New year, new hope, new baptism. Eternal God.

There is something I find wonderful, maybe even mystical and I will be honest a tad “un-nerving” about the start of a new year.

A time when we leave behind the old and welcome the new.

A time when we are encouraged to look back on what has occurred (and maybe take on board some lessons).

A time when we are encouraged to look forward (and make the most of what may lie ahead).

Of course, such sentiments can for a variety of reasons be difficult to practice. Nonetheless for each of us, the new year is certainly a time to pause, reflect and move towards action.

In the movement, big or small.

In the step or steps you might say.

I wonder, is faith to be truly found?

Our Gospel reading for this Sunday, sees Christ in many ways, leave the old in order to welcome the new.

The Son of God, the Son of Man, fully God yet fully man, we Christians believe, taking new steps into the Jordan river to be baptised by His cousin, John.

Steps that would see the formal beginning of His ministry and mission. Thanks be to God!

What strikes me about the baptism of Christ is not just His faithfulness in taking His steps into the Jordan river.

But in His faithfulness. His obedience you could argue, God the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit reveal the Godhead almost for the first time to humanity and to the world.

God the Father speaks.

God the Son acts.

God the Spirit settles and hovers.

The last few years have been undoubtedly very tough for many. Despite the fireworks and champagne bottles popping as the new year was celebrated; 2022 may well for you be “un-nerving” as to what lies ahead.

But…

Remain hopeful.

As you step out into 2022, as Christ stepped into the Jordan…

The Father speaks love over you.

The Son steps alongside you.

And the Holy Spirit will, always, hover around you.

Selah.

This Advent. “The Visitation”.

I truly, truly love this picture of “The Visitation”. (By Jim Janknegt).

When Elizabeth, the mother-to-be of John the Baptist meets Mary, the mother-to-be of Christ, the King.
Two women, (surprised admittedly) in becoming pregnant.

Meeting up.

Chatting about how the pregnancy is going.

Chatting about Holy things they are experiencing.

Chatting about change the Christ Child would bring.


And, I’m left wondering on the brink of another Covid Christmas.

Amidst the depth, the darkness, the unknowable and the unseen…

.
Is the mystery of a child being formed in the womb.
Is the well spring of hope for the whole of humanity.
Is the hope of faith, despite our depths, times of darkness and what we will (one day), see and understand.

Selah.

This Advent. Listening for the “wake up and smell the coffee” challenge…

Introduction.

Confession time…

I have had my fair share of moments in life when I have really needed to pay attention to what was being said to me, to what life was trying to teach me. Indeed what faith was opening up for me. Not all negative by any means, but definitely experiences when I needed to “Wake up and smell the coffee”.

Big time.

This week’s Gospel story from Luke Chapter 3 v 7 to 18, sees John the Baptist call the people of Israel to “wake up and smell the coffee”. In terms of the need for a changed life, in preparation for the true Messiah to come in the person of Christ who will “…make a clean sweep of (our) lives” (Luke 3 v 17).

And John the Baptist does not “sugar coat” (excuse the mixed metaphors) the language he uses in speaking directly to the people of that time and quite possibly each of us.

Is God calling you, in any way “to wake up and smell the coffee?” Have a read…

The Gospel reading.

7-9 When crowds of people came out for baptism because it was the popular thing to do, John exploded: “Brood of snakes! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to deflect God’s judgment? It’s your life that must change, not your skin. And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as ‘father.’ Being a child of Abraham is neither here nor there—children of Abraham are a dime a dozen. God can make children from stones if he wants. What counts is your life. Is it green and flourishing? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire.”

10 The crowd asked him, “Then what are we supposed to do?”

11 “If you have two coats, give one away,” he said. “Do the same with your food.”

12 Tax men also came to be baptized and said, “Teacher, what should we do?”

13 He told them, “No more extortion—collect only what is required by law.”

14 Soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He told them, “No harassment, no blackmail—and be content with your rations.”

15 The interest of the people by now was building. They were all beginning to wonder, “Could this John be the Messiah?”

16-17 But John intervened: “I’m baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.”

(www.Biblegateway.com).

Reflection.

I was a baby youth worker in 1992, then with the Corrymeela Community (an ecumenical Christian movement that sought to bring reconciliation between the major conflicting identities across Northern Ireland, and to this day still does) when I had one quite sharp and hard hitting “wake up and smell the coffee” experience.

Being new in post, I was trying really hard to get alongside the groups of youngsters who came to the Corrymeela centre in Ballycastle. Youngsters from varied backgrounds, parts of Belfast blighted by sectarian conflict. And I was doing my utmost…to fit in, to be “cool”, to “be one of the lads” you might say.

Until one evening after the group of young people and their leaders had returned, my colleague Phil pulled me aside, one of many (professional) “wake up and smell the coffee” moments was about to occur.

Phil to me: “Dave, what are you playing at?”

Me, (A bit taken by surprise): “What do you mean Phil?”

Phil: “Would you ever stop trying to be someone you are not with the young people we work with? You are trying too hard to be liked and to fit in. Just be you…the youngsters will respect you if you are authentic, just be you!”

I must confess, I still feel the sting of Phil’s challenge and observation, but he was correct. My work alongside young people became, in time a lot more engaging and natural after that particular moment of challenge and insight!

No doubt many of us across our lives have had those moments of challenge and opportunity both personally and professionally when we have had to respond, to change our ways, even say sorry. Phil’s encounter with me, to be honest, is only the “tip of the iceberg” across my journey of life and faith of such moments and encounters.

In John the Baptist, we see a man of a deep and bold faith seeking to prepare the people of Israel for the coming of the Christ.

And he was totally unambiguous about how he saw God’s call to “wake up and smell the coffee”…

Essentially.

No point seeking to be baptised.

Unless real change, life change happens.

The long hoped for Christ is coming.

Get your house in order!

The coffee is brewing!

Response.

This Advent, as we wait for the coming King to come at Christmas let’s not be afraid….

To put right (with God’s good grace) all that hinders…

our walk with Christ,

our journeying with others and

our awareness of who we are and who Christ calls us to be.

And get stuck in…(thanks Phil!)

Selah.

When the man comes around…Advent, waiting, preparing, longing…

Introduction.

It was quite late on a Sunday evening, many years ago when I first hear Jonny Cash’s epic and apocalyptic song “When the man comes around” on the radio.

And I was transfixed.

Cash’s voice resonating in every bone of my body. The images of “end times” as understood in the Book of Revelation, and the Gospel narratives; full of symbolism, mystery, judgement, hope of a new world…when “the man”, Christ, returns.

Truth be told, every time I hear the song, I still get goosebumps as Cash sings of the end times with the awe and reverence of what it means to wait for “…Alpha’s and Omega’s Kingdom come”.

Goosebumps. Maybe rightly so.

As a new Church year begins in terms of her liturgical praxis.

As we await for the Babe born at Christmas,

This Advent,

We remember and maybe long for “the Man”, “the Son of Man” indeed, to “come around”.

Do please read this week’s Gospel reading prayerfully and let the goosebumps appear should they need too….

The Gospel Reading.

25-26 “It will seem like all hell has broken loose—sun, moon, stars, earth, sea, in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be quaking.

27-28 “And then—then!—they’ll see the Son of Man welcomed in grand style—a glorious welcome! When all this starts to happen, up on your feet. Stand tall with your heads high. Help is on the way!”

29-33 He told them a story. “Look at a fig tree. Any tree for that matter. When the leaves begin to show, one look tells you that summer is right around the corner. The same here—when you see these things happen, you know God’s kingdom is about here. Don’t brush this off: I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for this one, too—these things will happen. Sky and earth will wear out; my words won’t wear out.

34-36 “But be on your guard. Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. Otherwise, that Day is going to take you by complete surprise, spring on you suddenly like a trap, for it’s going to come on everyone, everywhere, at once. So, whatever you do, don’t fall asleep at the wheel. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that’s coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man.”

(www.Biblegateway.com)

Reflection.

I am an absolute “shocker” when it comes to waiting. Ask my good wife. I am easily distracted, bored, fidgety. Waiting for me does not come easy I must confess, yet remains a core life skill/habit I do need to practice and always, always grow into.

Everyday.

Because, it’s in the waiting, it’s in the preparation, it’s in the occasional turmoil and heartbreak of life or the anticipation of joy and renewal that I, (we) understand the nuances and mystery of life and faith.

To wait, open, hopeful, (somehow amidst what might seemingly crush us) is to strangely be in the now. In the moment.

And sometimes, waiting is all we can do.

At other seasons of our life, preparing, being active is all we can do, is all we should do. Being ready. “On guard” as Christ advises, not allowing our focus to slip through distractions. As, someday, Christ “the Son of Man” will (we as Christian believers understand) return “…in grand style” (Luke 21 v 27).

Waiting in the now. Preparing in the now. Keeping focused in the now. Minimizing distraction in the now.

So that,

When the Christ returns,

We feel every goosebump.

Selah.

Christ the King. That is all…

A quick post this week in relation to this Sunday’s Gospel reading from the book of John (Chapter 18 v 33 to 37).

Where Christ, facing his execution, is brought before (the then) representative of a global military power in the form of Pontius Pilate.

And questioned “Are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18 v 33).

This Sunday, on what has become known for some denominations as “The festival of Christ the King” (a relatively new liturgical occasion, according to http://www.churchtimes.co.uk)

At the end of one Church year liturgically speaking,

As a new Church year awaits…

The Church, globally, proclaims… “Christ is King”.

Christ the King, despite His refusal to answer Pilate directly “Are you King of the Jews?”

Christ the King, facing an excruciating death at the hands of people calling for it and a Roman death squad.

Christ the King, regardless of those who claim to exercise global power, then and today.

Christ the King, amidst the turmoil of a pandemic, environmental degradation, rumors’ of wars…

Christ the King, enthroned on high.

Christ the King, who will return to judge.

Christ the King, who will finally usher in a new heaven and earth.

Christ the King, not “Christ my best buddy” who makes me feel good about myself.

Christ the King, yet born as one of us.

Christ the King. That is all…

“Blessed are the cheese makers”. On trying to figure out the Beatitudes…

Introduction.

Go on.

Take 2 or 3 minutes of your time and watch the scene from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” where Christ on the hillside is preaching to the many as to what the Kingdom of God looks like and is “lived like”. (Excuse the grammar).

Many will know this story from the Gospel of Matthew as “The Sermon on the Mount”. It is very well known, maybe sometimes too well known…

Back to the scene from Python’s “Life of Brian”.

The scene sees Christ speaking at the top of his voice to a large crowd. The camera draws back, to the very edge of the crowd where no one can quite hear what Christ is saying.

Straining to hear Christ, arguing over what they think he is saying, someone tries to update the main characters by announcing…”I think he said, ‘Blessed are the cheese makers'”.

“Cheese makers?” “He said what? Blessed are the cheese makers?”

“Blessed are the cheese makers.”

Funny, yes. Making a point that Christ’s teachings as to a way of Christian living that can be difficult to pick up on, understand and live by…for me, also a yes.

Here’s is this week’s Gospel reading. Without the cheese…

The Gospel reading.

Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

The Beatitudes

He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

http://www.Biblegateway.com

Reflection.

As totemic as they are, Christ’s teachings on what it means to be “blessed”, “happy” “at ease” with God and man (you might argue) are almost entirely counter cultural.

Certainly to a western world view that often sees being blessed, or happy or at ease as in having, in being successful, triumphant even. Not that such hopes are wrong in and of themselves. Just not always attainable let alone actually offering “self actualisation” as Mazlow viewed as humanity’s best “state”.

Its just that… to be “blessed” according to the Master’s teaching involves some difficult ways of thinking and then doing.

Thinking of ourselves as “blessed”…

When we are “poor in spirit”,

When we are in “mourning”,

When we are “meek”,

When we are “hungry”, “thirsty” for the right thing to be done.

Doing what the world needs to be blessed by…

In being merciful,

In being pure in heart,

In being peacemakers,

In being persecuted for right living,

In being insulted and shamed in acknowledging the name of Christ.

Christ’s teachings as shared on the hillside millennia ago are so, so much more than a set of rules to follow. The Beatitudes are a way of life, a hard and at times costly way of life…

Four challenges in how we think about ourselves and others when “poor in spirit”, “mourning”, “meek” and “hungry for righteousness”.

Five challenges in how we live, for ourselves and others, in being merciful, pure, peacemakers and should it come, persecuted and insulted for such right living, indeed for Christ Himself.

The Sermon on the Mount is a call to each of us, in the name of Christ to look inward and outward at the same time. To be “blessed” is to learn through good and not so good times that God’s Kingdom and a full life (however defined) often comes when we know our dependence is on Christ alone and in serving others caught in the trauma of their brokenness.

Selah.

Oh. Let’s not forget…as a cheese lover, actually, “Blessed are the cheese makers!” Monty Python definitely got that right!

Response.

In light of Christ’s teachings, how might your experience of brokenness meet and serve the world’s brokenness and bring blessing?

Picture courtesy of @savbrown.

Living with rules…loving God, loving others, loving yourself.

Introduction.

Rules.

Loathe them or love them make up so much of our experience of life. In some ways (all ways?) rules and their existence and adherence too, or otherwise, regulate our daily being.

Life…

Amidst complexity, joy, brokenness, times of fulfillment, times of sadness. Times of plenty and indeed times of scarcity. Rules matter…don’t they?

Our Gospel reading from Mark Chapter 12 verses 28 to 34, sees a Jewish teacher of the law, genuinely and earnestly ask Christ which law, which rule, which commandment is the most important when seeking to follow God. And this teacher of the Law knew a lot about rules, commandments and how he and others were supposed to live as good Jews. Here’s is an explanation from http://www.patrickcomerford.com outlining how this Jewish scholar and teacher understood rules and their importance…

“In Jewish law, there are 613 commandments, precepts or mitzvot. They include positive commandments, to perform an act (mitzvot aseh), and negative commandments, to abstain from certain acts (mitzvot lo taaseh). The negative commandments number 365, which coincides with the number of days in the solar year, and the positive commandments number 248, said to be the number of bones and main organs in the human body (Babylonian Talmud, Makkot 23b–24a).”

613 commandments or “rules” to follow in order to be Jewish. That’s a lot.

Whatever our religion (or lack of) each of us knowingly and unknowingly face “rules”.

Which makes Christ’s response to the teacher’s genuine question “Of all the commandments, which is the greatest?” (Mark 12 v 28) so liberating in its simplicity and directness.

Here’s this Sunday’s Gospel reading. As you read, imagine yourself as a bystander listening into the exchange between Christ and the “teacher of the law”.

The Gospel reading.

The Greatest Commandment

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[b] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] There is no commandment greater than these.”

32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

http://www.Biblegateway.com

Reflection.

There is no lack of challenge (let’s be very honest) in following God. Subscribing to a faith. Being or not being orthodox in the application of that faith through our everyday lived reality.

The challenge is not just because we are necessarily required to abide by 613 precepts as understood by the teacher of the law in this Gospel encounter,

rather life is to be lived, not by a rule book but as a response..

to God’s love.

In answer to the earnest teacher’s question as to the greatest commandment, Christ tells him that there are not 613 “rules” to abide by, but two. Just two.

Rule 1:

We are to love God with our very being…

Our “heart”.

“All our soul”.

“All our understanding…”

and “all our strength”.

Rule 2:

We are to love our neighbour,

As we do ourselves.

“Thanks Jesus”. “That sounds good to me Jesus”. “Now, where the heck do I actually start? Jesus?”

I do not mean to be facetious in posing the above questions to Christ Himself, far from it, but it strikes me that the further I journey in following the Messiah, I do often wonder if love of God and love of others is radically underpinned by love of ourselves.

Not in a “look at me world, haven’t I got it all sorted” type of self love, rather a love of self in the knowledge that God’s love, grace, original goodness to me and in me comes from a deeper awareness and appreciation of who I am, who I am becoming. And what makes me tick (or not).

A healthy self regard, self love and self appreciation as a response to the global love of the Father, revealed in the Son, maybe just maybe allows for love of the other and of God to find in each of us its fullest expression.

And live closer to the spirit and application of the two rules.

Selah.

Picture courtesy of @savbrown

When our “harvest” fails and we come last…(A Harvest Sunday reflection).

Introduction.

It “sucks”, really “sucks” coming last.

Or thinking that you are last, hopeless, despite your best efforts.

All that we have laboured at, struggled with, prepared ourselves for, yields little by way of a return

“Sucks”. In not getting anywhere near to a goal, we, (or others) need to see achieved.

“Sucks”. When our dreams, hopes and determination, seems to be “fruitless”.

“Sucks” ruminating over everybody else who seem to be living the “perfect” life.

Well, according to their Facebook profile anyway.

I still remember coming dead last in a Boys’ Brigade cross country competition. As I rounded the last corner to crawl my way to the finish line beneath the rugby posts, I can still see the organiser’s removing the running tape and finish line and to this day I can still hear the bellow of my BB Officer “Hurry up Brown, we all want to get home!”

Humiliated. Last. I did feel a bit sorry for myself and have never worn running shoes since.

Truth be told, I can just about run a bath let alone a cross country race.

But, in this week’s Gospel story from Mark Chapter 10 v 35 to 45, Christ (you might say) reminds each one of us of the importance of being last…(and not in a Boys’ Brigade cross country type of way).

Here’s the passage.

The Gospel reading.

The Highest Places of Honor

35 James and John, Zebedee’s sons, came up to him. “Teacher, we have something we want you to do for us.”

36 “What is it? I’ll see what I can do.”

37 “Arrange it,” they said, “so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory—one of us at your right, the other at your left.”

38 Jesus said, “You have no idea what you’re asking. Are you capable of drinking the cup I drink, of being baptized in the baptism I’m about to be plunged into?”

39-40 “Sure,” they said. “Why not?”

Jesus said, “Come to think of it, you will drink the cup I drink, and be baptized in my baptism. But as to awarding places of honor, that’s not my business. There are other arrangements for that.”

41-45 When the other ten heard of this conversation, they lost their tempers with James and John. Jesus got them together to settle things down. “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around,” he said, “and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.”

http://www.biblegateway.com

Reflection.

Christ’s teaching, amidst a world that prizes success, achievement and these days immediately telling others about it on social media (“Guilty as charged my Lord”) is, troubling to say the least.

The first in life shall be last. The last in life, shall be first (or words to that effect).

I hear myself wanting to argue back with Christ, along the lines of…

“Wise up Jesus. You have no idea how the world really works”.

“If I don’t succeed, how the heck will I pay the bills?”

and sentiments to such effect.

I guess James and John’s request to sit to the left and right of Christ in the Kingdom of God, had its seed in the idea that they deserved this reward, the reward for being first, working hard, maybe even in being “good” disciples.

The first disciples of Christ, as fully human and embodied as those of us to this day claiming His name.

Who doesn’t like a run of “success”, professionally, personally or however we determine accomplishment.

And of course this is part and parcel of what it is to be fully human, to flourish.

Yet…

Christ’s teachings are counter cultural.

Christ promotes a view of the Kingdom of God that contrasts starkly to the way (all?) of us are so often conditioned to view success, meaning and purpose.

His teaching and rebuke to James and John and the rest of His followers is troubling.

It is not James and John who will get to throw their “weight around” (Mark 10 v 41) and determine their status in the world to come, rather those who are last.

Who will sit to the left and right of God, is the gift, only, of the Father.

Essentially…those who in life are last, are very often really first. Somehow.

Maybe you, like I, have encountered folk who on first glance anyway, seem to be doing well for themselves…and there is much to commend and be thankful for in terms of a person’s well being and flourishing. Often, though, the appearance of “flourishing”, and the need to be or appear to be first (across whatever measure chosen) can, sadly, be only that…an appearance of flourishing, doing well, being successful at life. “Living your best life” as the saying goes may not be all its supposed to be.

This harvest season, amidst for many the reward of their hard work,

This harvest season, amidst the “lastness” of life’s hurt, trauma and brokenness.

This harvest season, in season of plenty and season of little…

May we all know that our worth is not in being first and in not always winning a Boys’ Brigade cross country race…

But in the meaning and comfort of a love that takes us as we are,

And challanges us to offer that harvest,

In the building of God’s coming Kingdom, today and forever.

Selah.

Picture courtesy of @savbrown

“The look of love”. Jesus, divorce and little children.

Introduction.

As seems to so often be the case, amidst a time of Christ teaching as to the Kingdom of God and bringing God’s redemption to a broken world, others (in this case the Pharisees) turn up.

Not to learn, watch and experience the good that is happening.

Rather to trick and catch out the Messiah.

And they go about their malevolent work by asking Christ a very technical question, based on their understanding of the law of Moses.

“Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife?” (Mark 10 v 2).

The God of love, being examined on the rights and wrongs of human relationships with all their complexities…when they come off the rails.

The Gospel reading.

10 1-2 From there he went to the area of Judea across the Jordan. A crowd of people, as was so often the case, went along, and he, as he so often did, taught them. Pharisees came up, intending to give him a hard time. They asked, “Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife?”

Jesus said, “What did Moses command?”

They answered, “Moses gave permission to fill out a certificate of dismissal and divorce her.”

5-9 Jesus said, “Moses wrote this command only as a concession to your hardhearted ways. In the original creation, God made male and female to be together. Because of this, a man leaves father and mother, and in marriage he becomes one flesh with a woman—no longer two individuals, but forming a new unity. Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart.”

10-12 When they were back home, the disciples brought it up again. Jesus gave it to them straight: “A man who divorces his wife so he can marry someone else commits adultery against her. And a woman who divorces her husband so she can marry someone else commits adultery.”

13-16 The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.

http://www.Biblegateway.com

Reflection.

The above passage with the Pharisees (and indeed the disciples) drilling down on Christ’s view on divorce (albeit in the case of adultery) sees a lot of what we might say “technical exchanges” emerge.

“If…then…” type stuff about relationships that have (or are about to breakdown) due to one partner acting/being unfaithful to their original best intentions and marriage vows. Messy stuff for sure and one that this writer speaks about with fear and trepidation.

“He…said… she said…” stuff. “If…then…” stuff. Technical, legal terminology being used both by the Pharisees and Christ in terms of His response to the disciples quest for understanding.

Messy stuff, as, at the core of our being…married, single, recently bereaved, divorced, in or out of a relationship, “never really been too bothered frankly in having a relationship”, is the need for most of us to…

know love,

give love,

receive love.

Messy stuff…in that once our bodily needs are being met and our safety needs are being met, what really matters, what lasts, are the relationships that provide intimacy, touch, love in all its forms. In a word belonging. (If one subscribes fully to one Abraham Mazlow’s “Hierarchy of Need” construct).

And of course separation and divorce destroys belonging between those caught in the eye of the storm when marital matters do not work, can not work.

And, as in the case of last week’s reading from the Gospel of Mark, (when the disciples argue amongst themselves as to who is the greatest), Christ in his encounter with children in this story puts a new perspective on human relationships…even if broken.

“The people” (Mark 10 v 13) bring their children to Jesus for His touch…of love, acceptance, healing. And despite the disciples best efforts to prevent these children receiving God’s love, Christ rebukes them for their lack of understanding.

The Kingdom of God, the love of God…is best understood…when like a child (a “wee un” as we say here in Northern Ireland)…we come to it and experience it with…

vulnerability (like a child),

some confusion (like a child),

awe and wonder (like a child),

trust and out stretched arms (like a child).

A childlike attitude, which, I do wonder, is not too shabby a perspective to (try) and take when encountering God amidst life’s brokenness, breakdowns in “belonging” and “technical stuff”.

Response.

Amidst your very personal circumstances, may St. Julian’s of Norwich’s maxim hold you in safety…

“All shall be well, and all shall be well. And all manner of thing shall be well”

Revelations of Divine Love.

May you know “The look of Love”.

Selah.

Picture. “Isaac”. The Taize Community.