Archive for the ‘Spiritual Journey’ Tag

Reflections on today’s service: preaching, salt and light.   Leave a comment

Today was an ordinary service (mass) at my church, but several things stood out for me and captured my thoughts.  I briefly note them here.

I am not St. Paul’s biggest fan.  It is not his fault but I regret in some parts of the church it seems that his teachings dominate over Jesus’.  However, today’s reading from 1 Corinthians caught my attention afresh and I quote it here in full:

1 Corinthians 2:1-12

New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

2 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[a] 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

God’s wisdom revealed by the Spirit

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.9 However, as it is written:

‘What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived’[b] –
the things God has prepared for those who love him –

10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Corinthians 2:1 Some manuscripts proclaimed to you God’s mystery
  2. 1 Corinthians 2:9 Isaiah 64:4

The sermon, based on this and the other readings set for today, was about preaching.  The Gospel reading was part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:13-20].  It begins with Jesus’ call for us to be salt and light in the world.

I have not had any formal role in the church for about 10 years now.  Sometimes this causes me to question: What is the purpose of my faith journey? What am I supposed to be doing in the church?  However, these passages, and the service more generally, reminded me that it is my whole life that is the purpose of my faith journey.  It is in how I live my life I am called to be salt and light. That that is a form of preaching, a role, and one that is an enormous  challenge.  I continually fail to live up to that challenge which God continually forgives.  However, that is my purpose, to be salt and light.  If God uses that to influence anyone, to preach as it were, that is His/Her business.

I felt blessed and encouraged by this morning’s service.  (Oh and I got to meet the new archdeacon who will live in the parish.)

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Posted February 9, 2014 by Martyn Cooper in Random notes

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3rd Sunday of Advent 2011 – “Shoots of righteousness”   Leave a comment

Theme for week 2: “Signs of God’s coming”

The Bible passages set for today are: Isaiah 61: 1-2, 10-11; 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24; and John 1: 6-8, 19-28.

The Lectionary has taken us back to the story of John the Baptist again.  The words from John’s Gospel this time:

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
[John 1: 6-8 NIV]

in some way echoing those from Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. … to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour.
[Isaiah 61: 1-2 NIV]

When John the Baptist is quizzed by the religious leaders of the day as to who he was he replies: “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” [John 1: 23] apparently citing the words from Isaiah 40: 3 that we met on the reflections of Sunday 4 December and Tuesday 6 December.

The notes for today’s reflections open with the question: “How can you tell when God is at work?” My immediate reaction to that was He/She is always at work; we just might not be always aware of it.  While accepting that as true there do seem to be times in history and in our individual life’s journey when the separation between the divine and the temporal or earthy seems particularly thin.  The notes suggest the signs from Isaiah of this include: oppressed people becoming free; those who are sad are comforted and in the wilderness of life shoots of righteousness and praise begin to grow.

While not disbelieving that as a pattern of God’s working both in the leading up to what some Christians would describe as the focal point of history, the coming of Christ, and in the transformations that happen in personal spiritual journeys, it is not something recognise as a current or recent experience in my life.  I am neither aware of being in a spiritual desert nor of particular or new stirrings of God in my life.

There is another echo from Old to New Testaments in today’s readings:

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. … For as the soil makes the young plant come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up
[Isaiah 61: 10-11 NIV]

And:

Rejoice evermore.

Pray without ceasing.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
[1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 KJV]

In Isaiah the rejoicing is at seeing the new shoots of God’s work; in Thessalonians Paul is urging us to rejoice in whatever circumstances recognising that it is the will of God.  Now there is a challenge.  Turning it into a personal challenge how do I find joy in what seems like a bland spiritual state?

Thursday 1 December 2011 – “Firm Foundations”   Leave a comment

[I have got up extra early to undertake today’s Advent reflections and write this blog post because the rest of my day is full. Many are the stories of deeply spiritual people habitually valuing the stillness of the day before the rest of the world awakes. I am a “morning person” but have found stillness hard to find this morning; my mind is jumping.]

When I read today’s title “Firm Foundations” before reading anything else, the thing I thought of was how grateful I am for the firm foundation I received for my own spiritual journey from my family and the church I was brought up in from the ages of 6 to 18. When telling a personal narrative that moves from one tradition or type of church to another it is too easy to sound critical of the previous stages. I value highly my firm foundations. Thanks Mum and Dad!

The Bible passages set for today were Isaiah 26: 1-6 and Matthew 7: 21, 24-27.

Thou dost keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee.
Trust in the LORD for ever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.
[Isaiah 26: 3-4 RSV]

I certainly knew those verses when my foundations were being laid and I have quoted them in the version I possibly first met them in, it was certainly the rendering that rang most familiar to me. I think those verses speak for themselves. They are my hope and my experience through both calm and troubled waters.

I was very tempted just to leave today’s blog post there. The above was the theme that stood out for me in my “meditation” (I use the word very lightly here) on the set passages and short commentary. However as indicated in my introduction my mind was jumping between other themes which I will briefly note.

The context for the above quoted verses was the threat posed to a nation (Judah) from the other nations that surround it. However of course it can be applied poetically, metaphorically, as I have done above and countless millions before me. However the historical context triggers thoughts around my pacifism. “Why do the nations so furiously rage together?” as the libretto to Handle’s Messiah has it in its setting of Psalm 2.

Beyond that the image created of the interaction between God and world politics (in this passage and throughout the Bible) is not one that sits easily with my own images of God.

He humbles those who dwell on high, he lays the lofty city low; he levels it to the ground and casts it down to the dust.

Feet trample it down— the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor.
[Isaiah 26: 5-6 NIV]

[I fear discussion of my thoughts here is going to take more time than I have so will just note the key points and questions.]

  • My own images of God are dominated by the God of love over and above the God of justice.
  • How does God interact with “the affairs of men”? I strongly believe in free will, because I can’t see how love from man to God is possible without it. I believe in a God of possibilities not a puppeteer. I do not have a GrecoRoman view of God (gods to their view) nudging events at odd times.
  • My framework and my thinking is incomplete but, it is that from mankind’s perspective, I can see how accounts imagining God’s destruction of the wicked city, or nation arise. However I think it is much more subtle and positive theologically speaking than that. I think that the destruction arises from man’s (I won’t use inclusive language here because it usually is the men!) folly, pride, greed, (sin). But at all points God is longing to save.
  • I can not believe in a God that is partial. He loves all, every individual every nation. It is a very primitive view of God that effectively every tribe has its own god and the one with the most powerful god wins when there is conflict. (As an aside I think the account of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel mocks that concept wonderfully [1 Kings 18 16-46] ); provided you see the God of Israel as the universal God of the universe.)
  • I do believe in a God who, in whatever mystical way he does interact with the affairs of men, uses Nations as well as people. The classic example here being Israel appears historically, as well as specifically Biblically, to be the means of revealing the image of a monotheistic universal God to humanity.

The gospel passage from Matthew imagines people at the last judgement (again a concept that challenges my own images of God). This then leads into the famous parable of the wise man building on the rock and the foolish one on the sand. I am left with the children’s song, setting this parable, in my head (complete with actions) and will doubtless be now singing it all day. I end by quoting the parable in full:

The Wise and Foolish Builders

24 Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.

27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

[Matthew 7: 24-27]

Hello again Anthony de Mello   1 comment

When writing my Reflection on Advent Sunday I had cause to look for a web link to Anthony de Mello.  His book Sadhana, and commentaries on it, were a key resource in my early explorations in contemplative prayer.  So I discovered for the first time the online resources of the DeMello Spirituality Center.  I didn’t explore extensively but this quote in their scrolling banner stood out for me:

The master made it his task to systematically destroy every doctrine, every belief, every concept of the divine, for these things, which were originally intended as pointers, were now taken as descriptions.

He loved to quote the Eastern saying: “When the sage points at the moon, all that the idiot sees is the finger.”

http://www.demellospirituality.com/ access 28 November 2011]

I characterise my own spiritual journey over the last 25 years or so – possibly longer – as going through, past, beyond, even around doctrine and dogma to the sublime truth behind.  I am not claiming to have travelled very far but that is the nature of the journey.

I take heart in the fact that it seems to be a journey made by many before me.  I find it too in Fowler’s Faith Development Theory.  This is an academic study of the stages of faith observed in people of different religions/denominations and none.

Hello world! Or whoever wanders by!   Leave a comment

The primary audience for this blog is myself.  It is reflections in several senses but one being to reflect back my own words to myself so that I can ask questions such as:

  • What did I mean by that?
  • Is that truly what I believe/think?
  • If that is true how should it impact on my life?

I have no desire to try and make you see the world as I do.   If you happen upon my words and they are used in some way in your own spiritual journey that would be lovely.  However in my own view that would have little to do with my words but more the mysterious interaction between every individual and the divine.

Yes I am theist, I have come to that through a Christian tradition but in my own spiritual journey have also drawn on other world religions, secular philosophies, science and my own academic roots in cybernetics.

Please feel free to comment, question and challenge anything I write.  However let us do so with respect for each other.  We all “see through a glass dimly”, we are all on a journey.  The world would be a much impoverished place if it was the same journey for us all with the same view. Therefore also feel free to share relevant aspects of your journey.

Martyn Cooper

27 November 2011

Posted November 27, 2011 by Martyn Cooper in Purpose of this blog

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