The Most Sacred Place

A marble slab covering the rock-carved tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City has been lifted as part of a delicate $4m restoration of the most sacred monument in Christianity…

From Jesus’s Tomb in Jerusalem Exposed by Conservationists

Reading about this made me pause and reflect on the difference between the concept of ‘religion’, with its sacred places and concrete expressions of the inexpressible, the ‘religion’ in which God, or gods, are always at arm’s length, forever requiring my obeisance and devotion-at-a-distance. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to visit Jerusalem and the church where Jesus was said to be laid to rest (albeit briefly)!

Unlike the world’s idea of ‘religion’, however, it would not be because I believed something special could occur because I was there. There is no special place in the whole of creation where God is more accessible than anywhere else. The most sacred monument in Christianity is never going to be carved in stone. It’s just not possible.

All of us who are part of the Body of Christ are the most sacred monument to His presence. God’s presence, His favour, His nearness, are never found outside of ourselves. When we choose to follow Jesus, when we choose to give ourselves back to our Creator, we are His presence. If you want to be close to Him, if you want to find a place where He can reach you, or you can reach Him, you don’t have to go anywhere; you just have to love. You just have to be kind. You just have to be.

Immerse yourself deeply among people, by sharing their life, by friendship and by love. Give yourself to them completely, like Jesus, who came to serve and not to be served; you, too, become one with them. Then you will be like leaven, which must lose itself in the dough to make it rise.

~ Little Sister Magdalene (as quoted by Contemplative in the Mud)

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest… learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls…”

~extract from Matthew 11:28,29 (NRSVA)

From Victim to Victory

I’m in bed because I have a bad cold and whenever I catch anything these days I have to be very careful otherwise I will not get better in a timely fashion. Ugh. It’s mostly just boring and frustrating because I have a daily plan and I can’t stick to it 😕

However, this morning I am so glad because I have been listening to audiobooks and came across a wonderful recording which has been sitting in my Audible library for a while now. Today I have had the opportunity to give it my full attention.

 

“[There is] a giant step from knowledge to acknowledgement. In a family, a community and a nation there can be guilty secrets. Everybody knows something to be the case but there is no acknowledgement.”

michael_lapsley_20050501

Michael Lapsley, Oxford, 2005 (from Wikipedia)

“Prayer, love, support, acknowledgement, reverence, recognition, giving it moral content, saying ‘yes, what happened to you was wrong‘, all of this is what I would say, in terms of my faith, [is] the way in which God enabled me to travel a journey from victim [to] survivor to victor… Something horrible happens to us [and] we’re victims. If we physically survive we are survivors, but frequently that’s where people stop and remain prisoners inside themselves… Life is like a river: something terrible happens and our lives become whirlpools, and we never ever really live again except in terms of what has happened to us…”

~ Father Michael Lapsley speaking in ‘A South African Journey’

by Radio Free Maine.

Audiobook available from audible.co.uk

(transcribed by yours truly)

Michael Lapsley campaigned against apartheid. In 1990 he was the subject of a letter bomb which caused severe burns, destroyed his hands and left him blind in one eye. Since then he has worked tirelessly for hope and healing, in particular he works with former victims of trauma.

“…if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

~ John 8:36 (NRSVA)

LENT DAYS THREE & FOUR: BE STILL; BE READY

Apologies for the lateness of this post – yesterday we were travelling back from a short city break and, after losing two children for a panicky 20 minutes in the hustle and bustle of a big city station, we missed our train, so we didn’t get home until gone 9 o’clock, after which we went straight to bed.

Peter is one of my all-time biblical favourites. Right from the beginning, right from when Jesus intrigued him by saying that he could be a ‘fisher of men’, Peter was wholeheartedly eager. That’s why I love him – because he so desperately wanted to do the right thing, he so desperately wanted to follow Jesus. When he first met Jesus, Peter was in awe of Him, and drawn to Him in a way he probably couldn’t have explained. Later, it was Peter who realised the significance of Jesus, realised Who He was, and wanted to please Him. It was also Peter who, when the time came for Jesus to meet His great sorrow, promised to never betray Him… and it was Peter who, when the chips were down, denied that he even knew Jesus.

What sorrow he must have felt in the days between Jesus’ arrest and resurrection. Peter didn’t know what would happen. He didn’t know about the resurrection. All he knew was the bleak emptiness of grief. Utter despair. I imagine he was racked with guilt and self-loathing. After all, he’d said he was willing to die for Jesus, that he loved Him with his whole heart, and instead he ran away!

Peter was, without doubt, very human, fallen and broken just like the rest of us. He’d sensed the greatness of Jesus’ life, been in awe and wonder over His mission. He just hadn’t had the strength to be who he really wanted to be. Later… my word! What happened later was phenomenal. But at first, in the early years, Peter just wanted to be with Jesus, and that was all that Jesus required – for Peter to just be Peter. That’s all any of us are asked to do: just be.

‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.’

Lemmel, 1922

In time, things do change, if I stay focused on His face. But things do not change in my own strength. The strength required to change comes only from Him. It cannot be bought, or earned, or won. It is freely given. I just have to be willing.

…Jesus insisted on his disciples’ getting aboard their boat and going on ahead to the other side, while he himself sent the crowds home. And when he had sent them away he went up the hill-side quite alone, to pray. When it grew late he was there by himself while the boat was by now a long way from the shore at the mercy of the waves, for the wind was dead against them. In the small hours Jesus went out to them, walking on the water of the lake. When the disciples caught sight of him walking on the water they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and screamed with fear. But at once Jesus spoke to them. “It’s all right! It’s I myself, don’t be afraid!”

“Lord, if it’s really you,” said Peter, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

 “Come on, then,” replied Jesus.

Peter stepped down from the boat and did walk on the water, making for Jesus. But when he saw the fury of the wind he panicked and began to sink, calling out, “Lord save me!” At once Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying, “You little-faith! What made you lose your nerve like that?” Then, when they were both aboard the boat, the wind dropped. The whole crew came and knelt down before Jesus, crying, “You are indeed the Son of God!”

Matthew 14:22-33  (JB Philliips)

Lent Begins: Footsteps to the Cross

One step at a time. One day at a time. This is good advice, which I learned at Celebrate Recovery. It seems fitting for the beginning of Lent, as we journey to the cross over the next six weeks. Day one of The Gospel in the Willows: Forty Meditations for the Days of Lent speaks of ‘The Call’.

Walking along the beach… Jesus saw two brothers: Simon… and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.

Matthew 4:18-20 (The Message)

“Come with me.” He still says, holding out his hand. Are you willing?

Immanuel: God Here, Among Us

 

Laying the table for breakfast;
Immanuel.
Raising sleepy heads from beds;
Immanuel.
Calming the storms of siblings;
Immanuel.
Waving goodbye at the gate;
Immanuel.
Wandering home, alone;
Immanuel.
Making the beds, sweeping the floors;
Immanuel.
Sorting stinky socks;
Immanuel.
Folding laundry;
Immanuel.
Hands in soapy suds;
Immanuel.
Cup of tea, rocking chair;
Immanuel.
Later – cries of joy, “Mummy!”
Immanuel.
Soft-treading home in cold, winter light;
Immanuel.
Telling her, “No!”
Immanuel.
Again, “I said no!”
Immanuel.
Helping with homework;
Immanuel.
Tears before bedtime;
Immanuel.
Prayers and stories;
Immanuel.
Goodnight kisses;
Immanuel.
Crawling into bed;
Immanuel.
Slipping into dreams;
Immanuel.
Waking, heart-pounding;
Immanuel.
Nightmares and memories;
Immanuel.
“Dear God, help me.”
Immanuel.
Circling soft arms, “Shhhh.”
Immanuel.
His breath on my hair;
Immanuel.
Falling asleep, loved;
Immanuel.
My poem, written January 2013. Feel free to share, if you think it might be of use. Please just credit its authorship to me. So often we forget the sacredness of life, of living. It is a thing of beauty.