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…)...
Adventures in Solitude

Adventures in Solitude

Encouraged by Jonny’s insights, my Lent commitment is to spend 3 hours in solitude, reflecting and praying, each week. How hard can that be? Extremely hard as it turns out. Challenge one: find 3 hours to escape…Much harder than you imagine. Eugene Peterson’s book The Contemplative Pastor makes this shocking claim that ‘a busy minister is a lazy minister’. So, I am lazy, because I keep finding my scheduled time for solitude squeezed out by things that seem more urgent, or people I cannot let down. Is this a problem of priorities? It’s a discipline to find time. But I persist. It’s also much more pleasurable than I think. Where could I comfortably spend 3 hours in solitude? Where there’s no mobile phone contact? Where I might be genuinely relaxed…and this is how I get to spend 3 hours every Lenten week… in the spa! Don’t knock it! An hour of intentional physical relaxation ends up with 2 beautiful hours on a warm day bed in a dark room, with a Bible, notebook and time…precious time. Explaining spa as a spiritual discipline takes some doing. We imagine time with God as something uncomfortable, strained and formalised. Which is exactly why we need Lent? To return to God. The true God. The God whose presence is like water to a thirsty soul…like rest for the anxious, distracted, weary...
Adventures in Communal Living

Adventures in Communal Living

What would make a gifted, well-connected 29 year old choose to move into a Franciscan Friary and live in community with formerly homeless people? My friend Jonny has. Why? The short answer is that he heard a diagnosis to his generation’s discontent and it struck home – to the extent that he moved into a community born out of need, not choice, as an experiment in intentional community. Jonny explained what drove him to do this. The idea began in a lecture ‘Why do people in their 20’s leave the church?’ Soul Survivor’s Mike Pilavachi explains how a culture of consumerism, individualism and entitlement is eating into the psyche of 20-somethings. [1] The freedom of individualism, expressed through independent living with no definitive commitment to people or place is a phony freedom. We believe it’s our right to have whatever we want, whenever we want, yet we find ourselves crippled by the fear of committing to the ‘wrong’ person/place/career. In Postmodernity and Its Discontents, Zygmunt Bauman writes how “modern individuals are sentenced to a lifetime of choosing. And the art of choosing is mostly about avoiding one danger: that of missing an opportunity.” People of faith are not immune. Not even ministers. Henri Nouwen’s In the name of Jesus, describes ‘The Compulsive Minister’. In a society described as a ‘shipwreck’, “a dangerous network of domination and manipulation in which we can easily get entangled and lose our soul” [2]. Nouwen points to how horrendously secular our Christian lives can become, living our lives in such a “distracted way that we do not even take the time and rest to...