laugh, cold faces and a spark of will deep within me which they didn’t quite extinguish.

Within the spark of will, I wandered until I heard a bird singing. I smiled and pretended to agree with them so that they discharged me. Once out the door I closed my eyes, hearing a rainbow parrot’s friendly scolding. I remembered my beloved, still faithfully trying to track me down. I opened my eyes and fixed them on the red, green and every other colour plummage of the bird and walked off the edge of the tiny contsricting world the medical people had built for me. I wrote a song about my beloved. I kissed a rose petal and it released fragrance and softness.

My beloved sent me a parcel, she had been keeping my hopes- shrivelled little things- together for me. I tucked them into the folds of my skin, between the cracks in the corset they had stuffed me into and welded shut. I refused despair and grew tiny grass blades, exploding through microscopic gaps. Incredible saplings shot up where the despair had a fault line.

I heard my beloved’s voice, carried to me in the breeze.

“Beloved,” she whispered, “I want you to be free. Why do you still let them move over your skin and take what is not theirs.” They were her children and mine but she was filled with anger at them.

“They said they will fix me.” I told her, “They will do more research. They will find a way.”

“Is that really what you want?” my beloved spoke a cloud of endangered butterflies onto the flowers she and I had just tenderly grown in one of the few places where my skin was still mine.

“It hurts” I was ashamed to admit it, ashamed of my tears which the doctor had said were nothing but weakness and manipulation. My beloved had not listened to the doctor and she bent her face to me and kissed my tears.

“All of this must stop.” she set her stern face against them, “no more talk of fixing now or in some later time. You are not one of their machines, you are a body and a soul. You need to rest, breathe, heal rather than this mechanical ‘fixing'”

“I want to rest” I admitted

“My Gaia” the beloved’s face was kind to me but I fear that they do not listen to Her. They have fixed themselves with new gods- Scientific Fact, Reason and Efficiency. They are accountable to the greatest god the Economy. Mere lives and souls are as nothing before such gods.

And so the pain hasn’t stopped…