Writing

  • Little Star

    Dr. Julie Thorpe 24 December 2017

    Little Star

    What is your name,
    Your deep name that called to mine
    Glowing vermilion? Tiny
    Ten toes, cleft fingers
    Flung in startle reflex.

    But when I pick you up
    You stink! Reeking
    Of faeces, a honeypot
    For flies to carry your spores
    Airborne from the volva, then
    Burst open as a hollow shoot
    In the ground. The cycle begins

    each Advent, growing
    Star-shaped, blood and guts
    Of the earth’s startled cry
    To be picked up in its smell
    Of fear.
                I name you

    Little Star
    And lay you in the bed
    Of Mary’s garden
    Beside a pink geranium
    For safekeeping
    While I wait
    To hear my name.

    ©Julie Thorpe
    Image star pink geranium, wikipedia

     

     

  • Litany with Twelve candles

    The Rev. Erice Fairbrother 23 December 2017

    Litany with Twelve candles

    We stand in solidarity with all who wait for justice
    All:  We wait in solidarity with all who wait for their human rights to be recognised
    We remember in solidarity all who suffer from discrimination
    All:  We kneel in solidarity with all who pray for their inclusion in Christ to made a reality

    Four candles are lit

    We weep in solidarity with all who weep out of frustration
    All: We lift up our hands in solidarity with all who raise banners and march for freedom
    We keep silence in solidarity with all who have been silenced
    All: We listen in solidarity with all who are hearing even the stones shout out

    Four candles are lit

    We live while others debate
    All: We love while others debate the right to love
    We stand in the presence of the sacred even as the right to sacramental life is debated
    All: We are here and remember the many others who cannot be here

    Four candles are lit

    To cry in frustration
    All: To kneel and beseech
    To shout like stones
    All: To keep sacred silence

    A time of silence is held

    We gather and hold fast to what is good
    All: To love as we have first been loved by the beloved other
    The love of the sacred other
    All: Source of our truth and freedom
    It is in this love we wait, and pray

    All: Christ, love-maker
    Hear our prayer

    © ecfairbrother
    Image www.theyoke.org

  • Joseph

    The Rev. Joy MacCormick 21 December 2017

    Joseph

    She came as if reluctantly
    a question burning in her eyes,
    and told a tale - such a tale
    as both filled and pierced my heart.

    Could I believe her?
    Could I believe
    that of all women she was chosen
    to bear the Lord’s Messiah?
    Dare I trust her protestation
    that no man had fathered
    the child she carries?

    Darkness, disillusionment, despair,
    vision of our future crumbled into dust!
    I needed time to think, to pray,
    to let the numbness pass;
    process the implications.

    She said she understood;
    would wait for my response –
    however long it took,
    whatever it might be.

    And then that dream!
    So vivid, urgent, powerful,
    there was no room for doubt.
    Like her I heard the voice of God.
    Like her I knew the awesome truth
    that both of us were chosen.

    … Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream … 
    (Matthew 1:19-20 ff)

    How have you recognised God’s guidance in times of turmoil and distress? Do you believe God speaks today through dreams? Why or why not?

    What if Joseph had ignored his dream?

    (c) Joy MacCormick

    Image Dreamcatcher, www.images.unsplash.com

  • Collect for the God of Presents

    The Rev. Maren Tirabassi 19 December 2017

    Collect for the God of Presents

    God, who asks
    ‘do you want it gift-wrapped?’
    and means a choice of sunset
    or a purple nightime sky with stars,

    thank you for all the presents,
    the sweet ordinary things –
    elbows, chocolate,
    toothbrushes and running shoes,
    people who come in the night
    in the ambulance to help,
    beagles in bed, old cranky prophets
    who won’t let us forget justice.

    Thank you as well
    for helping us find hope
    even in the things you did not give –
    road rage, Parkinson’s disease,
    the deporting of our neighbors,
    death by suicide
    of someone we love.

    Tie us with the curling ribbon
    tendril of your love,
    when something in life tries to make scrooges of us
    and we can’t hold ourselves
    together alone..Amen.

    ©Maren Tirabassi
    www.images.unsplash.com

  • Implications

    Pat Marsh 18 December 2017

    Implications

    a divorce
    a stoning
    a broken betrothal

    shame
    rejection
    family life fractured

    scandal
    division
    broken hearts and troubled minds

    all these and more
    the possible implications
    in the wake of Mary’s ‘yes’

    is this what
    favour with God
    looks like

    could we too
    say the Mighty One has done great things

    would we
    be able to magnify the Lord

    how will we respond
    when our calling comes,
    in the face
    of myriad implications

    Mary
    unreservedly
    willingly
    quietly consented
    to birth the One
    who would later say
    take up your cross
    and follow me

    can we respond with such incredible grace

    ©Pat Marsh

    Image artist unknown 

  • We See The Light

    The Rev. Dr. Peter Millar 17 December 2017

    We See The Light

    In violent times,
    beautiful words,
    centuries old,
    resonant with truth:

    ‘Because of your light, Lord,
    we see the light.’*

    That light, even now,
    illumining
    our terror-stricken age
    with the possiblity of change:
    offering our over-burdened hearts
    a resting place
    that a deeper compassion
    may be our companion –

    an energy of love
    to struggle for justice,
    to be a wounded healer,
    to share what we have,
    to carry hope in our hearts,
    to laugh and to love,
    perhaps, all in one day!

    ©Peter Millar (previously published in Candles and Conifers, Wild Goose Publications)

    Image Holding in the Light, www.cofchrist.org. 
     

  • Headlong to Christmas

    Pat Marsh 17 December 2017

    Headlong to Christmas

    the rush
    has begun

    and we know 
    it can only get worse
    as we race
    headlong
    towards
    what passes
    for the celebrations of your birth

    holy child
    give us
    islands of stillness
    in the frenzy of preparation

    give us snatches
    of peace
    amid the tensions
    of others’ expectations

    and in the excesses
    of the shopping mall
    remind us
    of the simple poverty
    of the stable

    Holy Child
    as we rush towards Christmas
    give us your stillness
    your peace
    your simplicity

    give us especially
    the gift of yourself

    ©Pat Marsh

    Image www.images.unsplash.com 

  • Tis the season

    Tess Ashton 15 December 2017

    Tis the season

    bird on a wire

    let me hear your song

    bird on a wire

    you can do no wrong

    for your singing is

    as love to me

    your tender trill

    thrills my ear and soul

     

    bird on a wire

    tell me where your voice

    comes from

    your plumes so soft

    that write upon my heart

    and i shall leap upon

    the horse dressed in red

    up on the goldy-green hill

    beyond the people

    waiting for the train

    so still

    and i will try to catch your maker

    before the sun comes up

    while he is cool and resting

     

    bird on a wire should i find him

    i will ask why do the birds

    sing so prettily to us

    and why do they

    talk of love

    tell me lover

    i shall say

    what it is love bears

    to play for us that love-torn

    sonnet

     

    i’ll tell him i have heard your trill

    that the flowers have appeared

    in our land

    that the winter has gone

    and the rains are over

    already i know the answer

    this is the season

    of the turtledove

    we are to arise

    and come away

    ©Tess Ashton

    Image Two turtle doves, Felipe Lopez, www.images.unsplash.com

     

     

     

  • God of Small Things

    Ana Lisa de Jong 14 December 2017

    God of Small Things

    My God is the God of small things.

    Seeds....
    Newborn babies.

    Nutshells that contain multiple truths
    in humble small containers.

    My God is the God of small beginnings.

    Like breathing
    or opening eyelids.

    If we but move today
    we can accomplish what he asks.

    God, my God of swaddled babes
    that fumble for the breast

    He teaches us the worth of
    lying still in trust.

    My God is the God of humble things.

    Caves.
    Beds of straw.

    Lives that don’t amount to much
    if judged upon their origins.

    My God is the God of silent things.

    Wombs.
    Passages in the dark.

    Quiet incubators, within which cells divide
    and muscles stretch towards the light.

    God, my God of birth pangs
    and pain that finds release

    He teaches us that the dark
    often precedes new life.

    My God is the god of honed things

    Parred down.
    Simplified.

    A carpenter sanding back the wood
    to reveal the grain beneath.

    My God is the God of beloved things.

    Neglected.
    Abandoned.

    Rescued for nothing they have done,
    but because of a plan of redemption.

    God, my God of Christmas coming
    somehow the wonder of Advent

    is knowing we need do nothing
    but let new life be birthed in us.

    ©Ana Lisa de Jong
    Living Tree Poetry

    Image Tim Humphreys, www.images.unsplash.com 

  • Summer

    Summer

    Scarlet, indigo and azure
    kðhatu veined with gold
    and lapis lazuli
    fireflies of silver.

    Textured tapestry
    ocean breeze
    soft petals
    caressing skin
    nestled in warm grass
    blush of pomegranates.

    Breath of ancient trees
    rush of many wings
    symphony of cicadas
    in the afternoon.

    Honey from manuka flowers
    devotion of bees
    sweet wine
    rosemary
    in the drowsy air.

    Salt on lips
    kisses
    strawberries
    passionfruit.

    Flamenco dance of cinnabar moths
    sacred fleeting butterflies.

    Sitting by the fire
    memory re-members
    summers past
    expectant with possibility
    assisting God in a miracle.

    ©Hilary Oxford Smith

    In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible Summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back. - Albert Camus

    Image Manuel Meurisse www.images.unsplash.com

  • Called from our Desert Places

    The Rev. David Poultney 10 December 2017

    Called from our Desert Places

    (Advent 2b: Isaiah 40:1-11, Mark 1:1-8)

    I am sure that each of us has at some point tossed a stone into a lake and seen ripple after ripple come from the epicentre, the place where the stone hits the water. One little thing seems to have an impact out of all relation to its actual size. The German philosopher Johann Fichte, and I swear this is as high brow as I’m going to get, wrote this about the impact of a seemingly insignificant act:

    you could not remove a single grain of sand from its place without thereby changing something in all parts throughout the immeasurable whole.

    Though he could not know it, he was one of the intellectual founders of what we now know as the butterfly effect; a belief that apparently small insignificant things – like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings – can have a major impact on the world.

    We live in a cycle of cause and effect, we begin things that we cannot know where they will l lead to, we act in certain ways because events far away and possibly long ago have determined that this is how we will act.

    One hundred years ago British and ANZAC forces captured Palestine. The British seeking to gain the loyalty or at least the acquiescence of the population made different promises to the Arab and Jewish communities. The former were promised national self determination, the latter – in the Balfour Declaration – were promised a ”national home.” Of course, the British took over the running of Palestine so there was no self determination for the Arabs and in time the Jewish community in Palestine became a Jewish State; the same UN vote which permitted a State of Israel also authorised a Palestinian state but the Arab states determined this could not come to be until Israel was destroyed.

    Even following a partial Arab recognition of Israel, the conditions for a Palestinian state have been elusive. Words the British used to placate two different populations never went away, words said to buy cooperation and keep the peace have fed conflict and war.

    While Britain became the protecting power in Palestine, New Zealand took over responsibility for what had been German Samoa. Another little flutter of butterfly wings which has been felt over time, changing history for both the people of Samoa and the people of New Zealand. Our stories have become intertwined in ways that could never have been imagined way back then.

    Strange isn’t it? That the farthest ripple of a war which began with an assassination in the Balkans was a change in who governed some far away islands deep in the South Pacific; a real butterfly effect. But World War One changed so much and not with the delicate flutter of wings. In the words of W.B. Yeats whose The Second Coming we heard last week, all was changed and changed utterly.

    Small, seemingly insignificant things ripple still. Nowhere more so than in our impact on the environment. Think of how many plastic bags you have used in the last year, where do they end up, or the plastic microbeads in shampoos, conditioners, shower gel; where do they go? Ultimately it seems much of it goes down to the sea where it does great harm. The world itself is in pain and in need, and so too are we. We are not – like Yeats – emerging into a world that has changed and changed utterly – but for much of humanity, life is more fragile, stability more precarious, peace more elusive than here.

    The world itself needs newness, so do people everywhere; it has always been this way.

    The truth of it is that it was ever thus. Since the beginning of time, it seems that thoughtful people have taken a good long look at the world around them and, with a shudder, have decided they don’t like what they see. It was certainly true of Jesus’ time and place.

    The time and place Jesus was born into and which was seen as the context of his ministry was marked by occupation, oppression, injustice and brute force. It was a broken place, like every place there has ever been maybe! And in Advent we are invited to reflect on and name that brokenness which stands in need of redemption.

    The German theologian and martyr – Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote

    the celebration of Advent is only possible to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, who look forward to something greater to come. For these, it is enough to wait in humble fear until the Holy One comes down to us. God in the child, in the manger.

    Both our readings today are food to the soul that waits. The promise of a new day dawning.

    If you look at classical art based on the Advent stories, say of Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary, it is often set in a world which seems faded, broken down, littered with the ruins of the past. There is something of Bonhoeffer’s point in this. Advent speaks to our turmoil, our failure and brokenness and offers hope where hope seems to have fled.

    A colleague when I worked in Mental Healthcare once said of the world that if you’re not depressed, you’re not paying attention. His point was that being depressed is an entirely rational response to how the world is and we kind of get his point.

    Advent isn’t about saying the world is just fine, or that we live in the best of all possible worlds; what it’s saying is that another world is possible, that there is a better way despite the darkness, the sorrow and brokenness which mar and wound the world.

    Our reading from Isaiah speaks to this. It comes at the beginning of what biblical commentators call Deutero Isaiah, the second part of the book. The first part – what went before – was dominated by loss, exile, the threat of the disappearance of the Covenant people from history. This second part is concerned with the end of exile and the possibility of a new beginning.

    Our reading began with these words, Comfort, o comfort my people. Well known words. If I were a half decent tenor I might attempt a spot of Handel at this stage! But I’ll spare you that, I can carry a tune but not far.

    What follows speaks of the possibility of newness. The part of the text most familiar to us Christians, especially at Advent, is:

    In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

    Words echoed in the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, words which Christians immediately associate with John the Baptist, whose story we read as being an anticipation of and preparation for the story of Jesus.

    John is presented to us as calling for repentance and the forgiveness of sins, rather forbidding language, language we do not use much in this church. Repentance can have a bad name, it can carry overtones of preoccupation with sin and those who preach it can appear to be manipulative.

    But what it means, simply and undramatically is to change, to change your bearings, to go in a new direction. Repentance was an act of hope in the possibility of the new and an acknowledgement that for the new to come to be, then people had to live differently.

    Though he is an odd character, angular and uncomfortable, living there on the edge of the desert in animal skins, surviving on honey and locusts, John is a charismatic personality, he draws a crowd. People are drawn to him and to his offer of newness and they present themselves for ritual purification, total immersion in moving, flowing water; the Jewish ritual origin of our baptism. It wasn’t magic, it didn’t change the world, but it was a cleansing, a statement of intent to live differently.

    This is all very interesting – I hope – but what can it say to us, these stories from far away and long ago? That they speak in our wilderness now, in our experiences of exile, of alienation, or sense of a fractured and wounded world, of our need for newness.

    We too are called, invited to turn in a new direction and to live differently, to live in the direction of wholeness, to live in the direction of justice, to live in the direction of mercy, to live in the direction of the world’s healing.

    In these remaining Advent days, as the days lengthen may we know that other brightness, the light of holy possibility, the light of newness, may it shine brightly and lead us once more to our every Bethlehem.

    ©The Ref. David Poultney
    Image  Preparing a Way in the Wilderness, Hermano Leon

    David is Prestyer of St. John’s in the City Methodist Church, Nelson, New Zealand

  • Blessing for Waiting

    Jan Richardson 8 December 2017

     

    Who wait
    for the night
    to end

    bless them.

    Who wait
    for the night
    to begin

    bless them.

    Who wait
    in the hospital room
    who wait
    in the cell
    who wait
    in prayer

    bless them.

    Who wait
    for news
    who wait
    for the phone call
    who wait
    for a word

    who wait
    for a job
    a house
    a child

    bless them.

    Who wait
    for one who
    will come home

    who wait
    for one who
    will not come home

    bless them.

    Who wait with fear
    who wait with joy
    who wait with peace
    who wait with rage

    who wait for the end
    who wait for the beginning
    who wait alone
    who wait together

    bless them.

    Who wait
    without knowing
    what they wait for
    or why

    bless them.

    Who wait
    when they
    should not wait
    who wait
    when they should be
    in motion
    who wait
    when they need
    to rise
    who wait
    when they need
    to set out

    bless them.

    Who wait
    for the end
    of waiting
    who wait
    for the fullness
    of time
    who wait
    emptied and
    open and
    ready

    who wait
    for you,

    o bless.

    ©Jan Richardson
    Image Practice the Waiting, www.odysseyonline.com

    Blessing for Waiting is published in Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons by Jan Richardson

  • December 6 St. Nicholas Day

    The Rev. Maren Tirabassi 6 December 2017

    December 6 St. Nicholas Day

     

    For the generosity of children
    I give thanks;
    for the way children believe
    miracles can visit them,
    I give thanks.
    Even for how they are glued
    to commercials,
    write letters to Santa,
    are unashamed of being excited,
    I give thanks.

    Today I promise to strip off
    my John-the-Baptist
    camel-hair dour,
    and oil the reindeer harness,
    exchange my locavore locust-lunch
    for a one-legged gingerbread,

    and find an empty stocking
    in the life of someone I know –
    young or old –
    to fill with the generosity
    that a child teaches me. Amen.

    ©Maren Tirabassi

    Image Voices from Russia

  • I Walk Dangerous Paths

    Liz Knowles 3 December 2017

    I Walk Dangerous Paths

     

    I walk dangerous paths
    the line
    between right and wrong
    I am not always right
    (I am not always wrong)
    no parallel lines
    these
    they
    converge in places
    where boundaries are not defined
    and
    I dream
    of arrival.

    ©Liz Knowles
    This poem first published in Candles and Conifers, ed. Ruth Burgess, Wild Goose Publications
    Image www.veritidas.org

  • For the Advent Wreath

    The Rev. John Fairbrother 1 December 2014

    For the Advent Wreath

    For the Advent Wreath

    To be prayed as each candle is lit.

    Advent 1

    A first candle:
    Light, as breath,
    bringing life to
    islands, sky and sea.
    For creations gift,
    our prayer and praise.

    Advent 2

    A second candle:
    Starlight’s fall
    amid dust of life.
    A moment to
    enlighten freedom,
    justice, love.

    Advent 3

    A third candle:
    Trusted light,
    southern guide to
    island homes.
    Within a sea
    named for peace.

    Advent 4

    A fourth candle:
    Warmth of heart,
    compassion’s home.
    Peace in the city,
    town and land.
    Calm between us now.

    Christmas Day

    Candle centred:|
    Focus bright.
    Light to lift a
    heart song lyric
    of wordless knowing
    embracing friends.                

    ©John Fairbrother    

    Image Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand reproduced with permission

  • Advent

    Margaret Lyall 25 December 2013



    Stress and distress, crisis on crisis,

    Mind, body and spirit can take no more.

    Utter exhaustion, energy finished,

    Pain and despair, darkness and silence.

     

    Then, piercing the silence, the cry of an infant,

    Heralding One who will suffer and die.

    Through His living and dying His love will be steadfast

    His Spirit set free and gifted to all.

     

    Can this really be true?

    Does it fit with experience?

    There's reluctance to believe such a staggering claim.

     

    And yet, to be honest, so often it happens

    In the depths of the pain, in the pit of despair...

       - through others' hands His hands stretch out to touch

       - through others' eyes His eyes look out in love

       - through others' lips His lips speak words of care...

    And faith is rekindled, in response to His words

    'What more must I do for you to believe?'

     

    Minds cannot comprehend;

    Truth is veiled in paradox.

    But every time doubt becomes stronger,

    A potentially deeper faith

    Yearns to reach out and embrace it.

     

    Like light piercing the darkness.

     

     

     

     

     

  • On reading the gospel of John in the autumn

    The Rev. Maren Tirabassi 26 October 2019

    On reading the gospel of John in the autumn

    In the beginning were the leaves,
    and the leaves were fragile and beautiful,
    and the leaves were on the tree.
    The beauty and the fragility was life –
    scarlet and golden,
    and apples were with the leaves
    and harvest and hope.

    And there were saints to remember
    and all souls – saintly and not so saintly,
    and candles in pumpkins
    lit for all their spirits.
    And there were children begging
    from door to door
    with sheets on their heads.
    Children were not the Word,
    but we heard it from their lips.

    And we came to Thanksgiving
    but we couldn’t understand it –
    not gratitude,
    not living water, bread of life, vine,
    not foot washing, many rooms,
    not even needing to let go.

    The leaves fell from the tree
    and we did not look up
    into dark branches silhouetting truth
    against November sunset.
    But we be-leaved in our stubborn
    raking up, lonely way
    that something would be born –
    not of blood nor of human will,
    nor even of Advent season,
    but of God.

    And the Word became flesh,
    full of grace, fragile
    and beautiful and hanging on a tree.

    ©Maren Tirabassi
    Image Mari Helin, www.unsplash.com

  • Moments: Making the House Ready for The Lord

    Mary Oliver 1 December 2019

    Moments: Making the House Ready for The Lord

    Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
    still nothing is as shining as it should be
    for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
    uproar of mice it is the season of their
    many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
    and through the walls the squirrels
    have gnawed their ragged entrances but it is the season
    when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
    the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
    while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
    what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
    in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
    up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
    come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
    the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
    that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
    as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.

    ©Mary Oliver (Thirst) 2006
    Image Flickr

     

  • Moments: Every Life Matters

    Pádraig O’Tuama 3 December 2019

    Moments: Every Life Matters

    In the holy family, particularly in this time of refugees and advent, we see how important one small family is, one small child is, one small collection of people.

    In light of the complexities of war, the atrocities of ISIS, the fear of the fleeing, the long and complicated history of foreign interests in countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, it is hard to know how to act, believe, speak or hope. But the gospel calls us to a humble, but unflinching witness — that every life matters. And bombing, no matter how precise, will inevitably kill children, the poor and the powerless as well as those being targeted.

    In the story of a child born in occupied territory to parents who fled, we are reminded that every person matters, every person is a child of God, and every child of God is a reflection of the creativity of God in human form.

    All faiths, all witnesses to good will, underline the truth that all — no matter how powerless — matter. This witness does not lead easily to policy proposals or analysis; this witness does not lead us easily towards viable alternatives, but that does not make the witness hollow. This witness is based on fundamental values. And those who lead must find a way to lead us into the best of ourselves, not the worst of ourselves.

    Today, I pray for wisdom for politicians worldwide who are trying to make decisions and other leaders who have been seeking to protect and sustain the earth, our host; I pray for those who are fleeing force; and pray for those who are seeking to know how to respond to force for the purposes of the greater good; we keep in mind all of those who celebrate the joy of life and generosity; and we pray, too, for all those bereaved by the death of someone they love.

    May we each be sustained by wisdom and vision, love and hope, faith and life.

    ©Pádraig O’Tuama (poet, theologian and mediator)
    Image Alexas_Fotos, pixabay.com 

    (This article was first published on www.corrymeela.org).

     

  • Moments: Some words to accompany you this Advent

    Jan Richardson 5 December 2019

    Moments: Some words to accompany you this Advent

     

    The season of Advent
    means there’s something on the horizon
    the like of which we have never seen before.
    It is not possible to keep it from coming,
    because it will.
    That’s just how Advent works.
    What is possible is to not see it, to miss it,
    to turn just as it brushes past you...

    So stay. Sit. Linger. Tarry.
    Ponder. Wait. Behold. Wonder.
    There will be time enough for running.
    For rushing. For worrying. For pushing.
    For now, stay.
    Wait.
    Something is on the horizon.

    ©Jan L. Richardson
    in Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas

  • Moments: An Advent Reflection

    Moments: An Advent Reflection

    We live in a world in which bigger and better define our expectations for much of life. 

    We have become so focused by super-size, super stars, and high definition that we tend to view life through a lens that so magnifies what we expect out of the world that we tend not to see potential in small things. 

    But as the prophet Zechariah reminds us (Zech 4:10), we should not "despise the day of small things," because God does some of his best work with small beginnings and impossible situations. 

    It is truly a humbling experience to read back through the Old Testament and see how frail and imperfect all the "heroes" actually are. 

    • Abraham, the coward who cannot believe the promise. 
    • Jacob, the cheat who struggles with everybody.
    • Joseph, the immature and arrogant teen.
    • Moses, the impatient murderer who cannot wait for God. 
    • Gideon, the cowardly Baalworshipper.
    • Samson, the womanizing drunk. 
    • David, the power abuser.
    • Solomon, the unwise wise man. 
    • Hezekiah, the reforming king who could not quite go far enough.
    • And finally, a very young Jewish girl from a small village in a remote corner of a great empire.

    God often begins with small things and inadequate people. It certainly seems that God could have chosen "bigger" things and "better" people to do His work in the world. 

    Yet if God can use them, and reveal Himself through them in such marvellous ways, it means that He might be able to use us, inadequate, and unwise, and too often lacking in faith. 

    And it means that we need to be careful that we do not in our own self-righteousness put limits on what God can do with the smallest things, the most unlikely of people, in the most hopeless of circumstances. 

    That is part of the wonder of the Advent Season.

    Kia kaha tatou, ahakoa nga piki, heke, o te Ao. Ma Te Atua tatou e manaaki.

    Let us pray,

    Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice. The Lord is at hand. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and stand among us that we may welcome you today into every part of our lives and serve you joyfully, now and always.  AMEN 

     Kia Inoi Tatou 

    Kia hari tonu i roto i te Ariki: ko taku kapu ano tenei, kia hari. Kua tata te Ariki. Kia hohoro mai, e Ihu e te Ariki, a e tu ki waenga i a matou, kia powhiritia atu koe e matou i tenei ra, ki roto i o matou wahi katoa, a, kia mahi atu matou ki a koe, i runga i te hari koa, inaianei a ake tonu atu. 
    Amine.

    http://waipounamu.org.nz
    Image Advent Wreath www.thetereomaoriclassroom.co.nz 

  • Moments: An Advent Prayer

    Walter Brueggmann 6 December 2019

    Moments: An Advent Prayer

    In our secret yearnings
    we wait for your coming,
    and in our grinding despair
    we doubt that you will.
    And in this privileged place
    we are surrounded by witnesses who yearn more than do we
    and by those who despair more deeply than do we.
    Look upon your church and its pastors
    in this season of hope
    which runs so quickly to fatigue
    and in this season of yearning
    which becomes so easily quarrelsome.
    Give us the grace and the impatience
    to wait for your coming to the bottom of our toes,
    to the edges of our fingertips.
    We do not want our several worlds to end.
    Come in your power
    and come in your weakness
    in any case
    and make all things new.
    Amen.

    © Walter Brueggemann
    ˜ in Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann
    Image Advent, Zagreb, Sven Kucinic, Unsplash.

  • Moments: Bittersweet

    Shauna Niequist 7 December 2019

    Moments: Bittersweet

    I believe deeply that God does his best work in our lives during times of great heartbreak and loss...much of that rich work is done by the hands of people who love us, who dive into the wreckage with us and show us who God is, over and over and over.

    There are years when the Christmas spirit is hard to come by, and it’s in those seasons when I’m so thankful for Advent. Consider it a less flashy but still very beautiful way of being present to this season.

    Give up for a while your false and failing attempts at merriment, and thank God for thin places, and for Advent, for a season that understands longing and loneliness and long nights.

    Let yourself fall open to Advent, to anticipation, to the belief that what is empty will be filled, what is broken will be repaired, and what is lost can always be found, no matter how many times it’s been lost.

    © Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way
    Image Bittersweet, Jessica Broberg

  • Moments: Advent Biscuits

    Dr. Julie Thorpe 11 December 2019

    Moments: Advent Biscuits

    My host mother handed on a recipe
    so I would learn kitchen-words
    by heart.

    Verkneten. Knead. Press down. Push out.
    Ausschaben. Skin, scrape empty, then
    wrap gently in a sheet to rest.
                                                           Line,
    turn, toss, writhe in the marrowy
    dust.

                  Last of all,
    aufbewahren. Set aside. Store
    in a safe place.

    Or was it the white-covered crescents
    waxing and waning, like half-moon
    slices of rye spread with liverwurst each morning
    before we left for school in the dark
    and later ate in the courtyard, walking
    in circles to stay warm?

    Maybe the gift
    that winter wasn’t the words
    but the circles I’m still learning
    to walk and keep in my heart.

    ©Julie Thorpe
    Image Advent Biscuits made by Julie

    Julie Thorpe is a former Scholar of Vaughan Park.

  • Moments: Cloister In The Heart

    Professor Nicola Slee 12 December 2019

    Moments: Cloister In The Heart

    berry on the green
    silver on the sedge
    scarlet on the leaf
                 cloister in the heart

    iron in the sky
    freezing in the blood
    purple on the sea
                cloister in the heart

    winds across the land
    rains upon the fields
    birds along the sand
              cloister in the heart

    death upon the wind
    crying in the dark
    blood upon the land
              cloister in the heart

    ripples on the mere
    patterns in the sand
    circles in the grain
                cloister in the heart

    candles in the hearth
    silence in the dark
    darkness in the year
                cloister in the heart

    tiles upon the roofs
    light upon the walls
    peace upon the town
               cloister in the heart

    © Nicola Slee
    Image Cloister carving, Iona Abbey ©Natalya

    (Cloister in the Heart appeared in Doing December Differently: An Alternative Christmas Handbook, co-edited by Nicola Slee and Rosie Miles, Wild Goose Publications, 2006).

  • Moments: Discovering Joy

    The Rev. Joy MacCormick 15 December 2019

    Moments: Discovering Joy

    Joy – according to an old song is ‘Jesus first, Yourself last, and Others in between.’

    How I hated that song!

    My dictionary defines joy as ‘a condition or deep feeling of pleasure or delight; happiness; gladness’.

    Joy – a strange word with which, from time to time, I’ve had a precarious relationship.

    Possibly because it’s my given name. There have been times I knew in my deepest being the name didn’t fit who and what I experienced myself to be.

    As a teenager, I remember asking my mother, ’Why on earth did you ever call me Joy?’

    Her reply, ‘Because you were – once!’ haunted me until my late forties when I was helped to work through the related issues.

    At one stage I even considered changing my name by deed poll. The only problem was – I had no idea what to change it to. Fortunately, over more recent years, I’ve been growing into it.

    Another factor in my discomfort was that – until my mid-thirties – ‘I’d never really accepted my humanity’. These words were revealed to me during a Eucharist where I prayed for healing after cancer. Those words, unspoken yet so clear, reverberated through my being – bearing undeniable truth.

    I always had a strong sense of pre-existence; of having come reluctantly into this life from a place or state of absolute harmony, unity and peace. During that Eucharist, the realization that being human meant not separation from God but sharing in the being of God who also became human – was for me the beginning not only of acceptance but of a sense of joy in the possibility of becoming Joy.

    As I understand it now, joy is more than a transitory experience of ‘pleasure; delight; happiness or gladness’ but rather a deep underlying sense of being blessed – one which pervades all of life regardless of circumstances and which nothing and no-one can take away.

    Blessed in being part of this amazing cosmos of life-giving energy and transformation at a time when we are privileged to be able to explore, see, and understand it in ways we have never been able to before. Blessed in being one with all that is – seen and unseen – for I share the same cosmic energy vibrating in every sub-atomic particle of my being.

    This blessing is heightened in those occasional gifted moments of sheer ecstasy when I experience, once again, the ‘home’ I left behind – that total unity and harmony with everything. One with the birds gliding in the air as well as with the air supporting them; one with the ground or couch beneath me and with the clouds floating above’ one with every colour, every sound (whether melodic or grating) and one with the stillness and the silence beyond them all,

    One with every human being, even those I don’t like.

    Blessed being able to wonder what the energy that’s now me was before it was me – and what it might become by further transformation when I leave this life. Blessed in the understanding that even the worst of the destruction wrought by humankind releases energy for transformation into something potentially life-giving and beyond our imagination.

    My heart, on the surface, may be battered and bruised by the storms of news reports and the events of daily life, but those storms are unable to penetrate to the depths where deep calm prevails and I rejoice to sing and dance with folk like Gerard Manley Hopkins who, in his poem, God’s Grandeur (1877), reflects on the destruction of the environment before declaring:

    ‘And for all of us,
    nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things’
    And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward springs –
    Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.’

    Or with Julian of Norwich (1342 – 1416?) in the certainty that in spite of evidence to the contrary – ultimately:

    ‘All shall be well; and all shall be well;
    and all manner of thing shall be well.’

    Is this what is meant by ‘the joy of salvation’?

     

    ©Joy MacCormick
    Image Joy, Rick Lord

    (This article was first published in Refresh, the Journal of Contemplative Spirituality - Winter 2019)

  • The Uninvited Guest

    Thomas Merton OCSO 16 December 2019

    The Uninvited Guest

    Into this world, this demented inn,
    in which there is absolutely no room for him at all,
    Christ comes uninvited.

    But because he cannot be at home in it,
    because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it,
    His place is with those others for whom there is no room.

    His place is with those who do not belong,
    who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak,
    those who are discredited,
    who are denied the status of persons, tortured,
    exterminated.

    With those for whom there is no room,
    Christ is present in this world.

    ©Thomas Merton OCSO
    - in Raids on the Unspeakable

    Image © Abraham’s Seed, Grace Carol Bomer

     

     

  • Moments: An Advent Summer

    Moments: An Advent Summer

    Scarlet, indigo and azure
    kōhatu veined with gold
    lapis lazuli
    silver fireflies.

    Textured tapestry
    ocean breeze
    soft petals
    caressing skin
    nestled in warm grass
    blush of pomegranates.

    Breath of ancient trees
    rush of many wings
    symphony of cicadas
    in the afternoon.

    Manuka flower honey
    devotion of bees
    sweet wine
    rosemary
    frankincense
    scenting the drowsy air.

    Salt on lips
    kisses
    strawberries
    passionfruit.

    Flamenco dance of cinnabar moths
    sacred fleeting butterflies.
    re-membering
    summers
    expectant with possibility
    assisting God in a miracle.

    ©Hilary Oxford Smith

    In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible Summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back. - Albert Camus

    Image www.nightskycottage.co.nz

     

  • Moments: God Of Small Things

    Ana Lisa de Jong 19 December 2019

    Moments: God Of Small Things

    My God is the God of small things.

    Seeds....
    Newborn babies.

    Nutshells that contain multiple truths
    in humble small containers.

    My God is the God of small beginnings.

    Like breathing
    or opening eyelids.

    If we but move today
    we can accomplish what he asks.

    God, my God of swaddled babes
    that fumble for the breast

    He teaches us the worth of
    lying still in trust.

    My God is the God of humble things.

    Caves.
    Beds of straw.

    Lives that don’t amount to much
    if judged upon their origins.

    My God is the God of silent things.

    Wombs.
    Passages in the dark.

    Quiet incubators, within which cells divide
    and muscles stretch towards the light.

    God, my God of birth pangs
    and pain that finds release

    He teaches us that the dark
    often precedes new life.

    My God is the god of honed things

    Parred down.
    Simplified.

    A carpenter sanding back the wood
    to reveal the grain beneath.

    My God is the God of beloved things.

    Neglected.
    Abandoned.

    Rescued for nothing they have done,
    but because of a plan of redemption.

    God, my God of Christmas coming
    somehow the wonder of Advent

    is knowing we need do nothing
    but let new life be birthed in us.

    ©Ana Lisa de Jong
    Image Taneli Lahtinen, unsplash.com.

  • Moments: Mary's pregnancy is a sign that detail matters

    Dr. Eve Poole 21 December 2019

    Moments: Mary's pregnancy is a sign that detail matters

    When does it really feel like Christmas? For me, getting the box of Christmas decorations down from the loft is the definitive December ritual: all those bits and pieces packed away from last year, joyfully rediscovered and pressed into festive service.

    But I would guess that, in most households, there is always at least one decoration orphaned at the bottom. An unsuccessful nursery project, a vulgar present, a broken favourite that one cannot quite bear to throw away.

    In our house, it is the kind gift of a godmother: a glass bauble keepsake that fbears the legend “Baby’s First Christmas.” I never did put it on the tree, I must confess, because I have twins, and it felt wrong just to honour one of them; and then it wasn’t their first Christmas any more. But still it sits there, in the bottom of the box, carefully bubble-wrapped.

    It is a weird experience, being pregnant with twins. For most of the pregnancy, mine were lying in bunk-bed formation, like sleeping pharaohs. In a later scan, they had turned to face each other, and were playing pat-a-cake. When, finally, the contractions started, my clever body morphed into an air-traffic controller and started lining them up like planes in a stack. It is a very humbling experience, learning about the wisdom held deep in your body. More than that, it was my first really visceral experience of co-creation with God.

    When I was little, my favourite fairy tale was “Elise and the 11 swans”. In it, her wicked stepmother turns her brothers into swans. To turn them back, Elise has to make 11 nettle shirts, while remaining completely silent. She is tried for witchcraft before she has finished the last one. At the scaffold, her brothers fly down and she throws the shirts over them. They are transformed, but her youngest brother is left with a swan’s wing, where she ran out of nettles. One of my twins has a bit of enamel missing from a tooth, where I ran out of nettles building her.

    When we ponder the mystery of Mary’s bearing Jesus, the focus tends to be on the annunciation and the birth rather than on the pregnancy itself. And then we gallop off into the liturgical year, towards Calvary and Easter. But what of that long nine months of nettle-weaving? Jesus was wrought from the very cells of Mary’s body, God incarnate but wholly man, born of woman.

    Everyone who has been pregnant or involved in accompanying a pregnancy knows how mesmerising it is monitoring day-to-day progression, now delivered to your inbox by a choice of apps heralding each tiny development. Triumphantly eschewing alcohol or soft cheeses, or whatever is ruled out by the dietary advice of the day, modern-day Marys hunch over their precious cargo, building and weaving, day by day, one precious cell at a time.

    In his poem “Descent”, Malcolm Guite writes: “They sought to soar into the skies Those classic gods of high renown For lofty pride aspires to rise But you came down.” It is into these very cells, this painstaking work, that God came down, becoming incarnate in the baby Jesus.

    It is this smallness that is catching my attention this year. Those nine months when I was the twin-bearer, I was careful about everything. Slowing down, taking time, giving attention; trying to be as perfect as possible in every detail, even down to that not-quite-finished baby tooth.

    As Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God is knitted in relationship; and God came down at Christmas to show us who we can be, in our very humanity. Living in communities of relationship ourselves, as salt and light, we are all called to take care in weaving the nettles of our lives, to use our labours to free those around us to be who they truly are.

    We know that our every thought and choice and action generate consequences for ourselves and for those around us: every accidental oversight, every unintended slight, and every casual discourtesy; but, equally, every smile, every greeting, every kindness.

    We also know that there will be many people attending church over Christmas who do not usually come. They might well sit in the wrong pew, forget to collect a hymn book, and walk the wrong way back from the altar, but what they notice about how the church behaves as a community that day will stay with them throughout the year. I am chastened to recall how very careful I was, every step of those nine months, but how cavalier I have since become.

    So, this year, I shall retrieve the Baby’s First Christmas bauble, and hang it up, to remind me that every year is the baby Jesus’s first Christmas. Every year, I should recommit myself to living in detail, because God is in the very smallness of everything we do.

    ©Eve Poole
    Image Maria, Mary Southard CSJ

    Dr Eve Poole is the author of Buying God: Consumerism and theology (SCM Press) and is the Third Church Estates Commissioner. This article was published in The Church Times, 20 December 2019.

  • Moments: Solstice

    Tess Jolly 22 December 2019

    Moments: Solstice

    I will not write about Christmas lights garlanding the tree,

    how steadily red blends to sapphire  emerald  gold,
    how strong the little bulbs must be to throw their dancing hearts
    upon the café wall, how children try to catch them.
    I will not say there is tinsel draped about the branches
    like seaweed over pebbles, nor paint the cloths swaddling our skins
    apricot, indigo, violet, teal. I will not speak of glazed
    pastries on the counter, how they shine so much
    they could be varnished, there for the hell-of-it, for the sheer
    beauty of their glistening berries. I’ll turn away from buses heaving
    down the rush-hour road, ignore how in all this rain
    the headlamps could be tumbling garnets, polished amber,
    as if a picture-book box of pirate treasure had spilt its pearls
    and precious stones across a tarmacked page.

    I will not describe how the sun becomes the sea, I will not delight
    in words to name its colours – cerise, crimson, indigo,
    scarlet, madder, rose. I will not try to find a way
    to show your smile across the table, how it slips like warm charcoal
    into the fabric of my heart. I will not suggest I light a candle
    as the year prepares to wane, that you hold a second wick to mine
    then another and another, that together we whisper a prayer
    for each growing flame. I will not talk about the light
    that is everywhere, how far you have to travel for the sky
    to be completely black (and even then there are stars, there is the moon’s
    borrowed brightness). I will not question why fire burns more fiercely  
    before sputtering out, or how – when we know we’re dying –
    we can be so fully alive. I will not say these things because this
    is a poem about darkness. I am writing about the darkness.

    ©Tess Jolly
    Image Solstice, Governor’s Bay Jetty www.stuff.co.nz