Sunday, April 08, 2007

Connection


Yet again I am in that lonely place called the small hours of the morning, just trying to stop the child-like fear of the night, and maybe figure ‘it all out’.

Have tried to write for days now but nothing comes, we have been through the two most holy and precious days and all I feel is numb. The Thursday we call Maundy and the Friday we call Good usually evoke deep feelings but this year I just don’t feel part of the Easter story

I guess I’m looking for connection – sadly it’s elusive.

Still, in a few hours I will enter the mystery of faith once more. Ask most thinking Christians what the most important part of their holistic worship is and they will simply say, the Eucharist. It is about the only action Jesus asks of us to remember him by. I would say it is the last great mystery of faith. The whole transubstantiation debate will go on and on. Frankly I don’t mind either way, and the more time we give to that argument the more we will continue to miss its point.

What’s my point? Well, on Easter Sunday last year a Eucharistic initiative caused both the Catholic and Anglican to unite in condemnation. Why? Fr Iggy (couldn’t have been scripted better) O’Donovan and the Revd Michael Graham celebrated a special mass to commemorate the ninetieth anniversary of the 1916 Easter rising. Fr Iggy said that his intention was not to ‘flout’ church rules, but rather to be ‘inclusive’. And here’s the thing. I believe that the Eucharist is many things and one of those is that it is a missional tool - I have heard too many times that, 'if you are in a right relationship with Christ you are welcome at this table' - frankly (and i use a hebrew word here) that's bollocks! Where does Jesus say that? ALL are welcome....ALL no matter what!

Jesus made it absolutely clear that Christians who love one another in unity are capable of proving to the world the divine nature of Christian fellowship and the deity of Jesus Christ, and I think the mass plays an important role in revealing this. I would suggest that mission is the communication of grace, both verbally and non-verbally, lived out in community but always in the direction of others and away from ourselves.

Writer Brennan Manning has an interesting slant on what we may have to be, to play our part well in effective mission. He makes an analogy between John the Baptist and Jesus, then parallels this against task driven churches and graced ones, remarking that ‘Jesus feasted while John fasted. Whereas John’s call to conversion was essentially linked to penitential practices, the call of Jesus is fundamentally connected to being a table companion, eating and drinking with Jesus in whom,’ and I think this is important in explaining Fr Iggy’s initiative, God’s merciful manner with sinners is made manifest in the family meal.

In other words we need to accept the blunt acknowledgement that we owe our lives, our very being and salvation to Another if we are to allow grace to resonate in us, before we can allow that to then permeate into those around us – in a way God, by Her Spirit provides. This fundamental act lies at the core of our response to a missiological Eucharistic life. I think we need to learn to distinguish between crucial Biblical truths and secondary preferences of cultural practice, which unfortunately have been so prevalent when a good story has been told so badly. Asceticism was not only inappropriate but also unthinkable in the presence of the Bridegroom. If we could only live this instead of theologising it the communities we are part of would be radically different. Communities where although ‘we see dimly’, enough light comes through the glass to enable the shape of the story to be discerned.

Ecumenism is badly understood if it is reduced to inter-church co-operation. The ecumenical movement doesn’t simply ask that churches learn to get along, but that their churches must be renewed and transformed.’ When the World Council of Churches met in Canberra in 1991 they revealed that the nature and vocation of the ecumenical movement was to call generations of people to commit themselves to the unity and renewal of Christianity, existentially to an ecumenical pilgrimage. This movement has its roots in one particular, and it can be argued, unanswered prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17:21 that: ‘…they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.’

To be ecumenical is, of course, to embrace the whole inhabited earth and to reach into those difficult conversations and relationships where faiths often clash but where God’s clarity can be found. Yet how can we realise unity when it is still uniformity that Churches are more comfortable with and continue to nurture? The late M. Scott Peck suggested that: ‘we shouldn’t put the cart before the horse. True unity starts at home…perhaps it should start small.’ Perhaps even in an Augustinian priory in Drogheda, Co. Louth.

It is wisely taught at Alcoholics Anonymous that the only person you change is yourself – it is a good place to start. Unity has to do with people living together in freedom and love. These are simple words, but they are not simple actions. Genuine Christ-like love requires some very hard decisions and unity neither comes naturally nor is it purchased cheaply. This will (in the case of both ecumenism and the Eucharist) involve dropping our ‘them’ and ‘us’ categories, and greeting people as equals. When we do we continue to learn what God is doing in a changing world. Unity surely has to be a two-way street. As writer Mike Riddell says ‘to go with the expectation of having all the answers for other people’s questions is a form of arrogance. It is among ‘them’ that we learn who God is, and why they remain part of ‘us’.

Fr Iggy concluded last year, that he had ‘no regrets’ and he can expect to have the support of many who do not see the relevance of theological niceties. The wisest conclusion I remember hearing was that if the ceremony breached the letter of Church law, it celebrated the spirit of Christianity.

I for one am grateful that there is wideness in God’s mercy that I do not find in my own…really, I am.

10 comments:

mister tumnus said...

that's fairly good for someone who feels nothing this easter....!

happy easter, CS. the older i get and the more complicated everything becomes the more i am glad of that offer of jesus': come, eat, drink. sometimes i imagine us all dead and looking back to all of this and seeing the fullness of life in all our mistakes and sorrow and the moments of joy. the eucharist is the event that binds all this together in death and life.

blimey. i might actually go to church this morning after that...

Niki said...

As Mr T said; for someone who isn't feeling inspired you sure got me thinking in there...

Easter hasn't really meant a lot to me since I was small and going to the dreaded Sunday school. We learnt our Easter stories and went to church, then all went home with a chocolate egg.

This year for the first time in a long while, possibly forever, Easter has prompted me to think. I hope that next year I am not so consumed in fog that I selfishly think mainly of my own salvation.

Anna said...

Wow....ditto to the above.

I am so overwhelmed daily that my Savior has a place for me at His table....a place for all of us. And grace??? I need loads and loads of it. And He offers it freely for me...because He loves me. No strings. I feel I try to offer mercy, because I have needed it so from others and God.....

I am very thankful today that He not only died for me, but that He rose, just like He said He would....the promise was kept, the covenant fufilled. There are no smoke and mirrors....just my Savior.

Happy Easter Paul.

BTW, I love these pics.

Catherine + said...

Well, if you must have a name for your lack of wallah! then call it reverse inspiration because you have it, CS. Great reflection. How often we fail to remember important events that make certain holidays or seasons across the Pond. Thank you for the reminder and blessings therein.

Joyous Easter to you. Christ has risen indeed. Alleluia!

Anna said...

Hey Paul...
Check this site out and let me know what you think
www.theviewfromthepew.blogspot.com
Have a good week...

Ellen said...

Ok, and now a comment from the lapsed Catholic......

I long ago gave up the conviction that organized religion was the know-all, and see-all of life. I saw through the many discrepancies of my Sunday School teachings, and refused to go to confession for insignificant (childhood, at the time) "sins". For myself (and this is going to sound a bit strange), I had a vision of Jesus in a dream at a young age, and awoke instinctively feeling that if I were a good person, a kind person, a caring soul, then practice there spoke louder than words at church.

After all, "church" isn't necessarily a building as it is a place of worship that can be conducted anywhere, anytime; be it a garden, or the next stop on your way to bed at night. What counted was the God you felt in your heart. Being fallable humans, we all make mistakes. It's in how you take responsibility for those fallen moments that made a bigger impact, and show true grace.

The blessings will always be there, all for anyone to take a drink from.... but they cannot exist if you cannot recognize the spring from which they flow. Church doesn't do it for me, but that's not to say everybody should feel that way. We all need to find our own church, our own goodness, and our own level of acceptance to all that has been put before us. Sounds a little chaotic, but in it's simpler terms, just look into your heart. It's been waiting all along.

But then, that's just me.

All that said..... I do hope you had a wonderful Easter, and renewal of season. May you find the peace that eludes and confuses you at times, and may you be blessed in knowing that your thoughts and words here are much fodder for me to think about many times over during the day.

Take care.... and so sorry for the prolonged absence in getting over here to say hello.

Awareness said...

hi.....

everytime I have read your thoughts here, my own thinking leads to the work and life of Jean Vanier. To me, he is the epitome of Christian fellowship. His work is his life.....and his life is his mission. As one individual, he chose to embrace the goodness of Christianity.

In his own quiet way, he went about developing L'Arche, where equality and unconditional love was a given......as freely as water. His faith inspires me daily.

Last night, I read a piece out of his book, "Becoming Human," (essays written for the CBC Massey Lectures he delivered in 1998) which connected me to what you have shared here, Paul. He writes about loneliness and the positive force it can generate between the relationship of God and man or woman....on the importance of it in our striving to becoming human..

He writes:

"Loneliness can become a source of creative energy, the energy that drives us down new paths to create new things or to seek more truth and justice in the world. Artists, poets, mystics, prophets, those who do not seem to fit into the world or the ways of society, are frequently lonely. They feel themselves to be different, dissatisfied with the status quo and with mediocrity; dissatisfied with our comptetitve world where so much energy goes into ephemeral things. Frequently, it is a lonely man or woman who revolts against injustice and seeks new ways. It is as if a fire is burning within them, a fire fuelled by loneliness.

Loneliness is the fundamental force that urges mystics to a deeper union with god. For such people, loneliness has become intolerable, but instead of slipping into apathy or anger, they use the energy of loneliness to seek God. It pushes them towards the absolute. An experience of God quenches this thirst for the absolute but at the same time, paradoxically, whets it, because this is an experience that can never be total; by necessity, the knowledge of god is always partial. So loneliness opens up mystics to a desire to love each and every human being as God loves them."

Our personal connection with God can often come in the wee hours of a lonely night......and felt through taking part in holistic worship.

Our personal connection with God allows us to have the foundation to open our hearts to inclusivity, which is the true spirit of Christianity.


dana.

Awareness said...

Oh.......and can I just add something....?

I believe my life would be complete if I was to meet a man named Friggy.

I think his parents must have had a wicked sense of humour.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

there are things i want to say to you all, but am so knackered - it will have to wait til tomorrow...

....for now, thank you

bluemountainmama said...

another thought-provoking and meaningful post, harbour....

you say nothing comes to write...but then this flows out...

"to go with the expectation of having all the answers for other people’s questions is a form of arrogance"......also, i think this is one of the major reasons christians don't go out- they think they need to HAVE all the answers and don't feel prepared, whereas all God calls us to do is be a witness to what he's done. that's where we get evangelism all wrong......