Safety Nets and Tightropes

Safety Nets and Tightropes

Is community a safety net you hope is there when you need it? There are times we really need others’ support. Being at home with 3 young children taught me this. I have never so actively sought company as I did in those years. I needed the emotional and practical help of being with others who had this, and sometimes only this, in common. Largely sleep deprived, often anxious, yet mostly hopeful, I found a group of local parents and together we learnt how to be each other’s safety net. This week, I heard that community is more like a tightrope than a safety net. Not just there for the tough times, being in community is the only way to authentically move through life. Challenging and rarely comfortable, community knocks the edges off our pride and self-centredness. It’s a tightrope walk. A recent Guardian series on ‘Live Better’ focussed on the idea, ‘Get Involved’. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/sep/25/eight-reasons- people-do- not-involved- community Seeking a way to ‘Do Something’ about climate change and resource shortages the author approached Dr David Fleming, who had invented a clever mechanism to incentivise individuals – and entire nations – to save energy. What, in his opinion, was the most important thing anybody could do to tackle these threats? “Join the local choir,” he said. At first the author found his answer annoying. Was he being cute? Not at all. The most important thing, when trying to Do Something, the late Dr Fleming explained, was to build a sense of community. Community makes bigger changes possible. At Royal Docks Church we have been leaning into community. It goes against...
Jesus: The Sweet-Potato of Life

Jesus: The Sweet-Potato of Life

Have you ever heard of the verse in the Bible where Jesus describes himself as the Bread of Life? He explains that ‘Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.’ (John 6:35) Well I have to admit, despite considering myself someone actively working on trying to ‘get to’ Jesus, I woke up this morning more than a little peckish… Must I be doing something wrong?? Well, not necessarily. Last Sunday, we celebrated Harvest Festival – thanking God for all we have and responding to the call to share His blessings with those around us who perhaps need to know more of His blessings in their lives and situations. We also sampled a wide variety of breads from different countries: from Isreali Matzah, Lebanese flatbreads, German Rye, French brioche, Indian Chipatis and more! We thought about what all of these breads had in common and realised – they all form a staple part of that national, cultural diet. Bread is something we eat lots of in this country – be it as toast in the morning, sandwiches at lunch or forming the base of you pizza at dinner – chances are, bread has featured in your diet at some point already this week and perhaps even today. It’s so commonly eaten, that even people allergic to bread have worked to perfect gluten-free recipes allowing them to join in on the comforting carby-goodness! Looking back at Jesus’ metaphor of himself, the cultural context he was speaking to would have understood that what He meant was ‘I want to be a staple part of your lifestyle.’ He’s not the ‘Glace Cherry of...
Beauty in Nature: Appreciation vs Thankfulness

Beauty in Nature: Appreciation vs Thankfulness

What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘Beauty’? Do you immediately recall the appearance of a person you find irresistible? Or a scenic view of a place close to your heart?… Thomas Aquinas, prominent philosopher and Catholic Priest of the Middle Ages, defined beauty as ‘something which gives pleasure when seen’ – or as more accurate translation might suggest, ‘when contemplated’. He believed that beauty is both objective (can be formulated and recreated) and requires active intelligence to be appreciated. Much of what we think of as beautiful is likely the result of human design and creation – a painted master piece or an emotive musical composition, for example. But have you ever seen anything so stunningly, but seemingly unnecessarily, beautiful – that it’s made you question how and why such a thing exists at all? You’re not alone: Beauty in existence has been the inspiration behind philosophical thinking for centuries! Aquinas concluded that the only reasonable answer to nature’s naturally occurring beauty is an intelligent designer, or God, and that the only reason we are able to contemplate, recreate and find pleasure in it is because that God must be good and care about us. Did you know, with all of Science’s accumulated knowledge and understanding – still no-one can explain why leaves are green? We know the thing that makes leaves green is chlorophyll. We know that chlorophyll works by absorbing light to fuel the photosynthesis needed to grow and sustain plants. But we also know that of all the available colours on the natural spectrum, black is by far the most efficient at light absorption. Evolution teaches us...
Why is there an Easter Saturday?

Why is there an Easter Saturday?

Friday is pure terror. Sunday will be incredible redemption. But there’s a day in between. It’s the day after this, the day before that. Why is there an Easter Saturday? Would it have made a difference to salvation if Crucifixion was immediately followed by Resurrection? Ever wondered what the disciples did on Easter Saturday? Waking up after 2 sleepless days, the adrenaline worn off. They must have felt crushingly lost that whole day and through the long hours of Saturday night. There’s a different, kind of spiritual pain when terror has passed and numbness wears off enough to begin to think again…and we know what we will ask…’Why in God’s name did this happen?’ met with divine silence. We have all known Easter Saturdays. This year I have learnt from the example of Mary Magdalene in John’s Gospel (read it here https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+19-20&version=NLT) . John tells us what Mary did once Friday had past, before Sunday arrives. She stayed with friends. The Gospels almost always mention Mary in a list of women friends, Joanna, Salome, the ‘other Mary’. That’s sound advice. Don’t sit alone in the dark if you don’t have to. Then, unlike any other disciple, she persistently tracks Jesus, even though she believes he is dead; staying to the end of the crucifixion, observing his body removed from the cross, watching the rushed burial. It is Mary who has the grit to stand and watch. And then, thirdly, she finds comfort in rituals, going out to buy the proper spices to anoint the body. Natural coping mechanisms that can help anyone in the depths of grief: friends, ritual, just standing still...
Rummaging for God in your day

Rummaging for God in your day

Have you ever tried rummaging through your day to find something that might have gone unnoticed or got lost among all the ‘stuff’…something like God? Try the Daily Examen prayer from St Ignatious. Dennis Hamm calls this practice “rummaging for God.” He likens it to “going through a drawer full of stuff, feeling around, looking for something that you are sure must be there.” That’s an accurate description of what it’s like to pray the Daily Examen. We look back on the previous day, rummaging through the “stuff,”and finding God in it. We just need an inkling that we will find God there to begin. So why not have a go? This is a simple version of the five-step Daily Examen . Ask God to be present with you and help you review your day.  Look back with gratitude. Name things you are grateful for. Ask yourself Where did I see God in my day? Where was I living in my best, true self? Did I miss opportunities? Did I get in the way of having a good day? Admit it honesty. Look forward. What gift do you need from God to have a day you can really live well tomorrow? (more patience/ better attention / kindness…)...