Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Go to...

Having sat lightly on this blog stuff over the years and not letting it rule me, I have decided not to stop, but to move across to Wordpress. In recent times I have heard a good deal on it and like the way I can potentially add pages etc. So have shifted this blog over and will go from there. I also have some study leave coming up and it will allow for some processing on different page.
So Beyond Flatland is now here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Caim - a story

The Caim is a midweek reflective service. We follow simple liturgies and read one of the daily readings, we pray together. This year we have met around the Communion Table each Week.
In the prayer time thanksgiving was offereed for the dustmen. A story explained this. One of our folks had a pile of logs arrived and the rain was starting. Going as fast as he could ti get it in under cover a dustman tunred up on his way past. these guys are super fit and run behin the truck tossing recycling etc into the truck. Anyway, the guy stops and offers a helping hand. Then another arrives and the two stash away the wood in no time. Meanwhile our friend is left giving thanks for the help. They ran on their way wishing him a good day! A wonderful simple, thankful story. I thought it worth sharing. Sometimes God surprises us and provides in our need. Incidentally, that was something of the gist of the text we read.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Emerging within the Church of Scotland

Having been part of the New Church Development ministry at a stage of reform within the Church of Scotland when Church Without Walls was also happening it is encouraging to see that there is a sense at least of continuing reform even within this area of the life of the Church,. Indeed, it seems that some of those early lessons, while they may not continue to see new congregations of that sort created, there are out of the 'old' some shoots appearing and taking up call to mission in Scotland. But I am especially encouraged at the full report to Assembly regarding planting/emergening matters. see Report(here) 2.2 Building for the Future is especially encouraging reading. I may reflect on portions in the next few days rather than here for now.

Suffice to note that the General Assembly 2008 meeting this week is deciding to 'financially' get behind the emerging mission shoots:

General Assembly 2008:
Ministries Council to unveil new £1.5 million fund
At this year's General
Assembly (15 – 21 May),
the Ministries Council will outline their plans
to devote £1.5 million - over five years - to a new Emerging Ministries Fund. This fund, which is available from 2009, would be made available to Presbyteries and charges through a grant making process specifically for new models of ministry and the establishing of new approaches to church. (Section, Ministries report) As such, the Emerging Ministries Fund will be supporting projects that engage with people in new ways where they are. In many cases this may mean less of a dependence on buildings and getting people to come in.
The Assembly will hear that the Emerging Ministries Fund will support
work in three areas (Section 3, Ministries supplementary):

Missional: work
that focuses on new church growth alongside or beyond the existing

Ecclesial: work which is about establishing church from the ground up and exploring what that means for the given demographic and cultural context;
Experimental: work that looks at experimenting with new approaches to ministry. The hope would be to spread the funding across a range of approaches to maximise the learning experience for the Church at large. The processing of applications and general management of the fund will be carried out by the Council's Emerging Ministries Task Group,
who are dedicated to working with the other Funds of
the Church to ensure that applications are dealt with by the appropriate body.Emerging Ministries Fund grants would be made at a maximum level of £30K per annum for a three year period. In addition, Presbyteries and congregations will be expected to demonstrate that they have explored potential sources of matched funding - either private or public sector, or from ecumenical partners - although
there is recognition that such assistance cannot always be secured.
Ministries Council staff will be able to offer advice and support to applicant organisations at all stages of the process. It is anticipated that this substantial investment in local church work will have a
significant impact in the initial 5-year period of the fund, and beyond.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

"As slow as possible" ?

Yesterday I caught this pieceon Concert Fm (New Zealand). it caught my attention and so I had to stay seated in the car having parked and I was fascinated. A man called Ryan Knighton was being interviewed.(listen here)

He speaks of John Cage, whom I recollected having read about in Jeremy Begbie's book Theology, Music and Time (Cambridge University press, 2000). Cage shows an unease with control and sought to allow sounds to be themselves. One comment upon Cage notes how he only sees sound as a fragment in the time continuum.

Anyway, it gets quite technical, but Knighton explains it reasonably well. You can visit the John Cage Project and read more and explore.

"The slowest and longest piece of music in the world
John-Cage-Organ-Project in Halberstadt, Germany

Since September 5, 2000, which is the 88th birthday of the avantgarde composer and artist John Cage, the slowest and longest concert that the world has ever heard has been playing: ORGAN2/ASLSP As Slow aS Possible that means this piece of music, for the organ, will be performed for 639 years in the church of St. Burchardi in Halberstadt."

Part of it theologically is the way ijn which this note sounds and hanges over the years according to the score. In particular it is Who changes the note? Who will come along, get involved? Assumptions of song they never strated . Message of hope, but first note is a rest. Story beyond the scale of our own span, a bigger idea of the future. As radio raises these questions, I thought of the way Sabbath rest as the initial movement out of Creation and then I consider the ways in which we are part of a bigger, hopeful story that God has for us in the now and eschatologically.

Further it is always sounding, even if are not present in that monastery in Halberstadt. You can listen! Fascinating that it plays on even if no-one is actually present sounding out. Anyway, maybe this is dull for you and I apologise, but it intrigued me and stopped me enough to pause and listen and ponder about what it may teach uis about faith.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


General reading on Prayer has led me to Merton's 'Contemplative Prayer' .

Some quotes and...

"In the way of prayer, as described by the early monastic writers, meditatio must be seen in its close relation to psalmodia, lectio, oratio and contemplatio. It is part of a continuous whole... not so much a way to find God but as a way of resting in him whom we have found, who loves us, who is near to us, who comes to us to draw us to himself." (p29)

In particularly I also noted the ways in which the Psalms are, in Calvin's words an 'Anatomy of the soul' in prayer. Merton reminds us that meditation is above all meditatio scriturarum. The words of the Bible made their own, memorising, repeating them. Additionally, a life of prayer, praying always, are united to the entire days activities in an organic whole and further has a corporate context. Undertaking this daily is a part of the daily dying and rising, mortificatio and vivificatio of the Christian's life in Christ.

The "healing and creative work of [the monk], accomplished in silence, in nakedness of spirit, in emptiness, in humility. It is participation in the saving death and resurrection of Christ. therefore, every Christian may, if they so desires, enter into communion with this silence of the praying and meditating Church, which is the church of the Desert."

Of course there is a challenge to such rhythms of silence, indeed the world's anti-silence. I am reminded in anotehr way of Arvo Pärt (Composer) whose music emerged anew after some self-imposed silence, re-emerging with his music radically transformed. The technique he invented, or discovered, he calls "tintinnabuli" (from the Latin, little bells), which he describes "I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played. This one note, or a silent beat, or a moment of silence, comforts me. I work with very few elements —with one voice, two voices. I build with primitive materials —with the triad, with one specific tonality. The three notes of a triad are like bells and that is why I call it tintinnabulation." The first public appearance of this was in the short piano piece, Für Alina. I recommend it.

I am no musician and have little understanding of the technicalities, but this music is audibly a means to appreciate the balances and interplays between a sound note and silence, yet it is silence that is somehow of the essence to allow the note to be heard. A prayerful life in the every day no less is built from 'primitive materials' - our lives and person - and the rhytms of our life are as much determined by the 'communion' with silences. Daily broken, daily reshaped.

In the midst of confusion there is great need to place ourselves -restful in God in silence, and meditate daily upon Scritpure and especially the psalms. Here is Merton's famous prayer:

My Lord God I have no idea where I am going. I do not
see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I
really understand myself. And the fact that I think I am following Your will
does not mean I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please
you Does in fact please you. And I hope I have the desire in all that I am
doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know
that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing
about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in
the shadow of death. I will not fear for you are ever with me and you will never
leave me to face my troubles alone. (Thomas Merton)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter Sunday- Dance of the Merrymakers

Dance of the Merrymakers
A day of surprises. We had someone sit up front in white simply sitting in front of everyone. The music from Runrig - Solus na madain (The Morning Light) played with loop video. Then opening responses based around our own arrival in worship at an empty tomb.
Readings were Jeremiah 31 v1-6 and Matthew 28 v1-10
We began by considering the deathliness of Friday and Saturday, indeed, much of life is coloured and shaped by still. We thought of the deathly places and ways of the world we live in and that shape us still. We dared to note and confront death today as a reminder that resurrection flies in the face of death, it is the death of death. SO we read from 1 Corinthians 15, Romans 8, passages/texts that reshape us for life now and eternity. A resurrection people, hopeful, promised as Jeremiah's exile people so much more - we were encouraged to join the dance of the merrymakers(Jeremiah) on this Easter day!
We sang Lord of the Dance, while the image by Elizabeth Rollins-Scott, provided a beautiful reflection for us too. As we sang though one of our senoir folks - a dancer all her life - came into the aisle and began a very beautiful dance offering in worship, in one verse she took a little girl and they danced to the front and returned to seats. It was a natural response on this day and something that ebvefryone will remember the day for this year. Unplanned, rehearsed and simply wonderful to see. It was no look at me, it was all I'd spoken about dramatised before our eyes.
Go forth in the dance of the merrymakers
Resume your singing,
On your feet go,
Join the dance of the Father, Son and Spirit.

Friday, March 21, 2008

God's Friday

Drinking the Cup


Drinking the cup of salvation means emptying the cup of sorrow and joy so that God can fill it with pure life.
(Henri Nouwen, Who can drink this cup?p97)

Reading of the day – Matthew 27 v45-61

We spent some time exploring the image Spencer potrays and began to wonder how we might have the Cross portrayed here on Highgate. The Crucifixion by Stanley Spencer we set alongside the reading for today confronting us with the reality of this painfully disturbing scene. We came to the Table, sharing in the Cup of Salvation.
We closed with these words of assurance:

Romans 8. 31 What then are we to say about these things?
If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own
Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or
distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all day long; we
are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we
are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Table - Thursday

Lifting the cup

fOR A GREAT SHORT VIDEO LOOP VISIT http://www.sgmlifewords.com/easter/video.php
(daY 5)

Lifting the cup is an invitation to affirm and celebrate life together. As
we lift up the cup of life and look each other in the eye, we say: “Let us not
be anxious or afraid. Let’s hold our cup together and greet each other. Let us
not hesitate to acknowledge the reality of our lives and encourage each other to
be grateful for the gifts we have received.”…to Life”
(Henri Nouwen, Can you drink the cup? p 61-2)

Reading of the day - 1 Corinthians 10:15-17

Tonight we came to Lift the cup. Paul in writing to the Corinthian church speaks of the dnagers of compromise with 'idols' and more His response though is somewhat surprising. HE bases it upon the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. In the few verses there is much emphasis upon 'TAKING PART, Koininos - partnership, partakers together in Christ and consequently one another.

The Cup of Blessing then is more than a mere memorial, it is an active, ever present now activity in the life we have in Christ, through the Spirit. We also read Luke 22 and the 'institution, the inaugurating of the Supper' All aroudn that ATble were themes of alienation, abandonment and betrayal, yet there is also community, love and trusting relationships within the body of Christ. Jesus offers a cup to be passed among them as a symbolic reminder of their unity. (We passed a cup around as we heard more among those gathered in worship at this point). This invitation to dif=vide the common cup among them, to ift and share in it together must have been powerful as each would already have their own cup in front of them. THEN, he bvreaks bread and then they share the cup of blessing. The referneces time and again to fellowshiup, community as well as the pre-figuring of the final banquet. William Willimon says of the meal" A ritual for meeting in which an individual who feels isolated and unaccepted may discover the possibility for community and incorporation."Fred Buechner also says that it' involves our need not just for food but for each otehr' in the midst of our own emptiness, alienation, forsakenness, weariness, betrayal and death we come to this Table as here, despite such rokenness and pain - holding cups of suffering, sorrow, we find Christ accept us, we find in one another acceptance and fellowship, partnership, we partake together.. We also discover at this table that we are never abandoned.

We came to the Table.

O God you are my God alone,
whom eagerly I seek,
though longing fills my soul with thirst
and leaves my body weak.

Just like a dry and barren land
awaits a freshening shower,
I long within your house to see
your glory and your power.

Your faithful love surpasses life,
evoking all my praise,
through every day
to bless your name,
my hands in praise I’ll raise.

My deepest needs you satisfy
as with a sumptuous feast.
So, on my lips and in my heart,
your praise has never ceased.

Throughout the night,
I lie in bed,
and call you Lord to mind,
In darkest hours I meditate,
how God my strength is kind.

Beneath the shadow of your wing,
I live and feel secure;
and daily, as I follow close,
your right hand keeps me sure.

The Table - Wednesday

Holding the Cup

In the midst of anguished prayer asking his father to take this cup of sorrow
away, there is one moment of consolation. Only the Evangelist Luke mentions it.
He says: “Then an angel appeared to him, coming from heaven to give him
strength.” (Luke 22 v43)
(Henri Nouwen, Can you drink the cup? p 43)
Reading of the day - John 18: 1-11

Tradere or paradidomai means to hand over. Continuing to holfd the cup we meet a

Jesus who through prayer says yes to his Abba. In John 17 we have more of this prayer.

JOHN 17 1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up
to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that
the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all
people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And
this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus
Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work
that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence
with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

the insight we get is the 'relationship' that existed between Father and Son before creation. Rublev's image Icon comes to mind yet again. Luke reminds us of how the Father sends a messenger to minister and 'strengthen' Jesus in the time of trial, as in the desert. he is now, as John portrays him holding the cup of suffering out of the union with the father, rooted around the Trinitarian table we might say. It is this that now sees him handed over also in the other direction, at the disposal of those who will now deal with him.

The cup we hold as disciples means learning to live and risk the very presence of Jesus, that as disciples our lives are immersed and embedded in the very life of the Jesus Christ, the Son in and through the Spirit and in this way Jesus offers prayers and perfects our prayers to the Father. This equally makes us vulnerable to the world. he prays:

20 "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who
will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you,
Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us,
so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you
have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,
23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that
the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have
loved me.

Grace be with you.
Thanks be to God.

Go in peace this night.
We go in the name of Christ.