Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Rhythm of Life

At times I wish the church calendar was spaced out a little more. I've only just recovered from all the rehearsals, performances and worship services of Christmas when Ash Wednesday arrives. Lent seems to arrive too soon and last too long. Holy Week takes a lot of preparation and seems to be over too quickly. Easter Sunday rushes headlong towards me while I still have the echo of Christmas carols in my ears.

The cycle repeats. Incarnation. Death. Resurrection.

This is the rhythm of Church and I think it is also the rhythm of the Spiritual life.

God births new life within us.
We become aware of areas of our life that need to die.
We watch parts of ourselves die - attitudes, desires, dreams, fears.
God resurrects us and shows us life beyond the grave.

I love the experience of God birthing new life within me. I love when I experience resurrection. But I want to avoid death. To wait and sit with death is hard. I am prone to despair and self pity, but to receive resurrection we have to wait with death. We want spirituality without death, we want growth without work. We want life without pain, but feeling uncomfortable is a sign that God is at work in our lives. We have to be willing to let things die, and we have to be willing to let things grow.

We live life from tomb to tomb. To grow spiritually is to learn how to sit and wait with death.....

....but death is not the final word because the cross is not the final word. We wait with hope.

The Ignatian prayer the Anima Christi acknowledges this where it says

'....On each of my dyings shed your light and your love.'

Incarnation. Death. Resurrection.

This is the rhythm of life.

(This is completely irrelevant to what I said above....but it is a fun song!)

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Teaching a fisherman to fish

Random thoughts for Sunday's Contemplative Service

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 

 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 

 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 

 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 

 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. 

 Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:1-11

Peter was a good fisherman, he knew his way around the lake, so when Jesus tells him to lower his nets into the water you can almost hear his thoughts....

Who is this Rabbi trying to tell me my job? I don't tell him how to preach he shouldn't tell me how to fish. We've been out all night, we're exhausted. If we put the nets into the water we will have to clean them all over again. Nobody ever fishes by day on this lake, the fish are swimming deeper down to avoid the heat. They've already eaten and during the day they avoid the nets...and even if they were biting...they wouldn't be this close to the shore! Stick to teaching Rabbi, and I"ll stick to what I know.

For reasons unknown Peter decides to lower the nets into the water anyway. Maybe something in the way Jesus taught had gotten hold of Peter and suggested that this was a man to follow. First Peter allow's Jesus into his world by letting him into his boat to preach and then his journey of transformation begins as he says 'yes' to Jesus' request. He lowers the nets.....and fish in abundance flood in.

God provides in an unexpected place, in an unexpected manner.

When common sense and reason say you are out of options, God provides another way. When wisdom says what I know is right, God chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. When I am convinced I know exactly how God works, God surprises me by stepping out of one of my many blind spots that I hadn't noticed. It is an act of faith to walk away from a door that we have been praying to be opened for many years and walk through the door God has already opened for us that we hadn't noticed.

There is no formula for spiritual growth. The stories we have of people encountering Jesus are descriptive of events rather than prescriptive of methodology. There is no 'One size fits all'. Jesus responds uniquely to each person because each person is unique.

This is liberating and exhausting. Liberating because it frees me from my lists of shoulds and oughts. Exhausting because it means the spiritual life is one of ongoing attentiveness. Of questioning my assumptions and preconceptions. Of allowing God to teach me what I already know...

...because sometimes Jesus has to teach a fisherman how to fish.