Tag Archives: teaching

Lighting a fire

Well it’s happened. Recent events have taken their toll. the problem is that as usual I am behind myself, so people for the last couple of weeks have telling me I should be depressed, destroyed, etc and I have been quite strong in answering that on the contrary I am energised…angry, sad, scared but full of energy.

But today I am tired, I have been struggling for the last three days, each days finding excuses why it is “just hard today” and being very very unproductive but today I will call it. I am a Christian, I believe in hope at all costs, I believe in resurrections but I am sometimes tired and demoralised (the cold getting deep into my bones does not help).

I want to gather with people for mutual support, instead what ends up happening is people look to me for leadership and inspiration (or is it only that I imagine they do) and I must be a hope giver not someone who needs. I am sometimes tired and demoralised, I never asked to be a leader (save when I was very, very young) and when I ask people to see me as stupid, disengaged, lazy, etc to feel sorry for me, to carry me they tell me not to be silly they don’t see me that way at all. And then I try to shoulder the burden wondering how on earth they do it. HOW?

So then I remember that it has been too long since I danced/sparred with the lectionary apart from my last-minute attempt last week.  It’s Pentecost and I “ought” to be inspired (well perhaps I will be in two days time). At the moment I am tired and broken and cynical and irrational and wondering how to hold it all together which is certainly a good way to begin Pentecost. So instead of a sermon I will give you a tapestry, or maybe a patchwork of thoughs, with bits of the readings as well.

” they were all in one place together. ” (Acts 2)

Hincho mi corazón para que entre
como cascada ardiente el Universon.
El Nuevo día llega y su llegada
me deja sin aliento.
Canto como la gruta que es colmada
canto mi día Nuevo.

Gabriela Mistral

  “I open out my heart so the Universe
can enter like a cataract of fire.
The new day comes; its coming
takes my breath away.
I sing, a hollow filled to overflowing,

I sing my break of day.” (translation by Ursula K Le Guin.)

“I have told you this while I am with you.
… the Holy Spirit …
will teach you everything” (John)

Teach

teach you

teach you everything

“Education is not filling a bucket, it is lighting a fire” (various attributions).

We connect with each other. We sit together in our need for togetherness. We open our broken hearts. We forget to hide from the darkness we fear will devour us. We can smell its rancid breath, the future burning of the forests, the melting of the icecaps, the hunger of our own children.

Someone eleison.

A frightening world without the child’s notion of a divine ATM that will spew out graces in exchange for flattery and pleading. Lord, Lord, Lord, anyone have mercy we want all the answers, we want the burden of solving our own problems to be taken away.

My enemies all encompassed me (was that a psalm when I was a child?)

I could barely crush a fly in my current state.

What is this Universe that is coming? What is this new day? Do we want it? I barely had time to get my head around the old day.

Life-ful Spirit eleison. Something. Be a reason. Give me hope. Hold my hand I am so scared. I don’t like to suffer but I weep more for my children. Eleison, eleison. Are you listening? Do you know what I am talking about? All the trivial things- what will I eat today, who will love me, dare I check my email, who was I meant to respond to, are the bins out, will the cats fight if I leave them together? Eleison. Christe the ultimate resiliant one eleison. But you gave up the ghost didn’t you. Is despair the road to hope?

If I knew what to do I would do it.

 

 

“before she became fire, she was water,

quenching the thirst of every dying creature.

She gave and she gave

until she turned from sea to desert.

But instead of dying from the heat,

the sadness, the heartache,

she took all of her pain

and from her own ashes became fire” (Nikita Gill)

 

Well…it’s hardly comforting is it?

Gaia eleison

pray burning is only a metaphor.

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It is interesting to me, how the  Pentecost story disrupts the orderly group-think of church. And yet as church we are really uncomfortable with heterodox thoughts and even diverse ways of expression aren’t we? I wonder if the Spirit was moving in the words of the apostles or in the ears of the hearers to make sense? I love that there was not one message, in one voice, in one language but understanding was brought into the culture and world of each “in our own languages”. This fits with the psalms portrayal of creation as “manifold” and diverse, yet all going back to the same source, the same God.

I have felt recreated this week in some of the happenings of my life. I feel God patiently waiting for me to get over my flaws and reluctance. I had a paper to write for university, an academic piece of work with no direct connection to God or to my Vocation. I could not get through my anxiety and writers block, and in the end I recognised that this was exactly the same anxiety and writer’s block I feel every week about my blog posts, and especially the weeks when I am “actually preaching”, giving the talk to a group of people.

So I did what I do when faced with that block, I prayed that God would help and inspire me to bring me through the block. Then I apologised to God for praying this in a secular matter “I can’t pretend it is for your glory” I said, feeling guilty and shallow when surely there are far more important things in the world than my paper. I think God shook her head, she seemed to say to me “All this time we have grappled with this and still you do not understand! What other evidence do you need? Your real life, your identity, the things that give you joy and put fire in your heart are not opposed to your vocation. I call you as you are. I call a nerdy person who wants to write academic papers. Did I ever ask you to stop? No. I want you to stop doubting and trust me and use your gifts.”

I tried saying “after this God I will return to things that really matter.”

God said, “Try to have integrity in your work, in everything you do. There does not need to be seperation between your life in yourself and your life in me” And then God added “but you do need to show more love, thoughtfulness and care for others. I am not letting you off from that higher duty.” God’s spirit is radical and unsettling, but it is a spirit of good news and being humanised. We work to orient our lives and our motivations to her, but we DO live on this earth.

This brings me to my quarrel with the second reading. I think that we are made “in the flesh” and we can and do please God “in the flesh”. I’d love to rehabilitate that idea of the Spirit being higher than the Flesh somehow but I cannot. We are fleshly creatures and our spirits live in flesh and have the needs and desires of flesh and when people try to be “higher” than the flesh too much and repress their flesh then all sorts of unhealthy extremes result. On a simple level if I am too holy to eat then I will collapse. If I am too holy to sleep then my mind will be compromised and I will lose the ability to relate to others. If I set myself apart from human interactions or over/above the earth itself then I will fall into sinful arrogance.

If Christ is in us, then the BREAD of life is in us. Bread. Food. Material good. Christ walked upon the earth and with hands that touched the skin of another human being and laughed and cried and coughed and sneezed and yes even relieved himself. The church has attempted to “put to death the deeds of the body” and has shunned women who are less able to be out of touch with bodies that bleed or swell with new life. But without their mother’s fleshly life which of us would have life? Without the hands that perform base chores like feeding and washing and holding what would we be? We would not even be human, we would not live long and our lives would be nothing.

And there’s the flaw with the spirit of “adoption” theory (sorry to Paul or whoever wrote the letter to the Romans) because it is grounded in a FATHERHOOD from a very patriarchal time,where fatherhood was far removed from the reality of baby vomit, nappies and such mundane fleshly matters. But what if we are adopted instead by a nurturing God who holds us as we are and loves us even when we are less than pristine? Because how can we say “we have suffered with him” whose real flesh was torn by nails and thorn and scourged, whose heart broke at the physical sound of taunting voices and lost, grieving followers? How can we tell Jesus who told the women of Jerusalem to look to their own suffering, how can we tell that Christ that with him we simply rise above worldly messes.

This sort of apolitical thinking, this sort of compartmentalised way of being is a trap of privilege. In the church it has been spread and glorified through men, largely white men and through those who wield power over others. I cannot agree with what this reading seems to be saying, God does not call me out of my flesh, God calls me to let the Spirit into my flesh and allow her to orient my life toward happiness. Happiness does not mean self-indulgence but it may involve self-care as well as care for others.

And so having dared to quarrel with scripture I move on to the gospel. Jesus here equates love with keeping words. There is a unity of purpose within the trinity, in that the “father” with Jesus and the Spirit all love on each other’s behalf and all move on each other’s behalf and it it that life we are called into. The life where we participate in that unity of purpose and that love is what we are invited to, but in acknowledgement that we are still learning how to live it and be it the Spirit comes to us as a teacher, to “teach us everything”. The Spirit who is always new must be aware that there is a movement in teaching toward play-based and inquiry-based pedagogies. We don’t sit in rows spouting rote-learned dogma, we live our lives and follow our interests while paying attention to the rich, deep learning offered by the spirit in how to be love.

In the words of Miriam Therese Winter: “Come Spirit come and be, a new reality, your touch is guarantee, of love alive in me” And to each of us she will come in a language we can understand. “May my meditation be pleasing to her”