resurrection in your bones

Resurrection in your bones

as you dip your toes
in the waters of life
testing the resurrection in your bones

prepare to be wounded
not only by what comes at you
but by the repeating litany of your failings

prepare to be tortured
the gap between what is and what will be
is the place you are to inhabit and you must remain unsettled

prepare to be tempted
people will demand clarity and you will seek to deliver it
even though it is next to impossible to explain what you have barely glimpsed

as you embrace the fears that threaten to contain you
and engage the forces that truly are fearsome
the One who sends the light will attend to that which is beyond your powers,
blessing you as you brace yourself against the ploughshare forged from the sword

martin stewart 2016

In memory of Daniel Berrigan SJ (9 May 1921 – 30 April 2016)

Thinking about eternal life

I have been thinking a bit about eternal life lately.
Prompted quite a bit about a growing fear of flying.
I notice that I have become more and more anxious.  A few months back Anne and I popped up to Wellington on a Sunday afternoon to have some time with family and we nearly died (well, I think we nearly died!).  There was a full-on northerly wind blowing its way down the lower North Island and Upper South Island.  We were in one of the turbo prop planes and boy did we bump around.  The approach into Wellington was tortuous.  I was having more than a problem with flying already and this time I was terrified.  But we landed and the people applauded.  We drove away from the airport and seawater was spraying over the road – we were alive!
Flying in planes just brings the possibility of dying much nearer.  A few weeks back I was flying to Auckland and at 30,000 feet we hit a strong and rare easterly air-stream and we bumped along for ten minutes.  It wasn’t as full-on as landing in Wellington except that we were so darned high that there was little chance of a miracle landing if things went wrong up there.  We don’t belong up there.  It is silly; silly, frightening, death-defying, and really useful.  I quite like those big planes, I just prefer to watch them from the ground rather than be in them.

I have become quite dissatisfied with the old way of talking about eternal life – as in it being a reward for living a good life (you know, the alternative to eternal damnation in the fires of hell).  I don’t believe in God rewarding, and the fires of hell stuff leaves me cold.  I think that such an extreme view involves calculation.  God calculating whether we have been good enough, and us calculating how much naughtiness we can get away with without jeopardising our eternal future.  I think there isn’t much mathematics involved in the grace of God – 100% unconditional grace is given – that’s it.  The question for us is what kind of response will we make to this eternal and present God who is for us.  And the other thing to wrestle with is this: how do we participate in the eternal now?

Here’s what I believe Jesus was on about on this subject: the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is another way of talking about eternal life.  This eternal yet present Kingdom is coming, near, and in us.  It is with us and around us.  It is inviting us and dwelling in us whether we know it or not.  But we need to have faith to ‘get it’ and we need to kind of trustingly walk into it in order to see more of it.  This looks too hard for the many Continue reading

Nelson Mandela

mandela
The final release has come for Nelson Mandela today…
Without a doubt he has been the highest profile world personality in my lifetime – a humble giant of a man who learned the ways of radical grace and non-violent peace-making despite being held captive by a racist and violent regime that believed it had some sort of biblical mandate for its actions.
I imagine he hoped for more than has so far been achieved in South Africa, but look at how much has been achieved!  In some ways the test of his leadership will be now when those who have revered him walk on into a new day without his presence.
Achieving greatness is not what can be said about many human beings – most people in power readily trip over themselves when overly adored by the crowd.  But Nelson Mandela was truly great – not in a shouting from the rooftops style (not great at all!), but in humble sacrificial service, wise and careful words, patience, kindness, gentleness…
The long walk to freedom has been completed.

 

the image for Wonder

one of the cornerstones of the book project is that each section will have an image with it as a kind of interpretative device/invitation for contemplation.  Most of these are photographs I have taken though Bernard, my co-writer, has a few in the mix as well.  Here’s the one for the section on Wonder that I posted earlier…

Lake Matheson is so still that it throws wonderful reflections of Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Tasman in the main divide of the Southern Alps of New Zealand.  We had to walk in pre-dawn to capture this image - fortunately the track was excellent!

Lake Matheson is so still that it throws wonderful reflections of Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Tasman in the main divide of the Southern Alps of New Zealand. We had to walk in pre-dawn to capture this image – fortunately the track was excellent!

Wonder

I have just returned from a six-week period of sabbatical.  That is a very good name for what the Presbyterian Church  officially calls ‘Study Leave.’  Is it leave the study or leave on which you study?  Better to call it Sabbatical… there is room in that word for renewal as well as attending…

I am working in a little project with a friend of mine, Bernard Thornton.  A kind of devotional book that we hope to publish.  It is intended to be a small resource to help people stop in their days and gain perspective – a ‘kingdom of God perspective’ as my part of the project has been to write reflections around some of the Jesus’ ‘kingdom of God’ stories and events.

Here’s a little excerpt from one of these reflections called ‘Wonder’ – please note, this is still in draft form and not to be reprinted/used without permission – which I am willing to offer – I invite you to simply be courteous!

“In the pre-school music class I help lead we conclude one song by singing it at speed.  To the rhythm of my guitar the children loudly clap their hands and we all stop after striking the last note.  The children have now become so skilled in the finish of the song that they always finish in unison.

As a group we have come to treasure the moment immediately afterwards.  Utter silence.

If it is possible to describe it this way, the silence is thunderous.

We have encouraged the children to revel in the wonder of the loudness of the sound of nothing at all.  Their eyes widen as they marvel at what we have created together.

There is, of course, a lot of silence in their everyday, but like most common things – water, grass, sun, clouds, air – sometimes we have to put some sort of frame around them in order to highlight their majesty.  It is good to give children the opportunity to celebrate the miracle of the often-missed ordinary.

When we do this we are reminded of the utter magnificence of what we can at best describe as the scheme of things.

The scheme of things is that larger sphere that just is.

We might choose to belittle free-spirits,

fill young heads with facts and figures in order to have them useful in the important world of being busy,

manipulate the land to maximise production,

and believe that we can kill in order to be free,

but none of this is all that important in the scheme of things

– that place where a prodigal is welcomed home

with ring, robe, sandals, and party with fatted calf;

where birds of the air neither sow, nor reap, nor store and yet are fed;

and where seeds are sown arbitrarily simply because that’s what the sower likes to do.

But we have a tendency to meddle.

We involve ourselves too heavily and too readily in small things we believe should be controlled.

With us in the driving seat our world decreases,

as does our imagination,

as does our sense of wonder,

as does our capacity to ache for what is lost.”