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Maunday Thursday – Jesus Washes his disciples’ feet

April 5, 2012

Human hands gently clean human feet

Maunday Thursday

Traditionally, at this time of year, Christians from across the world gather together to remember the Biblical story of a man called Jesus, who led a group of male and female disciples in first century Palestine.

The story (or stories) of the Biblical Gospels tell us of how this young man spent time with a small group of close friends having a final communal meal before being arrested by the religious and political establishment of that time,  brutally tortured and executed. 

It is a story told that represents a prescient moment in the history of world religions and civilisation. In a traditional society with entrenched hierarchies of power and authority, the charismatic young leader, who has at times gathered crowds of thousands followers, prepares for an intimate dinner (possibly the Jewish Seda and Passover meal) with an estimated twenty to thirty close friends and family.

 Before eating, however, it is custom for people of that time and place to have their feet washed by a slave. Their feet are covered with dirt and sweat having travelled mostly on foot on dusty roads,  fitted only with simple sandals.

According to the historical texts, the disciples of Jesus should be at the peak of their knowledge, insight and training. Yet, predictably, like so many of us human beings, they expect a ‘lesser’ person to do the dirty work of feet washing.

As almost a final gesture of the young leader’s life,  Jesus, the man at the top of the hierarchy of the group of disciples, takes off his outer clothes, wraps a towel round him and begins to wash…to wash the disciples grimy feet.

The scene is described in chapter 13 of the Gospel of John.

In sparse words, a moment of scandalous epiphany in the history of human/religio relations is richly described. The man at the top gets down on his knees and takes the role (probably of a woman) at the lowest strata of society. For believers this scene represents even more than that…it is God Himself in human form washing dirt from the feet of human beings.

It is an often overlooked aspect of Christian teaching, that I think all of us, certainly myself, continually struggle with. Yet it shows forward a new idea in human beings relationships with one another and with God.  Here we see illuminated that the path to God is downwards not upwards. We encounter God not as ruler or king, but as a servant for blood and boned, fleshly humanity.

Artist Howard Banks captures in earthy hues and subtle light a  silent, close up of this scene. The figures and faces of the people involved are not revealed. We see (we believe) the hands of Jesus and the foot of one of the disciples in a tender gesture and gentle intimacy. Yet, the painting leaves open the viewer to question whose feet and whose hands are portrayed? Might they also be yours and mine? The painting is entitled Our Humble God.

 “Our Humble God”, by artist, Howard Banks, is reproduced with permission by Veritasse Ltd. More  Christian art work by other gifted artists can be found on the Veritasse site at www.veritasse.co.uk 

For a link direct to Howard Banks gallery see below:http://www.veritasse.co.uk/community/artists.html?artist_id=58

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Night assures us that there is somewhere to go

April 5, 2012

The Sun's brilliance is more apparent at the horizon as night beckons

Father Iain Matthew writes in his book The Impact of God :

”Contemplation is nothing but a hidden, peaceful, loving inflow of God. If it is given room, it will inflame the spirit with love.’

If God is a self-bestowing God, then his gift is liable to engage us. If he is active, then, in prayer, provided we stay around, he is liable to act.

NIGHT: if God is beyond us, his approach is also liable to leave us feeling out of our depth. When the divine engages us more deeply, our minds and feelings will have less to take hold of, accustomed as they are to controlling the agenda, to meeting God on their own terms and in portions they can handle. A deeper gift (from God) will feel like no gift at all. His ‘loving inflow’ is hidden; it is night.’

The Impact of God – Soundings from St John of the Cross, Father Iain Matthew, Hodder & Stoughton, 1995; Page 56

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Glimpses of Light

March 13, 2012

Car lights brighten the night

“To know anything at all of God’s will we have to participate, in some manner, in the vision of the prophets: men and women who were always alive to the divine light concealed in the opacity of things and events, and who sometimes saw glimpses of that light where other men saw nothing but ordinary happenings.”

No Man is an Island, Thomas Merton

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All my fountains are in You

August 23, 2011

"Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs." Isaiah 35: 6,7

All My Fountains – Chris Tomlin

This dry and desert land

I tell myself, “Keep walking on”

Hear something up ahead

Water falling like a song

An everlasting stream

Your river carries me home

Let it flow, let if flow

A flood for my soul

A well that never will run dry

I’ve rambled on my own

Never believing I would find

An everlasting stream

Your river carries me home

Let it flow, let it flow

Open the heavens

Come Living Water

All my fountains are in You

You’re strong like a river

Your love is running through

All my fountains are in You

Come on and rain down on us

Rain down on us, Lord

© 2011 sixsteps Music / worshiptogether.com Songs / Vamos Publishing Sweater Weather (Admin. at EMICMGPublishing.com) (ASCAP)

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A New Beginning…

August 22, 2011

Psalm 87: 1 He has founded his city on the holy mountain.

Psalm 87 (NIV)

1 He has founded his city on the holy mountain.
2 The LORD loves the gates of Zion
more than all the other dwellings of Jacob.
3 Glorious things are said of you, city of God:
4 “I will record Rahab and Babylon
among those who acknowledge me—
Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush—
and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’”
5 Indeed, of Zion it will be said,
“This one and that one were born in her,
and the Most High himself will establish her.”
6 The LORD will write in the register of the peoples:
“This one was born in Zion.”
7 As they make music they will sing,
“All my fountains are in you.”

Sheffield at night (Saturday 20th August 2011)

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Fixing my life

November 28, 2010

Giving up on trying to be in control, I am learning to accept and appreciate the beauty of 'normal' life.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
I sometimes find myself shedding tears at the most unexpected moments.
I confess that it often happens late at night when I read the ‘Look inside’ sections of obscure books on amazon. It has happened tonight…and I feel blessed, literally as if someone has spoken a liberating good word over me.
Do you believe me when I say how welcome the tears are?
They are the end of my self-serving mechanical like reason. They represent a crossing-point, like those once manned by soldiers at the border points between Eastern Communist Bloc states and our Western Democratic ones. The tears are the transition through the heavily guarded check-point of self-determination into the short, but seemingly everlasting, solitary walk through ‘no-man’s land’ to the realm of mystery and spirit. I let go of ‘self-love’ and enter into the empty, open space of freedom from self.
Does this sound idealistic?
Futile or fanciful?
I don’t know. Maybe to some, even to many, it does.
Yet, for me it’s the quiet fulfilling of the aching longing that has tormented me all day, all night. The deep-seated drive to be alright, to be sorted, to be good, to be perfect, acceptable to others. At last at 11.30pm at night, I find my solace among the digital reproductions of the works of the dead authors of yesteryear.
Books, books, books…
Sometimes it feels as if these books are my only friends, my true comforters. Like gentle nurses and godly doctors of times gone by they treat my wounds gently. They unwrap the dressings, layer of cotton gauze upon layer of cotton gauze, taking note of the dried blood that has soaked the bandage.; aware of the discharged fluids – the poison that has seeped out from within. These authors and their words heal…and they heal the long way round. They whisper stories of words I know so well, but through familiarity have forgotten their true meaning. They go back to the beginning to stories and characters I feel I am a seasoned expert in and they tell me once more how what I thought I knew to be true was in fact just an ephemeral phantom. I realise again, and not for the first time that I am…but…a child! A novice…a complete beginner, who thinks himself an expert because he has finished his bottle of milk!
This death…This kindly release…to my ego…to my self…the writers bring. Yet, they do not bring their wisdom cruelly, so as to induce a shameful self-criticism, but deftly.  They are tender and welcome as a nurse or as my mother  used to bring a warm moist flannel to my head when I was feverish as a child. The water was warm, but in my burning fever it was ‘cool’. Coolness that took away pain. A human gesture which told you, you were loved and more than that it told you this infection and illness was not the end – it was transitory.That someone was in control as you drifted in and out of turmoil and consciousness. That someone would be waiting for you at the end, when you woke up. Revived, restored, alive again to a new day.
The authors and their works act as catalysts for me of divine healing. Their words for some reason tell me to let go of trying to fix my life. Only Mystery, only the holy can heal my ‘sickness’. Finally, I give up. I stop trying to be in control to dictate terms to God and the forces of nature and society on how my life should be.
I let it be.
I allow what is to be.
And give up trying to be in control.
……………………………………………..
A Prayer of thanks for emptiness
Thank you tears.
Thank you authors.
Thank you books.
Thank you death.
Thank you life.
Thank you holy, divine mystery…whoever you are!
Blessed be your name!
Yes, let it be so!
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Open up the Sky – Deluge

September 16, 2010

I love this song! I had never heard of this band or heard of this song until I bought a compilation of worship songs on CD recently, but I love it. Pure unadulterated worship of the Divine. A beautiful, wasteful, exuberant, gracious pouring out of love for the Loving God. 

I love the lyrics:

 Open up the sky
Fall down like rain
We don’t want blessings
We want you

‘We don’t want blessings….we want YOU!’

I don’t know if people can relate to that, but these lyrics express a wonderful idea in the history of religions that people would pursue God, not because of what favours or blessings he can do in their lives (as good and important as this is), but because they want…they hunger…they desire…INTIMACY with the Divine. It’s really a holy idea. A sublime concept that us…broken…frustrated…foolish and sometimes self-indulgent human beings would use our faculties, our human capacities to cry out to God:

“Put aside the blessings, Lord!

Let’s forget the good things you give us!

Can we just have closeness to YOU?

Can we just be close…united even to you?”

In the Bible stories, Moses cried out to God in the desert on Mount Sinai:

“Let me see your face?!”

This is the spirit of this song…a desire for intimacy with the Holy One…a longing for  a purity of love….a longing to perceive the expressive, healing countenance of the Invisible One.

 Let it be so on earth as it is in heaven! Thank you for this song…for the great music and beautiful lyrics.
Here are the lyrics below:

 Open up the sky by Deluge

Our beloved Father
Please come down and meet us
We are waiting on Your touch
Open up the heavens
Shower down Your presence
We respond to Your great love

We won’t be satisfied with anything ordinary
We won’t be satisfied at all

Open up the sky
Fall down like rain
We don’t want blessings
We want you
Open up the sky
Fall down like fire
We don’t want anything but you

Our beloved Jesus
We just want to see
You In the glory of Your light
Earthly things don’t matter
They just fade and shatter
When were touched by love divine

Here we go let’s go to the throne
The place that we belong
Right into His arms

Music and lyrics by Deluge